Sep 272011

Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible.

Ephesians 6:24 (ESV)

The inspiration for the Redeemer Baptist Church blog came from Hebrews 13:9: “For it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods.” Over the last couple months, I have sought to help us understand what it means to be strengthened by grace. The blog will continue to be called Strengthened by Grace, but I will wrap up this nine part series this week. After this, Lord willing, I will delve into other topics as the Lord leads.

So, I will conclude with the final sentence from Paul’s wonderful letter to the Ephesians. We find here a very interesting thought. We know God is sovereignly free to give His grace to whom He will. In Exodus 33, God proclaims to Moses his name, Yahweh, and he reveals to Moses what it means to be God: “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.” God declares that grace is His to give and He gives it as He desires to give it. This means that God’s grace is totally undeserved and unmerited. God did not owe it to anyone, nor has anyone impressed Him such that He felt constrained to give it. God is neither bound nor constrained to dispense his grace. The words, “deserved grace” or “earned grace”, are oxymorons. They naturally contradict each other.

What is interesting here in Ephesians 6 is that God’s grace is understood as free and unmerited, but also as conditional. Paul prays that more grace be given to all who love the Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible. All others are excluded from this prayer. This idea is not foreign to the teaching of the New Testament. We read in Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” God works all things for the good, but only to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. These are His people only! Another example is 1 Peter 5:5, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” The only recipients of grace here are the humble. The proud are evidently in opposition to God and will not find grace. We could also read in Hebrews 4:16 that it is only believers that draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, and there find mercy and grace to help in time of need.

Free grace does not always mean unconditional grace. But remember this: conditional grace is never, never earned grace. It is always given freely and sovereignly by God. Let me give you an example of this from one of my old favorite TV shows, Sanford & Son. This must be good!! And it is! A girl in this particular episode, named Betty Jean, will receive $10,000 from a trust from her deceased father on the day she gets married. Of course, when Fred hears this, he wants his son, Lamont, to marry her, not for love, but for the money. Now, the $10,000 is still a gift. Betty Jean has not earned it, but she has not met the condition to receive it. But Betty Jean’s mother is doing all she can to help Betty Jean find the right man. (You would just have to see this episode. I am just about to laugh out loud. If you want an example of political incorrectness, Fred Sanford is it. That’s all I can say!) So, the freeness of grace is seen in a gift that is undeserved, and it is likewise seen in all the assistance given to meet the condition to receive the gift.

This is exactly what God does for us. He provides the gift, and He gives us all the help to meet the conditions necessary to receive the gift. We could never receive eternal life apart from His sovereign grace. Repentance and faith are absolutely necessary components, but we cannot produce them on our own. We need help. So He grants us the repentance and the faith necessary to lay hold of His promises. This unites us to Jesus Christ. He causes us to meet the conditions to receive his grace. Augustine said it so well, “God, command what you will, but give what you command.” God commands me to repent and believe in the Gospel; this cannot happen unless God grants, by His grace, the new birth – that which produces the fruit of repentance and faith.

Do you want more grace? If so, let me ask you this: Do you have an undying love for Jesus Christ? Do you love Him? And I mean, do you really love Him? Or do you give lip service to Him? Grace is given to those that love Christ with a love incorruptible. Do you want to be strengthened by more grace today? Confess your sins to Him and ask Him to grant you deep affections for Him.

I leave you with a song that was written and performed by the New Attitude Band, part of the ministry to young adults from Sovereign Grace Ministries. This song came to mind when I read today’s verse. I pray it will bless you.

Undying Love

Grace, grace to all who love the Lord Jesus Christ
With an undying love
Grace, grace to all who love the Lord Jesus Christ
With an undying love

Give me an undying love for You
Lord won’t You set my heart aflame
With passion for Your Name
Give me an undying love for You
Lord won’t You take me to the cross
I count it all as loss
Please burn away the dross
So that nothing else remains
But an undying love for You

Grace, grace to all who bring the weight of their sin
To the Lord Jesus Christ
Grace, grace to all who bring the weight of their sin
To the Lord Jesus Christ

© 1991 Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI)

Sep 132011

Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To Him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

1 Peter 5:9-11 (ESV)

In a footnote to Part 3 of Strengthened by Grace, I mentioned a time in my life when my sinful heart was exposed to me and I learned some valuable lessons about faith in future grace. I took two weeks off to sit in a gazebo in the woods overlooking Lake Nottely, in the mountains of Georgia, and read John Piper’s book entitled Future Grace. Actually, the book does not have a sub-title but a supra-title. The book is called “The Purifying Power of Living By Faith in … Future Grace.”

