Saturday, April 21, 2012

John Piper on Joy (what else?)

As only John Piper could, T4G was closed with this inspiring message on the power of God and the work of God in us through the Gospel.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Al Mohler on the Necessity of Speaking the Gospel

I've already told you that Francis of Assisi probably did NOT say, "Preach the Gospel.  If necessary, use words."  In this message, Al Mohler will emphasize that even if Francis DID say it, the Bible doesn't, and that you cannot have the Gospel without words.  Watch and be instructed well!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Mark Dever on False Conversions

This is an important and sobering message from the heart of a great pastor who cares deeply about the health of the church.  It is a good warning for all of us.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Ligon Duncan on Elijah's failure and God's pursuit of His servant

You may have never heard Ligon Duncan before, and if that is the case, it is a shame. But never fear. Here is his sermon from T4G--one of the most amazing expositions on 1 Kings 19 I've ever heard. It was powerful and encouraging.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Matt Chandler on The Fulfillment of the Gospel

This sermon by Matt Chandler reminds us of our hope, our future, and why the Gospel provides such amazing hope. Matt is a favorite on my iPod--you seldom will find me with less than 4 or 5 of his messages to listen to.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Thabiti Anyabwile: Will Your Gospel Transform a Terrorist? : Together for the Gospel

This was my first time hearing Thabiti in person, and I was not disappointed.  His message was a great reminder that our confidence in the Gospel will be measured by our willingness to rely on it to change lives.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Kevin DeYoung on the Gospel's Call to Holiness

This message, by Kevin DeYoung, was a powerful call to holiness, and a highlight from T4G.  And I really liked Kevin's sense of humor, too!

C.J. Mahaney and the Sustaining Power of the Gospel

C.J. Mahaney is the leader of the Sovereign Grace churches, an association of congregations that was born out of his pastoral ministry at Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, MD, and now has hundreds of churches around the world.  They also created Sovereign Grace Music, a source of wonderful worship songs and hymns.  I greatly appreciate C.J.'s sermons and books.

This message was the first of the T4G conference, and is a wonderful encouragement to anyone serving the Lord, but especially good for pastors--if you want an insight into our lives, listen in.

Friday, April 13, 2012

David Platt on the Fuel for Death-Defying Missions

I want to share with you some of the messages I heard in attending Together for the Gospel (T4G) this week, and wanted to begin with this one.

David Platt's message was the finest message on missions, sovereignty, and redemption I can recall hearing.  And this brother's heart bleeds for the world and for the glory of God.  Give yourself time to listen and watch.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

BIG SATURDAY QUESTION: "But, where was Jesus?"

The question comes most naturally after considering what everyone else was doing on Saturday between crucifixion and resurrection.  We know His body was in the tomb, but where was His spirit?

Many versions of the Apostles' Creed say "He descended into Hell."  This is not in the earliest forms of the Creed, and reflects a later understanding.  Some point to 1 Peter 3:19 as saying Christ went to the spirits in prison (Hell) and preached to them.  But the previous verse refers to His spirit preaching, and verse 20 says it was once in the days of Noah.  Thus it is better to take this as a reference to Christ speaking through Noah's preaching back then to spirits now in prison, who died in the Flood.  Technically, Hell is no person's destination until death and Hades are cast into the lake of Fire in Revelation 20.  Hades, a place of torment while souls are awaiting judgment, is the destination of those who die under the condemnation of their sins.

It would also be wrong to say that Jesus completed His suffering by going to Hell, for he suffered the pains of Hell on the cross, and then announced "It is finished."  He then commended His spirit into the Father's keeping, which would not be Hell.

Actually Jesus told us where He would be.  He told the thief on the cross who believed, "Truly I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise" (Luke 23:43).  Paradise, also called Abraham's bosom (Luke 16:22), corresponds to Hades in that it was a temporary place, but a place of rest and refreshment awaiting final redemption and renewal.  Most Christians teach that all who were in Paradise have been led by Jesus into the Father's presence to await with Him the final resurrection.

So, we don't use the phrase "He descended into Hell" when we recite the Apostles' Creed; instead, we follow the most ancient versions that leave it out.  And we don't have to wonder if Jesus went to Hell after the cross.  He experienced Hell on the cross so we would not have to, and then went to join the righteous dead in Paradise.

