God Honored

The sea, dry land, winter cold, summer heat, morning light, evening shade are full of thee, and thou givest me them richly to enjoy. Thou art King of kings and Lord of lords; At thy pleasure empires rise and fall; All thy works praise thee and thy saints bless thee; Let me be numbered with thy holy ones, resemble them in character and condition, sit with them at Jesus’ feet.

– from God Honored
The Valley of Vision

Ordo Salutis IX: Our New Heart – Spirit’s Power in Regeneration

When God saved us from eternity past, His saving work was not finished when Christ lived, died, buried, and rose again, as though there is nothing for him for his people.

You see, every single person born of man since Adam and Eve were born inherently not in connection with God but being apart from God both infinitely and eternally. That separation is because we have no spirit of God because our hearts were not born of God.

Sin has devastating, tearing, ripping-in-half effects. Adam and Eve felt that to a large degree but I don’t think they could possibly fathom what it would be like for their children and their children’s children and for all of the world.

But we see the state of the world today and exponentially more than our forefathers because we have every kind of information at our fingertips.

School shootings, mass genocide, abortions in the thousands per day: there seems to be no end in depravity. And just when think that our way of life on its own is a little better, we found out that our way of life and privilege is most often at the expense of someone else’s well being. You just have to open your eyes and see.

And even seeing it all has gotten to be too much for most of us. Too much sin, death, disease, depravity, and tragedy for us to handle on top of our own lives.

That is the inheritance of Adam. That is what we are cursed with.

But can we for sure say “all humans” are born this way? Surely there are some who are born good? There has got to be some hope?

Back in the Old Testament, from the time of Adam, the wickedness of humankind spread throughout the earth.

Genesis 6:5-7 The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the LORD said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.”

When God spoke of Man, what did he declared? They were greatly wicked and the thoughts of their hearts were only producing evil. And God regretted ever creating mankind, the very image-bearers of Himself.

Before we continue, was Noah a man? So would he have been evil or born good apart from these wicked people?

But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD. 1

Does the Bible say, “But Noah was a good dude so God decided to spare him.” No, Noah was wicked just like everyone else. But the favor and grace came upon Noah for no other reason because God is good.

You might say, “But what about the next verse?” Let’s read that:

Genesis 6:9 These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God.

Now put verses 5 through 9 all together. Look at the order in relation to Noah. Noah was wicked. The thoughts of Noah’s heart produced evil continuously. God regretted ever creating Noah. But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.

Because God gave him grace, it was then and only then Noah was declared righteous and blameless in his generation. We know it’s not that Noah was born righteous or even living a righteous life apart from God because Paul quotes a psalm of David in Romans 3:

Romans 3:9–31

What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written:

“None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
“Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
“Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
“Their feet are swift to shed blood;
in their paths are ruin and misery,
and the way of peace they have not known.”
“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

But then some would argue that God gave us laws in order for us to be holy. But that is not the purpose of the law. The law of God was simply put in place to get you to see all of your sin and wickedness in the presence of holy and just God. Paul goes on to declare that the law was weak. In other words, the law of God is a mirror for your soul and heart but that’s all it could do. The law of God was powerless and feeble to save your soul.

You know what the real kicker is: with our hearts far from him, we are not actually obeying the laws of God. I know because it is impossible for us to obey God’s law if our hearts are far from him.

Romans 8:7–8 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

Isaiah 64:6 We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.

Because of our wicked hearts, whatever “righteous” deeds we think we are doing are just dirty rags thrown before the feet of God thinking that will be good enough to be saved by Him.

Look at what Jesus says:

Matthew 7:21–23 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’  And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

Wait a minute here. These people were doing what Christ told us to do: prophesy, cast out demons, and do mighty works in his name. Christ would go on to say for us not to rejoice because we can do mighty works and the spirits are subject to us but rejoice that your names are written in heaven. 2

Don’t you see? We cannot know nor love God without taking this wicked heart out and replacing it with heart from God. Nothing good comes out of a heart that was born into sin and has been sinning continuously.

