for truly in [Jerusalem] there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. (Acts 4:27–28, ESV)
As you read the story of Jesus' crucifixion, does it ever seem to you like you're trapped in a bad dream or an ordinary day that completely spiraled out of control? There have been occasions after a big argument with my wife and we're both in our corners fuming that I step back and ask myself, "How did that just happen?" One minute we were reminiscing about our favorite dates and the next we were in each other's face.
I used to look at the night of Jesus' death this way. He gets picked up in the garden by a few clueless soldiers. After a little grumpiness from the high priest, it actually seems like he's going to walk because both Pilate and Herod have no idea what the whole thing is all about. But the angry voices get louder, Pilate is backed into a corner and before you know it Jesus is taking his last breathes on the cross as blood and water stream down his side." And you ask yourself, "How did it come to this? How could this have happened."
It happened because it was planned by an sovereign, all-powerful God.
God was weaving a tapestry. The threads included angry mobs, lies, murder, hatred, betrayal, cowardice, pain and agony. It's hard to believe anything beautiful could come from such thread.
But it did. The atoning blood of Jesus opened the door of eternal life for those who would believe.
God is weaving a tapestry today and there is no thread he cannot use.
God is the sovereign, transcendent and personal God who has made the universe, including us, his image-bearers. Our misery lies in our rebellion, our alienation from God, which, despite his forbearance, attracts his implacable wrath.
But God, precisely because love is of the very essence of his character, takes the initiative and prepared for the coming of his own Son by raising up a people who, by covenantal stipulations, temple worship, systems of sacrifice and of priesthood, by kings and by prophets, are taught something of what God is planning and what he expects.
In the fullness of time his Son comes and takes on human nature. He comes not, in the first instance, to judge but to save: he dies the death of his people, rises from the grave and, in returning to his heavenly Father, bequeaths the Holy Spirit as the down payment and guarantee of the ultimate gift he has secured for them—an eternity of bliss in the presence of God himself, in a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.
The only alternative is to be shut out from the presence of this God forever, in the torments of hell. What men and women must do, before it is too late, is repent and trust Christ; the alternative is to disobey the gospel (Romans 10:16;2 Thessalonians 1:8; 1 Peter 4:17).
Once I was flying at night over the North Atlantic. It was in 1947, and I was coming back from my first visit to Europe. Our plane, one of those old DC4′s with two engines on each wing, was within two or three minutes of the middle of the Atlantic.
Suddenly two engines on one wing stopped. I had already flown a lot, and so I could feel the engines going wrong. I remember thinking, if I’m going to go down into the ocean, I’d better get my coat. When I did, I said to the hostess, “There’s something wrong with the engines.” She was a bit snappy and said, “You people always think there’s something wrong with the engines.” So I shrugged my shoulders, but I took my coat.
I had no sooner sat down, than the lights came on and a very agitated co-pilot came out. “We’re in trouble,” he said. “Hurry and put on your life jackets.”
So down we went, and we fell and fell, until in the middle of the night with no moon we could actually see the water breaking under us in the darkness. And as we were coming down, I prayed.
Interestingly enough, a radio message had gone out, an SOS that was picked up and broadcast immediately all over the United States in a flash news announcement: “There is a plane falling in the middle of the Atlantic.” My wife heard about this and at once she gathered our three little girls together and they knelt down and began to pray. They were praying in St Louis, Missouri, and I was praying on the plane. And we were going down and down.
Then, while we could see the waves breaking beneath us and everybody was ready for the crash, suddenly the two motors started, and we went on into Gander.
When we got down I found the pilot and asked what happened. “Well,” he said, “it’s a strange thing, something we can’t explain. Only rarely do two motors stop on one wing, but you can make an absolute rule that when they do, they don’t start again. We don’t understand it.”
So I turned to him and I said, “I can explain it.”
He looked at me: “How?”
And I said, “My Father in heaven started it because I was praying.”
That man had the strangest look on his face and he turned away.
Schaeffer draws a big-picture application:
What one must realize is that seeing the world as a Christian does not mean just saying, “I am a Christian. I believe in the supernatural world,” and then stopping. It is possible to be saved through faith in Christ and then spend much of our lives in the materialist’s chair. We can say we believe in a supernatural world, and yet live as though there were no supernatural in the universe at all. It is not enough merely to say, “I believe in a supernatural world.”
Christianity is not just a mental assent that certain doctrines are true. This is only the beginning. This would be rather like a starving man sitting in front of great heaps of food and saying, “I believe the food exists; I believe it is real,” and yet never eating it.
