How Anger Can Point To the Gospel

On Sunday I made the statement that any time you become angry you are being judgmental. I owe credit to David Powlison for this insight. The point I was making was that God is the ultimate Judge and that is a good thing. We all want things to be set right and all wrong to be accounted for. Folks will often decry anything they perceive to be judgmental while ignoring that they themselves are judgmental. This is where Powlison’s comments are helpful. He wrote:

At its core anger is very simple. It expresses “I’m against that.” (Good and Angry, pg. 39)

This is exactly what God’s judgment and wrath are…they are the manifestations of Him being “against” sin. The reason it is helpful to understand this is because people often have a hard time understanding (accepting) that God is Judge. Yet, if you can point them to the fact that they are judgmental anytime they get angry and show them they aren’t as free of judgment as they think they are, you can begin to open the door to helping them understand God’s judgment as needed and necessary. Powlison continued:

Human beings come wired with the capacity to react with displeasure toward real wrongs and act forcefully to make wrongs right. In other words, we are moral beings. We are made in the image of God. (pg. 39, emphasis mine)

Now, I’m not saying that all of our anger is righteous anger. Due to sin, it certainly is not. Our anger is often out of proportion, capricious, self-righteous, directed toward the wrong things, and that’s only the beginning of how our anger goes wrong. (If you want to think more about how our anger can go right, then read Powlison’s book.) Yet, God’s anger is none of these things. His anger is always righteous, setting right the wrongs and bringing restoration through redemption. Therefore, God’s judgment is a good thing because it speaks to every human’s longing for justice. However, it can only be a good thing if they stand before God’s judgment in Christ.

I would encourage you to use this longing for justice, which is displayed in every person’s anger, to point them toward the ultimate Judge. Then tell them about the one who satisfied God’s judgment on their behalf through the cross and resurrection. Point them to Jesus, the Rock of Ages that has been cleft for them.

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Selflessness

I was reflecting on the Book of Ruth this past week and doing some reading in various commentaries when something stood out that hadn’t before. What really stood out is Boaz’s selflessness. At Naomi’s direction, Ruth approaches Boaz and asks him to be her redeemer (3:9). Boaz is willing to be her redeemer, but there is a kinsmen redeemer who is a closer relative and in line to be her redeemer first (3:12-13).

Notice what Boaz does not do. He doesn’t tell Ruth to make her request known to the nearer redeemer. No, instead he makes it clear that he will himself approach the man and settle the matter soon (3:18). This is significant, Boaz is going above and beyond in taking up the cause of Ruth (and Naomi). Ruth was a foreigner and a widow, she would have been vulnerable to being taken advantage of and strung along. Yet, Boaz will see that the matter is resolved immediately because he is a noble man (2:1).

Boaz’s conversation with the man is seen in Ruth 4:1-12. When Boaz first mentions the prospect of redeeming the land of Elimelech, Naomi’s dead husband, the man is willing. However, when he learns that the land will also come with the responsibility of providing for Ruth and Naomi by marrying Ruth and having children to inherit the land, well, the deal sours in the man’s eyes. He says he can’t be the redeemer lest he “impair his own inheritance” (4:6). Essentially, what he means is that it will cost him too much to do that. Redeeming Ruth and Naomi will reduce what he has and therefore diminish his ability to send forth his name and wealth through his offspring.

In his commentary on the passage, Iain Duguid points out that we are not told this man’s name. He is basically referred to as “Mr. So-and-So.” Duguid then wrote:

The irony is that by seeking to protect his future legacy in this way, Mr. So-and-So ended up leaving himself nameless, missing out on having a share in the biggest legacy of all: a place in God’s plan of salvation. Boaz took a different and more sacrificial approach, embracing the opportunity to leave a legacy for someone else…By trying to protect his future, Mr. So-and-So would remain forever nameless. (pgs. 182-3)

Boaz, by being selfless and sacrificial instead of self-seeking, was given a legacy by God that included David and David’s greater Son, Jesus (Matt. 1:5-6, 16). When I read Duguid’s comments I couldn’t help but think of Matthew 10:39 where Jesus said:

“Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

As Jesus’s disciples, this is what we are called to. Yes, Boaz is a redeemer who points to the ultimate Redeemer, Jesus. And yes, we must know Jesus as our Redeemer by faith. Yet, the call of our Redeemer is to take up our cross and follow Him (Matt. 16:24-25). We are to follow our Savior’s example of sacrifice (Eph. 5:1-2, see previous post).

