An Amazing Promise

In Luke 11:13, Jesus teaches His disciples that God the Father will give the Holy Spirit to His children when they ask Him.  This is an amazing promise!  It has been burned upon my heart for the last couple of weeks.  The Father loves to give the third member of the Trinity to us when we ask for Him!  Now granted, He already indwells believers on account of God’s grace displayed in the person and work of Jesus Christ; so this is a promise that assures more of Him on a practical level to the children of God, who believing Christ’s words, and the faithfulness of their sovereign Father, act upon it and ask for Him.  How incredible is this promise?

The Holy Spirit glorifies Christ in our hearts and lives; He shows Christ to be irresistibly beautiful – the greatest Treasure, altogether lovely!

The Holy Spirit leads us into truth; He illumines the Bible for God’s children.

The Holy Spirit produces fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control.

The Holy Spirit drives the Christian conscience; He beckons us to holiness.

The Holy Spirit makes us more like Jesus – He sanctifies us.

The Holy Spirit empowers and emboldens Gospel proclamation.

The Holy Spirit grants us assurance that we are children of God.

And much more.  And in this text, our Lord Jesus flatly states that our Father gives Him to us – freely upon our inquiry!  What remains to be asked is “Do you believe this?”  If so, should this not be a major part of our daily conversations with God?  That our Father would lavish us with His Spirit, for in so asking, we are assuredly asking for the benefits that accompany Him!  Oh, then, He should be our utmost desire!  Let us ask God for Him, not once, not twice – a million times would be too few!  And, oh, let us praise the Father who grants Him, and our Lord through Whom He is given.  Arise, Christians, and pray and ask for God’s Spirit; and let us observe our Father’s perfect faithfulness.

“The Importance of Hell,” an article by Tim Keller

A frequently and (often) intentionally left behind doctrine is the doctrine of hell.  And while it shouldn’t be our favorite discussion piece, it may be one of the most crucial to resurface.  Where it lands upon hearts, there you will often discover the line between authentic Christianity and truly born again people, and, by contrast, those who belong to the cultural Christian movement, who bear the name so long as everything is nice and the content of their lives remains unchallenged by biblical authority.  Keller discusses the “importance of hell” here.

Gleaning #8: Humility, Humility, Humility

This is the most important lesson of the Christian life, a lesson that will never know cessation.  For it is true in some sense, that at the point one thinks that he is humble, and asserts as much, he ceases to be humble; and yet, there is a Moses, there is our Lord Jesus Christ, whom the Bible absolutely affirms, from the mouths of Moses, and again, from the word of Christ, as humble; and thus there is also a sense in which it would be prideful to assert that one is not humble contrary to the truth that one may actually be.

I do not intend for this to be much more than a word or two, but in God’s providence, through the normal activities of the day, through the precious opportunities to pray, and read the bible, to teach and/or preach, to be a Christian husband, a Christian father, a Christian brother, and friend, He humbles me.  And He often does this by, first, revealing to me my pride, and/or the central gravity of my life and thoughts and words – whether I am pulled and tugged by the desire to please man or God; and upon learning of it, I am humbled – with great thanksgiving, I am humbled.

And this must be cultivated by God-centered view of all things, prayer, and the intense contrast between God’s infinite greatness, His love, mercy, grace, justice and wrath – these He holds perfectly together – and our inherent weakness.  From where does our sufficiency or adequacy, ability or talent, the energy for precious Gospel works of faith in love – where does this come from, but from God who is gracious.  Let us consider these things.  And allow me to encourage you – pursue humility, ask God for it.  Brothers and sisters, strive for humility in all things.  God is gracious!

Gleaning #7: A Foretaste of our Joyful Employment Forever

Psalm 145:3 – Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable.

It is easy to see that the Psalmist desires to communicate the greatness of God.  He does this by stating three certifiable facts: one pertains to the Lord, the other to the proper response of all creation, and the last to the depth of His greatness, and by implication of all three, there arises the eternality of our heavenly occupation.

