Freedom in His Full Forgiveness

Over the last two Lord’s Days, we’ve been gazing afresh into the endless ocean of God’s rich grace in the redeeming work of Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:7-12).  We’ve been looking particularly at vs. 7-8:


In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight…


This coming Sunday, I’m planning to focus in on the blessing of forgiveness, which is the foundational result of Christ’s redeeming work.  And oh, how essential that God’s people know and live in the freedom of His full forgiveness in Christ – to the praise of His glorious grace!!!


Pastor Milton Vincent, in his excellent book A Gospel Primer for Christians, skillfully observes:


“As long as I am stricken with the guilt of my sins , I will be captive to them, and will often find myself re-committing the very sins about which I feel most guilty. The Devil is well aware of this fact; he knows that if he can keep me tormented by sin’s guilt, he can dominate me with sin’s power.  The gospel, however, slays sin at this root point and thereby nullifies sin’s power over me. The forgiveness of God, made known to me through the gospel, liberates me from sin’s power because it liberates me first from its guilt; and preaching such forgiveness to myself is a practical way of putting the gospel into operation as a nullifier of sin’s power in my life.”  (Vincent, Milton (2013-01-07). A Gospel Primer for Christians [Kindle Locations 227-228]. Focus Publishing. Kindle Edition.)


Beloved, do you live in the freedom of God’s full forgiveness in Christ’s redeeming work?  Or are you tormented by sin’s guilt, and dominated by sin’s power?  Keep preaching the gospel to yourself my friends, embracing by faith all the glorious riches of God’s blessings in Christ!


Because Christ lives, and is returning,


How Rich Our Treasure

Beloved, the riches of God’s lavish grace to us in Jesus, against the backdrop of our inexcusable sin, are beyond comprehension!  And yet, it is the very greatness of these riches that God would have us to know and feast on in greater and greater ways by faith – all to His glory!  So it is that Paul opens his letter to the Ephesians with praise (Eph. 1:3-14), and prayer (Eph. 1:15-23).


This coming Lord’s Day, as we’ll continue to look at the redeeming work of Jesus Christ in Eph. 1:7-12, we’re also planning to learn a new hymn entitled How Rich a Treasure We Possess.  I encourage you to listen to this song a time or two before Sunday, and take note how the lyrics echo many of the themes from Eph. 1.


What else can be said – how rich a treasure we possess in Jesus Christ!!


Looking forward to joining heart and voice with you,


God with Us

Beloved, as we consider afresh the wonder of God’s work in the giving of His Son Jesus, may these thoughts from C.H. Spurgeon encourage you (and feel free to pass this on to family and friends this week!):


“Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14)
“Let us to-day go down to Bethlehem, and in company with wondering shepherds and adoring Magi, let us see him who was born King of the Jews, for we by faith can claim an interest in him, and can sing, ‘Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given.’ Jesus is Jehovah incarnate, our Lord and our God, and yet our brother and friend; let us adore and admire. Let us notice at the very first glance his miraculous conception. It was a thing unheard of before, and unparalleled since, that a virgin should conceive and bear a Son. The first promise ran thus, ‘The seed of the woman,’ not the offspring of the man. Since venturous woman led the way in the sin which brought forth Paradise lost, she, and she alone, ushers in the Regainer of Paradise. Our Saviour, although truly man, was as to his human nature the Holy One of God. Let us reverently bow before the holy Child whose innocence restores to manhood its ancient glory; and let us pray that he may be formed in us, the hope of glory. Fail not to note his humble parentage. His mother has been described simply as ‘a virgin,; not a princess, or prophetess, nor a matron of large estate. True the blood of kings ran in her veins; nor was her mind a weak and untaught one, for she could sing most sweetly a song of praise; but yet how humble her position, how poor the man to whom she stood affianced, and how miserable the accommodation afforded to the new-born King!

“Immanuel, God with us in our nature, in our sorrow, in our lifework, in our punishment, in our grave, and now with us, or rather we with him, in resurrection, ascension, triumph, and Second Advent splendour.”  (C.H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening, Dec. 25 – Morning)



Merry Christmas, and grace upon grace to you!


The Majesty is in the Magnitude

The majesty of God’s glory is seen in the magnitude of God’s grace!  So it is that all of God’s eternal, sovereign, adopting, redeeming work in Jesus Christ is “…to the praise of His glorious grace…” (Eph. 1:6)!  And so it is that the multitude of heavenly host burst forth with praise at the birth of Jesus:


“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:14)


Beloved, the depth and darkness of our sin is far more heinous than we can fathom.  But the wealth and wonder of God’s grace in Christ is far more abundant than we can imagine!  Dr. Homer Kent said it well:


“The higher one’s conception of God’s holiness and the deeper his sense of human sin, the greater is his discernment of the riches of grace that were necessary to provide such a redemption.”  (Homer Kent, Ephesians Commentary, pg. 22-23)


What can we say, but amen, and amen!  And what can we do but sing on, knowing that a “worthy walk” (Eph. 4:1) is first and foremost a walk of worship!!


