Resurrection Hope

The resurrection is as true today, in the middle of our mundane week, as it was this past Sunday. Below is a sermon from The Ligonier National Conference 2016. I hope you find Michael Reeves’ exposition of the good news of the resurrection edifying.

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The Wonder of the Cross

With tomorrow being Good Friday, I have posted several thought-provoking, and I hope affection stirring, statements from various authors below.

Commenting on Matthew 27:41-42, D.A. Carson wrote:

“He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself.” The deeper irony is that, in a way they did not understand, they were speaking the truth. If he had saved himself, he could not have saved others; the only way he could save others was precisely by not saving himself. In the irony behind the irony that the mockers intended, they spoke the truth they themselves did not see. The man who can’t save himself—saves others. (Scandalous, pg. 29)

Speaking of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, Fredrick Leahy wrote:

Christ in his own Person and work actually offered himself as a sacrifice for the sins of his people, sins that the Father had laid on him, thereby removing them for ever out of sight, but the cost was incalculable, the burden crushing and the curse as bitter as hell. (The Cross He Bore, pgs. 72-73)

R.A. Finlayson wrote the following of Christ bearing our curse:

The most impressive expression of the Curse was this that happened when he was on the tree: ‘And there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour’. There were three hours of darkness, from twelve noon till three o’clock. But it was not measured by time; it was an infinite transaction that was taking place, it was the Infinite Person of the Son of God that was engaged…(the darkness expresses) the imposing of judgment upon the lonely, outcast Sufferer. That darkness was to him the true expression of the Curse. (The Cross in the Experience of Our Lord, pg. 102)

Finlayson concluded:

Darkness for him, and a rent veil for you and me! Darkness for him, light for us; exclusion for him, access for the sinner. (pg. 103)

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Glorified in an Instant

During the sermon yesterday I extemporaneously spoke about our glorification being done in an instant and how that humbles us. I was working off of a statement I heard several years ago from Pastor Andy Davis that I found to be helpful, encouraging, and humbling. During a sermon, regarding our final glorification, Davis said something along the lines of: “at the moment of our glorification God does in an instant what we couldn’t accomplish in a lifetime.” For the sake of clarity let me expound upon this further.

Justification: We are justified by faith alone as Ephesians makes clear: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works so that no one may boast” (2:8-9). We make no contribution to our justification. Only through the work of Christ (His perfect life, death, resurrection) on our behalf can we be justified. When we look to Christ in faith we are justified, meaning He pays the penalty for our sin and credits to us His righteousness.

Sanctification: The Bible also makes clear that in saving us God intends to sanctify us. In justification, God has declared us righteous and in sanctification, God is making us righteous. In short, it is the process of Him making us more and more like Jesus. As we saw in Romans 8:5-13 the Lord has given us everything we need for this process including His Spirit indwelling us. In fact, as Jesus made clear, we can’t do it apart from Him (John 15:5). Yet, the Bible makes clear that sanctification does involve our effort. Paul wrote: “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12b-13). We are to work out (effort) what God works in us. However, without God’s work in us, there would be nothing for us to work out. This working out is a lifelong process.

Glorification: God will bring to completion our salvation when Christ returns at the consummation of the age. John writes; “we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2b). On that day God will complete our salvation in an instant and we will be like Christ. We will be without sin (we will also receive glorified bodies). This is what Pastor Davis meant by his statement. In an instant the process of sanctification, in which we worked and toiled all our redeemed earthly lives, will be brought to fulfillment. That’s humbling! That’s God’s power and grace! By the way, John makes clear that if we understand this to be our end it doesn’t make us lax about sanctification. In other words, assurance of glorification doesn’t produce apathy about sanctification. Instead, this hope makes us care all the more about our sanctification. Verse 3 reads; “And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.”

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We Have An Announcement

We, at Redeemer, believe and often say; “The Gospel is the greatest news of all.” When Jesus began His earthly ministry He proclaimed the good news (gospel) of the Kingdom and called for a response of repentance and belief (Mark 1:14-15). Following His crucifixion and resurrection and before His ascension, Jesus commissioned the church to proclaim the good news of His Kingdom to the nations (Matt. 28:18-20, Acts 1:8). In his book, Crown of Thorns, Tim Chester gives us the cultural context of this language of gospel proclamation. He wrote:

‘Gospel’ was a word with a wider currency beyond the Christian church. In first-century Rome proclaiming ‘gospel’ meant proclaiming the good news that the Emperor had triumphed in battle. The herald might run ahead of the army and arrive in Rome proclaiming the ‘gospel’ of victory. That meant, too, that the King was coming.

