Cultivating Thankfulness

What’s up everybody?

On Sunday we talked about how Psalm 50 tells us that thankfulness needs to be cultivated in our lives because it is not natural to us. Here are a few suggestions from Jerry Birdges’s book The Practice of Godliness to help you cultivate a habit of thankfulness: 

  1. Expand our mealtime expression of thanks to include other blessings beyond the food before us. 
  2. Begin each day with thanksgiving by thanking God for his love, which is assured to carry us through the day. 
  3. End each day with thanksgiving by thanking God for all the specific demonstrations of His providence and faithfulness during the day. 
  4. Keep a record of the answers God has given you to your prayers so that you can adequately thank him for his blessings.
  5. Set a time aside each week to do nothing but thank God for specific blessings of his grace. Thank him for these things: personal salvation, church family, opportunities for spiritual growth, instruction of our Church, the availability of the Bible, the health of our family, political freedom, spiritual freedom, material provisions, godly spouse, believing family.

May the Lord bless you richly in his grace. Pursue growth and practice thankfulness.

In Christ,

Clint  

Who Exactly is Saved by Jesus?

…We have to let God be God. His ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8) and we’ll never fully understand the mind of our sovereign and good creator. We have to trust him with our lives to work out all things for his glory and our good. We walk by faith in Christ and commit ourselves to sharing the gospel with other people so they can have the opportunity to place their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as well…

We had a lively conversation during our Bible Study on Wednesday morning as we studied Westminster Shorter Catechism Question #20, which asks, “Did God leave all mankind to perish in the estate of sin and misery?” The answer is: “God having, out of his mere good pleasure, from all eternity, elected some to everlasting life, did enter into a covenant of grace to deliver them out of the estate of sin and misery, and to bring them into an estate of salvation by a Redeemer.”

Our teacher, Buzzy Elder, did a good job unpacking the answer in three parts – God’s motivation for his salvation, the subjects of his salvation, and his method of salvation. We were encouraged to hear that God chooses to save his people (us) from their (our) sin and its effects out of his own pleasure and that he accomplished this salvation through the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ, our Redeemer.

As Buzzy prepared to move on to Question #21, someone asked the question, “Well, who is actually saved?” I thought, “Here we go” and chuckled a little. Buzzy answered the question well and then led lively discussion about the doctrine of election that resulted in varying degrees of confusion, frustration, clarity, and concern among the group.

A Hard Line

The Doctrine of Election is one of the most discussed — even rejected — doctrines of the historic reformed faith. I believe this is because it forces us to draw a hard line between the just and the unjust, between those who are being saved by grace through faith and those who aren’t. We simply don’t like to think in such black and white terms.

Absolute religious truth offends our modern sensibilities. Whether we realize it or not, we have all been shaped by the philosophies of contemporary American civil religion, which teach that all men, women, and children are relatively good and walking in the same ultimate direction. Religion’s role is therapeutic in that it helps its adherents to feel happier, more relaxed, fulfilled, and healthier. Thus, no one religion is better than any other, for they all fulfill the same function: to help an individual get farther down the road to where we are all going.

The Just and the Unjust

But there is a difference between the just and the unjust, isn’t there? The Bible clearly distinguishes between those who profess faith in Christ and those who don’t (Matt. 7:13-14). Those who do (Christians) are just and those who don’t (Non-Christians) are unjust. The just and unjust aren’t going to the same place; they aren’t walking in the same direction. The just will receive eternal life with God and the unjust will receive eternal destruction.

Does this mean that Christians are inherently different than non-Christians? No. We are all the same. We have been created equally in the image of the same God. And, we have all sinned against our universal creator, as the Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans, “for we have all sinned and fallen short of God’s glory” – his holy standard (Romans 3:22-23). So, what makes the difference between the just and unjust? Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ made possible by the grace of Almighty God does. The just have trusted the Lord Jesus Christ and thus been made right before God through his life, death, and resurrection, while the unjust have not trusted Jesus and so remain unreconciled to God in their sin.

Therefore, we’re all equally guilty before God in our sin with our rebellious hearts, but God freely chooses to redeem his chosen people in his grace. And, he has the authority to do it however he wants to do it. He can redeem all, none, or some of those who’ve sinned against him simply because he is God. That is his prerogative, and it cannot be taken from him.

Let God Be God

Because we understand that salvation is God’s sovereign prerogative, our objection to the doctrine of election isn’t theoretically with God’s authority to save whom he wishes; rather, it is with our often precarious experience of his salvation in this life. We typically express our concern in two questions. First, there is the question about us personally: How do I know that I am elect? The answer is simple: If you have placed your faith in Christ and repented from your sins, then you are elect, for only those who are elect will be converted to faith in Christ. If your testimony is that you have been saved and transformed by grace through faith, then you are counted among the elect. In this sense, the doctrine of election is a doctrine of assurance (Eph. 2:1-10).

