Our Love vs God’s Love. Which Came First? (NT examples)

And so we continue to look at God’s covenant with His people of promise as the example of why God’s love always comes before ours.  In fact, God’s love, is the cause of our love.

Thus we enter the New Testament or New Covenant.  The great story of Jesus.  The only one who ever perfectly kept God’s laws, lived the sinless life we could never live, and died the death we should have died..  This Savior sent by the one and only wise, loving, living God, Creator of all things.  This God demonstrated His great love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us(Romans 5:8).

In Christ, God fulfills the prophecy of Ezekiel 36:25-27 in which he states, “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you.  And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you.  And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.   And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes  and be careful to obey my rules.” 

If you are a believer in Christ you must understand this in order to gain a proper understanding of God’s grace.  And we must teach our children this.  There is nothing that we have ever done or will ever do, that makes us worthy of Christ’s death.  Romans 5:10 says that we were enemies of God, yet we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son and saved by His resurrected life.  Romans 3:23 is Paul’s summary statement regarding our righteousness apart from God stating that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  In Isaiah 64-6 scripture states that “all of our righteousness is as filthy rags”

Something supernatural must happen in us to make us right with God.  Those who are living according to the flesh are hostile towards God.  They cannot submit to God’s law, nor can they please Him(Romans 8:6-8).  We must be born again of water and the Spirit(John 3, referencing the above passage from Ezekiel).  Apart from Christ we were “dead in our trespasses in sin”(Ephesians 2:1).  Apart form Christ we “were by nature children of wrath”(Ephesians 2:7).

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ, by grace you have been saved, and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.  For by grace you have been saved through faith.  And this is not of your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that know one may boast.  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:4-10)

This supernatural thing; being born again; being dead, yet made alive in Christ; was activated by God’s love for us….FIRST.  We have done nothing of worth to deserve this love or merit the sacrifice that makes this eternal love available to us.  That’s why it is called sovereign grace.  Because it is provided by a sovereign God to those that do not deserve it.  This righteous grace is available to all those “who have sinned and fallen short”.  And they that believe and confess Jesus as Lord will have been justified freely, as they are enabled by this grace.(Romans 3:22-24, Romans 10:9-13)  And just to be clear, being saved and justified freely by this grace does not justify Christian laziness.  Because just as Ephesians 2:10 states, “we are now his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand , that we should walk in them.”

And so now, I will close with the Doxology or closing from the book of Jude.  “Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever”(Jude 1:24-25).

In Jesus name,

Amen

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Our Love vs God’s Love. Which Came First? (OT examples)

I will go ahead and warn you that this one is a little lengthy but it is loaded with truth and now split into two posts thus making them more readable..  By the end of writing it I was overjoyed and enthralled with the amazing grace that God provided out of His great love for the glory of His own name and His great love for me, and most importantly….in spite of the lost, sinful, disobedient, rebellious, enemy of God that I was before He saved me.  If you are a believer, He did it for you too.  If you are not and this strikes a chord with you, it is because He wants to do the same for you.  He has been doing it from the beginning and He will continue until Christ’s return.  Check it out.

It is a common misunderstanding among contemporary Christianity that somehow God loves us because of what we do vs. because of what He did.

For example:
Some think that Abraham was made the Father of many nations because He had great faith.  While it is true that Abraham had great faith, God chose him in Genesis 12 well before he had exhibited any great acts of faith.  God wanted to make a covenant, with a people, with the intent of manifesting His glory through them.  These people would be Israel and He simply chose Abraham as the one from whose line this nation and eventually, the Messiah, would come.  Thus all that Abraham was, that was good, faithful, and honorable, he was because God chose him to become these things.  Not because he already was these things.  But Abraham was certainly flawed and used by God in spite of his flaws.