David Powlison makes this point about selflessness in the life of a Christian in his book, How Does Sanctification Work?. In the last paragraph of the book he wrote:

Perhaps the most dramatic evidence of headway in sanctification is that you no longer think so much about yourself. You are starting to do better when you are not preoccupied with “How well am I doing?” You are finding yourself when you lose yourself and worry less about who you are. (pg. 112)

In other words, you are resting secure in Christ and looking more like Him by selflessly giving of yourself for the sake of others. You are helping others follow Jesus. (Think about it, sin turns us in on ourselves. Sin means we are consumed with self. Sanctification is the process of holiness…victory over sin. Therefore, “headway in sanctification” means we are less self-obsessed.)

Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus…” –Philippians 2:4-5

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Children of God

In our study of Hosea this past Sunday, we saw how Israel failed to be God’s obedient son (11:1-2) representing Him before the other nations. Thanks be to God, the true and better Israel, Jesus the Son of God, came and was God’s perfectly obedient Son (Matt. 2:15). Jesus is the image of the invisible God (Col. 1:15).

All who look to Jesus in faith and repentance are adopted in Him. In Christ, we become children of God (1 John 3:1). Jason Hood, in his book, Imitating God in Christ, makes clear that we are not adopted because we were worthy children. No, Christ died for us while we were sinners (Rom. 5:8). We are made children by God’s free grace and given a “new status as God’s beloved children.” Hood then says that this “new identity includes the responsibility to share the family trait of godlikeness” (pg. 130, emphasis mine). He cites Ephesians 5:1 which we would do well to reflect upon:

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.”

Christian, holiness matters in our lives individually and corporately as the church. We are not made children because we are holy…no, we are called to be holy because we have been made children. Therefore, we are called to look like our Father by following the example of our older Brother, God’s Son. I’ll leave you with this Martin Luther quote provided by Hood. “It is not imitation that makes sons; it is adoption that makes imitators.” One more thing, if we claim Christ and don’t care about holiness, maybe we have mistaken our identity.

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Summer Reading 2017

Here are some books I have been reading this summer that I would recommend to you.

How Does Sanctification Work? by David Powlison

I really appreciate that in this short book Powlison makes clear that there is not one “silver bullet” to sanctification. Instead, the Bible offers an arsenal of truths to use in our war with sin as we seek to work out what God is working within us (Phil. 2:12-13). This book will not only serve you in your sanctification but will also better equip you to help others follow Jesus.

Conversion: How God Creates a People by Michael Lawrence

Again, this is another short book…two cheers for short books! Lawrence wants us to understand what conversion truly is…God making us new in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17). However, he understands that while many people can rightly state the doctrinal truth of conversion, our practice doesn’t always match our creed. Therefore, the majority of the book is devoted to working out the theological implications in our practice both individually and corporately.

God Is: A Devotional Guide to the Attributes of God by Mark Jones

With 26 short chapters, this book is designed to be digested one bite at a time each day. Jones is a theologian extraordinaire, but also a pastor which makes him a great guide into such deep waters. He is rigidly faithful to the truth but is pastorally sensitive in his approach, showing how these truths are applicable in everyday life. One of the first Bible verses Jones quotes is Hosea 6:3, “Let us know, let us press on to know the Lord.” That is certainly applicable to the life of our church right now.

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“All of Grace”

Here is a gospel nugget from Charles Spurgeon:

Believe it, for it is certainly true that the great God is able to treat the guilty with abundant mercy; yea, He is able to treat the ungodly as if they had been always godly. (All of Grace, pg. 26)

He continued:

The grandest fact under heaven is this—that Christ by His precious blood does actually put away sin, and that God, for Christ’s sake, dealing with men on terms of divine mercy, forgives the guilty and justifieth them, not according to anything that He see in them, or foresees will be in them, but according to the riches of His mercy which lie in His own heart. (pg. 27)

Later He said:

God will spare the sinner because He did not spare His Son. God can pass by your transgressions because He laid those transgressions upon His only begotten Son nearly two thousand years ago. If you believe in Jesus, then your sins were carried away by Him who was the scapegoat for His people. What is it to believe in Him? It is not merely to say, “He is God and the Savior,” but to trust Him wholly and entirely, and take Him for all your salvation from this time forth and forever—your Lord, your Master, your all. If you will have Jesus, He has you already. If you believe on Him, I tell you cannot go to hell; for that were to make the sacrifice of Christ of none effect. (pg. 38)

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Homesick

I have a clear memory from my early childhood of waking up sick in the middle of the night and calling out to my Mom. As she was caring for me I can remember saying through my moans of discomfort, “I want to go home…I want to go home.” I also remember Mom responding; “you are home, honey.” I think the reason this memory is seared into my mind is because of how bizarre my statement was. As I was saying, “I want to go home” I can remember thinking, “why am I saying this, we are in our house.”

Several years ago, reflecting on this moment as an adult, I think I figured myself out. I believe the reason for my statement that night was because I intuitively knew “home” is where everything should be right. Home should be a haven where all is well. I knew in that moment I was not well and home no longer felt like home.

