Daily Light – June 26, 2019

Being Careful to Evaluate Our Success

Taken from an article by:  Greg Morse, Staff Writer, desiringGod.org

I failed as a collegiate athlete. For some years now, I’ve looked back with regret on wasted potential and childhood dreams that were so close to coming true but never did. Why didn’t I work harder? What if I had known what I do today? Why didn’t God allow me to utilize the gifts he gave me? It still bothers me from time to time.

Even if you’ve never spent time on a football field, you may relate. Your passions outpaced your progress; your gifting never realized its full potential. But as you grimace considering the success that never came, has it ever crossed your mind to actually thank God for your failure?

Thank God for Failure?

It hadn’t crossed my mind until recently. Lost in a daydream of what could have been, words from Spurgeon sent arrows deep into my fantasy:

There are very few men who can bear success — none can do so unless great grace is given to them! And if, after a little success, you begin to say, “There now, I am somebody. Did I not do that well? These poor old fogies do not know how to do it — I will teach them” — you will have to go into the back rank, brother, you are not yet able to endure success! It is clear that you cannot stand praise.

Without a moment’s hesitation, that success I pined after so long had soured in my mouth. Like Dr. Frankenstein, who obsessed for months over his creation only to shrink in horror the moment the monster animated, I saw my idol with sobriety. The “success” I longed to embrace — for me — was as much the celebrity I longed to embrace. I had a healthy love for the sport, but I had an unhealthy love for my own name, which meant that my budding faith in Christ may not have survived weeds of worldly acclaim without consequence. I’m doubtful that I could have endured the mere seeds of the second temptation Jesus overcame in the wilderness:

The devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory. . . . If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” (Luke 4:5–7)

I thanked God for sparing me from my dreams of greatness. In my mediocrity, he protected me. In allowing me to fail, he fathered me. In keeping me from success, he kept me for himself.

Children of Babel

Now, some mature souls indeed can bear what Calvin called “the fiery trial of popularity.” And while some can endure it without injury, it seems true enough that there are very few men who can bear success. The fulfillment of our earthly dreams, the praise we still secretly hope for, the recognition we’ve come to trust might make us into somebody, could, if we actually received it, arouse a nightmare. Success hides its price, and some of us live chasing the flame.

Many since Babel have been trying to “make a name for [themselves]” (Genesis 11:4). They harbor selfish ambition and live for what Paul termed “empty glory” (Philippians 2:3, my translation). This is dangerous because Jesus himself asked, “How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?” (John 5:44).

Man cannot serve two glories. Some, John tells us, even believed in Jesus’s miracles but did not confess him, because “they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God” (John 12:42–43). They chose to sit comfortably in the synagogue rather than walk with God incarnate. To the hypocrites who advertised their fasting with disfigured faces, sounded trumpets when they gave, and prayed long prayers on street corners in order to be seen by others, Jesus said, “I do not receive glory from men” (John 5:41 NASB).

Now, this is not to confuse carnal success with spiritual fruitfulness. We pray to influence souls, fight sin, proclaim Christ, and live for God’s glory in our families, callings, and careers. He has promised those things. Rather, we renounce the visibility of success — the longing to not only achieve great things by God’s strength, but to ensure that everyone else knows we’ve achieved great things. The obsession to have our faults forgotten and our triumphs published. The temptation to pray blasphemously in our hearts, “I wish them all to be where I am to see my glory.”

You Cannot Bear Success Alone

God must fortify us against the sharp edges of success.

Paul teaches that he needed to be strengthened by Christ to endure the bad and the good. We need God to walk us through the valleys and guide us safely on the mountaintops. “I know how to be brought low,” he said, “and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:12–13).

All things includes the good. The apostle needed Christ to stay content in Christ when life went horribly wrong, and when it went surprisingly well. Verse 13, as the Christian athlete’s favorite verse, speaks not as much to Christ strengthening him to hoist the trophy up in victory, but more to Christ strengthening him not to bring that trophy and applause down into his heart and make them his christ. We need divine strength to trudge through the wilderness, and also to eat our fill in Jerusalem. If we have not learned this, then our abounding — and the praise that comes with it — becomes unsafe.

Fed to Worms

Consider the contrast between Peter, Paul, and Barnabas — men who learned this secret — and Herod, who did not.

