rejoice & be glad

1 09 2006

Psalm 40:16 But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation say continually, “Great is the LORD!”

It is truly one of the great benefits of the Christian life to partake of joy and happiness in Christ. But track down the joy. Believers have not created nor are they sustaining this joy, rather it is God’s joy in himself, his pleasure in being God and his joy in rescuing sinners from themselves, even making worshippers who would rejoice and be glad in him.

God is so faithful. I wake up in the morning, draw a breath, open my eyes and remember that God has sent his Son to make me a worshipper. I remember that I am not an enemy of God under his condemnation but a friend of God wrapped in the infinitely valuable righteousness of Jesus. This is not a dream. This is not a theory. This is reality!! Jesus Christ is my Savior! The one who is the supreme object of the Father’s affections has now, by divine grace, become my delight!!

The Father is amplifying his love for his Son through the regeneration of sinners and the subsequent delight and joy in Christ. God has bought a world-sized rubbish dump and turned it into a botanical garden of praise to Jesus.

And as Jesus prayed in John 17 (v.13) we are able (graced) to partake of this joy. How blessed are we as believers? We get to ‘rejoice and be glad’ in God. This joy is the true pearl of sanctification; though we struggle with sin and long for glory, we also stand, with eyes closed taking deep breaths enjoying the fragrance of Jesus Christ, our salvation.

This is fuel to join the Psalmist and all others who love salvation saying, “Great is the LORD!”

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particular encouragement from particular grace

27 08 2006

and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus. (1 Tim. 1.14)

This morning in preparing to go to worship with my family I was struck by the divine influence that was exerted to make worshippers. Specifically, I was struck with the reality that the fickle crowd that worshipped Jesus in pretense as he approached Jerusalem only to find no need for him and request his death a few hours later.

We are these fickle folks are we not? Left onto ourselves, devoid of saving grace, we are esteeming Jesus as smitten, unsightly and unworthy of our worship.

However, God, in his infinite and beautiful grace has poured out particular grace to his enemies to make worshippers! This is glorious. Left unto ourselves we judge Jesus as an inconvenience and a bother. But lavished by grace we see Jesus as the prince of heaven, the only one with the words of eternal life, the glorious and only redeemer of mankind, the heaven sent Savior who alone can and would satisfy divine wrath.

Take some time today to thank God for his grace. For consider how you would view Jesus if it was not savingly applied.

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How to spend a day with God

10 04 2006

the following article is very convicting and so therefore very good…adapted & updated by Matthew Vogan,[Fire & Ice] and originally written by Richard Baxter 1615-1691. Enjoy!! -ejr-baxter.jpg

A holy life is inclined to be made easier when we know the usual sequence and method of our duties – with everything falling into its proper place. Therefore, I shall give some brief directions for spending the day in a holy manner.

Sleep

Measure the time of your sleep appropriately so that you do not waste your precious morning hours sluggishly in your bed. Let the time of your sleep be matched to your health and labour, and not to slothful pleasure.

First Thoughts

Let God have your first awaking thoughts; lift up your hearts to Him reverently and thankfully for the rest enjoyed the night before and cast yourself upon Him for the day which follows.

Familiarise yourself so consistently to this that your conscience may check you when common thoughts shall first intrude. Think of the mercy of a night’s rest and of how many that have spent that night in Hell; how many in prison; how many in cold, hard lodgings; how many suffering from agonising pains and sickness, weary of their beds and of their lives.

Think of how many souls were that night called from their bodies terrifyingly to appear before God and think how quickly days and nights are rolling on! How speedily your last night and day will come! Observe that which is lacking in the preparedness of your soul for such a time and seek it without delay.

Prayer

Let prayer by yourself alone (or with your partner) take place before the collective prayer of the family. If possible let it be first, before any work of the day.

Family Worship

Let family worship be performed consistently and at a time when it is most likely for the family to be free of interruptions.

Ultimate Purpose

Remember your ultimate purpose, and when you set yourself to your day’s work or approach any activity in the world, let HOLINESS TO THE LORD be written upon your hearts in all that you do.

Do no activity which you cannot entitle God to, and truly say that he set you about it, and do nothing in the world for any other ultimate purpose than to please, glorify and enjoy Him. “Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” – 1 Corinthians 10:31.

