The Glory of Christ

I was unable to attend this year’s Pastor Conference at Bethlehem Seminary, but with the blessing of the modern digital age, I have thankfully been able to listen to some of the plenary messages online.

Last week I listened to John Piper’s opening keynote address entitled, “What is Christian Hedonism?” I highly recommend this message, and if you click on the title, you can listen to it for yourself.

What I most appreciated about the message is that his is what John Piper does best. Just the first 8 minutes are worth listening to alone. It is nothing other than Biblically saturated, Christ exalting, God honoring, heart moving witness to the glory of Christ Jesus our Lord.

I was so moved by it that I started to write down the message, then look up the scripture references. The entirety of the first 8 minutes is nothing but scripture about the glory, majesty, authority, and beauty of Jesus.

I’ve typed up the transcript of those 8 minutes. Read along while he’s preaching, and give God all glory through Christ our Lord!


In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (John 1:1). And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14).

Jesus said, “Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” They said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:56–58).

Thomas said to Jesus, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father.”

Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father (John 14:5–9).

Jesus cried out, “whoever sees me sees him who sent me (John 12:45).

Because Jesus “is the image of the invisible God” (Col 1:15), in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily (Col 1:19). He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (Heb. 1:3). For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through Jesus and for Jesus. He upholds the universe by the word of his power (Heb 1:3), and he is before all things, and in him all things hold together (Col 1:16–17).

And yet, “though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Phil 2:6–8). He committed no sin, none!, neither was deceit found in his mouth (1 Peter 2:22).

And so it came to pass by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous (Rom 5:19). 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 Cor. 5:21). Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us… (Gal 3:13). He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed (1 Pet 2:24). For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly (Rom 5:6). When that time approached he said, “No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again” (John 10:18).

So, “after making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, (Heb 1:3). God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phil 2:9–11).

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to [him]” (Matt 28:18). The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand (John 3:35). “God has put all things in subjection [to him]…” (1 Cor 15:27), all “angels, authorities, and all powers” (1 Peter 3:22). And [now] he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent” (Col 1:18).

  • He has authority to forgive sins (Matt. 9:6).
  • He speaks and the wind and the sea obey him (Matt 8:27).
  • He commands unclean spirits, they come out (Mark 5:8).
  • He rebukes fevers, they depart (Luke 4:39).
  • He causes blind to see, deaf to hear, lame to walk, lepers are made clean, He commands the dead, and they live (Matt 11:5)!
  • He suffers little children to come to him (Matt 19:14).
  • He scatters the proud in the thoughts of their hearts and brings down the mighty from their thrones (Luke 1:51-52).
  • He does not break a bruised reed or quench a smoldering wick until he brings justice to victory (Matt 12:20).

In him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col 2:3). No one ever spoke like this man (John 7:46). To know him is to know the unsearchable riches of Christ (Eph 3:8).

And he’s coming back again on the clouds even as they saw him go, but this time with holy angels and with power and great glory (Matt 24:30). And he will deliver us from the wrath to come (1 Thess 1:10). And he will transform our lowly bodies to be like his glorious body by the power that enables him to subject all things to himself (Phil 3:21).

In that day, wonder of wonders, he will dress himself for service and have us recline at table and he will come and serve us (Luke 12:37). And He will still be meek and lowly in heart (Matt 11:29).

And yet his eyes will be like a flame of fire, his feet like burnished bronze refined in a furnace, his voice like the roar of many waters. From his mouth will come a sharp two edged sword, and we will see his face like the sun shining in full strength (Rev 1:14-16), and so we will forever be with the Lord (1 Thess 4:17). We will see no longer through a glass darkly but face to face, (1 Cor 13:12).

Rejoicing in hope will give way to the joy of sight. The pleasures of every taste that bound us to Christ in this world explode into the pleasures of heavenly feasting. And we will know finally, not in part, but perfectly (1 Cor 13:9), that in his presence is fullness of joy and at his right hand are pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11).

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God Moves In A Mysterious Way

I came across this hymn in my listening today, and wanted to share it with you. I think the story of William Cowper, and the messages he wrote in hymns, is so very powerful. I’ve included a link after the reading to two Youtube videos, one of the original arrangement of the hymn, and another more modern arrangment.  The reading is from Amazing Grace: 366 Hymn Stories for Personal Devotions, by Kenneth W. Osbeck.

