A Biblical Response to Racism and Riots

In light of the tragic and brutal death of George Floyd and the subsequent protests and riots across our nation, I want to give a measured and biblical response. In times like these, we can be tempted to be driven by emotion or by politics. Instead, I want to address this issue with a biblical worldview. More than ever, Christians need to think biblically with godly discernment and filter everything through His authoritative Scripture.

First of all, racism in any form is evil and should be condemned. God created all humans in His image and therefore every single person has inherent dignity and worth.  The Bible teaches that there is one human race, not multiple races. We have all descended from the one man Adam. Acts 17:26: “And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place.”  This does not mean that there are not different ethnicities or skin colors, but fundamentally, all humans share the same heritage from the one man Adam and we are all created in God’s image. Any form of racism, whether ethnic bias, discrimination, segregation, and hostility toward a person or group of another ethnicity is patently sinful, wicked, and has no place in the heart or actions of those who claim the name of Christ.

Tragically, our nation has a terrible history of racism most grotesquely expressed in both slavery and Jim Crow laws. The Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s under the leadership of Martin Luther King made excellent strides in bringing equality among all ethnicities. Since the emancipation proclamation to the civil rights movement in the 1960’s, the United States has passed laws in our nation that ended systemic racism. Yet, due to the sinfulness of the human heart, some people in our nation still have racist attitudes and actually practice outright racism.

I do not believe that America is fundamentally a racist nation nor was founded on racism as some claim, but I do believe there are some individuals who practice racism and they should be called out, condemned, and silenced.

Second, brutality (whether by a policeman) or by any person in authority over someone who is weaker or helpless is evil and criminal and should be condemned and prosecuted. Police officer Derek Chauvin acted with malicious brutality that showed no regard for human life. He used his position in authority to murder another person. The issue is not whether Floyd was innocent or guilty. The issue is that Floyd said he could not breathe, did not resist arrest, was helpless on the ground in handcuffs, and Chauvin and his fellow officers held Floyd down for 9 minutes. This is not only sinful but criminal. Chauvin has been justly arrested and charged.

Any person in authority who brutalizes, oppresses, hurts, or abuses another person who is weaker or helpless acts sinfully and criminally and should be arrested. This includes an adult who abuses a child. This includes a husband who abuses his wife. This includes a teacher or coach who abuses a student or athlete. Brutality, abuse, and subsequent death in the case of George Floyd is criminal and justice demands conviction. Psalm 106:3: “Blessed are they who observe justice, who do righteousness at all times!”

Third, we should empathize with those who have been disenfranchised, ostracized, oppressed, discriminated against, and marginalized, and who sense that there is injustice whether we have experienced it or not. It’s very easy for me as a white, middle-class male who has grown up in the suburbs to be clueless when it comes to discrimination or oppression. I have no idea what other ethnicities in other areas with different backgrounds have experienced in their lifetimes and are going through right now.

More than ever, we need to take time to listen to those with whom we disagree. We need to put ourselves in their shoes and try to empathize. We may not agree politically or socially or theologically, but human decency and Christian love motivates us to listen and try to understand their point of view. Ecclesiastes 4:1: “Again I saw all the oppressions that are done under the sun. And behold, the tears of the oppressed, and they had no one to comfort them! On the side of their oppressors there was power, and there was no one to comfort them. “

Oppression is real. Racism is real. Police brutality is real. I do not have the statistics to prove that it is widespread or systemic or that our nation is inherently racist, but I do know that many people of color have shared that they have experienced these travesties in America. I can choose to not believe them, or I can try to empathize and learn from them.

Fourth, there are appropriate ways to protest injustice with civility and respect. We have a First Amendment right to gather peaceably to express grievances and outrage at what we perceive to be injustice.  We must make a distinction between individuals who are exercising their Constitutional right to peaceably protest and others who have taken this to another step and instigated rioting, violence, vandalism, destruction of property, physical brutality, and in some cases murder. The current confusion lies in trying to distinguish which group is which. Thankfully, many African American leaders across our nation have decried the rioters and violence. These rioters have betrayed any sense of civil disobedience and peaceful protest that occurred under Martin Luther King in the 60’s.