Beholding, singing, walking, and growing with you,


A Worthy Walk is a Worshipful Walk

At the beginning of his letter to the Ephesians, Paul declares and demonstrates that a “worthy walk” (Eph. 4:1) is first and foremost a walk of worship.  His anthem of doxology in Eph. 1:3-14 is a call to all believers to join him in praising the God of all grace.  As John Calvin has observed, ““The lofty terms in which he extols the grace of God toward the Ephesians, are intended to rouse their hearts to gratitude, to set them all on flame, to fill them even to overflowing with this thought” (from Calvin’s Commentary on Eph. 1:3).  So gripped is Paul by the weight and wonder of the glories he heralds, he then pleads with God to help all believers know the fullness of these lavish blessings (Eph. 1:15-23).


Later in his letter, Paul exhorts believers to address “…one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart…” (Eph. 5:19).  One recent song that richly fulfills this exhortation is Come Praise and Glorify (see the lyrics here).  As you’ll hear, the song is based fully on the truths of Eph. 1:3-14.  Lord willing, we’ll be singing it corporately at RCG in the near future.


Beloved, the wealth, riches, and power of all that God has blessed us with in Christ is far more abundant than all we could ask or think (see Eph. 3:20-21).  Together as His people, by faith, may we keep feasting upon, praying, singing, and walking in light of His glorious grace in Jesus Christ!


Because He lives, and is returning,


Certainty of God’s Sovereignty

And just like that, another significant mid-term election has come and gone.  The outcome was overall encouraging for conservatives.  As usual, Dr. Albert Mohler’s observations are worth considering:  What the Election Reveals about Us and Why We Vote as We Do.  Whatever else the consequences from Tuesday’s election, as Dr. Mohler suggests, no doubt the next couple years leading up to the next presidential election will be politically interesting (should the Lord Jesus tarry)!


Beyond all the political maneuvering and shifting that constantly takes place – not only in America, but around the world – we can be absolutely certain that God is sovereignly working through everything to unite all things in heaven and on earth in Christ (Eph. 1:9-10).  This truth means that our hope as God’s people transcends the current social and political climate in which we live.  Ours is to embrace by faith the glories of God’s calling of us in Christ, and to “walk worthy” of that calling in the nitty-gritty details of our lives (Eph. 4:1).


Beloved, the more we understand and embrace the heavenly/spiritual realities God has called us to in Christ, the better equipped we are to serve others in this world for His glory.  This truth is central to the book of Ephesians.  May it be every more central in our lives, both individually, and corporately as His people!


Because Christ lives, and is returning,


Genuine Worship Includes Gathering with God’s People

God’s word makes clear that genuine worship which pleases Him is that which is “in spirit and in truth” (Jn. 4:22-24), and that which encompasses all of life, all the time (Rom. 12:1-2).  With slight modification to a definition of worship offered by David Peterson in his excellent book Engaging With God, we can say that genuine worship is “faith in God through Jesus Christ, expressing itself in adoration, dependence, and obedience” (pg. 283).


Because genuine worship of God is “all of life, all the time”, and not just something that happens on Sundays from 10:30am-12:15pm, we might ask:  why do we need to gather together weekly at all?  Isn’t it enough for me to just read my bible on my own, listen to sermons online, play Christian music on my iPod, and worship God through all my life, all the time?


Here’s the short answer:  no, it’s not enough.  When God brought you to faith and life in Christ, He joined you to Christ and His people.  He made you a part of His church…a member of His body (see 1 Cor. 12:1-31).  And God’s purpose in gathering His people weekly in local churches, around His word, is to encourage and strengthen our faith in God through Jesus Christ.  All of this so that together, we might adore, depend on, and obey Him all the more, giving glory to Him.  This is why the writer of Hebrews has so much to say about the supremacy and sufficiency of Jesus Christ for His people (Heb. 1:1-4), and why His people must not neglect meeting together, so as to encourage one another in the hope of Christ:
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”  (Heb. 10:24-25)


Beloved, God has given us great privilege and responsibilities in our corporate and weekly gatherings as His people!  What a joy to share life in Christ together with you at RCG – I can’t wait to gather again with you this coming Lord’s Day!



