According to the Riches of His Grace

"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…" -Ephesians 1:7-8

Month: February, 2015

Why Revival Hasn’t Started

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Many in the American church are majorly emphasizing revival of the United States. It is my prayer that that is what happens. However, before we call on the Lord for revival, let’s make sure we are calling for the right kind of revival.

I think very often our emphasis on revival is just a hope that all of the people in America will develop the Republican Christian view. It is hoped that abortion will be made illegal, the pull for same-sex marriage will die out, and everyone will start honoring the Bible (even if they don’t actually read it).

Let me be clear that I think all of these are issues we should fight for. We have to protect the unborn, seek the proper design for marriage, and we have to read and glorify the Word of God. But if that’s all we want, that’s not revival.

Revival is something much deeper. Revival will never happen until Christians in America actually want Jesus. So often, revival is made into a political movement. When revival comes, things will be better in the country. Of course, there will be no sin (or at least none of those murderers, rapists, and bank robbers), everyone will be nice to each other, and our kids will be able to safely play outside.

But this is not revival.

Revival will only happen when those calling for it want Jesus and him alone. It will come when the hearts of those calling for it are wholly surrendered to the will of Christ. A divine blessing on America is not enough. A Christian worldview in America is not enough. We have to love Jesus. We have to be in love with him and be willing to do anything he commands us. We have to surrender to him as the Lord of the Universe.

I want to see revival come to the United States and to the whole world. I want to see people fall in love with Jesus. I want to see Christians repair communities all around the world with a message of hope. I want to see people surrender to leave their current realities and move around the world to take the Gospel to people. I want to see the billions of people in the world who have never heard of Jesus be reached with his Gospel. I want to see the Kingdom of God come to completion.

But this will never happen until we love Jesus. Until we really love him. More than we love our lives. We must be in love with him to the point that if we have to choose between dying for Jesus or living without him, we choose death.

Until Christians in America surrender to him as the Lord of life that they love, we will never see revival. We will see churches continue to close, the buildings be abandoned, and the people dispersed to their homes. We will see sin take the country. We will see Christianity become more and more of a minority.

Do you want to see revival? It starts with you. Surrender to Jesus as Lord. Even if you have already done that. Wake up every morning, pick up your cross, and say, “Where are we going, Jesus?” And actually read the Bible, not as something to “bless your heart” but as something to actually change you into being more like Jesus.

Hear, O America. The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your mind and with all your soul and with all your strength.

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The Joy of Sabbath Rest

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Sundays are my favorite day of the week. It’s not because I get to go to church, even though I am always excited to gather with other believers for worship. It’s not because my place of employment is closed that day, so I don’t have to work. It’s not because the Walking Dead comes on at 9, even though that show is cool.

Sunday is my day of rest. But not the kind of rest you might think of. I don’t just relax. I seek Sabbath rest.

We never think of the Sabbath as a big deal anymore. After all, didn’t Jesus say we don’t have to keep it anymore? Technically speaking, no he didn’t. What he said was:

The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath. (Matt 12:8)

The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. (Mark 2:27)

Jesus did tell the Pharisees that their extra rules they had added to the Sabbath were bad. He told them it was okay to heal on the Sabbath. It is okay to get an animal out of a pit on the Sabbath.

So what is Sabbath rest? I could give you a theological definition of it, but you are still not going to know what to do with it, so let me tell you what it looks like in my life.

It is usually Sunday for me, however, that is not required. Church worship is on Sunday and you should attend that, but the day that you seek Sabbath rest is going to depend on your schedule.

On that day, I lay aside my weekly jobs. My place of employment is closed, so I don’t have to worry about working. I refuse to do homework on that day. I don’t do laundry, dishes, or any chores.

For at least a few hours, I turn my cell phone off and stay off my computer, unless it is needed. During that time period, I allow the Spirit to lead me in my activities. I do things that are going to center my mind and my heart on the Lord.

I may spend several hours in the Word. I may have a time where I just sing and pray. I read Christian books that are not required for my seminary classes. I might write a blog post. I might journal. I might listen to a sermon. If it’s nice weather out, I might go to a park and go for a walk or a hike and spend that time meditating on the things of God.

Whatever the Spirit leads me to do, I spend that time period with the Lord, seeking his presence, and worshiping him. This is what Sabbath rest is. Jesus is the greater Sabbath. Sabbath rest isn’t relaxing on the couch. It’s relaxing in Jesus.

God made the Sabbath for man’s benefit! He made one day a week for us to rest, but the rest that is best for us is rest in Him.

So start taking a day off every week. Reorganize your schedule and your to-do list in a way in which you can. No matter which day of the week you do it, spend that day putting away as many distractions as possible and seek the Lord of the Sabbath.

A Misunderstood Humility

As a Christian culture, sometimes we are really confused about what humility is. We think being humble is saying something like:

If you are a good preacher: “I preach every Sunday, but I am terrible at it.”

If you lead worship: “I lead worship, but I am terrible at it.”

If you have a really strong prayer life: “I am terrible at praying.”

This isn’t humility. This is self-degradation.

This is done out of our good attempts to not boast in ourselves. On a lot of things, including humility, we have a tendency to over-correct and flip our car into the ditch.

If we want to understand humility, we look at Jesus. Paul describes the humble example of Jesus in Philippians 2:5-11. Jesus, though he was God, laid aside his divinity and became a man who was so obedient to his Father that he was willing to die on a cross for the sins of humanity. Thus, the passage shows that this is true greatness and that Jesus will be exalted forever in it.

