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Why Do Holidays Bring out the Worst in Family?

angerxmasIt never fails, for many during the holiday season comes the “Jerry Springer” show right to their front door.  It really is a fact and for so long I wondered what made relational conflict so abundant during the time when people are off of work, enjoying friends and family and receiving so much in way of food and gifts.  Then one day it hit me, the reason that “domestic” issues arise so often in the this season is because people are actually together.  So there it is, the answer to the life-long mystery of why fighting is greater during the holidays… because when sinners get together, they compound exponentially their sin quotient.  What else can you expect?  I mean, when one dog is playing in the yard it’s fun but throw three more in there, well someone is going to get bitten or run over.  Sorry for the silly metaphor but in all reality, the reason that the holidays bring less than joyful relational conflict is because I believe that being around others brings out the TRUENESS of our character and heart.

It is simple and easy to maintain good relationships when you email, text, tweet, card, share, facebook, and other things sporadically throughout the year.  The sad reality is that without the power of the gospel in our lives, all of us would spend our days in silent or showcased aggravation and animosity.  The good news is that Christ empowers His people to walk in unity and power and forgiveness.  When one claims to be in Christ but cannot walk in holy affection, it really calls into question as to whether that “one” is truly born again.  We can all blame others on our feelings and sad times and say that “we don’t know what it’s like to have an uncle like that” but the root of the problem is sin.  It is at the core of every human heart and until the gospel of Jesus Christ reaches that heart and the spirit of God transforms that heart it will always have problems.  For believers though, we are able to overcome such things as we bear the sins of others, forgive those who sin against us and realize that no one has sinned toward us as grossly as we ourselves have sinned against God.

He alone is holy and we are not.  But, we are made righteous through the blood of Jesus Christ who makes certain that all who believe are free from the bondage and consequence of sin in the face of God’s wrath.  Therefore, we are able to work through differences, heartaches, bad times and bad holidays.  When you feel that urge to break into the Christmas Spirit of throwing a fit and saying that one thing that shouldn’t be said, remember that Jesus remained silent when He was accused of sin.  He became sin that we might become the righteousness of God and for that we are forever made right and able to forgive others.  Seek peace as long as it is up to you and hold fast to Jesus who made you.  Make this “Christ”mas truly about the Christ by portraying His heart and attitude in our dealings toward others.

Romans 12:9 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

For His Glory,

J

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It Doesn’t Get Any Better than This… or Does it?

“It doesn’t get any better than this…” I thought as I looked at my infant daughter surrounded by my four other children and bride of 18 years. Something wells up inside when I see the glorious beauty of my family and in the best of humility, I praise God for them and for His grace to afford me such joy in their lives and learnings. Holding an infant is one of those rare opportunities that few people actually do experience. I know for my other four children, their infant stages are a blur, mainly due to my double time activity schedule and pressure of ministry and the hail storms of expectations I placed on myself during those seasons. But this time it’s different. We are not burdened under a yolk of worldly expectations, but under the yolk of Jesus Christ. Therefore, this season in life is superb and grand in the scheme of them all and for this I am very thankful.

On the other hand, as I peel through the layers of what it all means and discern whether my esteem is idolatry or Christ-centered gratitude, it struck my heart, that this is NOT the best of times and that even though it comes easy to say that “it doesn’t get any better than this” I have fallen prey, just a moment, to the wrong point of focus. I know can hold my family and look wonderfully and joyfully into the reality that is God’s gracious mercy in them and say, “It Surely is gonna get better than this!” I have to think through this carefully so all can follow my thoughts. No better place to start than the beginning…

A Wedding

That wonderful Spring day in 1996 was the first time that I felt such things when as the doors of the vestibule opened for my eyes to gaze upon the bride of my soul.  Her beauty lodged glory into my heart that quickly grew in my throat as I was unable to swallow and I thought, “It doesn’t get any better than this…”  All the dreams and hopes and visions of what will be and for the most part, sans a few pebbles (and larger stones) along the way, it has be greater than I could ever have imagined.  But in all reality as Christ has revealed Himself more and more I see that the fullness of joy that came that day is a taste, a very very small taste of the complete and eternally full joy that will come when Christ and I are together along with my bride and my family, not as we are today, but as siblings in the same body!  The marriage of man and woman is a myopic pointer to the day of Christ’s return for His bride for whom He died.  My bride stood, and still does, at the door of that church in all beauty and splendor and one day, I too will stand as she stood, not just in dress and intention, but in pure righteousness.  It does get better than this, but this is good because it shows us just what we have yet to see! (Ephesians 5:25-)

