What is “more than a conqueror?”

As I was meeting with another fellow this morning for discipleship, prayer, fellowship and food (some of my very favorite things!) – something in a book we were going thru together really struck me.

We have been working thru “Don’t Waste Your Life” by John Piper.

He has a very helpful section to understand Romans 8:37 – “In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”  I found his insight here very helpful:

What does “more than conquerors” mean? How can you be more than a con- queror when you risk for the cause of God and get hurt for it?

But what must happen in this conflict with famine and sword if you are to be called more than a conqueror? One biblical answer is that a conqueror defeats his enemy, but one who is more than a conqueror subjugates his enemy. A conqueror nullifies the purpose of his enemy; one who is more than a conqueror makes the enemy serve his own purposes. A conqueror strikes down his foe; one who is more than a conqueror makes his foe his slave.

Practically what does this mean? Let’s use Paul’s own words  in 2 Corinthians 4:17: “This slight momentary affliction is preparing [effecting, or working, or bringing about] for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” Here we could say that “affliction” is one of the attacking enemies. What has happened in Paul’s conflict with it? It has certainly not separated him from the love of Christ. But even more, it has been taken captive, so to speak. It has been enslaved and made to serve Paul’s everlasting joy. “Affliction,” the former enemy, is now working for Paul. It is preparing for Paul “an eternal weight of glory.” His enemy is now his slave. He has not only conquered his enemy. He has more than conquered him.

The danger in our Americanized Christianity is that we can make it all about us.  We aren’t overcomers because we are so strong – it is because Christ has already overcome that he then causes everything to work for his glory and our good.  And as Pastor Ed says, those two things are never in conflict.

Advertisements

Praying for “God’s Will”

“God’s will” is a hugely misunderstood term in Christianese. Back when I had hair, going thru all the youth groups I was lead to believe that God’s will was a super secret mission that only you could do for God and you had to find out what this secret mission was – you had to make totally sure it was in fact really God’s will. Nonsense. Sadly, we still here this a lot today in Chruchianity. But what does the Bible say?

Our main purpose for our lives is to glorify God (Is 43:7) – we do this by growing into the image of his Son Jesus (Rom 8:29). This means sanctification – as Wayne Grudem says is “a progressive work of God and man that makes us more and more free from sin and more like Christ in our actual lives.”

Therefore, as we pray – let’s pray to avoid sin and love righteousness more,pray that we GROW, to become more like Christ in our “actual lives.”

Job says this is wisdom and understanding “Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom and to turn away from evil is understanding.” (Job 28:28). Paul instructs us further In Eph 5:15-17 “Look carefully then, how you walk, not as unwise, but as wise making the best use of time for the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”

The less we look like sin and more like Jesus in our actual lives, the more all the other “stuff” in our lives becomes more clear. He is our LIGHT.

Perspective in Trials | Dress like a man.

So…finally…38 Chapters into the story of Job – the LORD answers him.

We’ve seen the unbelievable tragedy and suffering that Job is enduring, we’ve seen his 3 dopey friends try and sell him bad theology – that if you do what is right (and don’t go see R-Rated movies, and go to church a lot, and don’t drink/curse/chew or hang out with girls that do) that your life will be happy and prosperous and everything will be peachy.  If not if you are a “bad” person and do those “bad” things then you will have a hard life…so by simple math – Job must be a “bad” person otherwise all this suffering wouldn’t be upon him…God clearly is punishing him.

NOT.

Job’s friends have some skewed theology.  [Side note:  see how vital it is to have solid Biblical theology?!  We need to spot bad counsel by comparing it to the Word of God!]

Truth is – you can do all the things you are “supposed to do” and be a “good person,” and still get cancer.  You’ve girlfriend can dump you.  You can have massive problems with your kids or be unable to find a job.  One of the underlying themes of Job is that hard times are not necessarily a punishment from God.

But…how do we react during hard times?  Do we feel as though we should not be having them at all?  Wish for them to be over as quickly as possible so that life can return to “normal?”  Job spends nearly 3 chapters whining about all the reasons why this shouldn’t be happening to him. (Job 29-31).  He is not reacting very well.  His perspective is definitely starting to be skewed here.