The sense that our home is a place where all should be well is, as one writer put it, an “echo of Eden.” The Garden of Eden was an abode that God prepared for His people. It was a place of fullness, peace, and rhythm. The Hebrew word for this is Shalom. God dwelled with His people in Eden and all was well. Yet, our first parents, Adam and Eve, rebelled against God and were exiled from the garden (Gen. 3).

Ever since, the world hasn’t been right (Rom. 8:20-22) and there hasn’t been a home established that has known the Shalom we were intended to experience. This is the reality I was facing that night as a child. The home I lived in, although wonderful and a blessing, would not be free from sin, suffering, and pain. We all joined in the rebellion with our first parents (Rom. 3:23). Tragedy. We have forsaken God seeking something better. The fruit of that attempt is death. To turn from God, the giver of life, always results in death. Yet, that’s not the end of the story.

But God.

But God sent Jesus to rescue. Jesus came as the Second Adam (1 Cor. 15:45) and He never rebelled against God the Father, but instead always did His Will. Earning the Father’s blessing, Jesus went to the cross and was cursed for us and our rebellion (Gal. 3:13). The very curse of the ground was placed upon His head in the crown of thorns to display this (Gen. 3:18, Matt. 27:29). In Jesus, the curse is reversed. Jesus is the seed that went into the ground and brought forth new life (John 12:24). On the third day, Jesus rose from the dead as the firstfruits of a new people (1 Cor. 15:20).

In Jesus, there will be a new people prepared to be in God’s presence once again. Jesus said He was going to prepare a place, a new home (John 14:1-3). A home that is truly home, where God’s people dwell in God’s presence experiencing Shalom and the fullness of joy. A place where sin, shame, sorrow, and death will be no more. A place where the blind will see, the deaf will hear, and the lame will walk. A place where Christ will wipe the tears from His people’s eyes and make all things new (Rev. 21:1-5).

I find myself longing for home once again. Today would have been my Mom’s 60th birthday. I miss her greatly.

Let me be candid, if I didn’t really believe what I wrote above I would often be in a perpetual state of despondency or cynicism. Yet, I sincerely believe what I’ve written. If you know my Mom’s story you know she had an eight year battle with cancer. Due to the cancer and treatments she suffered impaired speech, a very limited diet eventually leading to feeding tube nourishment, and chronic pain among other things. As if her previously limited diet wasn’t hard enough, Mom didn’t eat anything by mouth the last two years of her life because she wasn’t able to sufficiently swallow. However, she said she missed being able to kiss the grandkids and being able to sing more than she missed eating. Due to multiple surgeries on her mouth she was no longer able to form her lips in order to give a kiss. She also was no longer able to sing because her voice lost its vigor (probably a side effect of the radiation in her neck area). I say all this to say, I was homesick before her death. For example, every meal of celebration with the family; birthdays, Thanksgiving, and Christmas there was a reminder that all was not well because Mom couldn’t eat. Today there is still the reminder of an empty seat.

All things new.

That is my hope. Christ will return setting all things right and restoring Shalom. On that day, Mom will greet loved ones with a kiss, join the heavenly choir singing worthy is the Lamb, and she will sit at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb and dine with her King. If the Lord allows, I’ll sit near her and watch in awe as she takes her first bite.

Do you have this hope? It can be yours if you will repent of your sin and trust Jesus for salvation. It brings me no joy to tell you, if you are unwilling to humbly look to Christ for salvation you have no hope (Rev. 20:15). Look to Christ!

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Marriage is a Signpost

“’Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” –Ephesians 5:31-32

On Sunday we emphasized the reality that marriage is a signpost pointing to the greater reality of the Gospel (Christ and the church). Here is a helpful and short video from Andrew Wilson illustrating this point:

In his book, Marriage and the Mystery of the GospelRay Ortlund said:

Why do people feel the stirrings of romance and start spending time together and take long walks hand in hand and long for one another when apart and write poetry and sing along to “our song” and fall so head over heels in love that they finally jump into the mega-commitment of marriage? There is a reason for this very human experience. And the reason is not only what God did back in the garden of Eden with Adam and Eve but also, and even more, what God has done in uniting Christ and his church. The eternal romance…the eternal love story is why God created the universe and why God gave us marriage in Eden and why couples fall in love and get married in the world today. Every time a bride and groom stand there and take their vows, they are reenacting the biblical love story, whether they realize it or not. (pg. 100)

He continued:

The Son of God stepping down out of eternity, entering time, taking on flesh, pursuing and winning his bride as his very heart and body with his inmost, sincerest love so that he can fit her to be with him forever above—that dramatic super-reality is the breathtaking reason why human marriage exists. It is truly profound. And Christian married couples have the privilege of making the mystery of the gospel visible in the world today by living out the dynamic interplay of an Ephesians 5-quality marriage. (pg. 100, emphasis original)

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An Evangelistic Tool

Below is a brief video that Justin Taylor posted on his blog today. It is an evangelism tool that offers a quick and helpful summary of the Gospel. Perhaps this would be a helpful tool for some of you to use. It might provide a way to start a gospel conversation or be a good follow-up to a gospel conversation. For example, you may be able to send the video to a non-believing friend or family member. Ask them to take 5 minutes to watch it and then ask them for feedback. What did they think? Did it make sense or was it confusing? The hope is a conversation will follow. Or if you are able to have a gospel conversation with someone you could leave them with this video for further consideration.

