Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Sovereign Grace Resolutions for 2009

Here are 5 character traits I am resolving to pray for, teach and model in our church for 2009:

1. Resolved to be a church that humbly recognizes our sin and confesses it to God and one another trusting him to forgive us our sins and cleanse from all unrighteousness.

2. Resolved to be a church that declares the uniquely saving and only sufficient Savior, Jesus Christ, to ourselves and to a lost and dying world.

3. Resolved to be a church that delights in God’s Word, that pants for it as a deer for water, and that trusts in it alone as the all-sufficient guide for the sanctification of our church.

4. Resolved to be a church that is altogether separate from the world by pursuing, treasuring, and making much of Christ and his kingdom and by hating, fleeing, and repenting of the idols of this world’s kingdom.

5. Resolved to be a church that deeply loves one another through speaking the truth in love to one another, serving one another, sacrificing for one another, being patient with one another, bearing with one another, encouraging one another, praying for one another, and having hope for one another.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

20 Benefits of having God as our Father

Thomas Watson provided 20 benefits of having God as our Father. I have updated the language a bit and added a few thoughts.

1. If God is our Father, he will teach us.

What father does not teach or counsel his own son? If we don’t know what to pray, his Spirit will intercede for us. He will not leave us in confusion or darkness. He will give us wise counsel.And the Father’s teaching is far more effective than any man’s, for “God teaches not only our ear, but our heart; he not only informs our mind, but inclines our will.”

2. If God is our Father, he has deep affectionate love for us.

Think of the love you have for your children. How you rejoice in them and how deeply felt your affection is for them. Watson says of God, “Never was there such an indulgent, affectionate Father.”

3. If God is our Father, he will be full of sympathy.

Psa. 103:13 As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.

4. If God is our Father, he will take notice of the least good he sees in us.

“He takes notice of the least scintilla, the least spark of grace in his children…he can see a grain of corn hidden under chaff, grace hidden under corruption.”

5. If God is our Father, he will accept all our devotion and service as good.

What we think is too weak and mixed with sin to be acceptable, God will reward. When your children make feeble attempts to give to you, do you not accept them with gladness? On Christmas my children gave me gifts they picked out at Santa’s secret shop. They sell some of the worst gifts there, but the fact that the gifts are picked out by my children whom I deeply love causes me to rejoice in them. We may be sinners who offer weak gifts, but our Father looks upon our works through Christ with a merciful eye.

6. If God is our Father, he will correct us in measure.

God’s discipline is gracious and it will not be greater or last longer than we can bear. He will let this cup pass from us, because Jesus drank it already.

7. If God is our Father, he will intermix mercy with all our afflictions.

In every cloud of affliction, we may see a rainbow of mercy. Even with the Cross there is blessing. As a believer, you will never suffer an affliction through which no good will come. The good may be drawing you closer to Christ, humbling you, teaching you to trust, but nothing is a sweeter gift than to be placed in a position where you grow in your enjoyment of the only eternal treasure.

8. If God is our Father, the evil one shall not prevail against us.

Satan will not prevail in his temptations. God shall extinguish all the fiery darts of the evil one. He will finally conquer him. Even the current temptations will turn us to God in prayer and will serve to bear the blessed fruit of humility. Satan will not prevail in his accusations. Our Advocate is before the Father.

9. If God is our Father, no real evil shall come to us.

There is therefore, now, no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. We may face trouble and affliction, but it will not harden us and turn us to blaspheme the Father as it will with unbelievers. Instead, it will turn us toward him. “What hurt does the furnace to the gold? It only makes it purer. What hurt does affliction to grace? Only refine and purify it.”

10. If God is our Father, we may go with cheerfulness to the throne of grace.

What Father does not listen to the cries of his son? Paul says we have access by grace through faith in Christ to stand before the throne of God. Think of that! You can go to the throne of the King of all. You can approach his throne and boldly say to him, “Dad, Dad, I really could use your help with this…” And you can do it knowing that our Father wants to give us good gifts! This should give flight to our prayers.

