Monday, July 28, 2008

Prosperity Gospel: Oxymoron?

In Mark 8:34-38, Jesus continues to rebuke Peter for his misunderstanding of Jesus' mission. Jesus had just finished explaining his rejection by the Jews and his death and resurrection, and Peter took Jesus aside and begin to "correct" Jesus about who the Messiah was supposed to be. Jesus explains to Peter and the rest of his followers that being a disciple of Jesus demands us to sacrifice our lives for Jesus and the gospel. What does this mean? "Let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me"?

For many in this world, the meaning is very clear. Becoming a follower of Christ in many countries means willingness to be persecuted or executed. The Voice of the Martyrs does a very good job communicating the plight of the people of God in hostile lands. One might be arrested, kidnapped, beaten, shot, stabbed, raped, tortured, or murdered in places like Eritrea, Indonesia, Pakistan, India, China, Columbia, etc.

Photo by Tanya RynoBut we live in the United States of America; how can we relate to this command of Christ to take up our cross and follow him? To sacrifice our lives for Jesus and the gospel? We don't face persecution (yet) like our brothers and sisters in distant lands. In many ways, however, we would be better Christians if we lived with persecution. Because we live with deception.

How many "Christians" in the U.S. are willing to sacrifice their lives for Jesus and the gospel? Many would confess with their mouths their willingness to do it, but how many confess with their actions? I often don't. My life is filled with entertainment. I struggle to make time for Bible reading and prayer, much less additional reading that is not required for school. Yes, everyone needs times of refreshing, but how long will we live like the world and call it Christianity? Are we deceiving ourselves?

Photo by re-alityI think this is why Joel Osteen and his fellow proclaimers of the "prosperity gospel" are so "successful" and dangerous. Jesus said that he came to give us abundant life, but that does not necessarily mean a life filled with material possessions. How is anyone sacrificing their lives for Jesus and the gospel if he or she is living life for material wealth? How does the well-to-do church member Photo by The Car Spywith a boat and a big-screen and a Benz reflect Christ to the homeless man on the street? Not that those things are wrong in themselves, but are we living as a witness to the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ, or do we treasure our treasures above all else? Would you give up your job for full-time ministry? Would you abandon your comfortable life to move somewhere hot and humid and disease infested for the sake of Christ?

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." - Matthew 6:19-21

"Help us, Heavenly Father, to seek first your kingdom, and to trust you to meet our every need."

~ Todd ~

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Piper on Galatians and the Gospel

John Piper, in a sermon on Galatians, states that "any requirement that goes beyond faith in the work of Christ ends the gospel!" "The good news to the world is that right standing with God was bought totally by Jesus Christ at Calvary and it can be enjoyed only by faith in his work, and any requirement that comes in to incline us to rely on our work ends it, and Christ is no more advantage to you."

This leaves us with the question: "What are you relying on for your salvation?"
  • Your decision when you were ___ years old?
  • Your good works?
  • Your Bible reading?
  • Your not swearing?
  • Your not killing someone?
  • Your church membership?
  • Your faith?!?!?
There is only one right answer to this question. Only your reliance on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ as sufficient to make you right with God can save you. That, plus nothing!!!

This does not mean we get to "believe in Jesus" and do whatever we want. But it does mean that nothing but depending on Jesus can save us.

And that makes Jesus Christ very beautiful.

~ Todd ~

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

DWYL Podcast on Adoption

Check out John Piper's thoughts on adoption in this Don' podcast:

Adoption was at the very center of the creation of our universe in the mind of God! And, thus, adoption is a beautiful picture of Christ's salvation of sinners.

~ Todd ~

Monday, July 14, 2008

ESV Study Bible - Psalms Sample

I just received an email from the ESV Study Bible Team with a link to the latest sample of their upcoming work -- Psalms.

Thought I would pass it along. I can't wait to get this resource!

~ Todd ~

Divine Initiative

I sometimes have a problem taking the initiative to start something new. I don't know why! Genesis 1, however, helps us see very clearly that God is the Divine Initiator. He began this world by working his plan of creation. And he begins new life in us by working a different kind of miracle; one that takes a broken, messed up person and forming a new creation! Every day he continues to shape us, conforming us to the image of his Son, Jesus Christ.

So, today, I am praying that God will grant me some small measure of his divine initiative so that I may be more like Christ.

~ Todd ~

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

A Heavenly Perspective on Life

I recently heard Arturo Azurdia quote Richard Baxter regarding a Christian's perspective as he approaches the magnificent satisfaction of heaven. Baxter wrote:

The memory will not be idle, or useless, in this blessed work. From that height the saint can look behind him and before him. And to compare past with present things must raise in the blessed soul an inconceivable esteem and sense of its condition. To stand on that mount, whence we can see the Wilderness and Canaan both at once; to stand in heaven and look back on earth, and weigh them together in the balance of a comparing sense and judgment, how must it needs transport the soul, and make it cry out,

“Is this the purchase that cost so dear as the blood of Christ? No wonder. O blessed price and thrice blessed love, that invented and condescended! Is this the end of believing? Is this the end of the Spirit’s workings? Have the gales of grace blown me into such a harbor? Is it hither that Christ hath allured my soul? O blessed way, and thrice blessed end! Is this the glory which the Scriptures spoke of, and ministers preached of so much? I see the Gospel is indeed good tidings, even tidings of peace and good things, tidings of great joy to all nations! Is my mourning, my fasting, my sad humblings, my heavy walking, come to this? Is my praying, watching, fearing to offend, come to this? Are all my afflictions, Satan’s temptations, the world’s scorns and jeers, come to this? O vile nature, that resisted so much, and so long, such a blessing! Unworthy soul! is this the place thou camest to so unwillingly? Was duty wearisome? Was the world too good to lose? Couldst thou not leave all, deny all, and suffer any thing for this? Wast thou loth to die, to come to this? O false heart, thou hadst almost betrayed me to eternal flames, and lost me this glory! Art thou not now ashamed, my soul, that ever thou didst question that love which brought thee hither? that thou wast jealous of the faithfulness of thy Lord? that thou suspectedst his love, when thou shouldst only have suspected thyself? that ever thou didst quench a motion of his Spirit? and that thou shouldst misinterpret those providences, and repine at those ways which have such an end? Now thou art sufficiently convinced that thy blessed Redeemer was saving thee as well when he crossed thy desires, as when he granted them; when he broke thy heart, as when he bound it up. No thanks to thee, unworthy self, for this received crown; but to Jehovah and the Lamb be glory for ever.”

-- Richard Baxter, The Saint's Everlasting Rest

Dare we dwell on the pleasures of this life and jeopardize the pleasures of the next? Can you see heaven clearly enough to forsake the snares of this world? Help us, Heavenly Father, to become entranced with a clear vision of heaven!

~ Todd ~

P. S. - You can also read Baxter's works at the Christian Classics Ethereal Library!