I refer to this video as a tool because I believe that is all that it is. In evangelism, there are no silver bullets. Therefore, I want to stress that things such as this video or gospel tracts can be helpful, but they should never be used to replace personal conversation due to laziness or cowardice. The Lord’s plan for evangelism is His people proclaiming the good news (Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 1:8). So if you use such tools, I would encourage you to always follow-up and call folks to respond to the good news…it’s news that demands a response!

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Treasure God’s Word

“The Law of the Lord is perfect…the precepts of the Lord are right…More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.” -Psalm 19:7a, 8a, 10

Christian, we should treasure God’s Word. Think about that for a moment…we should TREASURE God’s Word.

Listen to how David describes God’s Word in Psalm 19. It is perfect and right. It is to be desired more than gold, even more than MUCH of the best riches. It is better than fine foods. David’s words were clear to his original audience and they translate straight into our culture. His culture just like ours, valued riches and fine things. However, he tells us God’s Word is to be treasured above these things. Why? Because God’s Word is better! Dale Davis says:

“David moves from describing the character of God’s word (vv. 7-9) to expressing the desirability of God’s word (v. 10). He doesn’t just want you to see what Yahweh’s word is like; he wants you to say, ‘I must have it.’” (Psalms 13-24, pg. 114)

Thomas Watson said:

The Word shows what is truth and what is error. It is the field where the pearl of price is hidden. How we should dig for this pearl! A godly man’s heart is the library to hold the Word of God; it dwells richly in him (Col. 3:16)…Oh, let us make ourselves familiar with the Scripture! (A Godly Man’s Picture, pg. 61)

Let us pray that God would give us the grace to treasure His Word; that we would say, “I must have it.” When we treasure God’s Word we will:

  • Read It
  • Study It
  • Meditate on It
  • Memorize It
  • Love to hear It preached
  • Proclaim It to others
  • Apply It
  • Obey It
  • Live It

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.” -Psalm 1:1-3

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The Deceitfulness of Sin

In our current study of Jonah, it was emphasized that while Jonah identified himself as one who “feared the Lord” to the mariners during the storm (1:9), Jonah was probably self-deceived in his sin of rebellion. Jonah certainly wasn’t walking as one who feared the Lord while he was in the process of fleeing “from the Lord’s presence” (1:3). To fear the Lord is to obey His Word (Psalm 112:1; John 14:15). Jonah turned from God’s Word (1:1-3).

The Writer of Hebrews warns us about the deceitfulness of sin and the hardness of heart that results (Heb. 3:12-14). We must take the warnings of Scripture seriously. We should earnestly ask the Lord to reveal our blind spots to us. Are we like Jonah claiming with our mouths something contrary to what we are displaying with our actions?

The Biblical term for such is hypocrisy. I was recently encouraged to read, The Godly Man’s Picture by Thomas Watson. Listen to what he says about hypocrisy:

But alas what is one the better for having others commend him, and his conscience condemn him? What good will it do a man when he is in hell that others think he has gone to heaven? (pg. 16)

The man who is a pretender…carries Christ in his Bible but not in his heart. (pg. 16)

The hypocrite deceives others while he lives, but deceives himself when he dies. (pg. 16)

The wicked hate the hypocrite because he is almost a Christian, and God hates him because he is only almost one. (pg. 16)

Could you find no way to hell, but by seeming godly? (pg. 18)

Let us therefore take heed of this kind of pageantry or devout stage play. (pg. 18)

How should we respond? As I said above, we should earnestly pray that the Lord would reveal any hypocrisy within our hearts. We should also take heart because the Lord pursued Jonah. The Lord pursues His people out of His compassion, mercy, and steadfast love. The very fact that we would even hear His warnings is evidence of His kindness leading us to repentance (Rom 2:4). Pay careful attention to the conclusion of Watson’s warning:

Christian, if you mourn for hypocrisy, yet find this sin so potent that you cannot get the mastery of it, go to Christ. Beg of him that he would exercise his kingly office in your soul, that he would subdue this sin, and put it under the yoke. Beg of Christ to exercise spiritual surgery upon you. Desire him to lance your heart and cut out the rotten flesh, and that he would apply the medicine of his blood to heal you of your hypocrisy. (pg. 19)

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