Getting a grip on how much we’re not worth it: You’re looking the wrong way.

For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. – Romans 5:7-8

The other day I saw a portion of a new book by D.A. Carson called “Scandalous.” In it, he says “Those who draw really close to Jesus think of themselves, first and foremost, as those loved by him rather than those who profess their love for him.” He is talking about the instances in the New Testament where writers described themselves as being loved by Jesus. The point is is that the attention is focused not on them and their efforts but on Christ and what he has done. This is a good thing to think about because we — me, you, all of us — have a tendancy to inflate our self-worth when talking about our salvation.

But, if that’s the case, then how do we read and understand the verse above? When it says God loved us “while we were yet sinners” it doesn’t mean that we were especially valuable. Rather, it points to the depth of his grace and love. We have a tendancy to get it backwards because we are so intent on protecting our self esteem. In Fifty Ways Jesus Came To Die, John Piper addresses this kind of thinking:

I have heard it said, “God didn’t die for frogs. So he was responding to our value as humans.” This turns grace on its head. We are worse off than frogs. They have not sinned. They have not rebelled and treated God with the contempt of being inconsequential in their lives. God did not have to die for frogs. They aren’t bad enough. We are. Our debt is so great, only a divine sacrifice could pay it.

There is only one explanation for God’s sacrifice for us. It is not us. It is “the riches of his grace” (Ephesians 1:7). It is all free. It is not a response to our worth. It is the overflow of his infinite worth. In fact, that is what divine love is in the end: a passion to enthrall undeserving sinners, at great cost, with what will make us supremely happy forever, namely, his infinite beauty. 

Christ’s death on the cross is a magnificent event. We should all look at it and marvel. But if we come away thinking it’s a lesson about our worth, then we’ve tragically missed the point.

What does the resurrection of Jesus prove?

If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.  — I Corintians 15:17 
In Fifty Ways Jesus Came to Die,  John Piper says that Jesus’ resurrection didn’t merely follow His death, it was the seal of God’s approval:

 Now what is the relationship between this shedding of Jesus’ blood and the resurrection? The Bible says he was raised not just after the blood-shedding, but by it. This means that what the death of Christ accomplished was so full and so perfect that the resurrection was the reward and vindication of Christ’s achievement in death.

Jesus’ death so satisfied God’s wrath that his resurrection was not the final payment but the reward for and vindication of that death. We can rest assured knowing that the shedding of Jesus’ blood fully covers our sins and that now he lives forever on our behalf.

  
  

 
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The demand for justice: He had to die. The bountiful love: He provided a substitute.

whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. — Romans 3:25 (ESV)

Continuing from our post yesterday, we are looking further at the death of Jesus and why it matters so much to us today. There are two sides to the death of Jesus, namely: It is a just act and it is a loving act.

The reason it is a just act is because God is just and the punishment for sin demands a price. After all, in Deuteronomy 6:5 it says “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” That is a high standard that no one has achieved. It’s not that we don’t try to achieve that, it’s that we can’t fully. Sin itself is preferring something else to God, and we do it all the time in the choices we make. We show our love is greater for other things rather than for God. That is why the Bible also says in Romans 3:23: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

So what is that price? The price is death and punishment. In Fifty Reasons Why Christ Suffered and Died, John Piper says “[S]in is not small, because it is not against a small Sovereign. The seriousness of an insult rises with the dignity of the one insulted. The Creator of the universe is infinitely worthy of respect and admiration and loyalty. Therefore, failure to love him is not trivial—it is treason. It defames God and destroys human happiness.”

If God were to brush sin aside or put it under the rug, it would make Him smaller and make him less worthy of worship. But God is at war with sin and has made clear through the Bible what that means. “For the wages of sin is death” it says in Romans 3:23 and “The soul that sins shall die” it says in Ezekiel 18:4. Clearly there is a consequence to sin, and justice is demanded from a holy God.

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Jesus can change your way of thinking

It is now 2010, and many of us have been thinking of ways to discipline our lives. We may not all say it that way, but that’s what we intend. Some call them resolutions (I do) and we hope to improve our lives in some way by doing things either a new way or doing the things we already do in a better way. We need to change our way of thinking.

John Knight, in a post at The Works of God, points to an article in the New York Times that talks about how our brain functions and how, for example, in people who are blind it reorganizes the impulses that usually function for sight to do other tasks. It’s an amazing thing and, for me and many others, points to how God has made our brains in his infinite wisdom. Knight says that this also makes the miracle Jesus performed for the blind man in John 9 even more spectacular because the man’s sight was restored instantly and he saw clearly. By science, this man’s brain would have not been able to adjust this quickly because his it would not have been functioning in this capacity for a long time.

As I read John’s post I thought about my hopes for this year and the goals (resolutions) I have made for myself. I am left feeling hopeful because I can see that God can work in ways that are not my natural inclination, my current way of thinking (although my faith in God is present) to do the thing desired. So, I will press on in hope that God will do the daily miracle in my life. And I hope you, dear reader, press on in God as well that he will change our way of thinking.

God can be trusted: Celebrating the life of George Mueller

George Mueller
George Mueller

On this date in 1805 in Kroppenstaedt, Germany, George Mueller was born. Mueller would die 92 years later and would be best remembered for his orphan ministry he founded in Bristol, England. From the biographical message delivered by John Piper, we are given these facts:

He built five large orphan houses and cared for 10,024 orphans in his life. When he started in 1834 there were accommodations for 3,600 orphans in all of England and twice that many children under eight were in prison. One of the great effects of Mueller’s ministry was to inspire others so that “fifty years after Mr. Mueller began his work, at least one hundred thousand orphans were cared for in England alone.”