Doing Our Part, Today

A healthy practice for believers is to regularly read the Book of Acts (along with the rest of Scripture)!  With 28 chapters, Acts could be read monthly at a pace of one chapter a day.  Or it could be read quarterly by reading 2-3 chapters a week, or almost twice a year by reading a chapter a week.  You get the idea!


I say this is a healthy practice because Acts keeps before us the reality that our Lord Jesus Christ is STILL ACTIVE in building His church!  Even now – by His Word, through His Spirit, with the participation of His people, and amid the pains of His providence – Jesus Christ is sovereignly working to gather, shepherd, and multiply His flock.


The question the Book of Acts continually holds before us is this:  are we doing our part in the work Christ has for us today?  Specifically, as we saw exemplified in Paul’s life and ministry last Lord’s Day (which is the focus of 17 of the 28 chapters of Acts), are we increasingly confident in the hope of the gospel, ambitious in the spread of the gospel, strengthened in the riches of the gospel, and faithful in the proclamation of the gospel?


The significance of these questions trickles down to the particular circumstances and opportunities of our daily lives.  Men, women, young, old, single, married, etc. – we’re all in different situations.  So particular points of application will look different for each of us.  And this is part of God’s wise design in our life together as a local church, that we might encourage, provoke, pray for, and learn from one another as we seek to be faithful in the work of Christ among us.


Beloved, may you and I ever more fully embrace Paul’s resolved mindset:

But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”  (Acts 20:24)


Because Christ lives, and is returning,


Our All in All

Because Jesus Christ is Lord of all (Acts 10:36), we must increasingly trust Him as our all in all!  We must follow Him – humbly submitting to His loving authority.  Practically, as we considered last Lord’s Day, this means being increasingly captivated by His worth, consumed with His work, concerned for His will, counseled by His word, content in His ways, and comforted in knowing He is with us.  (Kudos to Brian Dillard for helping me with that last “w”!)


Oh beloved:  trusting, knowing, and following Jesus as our all is the only place of true joy, peace, and hope!  This is the satisfied confidence David expresses in Psalm 23 –
1 A Psalm of David.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

2 He makes me lie down in green pastures.

He leads me beside still waters.

3 He restores my soul.

He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;

you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,

and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.


I pray the Lord would continually strengthen your faith in Him, even through the trials, griefs, and challenges He lovingly ordains.  In every moment of every day, may you sing with deepening assurance, “All the Way My Savior Leads Me.”


Because He lives, and is returning,


Jesus Christ, the Lord of ALL

This past Lord’s Day, we considered some of the scope of Christ’s reign, as displayed in Acts 9:32-12:25.  There are many powerful implications for believers within this glorious reality that Jesus Christ is Lord of ALL.


Because He is Lord over all disease and death, we can be comforted in knowing that eternal life and ultimate healing is our inheritance.  There is coming a day when all pain and grief will be removed, and God will wipe away every tear from our eyes (Rev. 21:1-4).


Because He is Lord over all gospel advancement, we can be certain that Christ designs to use us as “salt and light” (Mt. 5:13-16) in our particular circumstances – however mundane and ordinary they may seem.


And because He is Lord over all wicked rebels, we can be confident that Christ will defend His own righteousness and glory.  Vengeance is God’s, and He will destroy all His enemies – in His way, and in His time (Rom. 12:17-19).


Beloved, what hope, endurance, faithfulness, and joy these truths should strengthen in us!  May your faith in, submission to, and contentment with Christ’s all-sufficient authority be multiplied.  He is our good, great, and chief Shepherd!


Because He lives, and is returning,


Hope for the Downcast

Beloved, these are troubling, difficult days in which we live.  Just consider some of the sobering events in the news this past month:


  • a Malaysian passenger jet is shot down by a surface-to-air missile, killing all 298 people on board…
  • the outbreak of the Ebola virus in West Africa, responsible for some 1000 deaths to date…
  • the aggressive, barbaric, genocidal advancement of ISIS in Iraq, resulting in the displacement and/or death of hundreds of thousands of people…
  • the tragic suicide of comedian Robin Williams, following years of substance abuse and battles with severe depression…
  • the decision of the Church of England to ordain women as bishops, representing a further departure from clear biblical faithfulness…
  • citing confirmed accusations dishonoring the name of Christ, the removal of mega-church pastor Mark Driscoll, and Mars Hill Church, from the church-planting network he co-founded…
  • and on, and on, and on.