Birth

Now having five children may seem like excess, but among our circles of friends across the globe, we are the minimalists and are about 40-60% complete as some would say.  But just in my introductory thoughts, the birth of a child is an amazing thing.  It reveals so much about the majesty of God’s power and how He alone can put all things together. (Col 1)  The miracle of life is so much more than just being well loved and having great and deep affection for a child; it bears the image of its Creator, a God who gives birth, not just physically to His creatures, but Spiritually as well.  Scripture teaches us that through suffering comes glory.  This is true in the whole of Biblical history and most specifically, it is true for the Christ, the Son of God who came to die in order to perfectly save sinners who were already dead.  Six weeks ago today we had just ended a 21 plus hour induction with cesarean and the fear at times was overwhelming and inexplicable. God’s grace carried us through and through all the suffering, all the darkness, all the fear, all the “dashed” dreams came LIFE.  A new life, not just one working out kinks and trying to be better or different, but NEW.  Completely fresh, a new beginning in this world.  I reflected on all the other four births and likewise, they all came the same way, though with different circumstances, they all had the same song: suffering yields life.  Jesus Christ came to suffer to bring life and the apostles tell us clearly that we who are in Christ will suffer like He suffered but in the end: Glory.  See 1 Peter chapter 1 for more on this.  In this way, my wife suffered so that life could emerge.  Jesus saves His own through His flesh and blood.  How amazing our God is to help us see His glorious good in our suffering.  We come out on this side, joyfully aware of this little blessing of life and joyfully aware of the grave suffering that our Lord endured for us.  “Light Momentary Affliction” prepares us for a weight of glory.

Rejoicing

So now the glorious part of all of this.  “It doesn’t get any better” fits really well here.  I smile, my wife smiles, my son smiles, my three other daughters smile and life is grand.  3 AM…. not so grand, but we still smile at the prospect of going through all of this again.  But no matter how good it is, it is only a small picture, a snow-globe of the real that we are just shaking through awaiting the full joy.  We are amazed at the love we have for this new child when we thought that there was no more love in us 🙂 we find more.  The birth of our new baby has rekindled the superb affections we have for our other children and each other as husband and wife and if we are not careful, we will lose sight as to why: so that we can see the love of God for us in a deeper way as His children.  The love God has for us is immeasurable in comparison and it blesses my soul to realize that the amazing love that I feel toward my children is nothing compared to the love that God has for us revealed gloriously in Christ Jesus who came to live righteous and holy and die willingly in order to justify us before the Father.

What does it all mean?

It means that no matter how good it is, it is only a small fraction of nothing of the goodness of the true One to whom it all points!  God’s faithful and certain promise to save His children and His amazing “great love” with which He loves us cannot be fathomed.  So until that day when we stand with Him and our Lord Jesus Christ and see for ourselves, we must look ever so carefully at the small glimpses of such things.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.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. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:1-10

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” (John 3:16-21, ESV)

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can beagainst us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;

we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31-39, ESV)

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When the Gospel Doesn’t Work

This series contemplates the reality that in so many circumstances, the people of God act and live as though the Gospel has no power in their lives and in as much, the Gospel must not work.  Over eight weeks in preparation for the “Horrors of Christmas” (wrath, judgement, horror and hell) series, we have discovered that the Gospel IS power in the life of the church and when we fail to rest by faith in the gospel of Christ, we are the problem, not Christ.  Worship with us through this look and pray as God prepares us to move into Titus in January.

 

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Gentle Shepherding, A Few Thoughts

Considering sheep as an animal helps pastors understand much about God’s instruction to us as we shepherd His flock.  One main reality that is continually driven home to my heart is the reality that sheep are most of the time very timid and easily frightened.  Because of this, I believe Peter understands the need to admonish Elder/Teacher/Pastor/Shepherds to consider the kindness of the Great Shepherd when tending to His sheep.  Often times Pastors consult with other pastors and one thing leads to another and the realm of oversight of the flock becomes an “us” vs. “them” battle whereby the shepherds begin to feel like they alone are wise and the sheep are all rebellious herds railing toward destruction and must be beaten into submission.  All to well, those of us who have pastored for any length of time understand that this mindset is easy to allow to settle within and also would readily admit that we have damaged some sheep because of it.  So, I want to take just a moment to share a fresh remembrance out of our Elder training today from 1 and 2 Peter.

