Thursday, August 26, 2010

Love the Lord your God

Oswald Chambers asks, "Are you more devoted to your idea of what Jesus wants than to Himself?"

"Yes, Lord, I am."

How often I pick the path of performing for him over loving him.

I'm embarrassed to tell you that I take refuge almost every day in my idea of what Jesus wants. I'll venture to say that most of us have our own ideas of that, and we feel satisfied or even prideful when we manage to put checkmarks in our spiritual 'to do' list or paste in gold stars when we successfully avoid what's prohibited.

Give me a Bible to read. Give me your prayer requests. Give me a 40-day fast every year. Give me the chance to turn over my money. Give me some act of service to do. Give me lots of opportunities to be nice, nice, nice. Just don't make me do something that others might not like. Don't make me face any danger. Don't cloud any black and white issues with something gray. Above all, don't make me put down what I hold dear - my people, my reputation, or my work.


The rich young ruler walked away sad. As it turned out, his devotion was to his idea of what Jesus wanted. Jesus surprised him by demanding something he did not anticipate - a love that would make him lay down everything he held dear and follow a wandering rabbi to unknown places living a life he couldn't reconcile with what he'd always believed.


David, on the other hand, lived. Looking at David's life, there is a pretty fair balance between action and adoration, but if one outweighed the other, David's love of God trumped his behavior, even in an age of Law. God reminded Samuel as he was about to anoint David as future king, "The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." (I Samuel 16:7)

According to Acts 13:22, "'I have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.'" This verse seems to link David's distinction as a man after God's heart, with action - doing what God wanted him to do.


This is really the crux of the matter for us. Do we merely believe in him and serve him carefully, or do we love him and follow him, even if it means living with the contempt of others - even if it makes life untidy, even if it departs from what we always thought Jesus wanted?


"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment."

It seems to me that when we love God, we please him most. The ruler came minus sins, but also minus love and was sent away sad. David came dancing and loving and yes, sinning. Expressing the most fervent contrition, David deplored his own sin, but he neither walked self-consciously through life nor stopped running toward God with a passion. It was David's passion that pleased God and moved him in love to call this flawed king a man after his own heart.

And that is my desire as well.

--Lisa Dye
excerpts from a blog post: here

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The grammar of the gospel

There is a grammar by which Paul speaks the gospel. We need to learn to speak the gospel properly, but natively the gospel is a foreign language to us.

Those of you who studied Latin in high school remember that one of the first strange things that you have to learn is that you put the verb at the end. The doing word comes at the end. This is very difficult for us as Americans to understand how anybody could speak a language in which you put the doing word at the end, because we are a doing community.

But you see the gospel teaches us, doesn't it, to put our doing word at the end, and Jesus' doing word at the beginning. But our native tendency is to drag back the doing word and put it at the beginning, and then top that up with Jesus' doing, just to make life a little better.

But there's a very clear grammar in the gospel. We know that sometimes Paul seems to almost create words in order to express the gospel. He uses the greek language occasionally in a way that seems to have no parallel in classical greek because the gospel demands that we speak the gospel with a grammar that's characteristic of the gospel.

And in that sense we need to learn several principles. The first is, we need to learn that the grammar of the gospel has its appropriate mood. In our language we speak of the indicative mood and the imperative mood. The indicative mood is saying, "these are the things that are true". The imperative mood is saying, "these are the things you need to do". And in the gospel, the structure of the grammar is always: indicative gives rise to imperative.

That's why as gospel ministers we need to soak ourselves in such things as what the cross achieved. To be soaked in all that Christ has done, so that it oozes from us. So that preaching Christ is not something that we learn as a technique because we understand that it's the right thing to do, but we speak the grammar of the gospel because by God's grace through the word by the Spirit, that grammar has become instinctive to us. And it oozes from us. It's a very difficult thing to pin down isn't it?

There is an atmosphere that we give out in our preaching, isn't there? God has made it that way. And what oozes out of a preaching that in its depths has reversed the grammar of the gospel ... (No matter how much we speak formal gospel language) ... what is conveyed in the manner in which we say it is, "Pull yourself up by your bootstrings and do better." And we crush rather than convert.

--Sinclair Ferguson, from a sermon: "Paul on Union With Christ"
found: here

Friday, August 20, 2010

Stopping long enough to really want Him

We pray “The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want…” Meanwhile, our hearts are packed with the trickling of wanting. How to make it stop?