In this technologically-connected world, our rapid awareness of such events, and many others besides, can quickly leave our heads spinning, and our hearts despairing.  But as overwhelming and distressing as life in this sin-cursed world is – which we experience both directly and indirectly – it is vitally important for Christians to remember that the world has been in this condition ever since Adam and Eve tasted the forbidden fruit.  Scripture often warns us of these harsh realities – see Jn. 15:18-16:4; 2 Tim. 3:1-5.


We must also remember that genuine Christians are the only people on the planet who have real, living, blessed, and eternal HOPE!!  As such, we are also the only people with the ability and responsibility to show and tell others how they can know this very same hope through faith in Jesus Christ.


Oh my brothers and sisters in Christ, if you find yourself downcast and discouraged, weary in heart, cry out to the Lord and lay hold of the hope that is yours in Him!  Spend some time meditating and praying through passages like  Psalm 33;  Psalm 42; Jn. 16:33; Rom. 5:1-11; Titus 2:11-14; and 1 Pet. 1:3-25 (just to name a few).  Ask our generous God for help in living by faith in all He is and has given in Christ.  He will not disappoint.


And at the same time, purpose to be a faithful “steward of hope” as you rub shoulders with those who are yet hopeless, and helpless in their sins.  The exhortation of 1 Pet. 3:15-16 is always timely and relevant:

“…but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.”


Because Christ lives, and is returning,


The Miracle of Conversion

The salvation of any individual is a MIRACLE of God’s grace!  We marvel at the countless miracles Jesus did during his earthly ministry, and rightly so!  But the wonder of all those miracles pales in comparison to the supernatural work of God giving new life in Christ to one who is spiritually dead in sin.

This is the miracle that the Apostle Paul experienced when he was converted to Christ, as recorded in Acts 9:1-31 (see also Acts 22 & 26).  The Spirit of God, through Luke’s narrative in Acts, holds Paul’s miraculous, unlikely conversion before us that we might behold the greatness of Christ’s saving love, power, and authority.

Beloved, the Apostle Paul never got over the wonder and amazement of Christ’s mercy in his life.  He testifies of this in many places throughout his letters, one notable place being 1 Tim. 1:12-17.  Notice especially what he says in verse 16:

But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.

Beloved, the Lord wants us to be convinced that if he could save someone like the Apostle Paul, then he could save anyone – including you, me, and the person you think is simply beyond His reach.  What great hope we have in Christ’s saving power, and what great motivation we have to faithfully proclaim the Gospel to those who are yet in their sins!  No wonder Paul could say:

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.  (Rom. 1:16)


Because He lives and is returning,

To Advance the Gospel

What do you think about the circumstances of your life?  What do you think about the reason for the circumstances of your life?  Why does God have you in these specific circumstances?

The Apostle Paul sets a powerful, Christ-exalting example in answer to these questions when he says, “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the Gospel…” (Phil. 1:12).  Paul understood his circumstances singularly in terms of the work God was doing through him to advance the Gospel.  Thus even though he was in prison as he wrote to the Philippians, he found great joy in Christ, and great confidence that God was working through his difficult circumstances to advance the Gospel.

We find this exact same mindset in the early church when, as intense persecution was pushing believers out of Jerusalem, “…those who were scattered went about preaching the word.”  (Acts 8:4)  God in His sovereign wisdom was scattering His people, like a farmer scatters seed, so the Gospel would be planted in areas beyond Jerusalem.

Beloved,  if you belong to God through faith in Christ, He has sovereignly put you in your specific circumstances so the Gospel would advance in you, and through you!  What great hope, meaning, and perspective this should give our lives.  What great privileges and responsibilities we have been given!  Whether you are single, married, with children, without children, at work, at home, at school, at wherever; whether in ease or in pain – God has scattered you to be a sower of the Gospel with the people you have contact with.  And He wills for you to trust Him and depend on His help through prayer, that you might bear much fruit for His glory (see John 15:1-8).  May the Lord strengthen all of us for faithfulness in this calling!

Because He lives, and is returning,

Spiritual Bankruptcy and Rich Hope

It was a joy to have Pastor Martin Manten, and his family, with us this past Lord’s Day.  Martin is the Director of the European Bible Training Center (EBTC) in Zurich, and he’s also planting a church there.


Martin’s sermon from Mt. 5:1-4 on “The Foundation of Happiness” was personally convicting and refreshing.  I was particularly helped by the reminder that acknowledging my spiritual bankruptcy before God and genuinely mourning over my sin is the pathway to knowing the true joy of His mercy, cleansing, and grace.  On a daily basis, every believer should be sobered by, and deeply rejoice in, the truth that God’s grace shines the brightest when we see the darkness of our sin against the backdrop of His holiness.  What powerful, blessed, life-giving HOPE we’ve been called to, through all that God has given us in Jesus Christ!