The Saturday of Jesus' Passion Week

Theme: Waiting
Text: Mark 16:1; Luke 23:56; Matt. 27:62-65

The records of what happened on the day between the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus are brief.  Nothing is reported about the disciples--we can only gather from the lack of faith demonstrated later that they were not confidently expecting Jesus' words about rising again to come to pass.  

The women who wanted to care for Jesus' body ran out of time on Friday to complete their preparations: the tomb was closed while they went home and rested for the Sabbath as required by Jewish Law.  Saturday night was spent getting the final supplies and preparing to go to the tomb the next day--wondering how they would move that stone.

But the enemies of Jesus were disturbed.  They knew that Jesus had said He would rise.  So they went to Pilate to ask for guards to be sent to the tomb to keep his disciples from stealing the tomb.  Obviously these Jewish opponents of Jesus feared the power of Jesus to motivate his disciples, even if they didn't believe in resurrection.

Sometimes those who don't believe in Jesus have a clearer understanding of what Jesus words can mean than do His own disciples.  Maybe that's why so many efforts are made to keep people from hearing or reading God's Word.

Thank God that the despair and dejection of that Saturday never need be faced by any of Jesus' followers again, for less than 24 hours later, Jesus would emerge from the tomb and the question of whether or not He was Messiah and His sacrifice sufficient would have been forever settled.  

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Friday of Jesus' Passion Week

Text: John 18:28-38
Theme: Truth

There is so much more to be said about the day of Jesus' death than I can even mention in this format, but let me simply point out one moment.  It is Jesus, standing before Pilate, questioning him and having Jesus answer with questions and hard sayings.

"Are you king of the Jews?" asks Pilate.

"Do you say this on your own, or did others say it about me?"

"Am I a Jew? Your nation has delivered you over..." Pilate responds.  "What have you done?"

"My kingdom is not of this world..."

"So, you are a king!"

"For this purpose I was born," said Jesus, "to bear witness to the truth."

It is at this moment, as Ravi Zacharias first pointed out in a sermon I heard, that a huge opportunity is presented and missed.

Pilate responds to Jesus' statement by asking, "What is truth?"

But instead of waiting for Jesus to respond, he turns and goes outside.

Pilate was a skeptic, who didn't believe there was truth to guide you: there was only opportunities to be snatched or missed, and circumstances to be controlled or else have them control you.

Imagine if he had waited.  At every moment in this dialog, Jesus had responded.  But here, Pilate doesn't wait for a response.  If he had, what would Jesus have said?  Would it have mattered?  It would not have changed the outcome as Christ's sacrifice was not optional, but might have begun a change in Pilate.  We can never know.

On this Good Friday, many will not know what the day is about.  Many others will recognize an historical event, but not seek to know the truth of what happened and why.

May your Good Friday be one where you know what happened, and why it happened, and that it happened all for you.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Thursday of Jesus' Passion Week

Text: John 13:1-17:26
Theme: New Commandment

Our text today is a long one, but that is because it was so important that John dedicates almost 20% of his gospel to the account of the last supper in the upper room.  Why so much time here?

There were, it is true, many poignant moments.  The passage begins by stressing Jesus' unfailing love for His disciples, right to the very end.  And it concludes with a prayer that reflects that love.  He taught them humility by washing their feet, and told them that those who know him are "clean."  He explained that He was the vine and we are the branches, taught on our future dwelling in His Father's house, and He instituted the Lord's Supper.  He revealed His betrayer, and He promised the Holy Spirit to us.  All of this took place in the course of a supper, which the other gospels identify as a Passover meal.

But something we sometimes miss is that Jesus, having earlier this week summarized the whole Law in two commandments, now offers a third to be kept by His disciples.  The two summary commandments we may remember:
  1. "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind" (Matt. 22:37)
  2. "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." (Matt. 22:39)
Now, Jesus offers #3, calling it "a new commandment," and requiring it as a proof that we are His followers:
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have love you, you also are to love one another.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:34-35)
Who does the loving here?  His disciples.  And who are they to love?  One another--the rest of the disciples, or what we call Christ's Body, the Church.

