Saturday, September 20, 2014

Celebrating Obedience, Boasting in Christ

The other day my good friend Jesse Daas sent the following note to the leadership team of our church. It touched me pretty deeply for a number of reasons, and so I asked his permission to share it with you. Thankfully, he said yes! I pray that it blesses you as it did me. 


"I met with a friend this week to talk about life and Christ.  We got to talking about the ups and downs of the previous week, those highs and lows.  Something great had happened.  I realized about half way through hearing about his low that it was actually an extraordinary high! 

"He was recounting a situation he faced that was difficult and annoying to him.  He recounted ultimately what he ended up deciding to do.  GRACE was all over his decision to take a new direction in the midst of a situation that could have easily gone otherwise.  In other words, he chose obedience in faith, not perfectly, not quickly, but truly he did. 

"I couldn't help but celebrate the grace of God in his life at the hearing of his story because I heard a friend recounting something as a down but saw oh how joyful of an up it was because of the grace of God in his life to choose to do what is right in the midst of something difficult for him. I couldn't help but think of most Christians that I know who don't spend much time talking about their obedience to God.  Perhaps it is because of fear of being proud or seen as proud or boasting or something else. 

"My encouragement to you all though is: talk about your obedience and praise God vocally for His grace working that obedience in you, that is, the right choices in Christ that you have made and are making.  I think this is one way that we stir one another up to love and good deeds—we talk about them as grace filled realities (Hebrews 10:24).  The grace and glory of God are seen in our lives in action. 

"Christian, you are a beloved child of God whose obedience pleases your Father.  Your deeds are no longer filthy rags because you are beloved in Christ, washed and sanctified."

Friday, September 19, 2014

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Growing in Grace by Loving the Least of These

The Apostle Peter drew his second letter to a close with these wise and pastoral words: “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen” (2 Peter 3:18). The word “grow” is an exhortation and a command, and it implies that if we’re to progress in Christ we must play an active role, by the grace of Christ, in building habits that nurture that progress. Therefore, I am offering a series of devotionals this summer and early fall on eight essential habits that help us to grow in grace. For today, let’s consider the place of mercy in the Christian life.

As I wrote last week, to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ, we must flow with the grace and knowledge of Christ toward others. To be shaped into the image of him who saved us, we must join in his mission to seek and save the lost, part of which is to show grace and mercy to those who are weak or in need of some kind of help.

In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus spoke about the final day of judgment in which he will gather all the nations before them and separate them as a shepherd separates sheep from goats. He said that he will place the sheep in the place of favor, that is, at his right hand, and that he will place the goats in the place of disfavor, that is, at his left hand. He will then commend the sheep because they showed love to the hungry, the thirsty, the strangers, the naked, the sick, and the prisoners. And they demonstrated humility, for when Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it me one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40), they answered, “When did we do these things?

The goats were just the opposite. In actual fact, they did not care for “the least of these,” but when Jesus confronted them about this, they said, “What do you mean? When didn’t we do this?” The goats are self-centered and arrogant, and what they failed to do for “the least of these,” they failed to do for Jesus.

Jesus is not teaching here that people are saved through acts of mercy toward the weak or needy. He, and other biblical authors, are crystal clear in their teaching – we can only be saved by receiving Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins, and then surrendering to him as the Lord of our lives.

However, Jesus is teaching that one of the fruits of the true knowledge of him is a heart of mercy and love toward those who are weak, vulnerable, and in need. One of the fruits of knowing Jesus is learning to see and feel and act like Jesus in protecting and advocating for those who cannot stand up for themselves.


Therefore, in order to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ we must share in the heart of Christ for “the least of these” and seek to show love and mercy to them in practical ways. May we learn to joyfully treat others with the same measure of kindness God in Christ has lavished upon us.

Growing in Grace by Sharing the Hope of Jesus

The Apostle Peter drew his second letter to a close with these wise and pastoral words: “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen” (2 Peter 3:18). The word “grow” is an exhortation and a command, and it implies that if we’re to progress in Christ we must play an active role, by the grace of Christ, in building habits that nurture that progress. Therefore, I am offering a series of devotionals this summer and early fall on eight essential habits that help us to grow in grace. For today, let’s consider the place of evangelism in the Christian life.

To grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ, we must flow with the grace and knowledge of Christ toward others. To be shaped into the image of him who saved us, we must join in his mission to seek and save the lost. We must learn to be rivers rather than reservoirs, for reservoirs stagnate and breed death but rivers thrive and breed life.

One day while Jesus was teaching at the temple complex in Jerusalem, he “stood up and cried out, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive…” (John 7:37-39). It’s amazing enough that Jesus, who is God over all, would lavish his grace upon us by giving his life-giving Spirit to us. But it’s nearly incomprehensible that he would then cause his Spirit to flow through us like a river so that others may be blessed as well. As the Lord promised Abraham two millennia earlier, “I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing” (Genesis 12:2). He blessed Abraham to be a blessing, and by his amazing grace, he does the same for us.