GOD MOVES IN A MYSTERIOUS WAY
William Cowper, 1731–1800

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable His judgments … (Romans 11:33)

Good when He gives, supremely good, nor less when He denies.
Even crosses from His sovereign hand are blessings in disguise.
 – Unknown

The hymn “God Moves in a Mysterious Way” has been acclaimed as one of the finest songs ever written on the theme of God’s providence. This label is made all the more amazing by the fact that the hymn text was written by an English poet who lived a lifetime of mental distress. William Cowper’s emotional upsets included an 18-month stay in an insane asylum and later several attempted suicides. During his time in the asylum, Cowper began reading the Bible. At the age of 33 he had a genuine conversion experience. Yet he was periodically haunted by deep depressions, voices, and visions, and the overwhelming thought that God had forsaken him and would doom him to hell.

But between these times of mental melancholia, William Cowper was a gifted writer. Several of his secular works achieved great literary fame. For nearly two decades he worked closely with John Newton in Olney, England, and eventually their combined talents produced the famous Olney Hymns hymnal. In this ambitious collection of 349 hymns, 67 were written by Cowper, including such favorites as “O For a Closer Walk With God” and “There Is a Fountain.”

“God Moves in a Mysterious Way” was originally titled “Conflict: Light Shining Out Of Darkness.” It is thought to be Cowper’s final hymn text and a reflection of God’s leading throughout his own lifetime. There is even speculation that it was written following a failed attempt at suicidal drowning. Regardless of the original motivation for their writing, these words have since been used to bring much comfort to God’s people for nearly two centuries:

God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform.
He plants his footsteps on the sea, And rides upon the storm.

Ye fearful saints fresh courage take, The clouds you so much dread,
Are big with mercy, and shall break, With blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, But trust him for his grace.
Behind a frowning providence, He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast, Unfolding every hour.
The bud may have a bitter taste, But sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to err, And scan His work in vain.

God is His own interpreter, And He will make it plain.

Osbeck, Kenneth W. Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1996. Print.

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Heartbroken Horror

I am appalled by the hypocrisy of the so-called “progressive” political class today.

New York’s state legislature cheered when a bill was passed that would allow for abortions without limit (up to the point of birth), and the order was given to light up the city in pink to celebrate their achievement. Meanwhile, the governor of New York is working to remove the death penalty from the state’s constitution, arguing that it is inhuman to carry out a death sentence for convicted murderers.

So, just to clarify, the life of a convicted murderer in New York is protected,but this is not:baby

Are we clear?

A lawmaker in Virginia presented legislation that would allow an unborn child to be aborted even while the mother was in labor, and the very same day presented legislation that would make it illegal to spray pesticide to kill the fall cankerworm.

So this is protected in Virginia,

worm

but this is not.

baby

Are we clear?

At the 2019 State of the Union address, the entire assembly cheered (rightfully so) and sang “Happy Birthday” in honor of Judah Samet, a holocaust survivor who also escaped the mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh in October 2018.  Yet those progressives were suddenly quiet when the President spoke about ending the holocaust of our generation, the millions of lives that are taken each year in abortion.

The women in white cheered and danced at the President’s mention of more women than ever before being elected to office, but their dancing sharply contrasted with their stone-cold expression when abortion was discussed.

Simply appalling.

And yet it is not at all surprising.

For years our culture has been pushing the truth of God’s Word to the margins of life. The idea that we were created by a wise, holy, and sovereign God is set aside for the more popular notion of science: big bangs, evolution, and man as the master of his own destiny. Good and evil are no longer defined by an eternal, objective Truth, but are, among everything else, subjective, situational, and shifting with the times and culture, determined by the current milieu.  The value of the person sitting next to me is no longer drawn from the fact that he or she bears the image of God, but only in their positive contribution to society.

Francis A. Schaeffer once wrote in Whatever Happened to the Human Race?,

“If man is not made in the image of God, nothing then stands in the way of inhumanity. There is no good reason why mankind should be perceived as special. Human life is cheapened. We can see this in many of the major issues being debated in our society today: abortion, infanticide, euthanasia, the increase of child abuse and violence of all kinds, pornography … , the routine torture of political prisoners in many parts of the world, the crime explosion, and the random violence which surrounds us.”

