Scripture speaks of the power of Christ. The power of the cross, the authority of Jesus, the power of the gospel etc. all speaks to the power of Christ. While you may consider the power of Christ the manifestation of miracles, supernatural knowledge or signs, the reality is that the apostles make the claim that the power of Christ most glorious is the transformed heart of the believer toward truth and love for the brethren. Teaching through John’s writings gives us a constant reminder of this fact. That there are many who “live” in a manner they feel is worthy of Jesus Christ in their own eyes, but when they refuse fellowship with others, they, in turn, are displaying “unregenerate” powerlessness.
Paul speaks to the Corinthian church about the power of Christ. He says that he will know if Christ is in them if they heed the authority of his writing and instruction. Mainly, that they forsake themselves and “COMPLETE” all the restoration between them. This means that they will be intimate, together, free, and in fellowship.
2 Corinthians 13:11–14 Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. 12 Greet one another with a holy kiss. 13 All the saints greet you.
14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
Several hours, if not days can be expended on this holistic reality. But for now, let’s say this. One of the primary expressions of regeneration is that we are sealed by the same Spirit. God the Holy Spirit in us brings our unity and because of this, there is NOTHING that can separate us from the Lord and from each other. When factions come between the church and cause people to scatter, it is always wicked. Sometimes it is due to ignorance but most of the time these things happen because of an active and living flesh. IF we have the same Spirit within us there is nothing that would cause divorce amongst the brethren.
In the end, this teaching is extrapolated continually throughout the New Testament through the instruction and commandments for every Christian to be subject to the Word, the Elders of the church, the Assembly (that is the church, only when it gathers) and exercising the gifts God has given them for the benefit of the assembly. We can feel justified in doing “home” studies and “online” sermons, but in reality, that type of existence as a believer is a continual rebellion against the teaching of God. So, in the sense of the text, true regeneration produces a complete unity that nothing will stop and to say otherwise is to refuse to love the brethren, thus, according to John, the Love of God is not in us.
We may see that all the works of the law, all the dressing of worldly “righteousness” and all the prayers, pleadings, purity and the like are not the measure of the Power of Christ in us. But it is the evidence of TRUTH by the LOVE we have for each other. Love well beloved by the grace that is YOURS in Jesus Christ! Amen. While this is not exhaustive, it is truth. Are you listening?
Pastors, never forget the fragile state in which we live and serve. We are flesh, all of us, and must depend upon the mighty hand of God in all things. It is God who keeps us and holds us from the schemes of the enemy, the attacks of the world and the lust of the flesh. God in Christ Jesus seals us in holiness and steadfastness, gives us a heart to love the church of Christ with all the affection of Christ and allows us to find the greatest satisfaction amongst the deepest of suffering. We must never move our eyes from the glory of the one who can sit us upon the rock of righteousness and who has snatched us out of death, out of darkness and transferred us to the light of the Son and to the Kingdom therein. When this life is “able” we fail. When we look to our own holiness, we fail. When we feel content in our walk with Christ, we fail. When we subject our calling to the ways and ideals of this world, we fail. But even then oh brothers, Christ cannot fail and He will rescue us from the mundane, the philosophy of our minds, the brokenness of our discipline and the lacking of our zeal. Then our broken shards will cut through the dead flesh of men by the proclamation of Christ who sets the prisoners free by the blood poured from His own broken body. Remember that it is a gift of the miraculous grace of God when we suffer, when we mourn, when we are lowly so that our pride is put behind us and our very souls are endeavored to rest in His supreme hand.
May our boasting be in Christ and may our lives be a sacrifice to the praise of HIS glorious grace; not our own lest we labor for nothing. It is far better to be no one in any historical sense and to have the mount of calvary as our epitaph in an unmarked grave than to be honored by men and praised through generations only to realize we left trash to be burned at the coming of the Lord.
Rise up pastor, bow down pastor… the Lord is true.
 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.  More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5:10-11 ESV)
As long as humanity has been itself, the investment of togetherness has been a reality. For the first people, this unity embraced an inclusion without shame, concern, rejection or any type of insecurity. As Adam and Eve were naked, they knew not that they were thus their union in all things was purely the enjoyment, security and fellowship of each one with the other. At the fall this nakedness was revealed. Insecurity and timidity arose immediately and they were ashamed, not only before each other, but most importantly before God. They desired to hide their shame by covering themselves with their own provision to no effect bringing precarious want and emotion ringing into the garden and into the lives of all humanity after them.
Christ has taken away our shame by placing Himself at the center of guilt, though innocent, and thus endured the shame and thus the wrath of sin from the hand of God the Father. In doing this, while we still bare the marks of sin in our flesh, our fellowship with God is without shame and our nakedness before God as justified children reveals a purity that would not exist without imputation from Christ. Thus our common unity with God through Jesus Christ further protects our unity as the body of Jesus Christ and now as we are able to fellowship together in Christ, our living life together is not jarred or covered by a lack of transparency because we can be ‘naked’ and unashamed before God and before each other.
