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God's Glory

The Radiance of the Glory of God

Jared Wilson reflects on Hebrews 1:3.

"He is the radiance of the glory of God… " —Hebrews 1:3a

All that God is—the measureless sum of his eternal and eternally rich attributes—shines forth in Jesus Christ, God's only begotten Son. Jesus is supremely radiant.

What does this mean? It means that this Bright Morning Star (Rev. 22:16) will be the sun of the new heavens and the new earth. We won't need this old sun, we will have the Lamb as our Lamp (Rev. 21:23). And it means that even now, the sun of righteousness who has risen with healing in his wings (Mal. 4:2) must be the center of our spiritual solar system or everything else goes out of whack. Indeed, if we were to kick our sun out from the center of our system, we wouldn't just have chaos, but death. Life would be unsustainable. So it is with Jesus. If he is not the center, we die.

Also like the sun's beams, the radiating lines of the Son's glory are too numerous to count. Ever tried counting sunbeams? You can't do it. It's like counting airwaves in the wind. Jonathan Edwards says that in Christ we find an "admirable conjunction of diverse excellencies." These diverse excellencies are the sunbeams of his magnificence, finding their unity in him, as they—though disparate—converge and emanate back out to reflect the imprinting of the nature of God.

Read the rest here.

Self-Worth, Identity and Awe

In an article over at the Desiring God blog, Jen Wilkin, gives an incredibly helpful reminder when it comes to self-reflection and what we spend our time looking at. It's directed towards women but applicable for us all. Here are a couple of excerpts: 

Research shows that when humans experience awe — wonderment at redwoods or rainbows, Rembrandt or Rachmaninoff — we become less individualistic, less self-focused, less materialistic, more connected to those around us. In marveling at something greater than ourselves, we become more able to reach out to others. 

At first, this seems counterintuitive, but on closer examination, it begins to sound a lot like the greatest commandments: Love God with heart, soul, mind, and strength (marvel at Someone greater than yourself), and love your neighbor (reach out to others). 

Awe helps us worry less about self-worth by turning our eyes first toward God, then toward others. It also helps establish our self-worth in the best possible way: we understand both our insignificance within creation and our significance to our Creator. But just like a child on an iPad at the foot of an 800-year-old redwood, we can miss majesty when it is right in front of us.

Later she writes: 

Awe yields self-forgetfulness. When we emphasize self-awareness to the omission of self-forgetfulness, we have missed the mark. You can tell me that I am a royal daughter of the King. You can assure me that I am God’s poem or his masterpiece. You can tell me that I stir the heart of God, that I am sung over and delighted in, that I am beautiful in his eyes, that I am set apart for a sacred purpose. You can tell me these things, and you should. But I beg you: Don’t tell me who I am until you have caused me to gaze in awe at “I Am.” Though all of these statements are precious truths, their preciousness cannot be properly perceived until framed in the brilliance of his utter holiness. There can be no true self-awareness apart from right, reverent awe of God.

Read the rest here.

The Christian's Highest Good

Recently, Justin Taylor posted the following quote from Jonathan Edwards: 

The redeemed have all their objective good in God.

God himself is the great good which they are brought to the possession and enjoyment of by redemption.

He is the highest good, and the sum of all that good which Christ purchased.

God is the inheritance of the saints; he is the portion of their souls.

God is their wealth and treasure, their food, their life, their dwelling place, their ornament and diadem, and their everlasting honor and glory.

They have none in heaven but God; he is the great good which the redeemed are received to at death, and which they are to rise to at the end of the world.

The Lord God, he is the light of the heavenly Jerusalem; and is the ‘river of the water of life’ that runs, and the tree of life that grows, ‘in the midst of the paradise of God’.

The glorious excellencies and beauty of God will be what will forever entertain the minds of the saints, and the love of God will be their everlasting feast.

The redeemed will indeed enjoy other things; they will enjoy the angels, and will enjoy one another: but that which they shall enjoy in the angels, or each other, or in anything else whatsoever, that will yield them delight and happiness, will be what will be seen of God in them.

—Jonathan Edwards, “God Glorified in the Work of Redemption, by the Greatness of Man’s Dependence upon Him, in the Whole of It (1731)” [sermon on 1 Corinthians 1:29-31 preached in the fall of 1730 at Northampton and then repeated at the Publick Lecture in Boston on July 8, 1731] in The Sermons of Jonathan Edwards: A Reader, ed. Wilson H. Kimnach, Kenneth P. Minkema, and Douglas A. Sweeney (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999), 74-75.

