The Power of Biblical Thinking

Reeling from the suicides of Fashion Designer Kate Spade and Chef Anthony Bourdain, the American public is again discussing pain, sorrow, and depression. We all recognize that life is marred by hurt and sadness. Even fame and fortune cannot stave off discouragement, sorrow, and hopelessness.

And sorrow and suffering are not just subjects found in that afflict those outside the church. Both evils regularly afflict Christians. The Prince of Preachers, Charles Spurgeon was frequently attacked by depression as he struggled with gout, rheumatism, and neuritis,  as he was attacked by the media and other pastors, and as he endured a daunting daily schedule. Once after a prankster caused a stampede at his church that result in the deaths of seven people, Spurgeon fell into a deep depression. His wife said, “My beloved’s anguish was so deep and violent, that reason seemed to totter in her throne, and we sometimes feared that he would never preach again.”

As the late preacher R.C. Sproul said,

The presence of faith gives no guarantee of the absence of spiritual depression; however, the dark night of the soul always gives way to the brightness of the noonday light of the presence of God.

Christians suffer all kinds of hardships including, sickness, persecution, hunger, rejection, and even death. And as we bump against the hardships of life and ministry, we can be tempted to lose hope. We can become tempted to stay in bed, to stop going to class and to stop attending church. What do we do when those moments come? What do we do when reason itself seems to be replaced we depression, sadness, and hopelessness? How do we get back to the brightness of the noon day?

We remember! Specifically we:

Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David!

Paul tells his mentee in the faith, Timothy, to remember the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Paul tells Timothy that the key to the Christian life is found in Biblical thinking. As Timothy constantly and regularly dwells on the reality of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and on Jesus humanity, he will find the power to suffer well.

Paul mentions Jesus resurrection, because it is the crux of our faith, the centerpiece of the gospel. 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 says,

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,  that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.  Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.

Christ resurrection is a matter of first importance. Because Christ is alive, death is conquered and salvation is possible. We have every reason to hope as Paul writes later in verse 11b-12a, “If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him. “

The hope of the Christian life begins and ends with the resurrection. Pastor C.J. Mahaney rightfully notes, “Reminding ourselves of the gospel is the most important daily habit we can establish.”  Because Christ lives, we too will live. We will live in eternity with him. We will once again walk and commune with God like Adam and Eve did, lacking shame and enjoying close, intimate, and unbroken fellowship with our God.

The-Power-of-Biblical-ThinkingAnd we also find our hope for tomorrow. Because Christ lives, we know we can gain victory over our sin. We will find the brightness of the noonday sun. We will be able to overcome lust, pride, depression, anger, and covetousness. Our sin and our failures and our sorrow over our failures are not the end of our story. Christ is alive. And we are alive in Christ. The same power the brought Christ to life is the same power that guarantees our victory over today’s trials and the guarantees the glorious of the next life. When we feel down and sorrowful, we should head Paul’s advice and remember the resurrected Jesus.

And we should remember that Jesus is the offspring of David. Jesus is fully man. He suffered like you and I have suffered. He was tempted just like you and I have been and will be. Jesus understands our frailty. And he is not a demanding father who requires  us to do the impossible in our own strength. He is not the over zealous Little-Coach who expects his kids to lead the team in home runs, failing to notice that his little guy is 3’5″ and weighs only 55 lbs. Our God is a compassionate savior who understands and empathizes with our weakness and struggles. Hebrews 4:15-16 states,

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Often the very shame of having to admit to God that we struggle drives us deeper into despair. After all why would God help someone as messed up as me? Yet He does! He delights in helping us when we are hopeless. God does not demand that we find hope apart from us and then show up to his throne looking all prime an proper. God invites us to come to him when we feel like staying in bed, when we try to avoid every other human being, and when we lock ourselves away in our room. He invites us to come to him when we look more like a homeless person than a doctor, college student, or well-organized mom. He does not expect us to approach Him in strength. Rather he gives grace and help to us in our time of need. He invites the weak to come to him for strength.  Spurgeon rightfully found great hope in the humanity of Christ once saying,

As the mother feels with the weakness of her babe, so does Jesus feel with the poorest, saddest, and weakest of his chosen.