What is your perspective?  The Bible warns us that suffering and hardship are in fact “normal”  for this life.  (see 2 Tim 3:12; John 16:33).  It is infinitely more difficult to deal with hardship when you start from the perspective that it should NOT be happening to you.  We need to gain the Biblical perspective here.  It SHOULD be happening.  Life is hard.  Sin is here.  Evil is around.  We have an enemy and we need to battle him daily with the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ!

We also need to understand that God is completely sovereign. There is absolutely nothing that escapes his notice and he subjugates everything for the main purpose of everything:  for HIS glory.  So it is always about God, not us primarily. We would do well to remember this:  everything God does is for His glory.  When we are in trials, it is a chance for God to work in us more intensely and we need to handle the hard time correctly and wisely in order to grow and bring glory to God.  Hard times produce in us a Godliness that we just don’t get when life is just “peachy.”

One of the most abused verses in the Bible is Romans 8:28.  Christians tend to be in the midst of hard times, find that verse, read it and say “Oh. Cool.  This is going to work for MY good.” Then close the Bible, define the good themselves, and then experience crushing disappointment and loss of faith when their idea of good is not fulfilled.  You cannot understand Romans 8:28 without verse 29.  There the “good” is defined.   “For those he foreknew (again…God’s sovereignty here), he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.”   That’s the good!  That we look more like Jesus.  Not that the trial is over and we return to ‘normal happy life.’

Our BBW is “Sanctification” – my friend Wayne Grudem defines it as “a progressive work of God and man that makes us more and more free from sin and like Christ in our actual lives.”  (Systematic Theology, pg 746)

I have found that Christians spend an awful lot of time trying to figure out the exact lesson that God is trying to teach them in any given trial.  There is an element of truth to that, but we can go too far with that too.  We generally spend far too much time trying to determine the thoughts of God, and we cannot do that – the Bible tells us that his ways are above our ways, and his thoughts are above our thoughts. (Is. 55:8-9).

Driscoll nailed it this week.  He said “God doesn’t give us answers to all of our questions. He gives us Jesus.”

Love it.

Don’t focus on the why, focus on the WHO.  God.  God gives us Jesus so that we can be reconciled with  him – all of our selfish pride and 9 million other sins were paid for by the perfect one who never sinned, who took the punishment for sin that I deserved so that now by faith and the gift of grace I am right before God.   My job now is to look, act, smell, be more like Jesus in my life every day.  That’s hard work and bad stuff happens.  But in it we need to rest that God is sovereign and he is working all things for HIS glory and my sanctification – which is ultimately a good thing for me.

Stop trying to figure things out and start yielding yourself to Jesus.  Search your heart with an open Bible, a steaming hot cup of coffee, and eyes wet with tears that God would strengthen you in this trial to bear it for his glory.   Pray that he will reveal your heart to you and give him all of it.  He promises that he will be found if we seek him with ALL our heart.  (Jer 29:13).

It is impossible to have the perspective that God has.  He is GOD, that is his job, not ours.  God kinda tears into Job right from the start of Chapter 38 – “Who is this that darkens my counsel without knowledge? Dress for action like a man.”  He is saying in a sense “OK, Job.  I’ve heard enough.  You have really no idea what you are talking about because you are not me, never will be me, and don’t know everything I do.  Get ready, put your big boy pants on because I’m going to school you.”

He spends 4 chapters reminding Job of who he is.

Then…well…let’s just wait and see what happens in the last chapter, shall we?

Sorry, this turned out to be kind of a longish rant – but having gone through quite a season in 2010 – this is on my heart.

 

Discipline of Grace – Part 1

It’s a double blog kinda day!  Perhaps it’s all the coffee (I just had to make more coffee for my precious wife, lest she soon awake and find that I have in fact drank the first pot…)

I love Jerry Bridges.  I have for quite some time.  (Pursuit of Holiness, Gospel for Real Life, Respectable Sins…).  My in-laws got me “The Discipline of Grace” for Christmas and I haven’t really been able to put it down since. I’m half way through, but this morning’s chapter was a major light bulb moment for me, that I wanted to write down for future use.

