Who Are Your Heroes?

I was convicted recently in one of my classes when posed with the question concerning life influences, in particular, influences in the Christian life, ministry, etc.  The answer that immediately came to my mind, like many would I assume, was John Piper.  Then followed a list of dead (though living) guys:  Jonathan Edwards, John Owen, etc.  Somewhere in between are men like Albert Mohler for his unswerving commitment to the truth of God’s Word and his general intimacy with the Scriptures, or John MacArthur as a defender of the faith, or the many current heroes of the doctrines of grace, etc.  Most of these men, however, I have never met.  It was never intended for men whom I have never met to be my primary spiritual mentors, leaders, champions.  Rather, shouldn’t I be looking into the local church for my heroes?  It is an indictment against me that I would not first respond with a Sunday school teacher or a youth pastor, a laymen or another elder within the body of my local church; and perhaps, depending upon one’s local church, an indictment that there are so few such people to choose from.  As I pondered this idea of the design of God in the church, specifically the local church, I came to realize that our primary heroes, leaders, and mentors must come from this arena of Christ’s reign.  This is one of the glories of the fellowship of the saints, of the gathering of believers, of the community of the fathers and sons, mothers and daughters in the faith, that we look to one another as role models in the faith, as heroes in the faith.  

Graciously, after relatively no thought, God reminded me that His design had in fact been effectual upon my life.  Two men in the local church have greatly affected my life in Christ.  For a time we lived, and breathed, and loved the Lord together in Powdersville, SC.  Roy Ellison still resides there with his precious wife Kathy, my mother in the Lord.  Since I have been in seminary these past couple of months, a particular subject has piqued my interest, namely, biblical theology – how does the Bible fit together into one unifying theme to the glory of God in Christ?  This subject has amazed me and given to me a new lens through which to view the food laws of Leviticus, etc.  But I realized that the enjoyment of biblical theology did not start here, although it has been shaped and built.  It began in Roy Ellison’s living room just a month or so before seminary began.  I do not remember the intricacies of our conversation together, but I do remember him speaking of the relationship between Adam and Christ, and how Christ was for us in the place of Adam, what neither Adam nor any human since could be – perfect humanity; and how this is essential to our understanding of many fundamental things in the Christian life.  Only the God-man was ever intended to save us from and for God.  Here, a spark first flew, and was breathed upon, I believe, by the Lord.  Thus, Roy Ellison, my Sunday school teacher, my father in the faith in many respects, my brother in Christ, in God’s providence was the first to indulge me in biblical theology.

A second hero would be Robert Hooker.  He is now the pastor at FBC Huber Heights in Huber Heights, Ohio.  He was one of the pastors at my local church in SC.  His mentoring, counseling, numerous examples of the Christian life in study, practice, and love, his love for reading good books, and preaching the word, of loving his family second only to Christ, and worshiping with them in the home in that way, was and is an influence in my life that I am continually unworthy of, but am most appreciative of to God.  

These are my heroes to date.  God raised them up in my local church.  God fostered me by them within the context of the local church.  And to God, and my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, I am exceedingly glad and thankful for His providential hand and blessed design and administration of His body working rightly and living healthily.  So, who are your heroes – really?

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Life Entry – “Ode to Jenny”

I can’t help but write about the sweet developments of marriage.  Recently, there has been a “next-level” sort of engagement.  Jenny and I have been in Louisville for just over two months now and the distance from other family members has served to deepen our love for one another.  I believe that it is a true statement in our marriage that we have grown more in love as time has passed, that we loved each other well enough in relationship to the season to be wed, but that it has intensified as the days have gone by for the last 27 and-a-half months such that the measure of that love seems to be but mere puppy love in comparison to the reality of our love for one another right now.  These past two months alone have served in a tremendous way to send our love through a “love warp” of sorts into something completely different than its initial onset.  By different I mean to be understood as implying “better”, much better in fact; indeed, much more dear and sacrificial and true; much more Christ-honoring and gospel-ordered I do believe.  It is this, this Christ-like consideration of one another, of ministering to one another, of looking at her as my main ministry unto Christ, and she unto me as that service of the church unto Christ, this particularity (particular love) seems to be coming to a beautiful fruition, and this moment, although increasingly great, is but the foretaste of what tomorrow holds, and that only a foretaste of the love and splendor of the next day.  For she is exceptional to me – a lover of Christ, of people, both the church and the lost, a diligent worker who by her sheer tirelessness often secures my own increased efforts in study, a wonderful wife, spectacular friend, an invitational hostess, a beautiful woman.  I write with all certainty that God has blessed me among men by giving her unto me, and unto me the task of presenting her back to Him spotless and blameless.  This is the sublime treasury of my marriage, the grace of life.  Accordingly I praise God, the author of every good and perfect gift.

