For it is by grace you have been saved...

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Who Am I?

The whole Facebook thing has caused me to do a bit of “soul searching.” As I look down the list of my friends, seeing the tiny little icons that represent them, it causes me to wonder. Who are these folks really? Do these pictures represent who they truly are, who they wish to be, just one side of a multi-sided personality, etc.? And then the question comes back: who am I?

I have had several pictures on my “profile.” What is it I’m trying to say about myself with these? As I think back through some pictures of myself over the years, which of these is a true reflection of who I truly am?

Is it the “pastorly” me?

Or the family me?
Or the crazy me?
The NASCAR freak?
The big bad hunter? (Ha!)

We have all these pictures of ourselves out there. We use some of them on Facebook and other things as our “identity.” Again, what is the motive, what are we trying to show people, what are we trying to say about who we are?

Maybe it’s just the end of the year reflection stuff causing me to take these profile pics way too seriously, read way too much into it all. Or maybe God is truly working in me to cause me to have a genuine concern about the image I portray to others.

Maybe it’s because I’m reminded that image we are to be portraying is not an image of ourselves at all. Romans 8:29 says, “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” (emphasis mine)

Our goal is not to reflect the various sides of our own personality, though certainly God has given us those. We are not to be about the business of trying to fit some image of ourselves that we think others will like, etc. Our goal, our desire is to reflect Christ. So that others will see our good works and glorify our Father in Heaven (Matt. 5:16).

So the answer to the question “who am I?” really has less to do with me, and more to do with Christ. I am a sinner saved by grace. I am a new creation in Christ. I am a child of the King. The list from Scripture goes on and on. (all quotes are ESV)

Rom. 8: 37 - We are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

1 Cor. 3:9 - For we are God's fellow workers. You are God's field, God's building.

1 Cor. 4:10 - We are fools for Christ's sake.

2 Cor. 2:15 - For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.

2 Cor. 5:20 - Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us.

2 Cor. 6:16 - What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God.

Eph. 2:10 - For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

We are members of His body and members of one another. (Eph. 4:25; 5:30)

You get the idea. Here’s hoping that in the coming year, we find our identity in Christ; that we live in such a way that others see Him in us; and that like John the Baptist, our chief desire is that He increases and we decrease. Because in the end, I only want to hear one means of identifying who I am. I just want to hear my Father say: "Well done, my good and faithful servant."

Friday, December 11, 2009

MacArthur on TBN and Tetzel

John MacArthur has long been one of my favorite expositors. It's nice to have those out there who are standing firm on the Truth in the face of the pseudo-biblical, pop culture charlatans out there who seem to be so popular, even within evangelical circles.

Here are Pastor MacArthur's latest thoughts on the Word Faith garbage that fills the airwaves at TBN. He even likens them to Luther's "nemesis," the indulgence seller John Tetzel. Hadn't thought of it that way before, but it's a very good comparison.

Go HERE to read this fantastic article.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Christmas - Part of an Eternal Story

Charles Spurgeon once said of Christmas: “THE birth of our Lord Jesus Christ into this world is a wellspring of pure, unmingled joy. We associate with his crucifixion much of sorrowful regret, but we derive from his birth at Bethlehem nothing but delight. The angelic song was a fit accompaniment to the joyful event, and the filling of the whole earth with peace and good will is a suitable consequence of the condescending fact. The stars of Bethlehem cast no baleful light: we may sing with undivided joy, “Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given.”

He said: “I do not wonder that the men of the world celebrate the supposed anniversary of the great birthday as a high festival with carols and banquets. Knowing nothing of the spiritual meaning of the mystery, they yet perceive that it means man’s good, and so in their own rough way they respond to it. . . The Birth of Jesus not only brings us hope, but the certainty of good things.” (Spurgeon #1815, The Great Birthday and Our Coming of Age)

And I say Amen to all of that. But should we not be just a bit alarmed that those who know “nothing of the spiritual meaning of the mystery” seem to act as if they know what this holiday is all about. We have all these romanticized images of the manger scene, and folks think if they know that, they know the story.

But there is so much more to this story than that. In fact, this story is not just a story, but part of a much bigger story that God has been telling since the beginning of time. Galatians 4:4-5 says, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”

“The fullness of time” reminds us that this is part of something much bigger than just one night in Bethlehem. Don’t misunderstand. I’m not making light of the birth of God the Son, how could we ever do that? I’m just trying to remind us that it’s not just about a little pink baby in a barn. This is about the Divine Plan of God that has been at work for all eternity past.

It includes creation, the fall, and God’s electing plan beginning in Abraham and his lineage. It includes the foreshadowings in the garden, in the flood, and in the Exodus. Throughout the whole of the Old Testament, God sets up prophets and priests and kings as a foretaste of the coming Messiah who will be prophet and priest and king all rolled up in one. The birth of the babe in a manger is simply the fulfillment of all that God has been doing since the beginning. This story has been going on for thousands of years as God has been working toward this ultimate act of Divine intervention into the story as the Word takes on flesh and dwells among us.

More importantly, the story is about more than a birth; it’s about a death. In the celebration of Christ’s coming, we need to keep in mind that the primary purpose for His coming isn’t found in Bethlehem; it’s found at Calvary.

This story that has been being written for generations and is finding a climax in God’s intervention into history in a remarkable way; this story that is now centering on the coming of God’s Son; this is a story that has a purpose. And that purpose, the reason for the coming of the Son is redemption.