If we read this passage from the standpoint of Jesus' love for us and His desire for us to love each other deeply, it takes on a powerful new meaning.  He washes disciples' feet because He loves us, and He wants us to wash each others' feet because we love each other.  We draw life from Christ the true vine, but we share in that life together.  The Spirit will come because Jesus loves us, but He comes to us, collectively, binding us together even as He binds us to Christ.

Further, if we take Jesus' three commands as the summary of what He wants us to become as His grace transforms us, it looks like this:

  1. We love God supremely, with everything we are and have.
  2. We love others humbly, putting their needs on equal footing with ours
  3. We love the Church sacrificially, putting our collective good ahead of individual desires
This is what Jesus modeled in the Upper Room, and even more powerfully in the Garden and on the Cross.
Pray today that we will fulfill this high and holy calling.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Easter Story

This video is one of the Moi tribesman from people featured in the previous post.  I love seeing this.

AWAYO - Fear to Faith (Original language with subtitles)

As Easter approaches, we need to remember the importance and power of the Gospel, and why it must go to all peoples.

The Wednesday of Jesus' Passion Week

Text: Matthew 26:14-16
Theme:  Betrayal and fake faith

Wednesday during the Passion Week has been difficult for commentators to deal with, because while other days are specifically noted through entering and leaving Jerusalem, or the relation of the day to Passover, or some other detail as to what Jesus did.  As Sherlock Holmes would say, "When you have excluded the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth" (Doyle, 91).  Now if we can assign all of Jesus' other recorded activities to other days, then the conclusion is that Jesus spent Wednesday in private fellowship with the disciples and the family of Simon the Leper: Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, in Bethany.  The next day would be the second most painful of his life.

But that doesn't mean everyone was idle.  Only on a day when everyone was left to themselves would Judas have the freedom to make a quick trip (probably less than a 30 minute walk) to the Temple precincts where he could arrange to betray Jesus.

The actions of Judas are epic in scope, and have led to all sorts of speculation.  How could one who had seen all he had seen come to such a point?  There had been no mistreatment by Jesus or the disciples--he had even been made treasurer of the group (Jn. 12:6).  Some have thought he had tried to orchestrate a move that would force Jesus to act against Rome.  More liberal scholars have even suggested that he acted with Jesus' covert blessing to bring things to a head.  And others have suggested that after discovering that Jesus would not fight Rome for independence, he had become disenchanted and disgusted.

Ultimately, we don't know his lesser motivations.  But Jesus offers a number of clues.  Here is a list of what He, John, and Matthew have told us about Judas:

  • Judas was not "clean"--cleansed from his sin.  "You [the disciples] are clean, but not all of you." For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, "Not all of you are clean." John 13:10-11
  • Judas was led by Satan--"...the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray [Jesus]" John 13:2
  • Judas was "the son of destruction" who is specifically said to be "lost" John 17:12
  • Judas was "a devil" John 6:70
  • Judas was a thief  John 12:6
  • Judas' sorrow over betraying innocent blood lacks any expression of repentance toward God or toward Jesus  Matt. 27:4-5
If we simply take what the Scripture says, we must conclude that Judas was, from the beginning, a fake.  He was known from the beginning by Jesus as the one who would betray Him.  His only comments recorded are lies--whether about Mary's expensive ointment for Jesus, or denying that he was the betrayer, or greeting the Lord with a kiss.

But he was a good faker.  None of the rest of the twelve knew he was the betrayer until he did the deed.  Even when he left the upper room, they thought he was on a mission for Jesus.

Such fakers are still among us.  God, by his grace, will open the eyes of some of them (or you, if you are a faker reading this--and this may be His warning to you to repent).  Others will continue to deceive everyone else until they do something to reveal their loyalty, or maybe they will go to the grave deceiving us, and be exposed only at the Judgment.  They may even join the chorus of those crying out, "Lord, Lord did we not prophesy in your name (Judas did), and cast out demons (Judas did), and do many might works in your name (Judas did)"(Matt 7:22).

And they will hear what Judas will hear, "I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness."

Faking faith is deadly, and it can't succeed before the one Judge who matters.  