Scripture Entry – “The Preeminent Christ and His Cross”

As I meditated on Colossians 1:15-22 I caught something of the immensity of the Divine irony in this text and I am thankful to God for it.  The slant on this time of meditation was the word “peace” (Colossians 1:20).  This can be both a beautiful word and a word of warning in the Bible.  It is peace with God that the Scriptures speak of so often.  It is beautiful when one has it, that is, peace with God.  It is, however, a word of warning to those who do not know it.  Peace may be had with God, but if one is not at peace with God, then there is nothing left but enmity and a sure judgment of holy wrath.  

What captured my soul was how this peace was attained.  In this I found something of majestic irony.  Notice the Person who accomplishes peace with God; it is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  But this text seeks to portray Him in an exquisite manner in part to remind us of the cost of this peace.  Paul writes several things of Jesus intended to illicit our praise – “He is the image of the invisible God.”  Moreover, He is “the firstborn of all creation,” yes, and thus what of creation but that “by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through him and for him.”  Yes, indeed, for Him!  As if this isn’t enough majesty Paul continues, “[He] is before all things,” still more, “in him all things hold together.”  What of the church?  “[He] is the head of the body, the church.”  What of eternity? “He is the beginning.”  What of that which is to come? “[He is] the firstborn from the dead,” and to what effect but “that in everything he might be preeminent.”  These treasures being so, what more can we say?  Paul answers with a purpose, “For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.”  The fullness of the eternal God was happy, elated, delighted, pleased to dwell in Jesus.  This fullness dwelt with a goal in mind, namely, that “[all the fullness of God was pleased] through him to reconcile to himself all things.”  To what expanse?  “Whether on earth or in heaven.”  To which we must bow in adoration.  

Christ Jesus, the King of God (v. 13-14), the invisible God fleshed out (v. 15), the Author of creation through whom all things glorious, all things which in this life captivate our senses, all things in this life which cause us to tremble, and bow, all things He made, and He made them for Himself, such that He is both the beginning and the end goal, Lord and Master, the rightful King of all creation (vv. 15-16).  He sustains all things because He is before all things (v. 17).  He is the glorious King of the church, and He rules its members with justice, grace, and love (v. 18).  He is the Victor over time, and death, He is the undefeated Glory (v. 18).  God the Father was pleased to dwell in Him – oh, what manner of man, then, was He?  He is the agent of reconciliation; Jesus brings sinner to God, and God to sinner when no one else can (v. 19-20).  Marvel, oh church, at Jesus Christ.  Muster up all of the collective praise that we possibly can for a million years and it would fall infinitely short of that which is due Him, of which He is most worthy of.

Oh church, do not miss what follows!  Capture the Divine irony!  How did this great Savior reclaim His own universe?  How did the great Savior make peace with God?  Oh, how the text turns – He is the King, the Lord God, the Author of all creation, the Head of every power, the Source and Binding of all things, the Head of the church, the Beginning, the Firstborn from the dead, the One in whom the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and for what?  Why?  How did He reconcile all things to Himself?  By “making peace by the blood of his cross.”  

Not by human or military force; not by religious violence (on his part); not by the eloquence of his sermons; not by his athleticism, fame, or fortune; not by the state, but by. . . the blood of his cross.  Pause here and ponder it, I pray.  This mighty God, this sinless Savior, the One whom we should know by creation because by Him were we created and yet we did not know Him, but rejected Him, and nailed Him to a tree.  This Savior, this eternal Warrior, this undefeated Champion of Glory made peace “by the blood of his cross.”  It was his cross!  

God incarnate, without sin, spotless, without blemish, perfectly obedient to the Father, perfect keeper of the law of God laid down His life for His sheep, that is, we who are properly called sinners against God, stained, rebellious, evil at heart, holding the nails and the hammer, hocking our saliva in the face of Him who gave it to us, our rough words upon Him who formed us in the womb of our mother.  Yes, Christ bled and died on his cross for sinners, that the ungodly might be declared righteous by God and reconciled to Him and brought into this peace that I now write of.  And it is brilliantly lavished upon us as the children of God through faith in this Jesus.

