The Bible is filled with some crazy, though true, accounts of individuals and their relationships with God.
“You want me to do–what? Build an ark?!” Gen. 6:14
“You want to me to follow you to the land You will show me?” Gen. 12:1
“You want us to step into the Jordan River at flood stage?!” Josh. 3:13
“Seriously–I am going to be king of Israel?” 1 Sam. 16:13
“You want us to forgive seventy times seven times?!” Mt. 18:22
“You want me to lay hands on Saul of Tarsus?!” Acts 9:13
“You’ve got to be kidding!”
Several years ago, Mark Driscoll grilled Francis Chan on camera regarding Chan’s decision to resign his “successful” pastorate to follow the Lord. Chan was convinced that God was leading him to walk by faith and transition into a new ministry. Driscoll was not convinced, almost ridiculing Chan for his apparent foolishness.
“You’ve got to be kidding! You actually believe God wants you to do that?! You really believe the Spirit is leading you to make that decision?! Is that wise?”
Is it possible that faith can look like foolishness? I think so–particularly in our world which increasingly desires to deify science (even though science itself contains fundamental assertions based upon conjecture and/or faith). We live in a world in which discipleship looks dumb and faith-filled walking appears like fanaticism.
But what does the Bible teach us? Believers are to walk by faith, rejoicing that God rewards those who seek Him (Heb. 11:6). We are to look upon that which is unseen (2 Cor. 4:18; Heb. 11:27), striving to please God by our faith and trust (Prov. 3:5-6; Heb. 11:39). And that faith is founded securely on the person and works of Jesus Christ. Paul wrote,
“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Gal. 2:20).
“And the life which I now live in flesh I live by faith in the Son of God.” Because Jesus loved me–a love which began in eternity past (Eph. 1:4) and continues throughout eternity future (Rom. 8:38-39)–and laid down His life for me (John 10:11; Eph. 5:25), I can live by faith. I can walk by faith.
Am I doing so? I’m trying. How will I know? Because–at least from time to time–I will look foolish. And–either I am saying it to the Lord (hopefully with great respect) or others are saying it to me.
“You’ve got to be kidding!”
We are still waiting to find out the title of the next chapter of our lives. In just over a month, my five-year ministry at Rhea County Academy will be concluded. Many of you have inquired about what is next. Thank you! Some of you are also praying regularly for us. Thank you! We covet your continued prayers. However, our responsibility for praying remains in effect. I was reminded of that as I studied Acts, chapter one this week. While the post-resurrection disciples waited for the arrival of the Holy Spirit, they were devoted to prayer (1:14). In other words, they were engaged in prayerful waiting. Their example was surely in Paul’s mind as he commanded the Christians in Asia Minor:
“Devote yourselves to prayer” (Col. 4:2).
“Pray continually” (1 Thess. 5:17).
If any activity marks a genuine believer, it is prayer. Christians are people who pray–pray frequently, passionately, and purposefully. And–our praying continues, whether we find ourselves in “GO”–“STOP”–or–“YIELD” mode. We’re in “YIELD” (wait) mode currently.
What about you?
We’re praying–A LOT.
What about you?
One week later…
We celebrated the Firstfruit–Christ’s resurrection–last Sunday. Today we need to be cultivating fresh fruit.
In a meeting recently I made a remark similar to this:
“I don’t care if an individual walks an aisle, says a prayer or makes a decision, if that experience doesn’t result in different behaviors, different actions and reactions.”
I’m not sure that everyone in the meeting agreed with such a straight-forward assertion–that regeneration naturally results in repentance.
I do not know when “easy-believism” took serious root in our nation. Some state that it was born out of the tent revivals of the 1800’s. Others claim that Billy Graham and the traveling evangelists of the 1900’s are to blame. I suppose it does not matter. What does matter is that the whole gospel is not always proclaimed.
Allow me to define what I define as the “whole gospel.”
- We are sinners.
- We cannot save ourselves.
- We need a Savior.
- The Savior has come.
- His name is Jesus.
- We must receive Him, believe in His name (combination of belief and trust).