 So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: 2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.5 Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (1 Peter 5:1-5, ESV)

As we closed with this passage, it became very apparent the reflection of oversight was governed by the gentleness of the Chief Shepherd who lays His life down for the sheep.  The good shepherd, as should the pastor, provides comfort, protection, food, hope, grace, and humility to the flock of Christ and therefore reflect the power of God in the Gospel.  Even when rebuke and correction is required, it should be done, toward the sheep, in a gentle and corrective manner, not a condemning manner.  It appears that most believers are intimidated by the Pastor, mainly because the pulpit is so protected and bold and “up there.”  But, the demeanor of the preacher should not be bold and ruling when down from the platform, but gentle and eager to hear and lead.

Sadly, I have failed in this area more than I would like to admit, but God is faithful and gracious and if nothing else, in my error, I can lead other men to right shepherding and save the pain of shearing the sheep to closely with the blade of correction.  Pastors sometimes feel that they must “make the sheep see”.  But everyone knows it is not the mouth that opens the ears and eyes, but the Word sent by the Spirit that makes men see and believe and walk upright before the Lord.

For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 19 And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:16-21, ESV)

Peter is clear that the instruction of God is not myth but a proclamation of what they had witnessed.  However, it is not the experience of witnesses that matter to the fullest, but the sovereign word of the living God that creates the testimony of God through Jesus Christ.  Peter explains that their witness is to that which the Word indeed pointed, so that the word of the Lord will indeed to all that it was intended to do.  So, when shepherding, do so in a loving manner because the scripture will be harsh enough as it says in Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

So, just as before in answering the question, “What Should a Pastor Really Be Doing?“, I would make sure that the “how” a pastor does what he does in regard to the sheep is in a gentle and humble spirit.

For His Glory by His Grace,

Pastor James

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Damage Done by Sinners Among the Church

In the last few weeks a surge of what seem as personal attacks in regards to doctrine, polity and purpose has raised a few eyebrows.  These attacks have been primarily at me and our fellowship and now have bled into other congregations.  For some reason the people who have concerned themselves with creating havoc among two churches in the area decided to make a public display of force against what they call, not “like faith and order”.  The details of these accusations will be forthcoming, however, today after receiving nearly fifty calls and emails from a bi-county wide letter that was mailed in regard to accusations, I am stating a few not-so-obvious results from the issue, namely, the effects of this sin by these men on the body of Christ, the home, children, families and the community at large.

It must said for clarification that personal discussion, reconciliation and outside mediation has been attempted to no avail and that this is a matter for the church of Jesus Christ, not just GTC or the other churches close to her, but the body at large.  When attacks from the world come, it is expected.  Paul told Timothy that anyone who desires to live a Godly life will be persecuted and we can see that all throughout the ministry of Paul in his pastoral writings, that he named many who had caused him and his ministry great harm in an attempt to secure peace but mostly to warn the churches of their sin and evil.  These matters are not matters of fact but of opinion in as much as the catalyst of the accusations admitted today in an interview that he had “no evidence” to back up these claims but that he can sense or “hear” these things in talking with me and others.  Therefore, he has told me that God instructed him to do what he has done by highjacking two church meetings and publicly making these accusations in complete disagreement with the word of God on how to handle conflict.  One of the other pastors were told in my hearing that Matthew 18 did not apply to him and last evening, this pastor was told directly in front of his church that the scripture did not apply to him in this manner because he was the pastor of the church.

So, on with the show, let us all take time and guard our hearts and pray for repentance and healing and genuine affection toward these brothers who are doing the work of the devil.  But let us also take heart and God is over all things and just as He asked Satan to consider Job and gave the devil the power to mess up his life, God is faithful to His children and has all of this for the good of all the church.  Be safe brothers and sisters not to fall into bitterness.  “Then why write in the first place?”  Well, because of the continual public outcry in response to these allegations and the sinful manner in which this was done.

