Monday, June 30, 2008

Gospel Centered Life

"This first thing to remember, of course, is that we must never separate the benefits (regeneration, justification, sanctification) from the Benefactor (Jesus Christ). The Christians who are most focused on their own spirituality may give the impression of being the most spiritual... but from the New Testament's point of view, those who have almost forgotten about their own spirituality because their focus is so exclusively on their union with Jesus Christ and what He has accomplished are those who are growing and exhibiting fruitfulness. Historically speaking, whenever the piety of a particular group is focused on OUR spirituality that piety will eventually exhaust itself on its own resources. Only where our piety forgets about ourself and focuses on Jesus Christ will our piety nourished by the ongoing resources the Spirit brings to us from the source of all true piety, our Lord Jesus Christ." ~ Sinclair Ferguson

Thoughts? Discuss...

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Now! Get JoyInGod in your inbox!

Thanks to a friend over at "ablogcalledthorns" (Caleb) I am able to offer a way to subscribe to my blog and have the entries sent right to your email?! How cool is that? So, come on by and sign up to get inside my head a couple times each week!

Thanks friends!


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Already & Not Yet!

I have been wrestling with the concepts of Justification and Sanctification. Fully Justified and Free from Sin and death and yet still in the process of BEING sanctified, made free, clean, etc...

It is the tension of recognizing who I am IN CHRIST and at the same time, fighting to take hold of it! Understanding that I will not reach perfection in this life but strive no less to take hold of Christ. As Paul says, "Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own." (Phil. 3:12)

John Piper lays it out like this:

Already: Decisively and Irrevocably Free,

Not Yet: Finally and Perfectly Free

Here are some scriptures to help encourage you with a statement of newness paired with a command to become new.

1. Statement of newness: Romans 6:14, "Sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace."
Command to become new: Romans 6:12, "Do not let sin reign in your mortal body."

2. Statement of newness: Romans 6:18, "Having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness."
Command to become new: Romans 6:19, "Present your members as slaves to righteousness."

3. Statement of newness: Romans 6:6, "Our old self was crucified with Him."
Command to become new: Romans 6:11, "Consider yourselves to be dead to sin."

4. Statement of newness: Colossians 3:9, "You laid aside the old self with its evil practices."
Command to become new: Ephesians 4:22, "Lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit."

5. Statement of newness: Colossians 3:10, "You have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him."
Command to become new: Ephesians 4:24, "Put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth."

6. Statement of newness: Galatians 3:27, "All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ."
Command to become new: Romans 13:14, "But put on the Lord Jesus Christ."

7. Statement of newness: Galatians 5:24, "Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires."
Command to become new: Romans 13:14b, "Make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts."

8. Command to become new: 1 Corinthians 5:7a, "Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump [of dough]."
Statement of newness: 1 Corinthians 5:7b, ". . . just as you are in fact unleavened."

In Grace!

Scripture references taken from:

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Which Way to Go - Road Signs Continued

I have been thinking about the statement that my friend Drew made about road signs (see last post)... about how there aren't any and that we were just expected, as out-of-towners, to just KNOW where we were and how to get where we needed to go?

I think I have been guilty of the same line of thinking... and perhaps "the Church" in America has as well?!

Paul, in Romans 10, is talking about how the people of Israel, God's chosen people, haven't, on the whole, believed in Jesus as God's promised Messiah but how ALL who believe in their hearts and confess with their mouths that Jesus IS who he claimed to be (Savior, Lord, God) would be SAVED! "There is no distinction between Jew and Greek... everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved" (Rom 10:12a, 13)

And then Paul says this, (Romans 10:14-15)

"How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?
And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, 'How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!'"

How do we expect people who don't believe and confess Jesus as Lord to act, think, reason, etc.? I think we expect them to reach some level of morality", when in reality, without Christ, there is no basis for morality... and so, without the preaching of the "Good News" people remain lost on the road with few signs.

That isn't to say that people are innocent, Paul ALSO says that we, as humanity are without excuse because God has made himself plain to see, (Romans 1:18-32) BUT it is tells those of us who call ourselves "followers of Jesus" something about OUR role and OUR responsibility.

We should be those who boldly bear and proclaim the Good News to those around us. People need to hear the name of Jesus preached...

Jesus is the good news. I am the bearer of that Good News. Do I allow it to come from my mouth enough? Does it come with conviction AND compassion? Both full of Grace AND full of Truth? Recognizing that there is a destination... there are signs on the road... God can and desires to be known... and my job is to be a faithful sign post.

Preach the Good News and let the Spirit bring fruit!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Road Signs...

I was in Viborg (pronounced Viberg) South Dakota a couple of weeks ago for a wedding (yay Kyle and Penny!) and while there did a fair amount of driving on roads with which I was unfamiliar. In fact, at one point, my friend Drew (who was sitting shotgun and operating as Navigator for our travels) said, "Man! there aren't any signs for anything!? It's like they expect you to know where you are and where you are going?!"

To which I replied, "Hey, that will PREACH!"

So, at the very least, we'll Blog it!