Some theologians teach that faith to believe in God comes from some tiny little deposit of good that was given to all human beings. Well, I would accept that explanation a hundred times over than we are all basically good and can believe and trust in God out of our own strength. Because the latter is simply not happening. Whatever you may think, that faith produces a new heart or it’s a new heart that produces faith, something absolutely good has to start the process of faith because faith (inherently good) does not come from a wicked and depraved heart. The Bible makes that clear.

Choosing God is not like what you choose for breakfast, whom you have chosen to marry or whom you voted for in the last election. For you to believe, trust, love, and choose God, something supernatural has to occur and this is by the work of the Spirit alone by giving us a brand new heart from the Father all made possible by the life, death, and resurrection of Christ alone.  It is only then can we look upon Him with clear eyes, hear him with functioning ears, even taste him with new taste buds to know that he is good or even smell the aroma of Christ on each of us who are made fully alive by God.

When we have a new heart and His Spirit within us, it is then we can truthfully and fully be obedient to God. First, Christ fulfilled the law for each of us who believe and trust in him. Now, it’s not that we have to obey the laws of God, it is that we get to obey Him.

Don’t believe obedience requires a new heart? See what God says about it.

Ezekiel 36:24–28 I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land.  I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you.  And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.  And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.  You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.

It is only then that God removes us from death and despair; takes the blood of Christ and washes us clean from all unrighteousness 3; give us a brand new soften heart and a new spirit that causes you to walk in His statutes and being careful to obey His rules.

Because of what He has done, we now get to dwell in the house of the Lord forever 4 because we are His people and He is our God!

Notes:

  1. Genesis 6:8
  2. Luke 10:20
  3. Titus 3:3-7; 2 Corinthians 5:21
  4. Psalm 23:6

Mark 9:38-41 God Alone Over All Who Would Believe In His Name

Mark 9:38-41 John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him because he was not following us.” But Jesus said, “Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. For the one who is not against us is for us. For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward.
1. How many other churches are in our town?
2. Do they love Jesus just like we do?
3. Is it okay that they do church differently?

Now Sings My Soul: Psalm 23:2a He makes me lie down in green pastures

My Lord,

You are the Prince of Peace. Where you are, there I find satisfaction of my wearied soul and find perfect peace where I can truly rest.

Apart from you, I die and I perish. Away from you, I am only tormented by confusion and despair. Without you, there is nothing but destructions by my own hands and by everything around me.

But you, O Lord, call me to enter through you and abide in you. Once I am in your good graces, you take the back-breaking weight of sin off me and place it upon you. Once more, you lay your light, featherweight righteousness upon me. I am no longer under crushing condemnation nor your furious wrath but yet, within the protection of your great arm and the coolness within your great fortress, that is the Rock of Ages.

Once more, you are the truth. While my heart strays and wanders from you, you are the Good Shepherd who would gladly chase me down and bring home over and over again. Because you alone have the words of eternal life, I have nowhere else to go but to come home with you.

I thank you for healing my broken heart and mind. I thank you for opening my eyes, ears, and mouth of your glory and goodness. I thank you for giving me strength for you are Christ Jesus my Lord forever.

Romans 8:30a Predestined

And here is love: Romans 8:30a And those whom he predestined …

We have now established that God loved us not just for the sake of love by itself. It is a warm and sentiment notion to be sure but when it comes to God, it is not just simply His love as though he can be reduced to one feeling. Likewise, while his love remains supreme, it isn’t all that he is. When we speak of God and receive God and take him as our own, we get everything about him. And God is love but God is also holy, righteous, just, merciful, kind, gracious, patient, all-knowing (omniscient), present everywhere (omnipresent), and almighty (omnipotent) just to name a few. Not only that, God is unlike any other being ever in that he is one hundred percent of everything that he is. Furthermore, he doesn’t have to give up one part of himself in order to be the fullest in another. He is maxed-out love, righteousness, holiness, and merciful.

