The Old Rugged Cross

The Old Rugged CrossThe Apostle Paul traveled the known world preaching and teaching. Luke preserves some of his sermons for us in the Book of Acts, and Paul’s letters reveal the depth of and breadth of his Spirit-inspired thoughts. But of all the doctrines which this eminent apostle taught, there was one truth that stood out as the foundation for all others—

And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:1-2).

The work that Jesus Christ did on an old rugged Cross is absolutely the most central message of all others. Without the Cross, no other doctrine makes sense.

Sadly, we spend far too little time looking at the Cross.

Join me this Sunday as we take a long look at the Cross and the Lamb of God Who was sacrificed on it. Our series is simply called The Old Rugged Cross.

What God Is Building

Relativity by M.C. EscherI love the drawings of M.C. Escher. But some of his sketches are clearly optical illusions we all know couldn’t work in the real world. We don’t have to be architects or engineers or builders to know that for a building to be functional it has to have (1) a solid foundation, (2) it must be built with quality materials, and (3) it must be constructed by someone who knows what he/she is doing.

The Apostle Paul tells us that (1) Jesus Christ is the cornerstone of the sure foundation, (2) you and I—God’s saints—are the quality building materials that are being used, and (3) the Holy Spirit knows exactly what He is doing as He joins us together.

A cornerstone is the first stone set in the construction, the reference point for all other stone, which determines the position of the entire structure. Christ Jesus Himself is the cornerstone of His Church (Ephesians 2:20b). Orientated to that cornerstone we have the foundation of the apostles and prophets (2:20a).

This foundation is the Word of God (2 Peter 1:19-2:3 and 2 Timothy 3:14-4:5). We dare not try to replace, nullify, update, or change His Word. Not would this cause the foundation to crumble, but there are dire consequences for the one who tries to do so (Revelation 22:18-19).

Our foundationOn this foundation, God is constructing three things, each one growing in its level of intimacy with Him and with the surrounding saints:

  • God’s household (Ephesians 2:19)—this Greek word means a family home.
  • the whole building (Ephesians 2:21a)—this is a specific part of the family home used for prayer and fellowship.
  • a holy temple (Ephesians 2:21b)—this is the same word used for the Holy Place and Holy of Holies in the tabernacle.

God’s Presence dwells in us individually, but collectively we make a more powerful statement (1 Corinthians 3:16). There is a far greater testimony to the world when individuals willingly and actively allow themselves to be built together; when Christians give up their personal agendas to say, “I want to be a part of something bigger than me—I want to be a part of we.”

We must study God’s Word to make sure we are building on the same foundation. We must allow our lives to be quality building materials. We must allow the Holy Spirit to build us together through prayer and fellowship! This becomes the fulfillment of the prayer Jesus Himself prayed for us (John 17:20-23).

This was the last message (for this time) in our series on the Book of Ephesians. I hope to be able to continue this study next year.

…And Then A Miracle Occurs

The Miracle of JesusLast week I shared how important it is for us to remember what we were before meeting Christ, and what we now are after meeting Him (you can click here to read that post). But we need to spend some time looking at how we went from “were” to “are.”

First, we need to recall how bad we really were without Christ. We were…

  • …dead (Ephesians 2:1)—this is a rotting corpse.
  • …separated (2:12)—we faced a gaping, unbridgeable, uncrossable chasm.
  • …alienated (4:18)— we were completely shut-out from fellowship with God.
  • …given over (4:19)—this implies an open betrayal which resulted in us running the opposite direction from God.

“The man on the street would simply shrugged his shoulders at this charge and say, ‘Sure, no one’s perfect.’ Even we Christians talk about failures and defeats, but the Bible uses other terms. It speaks of wickedness and rebellion (Leviticus 16:21). The Bible speaks of King David as despising God (2 Samuel 12:9-10). It charges another man of God with defying the word of the Lord… (1 Kings 13:21). It is evident by these descriptive synonyms for sin—rebellion, despising, defying—that God takes a far more serious view of sin than the man on the street or even most Christians.” —Jerry Bridges, in Transforming Grace (bold font added)

…and then a miracle occurs! You who once WERE far away [dead, separated, alienated, disgustingly sinful] HAVE BEEN brought near through the blood of Christ (Ephesians 2:13). Jesus Himself becomes our salvation … He IS the miracle! Notice the wording here—

  • He Himself IS our peace (v. 14a)
  • HE has made the two one (v. 14b)
  • abolishing IN His flesh (v. 15a)
  • create IN Himself (v. 15b)
  • IN this one Body…by which HE put to death their hostility (v. 16)
  • THROUGH Him we both have access to the Father (v. 18)

Jesus Himself IS (1) our peace, (2) our reconciliation, and (3) our atonement.

Not only must we always remember what we WERE and what we ARE, but remember the MIRACLE whereby this transformation could happen: The blood of Jesus spilled for us on the Cross!

We’ll be continuing our walk through the Book of Ephesians next Sunday, and I’d love to have you join us.

But Now

But nowRemembering our past is so important. Forgetting where we’ve come from can make us insensitive to the feelings of others, it can make us falsely proud of what we assume we’ve accomplished for ourselves, and it can make us fearful that God cannot handle what’s coming next.

So God want us to remember two things: what we were, and what we are. In Ephesians the verb tense Paul uses literally says, “Keep on calling this to mind; keep on keeping it fresh in your thoughts” (Ephesians 2:11 & 12).

