Thursday, December 27, 2007

"Did You Have A Good Christmas?"

My wife and I were talking today and we got on the subject of Christmas; she mentioned that she has noticed a lot of people asking, "Did you have a good Christmas?" When they ask this question most people are really asking, "Did you get a lot of presents?" or "were you able to buy all of the gifts that you wanted to buy?" Most likely when a person asks this question they have absolutely no thought (at least at that moment) of what Christmas really is. In Luke chapter two we read:
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
Luke 2:11 (ESV)
Think about that; unto us is born a Savior. A Savior. Really, take a minute to let that sink in. Born to us is a Savior. In Matthew we are told that this baby, this Savior, was to be given the name Jesus because, "he will save his people from their sins." (Matthew 1:21). This is Good news! This is the Gospel!

Because of our sin we are destined for death(Romans 3:23, 6:23). But because Jesus came we can all be reconciled to God. We read in again Romans:
For if whole we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
Romans 5:10-11 (ESV)
And in Colossians:
And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless before him,
Colossians 1:21-21 (ESV)
So what does all of this mean? It means that Jesus, whose birth we are celebrating at Christmas, was born in order that he might reconcile us to God through his death. Without this event we would all still be an enemy of God, hostile in mind and doing evil deeds. But while we were enemies Christ died for us.

So the next time someone asks you, "Did you have a good Christmas?" answer them with the Gospel. And then ask them "How could I not?"

Monday, December 24, 2007

It's About The Cross

Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child. While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. “This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.” So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger. When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart. The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.
Luke 2:1-20

This passage in the Gospel of Luke tells us of the birth of Christ, but have you ever wondered why He was born in the first place? If you have ever asked that question, either out loud or quietly to yourself, take a few minutes to watch this video by the Go Fish Guys and you will have your answer. This is why Jesus came, and this is the true meaning of Christmas.

Merry Christmas from the Christian Journey

Friday, December 21, 2007

What's In A Name?

I thought we could have some fun by looking at something in the Bible that is not obvious to the casual reader, but that shows us the great lengths to which God will go to get His message of love, grace, and redemption to us. There is a little known prophecy in Genesis chapter five that lays out the Gospel and because most of us don't speak Hebrew we miss it.

But before we look at this passage we need to understand that the sin that Adam committed did not take God by surprise. God knew what was going to happen before He created Adam and He already had his plan of redemption in place; Ephesians tells us that this plan was in place before the foundation of the world.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.
Ephesians 1:3-6

The first prophecy of this coming redemption is found in the third chapter of Genesis, where we read:

“And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel.”

Genesis 3:15

But as I mentioned above, there is also something amazing found in Genesis chapter 5. We often just glance at chapters like this one when we are reading through the Bible and we ask ourselves what we could possibly learn from a list of names like this; what's the big deal about who begot whom? Well, after you see this you may never look quite the same way when you come to a list of names in the Bible.

In Genesis 5 there is a list of names, a genealogy that runs ten generations from Adam to Noah. Unlike most of our names today the names in the Bible actually have a meaning; that is why, for example when God changed people's names in the Bible; their name had some meaning that represented who they were in their relationship to God. Well this is also true of the names in Genesis five; each name in this list has a Hebrew meaning, and the meanings are as follows:

  1. Adam – Man
  2. Seth – Appointed
  3. Enosh – Mortal
  4. Kenan – Sorrow
  5. Mahalalel – The Blessed God
  6. Jared – Shall Come Down
  7. Enoch – Teaching
  8. Methuselah – His Death Shall Bring
  9. Lamech – The Despairing
  10. Noah – Comfort and Rest

When you put these ten names together in a sentence, in the exact order that they appear in this genealogy, we see something truly amazing. We get a sentence that says:

“Man [is] Appointed Mortal Sorrow [but] The Blessed God Shall Come Down Teaching [that] His Death Shall Bring [the] Despairing Comfort and Rest.”
In this brief sentence God has spelled out the message of the Gospel for us. So the next time you run across a list of names in the Bible pause and thank God for the love and grace that He has shown us, and praise Him for the redemption that is ours In Christ Jesus.

What an awesome God we serve!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Puritans (Part 4)

Here is another great excerpt from the writings of Thomas Watson. This is from his exposition of the Beatitudes, which he penned in 1660. As I read this today I was struck by just how relevant this is to us today; how many of our churches are wasting time "washing swine" instead of preaching the Gospel. Jesus called us to be pure in heart, the Puritans echoed that call, and that is what we need to hear today.

