Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Lord of Glory

Genesis 18; Matthew 17; Nehemiah 7; Acts 17 
DON CARSON 
ONE OF THE GREAT FAILURES into which even believers sometimes fall is the tendency to underestimate Jesus (Matt. 17:1-8).
Jesus takes the inner three of his twelve disciples — Peter, James, and John — to a high mountain, just the four of them. “There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light” (17:2). Suddenly Moses and Elijah appeared, “talking with Jesus” (17:3). It is as if the ultimate identity of the eternal Son is allowed to peep through; the three disciples become “eyewitnesses of his majesty” (2 Peter 1:16). It is hard not to see here also a foretaste of the glory of the exalted Son (cf. Rev. 1:12-16), of the Jesus before whom every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, every tongue confessing “that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:10-11).
But Peter misunderstands. He rightly recognizes that it is an enormous privilege to be present on this occasion: “Lord,” he says, “it is good for us to be here” (17:4). Then he puts his foot in his mouth: “If you wish, I will put up three shelters — one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” He entirely misunderstands the significance of the presence of Moses and Elijah. He thinks that Jesus is being elevated to their great stature, the stature of the mediator of the Sinai covenant and of the first of the great biblical prophets.
He is utterly mistaken. Their presence signified, rather, that the law and the prophets bore witness to him (cf. 5:17-18; 11:13). God himself sets the record straight. In a terrifying display, God thunders from an enveloping cloud, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” (17:5). By the time the three disciples recover from their prostrate terror, it is all over: “When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus” (17:8) — a pregnant conclusion to the account.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Be Still



Grace

Daily Devotional by John Piper - January 15, 2018

The Freeness of Grace

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the 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. (Ephesians 2:4–6)
The decisive act of God in conversion is that he “made us alive together with Christ” even when “we were dead in our trespasses.” In other words, we were dead to God. We were unresponsive; we had no true spiritual interest; we had no taste for the beauties of Christ; we were simply dead to all that mattered.
Then God acted — unconditionally — before we could do anything to be fit vessels of grace. He made us alive. He sovereignly awakened us to see the glory of Christ (2 Corinthians 4:4). The spiritual senses that were dead miraculously came to life.

Verse 4 says that this was an act of “mercy.” That is, God saw us in our deadness and pitied us. God saw the terrible wages of sin leading to eternal death and misery. And the riches of his mercy overflowed to us in our need. But what is so remarkable about this text is that Paul breaks the flow of his own sentence in order to insert, “by grace you have been saved.” “God . . . made us alive together with Christ — by grace you have been saved — and raised us up with him.”

Paul is going to say this again in verse 8. So why does he break the flow in order to add it here? What’s more, the focus is on God’s mercy responding to our miserable plight of deadness; so why does Paul go out of his way to say that it is also by grace that we are saved?

I think the answer is that Paul recognizes here a perfect opportunity to emphasize the freeness of grace. As he describes our dead condition before conversion, he realizes that dead people can’t meet conditions. If they are to live, there must be a totally unconditional and utterly free act of God to save them. This freedom is the very heart of grace.

What act could be more one-sidedly free and non-negotiated than one person raising another from the dead! This is the meaning of grace.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Amazed


Remember the Joy


Gain What You Cannot Lose 
By John Piper 
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” (Mark 10:27)
Here are two great incentives from Jesus to become a World Christian and to dedicate yourself to the cause of Frontier Missions. As a goer or a sender.
1. Every impossibility with men is possible with God (Mark 10:27). The conversion of hardened sinners will be the work of God and will accord with his sovereign plan. We need not fear or fret over our weakness. The battle is the Lord’s, and he will give the victory.
2. Christ promises to work for us, and to be for us so much that, when our missionary life is over, we will not be able to say we’ve sacrificed anything (Mark 10:29–30).
When we follow his missionary prescription, we discover that even the painful side effects work to improve our condition. Our spiritual health, our joy, improves a hundredfold. And when we die, we do not die. We gain eternal life.
I do not appeal to you to screw up your courage and sacrifice for Christ. I appeal to you to renounce all you have, to obtain life that satisfies your deepest longings. I appeal to you to count all things as rubbish for the surpassing value of standing in the service of the King of kings. I appeal to you to take off your store-bought rags and put on the garments of God’s ambassadors.
I promise you persecutions and privations — but remember the joy! “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:10).
On January 8, 1956, five Waorani Indians of Ecuador killed Jim Elliot and his four missionary companions as they were trying to bring the gospel to the Waorani tribe of sixty people.
Four young wives lost husbands and nine children lost their fathers. Elisabeth Elliot wrote that the world called it a nightmare of tragedy. Then she added, “The world did not recognize the truth of the second clause in Jim Elliot’s credo: ‘He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.’”