That is the glory of God.

And we know that God saved us because He is glorious. In other words, He didn’t have to give up something about what makes Him fully Him. It’s like getting into a relationship but giving up a part of your personality, a part of who you are, in order to be with someone you have affections for. “I like this dude but he only like quiet, mousy girls so I am going to suppress my boldness when I’m around him.” “Oh I really like this girl but she doesn’t like guys who are really into God so I am going to give that up.” It’s like a terrible romantic comedy. You laugh but it happens in real life more than I want.

God saved us because He simply saw us and He chose us to be with Him forever.

Ephesians 1:3-10 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

Take a look at this passage: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world…” Paul is exhorting us that God is blessed and God has definitely blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. However, for our sake and our thinking is contained within the element of time (while God is not), those blessings did not start with us, within the family we were born, the place in the world where we grew up, nor the people we know although we do know God purposely chooses all of that for us so that we “should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him.” 1.  And with the essence of time, it doesn’t necessarily even start with the cross of Christ—although all of God’s glorious aforementioned attributes definitely are on the fullest display at that cross. 2 It started before the foundations of the earth were laid and even before time and space were spoken into existence. It started before Genesis 1:1.

There is no doubt we grow up in a world that certainly celebrates self-accomplishments especially when you have come from nothing. We love the pull-up-from-our-bootstraps stories. Just be born, work hard, and surely good things will come your way. We sometimes think that God loves and adores us not because of everything He has done for us but rather what we have done for him lately. And that is how most of us understand our salvation in Christ. It has to be because of what I did first. Why else would he love me?

Or flip it the other way: I have done so well all of my life. I did the right things. I voted the right way. I am fighting for social justice. I am on the right side of history. See me! See that I am good. God loves me, saves me, and will bless me because I do good! Despite the fact that Romans 4 adamantly declares that we do not put God into our debt.

The argument of “From eternity past, God saw me and saw that I choose him.” We know that Romans 5:8 says otherwise.

Jesus said it distinctly, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.” 3

We are saved for His glory. And this started with Him choosing us from a long, long time ago. Not because He predestined us to lest we believe that we are saved by election alone.

From eternity past, God saw me in my wickedness, my shame, my sin, and trespasses and just simply declared that I want him in my family. And I am willing to send my Son and my Spirit in order to get him.

Forgive the conjuncture but I always imagined it this way:

Father: I love you

Son: I love you

Spirit: I love you so much

Father: You know who else I love so much.

Son: Joseph

Spirit: I was just about to say that.

Father: Oh I see him now. Yikes, Joseph sins a lot. I mean. Look at him: he’s working in pornography while being married with a kid.

Son: I know. But I still want him with us.

Father: You know what it will take?

Son: Of course.

Father: You ready?

Son: Always. Spirit, you ready?

Spirit: exhales slowly I am ready!

Father: Let’s do this.

Son: Father, I love you.

Father: Son, I love you. Spirit, I love you.

Spirit: I know. I love you.

Father: Let’s do it.

BOOM!

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

And you know the rest of the story.

You might ask me, “How do we know that we are chosen? How do we know we are elected or predestined.” Old, white dead guys will tell you to knock it off! Stop trying to get a hold of salvation at the wrong end. Election, much like all of salvation, belongs to God alone for He alone is mighty to save.

I recall a conversation where this lady boldly declared, “I have two sons. And no matter what they do in this life, if one is predestined and the other is not, then only the one who is predestined will go to heaven.” Again, salvation is not because of predestination.

Recall the cry of the tax collector who cried out to God, “Have mercy on me, a sinner!”, whom Christ declared justified.

Lady, if both of your kids know and love God, if both of your kids walk with Him in their days and keep his commandments not because they are super trying hard but by the power and grace of His Almighty Spirit through the broken and blood drained body of the Son of God, then my friends, I can almost assure you that both of your kids are saved to God.

God’s maxed out love is so tremendous and wonderful that sin, death, hell, Satan, nor his demons would be able to stop Him from rescuing his people. That is the very best love.

