Sacred, Part 1: The Jesus of the Church

What is it about the holy that scares people? It’s simple. Differentiation. R.C. Sproul said that the simplest way to define ‘holy’ is that which is separate or other. It seems that the Church has taken that to extremes to the point that we are abandoning sacred doctrines. Holy doctrines. Distinct doctrines. Doctrines that are imperative to the very foundation of what we believe. Out of these distinct doctrines that we’re going to look at in the series, the foremost that we will address is the deity of Christ. We cannot build the Church of Jesus without the Jesus of the Church being the foundation. There can be no edifying sanctification unless there is first regenerating salvation. So, let’s begin.

Now, let’s get something straight, I’m not going to be able to get into the depth and richness of who Jesus is in one blog post. That would take too much time and energy. I’ll go over Jesus’ huge claim in John 8 and we’ll go from there.

The Jews said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon! Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.’ Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?” Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’ But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word. Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them,“Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple. – John 8:52-59 (ESV)

Let’s catch up, Jesus is schooling the Jews in theology by informing them that He is God and if they abide in His words, then they will be free. The problem is that believe that they are already free. Watch this.

“They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?” – John 8:33 (ESV)

In the case of the Jews, denial is not just a river in Egypt. In the Old Testament, the Jews were enslaved in Egypt, they were taken captive by Babylon, and even now, as they are making this statement, they’re being dominated by Rome. This is the very reason that people refuse to see Jesus as God. People don’t need God if they are under the impression that they are their own god. No one is going to want the freedom that Jesus offers if they believe that they are already free.

Now, if we fast forward to what Jesus tells them in John 8:58, then we’ll see what He’s really trying to get through to them.

“Jesus said to them,“Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” – John 8:58 (ESV)

If you are a grammarian, then this sentence will drive you absolutely bonkers if you have no idea what Jesus is saying. What you think He’s going to say is “before Abraham was, I was also”, but no. He decides that bring the name of God into it. He blatantly makes the claim that He is God. How do these Jews that claim to know God respond?

“So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.” – John 8:59 (ESV)

Here’s the issue. We read this passage and think to ourselves, “Those horrible pharisees. They shouldn’t throw stones at Jesus when all He’s trying to do is help them understand who He is.” We don’t acknowledge that we, at times, are the Pharisees. Every time we hear a sermon, read a book, or read a passage of Scripture that convicts, and we don’t respond the way we know we’re supposed to, we might as well pick up rocks to throw at Jesus.

So, what does this mean for us as the Church? As the Church, we should be responding to Jesus everyday in faith and repentance. It has been said that the same sun that melts the ice hardens the clay. Do a self-evaluation. How are you responding? Are you being melted by Jesus or are you hardening yourself against Him and kicking against the pricks as Paul did?

The Transcendence of God

“Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways! For who can know the Lord’s thoughts?Who knows enough to give him advice?And who has given him so much that he needs to pay it back?For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory. All glory to him forever! Amen.” – Romans 11:33-36 (NLT)

I’ve been given the privilege by God and my church to teach the adult Sunday School class temporarily for the next few weeks and this week’s lesson is over the transcendence of God. As I began studying for the lesson, I began see all over again how fascinating and how awesome that the God we serve really is. I thought I would share with you some of my thoughts on this lesson.

Last week, we started learning about who God is. We learned that God is a Spirit and we learned is active. Not only is He active, but He is actively provisional, always willing and able to care for His children. We also learned that He is a person that identifies Himself with a name, through actions, and personal relationship with His people (Exodus 3:13-15; Matthew 6:30-33; John 8:58).

The Oxford Dictionary defines ‘transcendence’ as ‘existing apart from and not subject to the limitations of the material universe’.

As we look at the transcendence of God, I want to grasp that God has no limitations. Let that soak in for a minute.

We serve a no limits God!

God is not limited by time and space.
God is not limited by the physics.
God is not limited by circumstance or trouble.

God is omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent.

Omnipresence means that God is not limited to geography. He is everywhere at all times.
Omniscience means that God is not limited to a human mindset. He knows everything in the past, present, and, future.
Omnipotence means that God is not limited by frailty. He is all-powerful.

When we truly understand that the God we serve is unlimited in anything and everything, I believe that will be the beginning to our minds opening up to praying big and thinking big.

So many times we face circumstances that our out of control and we feel powerless and hopeless but, we serve an all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-present God that is able to help us in our time of need. One of my favorite passages of Scripture is Hebrews 4:15, 16:

“For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”                          – Hebrews 4:15, 16 (NKJV)

We can come boldly before God’s throne and ask of Him anything and I believe He will hear and help us!