(HT: Justin Taylor)

October 31st

In addition to being the candy consuming holiday Halloween (for an interesting take on Halloween check out this post from Desiring God or another one here from Jeff Vanderstelt) October 31st also happens to be Reformation Day. It is the day on which Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the church door at Wittenberg in an act that would serve as a significant catalyst for the Protestant Reformation.  The Reformation called the church back to Scripture alone, Christ alone, grace alone, faith alone and God's glory alone (go here for more info on the solas).

When you stop and think about it, its not hard to see that this is a day worth celebrating.  If you're wanting to find some ways for you and your family to celebrate Reformation Day check out this post by Justin Taylor to access a number of resources regarding Reformation Day- articles, video clips, book recommendations, etc.

Jesus is Better

A great meditation on the superiority of Jesus from Melissa Kruger. Life is full of distractions, idols and trials- we must remember that Jesus is better.

The writer of the book of Hebrews aims to convince his Jewish audience of one paramount truth: Jesus is better. He is better than the angels. He's better than the prophets. He's better than Moses. His priesthood is better than Aaron's. His new covenant is better than the old covenant they could never fulfill. His blood is better than the blood of bulls and goats. In every way and at every turn, Jesus is better.

It isn't that the treasures of the Jewish faith were in and of themselves detrimental; it's simply that they were insufficient. The blood of bulls and goats could never take away sin. Jesus' blood atoned for sin once for all. The old covenant was written on stone tablets. The new covenant is written on our hearts. The high priest entered into an earthly place of worship to intercede for the people once a year. Jesus entered heaven itself, into the very presence of God, and forever intercedes on our behalf. Though the Jews were richly blessed with God's favor through the ministry of prophets, priests, and kings, it would be foolish for them to continue living in shadows once the substance of their faith had been fulfilled in the person of Christ. Why continue to live on crumbs when invited to a feast?

Two thousand years later, we share in our ancestors' propensity to miss the greater by clutching onto the lesser. Our modern American culture daily entices us with temporal blessings as if they are superior to the riches found in Christ. Perhaps we need a modern-day apologetic to answer our culture's questions: Is Jesus better than material wealth? Is he better than the relationships we yearn for? Is he better than our sexual freedom? Is he better than comfort and ease? All these we may be called to sacrifice in order to follow the way of the cross. And at every turn, the Christian should be able to resound with joy: Jesus is better.

Jesus Is Better than Material Wealth

Money can seem to provide so much: vacations, security, relational peace. Yet, in truth, the love of money is dangerously corrosive to our soul. He who loves money never has enough. One can be extremely wealthy and completely miserable. The poorest saint who has the Holy Spirit residing within her soul is far richer than the wealthiest man devoid of knowledge of God. How many have labored endlessly for money only to look back in deep regret at a wasted life? Yet those who set their hearts on pilgrimage go from strength to strength. Their hearts are wedded to Christ's kingdom in such a way that they can enjoy material blessing here, without being possessed by their possessions. To those who labor long and enjoy few material blessings, rest assured. Jesus is better.

Jesus Is Better than Relationships

We were created to be in relationship with one another. However, when we seek for another person to fill the relational void that can only be satisfied in Christ, every relationship we encounter will be lacking in some way. Our spouses can never love us enough, our friendships will be marred by insecurity, and our children will suffer from the pressure of our relational demands. Fear of losing relationships leads to anxiety and worry. Despair at what we may never have leads to bitterness and anger. In Christ alone can our relational needs be fulfilled. No other person can make the promise, "I will never leave or forsake you" (Heb. 13:5). All other relationships suffer from the finite nature of the participants. Only an eternal God can promise that nothing will separate us from his love. Indeed, by growing in our affections for Jesus, all the other relationships we treasure are not lessened but increased. Jesus is better.

Jesus Is Better than Sexual Freedom

The world entices that sexual freedom is paramount to love. To lack the freedom to express oneself sexually is seen as repressive and, by some accounts, harmful. In truth, however, sexual immorality enslaves its victims, and the freedom promised most often results in the painful chains of regret. But Jesus breaks the chains by offering forgiveness and true freedom. "Greater love has no one than this," he says, "that someone lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13). The call to chastity outside of marriage in no way precludes our ability to love. The greatest demonstration of love the world has ever witnessed wasn't found in the passion of the bedroom, but in the passion of the cross. Jesus is better.