The Effects and Damage

  1. To the Church – the number of pastors who have called us is overwhelming.  Not only local pastors but some from the Atlanta area and beyond the borders of our state have heard of these events and called to pray and exhort us to humility and prayer while standing for truth.  Nearly eight churches on record are having problems now because of the mass mailing which has caused people to question me and my teaching and those who know me, to question how their pastor is going to respond to the correspondence.  Not only there, but at a local church this past Lord’s Day, where this man preached not exposition, but in a passionate anger forcing several errors in his own hermeneutic that has caused concern from the National front.  I heard from two people today that if this is not resolved, they will leave their church.  Several community leaders have asked me what to do as they feel that the whole of the local SBC Association is corrupt and wonder if everyone would be better associating with neighboring groups.  The sheep are hurt worst in this matter where I have had over a dozen conversations about doctrine whereby this sin has caused doubt in the hearts of several church members from several different congregations.  Scripture tells us that those who cause the sheep to stumble would be better off drowned in the sea. IN an attempt to so-called “protect the churches” these men have damaged them, the sheep, the message of the gospel and the unity of the faith. Some young pastors are confused as to what these allegations even mean and two others are moving to leave the association all together over this as they feel this person Christians do not do these things.
  2. To the Family – Not just the stress this is causing among the accused but outside of it.  For instance, a recent marriage problem was caused over this because an individual could not believe that his pastor would affirm such actions and thus, even in sin, he made comments that he would leave his church to which his wife disagreed; now a full issue is at hand and emotions are high.  Several young people have commented that they are scared for their family and the peace in their homes as this has raised several arguments among parents and a few more young men have stated that they are doubtful that these “spiritual leaders” are true believers.  This is causing greif within one church due to the reality that so many family members are members of the fellowship and now are pitted against one another.  Several pastors are on the brink of being fired from their churches and they have small children who depend on their father’s role as pastor for food.
  3. To the Community – Several of the unchurched has been grieved as they are unsure as to what to think and wonder what motivates someone to do such a thing which is concluded by judging the motives of these men which is unbiblical; causing harm to their own worship.  The testimony of the church is damaged in several people’s minds as they have commented, “it’s normal” in regard to Christians being liars and being hateful.  Community leaders in their churches are at odds with the issues and a few of them are broken over the fact that these things have taken place and want resolve.  All the time we have spent on this matter has taken us from the call to preach the gospel and make disciples.  However, it is a disciple-making reality due to the number of people who have called for help, counsel and prayer.

So, from pastors who want to leave the church, members who hate each other, churches who are confused and scared, sheep who doubt their faith, children who witness fighting in the home, young men who are growing apathetic, marriages who are on the blink, the public who says, “I told you so” to a long list of other things that result from such things; this whole thing is a big grand sinful and wicked mess.  BUT God is faithful and He will work this out for the good of His people.  Pray for God’s glory to be seen and that His people will be gentle as they stand up for truth.

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Children of God are Gloriously Empowered to Love One Another

LoveGod_LoveOthers

The Lie

In modern thought, so many professing Christians consider their salvation a sealed deal because of their affiliations.  First, the affiliation with an action such as membership, prayer of salvation, walking an isle etc, enables some “professors” to be comfortable with the reality that their souls are safe and thus, the need to look further into things of grace and salvation are not needed.  This is a lie and it breeds from the desires of the flesh of a fallen humanity and is perpetrated by Satan, the enemy of God who seeks to devour the church and the gospel. (Which will not happen.)  This lie establishes an ignorantly blissful aversion to spiritual matters, growth, worship and most of all, the fruit of God’s everlasting grace in those who indeed trust in Christ.  IN other words, many people who think they are saved prove otherwise because they do not love each other.

“By this we may know that we are in him: 6 whoever says he abides in himought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” (1 John 2:5-6, ESV)Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness.10 Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is nocause for stumbling. 11 But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes. (1 John 2:9-11, ESV)

So, the lie is that people are thinking they are in Christ when indeed, they have no love for their brothers and then, they do not walk as Christ walked who laid down His life for this brothers as the ultimate act and expression of true divine love.  The outcome of this lie stands in two pots.  First, the pot that some feel that they are loving in their heart and that is enough and secondly, the other pot that grows out of a false understanding of love in the first place.

The Truth

The truth is the Love does not in ANY WAY define God.  It is rather God who defines love.

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. (1 John 3:1, ESV)

By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. (1 John 3:10, ESV)

So as 1 John 4:8 states, …God is love…, then the reality of love is bound up on the person and character of God, not the other way around.  So, those who claim Christ but love not the way God is love… are they in Christ at all?  No they are not according to scripture.

The Way

Now the question comes is that, “how can one love like God loves?”  God’s word is clear on the power behind the love of God in those who belong to Him.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us andhis love is perfected in us. (1 John 4:7-12, ESV)

So those who do not love in a dying and sacrificial way are not of God and are by nature children of wrath prepared for destruction.

By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, andwhoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. (1 John 4:13-21, ESV)

The power of God through Christ Jesus is given to His children in order that they abide in Him, in His love, in His commands, in fellowship with His people and in continual sacrifice and obedience to the every command.  No Christian is perfect, just being perfected.  Those who do not love have fear.  Fear of judgment by God.  Those who do not fear but should are blinded by the god of the world so they cannot believe (2 Cor 4) and those who are in Christ do not fear because they see and savor the glorious love of God in Christ Jesus as their only hope.

