Rekindling Your Love for Christ

Thank you all for bearing with me during my short hiatus. I am feeling a lot better now and will share more about that in a future post. Today I’m sharing an excellent post from John MacArthur’s Grace to You blog.

Rekindling Your Love for Christ

by John MacArthur

As we begin this new year, before we get back into our study of the gospel of Luke, which we will commence again next Sunday, along with our series on doctrine next Sunday night, I want to talk to you just personally and pastorally a little bit. Last Sunday I spoke on 1 Corinthians chapter 10, on the danger of spiritual privilege, from the verse, “Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” How that those who are singularly blessed can become smug about that blessing and thinking they’re firm in their stand can be headed for a serious collapse. I want to follow up on that same perspective today, because I feel like part of the ministry that I must discharge before the Lord, and you, is a ministry of warning about danger.

Our church is not in particular danger from some dominating iniquity. It is not in particular danger from some infiltrating heresy. It is not in danger from some loss of resources financially or human. Everything you can see on the surface looks to be good. And we would have every reason to think that we stand, and still be on the brink of a fall. And following that idea up a little bit, we have to go to the real core of what it means to be a Christian. And I, from my perspective, believe that the church in our day is completely losing this simple perspective. I think the Christian life is essentially a simple thing to understand. It is a life of loving Jesus Christ. I know that sounds probably pretty basic, and indeed it is, but just that simple statement has been lost to us.

The Christian life is best defined as an ongoing relationship of love between the believer and Christ. We don’t need to talk about His love for us. That’s fixed. The issue is our love for Christ. Evangelical Christianity has all but lost this perspective on the Christian life. Most people have the idea that the Christian life is about how much God loves me and wants to fulfill my dreams and my desires and my ambitions and my goals and my objectives. And what He wants to do is make something wonderful out of me and life me up and elevate me and fulfill all the hopes of my heart. It’s more about God loving me so much that He wants to do all of this than it is about me loving Him.

But in reality, the Christian life is about loving Christ. It is about loving Him singularly. It is about loving Him totally. It is about loving Him sacrificially. It is about loving Him obediently. It is about loving Him worshipfully. It is about loving Him in terms of service. It really is about loving Jesus Christ. That’s what it means to be a Christian. It’s that you now commit your life to loving Him.

Now if you understand the Old Testament, the great commandment was to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. This is the sum of all that God requires, and your neighbor as yourself. But it starts with loving God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, which is just a way of saying loving God comprehensively, totally, completely. Now if that’s the sum of the Law, then that has to be the sum of the relationship. That can’t be altered when it comes to being a Christian. It is still the purpose of God that we would love the Lord Jesus Christ with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Being a Christian is about loving Christ so much that you want to know Him, so much that you want to exalt Him, so much that you want to please Him, so much that you want to serve Him, so much that you want to be with Him, so much that you want to tell others about Him. It’s about this overwhelming, consuming affection for Christ. This is at the core of what it means to be a Christian.

And so, the real question to ask people when you talk about their spiritual growth or their spiritual condition or where they are in terms of their life is, how much do you love Jesus Christ? How much do you love Christ? Are you growing in your love for Christ? Do you love Him more now than you have in the past? Do you desire Him more now than you did in the past? 

Read the rest here.

Happy Valentine’s Day 2018

Welcome to my annual Valentine’s Day post that I believe is so appropriate
for a day that’s all about love. 

The other day I got to thinking about Valentine’s Day and how it’s supposed to be all about love. 1 John 4:19 immediately came to mind, and I knew this was to be my message about  love … God’s immense love … for us.

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The Dimensions of God’s Love

We love because he first loved us. —1 John 4:19

We have all been told how much God loves us. That fact is unquestionable, especially as we look around and see the evidence of His love in all of His creation. God’s love for us can be described as multi-dimensional, so let’s look at the different ways God loves us—the Breadth, Depth, Height and Length of His love—by examining the universe He created.

Breadth

When a man and a woman get married, they usually exchange wedding bands. If you look closely at a wedding band, you cannot see where it begins or where it ends. This circle of metal is therefore used as a symbol of unending love between husband and wife. In the same way, a circle represents eternity.

