Thursday, July 22, 2010

Who needs more Grace

I having been writing about our need to live life in the shadow of the cross. How it is so easy to drift so far from the cross that we can't even see that it is our ongoing sin that causes us to still need the forgiveness that He purchased on the cross. It is the same pridefulness that causes us to know that we were saved by grace, but think we can become like Christ by working real hard at it (be sanctified by our works). Totally failing to recognize that it will be the gracious work of God that will change our lives more and more into the image of Christ. We grow as Christians to think we are no longer in need of the grace of God in our lives.

While chewing on all of this that has been covered in my previous blogs, I am left pondering the question. Who should profess a greater ongoing need for the grace of God in their life? The person who is just trusting in Christ for the first time or the person who understood their need at salvation, but has now tried to work out their becoming more like Christ with greater confidence in their own abilities and works. What I am getting at is the question of who should profess greater need to receive from God the very thing they could never deserve. Is it the person who walked far away from the cross who has seen it up close previously, or the person who has never seen it up close. Who is in a greater need of grace?

(Lk 12:47-48) 47 And that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. 48 But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.

Look at it from the perspective of Jesus treatment of different people. Was he not harshest on the pharisees because they had already received so much grace and then turned away from it. You might be thinking that they didn't receive grace they received the law. Was it not by grace that God chose the Israelites to be the people that He revealed himself to and through. Their receiving the revelation of God was the greatest demonstration of grace prior to Christ's death on the cross. So who needed more grace the pharisee who had already been entrusted with much grace but did not act according to His will or the gentile who did not know?

I know it is like discussing which is greater infinity or infinity plus one. The grace meter is maxed out for both. But I am trying to come through a window that is even hard for our prideful hearts to close. Closed to the point we are not humbled by the grace that we Christians have already been shown. That window is that those who have been shown much grace, immeasurable grace in fact, fail to show grace towards others while still needing grace in their own lives.

We see this demonstrated all throughout scripture and life. The story in Matthew 18 of the person who owed the king ten thousand talents (An unpayable debt). He was shown mercy and grace, but then fails to show mercy and grace to the person who owes him 100 shillings. His need for being shown mercy and grace is now even greater than before because he didn't appreciate what was done for him to the point it gripped his life. Are we not like this person when we have been saved by grace and then act as though we no longer need grace? When we struggle to show grace to others. When we puff ourselves up with pride convincing ourselves that God must be impressed with our works. When we struggle to share the gospel of God's grace with others and our lives are not gripped by the mercy and grace we have been shown. When we fail to live in such a way that points back to His mercy and grace that He showed us. Are we not in need of greater grace.

  • Romans 5:20-21 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

As believers entrusted with the gospel of God's grace through Jesus Christ and having moved away from this point, are we not the ones in need of the greatest amount of grace! I am convicted by the fact that I was entrusted with the gospel by an incredible act of mercy and grace. Yet often my response to this is to struggle to share the gospel with others. That God would be so moved to choose me as his instrument of grace and continue to work on my prideful heart that is so prone to wandering away and not sharing mercy and grace with others.

The answer to my question that I am left with is me. For I know the father's will and often do not act according to His will. I have seen the cross and then walk further away from it. I have received the gospel and act as though I have not often. Ouch!!!

Lord, I pray that I would in your mercy and grace be brought back to the foot of the cross today. That I would be forced to face the shear magnitude of mercy that was shown to me by Christ taking on the full punishment of my sin. That I would be gripped by the grace of God that Christ, the son of God, left heaven to die in my place, that He might live through my life through the power of the Holy Spirit I have so graciously received. Lead and direct my steps today that I might be a doer of your incredible will. Have mercy on me, that I might be a good steward of your mercy. Please show me more of your grace that has already been entrusted to me, that I might show it to others according to your will.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

I know what would fix you up

I can't believe I have never been able to see this. If I went up to you and informed you that I already had what you needed and then tried to convince you of your need. You might be a little resistant to agree with my better than you posturing in the sales pitch. The further I got away from my own need for the cross, the more one sided the sales pitch for Jesus became. I am so past needing the cross, but you on the other hand need the cross to get your life right.

