This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.
A New Power Within
“If when you come to the altar,” says Jesus, “there you remember your brother has ought against you, don’t say another word to Me, but go and be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” [Matthew 5:23-24]. Jesus does not mention the other person, He says “You go.” He does not say, “Go halfway, but ‘first go.” There is no question of your rights.
Talk about practical home-coming truth! This hits us where we live. A man cannot stand as a humbug before Jesus Christ for one second. The Holy Spirit makes us sensitive to things we never thought of before. … Never discard a conviction. If it is important enough for the Holy Spirit to have brought it to your mind, that is the thing He is detecting. …
Watch the thing that makes you snort morally. If you have not had the temper of your mind altered by Jesus Christ, then the Holy Spirit brings something to your remembrance to be put right you will say, “No, indeed, I am not going to make that up when I was in the right and they were in the wrong; they will say, ‘We knew we would make you say you were sorry!’” Unless you are willing to yield your right to yourself on that point absolutely, you need not pray any more, there is a barrier higher than Calvary between you and God. That is the temper of mind in us all until it has been altered. When it has been altered, the other temper of mind is there that makes reconciliation as natural as breathing, and to our astonishment we find we can do what we could not do before. … Jesus Christ makes us real, not merely sincere. …
The whole point of our Lord’s teaching is, “Obey Me, and you will find a wealth of power within.”
From Studies On The Sermon On The Mount
It’s pretty simple, right? The Holy Spirit convicts us, we obey His prompting, and God gives us the power to do what we need to do.
Simple! And incredibly hard!
It means swallowing our pride, admitting we need to change, and actually making the change. But if you want to grow as a mature Christian, there is no other alternative but to follow through on all of the Holy Spirit’s promptings.
Nancy Guthrie marvelously shows us how Jesus links the Old Testament prophesies with His New Testament activities. This book makes the Old Testament come alive! Check out my full book review by clicking here, and then enjoy a few quotes from this book.
“satan’s power is wielded in the world in the form of death. What gives him that power is sin and the estrangement from God it brings. But on the Cross, Jesus did what was necessary for sinners to be reconciled with God. The devil thought he was defeating Christ, but in reality Christ was reconciling us to God, defeating the devil, and delivering us out of his clutches.”
“It has always been God’s way to use the weak, the foolish, the imperfect—even the shamefully sinful but ultimately repentant—in His redemptive plan. It is His glory to do so, and will be into eternity.”
“God has always wanted His people to know Him—not in a generic or shallow way, but personally, as He truly is. So He revealed Himself in a progressive way, not only through His name, but also through His glorious presence that dwelt in the Temple, through the Law, and through His mighty deeds on behalf of His people. But these revelations all led up to a definitive revelation in the Person of Jesus.”
“Our security in Christ frees us to enjoy His Sabbath rest. Christ fills our hearts with the same love He has for His Father so that we can honor our parents. Christ fills us with His very own faithfulness so that we can live in sexual purity. He convinces us of all that is ours in Him eternally so that we can stop coveting the things other people have that will not last beyond this life. As we refuse to allow anything else to be a god to us; we honor His name, His day, and our parents; as we value life; as we live in sexual purity and fidelity; as we nurture contentment and integrity, we’re not being merely legalistic. The grace of God is at work in our lives, making us holy and happy in God.”
“Jesus was less interested in explaining Himself to Nicodemus than in offering Himself to Nicodemus. … Jesus wanted Nicodemus to understand that we, too, have been bitten—not by a poisonous snake, but by the poison of sin. We, too, need a cure or we face certain death. And just as God provided the cure to His people in the desert, so has He provided a cure to us. But to experience healing requires something of us. We have to look to Jesus.”
“Jesus came into the world to make God knowable so that we can truly love Him with all our hearts, souls, and minds.”
“Jesus came the first time to offer forgiveness rather than bring down fire. He came down the first time to experience the fiery judgment of God in the place of guilty sinners. But the day is coming when Jesus will ‘come with His mighty angels, in flaming fire, bringing judgment on those who don’t know God and those who refuse to obey the Good News of our Lord Jesus’ (2 Thessalonians 1:7-8).”
“Whereas Proverbs describes a way of wisdom that leads to life and to God, Jesus defined that way in much more personal terms. He said, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through Me’ (John 14:6). The decision, as Jesus made clear, is not merely a matter of behavior or companions, but a choice about how we respond to Him, whether or not we will choose Him as our path, our life.”
