A Real and Present Death

The glorious power of God’s saving grace in Christ is heralded by Paul in Eph. 2:4-5 – “But God…made us alive together with Christ…”!  God has done this mighty work for those who were once “dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1-3); those who were helplessly and hopelessly bound in the death-grip of depravity.  Soberly, this is the condition of every human being outside of faith in Jesus Christ.  A more desperate situation could not be imagined; a more magnificent and sufficient salvation could not be conceived!  As John Calvin observes,

“He does not mean simply that they were in danger of death; but he declares that it was a real and present death under which they labored. As spiritual death is nothing else than the alienation of the soul from God, we are all born as dead men, and we live as dead men, until we are made partakers of the life of Christ.”  (Calvin, on Eph. 2:1)

Beloved, God wants His people to always remember what it meant to be dead in sin (Eph. 2:1-3), and what it means to be alive in Christ (Eph. 2:4-10)!  Most of our struggles in the Christian life occur because we so easily forget these things!  Let’s persevere in praying for one another (Eph. 6:18-19), and faithfully “speak the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15) to one another.  What a great privilege and responsibility we have to build each other up as fellow partakers of the life of Christ!

Because He lives, and is returning,

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,


Beware of Idols

“Because of what we know, let us not to idols go.”


This simple rhyme might be a helpful way of remembering the force of the Apostle John’s exhortation at the end of his first letter – “Little children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 Jn. 5:21).


In preaching about this passage last Lord’s Day, I made reference to the weight of John’s final exhortation in connection with all he addresses throughout his letter.  And in the immediate context of 1 Jn. 5:21, the whole of his letter is summarized with three “we know” statements in vs. 18-20 (emphasis mine):

18 We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.

19 We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.

20 And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.


These truths help us understand why the idolatry is such a dangerous threat.  Idols are deceitful and false gods that undermine the true knowledge and worship of the one true God, through the Lord Jesus Christ.  Idolatry thus robs God of His glory, and it robs people of the blessing of knowing God, and the eternal life that is found in His Son.  In all its varied forms, idolatry exchanges God’s clearly revealed, life-giving truth with that which is false and deadly.


Beloved, the best way believers can keep themselves from idolatry is to keep growing in the true knowledge of God and His saving work in Jesus Christ!  Keep reading, hearing, memorizing, meditating on, singing,  praying, trusting, and obeying God’s word.  Keep praying for and encouraging your brothers and sisters in Christ in these ways.  And keep sharing God’s word with others, that they might be delivered and kept from the deceitful, destructive dangers of idolatry.


“Because of what we know, let us not to idols go.”


Because Christ 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,

Sober, Saturated, Steadfast, and Standing

A week has now passed since the United States Supreme Court announced its historic decisions regarding homosexual marriage.  Though we are rightly saddened and troubled by the continual outworking of sin in this world, we should not be surprised.  The activity of man’s rebellion against God Almighty has been multiplying ever since Eve ate the forbidden fruit (Hos. 4:1-3; 2 Tim. 3:1-5).  As the moral fabric of our country keeps eroding at a breathtaking pace, God’s will for us as His people is clear and unchanging.  By His strength, we must be sober about sin and God’s judgment (Rom. 1:18-32); saturated with God’s grace and truth in Jesus Christ (Jn. 1:14-18); steadfast and humble in our calling as God’s “mercied” ambassadors (Titus 3:1-8; 1 Pet. 2:9-12); and standing firm in the eternal hope of God’s grace in Christ (1 Pet. 5:12).


For some additional perspectives about the Supreme Court decisions, and how Christians should respond, you might read the following:



Beloved, God has called us to be fully assured in the hope of the Gospel (2 Pet. 1:10-11), fully unashamed in the saving power of the Gospel (Rom. 1:16), and fully committed to the ongoing proclamation of the Gospel (Acts 1:8).  Our message and mission on this earth has not, and never will, change.  For a solid reminder of the sweeping, eternal grandeur of the Gospel, check out this 10-minute video from Matt Papa.


In the Living Hope of Jesus,