Notes:

  1. Acts 17:26-28
  2. Psalm 85:10
  3. John 15:16

Golgotha

Let us muse upon the fact that Jesus was conducted without the gates of the city. It was the common place of death. That little rising ground, which perhaps was called Golgotha, the place of a skull, from its somewhat resembling the crown of a man's skull, was the common place of execution. It was one of Death's castles; here he stored his gloomiest trophies; he was the grim lord of that stronghold. Our great hero, the destroyer of Death, bearded the lion in his den, slew the monster in his own castle, and dragged the dragon captive from his own den. Methinks Death thought it a splendid triumph when he saw the Master impaled and bleeding in the dominions of destruction; little did he know that the grave was to be rifled, and himself destroyed, by that crucified Son of man.

Charles Spurgeon. The Procession of Sorrow. Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit. 1 March 1863.

Ordo Salutis VIII: Christ’s Finished Work, We Are Protected

This has been one of the most difficult chapters to write because there is so much to be packed into the doctrine of propitiation. The only way I could approach this is to start at the beginning and start at the high altitude and work our way down. To understand propitiation, we must understand God, his law, his love and his holiness.

What can incite the wrath of God? It is when we decide that we don’t need his way but we insist on own our way. Parents recognize this in their own kids. But what about our own lives. We are not talking about wanting cookies for breakfast and not getting them. We are talking about dismissing God’s words for life entirely and try to save ourselves. In that vein, the world thinks that surely because God is love, then he can simply overlook such details and give us a free pass, perhaps even grade on a curve.

You might laugh but some Christians actually think that.

Have you ever heard, perhaps in a church, bible study or even a Christian conference, “Are you saved?” to which someone has responded, “Man, I sure hope so.” Brothers and sisters, don’t be surprised! I overheard that exchange not 10 feet away and waited with bated breath to hear the punchline. But there was none. He was serious.

That exchange happened at a Pastor’s conference.

This is why we must understand His holiness. Yes, the holiness of God can big and scary but if by the Spirit alone, we can grasp and understand it, we can rest assured of His goodness and salvation.

In the beginning, in Genesis 2:15-17, God gives us just one law. Follow this one simple rule and I can take care of the rest. Let see how that unfolds:

Genesis 3:1-7 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made.

He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.

In other words, this is what I think Eve was thinking “Hmm, I want my way. Man, it sure does feel like God is holding out on me. If I do this thing, sure I will get what God has been keeping from me.”

What did God say would happen?

Genesis 2:15-17 The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

Forthwith, the wages of sin is death. 1

Did God kill them right away? No. But what cannot be denied, evident by the entire history of mankind, is that when sin came into this universe, all of the cosmos shattered and broke into a million pieces.

Because of sin, God’s wrath and judgment fall in three ways: eventual death, sudden death and a giving over to what we want. All three ways lead to separation from God.

Genesis 3:15–24
I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”

To the woman he said,
“I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing;
in pain you shall bring forth children.
Your desire shall be contrary to your husband,
but he shall rule over you.”

And to Adam he said,
“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife
and have eaten of the tree
of which I commanded you,
‘You shall not eat of it,’
cursed is the ground because of you;
in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
and you shall eat the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your face
you shall eat bread,
till you return to the ground,
for out of it you were taken;
for you are dust,
and to dust you shall return.”

The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living. And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.

Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.

In other words, life is going to be hard and at the end, you are going to die.

But let us take a quick look at the sudden execution of God’s judgment:

Genesis 13:13 Now the men of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against the LORD.

Genesis 18:20-21 Then the LORD said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave, I will go down to see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me. And if not, I will know.”

So based on Genesis 2 and Romans 6:23, what do you think is going to happen to the Sodom and Gomorrah? The judgment here is obvious, “Well, that is easy, they were wicked and they deserve to die.”

Let’s go to other places where it is not so obvious.