Fifth, looting, stealing, rioting, destroying property, berating law enforcement, beating and killing other people is sinful and criminal and against the Ten Commandments. The most fundamental human right we have is the right to life and personal property. When persons violate those rights by stealing, vandalizing, destroying property, beating others, and actually committing murder, they are acting in the height of lawlessness, sin, and rebellion against Almighty God. Exodus 20:13: “You shall not murder. Leviticus 19:13:  “You shall not oppress your neighbor or rob him.” The looting and rioting in these inner-city areas is actually destroying the businesses and livelihoods of predominately minorities and those with lower incomes.

This lawless unrest and criminal behavior should be immediately stopped by law enforcement and the national guard. Unfortunately, many mayors have tied the hands of law enforcement and told them not to act swiftly.

Sixth, this is the truth that no one wants to readily admit; but the events in our nation is evidence of God’s judgment. When a people wholesale reject God’s laws, God will give them over to a depraved mind to do lawless deeds. 1 Timothy 1:8–9 says,Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers. 1 John 3:4 reads,Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.

God can executive His wrath in active and dramatic ways like pouring down fire on Sodom and Gomorrah. Or. . .  God can executive His wrath in passive ways by letting lawless and sinful people continue to do what they want to do by giving them over to a depraved mind. In other words, God can take His hand of restraint of a nation and allow the people to get what they deserve. For people to rebel against God and go their own way. The tragic reality is that sometimes God allows this to happen as an act of judgment.

Romans 1:28–31 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.”

Is this not what we are seeing flash before our very eyes in America. In cities across our land, mobs are acting in covetousness, murder, boastful, heartless, and ruthless ways. God has given them over to a debased mind. I can’t say this any clearer: God has given America what it truly wants—a nation without any concern for His law or standards of righteousness. God has said to America: “If you want a nation without Me, then go for it and see where that leads you. I’m hands off! I’ve given you over to your own lawlessness as an act of My justice.”

So, what then is the answer to this tragic unfolding of events in our nation? Let me suggest a few responses.

First, only the life changing gospel of Jesus Christ and the forgiveness He has won for us through the cross and resurrection can overcome human evil in all forms. Hearts have to change first, before society can change. Politics cannot change hearts. Laws cannot change hearts. Social programs cannot change hearts. Economic policies cannot change hearts.

I am not saying these things are not important for our nation and we need to have some healthy discussions on public policy, but only Jesus can change hearts. More than ever, let us be bold in our witness to Jesus and His power to forgive and cleanse and make all things new. 2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

Second, please take personal responsibility to listen, empathize and communicate with those with whom you disagree. Don’t engage in reposting memes or posts that are shallow, inflammatory, or simplistic to a very complex issue. Take the time and the risk to learn, listen, and educate yourself on what others believe and why they feel the way they do. You may not ever agree with them, but as a Christian, our obligation is to love our neighbor as ourselves.

Be a peacemaker. Matthew 5:9: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” Romans 12:17–18: ‘”Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all”.

Third, if you are in a position of authority or decision making (whether at your job or in some capacity) please take personal responsibility to address injustice and do what you need to do to change it. You may not be able to change things on a huge scale, but you can change what you can change. You can address what you can address. You can take leadership and make sure you’re acting with biblical justice.

Fourth, please pray for wisdom for our leaders. Pray for mayors of these cities. Pray for governors of these states. Pray for our president. Pray for leaders. Pray for police officers, fire and rescue workers, national guard troops and others who are on the front line. Pray that God would grant them patience, wisdom, and courage to do what is right. Pray that they can protect life and property and that they would be protected as well.

Fifth, pray for God to relent His wrath and judgment if that be His will for our nation. Unless God intervenes in His sovereign grace to restrain evil, we will experience dark days ahead as a nation. God is under no obligation to relent His judgment upon us as America is getting what it deserves. Please pray for spiritual awakening and revival. Pray for repentance and contrition among believers across the land. Pray for churches to be lighthouses of hope and love in a cruel and heartless world.

