Monday

Waiting on God

I am really excited about an opportunity that God has place in front of me recently.  I am passionate about helping other men live out their callings as disciple, husband, and father.  I have a close friend who is also passionate about discipling men.  What God has been gracious enough to do recently is bring men into our small group who share this passion.  As we began to talk and explore our shared desire to see men walk in the fullness of who He has called them to be, the possibilities began to really excite me.  About a month ago we agreed to set a time to all meet together specifically to pray for this potential ministry opportunity.  One of the things we all want to be sure of is that we don't rush ahead of God in this.

I am finding that I really want to rush ahead.  I don't like this about myself.  I really want to be able to sit back patiently and wait for God to move in His perfect timing.

Because I know that His timing really is perfect.
Because I know that His way really is best.
Because I know that there is a way that seems right to me that in the end goes very badly.

And yet, my flesh is constantly trying to plan the next step, create the next phase in an opportunity that doesn't even belong to me.  My head knows that God has this all planned out and that His plan is infinitely better than mine.  My flesh on the other hand is pretty sure that I've got this and I don't need any help, even from God.  I find that I am constantly battling myself to remain patient and wait on God's timing and His plan to manifest itself.

I realize that God is using this to point out another area of my life that I need to relinquish completely to Him and I am praying that He continues to prune me in that way..


In the meantime, I guess I will just wait.....patiently....or at least wait.

Wednesday

Leaving the Basics to Grow in Christ

We had a great discussion last night in our small group about biblical love.  Our discussion was centered around 1 Corinthians 13.  One of the things we noticed was a similarity between 1 Corinthians 13:11 and Hebrews 5:12.

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. -- 1 Corinthians 13:11

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food,  -- Hebrews 5:12 

In both passages there is a moving (or lack of moving) away from childish immaturity towards maturity.  In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul is laying out what maturity looks like, at least in part.  It does not lie in spiritual gifts, but in doing everything with a Christ-like, sacrificial love.  What I find especially interesting is in what Paul indicates in Hebrews to be the foundation that must be laid before maturity can be attained.

Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. -- Hebrews 6:1-2

According to Paul, the foundation that maturity is built upon is the "elementary doctrine of Christ".  He goes on to point out specifics of that doctrine, including repentance from dead works, faith toward God, resurrection from the dead, and eternal judgment.  That sound familiar to anyone?  That in a nutshell is the gospel message.  Paul is saying, at least in part, that a solid understanding of the doctrines involved with the gospel is the foundation that must be laid in order for the believer to progress to maturity in Christ.  So, the depravity of man, justification, penal substitution, election: these are all foundational doctrines that must be in place in order for us to progress to maturity.

If that is the case, why do so many churches shy away from teaching them?  I think we have gotten things backwards.  Too often, we relegate these basic doctrines to the arena of seminary or specialty classes offered to those who are "mature enough" to understand them.  Then we teach concepts like loving your neighbors and enemies as to everyone as though they are basic, simple ideas.

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13 that love is the product of leaving childish things behind and progressing to maturity.  In Hebrews he says that can only be done if we first have a foundation based on the doctrines of Christ.  People cannot love the way God calls them to unless they first understand the gospel and most of our people have a very narrow, short sided, and incomplete understanding of the gospel because we won't teach them those things until they mature.

They can't mature because we won't teach them and we won't teach them because they aren't mature.  I don't think this is going to end well.  We have to stop trying to protect our people from hard to understand doctrines because in the end all we are doing is preventing them from growing in Christ.  Then we expect them to operate in maturity without providing them the very foundation they need to mature.  In essence, we tell them what road they should take, roll a giant boulder in the road, and wonder why they aren't getting anywhere.

There is a way that seems right to man..........

Tuesday

The Greatest of These is Love

Our small group is studying the book of 1 Corinthians together.  Tonight we will be in chapter 13.  You know, the love chapter.  The chapter that graces wedding invitations, anniversary cards, and other similarly romantic items.  I certainly think these are all appropriate applications of what amounts to the most complete definition of agape love given to us in scripture.  Unfortunately, the tendency is to relegate that definition to the context of the marriage relationship when in reality it is meant to be the defining characteristic of every relationship we are a part of.

Interestingly enough, 1 Corinthians 13 isn't even written in the context of marriage but of the proper use of spiritual gifts in the church.  The church at Corinth had asked Paul about the gifts and their uses and Paul makes it clear to them that they can clamor all they want to about their gifts but if they operate apart from love, then they may as well be devoid of any gift at all.  In order to help them operate in love, Paul defines what true Christian love looks like.  This is where I think this passage becomes especially useful and convicting for us today.