Diligence in Your Calling

Follow the tasks of your calling carefully and diligently. Thus:
(a) You will show that you are not sluggish and servants to your flesh (as those that cannot deny it ease), and you will further the putting to death of all the fleshly lusts and desires that are fed by ease and idleness.
(b) You will keep out idle thoughts from your mind, that swarm in the minds of idle persons.
(c) You will not lose precious time, something that idle persons are daily guilty of.
(d) You will be in a way of obedience to God when the slothful are in constant sins of omission.
(e) You may have more time to spend in holy duties if you follow your occupation diligently. Idle persons have no time for praying and reading because they lose time by loitering at their work.
(f) You may expect God’s blessing and comfortable provision for both yourself and your families.
(g) it may also encourage the health of your body which will increase its competence for the service of your soul.

Temptations and Things That Corrupt

Be thoroughly acquainted with your temptations and the things that may corrupt you – and watch against them all day long. You should watch especially the most dangerous of the things that corrupt, and those temptations that either your company or business will unavoidably lay before you.

Watch against the master sins of unbelief: hypocrisy, selfishness, pride, flesh pleasing and the excessive love of earthly things. Take care against being drawn into earthly mindedness and excessive cares, or covetous designs for rising in the world, under the pretence of diligence in your calling.

If you are to trade or deal with others, be vigilant against selfishness and all that smacks of injustice or uncharitableness. In all your dealings with others, watch against the temptation of empty and idle talking. Watch also against those persons who would tempt you to anger. Maintain that modesty and cleanness of speech that the laws of purity require. If you converse with flatterers, be on your guard against swelling pride.

If you converse with those that despise and injure you, strengthen yourself against impatient, revengeful pride.

At first these things will be very difficult, while sin has any strength in you, but once you have grasped a continual awareness of the poisonous danger of any one of these sins, your heart will readily and easily avoid them.

Meditation

When alone in your occupations, improve the time in practical and beneficial meditations. Meditate upon the infinite goodness and perfections of God; Christ and redemption; Heaven and how unworthy you are of going there and how you deserve eternal misery in Hell.

The Only Motive

Whatever you are doing, in company or alone, do it all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). Otherwise, it is unacceptable to God.

Redeeming The Time

Place a high value upon your time, be more careful of not losing it than you would of losing your money. Do not let worthless recreations, television, idle talk, unprofitable company, or sleep rob you of your precious time.

Be more careful to escape that person, action or course of life that would rob you of your time than you would be to escape thieves and robbers.

Make sure that you are not merely never idle, but rather that you are using your time in the most profitable way that you can and do not prefer a less profitable way before one of greater profit.

Eating and Drinking

Eat and drink with moderation and thankfulness for health, not for unprofitable pleasure. Never please your appetite in food or drink when it is prone to be detrimental to your health.

Remember the sin of Sodom: “Look, this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: She and her daughter had pride, fullness of food and abundance of idleness” – Ezekiel 16:49.

The Apostle Paul wept when he mentioned those “whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame — who set their minds on earthly things, being enemies to the cross of Christ” – Philippians 3:18-19. O then do not live according to the flesh lest you die (Romans 8:13).

Prevailing Sins

If any temptation prevails against you and you fall into any sins in addition to habitual failures, immediately lament it and confess it to God; repent quickly whatever the cost. It will certainly cost you more if you continue in sin and remain unrepentant.

Do not make light of your habitual failures, but confess them and daily strive against them, taking care not to aggravate them by unrepentance and contempt.

Relationships

Remember every day the special duties of various relationships: whether as husbands, wives, children, masters, servants, pastors, people, magistrates, subjects.

Remember every relationship has its special duty and its advantage for the doing of some good. God requires your faithfulness in this matter as well as in any other duty.

Closing the Day

Before returning to sleep, it is wise and necessary to review the actions and mercies of the day past, so that you may be thankful for all the special mercies and humbled for all your sins.

This is necessary in order that you might renew your repentance as well as your resolve for obedience, and in order that you may examine yourself to see whether your soul grew better or worse, whether sin goes down and grace goes up and whether you are better prepared for suffering, death and eternity.

