Ten years ago this day, the Lord made me a Christian. If God had given me only salvation, and then misery and death the rest of my life, it would have been abundant grace and far more than I deserve.
But He has given me so much more.
As I reflect on the year, the overwhelming sense is one of content satisfaction; it has been a good year. And thus, I must give all praise to the sovereign God, who has been exceedingly kind to me.
This is terrifying. How does a man turn into a mere hearer? After all, he listens to the same word as the doer. He sits in the same church building, sees the same preacher, hears the same preaching, and might even take the same notes. He hears the points, the applications, the exhortations, and yet, he is a mere hearer; he does not do what the Word of God says. Why? Or rather, how?
To neglect to pray is to neglect to breathe. To neglect to pray for His glory is to extinguish the fire in my soul. To neglect to pray for God’s favor and grace upon the day is to rely on my own wisdom and strength apart from Him. To neglect to pray for His people in my church is to ignore the saints He has given me to love. To neglect to pray that He would send His people into the plentiful harvest is to scorn His glorious name. To neglect to pray for God to save sinners is to surrender my yet-to-be-saved brothers and sisters to hell. To neglect to pray is to sin.
Contentment is chosen freely, in that "you will not only be content and quiet your hearts after a great ado, but as soon as you come to see that it is the hand of God" your heart will be content. It is not a forced submission, a "must" of duty. Rather if you are content you will say, "Readily and freely I will be content." And thus, contentment does not come through ignorance or an inability to feel or comprehend, but through eyes that understand and yet with sanctified judgment still chooses to be content.
So by the last day, I was ready to go home, ready to go home and love the people for whom Christ had died, ready to serve them with greater love and greater zeal. And that's what you want from a Christian conference, right? So, I thank the Lord for G3, and may He continue to do His work through it!
But au contraire, that is not our generation. For all the fascinations and fixations on love, we can't seem to get to the heart of the matter. The heart keeps on aching. The breakups keep on breaking. The feelings of euphoria rise, and then crash and burn. The memories that once warmed now sear and cut. You say you'll learn from it, grow from it, be better for it - but you don't really. Instead, after all the failure, the soul is left calloused, decrepit, cold.
My heart is full. This weekend my church ordained two more elders to join the servant-leadership team. While it might seem strange to rejoice over a seemingly trivial thing — after all, the officers of the church hold lowly positions — I think it good to rejoice in the blessedness of God's perfect plan for His church. We all confess that God designed His Church well, but do we ever consider how great a blessing comes from His perfect plan?
All Glory Be to Christ indeed has humble beginnings. But it's fame is anything but, for it's lyrics and themes are majestic and grand, fitting for the King to which it sings. "All glory be to Christ our King!" it proclaims. "All glory be to Christ! Of His rule and reign, we will ever sing. All glory be to Christ!"
It has been a very long year — of plummets and crescendos, of thrills and much loss. I will be glad when it is finally done. But I do try to remember, for remembering reminds me that the Lord is good and does good. Of His abundant grace, I am sure.
So without further ado, here's a recap of my year. In writing it, I see traces of God's providence and goodness. I hope you see it, too.
There is a storm coming your way. It cannot be avoided, and the surest way out is to sail straight through, in full assurance that the Lord is your Captain. This is an attempt to prepare you for the suffering that will come. Amidst the storm, we must cling to these seven truths.
The drops danced across the glass in gleeful disarray, slipping and sliding in every which way, hurrying to go everywhere and yet with nowhere to go. An ever-morphing constellation, spheres of crystal bending and shattering across the canvas of the window, they were at one moment companions of many, and the next rogue wanderers alone; their number was impossible to count, their pattern indecipherable, their beauty incomprehensible.
Happy new year! With a new year often comes new thoughts, and new resolutions. I encourage you to commit your time and mind to theological reading this year (… and every year afterwards!).
I'll even help you out with an idea that I started back in 2013. It's designed to encourage the reading and discussion of good Christian books on theology, philosophy, life, history, biography, etc.
For me, adjusting from college life to work life was hard. It took me four months to wake up in the morning on a weekday and not immediately think, "Lord, I really don't want to go to work today." And that was with a no-stress training period, an understanding manager, and absolutely nothing to complain about.
Why? Why did I have such a difficult time? It would not be an oversimplification to say my grief was due to my poor theology of work. I didn't think rightly about work because I had a wrong framework for working as a Christian. Sure, I had thought about it a few times in the context of school, but I had not figured out how to glorify God with my life when most of my waking hours are spent doing inherently 'unspiritual' things. I needed a better understanding of Scripture.