The Glory

What difference does this make?  Well, for the sake of God’s glorious name, when the people of God love like God loves it denies the very nature of culture, religion and depravity that so easily walks without shame in the world.  The manifold wisdom of God is shown, not only to the world, but to the enemy of God!  God is serious about His glory and has killed His own Son in order to bring His children into right standing with Him.  How much more do you think the one who hates the children of God will suffer because they have rejected the very ones that Jesus purchased with His blood?

 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that wekeep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.4 For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

6 This is he who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. 7 For there are three that testify:8 the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree. 9 If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son. 10 Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. 11 And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. (1 John 5:1-12, ESV)

So in the end, only those who are in Christ prove themselves to be in Christ by their love for the Son of God, the Father and the people whom Jesus has redeemed.  The one who denies these things actually denies the very nature of God who defines love and he along with all like him will face the wrath of calling God a liar.  God says that His commandments are not burdensome for His people because of His love toward us which empowers us to live unto sanctification.  If one rejects Jesus as the one who creates a people of this nature, then they are awaiting no love from God, but only wrath.

Come today to the precious love of God in Christ Jesus.  Repent and believe the gospel.  You who are in Christ, continue in the faith, contend for the faith and in the power of Christ, love one another to the praise of His glorious grace!

James

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The Goodness of God | by AW Pink

The Goodness Of God endureth continually” (Ps. 52:1). The goodness of God respects the perfection of His nature: “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). There is such an absolute perfection in God’s nature and being that nothing is wanting to it or defective in it; nothing can be added to it to make it better.

He is originally good, good of Himself, which nothing else is; for all creatures are good only by participation and communication from God. He is essentially good; not only good, but goodness itself: the creature’s good is a superadded quality, in God it is His essence. He is infinitely good; the creature’s good is but a drop, but in God there is an infinite ocean or gathering together of good. He is eternally and immutably good, for He cannot be less good than He is; as there can be no addition made to Him, so no subtraction from Him (Thomas Manton).

God is summurn bonum, the chiefest good.

The original Saxon meaning of our English word God is “The Good.” God is not only the greatest of all beings, but the best. All the goodness there is in any creature has been imparted from the Creator, but God’s goodness is underived, for it is the essence of His eternal nature. As God is infinite in power from all eternity, before there was any display thereof, or any act of omnipotence put forth; so He was eternally good before there was any communication of His bounty, or any creature to whom it might be imparted or exercised. Thus, the first manifestation of this divine perfection was in giving being to all things. “Thou art good, and doest good” (Ps. 119:68). God has in Himself an infinite and inexhaustible treasure of all blessedness enough to fill all things.

All that emanates from God—His decrees, His creation, His laws, His providences—cannot be otherwise than good: as it is written. “And God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good” (Gen. 1:31). Thus, the goodness of God is seen, first, in creation. The more closely the creature is studied, the more the beneficence of his Creator becomes apparent. Take the highest of God’s earthly creatures, man. Abundant reason he has to say with the Psalmist, “I will praise thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works, and that my soul knoweth right well” (Ps. 139:14). Everything about the structure of our bodies attests to the goodness of their Maker. How suited the hands to perform their allotted work! How good of the Lord to appoint sleep to refresh a wearied body! How benevolent His provision to give the eyes lids and brows for their protection! So we might continue indefinitely.

Nor is the goodness of the Creator confined to man, it is exercised toward all His creatures. “The eyes of all wait upon thee; and thou givest them their meat in due season. Thou openest thine hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing” (Ps. 145:15-16). Whole volumes might be written, and have been, to amplify this fact. Whether it is the birds of the air, the beasts of the forest, or the fish in the sea, abundant provision has been made to supply their every need. God “giveth food to all flesh, for his mercy endureth forever” (Ps. 136:25). Truly, “The earth is full of the goodness of the LORD” (Ps. 33:5).

The goodness of God is seen in the variety of natural pleasures which He has provided for His creatures. God might have been pleased to satisfy your hunger without the food being pleasing to our palates—how His benevolence appears in the varied flavors He has given to meats, vegetables, and fruits! God has not only given us senses, but also that which gratifies them; this too reveals His goodness. The earth might have been as fertile as it is without being so delightfully variegated. Our physical lives could have been sustained without beautiful flowers to regale our eyes, and exhale sweet perfumes. We might have walked the fields without our ears being saluted by the music of the birds. Whence then, this loveliness, this charm, so freely diffused over the face of nature? Verily, “His tender mercies are over all his works” (Ps. 145:9).

