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Archive for August, 2015

J.-Gresham-Machen

Do we use God to get what we want, or love and serve Him because of what He can do for us? Or do we love and serve Him for who He is? Nearly one hundred years ago, J. Gresham Machen wrote this:

We are subject to many pressing needs, and we are too much inclined to value God, not for His own sake, but only because He can satisfy those needs. There is the need of food and clothing, for ourselves and for our loved ones, and we value God because He can answer the petition, ‘Give us this day our daily bread.’ There is the need of companionship; we shrink from loneliness; we would be surrounded by those who love us and those whom we can love. And we value God as one who can satisfy that need by giving us family and friends. There is the need of inspiring labour; we would be delivered from an aimless life; we desire opportunities for noble and unselfish service of our fellow-men. And we value God as one who by His ordering of our lives can set before us an open door.

These are lofty desires. But there is one desire that is loftier still. It is the desire for God Himself. That desire, too often, we forget. We value God solely for the things that He can do; we make of Him a mere means to an ulterior end. And God refuses to be treated so; such a religion always fails in the hour of need. If we have regarded religion merely as a means of getting things – even lofty and unselfish things – then when the things that have been gotten are destroyed, our faith will fail. When loved ones are taken away, when disappoint comes and failure, when noble ambitions are set at naught, then we turn away from God. We have tried religion, we say, we have tried prayer, and it has failed. Of course it has failed! God is not content to be an instrument in our hand or a servant at his beck and call. He is not content to minister to the worldly needs of those who care not a bit for Him.

…If we value God for His own sake, then the loss of other things will draw us all the closer to Him; we shall then have recourse to Him in time of trouble as to the shadow of a great rock in a weary land…if here and now we have the one inestimable gift of God’s presence and favor, then all the rest can wait till God’s good time.

(What is Faith? pp. 72-74)

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light_1015

This morning I had the privilege of preaching on John 8:12-20. Here is a summary of my sermon in one sentence: Jesus is Light and offers light to those who follow Him, while those who do not follow Him remain in darkness.

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Trevin Wax has written an excellent blog post on the response, or lack thereof, of those who are pro-choice in the matter of abortion to the Planned Parenthood videos called “The Shrug that Scares Me to Death.” I’m afraid he’s right. We can see John 3:19-20 lived out: “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.” 

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The gospel – the good news that God is reconciling sinners to Himself through His Son Jesus Christ – changes everything. It turns the world upside down. Dan Phillips, in his book The World-Tilting Gospel: Embracing a Biblical Worldview & Hanging on Tight, sketches out in some detail just how much of a difference it really does make.

In four major sections, Phillips explains the foundation of the Christian worldview by answering the following questions: Who are we? What has God done for us? How do we get in? How do we get going? In the last chapter, he gives us nine ramifications of the gospel:

  1. Over everything, God
  2. Sin is a massive, universal nightmare factor
  3. The world is not self-defining
  4. Meaning and self-fulfillment cannot be found within the world
  5. We mustn’t reason from “is” to “ought”
  6. We must reason from “designed,” “commanded,” and “re-created,” and “attended.”
  7. Jesus Christ is the most important Person, event, and figure in all of history
  8. In Christ and through the cross, we have been given all we need for godly living
  9. The vast bounty of God’s provisions for us in Christ enables and obliges us to get on with it to His glory.

A good book, worth reading. Tolle lege!

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john8

I had the privilege this morning of preaching on John 7:53-8:11 (“A Disputed Text and a Fascinating Event”). What follows is a summary of my sermon in one sentence: Jesus upheld justice and offered mercy to the woman caught in adultery, just as He does to sinners like you and me.

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Just a Small Change?

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For quite a long time, I’ve given thanks to God because my sins are forgiven. I’ve expressed my thanks every day (after, of course, I’ve confessed my sin to the Lord). There’s nothing wrong with that – in fact, it’s a good idea.

But about a week ago, I made a small change. No, I didn’t stop being thankful, thankfully! I changed my wording. Now I’m not saying, “I’m thankful my sins are forgiven,” but instead praying, “Lord, I’m thankful that You have forgiven my sins.”

I made the change because I realized my old statement, while true enough, was vague and focused in the wrong direction – me.  The new statement is more specific and focused on God, not me. After all, God is one who has forgiven my sins – it didn’t happen out of nowhere. My sins weren’t just forgiven by themselves! God forgave them based on the shed blood of the spotless Son of God, Jesus Christ.

The Scriptures are clear – “If we confess our sins, He (God) is faithful and just to forgive us or sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

It’s a small change, but maybe it isn’t.

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riversoflivingwater

I had the privilege this morning of preaching on John 7:37-52. What follows is a summary of my sermon in one sentence: Confusion and division regarding the identity of Jesus Christ, as well as a true understanding of it, has its source in the Holy Spirit.

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