Jesus Is Better than Comfort and Ease

In the world's estimation, Christians do seemingly ridiculous things: They move their families thousands of miles away to share the gospel. They adopt children when they already have a full house. They forfeit jobs that would require them to sacrifice their integrity. They give to others financially at cost to themselves. They are labeled as foolish and ignorant because they believe the Bible is the infallible Word of God. They get involved in messy relationships and keep pursuing peace, even when it would be much easier to let the relationship go.

Why do Christians make their lives more difficult instead of pursuing comfort and ease? They follow Jesus, who left the comforts of heaven to enter into the difficulties of this broken world. Jesus came to provide abundant life for his followers. However, the full life promised in the gospel isn't found by making our lives easier; it's found by laying down our lives. "Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it," Jesus said (Luke 17:33). Christians don't lead safe lives. They lead joyfully purposeful ones.

Drink and Live

One who attempts to quench his thirst in seawater will only find himself thirstier still. If he keeps drinking, eventually he will die. Likewise, one who attempts to quench his spiritual thirst with temporal stuff will only find himself thirsty for more. This world's treasures simply cannot satisfy our souls. They were never intended to do so. Jesus is the only remedy for our spiritual hunger. It's the greatest kindness, then, to invite others to "taste and see that the Lord is good" (Ps. 34:8). 

As we share our faith, may we do so with the winsome confidence that life in Jesus is so much richer, fuller, and better than any life apart from him. The gospel is good news! Lives that reflect a joy deeper than circumstances lovingly bear witness to this soul-satisfying truth: Jesus is better.

 

Nothing With God

J.D. Greear with a good opportunity to check our view of God: 

Most of us assume—effectively if not explicitly—that when life is good, that it’s because we’re good folks. But when things are going wrong, we assume that God isn’t pleased with us. You don’t have to read far in Scripture, however, to see that our circumstances aren’t a great barometer for how God feels about us. In fact, in many places, Scripture actually seems to say that circumstantial success is more dangerous than trouble itself.

You probably don’t believe that. Most of the time, I act like I don’t believe it either. But then I come across a passage like Exodus 33.[1]

By the time we get to Exodus 33, Israel has just left Egypt. They are on their way to the Promised Land, but make an important pit stop at Mt. Sinai to get the Law. As Moses is on top of the mountain collecting the tablets, Israel responds in the worst way imaginable: they melt their jewelry down and make a golden cow to worship. Not good.

God is understandably peeved. So we might expect him to tell Moses that he’s going to bring destruction, or stop blessing them, or just do something bad. But here’s what he says instead:

“Depart; go up from here … I will send an angel before you, and I will drive out the Canaanites … Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; but I will not go up among you.” (Exodus 33:1–3).

Don’t miss this: God promises Moses all the success he could desire. The Promised Land would be theirs. But there’s a caveat. God won’t be going with them.

Most people—particularly Americans—would actually consider this a dream offer. Outward success coupled with no real obligation to God? No religion, and just blessing? Think of it: if you could get all of the blessings of God with none of the obligations that come with his presence, isn’t that the best of both worlds? What could be better than that?

Moses, however, knows it’s a raw deal. “If your presence will not go with me,” he says, “do not bring us up from here” (Exodus 33:15). In other words, “What’s the point of getting everything we dreamed of … without You? You can keep all that success—money, health, legacy, family. If we don’t have your presence, we don’t have anything at all.”

Moses had a level of insight that most of us lack. He was able to see that God+nothing was the better deal, for two reasons.

1. Moses saw God as beautiful, not just useful.

2. Moses saw that without God, everything else was useless.

...Moses knew what it meant to have prosperity without God. He had grown up as a prince in Egypt, the largest military power in the known world. He also knew what it meant to have nothing. He spent 40 years in the wilderness, with nothing but God and a handful of his father-in-law’s sheep. Yet when faced with the choice, he took the wilderness over the palace. Why? People who have experienced everything without God and nothing with God will take nothing with God. Every time.

Read the rest here.

What More Could You Want?

Justin Taylor with an excerpt from Jonathan Edwards' sermon The Excellencies of Christ. Good stuff. 