11. If God is our Father, he will stand between us and danger.

God is our fortress and strong deliverer. He is our shield.

We need not fear the one who can destroy the body! For our Father has a grip on our eternal souls.

12. If God is our Father, we shall not lack anything that he sees to be good for us.

If he deems we need to go through a time of trials, he will provide them. God provided a famine to Israel to reunite Joseph with his family. If he deems we need more worldly goods, he will provide them. God provided Joseph with great power and wealth to provide for the needs of Israel.

13. If God is our Father, all the promises of the Bible belong to us. Heb. 6:17

14. If God is our Father, we will be conquerors.

No matter what battles we lose in this life, we have won the final victory in Christ. We will be crowned at death.

15. If God is our Father, he will now and then send us some token of his love.

Although we can feel very far from home, God will send us tokens of his love which remind us he is still near.

He gives an answer to prayer, or enlarges our hearts for service, gives us joy and peace.

16. If God is our Father, he will indulge and spare us.

We often do that which merits wrath, yet God spares us. He did not spare his Natural Son so that he could spare his adopted children!

17. If God is our Father, he will put honor and renown on us at the last day.

It can be very difficult to endure slander as a believer. It can be trying to stand for truth when people are maligning your character. The maligning of your character happens by unbelievers out there in the world, but Satan also uses believers in here in the church to do it.

“If Satan cannot defile God’s children, he will disgrace them; if he cannot strike his fiery darts into their consciences he will put a dead fly to their names; but God will one day clear the innocent; he will roll away their reproach…The wicked may by misreports darken the honor and repute of the saints; but God will cause their names to shine forth.”

“God will make an open and honourable recital of all their good deeds. As the sins of the wicked shall be openly mentioned, to their eternal infamy and confusion, so all the good deeds of the saints shall be openly mentioned, ‘and then shall every man praise God.’ Thus God shall set a trophy of honor upon all his children at the last day.”

18. If God is our Father, he will give us a good inheritance.

When we see the economy failing, or we are personally struggling financially, it is good to remember our eternal inheritance which is but a short time away. We must remember that it is our Father’s good pleasure to give us the Kingdom. How can the fleeting riches of this world compare with the right hand of God where there are joys forevermore?

19. If God is our Father, it is a comfort when we lose loved ones.

When my children receive precious gifts, into whose hands do they place them for safe-keeping? Are our souls not the most precious gifts? What safer place to keep them then in the hands of our Father in heaven? This is why Jesus can say into your hands I commit my Spirit. When we, or our believing loved ones die, our souls are carried to our Father’s house where there are delights that are unspeakable and full of glory!

20. If God is our Father, he will not disinherit us!

We may for a time fall out of communion with God, but our union with him will never be broken! God has promised to make an everlasting covenant with us and he will not break his promise. Can anything cause our Father to reject his adopted children? Rom. 8:31ff.

Character Traits of an Adopted Son

Here are 5 tests or character traits to see if you are adopted sons taken from 1 John. This list is not comprehensive, but is helpful.

1. Do you have the same view of your sin that the Father does, and thus confess and turn from it? 1 John 1:5-10

2. Do you have the same view of Jesus that the Father does, and thus trust in him alone as your only hope of salvation? 1 John 5:1

3. Do you have the same view of the Law as the Father does, and thus strive to keep it because it is holy, righteous, and good? 1 John 2:3-4

4. Do you have the same view of the world as the Father does, and thus increasingly flee from it while pursuing the Father’s kingdom? 1 John 2:15-17

5. Do you have the same view of the church as the Father does, and thus increasingly cultivate and demonstrate your love for the brothers through prayer, service, and sacrifice? 1 John 4:7-11

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Means of Grace vs. the Means of a Desperate Church Planter

“I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” --Matthew 16:18 “What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.” –1 Corinthians 3:5-7

I am a man who was called by God to be used of him to plant a church. I am not technically a church planter. I am technically someone who waters and sews, but ultimately God is the one who builds his church, brings growth, and tends his vine. In my just over two years of ministry, I have seen God work in incredible and precise ways that have encouraged me greatly. I have watched as God has shaped me as a pastor through this process. He has shown me incredible grace in keeping me faithful the majority of the time. However, I have also become faithless and searched for means to accomplish the “vision” I have for the church. In these short posts, I hope to walk through some of my more glaring moments of faithlessness. My hope is that this will be helpful for the encouragement of future “church planters” to avoid my same sins.

