Digging the Blessings, Discarding the Blesser? Devotional for March 30, 2022

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Today’s Bible reading from the Five Day Bible Reading Plan: Joshua 1-4; Psalm 143; Luke 14

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German preacher and theologian who helped the Christians endure the opposition and persecution of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany wrote one of the most influential books of the 20th century, The Cost of Discipleship. If that book, he wrote a paragraph about ‘cheap grace,’ that is, a grace that is all about receiving all the benefits of Christianity (heaven, eternal life, forgiveness of sin, etc.) but not wanting the cost. He wrote this:

Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.

Bonhoeffer wrote this in the middle of Germany’s persecution from the government in 1937, but what he writes here is timeless. Here are some questions that come from this quote:

  • Forgiveness we love, but do we really want to turn from sin that strays from what God wants?
  • We like being a part of the church–but do we want the church to provide discipline and boundaries and to keep you accountable?
  • We love how taking the Lord’s Supper ministers to us, but do we do so with a humble and confessing heart?
  • We love grace, but are we willing to be and make hopeful, joyful disciples that are growing in the things of God?
  • We love the empty tomb, but are we willing to have grace that brings the picture of our sin at the cross of Christ right to our front door?

I do not know of anyone who likes pain. I get the sniffles or a little headache and I’m ready to go to bed for two weeks. Somewhere along the way we believed that any kind of pain or discomfort was always a bad thing. That we are ones who are the recipients and beneficiaries of God’s blessings and assume that is a love for God Himself.

Luke 14:25-33 outlines discipleship. It comes with a cost. But when we look to Christ, the cost is worth it because He is worth it. Is He worth it for you?

A Word We’ve Forgotten in our Christian Lexicon: Devotional for March 29, 2022

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When you undertake any vocation, hobby or anything else with particular skills, each has a specific lexicon. With those in occupying those particular areas, you speak using those terms with full comprehension–whereas if you were to talk to someone outside of your areas, you’d adjust your vocabulary to they would have some understanding of what you’re talking about. (For instance, as a musician, I could speak of major, minor, Dorian, and Lydian scales; apogiaturias; diminished and augmented chords, etc., with my fellow musicians–but would need to do some significant explaning to those outside that musician camp.

A word that, even among Christian churches, has left the lexicon is the word, “Repent.” It means to turn–in the context of the Scriptures, and specifically Luke 13:1-5, it means to turn from your sin and self and turn to Christ. This belongs in our vocabulary. Why, oh why, has this disappeared from many churches?

When the goal for churches is affirmation of where you are currently, repentance seems to mean that you need to turn from an unaffirming view of yourself. “God loves you just the way you are!” Repentance in the way Jesus speaks of it is, “God loves you where you are, but He also loves you enough not to leave you there but to take you where you need to be.” The implication is that we have not arrived there naturally.

Thus, when Jesus says, “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish,” we as followers of Jesus (and those who aren’t followers) had better define this word in a crystal clear fashion. We are dead in sin but God makes us alive in Christ (see Ephesians 2:1-10).

So if you hear of preachers avoiding this word or redefining it in way that is contrary to Christ’s call to “repent and believe the gospel,” run! Turn off that TV, leave that service, avoid their YouTube channels and podcasts. Jesus was clear about what He meant. We need clarity from our pulpits, not confusion.

Can You Handle This in the Age of Google? Devotional for March 28, 2022

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“The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29:29).

God has revealed to us much in His Word–in fact, He has revealed all that we need to understand who He is, what He has done, and what He aims to do in and through us. What God has revealed in His Word is ours.

Yet, God works all things according to His counsel and some of this belongs strictly to Him. We could not handle knowing everything, but what we must embrace is the One who holds all things in His hand.

In an age of Google where we cannot tolerate not knowing something, can you trust God with something you do not know or understand because He is enough?

Christ is the key. If we know Him, we know the Father. And by the Spirit we can rest with what He has revealed.

Lest You Forget: Devotional for March 25, 2022

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Today’s Bible reading from the Five Day Bible Reading Plan: Deuteronomy 23-26, Luke 11

Deuteronomy has one particular goal for God’s people: always remember lest you forget.

In the early 1990s, during my orientation to college, they showed clips from Robert Olney’s, “Where There’s a Will, There’s an A.” He noted that over the course of a 24-hour period, students will forget 40% of what they learned, and 80% over a 48-hour period.

