Saturday, November 14, 2009

His grace is enough for me...

I was thinking tonight about the service tomorrow, and I was praying that God would direct me with what He wanted me to do for the music time. In my time of meditation I thought back to what I have been reading recently in the book of Acts. I started thinking about Saul’s conversion and how God chose him and then used him as Paul. I thought about how amazing it was that God rescued Saul out of the middle of his sin and saved him by His grace. I also started thinking about the lyrics to a song that was on my heart. The lyrics read: I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene, and wondered how He could love me, a sinner, condemned and unclean.

When I thought about these lyrics my mind was taken back to Saul, a man who really did stand in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene. (Actually, Saul was knocked to the ground!) The point is, Saul was a man that really did stand in the presence of Jesus of Nazareth on his way to kill Christians in the city of Damascus. Jesus interrupted Saul’s journey and poured His grace into a life that was consumed with hatred. Saul was physically blinded by the encounter with Jesus but for the first time in his life the eyes of his heart were opened to the truth. We see in Scripture that Saul went from being a Christ hating murderer to a chosen vessel of God’s grace to spread the gospel all over the world.

Again the lyrics of the hymn came to my mind and I thought about what Paul might think of those lyrics. I think Paul would have loved it! In fact, I am sure Paul had a version of his own. Paul’s account of his conversion in Acts 26:9 sounds a lot like this song. His comments in Ephesians 3:7-12 also indicate that He loved God’s grace because he knew he was undeserving of it. Paul probably sang a song much like this one in his own quiet times when he thought back to his conversion. I bet his chorus was a lot like ours today: How Marvelous! How wonderful! And my song shall ever be: How Marvelous! How Wonderful is my Saviors love for me!

In my time of thinking, I also thought about John Newton who wrote the lyrics to Amazing Grace. John was a case too where God rescued him from a life of hatred. John captained a slave ship, and once John encountered God's grace, God changed his life forever. His lyrics have been remembered in churches all over the planet in the hymn about God's grace. God shows us that He can take the biggest sinners and make them the most influential people of their day for the sake of the good news of His grace.

However, God also showed me that I should be just as amazed and overjoyed at His grace in my own life. My sin in God’s eyes was and is just as bad as the sins of Saul. Jesus says in Luke 7:47 that a person who is forgiven much will love much and a person who is forgiven little will love little. I have been convicted tonight that I might not love and respond in right worship like Paul and John Newton would, because I in some ways have forgotten that I have been forgiven of much myself. I was a murderer, rapist, thief, and blasphemer at heart, and like the song says: He took my sins and my sorrows and He made them His very own, He bore my burden to Calvary and suffered and died alone. Jesus did that out of obedience to His Father for the sake of His glory, but He also did it because He loved and desired to rescue me.

If you are a follower of Jesus, join me tonight in two things:

First, join me in remembering our own sin and God’s great grace all the while meditating on this truth until our souls can sing out How Marvelous! How Wonderful!

Secondly, join me in praying for the salvation of Penn Jillette. Penn is a man known for his devout dedication to atheism. When I was thinking about Saul earlier I tried to think of someone that could be a modern day Saul…someone who hated Christianity and was very influential. After some focused thinking, I thought of Penn. I believe that if God saved Penn, the Holy Spirit through Penn could affect our modern world much like Paul did his. The results would be devastating for the enemy. Join me in praying for this man.

When with the ransomed in glory, His face I at last shall see.

Twill be my joy through the ages to sing of His love for me.

-“I Stand Amazed” Charles Hutchinson 1856-1932

Friday, November 13, 2009

God is serious about obedience...

(These are some thoughts I wrote down in August)

I have been reading through 1 Samuel and 2 Samuel over the last couple of weeks, and I must say that the entire story of Samuel, Saul, David, all the battles, and all of the events is completely amazing! The unfolding story is very captivating and would make an intense movie... However, I as I have said before, I am very convicted tonight over a thought that has popped into my mind a few times now while reading through these great books. This thought is a perfect example of how I do not see sin how God sees it. This thought usually voices itself with an intrusive, "man, isn't that punishment a little too intense?"

While I was reading through Saul's story in 1 Samuel, there was a specific instance in chapter 13 when Saul decided to offer a sacrifice to God right after being anointed king. Sounds good right? Well... not really. Apparently Saul had been instructed to wait for Samuel, and after a long 7 days and no sign of Samuel, Saul decided to go ahead and offer the sacrifice. Well, as you could expect, Saul gets caught right in the middle of offering the sacrifice by Samuel who arrived right on time. Samuel then basically said, "What in the world are you doing?" To sum it up, Saul explains he is just trying to offer a sacrifice to God and didn't think Samuel was coming. Samuel then tells him this: "You have done foolishly. You have not kept the command of the LORD you God, with which he commanded you. For then the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your kingdom shall not continue. The LORD has sought out a man after his own heart" (vs. 13). Now it is sad to say, but my first thought after reading this was "man, isn't that a little too intense? I mean, Saul just disobeyed in this one small area, right? What about second chances? I understand that obedience is crucial, but isn't that a little harsh?"

Why would I think something like this? Well, it is because even though I claim that I know that obedience is crucial, I really don't realize how serious God is about obedience and how infinitely treacherous it is to sin against God. (This also means then that I really don't understand that obedience is crucial) Time after time in these passages, someone will disobey and God will punish the sin. However, this is not a picture of a mean God who delights in punishing people and who is a psycho about people following all the rules; it is a picture of God's holy justice towards sin and disobedience. It is absolutely right for God to punish the sin; it is absolutely crucial that God punish the sin. In order to be just, God must punish sin. It is this crucial because His holiness demands it. However, I sometimes tend to weigh the sin that I see people commit against God in the same way I would weigh sin against another man. But, this is a horrible outlook on sin! "Sin against God is not trivial" as John Piper states, "it is treason!" (For Your Joy, pg. 12)

So, for Saul to disobey the LORD of heaven in this passage is treason! It is not the same as if a friend told me to do something and I didn't do it. The fact that I didn't do it would probably hurt his feelings but would never merit drastic consequences. However, if a parent or teacher told me to do something and I did not do it I would probably be in line for some type of consequence. However, going even further, if the president of our country told me to do something and I didn't I could probably expect some prison time. I hope you see that the higher the authority the more serious the disobedience. However, God is infinitely more deserving of our obedience than any human figure. It is treason to sin against God and must be punished. God is not unjust by taking a kingdom away from someone or allowing a child to die (2 Samuel 12), neither is He unjust by allowing someone to go to hell for eternity. His wrath is a proper response to our sin and He is right in doing so.
(John Piper, Adam Vinson, and a guy named Aaron Werner greatly helped me see sin in this way)

So why these thoughts? It is my own inability to see how serious sin is compared to the holiness of the Living God. Oh may the God of grace who gave His Son to live for me what I could never live, grant me the grace to see the weight of sin against the purity of His Holy character, and may He produce in me a river of joy that wells from my heart over the gospel of Jesus Christ which allows me to escape God's righteous separation from sin and allows me to enjoy everlasting fellowship with Him forever.