If these truths resonate with you (and I hope they do!), you may likewise be encouraged by this song:  To the Cross I Cling.  (The song is based on a prayer entitled The Broken Heart, from the book The Valley of Vision.)  The rich and beautiful truth that “All things in me call for my rejection; all things in You plead my acceptance” captures the heart of the song…and the heart of the Gospel!


Beloved, do you acknowledge your spiritual bankruptcy before God, mourn over your sin, and taste by faith the rich sweetness of His abundant grace in Jesus Christ?  May God help us to live more fully in this sober joy, and proclaim more passionately the hope of the Gospel to those who are yet in their sins.


Because He lives, and is returning,

Death is Gain

Death is never a welcome guest.  The death of a loved one is always jarring, overwhelming, and cause of the most unspeakable grief.  And death which results from the rage-filled, cold-blooded hatred of a mob is incomprehensible beyond description.  Amazingly, as described in Acts 7:54-60 , this is the very kind of death God ordained for Stephen, the first Christian martyr, to experience.


But for all the horrific brutality that attended Stephen’s death, the truly shocking thing is how content, and peaceful Stephen was as he took his final breaths on earth.  What accounts for such a calm, beautiful countenance during such a sudden, monstrous death?  One, and only one, explanation:  the blazing, eternal glory of the Triune God.  We’re told how Stephen saw this heavenly glory, beyond the faces of his frenzied murderers:

But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.  (Acts 7:55, ESV)


In his death, Stephen was more alive than ever, seeing and fully tasting what could only be longed for by faith up to that point:  the incomparable, all-satisfying glory of the Triune God.


Because the Apostle Paul, then an unbeliever named Saul, was present and approving of Stephen’s death (Acts 8:1-3), no doubt the memory of what he witnessed that day never left him.  Perhaps this contributed to Paul’s absolute confidence that, “…to live is Christ, and to die is gain”.  (Phil. 1:21)  Oh what a glorious truth for believers:  death is gain!!!


Beloved, do you believe this?  By faith, are you so consumed with joy, delight, and hope in the glory of God in Jesus Christ that you can’t wait to see and taste that glory in heaven forever?  Can you gratefully enjoy the earthly blessings He gives (1 Tim. 4:4-5; 6:17), but with a deep conviction that the sum of all created things doesn’t even compare to the joy of being in His presence?  Can you gladly “let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also”, courageously living for, and preaching Jesus Christ?  God will enable us to live, and die, in this way – as we trust and submit to Him.


Because Christ lives, and is returning,

Body Life

Our physical bodies are amazing!  The complexity, and intricacy of God’s marvelous design is beyond our ability to fully comprehend.  What diversity of parts: hands, feet, eyes, ears, muscles, brain, nervous system, etc.  Yet in all this rich diversity, what great unity in all these parts working together for the proper life and functioning of the body.  How overwhelming is the wonder of God’s sovereign design!

And how significant that God should use our physical bodies to illustrate the diversity and unity that believers share in the church…the body of Christ!  Rom. 12:1-8, 1 Cor. 12:1-31, and Eph. 4:1-16 are key passages that speak to this.  Every believer is a uniquely fashioned part of the body of Christ.  And each is to minister according to how we’ve been gifted by God – for the good of the whole body, and for the spread of the gospel.

This past Lord’s Day, we saw from Acts 6:1-7 how the early church grew in their understanding of the diverse gifting and calling of believers.  They likewise grew in understanding how the whole body is to work together in harmonious cooperation for the sake of the spreading of the Gospel; the proclamation of God’s word.

Beloved, how thankful we should be to see this type of “body life” occurring and increasing among us at RCG.  And how humble, prayerful, and devoted we should be in continuing to do our part, ministering to each other in the love and truth of Jesus (see Eph. 4:11-16).  What a great privilege and responsibility God has given us in walking together with Him in this local church.

Because He lives, and is returning,

Be Assured, Really

Christians are sometimes tempted with serious doubts regarding the Christian faith.  Is the Bible really God’s inerrant, authoritative, all-sufficient word?  Is Jesus really God, and really the only way to the Father?  Did Jesus really rise from the dead; is He really coming back again someday?  Come on…really?

Much of what can provoke our doubts are the challenges, difficulties, pains, and sorrows we experience in this life.  At one level we understand the Christian life was never guaranteed to be easy.  But is it really supposed to be this hard, for this long?  Where is Jesus, and the purposes and promises of God in all this?  Is it really worth it to keep trusting and following Jesus?  Is He really real?  Or is this whole Christianity thing just some giant myth…just one of countless man-made religions around the world?  Oh, how such doubts can overwhelm and immobilize!

