Monthly Archives: October 2011

TWO GREAT PROMISES

This weekend Steve Chance was our guest speaker at church. Steve was born with cerebral palsy and uses his personal life experience with daily suffering and struggle to share the gospel and speak to God’s sovereignty. Steve also attended Taylor University with me more than a few years ago.

Steve pointed out what should be an obvious truth, but one that our expectations and bad theology tend to obscure – God has not promised a life on earth without suffering, struggle or loss. However God has given every believer two promises.

1. God will one day wipe away every tear

2. God will never leave or forsake us

We now live between these two promises. This is where we find perspective and encouragement in the midst of a world that will have hardship, because it is corrupted by the curse of sin, and it is filled with people who live in rebellion against God.

We may want the promise that He will take away our problems, but it simply is not the promise God has given. Actually the Bible makes many statements that tell us to expect the opposite.  The Bible says godliness will bring persecution (2 Timothy 3:12); suffering is a reason for joy because it brings spiritual growth (James 1:2-4); every growing Christian will be pruned by God, so we will become more fruitful (John 15:2); and that in this world we will have tribulation (John 16:33).

Our expectations are unwarranted when we feel God has let us down by not taking away all our problems. He has done more, He has promised to use them for our good. That should be sufficient for us. The fact that we will be with Christ forever should enable us to bear our difficulties with peace and grace.

I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.   Romans 8:18

This light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.   2 Corinthians 4:17-18

We have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.   2 Corinthians 4:7

So let is take fresh joy in the promises God has given us (see #1 and #2 above), and find the wondrous peace and encouragement God does offer rather trying to wring out of God encouragement that comes on our terms.

If you would like to find out more about Steve Chance’s ministry and books (including “God is Not a Vending Machine”), go to Golden Clay Ministries.

Who Is The Most Dangerous Guy In Your Church?

If we went through our churches asking this question, I am sure we would get a variety of different and mostly good answers. After serving as one of the pastors at our church since 1982, I generally agree with the answer given on the “Ordinary Pastor” blog, which is “the unteachable guy”.

The only hesitation I have from giving my unqualified agreement is that divisive people are brutal to the health of a church. However, “unteachable people” as pointed out in the article, tend to create divisiveness.  You can read the whole article here.

 

THE SPIRIT CREATES LIFE

The famous Princeton theologian B.B. Warfield wrote,

“The Spirit is the divine principle of all order, life and light in the universe”

Creation reveals much to us about the characteristics of all the Spirit’s works

1.  The Spirit Gives Life (Job 33:4 & John 6:63) . . And He Lives In Us

Without the Spirit’s work there is no life, physical or spiritual. Unbelievers attack creation so they can ignore the reality of God’s authorship. Sadly Christians do a similar thing when we minimize the wonder of the NEW life which the Spirit creates in us. Child of God, be uplifted by this reality: the Spirit has given you new life

2.  The Spirit Brought Order (Genesis 1) . . And He Lives In Us

Clarity and purposefulness is in every action of the Spirit. Everywhere in creation, we see intricacy and order.

Are we foolish enough to think that God’s purposes in us are somehow disordered? We may be disordered, but the clarity and purpose of the Spirit moves in us – in spite of us

3.  The Spirit Brought “Goodness” and Beauty (Genesis 1) . . And He Lives In Us

Everything created, was declared “good”, while the examples of beauty in nature are beyond counting. This reveals God’s heart, and again says something about His other works – which are in us. Never dismiss the beauty and goodness that has already been breathed into every believer. This should cause us to reconsider our resistance to being wholly submissive to Him.

4.  The Spirit Sustains His Creative Works (Psalm 104:27-30) . . And He Lives In Us

Nothing has life in itself, even the molecules that form inanimate objects cannot hold together on their own.

Jonathan Edwards described God’s sustaining power in this way:

“It is the universe being created out of nothing every moment.”

God alone should have our dependence, and the honor that is fitting for our Creator and the only Sustainer

The Spirit’s work in creation is a “common grace”

This means that all people enjoy this grace whether they are godly or godless. We are rightly amazed at the graces of creation. So we should be astonished at the “special graces” which are given to all trust in Christ and are created anew by the Spirit

The Spirit who created the world and caused us to be “born again” is not distant from any of His creation, rather He is the principle of all activity

WHAT AFFECT DOES THE SPIRIT HAVE IN US?