Pray like Jesus taught us to pray: Matthew 6:9–10: “Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

False Conversions?

Do you have a category in your mind for a person who professes to be a Christian, but actually possesses no genuine faith in Christ? Is there such a thing as a false convert?  In Matthew Chapter 13, Jesus gives two parables that clearly illustrate the fact there are indeed those who may appear to be a follower of Christ, but in reality, have not been soundly saved.

            In Matthew 13:18-23, Jesus tells the story of four types of soil which represent four types of people who all hear the word of the gospel. The first three soils hear the word, but it never takes root and therefore produces no fruit.  These are people who may appear to receive Christ for salvation or make a public profession of faith, but in actuality, have never been saved. They may have gone through a religious exercise or undergone some type of ritual, but did not experience the transformational power of the gospel deep within their hearts.

            For example, just because a person walks an aisle, goes forward at an altar call, gets baptized, goes through confirmation, or joins a church does not necessarily mean that he or she has actually been converted.  We are not saved by these rituals as important as they be in our spiritual pilgrimage. We are saved by faith alone in Christ alone by grace alone.

            In Jesus’ parable of the soils, only the fourth soil represents one who was truly saved because that person heard the word, understood it, and it bore fruit as a result of deep roots.  In other words, there may be many who appear to love Jesus and say that they are a Christian, but when the temptations and cares of this world press in on them, they quickly fall away showing evidence that they were never saved in the first place. Only those who repent and trust Christ alone through being born again are truly saved.

            In Matthew 13:24-30, Jesus tells another parable to further magnify this truth of false conversion. He pictures a field with both wheat and weeds growing side by side showing that in the visible church where many profess faith in Christ, there are those who are truly saved (wheat) and those who are only pretenders (weeds). On the final Day of Judgment, the pretenders will be exposed and will experience separation from Christ in hell.

            Some of the scariest words in the Bible come from the lips of Jesus in Matthew 7:21-23 where he says, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”

            There will be many on that last day that may have gone on a mission trip, or walked an aisle, or got baptized, or joined a church, or went through confirmation that were never saved in the first place. Jesus never knew them in a saving way through repentance and faith.

            So if you’re reading this today and you are pierced in your heart with doubts or concerns what should you do?  Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 13:5to “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?- unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” Peter tells us in 2 Peter 1:10: “Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure…”.

            The Bible is very clear that one does not go to heaven based upon church attendance, the faith of parents or grandparents, being a good person, or going through a ritual like baptism, confirmation, walking an aisle, or saying a “sinner’s prayer.” You are saved when you confess your sins and repent and trust in Christ alone and by grace, He radically changes you from the inside out by giving you a new identity.  2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”  Stop pretending and playing games! Instead, repent and trust in Christ today so that you can experience this new life of grace and a future home in heaven!

The Human Heart is an Idol Factory

John Calvin said that the human heart is an idol factory. There are so many things in our lives that we elevate to the position of “god” because we think those things will give us meaning, purpose, and satisfaction. And many of these things may be good things such as a spouse, family, a career, or a worthy cause. Ezekiel 14:3 says, “Son of man, these men have taken their idols into their hearts, and set the stumbling block of their iniquity before their faces.”

            If there is one theme that we see repeated over and over again in the Bible is that God will not share His glory with another, and that idolatry represents one of the gravest of all sins. When we think about idolatry, many of us picture a pagan person worshipping a statue or bowing down to a carved image.

But for us in America, what we worship is more subtle. I want you to think about those things in your life that consume you. Those things that you are obsessively passionate about. Those things that if they were taken away, you would have great fear, dread, and major disappointment. After a close analysis, those things may have become an idol in your heart.