Sin #1: My Vision for Sovereign Grace

When I first started Sovereign Grace I was convinced I needed to have a “vision.” All of the church planting gurus told me that I should work hard on coming up with some master plan of how the church would look in a year, five years, ten years. What was my dream for this church plant? How will it be different from other churches in my area? What is my target group? How will I articulate my “vision” to the congregation?

I got to work on creating a vision for the church. I wrote it, put it in power point, told it to leaders, core group members, and visitors. My “vision” and its clear communication had definite advantages. I was giving people something they could visualize and would desire to join. I was communicating it in such a way that they knew where we were going. The “vision” had measurable goals so we could check our progress. We had definite numbers attached to “the vision” which helped with budgeting. When my “vision” was being accomplished, I was greatly satisfied. When it was not, I was deeply discouraged.

In the midst of my discouragement, I have spent time praying and seeking the Lord in his Word. It became clear to me that I was committing at least three errors:

1. I was basing my “vision” of the church more on contemporary business models, than I was on Scripture.
2. I was more interested in the means of effective church planters in gathering people, than I was in the means of grace provided by God.
3. I believed that building the church was more a function of my ability to cast a clear and compelling “vision,” then it was a function of the power of Christ’s Spirit.

The church is not a business in which we set up a “business plan” or “vision” and clearly communicate that to our customers and investors (By “vision,” I do not mean the clear picture God provides of the church in Scripture. I do not mean starting a church around a particular set of theological commitments, or with the goal to preach expositionally, or pray frequently, or send out missionaries, or have strong small groups. I mean the kind of vision that goes beyond basic biblical commitments and into the realm of measurable outcomes and target groups). The church is the elect people of God who are gathered through the preaching of the Word. When we endeavor to cast a “vision,” we are generally coming up with a picture of a preferable outcome for our venture. We are saying we would like to have “x” number of people, plant “x” number of churches, see “x” number of people baptized, etc. We set measurable goals and we strive to achieve them. We sell people on our preferable outcome and call them to participate and invest.

What happens when our vision is not coming to pass? What happens when people start attending our church who don’t match our target group? What happens when members start to become disappointed that our vision has altered? What happens when a more dynamic church planter with a grander vision and more resources comes along?

All of these questions are generally answered in the same manner: “We need to rethink our “vision”, reprogram our ministries so we become better at achieving it, possibly re-staff our church to align better with the “vision,” and redouble our efforts to bring the “vision” to fruition. We should attend more conference, read more books, and listen to more messages about what other guys are doing to bring about the picture we want to see here.”

Instead, we should repent, read our Bible, and pray for the Lord to align our wills with his. We do not need more “vision” or “better techniques” or “greater effort.” What we need is a Biblical vision of the church! We need to see the church as the gathered people of God. We need to understand that these people are gathered to hear the Word preached, to pray, to sing, to care for one another, to be equipped to build one another up, and to be sent out to evangelize the lost. Certainly, we should plan how this is best accomplished. However, to establish some “vision” with numbers and a timeline attached is to assume that our job as pastors is grander than it is. It is too assume that we build the church, or we bring the increase. It is also to assume that faithful and fruitful ministry always equates with growing numbers of people in our church plant.

How do we gather people to our local church? We simply pray and preach the Word to everyone we come in contact with. We depend on the power of the Holy Spirit to call out Christ’s elect. If we simply employ the means of grace and look to God to work powerfully, God will do far more abundantly than we could ever hope or think. We may not draw in large numbers of people or be erecting buildings on our timeline, but God’s Spirit will be working to powerfully change the people he has gathered to the local church he is building through us.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Jesus' Last Prayer and Its Implication for our Prayers

As I was meditating on the prayer life of Jesus, I recognized that everyone of his recorded prayers show him addressing God as Father, save one. Jesus' last prayer is recorded in Matthew 27:46:

"And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, 'Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?' that is, 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?'"

