Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Grace, First and Decisive

John Piper posted this a couple of days ago at Desiring God. It's just too good for a link. (In it's entirety), Piper writes:

Sometimes readers of the Bible see the conditions that God lays down for his blessing and they conclude from these conditions that our action is first and decisive, then God responds to bless us.

That is not right.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Proof of Grace

Faith is often thought of as "believing in something we cannot see," or "believing in God." That's almost become the textbook definition, even to an unbeliever. The discussion gets interesting though, when we talk about "saving faith" being more than just believing something exist. We've heard it a thousand times, that even the devil believes there's a God. So the manuscripts lead us to the word "believing" meaning trusting, relying in Him.

But we were talking about faith. "Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, and conviction of things not seen." (Heb 11:1) Things that we hope for; the empty tomb, eternal life, transformation to glorification, having peace in a fallen world, and more, are all a done deal. We are certain. We are sure. There's no doubt. End of story.

So is there such thing as "saving faith?" I think "faith" covers it all. And it was free. A gift from God. (Rom 12:3) Proof of grace to all who have it.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Let Not Your Hearts Be Troubled

In John 13, Jesus washes the feet of His disciples, sits down for the Passover Feast, predicts his betrayal by Judas, as well as Peter's failures, then we read in 14:1, "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me" (or "You believe in God, believe also in me".) He continues on with the beautiful 'many mansions' teaching, and His "Way, Truth, and Life" teaching, and much, much more. Verse one has slipped by so quickly it almost seems dwarfed by the rest of the chapter, and the passion chapters to come, but it is imperative that the disciples "get" vs. 1 if they are going to understand His teachings and be able to cope with Jesus' departure from the scene. And it's where we find ourselves in this present age, too.

Wesley comments, "14:1 Let not your heart be troubled - At my departure. Believe - This is the sum of all his discourse, which is urged till they did believe, John 16:30. And then our Lord prays and departs." Jesus spends 3 Chapters convincing His disciples to believe in Him, just as they believe in God. Why was it so crucial at this point for them to finally "get it?" Jesus was about to gift the world with the greatest love ever given it, and they had to know who it was giving it.

Living the Gospel means understanding that apart from knowing the love of Christ, our hearts are indeed troubled. The Gospel of Mark uses the words "fear not" scores of times. As little children, our parents raised us to one day be able to handle life on our own, take care of ourselves, get married and raise our own family. But no matter how successful we might think we are at life, inside we are all afraid, all insecure, and forever throwing up defenses to the world to try and protect that wounded spot in our heart. Growing up and coping with life tends to mean: How well can we hide our insecurities and not let them interfere with our lives? We use defenses like control, anger, selfishness, and pride. We so desperately want to feel good about ourselves. We do anything and everything looking for something, but we don't know what we are looking for. We'll buy anything that Madison Avenue says will make our life better, because we know there is something better to life. Even born-again Christians fall prey to this type of thinking, if not presented with a gospel that says "Live me everyday!"

The answer is the rest of the vs., "Trust in God; trust also in me." When we are trusting God for not only our eternal security, but for our daily bread, we come out of ourselves, and open our hearts to Christ and the love He demonstrated. His love fills our troubled hearts, Jesus validates us like we never can, and life makes sense. And God does indeed provide our daily bread, and so much more. Our will becomes His will, out of our love for Him, and the daily grace of faith becomes more powerful then any nearby mountain. When we rely on God, not ourselves, the peace of Christ is a reality, not just a cliche, because we have no fear of failure. We learn through our experiences that all things really do work together for good for those that love the Lord. And worshipping Him, needing more of Him and His grace becomes a thirst. Such as a deer at the running brook, we know we cannot live without Him.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Worship and the Gospel; Christ Centered Worship

"ChristianityToday" online edition has a great interview with Bryan Chapell author of "Christ-Centered Worship: Letting the Gospel Shape Our Practice" concerning true Christ Centered worship and it's direct relationship with the gospel. Here's an excerpt:

What is—and is not—Christ-centered worship?

Christ-centered worship is not just talking or singing about Jesus a lot. Christ-centered worship reflects the contours of the gospel. In the individual life of a believer, the gospel progresses through recognition of the greatness and goodness of God, the acknowledgment of our sin and need of grace, assurance of God's forgiveness through Christ, thankful acknowledgment of God's blessing, desire for greater knowledge of him through his Word, grateful obedience in response to his grace, and a life devoted to his purposes with assurance of his blessing.

In the corporate life of the church this same gospel pattern is reflected in worship. Opening moments offer recognition of the greatness and goodness of God that naturally folds into confession, assurance of pardon, thanksgiving, instruction, and a charge to serve God in response to his grace in Christ. This is not a novel idea but, in fact, is the way most churches have organized their worship across the centuries. Only in recent times have we lost sight of these gospel contours and substituted pragmatic preferences for Christ-centered worship. My goal is to re-acquaint the church with the gospel-shape of its worship so that we are united around Christ's purposes rather than arguing about stylistic preferences.

Read the whole article here.