Psalm 39:11 reads: “When you discipline a man with rebukes for sin, you consume like a moth what is dear to him; surely all mankind is a mere breath!” The imagery in this verse depicts God as a moth coming to devour or consume what is dear to us. The Hebrew wording for “dear to us” comes from the root word “to covet or to lust after.” In other words, there are some idols deep in our hearts that have become dear to us in a very sinful and lustful way. King David the Psalmist prays that God in His disciplining love would come like a moth and consume those idols out of our hearts.

So let me ask you a question: What are you holding onto in your heart that is an idol? What has become so dear to you that you have elevated it above God as the foremost of your affections and desires? I encourage you to be like David who desperately wanted God to come and consume that idol—that thing that was dear to him.

But ridding yourself of an idol is only half the battle. In the end, it doesn’t go far enough. Since our hearts and minds are idol factories, we will just replace it with another idol to satisfy us. We not only need to expel or have God get rid of our idols, but we must replace it with a greater affection and desire. We were created by God to have passionate desires and affections and there is nothing wrong with that. Where the real problem lies is that in our sin and selfishness we prize, desire, seek after, and are passionate about the wrong things. Jesus Christ and His gospel should be what we prize and value the most.

We must expel the affections for idols in our hearts and replace them with a greater affection–the Person of our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ. In Matthew 13:44-46 Jesus says: “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.”

The point is very clear. Jesus Himself is the treasure in the field and the pearl of great value. He is the One to be prized, enjoyed, valued, treasured, and desired above all else. We are hard wired as humans in our sin to look at self. We desire self-fulfillment, happiness, and a pain free existence and have elevated idols in our hearts to a position of “godhood” to satisfy those inner cravings.

Instead, let us pray that God would come like a moth and consume those out of our lives and replace those desires with a greater desire in Jesus Himself. Hebrews 12:2: “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Would Jesus be the treasure of all treasures and your ultimate satisfaction!

COVID-19 and Comfort

As Americans we love to be comfortable! We don’t like to have to suffer, experience pain, or endure hardships. We want an “our best life now” where “every day is a Friday!” I remember the days of my youth where I actually had to get up from the couch and turn the knob on the television to change the channels (back when there were only about 5!)

When Christ called us to Himself in salvation, did He ever promise us that life would be comfortable?

Many of you probably have heard of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He was a German pastor during World War II who was very vocal against Hitler’s Nazism and genocide against the Jews. He was arrested in 1943 by the Gestapo and spent a year in a German prison awaiting his execution. He was hanged in April 1945 just 23 days before the Nazi’s surrendered. He wrote a book called The Cost of Discipleship and you’ve probably heard his famous quote: “The cross is laid on every Christian. The first Christ-suffering which every man must experience is the call to abandon the attachments of this world. . . we surrender ourselves to Christ in union with His death—we give over our lives to death. . . When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die.”

This COVID-19 pandemic has been an affliction of epic proportions. We are tempted to lose heart. We are prone to despair. We give into fear. Listen to the words of Paul in 2Corinthians 4:16–18:“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

In the midst of this crisis, we pray for the coronavirus to go away and for life to go back to normal. But what if it doesn’t go back to “normal?” What if God’s plan is to purify His church and to make us endure hard times to grow our faith in Him.  I know it may hard to believe, but this pandemic is a light momentary affliction. I am not minimizing the detrimental impact this crisis has had on people’s health, the economy, and the social issues surrounding it. This is a real time of tribulation we are enduring. But compared to eternity, COVID-19 is light and momentary.

What we are going through right now is God’s way of preparing us for an eternal glory beyond all comparison. Our hope is on Jesus and the eternal life we get to spend with Him in heaven. That future reality is our ultimate home and desire. Yet, in the midst of trying times, our gaze often turns to the negative circumstances around us. We look down instead of up.

Are we living ultimately for the temporary comfort of the “here and now’? Does our heart’s affection reside in the temporary, transient things of this world? Or are our eyes and hearts fixed on things eternal where our ultimate joy is located—namely in Jesus Christ Himself.