When Cornelius bent low to worship a mere human, Peter grabbed him, lifted him up immediately, and said, “Stand up; I too am a man” (Acts 10:24–26). When Paul and Barnabas healed a paralytic man in Lystra in Acts 14, the people proclaimed, “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!” (Acts 14:11). Once Paul and Barnabas heard this and discovered that they planned to offer sacrifices to them, the two men

tore their garments and rushed out into the crowd, crying out, “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them.” (Acts 14:14–15)

These esteemed men of God shunned Satan’s original temptation: to be like God — if only in the eyes of men.

Herod did otherwise.

On an appointed day Herod put on his royal robes, took his seat upon the throne, and delivered an oration to them. And the people were shouting, “The voice of a god, and not of a man!” Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last. (Acts 12:21–23)

Three could bear to be used of God and not seek to rob him of glory. The other died of worms.

Not to Us

In college, I had not yet learned how to abound. The success I longed for endangered my soul.

I was not like William Wilberforce, who, upon the passing of his bill to abolish the British slave trade — which he spent his life on — marked the momentous victory by meditating on a single verse.

Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory,
   for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness! (Psalm 115:1)

He was branded with this verse. God seared it onto his labor and calling. And in time, he knew how to abound. This verse is the banner over the man or woman who has learned Paul’s secret: “Not to me, O God, not to me, but to your name give glory!” And should we fail to get noticed while living for God’s glory, we count it joy that God sees us and spares us from the dangers of praise.

Lord, Spare Me Infectious Success

Consider afresh what we have in Christ. We are sons and daughters of God. What else do we need? Let that free you. Christ is yours. Heaven is yours. Eternal glory will soon be yours.

Rejoice not that you have done great things, and do not lose sleep that no trophies collect dust on your banister. Rather, rejoice that your name is written in heaven. Let us be content decreasing in this world that he might increase, content ourselves walking the path of the nameless donkey that carried the Son into Jerusalem. We are freed to be no-ones on earth because we are known in heaven.

May God make us bold enough to pray,

Lord, spare me from the success that would threaten to undo me. Not all victories are good victories; not all triumphs will lead me home. Keep me from those achievements that would puff me up, those accomplishments that would tempt me to forget you.

You’ve taught me to pray, “Lead me not into temptation” — how slow I’ve been to realize the wisdom in all that might mean. But now, seeing my goals and hopes in proper scope, I ask you to do what is best, even if that means the death of my dreams. Not to me, O God, not to me, but to your name give glory, that your steadfast love and faithfulness might be put on display.

Greg Morse is a staff writer for desiringGod.org and graduate of Bethlehem College & Seminary. He and his wife, Abigail, live in St. Paul.

Daily Light – June 25, 2019

Scrolling for Significance

Why Do I Keep Clicking?

Article by Adam Pohlman, Pastor, Rochester, MN

I finally got the kids in bed. Exhausted and hoping to find something interesting in my all-too-normal day, I opened my social media network and began scrolling.

As I flicked through the feed my soul sank into further discontentment. I looked for something — anything — to grab my attention, but none of it satisfied. Advertisements bombarded me with suggestions to buy things I already purchased. Outrage spilled over from political conversations. The latest worldly proverb (on a flowery background) offered no lasting encouragement for my weary soul.

I knew there was nothing for me here, but I kept going. I was glued to it. Why?

Why do we keep scrolling when the first dozen flicks didn’t satisfy? Though my heart screams, “Enough!” why does my thumb keep moving on?

Ancient Problem

Life can feel boring at times. We rise early, toil all day, take a beating, and return home ready to crash before starting it all over again. Day after day, the same thing. We long to break the monotony. So we fall down on the couch to flip on the newest Netflix drama, settle into our chair to page through the day’s newspaper, open up the social-media feed to see whose life is more interesting. But far too easily the desire for something new becomes all-consuming.

While it is popular today to rant against the ills of streaming movies, video games, and social media, the pursuit of the new and exciting is an ancient problem. Paul encountered this problem in Acts 17 when he preached in Athens.

While Paul was waiting around for his companions, he looked around, provoked to see that the city was full of idols (Acts 17:16). These weren’t unthinking men and women that filled the city with false worship; this was idolatry with great sophistication. The brightest philosophers gathered together at the Areopagus to debate worldviews and promote the best religions for society. All viewpoints were welcome to this ancient form of social media to share their perspective on the world.

They were eager to find the latest trend, the most current news that they could add to their collection and spice up their conversation feed. They spent their entire days searching for the newest nugget of information that would add interest to life: “Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new” (Acts 17:21). They were always searching, never satisfied. So they welcomed Paul to the table. Perhaps he had something new to entertain.

