Archive for the ‘Gospel’ Category

Once Again, How Should We Respond?

The last few days in our country have been harrowing. For many of us, yesterday began and ended with the news of injustice ending in death. The day began with the news of yet another preventable and therefore unjust killing of an African American man by a police officer. The day ended with the news of the unjust retaliation killing of five police officers by an African American man in Dallas, TX. So again, I will write, it is very easy to be silent in times like this. It is very easy to withhold judgement until all the facts are in. It is very easy to let various situations blow over with the wind of the next big story. It is very easy to let hard realities for others have no effect on ourselves. However, the Bible calls us to a better response. At the very least, Scripture calls us to respond with tenderheartedness, self-examination, prayer, and theological precision.

We must be tenderhearted toward those in pain. This means our hearts will be broken both for the those with whom we naturally identify and those with whom we do not. Our identifying with the pain of our brothers and sisters in Christ cannot be tempered by our identity in this world.

We must examine ourselves. If we can mourn with only one side, there is a problem. If we refuse to mourn with one side until all the facts are in, but have immediately broken hearts for the other side, there is a problem. If we refuse to mourn with one side regardless of the facts, there is a problem. We must ask, are we willing, when we or someone with whom we identify has been wronged, to hear the imperatives of Romans 12:21 and 1 Peter 3:9? Both of these verses were written in the context of persecution, the latter in the context of persecution by the state.

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21, ESV).

“Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing” (1 Peter 3:9, ESV).

Are we willing not only to look to Christ in faith as the One who has made satisfaction for our sin, which we must do, but also to look to Christ in faith as the One whose selflessness is an example for all who are united to him by faith? This is precisely what Scripture calls us to.

For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (1 Peter 2:21-25, ESV).

As Christians, we are to follow in the steps of our Savior who suffered at the hands of others for the sake of others. Our unwillingness to walk in this way is an unwillingness to be identified with Christ, and we must repent of such faithlessness.

We must pray. There is but one source of wisdom by which the problem of evil in this world will be solved, but there is a source for such wisdom.

We must think with theological precision, letting our thinking inform our doing. The theological issues that were forced to the fore for me last night revolved around the question of why? Why is this happening? And is there a solution?

James writes in the fourth chapter of his epistle,

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask (James 4:1-2, ESV).

In his letter James acknowledges two important points. First, our passions are longing for something we don’t have. Second, we don’t have, because we don’t ask.

What is it that our passions desire so strongly? To answer this we must understand what humanity lost in the fall. The Westminster Shorter Catechism #19 is helpful, “What is the misery of that estate whereinto man fell? All mankind by their fall lost communion with God, are under his wrath and curse, and so made liable to all the miseries of this life, to death itself, and to the pains of hell forever.” We could summarize this by saying that by the fall all mankind lost their hope, identity, and security. We lost hope in that the misery, death, and hell to which we are made liable are forever. Without something changing, without some intervention there is not hope. We lost identity in that we lost communion with the One in whose image we were created. If we are going to know ourselves rightly, we must know ourselves in relation to God, but we have lost communion with him leaving us clamoring for an identity. We lost security in that we are liable to the miseries of this life which are many.

The introductory verses of Hosea make the same point. Hosea is called to live out a real life metaphor of God and his people by taking a prostitute for a wife with whom he has three children – Jezreel, No Mercy, and Not My People. Those are rather odd names, but they were given to make a point. The meaning of the names is recorded in the book of Hosea as follows.

And the LORD said to him, “Call his name Jezreel, for in just a little while I will punish the house of Jehu for the blood of Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel. And on that day I will break the bow of Israel in the Valley of Jezreel.” She conceived again and bore a daughter. And the LORD said to him, “Call her name No Mercy, for I will no more have mercy on the house of Israel, to forgive them at all. But I will have mercy on the house of Judah, and I will save them by the LORD their God. I will not save them by bow or by sword or by war or by horses or by horsemen.” When she had weaned No Mercy, she conceived and bore a son. And the LORD said, “Call his name Not My People, for you are not my people, and I am not your God” (Hosea 1:4-9, ESV).