We pray for an end to this coronavirus and all of its debilitating effects. We pray for families who have been affected medically, economically, emotionally, and spiritually. We pray for strength and grace and peace from our Lord. And we pray that He would give us a real sense of hope in our future. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus!

COVID-19 and Psalm 46

Many of you are very familiar with Martin Luther who launched the Protestant Reformation by nailing his 95 Theses on the door of the Wittenberg church. He wrote one of the most famous hymns of all time and has Psalm 46 as its foundation.  

A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing; Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing; For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe 
His craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate; On earth is not his equal. 

Martin Luther uses the imagery from Psalm 46 to paint this picture of God being a mighty fortress, a helper amid all the floods and evil things that this world will throw at us—a timely message during this COVID-19 crisis. 

Psalm 46 teaches this main point: We can rest confidently in the supreme power of our ever-present Lord. King David, the hymn writer, gives us three primary ways we can do this. First of all, in verses 1-3, we can rely on the strength of God during times of anxiety or turmoil. This COVID-19 pandemic has caused great fear, insecurity, anxiety, and depression among many in our community.  God is our refuge and strength and ever-present help in trouble.

The Psalmist uses this graphic imagery of mountains crashing into oceans and powerful hurricanes and earthquakes and natural disasters.  This is poetic language to describe what will happen when God comes in judgment on the earth on the Day of the Lord, but it is also metaphorical language for the turmoil that we experience in our everyday lives—especially all the issues surrounding the coronavirus.  

We live in a shaky and chaotic world. We live in a world of broken promises. We live in a world of fractured relationships. We live in a world of disappointment and pain and struggle and we see it all over the place. Often we feel like the world is this huge ocean that swarming over us and we are about to drown. This Psalm tells us not to fear. Don’t be anxious.  RELY on the strength of God.  He is a refuge.

Second, in verses 4-7, we can rejoice in the supremacy of God because He is on His throne! So why can we be glad and rejoice in times of trouble? He is the Most High, which means He is the supreme One. He is highly exalted as King above everything. In verse 7 He is called the LORD of hosts, which conveys the idea that God is surrounded by this huge military force of angels! He is a fortress.  

In other words, God is supremely reigning on His throne and that should bring us great joy to know that He is in control no matter what happens and that we can rejoice in the Lord as our strength. The nations may rage and kingdoms totter and there may be both economic and social repercussions from COVID-19, but we are not a people who lose hope. We can rejoice in the supremacy of God who rules and reigns on His throne.  

Third, in verses 8-11, we can remain in the security of God because He will exalt Himself above all earthly powers. This section speaks about the future judgment of God upon the nations where one day He will make everything right and there will be a new heaven and new earth. In light of God’s plan to judge the nations and bring about His rule and reign, we can now be still and know that He is God.   

It may seem like right now that the coronavirus pandemic has taken over our world and all seems hopeless. But behind it all, God is still on His throne and He gets the final word.  We can remain in His security. We can rest. We can be still. We can have the confidence that God is in charge. Lamentations 3:22–26 says, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” 

We can rest confidently in the supreme power of our ever-present Lord through the salvation of Jesus Christ—especially during unprecedented times such as these!

COVID-19 and God’s Sovereignty

There’s grave concern across our globe right now concerning the imminent threat of the coronavirus known as novel COVID-19 virus. I’m a huge basketball fan. I can’t wait until March Madness every year to fill out my bracket and predict who will win the “big dance!” I also love watching the NBA Finals. The NBA season has been suspended because Rudy Gobert, of the Utah Jazz, has contracted COVID-19. The NCAA tournament has also been canceled. During an unprecedented time like this, there’s more to life than basketball.

            What has the coronavirus revealed to us? How is God sovereignly working behind the scenes to orchestrate His divine plan? We cannot answer this because the secret things belong to the Lord (Deuteronomy 29:29). As I was doing sermon preparation this week, I came across Isaiah 1:5-6 which reads, “Why will you still be struck down? Why will you continue to rebel? The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it, but bruises and sores and raw wounds; they are not pressed out or bound up or softened with oil.”