To redeem us. To buy us back; or even to ransom us. This is a word for the marketplace. A transaction is taking place. More specifically it’s a word from the slave market. We are slaves to sin. Verse 3 of Paul’s letter says that we “were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world.” This goes back to the beginning of the story as I mentioned earlier. Sin entered the world; and all of creation fell. As a result, man is born into this world under the yoke of slavery. We are in bondage to sin and death. This is the heart of the human problem.

I know there are many who don’t believe mankind has a problem. But the truth is we have a problem of monumental proportions; eternal proportions. We are enslaved to sin, sentenced to death because of that sin. Scripture says the wages of sin is death.
We are under the curse of sin and need to be rescued; ransomed; freed from both the sin and its consequences. And this is what Christmas is all about. God sent His Son to redeem us, to give us the forgiveness and reconciliation we so desperately need. I know we think that’s the Easter story and not the Christmas story. I know you think I’ve got my holidays mixed up. But both Easter and Christmas are part of bigger story God has been telling. And the truth is, Christmas would be completely insignificant without Easter.

God didn’t just send His Son into the World to give us some great images to celebrate in December. He didn’t send His Son so that we could have a reason to decorate trees and buy gifts and do Christmas pageants for our kids to look cute. He sent His Son to redeem us. The babe in a manger came in order that He might grow into a man, live a perfect life, and give that life as a perfect sacrifice for our sin. He came to die. He came to suffer the penalty of sin in our place. As Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

He came that sinful man alienated from God might find reconciliation; and even more, that we might become the children of God. That He might adopt us as sons. John 1:12 says that those who receive him, who believe in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.

And once we come to Christ in faith and find redemption and adoption, we discover that we have become a part of the story of what God is doing. An ongoing story. We are looking forward to that day when our Lord returns and takes us to be with Him. We are looking forward to those heavenly mansions Jesus has promised His children. We are looking ahead to that better country Hebrews speaks of. Looking forward to the continuation of our story which will go on throughout eternity.

The story of Christmas is truly part of an eternal story. It’s a story that God has been writing since the foundation of the world. A story that He continues to write; continues to direct toward the end He has already foretold is coming. A story that includes the redemption of His people; and is ultimately being told for His glory. A story that may begin here, but for those in Christ, one that will never end.

This Christmas, as we look to this central element of the eternal Divine story of redemption, the question we need to consider is: have I found my place in this story? As we celebrate the coming of the Babe of Bethlehem, have we come to grips with the reason for His coming? My prayer is that we never lose sight of the purpose of this story; and that we continue to use the miracle of Christmas to call men, women and children to repentance. This is, after all, the reason for which God took on flesh and made His dwelling among us.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

It Will Cost You Everything

Last spring I was privileged to attend a conference at Rockport Baptist Church in Arnold, MO where my friend Scott Lee is pastor. One of the speakers that week was Tim Conway from Grace Community Church in San Antonio, TX. His ministry was a blessing.

Since then I’ve discovered one of the “side ministries” of Grace Community, a website called I’ll Be Honest. For the most part it’s a collection of video sermons and sermon “jams” from some excellent speakers.

Thought you might enjoy the latest from that site, from Steve Lawson. It’s worth your time.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Spirit of Christmas Past

I believe I’ve mentioned before my somewhat odd hobby of collecting antique hymnals. One of the reasons I enjoy these old collections so much is because it is a constant reminder of the incredible wealth of music that has been written for the church down through the years, only the tiniest fraction of which most of us are aware of.

As we begin this Christmas season, this is more evident than ever. Most of us only really know a handful of Christmas hymns, and yet there are so many that have been penned.

One of the favorites in my collection is the 1833 edition of Church Psalmody: A Collection of Psalms and Hymns, adapted to Public Worship. Selected from Dr. Watts and Other Authors. (Gotta love those titles!)

For your enjoyment (and the broadening of your horizons) here are just a couple of my favorite texts devoted to our Lord’s birth found in that little book:

BEHOLD ! the grace appears,
The blessing promised long ;
Angels announce the Saviour near,
In this triumphant song :

2 " Glory to God on high,
And heavenly peace on earth ;

Good-will to men — to angels joy,
At the Redeemer's birth!"

3 In worship so divine
Let men employ their tongues ;
With the celestial host we join,
And loud repeat their songs —

(Isaac Watts)


REJOICE in Jesus' birth!
To us a Son is given.
To us a Child is born on earth.
Who made both earth and heaven!

2 He reigns above the sky.
This universe sustains —
The God supreme — the Lord most high,
The king Messiah reigns!

3 Th' almighty God— is he.
Author of heavenly bliss!
The Father of Eternity,
The glorious Prince of Peace!

4 His government shall grow,
From strength to strength proceed;
His righteousness the church o'erflow,
And all the earth o'erspread.

(from collection by Josiah Pratt)


HIGH let us swell our tuneful notes.
And join th' angelic throng;
For angels no such love have known,
To wake the cheerful song.

2 Good-will to sinful men is shown,
And peace on earth is given ;
For lo! th' incarnate Saviour comes
With messages from heaven.

3 Justice and grace, with sweet accord,
His rising beams adorn;
Let heaven and earth in concert join —
To us a Saviour's born.

4 Glory to God! in highest strains,
In highest words be paid;
His glory by our lips proclaimed,
And by our lives displayed.

(from collection by John Goss)


WE come with joyful song,
To hail this happy morn:
Glad tidings from an angel's tongue,
"This day is Jesus born!"

2 What transports doth his name
To sinful men afford!
His glorious titles we proclaim —
A Saviour — Christ — the Lord!

3 Glory to God on high,
All hail the happy morn :
We join the anthems of the sky.
And sing—"The Saviour's born!”