This Man Deserves It


For all his fornications, he is guilty.  For his selfish manipulations and lusts, every teenage violation of his future wife, he is unquestionably guilty. 

For all of his anger, his petty hatreds and grudges (which he so often carries deep under his skin, where he thinks no one can see), he is guilty.  The thoughts he sometimes has about people, the nastiness he wages against his fellow humans right there inside his skull, is appalling.  

For the thousands and thousands of lies he has told, too.  Big ones as a child and a young man, lies so ridiculous they’d be laughable if lying weren’t a sin against the God who always tells the truth.  And, as he’s gotten older, subtler ones.  Exaggerations, and little expressions on the face which were calculated to get a response but made to look like genuine emotion.    

And, oh, the pride.  Deep, poisonous, nearly constant pride.  Always believing he is more worthy of his needs being met than another.  Always making allowances for himself that he would never make for someone else.  The quiet belief he nurses in his heart that the reason the fallen brother or sister has tumbled is that he or she wasn’t quite enough like him.  The self-centered, self-focused, self-righteous clamoring for his own reputation, his own pleasure, his own validation without half as much, a tenth as much regard for the well-being of others.  Oh, believe me, this one is proud.  

For the cowardice, the meanness, the vengefulness, this man is irrefutably guilty. No one, not even God Himself can deny that, on his own standing, this Wade Thomas Jr, born at Good Samaritan Hospital in the Year of Our Lord 1985 (and having sinned every year since) is guilty as (and of) sin. 

There is no excuse.  No justification.  He had no valid reason for lust and brazen manipulation and gossip and deceit, he has no just cause for his anger and bitterness and idolatry of heart.  His head is in his hands because he knows this.  There is no defense he can mount.  There is no mitigating factor that will justify his willful, ignorant, faithless, rebellious wickedness.  

None.  He is guilty. 

Ahem.  

And now let this one speak.  

For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are of sound mind, it is for you.  For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.  Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer.  Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.  Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.  Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.  He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

2 Corinthians 5:13-21

Death is the sentence.  The serpent knew it in the Garden, though of course he lied (he always does).  Sin brings death, the only thing it can bring.  And so death is the sentence for Wade.  Shameful, inglorious, painful and God-forsaken death.  God gave life, sin brings death.  So Wade is owed it.  He merits it.  In at least one sense, he has asked for it.  

The executioner is ready.  The crowd is assembled.  

But the guilty man is not the one to die.  

When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.

Colossians 2:13-14


Every guilt the serpent lays on this man is valid.  He sinned.  He did.  He did rage at his brethren and sin sexually and deceive people and play out his proud hypocrisy in the most sinister of ways.  If he isn’t the chief of sinners, he is certainly a lieutenant.  But here is where the serpent plays into his own undoing:  Since he is the father of lies, he rarely expects the full, undiluted, 80-proof truth.  When God says He loved this man, He really meant it.  And when He pledged from love, right there in that sin-stained Garden, that a son of man would crush this ancient liar’s head, He wasn’t just talking to talk.  

This love from God didn’t hinge on Wade’s faithfulness.  It preceded his faithfulness.  Beyond that, it superceded his unfaithfulness.  This God slew the dragon by being slain, and He gave pardon by taking on punishment.  He undid the sin and death Wade wrought by becoming sin and then dying. 

This God made Wade, gave Him a Law, watched him break it, and then bore the punishment Himself.  He is exactly who He has always claimed to be:  Good, holy, loving, and just.  And the truth will always undo a liar.  And, as the saying goes, it is also quite likely to set free.  

And so while Wade is, in at least one sense, guilty, the charge will not stand.  You cannot punish two men for his crimes.  The debt is real, but it is no longer his.  

The criminal’s cross has already been stained with man’s blood.  And the tomb has already had the body laid in it.  Sin brings death, and death it has brought.  Wade deserves to die, but in this great exchange called the Gospel, he gets to live.  By the grace of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, he has been given unshakeable, eternal life.  

And the guarantee of that gift is that his Jesus Himself did not stay dead.  Look over there, on that hill.  

Like the charges against this guilty man, both cross and tomb are by now quite empty.  

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More Than Good Works


The world does not need more mere good works.  

Being a nice man can’t get me eternal life.  Having solid character won’t make me right with my Creator.  It won’t unstain what I’ve stained.  Being a good guy won’t fix me.  

We are in a much deeper hole than common wisdom suggests.  And a much different kind of hole.  Specifically, this hole is a grave.  

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.  Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.