That is how I think of God’s all-encompassing love for us. I visualize the circle that His arms form to surround the earth. This thought both amazes and comforts me. I am amazed because it shows how big God is. I can’t imagine any human who can hug the whole world. I am also comforted because I enjoy being hugged. But the true illustration of the breadth of God’s love is found in Scripture: But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), —Ephesians 2:4-5

God loved us “even when we were dead in trespasses.” What a truly astonishing thing!

Eternity is a difficult concept for us to understand, but God has it all under control. He loves us so much that He can’t stand the thought of being apart from us, so He has provided us with a way to spend eternity with Him:

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For God so loved the world
that he gave his one and only Son,
that whoever believes in him
shall not perish but have eternal life.
—John 3:16

The breadth of God’s love for us is that huge. He made sure that we have a way to be with Him forever—in other words, for eternity. Trying to figure out what eternity could be like is the same as trying to count all the stars in the sky. It is impossible!

I like to imagine what it will be like to spend the rest of eternity with God, but I’m sure my limited picture of heaven falls far short of the truth. All I know for sure is that: But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. —John 1:12-13

Depth

The Grand Canyon ranges in height from 9,000 feet at the North Rim all the way down to 2,400 feet at the Colorado River. Those of us here in the Southwest know that there are no easy ways to get to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. In fact, portions of the Colorado River are barely visible from above because of the depth of the canyon. Now that’s what I call deep, but it is still measurable.

We read in Romans 5:8 that …God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

The love God has for us is so deep that it is immeasurable. It is impossible for me to imagine something that cannot be measured. Everything that surrounds us can somehow be measured, whether by weight or volume. But not God’s love. It is bottomless and keeps going on and on to infinity. Even though we don’t deserve any of it, He loves us that much anyway.

We hear a lot these days about “unconditional love.” The truth is that the only true, unconditional love we will ever receive is from God, Who loves us with a pure love found nowhere else. How better to explain God’s love for us in spite of all our sins and shortcomings? The fact that God loves me in spite of myself is the ultimate proof of the depth of His love.

Height

Have you read about those who have succeeded in climbing Mount Everest? This 29,035-foot mountain range is the highest in the world and the most difficult to climb. There are many people who attempt this climb more than once in the hopes of finally being able to complete the challenge of making it to the summit.

I cannot imagine being at a point 29,035 feet above sea level. That is so high that one’s breathing becomes quite labored and therefore requires extra oxygen. But that is still not as high as the heavens. In Ephesians, Paul gives us a taste of what it will be like when we’re in heaven: and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,. —Ephesians 2:6

There is no way we cn ever understand the height of such “heavenly realms.”

I love knowing that those of us who have accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord will be up in heaven with God forever, seated with Him and serving Him in all His honor and glory. Even though we’ll be higher than we’ve ever been, we will not suffer the usual effects of high altitude such as headaches, nosebleeds or labored breathing. God has made sure of that. I believe that heaven will be the most comfortable place ever!

If then you were raised with Christ,
seek those things which are above,
where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.
Set your minds on things above,
not on things on the earth.
For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
—Colossians 3:1-3

Length

It is estimated that right now the universe is at least 46 billion light years in radius. My puny human mind cannot comprehend such a measurement. Look up at the billions of stars in the night sky and then try to understand the lengths to which God will go for us. He could have designed just an adequate place for us to live, but did He? No. He chose to give us a wonderful universe filled with beautiful planets and stars. It stretches on and on, just like His immense love for us.

The daytime sky and the night sky are the same, yet very different. During the day we cannot see the stars because of the light of the sun. At night, the stars and moon illuminate the dark sky. When we are in heaven, things will be greatly changed.

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There shall be no night there:
They need no lamp nor light of the sun
for the Lord God gives them light.
And they shall reign forever and ever.
—Revelation 22:5

No more night? Really? What will that be like? And imagine not needing a lamp to read a book.

Being part of such an exciting eternity with God requires only this:

  • recognize that we are sinners and be truly sorry for our sins
  • believe in Jesus Christ as God’s Son and our Savior
  • acknowledge that He died on the cross at Calvary and that His death paid the penalty for our sins
  • and trust that He rose from the dead on our behalf so that we might live forever with Him—and all because of the length of God’s love for us.