Let's pray that God opens the eyes and hearts of fakers we may know (even if we don't know they are fakers).  And perhaps we might need to ask the Lord Jesus the question even his true followers asked that next night when he told them betrayal was coming, "Lord, it's not me, is it?  I'm not faking, am I?"

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Tuesday of Jesus' Passion Week

Text: Mark 11:19-13:37 (Mt. 21:19b-25:46)
Theme: Teaching

Jesus and his disciples leaving theTemple
On way back into Jerusalem Tuesday morning, the disciples see the cursed fig tree has died, from the roots, so it couldn't have been a killer frost, bug, or blight.  They are amazed, but Jesus tells them that faith in Him enables followers to see huge problems or barriers (which is what mountains often symbolized) moved aside--and of course the biggest barrier we all face is that between us and our Holy God.  

Arriving in the Temple courts, Jesus spends his entire day facing tricky questions and teaching difficult truths.  His enemies try and trap Him in His words, but He not only escapes, but ties them up in theological knots.  He points out their ambivalence toward John the Baptist, shows the difference between saying we will obey authority and actually obeying it--an attitude his opponents clearly manifested toward God's powerful Word through Jesus.  He exposes Pharisees and Sadducees as having faulty theology, summarizes the whole Law in the two great commandments, and raises the thorny issue that the Bible says that David's Lord was also David's son.  He pronounces woes on scribes and Pharisees, laments over Jerusalem (once again quoting Ps. 118:26 as needing to happen again before the city sees Him for who He is--something yet to occur), and takes time to praise a poor widow's generous heart.  Finally, He spends a great deal of time with the disciples teaching on events surrounding the destruction of the Temple, the signs of His coming at the end of the age, and what the kingdom's coming will be like.  As Jesus left the Temple and the city, He was not only teaching about its future destruction, He was leaving it for the last time of his own accord.  His next departure would be on Good Friday, carrying a cross.

Jesus' teaching in one day encompasses a full course of theological study!  I wish I could have been there taking copious notes, but then all I would have is what the Bible gives me.  I'd want to ask questions!!!  There is so much still for me to learn.

That may be why this one day has chapters dedicated to it.  Jesus had much to say that we needed to hear.  We still do.  Today, as we reflect on all that Jesus said for our benefit, let's pray and ask the Spirit of God to drive us to see our need of the Word of God to instruct us, and to cause in us a craving for the pure milk we find in that precious Word.

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Monday of Jesus' Passion Week

Text:  Mark 11:12-19
Theme:  Curses!

Jesus went into Jerusalem from Bethany, and on the way sees a fig tree that has its leaves out in the spring.  It was not the season for figs, but a fig tree in leaf would already have little, edible, "figlets" that would become figs and were a simple treat to eat.  This tree didn't have them, and so Jesus curses it, because it held the promise of fruitfulness without the reality.  This sets the stage for the next event.

Arriving at the Temple, Jesus, for the second time, attacks the commerce taking place in what is often called "cleansing the Temple."  But he doesn't cleanse it, he "curses" it with words taken right out of Isaiah and Jeremiah rebuking the Israelites for their unfaithfulness.  As rightful King arriving on Palm Sunday, he had looked with a look of evaluation the evening prior before going to Bethany.  Now he has rendered his judgment that the Temple's role was finished.  This beautiful edifice looked "fruitful" religiously, but in fact it had become the opposite through the corruption of its controllers.

The fig tree was an established symbol of Israel.  The Temple was the heart of Israel's worship of God.  In his actions Jesus was passing divine judgment on the nation and its worship.  While both showed the promise of bearing fruit, neither actually did so.

As we consider our walk with Christ during this Passion Week, we might want to do some "fruit inspecting" concerning ourselves.  Do we profess great love for Jesus, but manifest little evidence of it in our lives?  Paul was not above warning professing believers to do self-examination to see if we have true faith (2 Corinthians 13:5).  But even true believers must sometimes acknowledge that our fruitfulness has been adversely affected by a lack of abiding in Christ.  Perhaps our prayer might be that the Father--whom Jesus calls the Vinedresser (John 15:1) might come and do his work of pruning us as branches so that we might bear more fruit (John 15:2).