Ephesians 2:1-3

We are born spiritually dead, all of us.  Lovely and human and valuable, but also wicked and spiritually dead.  And so the world needs much more than deeds of kindness.  The Middle Ages had deeds of kindness.  But what they thirsted for was a power that their churches had long obscured, and the Reformation was the rain that fell on that parched ground.  

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.  For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘But the righteous man shall live by faith.’

Romans 1:16-17

The world needs salvation.  It needs regeneration.  It needs people who have been taken as one thing and remade into another.  And since mere good works won’t do, a mere teacher won’t do.  It needs someone who can undo what we have done and who can remake us from the feet up.  

For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority; and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.  When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.

Colossians 2:9-14

Only God can remake a man.  Only God can kill the worst in him and bring him back something better, and not only better but something altogether different.  Only God can pay a man’s eternal debt, a debt incurred from breaking the best of laws, willfully and daily.  

The world doesn’t need more mere good works.  The world needs the power of God.  It needs a Messiah, a Χριστός.  It needs someone who will do what we cannot, and who can make us what we should be.

The world needs something it cannot offer itself:  A death and a resurrection.  A divine rescue.  It’s a great need.  Impossible, apart from a miracle.  

But thankfully the only thing that can outpace that need is His grace.  

As deep as our grave is, His grace is deeper still.  

We have the Gospel we need.  

But what does it say?  ‘The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart’ —that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.  For the Scripture says, ‘Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.’  For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; for ‘Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.’

Romans 10:8-13

30 Seconds on Why the Universe Exists

  

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. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

Colossians 1:16-17

One of the most encouraging things we who are Christian have at our disposal is this:  We know why the universe, and everything in it, exists. 

We know creation’s purpose.  

  
God created every atom and force, every soul and idea to glorify His beautiful Son.  And everyone who trusts in that Son gets to glorify Him by enjoying Him forever.  

The universe, this place of lights and sounds and loves and sadnesses is all a stage for the sinner-forgiving, death-defeating, truth-bearing Jesus to be magnified on.  

People want to know why.  Humans want to have an answer to the questions about why they exist and why things happen.  

A real Christian can give the answer.  And if he can do it with the boldness and the mercy and the prayerfulness of the Paul who wrote Colossians, I think he can do it to great good.  

We have Good News to share.  And we have an answer to give.  

Church Love II

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God does not command purposeless things, and God commands prayer.

Pretty simple.

When I pray for the saints, from the heart and in faith, a number of things can happen. My heart can be transformed to love God more than television or my SmartPhone. Also, my mind and will and soul can be reshaped to love the people of God more, the people whom Abba Father had so much affection for He did not spare His only Son from them but put Him forth as their sacrificial offering. And besides putting one more nail in the coffin of my own flesh, the greatest gift of prayer is simply the possibility that God might give you what you’re praying for.

“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy… And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and discernment.”
Paul, praying that the Christians of the church in Philippi would increase in love in Philippians 1

When was the last time you thanked God for another saint, or prayed that his love for Jesus would grow?

I need to hear this on the days or nights when I’m locked in selfishness: There is no such thing as self-centered Christianity.

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.”
Our Savior to His disciples, in John 15

Our Jesus bore the wrath of God in order to ransom and redeem the people of God. He would not stop and He will not stop until each one is presented to His Father and raised to eternal life. Of course Satan hates that and will rail against it, but Satan will see a wedding feast from the other side of Hell that will prove to him that you can’t fight the grace of the Messiah and win. If you hate Jesus, you will find that He is simply too big a Cornerstone for you not to trip over. And when all the revilers and the mockers have been silenced and all the knees are bowed, we will see the One they claimed was simply the son of a carpenter raising from their graves all the men and women He’s purchased and washed and cleansed, giving them to their adopted Father. That is the fearless and flawless love and mercy of Jesus, the undeserved and unfathomable grace He bleeds over those who were covered in sin. And just as He loved to death, God has commanded His people to love and feed and preach to and guard and pray for the sheep His death will gather. Jesus told His disciples that His commandment was self-sacrificing love, and then a few hours later on a hill called the Place of the Skull, He showed them what love could look and sound and smell like.

Jesus said that, that “love one another” command, to men whose feet He had just washed. As the sovereign Creator of galaxies and angels and ocean depths, and as the King who will return and throw death and Satan into a lake of eternal fire, He had washed their feet, would later that night pray for their well-being alone in a garden, and then when the sun came up would be stripped, slandered, and slain for them. He commanded these busted and imperfect men to love as One knowing what love is and knowing what love costs.