The prophet Isaiah addressed the nation of Israel for their rebellion against God. I want you to notice how he describes the sinful condition—as a sickness. He likens sin to an infectious disease that covers the entire body from head to toe. The graphic imagery Isaiah uses here shows the corruptive nature of sin that is pervasively embedded deep in our hearts.

            If anything, the coronavirus should make us pause as we think about a worldwide pandemic. COVID-19 is highly infectious and has caused the stock market to go bonkers, cause major sporting events to close down, and has impacted the entire globe. I wonder if people are more concerned about contracting COVID-19 than they are concerned about the sinful state of their souls. If anything, the coronavirus should make us pause and think about how sinful we truly are from head to toe. We should contemplate how this depravity has infected us deeply within our souls.

            What is the only answer to this sin sickness? To this “coronavirus of the soul” as Isaiah would probably describe it if he were living today! If we continue reading in Chapter 1, we find the cure in Isaiah 1:18: “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” Only through the precious blood of Christ can we have complete forgiveness of sins. Only through the atoning death of Jesus on the cross can the infection of our rebellion be cleansed comprehensively.

            Right now all we can do is wait and see what happens concerning COVID-19. We should pray for our leaders on all levels to use wisdom and caution. We should pray for those who have been infected. We should pray against a worldwide spread of the coronavirus. But most importantly, we should be soberly reminded that there’s more to life than basketball or even our comfort.

The greatest threat to the globe is not the coronavirus, but sin and rebellion. If you die in your sins without repenting and believing in Jesus, the consequences are eternal punishment in hell. The greatest news in the world is that we can be forgiven through Jesus Christ. He alone is the cure! He alone is the answer! May God grant us His grace and peace in this time of grave uncertainty.

Be Joyful!

As Christians, we should be the most hopeful and joyful of all people on this planet because we serve a sovereign God who is still reigning on His throne. What is joy? Here is my best attempt at a definition: Joy is that deep sense of peace and confidence in the Lord in where we trust in Him no matter what our circumstances and He produces a settled delight in our hearts that rests in His sovereignty and love.

            Notice first of all that joy is deep. It is not a surface emotion like happiness that is fleeting, but a deep confidence and sense of peace in Christ alone.  Secondly, joy is not dependent upon our circumstances. We can be joyful in times of trials and sufferings and we can be joyful in times of great blessing.  Thirdly, this joy comes from the Lord where He produces this settled or satisfied or contentment in our hearts that is solely based upon His sovereign love.

            As Christians, it is an affront to the very gospel of Christ to walk around mopishly, sad, depressed, and defeated without the joy of the Lord. Psalm 42:5 says, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation.” Have you put your hope in this sovereign God who rules and reigns in absolute sovereignty?

Have you prayed to the Holy Spirit to produce His fruit deeply in your soul—especially joy? Can you say like Ezra in the book of Nehemiah 8:10: “And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”  Is the joy of the Lord your strength?  Do you have a deep, settled contentment in your soul because our lives, our nation, this universe, are in the hands of all sufficient and sovereign Saviors?

Brothers and sister in Christ, may we be the voice and face of hope and joy in this culture? May a lost and confused and dying world look to us as those who have a deep sense of joy because we know that Christ has overcome and won the victory? Jesus has come to give us joy that is full in John 15:11: “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” In John 16:22, Jesus gives us an indestructible joy that cannot be taken away: “So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.”

May we be lights shining in the dark shadows of this confused and befuddled world as we hold out the hope of Christ in the gospel of salvation?

The CREDO in Exodus 34

In Exodus 34:6–7, we find one of the most glorious truths in the entire Old Testament: “The Lord passed before Moses and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

Let’s look in detail at these attributes of God and let them sink into your soul. Read them and think about them as if you’ve never heard of these before. Imagine that this is your first time to hear about the glory of God.

