A Beloved Son

Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased.” -Matthew 12:18

This verse describes God the Father’s feelings for Jesus. The Father wants the Son because He chose Him. He is His Father’s beloved. And the Father is well pleased with His Son.

There is an incredible truth taught in the Bible known as the doctrine of Union with Christ. The Apostle Paul was obsessed about it. Over 160 times in the New Testament Paul used the phrase “in Christ”  or “in Him.” It means, when our faith is in Jesus, and His Spirit is in us, God the Father feels the same way about us as He does about Jesus. Meaning, for Christians….though we are a huge habitual failures, Jesus was not…and He paid for ALL our failures on the cross. So no matter how bad a day you’re having, if you are trusting in Jesus’ life and death in your place, God treats you like He treats His son …chosen …beloved …well pleased.

As I meditated on this truth this morning I thought, “How can I understand what that must feel like to have God love me like this?” “What can I relate that to?” Then I remembered a phone call I received first thing this morning. My father called to check on me. He had been concerned about my well being. He wanted to express his love for me and for my family. I felt his love. I was very glad to hear from my dad.

Then it came to me…”That’s what it feels like! It should make me feel the way I felt when my dad called me this morning out of the blue! Only, as much love as my earthly dad has shown me in this life, God’s love for me is infinitely greater.” God used my dad’s call this morning both to bring encouragement to a son from his father, and to give me a small illustration of how God’s love for His Son should affect me.

So, I wrote my dad and shared that with him. He has shown great love for me throughout my life. And God has used all the good he has given me as my father to show me just a little bit of what its like to have a heavenly Father.

The greatest thing a person can have these days is a relationship with their Heavenly Father that resembles the relationship Jesus has with His Father. Any suffering we face, all the trials, and even the triumphs, do not compare to what God has given us when we are united to Christ. It helps to put all of this in perspective. When we are in union with Christ, we have access to all the resources accessible to Jesus. And in the way God treats Jesus, he treats Jesus’ followers the same.

Though it may not have the exact same implications for us as it does for Jesus our Redeemer, if your hope is in Jesus today, God is saying these very same words of you right this moment: “Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased.” You’re His beloved child. That is an incredible reality!

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Gospel vs. Religion, part 3

Christianity without the compassion of Jesus is just empty religion. Mark 2:5-12 reveals that Jesus was concerned for people. This is one reason he healed. His compassion for others is a pillar of what real Christianity should be about. The gospel requires that we be concerned about helping people.

This passage says Jesus was home. I don’t know about you, but if someone busted a whole in my roof, I’m not sure I’d remain calm and help the. Even if you could tell me that the houses in 1st century Capernaum had roof access, like a sun roof or something, they still interrupted his sermon. The compassion Jesus had for others is striking. Without it, your religion is empty.

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Gospel vs. Religion, part 2

Christianity without faith alone in Jesus is just empty religion. In Mark 2, four men came to Jesus bringing to him a paralytic (3). That’s all we know. This man could not walk and his friend carried him on his bed to find Jesus. “And when they could not get near Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and…they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay” (v4). And Jesus saw something in these men…faith. “When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven” (v5).

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Gospel vs. Religion, part 1

Christianity without a desperation for God is just empty religion. Look at Capernaum for example. In Mark 2, Jesus returned to Capernaum a short time after making His purpose on earth known. Jesus “lived in Capernaum by the sea” during His adult life (Mt 4:13). During this time, “many were gathered together” in a house, “and he was preaching the word to them.” “The Word” that Jesus was preaching was the gospel.

There can be gospel ministry, and no gospel transformation. Capernaum had the true gospel being preached to them (v1-2). In fact, they had the best gospel preaching there has ever been. And they also had real healing occurring (v11-12). No one could argue that Capernaum was not seeing and hearing wonderful gospel ministry in their city. Yet they were none the better for it. You can’t just use the Gospel like a fairy wand.

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A Call for Balanced Pastors

Church Planter by Darrin Patrick

In reading Darrin Patrick’s book, Church Planter: The Man, The Message, The Mission, I read a passage that I found to be great wisdom for pastors. This is a great reminder for me, and counsel I have often hoped my pastor friends would hear and put into practice. Darrin writes,

Pastors tend to stay in their strengths and avoid their weaknesses. “Theology guys” to tend spend a lot of time reading and discussing dead theologians. “Missional guys” tend to spend a lot of time analyzing culture and drinking lattes. “Shepherding guys” tend to spend a lot of time hanging out with people and counseling them. But rarely do we see pastors step out of their strengths into their areas of weakness. Why is this? Because it is uncomfortable. It is difficult. It is flesh-starving. (p.59)

This is a good challenge for anyone who is passionate about serving Jesus. It is dangerous to give too much time and attention to your strengths and personal interests to the neglect of your weakness. Be challenged to spend more time growing outside of your comfort zones.

We do not need anymore theological bobble-heads (thanks Johnny Grimes for teaching me this term) who are puffed-up angry Calvinists and have little to do with church growth or the Great Commission. Neither do we need anymore flaky Arminian pragmatists consumed by church growth methods, but are shallow when it comes to gospel and theology. We need our practices to be driven by thoughtful theology, and our theology to be fleshed out by thoughtful methods. We need this call for pastors to pursue balance in their ministries.

Heaven…Why It May Cost More Than You Think

It is common thought today, and has been ever since biblical times, that a man can earn or purchase heaven and its benefits. The most common expression of this idea is found in the notion that God grants access to heaven to those who earn it with good living. Behind this thinking is the belief that man is good enough to “deserve” or able to “earn” heaven.

