"Oh to Grace how great a debtor
daily I'm constrained to be.
Let thy goodness, like a fetter
bind my wandering heart to Thee!"

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I Am A Debtor

Romans 1:14-17
"I am a debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise. So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, the just shall live by faith."

I read these verses today and Paul's words really hit me. Paul truly lived his life as a debtor...but a debtor of what? Love. He lived his life as if he owed everyone love. True love. Love that can only come from Christ. Guys, there is only one way to love someone, and that is to share the ultimate love of Christ with them. Do you understand that we owe it to people to be ready at all times to preach Christ? Does it sink in that we are to be like Paul, unashamed to proclaim Christ to anyone and everyone that he came across? Christ loves us so much that He died on the cross and paid OUR price for sins. It was completely undeserved and now we must live as debtors of that love. We are to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, and minds but that is much easier when you are reminded of the debt that He paid for you. So now Paul says he is a debtor to the Greeks, Barbarians, the wise, and the unwise...to everyone! There isn't anybody out there that doesn't fit that criteria. You owe it to the most hard hearted of people to share Christ with them and offer reconciliation of their sinful separated lives with a Holy God. You owe it to your co-worker and your family. I owe it to my teammates and to my coaches and strength coach. I owe it to the person that sits next to me on the plane. I owe it to everyone, and that is regardless of the response that I get. I am called to share the Gospel, the Good News, and it is up to God to do the work. The power lies within the Gospel, not me and not you. The Bible says it right there in those verses. "It is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believes!" You never know when one of God's elect is sitting right in front of you and is waiting to hear the Word of God so that they may believe it! This is what John Calvin started to realize as he would preach on Sundays: there are some people who hear the Word and fall asleep in boredom and there are those that are on the edge of their seats yearning to hear more. Why is this, he came to ask....BECAUSE it is a work of God in someone that allows them to believe the Gospel and to hear it and be born again. And it is us that God uses to deliver that message. Paul makes it very clear in those couple verses that it is our job to bring the Good News to people, regardless of the circumstances. As debtors to Christ, it is love that we must show the world. And what better way to love someone than to tell them the truth?

I pray that the Lord will give us boldness to be unashamed of the Gospel of Christ and to realize that it is the power of God unto salvation. These few verses from Romans were a great wake up call for me today, as well as an encouragement. I pray they were the same for you. The just shall live by faith. Take that in, and God bless.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Comforter

An excerpt from C.H. Spurgeon's sermon "The Comforter":

Then mark, how safe a Comforter the Holy Ghost is. All comfort is not safe, mark that. There is a young man over there very melancholy. You know how he became so. He stepped into the house of God and heard a powerful preacher, and the word was blessed, and convinced him of sin. When he went home, his father and the rest found there was something different about him, "Oh," they said, "John is mad, he is crazy;" and what said his mother? "Send him into the country for a week; let him go to the ball or the theatre." John, did you find any comfort there? "Ah no; they made me worse, for while I was there I thought hell might open and swallow me up." Did you find any relief in the gayeties of the world? "No," say you, "I thought it was idle waste of time." Alas! this is miserable comfort, but it is the comfort of the worldling; and, when a Christian gets into distress, how many will recommend him this remedy and the other. "Go and hear Mr. So-and-so preach;" "have a few friends at you house;" "Read such-and-such a consoling volume;" and very likely it is the most unsafe advice in the world. The devil will sometimes come to men's souls as a false comforter; and he will say to the soul, "What need is there to make all this ado about repentance? you are no worse than other people;" and he will try to make the soul believe, that what is presumption, is the real assurance of the Holy Ghost; thus he deceives many by false comfort. Ah! there have been many, like infants, destroyed by elixirs, given to lull them to sleep; many have been ruined by the cry of "peace, peace," when there is no peace; hearing gentle things, when they ought to be stirred to the quick. Cleopatra's asp was brought in a basket of flowers; and men's ruin often lurks in fair and sweet speeches. But the Holy Ghost's comfort is safe, and you may rest on it. Let him speak the word, and there is a reality about it; let him give the cup of consolation, and you may drink it to the bottom; for in its depths there are no dregs, nothing to intoxicate or ruin, it is all safe.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

I'm Totally Depraved (GASP!)