Before one takes the zip line to crazy town I want to make clear I am speaking metaphorically and most importantly, spiritually. Being naked before God and each other is expressed in the reality of our lives together in that we are not hiding behind facades of man-made philosophies or self-contracted ideals but rather we are exposed and visible with integrity as we really are. For some this exposure is seen as the work of God through solid faith and holy passions while in others, the pocks, scars and trials still abound. The sum of this is the reality that even though we are sinners who have past and present failings, we are forgiven in Christ and even “if” we sin in this present day, we are forgiven for Christ is our propitiation so that there is nothing more that is due God’s justice.
Fellowship among the saints then needs to come into the light of nakedness without shame. We need to realize that the true Church are those who live together, assemble together and worship together in an effort to grow into maturity and go into the darkness as light. We need to remember that we are all redeemed in Christ and that our tragedies belong to each other as well as our victories in Christ. The church ‘are’ the people of Christ who are called out to live and walk in light together and who are to carry the burdens of the weak, be patient with those who doubt, forgive as much as they are forgiven. Sadly though, many Christians live in fear of rejection and hide behind of charade of “idealism” that isn’t true. It is time for the people of Christ to be honest and open among their spiritual family and realize that just as God has forgiven them, just as they are facing doubt, just as they are going through trials; so the rest of the body follows.
We are indeed a people who should have no shame because Christ took it and nailed to His cross with His body!
Why do so many Christians live a lie? Here are just a few thoughts:
- They feel as though they are the only ones with problems/sins/doubt/depression/issues.
- They feel as though others in the church would treat them differently if they were honest about their needs.
- They are right to feel that way because some would.
- They are not taught the gospel when assembled and are more pressured into fitting into a social mold than into the likeness of Christ.
- The culture of the church family insists on issues being a result of “faithlessness” or “apostasy”.
- They forget that the enemy of God is the accuser of the brethren and accusation begins within.
- They fail to remember the glory of God’s grace in Christ Jesus as their only hope.
- They don’t see that one of the purposes of Christ’s church is to grow into maturity.
- They fail to realize that suffering, pain, sin etc. can be and will be used by God to bring glory.
- The are too busy doing religious things instead of being enabled to minister to others, so they cannot perceive how anyone could minister to them.
When we fail to live truthfully, we fail to be God’s people in reality. Then we fail to worship, fail to learn, fail to really love and fail to really live.
Press into Christ, be in love with His people and live for His Glory!
God surely had some words through the mouth of Amos and I have found a few chills this early morning considering how close I have come to being the just recipient of God’s holy justice. Let the prophet’s words ring true in your hearts today as you pause and consider the gravity of sin and the glory of salvation. And on the other hand, let us all take the morn to posture ourselves in examination and consider that God has truly given us a heart for Him thus proven by our hearts for others including our enemies and most certainly those “outside the gate” who are rejected by all — just as our Savior was and is.
Hear ye the words of the Lord…
They hate him who reproves in the gate, and they abhor him who speaks the truth. Therefore because you trample on the poor and you exact taxes of grain from him, you have built houses of hewn stone, but you shall not dwell in them; you have planted pleasant vineyards, but you shall not drink their wine. For I know how many are your transgressions and how great are your sins— you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe, and turn aside the needy in the gate. Therefore he who is prudent will keep silent in such a time, for it is an evil time. (Amos 5:10-13 ESV)
For His Glory by His Grace,
Pastor James Tippins
As the Lord allows, I plan to release this book in January 2016. It chronicles my journey of faith, theologically, from birth to date and reveals just how harshly Reformed doctrine has affected me, my life and my family as well as my ministry. In the last ten years or so a movement has ensued that seems to be taking large groups of Evangelicals and dividing them from fellowship. I have experienced this first hand and in all honesty, have experienced hatred, hurt, death threats and the like while keeping quiet and tending to my own business.
My hope in this writing would be to allow the reader to journey with me, see what I see and then realize that everyone, no matter who they are, at one time or another has had a crisis of faith. During these times believers are to stand together, work with each other, pray for grace and reconciliation and see God work through it. Sadly, it hasn’t been the case. So, my crisis of faith resulted in major growth for my good, but it has been painful. Pray for me as I put the final touches to this text and pray that the message of the gospel would be paramount to it all.
For His Glory,
1 John 2:28-3:3 shows us the full glorious reality that we have been adopted and given a certain hope in Christ Jesus whose righteousness we bare and who by His grace are able to walk in the light of holiness, not perfectly, but continually without fear of judgment or wrath. We abide in Christ because He abides in us and the anointing of Christ in us affords us an eternal hope of preparation (sanctification) as we await to see Him face to face we are being transformed from one degree of glory to another! Grace upon Grace! Amen.
Our pursuit of holiness is the outcome of our position as children, not a constant war of helpless expectation. Repentance is the state of the believer who then is able to abide forever in the finished work of Christ, striving in the power of Grace to rest in Christ who has prepared for us good works to walk in before the world began. (See Eph 2)
Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus because God is satisfied in Christ who paid the penalty of our sin. While we do grieve God the Spirit when we sin, we walk bold before our Father in forgiveness because our debt to sin is satisfied in the body of Christ.