As we read in Romans 1:21–25:

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

Every God-fearing, Bible-believing, disciple of Christ should fall on their knees, lamenting the brutality of the world around us.  Our children have been sacrified to the modern-day version of Molech (ie. success, pleasure, prosperity, irresponsibility).

But we also give praise to our Sovereign God, because He has allowed the veil to be pulled back, revealing the hearts and minds of those in power. They are exposed for what they truly are, “slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil… [who] though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them” (Romans 1:30-32).

We need to pray.

Pray that God would raise up men like Gideon, who would have the courage to bring down the idols of the day.

Pray that God would give us wisdom, that we might know how to reach this fallen world with the truth of His Word.

Pray that God would give us compassion, that we might come alongside those who are struggling with an unexpected pregnancy, supporting and encouraging them in their decision to choose life.

Pray that the Gospel of Jesus Christ would be proclaimed boldly, so that all who are lost in sin might hear the call to salvation and peace with God.

And when you rise from prayer, having drawn near to the living God, stand firm and be ready to make Him known!

SDG

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Evangelism 101 – Know Your Sins

In our Sunday evening worship services I have been preaching a series on Evangelism. We’ve looked at what it means to share the gospel, the pitfalls many encounter when giving a testimony, and will soon be considering (when the weather allows us to come back together) what is essential in sharing the faith.  Within that greater conversation, I thought I would share this excerpt from the Memoirs of Robert Murray McCheyne.  This is a letter he wrote as a pastor to a young girl who has inquired about whether it is necessary to be convinced of one’s sins before salvation.

I think this worth sharing because it is a completely different approach to how many do evangelism today.  We tend today to focus on the benefits of salvation, without ever really explaining why we need salvation in the first place.  Telling people they are sinners, and sinners to the very core of their being is unpalatable, offensive, and not the preferred method of witnessing today. Yet, as McCheyne points out, almost 180 years ago, “you will never go to Christ, the heavenly Physician, unless you feel that your soul is sick even unto death.”

To a Soul Seeking Jesus—No. I.
Seek to Know Your Corruption
Dundee, 1841.

ACCORDING to promise, I sit down to talk with you a little concerning the great things of an eternal world. How kind it is in God that He has given us such an easy way of  communicating our thoughts, even at a distance! My only reason for writing to you is, that I may direct your soul to Jesus, the sinner’s friend. “This man receiveth sinners.” I would wish much to know that you were truly united to Christ, and then, come life, come death, you will be truly and eternally happy.

Do you think you have been convinced of sin? This is the Holy Spirit’s work, and His first work upon the soul (John 16:8; Acts 2:37). If you did not know your body was dangerously ill, you would never have sent for your physician; and so you will never go to Christ, the heavenly Physician, unless you feel that your soul is sick even unto death. Oh! pray for deep discoveries of your real state by nature and by practice. The world will say you are an innocent and harmless girl; do not believe them. The world is a star. Pray to see yourself exactly as God sees you; pray to know the worth of your soul. Have you seen yourself vile, as Job saw himself (Job 42:5, 6); undone, as Isaiah saw himself (Isa. 6:1, 5)? Have you experienced anything like Psalm 51? I do not wish you to feign humility before God, nor to use expressions of self–abhorrence which you do not feel; but pray that the Holy Spirit may let you see the very reality of your natural condition before God!

I seldom get more than a glance at the true state of my soul in its naked self. But when I do, then I see that I am wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked (Rev. 3:17). I believe every member of our body has been a servant of sin (Rom. 3:13, 18)—throat, tongue, lips, mouth, feet, eyes. Every faculty of our mind is polluted (Gen. 6:5). Besides, you have long neglected the great salvation; you have been gainsaying and disobedient. Oh, that you were brought to pass sentence on yourself, guilty of all! Hear what a dear believer writes of himself: “My wickedness, as I am in myself, has long appeared to me perfectly ineffable, and swallowing up all thought and imagination, like an infinite deluge, or mountains  over my head. I know not how to express better what my sins appear to me to be, than by heaping infinite upon infinite, and multiplying infinite by infinite. When I look into my heart and take a view of my wickedness, it looks like an abyss infinitely deep, and yet it seems to me that my conviction of sin is exceeding small and faint.”