I readily admit to you that the ministries of two men have had a profound impact and influence on my life. The first is A.W. Tozer, who died in 1963. But the second is Dr. John Piper, Pastor of Preaching at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, MN. Of course, I love the Puritans and many Baptist theologians of the past, but it has been these two pastors that have shaped much of who I am.

In the late 1990’s, when I was struggling to understand the Doctrines of Grace (i.e., the five points of Calvinism), God used Piper’s writings to open my eyes to the plain teaching of Scripture, and my heart responded with an emphatic, “Yes, this is truth! This is what my soul has longed for!” It began with his book on preaching called The Supremacy of God in Preaching. Pages 33-34 particularly arrested my attention. The cross was not first and foremost a demonstration of God’s love for me, but it was a demonstration of God’s passion for His own glory. The cross was a demonstration of God’s righteousness. God’s righteousness is His commitment to uphold His own glory. So the cross is first and foremost God-focused, not man-focused. That truth shook me, and rightly so. My man-centered, Arminian doctrines were crumbling to the ground.

Then I read a paper that Piper wrote for his staff in 1985 entitled What We Believe About the Five Points of Calvinism. After reading this 11 page paper, I was convinced. It was undeniable. The Bible was so clear on this and it literally set my heart on fire for God. Following this, I read Desiring God and The Pleasures of God. These also greatly helped me. But I still wanted to know more about how to live the Christian life. What is sanctification? How do I deal with this sinful heart of mine? Then I read Future Grace, and I began to see that holiness would not be motivated only by my remembrance of God’s grace in the past, but by faith in God’s promises for grace in the future. You will search in vain for a Bible text that teaches that gratitude for past grace is the motivator for holiness in the present. Past grace is the foundation, but what motivates me to holiness is faith in future grace. I can fight the false promises of satisfaction through sin when I am trusting in the promises of God for future grace.

Sin teases us with promises of happiness. The fight of faith requires us to trust in a greater happiness than that which sin promises. The apostle Peter encourages his readers to resist the enemy of our souls. Satan wants to devour our faith. He is looking for someone to devour. Lions do not roar before they attack. They crouch and hide and sneak up on their prey, and when the victim least expects it, the lion goes in for the kill. Lions roar after they have caught their prey as an indication of conquest. Satan is so subtle, friends. He attacks when we least expect it. If he can shake our faith in future grace, he has a huge advantage in drawing us to the fleeting and empty promises of sin. But believers are called to resist him, “firm in our faith.” Peter’s audience was experiencing great persecution. Many believers unknown to the recipients of the letter were suffering great trials around the world, and Peter tells his audience that they will suffer too. But these sufferings are only “for a little while.” Let this word be an encouragement for you today. In the light of eternity, the trial you are experiencing will not last long.

That brings us to faith in future grace. Peter calls God “the God of all grace,” not some grace. He is the God of past grace, present grace, and all future grace! This God has called us to His eternal glory in Christ. What a promise! Do you believe this today? Your end-time salvation is sure because He has called you by grace in the past, and He will surely provide grace today and for the future. So today, friends, he will restore, confirm, strengthen and establish you. Praise be to his name! Again, that’s how Peter ends, with a glorious doxology.

Are you being tempted to sin even now? Are you struggling with your temper? Are tempted to walk about in despair? God will strengthen you by his all-sufficient grace. It’s there now and it will be there in the future. Will you trust Him and rest on His promises of grace?

I am making a commitment before my congregation and those who read this blog: I will read Future Grace again. It is designed to be read in 31 days. If you have a copy of this book, perhaps you will join me. Whether you own the book or not, perhaps you will commit to pray for me. I greatly desire to exemplify this life of faith in future grace to my people. I am not satisfied with where I am spiritually. I am not satisfied with where RBC is spiritually. I desire that we be people that ooze with faith in future grace! This should be true of us because the Bible oozes with the promises of God for our future. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen!

