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Archive for April, 2015

“The most terrifying truth of Scripture is that God is good” (Paul Washer).

How can that be true? Don’t we run into the arms of the goodness of God when things go wrong? Yes, we do, but we should think carefully about it.

God is good. Absolutely good. Perfectly good. Eternally good. Infinitely good. Everything about Him is good, including His sovereignty, by the way. But here’s where things get rough: you and I aren’t good. In fact, we’re far from good. We’re sinful by nature, choice, and habit. All of us fall far short of God’s perfect standard of goodness.

Because God is good, He must punish sin. If He didn’t, He would be neither just nor good. That’s a terrifying prospect: God will punish all sin, including mine, because He’s good. He’s too good not to! The penalty of sin is to bear the full wrath of God against sin in hell forever.

If we are to be rescued and delivered from such a fate, the justice of God had to be satisfied. The Lord Jesus Christ – fully God and fully man – satisfied His Father’s justice (and goodness) in His sacrifice on the cross which paid the full penalty of all of the sins of everyone who would ever repent and believe in Him.

God alone is the only One who can accomplish this. His goodness convicts us of our sin and provides everything we need to be saved from His wrath. That’s the gospel! That’s good news!

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“No, Hanging Out With Your Friends Is Not Church” is the title of a post that provides a needed response to the issue of “What is church?” that some are asking today. There is plenty of misunderstanding of the church in today’s narcissistic society, and this article helps to begin to clear it up. Give it a read!

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Worldliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World is a very good book on a very important topic. Jesus said that His disciples are to be in the world but not of it. The apostle John told us not to love the world or anything in the world (1 John 2:15). Once we figure out what “the world” is, it’s easier said than done. That’s where this book, edited by C;J. Mahaney, comes in. Chapters on the media, music, possessions, and clothes are helpful in resisting the seductions of the world. A chapter on how to love the world in a positive, God-honoring manner is also included. This is a thought-provoking book and not everyone will agree with the points the various authors make, but it’s worth reading and considering.

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“You have sent to John, and he has testified to the truth (John 5:33).

“He was the lamp that was burning and was shining” (John 5:35a).

J.C. Ryle, commenting on these verses, points out the honor the Lord Jesus Christ gives to His faithful servants:

See how He speaks of John the Baptist. ‘He bore witness of the truth’ – ‘He was a burning and shining light.’ John had probably passed away from his earthly labors when these words were spoken. He had been persecuted, imprisoned, and put to death by Herod – none interfering, none trying to prevent his murder. But this murdered disciple was not forgotten by his Divine Master. If no one else remembered him, Jesus did. He had honored Christ, and Christ honored him.

These things ought not be overlooked. They are written to teach us that Christ cares for all His believing people, and never forgets them. Forgotten and despised by the world, perhaps, they are never forgotten by their Savior. He knows where they dwell, and what there trials are. A book of remembrance is written for them. ‘Their tears are all in His bottle’ (Psalm 56:8). Their names are engraved on the palms of His hands. He notices all they do for Him in this evil world, though they think it not worth notice, and He will confess it one day publicly, before His Father and the holy angels. He that bore witness to John the Baptist never changes. Let believers remember this. In their worst estate they may boldly say with David – ‘I am poor and needy, yet the Lord thinks upon me (Psalm 40:17).

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This morning I had the privilege of preaching on John 5:39-47. Here is a summary of my sermon in one sentence: There is hope through Christ, despite the fact that all of the witnesses to Him have been rejected by sinful man.

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As Dennis Prager says in his the subtitle of his book, The Ten Commandments,  it is “still the best moral code.” Individuals, families, and nations would prosper simply by following and obeying them. In this short book, Prager gives his thoughts on each of the commandments. I don’t agree with all of those thoughts, but the book is a good, quick read. It’s interesting to read what a non-Christian thinks of the Ten Commandments (Dennis is Jewish and calls himself an “ethical monotheist”).

