Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Remaining In The Vine

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing (John 15:5).

By saying that believers remain in him and he in them, Jesus is making it clear that Christianity is not something we put on externally. We don’t put it on like clothes. We don’t adopt it as a new lifestyle that focuses on our own efforts, as do those who practice a holy lifestyle they have invented themselves. Rather, Christian faith is a new birth brought about by God’s Word and Spirit.

A Christian must be a new person from the depths of the heart. Once the heart is born anew in Christ, these fruits will follow: confession of the gospel, love, obedience, patience, purity, and so on. In this passage, Christ warns his disciples that they must remain in his Word. Remaining in the Word leads to genuine, newborn Christians. These true Christians produce much fruit. They guard themselves from the teaching that perverts God’s Word and that tries to make grapes from thistles and thorns. This will never happen, however, because each kind produces its own kind.

Even if you teach about, strive for, and pile up good works, your nature won’t change. You must first possess a new nature. You won’t accomplish anything by striving and exhausting yourself. The two types of works remain vastly different. The one type of work is produced by human effort, while the other grows naturally. The works we make up always require us to strive harder, but they never do as well as natural growth. In contrast, natural growth stands, moves, lives, and does what it should naturally. So Christ says, “All other human teaching cannot succeed, because it instructs people to make up works. But if you remain in me, as natural branches remain on the vine, you will certainly produce good fruit.”

Adapted from Faith Alone: A Daily Devotional by Martin Luther

Monday, June 18, 2018

Book Review: Delighting in the Trinity by Michael Reeves

When it comes to the doctrine of the Trinity, there are many Christians who just do not understand it. It is very complex to them. Some of the brightest theological minds have trouble understanding and even some have explained it that make it seem God is three separate beings, which makes Christianity polytheistic rather than monotheistic.

Many would consider the doctrine of the Trinity a move advance field of study for Christians because of how complex it is yet Michael Reeves uses it as an introduction to the Christian faith. In his book, Delighting in the Trinity, Reeves shows us that our God is a triune God who works on in our lives since day one. Our Christian life is rooted in the triune God and works in us, through us, and for us.

Reeves shows that the triune God was in perfect fellowship with Himself and created this world for His glory. We are made in His image, which is the image of the triune God. Through the trinity we see the work of salvation. The Father provides the Son and the Son shares what is His to those who are children of God. The Son shows us how much the Father loves us by dying on the cross in our place for our sins.

The Spirit in the life of the believer is of most importance. The Spirit works in us to conform to the likeness of Christ and reminds us of what the Father has shown us in His Word. God has revealed Himself as a triune God who loves His creation and welcomes them as His children if they come to the Son as the means for eternal life, which is gods of other religions do not have. Their gods require works from those who want eternity. Our God is a guide who delights in us and we can be delighted in Him as well.

Reeves' book has been out for a few years now and never had the chance to read it until recently. I am highly recommend this book.

Thanks InterVarsity Press for letting me review this book.

Music Monday: Lion of Judah by Benjamin Brainard

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Evangelism Methods That Are Not Evangelism

This is adapted from What are several practices Christians commonly mistake for evangelism? from 9 Marks:

1. Personal testimony. Talking about what God has done in your life may encourage Christians and intrigue non-Christians, but it isn’t necessarily evangelism. Evangelism is telling what Jesus Christ has done to save every sinner who will ever turn from his sin and trust in Jesus.

2. Social action. When we care for the poor, defend the defenseless, and work for a more just society we may commend the gospel, but we haven’t yet shared it. Evangelism is telling others the gospel. Contrary to the opinion of some, that can’t be done without words!

3. Apologetics. Defending the faith against unbelievers’ objections can lead to evangelism, but apologetics is not evangelism. Apologetics can be a useful tool, but if we’re not careful it can actually distract us from evangelism, which is telling the good news about Jesus Christ.

