John 14:11-14

11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.

12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. 13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. (ESV)

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!),


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!



Resurrection and Godly Living

The assurance of Christ’s resurrection is likewise the assurance that believers will be raised with Him.  This is the heart of Paul’s exhortation in 1 Corinthians 15.  And this is no small matter, as Paul spends much time explaining the certainty and nature of believers’ resurrection in Christ.

There is great urgency and concern driving all that Paul expresses.  Many of the Corinthian believers were intoxicated with the false idea that there was no resurrection.  Such thinking destroys all motivation for godly living in an ungodly world – why worry about obedience if everything simply ends when you die?  You can almost imagine Paul jumping out of his skin when he declares,

“If the dead are not raised, ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.’ Do not be deceived: Bad company ruins good morals.’ Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame.”  (1 Cor. 15:32-34)

Beloved, God has made us and saved us to live eternally.  We will live beyond the grave, as Christ has forever taken away the sting of death.  May we be increasingly confident in this great eternal hope, and may we persevere in faith and submission to Him day by day.

“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”  (1 Cor. 15:58)

Because He lives, and is returning,

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,


Humble Trust in God

In many ways, the process of growing as a Christian can be described as the process of learning to be humble under God’s mighty hand.  As we saw this last Lord’s Day from 1 Pet. 5:6-7, such humble submission takes place as we cast all our anxiety on God by faith, confident of His glorious care for us.  Peter says much throughout his letter about the full nature of God’s care, preeminently demonstrated through the saving work of Jesus Christ at the cross (see 1 Pet. 1:3-12; 1:17-21; 2:24-25; and 3:18-21).  Learning to humbly trust and submit to God, in view of His merciful care for us in Christ – this is what it means to grow as a Christian.
To encourage our growth, God has graciously given some helpful examples to follow.  One such example is Job.  Following his sufferings, perplexities, and the gracious, comprehensive exhortations he received from God (see Job 38-41), Job expresses his deeper humility and submission in Job 42:1-6:

1 Then Job answered the Lord and said: 2 “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. 3 ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. 4 ‘Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you make it known to me.’ 5 I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; 6 therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”

King David is another wonderful example, as he testifies in Ps. 131 of his humble trust in God’s wise care:

1 A Song of Ascents. Of David. O Lord, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. 2 But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me. 3 O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forevermore.

Beloved, our God is infinitely holy, good, wise, and sovereign.  And how patiently, lovingly He cares for us, even as we grow in learning to trust and submit to Him.  May we all keep loving, praying for, and encouraging one another so to trust Him, and to “…fix our hope completely on the grace to be brought to us at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Pet. 1:13)

Because He lives and loves,

Because He Cares for You

This coming Lord’s Day, I’m planning to move into 1 Pet. 5:6-7 in our exposition Peter’s great letter:

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you”.


Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, what a glorious and comforting truth to be strengthened by:  in the great sufficiency of Jesus’ saving work, God cares for you!  The assurance of such a truth enables us to humble ourselves under His mighty hand, confidently casting all our anxieties on Him.  Oh, how infinitely great is the love of God for His own!


A.W. Tozer, in his classic book, The Knowledge of the Holy, dwells upon the impact of God’s sovereign love:


“The world is full of enemies, and as long as we are subject to the possibility of harm from these enemies, fear is inevitable.  The effort to conquer fear without removing the causes is altogether futile.  The heart is wiser than the apostles of tranquility.  As long as we are in the hands of chance, as long as we look for hope to the law of averages, as long as we must trust for survival to our ability to outthink or outmaneuver the enemy, we have every reason to be afraid.  And fear hath torment.


“To know that love is of God and to enter into the secret place leaning upon the arm of the Beloved – this and only this can cast out fear.  Let a man become convinced that nothing can harm him and instantly for him all fear goes out of the universe.  The nervous reflex, the natural revulsion to physical pain may be felt sometimes, but the deep torment of fear is gone forever.  God is love and God is sovereign.  His love disposes Him to desire our everlasting welfare and His sovereignty enables Him to secure it.” (pg. 99)


Beloved, may your knowledge of, and faith in His infinite, immeasurable love continue to increase –   Eph. 3:14-21!