The more I have become aware of my ongoing deep need for the gospel of Jesus Christ in my own life, the more I realized my pridefulness had to be a turn off when I shared the gospel. In fact it was my pride that led me further away from the cross, and thus if I was talking about that cross way over there that you need. Would I not only be able to communicate about this subject in a prideful way.

Here is the beauty of my growing in my need for the cross and the good news of the gospel in my own life. It has made my words less offensive and have allowed Jesus convicting of sin to be the only part that is offensive. I read this week that we are not permitted to be offensive in any way in sharing the gospel, but are to allow only the conviction of sin to be the offense. If I say that I need to respond to Jesus dieing on the cross and paying for my sins by turning away from my sins in repentance and trust in Jesus Christ. I can humbly say to the other person, that they need the same exact thing that I need. They may not agree to trust Christ, but they won't feel as though I was judging them and preaching down my nose at them. By including myself. By agreeing to the same great need. I remove my pride as the offensive part of the gospel.

I am reminded of when I had the opportunity to share the gospel in a barbecue restaurant in Richmond one Sunday after I had preached on the message of grace. The lady said at the end, "How you said, what you said, has really challenged me." Should we not be humbled by the cross as we talk about the cross? Should we not acknowledge our own need for our sins to be forgiven when we talk to others about their need for their sins to be forgiven? Should we not be moved by the gospel of grace when we desire to see someone else moved by the gospel of grace?

Lord, I do pray that my brokenness by the cross and the gospel would cause others to consider their response to the cross of Christ and the good news of the gospel!! That I would be given the privelege of saying, "Come follow me to the cross." Amina!

The most incredible show on earth

At multiple points along the trip we almost had to pinch ourselves because the opportunity to view the work of God's hand was breathtaking. I wanted to share some of these moments. I look at these almost like God has season tickets to see the work of His hands and he desires to share these tickets with us. On this trip to Uganda we had front row seats to see some of the most incredible things that God was doing and has done anywhere in the world. Step right up to the most incredible show on earth!

1Chronicles 16:23-27
Sing to the Lord, all the earth!
Tell of his salvation from day to day.
Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous works among all the peoples!
For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised,
and he is to be held in awe vabove all gods.
For all the gods of the peoples are idols,
but the Lord made the heavens.
Splendor and majesty are before him;
strength and joy are in his place.

The beauty of God's creation is on display all around the continent of Africa and there were many stunningly beautiful moments along on this trip. These moments would leave you saying wow God, Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised! There were several of these moments driving through the countryside and when we stayed along the Nile River.But some of the most incredible seats came when we were sitting in little wooden chairs outside of a mud hut sharing. Invited there by God to have the closest seat to witness the changing of a life for eternity. If our credentials were checked at the entrance to the event, none of us would been worthy to sit in these seats that belong to God. But God desires us to walk so close to Him that we get to see up close God working in and through our lives to do the miraculous. There were many of these moments shared each night, but only a few people had the privilege to see the actual event each time.

One of these events I was remembering with a friend last night was when we were going hut to hut sharing the gospel in Sibanga I walked up to a woman that was working. I told her I had wonderful news, could I share it with her. She said, "yes." Then another woman came up with a little baby and listened as well. Right after I began sharing the good news of Jesus Christ a young child walked up and a conversation that I did not understand ensued between the young girl and the first lady. I could tell this was her daughter who had just walked up. There was a harshness in the tone and the young girl went inside the hut.

I felt a burden to have this girl hear the message as well. So I asked my translator to tell the mother it was ok for the girl to join us. The translator just replies back to me that I can continue. But I can't shake the burden to invite the girl and ask my translator again to tell the mother it is ok for the girl to join us. He says something and then says to me it is ok for me to continue. I don't get the sense that my translator is on the same page at all and is wondering why I won't just continue. I say to him again, tell the mother I would like for her to join us. He does and the girl is called out of the hut by the mother and she excitedly comes up and sits down next to her mother.