Second, there is the question about other people – our friends, our family members, people all over the globe. Are they elect, and if they are, how do we know it? The answer is two-fold. If they have placed their faith in Christ and repented of their sins, then they are in the number of the elect. Plain and simple. But, if they haven’t placed their faith in Christ, we don’t know if they are elect or not. God hasn’t published a list. However, we do know that they will never know the joy of salvation unless they are told of the good news of Jesus Christ in the gospel and are given the opportunity to place their faith in him and repent of their sins. In this sense, the doctrine of election is a doctrine of motivation for Christian missions (Rom. 10:14-17).

In conclusion, we have to let God be God. His ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8) and we’ll never fully understand the mind of our sovereign and good creator. We have to trust him with our lives to work out all things for his glory and our good. We walk by faith in Christ and commit ourselves to sharing the gospel with other people so they can have the opportunity to place their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as well, all the while holding fast to the biblical truth that “God having, out of his mere good pleasure, from all eternity, elected some to everlasting life…”

Discipleship Matters: Prayerful Evangelism

Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” — Matthew 9:37-38

Friends,

Jesus calls us to participate in his mission to redeem sinners by prayer and action in Matthew 9:35-10:15. We are to pray to the Lord of the Harvest to send out laborers, and we are to participate in the harvest. Notice the following four points about Jesus’ life, ministry, and expectations for his disciples in this passage.

First, Jesus was actively involved in a ministry that demonstrated and exercised the power of his kingdom (9:35). He taught in the synagogues. He proclaimed the good news of his kingdom. And, he healed every disease and affliction.

Second, Jesus had compassion on the crowds of people who had gathered around him because they were harassed and helpless (9:36). They were weary, tired, exhausted, exposed, and dejected. Their leaders, who were supposed to care for them, had abandoned them, burdened them, and blamed them.

Third, Jesus relieved people’s burdens (9:35). He healed their afflictions in his grace and mercy. This healing, however, was not merely a physical one. Jesus proclaimed the good news of his kingdom while healing them of their diseases and afflictions. The outward healing illustrated the inner healing of the gospel in their lives.

Fourth, Jesus expects his disciples to have compassion on people as we participate in his ministry of relief (9:37-38). The harvest is plentiful. We need more laborers. And, the need is urgent.

Therefore, pray earnestly for laborers for the harvest (9:38). Pray for spiritual eyes and a compassionate heart so that you may see people as they really are and discern their needs (9:36). And, be prepared to be the answer to your prayer as you participate in the harvest by doing gospel ministry (9:35, 10:1-15).

In Christ,
Clint

 

 

Finish What You Start.

Friends,

“You’ve got to finish what you started.” is a sentence I have heard all my life from my coaches, teachers, and parents. I have a bad habit of not finishing the things I start. I start strong and then fade toward the end.

Recently, I made my way through J.D. Vance’s book Hillbilly Elegy (a book I highly recommend btw). When I read the last page, I remember thinking, “Wow, I finished it.” Out of the many volumes in my library, this is one of the few that I’ve read all the way through. I tend to lose interest quickly. I don’t know why; I just do.

While struggling to finish a book is trivial, finishing other things – like our journey of faith in Christ – is not. Repeatedly, the Bible tells us that we have to finish our lives in faith with Christ. We have to persevere in faith. We have to remain steadfast in our faith. We have to walk in repentance and faithful obedience in order to receive our reward at the end. Paul instructs us to “remain steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:58).

So, let me encourage you to press on in faith. Make sure you are committed to finish what you started because finishing matters. May the Lord bless you richly in his grace by strengthening you in your faith.

In Christ,
Clint

 

Discipleship Matters in 2018

Friends,

In 1986, the late pastor James Montgomery Boice wrote, “There is a fatal defect in the life of Christ’s church in the twentieth century: a lack of true discipleship. Discipleship means forsaking everything to follow Christ. But for many of today’s supposed Christians – perhaps the majority – it is the case that while there is much talk about Christ and even much furious activity, there is actually very little following of Christ Himself. And that means in some circles there is very little genuine Christianity. Many who fervently call Him ‘Lord, Lord’ are not Christians [at all]” (Matt. 7:21).

Sadly, I think Boice’s assessment of general evangelical Christianity is as true today as it was 30 years ago. I’ve seen it in my own life. I talk a lot (as you know) about Christ and am consumed with furious activity. However, I’ve recently been convicted of how little time, energy, and emotional resources I spend actually following Jesus – going where he went, doing what he did, thinking how he thought, loving as he loved. I wondered if you are the same way.