The living God Himself, in and through His holy word, gives rock-solid assurance of His eternal reality in Jesus Christ!  He permanently reigns, and He perfectly cares for His own!  What soul-comforting assurance that evaporates every doubt!  As we began to see last Lord’s Day with our first study in the Book of Acts, the giving of this assurance is at the heart of why Luke has written this book (under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit).  Connected with the same reason he wrote his Gospel, Luke wants believers to know the certainty (assurance) of what we’ve been taught (see  Lk. 1:1-4; Acts 1:1-3).

Professor Alan J. Thompson elaborates on Luke’s purpose regarding assurance:  “God’s people may be assured therefore that, because the Lord Jesus continues to reign, they will be enabled by the Holy Spirit to serve him and reflect his character, the word will continue to spread even in the midst of opposition, and local churches will be established and strengthened with the apostolic message about the Lord Jesus. Luke’s emphasis on the nature of the kingdom of God, therefore, is as relevant for Christian readers today as it was for the first century. All who follow the Lord Jesus this side of the cross and resurrection need to know that God is continuing to accomplish his purposes even now through the reign of the Lord Jesus.”  (Alan J. Thompson. The Acts of the Risen Lord Jesus: Luke’s Account of God’s Unfolding Plan, 2011, Kindle Loc. 147-149).

Beloved, let us be all the more assured of the reality of the Father’s saving purposes in Jesus Christ, and all the more devoted to trusting and obeying our Savior and Lord, in the power of the Holy Spirit!  I continue to pray for you and myself to this end, even as exemplified by Paul in Eph. 1:15-23.


Because He lives, and is returning (really!),


God’s Will for Your Life

What is God’s will for my life?  This honest question is one which Christians often ask, and with good reason.  When God graciously saves and transforms a person, there is a new desire to know and do the will of God.  As God has been pleased to reveal His will in His word, so His people have the blessed responsibility to learn of His will, and to submit to what pleases Him.  The Apostle Paul speaks of this directly in Eph. 5, when he says:


“…try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord” (vs. 10)

“…Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (vs. 17)


While God has given us everything we need in Christ to know and do His will, we sometimes wrestle with what this looks like in our ordinary, daily lives.  If this is a topic of concern/interest to you, let me encourage you to read one of the following books over the summer – maybe even find 1-2 other folks to join you.  These books are all related to knowing and doing the will of God, and I’ve listed them from shortest to longest by way of length.



Beloved, may the Lord help all of us to “…walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which [we] have been called…” (Eph. 4:1) – even as we seek to love, help, encourage, and pray for one another to this end.  What a joy and privilege to share this life together with you in the local church of RCG!


Because He lives, and is returning,


Gazing into the Riches of God’s Grace

As we gaze into the riches of God’s grace in the Lord Jesus Christ, there are simply not enough superlatives to describe the wonders of all He has given us!  These riches are all the more amazing in view of our helpless and hopeless sinful condition (see Eph. 2:1-3; Titus 3:3).  The Apostle Paul, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, couldn’t stop talking about the wealth of these riches!


  • “Oh the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!  How unsearchable are his judgments and inscrutable his ways!” (Rom. 11:33)
  • “…according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us…” (Eph. 1:7-8)
  • “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us…” (Eph. 2:4)
  • “…so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” (Eph. 2:7)
  • “…to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ…” (Eph. 3:8)
  • “…to comprehend what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge…” (Eph. 3:18-19)
  • “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think…” (Eph. 3:20)


When Paul speaks descriptively of these riches in Titus 3:4-7, his intent is to spur believers on in living lives that overflow with good deeds.  In possessing, tasting, and growing in the knowledge of these riches by faith, believers are to eagerly obey God and zealously do good to others for His glory.


Beloved, living a godly life that abounds with good deeds involves effort and intentionality on our part.  But it should be effort motivated by deep joy, gratitude, and humility in view of all the Father has lavished upon us in Christ.  Hence our need is not just to try harder, but to gaze deeper upon all the riches of God’s grace.  Martin Luther expresses this well in his book The Freedom of a Christian:


“Although I am an unworthy and condemned man, my God has given me in Christ all the riches of righteousness and salvation without any merit on my part, out of pure, free mercy, so that from now on I need nothing except faith which believes that it is true.  Why should I not therefore freely, joyfully, with all my heart, and with an eager will do all things which I know are pleasing and acceptable to such a Father who has overwhelmed me with his inestimable riches?  I will therefore give myself as a Christ to my neighbor, just as Christ offered himself to me; I will do nothing in this life except what I see is necessary, profitable, and salutary to my neighbor, since through faith I have an abundance of all good things in Christ.”  (quoted by Matt Perman in What’s Best Next, Zondervan: 2014, pg. 110)


Amen!  What a joy to gaze, grow, and give together with you!



