Worship fully. Spend less.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10 ESV)

It is Christmas season. While we may lament the encroachment of a hectic, rushed season that seems to come earlier and earlier, let us not forget that it is a time to be joyous for what those who believe. If we have been made a new creation through Jesus Christ, then we are to actively seek good for those around us, for His sake. I’ve just become aware of Advent Conspiracy, which is a way of putting Ephesians 2:10 into practice during this wonderful time of year.

If we really believe that we are not to be conformed to the image of this world, then we need to rethink how we celebrate Christmas. The idea that we spend less and worship fully is something we can all do well to put into practice.

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The purpose in the passion of Jesus Christ: Why one man’s death matters

This month, like every other month, christianaudio.com is offering a free download of an audiobook. In fact, this month’s deal is even better than in past months because they are offering not one but two free downloads: Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s “The Cost of Discipleship” is free along with John Piper’s “Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came To Die.”  If these books are not in your library, then this is a great time to add them. To get them for free, all you have to do is go to the page for each audiobook, add it to your cart and then when asked for add coupons or promotion codes enter MAR2010 for the Bonhoeffer audiobook and MAR2010B for the Piper audiobook. After that you will be given a page with the files to download.

Since we are in the lenten season and Easter is just over a month away, I thought it would be good to look through “Fifty Reasons” and see why it matters — not just for Christians, but for all of humanity — why Jesus came to die. It has been said that there is no one who has anyone against Jesus. After all, he is viewed by people of all stripes favorably depending on your world view and what you seek to advance. His death by crucifixion brings the most important question of that time or any time in history: Why did Jesus have to die?

Beyond the human cause, which some would point to, there is a deeper cause if you explore the Bible. John Piper explains in the introduction of  “Fifty Reasons”:

The Hebrew prophet Isaiah said, “It was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief” (Isaiah 53:10). The Christian New Testament says, “[God] did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all” (Romans 8:32). “God put [Christ] forward . . . by his blood, to be received by faith” (Romans 3:25).

But how does this divine act relate to the horribly sinful actions of the men who killed Jesus? The answer given in the Bible is expressed in an early prayer: “There were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus . . . both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place” (Acts 4:27-28). The depth and scope of this divine sovereignty takes our breath away. But it is also the key to our salvation. God planned it, and by the means of wicked men, great good has come to the world. To paraphrase a word of the Jewish Torah: They meant it for evil, but God meant it for good (Genesis 50:20).

And since God meant it for good, we must move beyond the question of human cause to divine purpose. The central issue of Jesus’ death is not the cause, but the purpose—the meaning. Man may have his reasons for wanting Jesus out of the way. But only God can design it for the good of the world. In fact, God’s pur- poses for the world in the death of Jesus are unfathomable. I am scraping the surface in this little book as I introduce you to fifty of them. My aim is to let the Bible speak. This is where we hear the word of God. I hope that these pointers will set you on an endless quest to know more and more of God’s great design in the death of his Son.

There is so much to learn from the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is my hope that we will spend less time thinking about meals, clothes, candy and gatherings at Easter and more about what the Jesus Christ accomplished not only in history but for our lives. In the coming days I will be going through the chapters of this little book. If you are not a big reader (and it is not a big book at all to read), you can go download the audiobook for free so you can follow along. If you do like to read, Desiring God offers the book for free online as a PDF download. Either way, take some time to think about the death of the most important man in history and what purpose it served.

Hearing the voice of the shepherd

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. — John 10:27

Erik Raymond has written a great post today and a great reminder that we can never make Jesus more appealing than he is. I cannot take Jesus and make him clearer and more appealing than he is in the Bible. As I read through John 10 today, I saw Jesus boldly make claims that offended his hearers and led them to want to kill him. I thought, “If Jesus himself can be rejected by some of his listeners, what makes me think I can do better?”

It took a miracle of God to break through my own resistance to him when I became a believer. He made what was heart of stone become alive to him and changed my passions. Did that mean that others didn’t play some part? By all means, no! But the final, saving action was done by God alone and I responded to that work of God.