“The people of Israel had the law; they knew what God wanted from them and for them. But they didn’t have the power or strength to obey. They knew what to do, but they didn’t have the ‘want-to’ to live as God commanded and to love Him as He desired. God’s commands in the covenant of the law were just a list of external rules. …
“In the new covenant, God’s law would be written on the hearts of His people rather than on stone tablets. He would put His Spirit inside His people. In this way, He would give them a love for His will and His ways, and a hatred of sin. His people would finally be able to love His will and walk in His ways because they would want to.”
In Letters To A Birmingham Jail, it was very eye-opening to read how modern-day clergy respond to Dr. Martin Luther King’s 50-year-old “Letter From A Birmingham Jail.” What an innovative book! Check out my review of this book by clicking here, and then enjoy a few quotes.
“Our nation is losing a sense of gratitude for the abundance and great bounty that God has bestowed upon us. In America we have witnessed the god of materialism sink his teeth into the fabric of the human soul. He has unleashed a spirit of rugged individualism, fueled by selfish greed. This has become normalized behavior that discourages a care for the other, and especially for the poor. The hope for America is that we will see our responsibility to care for the least among us in recognition of the truth that every person is created in the very image of God.” —John Perkins
“God-centered, Christ-exalting, Bible-saturated churches where the gospel is cherished—these are the birthplace of the kind of racial harmony that gives long-term glory to God and long-term gospel good to the world.” —John Piper
“Some may have quoted, ‘Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!’ (Psalm 27:14). But this call to wait for the Lord never meant stop doing what He commanded us to do in the pursuit of holy goals. Waiting for the Lord means our action is essential, but His is decisive. The farmer must wait for the harvest. But no one works harder than the farmer.” —John Piper
“Now, to be sure the Bible teaches that the government does exist for the well-being of the people; but too many Christians got lock-jaw, saying very little or nothing when in fact the country needed the engagement of the church and a word from God. Silence and business as usual did severe damage to our prophetic integrity. We’ve made progress but our efforts are still woefully inadequate.” —Crawford W. Loritts, Jr.
“I believe from Genesis to Revelation that God is the God of all nations and all peoples. He created all things, including all peoples, all people groups, all races, and all skin colors. From the beginning of the Bible to the end of the Bible, you see God redeeming all people to Himself. John 3:16 tells us God sent Jesus because ‘God so loved the world.’ The Acts of the Apostles tells the story of the earliest church plants. The gospel-dominated people of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John spilled over into the launching of gospel communities, or church plants in Acts. Racial and cultural issues surfaced almost immediately. Jesus had actually been the One to begin stirring the pot in His ministry as He intentionally went to Samaria, and did all sorts of things with and for Gentiles that Jewish men were not supposed to do.” —John Bryson
“If the torrential force of the first church as found in the book of Acts is to become our twenty-first-century reality, then the faces of most of our churches must look like the faces of the first-century church: multiethnic.” —Bryan Loritts
“If folks feel that this kind of ‘affirmative action’ equals ‘reverse discrimination,’ we can gently lead them to the apostolic solution to the racial controversy in Acts 6:1-7, where the men appointed to resolve a serious ethnic crisis all appear to be from the minority Hellenistic population! It’s called Christian wisdom.” —Sandy Willson
“The mission of the church, the pursuit of the legacy of Christ, cannot simply be about business and culture as usual. If we allow it to be so simple, we will soon find ourselves in the trap the disciples are caught in as they begin to walk around Samaria out of habit, only to notice that Jesus is going a different way. How often this conflict arises when we attempt to follow Jesus! We set out with the best of intentions, and soon find ourselves not following Him but expecting Him to follow us. The sin in us longs to travel only the road that offers comfort and familiarity. Yet Jesus unapologetically walks the more challenging road, inviting us to witness what He will do if we choose to follow.” —Albert Tate
“Diversity is an implication and hope fueled by the gospel, but it is not the good news. Yet, while the gospel and diversity are not equal ideas, diversity is nevertheless an issue that we are weak in and need to grow in—an issue that requires much time, energy, and prayer.” —Matt Chandler
“Producing homogenous churches can be done with relative ease and a total lack of dependence on the Spirit.” —Matt Chandler
It’s been fifty years since Dr. Martin Luther King wrote his amazing Letter From A Birmingham Jail. His letter was written in response to some clergy who had exhorted Dr. King to slow down a bit in his drive to abolish segregation. Now, fifty years later, some of our notable clergy members are responding to Dr. King in Letters To A Birmingham Jail.