The Good Works of God’s Grace

One of the most central truths in the Christian life, and likewise one of the most frequently misunderstood, is the truth of God’s grace.  Many misconceptions of grace have been proffered throughout church history, ranging from the weak and incomplete (God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense), to the downright false and heretical (“Hey, let’s keep sinning so that grace may abound!” – see Rom. 5:18-6:14).


Confusion about God’s grace inevitably leads to confusion about the place of obedience and good works in the lives of believers.  Countless individuals, families, and whole churches, have been deeply troubled and turned upside-down in spiritual fruitfulness and witness, all because of errors regarding the nature of God’s grace in Jesus Christ (Titus 1:10-11).  This is the very context in which Paul is writing Titus, that he might promote spiritual health and stability among churches on the island of Crete (Titus 1:5).  And Paul makes clear that the needed godly leadership in churches, and godly lifestyles among the saints, flows from a clear, robust understanding and application of God’s grace in Jesus Christ.


It is the fullness and richness of this grace that we considered together this past Lord’s Day, from Titus 2:11-14.  In these four short verses, Paul vividly describes the presence, power, and purpose of God’s grace.  He makes abundantly clear that God’s grace is centered in the person and work of Jesus Christ.  He likewise makes clear that the good work of God’s grace in His people produces the good works of God’s grace through His people.  Specific, practical, daily godliness!


Beloved, these truths are so essential and foundational to growth in godliness, I would encourage you to memorize Titus 2:11-14 – perhaps with a friend and/or family member.  And pray that God would give you grace to understand and live in light of the riches of His grace!  As you do, keep singing, to yourself and others, about God’s rich and free Grace Unmeasured.


Grace upon grace!


Where the Rubber Meets the Road

In all of our corporate gatherings on the Lord’s Days this past month (Equipping Hour, Corporate Worship, and our Evening Gathering), we’ve been focusing on God’s mission in Jesus Christ, and what this means for us as His people.  We’ve seen that the Father’s eternal purpose is to glorify Himself in His Son, in His people, through the power of His Holy Spirit.


We’ve likewise seen that this eternal purpose directly relates to God’s good, wise, and authoritative design for the local church.  The local church is where “the rubber meets the road” as we learn to walk together in God’s grace, helping one another grow in the particular roles, responsibilities, and relationships He has called us to.  These truths are clearly revealed in Paul’s letter to Titus, and many other places throughout the New Testament.  It is in and through our corporate life together that God’s designs to bear witness of Jesus Christ to the world around us.  Jonathan Leeman helpfully summarizes the significance of these matters:


“In other words, the witness of the church does not merely consist in the fact that it goes; it consists in the fact that it has a distinct corporate life.  Its witness consists in the fact that it’s distinct in holiness, love, and unity.  So Jesus promises, ‘By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another’ (Jn. 13:34,35).  The church’s internal work of holiness and love amongst its members is inextricably tied to its outward work of witness.  We must display Christ in our corporate life in order to display Christ in our individual lives.”  (Jonathan Leeman, The Church and the Surprising Offense of God’s Love, Wheaton: Crossway, 2010, p. 260.)


Beloved, what great privileges and responsibilities God has called us to in Christ, even as we grow together as His people, in accordance with His word.  May the Lord help all of us to be encouraged and strengthened in submitting to His purposes for us, looking to His word together, and praying for one another to this great end (Eph. 6:18).


Because He lives, and is returning,


Discouragement and Motivation

Genuine Christians are often tempted with discouragement and despair.  We find this to be true of numerous people in Scripture (King David – Pss. 142, 143; Paul – 2 Cor. 1:8-9), and also of many throughout church history (William Cowper; Charles Spurgeon).  Certainly many different factors, both internal and external, can tempt us to dark and troubling difficulties in our minds.


One of the things that can easily discourage us is our awareness of how far short we fall of obeying God’s will…how easily we can sin in our affections, attitudes, words, and actions.  Perhaps you’ve experienced this as we’ve been looking at practical matters of godliness from the book of Titus.  If you haven’t yet, you probably will!  The demands and responsibilities of godliness for all believers are very clear in what Paul declares to Titus, and very specific.  And Paul is emphatic:  Titus is to declare these things, exhorting and rebuking with all authority (Titus 2:15).