We believe because we hear the voice of the Shepherd and follow. The fact that Jesus preached his message while he was on earth and we have the Bible points to the fact that, while we are saved by God alone, there are means he uses to bring us to that point. To those who don’t believe, this is all foolishness, but the hope is that it will one day be clear to them through Jesus Christ.

 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. — I Corinthians 1:22-25

Don’t be cowards: Christ rose so we could get on mission

Matt Chandler, who pastors at The Village Church in Texas, gave this admonition to his congregation on Easter Sunday as part of his message entitled “The Call to Mission.” He wanted them to think about what the resurrection of Jesus means in how they live their lives. In other words, since Jesus didn’t just die for our sins but rose, what does it mean? It is a sharp but helpful point he drives home:

Ladies, how many Bible studies are we going to do, I am just saying, can we maybe run some of the plays instead of just studying them? Men, how many Bible studies we gonna do, how much you going to study before you start to play? I mean that’s what makes the thing so stupid down here. Everybody can talk it, nobody wants to engage anybody with it. Or at least very few of us do. 

Why? ‘Well, cause I have a lust issue.’ Well OK, submit to Christ, get in recovery, and live on mission, it will reveal all that stuff, it will be horrible, God will just rip it out of you and replace it with His grace and mercy, it will be awesome in the end. I mean if you’re waiting till you’re perfect to live life on mission you’re going to die without much mission. 

It’s coming! Do you get this? Do you get that 2000 years ago, in fact farther back than than He told Abram, “This is how it’s going down.” and it has stayed true to the line right up till now where a massive portion of Africa has become believers, a massive portion of China has become believers, South America blowing up with the gospel. 

The gospel is penetrating the world, do you know how this ends? With you and me in front of Him with the Kingdom of God, new heaven, new earth coming down, no more injustice, no more pain, no more sorrow, God’s redeemed, God’s elect, God’s Kingdom, Kingdom of God, established! Now do you think anybody is going to give a trash how much money you have right now? How much comfort you have right now? Who’s cool and who’s not? Who drove what and who didn’t? Who was well liked in the neighborhood and who wasn’t? You think ANY of that is going to matter? No one will care! But a lot of people will be embarrassed.

Chandler points to the book “Total Church”  where Steve Timmis and Tim Chester encourage people to imagine that they are a part of a church planting team in a cross-cultural situation in some other part of the world and answer the following questions:

  • What criteria would you use to decide where to live?
  • How would you approach secular employment?
  • What standard of living would you expect as a pioneer missionary?
  • What would you spend your time doing?
  • What opportunities to share the gospel would you be looking for?
  • What would your prayers be like?
  • What would you be trying to do with your new friends?
  • What kind of team would you want around you?
  • How would you conduct your meetings together?

Chandler says their point is that we tend to think of missional living as something that just missionaries in foreign countries do instead of what we should all be doing. That is the challenge for all of us.

‘I Have Seen The Lord.’ Do you see?

The resurrection of Jesus is viewed skeptically outside the church and, sadly, even within it in some corners. The resurrection of Jesus matters today because it means everything about who we are and where we are going. From the Easter message delivered this past Sunday by John Piper at Bethlehem Baptist Church:

(I)t was God’s intentional design not for the risen Christ to be seen by everyone—not even in the day when it happened. And not today, as much as we might wish we could! His intentional design is: He appeared repeatedly and with many proofs (Acts 1:3) to a limited group of people whose job it was to bear witness in what they said and what they wrote so that everyone who hears or reads this witness will be able know the assurance that God provides for the world about the resurrection of his Son. That’s the way God designed for us to know.

If you think this does not matter to you, remember, those who are in Christ—that is, who believe on him, and belong to him, and receive forgiveness and reconciliation from him—will be raised with him. And Paul says in Philippians 3:21 that Jesus “will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” This is not a UFO, or irrelevant life on another galaxy. This is what will happen when God judges the world by a man, Jesus Christ.

If you belong to him by faith in him, you will receive a body like his, which will be suited to see him and enjoy him and enter finally into the new heavens and the new earth where you will spend eternity admiring God in all that he has made. And this world that we love so much, compared to that one, will be like a candle compared to the sun.

