No Chance

Christians “are never in the grip of blind force (fortune, chance, luck, fate); all that happens to them is divinely planned, and each event comes as a new summons to trust, obey, and rejoice.”

–J.I. Packer

New Identity

On front page of one of our nation’s leading newspapers this past week were two articles, one praising someone for being transgender, and another scolding someone else for being transracial.

For some reason right now it’s okay to pretend you are someone of a different gender, but not okay to pretend that you are someone of a different race. It’s okay to artificially make yourself look like a woman, but not okay to artificially make yourself look like an African American.

These identify crises are bizarre in one sense, but at the same time we shouldn’t be surprised. Everyone needs an identity, and everyone has to face their flawed identity and the desire to be remade. In his letter to church in Ephesus, Paul says we are all by nature children of wrath. Every individual in the human race is born fallen, sinful, sinning, and under the judgment of God. This is not an identity of confidence and security.

We all need to be transformed, to be remade and renewed in every way, to take part of what Jesus calls the regeneration. He told one teacher in Israel, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (Jn. 3:3). Regeneration is the sovereign work of the Holy Spirit. Bruce Jenner and Rachel Dolezal are not wrong to seek a new identity, but they’re not going to find it with surgery and skin color.

God the Father offers us a new birth, a new heart, a new hope through a new and living way directly into the His presence through the blood of Christ. Without this renewal we are stuck with our own manufactured ones that only make us more broken and confused.

But the way out is simple. The good news that Jesus died for our sin, rose from the dead on the third day according the Scriptures in order to give us new life and transform the world is plain. Christ died and rose. That offer was made with power 2000 years ago and continues today as you are invited to repent of your sin and believe in Jesus, that times of refreshing—fulfillment, peace, joy, acceptance, confidence, love—would come to you from your Lord and God.

The Gospel is simple good news, and it is the power unto salvation. Receive and rest in it, and take it out in humble confidence to a world in need of a new identity.

The Conquered Dragon

The victory over the Dragon, according to St. John, does not take place by means of a cataclysmic event at the end of history, but by means of the cataclysmic event that took place in the middle of history: the sacrifice of the Lamb. The language used to describe the basis of Michael’s conquest has nothing to do with the Second Coming, but it has everything to do with the First Coming… When, therefore, did Satan fall from heaven? He fell, definitively, during the ministry of Christ, culminating in the atonement, the resurrection, and the ascension of the Lord to His heavenly throne.”  –David Chilton, The Days of Vengeance, pp. 315-16, on Revelation 12:10-11

 

Drew & Becky

Every wedding between a man and a woman is a picture, a metaphor, of the ultimate marriage between Jesus and the Church.

Ephesians 5:29-33:

29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

It’s important, especially now, to remember that though I’m officiating, I’m not creating a marriage. Marriage is not something the Church made up or instituted, nor is it something the state established. Marriage was created by God at the beginning of the human race to be an image of the covenantal, sacrificial, loving relationship between Jesus and the Church. The covenant of marriage therefore can’t be created or altered by anyone, but it can be received, enjoyed, honored to our blessing and God’s glory, or ignored and despised at our peril.

The Church and state don’t create marriages, but they witness them. The state enforces laws so they’re represented. The Church upholds the law of Christ and wants to see your marriage flourish as you keep your vows and thrive in your love for God and one another. And all of us here as friends and family are also witnesses. You’re not here just for the cake or the sweet train ride, although these are appreciated, but weddings have witnesses for a reason. We witness the vows Drew and Becky make because we love them and pledge to support them. We commit to care, encourage, and pray for them, and as they are united in marriage, they’re a blessing to us, to the Church, and to the world. So don’t lock your knees and pass out, or leave this place in your mind. This matters.

Becky, ladies first, so I’ll speak to you. Here is Paul in Ephesians 5:22-24:

22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

Many people bristle at these words both in the Church and the world today because they don’t understand who God is. Jesus is equal to the Father, and yet the Father is the head of Jesus. He does the Father’s will; He glorifies the Father. Far from making Jesus lesser, servile or despised, the Father has put the name of Jesus above every name. In the Godhead, we have equality and submission, hierarchy and glory.

Proverbs 12:4 says “An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who brings shame is like rottenness in his bones.” Submitting to your husband, honoring and respecting him even when he isn’t respectable, is one of the most powerful ways God has given you to make him more honorable and respectable. When you follow and build him up, you’re not becoming a doormat, but you are making a noble head upon which you are the crown.

Crowns are beautiful, but they are not merely beautiful. By them, kings rule. The excellent wife in Proverbs 31 is more precious than jewels. Her husband trusts her; she does him good all her days. She provides for her people, bringing food from far. She runs the household, clearly her priority, but not her confined place. She considers a field and buys it. She plants a vineyard. She makes her arms strong. She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out to the needy. She makes garments and sells them.

