Let This War Kill Him


One of the most freeing parts about being a Christian is being on the right side in a war that’s already been won.  

And one of the villains who has been laid down in that war is all of the worst things inside of yourself.  

We’re preaching through the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapters 5-7) as a church right now, and one of the things that Jesus does for me as I read it and think about it and pray through it is to reveal to me how many wicked things there are inside of my heart.  In the corners, under the floorboards, stuck up in the attic, in all sorts of hidden spaces within my heart are some disgusting things.  And He knows about them. 

And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 

Matthew 6:16-18

Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 

Matthew 7:3

But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. 

Matthew 5:22

Jesus knows how wicked I can be.  He knows.  My greedy motives and petty, little grudges and pretentious, false religiosity are all before Him.  

The wickedness in my flesh and soul do not surprise or perplex Jesus.  

And He says that as I am conformed more and more to Him, as I’m made more and more teleos (Matthew 5:48; “perfect” or “complete” or “mature,” e.g., 2 Timothy 3:16), as I am grown as a Christian by grace through faith, those sick and awful pieces of myself are getting laid low.  

There is hope for the Christian.  There is hope for me.  I am a territory being conquered by a good King.  My heart is a battlefield, and I myself am a soldier on the right side.  

This war will end someday, and all the veterans like me will stand in the light of our Sovereign, with bodies and souls that will be big enough and clean enough to enjoy Him to the fullest.  

60 Seconds On Death and Easter


Death will not get the last word.

It spoke what it had, every last syllable of its harshest lie, and couldn’t keep Him behind the rock.

Him.  The Christ.  The God-man come for sinners.

In a world with dead bodies, there is no hope unless there is resurrection.  God made a world of trees and turtles, of starlight and fireflies and men, and sin unleashed death upon all of it, upon everything that breathes.  It all groans under the weight of the spoil of our sin.

But God took death into Himself, Jesus our Redeemer, and rose again with the skin and bones and heart of a man who cannot be killed.  The lie was undone.

Every carcass since Abel’s was a horrifying, stinking reminder of what sin did and does to us (“It’ll smell,” Lazarus’ sister said), but the risen body of Jesus is a reminder of what God did and is doing for us.

We will be raised.  All who have believed in Jesus will be raised to an unbreakably eternal life.  An eternal embodied life.  One in a new creation free of sin and death and decay.  All will be well.  And death’s shadow will be swallowed by the fire of God’s anger, His good wrath towards all the murders sin once wrought.

Death does not get the last word.  That’s reserved for the King.  It is His to speak.  He created by His Word, He will recreate by His Word, and, unlike the serpent, everything He speaks is true.  And, of course, final.

And so Easter is a reminder that He gets the last word.

And it’s one that will never end.

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…  For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

Romans 5:12, 6:5

Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?  But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised.  And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.  We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised.  For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised.  And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.  Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.  If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.  But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep…  But each in his own order:  Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.  Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power.  For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.  The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 

1 Corinthians 15:12-20, 23-26

60 Seconds On Heresy Hunting

  
They’re far less frequent than the encounters I’ll have with Christians who don’t seem to care enough about truth, but from time to time I’ll end up observing (or embroiled in) a conversation with a Christian who seems to enjoy pointing out the errors of others.  Who seems to love the fight.  Truth be told, I’ve probably been that Christian at certain moments.  

And, since it was fresh on my mind as I wait on Sarah and the kids at the mall, I’ll offer a few quick thoughts on the professional heresy-hunter, the guy (or girl) who thoroughly enjoys the hunt:

  • A mature Christian won’t run from conflict if the moment calls for it. An immature Christian seeks it out.  
  • Heaven will be boring to you if you like fights more than reconciliation.
  • It’s not discernment to call every doctrinal disagreement “heresy.”  It’s actually a lack of discernment.  You’re not a discerning person if you’re unable to tell a rainstorm from a hurricane.  Someone with good discernment is able to distinguish true doctrine from false doctrine, but he is also able to distinguish deadly errors from non-deadly ones, and is able to react to those different types of errors proportionately.  He is also able to tell the difference between what he has good Biblical grounds to be certain on and what he has simply drawn out from the Bible as the most likely conclusion.  I am certain on my Gospel.  I am not certain on my eschatology.  
  • Conviction about doctrine should have as its primary aims love for God and love for man, not love for doctrine.  I want to be deeply invested in justification by grace through faith alone, credobaptism, and the second coming of Christ because I love the triune God and the people He’s made.  I don’t want to be firm in my doctrines because I love my doctrines, and then have to have somebody remind me to leave the study so I can go talk to people or take Lord’s Supper. 