Here’s the issue: Do you see? In verse 8 it says, “Then the other disciple [John], who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed” (John 20:8). What did he see? What did he believe? Jesus wasn’t there—just some cloths that he left behind.

Compare this to Mary in verse 18: She has met Jesus in the garden and spoken to him. She returns to the disciples and says, “I have seen the Lord” (John 20:18). We don’t have Mary’s direct evidence. We are more like John in the tomb—there is evidence, and either we see through it or we don’t. The issue is: Do you see?

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Easter: Is this resurrection for real?

Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.

— I Corinthians 15:12-17 

 

Some questions surrounding this death and resurrection of Jesus Christ:

  • Did Jesus really die?
  • Wasn’t his resurrection a made up story?
  • Wasn’t Jesus’ resurrection merely spiritual?

As he says in the video, the Bible makes massive claims. But much is at stake. Don’t you think it’s worth investigating further?

Thanks to the people at St. Helen’s Bishopsgate for making these videos.

Does Revelation scare you? Does Jesus?

Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is  The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.

— Revelation 19:11-16

Could you please assure me that the Jesus that I meet in Revelation matches with the Jesus in the Gospels? He seems harsher.

That was the question addressed to Pastor John Piper recently. After all, the passage above is quite different than Luke 19, where we see Jesus coming into Jerusalem on a donkey while people throw palm branches and shout Hosanna. So, the question is important, especially as we are in this important season when we think about Jesus’ life and what it means. Watch below as Pastor John, in effect, explains that Jesus is both to be loved and feared, depending on where your heart is.

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Behold the Lamb of God, the precious wrath remover for all who believe

Click on the image to view the message    Click on the image to view the message

 

There are three weeks until Easter, when we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ after his sin-atoning death on the cross outside of Jerusalem approximately 2,000 years ago. Let us not forget or slight the magnitude of what that death means for all of us. From John Piper, pastor at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis:

[W]e see this precious wrath-removal in John 3:36: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” (John 3:36). This means that when John says, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world,” he doesn’t mean that every person in the world is saved. He means every person in the world—Jew or Gentile—will be saved if they believe in Jesus and follow him. If they believe, their sin has been taken away by the Lamb. If they believe, God’s wrath has been removed by the Lamb.

There is no race, no nationality, no ethnicity, no socio-economic status excluded. To as many as receive him, who believe on his name (John 1:12), their sins are taken away (John 1:29; 1 John 3:5) and the wrath of God is removed (John 3:36; 1 John 2:2) and they are made the children of God (John 1:12) and given eternal life (John 3:16).

The second coming of Christ: good news and bad news

Since this is the season where we celebrate the first coming of Christ and his sacrificial death for sinners, we should also think about his second coming when it will be much different. You can reasonably say it will be both good news and bad news for everyone who has ever lived.

It will be good news for those who have trusted him with their life and have accepted his death as payment for their sins. We should eagerly look forward to it, for this world is not our final destination and as children of God we long to be with the one we belong to for eternity.

But, as John Piper points out, we should not be quick to believe rumors about his second coming:

Jesus is going to return to earth. I pray very soon. He said that before he comes—periodically throughout history—some people would think he has already come.

If they say to you, “Look, he is in the wilderness,” do not go out. If they say, “Look, he is in the inner rooms,” do not believe it. (Matthew 24:26)

Then he gave two reasons not to believe such rumors.

The first is that his coming will be globally unmistakable. It will be as publicly unmistakable as lightning.

For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. (Matthew 24:27)

And that brings us to the bad news. For those who don’t believe, it will be a terrible time of realization that all hope is gone:

The second reason for not believing these rumors is that he will come like vultures come on a corpse.

Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather. (Matthew 24:28)

When the world is as ready for judgment as road kill is for the vultures, then he will come in great wrath.

The Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. (2 Thessalonians 1:7-8)

This will not be private, secret, or pleasant for unbelievers. He will come “on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (Matthew 24:30). And the judgment will be like vultures sweeping in on the corpse of human rebellion.