Sinners need peace with God and they do not have it.  Christ has accomplished it for all who would repent and believe in Him for the forgiveness of sins and the basis of eternal life with God.  You see, our text continues to thwart our efforts at self-righteous piety which is really more unrighteousness and rebellion against the merit of Jesus Christ.  In v. 21 Paul writes that we are or were once “alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds,” and therefore that, “he has now reconciled [this ungodly people] in his body of flesh by his death.”  Peace could not be attained any other way.  God is holy; we are “doing evil deeds.”  Our deeds cannot give us peace with God – perhaps with fallen man, but not with the Righteous God.  Only Him who was always at perfect peace with God because of His perfect sinlessness, can make peace with God for sinners albeit by demonstration of those very sinners (we included) violence.

In this text, Paul means to say, “Look – look at Him, this Savior…who died on his cross, the death of sinners for sinners!”  “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)  We desperately needed peace with God, and while it is impossible to find it within ourselves, Christ died for the unrighteous, so that through faith in this King, God would impute to us His perfect sinlessness, and on that basis alone we are at peace with God.  “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,” Romans 5:1.  

How shall this apply?  

First, by the mention of peace it is implied that peace is necessary with God, and thus that we in our natural state do not have it.  Rather, the converse is true – God’s wrath abides on us still if we have not believed in His only Begotten Son (John 3:16, 36).  We are a people in need of peace with God, but this peace cannot be accomplished by natural or inherent means.  God demands perfect righteousness with Him, the perfect Judge of righteousness.  If we are not in Christ, then we do not have peace with God.  As such the most pertinent question for you, if you be an unbeliever, is how can I be saved from the wrath of God?  And if you be a child of God who has tasted of this peace, then the most pertinent endeavor that we have is to make this peace known.  

Therefore, behold the means of peace once more – the Jesus of Colossians 1:14-19 is the one who made peace by the blood of His cross in v. 20.  This is the greatest of means.  Nothing and no one else could have accomplished this peace with God.  It took the Jesus of Colossians 1:14-19 to accomplish what God demanded for perfect peace.  How short we fall?  Infinitely, I do not hesitate to write!  Ah, but Christ!  This King of kings, this gentle Savior, this mighty Warrior, this Son of God has finished the work!  He cried out from his cross, “It is finished!” (John 19:30).  And, indeed, it is!  Jesus is the captain of peace eternal with God.  

Then, lastly, behold the duty of the church, those who know this peace with God in Christ.  What is this duty but to make the means of peace with God known to our home towns and to the nations.  We must preach Christ and Him crucified and live holistic lives before God and men.  We must be peacemaker’s (Matthew 5:9a), for we are the sons of God in Christ (5:9b).  Shall we lie with ease?  Shall we sit back in laziness?  Shall we live it up?  I write to my shame!  This was not the way of the majestic Savior.  This Jesus of Colossians 1:14-19, to whom all creation should have immediately recognized as Lord and worshipped, did not embrace the life of ease – no, He made peace by the blood of His cross.  And so it must be for His disciples!  I do not mean that we can attain what Christ attained in the way that He attained it, but rather that we deny ourselves in order to hold up this Christ to a world in need of Him, pleading earnestly with them to repent and to trust and embrace the truth as it is in this Jesus.  The blood of the martyrs one thousand years ago and that of the persecuted today suggest that this is the way of making peace with God in Christ known to the world.  In America, it may not be a sword, or a gun, or torture chambers, but rather, a word, a scoff, a heavy sigh, a pressurized job atmosphere, a satanic attack – nevertheless, behold Him who died on His cross to make peace for you with God.  Only by our own crosses will the Gospel of peace press forward to those, who like we before them, are currently at war with Christ.  In other words, if by sacrificial love demonstrated on a torturous cross, this awesome Savior attained peace with God, so by our sacrificial love the peace attained with God by Jesus Christ will be made known.  It is good for us to think upon this irony – the cross is the glory of Him in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, the glory of Him whose beauty words cannot hardly communicate.  For by His cross, Jesus made peace with God for we who were and are at war with Him.  Let us then put on the shoes of readiness – given to us by the gospel of peace (Ephesians 6:15), that many may be salvaged and made willfully captive to the glory of Jesus Christ, and in Him have wrath averted and peace eternally lavished.  Oh, capture the wonder of this Jesus, Him whose name is “Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).