As the natural son of God, Jesus had every right to address God as Father. However, Jesus prayed the prayer of those who are eternally separated. He prayed the prayer of the damned so that we can pray the prayer of the Son. We can pray "Abba, Father" because Jesus gave up the right to on the cross. He redeemed us so that we could be adopted as sons and he sent his Spirit into our hearts crying "Abba! Father!"

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

6 Observations on the Christian battle with sin...

As I studied Romans 7:13-25, I came up with 6 observations that I think sum up the battle with sin that we as Christians face. This is a battle for mature Christians as well as new believers. In fact, I think this battle is more acute for mature Christians. The more I grow in Christ the more I become abundantly aware of my sin and can cry out with Paul, "Wretched man that I am!"

1. The Mature Christian is still indwelt by sin. Romans 7:17, 20

While we have been freed from the Penalty of Sin and the Power of Sin, we have not been freed from its Presence. It is in us and around us. And when we are walking after the flesh and not the Spirit it reasserts its power in our lives!

2. The Mature Christian should keep God’s good law. Romans 7:16

We cannot throw out the Law just because our sin leads us to violate it. Never is the Law overthrown for the Christian. In fact, the opposite is true. The promise is that the Law will be fulfilled on our behalf and that we will be empowered by God’s Spirit to keep it.

3. The Mature Christian is unable to keep God’s good law. Romans 7:18, Romans 8:3

We are unable to keep the Law because of sin dwelling in us.

4. The Mature Christian is, until his death or resurrection, in a Spiritual war. Romans 7:23, Ephesians 6

There is no victorious Christian life this side of eternity! Victory assumes you are not at war. You may have victory in certain battles, like with porn, or drugs, but the war just moves to a different front! Progress in the war will be made, but the war will not end in this life.

5. The Mature Christian must live by the Spirit if he hopes to grow in holiness and have even a shred of victory. Romans 7:6, Romans 8:3-4, Gal. 3:1-3

6. The Mature Christian should hope in the Gospel. Romans 7:25, Romans 5:1-2, 5:9-10, 8:1, 8:29ff.

God saves us, sanctifies us, and will glorify us. When we feel like Paul did, “wretched man that I am!” We must remember the Gospel.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Local Church Doesn't Belong in the Hallway

Reflections on why pastors/elders must commit to a confessional statement...

“I hope no reader will suppose that ‘mere’ Christianity is here put forward as an alternative to the creeds of the existing communions - as if a man could adopt it in preference to Congregationalism or Greek Orthodoxy or anything else. It is more like a hall out of which doors open into several rooms. If I can bring anyone into that hall I shall have done what I attempted. But it is in the rooms, not in the hall, that there are fires and chairs and meals. The hall is a place to wait in, a place from which to try the various doors, not a place to live in. For that purpose the worst of the rooms (whichever that may be) is, I think, preferable. It is true that some people may find they have to wait in the hall for a considerable time, while others feel certain almost at once which door they must knock at. I do not know why there is this difference, but I am sure God keeps no one waiting unless He sees that it is good for him to wait. When you do get into your room you will find that the long wait has done you some kind of good which you would not have had otherwise. But you must regard it as waiting, not as camping. You must keep on praying for light: and, of course, even in the hall, you must begin trying to obey the rules which are common to the whole house. And above all you must be asking which door is the true one; not which pleases you best by its paint and paneling. In plain language, the question should never be: ‘Do I like that kind of service?’ but ‘Are these doctrines true: Is holiness here? Does my conscience move me towards this? Is my reluctance to knock at this door due to my pride, or my mere taste, or my personal dislike of this particular doorkeeper?’