“Repentance is to leave the sins we loved before
and show that we in earnest grieve by doing so no more.”

I am overwhelmed today with the faithfulness of the Lord. Words are really incapable of describing this, but I guess I will try nonetheless. These past two weeks of my life have been characterized with a dwindling passion for the things of the Lord, and as awful as it sounds, I see now the Providence of the Lord shining bright as ever through it all. Let me explain: about a year ago the Lord awoke my heart to righteousness and began to convict me greatly about the way I was living. Suddenly my nights and bedside prayers were turned into great wailings to the Lord begging for forgiveness and crying out for Him to save me from my iniquities. All the pride, all the selfishness, all the unbelief was being exposed for what it really was, and it was one of the hardest times, but more than that, it was one of the greatest. The godly sorrow was leading me into repentance, and repentance led me to salvation, and the Lord revealed to me what it really means to repent and believe the gospel (something that I had heard all my life, but obviously never truly understood.) This time of my life was marked by the bitter sweet taste of repentance and the indescribable faith that follows. The Lord opened my eyes to things that can only be seen by the grace of God, and I learned that my faith and repentance truly were dependable on the GIFT of the Lord. He showed me that in my own strength and power I am 100% incapable of seeking Him.

(side note: This is why I hate the self-esteem gospel! Had I continued to listen to everyone out there that says that it is wrong to walk around thinking negative thoughts about yourself, then I would have NEVER EVER in a million years come to the conclusion of the magnitude of the fact that I am a GREAT sinner who has sinned against a Holy and righteous and PERFECT God and that I am incapable of doing a thing on my own to take care of that. I would have never come to the realization that what I was professing and what I was doing did not match up. The seeker-sensitive movement would have never led me into repentance because it would have been considered too harsh to tell a person who looked like a great Christian on the outside that they needed to examine themselves. Look folks, I‘ve been there…I‘ve done that, and if it wasn‘t for hard-Biblical truth being preached who knows what I would be writing about today. Probably about basketball practice and what I was going to eat for dinner. Repentance leads to salvation….and it needs to be preached that way. The Lord is so good to have opened my eyes. So when I think about what some people out there are being taught, I get so sad. Yes, I am reminded that I was there once too, and I need to remember the grace that the Lord showed me during that time, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t expose it. Had it not been exposed to me then I would still be in that state, you see?)

Ok back to this. About two weeks or so ago I began to get comfortable and complacent in my walk. I’m not saying that I am not capable of falling into complacency in my faith at any point during the course of a day, because I am, it’s just that this particular time started a couple weeks ago. Suddenly my passion wasn’t single anymore and I was letting the things of everyday life distract me from my duties to Christ like I had done pretty much the first 20 years of my life. It was like I could feel my mind becoming more and more worldly in thought by the minute. You would think red flags would have gone up and I would have crushed these thoughts of unbelief immediately, but that didn’t happen. Yes the red flags went up, and yes I was aware of what was happening, but it was like I was completely helpless of doing anything about it. Things that I used to savor such as reading the Word or spending time in prayer were all of a sudden things that were overlooked with ease. The difference this time around though: I HATED THIS. For some reason the Lord was making me perfectly aware of what was happening instead of it just blinding me and taking over. No, I knew what was happening, and it was tearing me up. The main thing that I could pinpoint was I had lost my fear of the Lord. And with that, I realized the truth in Proverbs 9:10 “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” Because without the fear of the Lord I was left with nothing. My thoughts and my actions are left to the consumption of my own lusts if I don’t have the fear of the Lord. I wasn’t ignorant to Satan’s device, so it made me even more frustrated that I was not overcoming this. So I was left with no other option but to cry out to the Lord to deliver me from this. I did it earnestly and in pain because I wanted so badly to return to how it was before. Get this: I was begging for the reigns of the Lord to be put back on me. I was CRAVING his discipline because I had tasted it for the past year and I realized how GREAT it was. Fun at the time? No. But glorious afterwards? YES.

