Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Trampoline of Repentance and Faith

Darrin Patrick has written an excellent book, "Church Planter".  I highly recommend it for every believer, not just church planters or pastors.  Read it, apply it to your own life and pray for your pastor!  Rather than a full review, I would like walk us through this diagram.  (I didn't see any copyright information, so I'll assume I'm safe.)


Repentance and faith are pictured as the rise and fall of the Christian life.  In repentance I see my sin for what it really is.  I don't excuse my sin or blame someone else, I own it.  I turn from my sin, despising it and wanting nothing to do with it.  The foundation of repentance is that I am a bigger sinner than I thought.  Sin goes deeper in my heart than I realized.

But the bounceback is faith in Christ.  I realize that He is a great Savior in spite of my great sin.  He is in me and I am in Him.  When God looks at me He sees me as a new Creation in Christ.  The gospel reminds me that Jesus lived and died for me.  I am completely accepted by faith in Jesus Christ.

This is the cycle of repentance and faith in my life.  It is the downward fall of a contrite heart and the joyful rising of a hopeful heart.

Notice also the terms "Surface Idol" and "Source Idol".  Patrick's approach to idolatry in our hearts is one of the strengths of this book.  He is constantly looking at motives.  It can be quite annoying, in a very necessary sort of way!  The surface idol is the sin as we see it, and as others see it, with the eyes.  You might call it sin manifested.  The source idol is the root sin, the underlying desire and motive from which our sin springs.  Our biggest problem isn't that we have issues with bad works, but that we have issues with bad worship.  It takes a lot of prayer and work to get to the source idols in our lives, but the deeper we 'bounce' in repentance the higher we fly in faith!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Don't Be a Don'ter!

"It isn't enough to be good.  Be good for something.  The essence of Christianity is not a passionless purity.  Don't be a don'ter.  Be a doer."  Bill Piper

For many Christians holiness is about all the things they don't do, or more likely, all the things they wish they could stop doing.  "I would be more like Christ if I could only stop..."  This tends to spill over into how we relate to other believers, in that we exclude and include based on what other people don't do.

Back in Ephesians 4:22-24 we drilled down on the pattern of "take off, renew, put on".  Take off your old self, be made new in your attitude, put on your new self.  (Four sermons here.)  Unfortunately, we tend to get stuck in "take off" when it comes to holiness, as if we would be well dressed if we just took off our dirty clothes.  Sometimes I just wish my kids would "be good", but what I'm really thinking is "stop it"!

Yes, take off/stop/quit when, where and what God commands.  But be renewed in your thinking.  Be transformed in your desires.  And put on/start/go when, where and what God commands.  It's change  from the inside out.  Aim for passionate doing instead of passionless don'ting.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Mercy Shouts Louder!

"There is more mercy in Christ than sin in us."
Richard Sibbes, The Bruised Reed

I love these words.  There are days when sin seems overwhelming, as if we have reached our limit and God simply has no more patience or mercy to give.  This quote is a great reminder of the depth and breadth of the mercy of Christ.  It reminds me of Paul's words, "The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more" (Romans 5:20).

God gave us the law so we could know that we are sinners.  Where the law abounds, sin will abound.  Where people live by the law, they will always have more sin to point out in themselves, but more likely in others.  The law can be a dismal place to live.  God also gave us the law so we would throw up our hands in surrender and run to Jesus Christ in broken faith. Where there is an increasing awareness of sin there can be an increasing awareness of grace.  Or to paraphrase Paul's Greek words, sin migh 'super abound' but grace 'hyper abounds'!

I was reminded this morning of Dr. Layman, a beloved professor from my beloved alma mater.  He once pointed out Paul's words "all the more" and illustrated them with the story of blind Bartimaeus from Mark 10 and Luke 18. Bartimaeus used to sit by the road and beg.  One day he heard that Jesus was coming and he began to shout "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!"  He was rebuked and told to be quiet.  But he shouted "all the more" for Christ to have mercy on him.  And He did.

If your sin shouts condemnation at you today, let the mercy of Jesus shout all the more!  If Satan shouts accusations at you today, listen to Jesus shout grace even louder!

Monday, March 07, 2011

Ephesians Extra - Jesus Has the Wheel

We didn't spend a lot of time on Ephesians 1:11, but it is one of the most amazing, astounding declarations of God's sovereignty, and it is written almost as a passing description of God.  Paul tells the Ephesian believers again that they have been chosen by God, and God's choosing was all part of a plan over which He has complete control.  God does not make plans and then cross His fingers and hope nothing happens to mess them all up.  Because He knows the beginning from the end, He never takes a risk and is never surprised.  God's purposes always prevail  (Psalm 33:11; Isaiah 46:10).  Psalm 119:91 makes the grand, sweeping claim, "all things serve you."  Everything in the universe somehow serves God's will.  As much as God's enemies hate it and do not intend it, even they fulfill His purpose.  As Martin Luther put it, "The devil is God's devil."

God does not co-pilot the universe.  Jesus has the wheel - not nature, not fate, not circumstances, not chance.  Take some time to sing a song of praise!  Thank God that right this very second He Himself is causing everything to work together for His glory and for the good of those whom He has called and who love Him!

