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

Blessed Are Those Who Are Persecuted for the Sake of Righteousness

Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. – Acts 14:22

No other faith of mankind, religious or political, has quite so extensive a record of violent bitter opposition to its growth than the Christian church.
– Kenneth Scott Latourette

It may seem strange that Jesus should pass from peacemaking to persecution, from the work of reconciliation to the experience of hostility. Yet however hard we may try to make peace with some people, they refuse to live at peace with us. Not all attempts at reconciliation succeed. Indeed, some take the initiative to oppose us, and in particular to revile or slander us. This is not because of our foibles or idiosyncrasies, but ‘for righteousness’ sake and ‘on Jesus’ account’, that is, because they find distasteful the righteousness for which we hunger and thirst, and because they have rejected the Christ we seek to follow. Persecution is simply the clash between two irreconcilable value-systems. – John Stott

“Rejoice and be glad!” What can justify such counsel to people in pain? I see two possibilities: either this is the talk of an insensitive, ivory tower theologian who has never known what it is to scream with pain, or this is the talk of one who has seen
something and tasted something and knows something about a reality that most of us have never tasted or glimpsed. – John Piper

Husbands, How are you doing as the head of your home?

“If ‘headship’ means ‘power’ in any sense, then it is power to care not to crush,
Power to serve not to dominate, Power to facilitate self-fulfillment not to frustrate or destroy it.
And in all this the standard of the husband’s love for his wife is to be the cross
of Christ, on which he surrendered himself even to death in his selfless love for his bride.”
—John Stott

When Discouragement and Despair Knock at Your Door

“All progress in the Christian life depends upon a recapitulation (an act or instance of summarizing and restating the main points of something)  of the original terms of one’s acceptance with God” (John Stott, The Cross of Christ, p. 27).

This delightful quote points us to an enduring remedy for all our ills, even that of spiritual depression. Every step we take in our Christianity, especially as we learn to war against inclinations to be self-critical, angry, anxious, bitter, hopeless, unbelieving, or fainthearted, depends upon an intentional revisiting of the Gospel. After all, what does a sad person need more than to be gently, yet continually, reminded of the good news? Over and over again, we’ve got to remember His suffering on our behalf: His incarnation, sinless life, substitutionary death, bodily resurrection, and ascension.

In a nutshell, we have to intentionally consider Jesus, especially during those dark hours when we’re tempted to think only of ourselves. And although every one of us needs a daily dose of Gospel-recapitulation, those of us who feel the blows of Giant Despair need it even more.

 

Love Stoops to Conquer – Worship Reflections for John 13

The foot washing episode of John 13 serves as “a rebuke to the disciples’ ambitious strife, far more powerful than words could have spoken: Such a rebuke that never again do we see a hint of the old question, ‘Who should be greatest?’ It was Christ’s answer to their unseemly conduct, and a lesson to all Christians “who love to be first” for all time. It said, ‘Let him that would be greatest become the servant of all.’”

– B.W. Johnson

Nothing in my hand I bring, Simply to the cross I cling;Naked, come to Thee for dress;

Helpless look to Thee for grace; Foul, I to the fountain fly; Wash me, Savior, or I die.

Augustus Toplady

 

The best commentary on John 13 is Philippians 2 because it describes the stages of Christ’s mission. Note what the text says in 13:4: “Jesus rose from supper” just as he had risen from his heavenly throne. “He laid aside his garments” just as he had laid aside his heavenly glory. “He girded himself with a towel” just as in the incarnation he took the form of a servant. Verse 5… “He poured water into a basin and began to wash and wipe their feet” just as on the cross he secured our cleansing from sin. Verse 12…. When he had washed their feet and taken up his garments, “He resumed his place…” He sat down again just as when he had purged our sins he returned to his heavenly glory and sat down at the Father’s right hand. By these actions, he dramatizes his whole saving mission.

John Stott 

For Judas to betray such a master, to betray him so cheaply and upon no provocation, was such downright enmity to God as could not be forged but by Satan himself, who thereby thought to ruin the Redeemer’s kingdom, but did in fact ruin his own.

Conscious that we labor under darkness, and conscious of our inability to judge what God is doing, should make us sparing and modest in our censures of his proceedings…Unlike the Apostle Peter in John 13.