Itch in Our Ears

The crowd Paul preached to in Athens was similar to a group he would later tell Timothy about: “The time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions” (2 Timothy 4:3). We might dismiss this warning as applying to prosperity preachers or religious cults, but the word Paul chooses in 2 Timothy 4:3 to warn his protégé — Greek knēthō, often translated itching— describes a curiosity to explore new things, an impulse to look “for interesting and juicy bits of information,” as one lexicon puts it.

The NET Bible draws out this nuance by translating the verse, “following their own desires, they will accumulate teachers for themselves, because they have an insatiable curiosity to hear new things.” It reveals a heart that is not content, always searching for good news and never finding it. “Sheol and Abaddon are never satisfied, and never satisfied are the eyes of man” (Proverbs 27:20).

This endless journey for good news manifests itself in our lives in many subtle ways: the continuous news feed that keeps us up-to-date on current events, the allure of the message notification while driving down the road, one more click on that suggestive website, the gossip chatter when you get together with friends, the appeal to obtain the latest gadget, the desire not to be left out of the conversation about the newest TV drama or sporting event.

It didn’t satisfy last time, but we can’t keep ourselves from trying again. What itching ears we have. Who will rescue us from this ceaseless itch? We need something from outside this cursed world to satisfy our flesh’s endless search.

Made for Another World

C.S. Lewis writes in Mere Christianity, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world” (136–37). Our desires are like that itch on the bottom of your foot while you are driving while wearing boots. They are impossible to scratch with anything in this world.

The only news that can truly satisfy our ears is the gospel. There is no new thing that will satisfy, only the old, old story which has been the best news for generations. Jesus alone avoided clawing at the itch as Satan tried to scratch his ear with temptations. Jesus endured with confidence in a greater reality to come. However, he willingly let the curse overcome him, though it could not destroy him. In his victorious resurrection, he guaranteed, to those who trust in him, permanent relief from the incessant itch to find meaning in any other news. The only path to life, fullness of joy, and ceaseless pleasures is following him (Psalm 16:11).

He promises to one day put an end to our fleshly pull into the dead ends of life. Until then, he has given us his Spirit and his word to always remind us of the greatest news that satisfies every itch. When the gossip fires flare up, when the message notification calls you to take your eyes off the road, when current events beg you to join in, let the words of God dwell in you more richly. “For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things” (Psalm 107:9).

Adam Pohlman is pastor of Redemption City Church in Rochester, Minnesota, and graduated from Bethlehem College & Seminary. He and his wife, Molly, have five children.

Daily Light – June 24, 2019

From David Niednagel, Pastor/Teacher (David uses the S.O.A.P. method in his daily time of study and meditation – study, observe, apply, pray)

2 Corinthians 5:16-21  The Greatest Exchange Ever

2 Cor. 5:16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.   NIV

Paul did not look at people with a normal worldly perspective of wealth, accomplishment, looks, status, etc. He knew everyone was passing away and would face judgment. His task was to appeal to them on behalf of Christ showing mercy to sinful people. Paul knew his own past and could tell everyone of Christ’s forgiveness and His gift of new life. God desired to reconcile broken, angry, guilty people to Himself, and He had brought about a wonderful, perfect plan to make it happen. 

We were sinners but Jesus was not. So God had Jesus trade places with us. He took all our sin, and put it on Jesus who became guilty with our guilt. Then He took Jesus’ perfect righteousness, which was way beyond anything we could ever achieve, and put that on us, making us perfect with His perfection! Amazing!!! Who would ever have dreamed up something like that?! Only a God who is gracious beyond anything we could ever imagine. Humans want to believe in a God who will overlook and/or forgive sin, but they would never think of God Himself being punished for our sin, and then giving us perfection we could not achieve. 

Lord Jesus, You are amazing! Thank You for paying the price we could not pay, and then giving us all of Your riches. Thank You for Your love and sacrifice. It is the least we could do to be ambassadors telling others not only what You have done for us, but what You are offering to them. What a wonderful message we have! Help me speak it with genuine gratitude and passion, wanting other to know You too. Amen

Daily Light – June 21, 2019

Let Your Waiting Say “I Trust You”

Article by Jani Ortlund, Guest Contributor

The question in my inbox was a familiar one: “For so long I have striven to put my life on the altar. I don’t even know how to pray about the longings I continue to feel. How do I give over to God the desires of my heart while still praying boldly about these strong — yet unmet — desires?”