The LORD is merciful. The imagery conveys the way a nursing mother shows compassion toward her helpless baby. In the same manner, our tender-hearted LORD reveals himself as a loving, gracious parent who looks with compassion upon us as weak and needy sinners. In our sin, we have nothing to offer God, so he condescends to our utter spiritual bankruptcy and meets us at our point of desperation.

The LORD is gracious. God as the sovereign King bends down to rebels who in no way deserve his love or mercy. Overwhelmed by our sin, we cry out to him for help. He doesn’t owe us anything but justice, but instead he acts liberally and graciously toward us, knowing all along we can never pay him back.

The LORD is slow to anger. God expresses extreme patience in snorting in exasperation. He does not execute immediate justice or discipline, but shows great restraint because he has a high threshold of tolerance for our disobedience. Aren’t you thankful for the endless patience of our holy God?

The LORD is abounding in steadfast love. This Hebrew word, hesed, describes God’s tenacious fidelity and resolve to maintain a relationship with sinful people. Our LORD obligates and swears upon himself that he will be faithful to his covenant and promise to love his people whom he has chosen. Hesed is the most beautiful and powerful expression of God’s unfailing love for sinners in the entire Old Testament.

The LORD abounds in faithfulness. The image implies that God holds us in his strong arms the way a parent would hold a helpless infant. God proves trustworthy as we can count on him as a firm foundation. He is immovable as our strong tower of confidence and hope.

The LORD is a forgiving God. He cancels the debt against us by wiping the slate clean. He tosses our sins and rebellious actions to the bottom of the sea. God forgives our sins as far as the east meets the west. He forgives us on account of the death of Christ on the cross.

The LORD is also a just and righteous God. Listen to this warning. God is loving, merciful, compassionate, faithful, and forgiving, but not indiscriminately. In the end, everybody doesn’t, in fact, go to heaven. If you don’t have a personal relationship with Christ whereby you have trusted him alone as Savior and Lord and have repented of your sins, you are still under God’s righteous condemnation.

I love the parental imagery that describes God as our Father. We are helpless babies who can’t offer him anything, yet God lovingly takes us in his arms, cares for us, and shows us mercy. I remember the first time I held my firstborn son. His umbilical cord was tied around his neck when he was born, so he immediately had to go to an oxygen tent for a few hours. Neither my wife nor I got to hold him directly. I reached down in the tent, and he grabbed my finger. As a concerned father, I looked down on him with compassion and tenderness, praying for him in those first few hours of his precious life. And then I got to hold him for the first time! In this beautiful moment, I understood how God treated me as his child. I realized how helpless, clueless, and powerless of a sinner I was, someone who was entirely dependent on my heavenly Father for everything. That’s just a small picture of how our great God loves us. We are imperfect parents, but we still love our children. How much more does God, the perfect parent, love his children immensely?

Think about the thoughts and feelings rushing through Moses’ heart after this intimate encounter with the LORD in the cleft of the rock. He had seen the backside glory of God and heard God’s goodness recounted to him in this credo. In light of all this, how did Moses respond to the glory of God in his midst? Exodus 34:8 says, “Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshipped.” As God revealed his powerful, unchanging, miraculous character to Moses, Moses passionately bowed in worship.

Would that be your response as well? Would you urgently and passionately bow your entire life to the great I AM who is worthy of all your worship, and glorify his name in all the earth?

True Satisfaction

One of the most basic needs of human life is to have our thirst quenched. And we live in a culture where we can get Gatorade, PowerAde, flavored water, sparkling water, Culligan water. We are in no shortage of water.

In John 4, Jesus encounters the Samaritan woman at the well in the heat of the day. In that culture of the ancient near east water was a hot commodity in those desert climates. John 4:13–14 reads, “Jesus said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’ ”

Picture in your mind a gross, stagnant mosquito infested cesspool of filth that only brings disease and impurity. That is the picture of the human heart without Christ. Our hearts are cesspools of wickedness. Our hearts are stagnant, dead, cold and sin-infested that lead to spiritual disease and impurity. We cannot fix this.