May these directions be engraven upon your mind and be made the daily practice of your life.

If sincerely adhered to, these will be conducive to the holiness, fruitfulness and quietness of your life and add to you a comfortable and peaceful death.





The Pride Crushing Reality of Divine Mercy

20 03 2006

Guys never like to ask for help.  We would rather drive around for an hour trying to find our way rather than humble ourselves and ask for directions.  I experienced this recently with some friends in So. California as we were attempting to reunite with members of our party.  The problem was that none of us had any idea of where we were going. Instead of asking for help we all tried to rely on various educated guesses to get us there.  We even proudly turned to technology, as a friend was carrying his Sprint Trio which enabled us to try to get intermediate directions.  Eventually…we had to humbly call for help.

There is a great parallel here for the believer, the recipient of divine mercy. Implicit in the cry for mercy is the cry of humility.  The cry of  “God give me mercy!” is the cry “God I am lost!” For this was the cry of the humble publican in contrast to the arrogant Pharisee in Luke’s gospel:

Luke 18:13 “But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’

Cross-bought mercy fills the open hand of faith. It is mercy that comes to the lowly, the contrite, the one who’s hope is not on himself.

Isaiah 57:15 For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.

This crushes our pride but in so doing it exalts the gracious mercy of God.





The Cross of Jesus…the supreme display of divine mercy

18 03 2006

Ever since man’s first rebellion in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3) God has been demonstrating his mercy to his creation. For the very fact that the instant that we sinned God did not wipe out everything with righteous and holy judgment is a testimony to his mercy.

To understand the weightiness of God’s mercy consider the short fuses and lack of patience that we have with other people. And frankly, our standards are far lower!! For consider that God demands perfection (Matthew 5.48) we just want people to act and think in accordance with us! If anyone has the right to be impatient and deficient in mercy it is God. But instead we read in the Scripture of God boasting in his mercy.

Psalm 86:15 15 But You, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, Slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness and truth.

Hebrews 8:12 For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.”

As amazing as the fact that God did not wipe out all of us immediately upon our rebellion, and as mind boggling as it is that God graciously bears with us, even enduring our sin, and as wonderful as it is that God even sees fit to help and comfort those who are hurting; these examples are not the supreme display of mercy.

The supreme display of mercy is the cross of the Savior.

For God did not just talk about forgiving sin or healing a broken people…HE DID IT!

And further…God did not just blindly forgive, without basis, and without regard for his character….He executed and endured the judgment.

The pinnacle of divine mercy in the scripture is the cross; for it is in the cross that we see perfect love and mercy clearly. Mercy is not motivated by deceit, but holiness. And the cross is the most holy manifestation of God possible!

On the cross we have Jesus Christ giving himself to redeem a people in bondage. Sinners are unable and unwilling to pay the infinite requirement of God’s justice…

Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

John 3:20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.

Instead we have Christ who is the only one able (Hebrews 7.25-28) and willing (Matthew 16.21). Jesus Christ is able to save and is willing to save. This is an amazing fact: God does not let all of those who hate him and want nothing to do with him other than to defame his glory stay in that posture. And this is mercy. God willingly acts to extend mercy to unworthy sinners. Where we deserve wrath he applies mercy.

And this is the beauty of the cross. God gives us not what we want be what we need…we want nothing to do with him….but he extends mercy….and by this wonderful and mind-blowing display, we now want everything to do with him!!

This is why the Apostle Paul is tripping over his parchment in Ephesians 1, he can’t get out of his own way he is so filled with praise for the unfathomable display of mercy:

Ephesians 1:3 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,

And why? Why does God extend mercy? Why does God give sinners what they do not deserve?

It pleases him.

Same context as above:

Why does God save?

Ephesians 1:4-6 In love 5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.

Ephesians 1:10-12 In Him 11 also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, 12 to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory.

Ephesians 1:14 with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.

God extends mercy because it pleases him.

Jesus Christ is the supreme display of divine mercy because his value is infinite, his cost was infinite, his sacrifice was infinite, his purchase price was infinite, and the divine pleasure that it brings is likewise infinite.

John 8:29-30 29 “And He who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him.” 30 As He spoke these things, many came to believe in Him.

God speaking of the Son:

Matthew 12:18 “Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased.





