Christ Loved Us, the Ugly Sister, and He’s Making Us Beautiful

(this post is a follow up to my post yesterday on Jacob’s not so fun experience with God’s providence through his Uncle Laban, while wandering outside the promised land)

Like Jacob’s wilderness wanderings in Padan-Aram, Christ experienced his own wilderness wanderings on earth and suffered greatly because of our sins. He took on the form of a servant and was obedient to the point of death on a cross to win us as his bride (Phil. 2:5-11; Eph. 5:25-32).

But unlike Jacob, he loved the unlovely. We weren’t pretty like Rachel, we were the ugly ones who were sinners by nature and hated God (Rom. 3:10-18; Eph. 2:1-3). And yet, he loved us, unlovely sinners that we are, and died on the cross, experiencing the greatest exile of all (Isa. 53:8; Matt. 27:46). But he rose from the dead and ascended to the Father’s right hand in glory and we are united to him forever through faith and by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 15:3-4; Phil. 2:9-11).

And we look forward to the consummation of our marriage in the new heavens and new earth at the wedding supper of the lamb, where we will be arrayed in bright white garments like a beautiful bride, remade in his image (2 Cor. 3:18; Rev. 19:6-9). And he will not look upon us with regret or despise us, like Jacob did Leah. Rather, He will be so happy to see us face to face and we will weep tears of joy and ask ourselves why did he choose us to be his bride?! Such AMAZING grace and love!!!

Beloved, let us gladly love and serve him out of hearts filled with gratitude and strengthened by His Spirit! For these light and momentary afflictions are nothing in comparison to the eternal weight of glory that awaits us with Christ in heaven (Rom. 8:18; 2 Cor. 4:17).

In the words of Iain Duguid, “God takes only bent instruments and slowly begins to straighten them. He takes only untuned hearts and slowly begins to tune them to his praise. It all takes time, but God is not in a hurry. God’s consistent purpose, during whatever times of exile and disappointment he takes you through, is to prepare you for future service and a deepened appreciation of his grace. Submit to his loving purpose, therefore, willingly and ungrudgingly. The wilderness years are indeed hard. Ask Jacob! But the wilderness is not our home. Laban’s house is not Jacob’s place, as he reminds Jacob. Laban’s house is his temporary address. Jacob’s place is at Bethel, the place where God first revealed himself to Jacob by his grace. Home, for Jacob and for you and me, is on the other side of the wilderness, where we shall be in God’s house forever, tuned with perfect pitch. In the meantime, we listen intently for the sounds of home, and the faint strains of that foreign song summon us on through the weary desert. The reminders of God’s grace fill us with renewed vigor and grateful, thankful, longing hearts.” Amen!

(This post is taken from a sermon on Genesis 29:1-30 that I preached at Redeemer Reformation Church. If you’d like to hear the whole sermon, you can listen here.)

God’s Providence: Not Always Fun, but Ultimately for Our Good

The story of Jacob from the time he leaves the promised land to the time he returns especially illustrates that sometimes (not always), our hardships serve as a form of God’s “tough love” for us. It’s his way of disciplining us in love as his children in order to purify us from our sinful ways. Jacob’s Uncle Laban was just like him, a deceiver, manipulator, and cheater (see Genesis 29:1-30). In Laban, Jacob got a taste of his own medicine. But God was disciplining Jacob through Laban for his ultimate good.

The author of Hebrews writes, And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Heb. 12:5-11).

Derek Kidner put it best when he wrote, “In Laban, Jacob met his match and his means of discipline. Twenty years of drudgery and friction were to weather his character; and the reader can reflect that presumably Jacob is not the only person to have needed a Laban in his life.” (Kidner, Genesis, 170)

And so, before we think, “why did God bring these kind of people into our lives?!”, we need to take a hard look at ourselves. It may be that they are a lot like us and God is disciplining us through them. But through it all he wants us to grow in grace and to become more like Christ and less like our sinful self that we see in them.

Do we get frustrated with impatience in our children? What about our impatience with others and with God? Do we see selfishness and stubbornness in our spouse? What selfishness and stubbornness do we need to put to death in our own lives? Do we hate it when our boss takes advantage of us? How have we taken advantage of others this week? The list could go on and on. Whenever we are frustrated with others, even though we may have a right to be frustrated, like Jacob did, we must always look within ourselves and put to death our own sinful ways by God’s grace and strength.

Now, I’m not saying that if you are going through hardships like Jacob that you have necessarily sinned. It’s not that simple. The story of Job refutes such simple and false theology. Sometimes we suffer simply because we live under the common effects of the fall. But we should always be mindful of our sin and seek to humbly put it to death whenever we see that we have in any way contributed to our problems.

And no matter what difficulties we face in life, we must never conclude that God doesn’t love us. As the author of Hebrews points out above, God disciplines us in love, as a Father for his beloved child. And He will never leave us nor forsake us, even though we are so often stubborn rebellious children. His promises in Christ are gracious and are received by faith alone (Eph. 2:8-9). No matter what we have done, God so loved us that he sent his only Son to fulfill all righteousness on our behalf and to die for all of our sins, securing God’s love for us forever (John 3:16; Rom. 8:31-39). And because of Christ we can be sure that all of God’s promises for us in Christ will be fulfilled for our ultimate good (Rom. 8:28; Phil. 1:6; Rev. 21:1-4).

In the words of Iain Duguid, “God’s promises stand secure and will prevail. God’s purpose for good in sanctifying you in and through trials and suffering may not be comfortable, but it is sure. Even rough diamonds like Jacob–and like you and me–will be polished by providence until we shine like stars.” Amen! (Iain Duguid, Living in the Grip of Relentless Grace: The Gospel in the Lives of Isaac and Jacob, 72)

(This post is taken from a sermon on Genesis 29:1-30 that I preached at Redeemer Reformation Church. If you’d like to hear the whole sermon, you can listen here.)

If God Could Save Paul He Can Save Anyone

PaultheApostleOne of my favorite verses in the Bible lately is this:

“They only were hearing it said, “He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.”” (Galatians 1:23).

It’s a powerful testimony that if God can save Paul the Apostle he can save anyone (see also Acts 7:54-60; Acts 9; Gal. 1:11-24; Phil. 3:1-11). Paul’s background as a Pharisee gives us hope that God can save religious people today who are trusting in their own self-righteousness for salvation. His background as a persecutor of the church gives us hope that God can save even the worst of our family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers who are currently in rebellion against God.

So keep praying and keep sharing Christ. The gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes! (Romans 1:16)

Why the Ascension of Jesus Christ is So Important

Happy Ascension Day! Here is why the ascension of Christ is so important:

“What benefit do we receive from Christ’s ascension into heaven? First, that He is our Advocate in the presence of His Father in heaven. Second, that we have our flesh in heaven as a sure pledge, that He as the Head, will also take us, His members, up to Himself. Third, that He sends us His Spirit as an earnest, by whose power we seek those things which are above, where Christ sits at the right hand of God, and not things on the earth.” (Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 49)

To learn more of why the ascension is so important here are two FREE resources on the ascension of Jesus:

The Ascension of Christ (a Sunday school lecture by Michael Horton)

The Ascension (a sermon by Timothy Keller)