Some think that David was chosen by God and made King because he was good.  In fact, when the Lord rejected Saul and it was time for a new king, God said to Samuel in 1 Samuel 16:1, “I have provided for myself a king.”  Prior to this point there is no account of any great works or faith that made David more worthy or any better than any of his brothers.  God made David for this purpose from the beginning.  Everything good about David came about because of what happened in 1 Samuel 16:13, upon God’s instructions to Samuel, “Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers.  And the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon David from that day forward.”  

As for the Children of Israel, in Deuteronomy 7:6-11 God states to them this, and I paraphrase, “I have chosen you.  And it is for no other reason than the fact that I have chosen you and I love you and have called you my own, and have made a covenant with you, that you shall therefore be careful to do the commandments and the statutes and the rules that I command you today.”  In fact, God delivered Israel from Egypt purely out of love.  Before they had the Ten Commandments or any other commandments to obey or disobey, he showed His love through their deliverance.  Any favor that Israel had with God was simply because he had chosen to unconditionally place his favor on these people for the purpose of His glory.

This is proven by the fact that though he promised blessings in their obedience, they still disobeyed.  And over and over in this great story of redemption, amidst much great judgement by God for disobedience, He still gives chance after chance.  Rather than destroying them completely as He had done so many other nations, He keeps them around, and blesses them, to fulfill His covenant ultimately in His Son Jesus whom comes from the line of David, one of the greatest of the Kings of Israel.  As stated in Ezekiel 36:16-32, the keeping of this covenant was ultimately not for the benefit of the people of the promise, but to vindicate the holiness of His great name.

I will stop here for brevity’s sake.  It was longer but I will separate Old and New Testament examples in an effort to honor my word regarding attempts at shorter posts.  Whether you like this part or not, stick with me.  It only gets better with the New Testament.

Oh the marvelous grace of our incredible, loving, Almighty God!

Josh

God’s Glory (Part 4)

Dr. John Piper, is the former minister of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minn. and the author of the book “Desiring God”, among others.  This is the book for which the para-church organization and conference are named. He along with the elders of the church founded the organization and his most well known phrase is this, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”  I can think of no better way to express in non-scriptural terms the importance and functionality of the glory of God.  I want to give credit to Dr. Piper for helping to instill this passion for God’s glory in me and for doing some of the leg work for this post.  Some of the scriptures referenced here were used in a sermon by Dr. Piper entitled “Is God for Us or for Himself?”  If you have never checked out the site, read the book, or heard Dr. Piper’s sermons on this subject I encourage you to.  His theology is biblically sound and his passion for God’s glory is infectious.

So, at the center of the statement above is the fact that God is God-centered.  If this bothers you, ask yourself the question, “Who else would you have Him be centered on?”  If God is centered on anything other than himself or desires all glory and honor to be centered around anything other than himself, He then ceases to be the God of the bible. He is the creator of all things.  There is nothing else that makes the world go round but Him. 
Now, what does the bible say about God’s desire for His glory to be made known or in defense of the glory of His name.  I quoted for you Ezekiel 36:22-23 in the post entitled “Christs Goals, Our Purpose, God’s Glory”.  In this scripture God makes it clear that He has saved us to begin with “for the glory of His name”.  In Isaiah 48:11 God states through His prophet, “For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned?  My glory I will not give to another.”   In Ephesians 1:6, 12, & 14, every line of scripture states that what is being done is “for/to the praise of His glory”.

Again you might ask, isn’t this incredibly egotistical and self-centered.  The answer is YES.  But, that is only a problem for self-centered, egotistical, vain sinful human beings because those characteristics placed on flawed humans, steal glory from God…the only one who deserves it.  The fact of the matter is that God is all sufficient.  He needs nothing.(Romans 11:36)  Therefore, it is in fact in our best interest, that He is God-centered.
He did not make us or send Christ to die for us because HE needed us, but because we needed Him. Ephesians  2:18 says that, “through Christ we both have access the Father”.  1 Peter 3:18 says, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God”. The Psalms are loaded with praise and adoration for the glory of God.  Specifically in Psalms 16:11 the psalmist says, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore”.  We benefit greatly from the fact that everything about our existence is originally designed to glorify God, if in fact we are surrendered to Him. 