The Cross of Jesus…the basis for divine mercy

17 03 2006

Definition of Mercy—(in terms of the receiver) Not getting what is rightly deserved.

In the scope of this series I am considering divine mercy as exercised to humanity. This is specifically evidenced in the merciful patience of God in not immediately destroying all who have rebelled against his revealed will.

The Perceived Divine Dilemma

Deuteronomy 32:3-4 3 “For I proclaim the name of the LORD; Ascribe greatness to our God! 4 “The Rock! His work is perfect, For all His ways are just; A God of faithfulness and without injustice, Righteous and upright is He.

God has clearly stated that he is just, he is perfect, without injustice! So how can God forgive? Is he stuck? Are we his creation stuck?

In order to forgive God must be both Just and Merciful at that same time. This is often stated in the Bible. For instance consider the words to Moses:

Exodus 34:6-7 6 Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; 7 who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.”

How can God be both merciful and just simultaneously?

Psalm 145:7-9 7 They shall eagerly utter the memory of Your abundant goodness And will shout joyfully of Your righteousness. 8 The LORD is gracious and merciful; Slow to anger and great in lovingkindness. 9 The LORD is good to all, And His mercies are over all His works.

On what basis can God even begin to promise that he will be merciful with his unwavering monument of justice looming?

The Perfect Divine Solution

In reality there is only one provision for God to maintain his justice while extending his mercy (hence the exclusivity claims of the biblical gospel, another post =) This provision is found only in the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ.

It is in Christ alone that God demonstrates his righteousness and justice (not winking at sin, but empting divine wrath on the ‘guilty’).

Romans 3:23-26 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; 25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; 26 for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

This is so good. Because has not compromised his character he is able to show mercy. But He is not able to even talk about mercy without full satisfaction of the righteousness & justice waiting in the wind (indeed in God’s mind it is satisfied because he is outside of time).

God has been forbearing with us as sinners. And has been promising mercy to the contrite…but on what basis? On the basis of Calvary! For it is only on Calvary, the cross of the Savior that God may extend the gracious arm of mercy to the sinner!

Left to ourselves we are devoid of mercy and enslaved to sin; but God, according to the tender mercies of Jesus has acted on our behalf, fully satisfying divine justice in order to extend divine mercy.

Rock of Ages, cleft for me, 
        let me hide myself in thee; 
        let the water and the blood, 
        from thy wounded side which flowed, 
        be of sin the double cure; 
        save from wrath and make me pure. 
 
Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me Augustus M. Toplady (1740-177





Divine Mercy is Attractive to the Contrite

16 03 2006

Romans 9:16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.

Mercy is an interesting thing. Implicit in it is deficiency. In looking for mercy I find myself with head and dignity bowed, subjected to the will of another. In looking for mercy I have ceased looking for answers. Specifically in terms of humanity we have (and are, sadly) scouring the planet for answers to our problems, our deficiencies, our uneasiness…and what do we find? Temporary reprieves. This will not do for me, I cannot have my deficiency satisfied by minutes, or hours or even days of distraction, no I need permanent and prevailing peace. I need what the Jews have historically called shalom.

I have felt the burden of my sin upon my back. I know the fear of death, the uncertainty that awaits me on the other side of the final closing of my eyes. I have trembled and stayed awake at night in fear that I might somehow pass into eternity before I awake and then stand before the Judge whose name is Righteous. I have done the quick self-inventory of religious and moral things that I have done and grasped at them as if they are valuable and in some sense able to assuage my guilty conscience, only to find them dissolve into nothing in light of God’s Law.

I firmly believe that it is when one realizes that in view of God’s prevailing perfect standards and unwavering holiness that they are not only completely unable to pay the debt that God requires but also unwilling, that therein a state of extreme inadequacy will shortly set in. The realization of such a standard is often met with tears and dread, for if God is just than I am damned! I quickly realize that in order for me to be removed from this awful predicament, I must cast myself upon the mercy of the One who is good and does good (Psalm 119.168).

If God is merciful then he does not give out what is deserved (i.e. I have earned hell, eternal judgment).

How can God be merciful and how can I receive it?

In the next three posts I’ll address the basis, the display and the reality of divine mercy.