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.)

Advertisements

A Godly Husband and Valentine’s Day

I know this is a week late, but I read this article, “Valentine the Brave,” by R.C. Sproul Jr., a couple days ago and was very moved by it, along with my wife. R.C. Sproul Jr. has experienced much suffering in the last year or so with the death of his wife and daughter occurring within a year. He was already a good writer and communicator of deep theological truths but now he is really writing in such a way that it makes me think deeply, laugh out loud, and cry inside and out almost every time I read his writings. I am sure that this is because of the suffering he has been through. Here is the kind of godly husband that I want to be by God’s grace. I hope you other husbands and future husbands out there will learn from this Biblical vision of a godly husband as well and strive after this with me by God’s grace and strength.

(HT Aaron Everingham)

A New Documentary on Caring for the Orphan

pastor_lee_jong-rak-300x297

This looks like an amazing documentary on caring for the orphan. Here is a description from the web-site for the movie:

“In December 2009, a Korean pastor named Lee Jong-rak built a wooden “drop box” on the outer wall of his home. But the box wasn’t intended for clothing, food, or school supplies, it was meant to collect unwanted babies.When “the drop box” “or “baby box” was constructed a few years ago, it flew completely under the radar of Korean government officials. However, as more and more children arrive in this box every week, the nation is starting to take notice.Lee knows that his little wooden box isn’t the best solution, but his plight points to a much larger issue of abandonment, both in Korea, and across the globe.As a simple man, with little education and no public notoriety, Lee was voiceless, much like the children he has sworn to protect.Soon, the whole world will know his story.”

Click here to watch the trailer.

Also, here is a moving video of Brian Ivie, the 22 year old who made this film, accepting the award for Best in Festival at the 2013 San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival.

How a Leftist Lesbian Professor, Who Once Despised Christians, Somehow Became One

100365
There are so many encouraging and edifying things in this article by Rosaria Butterfield: “My Train Wreck Conversion: As a leftist lesbian professor, I despised Christians. Then I somehow became one.” Here’s a quote from the article that demonstrates the kind of love and friendship that we need to show unbelievers:
“Something else happened. Ken and his wife, Floy, and I became friends. They entered my world. They met my friends. We did book exchanges. We talked openly about sexuality and politics. They did not act as if such conversations were polluting them. They did not treat me like a blank slate. When we ate together, Ken prayed in a way I had never heard before. His prayers were intimate. Vulnerable. He repented of his sin in front of me. He thanked God for all things. Ken’s God was holy and firm, yet full of mercy. And because Ken and Floy did not invite me to church, I knew it was safe to be friends. . .Then, one ordinary day, I came to Jesus, openhanded and naked. In this war of worldviews, Ken was there. Floy was there. The church that had been praying for me for years was there. Jesus triumphed. And I was a broken mess. Conversion was a train wreck. I did not want to lose everything that I loved. But the voice of God sang a sanguine love song in the rubble of my world. I weakly believed that if Jesus could conquer death, he could make right my world.”

You can also watch an interview with her here.

You can buy her book, The Secret Thought of an Unlikely Converthere.

Finally, you can read a thoughtful book review of her book by Carl Trueman here.

Counterfeit Love vs. The Fruit of the Spirit

We can appear to love another person on the outside but deep down we only really love them because they make us look good and feel better about ourselves. And that’s counterfeit love. And you know it’s a counterfeit by how you respond when they no longer make you look good to others or no longer make you feel good about yourself. But you see, then you have the opportunity to truly love them as Christ loved you!

And so, you don’t just bail on your marriage, you don’t bail on your children, you don’t bail on your parents, you don’t bail on your church, you don’t bail on your friendships. Love doesn’t just bail at the first sight of cost to oneself! Martin Luther says this in his commentary on Galatians: “Whenever you are angry with your brother for any cause, repress your violent emotions through the Spirit. Bear with his weakness and love him. He does not cease to be your neighbor or brother because he offended you. On the contrary, he now more than ever before requires your loving attention.”

You see, the fruit of the Spirit is born in the context of community, especially when things aren’t going your way. In the words of C.S. Lewis, “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

Love overcomes evil with good. It says, now I can really love you. I can demonstrate that my love is genuine. And now I can really magnify Christ in my life because love is patient and Christ has first been patient with me. Love is kind and Christ has first been kind to me. Love does not insist on its own rights and Christ first gave up his rights for me. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all thing, endures all things. This is love! This is who Christ is and this is who you, dear Christian, already are in Christ through faith and this is who you are to become in Him more and more by the Spirit’s enabling power. The fruit of the Spirit is Christ-like self-sacrificial love.

(This is a portion of my sermon “The Fruit of the Spirit is Love” from this past Sunday. To listen to the rest go here.)