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Courtroom-witness-chair

I had the privilege this morning of preaching on John 5:31-38. Here is a summary of my sermon in one sentence: In addition to Jesus’ own testimony about Himself, John the Baptist, Hs works, and God the Father witness to who He is and what He’s done.

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The Bruised Reed by Richard Sibbes is a classic. It’s based upon Isaiah 42:3, which says, “A bruised shall he not break, and the smoking flax he shall not quench.” The first part of Isaiah 42 is a Messianic prophecy pointing, of course, to Jesus Christ. Sibbes’ point is that Jesus will encourage and bolster even the smallest evidence of God’s gracious work in a person’s life. He won’t snuff it out or break it off because it isn’t good enough or strong enough or developed enough. The Lord works to strengthen our “reed” and kindle into flame our “smoking flax.” This is a very encouraging book. The next time I read it, however, I’ll read it devotionally (meaning slowly in small chunks, so I’m better able to digest it). Tolle lege!

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When he was diagnosed with cancer, seminary student Paul Wolfe dealt with the issue of God’s involvement in it. He came to this conclusion, which he records in his excellent book My God Is True, in a chapter called “Who’s In Charge Here?” The section is called “Here I Stand.”

I know that some of my friends did not share my conviction that the Lord brought my cancer to pass. I can recall one conversation in particular in which a dear friend made it clear that this was a claim he simply could not accept.

Setting aside the consideration that the Bible actually teaches this – that is, the comprehensive sovereignty of God – consider the question: Would we really want it any other way?

Concede that just one thing is out of God’s control, and at that point you have opened up a Pandora’s Box of uncertainty and despair. If my cancer was out of his control, then how can I know how many other things are out of his control, and how can I know what they are, and whether or not he will be able to do something redemptive, something transforming, with anything that happens to me? When you have cancer, some want to comfort you with the notion that God had nothing to do with it. But that is cold comfort, indeed. Freezing cold.

After all, what are the alternatives? Would I really want to say that the ultimate explanation for my illness is what some rogue cells just happened to do one day? Or what the human race now justly deserves since the Fall? Or what Satan was able to bring about? Or (stepping beyond the bounds of faith altogether) what mere ‘chance’ brought my way? Where is the comfort in any of those claims?

Notice I said the ‘ultimate’ explanation. Yes, cancer does involve cells gone bad. (As I said before, the natural is real.) Yes, ours is now a cursed world. Yes, Satan is real and active. But am I left to conclude that there is no higher explanation than any of those considerations, no higher reference point, no higher purpose?

No! Take those dreadful answers and run them through the theological shredder, every last one of them. I do not want anything to do with a worldview that says that cells, or curse, or Satan is ultimate. I do not want anything to do with a pitiful, partially sovereign ‘god.’

I boast in this: the trial that was my cancer, plus the trying treatments I received for it, was placed into my hands by the hand of my loving Father above. And as he placed it there he summoned me through the Scriptures to trust in him, promising that he would teach me and transform me along the way, and one day bring me into my cancer-free, sorrow-free heavenly home. The classic question when it comes to suffering is, Where is God in this? Where was God when I got cancer? Let me tell you. He was standing right in front of me, ruling my life, demanding my faith. Sovereign God! Gracious Savior!

Once again, we need only go back to the cross. How often we need to go back there! As infamous and dreadful as cancer may be – and it is – it pales next to the darkness of the cross. See there the unfathomable horror. See there the unspeakable injustice. We Christians are quick to give God the glory for the accomplishment of our salvation by means of that most horrible event. Would we then shrink back from our deepest convictions and say in the case of cancer, ‘God had nothing to do with it’? No, let us come to our spiritual senses, and bow before the Sovereign Lord.

(pp. 26-27)

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I had the privilege of preaching this morning on John 5:25-30. Here is a summary of my sermon in one sentence: Jesus defends His deity by proclaiming that He raises the spiritual dead, raises the physical dead, and will be the judge of all mankind.

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