In Chapter 6 “Transformed Into His Likeness” Bridges focuses on Sanctification.  The key verse is 2 Cor 3:18 which reads:

And we all with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

Bridges is focusing on SANCTIFICATION – straight up transformation of people.  God making new people, like only God can do!  I look back on who I was 15 years ago and it is usually a mix of shock, sadness, remorse, anger and eventual wonder of what God has done.  Don’t let yourself get bogged down in the negative – always bring your thoughts to the positive of what God has done and let that amaze you and let it cause you to praise him for Christ and the cross!

Bridges takes us through some great BBW’s (“Big Bible Words”) – first REGENERATION (The Spirit giving us new life  as new creations in Christ); JUSTIFICATION (saved from the penalty of sin) – then he gets to SANCTIFICATION.   As you know I’m a huge fan of BBW’s so I’m positively giddy by this point…

The goal of sanctification is to become like Jesus.  How do we do that? We study his character.  What will it look like if we are progressing in sanctification?

  • We will hate sin.  (In OUR life)
  • We will seek his will more than our own
  • We will seek to please him in our actions more than ourselves
  • We will be aware to test our motives in our hearts because we know God knows whats in there anyway

Always remembering that sanctification is a process, not an event.  Also always remembering that there will be conflict with our remaining sinful nature.  (Gal 5:17) Bridges gave a great illustration of sin being like a defeated army retreating into the hills to wage guerrilla warfare on us. This is the way it is and shouldn’t be a shock.  Also remember that while sanctification is a work of God – we have a responsibility – we need to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in this process.

We will also be aware that as the light of the Holy Spirit shines more brightly in our lives, “smaller” sins we be more clear to us.  Bridges illustrated this as a room with a light on a dimmer, as the dimmer gets turned up, things in the room become more clear – as we grow in sanctification – sins in our hearts will become more clear.

It is vital that we pray daily for God to continue to sanctify us and for us to submit to the Spirit in that work.  (Heb 13:21)

How does God sanctify?

  • First, remember it is the role of the Holy Spirit (see key verse above)
  • Thru trials and adversities, challenges
  • Exhortation and encouragement of fellow believers
  • Scripture
  • Prayer
  • MOST of all – thru JESUS CHRIST

It is vital, critical, paramount (here is the “a-ha moment”) that we appropriate the truth of the gospel BEFORE we get into the mindset of trying to knuckle down and grow in sanctification.  It is the foundation.

Bridges writes “It is the glory of Christ revealed in the gospel, the good news that Jesus died in our place as our representative to free us not only from the penalty of sin, but also from its dominion. A clear understanding and appropriation of the gospel, which gives freedom from sin’s guilt and sin’s grip is tin the hands of the Holy Spirit, a chief means of sanctification.”

“To the degree we feel that we are on a legal or performance relationship with God, to that degree our progress in sanctification is impeded. A legal mode of thinking gives indwelling sin an advantage, because nothing cuts the nerve of the desire to pursue holiness as much as a sense of guilt. On the contrary nothing so motivates us to deal with in in our lives as does the understanding and application o the two truths that our sins are  forgiven and the dominion o sin is broken because of our union with Christ.”

“The cleansing of our consciences from the guilt of sin must preceded our efforts to deal with the presence of sin in our daily lives.”

“We cannot serve God or pursue holiness with any vigor at all if we are dealing with a guilty conscience. Therefore we need the gospel to remind us that our sins are forgiven in Christ and that the “blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7)

This is WHY we preach the gospel to ourselves EVERY DAY.

This is WHY we never move past the gospel.

This is WHY the gospel of Jesus is of first importance and must remain so.

Otherwise we take our eyes off of Him and put them on US – and we then do not grow in the likeness of Christ – we do not stand on the rock solid truth that HE is our righteousness, our forgiveness, our innocence before God and we work FROM that identity, not FOR that identity as he transforms us from one degree of glory to another.