I was in the middle of sharing the gospel but backed up to recap and enable the girl to hear the whole message. At the end when I asked if anyone would like to ask Jesus into their life and trust in Him for their forgiveness it was only the little girl who responded. The other two mothers didn't seem impacted by the message at all. They just seemed indifferent. The little girl shared with me her name and that she was ten. The same age as my Hannah! It was a sweet moment showing her the picture of my family and my ten year old, knowing that they would meet one day in heaven. It made me just thank God for the gift of salvation, because it truly is a miracle if any of us are ever saved. Seeing this precious child that God had a divine appointment with that day, still makes me say, "Wow God I totally didn't see that one coming. That was so cool!"
(not the picture from the story, but a similar front row seat for Alicia)

Another front row seat came when we were going with the school ministry team. Some times it is easy to think your seat is one place (at the schools) when He actually has a seat for you at the restaurant at lunch as well. That was the case this day. I was sharing some of the 10 different snacks I had packed in my backpack with Godfrey on the school team as we talked about life and the Lord. I grabbed a package of peanut butter crackers that I had forgotten were in my bag. Godfrey and I had eaten plenty and so I motioned for the waitress to come over to give her the crackers. That was the extent of the thought I had. But the moment I looked into her face I was hit with a desire to share the gospel. I asked her if she knew Jesus and she said, "Yes, I am a christian...Hallelujah."

Normally that response would be enough in a restaurant to make me glad to have run into another excited believer. This moment was different, I found myself asking when she had become a christian. She stopped and said, "Actually I lied, I am a muslim" Stunned by the this turn of conversation. I asked her if I could ask her a question. She said, "yes" and I began asking her about how a muslim deals with the issue of sin in her life. It was amazing that she was not willing to admit that she had any sin in her life at first. After sharing that different things wedo that fail to glorify God are sin. Each possible sin I suggested she would say that she hadn't done that. I brought her to agree that if we told a lie it would not glorify God and would be a sin. When asked if she has ever told a lie, she said no. I reminded her of how our conversation began and it was though she was very convicted and even laid her head on the corner of the table.

It was clear to see that God was working on her heart from this point on. One of the remarkable things I saw in sharing Christ with many muslims is that Mohammad didn't die for anyone's sin. And there is no mechanism for payment of sin in Islam other than praying for forgiveness. The forgiveness is all dependant on the sincerity of the prayer. But there is no means of paying for that debt. I felt the Lord prompting me to ask her if we could pay for our meal by saying a sincere prayer. She said, "No." I asked could I borrow money from the bank and pay off my debt with a prayer. She said, "No." I asked her if there were any example in life she could think of where she paid for something with prayer, and she said, "no."

Collosians 2:13-14 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.

There was a great segway to sharing why it was that Jesus left heaven to come to earth as a man and humble himself to the point of dieing on the cross, for payment of sin. God opened her eyes to see her need for a savior to actually pay for her sins. The conversation continued as I inquired about whether she prayed for Mohammed. All good muslims pray for Allah to show Mohammad mercy and allow him into paradise. She said she prayed for this as well.

The flow of the conversation then went to show her that if every muslim was praying for Mohammad to receive mercy (not receiving the consequences he did deserve) and be allowed into paradise that muslims believed their prayers moved Allah to do this or why would they all be praying for it. Now if Mohammad has the prayers of millions of muslims praying 5 times a day for him to receive mercy and be allowed into paradise, what confidence should any other muslim have of entering paradise. I asked her if she thought of herself as more holy or righteous than Mohammed. She said she didn't. I told her that if she was the only person praying for her to get into paradise she either thought she was more righteous than Mohammad or she didn't think she was getting in to paradise.

The Lord used all of this to expose islam as a religion of works that led people to actually place their trust completely in their own works, when it was clear by their own admission that it was not enough. There was an eagerness for her to hear how our hope was in Christ and His work on the cross, not trusting in the goodness of our own works. We also had great confidence of an eternity in heaven, because our admission to heaven was again based on the work of Christ and our adoption as children of God.

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

After sharing how to have eternal life in Christ Jesus and the forgiveness of her sins. She prayed at the edge of our table to trust in Christ as Lord of her life. She ended her prayer with the words Hallelua! It was truly amazing to have a front row seat to see God working in and through us even at lunch in the restaurant. There were several times of getting to share with muslims these same truths that there is no hope of paradise based on our own works, and Jesus death is the only way to have our sins paid for. But this one young lady was special because of it being such a surprising conversation that only the Lord received the glory.

