God’s Vision for His Church

stott

John Stott (1921-2011)

God’s vision for His new community – the church.
It is His family which He loves,
His kingdom which He rules
and His temple in which He dwells.

 

As this reality dawns in our hearts,
we “shall constantly be seeking to make
our church’s worship more authentic,
its fellowship more caring,
and its outreach more compassionate.
In other words, we shall be ready
to pray, to work and if necessary to suffer”
in order to make God’s vision more of a reality in our world.
– John Stott

The Majesty of a Forgiving Father

Psalm 130:4 sets forth one of the greatest discoveries that we can ever make:
“With you (the LORD) there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.”
According to John Stott, this verse “contains a beautiful balance
because its first part brings assurance to the despairing,
while its second part sounds a warning to the presumptuous.”

How easy it is to abuse God’s grace when we lose sight
of what it cost our Lord to rescue us.
Instead, knowing how forgiven we are
should move us to to fear and stand in awe of the Lord
so that we live more and more in a way that honors and exalts Him.

The Cross is not simply a lovely example of sacrificial love.
Throwing your life away needlessly is not admirable — it is wrong.
Jesus’ death was only a good example if it was more than an example,
if it was something absolutely necessary to rescue us. And it was.
Why did Jesus have to die in order to forgive us?
There was a debt to be paid — God himself paid it.
There was a penalty to be born — God himself bore it.
Forgiveness is always a form of costly suffering.

– Timothy Keller, The Reason for God

The majesty of God’s forgiveness is lost entirely
when we lose what has to be forgiven.
What has to be forgiven is not just what we do but who we are,
not just our sinning but our sinfulness,
not just our choices
but what we have chosen in place of God. . . .
When we miss the biblical teaching,
we also miss the nature of God’s grace
in all its height and depth.
In biblical faith it is God’s grace through Christ
that does for us what we cannot do for ourselves.”

– David F. Wells, The Courage to be Protestant

The voice that spells forgiveness will say:
‘You may go: you have been let off the penalty which your sin deserves.’
But the verdict which means acceptance [justification] will say:
‘You may come; you who are welcome to all my love and my presence.’

– Sir Marcus Loane, quoted by John Stott, The Message of Romans

Grace, she takes the blame. She covers the shame, removes the stain.
Grace makes beauty out of ugly things!

– Bono

What a mercy that our Heavenly Father does not leave His wandering child
to the hardening tendency and effect of his backslidings;
but, sooner or later, His Spirit, by the word,
or through some afflictive discipline of love,
recalls the wanderer to His feet, with the confession and the prayer-
“O Lord, pardon my iniquity; for it is great.”
“Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed.”

– Octavius Winslow

And now, when the question returns with personal force,
“Should God mark my iniquities, how can I stand?”
Let faith, resting upon the divine word, answer,
“Jesus is my Substitute: Jesus stood in my place: Jesus bore my sins:
Jesus did all, suffered all, and paid all in my stead, and here I rest.”

– John Owen

The forgiveness of God that delivers from the depths of despair,
guilt, and anxiety is not an end in itself
but it makes it possible for us to fulfill the chief goal of our lives:
To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

– Patrick Miller

Don’t fool and fancy yourself that you must pay your own debt of sin.
George Bernard Shaw  once wrote:
“Forgiveness is a beggar’s refuge… we must pay our debts.”
It is true: The debt of sin must be paid
and that forgiveness is indeed a beggar’s refuge.
However, we will sing King Jesus’ praise throughout eternity
because has paid the debt of sin of beggars like us.

A Few Reflections for Reformation Sunday

These wonderful reflections below come from reading and reflecting upon Romans 8.

Christians are not guaranteed immunity to temptation, tribulation or tragedy, but we are promised victory over them. God’s pledge is not that suffering will never afflict us, but that it will never separate us from His love…Our confidence is not in our love for him, which is frail, fickle, and faltering, but in his love for us, which is steadfast, faithful and persevering. The doctrine of ‘the perseverance of the saints needs to be renamed. It is the doctrine of the perseverance of God with the saints.                                – John Stott

The apostle begins with no condemnation and ends with no separation, filling up the space between with priceless covenant blessings. No chapter in the Bible is more crowded with sublime and consoling teaching. Lord, grant us to know and enjoy all the inestimable privileges which it reveals.
Charles Spurgeon

If God, the God of spotless purity and perfect righteousness, justifies me, ‘who is he that condemns?’ Sin may condemn, but it is God that justifies! The law may alarm, but it is God that justifies! Satan may accuse, but it is God that justifies! Death may terrify, but it is God that justifies! ‘If GOD is for us, who can be against us?’ Who will dare condemn the soul whom He justifies?
Octavius Winslow

Owning Our Share in the Guilt and Grace of the Cross of Jesus Christ

The cross of Jesus Christ was not something that frustrated God’s
plan but served as the ultimate fulfillment of His plan. For who was it that
ultimately delivered Jesus to die?