These apostles had seen with their eyes and felt on their skin the unimaginable love of God. Just a few more days and the resurrection would seal in their souls that they had been given the affection of Someone whose love was infinitely valuable and infinitely satisfying. And then from that place of being rescued by sheer, relentless grace they were commanded to love their adopted brothers and sisters.

“And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.”
Paul, to Christians he had never met in Colosse

If we have been adopted by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, then we have received the greatest gift imaginable. We are adored by the only One whose love has the power to resurrect and to rescue. So let’s pray like as though the Gospel is true. Let’s pray like ones whose feet have been washed by the Author of the universe.

Let’s pray like we have much love to give, because there is much love we have been given.

*Note: This post was adapted from an e-mail I sent to our church.

How To Make a Super Bowl Commercial

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You could make a harmless or humorous commercial, of course (maybe about a puppy and some clydesdales, or perhaps starring Liam Niessen as he orders a scone). But if you really want to sink your claws into us (and our wallets) as we eat our Doritos and sit there unsuspectingly, I advise the following:

1) Find something a lot of us idolize.

Everyone worships something. Each of us, at any given moment, is searching for our meaning, satisfaction, and joy in something. We were made to love, praise, and be satisfied by the God of Jesus Christ. He is true, wonderful, fair, good, and beautiful in a way that nothing else can compare to. But we think that sex, new cars, an app for our phones, or a new flavor of soda will thrill us sufficiently. We think that a lot, in fact. We think it even though we know from experience that these things always fade away or expire or leave us a little empty or really do taste like diet soda. We are perpetual idolaters, especially if we have not tasted the goodness of Jesus Christ and His Gospel. Almost all of us watching the Super Bowl are prone to think that things or events will make us happy. If you show us a shiny thing with some cool music playing in the background, or tell us about some activity we can engage in and shed a spotlight or some confetti on it, you’re well on your way to making us your slave.

2) Tell us that we won’t be excited or happy unless we have it.

It may not always be enough to just show us your product. If you really want to get us addicted, paralyze our wills and pulverize our credit cards, you need to tell us that the other shiny things and other loud, sexy events being offered to us won’t make us happy, and that yours will. If you really want addicts and idolaters, you can’t just tell us you make a nice product that is more efficient than someone else’s; you need to imply we won’t have excitement or smiles without it. Seduce us. Musical selection is important here.

Make us think life will be empty if we don’t get what you’re selling. Sure that’s ridiculous, but with the right special effects and a cool enough narrator, we’re likely to believe you. We have stubborn hearts that are easily bored with God, and that are easily turned on by lesser, trivial things. Even those of us who know the Lord can be temporarily blinded if you the advertiser are willing to abandon all scruples and play it really deceptively. You know what you’re selling has flaws; but we don’t. You may be aware that our hearts don’t desperately need it; we forget.

3) Lie to us by telling us it really can deliver ultimate happiness or satisfaction.

Maybe you’re one of the few who have truly come to terms with the fact that material goods, sex, and parties can’t deliver ultimate joy. But if you are, you’d better learn to lie to us if you want to get us worshiping at the altar of your product. You need to get us to believe that this is finally the thing that can make life thrilling and joyful forever. That this computer, idea, loan, beer, movement, concert, pair of shoes, or tax refund will give us gladness and peace in a way that the last new thing (and the one before that, and the one before that, come to think of it…) didn’t.

Human beings are always chasing happiness, and almost always ignoring the God of Jesus Christ who offers it in an unending supply. If you can get us to think your pickup truck or new lipstick will calm our hearts and make us eternally happy, we’ll chase it. It won’t, of course, but we believe dumb things all the time.

Idolatry is a dangerous thing. It pulls you down a path that seems harmless, seems even normal. After all, everybody plays three hours of video games a day, and everybody gets jealous of the beautiful women on television. Idolatry’s danger is often quiet, subtle like that. Nonetheless, it does a very real, very violent injury to the soul. Instead of buying a new car and just enjoying it as a gift from God and a result of hard work, the car becomes a mine field of pride, anxieties, disappointments, or upgrades as you try to make it something more than it should be. An appreciation of a woman singing a song becomes an envy of her abilities, fame, or physical attributes. Idolatry turns good things into gods; in other words, it turns good things into death traps.

There is no god but God, and there is no ultimate satisfaction apart from Him. We were made to worship and adore and be glad in God in Christ. Only He can heal, only He can satisfy, and only He is worthy of our hearts.

“Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.”

“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other.”

I sort of wish there was a commercial during the Super Bowl that reminded me of that.