We all struggle with questions like, “How long, Lord, will you ask me to wait? Why me? Why this? Why now?” As we press God for an answer, we try to remind ourselves that we belong to the God “who acts for those who wait for him” (Isaiah 64:4). But we feel that this waiting is forced upon us, and we wrestle with it. Wouldn’t a good God lift this oppressive burden? Why doesn’t he? When will he?

We pray, we groan, we cry to the only one who can act for us, but no matter where we turn, just like Job, we cannot see him anywhere around us (Job 23:38–9). He seems silent, and we try to fight down the fear that he might not fulfill this desire. We fret that he won’t come through for us. We fuss about what life might look like stretching out before us with this unfulfilled longing still beating in our heart. We wonder if it is a sin to keep longing, to keep praying, crying, groaning. How do we live well in that waiting space between asking and receiving?

Patient in Our Waiting

That’s where patience comes in — patience both with our own personal faith and with the God who calls us into this patience-producing faith.

Patience is not quite the same as waiting. While waiting is something we do, patience is something we offer. We wait because we must — we have little choice in the matter. But patience is our gift to our Father while we wait. In the silence, in the waiting, patience chooses to declare, “Lord, I love you. I know I don’t love you as I ought, but I want to love you more than your answer to my prayers. I will try to offer you my patient heart as long as you ask me to wait on this.”

What is patience? Patience looks like perseverance. James encourages us to quietly persevere like a farmer waiting for his crops to grow (James 5:7–11). Paul tells us to “be patient in tribulation” (Romans 12:12), calling us to bear up without complaint or anger in the midst of painful circumstances. And he reminds us that patience is one outworking of the Spirit’s ever-increasing life within us and proof that we belong to Christ Jesus (Galatians 5:22–24).

Patience proves our love for God and our trust that his plan is worth waiting for. Patience offers to our heavenly Father a calm heart. We repent of our agitation and annoyance at his seeming silence. We look calmly into the darkness around us, and we choose to believe what he tells us about himself, resting in the knowledge that truly he does see, he does know, he does care, despite how it appears in our present situation.

Love Lived Out

Patience is a beautiful way to live out our steadfast love for God. Paul tells us that real love is patient (1 Corinthians 13:4), and so we love God through our patience as we

tenaciously keep praying for that wandering child,

calmly absorb the dreaded diagnosis,

courageously bear up as we face our grievous goodbye,

diligently think through that unavoidable debt,

faithfully persevere through that less-than-exciting job, or

quietly accept God’s plan for our future, even when it differs from our dreams.

Patience, like every Christlike virtue, is nurtured in our love for God — a God who can be trusted in all his ways and in every circumstance. Patience displays our love for God. Patience says, “Lord, I love you more than my longed-for answer to this hard circumstance.” We can show God our love through our patient endurance as he tests the genuineness of our faith, a faith more precious than gold, a faith that can bring praise and glory and honor to Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:7).

The Key to Faithful Obedience

Patience is the key to faithful obedience, living out a peace-filled surrender to God’s ways and will. Think with me how patience can help us embrace the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:3–17):

A patient heart helps us be satisfied with God as our only God. He becomes enough — always and forever.

A patient heart helps us worship God as he has asked us to — without crowding our hearts with godlets of our own desires.

A patient heart remembers whose holy name we take and helps us bear a family resemblance to our firstborn Brother.

Patience helps us step out of our demanding schedules so that we develop a God-centered schedule.

Patience helps us offer gratitude and respect to our less-than-perfect parents.

A patient believer is a life-giver, not a life-drainer.

A patient heart is fortified against sexual temptation and marital mayhem.

Patience turns grasping hoarders into generous givers, because a greater reward awaits us.

A patient heart helps us be truth-tellers, because we know that when God’s purposes are all fulfilled and all wrongs finally righted, God will bear a true witness about his servants.

A patient heart can tell God, “When I have you, I need nothing else.”

Patience is loving God through a contented heart. It is the composure that helps us pause long enough to ask ourselves, “What is it about God that I don’t understand in this situation? Why am I so restless? Why isn’t God enough for me here?” Patience takes us deeper into the heart of God. It creates a sense of expectancy for tomorrow because of God’s goodness, which he has “stored up for those who fear [him]” (Psalm 31:19).

We never know what goodness God might pour out on us in the days ahead!

All We Need

Patience is loving God enough to say, “Thank you,” even for the difficult things. True patience, throughout the life-altering and soul-shattering experiences between birth and heaven, is a humble gift we offer up to God. And he is the one who enables us to offer him that gift.