Not Judas for money, not Pilate for fear, not the Jews for envy, but the Father for love.  The Apostle Peter preaching at Pentecost says, “This Man, delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. (Acts 2:2)

The old spiritual calls us to reflect on the question: “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” “Yes, we were there. Not as spectators only but as participants, guilty participants, plotting, scheming, betraying, bargaining, and handing him over to be crucified…There is blood on our hands.

Before we can begin to see the cross as something done for us (leading us to
faith and worship), we have to see it as something done by us (leading us to
repentance). Only the one who is prepared to own his share in the guilt of
the cross may claim his share in its grace.” (John Stott, The Cross of Christ,
p.60).

As we prepare to celebrate Reformation Sunday, let us heed John Stott’s counsel which I have adapted below:
Own our share in the guilt of the cross by regularly repenting of our sin and remembering how profound our need. of God’s continual supply of grace. Also, let us claim our share in its grace by continually preaching the gospel  to our hearts! One will keep us humble. The other will make us bold.

A Man for Others in Radical Humility

J.I. .Packer highlights the spiritual battle we all face: “We are all engaged in a constant, inescapable battle against spiritual degeneracy in four forms:  Our unhumbled pride, our unbelief of God’s word, our lack of forgiveness of others, and our aversion to taking risks.  All these forms of spiritual degeneration banish true spiritual joy…”   (J.I. Packer, “Self-Care for Pastors,” Crux, December 2003/Vol. 34, No. 4, pp.2-13)
How are we to counter this spiritual degeneracy in our lives? Simply put: Ask the Lord to make you a man for others. The Apostle Paul sets forth this charge in Philippians chapter 2. What does it practically look like to become a man for others? There are four marks set forth in this passage of a man for others: Radical humility, loving forgiveness, vibrant faith, and bold risk-taking.
The first mark of becoming a man for others is a life of radical humility. The stimulus for developing a humble mind is to look at the cross. Jesus Christ, THE Man for others. He saved us rather than Himself on the cross. Reflect on that cross. Hear Christ speaking to you… “‘I am here for you.  It is your sin I am bearing, your curse I am suffering, your debt I am paying, your death I am dying.’”

He died for you, now, how does He want you to live for Him?

A man for others looks for practical ways to mortify pride and cultivate humility (Philippians 2:3-4 – Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.)

John Stott would remind us that at every stage of our Christian development, pride is our greatest enemy and humility our greatest friend.” Pride is spiritual cancer…humility is blessed self-forgetfulness.

Key Skill: Actively look for ways that God is at work in the lives of other people around you.
Make a practice of observing how the Spirit is evidencing His fruit and His gifts in the lives of others around you.  How about your wife?  What is she more aware of – evidences of grace that you’ve noticed or the need for change and your displeasure?  How about your children?  When was the last time you specifically and sincerely informed your child of an evidence of God’s grace that you’ve noticed in his or her life? The leader who is always finding fault is full of pride.

Good Friday and Three Truths the Cross Enforces

When the Apostle Peter discovered that Jesus would experience humiliation and suffering, he exploded, “God forbid, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” Then, Jesus’ offered a devastating rebuke: “Get behind me, Satan, you are a stumbling block” (16:22-23). Jesus reminded him and us that the son of man came to give His life.

This notion parts company with all other religions. The Jewish Encyclopedia quotes Psalm 22:1 in debunking the notion of a crucified God: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” “This final utterance was in all its implications itself a disproof of the exaggerated claims made for Jesus after his death by his disciples.  No real messiah could suffer such a death.  It is an impossible article of belief which detracts from God’s sovereignty and absolute otherness.”

Jesus is defeated and destroyed… destroyed by his enemies.  This was a sign of weakness and a sign of judgment from a common sense perspective, but it wasn’t God’s perspective.

Something happened to his disciples that overcame their common sense. It “changed the cross from a proof of defeat into a badge of honor, a bottomless source of joy and peace and a comfort for absolutely anything” (Timothy Keller).

As we prepare for Good Friday, it is wise to reflect upon these wise words from John Stott and his book The Cross of Christ: “The cross enforces three truths” (page 83).

“First, our sin must be extremely horrible. Nothing reveals the gravity of sin like the cross…. If there was no way by which the righteous God could righteously forgive our sin, except that he should bear it himself in Christ, it must be serious indeed….

Secondly, God’s love must be wonderful beyond comprehension…. He pursued us even to the desolate anguish of the cross, where he bore our sin, guilt, judgment and death. It takes a hard and stony heart to remain unmoved by a love like that….

Thirdly, Christ’s salvation must be a free gift. He `purchased’ it for us at the high price of his own life-blood. So what is there left for us to pay? Absolutely nothing!”

Why are we people of the cross?

We cherish the cross of Jesus for many reasons, but one of the fundamental reasons is because of what the cross accomplishes. It saves sinners like us. It reveals the true and living God. It overcomes evil.

God’s Word paints a vivid, beautiful picture of  the salvation we enjoy because of the cross of Jesus Christ.

This link contains the outline of a lecture I gave this week that summarizes chapter 7 of the book The Cross of Christ by the beloved pastor and author John Stott. May the Lord use it to ignite renewed devotion in your heart to Jesus as you prepare for Holy Week.

Click Here: The Cross and Salvation of Sinners