Paul related this aspect to Timothy:

However, for this reason I obtained mercy,
that in me first Jesus Christ might show
all longsuffering, as a pattern to those
who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life.
—1 Timothy 1:16

The definition of longsuffering is: suffering for a long time without complaining ; very patient during difficult times. I need this reminder because even though I so often lose patience with the things and people in my life—and with myself—God never loses patience with me. His longsuffering patience is eternal!

Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible,
the only God,
be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
—1 Timothy 1:17

Beloved, on yet another Valentine’s Day I am so glad we have a God Who shows His awesome and immense love for us in so many ways, in spite of our sinful selves!

Faith That Works

Sharing today from John MacArthur’s Grace to You blog.

Faith That Works

by John MacArthur

Saving faith is a divine gift, not a human work. But that doesn’t mean true faith is passive or unaccompanied by good works.

The faith God graciously supplies produces both the volition and the ability to comply with His will (cf. Philippians 2:13: “God . . . is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure”). Thus faith is inseparable from obedience.

Louis Berkhof sees three elements to genuine faith: An intellectual element (notitia), which is “a positive recognition of the truth”; an emotional element (assensus), which includes “a deep conviction [and affirmation] of the truth”; and a volitional element (fiducia), which involves “a personal trust in Christ as Saviour and Lord, including a surrender . . . to Christ.” [1] Augustus Strong argues similarly concerning the volitional element of faith, saying that it involves “surrender of the soul, as guilty and defiled, to Christ’s governance.” [2] Modern popular theology tends to recognize the intellectual and emotional elements of faith but dispenses with the volitional aspect. Yet faith is not true faith if it lacks this attitude of surrender to Christ’s authority.

Writing about the verb “to obey” (peithō), W. E. Vine says:

Peithō and pisteuō, “to trust,” are closely related etymologically; the difference in meaning is that the former implies the obedience that is produced by the latter, cp. Hebrews 3:18–19, where the disobedience of the Israelites is said to be the evidence of their unbelief. . . . When a man obeys God he gives the only possible evidence that in his heart he believes God. . . . Peithō in N.T. suggests an actual and outward result of the inward persuasion and consequent faith. [3]

So the person who has believed will yearn to obey. Because we retain the vestiges of sinful flesh, no one will obey perfectly (cf. 2 Corinthians 7:11 Thessalonians 3:10), but the desire to do the will of God will be ever present in true believers.

Romans 7 is the classic text describing the believer’s struggle with his sinful flesh, and in that passage Paul acknowledged his changed attitude to sin despite the ongoing struggle. He wrote that the desire to do good was his consuming passion as a believer:

I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. (Romans 7:15)

The willing [to do good] is present in me. (Romans 7:18)

I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man. (Romans 7:22)

I myself with my mind am serving the law of God. (Romans 7:25)

Although the apostle Paul described himself as the “foremost” of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15), those who love reveling in debauchery will not find a kindred spirit with him.

Read the rest here.

Jesus the Son of God—Part 3

Sharing Part 3 of this series today from Unlocking the Bible. You can read Part 1 here, and Part 2 here.

Jesus the Son of God—Part 3

By Colin Smith

It is important to observe that “Son of God” when it is applied to Jesus means something quite different from “sons of God” elsewhere in Scripture (e.g., Job 1:6; Mat. 5:9; Rom. 8:14). So how is Jesus’ identity as the Son of God unique?

Our Lord refers to himself as the Son
“No one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (Mat. 11:27).

The Scriptures refer to Jesus as the only Son
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

There is a great difference between the sonship of Jesus, who has always been the Son of God by nature, and the way in which we become the children of God through adoption by grace: “To all who did receive him … he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12).

Read the rest here.

Jesus the Son of God—Part 2

Sharing Part 2 of this series today from Unlocking the Bible. You can read Part 1 here.

Jesus the Son of God—Part 2

By Colin Smith

“Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” Luke 2:49

In these first recorded words of Jesus, he speaks of God as “my Father.”