I love truth because I love the One who is truth.  

Happy weekend, all!

    Christian Grief

      
    Christian grief always has hope buried deep inside it.  The reason for this is that a Christian is waiting for the returning King, and the King loves him and knows him by name.  Earth, spoiled as she is, is His countryside, and He rules her, and He is coming to throw out all the monsters and tyrants, chief among them Satan and death.  

    So it isn’t that a Christian’s grief feels any less like grief.  It’s that it feels less like despair.  Martha wept fiercely not too far from the corpse of her brother Lazarus, and she did this while telling Jesus that she knew her brother would be raised to eternal life on the last day.  Martha was certain the best was yet to come for her brother, and yet she was still heartbroken that she wouldn’t see him (or so she thought) there in Bethany, there in their home again for Passover dinner.  Her sadness was intense, piercing.  It drove her to Jesus’ arm in passionate mourning.  Her sadness was great.  But it wasn’t bleak.  

    And of course Jesus grieved with her.  

    When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in His spirit and greatly troubled.  And He said, ‘Where have you laid him?’  They said to Him, ‘Lord, come and see.’  Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb.  It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. 

    From John 11

    A Christian has the freedom to grieve like Jesus. 

    For the Christian, hope and heartbreak aren’t like summer and winter.  You don’t make it to the one after bearing up under the long discomfort of the other.  No, for the one who knows the Holy Spirit hope and heartbreak are like seed and soil.  The one was always there, living and sprouting and taking strong root, but it was just under the surface, just beneath the blanket of the ground. 

    There’s no two ways about it:  Grief has been spun into this story.  God has allowed it.  Our fleshly father Adam and our mother his beloved Eve trusted the whispered lies of Satan, and they waved death and pain and groaning right up onto the front porch and offered them sweet tea.  Death was invited in to God’s astonishingly good world.  And Heaven grieved.  

    And then right there in Eden He told the Deciever that a Son of the woman would crush his head, though the crushing would bruise Him.  And so God the Son was bruised for us by God the Father, tortured and killed in shame for sin on a Jerusalem hill.  And Heaven grieved.  

    No two ways about it.  Grief is here in the house with us.  

    But its seat at the table is not permanent.  

    And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her Husband.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man.  He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God.  He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’

    From Revelation 21

    Bear with some poetry for a moment.  

    Daylight will chase down this dusk, because the Son is returning.  And when He arrives again, and sunlight spills over the hills and puts every shadow to flight, grief’s evening is over.  God Himsef will be His people’s light, strong and bright enough to make this burning star named Sol above our heads seem to memory’s eyes to be a halfhearted firefly.  And all our old tears will find their place in a song of praise to the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  

    And the  death’s last echoes will be like those of a drunken man falling down stairs.  All its power sapped, all its sting left hollow by the glory and might of God.  

    Grief is an intense thing.  I know.  But it’s also a temporary one.  

    Jesus is coming.  

    And I’ve never been much of a dancer, but if I’m given the chance I’d love to slow dance on death’s grave to Amazing Grace.

    Martha said to Him, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.’  Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die.  Do you believe this?’ She said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.’

    From John 11

    And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. 

    From Revelation 21

    7 Reasons Why I Vote but Don’t Obsess

      
    Every 4 years I feel the temptation to put my deepest hopes in a human being (or a human cause).  And every 4 years I have to then remind myself that (though I love and want to bless my Earthly nation) I am a citizen of a better country.  

    I will vote this year, but I will not obsess over the results, and I will not put my faith or daily hope in any human elected official, cause, or platform.  

    Why?  

    Glad you asked.  

    1. Jesus Christ is in total control of the universe.  The world is not a rudderless ship.
    2. The sin of my own heart is far more of a threat to me (and my family) than whoever the next president will be.  
    3. Long after every earthly kingdom has ceased to exist and every tax bracket has vanished like smoke, Jesus will be reigning in a Kingdom which basks in the warmth of His light forever and ever and ever. 
    4. I care more about winning the souls of those who I disagree with politically than winning their votes.  
    5. America, while great, isn’t the solution for the world’s greatest problem.  
    6. I could be wrong in my vote or support.  The Bible doesn’t tell me who to vote for.  It does, however, tell me who to live for.  
    7. The Bible tells me not to be anxious, and to instead pray. 