In the same way the Christian gospel is the good news that Jesus has triumphed in battle. Sin and death have been defeated, and the King is coming. When he comes he will consummate the kingdom and reign without opposition. The kingdom we saw glimpsed in his miracles will be realised in full. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away’ (Rev. 21:4). (pg. 62)

Jesus, the King, has defeated the enemies of sin and death through His life, death, and resurrection. He has won the victory! We have been called to “run ahead,” before His return, and announce the victory. However, this is only good news for His people. Chester later said; “the coming of God’s kingdom in glory will not be good news to rebels. To those living in rebellion against God’s rule the coming of his kingdom will mean defeat and disaster” (pg. 63).

When Christ returns as the conquering King to set all things right He will judge and condemn all who stand against Him. As Christians, our job is to proclaim the victory of Jesus and call rebels to no longer stand against Him in their sin, but to instead repent, believe, and receive His victory (Rom. 3:22-24).

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Put to Death

For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” –Romans 8:13

In continuing our study through Romans 8 we arrived at verse 13 on Sunday. Paul had been contrasting life in the flesh and life in the Spirit up to this point in verses 5-12. We see that the flesh leads to death, but the Spirit leads to life. How can one be in the Spirit? By faith in Christ (Rom. 3:21-16). Those who are in Christ by faith are no longer condemned and have been given the Spirit (Rom. 8:1-4). Now in verse 13, those who are in Christ are called to “put to death the deeds of the body” (also known as indwelling sin). Speaking of this verse, Derek Thomas wrote:

Is obeying from a consideration of gain—reaping life through actions of mortification—a form of legalism? Yes, if we think that Paul is teaching us that “life” is the reward given to those who put sin to death. But Paul is not saying that. Life is the fruit, not the root, of justification. (How the Gospel Brings Us all the Way Home, pg. 50)

The distinction Thomas makes is vital when he says; “Life is the fruit, not the root, of justification.” What he means is this, the “life” spoken of in verse 13 stems from our justification spoken of in verses 1-3. We ARE NOT justified because we put to death indwelling sin. No, the only way we can put sin to death is because we have been justified. In short, mortifying indwelling sin is the result of our justification.

This is what Jesus meant when he said: “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5, emphasis mine). The only way you will bear fruit is if you are connected to the vine. You don’t bear fruit as a branch lying on the ground and then are picked up and connected to the vine. That’s absurd! No, you only bear fruit because you are first rooted. We could say Thomas’ statement another way, Life is the fruit of your justification because you have been rooted in Christ by faith. Justification, adoption, sanctification, perseverance, and glorification; none of it is possible apart from Christ!

Listen to the words of Thomas again; “Paul is not saying that our efforts toward holiness are the basis on which we will be granted eternal life.” He continued:

Our salvation, from beginning to end, depends entirely on the grace of God. In the songs heard in heaven, there is only One who receives the credit for the salvation of sinners: “Worthy are you…for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God” (Rev. 5:9). Who is He? He is Jesus, “the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David” (Rev. 5:5).

Paul is saying that all progress in holiness is “by the Spirit” (v. 13). As he puts it elsewhere: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12-13). Holiness is never achieved by our unaided efforts alone…our holiness is achievable only because God works in us…Without God’s work in us, we cannot do anything. (pgs. 50-51, emphasis original)

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On Sunday, we had the joy of beginning a study through Romans 8 together. In the opening line of that great chapter we are told; “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1 speaks to the justification of believers. Read and be encouraged by Bryan Chapell’s brief explanation of our justification in Christ. He wrote:

 “Justification” describes what God does when he graciously pardons our sin to grant us the righteous status he requires for us to be in holy relationship with him. Since he sent Jesus to take the penalty for sin that we deserve, we are justified (i.e., made right) with God when we acknowledge that Jesus’s suffering and death satisfied the penalty for our sin. Jesus took the condemnation that God could have justly imposed on us. (Unlimited Grace, pg. 33, emphasis mine)

He later continued:

To understand justification, consider a courtroom scene where the judge declares the pardon of one whose penalty or fine has been paid. By assessing our debt fully paid by Christ, God justifies us, releasing us from any further judgment. And as our guilty status is removed, we become guiltless—a status that only the Son of God had prior to the provision of God’s grace for those who rely on him (2 Cor. 5:21). Grace justifies guilty sinners so that they have Jesus’s guiltless status before God. (pg. 34, emphasis mine)

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“A Good Contest”

As we have concluded our study of 1 Corinthians 13 and have been reminded of the call for us to love one another, I am reminded of the following from Puritan Richard Sibbes.

It would be a good contest amongst Christians, one to labour to give no offence, and the other to labour to take none. The best men are severe to themselves, tender over others. (The Bruised Reed, pg. 23)

This would be a good contest indeed as we strive to walk side by side in the gospel (Phil. 1:27).

“May the Lord make us increase and abound in love for one another and for all…” -1 Thess. 3:12

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Loving Practices

As we have been studying through 1 Corinthians 13 together, our prayer has been: “May the Lord make us increase and abound in love for one another and for all” (1 Thess. 3:12). I want to offer some suggested practices that will help to cultivate a culture of gospel love in our church.