If you only know the Jonathan Edwards of “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” you need to read his sermon on “The Excellencies of Christ.” There he celebrates the “admirable conjunction of diverse excellencies” found in Jesus Christ.

At one point in this sermon to his flock at Northampton, he directly addresses “the poor, burdened, distressed soul.” He would like to ask you a few questions if you are hesitant to close with Christ:

What are you afraid of, that you dare not venture your soul upon Christ?

Are you afraid that he can’t save you, that he is not strong enough to conquer the enemies of your soul? But how can you desire one stronger than “the mighty God”? as Christ is called (Isaiah 9:6).

Is there need of greater than infinite strength?

Are you afraid that he won’t be willing to stoop so low, as to take any gracious notice of you? But then, look on him, as he stood in the ring of soldiers, exposing his blessed face to be buffeted and spit upon, by them!

Behold him bound, with his back uncovered to those that smote him! And behold him hanging on the cross! Do you think that he that had condescension enough to stoop to these things, and that for his crucifiers, will be unwilling to accept of you if you come to him?

Or, are you afraid that if he does accept of you, that God the Father won’t accept of him for you?

But consider, will God reject his own Son, in whom his infinite delight is, and has been, from all eternity, and that is so united to him, that if he should reject him he would reject himself?

Edwards continues:

What is there that you can desire should be in a Savior, that is not in Christ?

Or, where in should you desire a Savior should be otherwise than Christ is?

What excellency is there wanting?

What is there that is great or good?

What is there that is venerable or winning?

What is there that is adorable or endearing?

Or, what can you think of that would be encouraging, that is not to be found in the person of Christ?

Would you have your Savior to be great and honorable, because you are not willing to be beholden to a mean person?

And, is not Christ a person honorable enough to be worthy that you should be dependent on him?

Is he not a person high enough to be worthy to be appointed to so honorable a work as your salvation?

Would you not only have a Savior of high degree, but would you have him notwithstanding his exaltation and dignity, to be made also of low degree, that he might have experience of afflictions and trials, that he might learn by the things that he has suffered, to pity them that suffer and are tempted?

And has not Christ been made low enough for you?

And has he not suffered enough?

Would you not only have him have experience of the afflictions you now suffer, but also of that amazing wrath that you fear hereafter, that he may know how to pity those that are in danger of it, and afraid of it? This Christ has had experience of, which experience gave him a greater sense of it, a thousand times, than you have, or any man living has.

Would you have your Savior to be one that is near to God, that so his mediation might be prevalent with him?

And can you desire him to be nearer to God than Christ is, who is his only begotten Son, of the same essence with the Father?

And would you not have him near to God, but also near to you, that you may have free access to him?

And would you have him nearer to you than to be in the same nature, and not only so, but united to you by a spiritual union, so close as to be fitly represented by the union of the wife to the husband, of the branch to the vine, of the member to the head, yea, so as to be looked upon as one, and called one spirit? For so he will be united to you, if you accept of him.

Would you have a Savior that has given some great and extraordinary testimony of mercy and love to sinners, by something that he has done, as well as by what he says?

And can you think, or conceive of greater things than Christ has done?

Was it not a great thing for him, who was God, to take upon him human nature, to be not only God, but man thenceforward to all eternity?

But would you look upon suffering for sinners to be a yet greater testimony of love to sinners, than merely doing, though it be never so extraordinary a thing that he has done?

And would you desire that a Savior should suffer more than Christ has suffered for sinners?

What is there wanting, or what would you add if you could, to make him more fit to be your Savior?

 Jonathan Edwards [1734], Sermons and Discourses, 1734-1738 (WJE Online Vol. 19), ed. M. X. Lesser, 584-86.

Will Heaven Be Boring?

In a blog post over at Desiring God Dave Radford, drawing on a sermon by Jonathan Edwards', describes why our eternity with God will never be boring:

What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived— the things God has prepared for those who love him.

Have you ever worried that you might grow bored in heaven, that things may lose their luster or taste, that the whole novelty and intrigue of heaven might fade as do most things on earth? When you sing, “When we’ve been there ten thousand years . . . we’ve no less days to sing his praise than when we’d first begun,” do you wonder whether or not to be encouraged by such a statement?

Sure, eternal life sounds wonderful at first. But unless you have a firm grasp on what the Bible has to say about eternal life, you may begin to wonder. “Eternity really is a long time,” you might think. “Is this something I really desire? After ten million years, will I really have the same desire I once had to go on existing here?” At the heart of these existential questions lies a deep concern for whether eternal joy actually exists.