When you have reached your own room, be kind to those who have chosen different doors and to those who are still in the hall. If they are wrong they need your prayers all the more; and if they are your enemies, then you are under orders to pray for them. That is one of the rules common to the whole house.” ---CS Lewis

For several years I struggled with finding my identity within Evangelicalism. I wondered if there was a theological tradition to which I belonged. I wondered if it was even right to want to belong to a particular theological tradition. Should I not just remain living in the “hallway” of this “house” called Christianity? Why choose a “room?”

As I read and studied men from various schools of thought within evangelical Christianity, I realized that various hermeneutical methodologies were employed by different traditions within evangelical circles. I also realized that each of these schools of thought came to different theological convictions with regard to the character and work of God. These different hermeneutical methodologies and resulting doctrines are what define the various “rooms” in the “house of Christianity.”

I also realized that while the “house of Christianity” operates by a certain set of biblically defined doctrines and principles that those in each and every “room” agree we all share in common, each of the “rooms” also operates by a set of what they consider to be biblically defined doctrines and principles. Further, I realized that while the more general and universally agreed to doctrines of Christianity are useful for keeping unity when we meet in the “hallway,” they are not sufficient for maintaining unity in the close fellowship required in individual “rooms.”

I spent the majority of my Christian life in a church, and even was a pastor in a church, which was trying to live in the “hallway.” I am not saying this in a derogatory manner because I believe this church was laboring to hold firm to truths of Scripture that are central and around which we all agree to gather in the “hallway” for occasional fellowship, worship, and evangelism. I believe this local church was diligently preaching, praying, and working to glorify God through shepherding his people. So, why was I frustrated? Why did I so often find myself at odds with decisions in priorities, preaching, and programming for the church?

It was not until I left to plant a church that I discovered I was frustrated, and at odds, with my brothers in Christ because I was trying to live in the “hallway,” when I had already chosen a “room.” I was already committed to a body of doctrine that I believed was thoroughly biblical and that defines priorities, preaching, and programming in the church. I also realized that others with whom I shared this “hallway” had chosen other “rooms.” We were all operating by “house rules,” and simultaneously were operating by different “room rules.” While the “house rules” helped us maintain unity, there was also a percolating disunity that I experienced. This disunity was driven by the fact that we all hoped the church would move into our “room,” and while we were gracious “hallmates,” we had different rules and expectations that caused fellowship to be strained and shallow. These differences were “the elephant in the hall” that we rarely discussed.

Does this lack of deep unity and fellowship in my former pastoral staff and elders betray a defect in character? No. In fact, I think this problem is a derivative of a virtuous evangelical desire to meet in the “hallway” as much as possible. This is a desire that is so strong that many local churches are trying to “pitch their tents and camp in the hallway.” However, they have failed to understand that the deepest unity and fellowship is found in the common doctrinal commitments, mission, and core values found in each “room.” As Lewis said, “But it is in the rooms, not in the hall, that there are fires and chairs and meals.”

My study of the Word of God has led me into the “room” known as Reformed theology. This is a theology that I believe most accurately reflects the biblical teachings of God and his work. Further, I am not only in the “room” of Reformed theology, I am called to be a leader in that “room.” Therefore, I must operate as a leader in that “room” according to the priorities, principles, and practices that are consistent with Reformed theology. God did not call me to pastor the local church and provide me with a set of biblical commitments that are limited to the “hallway.”

I must preach reformed theology. I must shape the training of elders, the discipleship of believers, the evangelism of the lost, the corporate worship services, the small group meetings, the children’s ministry, the counseling ministry, the prayer meetings, the way we live in community all in accord with what I believe is sound doctrine. If I lead the church in a manner inconsistent with my biblical commitments, I would be, at best, serving only milk instead of meat. I would be a leader who is getting fat on the word while everyone else in the church is being underfed. At worst, I would be a leader who is disingenuous and who lies to his people.

I do not shepherd this local church alone. I am not the only leader in the “room.” God has called other men to lead alongside of me. How do we insure that we maintain deep unity and fellowship among our leaders, and consequently, in our church? How do we define the priorities, principles, and practices of the “room?” How do we determine what will be preached, or what food will be served, in our church? This is vitally important for it is in the faith that true unity is found in the local church (Ephesians 4:13). We must have elders who are able to teach sound doctrine and refute those who contradict (Titus 1:9). We must teach what we believe accords with sound doctrine (Titus 2:1). We must follow the pattern of sound words we have been taught and guard the deposit that has been entrusted to us (2 Timothy 1:13-14).