Rest well saints!
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
After over 16 years in ministry, I have determined that the best of devices of preaching for me is the Holy Spirit of God as He wrings me through the meat grinder of my own depravity and pours me into the cup of His grace. It is from there that I am a nothing of a man crying out to a people who should tremble at the holy hand of God and repent and believe for the salvation of their souls and the joy of their existence.
As I reflect over the last four years of preaching and teaching and praying and studying for the glory of God, it’s very evident to me that the longer I remain a shepherd of the flock, the harder it will become to look and gaze at the emptiness in so many hearts who are always hearing but never hearing. It amazes me that so many for so long can be so idle and never shaken by the Word of God into a stable lover of Christ resulting in a foundation of extreme joy. So how does a pastor cry for the sheep? How does he mourn over the souls of misery who cannot smile due to the life that has choked joy from their hearts? How does the pastor cry out for the sheep to God without being broken beyond use never leaving the floor of petition? How can one who declares “thus says the Lord” every stop crying out to God for mercy on those who sit under the word and never flinch except in hardness of heart.
These never-ending questions are the silent current of my soul leading me to the exposure of these cries that terminates in the pulpit of the church. Standing in front of souls, who except by God’s grace will perish before the sermon is done, and begging and pleading for all to hear and believe and see the glorious beauty of God’s eternal grace and glory in the face of Jesus Christ, His holy Son… this labor is without a doubt one that no man can hold an empathetic ear lest he has stood in those shoes with a call from God.
How does a pastor cry? He cries for himself, he cries for his sin, he cries for his soul and he cries in worship. These cries move to the pages of scripture and through the pen of his journal, they move through his lips by the power of grace to the ears of people who are in the hands of God. How does a pastor cry? He cries in the power of Grace with no other hope, no other message, no other means except to prepare his heart to lean wholly on the power of the Almighty and trust that those who sit before him each week will, in the timing of God, come to faith.
Let us be thankful for the grace that keeps the pastor’s tears from consuming his soul. Let us be thankful for the grace of God who uses ordinary men to proclaim the truth of repentance and mercy. Let us be thankful for the cries in the closet and the cries of the preacher who never holds back but shows his affection through generous emotion and eternal faith in a righteous and loving God.
I am thankful for being called by God to pastor His people and to be used up, in all ways, for His glory.
Staying Stupid – James
“It does not answer the aim which God had in this institution, merely for men to have good commentaries and expositions on the Scripture, and other good books of divinity; because, although these may tend, as well as preaching, to give a good doctrinal or speculative understanding of the word of God, yet they have not an equal tendency to impress them on men’s hearts and affections. God hath appointed a particular and lively application of his word, in the preaching of it, as a fit means to affect sinners with the importance of religion, their own misery, the necessity of a remedy, and the glory and sufficiency of a remedy provided; to stir up the pure minds of the saints, quicken their affections by often bringing the great things of religion in their remembrance, and setting them in their proper colours, though they know them, and have been fully instructed in them already. ” — Jonathan Edwards
Over the summer, many of us have been tired and exhausted from everything going on in life and in the life of the church. Some of us are tired because of just not having the physical rest that we need while others are not in good health to begin with. All across the country I have rec’d requests for prayer for many brothers and sisters in the Lord for energy, healing and hope. As I reflected on this for our congregation and looked deeply at my own life, I have concluded that this is normal. Normal in every sense because our flesh is weak and dying because of the fall and yet our spirit is being renewed in Christ each day. Although we pray for rejuvenation and healing, and God does give both, these answered prayers are only temporal, they will only last for a season because all of us are just facing another trial, another sickness or something else.
Although this may seem like bad news, the good news is that the suffering of this life is temporal and that our promise from God is undeniably real and forever! A few passages of scripture that teaches us about our current condition and our future glory might help you as it has helped me.
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.”
(2 Corinthians 4:7-12 ESV)
Paul is talking about the treasure of the Gospel of Christ and that it is in our bodies as broken and fragile vessels. It is in the suffering of life that we fill up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions to each other and the world. Look at this verse: “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.”
(Colossians 1:24-29 ESV)
Notice Paul’s zeal in the face of suffering for the cause of the Gospel. His hope does not rest in the securities of this life or the desire to see his earthly life as an easy “retirement” life of leisure but looks for that “day” when he is renewed in Christ forever! God has made Himself a people for His own glory, the church that is saved by the Grace through Jesus Christ alone! You, as a child of God, are part of this family of God, you have an eternal and amazing inheritance as Christ Himself is your treasure! Do not be dismayed but be alive in Christ with the fulness of joy knowing that your life is in His hands. I will leave you with Peter’s words to the suffering saints of old:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
(1 Peter 1:3-9 ESV)
Our hope and our joy lies in the promise of God, not the problems of this life. Rest well oh weary saint!
Soli Deo Gloria,