If at this point Jonathan Edwards were still alive and knew what you were thinking, he would probably put his hand on your shoulder and lay your fears to rest.

In his sermon, “Heaven, A World Of Love,” Jonathan Edwards — in a way that is nothing short of breath-taking — brilliantly unpacks the staggering realities of our joy in heaven.

Here are just a few of these realities:

1. You Will Have Greater Capacity for Joy

 

2. You Will Have an Ever-Increasing Capacity for Joy

 

3. You Worship an Infinite God

Read how he fills out each point here.

A Fear that Chases Away All Others

Christina Fox describes two different kinds of fear and what Scripture says about them: 

Fear is a common emotion. We might tease our friends for their fear of clowns or mice, but deep down, we all know that we have our own fears. It might not be furry creatures that startle us. Instead, we might fear being alone, or losing everything we’ve worked to gain, or being rejected. Whatever its form, fear is something we’ve all encountered at some point in our lives.

Scripture has a lot to say about fear. If we were to look up the word “fear” in our English Bibles, we’d find hundreds of occurrences. Yet in the Bible, not all fear is the same. There are two main ways that Scripture talks about it. First, there is the fear of God; second, there is the fear of everything else.

This second kind of fear that the Bible speaks of is about our desire to control the world around us. It’s the fear of losing what’s important to us, whether it be our job, our family, our reputation, our health, or our lives. Sometimes that means hiding from what we fear in the hopes that it can’t find us. Other times it means trying to control every detail of our lives, clinging tight to what matters most to us. This kind of fear pulls us away from God. It tells us that we are on our own and there is no one who cares to help us. It tells us that God is not really concerned about us. It makes giants out of what we fear, giants so big that we think even God can’t beat them.

When it comes to this kind of fear, the Bible says to abandon it. “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).

A Holy Fear

Yet there’s another fear that the Bible speaks of, one that we must have. This kind of fear is good. It stands up to all our other fears. It brings wisdom, joy, rest, and life. It is a holy fear — the fear of God.

  • “Whoever fears the LORD has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge.” (Proverbs 14:26)
  • “The fear of the Lord leads to life; and he who has it rests satisfied.” (Proverbs 19:23)
  • “Praise the LORD! How joyful are those who fear the LORD and delight in obeying his commands.” (Psalm 112:1)

John Piper describes the fear of God as if we were caught in a terrible storm while exploring an Arctic glacier. The storm is so strong that you fear you’ll blow right over the side of the cliff. But then you discover a cleft in the ice where you can hide and find shelter. Even though you are safe, you watch the storm go past with a kind of “trembling pleasure.” He writes,

At first there was the fear that this terrible storm and awesome terrain might claim your life. But then you found a refuge and gained the hope that you would be safe. But not everything in the feeling called fear vanished from your heart. Only the life-threatening part. There remained the trembling, the awe, the wonder, the feeling that you would never want to tangle with such a storm or be the adversary of such power. . . . The fear of God is what is left of the storm when you have a safe place to watch right in the middle of it. . . . Oh, the thrill of being here in the center of the awful power of God, yet protected by God himself! (The Pleasures of God, 186–187)

To fear the Lord is to be like Moses and remove our shoes because we are standing on holy ground (Exodus 3:5). It is to be like the woman at the well who came face to face with the One who knew her so well. She encountered grace and left wonderstruck, running into the village to tell everyone, “He told me everything I ever did” (John 4:28–29). It is to be like the disciples who feared for their lives in the midst of a terrible storm at sea. But after seeing Jesus calm the storm with just his words, they stood in awe. “And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’” (Mark 4:41). As Mr. Beaver said of Aslan, “Safe? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good.”

This kind of fear is to grasp the wonder of the gospel that a holy and righteous God would take on flesh and enter into this sin-stained world to rescue us from the clutches of death. It is to be utterly blown away that, because of Jesus, we are children of God and we go freely before the throne of grace with complete confidence and without shame. It’s to see his work in our lives and be amazed at how he loves, provides, and cares for us.

Read the rest here.

College and Your Heart

Sammy Rhodes at Desiring God with some important thoughts about college and the temptations that often go along with it.

Every summer the same thing happens to my inbox. I open it to find a steady stream of emails from concerned parents, youth pastors, and older siblings, asking me to check in on so and so when they get to campus in August.

