just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”?  Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham.  And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.”  So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.  For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.”  Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.”  But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.”  Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us-for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”-  so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith. Continue reading “How are we justified before God?”
“Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things – and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.” (1 Corinthians 1:26-30) Continue reading “God Chose”
“And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel. Then the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth, and there were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake.” (Revelation 8:3-5)
Everyday God’s people are doing mighty things in and for the world: They pray.
God hears and gathers their prayers, fashions these into a thunderbolt, and strikes the earth with it.
The earth shakes. Lives are changed, the sick are healed, blind eyes are opened, lepers are cleansed, the prisoners are set free, the hungry are fed, and the poor are enriched. Storms are stilled, light shines in the darkness, life bursts forth from the tombs, and dead bones now live!
“Prayer reenters history with incalculable effect. Our earth is shaken daily by it.” (Eugene Peterson)
“Following Jesus is not a skill we acquire so that we can be useful to the kingdom (the Essene way). Following Jesus is not a privilege we are let into so that the kingdom can be useful to us (the Caiaphas way). It is obedience (‘my Lord!’). And it is worship (‘my God!’).”
– Eugene Peterson, THE JESUS WAY, p. 242
There are those who follow Christ in order to get blessings from God. Of course, they stop following once tragedy strikes or the blessing doesn’t arrive as expected.
Then there are those who adopt a managerial approach to following Christ. Their goal is to become productive and successful in the Christian life. So they focus on discipleship trainings, various church programs and activities, and formulas and strategies on how to pray so as to get your prayers answered, how to be victorious in this or that area of your life, how to study the Bible for maximum profit, etc. Results are what is important and finding and utilizing the right spiritual techniques is the key to getting results.
Then there’s the Jesus way, which is simply following where Jesus leads without overthinking and over-managing it. Peterson says, “When Jesus says, ‘Follow me’ and we follow, we don’t know where we will go next or what we will do next. That is why we follow the one who does know.”
But Jesus himself says it best:
“The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.” (Mark 4:26-29)
“In proportion as the sanctification of a believer advances, his real happiness advances with it” (Octavius Winslow)
“Man’s holiness is now his greatest happiness, and in heaven man’s greatest happiness will be his perfect holiness.” (Thomas Brooks)
We pursue happiness in the wrong way. We run after success, money, fame and pleasure, and once we have these they turn into ashes in our hands.
Holiness, on the other hand, carries with it a peculiar enjoyment – the kind only heaven can give. Pursue holiness and you gain joy that thrives even in the midst of affliction. Mere happiness cannot do this; it wilts at the first whiff of unfortunate circumstances.
Sometimes I worry about money. Well, to be honest, sometimes is not accurate. Many times (though not most of the time) I worry about money. There are bills and debts to pay, and sometimes business is slow, and I worry that the income won’t be enough to cover this week or this month’s payables.
That’s when I remind myself of Philippians 4:19, which to my mind is the sovereign cure for financial worry:
“But my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”
I have a loving, caring, and stupendously rich God! He knows my needs and he’s promised to meet them.
The greatest political events take place in the church.
Empires have fallen. Kingdoms have crumbled into dust. Kings and rulers have died and are forgotten. The church of the living God marches on.
Jesus joined no political party, held no political position, and more or less steered away from the political controversies of his day. But he built a kingdom that will never end; and to him every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.
And now he reigns in the hearts of his people who gather to praise his name, to hear his Word, and to obey his law. As a result, true change takes place — change that sweeps across time and space and lasts throughout eternity.
This is the highest and the truest and the most effective politics of all.
Mighty are the events taking place in the church, earth-shattering and world-changing in their consequences: praise, preaching, prayer, repentance, love, and obedience! The world notices it not, but the very configuration of the heavens is being changed as the church kneels down to pray. Multitudes of angelic beings rejoice, filling the heavens with roars of joy and the thunderous noise of relentless clapping, over one sinner who repents at the preaching of the gospel.
No wonder the Enemy does all he can to undermine the church. Be that as it may, the Lord of the church has decisively defeated him.