Thursday, March 22, 2018

Scripture to Meditate On

Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper,
but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy. 
Proverbs 28.13

Here's a bit of reality. And what's at the heart of this bit of reality is the matter of success. What goes for common wisdom these days says that if you want to succeed then what you'll need to do is hide your mistakes. Don't let anyone know what wrongs you have done. Keep them hidden away for as long as you can.

God begs to differ.

In fact, according to His wisdom, the route to success includes coming clean - honest admission of your screw-ups. But it's not just admitting whatever it is that you've done. It's also rejecting those ways. It makes no sense to admit that what you've done is wrong if you're just going to go and do it again. So, to say all of that differently, it's about repentance. God says that those who repent - and those only - will prosper. They will do well because God promises to bless them with His mercy, covering their sins.

This is incredibly good news for people like us, people who sin so much.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Freedom to Obey

You’d think that people who have been Christian for a while would understand the Gospel pretty well. And some do. But then again, some don’t. And one reason for this is that those who don’t have been misled by well-intentioned teachers. Those teachers really wanted to help them live the Gospel faithfully. But those teachers weren’t as helpful as they wanted to be because there were parts of the Gospel that they themselves didn’t understand well enough.

For example, Gospel facts are sometimes presented as commands from God. So, instead of just enjoying the blessings that God has already granted, some Christians have been told to work hard to gain those blessings. Or to mention something closer to home, some Christians have been taught more about what the Spirit of God no longer does instead of being helped to enjoy what He actually still does.

Bottom line: there are too many Christians who aren’t living with as much Gospel power as they might. And that’s really not good. It’s not good for individual Christians and it’s not good for the life of the Church.

Today, we begin a new section in Paul’s letter to the church in Rome. It is clearly tied to what went before, but Paul will be introducing a new element to the Gospel that he has been writing about. In this new section Paul will explain something of the role of the Spirit in making the glories of the Gospel ours. This has been an area of the Gospel that has been confusing to some. So, I’m hoping that I will be able to provide a little more clarity. And what I am aiming for is not just that you would have a greater understanding of the Gospel. I’m also aiming for you having a greater understanding of yourselves. One of the most important questions for you to answer well is this: Who am I? I want you all to understand well who you are so that you will flourish, so that you will make more progress in becoming whole people. Our world is in dire need of whole people. And I like to think that you can do something to meet that need.

A Prayer

Our Father,
You are such a good God to us. You have made us into a different kind of people. You have changed us from the children of the devil into being Your children. And that is amazing to consider. We are Your children. But that wasn’t enough for You. You wanted to bless us with more. So, You have changed not just who we are but also what we are. We who were once dead are now alive. We who were once slaves are now free. And these aren't some metaphors for airy notions that had nothing to do with our reality. No, we really are alive. We really are free. And this only because of the Gospel that You created and established in Jesus.

Father, these things are breathtaking. What blessings! But there is a problem, Father. The problem is that we have the hardest time believing that these things are true.

All too often our expectations are based on who and what we once were and not who and what we now are. Too much of our lives is spent as if You were not our Father, that we are on our own to figure out life and make it work. Too much of our lives is spent as if we need to limit our expectations of ourselves since we're just like the rest of humanity, the rest of humanity that does not enjoy life from You. In this, we are believing Satan’s lies instead of Your truth.

Forgive us, Father. Our unbelief is so insulting. You give us good gifts, and we act as You've given us nothing. Teach our hearts about the riches of Your grace to us in Jesus and make us believe it.

We ask for these things so that we will live in a way that reveals Your beauty, so that we will live in a way that will make the world to be astonished at You. Help us. Change us. For the sake of the glory of Your name. Amen.

Friday, March 16, 2018

For Sunday

Reading of the Law of God
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12.1-2

Confession of Sin
Our Father, we hear Your Law, and again it exposes our sin. We recognize that we are so like our unbelieving neighbors. We conform so much to the world around us. We are so little like the living sacrifices You call for. We are so little like Jesus. In these things we have sinned. We ask that You would forgive our sin. We ask that You would renew our minds. Make us more like Jesus and less like the faithless who live in this world. We ask this only through Jesus, our faithful Savior. Amen.

Declaration of Pardon
Remember these things, O Jacob, and Israel, for you are my servant; I formed you; you are my servant; O Israel, you will not be forgotten by me. I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you. Isaiah 44:21-22

The almighty and merciful Lord grant you pardon and forgiveness of all your sins, time for amendment of life, and the grace and strength of the Holy Spirit.
The Book of Common Prayer 

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Comment on a Hymn

Man of Sorrows! 

This is another fine hymn. And it is a fine hymn not just because it reminds us of Jesus, which is always good, but it reminds us of what He has done.
Ruined sinners to reclaim
In my place condemned He stood
Full atonement! Can it be?
And then there are some things that are true about Him.
Now in heaven exalted high
Our glorious King
But the thing that I think should stand out most is our response to each aspect of what He has done and who He is: Hallelujah! What a saviour!

Man of Sorrows! what a name
For the Son of God, who came
Ruined sinners to reclaim:
Hallelujah! what a Saviour!

Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
In my place condemned he stood,
Sealed my pardon with his blood:
Hallelujah! what a Saviour!

Guilty, vile, and helpless, we;
Spotless Lamb of God was he;
Full atonement! can it be?
Hallelujah! what a Saviour!

Lifted up was he to die,
"It is finished!" was his cry:
Now in heav'n exalted high:
Hallelujah! what a Saviour!

When he comes, our glorious King,
All his ransomed home to bring,
Then anew this song we'll sing:
Hallelujah! what a Saviour!

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Scripture to Meditate On

Remember these things, O Jacob, and Israel, for you are my servant; I formed you; you are my servant; O Israel, you will not be forgotten by me. I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you. Isaiah 44:21-22

This bit of Scripture has some familiar language.

Our transgressions are blotted out. But what does that mean? How about completely obliterated. Our sins no longer exist and thus can never be found for someone to accuse us with them. That's what God has done with our sins, obliterated them out of existence, never to be seen again.

We have been redeemed. And what is this? Boaz was the redeemer of Ruth. Remember that she was a widow in great need. Boaz rescued her from what would have been a very hard life and made it possible for her to be honored as a mother of Jesus. The law in Leviticus allowed an Israelite to redeem a relative who had sold himself into slavery because of his debt. Jesus is our Redeemer. He paid the price to rescue us from our slavery to sin, from what would have been a very hard life.

But there is another word that needs some attention: remember. Our sins are obliterated out of existence. We have been redeemed out of our slavery to sin.  But what good are these things if we don't remember them but rather live as if our sins were still around to accuse us and as if we were still enslaved instead of free? Satan does his best to distract us from these facts of the Gospel to make us forget them so that we would be discouraged and even despairing. He doesn't want us to be rejoicing in the Gospel and living well. Don't be fooled by him. Remember these facts of the Gospel so that you can enjoy them.