While driving to the wedding we found it necessary, because of flooded roads, to take a detour from the route we were on. See photo below...

So... we decided to go out of our way about 1/2 mile to a little town and ask for directions around the closed road and a new path to the wedding.

We pulled into this little parking lot and this older gentleman on a riding mower greeted us like the strangers-from-the-north that we were and we asked him for directions. He proceeded to tell us to go "through town to the gas station... I think it's a Cenex... and turn right. And after going West for a while... go North again and that will get you to Viborg."

"Thanks a lot!"

Much like the lack of signs on the roads we were driving, this guy expected us to know how far West to travel, when to turn North, and even where "town" was in relation to where we were at the moment!

Needless to say, it was a Sinclair gas station and we did make it to Viborg in plenty of time for smiles, pictures and a great Celebration at the Wedding... however, since then, two things have been rolling around in the back of my mind:

1 - Often we use things like the 10 commandments as the map of "how to live"... like a job description or map for life and just HOPE we don't deviate off course... 'cause then what? Should we really look at them in that way?
2 - How much to I expect that people should know where to go (in relationship to Jesus, morality, Truth, etc.) when there are few road signs and REALLY what they need is someone who can give them directions.

Romans 10:14-17 has been really challenging on this and I'll un-pack the 2nd question in light of the Romans 10 passage in the coming days.

Right now, my Church here, Bethel, is in the midst of a great series on the 10 commandments ( - starting June 1st) and so perhaps I will take on the 10 Commandments in a couple of weeks and post my thoughts here... but for now, we'll stick with question 2...

Thursday, June 5, 2008

The Problem with My Heart...

I realized... I have a heart condition.

Not in the way you might think. Although I have heard about Jesus my whole life and put my trust in Him as a child... and although I have reaffirmed my commitment to Christ many times as I have been confronted with His kindness that has lead me to repentance... I find today that I still have a heart condition.

My heart is utterly wicked.

Now, I trust in the promise that, "In Christ, [I am] a new creation..." (2 Cor. 5:17) and that in Christ, I have been set free from sin and become a slave to righteousness (Rom. 6:18) I find that I still fight against my flesh to subdue it and make it obedient to Christ.

That is hard.

I have had to stare eye-to-eye with my own selfish heart and pride of late and it just breaks me. But, it has taken that honest look at myself which has made Psalm 63 TRUE from my lips in a way that was just a surface statement only a few days ago.

"O God, You are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for You; my flesh faints for You, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water."

Because I see the corruption of sinful flesh in my own heart and the wide path of destruction that sin leaves in its path I am called afresh to surrender my heart to Christ that HE might continue the process of SANCTIFICATION in my life.

Hebrews 10:14 really lays it out clear:
"For by a single offering he [Jesus] has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified."

The Work on the Cross applied to me brings about my Salvation, making me a new creation and liberating me from the bonds of sin of which I cannot myself escape... and for that I rejoice!

And then, as a product of Salvation comes the process of sanctification. Now I know that I cannot reach perfection in this life (1 John 1:8) however I hold fast to the promise that God, in Christ, by the Power of the Holy Spirit in my life, is at work to conform me to the image of Christ.

So... my wicked heart is dead AND dying at the same time; and the New Creation is IN place and perfected in God AND being conformed to Christ during this life.

And I have hope.

Monday, June 2, 2008

"For I know the Plans I have for you..." in context

Here's one that will really throw you for a loop. We often use Jeremiah 29:11 as a nice happy verse to make people feel happy as they start something new like graduate high school or something. However, in context i think Jeremiah's words are a little more challenging.

See... the King of Babylon had taken the people of Israel captive. In fact Jeremiah 27 tells us that the LORD told Jeremiah to tell the people to make yokes for themselves because they WERE going to be delivered into the hands of Babylon as slaves.

Then chapter 28 interrupts what God is saying with a false prophet named Hananiah who said that they would only be in bondage for a little while but that God was going to break the yoke of bondage over them... but it wasn't true. Yes, God was going to break the yoke of slavery and restore the people unto himself... but not on man's clock... only on His own.

So Hananiah got axed by the Lord (jake's paraphrase) and then we come to Jeremiah 29 and he is writing to all those who are in exile and waiting on the Lord to rescue them... that is when Jeremiah writes what we read in chapter 29 verse 11.... God is telling His people, through Jeremiah, "I am doing this... you will be given over to Babylon and it will be for 40 years... this is not a quick fix... but my plans are better than yours. And my ways are higher than your ways and I still love you even though you suffer now in the flesh..."
"... for I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope..."

so... it doesn't blindly make us "feel good" but rather it points us, in our insecurity and in our having to stare face-to-face with the unknown, and helps us say, "Yes Lord! I trust You. That Your Glory and Will IS and WILL BE the BEST for me as well... even if I don't see it."

So... Amen! I celebrate the weight and power of the words of Jeremiah and what they mean for me and you that we can be confident in the unknowns of our futures because no matter what it looks like all around me, i can lean heavy on his right hand.... because he has good plans... i need lunch!