Preach The Gospel to Yourself and Others

The gospel is the foundation of our love (1 John 4:10) and it is what unites us as a church. Therefore, you and others need to hear the gospel often. Preach the gospel to yourself and let it warm your heart toward others. Also, look for opportunities to drop “gospel nuggets” in your conversations with fellow church members.

Pray for Your Fellow Church Members

Build a rhythm of praying through the church roll into your regular prayer life. Over the course of a week or month pray through the entire church roll. Pray scripture for them, like 1 Thessalonians 3:12 above. Pray that they would continue to understand more and more the riches of Christ and the gospel (Eph. 3:8). Ask your fellow members how you can pray for them specifically, take note of their request, and pray for them.

Spend Time Together

In our membership covenant we have committed to pray for one another and look after each other’s spiritual well-being. You can’t do this if you don’t spend time together. Stop waiting on someone to plan it and extend an invitation to someone. Ask another family over for dinner. Ask a fellow church member if they can meet before work for breakfast or during their lunch break. The more time you spend together the better you will be able to pray for, encourage, and challenge each other.

Seek Someone with Whom You can Spend More Time

What I’m getting at here is a discipleship relationship. What is discipleship? Simply, it’s helping each other follow Jesus. You don’t need to establish who’s the “Yoda” (mentor) and who’s the “young grasshopper” (mentee) in the relationship. You are simply committing to meet together regularly for a season in order to help each other follow Jesus. This relationship should involve prayer, Scripture, accountability, and encouragement (you could also use a book). If this is done, both parties will benefit and grow in the Lord. However, these relationships will never develop if you aren’t first spending time together in the manner mentioned above.

Seek to Encourage One Another Often

Weekly you need to ask yourself; “How can I encourage someone in our church this week?” Hebrews 10:24 instructs us: “Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.” “Consider” means, think about how you can accomplish this. If you don’t know your fellow church members and what’s going on in their lives, you are going to have a hard time doing this. However, if you are spending time with them you are well on your way to doing this. Think about their circumstances in light of the truth and consider how you can call them to “love and good works” in their current situation. Use all the avenues available to you for this task. Send them a card, e-mail, or text. Meet with them face-to-face or give them a phone call.

Make Yourself Available

Work to make yourself available. If someone asks to meet with you, make a true effort to see it happen. Be willing to share your time with others, it’s what love calls us to do.

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This past Sunday we looked at 1 Corinthians 13:6. As I said then, this verse keeps us from reading our cultural propensity for mushy-sentimentalism into this great “Love Chapter.” Love rejoices in the truth. Love and truth cannot be separated. In fact, it is the truth that tells us what love is (1 John 4:10-11). David Wells’ definition of God’s love as His holy-love offers helpful reinforcement. He wrote:

Much of what we know of God’s character, I believe, can be arranged under this language of his holy-love, and I think it helpful to do so. Under the rubric of holiness, we might include his righteousness, goodness, justice, jealousy, and wrath. Under his love, we include his mercy, compassion, kindness, and patience. And yet this duality in the character of God is only in the language we use—holy-love. The truth is that his love comes as part of his holiness and his holiness likewise permeates all that he is, including his love. Every act of mercy, then, is at the same time and act of righteousness; every act of wrath has, at the same time, gone hand in hand with patience; every act of kindness, every act of goodness, is a reminder that the universe in which we live is one where evil and chaos also rear their heads and that therefore these acts of goodness are harbingers of the day (yet to come) when truth will be put forever on the throne and evil forever on the scaffold. (God in the Whirlwind, pg. 87)

Wells also offered one example of what happens when we compromise this understanding of holy-love. He stated:

In twentieth-century liberalism, then, we ended up with love that was separated from divine holiness. In legalism, wherever it is found, we end up with “holiness” that has parted company with love. (pg. 87)

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“Supernatural Love”

In The Compelling Community, Mark Dever and Jamie Dunlop wrote:

A cold heart that does not love suggests one of two things. Either it has never been forgiven, or it does not appreciate the depth of its forgiveness. In fact, much of our growth in Christ is simply growth in our understanding of what Christ has done for us.

We can never be forgiven more than we are at the moment of our salvation. Yet as we better understand our sin, and as we better understand the cross, we better understand our forgiveness—which flows out as more love. So what is supernatural about love within a local church community? This love is empowered not by the lovability of others or our own goodness, but by supernatural forgiveness in Christ at the cross.

Supernatural community in a local church is the principle being worked out hundreds of times each week. The people in our churches understand their sin. They understand the seeming absurdity—and yet reality—of forgiveness in Christ. That spark burns into love for God, which in turn creates love for others. So they love not in their own human strength, but in the supernatural strength of the one who loved them first. (pgs. 45-6, emphasis mine)

“In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” -1 John 4:10-11

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