Ten different clergymen—from different races, ages, and parts of the country—all responded to Dr. King’s seminal letter with gratitude, passion, and a unified voice for the twenty-first century church. Gratitude for Dr. King’s tireless trailblazing work, and for the indelible mark he made on each author’s life; passion for the church to rise up and fulfill its calling as a symbol of God’s picture of racial reconciliation in the world; and a united voice calling all Christians to follow in Dr. King’s footsteps, making the church look more like Heaven.
As a student of both history, leadership, and the church, Letters To A Birmingham Jail hit on multiple fronts for me. In the case of two of the authors, I got to witness Dr. King’s impact on both a father and son. In all the authors, I could see what a passionate, persuasive leader can do to change the attitudes and paradigm of an entire nation. Now, listening to these impactful church leaders calling us to fulfill the mandate of Jesus to evangelize “all nations,” I can see principles I can apply to my life, my community, and my church.
We owe a huge “thank you” to Bryan Loritts for dreaming up this book idea and pulling together such passionate and articulate voices from across our nation, to sound a unified and clear call to all Christians. I am confident that any one who desires to see the Church return to its apostolic roots will enjoy reading this book.
I am a Moody Press book reviewer.
In The Seven Laws Of Love, Dave Willis gives us some highly practical, biblically-based counsel for investing in all of our relationships. Normally when I share quotes from books, I share all of them at once, but I felt like it would be good to share these quotes a bit more slowly, to give you time to read them and apply them.
The seven laws Dave identifies are:
From law #5, here are some quotes on grace—
“If we deserved forgiveness, it wouldn’t be called grace. If we can earn it, it wouldn’t be real love.”
“Jesus was the perfect embodiment of both love and truth. He never told a lie, but at the same time He was never cruel or judgmental with the truth. Every word He spoke was wrapped in love, so even when the truth hurt, He never broke anyone’s trust. Jesus not only modeled how to speak the truth in love, but He also showed us how to offer grace when trust is broken. … Jesus loved Peter enough to give him the opportunity to be forgiven and rebuild trust. That opportunity for grace wasn’t an exclusive offer for Peter; it’s an opportunity God freely extends to all of us who have broken trust (which is everybody). It’s also a command. We can’t receive God’s grace without being willing to extend grace to others.”
“Some people get stuck in a cycle of grudges and mistrust because they wrongly assume that forgiveness and trust are the same thing. It’s vital that we understand their distinctions. Forgiveness can’t be earned; it can only be given freely. That’s why it’s called grace. Trust, however, can’t be given freely; it can only be earned. When someone breaks your trust, you should give your forgiveness instantly, but give your trust slowly as it is earned through consistency of actions by whoever broke your trust. During this period of rebuilding, fight the urge to punish or retaliate. Those actions won’t do anything to promote healing, and healing always needs to be our ultimate objective. Love, after all, is a healing force. You don’t have to trust someone in order to forgive, but you do have to forgive someone in order to make trust possible again.”
“When you’ve broken trust, you must be willing to take immediate action to rebuild it. When someone has broken your trust, you must be willing to provide that person the opportunity to rebuild. Giving someone the chance to reestablish trust is one of the most loving acts you can do for someone.”
“Our responses to present difficulties will often determine our level of future opportunities.”
Check out my review of The Seven Laws Of Love by clicking here.
Watch for the last few quotes from the other laws of love over the next couple of days.
Miriam LeBlanc has compiled a lovely collection of stories in Easter Stories: Classic Tales for the Holy Season. The stories themselves are not always classics (in the sense of being well known), but the authors are certainly a Who’s Who list.
Some of the better known authors include André Trocmé, Anton Chekhov, C.S. Lewis, The Brothers Grimm, and Oscar Wilde. The stories were collected in this book because they talk about sacrifice, new birth, new beginnings, and new life: all the themes echoed in the biblical story of Christ’s sacrificial death and resurrection.
These are great stories to introduce others to the story of Easter without turning to the passages in the Bible. These stories can introduce the themes of salvation, reconciliation, and new life, which will then allow Christians to lead their family and friends to the foundational stories in Scripture.
This is not only an excellent way to introduce the Easter themes to others, but also to introduce them to some of the more meaningful authors.
I am a Plough Publishing House book reviewer.
When couples are divorcing, their most common complaint is summed up in two words: irreconcilable differences. The couple is saying that things have gotten so bad―and the distance between them has gotten so vast―that there is no hope at all of ever patching things up.
Sometimes we might be able to say that both husband and wife shared some of the blame. But this isn’t true in a spiritual divorce. When we are separated from God, it’s all on us. Paul describes us as powerless sinners, unholy enemies of God (see Romans 5:6, 8, 10). We did the leaving; we are the problem.