We forget. Oftentimes, the urgent of what’s happening (getting kids to school, paying bills, getting through traffic, etc.) overshadows the important. There’s an old hymn that many of you have sung over the years with the chorus:

King of my life, I crown Thee now, Thine shall the glory be. Lest I forget thy thorn-crowned brow, Lead me to Calvary. Lest I forget Gethsemane Lest I forget thine agony Lest I forget thy love for me, Lead me to Calvary.

That’s such a great reminder for all of us as followers of Christ, since we are such a forgetful lot. It’s been said that for churches and movements in Christianity, the first generation was active for the gospel, the second generation was attracted to and by the gospel, and the third generation is apathetic about the gospel.

We forget it.

We take it for granted.

We assume it.

Read your Bibles, everyone. It is there you are reminded of His person, power, promises, and purposes. It is there you see Christ.

How Are You Really? Devotional for March 24, 2022

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Today’s Bible Reading from the Five Day Bible Reading Plan: Deut 19-22; Psalm 6; Luke 10.

Alistair Begg, in a sermon on this very text, said that he would often ask someone two questions, and on numerous occasions, these two questions would make one cry.

The first question? “How are you?” And what would the answer usually be? “OK!” “Fine.” “Good.” Sadly, many do not want to go further.

The second question? “How are you really?”  It is here that the tears fall.

How about I ask you that now: How are you? How are you really? We are in a culture in general, and even in the church world specifically, where feeling down or low or even under conviction of sin is not the norm but the expectation. Rather than come with these trials and talk about them, we do our best to keep up appearances for an hour or two.

So for many of us in church world, this may make us rather uncomfortable! Why not keep this in? Why put yourself in such a vulnerable position before others? Why risk the looks, the pity, the sadness? 

Seeing the gravity of our sin makes us overwhelmed by the grace of our Savior! Psalm 6 calls us to accept the reality of our sinfulness and lean into the painful process–for this process has a purpose: repentance and an acceptance of our Savior who rescues us from our sin!

Solace in His Sovereignty: Devotional for March 23, 2022

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God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases (Psalm 115:3).

If we know that God is good, able, and faithful, we will find solace in His sovereignty. God doing as He pleases will not be met with disdain, but with delight. We will want Him to do what He wants.

What does not bring delight is the illusion of being in control. That brings exhaustion. While we have obligations and responsibilities, we recognize that all we have and all we do is by the providence and allowance of God. Not even Satan can move without God’s permission (cf. Job 1-2).

We can find comfort and solace in His sovereignty. Jesus is Lord. That statement is a confession and a consolation.

The Gospel is the A-to-Z of the Christian Faith: Devotional for March 22, 2022

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Today’s Bible Reading from the Five Day Bible Reading Plan: Deuteronomy 10-14; Psalm 5; Luke 8

For those who believe that the Scriptures are merely a string of unrelated stories made up by unbelievable characters in an antiquated time bring too many of their own presuppositions to the table on which to feast.  The Scriptures are an account by which God, in one elaborate, effective, and efficient way, shows how it is one narrative about who He is, what He has done in Christ, and what He aims to do through His people and the world.  I love what Tim Keller said many years ago:

The gospel shows us that our spiritual problem lies not only in failing to obey God but also in relying on our obedience to make us fully acceptable to God, ourselves, and others. Every kind of character flaw comes from this natural impulse to be our own savior through our performance and achievement. On the one hand, proud and disdainful personalities come from basing your identity on your performance and thinking you are succeeding. But on the other hand, discouraged and self-loathing personalities also come from basing your identity on your performance and thinking you are failing.

Belief in the gospel is not just the way to enter the kingdom of God; it is the way to address every obstacle and grow in every aspect. The gospel is not just the ABCs but the A-to-Z of the Christian life. The gospel is the way that anything is renewed and transformed by Christ—whether a heart, a relationship, a church, or a community. All our problems come from a lack of orientation to the gospel. Put positively, the gospel transforms our hearts, our thinking and our approach to absolutely everything. The gospel of justifying faith means that while Christians are, in themselves still sinful and sinning, yet in Christ, in God’s sight, they are accepted and righteous. So we can say that we are more wicked than we ever dared believe, but more loved and accepted in Christ than we ever dared hope–at the very same time. This creates a radical new dynamic for personal growth. It means that the more you see your own flaws and sins, the more precious, electrifying, and amazing God’s grace appears to you. But on the other hand, the more aware you are of God’s grace and acceptance in Christ, the more able you are to drop your denials and self-defenses and admit the true dimensions and character of your sin. [source]

On first glance, Luke 8 looks like a string of homespun stories coupled with some miraculous events.  But notice the connection here of the importance of God’s Word in its power and effect.