Interesting Read From Dr. Mohler’s Blog…

“You Must Be Born Again” by Dr. Albert Mohler

Scripture Entry – I Do Not Nullify the Grace of God

“I do not nullify the grace of God, for if justification were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose,” (Galatians 2:21).  This text has grabbed my attention recently.  When I wake up, it is with me; when I lie down, the Lord reminds me of it.  As I think upon an impending position paper on justification by faith, this is the verse that continues to present itself to my soul.  

Paul’s declaration is no doubt a defensive and resonating sentence intended both to rebuke and bring about repentance Godward.  The simple reading is yet profound.  Shall we move away from grace as the source of justification?  Shall we seek another way of right standing with God than by faith alone in Christ and His merit alone?  Then Jesus died for no purpose.  

This is a word for many.  The unbeliever in the world who imagines all manner of means to save himself from what he denies is coming – he would contrive of human means no less.  The unbelieving person steeped in religious tradition in India or Iraq or an unknown land or in our local church choir – his tradition gives him comfort at the prospect of God’s accountability.  Evangelicals who have in these days sought to redefine many things in an attempt to restore “circumcision” as an aspect of saving righteousness – these no doubt have invented many words to cover the brightness of God’s grace.  Luther conjectured the decline of this most precious doctrine and gave many reasons for thinking it would be so.  He was right.

Men seek their own havens, ironically, from Him who is our only Refuge.  Indeed, we need to give a steady attentiveness, and a weighty thought to Paul’s words.  If we seek to add something to the perfect work of Jesus in order to secure salvation, or if we seek to attain a right status with God on the basis of human merit, then, in fact, Christ died for no purpose.  For did not Christ fulfill the law in our place when we could never.  Did not Jesus Christ die, sinless though He was, in our ungodly place as the predestined ground of our justification before God?  God chose one way, and He is Jesus Christ.  Insofar as we move away from His righteousness as the sole basis of our standing before God, there, we move away from God’s provision for salvation, and there is no other way.  Christ is the Way!  

Christ came to redeem us from the law; would we go back to it on a daily basis as our boast before God?  Perhaps then we have not been delivered from it at all!  No, God demands sinlessness from sinners!  It is not possible that we might save ourselves.  Why do we contrive such?  Why do we endeavor such?  All the while grace beckons us by faith to embrace Christ – for faith sees Christ truly, that is, as our perfect Righteousness and Standing before God.  Indeed, if we have been united to Christ, then alone does God declare us justified.

But this verse says much more.  Justification by faith in Jesus Christ is the doctrine that encompasses many treasured truths.  Paul writes that Christ died for no purpose if we deny such gracious justification in and through Christ.  So then, the cross, the blessed atonement is at stake in our denial or embrace.  Our Lord Himself is at stake – indeed, why be born (virgin birth; Incarnation), why live wholly unto God (sinless life), why humble Himself to the tortures of men, to the cross of His passion, to the obedience unto death, to the wrath of God, indeed, unto hell on account of our sin?  And what of God’s plan of salvation?  We say “let us do away with it in favor of our own!”  That certainly sounds in keeping with Adam!  If we live by the law, we shall die by the law, for if in one point we fail in the law, we have transgressed the whole of it, and the God whose holy and infinite character it refers unto.  If we set aside this doctrine, this truth, this glorious reality, then we kill all hope of salvation from God.  All of this is wrapped up in Christ’s death, a death that we say is of no purpose if we reject such a great justification.

How precious is the death of our Lord to us?  If we neglect such a basis of salvation, then we shall cast aside the notion of Christianity altogether – it will not stand; there is no church.  However, Paul says that he does not nullify this grace of God.  What grace?  Justification.  How do we speak of justification?  Through union with Christ (2:20), God declares the ungodly right before Him, forgives us of our sin, and freely sets us at peace with Him who is Holy, granting to us favor, and familial status in His household – all this is owing to the cross of Christ where He dealt with our sin once and for all and was there judged on our account such that by grace through faith in Christ, God rejoices to impute Christ’s perfect righteousness to us, the ungodly.  Amazing grace!  Amazing Savior!  Amazing Gospel!  Jesus saves sinners!  Christ died for a purpose, yes, and was raised and ascended to the right hand of power.  As He is accepted by the Father so our Father accepts us in Him alone.  Yes, Christ died for a purpose – let us rejoice in it as we are in it, and let us take it to the nations – rest from your labors, by faith embrace the sufficient Savior, and there be justified in Him.  Amen.