They all want the same thing: to see their beloved 18-year-old get involved with our ministry on campus and growing in their faith. The problem is that more times than not, this isn’t exactly what the beloved 18-year-olds want for themselves.

What do they want? That’s the question I’ve asked myself for the last eight years doing campus ministry. The question itself embodies everything I love and hate about campus ministry. College students, typically ages 18 to 22, are working out for themselves, not what their parents want for them, but what they want. It’s thrilling. It’s maddening. It’s discouraging. It’s exhausting.

Some are trying harder than others to figure it out. Some come in thinking they’ve already got it figured out. It takes time. Few of them realize how precious time actually is. It also takes mistakes. Lots and lots of them typically.

The Drama of Emerging Adulthood

Few have put what college feels like better than Notre Dame sociology professor Christian Smith. He writes,

To an extent matched by no other time in the life course, emerging adults enjoy and endure multiple, layered, big, and often unanticipated life transitions. They move out, they move back, they plan to move out again. They go to college, they drop out, they transfer, they take a break for a semester to save money, some graduate, some don’t. They want to study architecture, they hate architecture, they switch to criminal justice, a different career path. Their parents separate, make up, get divorced, remarry. They take a job, they quit, they find another, they get promoted, they move. They meet new friends, their old friends change, their friends don’t get along, they meet more new people. They get new roommates, their roommates don’t work out, they find a new apartment. They buy insurance, they wreck their car, they cancel their insurance, they borrow a car. They find their soulmate, they get involved, their soulmate dumps them, they are crushed. They believe in saving sex for meaningful relationships, they hook up, they get angry with themselves, they look for a meaningful relationship. They smoke, they want to quit smoking, they quit for some days, they start smoking again. In these and other ways, for emerging adults not a lot in life is stable or enduring. (Souls in Transition, 34)

If you read through the lines, college students are trying to answer two questions: “Am I loved?” and “Can I get my own way?” (According to Dan Allender these are the two questions every child is born asking.) Their parents have already attempted to answer these questions for them (some better than others), but now it’s time for them to begin to answer these two questions themselves. In other words, every college student has a story and that story is a drama with the central storyline being twofold: Where will they find love and how will they learn to live for something bigger than themselves?

No Student Is Safe

Woody Allen once famously said that “the heart wants what it wants.” Thomas Chalmers would agree. The problem isn’t that we desire, it’s what we desire, and why. Our hearts are fickle things, and more than anything, that’s what college reveals. As Paul Tripp might put it, it’s not that college changes your heart as much as reveals it. It isn’t the secularity, or the immorality that is to be feared. According to Jesus, it’s the propensity of our hearts to either want the wrong things or try to anchor themselves in the wrong places. All the while, Jesus is simultaneously the one we’re running from and looking for.

C.S. Lewis wrote about his own heart, “For the first time I examined myself with a seriously practical purpose. And there I found what appalled me: a zoo of lusts, a bedlam of ambitions, a nursery of fears, a harem of fondled hatreds. My name was legion.” Far from being a bad, morbid, overly introspective thing, this was how he became a Christian, how he saw his need for a Savior who promised he came not for the healthy but the sick. Sick-hearted people are the ones Jesus came for.

This means the only freshmen who will be completely “safe” in college are the ones with completely pure hearts. And the last time I checked my Bible, that’s none of us. Even the high school senior who was the youth group hero and “so mature for her age” isn’t safe. I’m sure she’s great — actually according to Jesus, I’m not so sure. Because often that high school senior loves the approval and affirmation she gets from her youth group leader, her teachers, her parents, really just any adult in general. More than Jesus, she loves the religious pats on the back that simultaneously make you feel godly and better than all of your peers.

What to Do with a Broken Heart

I know this well because this was me. The heroic (at least in his own mind) high school senior who loved approval transformed suddenly into the lonely college freshmen who thought he was better than everyone, yet at the same time was afraid of being known by anyone. An antisocial butterfly who loved to flutter his self-righteous wings, mistook his flying as his own doing instead of the pure gift of God.

What do you do with a broken heart? Not a romantically broken one, but the one all of us carry around, the one broken by the fall. The one that caused David to seduce the hottest girl on campus. The one that caused Peter to not eat dinner with “the losers” (Galatians 2:11–12). The one that causes us to choose almost anything but Jesus.