Luke 8:1-3:  Jesus’ habit of going through the towns and villages proclaiming and bringing the good news (‘gospel’) of the kingdom of God.  Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Susanna along with many others accompanied.  Why bring out the women?  Because Jesus’ word not only healed some physically (as in Mary Magdalene, former demoniac), and healed them all spiritually by bestowing the gift of grace and/through faith—they were women!  Both Roman and Jewish custom put women as second-class citizens.  The women could not enter into the inner court in Temple worship.  The Word indiscriminately cleanses!

Luke 8:4-15:  Jesus delivers the Parable of the Sower, where the sower distributes the seed (the Word of God), but the condition of the heart of those who listen do not permit the Word to be implanted to take effect.  Through the heart either being stony where it doesn’t come in at all, shallow where it can take no root, thorny where the cares of the world choke out it’s effect—we see that God must plow up our hearts in his time for the Word to come in.  God readies the hearts of his chosen in this world by preparing in, making it receptive to His Word so that fruit may be borne. 

Luke 8:16-18:  Jesus told His disciples, “Take care then how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away.”  Hear and receive God’s Word—we have nothing without it!

Luke 8:19-21:  Who are Jesus’ relatives?  While His mother and brothers are outside, He says that over and above this, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.”  We are not a part of His family unless we submit to what He says!

Luke 8:22-25:  Jesus calms the storm.  While many preachers have said that the point of this story is that Jesus will calm the storms in your life, that is not the ultimate point.  In the midst of this chapter, this account is placed to show the power of Christ’s word even over nature.  When He rebuked the wind, it ceased.  John MacArthur once said, “The only thing more terrifying that the storm outside the boat is Holy God in your boat.”  Here, Jesus shows He is Creator God (Colossians 1:15-17) by having control over nature itself (see Isaiah 40:10-31). 

Luke 8:26-56:  Jesus heals a demon-possessed man who lived among the rock, serving as the village outcast—and Jesus sent that legion of demons into some nearby pigs who ran off into the sea (and then townspeople, more concerned about pigs that people, ran Him off).  He also heals a woman with the ‘issue of blood’ that no earthly physician could diagnose and heal.  His word also rose Jairus’ daughter from the dead:  “Child, arise.”  This is a foretaste of what all believers will hear one day from their Lord Jesus!

There is good news of God’s Word to be found not just at the entry point of salvation, but at all points of our Christian walk.  Yes, the gospel is the A-to-Z of our Christian faith!

Sunday Sermon: Jesus Came to Bring Joy: A Quest for Holiness Should Not Quench our Joy (Mark 2:18-22)

SUBSCRIBE: Do so by clicking beside our channel name. MINISTRY: arbc.net PASTOR MATT’S BLOG: http://www.drmattperry.com When you think of pursuing holiness as a follower of Jesus, what comes to your mind?

I sense that many of us grew up in church where holiness, reverence, and seriousness about the things of God, but along the way, those who led by example had their joy quenched (if it was ever there) and thus quenched the joy of others.

G.K. Chesterton: “It is really a natural trend to lapse into taking oneself gravely because it is the easiest thing to do . . . for solemnity flows out of men naturally, but laughter is a leap. It is easy to be heavy; hard to be light. Satan fell by force of gravity.” I wonder what those who have a gravity, seriousness, and joylessness about the faith do with Jesus in these passages found in Mark.

The previous paragraph showed another collision (to use Kent Hughes word) between Jesus and the religious leaders. Jesus had just called Matthew (a tax collector for Rome and a perceived traitor to the Jews) to follow him as a disciple. Matthew then threw a party and invited his friends over–friends that the religious called “sinners,” and they could not understand why Jesus would jeopardize his reputation and public holiness in order to hang around . . . them. I sense that over time, our faith can become more serious, sensible, manageable…and joyless.

We begin to go through the motions and check things off our spiritual list in order to salve our conscience. But think about this: when you think about those who are spiritual examples of you, are they ones who lack joy in their pursuit of holiness or ones who exude it? As the subtitle of this message notes, a quest for holiness must not quench our joy.