Jesus spoke about God as his Father in a way that was quite different from the way any worshiper would speak of God. This difference was quite clear to the Jewish leaders who heard Jesus speak. John tells us that they wanted to kill Jesus because he was “calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God” (John 5:18).

There is a special intimacy about the way Jesus addresses God as his Father. We see it in the Garden of Gethsemane: “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Mat. 26:39). And we see it when he is nailed to the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

Read the rest here.

Jesus the Son of God—Part 1

Sharing today from Unlocking the Bible.

Jesus the Son of God—Part 1

By Colin Smith

Not only is Jesus Christ the Lord, the Savior, the Messiah, the Redeemer, and the King, but he is these things precisely because he is the Son of God.

1. It was the first announcement of who Jesus is.
The angel says to Mary, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God” (Luke 1:35).

2. It was confirmed from heaven at Jesus’ baptism.
A voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Mat. 3:17).

Read the rest here.

As it Begins 2019

As it Begins

By Pat Knight

“Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace
at all times and in every way”

(2 Thessalonians 3:16).

As I sit at my desk, I stare with anticipation at the vast amount of accessible space in the new year’s calendar. With red pen in hand, I am poised to add distinguishing color to the otherwise bland pages making important days easily recognizable during the ensuing year.

In retrospect, I realize that a great deal can happen in a year, not just the daily routines, but the earth-shattering life experiences of birth, death, job promotions, health challenges, and various adventures that inevitably lead to immeasurable personal growth.  I ponder the possibility of exciting encounters during the next 365 days.

In our area of the world, January and February are positioned for a sluggish start to the New Year. Often marooned by snowstorms, our daily activities consist of snow removal, stoking auxiliary wood stoves, and observing the world from under a cloak of darkness by late afternoon each day. And yet, as mundane as those first two months of the year usually are, occasionally some exciting and energizing events have occurred. In January, we celebrate our grandson’s birthday with a party. Former college friends whom we had not seen in twenty years spent some quality time visiting with us in February one year. So now, I must adjust my thinking; anything is possible at any time of year!

When facing an unwritten twelve months, some people are fascinated by the possibilities while others experience apprehension. Enthusiasm and excitement permeate the thoughts of those who believe in God. He promises to care for them and to supply their needs. For unbelievers, there must be real fear associated with unrevealed days ahead. When a physical or an emotional crisis occurs, on whom do they depend for resolution to problems and security against the storms of life? What a risky way to live, without God as their Source of strength and power!

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I would prefer to hang on tight to the promises of God’s Word. “In God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” (Psalm 56:11). I know that I can trust God to watch over me and design my life perfectly, revealing His plans to me in His precise timing.

What then, distinguishes between the person who relies on his own resources and the Christian who depends upon God for his daily provisions? Peace is not only relegated to world events dealing with international political stability, but peace has the capacity to reside within each heart, enabling relaxation and fulfillment when our external circumstances defy all definitions of harmony.

God is the author of peace. God’s Word reinforces the truth that God and peace are related. “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever” (Isaiah 26:3-4a).

Peace and turmoil are contrasting emotions. No one chooses to live in a state of chaos and confusion. As much as possible, we seek peace of mind, of heart, and in our surroundings. Tranquil and serene scenes often evoke thoughts of peace. What happens to one’s vision of peace when the very site producing it has been bulldozed for construction or has been claimed a disaster by a tornado?  Efforts at finding peace are easily frustrated if peace is not sought in the right place.

The truth is, peace is not a place but a person. God is peace. He offers harmony and a sense of well-being, in which there are no conflicts. There is no disorder; quietness prevails; tranquility reigns. In the hush of the early morning hour, when the mist rises above the calm waters, all of nature is harmonious, God speaks to me, “And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7). Peace is an attribute of God and a gift of the Holy Spirit to us.

I have no fear of the unknown, for my future is anchored in Jesus Christ. In Him there is an abundance of victory confidently secured in His never-changing character. Bring on the New Year with all of its uncharted waters carrying unidentified perils. I am not afraid. During the unfamiliar days ahead I am promised Jesus’ constant companionship. He already has knowledge of the purpose and outcome of each day.

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