Paul tells us that it is the might of his glory that strengthens us with all power “for all endurance and patience with joy” (Colossians 1:11). Ultimately, patience is the risen Christ living in us as we proclaim, “If I have Jesus, I have all that I need.”

Jani Ortlund (@RenewalM) is the wife of Ray Ortlund, serves as vice president of Renewal Ministries, and podcasts at He Restores My Soul.

Daily Light – June 20, 2019

How to Fight When You Fail

Article by David Sunday, Pastor, St. Charles, Illinois

I’m not writing for those who think they’ve got little sin problems. If you imagine you’re getting an A-, or at least a C+, in self-sanctification, you probably won’t resonate with what I’m saying.

I’m writing for the Christian who’s reading this a few hours after you’ve fallen sexually. I’m thinking of the deacon who has just exploded in anger at his children. Or the campus ministry leader who went to college with every intention of following Jesus, but is now waking up with a hangover and can’t remember what she did the night before. I’m writing for the pastor who told a lie in last night’s elder meeting. Or the Bible study leader who became Peter-the-Denier when her upper-class neighbor asked her if she really thinks that everyone who does not believe in Jesus Christ will go to hell.

For all who are weary of struggling with sin, I want you to be able to face your most disappointing failures without drowning in despair.

Gutsy Guilt

Let me tell you about gutsy guilt. John Piper first introduced me to this idea — and his teaching on this has sustained and strengthened me for over a quarter of a century of being “tempted, tried, and sometimes failing.” Piper found an example of “gutsy guilt, bold brokenness, confident contrition, rugged remorse” in the words of the prophet Micah, who teaches us how to fight when we have fallen.

But as for me, I will look to the Lord;
     I will wait for the God of my salvation;
     my God will hear me.
Rejoice not over me, O my enemy;
     when I fall, I shall rise;
when I sit in darkness,
     the Lord will be a light to me.
I will bear the indignation of the Lord
     because I have sinned against him,
until he pleads my cause
     and executes judgment for me.
He will bring me out to the light;
     I shall look upon his vindication.
Then my enemy will see,
     and shame will cover her who said to me,
     “Where is the Lord your God?”
My eyes will look upon her;
     now she will be trampled down
     like the mire of the streets. (Micah 7:7–10)

Do Not Delay

It seems counterintuitive to sin and then immediately to fall on your knees and say, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” We harbor in our hearts the false belief that, somehow, we have to pay for our sins — just a little.

But repentance isn’t groveling. You repent when you agree with God that your sin is wicked and flee to the only one who can do helpless sinners any good. So, what if after you’ve sinned you didn’t grovel for a week, but instead ran immediately to the Savior who “came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15)?

Micah shows us that even at our very worst, there remains a God in heaven who will not reject repentant sinners. “Look to him,” Micah says — “the sooner, the better!”

Satan loves to tempt you, trap you, and then taunt you with your guilt. He loves to watch you wallow in the mire of your misery. He wants you to embrace failure as your identity. Micah says, “Don’t listen to those lies. Call on the Lord. Do not delay. Fight when you fail.” And he shows us how in verses 8–10.

Talk Back to the Enemy

Rejoice not over me, O my enemy;     when I fall, I shall rise;when I sit in darkness,     the Lord will be a light to me. (Micah 7:8)

Here is a vivid and dramatic rebuttal to Satan’s prosecution — a complete reversal of his accusatory strategy. The heart of faith defies despair. Faith refuses to believe that our sin is the end of God’s story for our life.

The tempter is a cruel tyrant who wants to terrify you with the greatness of your sins. Learn to turn his own weapon back on himself, like Martin Luther did:

When you say I am a sinner, you give me armor and weapons against yourself, so that with your own sword I may cut your throat and tread you under my feet, for Christ died for sinners. As often as you object that I am a sinner, so often you remind me of the benefit of Christ my Redeemer on whose shoulders and not on mine lie all my sins. So when you say I’m a sinner, you do not terrify me, but comfort me immeasurably.

Submit to God’s Discipline

I will bear the indignation of the Lord     because I have sinned against him,until he pleads my cause     and executes judgment for me.He will bring me out to the light;     I shall look upon his vindication. (Micah 7:9)

Gutsy guilt doesn’t shrink from the real-life consequences of sin. The fiery wrath of God’s holy condemnation of our sin has been extinguished at the cross, but the fatherly anger of God’s displeasure at our sin is a sign of our adoption into his family. When God disciplines us, he treats us as his sons and daughters (Hebrews 12:7). His anger is bathed in love, aimed at restoration, and results in what is good for us.