Jezreel indicates that God will put an end to the kingdom of Israel, a loss of security. No Mercy indicates just that, God will no longer have mercy on Israel, a loss of hope. Not My People again indicates something obvious, they are not the people of God and he is not their God, a loss of identity. The same point could be made from numerous texts. For example, Genesis 3 records the fall of man into sin. As a result of Adam’s disobedience we see the following happen. Adam his wife, Eve, were removed from the Garden of Eden over which they had reigned and in which they had walked with God (a loss of identity), were told that their work would produce thorns and thistles (a loss of security), and were barred from re-entering and eating from the tree of life and living (a loss of hope).

It is this lost hope, security, and identity that our passions desire. It is this lost hope, security, and identity that we try to seek out in this world. It is this lost hope, security, and identity for which we will quite literally kill. In our effort to establish hope, security, and identity on our own two things tend to happen. First, we run to whatever we can in order to find hope, security, and identity, destroying whatever and whomever we need to take hold of it. We may run to seemingly noble realities such as family, work, intellect, financial stability, ethnic heritage, etc., or we may run to ignoble realities such as sexual conquest, drugs, rank materialism, mutilation, etc. And indeed, we may find a close enough approximation of what we are looking for to remain satisfied for quite sometime. The second thing that happens is, when our worldly source of hope, security, and identity fail us, we will eventually simply turn to easing the pain of not having hope, security, and identity, often using the same false sources and often at the expense of those around us. But make no mistake, it is the lost hope, security, and identity that our passions long for.

When we live for and by a worldly hope, security, and identity, our response to a perceived threat can quickly become extreme. Yesterday I asked a hard question regarding the effect of sin on a police officer, not to accuse, but to drive a point home. Today I will turn the tables and ask a similarly hard question going the other way, again not to accuse, but to make the point. What might be the effect on how an African American man responds to injustice from police toward black men if they are seeking to find their hope, security, and identity in their ethnic heritage? Let me be clear, this is not to say that there can be no identification with or pride in our ethnic heritage, neither is this to say that finding hope, security, and identity in ehtnic heritage is an issue unique to African Americans, nor is this to say that there is only outrage over injustice because of sinfully finding hope, security, and identity in ethnic heritage, (on this point I would point you to the many African Americans who have grieved the death of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile [and many others], who have feared for their own children’s lives, who have called out injustice as such, who do strongly identify with their African American brothers and sisteres, but who, finding their hope in Christ are just as quick to call out the injustice carried out by the man in Dallas who vengefully killed 5 police officers.), rather this is to say, when we make what this world offers by way of hope, security, and identity ultimate we defend it as such.

However, recall, James made a second point. He wrote, “You do not have, because you do not ask” (James 4:2, ESV). Do you hear what he is saying? That thing that your passions so desperately long for, that lost hope, identity, and security, is yours if you ask. This is what Christ has restored by dealing with our sin on the cross. We see it so very clearly when we return to Hosea. Hosea 1:4-9 announced the loss of hope, security, and identity through the naming of Hosea’s children. Look now at what is recorded in Hosea 1:10-2:1.

Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered. And in the place where it was said to them, “You are not my people,” it shall be said to them, “Children of the living God.” And the children of Judah and the children of Israel shall be gathered together, and they shall appoint for themselves one head. And they shall go up from the land, for great shall be the day of Jezreel. Say to your brothers, “You are my people,” and to your sisters, “You have received mercy” (Hosea 1:10-2:1, ESV).

God immediately promises that he will do the work of restoring the hope, identity, and security of his people. “Where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ it shall be said to them, ‘Children of the living God’” (Hosea 1:10, ESV) – the promise of identity restored by God’s gracious initiative. “And the children of Judah and the children of Israel shall be gathered together, and they shall appoint for themselves one head. And they shall go up from the land, for great shall be the day of Jezreel.” (Hosea 1:11, ESV) – the promise of security restored by God’s gracious initiative. “Say to your brothers, ‘You are my people,’ and to your sisters, ‘You have received mercy’ (Hosea 2:1, ESV) – the promise of hope restored by God’s gracious initiative. What sin stole away and our souls so desperately long for, God promises to secure for his people. Ultimately this will come through the finished work of Jesus Christ. This is why Peter writes to those Christians suffering under the heavy hand of the state,

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy (1 Peter 2:9-10, ESV).