Certainly, we would maintain that more has been entrusted to us and must be taught and protected by our elders than the minimal doctrines that we agree to in the “hallway.” Can anyone really argue that our doctrine of who God is and how he works in predestination, election, calling, justification, and sanctification is not important enough to define the priorities, principles, and practices of our church by? Is it true that our view of man and his condition, of the church and its ordinances, of the biblical covenants and their fulfillment, of the Holy Spirit and his gifts are all doctrines that should be left to the privacy of the pastor’s study, while the majority of the local church lives in the “hallway?” Is it really possible to leave those doctrines to occasional sermons and to the discretion of some to practice? Is it really preferable to make this satisfyingly rich food into an occasional meal, and withhold it from being a staple of the church? If we are committed to the Reformed view of the Gospel, why wouldn’t we serve it to people in every sermon and ministry? How can we truly be a Gospel-centered church, if we believe we are leaving elements of the Gospel for only those who can feed themselves? As a wise pastor once asked me, “How can a man called of God to be a shepherd commissioned by Jesus to ‘teaching them all that I have commanded you’ and to the apostolic injunction and example of ‘I have not hesitated to declare to you the whole counsel of God’ see his teaching ministry as less in scope than what he believes and confesses himself? If what he holds to in his own confession is not teachable to his flock, or defendable with his flock, then why does he believe it is pleasing and glorifying to God for him to hold these beliefs, and edifying to his own soul, but not to his congregation?”

At the end of the day, I do not really believe it is preferable, or possible, for a local church to camp in the “hallway.” If the elders of a local church do not teach and defend a much more comprehensive confessional statement, then the sheep will develop their own doctrines. The most positive outcome will be that the church will be left with factions and pockets of people who hold to various doctrinal positions, but who are loosely unified around the doctrines of the “hallway.” The depth of fellowship that is experienced in a community that is unified in the faith, and on a common mission, will be lost. Further, the elders will adopt a set of “hallway rules” that value unity over truth and pragmatism over principle, rather than move into a “room” that finds unity in the truth and practice that springs from principle. If the elders fail to adopt these “hallway rules,” their church will split. If they do adopt them, their church will slowly die from malnutrition because the meal isn’t being served in the “hallway.”

5 Reasons God being "in heaven" gives me confidence in prayer...

As I am preaching through the Lord's Prayer, I have spent much time on the subject of the God to whom we pray. I was meditating on some reasons why God's being "in heaven" or transcendent and wholly other gives me confidence in prayer. I wanted to list 5 of them I was meditating on:

1. He is omniscient and knows perfectly what we need. Matt. 6:8
2. He is omnipotent and able to do more than we can ask or think. Eph. 3:20
3. He is good and will give us what is best for us. Matt. 7:7-11
4. He is holy and cannot fail to keep his promises. Heb. 6:17-18
5. He is sovereign and nothing is out of his control. In fact, everything is being worked together for our good and his glory. Rom. 8:28

Friday, December 5, 2008

Why I am on earth...

John Piper recently spoke at the Evangelical Theological Society and gave the reasons why he believes he is on earth. I agree that this is precisely the heart of Christianity and why I am on earth as well. Oh, that Sovereign Grace Church, Bakersfield, and the nations would capture this vision of glory of God and our joy in him! Please read this as it is worth your time.

Thesis 1

My all-shaping conviction is that God created the universe in order that he might be worshipped with white-hot intensity by created beings who see his glory manifested in creation and history and supremely in the saving work of Christ.

Thesis 2

I am also persuaded that people need to be confronted with how self-exalting God is in this purpose. To confront them with this, I give a quiz:

Q 1: What is the chief end of God?
A: The chief end of God is to glorify God and enjoy displaying and magnifying his glory forever.

Q 2: Who is the most God-centered person in the universe?
A: God.