There are several Greek words used in the New Testament that are translated as love in English. Of them all, agape is the love that is most removed from emotions and most attached to the will.  Agape love reveals itself not in how we feel, but in what we do.

These are the characteristics of agape love according to Paul:


  • patient
  • kind
  • does not envy
  • does not boast
  • not arrogant
  • not rude
  • not selfish
  • not irritable
  • not resentful
  • loves truth
  • believes the best of people
  • hopes for the best things
  • endures all things without bitterness
What this all means for us is this: it doesn't matter how you feel or what you say, if you aren't demonstrating these characteristics towards others then you aren't loving them.  

When you are impatient with someone, you are not loving them.
When you envy your neighbor's house, you are not loving him.
When you avoid telling someone the truth, you are not loving them.
When you believe the worst about people, you are not loving them.

We love others with our will through the power of the Holy Spirit working through us.  Without Christ, we cannot love others as we are called.  If these behaviors and attitudes define love, then the absence of them define the absence of love.  No amount of warm feelings or spoken platitudes will change that fact.

So just how important is it for us to demonstrate this kind of love?  Very.

  • Love marks us as disciples of Christ - John 13:35
  • Love marks us as having passed from darkness to light - 1 John 3:14
  • Love marks us as having been born of God - 1 John 4:7
  • God is love - 1 John 4:16
  • Love give us confidence in the day of judgment - 1 John 4:17
  • Love casts out fear - 1 John 4:18
  • Love is the greatest quality of the disciple - 1 Corinthians 13:13

The world teaches us that love comes from the heart.  It is a fickle emotion that comes when it wills and sweeps us away with its power.  It also leaves when it wills and leaves us devastated in its departure.  We fall in and out of love and there is nothing we can do about it.

Scripture teaches us that love comes from the will. It is an act of our Holy Spirit empowered will towards others.  It is not fickle, it never fails.  Scripture teaches us that love is the defining characteristic of the follower of Christ.  Without love, every other claim we may make pertaining to Christ makes us to be a liar.  God is love and His followers must be reflections of that love. God's love flourishes even when we don't feel loving.  We can still love others because our emotions do not determine love, our actions do.  Praise God that He can love others through us even when we don't feel like loving anyone.

Monday

Soli Deo Gloria

As sola scriptura is the foundation upon which all other doctrines (including the other solas) rest, soli deo gloria is the umbrella under which all other doctrines reside.  It is the over arching and all emcompassing idea of scripture.  Everything exists for the glory of the creator.  Everything, in one way or another, will bring Him glory.  I don't if anything is spoken of as much in all of scripture, both old and new testaments, as the glory of God.  Consider the following verses:




Ezekiel 20:8-9
But they rebelled against me and were not willing to listen to me. None of them cast away the detestable things their eyes feasted on, nor did they forsake the idols of Egypt."Then I said I would pour out my wrath upon them and spend my anger against them in the midst of the land of Egypt. But I acted for the sake of my name, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations among whom they lived, in whose sight I made myself known to them in bringing them out of the land of Egypt.

Psalm 106:6-8
Both we and our fathers have sinned; we have committed iniquity; we have done wickedness.  Our fathers, when they were in Egypt, did not consider your wondrous works; they did not remember the abundance of your steadfast love, but rebelled by the Sea, at the Red Sea. Yet he saved them for his name's sake, that he might make known his mighty power.

Exodus 14:4, 18
And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and he will pursue them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, and the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord.” And they did so.
And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I have gotten glory over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen.

1 Samuel 12:19-22
And all the people said to Samuel, “Pray for your servants to the Lord your God,  that we may not die, for we have added to all our sins this evil, to ask for ourselves a king.” And Samuel said to the people, “Do not be afraid; you have done all this evil. Yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart.  And do not turn aside after empty things that cannot profit or deliver, for they are empty. For the Lord will not forsake his people, for his great name's sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you a people for himself.

Psalm 25:11
For your name's sake, O Lord, pardon my guilt, for it is great.

Psalm 23:3
He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.




1 Kings 8:41-45
“Likewise, when a foreigner, who is not of your people Israel, comes from a far country for your name's sake (for they shall hear of your great name and your mighty hand, and of your outstretched arm), when he comes and prays toward this house, hear in heaven your dwelling place and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to you, in order that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your people Israel, and that they may know that this house that I have built is called by your name.
 “If your people go out to battle against their enemy, by whatever way you shall send them, and they pray to the Lord toward the city that you have chosen and the house that I have built for your name, then hear in heaven their prayer and their plea, and maintain their cause.