Perhaps you will ask, Why do you wish me to have such a discovery of my lost condition? I answer, that you may be broken off from all schemes of self–righteousness; that you may never look into your poor guilty soul to recommend you to God; and that you may joyfully accept of the Lord Jesus Christ, who obeyed and died for sinners. Oh, that your heart may cleave to Christ! May you forsake all, and follow Jesus Christ. Count everything loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ. You never will stand righteous before God in yourself. You are welcome this day to stand righteous before God in Jesus. Pray over Philippians 3:7, 9. I will try to pray for you. Grace be with you.

Bonar, Andrew A., and R.M. McCheyne. Memoir and Remains of R.M. McCheyne. electronic ed. Chicago: Moody Press, 1996. Print.
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Six Short Rules for Christians

This week I came upon the writings of Brownlow North, one of the great evangelists of Scotland in the 19th century.  Born in 1810 into a family known for its history of Parliamentary and Church leaders, Brownlow lived a worldly life, a sportsman, soldier and country gentleman.  A biographical piece from Banner of Truth writes,

as a youth he was sent to Eton where he became known as ‘Gentleman Jack’. Life was one long round of self-indulgence. He grew up as a constant smoker, a heavy drinker and a notorious gambler and admitted, ‘My greatest idea of pleasure was to shoot grouse and catch salmon.’

After 44 years of turning his back on God and defying the Church, Brownlow wholeheartedly “gave his heart to Christ,” after what’s best described as a near death experience.  You can read more of his biography here.

The story goes, after he was saved, he became good friends with his pastor, as was asked on one occasion to preach in the pastor’s absence.  The congregation was so upset that Brownlow would be preaching, they left a letter in the pulpit documenting all of his public sins.  Humbly, Brownlow read the letter to the congregation, and told them there were many more sins that Christ had forgiven as well, and that if Christ could forgive him those great sins, Christ could forgive them also.

As we have been encouraging continued maturity and spiritual development here at Lennox Ebenezer, I thought I’d share with you what are known as Brownlow North’s Six Short Rules For Christians:

  1. Never neglect daily private prayer; and when you pray, remember that God is present, and that He hears your prayers. (Heb 11:6).
  2. Never neglect daily private Bible reading; and when you read remember that God is speaking to you, and that you are to believe and act upon what He says. I believe all backsliding begins with the neglect of these two rules. (John 5:39).
  3. Never let a day pass without trying to do something for Jesus. Every night reflect on what Jesus has done for you, and then ask yourself, “What am I doing for Him”? (Matt 5:13-16).
  4. If you are in doubt as to a thing being right or wrong, go to your room and kneel down and ask God’s blessing on it. (Col 3:17). If you cannot do this, it is wrong. (Rom 14:23).
  5. Never take your Christianity from Christians, or argue that because such and such people do so and so, therefore, you may. (2 Cor 10:12). You are to ask yourself, “How would Christ act in my place”? And strive to follow Him (John 10:27).
  6. Never believe what you feel, if it contradicts God’s Word. Ask yourself, “Can what I feel be true if God’s Word is true”? And if both cannot be true, believe God and make your own heart the liar. (Rom 3:4; 1 John 5:10-11).

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One in Christ

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – Jews or Greeks, slaves or free – and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
1 Corinthians 12:12–13

We have our annual congregational meeting tonight, a time to give thanks to God for His grace that has brought us thus far, and a time to recommit ourselves as a church to trusting in that same grace to lead us forward in ministry together.  

As I was preparing for my Pastor’s report for the meeting, I came upon my notes from when I read through Jerry Bridges’ book, True Community: The Biblical Practice of Koinonia.  Bridges does a fantastic job of defining koinonia (a Greek word that is best translated as “fellowship”) to mean more than just the social activities of the church, but has more to do with the idea of community in Christ.

Bridges writes:

It is not the fact that we are united in common goals or purposes that makes us a community. Rather, it is the fact that we share a common life in Christ. There are many organizations, both secular and Christian, whose members work together to pursue common goals. Some of these groups may call themselves communities. But biblical community goes much deeper than sharing common goals, though it ultimately involves that. Biblical community is first of all the sharing of a common life in Christ. It is when we grasp this truth that we are in a position to begin to understand true community.

We share the life of Christ together as the Church.  It is wonderful to have a place that cares for you, that shares in the joys and sorrows of your life; a place where everyone knows your name.