The goodness of God is seen in that when man transgressed the law of His Creator a dispensation of unmixed wrath did not at once commence. God might well have deprived His fallen creatures of every blessing, every comfort, every pleasure. Instead, He ushered in a regime of a mixed nature, of mercy and judgment. This is very wonderful if it be duly considered; and the more thoroughly that regime is examined the more it will appear that “mercy rejoiceth against judgment” (James 2:13). Notwithstanding all the evils which attend our fallen state, the balance of good greatly preponderates. With comparatively rare exceptions, men and women experience a far greater number of days of health than they do of sickness and pain. There is much more creature-happiness than creature-misery in the world. Even our sorrows admit of considerable alleviation, and God has given to the human mind a pliability which adapts itself to circumstances and makes the most of them.

Nor can the benevolence of God be justly called into question because there is suffering and sorrow in the world. If man sins against the goodness of God, if he despises “the riches of His goodness and forbearance and longsuffering,” and after the hardness and impenitency of his heart treasurest up unto himself wrath against the day of wrath (Rom. 2:5-6), who is to blame but himself? Would God be “good” if He did not punish those who ill-use His blessings, abuse His benevolence, and trample His mercies beneath their feet? It will be no reflection upon God’s goodness, but rather the brightest exemplification of it, when He will rid the earth of those who have broken His laws, defied His authority, mocked His messengers, scorned His Son, and persecuted those for whom He died.

The goodness of God appeared most illustriously when He sent forth His Son “made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons” (Gal. 4:4-5). It was then that a multitude of the heavenly host praised their Maker and said, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:14). Yes, in the Gospel the “grace (Gr., benevolence or goodness) of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men” (Titus 2:11). Nor can God’s benignity be called into question because He has not made every sinful creature a subject of His redemptive grace. He did not do so with the fallen angels. Had God left all to perish it had been no reflection on His goodness. To any who challenge this statement we remind him of our Lord’s sovereign prerogative: “Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?” (Matthew 20:15).

“O that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men” (Ps. 107:8). Gratitude is the return justly required from the objects of His beneficence; yet is it often withheld from our great Benefactor simply because His goodness is so constant and so abundant. It is lightly esteemed because it is exercised toward us in the common course of events. It is not felt because we daily experience it. “Despisest thou the riches of his goodness?” (Rom. 2:4). His goodness is despised when it is not improved as a means to lead men to repentance, but, on the contrary, serves to harden them from supposing that God entirely overlooks their sin.

The goodness of God is the life of the believer’s trust. It is this excellency in God which most appeals to our hearts. Because His goodness endureth forever, we ought never to be discouraged: “The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble, and he knoweth them that trust in him” (Nah. 1:7).

When others behave badly to us, it should only stir us up the more heartily to give thanks unto the Lord, because He is good; and when we ourselves are conscious that we are far from being good, we should only the more reverently bless Him that He is good. We must never tolerate an instant’s unbelief as to the goodness of the Lord: whatever else may be questioned, this is absolutely certain, that Jehovah is good; His dispensations may vary, but His nature is always the same. (C. H. Spurgeon).

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Reality of Justification | John Murray

Justification

by John Murray

The basic religious question is that of our relation to God. How can man be just with God? How can he be right with the Holy One? In our situation, however, the question is much more aggravated. It is not simply, how can man be just with God, but how can sinful man be just with God? In the last analysis sin is always against God, and the essence of sin is to be against God. The person who is against God cannot be right with God. For if we are against God then God is against us. It could not be otherwise. God cannot be indifferent to or complacent towards that which is the contradiction of himself. His very perfection requires the recoil of righteous indignation. And that is God’s wrath. “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men” (Rom. 1:18). This is our situation and it is our relation to God; how can we be right with him? The answer, of course, is that we cannot be right with him; we are all wrong with him. And we all are all wrong with him because we all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. Far too frequently we fail to entertain the gravity of this fact. Hence the reality of our sin and the reality of the wrath of God upon us for our sin do not come into our reckoning. This is the reason why the grand article of justification does not ring the bells in the innermost depths of our spirit. And this is the reason why the gospel of justification is to such an extent a meaningless sound in the world and in the church of the twentieth century. We are not imbued with the profound sense of the reality of God, of his majesty and holiness. And sin, if reckoned with at all, is little more than a misfortune or maladjustment.

If we are to appreciate that which is central in the gospel, if the jubilee trumpet is to find its echo again in our hearts, our thinking must be revolutionized by the realism of the wrath of God, of the reality and gravity of our guilt, and of the divine condemnation. It is then and only then that our thinking and feeling will be rehabilitated to an understanding of God’s grace in the justification of the ungodly. The question is really not so much: how can man be just with God; but how can sinful man become just with God? The question in this form points up the necessity of a complete reversal in our relation to God. Justification is the answer and justification is the act of God’s free grace. “It is God who justifies: who is he that condemns?” (Rom. 8:33).