I began in Philippians and I will end there.  Again, as the second person of the Trinity, God desires that Jesus’s name be lifted up because of the humility he bore in taking human form and obeying His Heavenly Father to the point of death on a cross for the sins of the world.  
Philippians 2:9-10 proclaims this, “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

So to wrap this up, working out our salvation is something we must do with a Christ-like humility and with the heart of a servant that is like that of Jesus.  Last, but certainly not least, we must work with the glory of God in view.  We must do this not only to demonstrate the fruit of a real and active salvation at work in our hearts, but also to demonstrate the glory of God to those that do not know Him.  Jesus said, “let your light so shine that men would see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven”(Matthew 5:16).
Make no mistake, the end will come.  Bowing the knee to Christ’s Lordship is not optional.  Every knee shall bow and tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.  The question is, will it happen this side of eternity?  If you submit yourself to Christ’s Lordship then you get to do it now and forever.  This is an awesome privilege.  When we are most concerned about God’s glory in our lives then, by His grace, we are striving to live according to His word.  This in turn will create the most satisfaction because everything that we do centers on Him and we realize that all we need is Him.  
If however, you do not surrender to Christ’s Lordship in this life, then you too will bow your knee and confess that He is Lord but, it will be too late to do any good.  At that point His Lordship must be demonstrated by the eternal pouring out of His wrath on all those guilty sinners whom rejected God during life on earth.  It will be an eternity of conscious torment where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
My prayer is that your heart has been opened to the awesome privilege that it is to be a follower of Christ and that you desire to surrender to him today if you have not already.  This is NOT fire insurance.  It is Lordship.  It is glorifying God with all that you are everyday.  It is a decision that you make by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, and in Christ alone and it is a decision that you will never regret.
All Glory to God!
Josh

Our Purpose (Part 3)

This is the continuation of a conversation surrounding the question “What is the purpose of working out your salvation?”  It is built on the central verse of Philippians 2:12-13 and it’s surrounding context, specifically, Philippians 2:1-15.  Last time we looked at the purpose and goals of Christ’s ministry in life, death, and resurrection.  This time we will consider our purpose as Christians, as it relates to Philippians 2:14-15.  

The text of Philippians 2:14-15 reads, ” Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish, in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights of the world.”

While vs. 14 is a very specific aspect of working out your salvation, the primary purpose is stated in vs. 15.  We are to be blameless and innocent, above reproach so that we do not diminish the effects of the glory of God in our lives.  Where does Paul get this idea from?  Could it be from Jesus.  In Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount, specifically the part in Matthew 5:14-16, Jesus says, “You are the light of the world.  A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, let our light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

Through scripture, in this series of posts, I have presented scriptures in which emphasis on the glory of God and the honoring of His name through proclamation of the truth and holy living has been evident.  This has been presented by God through His prophet Ezekiel, by Jesus himself, and by the Apostle Paul through his letters to the church.  

This is the primary purpose of our existence.  As believers we exist to enjoy a fruitful relationship with our Heavenly Father and to proclaim to others His goodness and their need for Him.  If we are not exercising both the fruit of holy living via this relationship and the proclamation of the Gospel to the lost, we are not fulfilling our purpose.

I encourage you to evaluate every area of your life in relation to these two functions of Christian living and ask yourself if they are being fulfilled.  If not then delve into them further by prayer and study of the Word and ask God to give you the grace and wisdom needed to see them fulfilled.  He will do it.  If you are a child of God then He desires to make these things a reality in your life. 

As Philippians 2:12-13 states, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”

May it be so in your life in Jesus name,

Amen

Love,

Josh


Christ’s Goals, Our Purpose, God’s Glory (Part 2)

As I stated in my previous post, one of my favorite scriptures is Philippians 2:12-13.  You might remember that I referenced two questions that could and should be asked about this text when considering the surrounding context.  They are, “What does it mean to work out your salvation?” and “What is the purpose of working out your salvation?”  It is this second question to which I would like to speak.