But the Church, the true fellowship of Christ, must go deeper. The Church is one, not because of a shared interest in music, or because of the local projects and activities it offers. The Church is one because it is in Christ, and Christ must be at the center of our fellowship, of our life together. 

Bridges goes on to write:

How different is our present-day concept of fellowship? Take those typical times of “coffee fellowship.” We discuss everything else except the Scriptures. We talk about our jobs, our studies, our favorite sports teams, the weather — almost anything except what God is teaching us from His Word and through His workings in our lives. If we are to regain the New Testament concept of fellowship within the community, we must learn to get beyond the temporal issues of the day and begin to share with each other on a level that will enhance our spiritual relationships with one another and with God.

I am thankful to be able to serve Christ’s Church, and to serve a Church that loves to share in one another’s lives. Let’s be intentional about that this year. As we meet for fellowship, get caught up on the kids and their lives, but also be sure to ask about what the Lord has been teaching them as they’ve been reading Scripture this week, or what they learned from the sermon that morning.  Encourage one another to come to Bible Study or Sunday School, find out how you can be praying for one another.  Let us celebrate the blessing of being one in Christ, and may we grow in our shared life together.

Grace and peace!

Excerpts from: Bridges, Jerry. True Community: The Biblical Practice of Koinonia . Navpress. Kindle Edition. 

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Return to Me…

“Yet even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;  and rend your hearts and not your garments.” Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster. (Joel 2:12–13)

Last week I shared from the prophet Hosea what is often considered the Gospel of the Old Testament – Hosea chapter three.  It is the story of Hosea redeeming his wife, Gomer, from a life of infidelity and adultery, as an illustration of the way in which God has redeemed His people from their sins and idolatry through His love in Jesus Christ.

Turning this week to the prophet Joel, we hear again the heart of God calling us to repentance for our sins.  The word of the Lord comes to Joel as a message of judgment and destruction in the Day of the Lord. The punishment is extreme, as locusts destroying the harvest, or deep famine reaching across the land.  The Day of he Lord is a day of wrath for the sins of the nations.

Yet in the midst of the destruction there is a call from the Lord, “Return to me with all your heart…”  This is a call to repentance, given to the elders down to the nursing infants.  All are called to repent, that they may escape the coming judgment.

In the two verses given above (2:12-13), I see three keys to genuine repentance:

  1. Repentance is always a response to the call of the Lord.  Notice in Joel that it is the Lord who calls the people to repentance, to return to the Lord.  This isn’t Joel’s pleading with the people, but the Lord Himself calling His people back home.
    This is essential. No one may come to Christ unless the Father calls them (John 6:44), no one seeks the Lord unless He first draws them unto Him. Apart from God’s gracious call, no one would return to Him.  Our repentance always follows the gracious call of the Lord, the effectual call of His Holy Spirit.
  2. Repentance must be genuine.  In the Scriptures tearing your clothes was a universal sign of anguish and repentance, mourning over calamity and distress.  But it was simply that, a sign.  It signified something happening within, a sign of the heartfelt sorrow and grief over sin or trouble. The sign of torn cloths meant little, what was essential was the contrition of the heart.
    How many times is our “repenting” merely a sign, never really reaching to our hearts?  We confess sins, generally, but never bring ourselves to utter those sins that have their hooks in our hearts.  We’re comfortable keeping our repentance on the surface, “God I am a sinner,” but rarely will we get real in rending our hearts, “God, I am an idolator, I am a fraud, I murder with my thoughts and words.
    God calls His people to repent, and that repentance must be genuine and sincere.
  3. Repentance turns us to the grace and mercy of God. We must never forget that our repentance is a turning from sin and a turning to God. A repentance that dwells in the valley of the shadow of death, mourning sin but never getting past it, is only a partial repentance.  God calls His people to return to Him, for “He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” Too often we miss out on the joy of salvation repentance brings because we don’t really believe that God will be gracious.  We allow our repentance to make us dour, sour Christians, which is no Christian at all.
    The promise of Joel 3:1 is for all who are in Christ, all who, having heard His call to repent, having turned from their sins, look to the grace and mercy of our heavenly Father.  The promise is that God will restore their fortunes, He will establish them.  As Psalm 126 says, “He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.”

SDG

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