    I’ll participate in the election (and my country’s civic discourse).  But I refuse to be consumed by it. 

    #VoteDontObsess

    Why My Family Won’t Celebrate Halloween

      

    A couple of days ago my family and I were walking through Home Depot.
     Towards the front of the store were some cartoonish inflatable Halloween decorations for a front lawn.  You probably know the type:  Graves, skeletons, tombstones with humorous inscriptions.  And as we walked away from them I felt strongly that I needed to tell my oldest (5) that our family doesn’t celebrate death.  And then she started to tell me all the things that we’ve talked about as a family that are from God’s stories of Creation and Consummation in Genesis and Reveation:  That death is bad, that it came from sin, and that someday Jesus will come back.  And when He does, she said, “No more death, and no more tears, and no more boo boos.”  These are the truths we’ve tried to communicate to our 3 little children.  

    And so while I don’t think there’s anything sinful in dressing up or in giving away candy, we won’t go door-to-door on Halloween this year because so much of what my kids would see would be a playful or morbidly curious attitude towards death.  At least 1 of my kids heard us sing “Laid Death In His Grave” this Sunday at our church gathering.  I don’t want us to sing joyfully that Jesus conquered something on Sunday and then playfully observe it a few weeks later. 

    God grieves death.  And He hates it.  He gave up His own Son to defeat it.  He will someday cast it into the Lake of Fire with Satan and all his demons and the (finally) unrepentant.  And because of all that, my family shouldn’t view death as a game or a joke.  I love games, and I love jokes, but the goodness of each comes in knowing what’s fun and what’s funny.  And death is neither.  

    God built this world without death, and it is sin that unleashed it upon His beautiful work.  Death distorts and deteriorates God’s marvelous creation, and He allows it to for a time.  But while I wait for His Son to return and put this enemy under His feet, I want to have the same posture towards it He has.  

    Death is nothing to play about.  It is not natural.  It is not something to entertain a morbid fascination for.  Death is the outworkings of an awful rebellion.  I don’t want to celebrate it any more than I celebrate idolatry or adultery.  

    One of the best gifts I can give my kids is the awareness of what is good and beautiful as opposed to what is ugly and passing away.  And so for me, this isn’t about forbidding something just to forbid it, and it isn’t about laying down some sort of distinctive Thomas family law.  It is about preparing my kids’ hearts for the beauty of Jesus’ return, and teaching them to grieve what God grieves, hate what God hates, and hope for what Jesus is bringing. 

    Death is monstrous.  I don’t want us to celebrate it.  I want us to celebrate its defeat at the hands of the greatest of Kings.  

    Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.  The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 

    1 Corinthians 15:24-26

    Jesus is No Polygamist

      
    If you have trusted in Jesus Christ alone to be rescued from your sin and to be made right with God, then you are a true Christian.  But you are not only a Christian.  What I mean is this:  You are not merely an individual believer living out an individual faith.  You are that, but you are also something else.  A basketball is a sphere but it is also a ball.  If you are a real Christian, you are not merely your own; you are also a part of something.

    For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 

    Galatians 3:26-28

    Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 

    Ephesians 5:25-27

    We are not merely singular Christians wading through this life.  And we are not merely individual local churches, either.  All who have truly have believed in the Gospel are a part of the body and bride of Jesus Christ, all churches who truly preach that Gospel are a part of His wider, advancing Kingdom. 

    To be a true Christian is to be a member of the people (not “peoples”) of God.  And so to be a Christian and despise the church is to despise yourself, and to despise the one for whom Jesus bled. 

    And to be a true Christian and yet refuse to fellowship with a local church is to refuse to be who you are, and who you were ransomed to be.  

    And to be a true Christian church and to refuse to see yourself as a part of a bride who spans farther than your own address and your own century is to disown your brothers and sisters.  Brothers and sisters who have the same inheritance as you.  

    If we are truly God’s then we are a part of something.  If we are His, then we are His together with the others who have been called from darkness into light.  We are individuals, and we are local churches, but we are not only individuals and we are not only local churches.  We are a part of a Kingdom that exists within those borders (and beautifully), but also spans miles beyond them.  

    We are ourselves, but not only ourselves. 

    There are many members and there are many churches, but there will be only one wedding feast and only one bride.  

    Jesus is no polygamist.