So, “What IS the purpose of working out your salvation?”  To answer this I want to look at the three concepts listed in the title of this post: Christ Goals, Our purpose, and God’s Glory.  I will probably break these up into three posts with a fourth post that will hopefully reconcile them all under an emphasis on God’s enabling grace.  This is in order to flesh them out appropriately and still l strive to keep the length that I have committed to aim for.

We’ll start with what Christ’s goal in ministry were.  When Jesus began his ministry, it is recorded in Luke 4:18-19, that he opened the scrolls and read from Isaiah 61 which states, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good new to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”  This scripture is Christ’s purpose statement for His whole ministry. However, it does not sum up the purpose of His death and resurrection.

One obvious purpose of Jesus’s death and resurrection was to pay the price for the sins of the world and and remove the guilt of that sin by becoming the object of God’s wrath toward that sin(Romans 3:25, Romans 5:9-11, Isaiah 53:4-6) so that we might have eternal life through Him(John 3:16, 1 John 4:9).  In this God demonstrated His love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us(Romans 5:8)  

The other purpose for Christ death and resurrection was to return back to God, the Glory of His name that had been defamed by the disobedience of generations past in addition to Jesus himself being glorified(John 12:27-28, 17:1-5).  This is right because Christ and the Father are one(John 10:30).

The most blatant expression of God foreshadowing our salvation through Christ, for the primary purpose of defending the glory of His own name, is Ezekiel 36:16-32.  One of the central passages of the expression of God’s purpose for redemption, that is  found in the previous reference, is Ezekiel 36:22-23.  In it God declares, “It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came.  And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations and which you have profaned among them.  And the nations will know that I am the Lord God, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes.”
 
So, Christ’s goals and purposes in life were disciple making and proclamation/demonstration of the truth of His gospel.  The first of Christ’s goals and purposes in death is eternal life made available as an expression of God’s love via the price Jesus paid for our sins and; the satisfaction of God’s wrath toward those sins by Christ on the Cross. The last, but certainly not least, purpose of Christ’s death and resurrection is the vindication of  the holy name of the one and only true, living, and holy, God. 

I pray you will really meditate on these facts, study the scripture references provided, and perhaps gain a new revelation of what Christ did for you on the cross and just how important it is for you to glorify God the Father and Christ the Son in all that you say and do.

In Jesus name,

Josh

Humble Service, Christ as our Example (Part 1)

So I started last week with a post introducing a series on sexual sin and then the week became consumed with my lovely wife’s birthday, planning for the church Christmas program and several busy shifts at the hospital.  By the way, thank you to all whom took the time to read the post regarding Angie’s birthday.  That is the most hits I’ve ever had on the visits counter to the actual blog page.  It says a lot about how loved and honored my sweet, beautiful wife is.  The Lord impressed something upon my heart in the interim this week that I would like to share. In fact, I think it will actually compliment the topic of sexual sin as it relates to God’s glory very nicely.  I will present it over at least two posts and get back to the series on sexual sin next week, Lord willing.  So here goes.

One of my favorite scriptures is Philippians 2:12-13.  You might even say it is a life verse for me.  In it the Apostle Paul states, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out  your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

This verse stands alone as a wonderful reminder that we are to work hard at growing in our faith and obedience to Jesus, all the while being enabled by the grace of God in order to have faith and obey in the first place.  This passage of scripture can stand alone and present a profound message outside of the surrounding context.  However, a couple of deeper question could and should be asked regarding this passage.  For example, “What does it mean to work out your salvation?” and “What is the purpose of working out our salvation?”  We must look at the surrounding text to get the answer to that question as it relates to the context of the chapter.  So I would like to do that.  I am not claiming by any stretch to be presenting the full exposition of the text.  It would be truly difficult to do that here and I am sure I would miss something.  But I think we can get a healthy gist of what Paul is getting at.

