I don’t trust that guy

Hebrews 12:2

Something I have been trying to practice more is to question my initial reaction. This may range from a thought that comes to my mind or a response to something that is said. In the end I am reminded time and time again of the conflict between the sinful nature and the spirit. A conflict that every believer encounters. Paul did not ignore the existence of that conflict within himself. In Romans 7:19-20 he said:

For the good that I want to do, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.

Paul is describing the struggle that someone who has already placed their faith in Christ deals with. Before we deal with this struggle, it is worthwhile to remember the fundamental problem of sin that we all face.

Earlier in his letter to the Romans, Paul states that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). Furthermore, in chapter 6 of the very same letter we read that the wages of sin are death (Rom. 6:23), or eternal separation from God. Had it ended there, we would all be headed for eternal separation from God. But Romans 6:23 doesn’t end by simply showing us our trajectory without Christ. Rather we are told of the free gift of eternal life that comes from God, that is promised to those who are in Christ. And what does it mean to be “in Christ”? Those who are in Christ are those who have “listened to the message of truth, the gospel…having also believed” (Eph. 1:13).

A simple application I draw from all of this is that I have to constantly remind myself that I don’t have it all together. I am not perfect. And for that reason, when I look at myself from the outside I would have to say, “I don’t trust that guy”. Instead, I place my entire trust in Christ. I place my faith in Christ. I am thankful for this struggle because reminds me of my need for Christ.

There is so much that is written/blogged/YouTubed (if that’s even a word now) about simply “loving” everyone. My love is not perfect. But God’s love is. And it is because He first loved us, that we can love others (1 John 1:19). It is this love that I have experienced that drives me to want to share the good news with others. The good news that God loved us and sent His son to die for us while we were still sinners, so that through faith in Christ our sins may be forgiven. God’s love is the greatest gift that anyone can receive. The constant struggle between sin and the spirit will continue inside of me until the day Christ returns. The answer to hate in the world (which we trace back to sin) does not lie in what you or I can do. It lies in what Christ did on the cross. We are all in desperate need a savior. Jesus Christ came to rescue us.

So I will question my thoughts, my motives, and my actions. When sinfulness is revealed, I will repent and praise God that I have a hope that is found in my faith in Christ Jesus alone. On the contrary, if I find that my thoughts, my motives, or my actions are pure then again I will praise God because of the work He is doing in my life, for His glory. I will praise him because He sent His son to die for me, while I was a sinner (Rom. 5:8) I will praise Him because I know that those truly pure motives are not from myself. I will praise him because of the promise that, “He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus”(Phil. 1:9).

As we remember Christ’s crucifixion on Good Friday and then celebrate His resurrection this Sunday, be reminded that Jesus came for a reason. Jesus came to die.

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. -Heb. 12:2

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Doxology

Philippians 4:20

Every week in Thousand Oaks a group of young adults meet to study the word and pray with one another. We jokingly named ourselves “Semi Pro” two years ago. How God brought us together and how he has grown and challenged us is an encouraging story I enjoy telling to whoever will listen. But that is something I’ll save for another post.

This past week we finished our series on the book of Philippians. As we stepped through Paul’s letter verse by verse, we came across verses that many of us are familiar with.

21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. – Phil. 1:21

7 But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord… – Phil. 3:7-8

12 Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of byChrist Jesus. – Phil. 3:12

4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! 5 Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. 6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – Phil. 4:4-7

The book of Philippians, like many other epistles, is rich with memorable verses like these. We underline them in our Bibles, and commit them to memory. They become the “meat” of the book and everything else around it becomes some sort of “filler”. As I prepared for our final study, I struggled with the last set of verses. They read:

20 Now to our God and Father be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

21 Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren who are with me greet you.22 All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household.