Jeremiah 2:13 states “for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water. So what do we need to overcome this sin? We need the satisfying gift of eternal life that only Jesus can give us.  Psalm 36:9 read, “For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light. Isaiah 12:3 echoes this truth: With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.

What are you spending time, money, and energy on to satisfy your deepest longings?

What did this woman spend time satisfying herself with? Relationship after relationship with men and it only left her dry, parched, lonely, and ashamed. She was never truly satisfied. She was a sinner whose heart was darkened by a stagnant cesspool of wickedness. She needed the life-transforming power of the Holy Spirit to invade her heart and create living waters that alone can satisfy and give her eternal life. Only Jesus can satisfy the cravings of a sinner with His satisfying gift of eternal life.

You and I desperately need this living water of eternal life. We need to come to Jesus and receive this free gift. The prophet Isaiah gave an imagery of God as a water salesman in the ancient deserts of Israel offering the gift of water: Isaiah 55:1–2“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,

and your labor for that which does not satisfy?”

Have you received this gift of eternal life? Has your dead, lifeless, stagnant corrupt heart been renewed with streams of living water welling up inside to eternal life? Are you satisfied, I mean truly satisfied, with Jesus? Does He alone quench you thirst? Does He alone give joy to your soul? Are you finding in Jesus your ultimate passion, desire, fulfillment and purpose? Turn from your sin and then turn in faith to Christ today to receive the satisfying gift of eternal life.

Jesus transformed this woman at the well from a lonely, guilty, immoral sinner who found satisfaction in men into a worshipper who encountered the great I AM—Jesus the Messiah. The great I AM Jesus stand ready to receive you today just like this woman. Would you too experience this wonderful transformation and find your ultimate satisfaction in the living waters of Christ and His salvation?

Welcome to 2020!

Happy New Year! As we begin 2020, it’s important to have a biblical perspective on our lives and future. James 4:13-16  gives us a sober reminder: “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.”

            We see three truths emerge from this passage. First, life is really short! Making plans for the future or earning money to take care of your family is not sinful. Boasting in your own ability to determine the future is sinful. Why? Life is fragile, short, and transitory. We are not in control of our lives. Psalm 39:4–5 reads: “O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am! Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath!”

Because life is short, the Psalmist has a humble, reflective attitude. He wants to truly know how fleeting his life is. He wants a sober reminder of the fragility and brevity of life. When we trust in our power, wisdom, resources, and intelligence to control life, we show an arrogance that does not rely upon God.

Second, we must humbly recognize that God is absolutely sovereign over all things. “If the Lord wills. . .” Is this your attitude? Instead of saying, “I’m in control of my future and I know what’s best for my life, and I can chart my own course in 2020, and I’m going to ultimately do whatever I WANT to do!” You instead say, “If the Lord wills, I will take another breath. If the Lord wills, I will go to work tomorrow. I will go on that trip. I will get that new job. I will get that promotion. I will save that extra money. I will have that boyfriend or girlfriend.”

The Bible teaches the absolute and meticulous sovereignty of God over all things. Job 42:2 “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.”  Ephesians 1:1:  “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will.” We need to have a healthy dose of God’s absolute sovereignty over all things which leads us to worship Him in fear and awe and humility and dependence. Ecclesiastes 7:14 says, “In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him.”

Third, we must humbly submit our wills to His will in all things. This is how Jesus taught us to pray in the Lord’s Prayer. Matthew 6:10 reminds us, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” There are two ways to live: You can live the way of prideful presumption. You try to control life. You trust in your resources and your own ability to chart the future. You live as if God is not in control and you do what you want to do according to your will. This is dangerously foolish.

Or. . .  You can live the way of submissive surrender. You can surrender your life plans to God. You can trust in His sovereignty over your life and future. You live as if God is absolutely in control and you pray for His will to be done. You seek His kingdom first.

This is joyfully freeing. Matthew 6:33 says, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

“If the Lord wills. . .” Life is short! God is absolutely sovereign! We must humbly submit our wills to His sovereign will! Is this your prayer, attitude, and commitment for 2020?