In Christ, because of his finished work, hope, security, and identity have been restored for the people of God. We need not clamor for it in this world any longer. We can decry the injustices of this world without prejudice and without fear that by unjust means anyone in this world can rob us of the hope, security, and identity that is ours in Christ Jesus. It is this very fact that frees to suffer, to love, to fight injustice, and to conquer to the very end. Peter says as much as he continues his letter.

Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation (1 Peter 2:11-12, ESV).

Once again, It is very easy to be silent in times like this. It is very easy to withhold judgement until all the facts are in. It is very easy to let various situations blow over with the wind of the next big story. It is very easy to let hard realities for others have no effect on ourselves. However, the Bible calls us to a better response. At the very least, Scripture calls us to respond with tenderheartedness, self-examination, prayer, and theological precision.

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Same Sex Attraction on The White Horse Inn

In lieu of my regular post on 1 John, I want to share a very helpful podcast. This week on The White Horse Inn, Michael Horton interviews Sam Allberry, the author of Is God Anti-Gay: And Other Questions about homosexuality, the Bible, and Same-Sex Attraction. Sam offers a helpful perspective on the many issues involved in this discussion. You can find the podcast here along with a host of other helpful resources.

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Sermon Notes – Exodus 20.7

You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain. -Exodus 20.7

When we think about the third commandment, we most often think of using the word “God” or one of the names of God as a swear word. We could add to this using an attribute of God as a swear word or word of exclamation such as holy (fill in your favorite noun: cow, moly, Mary mother of God, etc.). The problem with such language is that it empties God of his glory, it makes him common, silly even. Making God silly is exactly what is at the heart of the third commandment.

Ezekiel 36.16-32 deals with Israel’s profaning the name of God. The prophet writes, “But when they came to the nations, wherever they came, they profaned my holy name, in that people said of them, ‘These are the people of the Lord, and yet they had to go out of his land.’ But I had concern for my holy name, which the house of Israel profaned among the nations to which they came” (Ezekiel 36.20-21, ESV). By her disobedience, Israel profaned the name of the Lord. So to by our disobedience we profane the name of the Lord.

As the passage in Ezekiel continues we find one of the greatest pictures of God’s gracious salvation in Scripture. The Lord says, “It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came” (Ezekiel 36.22, ESV). The prophet goes on to announce the plan of God to vindicate his holy name, yet he does not announce some grand punishment, as we might expect, but redemption. God will vindicate his holy name through the redemption of his people! What amazing grace this is!

The work of Christ to redeem his people from their sin was the fulfilling of the third commandment. The work of Christ vindicated the name of the Lord. The gospel fulfilled the law! What good news! By his obedience, Jesus did not take the name of the Lord in vain, but vindicated it, restoring its glory (which of course was never truly lost). For this reason we can now say, to act as if we have some righteousness by which we stand before God is to take the Lord’s name in vain for to do so is to empty the glory vindicating work of Christ of its purpose, which is redemption. Likewise, to announce the good news of Jesus Christ, to give a reason for the hope we have, to abide in Christ, to know nothing but Christ and him crucified is to honor the very name of the Lord.

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Sermon Notes – Exodus 20.3

You shall have no other gods before me.” Exodus 20.3, ESV

In the prologue to the Ten Commandments, God sets the stage for the giving of his law. He reminds Israel of his name, his nature, their relationship to him, and his work to redeem them from Egypt. In short, the prologue announces that God has the right to give laws to his people, even laws that demand absolute loyalty as does the first commandment. Yahweh rightly commanded Israel to honor him and him alone as God.

As Israel journeyed through the wilderness and into the promised land, they would be tempted to violate this first commandment numerous times. In the coming years they would face, Baals, Asherahs, Ashtoreth, Milcom, Moloch, Dagon, Chemosh, and likely many other false gods who remain unnamed in Scripture. In addition to these named idols, we see that Israel is held accountable by God for treating money, power, politics, and self as gods to be served. In short, anything (a named idol, an object, an idea, a relationship, etc.) could be exalted in such a way that as to violate the first commandment by bringing another god before Yahweh.