Job 36:10 He opens also their ear to discipline, and commands that they return from iniquity.
Job 5:17 "Behold, blessed is the one whom God reproves; therefore despise not the discipline of the Almighty.
Proverbs 12:1 Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid. (ESV)

This reminds me of something that Paul Washer said in a sermon. He said that becoming a Christian does not mean that you start to do the righteous things that you hate and stop doing the unrighteous things that you love. No way, your desires are changed and you no longer WANT to do the unrighteous things and you CRAVE the holy righteous things of the Lord.
So as I cried out the Lord to deliver me from the darkness, the Lord seemed to do anything BUT that. Day after day it was the same thing. I kept reading in Lamentations 3:26 “It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD.” But it didn’t seem to be doing me any good!

Oh me of little faith.

I’m sure that you all have heard something about how unconfessed sin can cause a barrier between you and the Lord. I have heard it plenty of times. Well, now I know that it is true. This past week was a big week for me. Some sins that were in my life were brought to the light and the result was repenting from the horrible act of disobeying God’s law. Some sins I had realized before but crept back into, and some of them that I was completely blind to altogether. At least, blind enough to not deal with them. And while I find myself asking, “Why would I do that?!” I don’t have to look very far for the answer because it’s right there in the Bible screaming at me. Men love darkness. It’s true. And even though I have been born again and become a new creation in Christ, dieing to my flesh and putting on the righteousness of Christ with the Spirit living within me….my flesh still loves darkness. And I will struggle with my flesh from now until the last day when I meet my Almighty Creator. I am no longer a slave to it, however, because Jesus Christ is risen and is alive today in Heaven sitting at the right hand of God. Because that is true, the power of Jesus’ blood has set me free from the bondage of that darkness.

So, the Lord brought these sins to the light and I was able to repent and it was like the walls were torn down. Seemed so simple, but I learned a very very important lesson. I am not the author of my own salvation. I know we all would say, of course you aren’t Susan, but do you realize that we live like we think that we are? In this Semi-Palagian-infested mainstream “Christianity culture” we live like we are the ones that control our destiny. Ask anyone who does not believe in the predestination of the saints before the foundation of the world. Who do they put in charge? Man. They put themselves in charge. They become the ones responsible for their salvation, even though the Bible teaches the opposite. So do you realize that with that kind of mindset I am subject to staying in the state of darkness while I run around frantically trying to “do something” to get out of it. Because if I am the author of my own salvation, then I must be doing something wrong and I need to fix it. Well the truth is, yes, I have done something wrong. I am a totally depraved sinner who is incapable of doing anything right without the grace of God, so I then must put all my dependence on the Lord to deliver me from this pitiful state.

Lesson learned. These past two weeks I was under the chastisement of the Lord. He was getting my attention and teaching me to wait on Him. And then He was faithful in bringing my sins to the light so that they can be dealt with and forgiven by the blood of Christ. If these sins were left in the dark then I would have been miserable. But as Romans 8:30 says, “ Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” God has promised to keep those whom he has called and it is on that promise that I lean on. This is a pretty difficult concept to a society who preaches self-reliance as the saving grace of living an unsuccessful life.

Luke 7:47
Therefore I say unto you, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.

This verse is incredible, and it is the very thing that the Lord is teaching me. This doesn’t mean that you go around sinning as much as you can so that you can be forgiven a lot. The reality is that we have so much sin in our lives that if we saw it all at once we wouldn’t be able to handle it. But the Lord is loving enough to reveal it to you so that you can confess it and be forgiven and experience His grace. This repentance is a gift from Him, and it should be cherished. Faith and repentance go hand in hand. You can’t have one without the other.

So basically here is what I have learned from all of this: Men love their darkness…clearly this is true, it is in the Bible (John 3:19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.) and it is obvious, all you have to do is look into your own heart to see this. So this is in direct, full-on collision and battle with your love for the Lord and His righteousness that is given to you by Him. The problem: You are completely incapable of doing anything about this because of your depraved state. Result: waiting upon the Lord for His grace and gift of deliverance from this spiritual battle. Another Result: patience. Great dependence on the Lord and only Him because you acknowledge that your ability to believe on Him is completely dependent on Him.

There are three things that a believer will continue to do while here on this earth: Sin, Repent, and Believe. Without repentance you can't have faith, they go hand in hand.