Friday, March 04, 2011

Selling Dreams For Small Desires

Some will sell their dreams for small desires
And lose the race to rats
Get caught in ticking traps
And start to dream of somewhere
to relax their restless flight
Somewhere out of a memory of lighted streets and quiet nights

Any escape might help disprove
the unattractive truth
But the suburbs have no charms to sooth
the restless dreams of youth
From the song Subdivisions by Neil Peart

The suburbs are a curious place.  Some dream of moving there.  Some dream of moving out.  Some see the suburbs as an ideal destination, a place they would live if everything worked out for the best.  Others see the suburbs as a place to be tolerated until everything works out for better.  Neil Peart, drummer for the rock band Rush, seems to understand this. This song calls the suburbs the "mass production zone".  It's the place where every need is met within a five-mile radius.  It's the paradise of consumers. 
But as the song says, the suburbs can be very tough on dreams.  Dreams shrink, get misplaced and become disoriented in the endless cycle of  consumption and busyness.  Big visions get sold for small desires.  This helps me pray Ephesians 4:17 for the world around me.  I'm praying for the suburbs to let people down.  I'm praying for the suburbs' promises to come up empty.  And I'm praying for God's people to be there with a glorious, satisfying vision of life in Jesus Christ.  I'm praying for churches and neighborhoods filled and flowing with dreams of a kingdom that is the true destination, where every true need is met in Christ the King.

Neil Peart makes no claim to be a Christian, and if you were to peruse his lyrics you might even find some anti-Christian songs.  He has said on numerous occasions, "I am no one's disciple", so his beliefs can be a bit difficult to pin down. But that certainly doesn't mean we can't let him help us pray.  Let your radio/CD/Mp3 player lead you to prayer.  I confess I have even found myself in tears listening to Willie Nelson sing "Bloody Mary Morning" as I prayed for the people who wake up on Sunday morning with a hangover, once again having been failed by a drink.

PSS Here's the video in all it's 80's glory!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Ephesians Extra: God's Will For Your Life!

For the Creeksiders who were around when I preached from Ephesians 1:9-10, you got to hear me tell you God's will for your life. I'm sure you're still thanking me! (For those who didn't hear it, you can listen here if you feel so inclined.)  I want to offer just a few extra thoughts about God's will, with a little help from Wayne Grudem.  "Just as we can will or choose something eagerly or reluctantly, happily or with regret, secretly or publicly, so also God in the infinite greatness of His personality is able to will different things in different ways."

Theologians have for centuries made a distinction between God's secret and revealed will.  Deuteronomy 29:29 is one verse that makes this distinction.  There are many aspects of God's will that He simply has not revealed to us in detail: how He runs the universe, future events, difficulties, blessings, etc. When God does reveal His will, He does so for the sake of our obedience.  (Theologians sometimes call this God's will of precept or command.)

However, in Ephesians 1:9-10, we see God's secret will becoming His revealed will!  There was a mystery hidden for generations, and God has made it known.  Along the way God gave glimpses behind the curtain, like in Psalm 2:7-9.  But now, as Paul Harvey used to say, we know the rest of the story.  The day will come when the nations will bow to Jesus Christ.  Jesus will bring His people together in His kingdom under His banner.

"Jesus Christ is Lord" is the proclamation we make together.  Unity in submission to Christ is God's will for us.  Now you know God's will for your life.  Glad I could help.

Friday, February 25, 2011

A Well-Known Idiot

"A well-known idiot is more respected in America than a brilliant recluse.  Fame has become the ultimate credibility." Michael Levine

I guess it all started with the advertising pitch, "I'm not a doctor, but I play one on TV."  I remember seeing that commercial when I was a kid, but I can't remember the actor's name or what he was selling.  But my guess would be people bought it.

You see this come to play in every election. You would see it on the shopping channels if you watched the shopping channels.

An actor hits the talk shows, the news or the stage and talks as if he is an expert in government and public policy. He probably isn't saying anything he didn't hear on CNN or Fox, but because he is famous, and probably a hunk, he gets an audience.  I would imagine he even gains a few votes for his candidate.  At least the candidate thinks he will, or he wouldn't have invited him to the stump.

A famous actress talks about a skin care product as if she is a PhD in Dermatology.  She uses a few big words and sounds smart repeating what the manufacturer and the teleprompter are telling her.  She sells product by the millions.  She's pretty and famous so she must know what she's talking about!

I don't think Michael Levine is saying that every famous person who sells stuff on TV is an idiot.  I'm certainly not saying that.  And I'm certainly not saying that being a recluse is something to be proud of, no matter how brilliant you are.  What I'm getting at is the issue of credibility.

Let me offer an example along entirely different lines from the life of my daughter, Darby.  At 8 years old she is constantly starting conversations about Jesus.  It started with her peers, but lately she has found herself talking to adults she doesn't even know.  But when it comes to the adults, she believes she has credibility issues.  (That's my paraphrase.)  "I just don't think grown-ups are gonna listen to a little kid."

Credibility is both objective and subjective, so it's a hard thing to get your hands on.  Credibility is the quality that makes a person believable.  It's trustworthiness gained through character, skill and knowledge.  To use Webster's words, it's the quality or power of inspiring belief.  In the end, we all want to be believable.  We all want to inspire others.  So we work and pray for the integrity and knowledge that makes us trustworthy.  We labor for the what Proverbs calls a "good name" (Proverbs 3:3-4; 22:1)  It comes from love and faithfulness. Credibility doesn't require riches, but a good name is worth far more than riches.  If I passionately know and believe in  my "product", love the people to whom I "sell", then I would imagine people will be "buying".