Because He lives and loves,


The Lowly Man’s Hymn

What an encouraging, convicting, refreshing time it was to gather as God’s people this last Lord’s Day evening!  The Good Shepherd is so faithful to feed and lead us with His Word, by His Holy Spirit, and through our fellowship with one another in Him.  And it is always significant as we partake together of the Lord’s Table, being reminded of Christ’s past, present, and future work as our Redeemer.


I was particularly blessed by Tim Ingrum’s faithful exposition of Psalm 34 – “The Lowly Man’s Hymn”.  This is one of my frequent “go to” Psalms, as I often resonate with the sense of impoverished desperation King David describes.  I need to continually be exhorted to “taste and see that the Lord is good,” confident that “blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!” (Ps. 34:8).  The Lord used Tim’s preaching to remind me that God is good and generous, and that He pours out blessing on those who fear Him.  Accordingly, my understanding of His goodness needs to keep being recalculated in line with His truth.  I also need to remember that apparent delays in God’s provision do not represent His cold withholding, but His kind preparing of me for something better.  Oh, to grow in simply trusting and obeying Him!


As the words of Ps. 34 are part personal testimony, and part corporate exhortation, I take my cue from the “sweet singer of Israel” in expressing my resolve and appeal to you:


I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. 2 My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad. 3 Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together!  (Ps. 34:1-3)


Because He lives,


Suffering with Faith

Beloved, without a doubt, these are challenging, sobering times in which we live as Christians in a wicked world.  It is by God’s mercy in Christ alone that He has delivered any of us from this very wickedness to which we were once enslaved (1 Pet. 2:9-10) .  And in His ongoing kindness, through our study of 1 Peter, our Chief Shepherd is certainly preparing us for the inevitable reality of suffering as His people in this world.


One example of this inevitable and intensifying hostility against Christians is highlighted by Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr., in a recent blog-post: Can Evangelical Chaplains Serve God and County?-The Crisis Arrives.  The situation Dr. Mohler describes highlights the fact that the lines between right and wrong, truth and error, light and darkness, Christ and Satan, are becoming more and more clearly drawn in our society.  The result is that the price Christians must pay in faithfully following Jesus Christ is, and will become, greater and greater.


Such realities ought not to alarm us, nor surprise us.  But we must “arm ourselves” with sober, Christ-centered thinking and living.  We must embrace the reality of suffering in the will of God (1 Pet. 4:1-2).  And we can do this through faith, in the great joy and hope that our glorious Lord and Savior has suffered for us, and is now reigning over us – and over everyone, and everything, everywhere, for all time (1 Pet. 3:18-22).  Our future is certain and secure in Him!  And what a blessing to walk and grow together in Him with you.


God is faithful, and His grace is sufficient to sustain us, in all His will ordains for us.



There is Always Cause to Sing

Beloved, amid the many burdens, cares, challenges, uncertainties, pressures, opportunities, responsibilities, weaknesses, disappointments, temptations, sins, and difficulties we often face, let us strive to remember and believe this:  Our God reigns, and there is always cause to joyfully sing to Him a new song!  I’m praying this week that your souls will be strengthened in the steadfast love and salvation of our triune God, particularly as revealed in Psalm 98:


1 A Psalm. Oh sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things! His right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him. 2 The Lord has made known his salvation; he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations. 3 He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God. 4 Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises! 5 Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody! 6 With trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord! 7 Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; the world and those who dwell in it! 8 Let the rivers clap their hands; let the hills sing for joy together 9 before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity.


Growing, trusting, and singing with you,


Trusting Him with Our Hurts and Fears

Here’s a couple of questions:  what do you do when you are deeply hurt by others?  Or, what do you do when you fear being deeply hurt by others?