- We must prove our belief by our actions (looking like Jesus/growing in grace).
Do you recall the “Lordship” debate which raged within Christendom in the early 1990’s? In a sense, John MacArthur ignited the discussion with his book The Gospel According to Jesus (Zondervan, 1988). Have you read the book? I picked up a used copy on a visit to Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Illinois. After reading it, I simply could not understand how any Christian could contradict MacArthur’s conclusions.
Meditate upon these quotes:
“Our Lord’s words about eternal life were invariably accompanied by warnings to those who might be tempted to take salvation lightly. He taught that the cost of following Him is high, that the way is narrow and few find it. He said many who call Him Lord will be forbidden from entering the kingdom of heaven (cf. Matthew 7:13-23). Present-day evangelicalism, by and large, ignores those warnings. The prevailing view of what constitutes saving faith continues to grow broader and more shallow, while the portrayal of Christ preaching and witnessing grows fuzzy. Anyone who claims to be a Christian can find evangelicals willing to accept his profession of faith, whether or not his behavior shows any evidence of commitment to Christ” (p.21-22).
“Repentance has always been the foundation of the biblical call to salvation. When Peter gave the gospel invitation at Pentecost, in their first public evangelism of the church era, repentance was at the heart of it. ‘Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins’ (Acts 2:38). No evangelism that omits the message of repentance can properly be called the gospel, for sinners cannot come to Jesus Christ apart from a radical change of heart, mind, and will. That demands a spiritual crisis leading to a complete turnaround and, ultimately, a wholesale transformation. It is the only kind of conversion Scripture recognizes” (p.167).
“The idea of daily self-denial does not jive with the contemporary supposition that believing in Jesus is a momentary decision. A true believer is one who signs up for life. The bumper-sticker sentiment, ‘Try Jesus,’ is a mentality foreign to real discipleship–faith is not an experiment, but a lifelong commitment. It means taking up the cross daily, giving all for Christ each day with no reservations, no uncertainty, no hesitation. It means nothing is knowingly held back, nothing purposely shielded from His lordship, nothing stubbornly kept from His control. It calls for a painful severing of the tie with the world, a sealing of the escape hatches, a ridding oneself of any kind of security to fall back on in case of failure. A genuine believer knows he is going ahead with Christ until death. Having put his hand to the plow, he will not look back (Luke 9:62)” (p.202).
MacArthur was accurate in his description of “the gospel according to Jesus” as well as his critique of much of modern-day gospel preaching. There is indeed “a cost of discipleship.” Jesus suffered to both save and transform His people for the glory of God. Believing in Jesus is the first God-ordained step of a life devoted to walking with Jesus.
Passion produces change.
We celebrated the Firstfruits–Christ’s resurrection–last Sunday. Today we need to be cultivating fresh fruit.
A song of ascents. “I lift up my eyes to the hills— where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip— he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD watches over you— the LORD is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD will keep you from all harm— he will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.”
Do you find any doubt in this short Psalm? I see great confidence in God. Consider these words from Charles Spurgeon:
“What we need is help,–help powerful, efficient, constant: we need a very present help in trouble. What a mercy that we have it in our God. Our hope is in Jehovah, for our help comes from Him. Help is on the road, and will not fail to reach us in due time, for He who sends it to us was never known to be too late. Jehovah who created all things is equal to every emergency; heaven and earth are at the disposal of Him who made them, therefore let us be very joyful in our Infinite Helper…We are bound to look beyond heaven and earth to Him who made them both: it is vain to trust the creatures: it is wise to truth the Creator” (The Treasury of David, Hendrickson Publishers, p.14-15).
If you are child of God, you can have great joy today in your Infinite Helper. You would be wise to trust your Creator.
Dayton: “Daddy, sinners aren’t really, really, really bad.”
Daddy: “Oh, yes, they are, Dayton.”
Dayton: “I said, ‘They aren’t;’ that means they are badder than bad.”
Again I ask: Don’t you love hearing good theology coming out of the mouths of children?!