I later learned that muslims are forbidden from saying Hallelujah unless said mocking a christian. It explained why it seemed a little odd when she said it the first time. The words didn't seem sincere and from the heart. I think those words were what struck my spirit to cause me to ask more questions. When she ended her prayer with Hallelua it seemed as an overflow of her heart and would have been spoken against Islam. Wow, thank you Jesus for these incredible seats to see of your glorious works!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Moving deeper into the gospel

Tullian Tchividijian is the grandson of evangelist Billy Graham and now the pastor of Coral Ridge Church as the predecessor to D.James Kennedy. He wrote a book that charts the same course I have been traveling. The following is a quote about his book "Surprised by Grace" that is the result of dealing with the conflict that followed after becoming the pastor of the church. The conflict led him to realize his own greater need for the gospel of grace.

The theme of Surprised by Grace is that most Christians assume that the Gospel is something non-Christians must believe in order to be saved, but after we believe it, we advance to deeper theological waters. The truth is, however, that once God rescues sinners, his plan isn’t to steer them beyond the Gospel, but to move them more deeply into it. After all, the only antidote to sin is the Gospel — and since Christians remain sinners even after they’re converted, the Gospel must be the medicine a Christian takes every day.

For me, it was through probing the story of Jonah that I came face-to-face with the fact that the Gospel is not just for non-Christians but also for Christians. Jonah is a storied presentation of the Gospel, a story of sin and grace, of desperation and deliverance. It reveals the fact that while you and I are great sinners, God is a great Savior, and that while our sin reaches far, his grace reaches farther. This story shows that God is in the business of relentlessly pursuing rebels — a label that ultimately applies to us all — and that he comes after us not to angrily strip away our freedom but to affectionately strip away our slavery so we might become truly free. I wrote Surprised by Grace because we all need to be. — TT

It is this pridefulness of heart that causes us to take steps away from the cross and move "beyond" the gospel. Praise God that he continues to pursue us to affectionately strip away our slavery so we might become truly free. Thank you Jesus!!

I also loved the advice from his grandfather Daddy Bill (Billy Graham).

He encouraged me by telling me to trust in the sufficiency of Jesus and refuse to let these attacks get me off track. He reminded me, in fact, that Jesus plus nothing equals everything and that everything minus Jesus equals nothing. He exhorted me to allow even my harshest critics to teach me about sin, grace and the Gospel.

Here is more of his thoughts that I couldn't say better. So be blessed by your reading.

The Ongoing Need For The Gospel
by Tullian Tchividjian

One of the most important discoveries of my life has been that the Gospel is not just for non-Christians; it’s for Christians too. I used to think the Gospel was simply what non-Christians must believe in to be saved, while afterward we advance to deeper theological waters. But what I’ve come to understand is that once God saves us he doesn’t then move us beyond the Gospel. Rather he moves us deeper into the Gospel. The Gospel, in other words, is every bit as important for growing as a Christian as it is for becoming a Christian in the first place. The Gospel is the fuel that makes Christians go.

In Colossians 1:6 the Apostle Paul writes that the Gospel is the instrument of all continual growth and spiritual progress after we are converted. He writes, “All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God’s grace in all its truth.” (Col. 1:6).

Years ago I found great help from Tim Keller’s comments on this passage. I hope you do too. Keller writes:

Paul is showing that we never “get beyond the gospel” in our Christian life to something more “advanced”. The gospel is not the first “step” in a “stairway” of truths, rather, it is more like the “hub” in a “wheel” of truth. The gospel is not just the A-B-C’s but the A to Z of Christianity. The gospel is not just the minimum required doctrine necessary to enter the kingdom, but the way we make all progress in the kingdom.

We are not justified by the gospel and then sanctified by obedience, but the gospel is the way we grow (Gal.3:1-3) and are renewed (Col.1:6). It is the solution to each problem, the key to each closed door, the power through every barrier (Rom.1:16-17).

It is very common in the church to think as follows. “The gospel is for non-Christians. One needs it to be saved. But once saved, you grow through hard work and obedience.” But Col.1:6 shows that this is a mistake. Both confession and “hard work” that is not arising from and “in line” with the gospel will not sanctify you–it will strangle you. All our problems come from a failure to apply the gospel. Thus when Paul left the Ephesians he committed them “to the word of his grace, which can build you up” (Acts 20:32). The main problem, then, in the Christian life is that we have not thought out the deep implications of the gospel, we have not “used” the gospel in and on all parts of our life.