First, “Great is the Lord.”  We need to be careful what we call “great.”  We are inclined to use words very loosely in this day and age.  Coffee is “great”.  Football is “great”.  Stuffed crust pizza is “great”.  The Coliseum is “great”.  America is “great”.  The Psalmist, however, reserves this word for the Lord.  It is the same idea that can be drawn from those words of Jesus to the rich young ruler, “Only God is good.”  This would exclude everything else from properly fitting this term “good” or, in our text, “great”.  And for ancient Israel, God was displayed as truly great.  He is the Creator, the Redeemer, the Warrior, the Rock, the self-existent and infinitely free God, perfect in justice and mercy, transcendent and immanent.  And has not proven Himself so to His church, blessed in the Beloved Christ.  Our God is great: a great Father, a great King, a great Lord, a great Savior, a great Treasure, the Delight of the Christian soul.  Great is the Lord.  Veneration is the correct response!

Thus, “and greatly to be praised.”  The overflow of beholding our great God is great praise, that is, as God is great, and our hearts behold some degree of His greatness, our response is a degree of praise that equals and arises to that which we have beheld.  There is a balance in the statement, “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised.”  In truth, the statement is remarkably unbalanced, and for this reason, God has granted His children eternity for the same occupation.  Simply put, the Lord is infinite in all of His attributes, and thus it is quite impossible, though good and right and spontaneously essential, to equally praise Him on account of His greatness.  If we were to greatly praise God every second of every minute of every hour of every day for the rest of our lives, we would not come close to the praise that ought to be and will be ascribed to His name in heaven forever.  And so it is a remarkable grace that God requires, grants, and loves what praise we give to Him – and for this He should be greatly praised!

Third, to bring more clarity to the issue, “and his greatness is unsearchable.”  This expresses what I have said.  And here, our eternal occupation is implied.  The logic of God’s Spirit is sweet at this point.  (1) The Lord is great.  (2) He is to be greatly praised.  (3)  But the greatness of the Lord, for which we are to greatly praise Him, is itself “unsearchable.”  Herein, the eternality of our eternal occupation is laid bare.  For God will forever be great.  And His greatness is unsearchable.  This life is certainly not long enough to search out what is unsearchable (though, in His grace, we can praise Him for what He has revealed of Himself).  And with that in mind, only eternity will grant us the time to search out what is of such greatness, such infinite glory and depth, that it is dubbed “unsearchable.”  And so, as we behold ever new vistas of God’s greatness forever, so our employment will forever be the exercise of greatly praising our God.  And thus, our employment now is, by God’s grace, a foretaste of our joyful employment forever.  Let us then be about beholding our God in the face of Jesus Christ, in all of Scripture, and in our lives; let us be marked by a passion for biblical praise.

Gleaning #6: Read Biblical Introductions Well

Mark introduces his gospel in this way: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  As it is written in Isaiah the prophet . . .”

I think there is a tendency to overlook the introductions to the books of the Bible.  I am beginning to understand that that is unwise, like seeking to build a building without its hermeneutical (interpretive) foundation.  If at any point in the gospel you become stuck as to the meaning of the passage, or perhaps, you begin to wonder what in the world is being communicated, you can always come back to the introduction and see exactly what the author (Mark) intends to communicate as a gloss over everything else that follows.

I would also encourage you to spend time meditating on each verse – yes, even the introductory verses.  By meditation I do not intend the worldwide infatuation with emptying the mind – what possible sense does that make?  Being mindless is generally frowned upon (though ironically, again, most seem to adore the idea when it is attached to “spirituality” of some sort – anyway!).  These first few words of the Gospel of Mark have been extremely sweet to my soul in recent days for at least two reasons:

First, that any man would call Jesus the Christ is absolutely astonishing, and should serve as impetus to the praise of God’s glorious grace.  Having read and studied the Gospel of Luke for the majority of this year, I have noticed a simple framework in the first nine chapters that centers on Jesus as the Christ of God.  At least three times (possibly four), the narrative begs the question through its characters, “Who is this guy?  Who is this Jesus?”  And there is a tremendous build up that peaks at Peter’s confession.  Jesus asks the disciples, “But who do you say that I am?”  And Peter, speaking as representative, replies, “You are the Christ of God!”  And we are meant to explode with joy at that confession!  Why?  Not only because God has given a Christ in Jesus for sinners, but that no human being, that is, flesh and blood, is able to come up or derive or produce or self-reveal that confession.  The parallel text in Matthew 16:17 states as much and presses upon us the reality that only the Father in heaven, the God who sovereignly reveals divine truth, reveals to sinful man that Jesus is in fact the Christ!  If you confess today that Jesus is the God-man, Prophet, Priest, and King, that is, the Christ, the One who reconciles sinners to God by way of His perfect Person and Work, that is the grace of God and your heart ought to soar at the prospect of such mercy!  And here, in Mark 1:1, what is Mark’s confession?  “The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”  Thus, in a word, “Christ”, as it is joined to “Jesus”, is highlighted the revealing, and saving grace of God in the life of Mark.

And secondly, that the gospel which Mark espouses is admirably simple, and in a sense, remarkably ancient and radically new at the same time.  For the sake of brevity, I mean to say that Mark is hardly innovative.  How indeed does he begin the Gospel of Jesus Christ?  With an introduction to an ancient text of the Old Testament!  He literally writes 12 words (The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God), and then goes immediately to: “As it is written!”  Mark is no philosophy major.  He is not interested in starting a new religion, beginning a new cult or sect.  He is not moved to display what intelligence he had at his disposal.  He is not all that creative.  Plainly and simply, Mark is concerned with communicating the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and thus, he turns immediately without hesitation to the Word of God.  The Gospel of Jesus Christ is ancient!  His beginnings are from of old.  He is the Ancient of Days!  In one sense, the Son of God has been emanating forward from all eternity, to put on flesh, live sinlessly for sinners, die in the place of sinners, be raised and ascended, to accomplish and apply the salvation of God.  Mark makes this plain when he writes, “As it is written.”  And there is a sense in which the Gospel of Jesus Christ is new.  This Mark simultaneously accomplishes by “As it is written,” for what then follows are quotes from Malachi 3:1 and Isaiah 40:3, which without the humiliation and exaltation of Christ, would be somewhat ambiguous.  That is, they find their fulfillment and truest meaning in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the work of God so near to Mark’s own day – and in light of eternity, very near to our own!  In this sense, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is radically new – the escalation and fullness of God’s promises, now dispensed through Him to those who repent and believe in Him.  Is this not a word to us in our day?  That amidst American pragmatism, Mark is inclined to go no further than twelve of his own words before he runs immediately to the text of God.  May we be so inclined!  May the Lord grant us to be men and women of the text, to communicate the old (and glorious) Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ; so long innovation, hello Bible.

Summarily, read your introductions well – pray through them, meditate and memorize them, and let them set the aroma of Christ all about your heart.

Gleaning #5: God Has Granted a Child

Three weeks ago I noticed a “Big Picture Story Bible” sitting within my bookshelf atop my neatly aligned books.  The “Big Picture Story Bible” is somewhat of a pictorial biblical theology for children – and apparently, useful for adults as well!  Thus, I became immediately curious.  I know every book on my shelf and I had never seen that one.  So with supreme intelligence I asked Jenny, “What’s this?”  She had anticipated my intricate awareness of what is and is not normal within the realm of my library, and as such, had purposely set it there for my inspection.  So she was somewhat furrowed that I had not gone along with her plan; nevertheless, in her kindness, she calmly asked me to open the front of the book, and lo and behold, pregnancy strips – positive!

God has granted us a child!  Jenny is in her ninth week.  As such, the Lord has made us parents for nearly two months, and it is a joy to arise with my wife and pray for our child, to consider her and this baby in all of my thoughts, to carry them around with me in my heart all the day long.  And I praise my God, a merciful and gracious Father to us, right and wise in all His ways; and my Lord Jesus Christ through whom I know Him; and the Spirit of Christ who comforts me in my prayers, bearing witness with my spirit that our baby “lives and moves and has his or her being” in Creator God, my perfect Father.  So praise God with us, and pray for Jenny, pray for this baby, and the Lord knows, pray for me.  God has granted us a child and in this we rejoice with unceasing joy!