You bring it to Jesus. He’s the only one who can heal a broken heart. The only one who can fill it. The only one who can make it new. The only one who can answer in a satisfying way the two questions it’s aching to have answered. Yes, you are loved — so loved that he knows every twisted, dark spot of your heart, yet refuses to let you go.

And, no, you can’t have your own way. Our hearts are quick to want the wrong things, or indulge good desires in the wrong way, at the wrong times. He loves us enough to disappoint us, to discipline us, to teach us, to change us.

Read the rest here.

Take Heart

Words of comfort here from Tullian Tchvidjian.

With Christ’s first coming, God began the process of reversing the curse of sin and redeeming all things. In Christ, God was moving in a new way. All of Jesus’ ministry—the words he spoke, the miracles he performed—showed that there was a new order in town: God’s order. When Jesus healed the diseased, raised the dead, and forgave the desperate, he did so to show that with the arrival of God in the flesh came the restoration of the way God intended things to be.

Tim Keller observes that Christ’s miracles were not the suspension of the natural order but the restoration of the natural order. They were a reminder of what once was prior to the fall and a preview of what will eventually be a universal reality once again—a world of peace and justice, without death, disease, or conflict.

The resurrection of Jesus is the greatest proof of God’s intention to revitalize this broken cosmos. His rising from the dead was “just the beginning of the saving, renewing, resurrecting work of God that will have its climax in the restoration of the entire cosmos,” as K. Scott Oliphant and Sinclair Ferguson remind us. The bodily resurrection of Jesus “was the first bit of material order to be redeemed and transfigured,” writes John Stott. “It is the divine pledge that the rest will be redeemed and transfigured one day.” Christ’s resurrection is both the model and the means for our resurrection—and the guarantee that what he started, he will finish.

The day will come when Christ returns and completes this process of transformation (read Revelation 21). Psalm 96 gives us a poetic glimpse of what will happen when Jesus returns to rule the earth.

It is good news to the weary and heavy laden that there will one day be no more sickness, no more death, no more tears, no more division, no more tension. For the pardoned children of God, there’ll be complete harmony. We’ll work and worship in a perfectly renewed earth without the interference of sin. We who believe the gospel will enjoy sinless hearts and minds along with disease-free bodies. All that causes us pain and discomfort will be destroyed, and we will live forever.

So take heart, weary soldiers. The best is yet to come.

Far Too Easily Pleased

Tim Challies with a  helpful reflection on a well known C.S. Lewis quote:

It is one of C.S. Lewis’ most powerful and most enduring illustrations: An ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. It is a vivid illustration and one that is simple enough to see in the lives of other people—those people who settle for lesser pleasures when the greatest of all pleasures awaits. But I, at least, find it far more difficult to see in my own life. You may find it just as difficult.

It is worth asking: What is your mud pie?

Is it money? You will never have a bank account rich enough to satisfy you.

Is it food? You will never have a meal filling enough to satisfy you.

Is it pleasure? You will never have a sexual experience gratifying enough to satisfy you.

Is it popularity? You will never have enough friends to satisfy you.

Is it stuff? You will never accumulate enough possessions to satisfy you.

Is it pornography? You will never find a person naked enough to satisfy you.

Is it control? You will never have enough authority to satisfy you.

Is it leisure? You will never have enough rest to satisfy you.

Is it success? You will never achieve enough to satisfy you.

It is freedom? You will never be lawless enough to satisfy you.

And in the light of all those questions and the certainty of the answers, let’s go back to Lewis.

If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

The Death of Our Dreams

Good stuff here:

. . . for you are dust, and to dust you shall return. – Genesis 3:19

One of the problems I have with all the “chase your dreams!” cheerleading from Christian leaders is not because I begrudge anyone wanting to achieve their dreams, but because I don’t think we readily see how easy it is to conflate our dream-chasing with God’s will in Christ.

You know, it’s possible that God’s plan for us is littleness. His plan for us may be personal failure. It’s possible that when another door closes, it’s not because he plans to open a window but because he plans to have the building fall down on you. The question we must ask ourselves is this: Will Christ be enough?

Are we pursuing our own greatness or the expansion of worship of Jesus Christ? They aren’t necessarily incompatible, but God is more interested in the latter than the former. And ultimately, if we prioritize Christ’s glory, we won’t really care in the long run how noticed, renowned, recognized, or “successful” we are personally. We’ll realize that our lives aren’t really about us anyway.