Richard Lovelace says that most people’s problems are just a failure to be oriented to the gospel–a failure to grasp and believe it through and through. Luther says, “The truth of the Gospel is the principle article of all Christian doctrine….Most necessary is it that we know this article well, teach it to others, and beat it into their heads continually.” (on Gal.2:14f) Paul says that the gospel only does its renewing work in us as we understand it in all its truth. All of us, to some degree live around the truth of the gospel but do not “get” it. So the key to continual and deeper spiritual renewal and revival is the continual re-discovery of the gospel. A stage of renewal is always the discovery of a new implication or application of the gospel–seeing more of its truth. This is true for either an individual or a church.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Our God Saves

One of my favorite songs is by Paul Baloche, "Our God Saves." Listen to it as you read this blog about seeing Ugandans trust in Christ.

On the first day that we were going hut to hut sharing the gospel it seemed as though there was a barrier preventing the people from trusting Christ. My interpreters even chided me for spending too much time sharing with individuals who were resistant to the gospel. I don't believe anyone but Alicia really saw any conversions that first day. The rest of us shared again and again only to see people not trusting either the messenger or the message.

We came back at lunch and felt the Lord needed many of us not named Alicia to be in a more humble, prayerful and God dependent mindset before opening our mouths to speak. We needed that reminder that it is not the cleverness of our words that draws people to Christ, but the work of the Holy Spirit. The level of prayer increases when you understand who it is that must convict and lead men's hearts. And we began being much more prayerful throughout our trips into the countryside. We began to see nearly every person we shared the gospel with, trusting in Christ. Whole families, multiple generations, having their eternal destiny changed by the power of Christ.

The second day began with a van ride down a single track in the dirt that veered off the main road. We traveled a good ways down this path until a muddy patch prevented further travel. The mazungu's and their translators piled out from that point. When we stepped out we were greeted by several men who seemed amazed to see all of us pile out of the van right at their huts. The men immediately began talking about their need for money to build a better road. It didn't seem they wanted anything but our money. Every one began walking off including my interpreters to head down the trail. I asked my translator if we could share with these men and an amazing group conversion resulted. Three men sat down on a log and listened to me share the gospel of Jesus Christ. It seemed they were listening intently and readily agreed that they had indeed sinned against God. When the opportunity was given to trust in Christ, you could tell they felt a little awkward with different people around looking at them. These three men had several others at a distance watching them interacting with me.

The initial answer was that they were not ready. It was then that the conviction of seeing them walking down a path that leads to death, and being offered a path that leads to life overcame me. Who would say, "no I want to walk a little while longer down this path of death" if they really understood where the path led. I shared with them why the path they were on was a path that led to death, and that I was offering them a path that leads to life. After I asked them again if there was anything keeping them from trusting in Christ today, they said there wasn't. They said they wanted to receive Christ and life.

I led them in a prayer of salvation and then asked who had really meant the prayer that they had just prayed. All three men said they meant every word and truly desired for Christ to be Lord of their life. Then the most amazing thing happened. A lady stepped out of the doorway of the hut that the men were sitting closest to and said, "I prayed the prayer also and have trusted in Christ as well!" Then another lady came out of the same hut and said the same. Then I looked at the two women who were sitting behind us the whole time and they said they had prayed along and had trusted Christ as well. Another hut and the same thing. There were 9 women in all that said they had heard the gospel message I shared with these men, and that they had prayed to receive Christ. We hadn't taken 20 steps from where the van dropped us off and I was blown away by what God had done. He really is mighty to save!!

Romans 1:16-17 I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith."

Thank you Lord for allowing us to see that the gospel really is the power of God. That there is not a person whose sin cannot be overcome by your grace. Thank you for all of these sweet Ugandan brothers and sisters that we will see in heaven one day because of the power of the gospel to save. Amina!!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Turned Over

I was reminded of the money changers in the temple that had their tables overturned by Christ. All that they knew and placed their confidence in was turned over and spilled out on the ground. It is funny how often people who travel to Uganda and other places to serve the Lord feel this way. Feel as though the Lord has overturned their cart and all of the things that they had been placing their trust in are dumped out on the ground. Only to return home with this feeling of being very exposed and almost a need to gather all of their items up again and place them back in the cart. For me seeing how God blew up my cart with the cross has left me feeling exposed and vulnerable and torn between part of me wanting to pick up the stuff on the ground and part of me not wanting to pick up anything but my cross and follow Christ. But taking up my cross means leaving all of the things that I do control lieing on the ground as I follow Christ. The grace of God draws me near and bids me come and die, that I may truly live.