God commands. Pharaoh disobeys. Pharaoh pretends to confess his sins but as soon as the current plague disappears, he sins and hardens his heart. 2

God warned Pharoah of his judgment and wrath 3. God’s own people believed. 4

But Pharaoh did not believe. Genesis 12:29-32 At midnight the LORD struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of the livestock. And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he and all his servants and all the Egyptians. And there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was not a house where someone was not dead. Then he summoned Moses and Aaron by night and said, “Up, go out from among my people, both you and the people of Israel; and go, serve the LORD, as you have said. Take your flocks and your herds, as you have said, and be gone, and bless me also!”

Judgment of the family within camp 5

Judgment of idol worshippers 6

The judgment of nations that surrounded Israel 7

Judgment of entire nations 8

I am not going to sugar coat this at all. Sometimes, the women and the children were judged. Upon hearing that, our minds instantly click and thinks, “Those are women and children, they are innocent. They have done nothing wrong. They have been not been tried and judged.”

Perhaps they were innocent in the laws of their land. But did they sin against God? Strike that—did we not all sin against God?

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God 9

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned 10

For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. 11

If this is your first time hearing this or this is your millionth time hearing this, it is not easy to hear. This is not soft chew candy. This is tough, gristly meat cooked burnt to a well-done crisp that you have to chew on for days and even then, it’s painful to swallow.

Let’s hammer this point and let us see how you, me, my kids, my future little babies, your babies, even my sainted grandma all were born into:

Ephesians 2:1-3 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

We were all born by nature children of the wrath of God. To simply put it, we were born dead.

John 3:36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

Finally, beyond sudden judgment and eventual judgment, there is a wrath that is not so obvious but it is where God simply gives us over to what we want. We keep suppressing His truth and we keep doing what we want. God simply goes, “You think your way is better, fine, go. Have it your way.”

That should scare the living daylights out of you.

So what then?

Here is the greatest news that the world has ever known or will ever know:

For those who would believe in the Son of God then all the wrath, hatred and judgment that was rightfully meant for those same sinners fall then upon the Son of God, Jesus Christ our Lord. His perfect obedient life, called out to us by the Father, empowered by the Holy Spirit, as he gives his life over, nails himself to the cross and takes on the full wrath of the Father and the forsaking of the Spirit so for that those who believe in Him would never experience that.

God loves you so much. Before the creation of the world, he loved you. He looks upon all eternity and declares, “I must have you in my family. You are my son. You are my precious daughter. Yet you are running from me and you are so far from me. I cannot count on you to come back to me. You have no power to do so. Yet, I have all the power. I will send my Son and he will close that gap with his own life.” God the Father loved you so much that it pleased Him to send His Son to the cross 12. Father’s joy. Likewise, Christ loved you so much that for His glory, he saved you to Himself 13 and he did it with all humility and joy 14. How do we know this? The evidence of the Spirit of God within us who produces His fruit 15, leads us, guides us, bears witness with our spirit that we are His children 16, comforts us, reminds of us everything that God has taught 17, convicts us of sin when we do not believe but reminds us of our righteousness because of everything that God has done in us 18.

From the Lord’s furious righteous anger against sin is meant to make all things right. All things right is joy, love, and happiness forever and ever.

Jesus Christ being our sacrificial lamb (propitiation) and scapegoat (expiation) is that singular righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled. 19 In a nutshell, the law required in order for you and me to be in the presence of God, you will have to sacrifice a spotless lamb and take all the sins of the people, place them on a goat and release the goat into the wilderness never to return back again. Those rituals in the Old Testament was a foreshadow to whom Jesus Christ is and what he does. But those were just that: foreshadows. Never the real thing. The real thing is that man must shed his blood to atone for his sins. Herein lies the problem: Man is not perfect. Man cannot atone for his sin. 20

There is only One who is not only willing to save and able to save but he is the only one who has the power to save.