Sometimes we have to let our dreams die. And that’s okay. We will be okay.

Look, “for those who love God, all things work together for the good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28). So God’s plan might be for your littleness, and that’s okay, because his plan is not for his own littleness! His plan for your efforts, big and small, is that they will maximize the glory due his Son. That he might draw all men to himself. That he might fill the earth with the knowledge of his glory – as Habakkuk 2:14 says – as much as the waters cover the seas.

One day, you are going to die. Perhaps today. What will they say about you? What legacy are you truly leaving? When the funeral is over and all the accolades about you are used up, your body will become dust.

In Al Mohler’s book The Conviction to Lead he writes of

. . . an old preacher [who] told a group of younger preachers to remember that they would die. “They are going to put you in a box,” he said, “and put the box in the ground, and throw dirt on your face, and then go back to the church and eat potato salad.”

Here’s the point: As great as you can make yourself, as many wonderful things as you can accomplish in your lifetime — even religious things — it will all be a blip on the radar of eternity. You will become dust. The worms will eat you. Statistically speaking, since most of us will never accomplish such great things that history will laud throughout the ages, memory of us will start fading with our grandchildren. Our great grandchildren will (likely) not have any clue who we are.

But! If you are bringing glory to Christ, not a thing about you is wasted, because the mission of the Spirit of God is to maximize the glory of Christ over all the universe. So that even at the end of days, as Revelation shows us, all the glorious kings of the nations in all their renown and splendor, file in one by one into the holy city to throw their crowns at the feet of Jesus. Revelation 21 reveals that the light of the new heavens and new earth comes not from the “sun” but from the “Son,” and the kings of the nations will bring their glory into it.

There is the vision of greatness the redeemed of the Lord ought to aspire to. That he would increase and we would decrease. That our decrease would serve his increase!

(HT: Jared Wilson)

Afterthoughts: No One Like Him Pt. 5- The Faithfulness of God

Erik Raymond shares some thoughts on how to find comfort in the midst of trials:

When we are afflicted by the devastating trials of this life it can feel like we are being held underwater. It’s tough to hear, hard to breathe, and frightening. We panic. We get anxious. This is understandable. Life in this broken world is filled with heart-shredding trials that leg-sweep us surprisingly.

In the midst of this it is very important to remember to focus on what we know and not what we do not know. The common question is “why?” This is something we know in part but not in full. In the context of the big picture we understand that the answer to the “why” question is that we live in a post Genesis 3 world. However, the specific nuanced answer to “why” is unknown. We don’t know precisely “why.”

But we do know who God is and how he acts. This is tremendously comforting. In fact, when Job was laid low by trial he never received the answer to the “why” question but he did get a lengthy exposition of the “who.” It may seem like a theological copout but if you are spending time “under-water” in the midst of the waves of the trial then you need something objective, you need to clasp ahold of a dock.

The “who” aspect is expansive. And this theological railing is sufficient to bear your weight, the full range of human emotions.

When you need to be comforted (and you will) or when your brother/sister needs to be comforted (and they will), then comfort them with truth.

And in conclusion he states:

It is important then to resist the temptation to interpret God’s character through the lenses of our circumstances. Instead, we have to interpret our circumstances through the lenses of God’s character. He is the rock that provides stability and comfort in need.

I'd encourage you to go here to read the rest of the post.

 

Afterthoughts: The Holiness of God- Leviticus 10:1-11

One of the things I didn't get into much on Sunday was why God's holiness leads to such seemingly severe judgment. The following observation from Stephen Witmer is worth thinking considering:

The seriousness of an offense is related to the worth of the one (or the thing) offended. In most societies around the world, the penalty for damaging a flower is less than that for cruelty to animals. And the penalty for cruelty to animals is less than that for child abuse. Why? Because a puppy is more valuable than a flower, and a baby is more valuable than a puppy. In fact, the penalty for injuring a human being is greater than the penalty for killing a flower because human beings are considered so much more valuable than flowers.

Humans are in serious trouble because we have offended God, and there is no being in the universe more valuable than God. In the terms of our analogy, we have pierced not the postcard but the painting. God is a being who is valuable in every way. He is the most valuable being in the universe. And God is the one whom humans have offended. That is why our sin against him is so desperately serious.

Read the rest of the article here.

Also, you might check out this article by Tim Challies.