Here is a great sermon by Charles Spurgeon that the Lord used to wake me up to these truths:

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Living Dangerously

November 6

Living Dangerously by George H. Morrison

Philippians 2:25-30
Yet I thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, and companion in labor, and fellow soldier, but your messenger, and he that ministered to my wants. For he longed after you all, and was full of heaviness, because you had heard that he had been sick. For indeed he was sick near unto death: but God had mercy on him; and not on him only, but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. I sent him therefore the more eagerly, that, when you see him again, you may rejoice, and that I may be the less sorrowful. Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness; and hold such in honor: Because for the work of Christ he was near unto death, not regarding his life, to supply your lack of service toward me.

Who Was Epaphroditus?

All we know of Epaphroditus is told us in this letter. He is one of those brave souls who leap into the light in connection with the imprisonment of Paul. It has been thought that he might be identified with the Epaphras of the Colossian epistle. But even if the names be one, such identification is improbable. It is scarcely thinkable that the pastor of Colossae should be so associated with a church in Europe as to be made its delegate to Paul. It is as a delegate we hear of him. For that perilous office he had volunteered. He had undertaken to convey to Paul the offerings of the Philippian Church. And of the risks involved in such a journey and in visiting a suspect and a prisoner, we have sundry hints in the apostle's words. No compulsion had driven Epaphroditus. He had taken all the hazards cheerfully. The strain of it all had told on him so terribly that he was brought down to the gates of death. And the point to note is how the great apostle "grappled him to his soul with hoops of steel," and spoke of him in terms of loftiest eulogy.

Risks Immortalized Epaphroditus and Paul

It is a very interesting word which Paul uses when he says that Epaphroditus "did not regard" his life. It is a word from the language of the gambler. In the long hours of his imprisonment, Paul had narrowly watched his Roman guards. He had heard them talking about boxing matches; he had been a spectator when they played at dice. And as he saw them gambling with their money and taking risks in a reckless way, his thoughts went winging to Epaphroditus. That was the kind of thing which he had done. He had deliberately gambled with his life. For Christ's sake and for the Church's sake he had flung caution to the winds of heaven. And that loving and self-forgetting recklessness so stirred the gallant heart of the apostle that Epaphroditus is immortalized. Had he played for safety he would have stayed at home. He would have pled the urgencies of work at Philippi. Probably his health was none too good, and he had doctor's orders against going. But Epaphroditus took the risks—lived dangerously—gambled with his life—and so lives within the Word of God forever.
One understands how the great heart of Paul clave so closely to Epaphroditus. The spirit of that inconspicuous delegate was the spirit which burned in his own breast. Like all great missionaries, Paul did not dwell on dangers. He only spoke of them when he was forced to. In his tremendous eagerness to spread the Gospel, he almost forgot the risks that he was running. But if ever a man gambled with his life, lived dangerously, and took the hazard, it was the great apostle to the Gentiles. He, too, might have played for safety. He might have advanced a score of reasons for it. That lacerating and gnawing thorn, for instance, would not that justify the nicest caution? But Paul forgot his caution and took risks that well might have appalled the strongest heart in the ardor of his love for the Lord Jesus. The love of Christ constrained him. He lived dangerously for the Lord. The motto of Paul was never "Safety first"; from the beginning to the end it was "Christ first." That was why he found a kindred spirit in this obscure delegate from Philippi who would have nothing to do with self-regarding caution, but for love's sake gambled with his life.

The Holy Spirit Gives Courage

This lofty disregard of self is inherent in all Christian service. A certain joy in living dangerously is one of the first-fruits of the Spirit. In the upper chamber, before Pentecost, the disciples were very careful of their lives. The doors were shut for fear of the Jews. They trembled at every step upon the stair. But when the Holy Spirit came on them in power, there was a kind of reckless gaiety about them which made men think that they were filled with wine. The doors were no longer barred now. They did not jump at every mounting footstep. That mighty rushing wind which swept the chamber somehow had swept their caution right away. They were ready to take any risks now, in the spiritual baptism of Pentecost, and like this delegate, they gambled with their lives. Later on we read of two of them that "men took knowledge of them that they had been with Jesus." And what was it that carried this conviction? It was the defiant boldness of the two. Heedless of safety, imperiling their liberty, they proclaimed the resurrection of the Lord—and men took knowledge of them that they had been with Jesus. The strange thing is that one of the two was Peter—and immediately we remember the denial. Peter had played for safety then. To save his skin he had almost lost his soul. Now, in the power of Pentecost, that same Peter was sublimely reckless. He was living dangerously for his Lord. All great servants have had that spiritual mark. St. Francis had it when he had kissed the leper. Luther had it when he would go to Worms though devils were thick as the tiles upon the house-tops. And nobody, however quiet his sphere, is ever thoroughly equipped for service unless, like Epaphroditus and the rest of them, he is prepared to gamble with his life. I have heard of ministers who were afraid to visit where there was fever or diphtheria or smallpox. I have even known of them being dissuaded from it by loving members of their congregations. Doubtless Epaphroditus was besought so by those who prized his ministry at Philippi; but he that saveth his life shall lose it.