"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." Matthew 5:8

External morality is not heart-purity. A person may be clothed with great moral virtues, such as justice, charity, prudence, and temperance — and yet go to hell.

We must not rest in mere outward morality. A swine may be washed — yet be a swine still. Morality does but wash a man — grace changes him. Morality may shine in the eyes of the world — but it differs as much from purity, as a pebble differs from a diamond!

Morality is but strewing flowers on a dead corpse!

A man who is but highly moral — is but a tame devil.

How many have made 'morality' their Savior!
Morality will damn — as well as vice! A boat may
be sunk with gold — as well as with dung.

The moral person, though he will not commit gross sins — yet he is not sensible of heart sins. He is not
troubled for unbelief, hardness of heart, vanity of thoughts. He abhors gross-sins, not gospel-sins.

The snake has a fine appearance — but has a deadly sting! Just so, the moral man is fair to look on — but has a secret antipathy against the holy ways of God.

Morality is not to be rested in. The heart must be pure. God would have Aaron wash the inner parts of the sacrifice (Leviticus 9:14). Morality does but wash the outside; the inside must be washed. "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." Matthew 5:8

Thomas Watson - 1660

Monday, December 17, 2007

What Do You Want Me To Do For You?

Matthew 20:32-34 Jesus stopped, called them, and said, "What do you want Me to do for you?" "Lord," they said to Him. "open our eyes!" Moved with compassion Jesus touched their eyes. Immediately they could see, and they followed Him.

Have you ever thought about how you would answer if Jesus ask you "What do you want Me to do for you?" In our passage today that is exactly the question that Jesus asked these blind men. We don't know anything about them prior to this day, but they had to have heard about the miracles that Jesus had been doing in and around Jerusalem. We also get the impression that they knew who He was, by which I mean that they knew He was the Messiah, because in verse 30 they called Him "Son of David" which is one of the Old Testament titles for the Messiah.

So what can we learn today from these blind men? The first thing that we are told is that they were blind. This is talking about physical blindness, but we can draw a parallel here to our our spiritual blindness apart from Jesus. Just as they had their eyes opened physically, we all need to have our spiritual eyes opened.

The second thing we see is their faith. These men believed that Jesus could heal them, and they called out to Him for mercy. Again, just like these men we rely on the mercy of Jesus and we must also put our faith in Him and believe that He is the One that can open our eyes. Hebrews 11:6 says that without faith it is impossible to please God, because those who come to Him must believe that He exists, and that He rewards those who diligently seek Him.

The third thing we can learn here is the importance of persistence. The crowd tried to quiet these men, but the more the crowd told them to be quiet, the more they cried out. This too is a lesson that has application for us today; we are told in Jeremiah 29:13 that we will find God when we search for Him with all of our heart. These men didn't let anything stand in their way, not fear, not blindness, and not the crowd. They sought Jesus and they didn't give up until they found Him.

And what happened? Jesus opened their eyes and they followed Him. Do you see yourself in this story? I sure hope that you do.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Examine Your Motives

Matthew 20:1 "For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard.

Jesus has just had a conversation with the rich young ruler (Matthew 19:16-22) and then told His disciples that it is harder for a rich man to enter heaven that it is for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle. Peter then asks Jesus since he and the other disciples have given up everything to follow Him "what will there be for us?"

Jesus says that they will be rewarded for their labor, and tells them that many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first. Then He tells them a parable; He says the kingdom of heaven is like a land owner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. Many have misrepresented this parable by saying that the wages paid to the workers represent eternal life, or that the wages represent rewards for service, but neither of these are what Jesus was trying to teach His disciples (or us).

First, He can't be talking about the wages being salvation because that would mean that they were earning their salvation, and the Bible clearly teaches that salvation is by grace and that we cannot work for it (Ephesians 2:8-9). Second, He couldn't have meant rewards either, because they all received the same amount, and the Bible teaches that God will reward us individually for what we have done (1 Corinthians 3:8). So what was the point of this parable?

I think that Jesus was trying to make us see that we need to watch our motives. Remember, Peter was asking what he was going to get in return for all he had given up, and Jesus was letting him know that he would be rewarded for his work, but just because he was one of the first to follow Jesus didn't mean that He would be first in the kingdom of heaven. The person who will be first is the one who serves Christ for the sake of serving Christ, not for what he will get in return.

Warren Wiersbe writes, "It is a solemn thing to realize that Christians whom we may admire today will be “last” at the final reckoning at the Judgment Seat of Christ because their motives were wrong."

So today remember that our motives are important and that our service to Jesus should be motivated by our love for Him and not what we will get for it.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Possessions, Or Eternal Life

Matthew 19:21 "If you want to be perfect," Jesus said to him, "go sell your belongings and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me."