Therefore, I have decided to focus our teaching and preaching time along with the rest of our congregational life on growing as active disciples of the Lord Jesus. You will hear a lot about discipleship as a whole and the five elements that make up our active pursuit of Christ: obedience, repentance, submission, commitment, and perseverance, in particular. By God’s grace, I pray we will end 2018 with a greater desire to forsake everything to follow Jesus.

May 2018 will be a wonderful Christ-centered year for you and your family!

In Christ,
Clint

Worshipping the Lord of Steadfast Love — Psalm 33

H.A. Ironsides, in his sermon on Psalm 33, defines worship simply as adoration: worship is the soul’s adoration of God Himself. All of the things we do in worship are meant to assist us in adoring God, but none of those things are actually worship. We worship God when we adore him for who he is. Period.

Like any great song book, the Psalms have an order. It is:

  • Psalms 1-41 — These psalms are primarily Psalms of David and focus on statements of distress and confidence in the God who can save.
  • Psalms 42-72 — These psalms have multiple authors and again focus on distress and lamentation, but they are more communal than personal.
  • Psalms 73-89 — These psalms focus on the reality of injustice in the world, particularly with reference to the justice of God as seen in the light of his presence.
  • Psalms 90-106 — These 16 psalms are a response to the previous 89 in general, and 73-89 in particular. The gracious and mighty reign of the Lord becomes prominent.
  • Psalms 107-150 — These final psalms focus on the fact that God does answer prayer and his presence and word is highly valued among his people.

The order is as divinely inspired as the hymns. As we read the Psalms, we often see the flow of thought from one psalm to the next. This is certainly the case with Psalms 32 and 33.

Forgiveness Leads to Worship

Psalm 32 is primarily about confessing sin and the gracious forgiveness that God offers to us. David is consumed by the effects of his sin, which he feels in the very core of his being. He suffers spiritually and physically. He confessed his sin before God and found joy in the blessed forgiveness of God. And the psalm concludes with verse 11.

  • Psalm 32:11 — “Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!”

Now, we begin Psalm 33 with these words:

  • Psalm 33:1-3 — “Shout for joy in the LORD, O you righteous! Praise befits the upright. Give thanks to the LORD with the lyre; make melody to him with the harp of ten strings! Sing to him a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.”

Do you see the connection there? I hope so. Psalm 32 ends with a call to shout for joy and Psalm 33 begins with the same call. It is as if the psalms were ordered to flow after one another. They were.

Worship

We have a variety of ways that we think about worship.

  • Prayer
  • Singing
  • Preaching
  • Listening to Preaching
  • Sacraments
  • Devotions
  • Reading the Bible

All of these things assist our worship, but are they worship? No. H.A. Ironsides, in his sermon on Psalm 33, defines worship simply as adoration: worship is the soul’s adoration of God Himself. All of the things we do in worship are meant to assist us in adoring God, but none of those things are actually worship. We worship God when we adore him for who he is. Period. Ironside continues:

“It is occupation not with His gifts, not coming to Him to receives something, but occupation with the Giver; the heart going out in gratitude not only for what He has done for us but also what He is in Himself.”

This is true worship. We adore God for who He is.

Let me ask you: Can your worship of God be defined in this way? Do you come before Him simply to adore Him for who He is? Or, do you come to get something from Him? Do you do your devotions into order to ensure that you will continue to get your blessing from him?

I’m convicted. Maybe you are as well.

Why Do We Adore Him?

The Psalm gives us four reasons the Psalmist gives for adoring God. They are:

  1. He is our Creator— Psalm 33:6-7 — He spoke the word into existence. Period. All of creation flows freely from the mouth and genius of God.
  2. He is our Ruler— Psalm 33:6-12 — He spoke the world into existence and continues to govern it by the word of his power. He watches over the world and brings to reality the plans of his heart.
  3. He is our Savior. — Psalm 33:12,20 — God saves his people for His heritage. He preserves us through faith in Christ. Christ’s died for our sins and raised for our life. The Lord is our Savior.
  4. He is the Lover of our Souls— Psalm 33:4-5 — God is a God of love. He loves his people.

Jesus is the Word of God.

This all points to Jesus. He is the Word in the flesh. He is the creator. He is the king. He is our salvation. He is love. The word of God is central to this Psalm.

  • Psalm 33:4 — “For the word of the LORD is upright, and all his work is done in faithfulness.
  • Psalm 33:6 — “By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host.
  • Psalm 33:9 — “For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.”
  • Psalm 33:10 — “The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples.”
  • Psalm 33:11 — “The counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations.”

The Apostle Paul sums the point well.

  • Colossians 1:16-17 — “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities — all things were created through him and for him. All he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”