God came down from heaven, His Son, the Word of God and became flesh and entered into our jacked up, messed up, broken world as God but yet as a son, stepson, citizen, missionary, priest, and king. And by the word ‘king’, He did so not appear as an all-powerful warrior-king figure. He did so, humbly and mildly, as a tiny infant. He didn’t come into a wealthy family with all resources at his fingertips. He is born into a poor working-class family of an out-of-wedlock pregnant junior girl and with a stepdad. He didn’t live in a big huge metropolis where he could easily gain fame. No, he begins his life in a little rural small town and he begins his life on the run, like a fugitive, because the ruler of that time wanted him dead.

He faced the same temptations that we did, yet he did not sin.

He faced the same brokenness, heartache, sadness, loneliness, poverty, loved ones being sick, loved ones with terminal diseases, loved ones dying. He faced betrayal, distrust, fair-weather friends and faced people who would cheer for him one moment only turn around and want to murder him the next. Just like any of us but he did not sin.

He lived the life that we should have lived.

In doing so, he was the only one qualified to die the death that we should have died.

He was then taken to be stripped naked and then severely beaten, flogged and whipped to within an inch of His life. His body was so shredded to a point that you could see bones and muscle and guts underneath where there was skin as His body was covered in blood. A crown of thorns shoved upon His head, His beard yanked off His face. He was spat upon, slapped and mocked. His clothes and belongings were seized by the soldiers and bid upon in a game of craps. To top of all that, He was made to carry a wooden cross up a hill. There, upon that same, He would be nailed to that cross with spikes about 12 inches long through both wrists and one through both of his feet. They raised the cross up into a hole in the ground.

Jesus Christ is then crucified.

His body drained out of his own blood, sweat, tears, urine, and feces that gathered into a pool at the bottom of His cross. He faced the scorching heat of the day and the freezing coldness of the night. His bones never broken but just to be sure that Jesus was surely dead, a soldier stuck a spear through his ribcage straight into His heart where blood and water poured out.

It was at that moment, Jesus became every single sin ever committed by anyone who has put their faith and trust in God alone. Since the moment Adam and Eve disobeyed God to every sin that is being committed today to every sin that will ever be committed to the end of time by those God calls His people. In essence, He became a murderer, a rapist, a child molester, a thief, a hacker, a liar, pornstar, extreme fundamentalist and tax evader. He became religious, bitterness, deception, gluttony, lust, laziness, idolatry and pride. Not only did He bore the weight of all of the sins for all of His people but He bore all the sins ever committed against His people.

It was in that same moment, that His only begotten Son was indeed the only True Perfect Sacrifice and that His Son had become all of our sins, God the Father unleashed His wrath upon His Son and killing Him. That wrath was meant for you and me. We were meant to die that way. But because God loves us so much, Jesus Christ stood in our place and took the full force of God’s wrath that was meant for His people. It was in the moment, God the Father and God the Spirit turned their backs and forsook God the Son because Christ was the only one who could bear the weight of the sins of His people, of those who would believe and trust Him for eternal life.

Hebrews 2:17 Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.

1 John 2:2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

1 John 4:10 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.

God made Jesus to be the bearer of all the wrath that was in store for us. Listen, if you think that the wrath of God is simply contained to fire out of the heavens that take our temporal life on earth, think less of that and think about being separated from the love of God forever. That is called hell.

But with God’s will, by the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ knew us so intimately and loved us so dearly, gives his life up and faces the wrath of the Father and the forsaking of Triune God, and allows his body to break so that we would be with Him forever.

This work was done once. Only once. We don’t need to crucify Christ again.

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit 21

For those who are in Christ, God is not out to get you. God is not out to pour his wrath on you. Will God discipline you if you try to go astray? That is to be sure. That is because He is your Father in heaven who loves you and would only do what any good Father would do but do so without shame, condemnation, abuse, torment, affliction. He would do so in perfect love, gentleness, kindness, never leaving you nor forsaking you forever. 22

But Christ, with his life and his love, protects and saves His people so that God can make all things right-standing with Himself.