The Lord of Our Dance

“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!”
– Psalm 139:14-17 [English Standard Version]

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
– Jeremiah 1:5 [English Standard Version]

“The Lord your God is in the midst of you, a Mighty One, a Savior [Who saves]! He will rejoice over you with joy; He will rest [in silent satisfaction] and in His love He will be silent andmake no mention [of past sins, or even recall them]; He will exult over you with singing.”
– Zephaniah 3:17 [Amplified Bible]

“Dance then, wherever you may be
I am the Lord of the Dance, said He!
And I’ll lead you all, wherever you may be
And I’ll lead you all in the Dance, said He!”
– Sydney Carter, The Lord of the Dance

Today in church, I heard a hymn that I’d never heard of before, The Lord of the Dance. As I sat and listened to words, I thought about how much God loves us. As a matter of fact, it occurred to me, God doesn’t just love us, He’s in love with us. We are His creation. He thought about each and every one of us long before creation and even now. He thinks of all of us and according to David and Jeremiah, the thoughts that he thinks about us are good thoughts of peace, prosperity, joy, and loving kindness. I know this sounds like a subject that Joel Osteen would preach on but stick with me here. Think about it, we’re sinful human beings. Sinful to our very core. About our nature, The 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith states the following:

“Our first parents, by this sin, fell from their original righteousness and communion with God, and we in them whereby death came upon all: all becoming dead in sin, and wholly defiled in all the faculties and parts of soul and body…From this original corruption, whereby we are utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil, do proceed all actual transgressions.”
– London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689

Looking at that, I wonder how God could possibly love me much less want to dance with me. I’m humbled when I remember that even though I am sinful, He sees me sinless through the blood of His son, Jesus Christ. There’s a song that I used to sing in church that says “When He sees/He sees the blood of the Lamb/He sees me as worthy yet not as I am/He sees me in garments as white as the snow/For the Lamb of God is worthy and He’s washed me, this I know”. God sees beyond our fault and looks to our need. When He saves us, He brings us back to life with his dance of irresistible grace and after that we are forever His and He is forever ours.

“The sheep that are My own hear and are listening to My voice; and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never lose it or perish throughout the ages. [To all eternity they shall never by any means be destroyed.] And no one is able to snatch them out of My hand.”
– John 10:27, 28 [Amplified Bible]

Thanks for reading, and remember that you are loved by the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.

The Quantity and the Quality of our Faith

“For by the grace given to me I say to every one among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgement, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.” – [Romans 12:3 ESVUK]

There are times in our lives where it’s just hard for us to act on our faith. It would be easier to give up and live in compromise, comfort, and complacency. I’ve been there. I know how it is. I know how it is when you can’t seem to feel God no matter how hard you try. There are just those days when you don’t even want to get out of bed. What we have to remember in all of this is that God has dealt us a measure of faith. It’s our responsibility to work with that measure of faith that God has given us. Jesus said in Matthew 17:20:

“He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”” – [Matthew 17:20 ESVUK] 

Thinking about Romans 12:3, Paul said that we’ve been given the measure of faith. If memory serves me correct then the word, ‘measure’ in Greek refers to a specific measurement like it does in Revelation 6:6. If this is true, then a a measure would be about the size of a pint. Jesus said that it only takes faith the size of a mustard seed but Paul said that God went ahead and gave whole pint of mustard seed faith. I challenge you to do something for God today that would make you uncomfortable and put your faith to work.

“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled”, without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” – [James 2:14-17 ESVUK]

 

It’s All About Jesus, Part 2: The Praise Hymn, Part 4

I’ve decided that I’m going to do something that I’ve not done in a really long time and that is finish a series. So, if you’ve been following me for a while you’ll notice that I’ve been doing a series called, “It’s All About Jesus”. The title is self-explanatory. The material that we’ve been going over is found in Ephesians 1

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ,  to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.” – [Ephesians 1:3-14 NIV]

According to this passage of Scripture there are nine things God has done for us and they are:

1. He has blessed us (Eph. 1:3)
2. He has chosen us (Eph. 1:4)
3. He has predestined us (Eph. 1:5, 11)
4. He has made us accepted (Eph. 1:6)
5. He has redeemed us (Eph. 1:7)
6. He has poured grace on us (Eph. 1:8)
7. He has made known unto us the mystery of His will (Eph. 1:9)
8. He has given us an inheritance (Eph. 1:11, 14)
9. He has sealed us (Eph. 1:13)

Let’s get started where we left off:

6. He has poured grace on us (Eph. 1:8)

In the ESV, Ephesians 1:7, 8 read like this:

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight – [Ephesians 1:7-8 ESV]

The word ‘lavished’ implies more than enough. It tells me that God didn’t just give me enough grace to get by on but he gave me grace for every day. He gave me more than I needed. He didn’t have to give me more than enough but he did anyway because He really loves me. Just to think that God has shown that kind of love for each and every person is incredible and unfathomable.