I sure do. Dayton is correct. We are worse that bad. We are badder. We’re conceived in sin, and we sinned as soon as we were able. Before long, we became professional at sinning.
That’s why the events of this day in the life of Jesus are so significant. Jesus’ death was anything but purposeless. The death of Christ was, in fact, successful. Simply put, Jesus accomplished His mission. That success would allow Him to say, “It is finished” (Jn. 19:30).
When I was a student in seminary, one of my professors required us to purchase and read a 34-page booklet written by J.I. Packer. It was entitled: Introductory Essay: An Introduction to John Owen’s The Death of Death in the Death of Christ. After reading the essay, I appreciated the professor’s requirement. Packer had something worth saying. Consider the following:
“Christ is a Redeemer who really does redeem” (p.7).
“Our minds have been conditioned to think of the Cross as a redemption which does less than redeem, and of Christ as a Savior who does less than save, and of God’s love as a weak affection which cannot keep anyone from hell without help, and of faith as the human help which God needs for this purpose” (p.18).
“Christ died to save a certain company of helpless sinners upon whom God had set His free saving love. Christ’s death ensured the calling and keeping the present and final salvations–of all whose sins He bore. That is what Calvary meant, and means. The Cross saved; the Cross saves” (p.20).
I apologize for hitting you so hard with theology. Well, maybe I don’t. One important category of theology is Christology–The study of the words and works of Christ. Can you think of another day more appropriate for me to nudge you to consider the work and words of Christ than Good Friday? I think not. As you manuever through this day, consider Christ on the cross. Meditate upon His words. Remember His victory.
We had a need.
He made provision.
A lot said.
“It is finished.”
Thursday night of Passion Week was some evening! Consider the events:
- Jesus institutes the New Covenant (what we minimize with the title “The Last Supper”)
- Jesus washes the feet of the disciples (even [and just the feet of] Peter)
- Jesus announces that He will be betrayed
- Jesus foretells Peter’s denial
- Jesus’ Upper Room Discourse
- Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer
- Jesus’ agony in the garden
- Jesus’ arrest by the Romans
See what I mean?! We often criticize the disciples for running away after the Romans arrested Jesus (Mk. 14:50). But consider what they had just experienced. They must have been numb in the garden! Think of the questions–either stated or unstated.
“This New Covenant will be ratified with Jesus’ blood? Jesus washed our feet? When will we wash one another’s feet? Judas betrayed Jesus? Judas betrayed Jesus! Peter is going to deny Jesus? Peter?! Jesus will do anything for us if we pray in His name? When will the Holy Spirit come? He will live in us? He will live in us?! What fruit does Jesus expect us to bear? What will the world do to us? WOW–did you hear His prayer?! He prayed for us! What happens next? Will the Romans really crucify Him? Will God really raise Him from the dead like He did to Lazarus?”
They must have been reeling!
But consider the night now from Jesus’ perspective.
- He joyfully commences the New Covenant
- He humbles the disciples as He portays geunine humility
- He experiences deep emotion as he set in motion His betrayal by a friend, Judas
- He announces to another friend, a dear friend, that he will–indeed–deny Him
- He encourages and exhorts His disciples for several hours
- He prays–from the heart–for Himself, for His disciples, for all who would believe
- He agonizes in the garden, feeling the weight of imputed sin and His impending death
- He again finds His disciples asleep, feeling intensely isolated as the Roman cohort begins their ascent
- He reveals His true identity as I AM, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
- He allows the Romans–an empire He raised up–to arrest Him
And the passion began in earnest. It would be a very difficult 24 hours–perhaps the hardest day any human being would ever experience. Without what was to come–the resurrection and the ascension– the events of Thursday night would truly be a tragedy.
But they aren’t part of a tragedy. This story is an epic with a Conquering Hero! As the events in the upper room and the garden illustrate, Jesus proved He was in complete control of what was transpiring. Nothing was taking Him by surprise.
Celebrate His sovereignty tonight. Be grateful that Jesus willingly, eagerly, yea, even joyfully (Heb.12) orchestrated and endured this amazing evening.
“Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going back to God…” (Jn. 13:3)