Matthew 1:21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

Notes:

  1. Romans 6:23a
  2. Exodus 9:34-35, 10:16-20
  3. Exodus 11:1-10
  4. Exodus 12:1-28
  5. Numbers 11:1
  6. Leviticus 26:27-30
  7. read Ezekiel chapters 12-35
  8. Deuteronomy 29:24
  9. Romans 3:23
  10. Romans 5:12
  11. James 2:10
  12. Isaiah 53
  13. Isaiah 48:8-11
  14. Philippians 2:1-11; Hebrews 12:2
  15. Galatians 5:22-23
  16. Romans 8:14-17
  17. John 14:15-31
  18. John 16:4-15; 2 Corinthians 5:21
  19. Romans 8:1-4
  20. Hebrews 9:15-28
  21. 1 Peter 3:18
  22. Hebrews 12:6

Mark 9:33-37 God Alone Receives All Who Would Come

Mark 9:33-37 And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.”

1. In our world, what does it mean to be great?
2. What did Jesus compare greatness to?
3. How can we be great in heaven?
4. Who would be the servant of all?

Now Sings My Soul: Psalm 23:1b I Shall Not Want

My Lord Above,

I thank you for your perfect provision.

You are my Good Father in heaven and because I am your child, you have always provided for me.

When I was younger, I wanted many things but you did not provide them. But looking back, those things I wanted would have harmed me or cause me to turn away from you. But what you have always done is gave something even better, which turned out to be actually good.

It is by your hand alone that I have shelter over my head, food in my stomach, and water upon my dried tongue. It is by your strength I am able to stand and work and seek out accomplishments which is the work you have provided for me to do for your glory.

But more than that, you are my All-in-all because you gave me everything when you gave me your Son in Christ Jesus.

Since I have your love, your Son, and your Spirit, you have given me so much that heaven and earth can give me no more.

I will praise you with every single breath you give me.

And I will love you with all the love you have given me.

Here is Love: To Whom Are We Saved? – Romans 8:29e

Romans 8:29 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.

When we carefully walked through verse 29 of Romans 8, we saw that there was more than a few questions that rose to the top, namely:

What did God saw in us?  We now know that he didn’t see anything good, righteousness or lovely. What he saw was my traitorous sin and depraved wickedness. But in His power, goodness, and love, He saved me. Not by my own will, mind, or righteousness, but in his grace alone.

How did God save us? We now see that it was by the perfect life, sacrificial death, Spirit-powered resurrection, and glorious ascension of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to the right hand of the Father where He alone rules and reigns over heaven and earth is actually how we are saved.

By whom we are saved?  Again, from the sovereign grace of the Father, through the blood-drained and broken body of Christ upon the cross, by the power and might of the Spirit. In other words, God.

Why did God save us? Again, it was not because we were good or made the right decision or merely born into the right family, but for the glory of God which is the fullest, maximum infinite display of everything that God is—holiness, love, righteousness, just, mercy, and grace, just to name a few.

So by the term “firstborn among many brothers”, we can then ask this question:

To whom are we saved?

Not to Sunday School this and end it quickly, but the immediate and correct guess would be Jesus Christ. If God is our Father, Christ is His Son, and we are adopted by him into his family, that would no doubt make Christ, what older, dead white guys would rightfully call, our Elder brother.

Remember Romans 8:14–17 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.  For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”  The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,  and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

And just so we are clear: the term firstborn might be a weird adjective to describe the Word of God who has always been from eternally past. But remember that Christ is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End 1—the creator, founder, begetter, and perfector of our faith.

And since he proceeds everything, in a strange, “outside-of-time” way, it is the firstborn, founder and perfector of all the faith of the saints, both in the New and in the Old Testament. 2

So, we see He is first and preeminent. But God did not just merely save us in order to be first. Let’s take a look at the promises of God:

More than just merely saved from Hell and sin but to the presence of God himself: Psalm 16:9–11 Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure.  For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.  You make known to me the path of life; in your presence, there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

That we won’t simply die in sin, or stay the same but we will look like Him: Psalm 17:15 As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness.