Being broken by the cross to the point that it completely overwhelmed me. The magnitude of the grace that I was shown turned me inside out. It burned inside me to the point it caused me to ache because of what was done for me. To the point it felt as though I could not stand it any longer. Yet it is with joy I long to be set on fire again. It is like when we would play with grabbing an electric fence when we were kids. We would feel the electricity go through your entire body and you would not be able to control it. To feel the power of God pulsing through you, yet costing my ability to have control. It was painful, yet an exhilarating experience. I don't know if any of this makes sense to any one else, but I am trying to process something that I have struggled to make sense of and put into words. I have even found myself longing to relive that experience. There is part of me that desires to return to that experience, instead of the cross again. The experience is safer than the cross, because I lived through it. Yet I fight through this desire as well, and must just ask for God to draw me near to the cross again.

It is my prayer that Christ would be lifted up, that He would draw all men unto Himself. That men's hearts would be broken and set alive at the same time by the power of the cross. To the praise of the glory of His grace!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

How did I get so far from the cross?

I wrote in my last blog that I was broken by the gospel. It seemed as a surprise to me that it would be what God would use to break me. I began to see that there is no pridefulness at the foot of the cross. Looking up at Jesus with his face bloodied, with the thorns beaten into his skull, with the wounds open on His back, with His hands and feet nailed to the cross, it is impossible to not be gripped by the fact He endured all of this for me. He not only did it for me, He actually received all of what I deserved, that I might receive what only He deserved..eternal life, fellowship with the father.

I was broken by the devastating effects of my sin that would lead Jesus to suffer this way to pay for my sin. I am convinced that if Jesus would of enabled his disciples to understand fully what He was doing on the cross, they would have pleaded with Him to not do this as they were not worthy! Even though the implication would mean that we would have to pay the consequence of our sin ourselves. There is not a person who would feel worthy to have Jesus suffer and die on the cross in their place, as the only person ever who didn't deserve death.

I became convicted by the Lord that I had traveled too far away from the cross is why I was not broken by the sight of Christ on the cross. As the reason why I was no longer broken by the gospel message that died to purchase my forgiveness of sins. If it was impossible to look at Him on the cross and remain unmoved by it, then I must not be looking "closely" to the cross.

I am left pondering the question, "How did I get away from the cross?" How did I travel away so far that the gospel message breaking my heart would come as a surprise? I think I can see where my tracks traveled. I became uncomfortable looking at the cross because it reminded me of my sinfulness and I took a step away. I wanted to believe that sin is a minor issue in my life that I had under control, and I took a step away. I believed I was a pretty good guy and needed to look to the deeper things of Christianity. Things that could satisfy a good guy like me wanting to "go deeper." Another step away. A few more times of judging others for not having it together as much as me...a couple more steps. It was my pridefulness that wanted to move away from the most humbling place in the world. Clinging to the cross with the blood of Jesus Christ pouring down and covering my sin and shame. That he was dieing even for the good works that I would do in my own strength seeking my own righteousness. That he became sin that I might in Christ become His righteousness.

2 Cor. 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Grace opposes pride as it leaves no room for pride to stand, because you receive that which you don't deserve. But pride opposes grace as we seek to receive what we believe we deserve. It was my prideful steps that caused me to walk further away from the cross.

It is also not surprising that I have been in the middle of reading and studying the book, Humility: True Greatness by CJ Mahaney when I began the journey of taking steps back toward the cross as God has humbled me.

May our prayer be that God would lead us back to the cross. So close in fact that we would know that it is by His blood that our sins are forgiven. That we would feel the heaviness of the cross opposing the pridefulness in our hearts. That we would feel our hearts burning inside of us by the magnitude of what He has done for us. So close that the gospel would be on our lips when given a chance to speak. PTL, Amina!

Enjoy these songs by Matthew Smith that blessed me as I sought the Lord to bring me close to the cross.