The “fruit of Spirit” is the character that His presence should produce in us (Galatians 5:16-26)

Confession and character are the two evidences Scripture gives for showing we are in Christ. If we bear no spirit fruit then we have no spirit life

The point of Galatians 5 is that a believer’s life should be in contrast to our life before the Spirit regenerated us and came to dwell in us. The power at work in believers is not mildly different from world, so our character should reflect it

The fruit of Spirit “list” in Galatians 5 is not meant to be definitive. Colossians 3:12-13 adds other qualities such as “compassion, humility and forgiveness”

“Don’t non-believers also have these qualities?” Yes, but it should not be in the breadth or fullness of someone with the Spirit. Certainly their potential is not the same! We should evidence these qualities in ways that are opposite of our natural tendencies and former ways

The fruit of the Spirit makes our life attractive. It should influence even those who reject our confession

The process of maturing in the fruit of the Spirit

1. It is Christ centered (John 15:1-5)

Commitment to “abiding” in Christ is necessary, because He is “the vine” and we are “the branches”

We must pay attention the implications of Christ’s gospel and live them out in ordinary life

2.  It Is Spirit Led

According to Galatians 5 it involves being v18 “led by the Spirit”; v25 we “live in Spirit”; and v25 we “walk in Spirit”.  Because the Spirit is real, powerful and faithful, He brings real change. Obviously the person of the Holy Spirit is someone who should have our attention.

Do we cultivating His leading us (listening)?  How are we working on following Him (obeying)?

3.  It requires involvement and commitment to the church community

They are rooted in our relationship to God and to each other. These qualities are all relational.

To be more fruitful we need to be involved in people’s lives; and we need to stay there and not run when we are unhappy or offended

4.  It requires the Father’s pruning

John 15:6 every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit”

Much of what we don’t like in our circumstances is God’s way of growing us in the most important area – our character.

This reality should affect our perspective in the midst of difficulties (James 1:2-4)

Be encouraged, these qualities are God’s way toward us!

MASTERED BY THE GOSPEL

This is an excellent video from the Gospel Coalition that is worth watching more than once, because so many different and vital issues concerning the gospel in our churches are addressed. Two points I greatly appreciated: (1) When unchurched people visit a church, they expect to find church, so don’t try to give them an experience that matches the world;  (2) Don’t just master the gospel, even more “be mastered by the gospel”.

Mastered By the Gospel from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.

THOUGHTS ON SPIRITUAL GIFTS

The definition of a spiritual gift

An enabling given by the Holy Spirit to serve the kingdom and people of God

1 Corinthians 12:7 “To each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good”

Basic principles about spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12:7

1.   They are ‘manifestations’ of God’s power and grace: they are beyond what natural abilities, training and effort could accomplish.

2.  They are ‘gifts’ which means they are not earned, they are a grace

3.  ‘Each’ believer has gifts: they are part of the wonderful package that is our salvation

4.  Their purpose is to bless others: spiritual gifts are not for personal gratification, they are primarily to build up the church

Observations on the operation of our spiritual gifts

Natural abilities are also given by God, but the gifts of the Spirit refer to abilities given to believers

Having gifts doesn’t show maturity, how we use them, shows maturity

We are not meant to have all the gifts; the whole discussion of I Corinthians 12 reveals this

We are meant to use the gifts we have (Romans 12:6-8)

We are told to be absorbed in the ministry of our gifts (1 Timothy 4:14-15)

We are not to be absorbed with wanting gifts we do not have; the Spirit chose our gifts

There is not only a diversity of gifts, there is diversity in how they are used (1 Corinthians 12:4-6)

We should not minimize any gift in yourself or in others, for they are given as the Spirit chooses (1 Corinthians 12:11)

We should not maximize one gift over another (1 Corinthians 12:21-22)

Your church needs you to exercise your gifts. They were given specifically to us to bless the rest of the church

You have a wonderfully important role in the church; it is supernatural in its character and effect

The Spirit will help you at all times in this, our use of them is never detached from Him

How do we know our gifts?

Go back to the definition of spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12:7

1.  Because gifts are manifestations of the Spirit – we need to keep your heart clean for Him to work freely

2.  Because they are for the benefit of the church – we need to be involved in the life of our church

3.  Since we all have spiritual gifts – if we follow those two points, our gifts will flow out, even if we don’t recognize them. Our gifts will be part of who we are as we serve Christ

The reality of having spiritual gifts is an exciting one: both for God’s desire to use us and our potential

GETTING INTO THE MIND OF A TEENAGER

What were they thinking? Is a question that many (all) teachers and parents of teenagers have at some point. But more than knowing what is going on in their minds, we deeply desire to bridge what can often seem to be a widening gap between us.

This issue is addressed in an interesting read from “the Briefing” blog by Matthias Media. You can access it at this link.

THE ABUNDANT WORKS OF THE SPIRIT IN US

Sinclair Ferguson: “The Spirit reveals Christ to us and unites us to Him”

Just as Christ did ALL the work necessary for the guilt of our sin to be removed, the Spirit does ALL the work necessary for Christ’s work to be applied to us. Paul tells us unbelievers are made obedient to the gospel by the power of the Spirit (Romans 15:18-19)

  • The Spirit regenerates us  (John 3:6)
  • The Spirit convicts us  (John 16:8)
  • The Spirit gives us the faith necessary to believe  (Ephesians 2:8)

The Spirit also works out the salvation of every believer. He makes every step of our salvation and its growth possible.