When the various violations and potential violations are all brought together, we can organize the violations of the first commandment into four categories:

1) Denying the existence or attributes of Yahweh;

2) Ascribing to any false god other those attributes which belong uniquely to Yahweh;

3) Ascribing to any false god the works which belong uniquely to Yahweh; and

4) Seeking from any false god the fulfillment of the promises given by Yahweh.

The New Testament, unsurprisingly, presents a similarly broad understanding of what  it means to have a false god, or be an idolator. The New Testament adds to the list of abstract gods already mentioned – possessions, pleasure and entertainment, and food. In addition, we see that Jesus is God, and he must be worshipped as God. Therefore, the four categories of idolatry apply to our thinking about Jesus as well. So, to seek the promises secured for us by Christ (promises of forgiveness, hope, security, inheritance, identity, righteousness, etc.) in any place other than Christ, whether a named idol or a speck of dust, is to violate the first commandment.

At this point, if we are honest, we find ourselves guilty of violating the first commandment in numerous ways; therefore, lest we end in despair, let us recall the work of Christ. Recall that the Father sent the Son in order that in Christ “the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8.4, ESV). We see this fulfillment clearly in the temptation of Christ. When Satan tempted Jesus with finding his comfort in the world, Jesus resisted Satan saying, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4.4, ESV). When Satan attempted to get Jesus to presume upon God’s protection, thereby exalting himself above his Father and making God his servant, Jesus resisted Satan saying, “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test” (Matthew 4.7, ESV). When Satan commanded Jesus to bow down before him, Jesus rebuked Satan saying, “You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve” (Matthew 4.10, ESV). From these verses, and other like them, we see clearly why the author of Hebrews wrote, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4.15, ESV). As Paul reminds us, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5.21, ESV). Christ perfectly obeyed the law then suffered a sinner’s death in order that we sinners for whom Christ died might be accepted by God as if we had perfectly obeyed his law.

The first commandment unveils our idolatrous heart and drives us to Christ where we find the One who obeyed in our place and bore our sin on the cross.

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Sermon Notes – Exodus 20.1-2

“And God spoke all these words, saying, ‘I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery’” (Exodus 20.1-2, ESV).

In the ancient near east many covenants between a sovereign and his subjects had a common form consisting of four parts: 1) the introduction of the sovereign; 2) a brief rehearsal of the history of the sovereign acting on behalf of his subjects; 3) the stipulations of the agreement; and 4) the consequences, blessings or curses, for obedience and disobedience to the covenant. Not surprisingly, a similar structure is found in the biblical covenants such as the Mosaic Covenant recorded in Exodus 20.

Exodus 20.1 announces to the people of Israel that it was God who spoke his Law. Moses had not gone up on the mountain, scratched a few rules in some stone tablets, and brought them back. Rather, God had revealed himself to Moses on Mount Sinai by way of giving the law. The divine origin of the law is important to keep in mind. If the Law is indeed from God, then we do not have the freedom to treat the Law as if it is not from God. Of course, the critic may say, “Well, if I was going to try and subdue a people with my own made up law, I would tell them that it came from God as well.” However, the critic’s objection is addressed by the Law itself, for the Law is introduced by a preamble that announces both who God is and what he has done for his people in recent history. In other words, the Law is announced in such a way that its divine authorship can be verified.

The preamble to many covenants in the ancient near east include an introduction of the sovereign and a rehearsal of his action toward his people, and Exodus 20.2 includes both of these covenantal elements. The phrase, “I am the Lord your God,” introduces the sovereign by announcing 1) the name of the sovereign – “the Lord” or Yahweh, 2) the nature of the sovereign – “God”, and 3) the relationship of the sovereign to the subjects – “your God”. The qualifying clauses, “who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery,” recount Yahweh’s recent history with his people. He was not only the Israelite’s God, but their God who had heard their cries for help and delivered the Hebrew people from slavery in Egypt. It is on the grounds of both who God is and what he has done for his people that he expects obedience to his Law. The people of Israel could not treat the Law, delivered to them by Moses, with anything less than the utmost gravity, by introducing his Law with this preamble, the Lord had not left that option open.