2 Samuel 7:23
And who is like your people Israel, the one nation on earth whom God went to redeem to be his people, making himself a name and doing for them great and awesome things by driving out before your people, whom you redeemed for yourself from Egypt, a nation and its gods?

Isaiah 48:9-11
For my name's sake I defer my anger, for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you, that I may not cut you off.
Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.

Malachi 2:2
If you will not listen, if you will not take it to heart to give honor to my name, says the Lord of hosts, then I will send the curse upon you and I will curse your blessings. Indeed, I have already cursed them, because you do not lay it to heart.

John 17:4
I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.

John 7:18
The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory, but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood.


John 12:27-28
“Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.

Romans 15:8-9
For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God's truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, “Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles, and sing to your name."
Ephesians 1:3-6
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.

Ephesians 1:11-14
In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

Philippians 1:11
filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
1Corinthians 10:31
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

1Peter 4:11
whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies - in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Matthew 5:16
In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.



2 Thessalonians 1:9-10
They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.

Revelation 21:22-23
And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.



Everything God does is for His glory.  From the hardening of Pharoah's heart to our very salvation, nothing and no one exists whose purpose and destiny is not to glorify the King of the universe.  Soli Deo gloria helps us to understand why God chose to save us the way He did.  The method behind the madness is to ensure that we cannot steal God's glory when we meditate on our salvation.  God did it by grace alone, through faith alone, and in Christ alone.  We are kept out of the equation so that God receives the glory and praise for the work of the cross.

This is the great purpose of God, to be glorified as He deserves.  He will work all things out according to His good pleasure in a way that brings Him praise.

Wednesday

Sola Fide



Today I will be looking at the 4th of the Five Solas.  To this point I have discussed Sola Scriptura (part 2), Solus Christus, and Sola Gratia.  Today I will look at the doctrine of sola fide, or "by faith alone".

We learned that scripture teaches us that salvation comes through the grace of Christ alone.  No other person, system, or mechanism can achieve for us eternal salvation.  It is only available through the person of Jesus Christ and His grace.  The question then becomes "How do we become partakers of Christ's grace?".  What is the mechanism through which saving grace becomes accessible to us?

The biblical answer to that question is faith and only faith.  Consider again Paul's words to the church in Ephesus.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. -- Ephesians 2:8-9
Paul states very clearly in the beginning of this passage that access to God's saving grace is faith.  Faith in Christ's work on the cross and His resurrection from the dead provide us access to God's grace.  The following verses cement the doctrine of sola fide.

 21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since God is one. He will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. 31 Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law. -- Romans 3:21-31
This passage clearly teaches that:

  •  righteousness is obtained through faith in Jesus (v. 22)
  • we are justified by grace through faith in Jesus as our propitiation (v. 25)
  • God justifies those who have faith in Jesus (v. 26)
  • Works cannot justify us, only faith in Jesus (v. 28)
  • God will justify the circumcised and uncircumcised through faith (v. 30)


 Scripture, once again, is very clear here.  Only through faith in Jesus Christ can one be justified by the grace of God, thereby obtaining right standing before Him.  No work of the law can accomplish this for us.  Only the sovereign grace of God operating through faith in Christ can save the sinner.

Tuesday

Sola Gratia

Sorry for the delay in posting this.  My beautiful wife and I celebrated our 12th anniversary this weekend with a weekend trip away without our 4 children.  I am back now and looking forward to continuing through the 5 solas.  This post concernse sola gratia which translates to by grace alone.  This doctrine states that we are saved by the grace of God alone.  Nothing else is contributes to our salvation other than the grace of God.

The go to verse in this case is Ephesians 2:8-9.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

This is a very clear and straightforward declaration of the cause of salvation. It is by grace we have been saved.  It is not a result of works.  I think where some people miss the mark a little here is by limiting what "works" are.  We tend to think in terms of church attendance, financial giving, good deeds, etc.  "Works" really can mean anything we do to try to contribute to God's grace in the process of salvation.   If it comes from us, it is a "work".

Below are some other verses that teach sola gratia:

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, --  Romans 3:23-24
So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace. -- Romans 11:5-6
 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if justification were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose. -- Galatians 2:21
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, -- Ephesians 1:7 
even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ - by grace you have been saved -- Ephesians 2:5 
 who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began,  -- 2 Timothy 1:9
so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. -- Titus 3:7 
The bible is extremely clear in this regard, that salvation is obtained in God's grace and in God's grace alone.  We are dead in our sins  and only by God's grace can we be made alive.  Any gospel that adds to God's grace is no gospel at all, a point that Paul made very strongly in his letter to the Galatians.