23 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

Should I have just bundled Philippians 4:20-23 with the previous study? Verse 20 sounded great, but it almost seemed like it was randomly inserted in the letter. We find other similar verses “plopped” into some of Paul’s other letters:

33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! 34 For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, OR WHO BECAME HIS COUNSELOR? 35 Or WHO HAS FIRST GIVEN TO HIM THAT IT MIGHT BE PAID BACK TO HIM AGAIN?36 For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen. -Rom. 11:33-36

20 Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, 21 to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen. -Eph. 3:20-21

These all fall into the category of “doxology”. Whenever I used hear the word doxology I thought a song in a hymn book. It was something I remembered singing at the end of a church service. Lots of words that I didn’t ever bother thinking twice about. Words sang to a melody without an understanding of the reason why it was being sung.

So what is doxology? It literally means word of glory. It is words that offer praise to God. When we look at these examples, we find that each of these follows after Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, has penned truths about God.

In the example from Philippians chapter 4, Paul explodes into doxology after the statement that HIS God will supply all needs. This is not a distant God that he has heard a thing or two about. This is HIS God. The God who turned a murderer into a missionary on the road to Damascus. The God who demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, sent Christ to die for us (Rom. 5:8). This is the God that Paul knows intimately. This is HIS God. And at this point Paul is absolutely confident. There is no condition. He does not say, “If you do this; if you do that; if you make sure you follow this”. He says, “You are His. He will supply all your needs.” Everything in his letter to the Philippians has been building up to this. Christ is my life (chapter 1), Christ is my example (chapter 2), Christ is my goal and prize (chapter 3). And as he instructs them on how to stand firm in the Lord and how to be content he finds the truth to be so overwhelming that he just can’t stop himself from praising God.

But where many of us find ourselves is at a point of frustration because we constantly let God down. We don’t measure up to His expectations. We must be “doing it wrong”, because we don’t skip down the road reciting doxologies like Paul.

When my life “lacks doxology”, I’ve forgotten the very truth of the gospel. Instead of a thankful heart in light of the gift of the cross, I try to “fix the situation” by doing this, doing that.

George Herbert wrote,

“Thou that hast given so much to me give one thing more, a grateful heart. Not thankful when it pleases me as if thy blessings had some spare days, but such a heart who’s pulse may be thy praise.”

I need to be reminded of the truth throughout each and every day. The truth that I am a sinner and that my sin demands payment. The truth that I cannot pay this debt alone. The truth that it is by grace I am saved, through faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection on the cross. The same truth that lead Paul to a real and authentic worship of our God.

Don’t get distracted trying to create an appearance of a worshipful life. Don’t only focus on the fruit. Saturate yourself in the truth. Spend time making sure that the water which feeds the tree is pure. The writer of Psalm 1 understood this:

2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
3 He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water,
Which yields its fruit in its season
And its leaf does not wither; -Psalm 1:2-3

And so what we find at the end of the book of Philippians deserves our attention. It’s a heartfelt response to the truth. There is no filler in the Bible.

16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. -2 Tim. 3:16-17

Jesus came to die

Merry Christmas from all of us at TemporaryVisitors

None of us chose to be born. It just kind of happened. Similarly none of us chooses to die. In fact, many of us would choose to live forever if given the choice.

This Christmas be reminded of Jesus, the only person who chose both to be born and to die. And not only that, but He rose from dead in victory over sin. And He did it for you and I.

But who is He and why did He choose these things? Whether this is a first time introduction or if this sounds like something you have already heard, I encourage you to read on.

Who is Jesus?
The Son of God who saves us from the penalty of our sins and restores our relationship with God the Father.

What did He do?
God chose to send his Son Jesus to live a sinless life among man and to die for us. In Matthew 18:11 Jesus says that, “the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost.” God’s love for His people is further elaborated on in the verses that follow immediately after that statement: “What do you think? If any man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go and search for the one that is straying? If it turns out that he finds it, truly I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine which have not gone astray. So it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones perish.” The apostle Paul in his letter to Timothy says that “It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all.”

Why did He die?
So that our sins may be forgiven. If we pause to think about it, we are all sinful. And our sin demands payment, one we could not pay on our own. But God sent Jesus to die for us so that our sins may be forgiven, what we know as grace. Romans 5:6-8 reminds us that, “while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly…God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” He chose to be born and to die so that you and I would know Him, be made whole in Him, and make Him known. He is, according to Hebrews 12:2, “the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross.”

Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” If you have placed your faith in Christ, Romans 5:1-5 says that we have been “justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

While we may have spent the past week worrying about what to get others or felt a bit down thinking about what others have that we do not have, let’s not forget that the greatest gift to man came to earth to live and to die for you and I.

Joy to world, the Lord has come. Let earth receive Her King.

As you look forward to 2012, focus on Jesus, “the author and perfecter of faith” and “let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.”

Merry Christmas and happy new year,

Bryan

The Christmas Message

The below is a special guest post by my friend, coworker, and brother in Christ, Andrew Lin.

“The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” 1 Timothy 1:15

Paul begins this verse or statement with the following: “the statement is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance”. This should immediately grab your attention. Paul prefaces his upcoming statement by saying that it is not only trustworthy but also deserving of full acceptance. In the Greek, it literally reads “trustworthy is the statement”, placing the emphasis on trustworthy; this statement is worthy of banking your whole life on. In addition, Paul adds that it is deserving of full acceptance. Here I want to draw your attention to the word full, it speaks to two possibilities here in which I think Paul is emphasizing both. Full implying the attention of all peoples that would hear this, and also full implying the entirety of one’s being. On the one hand, Paul is saying that this deserves the attention of everyone, all humans. But also, for each and every one of us, it deserves our entire, full, undivided attention. What an introduction to the following statement!

“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” I want to draw your attention to the subject of this statement: Christ Jesus. Paul is talking about the person of the Trinity who took on human flesh. Literally Christ meaning the “anointed one.” It was his title. And Jesus transliterated from the Hebrew, “Yahweh-saves”, God saves. It is the person of Christ that the gospel centers upon, and it is the person of Christ that Christmas centers on.

“Christ Jesus came into the world.” This coming into the world indicates not a coming into being, but rather coming from another place. This speaks to Jesus coming into this world, taking on human flesh, coming from another world. Jesus came from Heaven where He existed from eternity past in perfect fellowship with the God and the Holy Spirit. John writes in his gospel “1In the beginning was the Word [Jesus], and the Word was with God and the Word was God… 14And the Word [Jesus] became flesh and dwelt among us.” And lets not diminish the action of coming into the world. Jesus left his place in Heaven where he experienced full joy and satisfaction to come into decaying world, a world filled with sin, a world that hated him. This condescension demonstrates the humility of Christ. It demonstrates the ultimate sacrificial love in which Jesus would leave his place in Heaven to come into the world among sinners.

For what purpose did he come? Paul continues to write that Jesus came into the world to save sinners. That was His primary purpose in coming. This is what the whole Christmas story is centered upon; not only did Christ come into the world, but he came into the world to save sinners! Christmas is not about gift giving, holly, Christmas trees, fat Santa, and apple cider, but rather is about God who comes to save His people, to save sinners.

Paul is specific here, Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. He did not come into the world to save the righteous or the holy or the unblemished, but that he came into the world to save wretched sinners. The distinction here is not that there are those in the world that are sinners and those that are not, those that need Christ and those who do not. But rather this is the mentality that is echoed in Paul’s following statement: “of whom I am the foremost.” It is the reality, made known through the word of God that we are all sinners. “None is righteous, no not one”–Romans 3:10. It is the realization of sin in the face of a righteous God in which Paul recognizes the greatness, the infinite nature of his sin. And in this humility he cries out “of whom I am the foremost.” It is this humble attitude and recognition of undeserved mercy and grace, that demonstrates true and authentic faith in Christ.

I think that if we are all honest, Christian and non-Christian, we would concede that we are somewhat sinful. However how many of you would tell your friends that you are the worst sinner, the worst person you know? Probably not many, but this is what Paul is saying here, that in contrast to God and his infinite holiness and a proper understanding of our sinfulness, this an appropriate response. And in this humble statement, Paul is direction our attention not to himself necessarily, but to what he finds his value in. He continues in the next verse saying that he receives mercy for the reason that Christ Jesus would be the foremost. His value, his joy, his assurance is not found internally, but externally. It is found in the person of Jesus Christ.