Christ cares deeply about his hurting and suffering children and freely offers to help all.

Remember that Christ is the seed of David. Remember he does not hand us punishment but mercy and grace in our time of need. Stop pretending to be alright and ask God for help. He will give it to us. And we know he can liberate us from our sorrow for he has conquered death. He reigns and will we reign with Him!

If you feel down today, if you feel depressed, and if you feel overcome by sorrow, reflect upon the risen Lord, the seed of David. Daily fight to remember all that Christ did on the cross and remember Christ’s compassion. Think biblically and the light of the noonday will come. Christ, the seed of David, is risen. Do you remember?

Doing The Hard Thing Is Not Always The Good Thing

Why Doing A Hard Thing Maybe Wrong blogOften Christians think that hard equals good. If a decision is super hard, then it must really right. Because people disagree with us and criticize us, we assume we are on God’s side. After all, there is a correlation between suffering and holiness or so we think.

And while it is true that we will suffer hardship when we follow Christ, not all suffering is the result of good works. The Scriptures clearly say, “But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler” (I Peter 4:15). At times, Christians suffer hardship not because of their Christian witness but because of their selfish hearts.

As a kid I experienced that type of suffering over and over again. One fall semester, I had to do an extra hour of homework most every night because I kind of ‘forgot’ to read my summer reading list. I missed pickup baseball games, bike riding, and a whole host of other fun things. I was suffering at the hands of my parents (or so I thought). But I was not extra holy. I was suffering for because I was extra sinful.

Many times as adults, we suffer for the same reason. We have broken relationships, we are gossiped about, and we are in and out of drama because we sinned. And while our poor decisions do not justify the sins of others, we must realize that our sins have consequences. As Paul says in Galatians 6:7 “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.” If we steal, lie, and attack others with our words, we will reap destruction, hurt, and broken relationships. We will experience many hard things because we are being foolish. “The way of the treacherous is their ruin” (Prov. 13:15).

As the great pastor D. Martin Lloyd-Jones said,

If you break God’s laws and violate His rules you will not be happy. If you think that you can be a Christian and exert your own will and follow your own likes and dislikes, your Christian life is going to be a miserable one. – P114 SD

So how do we know if we are suffering for our sin or if we are going through a trial like Job? Consider these three questions:

1. Is there unconfessed sin in my heart?

If we are living in sin, our lives will not go well. There is no blessing apart from Christ. The Christian trying to find comfort, hope, and peace while refusing to obey Christ will only find sorrow, despair, and anger. If you have unconfessed sin and are a believer, God will discipline you. You will feel miserable (Psalm 32:3). The solution is to return to Christ. We must pray the words of Psalm 123:23-24 which says:

Search me, O God, and know my heart!

Try me and know my thoughts!

And see if there be any grievous way in me,

and lead me in the way everlasting!

We must examine our hearts and quickly repent of any and all confessed sin.

2. Is this a direct consequence of my sin?

For example if you get fired from your job for looking at pornography, you are not being punished for being godly. You are suffering because you have sinned. The firing and the ensuing suffering is a direct consequence of your sin. Recall Galatians 6:7. The solution is to repent of your sins. And as you draw near to God, he will draw near to you. You will once again experience his blessing.

But if you get liver cancer the next month, I would not assume that the cancer is related to lust or some other sin you recently committed. Suffering is not always a direct consequence of our personal sin. God brings trials into our lives for all kinds of reasons. If the suffering is not a direct consequence of sin, we should not assume that we are being punished. This was the mistake Job’s friends made. They could not understand suffering apart from the presence of personal sin. But we can. When we suffer and there is no direct link back to a personal sin, we should stop fishing for a cause and place our hope and trust in the one who delivers us from the valley of the shadow of death.