George Mueller pastored for 66 years at his church in Bristol and is said to have delivered at least 10,000 messages. He was a giant in the faith not likely to be seen any time soon. Mueller was a man of consistent prayer who lived daily from God’s word. The way he supported his ministry to orphans was to ask from God and watch and trust God to provide — and he did. Here is more from the Piper message about this:

The reason he is so adamant about this is that his whole life—especially in the way he supported the orphans by faith and prayer without asking anyone but God for money—was consciously planned to encourage Christians that God could really be trusted to meet their needs. We will never understand George Mueller’s passion for the orphan ministry if we don’t see that the good of the orphans was second to this.

The three chief reasons for establishing an Orphan-House are: 1. That God may be glorified, should He be pleased to furnish me with the means, in its being seen that it is not a vain thing to trust in Him; and that thus the faith of His children may be strengthened. 2. The spiritual welfare of fatherless and motherless children. 3. Their temporal welfare.

And make no mistake about it: the order of those three goals is intentional. He makes that explicit over and over in his Narrative.The orphan houses exist to display that God can be trusted and to encourage believers to take him at his word. This was a deep sense of calling with Mueller. He said that God had given him the mercy in “being able to take God by His word and to rely upon it.” He was grieved that “so many believers . . . were harassed and distressed in mind, or brought guilt on their consciences, on account of not trusting in the Lord.” This grace that he had to trust God’s promises, and this grief that so many believers didn’t trust his promises, shaped Mueller’s entire life. This was his supreme passion: to display with open proofs that God could be trusted with the practical affairs of life. This was the higher aim of building the orphan houses and supporting them by asking God, not people, for money. …  Mueller’s faith that his prayers for money would be answered was rooted in the sovereignty of God. When faced with a crisis in having the means to pay a bill he would say, “How the means are to come, I know not; but I know that God is almighty, that the hearts of all are in His hands, and that, if He pleaseth to influence persons, they will send help.” That is the root of his confidence:God is almighty, the hearts of all men are in his hands, and when God chooses to influence their hearts they will give.

So, today we celebrate not only the life of faithful servant George Mueller, but also the God who provides and holds the hearts of men in His hands.

Industriousness grows well in the soil of humility

What does God not need? He doesn’t need proud people. He doesn’t need self-sufficient people. He doesn’t need people who are looking for their own glory. He does not need and so people like that are at odds with who God is.

This past Sunday afternoon, I had the joy of watching three people from my church be baptized. It is a wonderful thing to be a witness to this event in a Christian’s life because it points in a public way to the fact that God does a great thing in people’s live — he saves them — by first making them humble. John Piper, in his sermon from this past Sunday, says that humility “is the work of God under everything that makes all other good things in Christianity possible.” He gives just a few examples:

Faith. Would anyone depend on Christ as a needy, weak, and sinful person, if God hadn’t made him humble?

Worship. Would anyone earnestly make much of the worth of God, instead of craving to be made much of himself, if God hadn’t made him humble?

Obedience. Would anyone surrender his autonomy and submit obediently to the absolute authority of Scripture, if God had not made him humble?

Love. Would anyone seek the good of others at great cost to himself, if God hadn’t made him humble?

So, we are all in need of humility if we are to be of any good to God. The world, Piper reminds us, tells us that the best sort of courage is self-confidence. The humble person, however, is God-confident and lives his life not fearing man, but fearing God. Fearing men is a sign of pride, not humility. And because the humble person fears and loves God, that person works and is not passive. Remember what Paul wrote in 1 Cor. 15:10:

By the grace of God I am what I am . . . I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.

Because we are freed from the chains of self esteem and the concerns of the world, God allows us to be productive, creative, industrious people who do great things for God’s sake, not our own.

Don’t be a hater: Get to church

Ted Kluck and Kevin DeYoung, who teamed up to write “Two Guys Who Are Not Emergent” and the just-published “Why We Love the Church: In Praise of Institutions and Organized Religion,” recently wrote an article for the On Faith section of the Washington Post. For two young guys, they sound a chord not heard often in this culture. That is, the church is important in our society:

Here’s what Bono, Oprah, and the guru speakers on PBS won’t tell you: Jesus believed in organized religion and he founded an institution. Of course, Jesus had no patience for religious hacks and self-righteous wannabes, but he was still Jewish. And as Jew, he read the Holy Book, worshiped in the synagogue, and kept Torah. He did not start a movement of latte-drinking disciples who excelled in spiritual conversations. He founded the church (Matt. 16:18) and commissioned the apostles to proclaim the good news that Israel’s Messiah had come and the sins of the world could be forgiven through his death on the cross (Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 2:14-36).

Now, these guys are not naive. They know what churches can be like and how they have received a reputation for not being the most loving places in the world:

We’ve been in the church our whole lives and are not blind to its failings. Churches can be boring, hypocritical, hurtful, and inept. The church is full of sinners. Which is kind of the point. Christians are worse than you think. Our Savior is better than you imagine.

But the church is not all about oppression and drudgery. Almost every church we know of visits old people, brings meals to new moms, supports disaster relief, and does something for the poor. We love the local church, in spite of its problems, because it’s where we go to meet God. It’s not a glorified social/country club you attend to be around people who talk and look just you do. It’s a place to hear God’s word spoken, taught and affirmed. It’s a place to sing praises to God, and a place to serve others. It’s a place to be challenged.

Their new book “provides a solid biblical mandate to love and be a part of the body of Christ and counteract the ‘leave church’ books that trumpet rebellion and individual felt needs.” I know that there are many of us who have in the past gone through or currently are going through difficulties with your fellow believers in the church. Don’t despair — and don’t leave the church.

Download the study guide to go with the book.