That once belong to Him, no one can take us away from him: John 10:28–30 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.  My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.  I and the Father are one.”

Forever, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ 3 and no separation for those who are in Christ 4.

We are saved to God forever and ever. Amen.

But here is the real kicker: not only are we saved to Him, the one who is firstborn, forever but also to one another i.e. the brethren.

In a strange sense, the salvation plan of God was two-fold: to himself forever and to each other forever.

Now, if you grew up in church, you have heard this verse thrown out just in mere passing that is sometimes used as some sort of heavy-handed law of God. “Don’t you dare miss church OR ELSE!” And I am going to repeat it here just to get it out of the way but not in mere passing but within context. Let us look at the entire passage.

Hebrews 10:19–25 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus,  by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh,  and since we have a great priest over the house of God,  let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.  Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.  And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

We are to meet together not to throw guilt, shame, and condemnation at one another but to build up each other in encouragement. (Sounds familiar? That’s why we have the gifts of the Spirit, particular with the gifts of encouragement and prophecy. 5)

Let us not neglect the meeting of the saints so that we can encourage and lift up one another and we do so not just by sincere encouragement, and prophesy that is tested by the word of God but primarily by the exposing of our sin by the law of God and the ocean of grace and love that awaits for us within the gospel of His blessed Son, Jesus Christ.

On the flipside of that: when the church fails to do that, in other words, when it fails to be a safe place for the saints, what are we to do? Then neglect meeting with one another.

Listen, we are the Bride. You are saved to the family of believers. You are not alone. I totally understand that if you need to depart and take it easy for a time but don’t totally close yourself off. Keep in touch. Let people know if you need help. Reach out. Allow those who you feel are safe to reach out and help and continue to encourage you.

I have seen too many people who just depart without saying a word to leaders or even to one another. And then they end up all alone. A sheep that stands alone in the world is the easiest prey for the wolves. They will come and devour you.

Maybe leaders are not safe either. God acknowledges this. In John 10, Jesus calls shepherds who turn and run at the first sight of danger not actual shepherds but just mere hired hands. But in Jeremiah 23, the Good Shepherd looks after his sheep and if those in charge of the sheep fail to do their job, he will remove them and set up new shepherds. I know that it seems as though those in power always remain in power and seem to be untouchable. But not in His church. And what we are witnessing in America with the cleaning out the house, we are seeing that in His church as well.

Ephesians 3:7–13 Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power.  To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ,  and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things,  so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.  This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord,  in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.  So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.

Paul will elaborate on the church as a mystery that is similar to marriage with Christ and His Bride later on in chapter 5 starting at verse 20.

This all falls back on what Christ proclaimed to be the greatest and second greatest commandment:

Matthew 22:36–40 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”  And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Jesus Christ will one day return. Until then, He sits on the throne at the right hand of God. He didn’t leave us as orphans but sent His Spirit, who is God, to come dwell in our hearts forever in an unbreakable love.

But we are saved just to stand in this world cold and alone. God is so good and so loving to save us to one another. Sometimes, the church is not perfect. Sometimes, it incredibly messy and painful. I have seen terrible pain and abuse in the church. But only by God’s grace, I cannot quit His Bride. For me to leave Her would be like me giving up on her. And I cannot. She is the bride of Christ, who, and as crazy as this might seem, will be adorned in splendor, beauty, and perfection for Her Bridegroom.

We are saved to Him and to each other. That is all-incredible love.

Series: Intrigued by the postmodern oft-used answer of “God is love”, by just by digging a little deeper, what I have learned is that people usually mean, “Love is God”. So we then have to ask, what is love? This series is my attempt to answer that question as theologically and biblically as possible.

Notes:

  1. Revelation 21:6
  2. Hebrew 11:1-12:2 cf. Romans 3:21-26
  3. Romans 8:1
  4. Romans 8:38-39
  5. 1 Corinthians 14:3-4