3. Is God Getting Glory?

Often this can be hard to tell in the immediacy of the situation. We cannot directly see how God is getting glory. But if we can pull back and see that our sickness, our financially loss, and our other situations are helping us or others more resemble Christ, then we can be sure that our suffering is not only because of our sin. God is using it for our good. When we confess our sins and repent of our actions, God will turn our trials into good. As Llyod-Jones wrote, “God’s greatest concern for us is not primarily our happiness but our holiness. In His love to us He is determined to bring us to that, and He employs many differing means to that end.” Suffering is not always a result of our sin. Often it an evidence of God’s love for us.

When we take our suffering to Christ, our hardships will always refine our hearts. It helps us shift our hope away from earthly measures to heavenly treasures. If we are becoming perfect and complete, our trial, our hardship, our struggle is a great thing.

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. – James 1:2

In short, not every hardship or struggle is a result of our faithfulness. Our life may very well be difficult because we have sin deeply embedded in our souls. But regardless of the reason for our suffering, it is never pointless. And if we responding to suffering by seeking Christ, we will find abundant life. Are you ready to suffer for the right reasons?

 

 

 

Separation Anxiety At Christmas

Lonley blog CHristmasA few Christmas’ ago my brother was deployed with the Air Force during the holiday season. My family still had all of the same traditions. We watched Christmas movies, had our famous Christmas Eve buffet with a great assortment of shrimp and fresh Texas tamales, and sang the Twelve Days of Christmas in rounds. We also did everything possible to include my brother in our celebration. We called him on Christmas Eve and then video chatted with him on Christmas morning. But try as hard as we might, there was no substitution for his presence. We could not play games with him, talk to him over our cups of steaming hot chocolate, or hug him as we happily gathered around our Christmas tree to open presents. He was greatly missed

However, separation is not limited to the realm of family and friends this Christmas. The holiday is concerned with a much larger separation. In Isaiah 59:1-20, we learn that we have been separated from God. The prophet wrote, “But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God and your sins have hidden him from you so that he does not hear (59:2).” You see the God of the Bible is a holy and a pure God. He cannot tolerate sin. Now according to Genesis 2, God made the first humans pure like him and they lived in happiness. But, they sinned against God. Consequently, all their offspring- including you and me- follow the pattern of our first parents. We sin. Consequently, we separate ourselves from God.  Now everyone wants to be right with God and to feel good about their actions. We try to do good things. Perhaps, we carry an elderly woman’s bags to her car, or we finally clean our rooms, or at Christmas we try to be extra nice to everybody for the whole twenty-four hours.  But we cannot erase or escape our sins. Isaiah noted “Our transgressions are with us (59:12b).” Just as my family could not bring my brother home for Christmas that year, we cannot wipe away our sins. We cannot bridge the gap between us and God.  We need a savior!

The great news is that God did not leave us alone. He saw that there was no person who could save sinners. He had mercy on us!  He declared that a ‘Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who turn from transgressions” (59:20a). He made a way for men and women to come back to God. If we flee from our sins and cling to God we will be saved. The Redeemer will reconcile us to God, paying the penalty for our sin and making us white as snow!

Today we celebrate the Christmas because it tells of how Jesus came to be that redeemer by being born as a little baby. It reveals that there is hope for all. If you do not know Christ, I encourage you to put your faith in him by repenting of your sins. Talk to your pastor or to other godly men and women. Ask them about how to end your separation from God.

If you have the joy of knowing Christ, continue to flee from sin. Remember that your sin harms your relationship with God. Jesus came on that cold Christmas morning long ago so that we might be right with God.  Use this Christmas season to purify your life. Indentify sins and repent of them. Ask others to keep you accountable. But most importantly, rejoice that the separation from God is over! A redeemer has come!