Monday, January 1, 2018

Future of Hope

TGC post:  Does Jeremiah 29:11 Apply to You? 

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
These words are the John 3:16 of American cultural Christianity. Watch how often they show up on the Bible verse plaques sold in Bible Belt mall kiosks or posted on Facebook walls, even on tattoos. Whether as home decor or on social media posts, I see this passage claimed fervently by people I know haven’t been in a church service since the first Bush Administration.
Naturally, this love for Jeremiah 29:11 has often led more theologically-oriented Christians to lament its out-of-context use. So much so that a young Christian recently asked me, “Does Jeremiah 29:11 apply to me, or not?”
My answer: Kind of.
Let me take that back. Yes, it does apply to you, but not in the way many “claim” the passage.

NOT A PROSPERITY GOSPEL PREACHER

Many understand the text to be about God’s favor on one’s life and plans. If I just have confidence and follow my heart, someone might think, God will bless me. That’s not the prophet Jeremiah; that’s Deepak Chopra. Anyone who could find that kind of moralistic therapeutic deism in the Book of Jeremiah hasn’t read anything in Jeremiah beyond or behind this verse.
The Book of Jeremiah is all about God disrupting his people’s plans and upending his people’s dreams. This verse comes in the context of a shocking message from the prophet. Those “left behind” in Jerusalem—anchored around the temple and the throne—assume their relative fortune is a sign that God is for them, while those carted off in captivity to Babylon are seen to be under God’s curse. It’s not just those in Jerusalem who are tempted to think this way; those in Babylon are tempted to think it, too. Israel’s God seems distant to them, and they seem as though they’ve been raptured away from the promises to Abraham. Jeremiah says, though, that God’s judgment will fall on Jerusalem, and that God’s purposes will spring to life through the exiles.
This isn’t actually good news for any of the hearers. The Jerusalem establishment chafes at this message, and finds prophets who will say that peace is just around the corner. For the exiles, the message isn’t a cheery one either, at least in the short-term. In Jeremiah’s letter to them, they’re told their return from exile won’t happen anytime in their generation, so they should create new lives in Babylon.

HOW IT APPLIES TO YOU

So how does this passage apply to you? Well, Jeremiah 29:11 must be read in the context of the whole Book of Jeremiah, and the Book of Jeremiah must be read in the context of Israel’s story. But then all of Jeremiah and all of Israel’s story must be read in the context of God’s purposes in Jesus Christ. All the promises of God “find their yes in him” (2 Cor. 1:20). If we are in Christ, then all the horrors of judgment warned about in the prophets have fallen on us, in the cross, where we were united to Christ as he bore the curse of the law (Gal. 3:13). And, if we are in Christ, then all of the blessings promised to Abraham’s offspring are now ours, since we are united to the heir of all those promises (Gal. 3:14–29).
America’s favorite verse must be read in context.
Through Jeremiah, God is telling the exiles that their scattering isn’t accidental. God has plans for them, plans that include even what seems chaotic and random. Moreover, these plans mean the exile isn’t permanent. That isn’t because of their faithfulness but because of God’s promise to Abraham—a promise that was itself looking forward to Abraham’s son, the Lord Jesus (Rom. 4). And indeed, the exiles didn’t stay scattered. God restored them to their home. Why? He brought them home because through them “according to the flesh is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever” (Rom. 9:5).
And God tells us that since we are in Christ, we are strangers and exiles in this time between the times (Heb. 11:131 Pet. 2:11). We suffer, we bleed, we die—and through all that we are tempted to think that this means God has abandoned us. We conclude we are “as sheep to be slaughtered” (Rom. 8:36). Not so, the gospel word tells us.

GOD’S LONG-TERM PLAN FOR YOU

God has a plan for you, in Christ. That plan is not for your destruction but for your wellbeing. You are being conformed into the image of Christ—by sharing in his suffering—and your ultimate end is not as a victim but as a victor, a joint-heir with the King (Rom. 8:12–39).
Your plans may evaporate. Your dreams may be crushed. Your life may be snuffed out. But the God who raised Jesus from the dead will raise you up with him.
How can you know this? You can know it the way the exiles of old did: not by observing your present condition but by the Word of God, his oath and his covenant. That means your plans may evaporate. Your dreams may be crushed. Your life may be snuffed out. But the God who raised Jesus from the dead will raise you up with him.
Does Jeremiah 29:11 apply to you? If you are in Christ, you can count on it. The passage doesn’t promise you the kind of future American culture prizes, and maybe even promises a future you would tremble at it if you saw it in a crystal ball. Short-term, you may suffer. But long-term, your future is co-signed with Christ. That’s a future for your welfare, and not for evil; a future of hope, not of despair.