You are taking on the noble role of wife today, following in the steps of Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Jael, Hannah, and Mary, matriarchs God used to change the world as they were devoted to their husbands. Be Drew’s devoted friend and most edifying counselor. Steep yourself in Scripture and surround yourself with wise people who spur you on to faith, hope and love. Embrace your role and the wonderful responsibilities that come with it. You are the glory of your husband, his most trusted counselor, his sister and friend. Charm is deceitful, and beauty vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. May your hands be full of good things and your works praise you in the gates.

And for Drew. Paul again in Ephesians 5:

25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.

Drew, you are an interested and interesting person, passionate about your calling and hobbies. This is wonderful, and all of it is be a gift to your bride. Jesus gave everything up for His bride the Church, all the way to death, and you’re called in everything you do to bless and sacrifice for Becky. Your interests should never compete with your interest in her, but always be a connection and expression of it.

You provide for her, and she takes what you provide and makes it better. You initiate, sacrificially leading, and she follows, sacrificing herself as well. Every job you take and cool thing you build is not done apart from considering how to serve and love her as best as you possibly can.

Jesus washes His bride with the Word, so you have the wonderful task of loving Becky as you learn the Bible. You can’t be the right kind of student of her, knowing her better and more deeply year after year and decade after decade, without being a student, a disciple, of Christ first. Be regular and devoted in the means of grace: reading the Bible, praying, and worshiping with God’s people. Lead Becky in these ways, making your home a place God is loved first, and therefore people are as well. Give yourself in these ways and watch God bless you more than you could have imagined through her—“He who loves his wife, loves himself.”

In name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Tell Them

1 Give ear, O my people, to my teaching;
    incline your ears to the words of my mouth!
I will open my mouth in a parable;
    I will utter dark sayings from of old,
things that we have heard and known,
    that our fathers have told us.
We will not hide them from their children,
    but tell to the coming generation
the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might,
    and the wonders that he has done.

Psalm 78:1-4

Jesus’ Ascension Matters

Today is Ascension Sunday, the day the church remembers that 40 days after His resurrection, Jesus went up to the right hand of the Father.

We know something of the importance of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. If He didn’t rise, He didn’t conquer death, and we are still in our sins. But what is the point of His ascension? Wouldn’t it better for the church if He were still here working miracles and showing His healed hands and feet? It’s here that we generally stop understanding the story.

Paul says in Phil. 2:5-11: “5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Jesus descended to earth, became a baby, grew up, learned wisdom, fulfilled the law, condemned the unrighteous, suffered at the hands of sinful men, went into the grave and rose victorious on the third day. But His coronation was not yet complete because He hadn’t come into the throne room of God. As the humanity Jesus had to be received by Father in heaven, and He did so in order reign from heaven.

Jesus did justice and healed people and battled oppression in Israel when He was on earth, but His project is much bigger. In order to bring salvation to all the world, working through it like leaven through the dough, He had to go to Father, be crowned, and begin reigning.

This is why Paul sees the Ascension driving His mission: “9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth”. Jesus told the disciples this would be for their good: “7 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. 8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (Jn. 16:7-9).

The Spirit descended from heaven on Pentecost, but Jesus had to ascend there in order to send Him. This was one of His first decisions as the reigning king. Man went to heaven so that heaven could come to man.

Augustine on Ascension Day:

“This festival confirms the grace of all the festivals together, without which the profitableness of every festival would have perished. For unless the Savior had ascended into heaven, his Nativity would have come to nothing … his Passion would have borne no fruit for us, and his most holy Resurrection would have been useless.”

Jesus ascended and His entire mission was completed and crowned with Him. This is why you are hearing about and seeing it extend across the world. He calls to confess our sins and continue with Him as it spreads.

 

Passing It Down

“When leadership team members avoid discomfort among themselves, they only transfer in far greater quantities to larger groups of people throughout the organization they’re supposed to be serving.”

–Patrick Lencioni

Hatred Via Low Expectations

“As we bring up our children, we should descend to their level in one sense (humility) in order to lead them to our level (maturity). This is not the same as descending to their level (immaturity) in order to lead them to our level (pride). We must be servants to our children; we must not cater to them. One of the central problems with bringing up children in our day is the constant temptation to underestimate their capacities. We teach them profane and irreverent little ditties, not psalms and hymns. We give them moralistic little stories, not biblical doctrine and ethics. We expect them to act as though they have no brains or souls until they have graduated from college. We aim at nothing, and hit it every time.”

–Douglas Wilson, Standing on the Promises

Thrice Justified

“Every man that is saved is justified three ways: First, meritoriously, by the death of Jesus Christ: “It is the blood of Jesus Christ alone that cleanses us from all sin.” Second, instrumentally, by faith; faith is the means or instrument whereby the merits of Jesus Christ are applied to the sinner’s heart: “Ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.” Third, we are justified declaratively; name, by good works.; good works declare and prove to the world that our faith is a true saving faith. “Was not Abraaham jusiefed by works And again, “Show me thy faith by thy works.”

–George Whitefield