4. The results of evangelism. We can share the gospel. We cannot make anyone believe it. Thinking that we haven’t evangelized unless people have been converted is a serious error that can cripple Christians with a sense of failure and guilt. But if we recognize that our job is merely to tell others the good news about Christ, we are liberated to simply preach the gospel and pray for God to change hearts.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Book Review: Moses and the Burning Bush by R.C. Sproul

The book of Exodus is the story of how God miraculously saved His people from captivity in the land of Egypt. Exodus is also about how God used one man, Moses, to lead the people out of slavery. There are many famous stories throughout the entire book, but one that always has fascinated people, Christian or not, is the story of the burning bush. In Exodus 3, Moses saw a bush that was burning yet it was consumed. R.C. Sproul dives into this story in his book, Moses and the Burning Bush.

Sproul begins by stating the burning bush has been a significant symbol throughout the history of the church. The reason for that is God has revealed Himself to Moses through this burning bush. It signifies an encounter with God and His divine revelation. Sproul writes, "The account of the burning bush is a story about the holiness of God." In the Bible, we see Moses removing his sandals after the Lord commanded him stating he was standing on holy ground.

We see in the burning bush that God came in and revealed Himself to Moses, which echoes the entire Bible. The Bible shows us a God who comes to His people who are naked and shameful because of their rebellion. God always takes the initiative to rescue His people just like in the Garden with Adam and Eve, which is He about to do again in the Exodus, which this book by Sproul only covers the encounter Moses had with God through the burning bush.

In the book, Sproul dives into the context of the story of Exodus that leads up to the burning bush. The people are in Egypt and in slavery. Pharaoh ordered for the male children to be killed by the midwives who refused and God blessed them for that. Moses grew up as the son of Pharaoh's daughter who then kills an Egyptian after he was mistreating one of the Jews. He fled after he learned what he has done was not a secret to Midian where he married one of the priest's daughters. Throughout majority of the book, Sproul teaches on the attributes of God through Moses's encounter with God in the burning bush.

One final word Sproul leaves is that the Exodus is a shadow of the mission of Christ. We see Moses leading his people of our slavery in a foreign which foreshadows Jesus leading His people out of slavery from sin. So when we read Exodus, it should always show us what God has done though the finished work of Christ.

This books serves as a great companion to anyone who is studying and/or teaching on the book of Exodus.

Thanks Reformation Trust for letting me review this book.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Book Review: Strength for the Weary by Derek Thomas

No one has ever life was going to be easy. Even Jesus said in this world, you will have trouble (John 16:33). James tells us to consider it joy whenever, not if, we face trials of various kinds (James 1:2-4). The Christian life is full of trials not matter how long you have walked with Jesus.

We can take comfort knowing that God is with us every step of the way no matter what life throws at us. Derek Thomas dives in the final chapters of Isaiah to encourage every believer who is going through a hard time in his latest book, Strength for the Weary. You have ever read or listened to Derek Thomas, you know this man loves the scriptures which is what points us to the One who gives us comfort, our Heavenly Father.

Thomas reminds his readers that when life is falling apart, we can take comfort that God is in control. He is still on His throne. Just as God has not forgotten the people Isaiah was speaking to, He has not forgotten us and that is where we can take great comfort. Even as we go through difficulty, we must submit to God's authority and trust in Him. We also must be holy as He is holy.

One of the greatest comforts that Isaiah has given us is the coming Messiah. God has given us One who was stricken by Him so that we might have peace. What is great about the gospel is that it is a message that does not go away after we are saved. It is the message that resonates in our hearts even after we are saved and reminds us that God has not abandoned us.

Thomas delivers a good book on encouragement which all of need from time to time because life does get hard. We need to remember that God is a God of comfort and He promised to never leave us nor forsake us.

Thanks Reformation Trust for letting me review this book.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

A Look At The Wrath of God

Many know God is a God of love, which is acceptable to most of the modern world. God is also a God of wrath which many in our culture have a hard time accepting including many in the church. When the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (PCUSA) wanted to add Keith and Kristyn Getty's classic song, "In Christ Alone," they wanted them to change the lyric which says, "the wrath of God was satisfied" to "the love of God was magnified." The Gettys refused so the song was never added. In fact, that second verse has been omitted by some contemporary Christian artists and replaces with an "whoa, whoa" style of singing such as this one.

