Archive for April, 2019

Wash Me!

April 11th, 2019

Purify me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. (Psalm 51:7)

One of the most staggering truths of the Scriptures is to understand that we do not earn our way to heaven … works have a place – but as a demonstration of having received God’s forgiveness, not as a badge of merit for having earned it. (Ravi Zacharias)

The Christian gospel is simply and clearly centered in the forgiveness of sins that we receive through Christ. In terms of personal application, nothing else is as great a truth as this. Christians are those who believe that Jesus has paid for our sins on the cross, and that He is forever interceding for us before the Father in heaven.

But because Jesus lives forever, He has a permanent priesthood. Therefore He is able to save completely those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to intercede for them. (Hebrews 7:24-25)

There are many times that we believers will fail in our Christian walk. There are spiritual dangers on our right and left, and even in our hearts and souls. The Bible teaches us that God protects us so that “he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear” (1 Cor. 10:13). Yet even with this protective provision we will fail.

Do we lose our salvation when we fail? Some think so, but I do not. We may have lost the joy of our salvation, and sense of freshness of our Christian life. We will lose the leadership of God in our hearts when we sin and do not confess our sins – “If we say we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar, and His word is not in us” (1 John 1:10). We will be like an errant and disobedient child who stubbornly refuses to obey his parent, and who feel the disapproval and distance of his parent, but is not disinherited.

When the Christian confesses his sins to God and he receives cleansing, and restoration, and a rejuvenation of his inner life. The sin that blocked the Christians heart – his inner spiritual “ear” – from hearing the voice of God is removed and God’s voice, His word, becomes alive and hearable again.

But what is the payment for our sins? There is only one payment that can forgive, cleanse, and restore a Christian to God – the death of Christ for our sins. In the Old Testament they observed rituals and animal sacrifices, but these pictured the coming of Christ and the ultimate sacrifice He would make on the cross. When David said, “Purify me with hyssop,” that was a reference to the Old Testament ritual and ultimately a reference to Christ.

This is the Christian’s faith, that in Christ’s death is the forgiveness our souls crave. True Christian repentance is not mere sorrow for sinning. Neither is it merely sorrow for sinning that results in promises not to do it again, or promises to undertake some great feat or to undergo some great personal punishment. It is sorrow and repentance and turning away from sin, but turning toward Christ, and moving toward Him in genuine faith.

The Christian faith is centered in that understanding:

But now, apart from the law, the righteousness of God has been revealed, as attested by the Law and the Prophets. And this righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no distinction, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. God presented Him as an atoning sacrifice through faith in His blood, in order to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance He had passed over the sins committed beforehand. He did this to demonstrate His righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and to justify the one who has faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:21-26)

What is required is for us to reach up in faith and to take hold of Christ, to take hold of His grace. Faith is required. Faith realises our sin, but it also believes that God can forgive through Christ.

It is never enough just to be sorry for one’s sins. That is merely the beginning of conversion. Conversion is only complete, and can only truly call himself a Christian, when he believes that Christ is God’s answer for his sin. Have you done this? Have you repented, confessed your sins, and trusted in Christ? Have you come God in prayer and said, “Wash me by the blood of Christ and I shall be clean”?

Although my memory’s fading, I remember two things very clearly: I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior. (John Newton)

Psalms, Spiritual Recovery

Leadership in Ephesians

April 9th, 2019

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms. For He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless in His presence. In love He predestined us for adoption as His sons through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the Beloved One. (Ephesians 1:3-6 BSB)

It is telling that in the letter that Paul says the most about leadership in the church, in the family, and in life, he starts out by emphasizing the common grace we share. He first lays a strong foundation of the equality of all the saints in terms of the choosing, blessings, planning, and working of God through Christ. And only after he has laid such a wonderful theological foundation for the equality of all believers does he venture into the areas of leadership. 

He deals with five key relationships in this epistle: (1) Christ and the church; (2) gifted people and the church; (3) husbands and wives; (4) parents a children; and (5) employers and workers, or masters and servants.  The first and most important is the relationship between Christ and the church. There is no question that Christ is a gracious and loving Savior, who died to redeem us and who has given His Spirit to mark us as His, who also wishes to display for all eternity His great love and our great redemption.

I ask that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know the hope of His calling, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and the surpassing greatness of His power to us who believe. He displayed this power in the working of His mighty strength, which He exerted in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in the one to come. (Eph. 1:18-21)

But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ, even when we were dead in our trespasses. It is by grace you have been saved! And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages He might display the surpassing riches of His grace, demonstrated by His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. (Eph. 2:4-8)

The astounding truth is that despite the disparity that exists between the believer and Christ, despite His greatness and our fallenness, that God will still raise us up and seat us with Him in the heavenly realms as demonstrations of His great grace and kindness. 

So when the letter says that “God put everything under His feet and made Him head over everything for the church” (Eph. 1:22), Paul has more greatly emphasized God’s love and grace to us and His blessings to us. There is no question but that Christ is Lord, and that we should bow down before Him in surrender and submission, but the tone of the letter much more strongly conveys His love and the blessings of grace than the terror of Christ the Judge. 

So, upon that example and those principles, Paul then simply teaches about leadership in these other areas. What leader cannot read this epistle without being touched? This teaches us that the leaders of the church are not to lord it over their brothers and sisters, neither is the husband to lord it over his wife, nor is the parent to cruelly exasperate his child, nor is the employer to harshly disrespect his worker. It does not dismiss the leader’s role, not in the church, nor in the marriage, nor in the family, nor in the work place. But it does paint it the color of grace and respect. 

The Christian leader is the one who is most like Christ, who knows when to chase the money changers out of the temple, who knows when to ask the tough questions, who knows when to rebuke the sinner, but who also is willing to die for the ones he leads, who is willing to suffer disgrace and embarrassment if others will be blessed, who seeks to lift up and strengthen those he leads. The Christian leader is not the one who puts others down, but the one who lifts them up, that they might become more than he is. 

In whatever capacity God has given you the opportunity to lead others, seek to lift them up and not to tear them down. There may come a time for rebuking, but God never rebukes that He does not also plant a seed of hope and explain how things can be put right. Remember that the word of God is inspired and useful “for instruction, for conviction, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, fully equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17).

The last part of that quote from 2 Timothy, “that the man of God may be complete,” does not refer only to the preacher or to the teacher or, for our purposes, to the Christian leader. It also is relevant for the one who is taught or led by the Word, that the word of grace lifts us up from our failures and Christian leadership should fully equip the saved for every good work.   

Ephesians, Leadership, Marriage