So, “What DOES it mean to work out your salvation with fear and trembling?”  In truth, Philippians 2:1-15 presents the greater contextual picture.  For the answer to this question I will strive to hone in on the primary focus which is Philippians 2:5-8.  I will not quote it here for brevity’s sake, but I hope you will read it.  It emphasizes Christ as our example.  Specifically, the humility of Christ.  Christ humbled himself, taking the form of a servant.  He made himself nothing.  He was the Son of God, yet he did not set himself on an equal plane with God.

Have you ever truly processed that the second person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ God’s Son, who is in fact equal with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit, died for you.  He came down as God in the humiliation of sinful human flesh. He perfectly, sinlessly, and faithfully served His Father and humanity in order that we might have the opportunity for eternal life and; to restore the the glory of the Father in the eyes of  those who believe, confess and serve Him as Lord.

While we are incapable of  living a sinless, perfect life, we are commanded by these scriptures to imitate Christ’s humility and to serve others as He served us….by dying to ourselves(Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34-38, Luke 9:23, John 15:13).  We must lay down our lives just as Christ did by proclaiming the truth of the gospel, putting others before ourselves, and ultimately desiring to see God glorified in all that we say and do.  Scripture all through the New Testament makes it clear that this God-glorifying, selfless serving is the purpose for which we are created, the purpose for which we are saved, and the purpose for which we are intended to live until we meet Jesus in Heaven.  This purpose IS, to live a life that is worthy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ(Philippians 1:27).

May it be so in the life of every believer,

In Jesus name,

Josh

Happy Birthday Baby! Confessions of a proud husband and daddy

Today is August 6th. Forty years ago today, God enabled the birth of my beautiful wife Angela.  Almost twenty years ago, He introduced us and allowed us to fall in love.  Twelve years ago this past May 26th I was blessed to marry that beautiful, sweet woman and commit to a LOOOONG life together 🙂  Of  course, we still have our ups and down as any marriage does, but I am blessed with an innovative, smart, crazy wife who is also a super-loving, giving, crazy mom.

She has no idea how valuable her many traits and talents are or just how valued she is by everyone in her life. Everyone I know that meets Angie is blessed by her presence.  Her big caring heart. Her sweet spirit and big smile.  Her massive, extremely loud, ridiculously piercing soprano voice.  Oh, I digress.  Anyway, I have never heard anyone say they did not like her.  Her opinion of herself is much lower than the opinion that others have of her.  She is a beautiful person through and through and it is evident to anyone who meets her.
Her contributions to our family and household are invaluable to me and I don’t know how I would do it without her.

Through the years I have had the privilege of seeing beautiful relationships and witnessing heartbreaking divisions.  We have had plenty of opportunities to find an excuse to quit, but we haven’t.  I certainly provide my share of challenges and yet through it all she is there by my side loving me, forgiving me, and encouraging me.  I praise God for a helpmate that has blessed me by remaining faithful and committed to our marriage covenant through the beautiful times and the heartbreaking times.

Through the years, via various circumstances personally and professionally, my wife and I have observed broken homes.  We have seen children who were missing the privilege of having two parents with a stable marriage. Children who’s parents were not invested in their emotional, spiritual, or educational development. And, children who did not know where their next meal was coming from, right here in our own city.

I am blessed and I praise God for giving me a wife who gave me two handsome, sweet, brilliant little boys whom I am so proud to call my own.  She loves them wholeheartedly and works very hard and self-sacrificially to provide for all of their needs.  I give her most of the credit for their good looks and ALL the credit for their moments of insanity 🙂

I could not imagine life without her when I married her and I don’t ever want to imagine life without her…EVER!  She is my best friend, my helpmate, and the mother of my children and I am proud to call her my own.

I LOVE YOU, BABY GIRL!

HAPPY 40TH OVER THE HILL BIRTHDAY!

🙂

Your adoring hubby,

Josh