This simple statement is the gospel message, the Christmas message. You are wretchedly sinful against a holy and infinite God. This has separated us from true fellowship with Him and your sin demands payment. The Bible informs us of our utter need for a Savior and the insufficiency of imperfect substitutes. Just look at the animal sacrifices in the Old Testament. But God in his grace and mercy provides for us the perfect sacrifice, the perfect substitute as payment for our sins. And He is Jesus Christ. The Christmas message more than anything is a message about the Savior of the world who has come to save sinners, to save us.

I encourage you this holiday season to consider Christ. Consider the depths in which God condescended from Heaven to come into this world. To be born into a filthy, ordinary manger in human flesh. That he lived a perfect life so that he could be the all-sufficient solution to our dire need. He has come into the world to save sinners. Understand that Christmas is not so much about a cute baby in a manger, but a God-man who came into this world; it is not so much about giving gifts to one another, but the ultimate gift God has given in his Son; and it is not so much about warm fuzzy feelings of joy in a festive season, but a humble recognition of our sin and Christ as the perfect atonement for us.

And be encouraged as well. The verb here that Paul uses is “came”. It is past tense, it means that it has happened. The gospels each testify to Jesus coming into the world and testify to Jesus living a perfect life, and finally testifying to his death on the cross. And it doesn’t end there, but that Jesus was raised from the dead in victory over sin, and sits at the right hand of God. This has been accomplished for the purpose of saving sinners. Believe in him, trust in the Savior.  Take joy in the fact that your salvation, that your assurance of faith, that your sanctification lies not in your own self, but rather in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

That is the Christmas message.

What I Believe

Have you ever wondered how we make decisions in life? It may be the conscious decisions such as what I’ll have for lunch, or the ones we subconsciously make like when we place our entire weight on a chair (as opposed to “hovering” over it just in case it were to collapse).

Ultimately it seems as though the things we do result from some sort of belief inside of us that causes us to act in that particular way. I choose to order a particular meal because I believe it will taste good. I subconsciously choose to place my entire weight on a chair because I believe it will support my weight. Every action of ours results in some belief that we hold.

If those of us who say we believe in what God has done for us, in sending His son to die for us on the cross, then what are the “actions” that result from that belief? This is not to be confused with the misconception that we must earn favor from God through good deeds. Rather, have we become too comfortable in this world that will one day pass away and allowed ourselves to fixate not on Christ, but instead on earthly treasures?

Perhaps that is the reason why we consume ourselves at an early age with SAT scores, because we believe that will get us into a good college. Then we slave away for 4+ years of our lives because we believe that is the only way to secure a well-paying job. We then drown ourselves with endless hours at work because we believe that it will bring us a fortune. And then we allow the worries of financial stability to consumer our minds as we look to acquire one thing after another, because we believe that it will bring us security and ultimately happiness. It isn’t wrong to desire happiness, but I can tell you I have only found a temporal happiness in those things, a happiness that comes and goes.

And here we come to the crux of the matter. Do we simply see Jesus as the means to something wonderful, or is He that something wonderful? Because if He is the later then our lives would reflect that, as they did in Paul’s writings to the Philippians:

More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith

Phil. 3:8-9

I believe that I was once enslaved to sin, for “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).

I believe that “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23), separation from God for eternity, but that “the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:24).

I believe that there is nothing I could ever do to deserve this gift, but rather that it is “by grace you have been saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8).

I believe that “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

It is my hope and prayer that what we believe dramatically changes the way we live, how we relate to others, and what we value in life. Let’s encourage one another to have an eternal perspective, remembering that we are but temporary visitors here. And as Resurrection Sunday draws to an end and a new day starts, may we stand in awe of the One who gave it all.

Jesus is so much more than the means to something wonderful, He is that something wonderful.

That is what I believe.