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.)

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My Rant for the Month: Preach Christ!

Yesterday I listened to a sermon on the topic of morality by a local pastor of a large church and it was all law and no gospel. Christ wasn’t even mentioned, not even in the prayer of application. It was really sad to me to think that all those people went to Church and didn’t hear Christ proclaimed or even mentioned by name in the preaching and prayer of application. It reminds me of something that Presbyterian minister Donald Grey Barnhouse once said. Over a half century ago Barnhouse asked what a city might look like where Satan had really taken control? And he offered his own scenario. Barnhouse speculated that “if Satan took over a city, all of the bars would be closed, pornography banished, and pristine streets would be filled with tidy pedestrians who smiled at each other. There would be no swearing. The children would say, “Yes, sir” and “No, ma’am,” and the churches would be full every Sunday . . . where Christ is not preached.”

We NEED Christ proclaimed EVERY week from the pulpit. We NEED to hear the gospel in EVERY sermon or it causes us to become either self-righteous proud Pharisees or to despair and burn out. But when we hear Christ proclaimed, his life, death, resurrection, ascension, session and return, it frees us up to truly love God and others out of gratitude and not fear. It humbles us and strengthens us. And when we are called to depend on the Spirit’s strength through Word, sacrament, and prayer, we give God all the glory from beginning to end! Pastors, myself included, preach Christ and Him crucified (1 Cor. 1:20-24; 2:2; Col. 1:28; John 5:39; Luke 24:25-27, 44; John 8:56; Col. 2:1-3)! If your pastor doesn’t preach Christ and Gospel-driven, Spirit-wrought sanctification, be warned, you might be a Pharisee or on the brink of despair. Who cares about church programs if Christ isn’t being preached?! The gospel is the power of God for salvation, from beginning to end, for everyone who believes (Rom. 1:16)!

In light of Reformation weekend coming up, that’s my rant for the month. Here I stand!

(Click on the above image to check out the best book out there on preaching Christ from all the Scriptures)