This morning I read a vivid example of this in Acts 8 this morning. A man named Simon observed the gift of God being freely given to people who repented of sin and trusted in Christ. Simon saw the visible benefits these new believers in Jesus were given in God’s Holy Spirit. Seeing that Christians became beneficiaries of God’s presence and power through His Spirit when they believed, Simon offered the Apostles money in exchange for these benefits of God:

But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could ​​obtain the gift of God with money! “You have ​no part or portion in this ​matter, for your heart is not ​​right before God. Therefore repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray the Lord that, ​if possible, the intention of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in ​the ​bondage of iniquity.” Acts 8:21-23

Today, as even then, people want to believe they can earn God’s gift (which ultimately is hope for eternal life in heaven). This gift comes with many benefits: forgiveness, wisdom for life, love for God and people, joy no matter life’s circumstance, peace, God’s presence in you. These benefits are the result of being made right with God. But most people who believe as Simon did, that this gift from God is earned, fail to see: God as perfect, themselves as sinners, Sin as worthy of everlasting punishment, and Jesus as the only sufficient remedy for a sinful person’s current standing before God (i.e. sin has ruined any good standing we had with God, so that without God’s gift, we are deserving of everlasting punishment.)

Consider the climax of the biblical story. Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, is given by God in order to be killed in front of the entire on-looking world. The Bible says Jesus is by nature God (conceived in the womb by the Holy Spirit) and by nature Man (virgin born). He lived 30+ years without sinning even once. For these reasons, Christ is the only suitable payment to purchase the freedom of sinful people. This centerpiece of the Christian story, that God would sacrifice His Son to satisfy the debt caused by our sin, says everything about the seriousness of our sin debt and the price required.

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Books I’ve Read In 2009

In 2001 at the age of 25, I read my first legitimate book from cover to cover. I was not raised a reader. In fact, I hated reading! I only looked at books for pictures. However, things changed that year. That fall, I enrolled in school at a masters level for a seminary education at Southeastern in Wake Forest, NC.

Over time, with God’s help, I learned to become a reader. Then something happened. I learned to love reading. Today I sat down to reflect on what I have read this year, and plan on reading in 2010.

Right now I am reading…

The Art of the Start by Guy Kawasaki
Bitesize Theology by Peter Jeffrey (This is a systematic theology book I am reading with my oldest child)
Hints for Parents by Gardner Spring with Tedd Tripp (Reading this with my wife Mary)
Souls in Transition by Christian Smith
A Church in the House by Matthew Henry edited by Scott Brown

Books I have read 2009…
Keep in mind I am reading motivated by a doctoral degree I am pursuing at Southeastern Seminary. I would much rather read fewer books that I spend more time digesting. Nevertheless, here are books I have read this year in two categories, Doctoral Studies and Personal Choice.

Read for Doctoral Studies in 2009:
The Forgotten Ways
by Alan Hirsch
Firefall
by Mcdow and Alvin Reid
Breaking the Missional Code
by Ed Stetzer and David Putman
Life Together
by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Planting New Churches in a Postmodern Age
by Ed Stetzer
The Present Future
by Reggie McNeal
Confessions of a Radical Reformission Rev
by Mark Driscoll
Total Church
by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis
Rediscovering the Lost Treasure of Family Worship
by Jerry Marcellino
Thoughts on Family Worship by James W. Alexander
The Family at Church
by Joel Beeke
The Case for Family Worship by George Hammond
Your Family God’s Way
by Wayne Mack
Jonathon Edwards On Revival by Jonathon Edwards
The Spontaneous Spread of Home-Discipleship Christian by Henry Reyenga
The Emerging Church by Dan Kimball
Missionary Methods by Roland Allen
The Multiplying Church by Bob Roberts
Organic Church by Neil Cole
On Writing Well by William Zinsser
A Family Well-Ordered by Cotton Mather
The Strong Family by Church Swindoll
Parenting Isn’t for Cowards by James Dobson
Perspectives On Family Ministry by Timothy Paul Jones
Parent’s Concerns for their Unsaved Children by Edward Lawrence
Rite of Passage Parenting by Walker Moore
Everyday Talk: Talking Freely and Naturally About God with Your Children by John A. Younts
Teach Them Diligently by Lou Priolo
Raising Children God’s Way by D. Martin Lloyd-Jones

Books Read by Choice in 2009:
Don’t get me wrong, the books above were books I wanted to read. The topic I chose for my doctoral research was my choice, but these books were read in addition to my studies…

Bible by God (finishing reading through it in a year for the 6th time)
What He Must Be by Voddie Baucham
Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God by J.I. Packer
Saved From What? by R.C. Sproul
Spurgeon v. Hyper-Calvinism by Iain Murray
Why the Ten Commandments Matter by D. James Kennedy
Sticky Church by Larry Osborne
Young, Restless, Reformed by Collin Hansen
John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion Doctrine & Doxology edited by Burk Parsons
Dear Timothy edited by Thomas Ascol

Here is what I plan on reading in the beginning part of 2010:

Bible (starting a new “read the Bible in a year” plan)
The Trellis and the Vine by Colin Marshall and Tony Payne
Chosen by God by R.C. Sproul
The Gospel & Personal Evangelism by Mark Dever
The Shack by Wm. Paul Young
The Secret of Intercession by Andrew Murray
The Autobiography of George Muller

A good portion of my reading comes from recommendations from friends. What are you planning on reading? What could you recommend?