But in the desire to bring reconciliation, God puts it all on Himself―more specifically, on the death of His Son Jesus on an old rugged Cross. In Romans 5 Paul says our reconciliation was through Christ five times in just three verses (vv. 9-11).
As if it weren’t amazing enough that Christ’s death on the Cross saved us, justified us, and reconciled us, giving us a brand new start (2 Corinthians 5:16-17), God then gave us the same ministry that He undertook through Jesus: the ministry of reconciliation (vv. 18-19)!
What Jesus purchased for us on an old rugged Cross allows us to “become the righteousness of Christ” (v. 21). Not reflect His righteousness, not talk about His righteousness, but actually become His righteousness!
We have the supreme privilege of being able to bring the message of reconciliation to others who used to be where we were: powerless sinners, unholy enemies of God!
We have the awesome joy of being God’s righteousness to people who think their irreconcilable differences will keep them from God!
The greatest act of serving you could ever do for anyone is telling them that they can be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ’s work on an old rugged Cross!
As I said in my book review of The Blood Of The Cross by Horatius Bonar (which you can read by clicking here), I have never read such a penetrating look at the beyond-all-measurement value of the blood Jesus Christ shed on the Cross. An absolutely fascinating read! There are way too many quotes from this book to share them all now, so this is the first set of quotes I’d like to share with you.
“Nothing now will keep us, but certainty. Such a storm will need a sure anchor. A man may cheat his soul into tranquility when days are prosperous and skies are blue. He may say, ‘I hope it will go well with me at last,’ and sit down contented with his meager hope. But when heaven and earth are shaken, he cannot but tremble. His peace gives way at the first ruffle of the tempest. He had no certainty to lean upon, and his false security was broken in an hour. … It is not yet too late. The Cross is still standing on the earth. The Crucified One is still upon the mercy seat. If the favor of God has hitherto been a dark uncertainty, it may yet been made sure. The way of reconciliation through the blood is as open as ever.”
“If God and we, then, are at variance, how is this variance to cease? Is it by His adopting our judgment, or by our adopting His? It cannot be the former. … What thank you, then, of the blood of Christ? Is that which is so precious in God’s eyes as precious in yours? Has the controversy between Him and you upon this point been solidly adjusted? And are you at one with Him in His estimate of the blood of His dear Son? If so, it is well. For this is faith; and it is by this faith that you are saved.”
“Most men imagine that they know its value sufficiently already, and that what they need is not a higher estimate of the blood, but a deeper impression wrought in them by the estimate which they now possess. But is it so? Is this the whole evil? Is this its root? No. Whatever they may now suppose that they have, let them know this, that it is just in their estimate of the blood that they are deficient.”
“The new estimate which God enables us to form of this at once infuses peace. If that estimate which God had given of it be true, then all that is needful for our peace has been accomplished. That infinitely precious blood sheds peace and sunshine into our souls. We see that blood as God sees it, and our consciences are unburdened—our souls are set at rest. … The blood of His Cross has finished our peace. And that finished peace is all we need to banish every fear.”
“What does God thinks of this blood? He counts it as infinitely precious—more precious than all corruptible things such as gold and silver. Its value can only be measured by the greatness of Him from Whom it flowed.”
“If a sinner of old might come into the courts of the Lord as an accepted worshipper, simply because presenting to God the blood of bulls and goats, may not a sinner now come into the real, the immediate presence of Jehovah, with still greater certainty of acceptance, simply making mention of that divine blood which has flowed from the Lamb of God—the Word made flesh—Who made His soul an offering for sin, and gave His life a ransom for the sins of many (Isaiah 53:10; Matthew 20:28)?”
“And now it is safe for the sinner to enter in, and it is honorable for God to admit him. The sanctuary is not defiled by his entrance, for the blood is there to prevent this. He does not need to be alarmed, or shrink back, for that blood which opens the way gives him also liberty and boldness in coming in, removing that terror of a guilty conscience which would keep him back, and enabling him to come ‘with a true heart, and in full assurance of faith, having his heart sprinkled from an evil conscience, and his body washed with pure water’ (Hebrews 10:22).”
“It is the sprinkling of the blood upon the soul (which takes place so soon as we take God’s Word for its efficacy) that makes it fit for being the tabernacle of the Holy One. It is the sight of this blood that makes the sinner feel safe and happy in such near contact with God; for otherwise how could he feel at home with such a Guest—the unholy with the Holy?”
** Look for another set of quotes from this book later this week. **
Last 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…
“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—
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!