God’s discipline is also temporary. Notice the hope-filled word until in Micah 7:9: “until he pleads my cause.” Here’s where Satan’s theology and the gospel collide. Satan says, “See how God is disciplining you? That’s proof he’s against you.” But the gospel says, “He will champion my cause and establish justice for me. He will bring me into the light; I will see his salvation.”

Yes, God is able to keep you from stumbling when you look to him for strength in the face of temptation. But when you do stumble, he is able to keep your stumbling from destroying you. He will “present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy” (Jude 24).

In the end, the enemy is going to witness the vindication of God’s blood-bought children. By grace, through faith, we will be righteous and shine like the sun in our Father’s kingdom (Matthew 13:43). And we will look upon the enemies of our soul, and see them trampled down like dirt and mud on the streets — it doesn’t get any lower than that. That’s Satan’s destiny (Micah 7:10).

Fuel for Our Fight

Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity     and passing over transgression     for the remnant of his inheritance?He does not retain his anger forever,     because he delights in steadfast love.He will again have compassion on us;     he will tread our iniquities underfoot.You will cast all our sins     into the depths of the sea. (Micah 7:18–19)

When you fail, fall on him. He won’t resent your repeated returns to his throne of mercy. He’s not sighing or sulking when he sees you trembling at his feet. He delights to show mercy. As Richard Sibbes writes“He is more ready . . . to forgive than you to sin; as there is a continual spring of wickedness in you, so there is a greater spring of mercy in God.”

Imagine being with Moses and the children of Israel on the far shore of the Red Sea. You’ve just watched Pharaoh and his army disappear into the depths of the sea, never to torment you again. Someday that’s what’s going to happen to your sin.

Thrown into a sea without bottom or shore,
Our sins they are many, his mercy is more. (“His Mercy Is More”)

Many a preacher has repeated this memorable saying — but when you’ve failed, it will do you great good to preach it to yourself: When God throws your sin into the sea of forgetfulness, he puts up a sign that says, “No fishing allowed.”

David Sunday is the senior pastor of New Covenant Bible Church in St. Charles, Illinois.

Daily Light – June 19, 2019

Why God Made Your Mouth

Article by Scott Hubbard, Editor, desiringGod.org

The average person speaks at least 7,000 words a day, or about 50,000 words a week — the length of a short book. We are authors, all of us, publishing 52 books a year from this printing press called the mouth.

Which should make us pause occasionally to consider what kind of words we’re sending out into the world. Is it a better place because of our words, or worse? Do we wound others, or heal them (Proverbs 12:18)? Do we commend the fear of the Lord, or pour out folly (Proverbs 15:2)? Do we refresh others’ spirits, or break them (Proverbs 15:4)? For how little we often think of our words, they hold the power of life and death (Proverbs 18:21).

If we’re going to steward our speech well, we need to regularly remember why God gave us words at all. Perhaps no one verse captures his purpose clearer than a command from Paul to the Ephesians:

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. (Ephesians 4:29)

Here is a charter for the dinner table, the classroom, the smartphone, the office, and everywhere else we open our mouths: give grace.

Speak Grace

Given all that Paul says about grace in Ephesians, he could scarcely have handed our mouths a higher calling. Grace is that redeeming quality of God by which he saves us, seals us, and sanctifies us. By grace, God has blessed us in his beloved Son (Ephesians 1:6), raised us from the dead (Ephesians 2:5–6), and rescued us from our sins (Ephesians 2:8). God’s grace is rich, overflowing, immeasurable. Eternity will not exhaust his storehouses (Ephesians 1:72:7).

Now, Paul says, let your mouth give that. Take the grace you have received from God, and let it change the accent of your soul. Then take your little words, flavored with grace, and use them to carry on Jesus’s redeeming work in someone’s life.

Whenever God makes someone an object of grace, he also makes them an agent of grace. Just as Paul received a “stewardship of God’s grace” to preach the gospel (Ephesians 3:1–27–8), so too “grace was given to each one of us” (Ephesians 4:7). Even if we should feel as slow of speech as Moses (Exodus 4:10), if we have the Holy Spirit, we have a whisper of heaven in our hearts and on our tongues. We have grace to give.

Built Up in Jesus

Practically, giving grace means speaking words that are “good for building up” (Ephesians 4:29). Gracious words straighten bent-over saints, strengthen tottering legs, bind up bruised arms, and grow each other into “the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13).