Sep 062011

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies – in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

1 Peter 4:7-11 (ESV)

Not only is Jesus the sovereign builder of His Church (Matthew 16:18), but also He is sovereign in providing the necessary gifts for the edification of His people and the display of His power in this world. So, God has created the new community of believers by His sovereign grace, has broken down the wall of hostility between Jew and Gentile, making them one, and He has given gifts to His people for the building up of the body. This is the message of Ephesians chapters 1-4. God graciously supplies His people with all they need for life and godliness. The local church is a precious means of grace that God gives His people, and in the church His varied grace is seen in the varieties of gifts He gives.

My prayer today is that you would be strengthened in the truth that God has given gifts to all believers for the greater good of the entire body of Christ.

A few things I want us to note about the text above:

1. Every believer has been given a gift by God. Peter makes clear in the text that no believer is excluded. Each one has received a gift. The Greek word for gift, charismata, is rooted in the word for grace, charis. God places in His body whom He wills and gifts them as He wills. Young and old are vitally important in the Church of Jesus Christ. No believer should boast in his gift – for it is something that is received – and no believer should think he is better than another. You might ask, “Well, I don’t know what my gift is! Do I need to take a spiritual gift inventory?” I say an emphatic, “No”! Many will use a spiritual gift inventory report as a reason not to serve in certain areas where the Bible clearly tells them to serve. One example would be hospitality. You can’t say that you won’t practice hospitality because you do not have that gift. All believers all called to be hospitable (see 1 Peter 4:9!). Some simply have a greater God-given grace in this area. The same could be said about many other areas of service. Don’t make this more difficult than it really is. Trust the Lord, get involved in the local church, and let Him lead you to places of service. God can use you in ways you would have never dreamed.

2. Believers are to use their gifts for the edification and blessing of others. In Ephesians 4, the gifts of apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers are said to be given by Christ. Since Christ has won the right to dispense the gifts as He wills (Ephesians 4:7-8, see also Psalm 68:18), and the Spirit apportions to each one as He wills (1 Corinthians 12:11), the gifts should be used for the common good of the body (1 Corinthians 12:7). Believers should be involved in each others’ lives and using the gifts they have been given. We should not congratulate each other for the gifts we receive; rather we are called to use our gifts in the service of others.

3. Believers are to be good stewards of these gifts. Being a steward means, again, that the gift does not ultimately belong to us. It belongs to God. We are all called to be faithful servants of our Lord and Master. The Scripture calls the gifts “varied”, meaning that not all the gifts are the same. For the body to function properly, believers should be fulfilling their God-given function. Using our gifts is a responsibility and not simply a privilege. I want us to hear the words, “Well done good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Master.”

4.The gifts are separated in two categories: speaking gifts and serving gifts. There is a sense in which all gifts are given for service (verse 10), but functionally the gifts generally fall into these two categories. I could write a sermon on this point – “but those that speak should speak the very words,” or oracles, “of God.” The speaker is not to give his own opinions and use his own wisdom, but should rather seek to speak the very words of God. The one who serves must serve in the strength that God supplies. Do you see that God works here from beginning to end? That is why Peter leads us to the last point.

5. The Giver of the gifts must receive all the glory! All of this is done in God’s design to bring glory to Himself and not to us! Let us be very careful not to become prideful with respect to the things we do for the Kingdom. Peter gives us a very fitting doxology in verse 11. The Gospel centers on Jesus. To Him belongs glory and dominion forever and ever! And all God’s people said, “Amen.”

So dear Christian, be strengthened in this: God’s varied grace has touched your life. He has uniquely called you and gifted you for the edification of His people! What a grand design! What special grace He bestows to us! I want the members of RBC to know what a blessing they are to me. God has been so gracious to put us on this journey together. Let us continue to serve each other in love, and work together to accomplish our mission. We exist for the Proclamation of God in Christ, For the Transformation of His people, and For the Exaltation of God in all things.

Soli Deo Gloria