The man we know as the Rich Young Ruler has come and ask Jesus what he needs to do to to have eternal life. If someone came to you and asked you that question what would you say? I bet it would not be what Jesus said here. First Jesus told this young man that if he wanted to receive eternal life he should keep the commandments. The young man responded, "Which commandments?" Jesus replied, "do not murder, do not steal, do not commit adultery, love you neighbor as yourself." The young ruler then replied that he had done all of this since his youth and asked what else he was lacking. So Jesus told him; if you want eternal life, sell what you have, give the money you make to the poor, and follow Me. And the man went away grieving because he had a lot of stuff.

So what we see here is Jesus sending away a man who genuinely wanted eternal life. The problem though was that he was not willing to give up his possessions and could not admit that he was a sinner. This man had made an idol out of his possessions; they had taken the place of God for him, and when Jesus confronted him on it he chose his stuff over eternal life.

The other thing that Jesus did was tell him that he needed to keep the commandments, which he said he had done since his youth. Jesus has been making the point throughout His ministry that keeping the commandments goes beyond mere outward obedience (see Matthew 5-7) and that even if a person keeps the law perfectly on the outside, we are all still guilty on the inside. The response of this man should have been, "I am a sinful man and I have broken these commandments in my heart, how then can I be saved?" But the mans pride would not allow him to do this.

The last thing that Jesus said was "follow Me." It is not enough to say that you believe in Jesus, or to just say a prayer asking Jesus to come into your heart, we need to follow Him. That means that we need to know Him, to study His word, and do what He did. This does not mean that we are earning our salvation, we could never do that - Jesus did it all. But if we are truly born again we will want to do everything that we can to please our Lord.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Announcing: Study The Word

I have been asked to post some of my more in depth Bible Studies on this blog, but since I really enjoy the format here, and since most of these studies are rather lengthy, I decided to create a second blog where I will be posting only verse by verse expositional studies. Please feel free to check it out and post comments or questions; it is my hope that this site will evoke some great dialog on both the meaning and application of Scripture, and that together we will all grow to be more Christ like through it.

You can find the new blog here: Study The Word

Due to the nature of this new blog, and the amount of time that goes into writing these expositional studies, I will not be updating it as frequently as I do The Christian Journey. I will, however, still try to post here several times a week.

Thank you to everyone who visits this site; my prayer is that it is, and continues to be, a blessing and an encouragement to you.

In Christ,

Thursday, December 6, 2007

We Must Forgive

Matthew 18:21 Then Peter came to Him and said, "Lord, how many times could my brother sin against me and I forgive him? As many as seven times?"

I think this is something we have to deal with on a daily basis on our lives, so how would you have answered this question? I think Peter genuinely wanted an answer; he wasn't trying to show how spiritual he was by saying that he would forgive up to seven times, he was looking for the answer. And Jesus answered him with a parable.

There was a slave who owed his master a debt that was so large he would never be able to repay it; in the parable Jesus says that he owed 10,000 talents. A Talent was worth more than 15 years wages for a laborer, so what this man owed would have taken him 15,000 years to repay. The master told the servant that he, his wife , and his children were to be sold to repay the debt, but when the servant begged his master for patience and said that he would repay the debt his master had mercy on him and forgave the entire debt. Then after being forgiven an unpayable debt this same man turned around and had a man who owed him a small debt thrown into prison because he cannot repay.

When you hear this story do you find yourself becoming angry? Do you ask yourself how a man could be forgiven such a large debt and then be so unforgiving to someone who is in a similar circumstance? Well, God asks us that same question every time that we withhold forgiveness. He has forgiven us a debt that all eternity would not be long enough to repay. We were so indebted to God for our sin that is cost Him the life of His Son to erase it, and yet we still hold grudges and withhold forgiveness to people who offend us.

Peter asked Jesus how many times we should be willing to forgive, and Jesus answered "not seven times, but seventy times seven." Jesus didn't mean that we are to forgive 490 times and that's all; He was making the point that we should forgive so often that we loose count. If God has forgiven your sins, you have no right to withhold forgiveness from anyone else; they could not have done anything that is as bad as what we have done to God.

Is there someone you need to forgive today?

Sunday, December 2, 2007

The Sovereignty of God

Over the past week or so I have been engaged in a debate with a fellow blogger named Preston, who writes the blog An Open View. We have been debating the issue of God's Sovereignty and Omniscience; if you are interested in that debate you can read it here. I am writhing this post in response to that debate in order to more fully clarify my position on this issue.