Q 3: Who is uppermost in God’s affections?
A: God.

Q 4: Is God an idolater?
A: No. He has no other gods before him.

Q 5: What is God’s chief jealousy?
A: God’s chief jealousy is to be known, admired, trusted, enjoyed, and obeyed above all others.

Q 6: Do you feel most loved by God because he makes much of you, or because he frees you to enjoy making much of him forever?

Thesis 3

I press on this because I believe that if we are God-centered simply because we consciously or unconsciously believe God is man-centered, then our God-centeredness is in reality man-centeredness. Teaching God’s God-centeredness forces this issue of whether we treasure God because of his excellence or mainly because he endorses ours.

Thesis 4

God’s eternal, radical, ultimate commitment to his own self-exaltation permeates Scripture. His aim to be exalted glorified, admired, magnified, praised, and reverenced is seen to be the ultimate goal of all creation, all providence, and all saving acts.

* “He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace” (Ephesians 1:5-6).
* God created the natural world to display his glory: “The heavens declare the glory of God” (Psalms 19:1).
* “You are my servant Israel in whom I will be glorified” (Isaiah 49:3); “. . . that they might be for me a people, a name, a praise, and a glory (Jeremiah 13:11).
* “He saved them [at the Red Sea] for his name’s sake that he might make known his mighty power” (Psalm l06:7-8); “I have raised you up for this very purpose of showing my power in you, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth” (Romans 9:17).
* “I acted [in the wilderness] for the sake of my name, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations in whose sight I had brought them out (Ezekiel 20:14).
* [After asking for a king] “Fear not . . . For the Lord will not cast away his people for his great name’s sake (l Samuel 12:20-22).
* “Thus says the Lord God, It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act [in bringing you back from the exile], but for the sake of my holy name . . . . And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name . . . and the nations will know that I am the Lord” (Ezekiel 36:22-23, 32). “For My own sake, for My own sake, I will act; For how can My name be profaned? And My glory I will not give to another” (Isaiah 48:11).
* “Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy” (Romans 15:8-9).
* “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify Your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again” (John 12:27, 28).
* “He died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (2 Corinthians 5:15).
* “God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11).
* “I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins” (Isaiah 43:25).
* “Whoever serves [let him serve], as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified” (1 Peter 4:11).
* “Immediately an angel of the Lord smote [Herod] because he did not give glory to God” (Acts 12:23).
* “. . . when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints and to be marveled at in all who have believed (2 Thessalonians l:9-l0).
* “Father, I desire that they also, whom thou hast given me, may be with me where I am, to behold my glory, which thou hast given me in Thy love for me before the foundation of the world” (John l7:24).
* “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Habakkuk 2:14).
* “And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine upon it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the lamb” (Revelation 21:23).

Thesis 5

This is not megalomania because, unlike our self-exaltation, God’s self-exaltation draws attention to what gives greatest and longest joy, namely, himself. When we exalt ourselves, we lure people away from the one thing that can satisfy their souls—the infinite beauty of God. When God exalts himself, he manifests the one thing that can satisfy our souls, namely, God.

Therefore, God is the one being in the universe for whom self-exaltation is the most loving act, since love labors and suffers to enthrall us with what is infinitely and eternally satisfying, namely, God. Therefore, when God exalts God and commands us to join him, he is pursuing our highest, deepest, longest happiness. This is love, not megalomania.

Thesis 6

God’s pursuit of his glory and our pursuit of our joy turn out to be the same pursuit. This is what Christ died to achieve. “Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18). When we are brought to God as our highest treasure, he gets the glory and we get the pleasure.

Thesis 7

To see this and believe this and experience this is radically transforming to worship—whether personal or corporate, marketplace or liturgical.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Amazed by the Insights of a Child

Tonight during advent I asked my son what the most unbelievable aspect of the pregnancy of Mary was. He responded, "That the almighty God could be a baby."

Where most think the miracle of the virgin conception is the most unbelievable part of the Christmas story, my son realized it is the miracle of the incarnation which is most extraordinary. There is some good theology!