It is not enough merely to say, “I am a Christian,” and then in practice to live as if present contact with the supernatural were something far off and strange.
Many Christians I know seem to act as though they come in contact with the supernatural just twice—once when they are justified and become a Christian and once when they die. The rest of the time they act as though they were sitting in the materialist’s chair.
—Francis Schaeffer, “The Universe and Two Chairs”
HT: Justin Taylor
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31, ESV)
All for God's glory. Even life's most basic tasks such as food consumption are to be done with the glory of God in mind, but how? How can a mom change poopy diapers to the glory of God? How can a carpenter hang drywall to the glory of God? How can we eat our bowl of Cheerios to the glory of God?
It's easy to see how feeding the hungry, teaching a Sunday School class or singing in the morning worship service brings glory to God, but how can grinding through the mundane and menial bring glory to God? Here's a couple thoughts:
1. Do it with gratitude
Whatever you've got going on today, do it with thankfulness. Have you praised God for the Cheerios? Are you grateful that you can change the poopy diaper rather than watch a nurse through a glass window in the NICU do it?
give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:18, ESV)
2. Do it with a servant's heart
Is this task the opportunity to serve someone? A spouse? A child? A coworker? A client? An enemy? Humbling ourselves to serve others brings glory to God (1 Peter 4:11) and becomes an opportunity to model the life of our Savior, Jesus Christ, the greatest servant of all (Philippians 2:3-8).
3. Do it with spiritual growth in mind
Is God stretching you to make you more like Jesus? It is God's will that your life becomes more and more like that of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:10, 1 Thessalonians 4:3). When it does, God's name is honored among Christians and non-Christians alike. Has God given you a mundane task today? Perhaps it's nothing more than character development. That difficult co-worker or whiny child may be God's means of refining your faith to make it well-pleasing unto him.
4. Do it with evangelism in mind
How easily we forget that God frequently brings people into our lives so that we can share our hope with them, yet we (I) rarely do. As you brush up against numerous folk today, remember than he may lead you to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with someone who desperately needs to here it.
The shop, the barn, the scullery, and the smithy become temples when men and women do all to the glory of God! —C.H. Spurgeon
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you (1 Peter 1:3–4, ESV)
When we think of inheritance, we often think of "rich uncle" (because most of our parents spent our inheritance on our bicycles, birthday parties, family vacations and college!). The reality is that very few of us are going to fall into a huge pile of cash when a family member's will is read. There is, however, one inheritance you can bank on: God's!
Peter tells us in today's passage God has breathed life and given a living hope into those who place their faith in Jesus. The hope possessed by Christians is not a sterile wish, but it is alive and genuine. Neither is it merely an earthly hope, but it leads to an inheritance waiting for us in heaven. This inheritance is unlike our rich uncle's. It will not fade away. It can't be lost on the stock market or dribbled away on expensive toys. This inheritance will truly last. When you die, you can take it with you.
Therefore, we are reminded by Paul to "set our mind on things above" (Colossians 3:1-4) -- not to place our hope in that which will soon pass. The earthly is temporary, but so easily we forget because our eyes have yet to see the eternal. Oh, that the eyes of our hearts would be opened to see the untarnished, unfading inheritance which awaits those who have embraced Christ.
John Piper writes:
A vague bad feeling that you are a crummy person is not the same as conviction for sin. Feeling rotten is not the same as repentance.This morning I began to pray, and felt unworthy to be talking to the Creator of the universe. It was a vague sense of unworthiness. So I told him so. Now what?
Nothing changed until I began to get specific about my sins. Crummy feelings can be useful if they lead to conviction for sins. Vague feelings of being a bad person are not very helpful. The fog of unworthiness needs to take shape into clear dark pillars of disobedience. Then you can point to them and repent and ask for forgiveness and take aim to blow them up.
So I began to call to mind the commands I frequently break. These are the ones that came to mind.
But now it is specific. I look it in the eye. I’m not whining about feeling crummy. I’m apologizing to Christ for not keeping all that he commanded. I’m broken and I’m angry at my sin. I want to kill it, not me. I’m not suicidal. I’m a sin hater and a sin murderer (“Put to death what is earthly in you” Colossians 3:5. “Put to death the deeds of the body” Romans 8:13.)
In this conflict, I hear the promise, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1John 1:9). Peace rises. Prayer feels possible and right and powerful again.