“Give grace,” in other words, is a call to imitate the God whose words make worlds bloom into being (Psalm 8:3). Give life. See the image-bearer in front of you, and skillfully apply “the truth . . . in Jesus” (Ephesians 4:21). Match specific words from God to specific needs in others. Give your words weight; make them meaningful; say something worth saying. All to the end that others might grow up into Jesus — protected from lies, established in truth, rooted and grounded in grace.

Such grace is not confined to the sermon or the Bible study. Paul’s command rests over every Christian and every conversation. Give grace when you kneel beside your child’s bed, when you eat lunch with coworkers, when you sit around the campfire with friends, when you walk with your wife in the evening, when you stand in line at the grocery store, when you send your thirtieth email of the afternoon.

Lest we misconstrue the character of these gracious words, let’s add two qualifications: gracious words are not always nice, and gracious words are never easy.

Tough and Tender Grace

First, gracious words are not always nice. Despite the testimony of many thousands of cross-stitched pillows and greeting cards, grace is not the fluffy thing we sometimes make it out to be. Grace is not always comfortable, not always cozy, not always nice. Whereas nice words aim to make us feel good, gracious words have higher ambitions: to make us actually good — actually Christlike.

At times, then, gracious words will be tough words. The same apostle who told us to “give grace” did not refrain from reminding us that we were once dead in sin (Ephesians 2:1), nor from exhorting us to stand firm against the devil (Ephesians 6:10–11), nor from warning us of God’s wrath (Ephesians 5:6).

Neither did our Savior, the man whose words were ever “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). Sometimes grace fell from his mouth tender as the dew, and sometimes it thundered with the force of a prophet. Sometimes it bound up bruised reeds, and sometimes it pruned vines with a slice. Sometimes it said, “I am with you always” (Matthew 28:20), and sometimes, “Take up your cross” (Luke 9:23).

We too must sometimes broach conversations that make us feel like running away. For if our words are always nice, always pleasing, always politically correct, we are giving no more than half a grace.

What Gracious Words Cost

For all their variety, however, gracious words are not capricious, as if we speak a tough word here, a tender word there, hoping to strike the balance. No, grace tailors its words to the needs of the moment; it searches for speech that “fits the occasion” (Ephesians 4:29). Which means such words never come easily.

Gracious words are always specific words — words that match this situation, not that one; words that fit this person, not another. We must move beyond our favorite promises and favorite stories to ransack “the truth . . . in Jesus” (Ephesians 4:21), applying appropriate parts of God’s multifaceted truth to our multifaceted experience. As we talk with others, we must go to work in the mines of our mind, passing words through the fire of careful thought, and smelting from them fresh, pointed truth.

Too often, my words fail to give grace because I haven’t first given due attention to the person in front of me. I drift in and out of the conversation, my mind drawn to all manner of irrelevancies: What’s for lunch? What am I going to do tonight? I’m not sure that shirt fits him. Words that come from a distracted mind are graceless words, words as weightless as the air that carries them.

Our tongues do not drift into giving grace. Words worth speaking come at the cost of fully engaged attention, wise discernment, creative thought, emotional investment. But oh, what a reward they bring! Gracious words drop from someone’s mouth like fruit from a tree of life, satisfying giver and receiver alike (Proverbs 15:418:21).

Question and Prayer

How shall we cultivate this kind of speech? We know from Jesus that grace will come out of our mouths only if grace is already living in our hearts (Matthew 12:34). But even when grace is doing its work of demolishing, building, and renovating inside us, learning how to package that grace into words often takes practice.

As a simple first step, consider stopping for a moment the next time you are about to enter a conversation, and take up a question and a prayer.

Question: What does this person need? What kind of words will “fit the occasion”? The need will not always be obvious, but even asking the question can posture us to pay attention.

Prayer: Lord, keep corrupting words from coming out of my mouth. Fill my mouth with grace.

Then walk into the conversation, remembering (wonder of wonders!) that you — weak, struggling you — have grace to give. In God’s hands, your words can become a means of carving a brother or sister into the image of Jesus Christ. Then listen, give your attention, ask perceptive questions, activate the gears of your mind. And when the time comes, open your mouth and give grace.

Scott Hubbard is a graduate of Bethlehem College & Seminary and an editor for desiringGod.org. He and his wife, Bethany, live in Minneapolis.

Daily Light – June 18, 2019

How Free Do You Really Want to Be?