A.W. Tozer wrote, "What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us." This is one of the truest statements, outside of the Bible, that has ever been written, and this is the very reason that I engaged in this debate to begin with; we must strive to have an accurate view of who God is, and what He is like. That includes an accurate view of His Sovereignty, and why there is evil in the world (the very things that were attacked by Preston in his post).

A.W. Tozer wrote, "God's Sovereignty is the attribute by which He rules His entire creation, and to be sovereign God must be all-knowing, all powerful, and absolutely free." That we understand that God is all- knowing (Omniscient) and all-powerful (Omnipotent) is absolutely essential to how we view Him and how we relate to Him as His children. I believe that the Bible teaches us that God knows all things, including the future, and that He is Sovereign over all things, including evil, and that ultimately all things will bring glory to Him and His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

We can see this in the letter to the Colossians where Paul, speaking of Christ, wrote:
For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.

Colossians 1:16-18
In commenting on these verses John Piper said:
clipped from
All that came into being exists for Christ—that is, it exists to display the greatness of Christ. Nothing—nothing!—in the universe exists for its own sake. Everything from the bottom of the oceans to the top of the mountains, from smallest particle to the biggest star, from the most boring school subject to the most fascinating science, from the ugliest cockroach to the most beautiful human, from the greatest saint to the most wicked genocidal dictator—everything that exists, exists to make the greatness of Christ more fully known—including you, and the person you have the hardest time liking.

blog it
I couldn't agree more. But does this meant that God is responsible for the evil that is in the world? Not at all! With that very question in mind I asked Preston the following in our debate:
Does God have the ability to stop evil in the world? If He does, and there is no purpose in allowing it to continue, then God would be evil Himself. BUT, if God has the ability to stop evil, and He allows it to continue there must be a purpose in His allowing it. If you say that God cannot stop evil that makes evil more powerful than God, and He is not Omnipotent.

blog it
He responded with a new post entitled A Case Study: Satan & The Problem Of Evil where he made the following statement:
The war-torn nature of our cosmos reflects this tragic fall and ongoing war. Satan’s fall was catastrophic, which is ultimately why we experience catastrophic horrors in this world. Yet this fall was not altogether cataclysmic, for even in this worst case scenario God is still victorious. Though he must now operate in a terrible war zone, God’s goal of acquiring a bride cannot be thwarted.

blog it

Look back at the quotes above from A.W. Tozer on the sovereignty of God; in that quote we saw that God must be "absolutely free." That means that He cannot be forced to "operate in a terrible war zone." He cannot be "forced" to do anything - He is absolutely free.

So why does God allow evil to continue in the world? Why didn't He just wipe out evil the second Satan fell? Why does He allow bad things to happen in our world? These are some very serious questions, and questions that we must answer if we are to ever have a proper understanding of who God is, His sovereignty, His omniscience, and His power over all things - including evil.

So what then are we to do with the fact that God is sovereign and that there is evil in the world? If you conclude, as Preston did, that God is forced to live with the evil that exists in the world what you have said is that evil is more powerful than God. On the other hand, if God can put a stop to evil at any time he chooses, and He hasn't chosen to do so, then you have only two choices:

(1) Either God is evil Himself
(2) God has a purpose is allowing the evil to continue

I choose to believe the latter. As we have already seen all things exist for the glory of Christ. To further illustrate this point John Piper wrote:

clipped from

My conclusion is that from cover to cover the Bible presents God as governing Satan and his demons. He has the right and power to restrain them any time he pleases.

I conclude, therefore, that God permitted Satan’s fall, not because he was helpless to stop it, but because he had a purpose for it. Since God is never taken off guard, his permissions are always purposeful. If he chooses to permit something, he does so for a reason—an infinitely wise reason. How the sin arises in Satan’s heart, we do not know. God has not told us. What we do know is that God is sovereign over Satan, and therefore Satan’s will does not move without God’s permission. And therefore every move of Satan is part of God’s overall purpose and plan. And this is true in such a way that God never sins. God is infinitely holy, and God is infinitely mighty. Satan is evil, and Satan is under the all-governing wisdom of God.

blog it
So what I am saying here is this: We serve a holy, powerful, and loving God who has promised that all things work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). It is only because God is who the Bible says He is that He can make this promise; His plans are not thwarted by evil, nothing takes Him by surprise, He knows the future and He holds ours in His hand.

Our ultimate good will only be realized in Christ; He will be glorified by everything (and everyone) that has ever been or ever will be created. God is sovereign over His creation and we can rest assured that all things have been created through and for Christ - to bring glory to Him.