We see the wrath of God through out scripture as well as all of God attributes. Colin Smith wrote:

As peace is a truth widely loved, wrath is a truth widely loathed. Many in the history of the church has been embarrassed by God’s wrath and have wanted to revise this biblical truth.

Yet, this theme of the wrath (or anger) of God toward sin and sinners is clearly and widely taught in the Bible. This truth is so interwoven with the hope of our peace with one another and with God that if we lose our grasp on the one, we lose our hope of the other.

Smith goes on to quote John Stott who gives us six things we need to know about the wrath of God:

The wrath of God is, according to John Stott, “His steady, unrelenting, unremitting, uncompromising antagonism to evil in all its forms and manifestations.”

1. The anger of God is not like our anger.

When we speak about the wrath of God, remember that it is the wrath of God. So everything we know about God—he is just, he is love, and he is good—needs to be poured into our understanding of his wrath.

The words “anger” and “wrath” make us think about our experience. You may have suffered because of someone who is habitually angry, loses his temper, or flies into a rage. Our anger can often be unpredictable, petty, and disproportionate.

Although these things are often true of human anger, none of them are true of the anger of God. God’s wrath is the just and measured response of his holiness toward evil.

2. God’s wrath is provoked.

The anger of God is not something that resides in him by nature; it is a response to evil. It is provoked.

The Bible says, “God is love.” That is his nature. God’s love is not provoked. He does not love us because he sees some wisdom, beauty, or goodness in us. He loves you because he loves you, and you can never get beyond that (Deuteronomy 7:7).

But God’s wrath is different, his holy response to the intrusion of evil into his world. If there was no sin in the world, there would be no wrath in God. So the Bible’s teaching about the wrath of God is different from ancient mythologies, gods who run around frustrated and fuming. God’s anger is his settled resolve that evil will not stand.

3. God is slow to anger.

Why does God allow evil to continue in the world? Why does he not wipe it out?

God holds out the offer of grace and forgiveness in Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:9). People are coming to him in faith and repentance every day, and God patiently holds open the door of grace. The day of God’s wrath will come, but God is not in a hurry to bring it because then the door of grace will be closed.

4. God’s wrath is revealed now.

How does God reveal his wrath when sinners suppress the truth about him, exchange the truth for a lie, and worship created things rather than the Creator? God gives them up (Romans 1):
•Therefore, God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity (1:24).
•For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions (1:26).
•God gave them up to a debased mind (1:28).

One writer states, “Paul is not teaching that one day God will punish Roman civilization for its vice and decadence. On the contrary, the vice and decadence are themselves God’s punishment…Their punishment was their greed, envy, strife, deceit, violence and faithlessness.” [2] When we see the moral fabric of our culture being torn, then as Christian believers we should cry to God for mercy.

5. God’s wrath is stored up.

The whole Bible story leads to a day when God will deal with all evil fully, finally, and forever. This will be the day of wrath, when God will recompense every evil and bring to judgment every sin.

God will do this in perfect justice. The punishment for every sin will match the crime. When the judgment is done, every mouth will be stopped because everyone will know that God judged in righteousness and justice. Then God will usher in a new heaven and a new earth, which will be the home of righteousness.

6. God’s wrath is on sinners.

In John 3:36, he does not say, “The wrath of God will come on [the disobedient].” He says, “Whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” It is already there. Why is it already there? By nature, we are children of wrath (Ephesians 2:3). It is the state in which we were born.

What, at the end of the day, is the greatest human problem? It is not that we are lost and need to find our way on a spiritual journey. It is not that we are wounded and need to be healed. At the core of the human problem is that we are sinners under the judgment of God, and the divine wrath hangs over us unless and until it is taken away.

For the wrath of God to be taken away, Christ became our propitiation. He took our place. The wrath of God was on Him for the sins we have committed. If you are child of God, there is no need to be fearful of His wrath yet we should be fearful of the wrath that is being stored up for those who have rejected Him.