But the LORD’s portion is his people, Jacob his allotted heritage. “He found him in a desert land, and in the howling waste of the wilderness; he encircled him, he cared for him, he kept him as the apple of his eye. –Deuteronomy 32:9-10
What does God most delight in after himself? What brings him more pleasure than all the beauty of the forests and mountains and waterfalls and fields? What does he care about more than all the art in all the museums, All the books that have ever been written, All the technology and accomplishments of mankind?
Weak and frail as we are, Full of foibles Doubts and fears We are his portion. His heritage. His special delight.
He encircles us, cares for us, Keeps us as the apple of his eye. Yes, really We are the apple of his eye. That thing which most delights him.
His bride. His beloved. His objects of mercy. His chosen race, His royal priesthood, The people for his own possession, The ones he loved with an everlasting love. The ones he is transforming To look like Jesus Act like Jesus Talk like Jesus And display Jesus to the world.
Is this how you see your church?
Is your church the apple of your eye?
HT: Mark Altrogge
O God, give us patience when those who are wicked hurt us. O how impatient and angry we are when we think ourselves unjustly slandered, reviled and hurt! Christ suffers blows upon his cheek, the innocent for the guilty; yet we may not abide one rough word for his sake. O Lord, grant us virtue and patience, power and strength, that we may take all adversity with goodwill, and with a gentle mind overcome it. And if necessity and thy honour require us to speak, grant that we may do so with meekness and patience, that they truth and thy glory may be defended, and our patience and steadfast continuance perceived.
-Miles Coverdale (1488-1569)
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)
There is a war for your soul that rages this very moment. Today’s passage tells us that the “passions of the flesh” are on the offensive against you. Sinful desires want nothing more than to occupy territory that has been given over to Christ. Satan would absolutely revel in the knowledge that longings for righteousness and holiness and been substituted with ugly cravings of the flesh.
Those sinful cravings may be different for each of us. Where one struggles desperately another won’t give the temptation a second glance. Pride, lust, anger, unforgiveness, jealousy, gossip, idolatry – we all fight our own battles. We must never allow ourselves to be deceived that this is anything less than a war. Satan and his minions never sleep. Our sinful desires don’t go on vacation. We must be ever watchful lest we be caught unawares by the “deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13).
Besides personal holiness and living God-glorifying lives, one reason to do this (as the passage notes) is that we have an audience. We are on stage and the audience is the unbelieving world (here called “Gentiles”). When we abstain from our sinful desires, we point them to the One who can offer victory over sins’ enslavement. The ultimate goal is that they would be captivated by the God we worship, be transformed by the saving power of Jesus Christ and offer praise to him when Jesus returns.
By God’s grace, may we be able to say with Paul, “I have fought the good fight” (2 Timothy 4:7).
Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. (Genesis 2:24, ESV)
Marriage is precious because it was God's idea. It's important to Him because it is a rough sketch of the unity which exists within the Godhead. It is mysterious because husbands' love for their wives should mirror Christ's love for the church. I am so thankful for the gift of marriage and for my lovely wife.
I listened to a marvelous sermon on marriage this week by Denny Burk. If you have the time, it's well worth a listen. He closed the sermon with a beautiful poem he wrote to his wife on their third anniversary. I realize that not everyone will marry, but most will. By God's grace, may we press through the good times and the bad and hold our sacred vows for His glory.
The old man took her tired hand
to hold for one last time.
The years had fin’lly pressed her to
her final breaths of life.
Their wrinkled hands in warm embrace
brought back the long-gone years,
The memories of their happy times,
and those dissolved in tears.
The old man saw in her ill frame
the girl that stole his heart.
He saw in her that gracious gaze
that filled their home with warmth.
His mind turned back to lighter days
when she did make her mark,
The children her love reared for them,
Her single heart for God.
He also felt the weight of grace
that marked her many years,
How she had borne him patiently
when he did cause the tears.
The old man said, “My love, the time
was cruelly short to me.
I cannot say goodbye to you
and let your passing be.”
“How can I ever say farewell
or ever let you part?
You are my only precious thing,
the joy of my old heart.”
And as his eyes began to well,
she reached to touch his face.
And then her quivering voice began
to give one final grace.
“This is the day the Lord has made,
The one He’s brought to pass.
This day was written in His book
before my first was past.”
“The Lord has granted us to spend
together all these years.
He’s also granted all the joy
and even all our tears.”
“And though this is a bitter day,
we owe Him so much thanks.
Dear, we made it! By Him we did!
Yes, we made it! By grace!”
Oh Father, grant that we may see
our days as at their end.
Oh let us know the weight of grace
in every year we spend.
We make this prayer unto You,
for there is no one higher.
This testimony of Your grace
we desperately desire!