Think about the potential dangers that lurk behind any relationship with other humans:  abuses of various forms (physical, emotional, sexual, verbal, spiritual), rejection, misunderstandings, betrayal, slander, disappointments, broken promises, unmet expectations, sins, and on and on.  Further, we all know by painful experience that such hurts can come from both Christians and non-Christians alike.  So what do you do, both with the fact, and the fear of being hurt by others?


Our answer to these questions reveals everything about how we view and trust God.  If we are trusting God’s sovereign rule and care, we learn to take our hurts and fears to Him in faith.  Then we are freed to obediently forgive and bless those who hurt us, imitating the reaction of our Lord Jesus to His enemies.  But if we are not trusting Him, we sinfully take out our hurts and fears on those who hurt us.  We do this either by actively seeking revenge and retaliation, or passively avoiding our responsibility to fervently love others.  In both instances, we greatly dishonor Jesus Christ.


Beloved, such are the very issues that Peter addresses in  1 Pet. 3:8-12.  And as Peter’s exhortations are so deeply grounded in the same from King David in Psalm 34 (especially vs. 12-16), we see that this fundamental matter of trusting God with our troubles – with our hurts and fears – is at the center of everything.  So David says, “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!  Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him.”  (Ps. 34:8)  Peter echoes this thought (1 Pet. 2:1-3), and also says, “…casting all your anxieties upon Him, because He cares for you.” (1 Pet. 5:7)


May the Lord give us ongoing grace to magnify the excellencies of Christ by trusting Him with our hurts and fears!


He is all we need,


Living Hope in Christ

The powerful truth of believers’ eternal, living HOPE IN CHRIST is prominent throughout the letter of 1 Peter:
“…he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…” (1:3)
“…set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”  (1:13)

“…always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you…” (3:15)


Not only is this living hope the blessed privilege of every child of God, but it is intended by God to arouse the curiosity of unbelievers, who sadly have no such hope.


With this in mind, let me encourage you to seize the opportunities of this Easter season to speak to your non-Christian friends and family about the hope found only in Jesus Christ.  In particular, this coming Lord’s Day is a great opportunity to invite them to gather with us for Corporate Worship.  I’m planning to preach from Acts 5:27-32, a passage that says much about the courageous hope that is found in our living Lord and Savior.  We also have a number of printed materials that are helpful evangelistic resources, and these will be available for your use this Sunday as well.


As we grow in the knowledge and assurance of our hope in Christ, may we be all the more faithful in sharing the truth of the Gospel with those who yet live in hopelessness.


Rejoicing in Him with you,


True Spiritual Maturity

For Americans who are easily intoxicated with “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”, the command to imitate Jesus Christ in His faithful submission to, and suffering in the will of God runs contrary to our lust for comfort and self-preservation.  But in the eternal hope of the Gospel, this is exactly what God’s people are called to – 1 Pet. 2:21.  Certainly, a key mark of growing spiritual maturity is learning to patiently endure suffering in the confidence of Gods’ care, provision, and promises (1 Pet. 5:6-11.)  Regarding the need for growing maturity, R.H. Lenski makes these observations, even as evidenced in the life of Peter:


“Not at the end of every Christian’s course stands the martyr’s cross; but no Christian can finish his course without being led from Peter’s youth to Peter’s age and being exercised in cross-bearing…According to the judgment of men will power is man’s glory, but Christians are manly and strong and grow into a perfect man and unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ (Eph. 4:13) when they rest resignedly in the will of the Lord, whose hand performs miracles with a broken staff and a bruised vine-branch.”  (Commentary on the NT: The Interpretation of St. John’s Gospel, 1943, p. 1431)


Beloved, “…this is the true grace of God.  Stand firm in it.” (1 Pet. 5:12)


Growing with you,


Growing in Joy and Fear of God

At first glance, the Apostle Peter’s vision of the Christian life as involving both “joy inexpressible” (1 Pet. 1:8), and the need to “conduct yourselves with fear” (1 Pet. 1:17) seems to be utterly contradictory.  How are we to understand these seemingly incompatible dispositions of both joy and fear?