<a href="">I Have Seen The Lord by Matthew Smith</a>

<a href="">Thy Blood Was Shed For Me by Matthew Smith</a>

Friday, July 9, 2010

The power of the Gospel

It is always such a thrill to get to go to Africa and work with the ministry of Morris and Aida because everything being done has been bathed in prayer long before you ever arrive. You are never sure what God is going to do to you and through you, but with much prayer in Africa you can rest assured God is going to definitely move. And move he did!!

There was an illustration I had seen before, that put a light under a broken pot that had been put back together. The only places that the light shines through is where the pot has been broken. The same thing happens with Christ in our lives, the only area that the light of Christ shines through us is where we have been broken! Often times areas of our lives that we have tried to cover up get exposed in Africa. It happens every year and it happens to every person on the trip. It is amazing! When you go out hut to hut, God lines up person after person that is the perfect person for you to share with. He wants to shine through these broken areas of our lives.

I wondered, "what crack did God want to shine through in my life?" It came as a surprise, but the more I shared the gospel each day the more I was broken by it. How could something so familiar be my area of brokenness? I will tell you how, on this trip I had the privilege to share the gospel a lot of times. And each time it was like a tiny little rock thrown at the glass wall around my heart. Each time I shared and saw the power of the gospel grip and impact a person's life it was as if the rock hitting my glass wall became a little bigger.

I was daily watching the power of God working through the message of the gospel to impact men and women's hearts. I didn't notice it at first, but as the week progressed, the message began to burn inside me. Each day was an attempt to find release of the "heart" burn inside me. I related it to an experience of trying to get a live coal out of your stomach. It burns inside of you and on the way out, and anyone who touches it feels the heat as well. Getting to share the gospel was like fanning a coal that was lit inside of me, but was not burning as hot as it could. Each day I became more broken by not being affected by the gospel, and in so doing it created a bigger crack for the light of Christ to shine through. It also seemed to allow the coal to be fanned hotter and hotter inside me.

The goal of the gospel is that we would be humbled to the point of brokenness by what Christ has done, so much so that we would lay our lives down in response to Him. Yet we so often become hardened to the familiar story of the gospel. If there was an attempt on your life and someone jumped in front of the bullet to save your life, I promise you that you wouldn't ever pass that spot where you saw their blood spilled out on the ground, without being gripped by the sacrifice that was made to save your life. If it was a loved one that sacrificed their life to save yours, your eyes would fill with tears in remembrance of the sacrifice they made for you and the depth of love they showed you. It seemed that I had just traveled away from that spot too far to be gripped the way I would by standing in that place again.

As I shared what Christ did for us, it brought me closer and closer to the place where Christ laid down His life for me. The closer I got, the more I was forced to consider anew what had been done for me. The more I shared the more I was gripped by the reality of the event. On the last morning I preached, I was sharing how we needed to see Christ on the cross in our place. That the Holy Son of God, had been beaten, whipped, tortured, and nailed on the cross for me. That if I was looking up at Christ on the cross in my place, I would have been pleading for Him to let me be the one on the cross. That I did not deserve for Him to take my sin and to face the death that I deserved. The image of Christ on the cross breathing His last breath, burned in my mind and nearly burst my heart! I could not speak the words that now burned in my heart in a way that would convey the intensity that I felt. I pleaded with the audience to look upon the cross and see their need for the forgiveness that Christ purchased for them, and to embrace the brokenness that comes from seeing just how devastating our sin is, while seeing how much greater is the grace of God.

If I struggle to have joy in my day, I need to return to the gospel.
If I struggle with becoming prideful, I need to return to the gospel.
If I struggle to share the gospel, I have great need to return to the gospel. That Jesus Christ left the right hand of God and all of His glory, to come to earth and live as a man. Where he lived a perfect life without sin. Saying and doing everything that God had given Him to do and say, living only to glorify His Father. And evil men having their sin exposed hated Him, because they fallen short of the glory of God. Jesus Christ allowed them to whip, beat, and mutilate Him and nail Him on the cross to pay for your and my sin. He died that we might live. On the third day God raised Him from the dead, that all who trust in Christ alone for the forgiveness of their sins will have forgiveness of sins, will have the spirit of God come and dwell in them, and will spend eternity in heaven with Jesus Christ at the end of this life.

Does it burn inside you???? Pray that God would give you the chance today to share with someone what Christ has done for you and fan the flames of the gospel in your life.

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