But Paul is equally clear that the foundation, motivation, and power from which we’re to pursue godliness is found in the mercy and grace of God in Christ.  As we seek to grow in practical godliness, it is vitally important that we do so in the sure and certain hope of all God has given us in Christ.  So I encourage you to spend much time meditating on the key passages in Titus where Paul highlights God’s work in Christ – 1:1-3; 2:11-14; and 3:4-7.  Ask the Lord to help you grasp the wonder of these glorious truths, and respond with thanksgiving and praise to our God.


And keep pursuing practical godliness, beloved, in the blessed, eternal hope God has called us to in Christ!


Grace upon grace,


To Know His Peace

All of us know the experience of facing situations that can provoke our fears and anxieties.  As Job 5:7 declares, “…man is born to trouble, as the sparks fly upward.”  How profound and significant then, are these words from Jesus Christ to His own:


“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.  Not as the world gives do I give to you.  Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (Jn. 14:27)


What stabilizing comfort is found for God’s people in these powerful statements!  The other-worldly peace that Jesus promises is an inner calmness that results from trusting Him.  It is a tranquility known not in the absence of trouble, but in the assurance of the Father’s care through the indwelling Holy Spirit (Jn. 14:26).  And our experience of this peace is directly connected to our prayers:


“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:4-7)


Beloved, in whatever circumstances the Lord has ordained for us, at any given time, He has given us more than adequate resources in Christ to know His peace.  I’m praying with you, and for you, to know His peace in fullest measure.  May the God who alone gives such peace be magnified, as we delight in and proclaim His great excellencies in Christ!

God of All Grace

In bringing our exposition of First Peter to a close this past Lord’s Day, I reflected on how Peter’s mind was so saturated and informed by Old Testament truth in all he wrote.  There are countless direct and indirect OT references throughout the letter.  He clearly understands Jesus Christ and His salvation as the fulfillment of God’s OT revelation.  Among other things, Peter sets a powerful and enticing example for valuing and growing in our knowledge of all 66 books of God’s Word.  It is all part of the “…pure spiritual milk…” that we should be craving ( 1 Pet. 2:1-3)!  God nourishes our faith and delight in Jesus Christ through His Word!  It is in and through all of God’s Word that we come to know more fully the unsearchable riches of His grace in Christ, and are enabled to stand all the more firmly in this grace (1 Pet. 5:12).  Amazing!


Here’s just one sweet  OT nugget for the strengthening of your soul.  This expresses the central theme of First Peter (standing firm in God’s grace, amid present sufferings and in hope of future glory):


Your righteousness, O God, reaches the high heavens.  You who have done great things, O God, who is like you?  You who have made me see many troubles and calamities will revive me again; from the depths of the earth you will bring me up again.  You will increase my greatness and comfort me again.  (Psalm 71:19-21)


Beloved, the “God of all grace” (1 Pet. 5:10) is always sufficient for all that He so lovingly ordains in all of our individual and corporate circumstances!  Always!  In faith, may you know and rejoice in the fullness of His grace in Jesus Christ, even as you long for the day when that faith will become sight.


Because He lives and loves,


Concluding 1 Peter

This coming Lord’s Day morning, I’m planning to finish out our focused study through First Peter.  What a glorious portion of God’s word, revealing the breathtaking excellencies of our Savior and Shepherd Jesus Christ!  How timely and relevant for us as God’s people, whom He’s called to live as aliens and strangers in this sinful world.  Within the various fiery trials He lovingly ordains, learning to walk together in humble submission to His sovereign will and care, standing firm by faith in the eternal hope of His grace.


I pray the truths God has been pleased to plant in us from First Peter would take deep root in our souls.  I pray we would hunger more for Christ like newborn babies, tasting more of God’s kindness, and turning away from all the deceptive fleshly lusts and worldly enticements that would dull and choke our appetite for Him.  I pray we would know more of “joy inexpressible” in the riches of Christ’s salvation, and that our living hope in Him would overflow in zeal to proclaim His excellencies.  I pray we’d be all the more clothed with humility toward one another, as we humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand.  And I pray, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, that we would be strengthened, comforted, and emboldened in God’s eternal grace, resolved to suffer as He wills in the pathway of obedience to Him.


Perhaps between now and Sunday, you might carve out some undistracted time to read First Peter in its entirety, thinking and praying about these truths.  You might also find encouragement from the song Jesus I My Cross Have Taken, which expresses Christ-delighting resolve to follow Him in suffering (see the lyrics here).

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.  Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.  (1 Pet. 2:9-10)


Amen!  I can’t wait to be with you this Lord’s Day!