With good insight that regards the overall context and thrust of Peter’s first letter, Alexander MacLaren helps answer this question (from his sermon on 1 Pet. 1:17 entitled Father and Judge):


“Such carefulness over conduct and heart is fully compatible with all the blessed emotions to which it seems at first antagonistic. There is no discord between the phrase that I have quoted about’ joy unspeakable and full of glory, ‘ and this temper, but rather the two help one another. And such blended confidence and fear are the parents of courage. The man that is afraid that he will do wrong and so hurt himself and grieve his Saviour, is the man that will never be afraid of anything else. Martyrs have gone to the stake ‘fearing not them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do,’ (Mt. 10:28) because they were so afraid to sin against God that they were not afraid to die rather than to do it. And that is the temper that you and I should have.”


Continually growing in joy and fear with you,


To Hope, Stand, and Walk In the Grace of God

As we’ve been moving our way through the letter of 1 Peter these last couple of months, we’ve been frequently reminded of Peter’s main purpose in writing:


1 Peter 5:12 (ESV) 

…I have written briefly to you, exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it.


Perhaps a simple poem, encompassing this and some other central truths from Peter’s letter, will help plant the focus and significance of this purpose deeply in your heart and mind!


God’s people in this world must stand,

Firm in the grace coming from God’s hand.

A holy hope must guide our way,

‘Till Christ appears on that great day!


What a privilege to hope, stand, and walk with you at RCG…in the true grace of God!

Live Faithfully as Elect Exiles

Beloved, how great and glorious is the truth of God’s purposes in Christ for His people, as we’ve been seeing recently from the letter of 1 Peter!  I can’t encourage you enough to keep reading, praying, and meditating upon all that God has revealed in this portion of His Word.  And as you read, pray, and meditate, keep striving by His grace to live faithfully as “elect exiles” – as those who have been foreknown by the Father, sanctified by the Spirit, brought to obedient faith, and sprinkled with the precious blood of Jesus Christ.


And may God give us grace to love one another earnestly from a pure heart (1 Pet. 1:22), praying and caring for one another in ways that encourage these glorious truths to become all the more evident in our lives.


It is a great joy to share life in Christ with you in His body at RCG, and to pray and serve with you to these very ends.  Soli Deo Gloria!

Seek First the Kingdom of God

Extending from our recent sermons in Mt. 6:19-34, consider these thoughts from Alexander MacLaren and what it means to seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness:

“You must fill the heart with a supreme and transcendent desire after the one supreme object, and then there will be no room or leisure left for anxious care after the lesser…’Seek first the kingdom of God.’ Let all your spirit be stretching itself out towards that divine and blessed reality, longing to be a subject of that kingdom, and a possessor of that righteousness; and ‘the cares that infest the day’ will steal away from out of the sacred pavilion of your believing spirit. Fill your heart with desires after what is worthy of desire; and the greater having entered in, all lesser objects will rank themselves in the right place, and the ‘glory that excelleth’ will outshine the seducing brightness of the paltry present. Oh! it is want of love, it is want of earnest desire, it is want of firm conviction that God, God only, God by Himself, is enough for me, that makes me careful and troubled. And therefore, if I could only attain unto that sublime and calm height of perfect conviction, that He is sufficient for me, that He is with me for ever,-the satisfying object of my desires and the glorious reward of my searchings,-let life and death come as they may, let riches, poverty, health, sickness, all the antitheses of human circumstances storm down upon me in quick alternation, yet in them all I shall be content and peaceful. God is beside me, and His presence brings in its train whatsoever things I need. You cannot cast out the sin of foreboding thoughts by any power short of the entrance of Christ and His love. The blessings of faith and felt communion leave no room nor leisure for anxiety.”  (Alexander MacLaren, Sermon on Mt. 6:25-34)

And how is this “supreme and transcendent desire” cultivated?  By praying according to the will of God, even as Jesus makes clear in Mt. 6:5-15, and 7:7-11.

Seeking Him with you,