– Adapted from Matthew Henry

Praying for Our Church Family from Acts 19

Vespers Guide for Acts 19 (Click here for PDF)When the Word of the Lord Prevails

During our Vesper service, we sing a hymn together, pray a Psalm, read a chapter of the book of Acts, share a devotional on the chapter, pray kingdom prayers using the chapter from Acts as our basis, and then we celebrate communion.

Here are some things to pray for our church from Acts 19:

Pray that God would instill in our congregation a hunger for the Word of the Lord. That we would hear it, read it, study it, meditate on it, and memorize it.

Prayer of Thomas Cranmer: Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ

May the conviction of truth, the consecration of our hearts, real heart-felt communion with Christ, and greater confidence in his love result in our lives as we open ourselves to the Holy Spirit speaking to us in the Scripture.

Pray that the Holy Spirit would move in our midst convicting us of sin and shining the spotlight on the magnificent One, Jesus Christ the Lord, especially as we move towards Easter.

Take a moment to thank the Lord that we have one college student openly identifying herself as a Christian this coming Sunday and is being baptized upon her public profession of faith.

Pray that we would be intentional, logical, and patient in our conversations with our friends about Jesus. John Stott claims that our evangelistic efforts in the church today are too ecclesiastical (inviting people to church), too emotional (appeals for decision without an adequate basis of understanding), and too superficial (brief encounters with the expectation of quick results).

Pray that we might have the privilege of experiencing conversion growth as a church not just transfer growth.

Pray that the gospel would be reasonably, systematically and thoroughly unfolded in every place of influence in our country and in our world (namely major cities and universities). Pick one and pray for it. Maybe pick one where we presently have a missionary: For example: Bangkok, Thailand; Paris, France, Los Angeles, CA, Sofia, Bulgaria, Cambridge, Harvard, U of A.

How does God Guide? Reflections from Acts 16

Devotional Guide for Acts 16 – Click here for the devotional guide in its entirety.

How does God guide?

A.    How does God guide Timothy? The external call of trusted others in the body of Christ (16:1-5).

B.    How does God guide Paul and his companions? What specific instructions and direction did the Apostle Paul and his companions receive from the Holy Spirit (Acts 16:6,7,9)?
The Holy Spirit restrains (v.6). The Spirit of Jesus didn’t permit them to go to Bithynia.
The Spirit constrains them with a vision of a man from Macedonia… “concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them” (v.10).

C.    In The Acts of the Apostles A.T. Pierson discusses the double guidance of God: On the one hand prohibition and restraint, on the other permission and constraint. They are forbidden in one direction, invited in another; one way the Spirit says “go not”; the other he calls “Come”… Pierson gives some examples from the history of missions of this same kind of guidance: David Livingston tried to go to China, but God sent him to Africa instead. Before him, William Carey planned to go to Polynesia in the South Seas, but God guided him to India. Adoniram Judson went to India first, but was driven to Burma. We too in our day, Pierson concludes, “Need to trust him for guidance and rejoice equally in his restraints and constraints.” (Quoted by John Stott, Acts, p. 261)

D.    Can you think back to a time with God led you in the past? How might God be guiding you to serve Him? Do you rejoice equally in his restraints as well as His constraints?

Summary Thoughts on God’s Guidance:

  • Receiving God’s guidance is not only negative but also positive. Some doors close and others open.
  • Receiving God’s guidance is not only circumstantial, but also it involves rational thinking. We must use our minds to mull over our situation.
  • Receiving God’s guidance is not only a personal matter, but also corporate (a sharing of data with others so that we can mull over them together and reach a common mind).

What results when we heed God’s guidance?

A.   SALVATION: People come to saving faith in Jesus Christ.
1.    Lydia and her household (vv.11-15). How does the text describe Lydia as well as the process of her coming to faith? How have you witnessed the power of the gospel to transform lives?
2.    The Philippian Jailer and his household (vv.30-34).
3.    Oikos is certainly used sometimes for a family with children.

B.    LIBERATION: People are set free from oppression (vv.16-18).

C.    OPPOSITION: Others oppose the message and persecute the messengers (vv.16-40)
How do Paul and Silas respond to their suffering?

D.    COMMUNITY:  The powerful gospel unifies very diverse people in spite of their economic and cultural differences: A wealthy businesswoman, a slave girl, and a jailer in the city of Philippi. “Racially, socially, and psychologically they were worlds apart. Yet all three were changed by the same gospel and were welcomed into the same church” (Stott, p. 268)
Paul had to exhort this church community at Philippi later on to “stand firm in one spirit” and “to be like minded having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.”