Keep on remembering what you WERE:

  • separate from Christ
  • excluded from citizenship
  • foreigners to the covenants of the promise
  • without hope
  • without God in the world (v. 12)

And then come two amazing words―BUT NOW (v. 13) keep on remember what you ARE:

  • brought near through the blood of Christ (v. 13)
  • able to access to the Father (v. 18)
  • no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people (v. 19)
  • members of God’s household (v. 19)
  • a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit (v. 22)

Constantly calling this to mind should produce three attitudes―

  1. Thankful to God for His grace gifts to me.
  2. Graceful to others who are separated from God now like I used to be.
  3. Hopeful of the help Christ can bring through me to others.

We are continuing our study of the Book of Ephesians this coming Sunday. Please join us!

Sit Walk Stand [re-launch]

Sit Walk StandThis coming Sunday we re-start a series at Calvary Assembly of God which we began last year called Sit Walk Stand: A Study In The Book Of Ephesians.

Why Ephesians? Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones, who preached 232 sermons on this book to his packed-out church, said, “It is very difficult to speak of Ephesians in a controlled manner because of its greatness. Many have tried to describe it. One writer has described it as the crown and climax of Pauline theology. Another has said that it is the distilled essence of the Christian religion, the most authoritative and most consummate compendium of our holy Christian faith. What language! And it is by no means exaggerated.”

It is my desire that our congregation be as biblically literate as I can encourage and resource them to be. So Tom Kaastra, a 38-year veteran pastor, is going to co-teach with me again this year as we continue our attempt to master this powerful epistle.

The name of our series—Sit Walk Stand—comes from Watchman Nee, who wrote, “Of all Paul’s epistles, it is in Ephesians that we find the highest spiritual truths concerning the Christian life. The letter abounds with spiritual riches, and yet at the same time is intensely practical.”

Please join us this Sunday at 10:30am.

Whether you were with us last year or not, I posted some sermon recaps each week which will help prepare you as we re-launch this series. Click on the links below:

3 Reasons Why We Don’t Ask Largely Of God

Ask LargelyI don’t have a clever introduction for this post, so let me just give you the conclusion right up front―God has more desire to give than most of us have desire to ask.

Elisha told King Jehoash that God was ready to give him complete victory over Israel’s enemy, but Jehoash had a hard time grasping this (see 2 Kings 13:14-19). He was hesitant to ask God for too much, so he only asked for a little. This mad Elisha mad!

I think the reasons why Jehoash was timid in his asking of God are some of the same reasons we wrestle with today.

(1) Elisha was dying, so maybe he thought God’s Spirit would depart with him.

Maybe you’ve had a spiritual giant in your life, and when they died you thought, “Who is going to be able to pray for me now?” God doesn’t have favorites. He desires that all of us come to Him.

(2) Jehoash was sinful and didn’t think God would want to help him.

You can’t increase your value in God’s sight because you live perfectly. God loves you perfectly just as you are. Don’t get me wrong: the Holy Spirit will speak to you if you need to repent, but God doesn’t only listen to “perfect” people.

(3) Jehoash thought God had a limited supply, or he thought he had a quota in how many requests he could make of God.

The whole genie-in-the-lamp concept has crept into the mindset of too many Christians. We think our genie-God will grant us a limited number of wishes, or we think He will try to find a loophole to get out of a difficult request. God desires that we keep on asking Him, keep on seeking Him, and keep on knocking on His door (see Matthew 7:7-11).

God is glorified when we ask Him to do what only He can do.

God is pleased when we keep asking of Him largely.

Again. And again. And again. AND AGAIN!

I’ll say it again―

God has more desire to give than most of us have desire to ask

If you would like to read some other thoughts on prayer from our series The Prayers Of Elishaplease click here and check out all the links in the comments.

Fill-In-The-Blank Differently

God gives backHow would you fill in this blank: “The Lord gives, and the Lord ________  _________.”

I had some misconceptions about God when I was a kid. I didn’t want to pray, “God, You can use me however You see best” because I just knew He would send me to do something gross. Or we would sing a song like I Have Decided To Follow Jesus and one of the verses said, “Though none go with me still I will follow.” I didn’t really like that because I liked my friends and family; I liked my life just as it was.

Job was a righteous man, and some really bad things happened to him. He’s the one who said things like, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” (Job 1:21), and, “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” (Job 2:10).

But there was still another 40 chapters to go! In the very last chapter of his story we read this―

After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before. (Job 42:10)

In hindsight, I think Job might have said something different: “The Lord gives, and the Lord gives back!” But this insight would have come only after “Job had prayed.” Getting into God’s presence helps us capture the heart of God.

  • A grieving mother learned this when God gave her a son and gave back her resurrected son to her (2 Kings 4:8-37).
  • And then again when God gave her their family land and gave back the lost income (2 Kings 8:1-6).
  • The apostles learned this when Jesus gave them His presence and gave back a position of authority (Matthew 19:27-28).
  • We can also know that Jesus will give us a hundred times what we’ve given up for Him, and give us eternal life too (Matthew 19:29).

God never takes anything from us unless He intends to give back something even greater, something eternal, something unbreakable, something un-losable!

You will only begin to see this better when you get in His presence. “The object of secret prayer is to unite us to God that we may know His abiding presence with us” (Andrew Murray). It’s time to fill-in-the-blank differently! 

I’ll be continuing our series on The Prayers Of Elisha this coming Sunday, and I would love to have you join me!

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