Few other theories in physics come close to the stunning beauty, and revolutionary nature, as Einstein's. We can no longer describe physical phenomenon in absolute terms and call ourselves accurate; instead everything must be described in terms of relativity.
But the idea of relativity didn't stay in the cosmos. It came to Earth. Modern man has brought Einstein's theory of general relativity from the realm of physics into metaphysics, from science into philosophy. The zeitgeist, or spirit of the times, can be summarized in the term "moral relativism."
How shall we respond to the gospel of this grace? As those who have been forgiven much, we are to love much! The Lord Jesus Christ said in Luke 7:47, "For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.” Indeed, the mark of a Christian is someone who loves God (Eph 6:24). Now then, as those who love God, because God loved us first, what shall we do? How shall we respond to this great love?
Good works. Grace-motived, God-entranced, faith-fueled, Spirit-empowered, good works.
What is the Christian life?
Surely, it is more than the activities that fill the time and events that occupy the calendar. Scripture reading, prayer, service, fellowship, and acts of love are of the utmost importance, but being a Christian is more than the sum of those parts.
God wrote a Book. It is the very Word of God, God's perfect message from His own mouth through His servants for His people. By His Word, God unveils the mystery of the universe, unfolds His plans hidden from before time began, prophecies the end from the beginning, secures His everlasting promises, calls His elect from death unto life, equips His Church for the work of service, damns the unrepentant to their doom, and seals the fate of the world.
In the 1500s, God brought about a Reformation of the Christian world: the true gospel was set free from the corrupt Catholic religion and the Word of God was unleashed to save and sanctify once again. As the movement developed, the Reformers came to agree on five central tenets, which we now call the Solas of the Reformation:
- Solus Christus: Christ alone. Jesus Christ is the only mediator of salvation between God and man — not the pope, cardinals, bishops, priests, or kings. Christ alone is the head of His Church, and what He says and does trumps the authority of men.
- Sola Scriptura: Scripture alone. God's Word alone is the final and highest authority, trumping church tradition and ecclesiological decree.
- Sola Gratia: By grace alone. Grace alone is the means of salvation. God is not inclined to save because of anything inherent to man; He saves for His purposes, by His mercy, alone.
- Sola Fide: By faith alone. Salvation is through faith alone — not through the works or merit of man. Good deeds contribute nothing to a sinner's justification, and no amount of indulgences (buying certificates to get less time in purgatory) will change that fact.
- Soli Deo Gloria: To the glory to God alone. God alone deserves glory in all things. He alone deserves reverence and worship — not the pope, not the venerable saints, not icons, not relics.
If you're a Christian who has tasted the depths of God, the wonders of His love, and the glories of His character in the face of Christ, you ain't seen nothing yet.
It wouldn't take much to prove Christianity wrong.
Any atheist, any evolutionist, any Jew, any religionist knows it. If I were them, and I were to set out to prove that Jesus, the Bible, Christianity, etc. were all a lie, I would go for the jugular. I would go for the one thing upon which all of Christianity stands, the one thing which validates all other hopes, the one claim of the Bible, about which all other truths orbit.
For if I could show that this one thing, that one doctrine, were not true, it would prove definitively, once and for all, that Jesus Christ and everything associated with Him, was a sham, a myth, a lie.
What is that doctrine? It's not the literal six-day creation. It's not the coming judgment of the world. It's not the existence of miracles. It's not the existence of Satan. It's not hell.
It's the resurrection - the real, literal, bodily, physical resurrection of Jesus Christ.
And with a loud voice, He said, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.” Having said this, He breathed His last, bowed His head, and yielded up His spirit.
"Preach the Gospel at all times; use words if necessary" is a stupid quote. Preach the Gospel at all times; it requires words.
Evangelism needs pleading — words spoken in such a way as to affect the will through the heart. In this post, I want to give a few key examples from the Scriptures of pleading, that we would understand what pleading evangelism is. This post has two sections: an example of pleading with God, and examples of pleading with sinners.
Recognize that this is, for now, your home away from Heaven, your spiritual family in Christ.
I am afraid that what passes for evangelism today is really, at best, a bleached evangelism, void of the rich colors and hues of full-orbed biblical evangelism. It is cheap, mass-produced, and ineffective. And this bleached evangelism has crept into the church.
There is nothing more important than the gospel. People have been killed for believing it. And people are still being killed for it. And yes, people will continue to be killed for it. But why? ...Simple: without the message of the gospel, there is no salvation.