This truth that God justifies needs to be underlined. We do not justify ourselves. Justification is not our apology nor is it the effect in us of a process of self-excusation. It is not even our confession nor the good feeling that may be induced in us by confession. Justification is not any religious exercise in which we engage however noble and good that religious exercise may be. If we are to understand justification and appropriate its grace we must turn our thought to the action of God in justifying the ungodly. At no point is the free grace of God more manifest than in his justifying act—”being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:24).

The truth of justification has suffered at the hands of human perversion as much as any doctrine of Scripture. One of the ways in which it has been perverted is the failure to reckon with the meaning of the term. Justification does not mean to make righteous, or good, or holy, or upright. It is perfectly true that in the application of redemption God makes people holy and upright. He renews them after his own image. He begins to do this in regeneration and he carries it on in the work of sanctification. He will perfect it in glorification. But justification does not refer to this renewing and sanctifying grace of God. It is one of the primary errors of the Romish Church that it regards justification as the infusion of grace, as renewal and sanctification whereby we are made holy. And the seriousness of the Romish error is not so much that it has confused justification and renewal but that it has confused these two distinct acts of God’s grace and eliminated from the message of the gospel the great truth of free and full justification by grace. That is why Luther endured such travail of soul as long as he was governed by Romish distortion, and the reason why he came to enjoy such exultant joy and confident assurance was that he had been emancipated from the chains by which Rome had bound him; he found the great truth that justification is something entirely different from what Rome had taught.

That justification does not mean to make holy or upright should be apparent from common use. When we justify a person we do not make that person good or upright. When a judge justifies an accused person he does not make that person an upright person. He simply declares that in his judgment the person is not guilty of the accusation but is upright in terms of the law relevant to the case. In a word, justification is simply a declaration or pronouncement respecting the relation of the person to the law which he, the judge, is required to administer. It might be, of course, that our common use would not be the same as the use of the term in Scripture. Scripture must be its own interpreter. And the question is: does Scripture usage accord with common use? This question is very easily answered. The answer is that Scripture uses the term in the same way. There are several considerations which prove this conclusion.

1. In both Testaments there are numerous passages where the term “justify” cannot mean anything else but to declare to be righteous. [click to continue…]

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Repentance and Conversion | George Whitfield

“Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord” — ACTS 3:19.


WHAT A PITY it is that modem preachers attend no more to the method those took who were first inspired by the Holy Ghost, in preaching Jesus Christ! The success they were honored with, gave a sanction to their manner of preaching, and the divine authority of their discourses, and energy of their elocution, one would think, should have more weight with those that are called to dispense the gospel, than all modern schemes whatever. If this was the case, ministers would then learn first to sow, and then to reap; they would endeavour to plough up the fallow ground, and thereby prepare the people for God’s raining down blessings upon them.

Thus Peter preached when under a divine influence, as I mentioned last Wednesday night: he charged the audience home, though many of them were learned and high and great, with having been the murderers of the Son of God. No doubt but the charge entered deep into their conscience, and that faithful monitor beginning to give them a proper sense of themselves, the apostle lets them know that great as their sin was, it was not unpardonable; that though they had been concerned in the horrid crime of murdering the Lord of Life, notwithstanding they had thereby incurred the penalty of eternal death, yet there was a mercy for them, the way to which he points out in the text; “Repent ye therefore,” says he, “and be converted,” and adds, “that your sins may be blotted out.” Though they are but few words, they are weighty; a short sentence this, but sweet: may God make it a blessed sweetness to every one of your hearts!

But must we preach conversion to a professing people? Some of you perhaps are ready to say go to America; go among the savages and preach repentance and conversion there; or, if you must be a field preacher, go to the highways and hedges; go to the colliers; go ramble up and down, as you used to do, preach conversion to the drunkards: would to God my commission might be renewed, that I might have strength and spirit to take the advice!

Possibly others will say, do not preach it to us; pray who are you? I answer, one sent to call you to repentance; and although I might, yet I will not come so close to you at present, as to inquire in my turn, who are you; yet permit me to pray, that while I am preaching God’s Spirit may find you out; and not only let you know who you are, but what you are; and then you will not be easy with yourselves, nor angry with a minister of Jesus Christ for preaching conversion to your souls.