Solus Christus

I am studying and blogging my way through the five solas that emerged during the protestant reformation.  So far I have written on Sola Scriptura.  You can read part one and part two to get up to date.  Today I want to look at Solus Christus or "Christ Alone".

Solus Christus is the biblical doctrine that salvation comes to man through no other means but Jesus Christ. Scripture is very clear on this issue.  Anyone who argues against this doctrine either does not know their bible or does not hold to sola scriptura.


This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. -- Acts 4:11-12

Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. -- John 14:6 
Both of these scriptures are crystal clear that salvation is found no where else outside of Jesus Christ.  The reason for this is simple.  Only God Himself can absolve us of our crime of idolatry.  He created us for His glory and everyday we steal God glory and try to heap it upon ourselves.  Due to God's justness, however, He could not just forgive us for our sins without those sins being punished.  Also, no one else could take our punishment for us because God is the one against whom we have sinned.  The only way salvation could be found was for God Himself to take our punishment upon Himself and grant to us His righteousness.

Through Christ this is exactly what happened.  Christ came in the flesh as one of us and lived perfectly, fulfilling the law which we transgressed.  In so doing, upon absorbing our punishment He was able to grant to us His righteousness.

 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. -- 2 Corinthians 5:21
 Only God in the flesh could accomplish our salvation and only Jesus was God in the flesh.  Therefore, salvation can be found in no other person, religious system, or belief.  Any doctrine of salvation that does not begin and end with Christ and His cross is not the gospel and can save no one.  Only through Christ and His cross can we be saved.

Monday

Sola Scriptura Continued

I am studying my way through the five solas that emerged from the Reformation.  I looked at some of the biblical basis for sola scriptura in this post and will finish up in this post.  I want to look at some of the other biblical support for this doctrine.  While these verses and passages may not explicitly spell out sola scriptura, much like the doctrine of the trinity, they are undoubtedly present.

Jesus Himself provides strong support for the sufficiency of scripture on more than one occasion.  The account of Jesus' temptation recorded in Matthew 4:1-11 and Luke 4:1-13 both record Jesus resistance of Satan in the wilderness.  If ever there was a person who had the authority to appeal to an authority outside of the scriptures it was Christ.  He was, after all the Son of God and the Word made flesh.  Yet, even Jesus turns to scripture to refute the lies of His enemy. Even when Satan tested Jesus in regards to his position as God's Son, Jesus refutes him with scripture.

In Matthew 15:1-9 Jesus once again gives support to the idea of the supremacy of scripture over other forms of teaching.


Then some Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, "Why do Your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread." And He answered and said to them, "Why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?  "For God said, `HONOR  YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER,' and, `HE WHO SPEAKS EVIL OF FATHER OR MOTHER IS TO BE  PUT TO DEATH.'  "But you say, `Whoever says to his father or mother, "Whatever I have that would help you has been given  to God,"  he is not to honor his father or his mother.'  And by this you invalidated the word of God for the sake of your tradition.  "You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you:


`THIS  PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS,
BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME.
`BUT IN VAIN DO THEY WORSHIP ME,
TEACHING AS DOCTRINES  THE PRECEPTS OF MEN.' "


In the book of Acts we see again the elevation of scripture, this time above the teaching of an apostle of Jesus.

Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. -- Acts 17:11
Even upon receiving instruction from an apostle, in this case Paul, the Bereans still took the teachings they received and examined them to see if they were supported by scripture.  Luke says they were "more noble" for doing this than those that just took the teachings at face value.

Combining these scriptures with 2 Timothy 3:16 gives us a very complete teaching that scripture is to be our final and sufficient authority on all things concerning our faith and doctrine.  Why is it so important that sola scriptura be upheld?  The issue boils down to one of authority.  Who has the right to determine matters of our faith and doctrine?  How do we discern what is right when different people or institutions tell us contradictory things?

If we do not have an infallible, sufficient source of all things concerning faith and doctrine then we have no assurance that anything concerning God is knowable.  If our scriptures are prone to error and mistakes then we can have no hope in anything they teach us including what to do to become right with God.  If sola scriptura is not upheld, then there is no hope for any of us in matters concerning our relationship with the God who created anything.

Sola scriptura is the doctrine upon which every other doctrine rests.  It is nothing less than the perfect revelation of a perfect God to his imperfect creation.

Saturday

All I Have Is Christ

Justin Taylor has posted a video on his blog featuring a song by Jordan Kauflin entitled "All I Have Is Christ".  It is an incredibly powerful song both musically and theologically.  You can watch the video below.  Click over to Justin Taylor's blog here to see the lyrics and for links to the chord chart.



All I Have Is Christ from Sovereign Grace Ministries on Vimeo.