“I Commit My Spirit”

Spirit

When Jesus died, his life was not taken… it was given.

Even in the last statement Jesus makes on the cross, we can see this. Jesus calls out in a loud voice… which doesn’t sound like the way one responds after being beaten, being exhausted, and on the verge of death.  And in his own words he says, “I commit my spirit.”

Jesus isn’t saying, I’ve lost.  He isn’t saying I can’t make it anymore.  He’s giving up his life.  The irony is that in the events of the day, in the suffering, in the rejection, in the hurt and the pain – it was never ultimately up to any of the people who hurt Jesus – it was up to him.

Even in the statements about Jesus mocking him by saying, “Come down from the cross.”

He could.

[Read more…]

The Emphasis of Mission in Justification

mission & justification

The Gospel is what defines the Church. In a world that is constantly pushing us to do more, try harder, the Gospel runs counter to everything the world preaches. In our own sinfulness, we naturally trust in our own performance, but it is the performance of Jesus alone that sets us free.

Justification is the doctrine that defines what is means to be a Christian. Martin Luther said that justification is “the article upon which the church stands or falls.”  The fact that Jesus declares us righteousness, not by our own works, but by his is what defines the Christian Church.

And because justification is the doctrine of the forgiveness of sins and the scriptures teach that God “wants all people to be saved,” justification has a missiological emphasis that we must consider.

[Read more…]

Jesus is for Losers

Losers

Oscar Wilde said, “I can resist anything except temptation.” I can resonate with that. The devil knows exactly where I’m weak and vulnerable and I’m a sucker for his lies. It’s no wonder that the hymn writer Robert Robinson wrote hundreds of years ago, “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love.”

I’m prone to walk away from the God I love everyday. I turn my back as I run to my idols that I’ve built for myself and wander around in the dessert trying to find joy and value and life in my own accomplishments and self-importance.

And it doesn’t matter how I hard I try.  Because despite my fight, and even my occasional success in resisting temptation, one of the devil’s attacks will leave me nothing more than a loser without anything left for the fight.

[Read more…]

Sin, Slavery, and Addiction

Sin and slavery

Throughout the scriptures there’s a looping pattern that we see in the nation of Israel. Over and over and over again, the Israelites rebel against God. And this isn’t a one-time occurrence, it happens all the time. It’s not even limited to one book of the Old Testament, it’s the whole thing

One of the earliest commands that God gives the Israelites is, “You shall have no other gods.” And one of the first sins that the nation of Israel commits against God is they begin to worship an idol. And then it just keeps on happening, time and time again.

[Read more…]

Finding God on Top of the Mountain

On top of the mountain

This post is a guest post by my friend Matt Popovits.  Matt is a pastor at Our Saviour New York and is without a doubt one of my favorite preachers around.  This post began as a part of one of Matt’s sermons at OSNY and with some of my editing work, Matt and I were able to come up with a great post to share here.

We all have a crazy collection of religious ideas that we’ve gathered throughout our life.  It’s a crazy collection with ideas from Grandma and Grandpa and Oprah and all kinds of other influential people in our life that we’ve crammed into a spiritual junk drawer that shapes what we believe.

Some of the ideas are just not helpful at all and others are part of biblical historic Christianity.  If we rummage through that drawer, one of the most common items you will find is a ruler, one  of those old 12 inch rulers that you probably took to middle school.  If you pull that out of your spiritual junk drawer it’ll be just like that little ruler that you took to middle school or elementary school; it’s got drawings all over it, you colored on it with marker and pencil.

What that ruler represents in your spiritual junk drawer is this urge that we all have in our spirituality to measure.  This urge that we all have to measure where we are in our faith, how far we’ve climbed in our faith and the desire to compare ourselves and measure ourselves against other people in our faith.

[Read more…]

The Preacher of Grace

Preacher of grace

My son is almost three years old, which means he is now at the age where I can give him a rule and with evil in his eyes and a grin on his face, he will happily ignore my rules. Since he’s just a toddler, he’s not very good at being naughty and it’s usually more entertaining than frustrating.  But nonetheless, he at times shows this childlike joy in testing the limits of what is right and wrong.

Robert Capon describes good preachers in a similar way to a naughty toddler:

“I think good preachers should be like bad kids. They ought to be naughty enough to tiptoe up on dozing congregations, steal their bottles of religion pills…and flush them all down the drain. The church, by and large, has drugged itself into thinking that proper human behavior is the key to its relationship with God. What preachers need to do is force it to go cold turkey with nothing but the word of the cross-and then be brave enough to stick around while [the congregation] goes through the inevitable withdrawal symptoms.”

[Read more…]

The Lost Doctrine of the Reformation

Lost doctrine

There is no question that the Reformation was crucial to the development of Christianity and incredibly important in the recovery of the central teaching of grace. In Luther’s day, the Church had by and large abandoned a true teaching of the Gospel for something that was nothing more than buy-your-own-forgiveness. The Church under the guise of Christianity began selling people false hope.

The Reformation recovered what the Bible actually taught and this centered around what is traditionally called “justification.”

[Read more…]

Band-Aids on Cancer

Band aids

Behavior modification is like putting band-aids on cancer. It’s not really going to fix the underlying problem. You know when you were little and you thought that your mom’s kiss could fix any scraped knee? Relying on your own ability to change is just like that; it makes you feel better but it doesn’t actually fix anything.

In order to really deal with the real problems, it involves something much more serious. With cancer, a poison actually has to start to kill the body in order that it might heal. In surgery, the surgeon cuts in order to heal. The law, the full weight of the law has this same kind of effect. It cuts to the heart of the issue. It kills the cancer that thinks your salvation rests on you.

The law kills in order to make us alive.

[Read more…]

I’m Definitely Not My Own Worst Critic

Worst critic

I’ve heard people often say, “I’m my own worst critic.” I’ve even said this before about myself. But I don’t really think it’s true. At least not all the time, and definitely not for myself. Sure, when it comes to critiquing my own preaching or writing, I might be more critical than other people. But if I’m talking generally about my life, I’m not my own worst critic.

If I’m honest, I often think I’m much better than I really am.

[Read more…]

25 Quotes on Grace

Grace quotes

Grace changes everything. In a world of “do more” and “try harder,” we are need of people who are willing to continue to resound the call of “it is finished.”  Grace is the intoxicating message of the extravagant, relentless love of our savior.

And I’m thankful for the theologians, present and past, who have written these words that have messed with me as I’ve thought, written, and preached the message of grace.

25 Quotes on Grace

“Humility is not a technique to get God’s grace, it is not a merchandise to be exchanged for grace; it is rather the admission of one’s wretchedness; it is about being plain and honest to ourselves and the world by naming things for what they are.” – Vitor Westhelle, The Scandalous God

“We do not, as we follow Jesus, become increasingly self-sufficient. Rather, we learn, bit by bit, the art of begging from God the Father, until at our death we can do nothing but say, “Lord Jesus, have mercy on me!” – John Kleinig, Grace Upon Grace

“Grace is given to heal the spiritually sick, not to decorate spiritual heroes.” – Martin Luther

[Read more…]