Is He Able?

The Contemporary Christian
John Stott

Is God really able to change human nature … to make cruel people kind, selfish people unselfish, immoral people self-controlled, and sour people sweet? Is he able to take people who are dead to spiritual reality, and make them alive in Christ? Yes, he really is!

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When Was Jesus Most Angry?

When was Jesus most angry?  

  1. before his morning coffee
  2. when Peter made a “yo mama” joke
  3. at the end of Lost
  4. when he cleansed the temple

Mark 11:15–17

[15] And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. [16] And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. [17] And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.”

Jesus actually whipped people!  He flipped tables in a place more sacred than the Vatican or the Sistine Chapel.  And He did not use His library voice, but shouted, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.”

Here, Jesus quotes from Isaiah 56:7.  In its context, the verse reads as follows:

Isaiah 56:3, 6-7

3 Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the LORD say, “The LORD will surely separate me from his people”…

6 “And the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD, to minister to him, to love the name of the LORD, and to be his servants… these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”

Isaiah 56 is about the foreigner who is afraid that they will be separated from God’s people.  The prophet reassures foreigners (non Israelites) who love the Lord that they will be brought near.  The main emphasis is not on money or even prayer, but on God’s love for all nations and all peoples.

Jesus was angry because the Israelites had set up shops in the outer courts of the temple that were supposed to be reserved for the Gentiles to worship.  God’s people had considered their own worship and their own profits more important than the world having access to God. God is most upset when we ignore His heart for the nations and push them away because we are too worried about ourselves.

A Second Time in Glory

A Brief and Untechnical Statement of the Reformed Faith
Benjamin B. Warfield

I believe that as Jesus Christ has once come in grace, so also is he to come a second time in glory, to judge the world in righteousness and assign to each his eternal award; and I believe that if I die in Christ, my soul shall be at death made perfect in holiness and go home to the Lord; and when he shall return to his majesty I shall be raised in glory and made perfectly blesses in the full enjoyment of God to all eternity: encouraged by which blessed hope it is required of me willingly to take my part in suffering hardship here as a good soldier of Christ Jesus, being assured that if I die with him I shall also live with him, if I endure, I shall also reign with him. And to Him, my Redeemer, with the Father, and the Holy Spirit, Three Persons, one God, be glory forever, world without end, Amen, and Amen.

God Has Established His Church

A Brief and Untechnical Statement of the Reformed Faith
Benjamin B. Warfield

I believe that God has established his Church in the world and endowed it with the ministry of the Word and the holy ordinances of Baptism, the Lord’s Supper and Prayer; in order that through these as means, the riches of his grace in the gospel may be made known to the world, and, by the blessing of Christ and the working of his Spirit in them that by faith receive them, the benefits of redemption may be communicated to his people; wherefore also it is required of me that I attend on these means of grace with diligence, preparation, and prayer, so that through them I may be instructed and strengthened in faith, and in holiness of life and in love; and that I use my best endeavors to carry this gospel and convey these means of grace to the whole world. 

The Christian Calendar

The Gospel Driven Life
Michael Horton

Like the Old Testament feasts, the great events celebrated by Christians have to do with God’s mighty acts: the Son becoming flesh (Christmas), the crucifixion (Good Friday) and resurrection (Easter), Christ’s exaltation to the right of the Father (Ascension Day), and the sending of the Spirit (Pentecost). There is no room in the Christian calendar for celebrating our own works.

Turn with Grief and Hatred

A Brief and Untechnical Statement of the Reformed Faith
Benjamin B. Warfield

I believe that God requires of me, under the gospel, first of all, that , out of a true sense of my sin and misery and apprehension of his mercy in Christ, I should turn with grief and hatred away from sin and receive and rest upon Jesus Christ alone for salvation; that, so being united to him, I may receive pardon for my sins and be accepted as righteous in God’s sight only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to me and received by faith alone; and thus and thus only do I believe I may be received into the number and have a right to all the privileges of the sons of God. 

I believe that, having been pardoned and accepted for Christ’s sake , it is further required of me that I walk in the Spirit whom he has purchased for me, and by whom love is shed abroad in my heart; fulfilling the obedience I owe to Christ my King; faithfully performing all the duties laid upon me by the holy law of God my heavenly Father; and ever reflecting in my life and conduct, the perfect example that has been set me by Christ Jesus my Leader, who has died for me and granted to me his Holy Spirit just that I may do the good works which God has afore prepared that I should walk in them. 

Redeemed Through Jesus Christ

A Brief and Untechnical Statement of the Reformed Faith
Benjamin B. Warfield

I believe that God has redeemed his people unto himself through Jesus Christ our Lord; who, though he was and ever continues to be the eternal Son of God, yet was born of a woman, born under the law, that he might redeem them that are under the law: I believe that he bore the penalty due to my sins in his own body on the tree, and fulfilled in his own person the obedience I owe to the righteousness of God, and now presents me to his Father as his purchased possession, to the praise of the glory of his grace forever; wherefore renouncing all merit of my own, I put all my trust only in the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ my redeemer. 

I believe that Jesus Christ my redeemer, who died for my offences was raised again for my justification, and ascended into the heavens, where he sits at the right hand of the Father Almighty, continually making intercession for his people, and governing the whole world as head over all things for his Church; so that I need fear no evil and may surely know that nothing can snatch me out of his hands and nothing can separate me from his love. 