This is why I say that to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ, we must flow with the grace and knowledge of Christ toward others. We must share the love of him who has loved us, so that others might also be enfolded into that love. As we embrace the mission of Christ, we will feast on the joy of Christ and be shaped into his image, from one degree of glory to another.

Therefore, my encouragement to us today is this. First, let us seek and savor Christ every day of our lives. The more we humbly receive from him, the more we will naturally overflow with him. The more we enjoy him, the more we will speak of him, for our lips praise what our hearts ponder. Second, let us pray and plead with Christ on a daily basis for the lost. Let us talk to Christ about people, before we talk to people about Christ. Let us pray with faith and plead with tears that our family, friends, acquaintances, and neighbors would come to know the gracious Author of Life. Finally, let us go with Christ and thus grow in Christ for the glory of his name, the good of others, and the lasting joy of our own souls. Lord Jesus, help us to hear and heed your Word.

Teaching Ephesians in the Bay Area - A Call to Prayer

A couple of months ago, my friend Roger Chen, Pastor of Grace Church Bay Area, invited me to come out to California and teach at their all church retreat this weekend. After praying with my wife and consulting with the Pastors of Glory of Christ Fellowship, I accepted the invitation, and so Kim and I will be flying to San Francisco tomorrow morning, after which we'll travel by car to Monterey where the retreat is being held. 

Grace Church Bay Area was started two years ago, and is located in Burlingame, just a little south of San Francisco. Their heart is to be faithful to the Word of God and passionate about reaching unbelievers with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, so it's just the kind of church I'm eager to partner with in any way I can. 

As I prayed about what to teach this weekend, the Lord put it on my heart to lead the church through the Letter to the Ephesians. Some years ago I taught through Ephesians in two-and-one-half years, which was probably too slow. This weekend I plan to teach through Ephesians in about four hours, which is certainly too fast. But there are glories and grace in each pace, and I really look forward to what God will do. 

The main reason I'm writing this blog is to ask you to pray for Kim and me. I'll be teaching Friday night, Saturday morning, Saturday night, and Sunday morning. Kim will be leading a session for the women on Saturday afternoon. We have worked hard and prayed fervently to prepare, but we need your partnership in prayer as well. So please lift us up in prayer as we teach, and please lift up the church in prayer as they hear the Word of God proclaimed and seek to apply it to life. 

I'm excited about getting to visit my homeland again, but I'm much more excited to serve the Lord Jesus Christ and his precious Bride, the church, wherever he sends me. Thank you so much for your partnership in prayer! I look forward to sharing what the Lord has done upon our return.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Christian Community Proclaims the Gospel

As Jesus drew near to the day when he would die upon a cross for the sins of the world, he said this to his followers: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved 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). On the one hand, there’s nothing new about this command because God instructed his people through Moses to love him above all things and to love one another as they loved themselves. The love of God and neighbor has always been the heart and fulfillment of the law of God.

But what’s new in Jesus’ words is that he’s commanding his blood-bought followers to love one another in the same way that he loved us. He’s calling upon us to take up our cross on a daily basis, to die to our own interests and wants and needs, and to give our attention to loving and serving and sacrificing for others. He wants us to live God-centered and other-focused lives. He does not want us to live for our own desires but rather for his desires in the blessing of others.

As Paul wrote in Philippians 2:3-4, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” And then he goes on to say that we should grasp on to the mind of Christ that belongs to us because of Christ, and we should empty ourselves, sacrifice ourselves, and be obedient to our Father until our dying day, knowing that he will give us our just reward in Christ for the glory of his name.

This call to die to ourselves that we might love others is the call to come and be like Jesus. Jesus gave it all that we might gain it all, and part of what we gain in him is the incomprehensible privilege of becoming like him. Every time we die to ourselves in order to love somebody else for the glory of Christ, we become a little bit more like Christ, and this indeed is his aim. And over time as we die to ourselves in order to love somebody else for the glory of Christ, Jesus says that this love proclaims to the world that we belong to him. This love actually proclaims the gospel.

As Tim Keller wrote, “[Christian] Community is more than just the result of preaching the gospel; it is itself a declaration and expression of the gospel.” And the reason this is true is because our self-sacrificial love for one another is tangible evidence that Christ is in us, that he is with us, and that he’s working through us for the glory of his name. It is not normal to love as Christ loved. In fact, it’s not possible in ourselves to love as Christ loved. So when we do that, it shouts to the church and to the world that Christ is in our midst.

Therefore, may we look to Christ, seek him with all of our heart, receive from him, and love one another with his love for the glory of his name.