7. He has made known unto us the mystery of His will (Eph. 1:9)

When Paul is talking here, he’s telling us about the mystery of the will of God. How can this mystery remain a mystery if it’s made known to us? To be honest, it can’t. Paul couldn’t keep his mouth shut. He just had to talk in Ephesians 3:6:

“And the mystery is this: Because of Christ Jesus, the good news has given the Gentiles a share in the promises that God gave to the Jews. God has also let the Gentiles be part of the same body.” – [Ephesians 3:6 CEV]

We, who were rejected and kicked out in the cold, are now welcomed by God’s wonderful grace to be his elect people.

“Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” – [1 Peter 2:10 ESV]

8. He has given us an inheritance (Eph. 1:11, 14)

This great inheritance that Paul speaks about is our salvation. God gave this to us as a free gift. I’ve heard a lot of Baptists express this as God giving us a box wrapped in paper and all we have to do is accept it but I’m with RC Sproul on this one:

“God just doesn’t throw a life preserver to a drowning person. He goes to the bottom of the sea, and pulls a corpse from the bottom of the sea, takes him up on the bank, breathes into him the breath of life and makes him alive.” – R.C. Sproul

A dead man can’t receive anything. God has to be the one to bring you to life. Jesus says in John 10:

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” – [John 10:10 ESV]

A lot of people use this to preach on living a blessed and abundant life. That’s all well and good but people seldom realize that you must have life before you can have abundant life and that’s what our inheritance is: life.

9. He has sealed us (Eph. 1:13)

I love what Scofield has to say about this in his commentary.

The Holy Spirit is Himself, the seal. In the symbolism of Scripture, a seal signifies:
(1) A finished transaction; (Jer_32:9); (Jer_32:10); (Joh_17:4); (Joh_19:30).
(2) Ownership; (Jer_32:11); (Jer_32:12); (2Ti_2:19).
(3) Security; (Est_8:8); (Dan_6:17); (Eph_4:30).

After reading and studying what a seal was and its purpose, I understood what Paul was communicating. Our salvation is a done deal. God owns me. I’m secure. I’m not going to lose my salvation at the drop of a hat. As a believer, I have the Holy Spirit as a testimony that God will never let me go.

I hope that God absolutely blesses your socks off today. Remember, that you are loved by the Creator of the universe.

Another World

“For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia.” – [2 Timothy 4:10 KJV]

About a year ago, I was youth pastoring at a small church in a small town and I spent four weeks preaching through the book of 2nd Timothy because I wanted to bring my youth group to the reality that even in this modern day the beloved church of God is persecuted. In my preparation for this sermon series I studied as much I could, trying to get every bit of information I could about this book and through all my studying, I never noticed this simple phrase, “Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world….” It made me think that if there is a present world then there must be a world that is not yet present, Heaven. Demas had not just fallen in love with the world, but in the process, he fell out of love with the thought of being with our savior in Heaven.

I urge you, don’t lose focus. Keep your eyes upon the goal. Continually fall in love with Jesus! Review the words of Paul the Apostle:

 “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus…For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.” – [Philippians 3:13-14, 20-21 KJV]

Remember that you are loved today by the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!

Our Only Comfort

“For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.” – [Romans 14:7-8 ESV]

“What is thy only comfort in life and death? That I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ; who, with his precious blood, has fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, and therefore, by his Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto him.” – [The Heidelberg Catechism, Question 1]

When I was a boy, my grandmother made me a refrigerator magnet out of plastic material and yarn with a picture of a boy  holding a satchel over his shoulder and sub-caption read, “You can’t run from God.”

I believe that everything preaches a sermon and the sermon that this refrigerator magnet preached was one of the omnipresent love of God.

As I read these verses and this quote from the Heidelberg Catechism, I am reminded of the words of Fanny Crosby’s Blessed Assurance:

Blessed Assurance, Jesus is mine
O What foretaste of glory divine
Heir of salvation, purchase of God
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.

What a thought that we belong in life and in death. Our family and friends can go with us but when we pass from this life to the next, Jesus will still be with us.