It sounds so good. Getting rid of clutter, the excess. Stuff. But, will having less make us want less?

Spurned by a poor economy, people are riding the growing wave of goal-oriented minimalists. It’s a head turning cultural phenomenon, shedding as much as possible. People are re-evaluating what makes them happy. They are asking, "What is tying me down and how can I be free from it?" The trend to live simply is a growing expression of relieving that frustration.

But if these people are willing to radically change to a simpler life because of ... happiness, what radical changes am I willing to simplify… to pursue God?

It became plain and simple to me. I can get so caught up trying to capture life, I miss the moments to simply live life with Jesus. If we are to live godly lives, we must remember Jesus. Jesus is the One we want to possess. He is the only reason why we would let go of anything. If we were to stop long enough to really want Him, He would be the prize we’d dump everything for. Just to savor His touch and His words.

Decluttering possessions to pursue happiness is a far cry from godliness.

Decluttering our priorities, so that God can possess us: Irrevocably… Life… Changing.

Paraphrased snippets from a blog post: here, by Bonnie Gray

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Believing what we believe we believe

Do I just "believe that I believe"? Or do I really "believe"?

On April 25, 1951, the gospel came home to C. S. Lewis. This fascinating event does not seem to be well known, even among admirers. Yet Lewis refers to it no less than five times in volume three of the Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, which covers the final years of his life, 1950 to 1963.

From a letter to St. Giovanni Calabria in December 1951:
During the past year a great joy has befallen me. Difficult though it is, I shall try to explain this in words. It is astonishing that sometimes we believe that we believe what, really, in our heart, we do not believe.

For a long time I believed that I believed in the forgiveness of sins. But suddenly (on St. Mark’s Day [April 25]) this truth appeared in my mind in so clear a light that I perceived that never before (and that after many confessions and absolutions) had I believed it with my whole heart.

So great is the difference between mere affirmation by the intellect and that faith, fixed in the very marrow and as it were palpable, which the Apostle wrote was substance. . . .(p. 151-152)

In 1956, Lewis remarked to Mary Van Deusen, concerning the gospel:
I had assented to the doctrine years earlier and would have said I believed it. Then, one blessed day, it suddenly became real to me and made what I had previously called “belief” look absolutely unreal. (p. 751)

--both quotes from the Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, vol 3

Some remarks made by Dane Ortlund in a blog post concerning these quotes:

Lewis was 53 in 1951. He had 12 years left to live. He had been a Christian for many years—a fruitful Christian for many years. And grace came home to Lewis one day in 1951 in such freshness and power that his previous grasp of grace seemed “absolutely unreal.”

By 1951 Lewis had written The Pilgrim’s Regress, the Space Trilogy, Mere Christianity, The Abolition of Man, The Problem of Pain, Miracles, and much more. Seasoned Christian leaders never outgrow the need for a fresh outpouring of visceral awareness—a renewed “sense of the heart,” as Jonathan Edwards called it—of gospel grace.

-- source: here

Monday, August 9, 2010

Dead to the Law

"But if her husband dies she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress. Likewise, my brethren, you have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead in order that we may bear fruit for God. While we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are discharged from the law, dead to that which held us captive, so that we serve not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit." (Romans 7:3-6)

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Real Strength

“Nothing is so strong as gentleness and nothing is so gentle as real strength.”

--Ralph W. Sockman

Sunday, August 1, 2010

He has anchored himself to us

We ought never to set present communion with Christ, as so many are doing, in opposition to the gospel; we ought never to say that we are interested in what Christ does for us now, but are not so much interested in what He did long ago.

Do you know what soon happens when men talk that way? They soon lose all contact with the real Christ; their religion would really remain essentially the same if Jesus never lived.

That danger should be avoided by the Christian man with all his might and main. God has given us an anchor for our souls; He has anchored himself to us by the message of the Cross. Let us never cast that anchor off; let us never weaken our connection with the events upon which our faith is based.

Such dependence upon the past will never prevent us from having present communion with Christ. Unlike the communion of the mystics it will be communion not with the imaginings of our own hearts, but with the real Saviour Jesus Christ.

The gospel of redemption through the Cross and resurrection of Christ is not a barrier between us and Christ, but it is the blessed tie by which He has bound us for ever to Him.

--J. Gresham Machen, What Is Faith? (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1991), 153-54