That is the idea throughout Scripture. The sign of true greatness is a willingness to be humble. (Matt 23:12) But the humility that Jesus shows is not like what we try to do. He doesn’t come to earth and say, “I am the Son of God, but I do a really bad job at it.”

Jesus comes fully set in his identity as the Son of God and he takes his shirt off and bends down to wash his disciple’s feet. (John 13) He shows true greatness by thinking of others before himself, even though he is the only one worthy of anything.

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Humility is not looking down on yourself but thinking of other people’s interests first. If you have a great prayer life or a great passion and talent for leading worship and then you say that you are terrible at it, what does that say about your view of the gifts God has given you?

No, we never boast in our skills. We don’t exalt ourselves over anyone. Rather, we know that everything we have, we have because God has given it to us. So therefore, we give him glory by being obedient to him and loving others and never think of ourselves.

This is true greatness, that the Son of God was so clear on his relationship with his Father that he becomes a fragile human and washes the feet of sinful humans.

Even so, come Lord Jesus

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I’ve mentioned before that I will probably never go to Passion conferences again, because it’s really an experience I only want once. However, every year, I am really eager to hear the new worship music that they produce at the conference. It usually leaks on Youtube before the album comes out.

This year, there are two songs that I really love, one of which has been part of my prayers just about everyday.

The chorus says:

Like a bride waiting for her groom, we’ll be a church ready for you.

Every heart longing for our king, we sing

“Even so, come. Lord Jesus come.”

I’ve always been a bit irritated by people who just sit around and wait for the return of Jesus. The sinful critic within myself has always thought, “You don’t understand that following Jesus is more about what you do in your life now. It’s not just some distant hope we have for the day we die in our bed of old age.”

And yes, I definitely recommend not just sitting around and waiting for “the rapture.” But I have been wrong to be critical like this.

Of course, this song from Passion is straight from Revelation 22, the final chapter of the Bible. The canon of Scripture closes with the amazing hope that Jesus is coming soon!

Lately, I have been very hungry for that moment. Don’t get me wrong. I want to live the purpose that God has for me in his kingdom. I want to graduate seminary and go on to preach the Gospel wherever God sends me. I want to make disciples of people from all nations. I want to demonstrate Christ and the church in marriage as well as parenting. I’d love to do short term or long term mission on every continent at some point. I want to see the Kingdom of God at work in whatever ways God chooses to use me in my life.

But, like Paul in Phil 1:21-26, I am torn between my two desires. I want to live for Christ here on earth and see his Kingdom move in power. But I also want to see the Kingdom of God complete and be with Jesus. I am hungry to see my Savior.

Whereas, I would normally close my prayers with “In Jesus name, Amen”, lately, I have been closing them with the chorus from this song. I long for that day when Jesus descends. When all of his work is complete. When sin is destroyed. When I no longer have to battle this war that is my flesh vs. my spirit anymore. When sorrow and pain are done away with. When there will be no more death, mourning, or crying. No more sleepless nights. No more financial insecurity. No more disagreements between friends. No more crime in the streets. No more terrorist beheadings. It will all be over. Satan will be thrown forever into the lake of fire. Stealing, killing, and destruction will be gone. And we will be with Jesus, the Savior of the World!

Who wouldn’t long for this day? This is why I am so hungry for it.

May the clouds part and King Jesus descend to remake the heavens and the earth! May he do away with evil and complete our salvation! May the dwelling place of God forever be with man!

Even so, come! Lord Jesus, come!

A Standing Ovation from Jesus

Twice over the past couple days, my attention has been brought to the death scene of Stephen in Acts 7:54-60. Once was watching the final sermon from Passion yesterday. The second time was when we studied it in my New Testament class today. Each time, a specific detail has been brought out to me. It comes in verse 56.

Stephen looks up into heaven and sees Jesus standing at the right hand of the Father. Every other time in Scripture that Jesus is at the right hand of the Father, he is sitting. Stephen has just finished preaching to the Jews about Jesus and they are about to kill him.

And Jesus is standing.

Why is Jesus standing? Maybe he is telling Stephen he has done well and remained faithful.

How much I long for this. I long for Jesus to stand at the sight of me one day. Not because I want glory for myself, for why in the world would I want Jesus, the only one worthy of glory to give me glory in his presence. Rather, I want Jesus to confirm that I was faithful. It’s like how a son longs to hear his father say, “I’m proud of you, son” or that moment when a father tells his son that the son is now a man.

We are really big on saying that our good works cannot please God and that is absolutely true in a salvation sense. We cannot please God with our works to merit eternal life. That is all by Christ on the cross.

But he expects us to live faithfully. When you look at Christ on the cross, you see that there is nothing you can do to save yourself. But when you look at Christ on the cross, you see that if you know him, there is nothing you can do but live for him.

If we really love Jesus and are his follower, we should do everything in our power to live for him in our thoughts, words, and actions. Of course we will screw up and Jesus forgives us there. But no matter what it takes, we must seek to live as Jesus lived. Anyone who claims to live in God must walk as Jesus did (1 John 2:6).

I want Jesus to stand from his seat one day in recognition of his acceptance of the life I lived for him. I may not successfully do that. But I will do everything in my power to. I will press on for the goal of the prize of the call of God in Christ (Philippians 3:14).

Followers of Jesus, will you join me?