Repentance and conversion are nearly the same. The expression in the text is complex, and seems to include both what goes before and follows “turning to God”: and if the Lord is pleased to honor me so far tonight to be useful to sinners, as well as saints, I will endeavour to shew you,

First, what it is not to be converted; secondly, what it is to be truly converted: thirdly, offer some motives why you should repent and be converted: and fourthly, answer some objections that have been made against persons repenting and being converted, and yet at the same time, if you come and examine them, they know not so much as speculatively what real conversion is; the general notion many have of it is, a person’s being a convert from the Church of Rome to the Church of England.

There is a particular office in the large prayer book, to be used when any one publicly renounces popery in the great congregation. When this is done, that prayer read, and the person said Amen to the collects upon the occasion, every body wishes him joy, and thanks God he is converted; whereas, if this is all, he is- as much unconverted to God as ever; he has in words renounced popery, but never took leave of the sins of his heart. Well, after this he looks into the church, and does not like that white thing called a surplice; he looks, and thinks there are some rags of the whore of Babylon left still: now, says he, I will be converted; how? I will turn Dissenter: so after he is converted from the Church of Rome to the Church of England, he goes to the dissenting church: maybe, curiosity may bring him to the Methodists, those monstrous troublesome creatures, and, perhaps, he may then be converted a third time, like their preaching, like their singing; O dear, I must have a Tabernacle-ticket, I must have a Psalm-book, I will come as often as there is preaching, or at least as often as I can; and there he sits down, and becomes an outside converted Methodist, as demure as possible: this is going a prodigious way, and yet all this is conversion from one party only to another. If the minister gives a rub or two he will take miff perhaps, and be converted to some other persuasion, and all the while Jesus Christ is left unthought of; but this is conversion only from party to party, not real, and that which will bring a soul to heaven.

Possibly, a person may go further, and be converted from one set of principles to another; he may, for instance, be born an Arminian, which all men naturally are; and one reason why I think Calvinism right, is, because proud nature will not stoop to be saved by grace. You that are brought up in an orthodox belief, under an orthodox ministry, cannot easily make an allowance for thousands that have nothing ringing in their ears but Arminianism; you have sucked in orthodoxy with your mother’s milk, and that makes so many sour and severe professors. I knew a rigid man that would beat Christianity into his wife; and so many beat people with their Bibles, that they are likely, by their bitter proceeding, to hinder them from attending to the means God has designed for conversion. What is this but being converted from one set of principles to another; and I may be very zealous for them, without being transformed by them into the image of God.

But some go further, they think they are converted because they are reformed: they say, “a reformed rake makes a good husband,” but I think a renewed rake will make a better. Reformation is not renovation: I may have the outside of the platter washed; [click to continue…]

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Unseen Beauty Portrays Spiritual Blindness | Quick Thought

Just a moment ago my children discovered a horribly terrifying creature crawling on the floor in the house right inside the back door leading into the kitchen.  They came in horror to tell me of the significantly deadly worm-like bug that would surely devour the entire household from the sound of their voices.  Upon coming into the kitchen what I expected to see was something akin to Mothra or a mutated lizard from Mars.  What did I see?  A very fat and crawly caterpillar with a mission.  Of course caterpillars are a little gross with their wormlike physic and sticky legs, but I saw something that my children did not see.  I knew what a caterpillar was for and what the outcome of his short life would bestow upon the world: beauty.

Just as I was preparing to move this critter outside, one of my children screams, “kill it daddy, kill it now!”  Immediately I was reminded of the cries of the people in the days of Christ.  “Crucify Him!”  Now, there is no parallel or Christ-centered lesson in caterpillars, but this little encounter has helped me to see practically how humanity approaches what they do not understand or see for what it really is.  “Kill it!” we scream.  This crazy bug that looks so gross and scary must die for it has no real purpose.  Well, that’s exactly how the world saw the Christ.  And for this reason, after three aquitals, the people wanted Jesus to die.  They looked at Him and could not see the glory of God.  But why?  Did not the oracles of God fortel of His coming?  Did not the teachers of all of Israel show them the way of the Lord in Christ?  Did not in the Spirit of Elijah did John the Baptist proclaim “Behold the Kingdom..?”  Then why did (does) the world hate Him so?  Because He is the righteousness of God and the darkness hates the light.

Jesus states in John 3

And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”
(John 3:19-21 ESV)

This judgment is not being able to see the light of Christ, His beauty, His worth or His Glory because the eyes of unbelievers have been blinded.  Let’s take time to praise God who has shown to us His glorious mercy and grace and made us alive in Christ by causing us to be born again and giving us a new heart in Christ Jesus.  We stand forgiven and can now see beauty and find satisfaction in the only Son from the Father full of Grace and Truth.

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
(2 Corinthians 4:6 ESV)

For His Glory,

Pastor James Tippins

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