As we come to God’s Law, we also must remember that it is in fact God’s Law, not man’s. Therefore, like Israel, we must come to God’s Law as God’s Word directs us. First, we come to God’s Law as God’s Word. Too often, we effectively approach the Law off as if it is simply the invention of the more scrupulous religious people. Second, we don’t seek from God’s Law what it was not intended to provide. In Scripture we find that the Law has three purposes. 1) The Law shows us our sin, thereby driving us to Christ under the conviction wrought by the Holy Spirit that we might find mercy. Romans 5.20 states, “The law came in to increase the trespass…” 2) The Law restrains (it does not eliminate) sin many by fear of punishment. Paul writes to Timothy, “Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine” (1 Timothy 1.9-10, ESV). 3) The Law, with all of God’s Word, for the one who has been united to Christ and so justified before God – that is to say, by God’s free grace pardoned for all sin and accepted as righteous in God’s sight, only because the righteousness of Christ, which is received by faith alone, has been credited to his account (see Westminster Shorter Catechism #33) – is the rule for holy living. 2 Timothy 3.16-17 state, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, or reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”

With the rest of God’s Word, the Law of God announces to us “what man is believe concerning God and what duty God requires of man” (WSC #3). Though separated by many years and cultural considerations, the Law is still valuable for the people of God when appropriated according to his Word.

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Gospel in Life “Idolatry”

This week we will be looking at IDOLATRY “the sin beneath the sin.”  Take a look at these verses from Romans 1 and look at the questions at the end.  Hope to see you on Sunday morning 9:00am.

18For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

24Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

“Under every behavioral sin is the sin of idolatry, and under every act of idolatry is a disbelief in the gospel.”
Do you agree with this statement?
If so, what are the implications? 

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Gospel in Life: The Heart

This week we will be looking at “The Heart”  and three ways to live: Religion, Irreligion & the Gospel. Take a minute to read the verses below and answer the questions at the end to prepare for Sunday’s class.

Luke 18:9-14

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed1 thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

This parable tells us a lot about justification.
What is the pharisee’s view of justification?
Why did the tax collector go home justified?
Which one of these people do you relate to the most?


See you Sunday!


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Gospel in Life “The City”

This week we will be looking at The City ” The world that is”.   Our primary text will be Jeremiah 29: 4-14.  I hope you will take a minute to read these verses and answer a couple of questions before Sunday morning.  I hope to see you all there.

1) How did the exiles wound up in Babylon.

2) What were their instructions on how to relate to the city they were in.

3) What was God’s purpose for the exile.

4 “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. 6 Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. 7 But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. 8 For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream, 9 for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in my name; I did not send them, declares the Lord.

10 “For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.

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19 Clues that You are Seeking to Justify Yourself rather than Receiving the Righteousness of Christ Imputed to You by Faith Alone

1. No matter what area of your life you are looking at, you think that you are doing everything you can and it is not enough.

2. When you are forced to admit that you are not capable of getting everything done at the level you feel you can or should, you blame others or your situation.

3. You are judgemental of everyone and everything to the point that even your sympathy curtails into critical observations about the situation.

4. You are constantly comparing yourself and your situation to others whom you respect or who appear to have accomplished what you want to appear to have accomplished, and you are constantly trying to figure out what you need to change to look like the one to whom you are comparing yourself.

5. You are anxious.

6. You are insecure.

7. You are never wrong.

8. You are unchallengeable.

9. You think God is pleased with you.

10. When someone close to you challenges your sparse or non-existent prayer life and time in Scripture, you respond by saying something stupid like, “You know how busy I am, what am I supposed to stop doing in order to have a quiet time, sleeping?”

11. You struggle to enjoy things that should be easily enjoyed.

12. Everything you are involved in must be perfect or you get frustrated and angry.

13. You love hearing about and find comfort in the failures of others.

14. The view you have of yourself is incongruous with the view others have of you, and you can’t imagine how others could think of you differently than you think of yourself.

15. You use words like “incongruous” even though you have to look them up to make sure they mean what you think they mean.

16. You think that the only limit to how good you could be in your particular field are the limits you are forced to accept because of external factors.

17. You are scared not to say everything you could because then folks might not know what you are capable of.

18. You are perfectly comfortable with others having a higher than realistic view about you, but will go to any length possible to ensure that no one has a lower than realistic view about you.

19. You are unloving.

The law is a crushing weight. It will crush you, and you will crush others in your fleshy attempts to keep it. Look to Christ, and rest. “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5.1, ESV).