Loving Those Who Are Undeserving

Abram Rescues Undeserving Lot in Self-Sacrificial Love

A couple weeks ago I preached on Genesis 14 in two parts. In the first part I focused on verses 1-16 and the fact that Abram rescues his nephew Lot from the four eastern kings when he very easily could have had the attitude that he sort of deserved to be taken captive for his foolish and selfish decision to dwell near Sodom, a place that was notoriously wicked (cf. Gen 13:10-13). At this point in Genesis 14 he is now dwelling in Sodom when he and his family and all his possessions are taken captive by the foreign kings (Gen 14:12). But Abram walks by faith and love. He trusts God’s promises to bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you (Gen 12:1-3). He trusts that God will give him a people and the promised land in due time as he waits patiently for God’s good timing. And so, being fueled by God’s promises, he pursues Lot’s captors in order to rescue his “kinsman” (lit. his brother) in love (Gen 14:14, 16). In other words his love arises out of faith in God’s promises. Furthermore, his love is a love that is risky, inconvenient, costly, and towards one who is undeserving. And God ultimately wins the battle for him as he rescues his nephew/kinsmen with only 318 men against four kings and their military (Gen 14:14-16, 20). Abram is Lot’s kinsman redeemer. Christian, does any of this sound familiar?

Christ Rescued Us Who Were Undeserving in Self-Sacrificial Love

Abram is a type of Christ here. Jesus is not ashamed to call us his brothers and sisters (Heb 2:11). As Abram was to Lot, so Christ is to us. In the words of Iain Duguid, “Jesus did not sit idly in Heaven waiting for us to deserve to be redeemer. If he had, eternity would have gone by without our redemption. Nor was our redemption risk free and painless. Christ was willing to leave the glories of heaven and come down to us, taking the form of a servant in our midst” (Duguid, Living in the Gap Between Promise and Reality: The Gospel According to Abraham, 45).

Thanks be to God,that Christ left the glories of heaven to come after us! And as our servant-King he came and conquered all the powers that we were in bondage to. He conquered all the temptations of the devil by trusting God’s Word. He conquered all the desires of the flesh by never once sinning. He conquered all the temptations of the world by obeying his heavenly Father perfectly. All of those things which formerly enslaved us Jesus conquered on our behalf through his life, death and resurrection.

Once again Duguid writes, “Jesus was willing not only to take risks for the sake of his undeserving kinsmen, but also to suffer great agony for them on the cross. But there on the cross, as in the person of Melchizedek, righteousness and peace met. There we find not only the proof that Jesus loves us, but also the pain-filled means by which he powerfully delivered the undeserving people he had chosen for himself, even in the face of their estrangement and ingratitude toward him” (Duguid, 46).

How great is the love that God has shown us in Christ! In the words of Paul the Apostle, but God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Rom 5:8). And because of his perfect life, his sacrificial death and his glorious resurrection, those of us who look to him by faith alone have been freed from our bondage to sin and death and the devil. We are free in Him! We have been forgiven of all of our sins entirely. We have been given his righteousness through faith. We have been given his Holy Spirit as a gift so that we are enabled more and more to put to death our sins and live for God! And we have been given the hope of one day being delivered completely from all of our sins and sufferings in this life when he returns.

In Gratitude, We Are To Love Those Who Are Undeserving in Self-Sacrificial Love

How then shall we live in thankfulness to God for the salvation that we don’t deserve? Jesus commands us to love one another as he has loved us (John 13:34-35; 15:12-13). And what does that look like? Well we typically ask ourselves two questions when determining if we are going to help someone? 1. Does this person deserve my help? 2. Can I help this person without any risk or inconvenience to myself? (Duguid, 44) But how can we who have been saved eternally when we were so undeserving treat others this way? And how can we who were saved through the precious blood of the only Son of God only help others when it won’t bring any risk or inconvenience to us?

Who has God placed in your life right now who is difficult to love and is undeserving of your love? Is it a spouse, a son or a daughter, a parent, a friend, a neighbor, a co-worker? No doubt it can be a great struggle to love certain people. But where we find strength is the same place that Abram found strength, relying on the Spirit’s strength given to us through the gracious promises of God in Christ. And so, we need to meditate every day on the fact that we don’t deserve God’s love and yet he has poured out his love upon us in Christ and nothing will ever separate us from his love towards us in Christ (Rom 8:31-39). These gracious promises must be the foundation of our life as Christians. And we especially need to hear them proclaimed every week in public worship on the Lord’s Day so that it fuels a courageous self-sacrificial love in us toward others.

No doubt there are times when we have to exercise great wisdom in order to know when to administer “tough love” or when to withhold certain things from someone so that we don’t enable that person to remain enslaved to sinful habits. But we must never forget that we are to love others as Christ has loved us. And so, may we love those who are undeserving. May we be inconvenienced for the sake of sharing the love of Christ with others. And may we always point them beyond ourselves to the one who first loved us. Amen!

(If you’d like, you can listen to my sermon “Loving Those Who Are Undeserving” or other sermons here at our church web-site)