Leaps into the Dark Inevitable in the Life of Action

This holds also of the life of intellect as certainly as of the life of action. To live by faith is always to live dangerously. My old professor, Lord Kelvin, once said in class a very striking thing. He said that there came a point in all his great discoveries when he had to take a leap in the dark. And nobody who is afraid of such a leap from the solid ground of what is demonstrated will know the exhilaration of believing. To commit ourselves unreservedly to Christ is just the biggest venture in the world. And the wonderful thing is that when, with a certain daring, we take Lord Kelvin's leap into the dark, we discover it is not dark at ail, but life abundant, and liberty, and peace.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

When the Darkness Will Not Lift

How much longer until my faith is restored?
I despise this state, what has happened to me Lord?
Affections have been shifted, since when am I bored
With the things of the spirit? I deserve to be abhorred.
A wicked sinner, I’ve returned to the things
That you once set me free from, and this heart of mine sings
The tune of the flesh, of the world, of the death
That awaits this kind of thinking, I pray you bring me no rest.
For as long as I’m in this state, my soul should never have peace,
I will stay up all night Lord until my faith has increased.
Less of me, more of You, it sounds simple enough
But it’s not so easy when the seas become rough.
Satan’s tossing me around with doubts, and lies, and with mocks.
It’s like the seed that’s been planted is falling on rocks.
But I know that’s not true, for my life has been bought
With the price of the blood of my foundational Rock.
Lord, I’ve tasted and seen, and I KNOW that You’re good,
You’ve captivated this heart, so please, if You would
Draw me back in Lord, I’ve strayed from the path
And I’m walking down one that brings destruction and wrath.
Because it’s the path in which I’ve created myself.
You know, the one that likes to glory in self.
And it sickens me to think that I would entertain that very notion
But that’s when I remember my faith is beyond any feeling or emotion.
No, the truth doesn’t depend on my fickle personal state
And it isn’t subject to any idol that in my heart I create.
The fact is that Jesus Christ the Son of God is risen
And he’s capable of keeping me from being bound to this prison.
This prison of exchanging the truth for a lie
The prison of forgetting that daily I must die
The prison of living for I, me and my.
My passion has dwindled, and though its been only a couple of days
I’m miserable Lord, and for Your rebuke now I crave.
Crush me Lord, for this now I beg
So I may be humbled, but I pray for mercy among rage.
Because Lord I am doing what I now hate to do
Like Paul, I cringe at the fact that I would ever turn my face from You
But I do, and I hate it, so I fight and I fight
It’s a warfare now Lord, so please bring your light.
It used to be I was so burdened that I could barely breathe,
Now im afraid that my breathing has become fearfully free.
Free from the reigns that you had once put on my mind
That kept me far from anything that did not glorify.
And now when I open my mouth, no prayer comes out
I’m at a loss for words as my mind wonders about.
It’s like suddenly I’m blind, and I’ve hit a spiritual wall
That is stopping me from getting up after this terrible fall.
But Hallelujah! You rescue sinners who cry out and who call
On Your name, for Your love is deep and Your mercy is tall.
So now I must rejoice, for in Lamentations I read
You are good to those who wait on You, so please don’t forget about me.
Because I’ll wait and I’ll wait, quietly and patiently for salvation
As you deliver me daily from this selfish temptation.
Reminding me always that You are in control
Because the Potter is sovereign over this pitiful soul.
So if it’s Your will Lord, I pray You meet me tonight,
And give me strength from Your cross to win this spiritual fight.
Because I know that destruction is broad and only ONE way is right
Only the righteous live by faith; and the fools live by sight.