Sinclair  Ferguson: “The Spirit unites us to Christ, and then unfolds to us and in us, the riches of the grace we inherit in Christ”

Romans 8 contains a description of this work that is not exhaustive, but it gives us a fairly full sense of it

  • The Spirit sanctifies us  vs 1-4
  • The Spirit leads us  v14
  • The Spirit adopts us  v15
  • The Spirit assures us  v16
  • The Spirit brings us hope vs 18-25
  • The Spirit intercedes for us  vs 26-27

What are some implications we can take from all of this?

1.  The Holy Spirit is FOR you!  Could we take away any other implication from the reading of Romans 8?

2.  The Spirit is ACTIVE in you! (also see John 7:38-39). The Bible’s description of the Holy Spirit’s ministry with us is a picture of abundance and activity. If we believe God’s word, we can trust that the Holy Spirit will fulfill every one of these things in us.

3.  The Spirit works BEYOND what we can see

We should not minimize His works to the pitiful size of our understanding and perceptions. Instead wouldn’t it be a great idea to maximize our life in this reality?

Let us seek the Holy Spirit where He is at work, which is the fulfillment of God’s Word in and through us!

ONE FLESH

MONTHLY GUEST BLOG BY DEBBIE HUBER

Mark 10:8  “And the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh.”

This is a verse that we hear at many weddings, yet most people don’t think about what God means by one flesh.  In marriage God unites a husband and wife in an inseparable union where the oneness could not be closer.  Children are pieces of the parents but our spouses are one with us – oneness made by God.  This sounds wonderful to brides and grooms on their wedding day, but is often forgotten when the difficulties of life together happen.

There will come times in our marriage where we have pain and hardship; in those times it will be evident if we nurtured our oneness in marriage before God or sought to promote our selfish needs and “individuality”.   The world will tell us that “we need to love ourselves first before we can love others”.  God’s word tells us that we need to love God with all our soul, strength and mind, and love our neighbors as ourselves.

In his book, What Did You Expect?  Redeeming the Realities of Marriage, Paul Tripp writes that “It is only when I love God above all else that I will ever love my neighbor as myself.  At the foundational level, the difficulties in our marriages do not first come because we don’t love one another enough.   They happen because we don’t love God enough: and because we don’t love God enough we don’t treat one another with the kind of love that makes marriages work.”

This oneness has not always been easy to nurture in my marriage. Pride and selfishness often get in the way.  But as Kyle and I have sought to love and serve God in our lives, I can look back and see how God was molding our oneness in marriage. Loving God is the number one priority in our lives and this overflows into how we love each other, how we love our families, and how we respond to hurt and disappointment.  Last weekend God showed me in a very tangible way how strong this bond of oneness really is.

When Kyle had the chest pains in church I remember that we looked into each other’s eyes communicating that we were in this together and knowing a peace that God had us in the palm of His hand.  I remember getting the call from Kyle in the hospital in the middle of the night that he was in terrible pain and knowing that I needed to be there to hold his hand to comfort him and pray for him – because we were in this together. I am still overwhelmed by the prayers of God’s people from around the world for Kyle and for me!  I wasn’t sick but the prayers of God’s people for both of us are a testimony that God really has made us into one flesh together.

Other difficulties may not be so dramatic, but I am reminded that if I am to nurture our oneness, I need to seek to love God more everyday and God will strengthen our marriage.

WHAT’S IN A NAME

HOLY Spirit

The primary name Scripture uses for the third person of the Trinity is the “Holy Spirit”. There are two reasons for this:

1.  Our understanding of God must always begin with His holiness, this is His leading attribute; meaning we cannot properly understand God’s other attributes unless we start with holiness. God’s holiness is the only attribute that is unceasingly declared before the throne of God (Isaiah 6:3 & Revelation 4:8).

“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty”

2.  However the primary reason why the Spirit carries the title “holy” is because of what He does in us. Martyn Lloyd-Jones: “He is called Holy Spirit not primarily because He is Holy, but because His work is to produce holiness in us”. All believers are given the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit so we will become more like God who above all things is holy.

Understanding why the Holy Spirit bears this title has important implications:

1.  It reminds us what God’s primary purpose is for us. It is not our accomplishments for Him that God most wants from us; it is to have His character in us.

If we have His character, we will carry out His works, but the opposite is not true. Some Christians deceive themselves into thinking God that will overlook their carelessness in prayer, worship and character, because they supposedly do so much for Him.

2.  If we are praying for the Holy Spirit to “fill us”, we need to desire His primary purpose in us, which is to make us more holy.

Do we want the Holy Spirit to convict us of every sin in us?

Do we want the Holy Spirit to cleanse out all ungodly thoughts, behavior and motivations?

Do we want the Holy Spirit to be in charge, leading us by His will rather than our own?

Do we want to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit when it contradicts our own desires?

Be encouraged, the Holy Spirit is working in the believer to achieve what God desires most in us. There is nothing ordinary about the Holy Spirit or His works!