I believe that the redemption wrought by the Lord Jesus Christ is effectually applied to all his people by the Holy Spirit, who works faith in me and thereby unites me to Christ, renews me in the whole man after the image of God, and enables me more and more to die unto sin and to live unto righteousness; until, this gracious work having been completed in me, I shall be received into glory; in which great hope abiding, I must ever strive to perfect holiness in the fear of God. 

My One Aim in Life and Death

A Brief and Untechnical Statement of the Reformed Faith
Benjamin B. Warfield

I believe that my one aim in life and death should be to glorify God and enjoy him forever; and that God teaches me how to glorify him in his holy Word, that is, the Bible, which he had given by the infallible inspiration of this Holy Spirit in order that I may certainly know what I am to believe concerning him and what duty he requires of me. 

I believe that God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal and incomparable in all that he is; one God but three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, my Creator, my Redeemer, and my Sanctifier; in whose power and wisdom, righteousness, goodness and truth I may safely put my trust. 

I believe that the heavens and the earth, and all that is in them, are the work of God hands; and that all that he has made he directs and governs in all their actions; so that they fulfill the end for which they were created, and I who trust in him shall not be put to shame but may rest securely in the protection of his almighty love. 

I believe that God created man after his own image, in knowledge, righteousness and holiness, and entered into a covenant of life with him upon the sole condition of the obedience that was his due; so that it was by willfully sinning against God that man fell into the sin and misery in which I have been born. 

I believe, that, being fallen in Adam, my first father, I am by nature a child of wrath, under the condemnation of God and corrupted in body and soul, prone to evil and liable to eternal death; from which dreadful state I cannot be delivered save through the unmerited grace of God my Savior. 

I believe that God has not left the world to perish in its sin, but out of the great love wherewith he has loved it, has from all eternity graciously chosen unto himself a multitude which no man can number, to deliver them out of their sin and misery, and of them to build up again in the world his kingdom of righteousness; in which kingdom I may be assured I have my part, if I hold fast to Christ the Lord. 

Ears to Hear

Luke 10:38–42

[38] Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. [39] And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. [40] But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” [41] But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, [42] but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

In this passage, Mary is seen sitting and Martha is busy serving.  Perhaps the lesson is, don’t get so busy serving and just enjoy Jesus.  But Mary is not just sitting.  She is having more than esoteric, spiritual experience by staring at Jesus.  Mary is listening.  In the Greek, this is clear as the main verb is “listened” and Mary’s sitting is simply describing the way she listened.  Mary comes to Jesus in humility, needing to be taught, needing to hear His Word and His truth and not her own.

Again, Martha is “distracted with much serving.”  We might imagine we are left with two choices: either listen at Jesus’s feet or serve.  But then this passage is preceded by another in which Jesus sends out 72 disciples to serve and do ministry as well as the parable of the Good Samaritan who loves and serves his neighbor.  So Jesus is not speaking against serving.  Martha is distracted for another reason.

See, Martha is annoyed at Mary for not helping her.  She is also annoyed at Jesus for not telling Mary to get up and help her.  Martha assumes she knows what is good and right.  She is distracted and consumed not with serving but with her serving, with the service she has chosen for herself.

Martha is focused on serving the Lord her way and it isn’t going well.  Mary is an obstacle to Martha’s goal and in a funny way, so is Jesus.

It is easy to imagine that we know how life and even faith work.  We have everything figured out and the problem is simply living it out, but this is not true.  According to the Bible, we do not know what is good and right.  We do not know what love or blessing are.  We do not know how to live and we need God to teach us.

With great tenderness, Jesus addresses Martha’s anxious and troubled heart.  He is telling her that she misunderstands her need.  Martha, like all of us, need to hear Jesus speak.  While it may be temporarily pleasing to hear Jesus say what we want to hear and tell us how we were right all along, what we really need is to let Him say whatever He wants to say and humbly receive His Word.  For it is not flattery or sentiment but the truth that will set us free.

A Singular Purpose

Ephesians 4:11–12

[11] And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, [12] to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ…

These verses introduce us to many different people with a variety of roles and strengths who all have a singular goal: “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.”

Sometimes, the church is described as a hospital.  On the one hand, this is true.  The church is filled with people who are not well and far from perfect.  But think about the goal of a hospital.  A hospital aims to heal all of its patients so that the patients can get on with their lives as mothers, engineers, students, etc.

If the church is only a hospital, then the purpose of the church is to deal with our sins, weaknesses, and wounds so that we can get on with our lives and pursue our personal dreams and goals.

A body is very different.  Each part of the body has a different function: teeth are for chewing, eyes are for seeing, and feet are for walking and smelling bad.  Yet, all the parts of the body are working together for one larger purpose.  The body as a whole is fulfilling a singular purpose and each of its members contributes to that larger purpose.

In a similar way, each member of the church may have a different function.  Some are prophets and others are teachers or evangelists, etc.  But all are building up the body.

This is something we can conceptually understand but find hard to accept as it is the opposite of what our culture tells us is important.  The world says that what’s really important is what makes us different, but this is not true.

The Apostle Paul understands what is important in life.  In Ephesians 4:1 he speaks of how he is a prisoner for the Lord.  The Lord that He serves is worth going to prison for, worth giving his life for and it is for this Jesus that he urges us to walk in love, maintain the unity of the Spirit, and build up the body.

And while we may bristle at the idea of living for something that millions of saints and angels throughout history have lived for, there is something to be said about living for something that a single human life could not possibly accomplish or overshadow.  Our unique contributions may not be remembered clearly but the One for whom we live will be remembered and worshiped for all of eternity.  It is our privilege to live for the One who is greater than all other people, causes, and events that could ever be conceived.