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In What and For What is Your Hope?

Numbers 14 tells a story of fear, rebellion, and failure. Israel sent twelve spies into the promised land to see what it was like. Upon their return, ten of the twelve spies gave bad reports. These bad reports told of giants in the land who would crush the Israelites like grasshoppers. In the eyes of the ten spies, there was no way Israel was going to be able to enter and take the promised land. Despite God’s promise to deliver the Israelites into the promised land, the ten said it was impossible for them to win. Their hope was misplaced. Their hope was in their own strength. The ten were right to doubt their own strength, but they failed to recognize God’s strength. So we see the Israelites’ hope was not in the promises of God.

As the story goes, the ten decided that a better plan was to elect a new leader to take them back to Egypt. Convinced they were going to suffer and die in the wilderness, the Israelites’ hope for relief from their current situation was revealed. To be sure, the Israelites’ situation was not a desirable one, they were wandering around in a desert with nothing to eat or drink beyond what God miraculously provided. However, their hope for relief was a lesser hope than what God had promised. God had not merely promised relief, he had promised rest in a land flowing with milk and honey. So we see, the Israelites’ hope was not for the promises of God.

In the wilderness, where the Israelites’ hope was doubly misplaced, their rebellion is best understood as a failure to believe. The Israelites heard God’s voice, but they did not believe his message. In Psalm 95 the psalmist uses the wilderness-spy episode to warn Israel many years later against a failure to hope in and for the promises of God. Likewise, the author of Hebrews, quoting Psalm 95, warns his audience, and us, of the same rebellion of faithlessness.

As with the Israelites in the wilderness, we have heard the voice of God offering us rest in the eternal promised land, the New Jerusalem, by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, and we must examine our hearts for both failures of the Israelites. On the one hand, we can walk in rebellion by not hoping in the promises of God secured by Jesus Christ. Through the deceitfulness of sin we can be convinced that the finished work of Jesus Christ, his incarnation, death, and resurrection, is not enough to deal with our sin. “It can’t be that easy,” we might say, “my sin is to gross to be forgiven.” Through the deceitfulness of sin we can be convinced that Jesus is good, but I have to do my part also. “What really matters,” we might think, “is that I obey God, keep the golden rule.” In both scenarios, we are failing to hope in the gospel that says, Jesus paid it all. On the other hand, we can walk in rebellion by not hoping for the promises of God secured by Jesus Christ. Through the deceitfulness of sin we may hold onto the lesser hope of material, mental, or emotional comfort in this life. “Just make the pain (or fear or shame or whatever) stop,” we might say. Through the deceitfulness of sin we may hold onto the lesser hope of “blessing.” “What God really wants is for me to be happy,” we might say. In both scenarios we are failing to hope for the freedom from sin and eternal rest that is promised in the gospel.

The problem with not hoping in Jesus is clear and often dealt with. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14.6, ESV). The promises of the gospel are exclusively offered in Jesus Christ. To hope in something (or someone) other than Jesus Christ is to lose the eternal hope offered in Jesus Christ. To look to anything other than Christ for the things offered exclusively in Christ is idolatry and will lead to condemnation.

The problem with not hoping for the promises of God secured by Jesus is a bit more sneaky. If I hope for something less than what the gospel offers, then there are myriad options beside Jesus by which I may have that hope fulfilled. If I hope for something less than sin being finally and fully dealt with and all things being made new through Jesus Christ for the glory of God, then I will look to something less than Jesus to have that hope fulfilled. However, if I hope for what is offered exclusively in the gospel, then I will look exclusively to Christ for its fulfillment. Why do so many people seek to define the basic problem of humanity as something other than sin that has offended the holy and just judge who reigns perfectly over his creation? The answer is simple, they can offer no solution, and therefore no hope, if sin is the problem. If redemption from sin is what we hope for, then Jesus Christ is the one we must hope in.

So we see that the author of Hebrews appropriately point the readers back to Psalm 95 and the failure of the spies in Numbers 14 in order to remind us to hope in Jesus Christ for things promised through Jesus Christ. There is a rest that remains for the people of God, and that rest is only found in Jesus Christ. Hope for rest. Hope in Christ.

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