Article by Jon Bloom, Staff Writer, desiringGod.org

Who are the freest people in the world? The people who are freest from the world.

So, how free are you? I’m not asking if you can give me the right answer. I trust you know that “for freedom Christ has set us free” (Galatians 5:1) and that “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). You and I know that Christ has set us free from needing to achieve “a righteousness of [our] own that comes from the law” since we have by God’s grace been given the free gift of “the righteousness from God that depends on faith” in Christ (Philippians 3:9) — a mind-blowingly glorious truth.

“Who are the freest people in the world? The people who are freest from the world.”

The real question for you and me is, are we really living in the freedom Christ has given us? What Jesus purchased and gave to us is not an abstract theological category that we will only realize after we die, but a life-governing, joy-producing, experiential, and radically free reality that begins now. He sets us “free indeed” to live in the world as long as we are in the world (John 8:36).

The secret to experiencing this freedom all depends on where home really is for us.

The Key to Living Free

Over and over in the godly lineage of Hebrews 11, we see people who lived remarkably free here on earth. What made that great cloud of witnesses so free?

We might be quick to answer, “Faith!” That’s true, of course, but it doesn’t go deep enough. Because everyone lives by faith. “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Everyone lives by faith in what they believe is true about reality, most of which they cannot see or personally prove. All human beings are wired to live this way.

What made our faithful forebears free was Who they ultimately believed in (Hebrews 11:6) and where they believed he was leading them:

For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. (Hebrews 11:14–16)

There’s the key: they desired a better country — a heavenly one. They really desired it because they really believed it existed. They believed in the better country so much that they were content to “[die] in faith, not having received the [earthly] things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth” (Hebrews 11:13).

They were free to do the best and hardest good in the world because they were free from needing to belong to the world.

“Live as People Who Are Free”

The depth of our understanding of our freedom in Christ is revealed by how free we are, like those saints, to live as strangers and exiles on earth. The proof of our freedom is in the pudding of our pursuits.

“The secret to experiencing freedom all depends on where home really is for us.”

True faith manifests both in what we say with our lips(Romans 10:9Hebrews 13:15) and in the way we live. Yes, the people of old “[spoke] thus” (Hebrews 11:14). But they also lived thus: Abel offered, Enoch walked, Noah constructed, Abraham obeyed and went and offered, Sarah conceived, Isaac and Jacob blessed, Joseph instructed, Moses refused and chose and considered and left and kept, the Israelites passed through, Rahab lived (Hebrews 11:4–31). And “time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets” (Hebrews 11:32).

Some of these examples are more commendable than others. But their lives of faith, their “obedience of faith” (Romans 16:26), still speak, though they have long since passed away (Hebrews 11:4).

This is why Peter tells us to “live as people who are free” (1 Peter 2:16):

We are free to no longer live as captives to the world’s values and claims and cravings and threats, since “here we have no lasting city” (Hebrews 13:14).

We are free to “walk by the Spirit, and . . . not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16), since “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Corinthians 3:17).

We are free to not “lay up for [ourselves] treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for [ourselves indestructible] treasures in heaven” (Matthew 6:19–20).

We are free to be content in whatever situation we find ourselves, since we know that our heavenly Father will supply all our needs (Philippians 4:1119).

And we are free to die, since to be with Christ in his heavenly country is “far better” than anything we’ve known here (Philippians 1:23).

How Free Do You Want to Be?

Yes, all this freedom, and far more, is available to us as Christians. I suspect all of us, no matter how far along we are in the faith, would admit we’re living beneath our inheritance.

The question before us is this: How free do we want to be? This is where we begin to squirm. Our flesh does not want to be free from the world. Our indwelling sin is drawn to “the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life” (1 John 2:16). To lose them feels like losing life. To which Jesus says, “Whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:39).

Whatever it takes, don’t settle for anything less than the full freedom God has for you.”

Ponder that sentence. Pray over it, and let it probe you all day. What does the Spirit point out to you in the word “loses”? It is likely that the things he brings to mind — things that feel like losing your life to let go — are, in reality, holding you captive to this world and inhibiting you from living fruitfully in the kinds of kingdom-abundance Jesus wants to give you (John 10:10). Respond to the Spirit! Jesus wants you to find greater freedom and real life.

Whatever it takes, don’t settle for anything less than the full freedom God has for you. Seek with all your might to run unencumbered the race God has set before you, like those who ran before you, who freely chose to live like strangers and exiles here because their real citizenship is in heaven. For those who are freest in the world are those who are freest from the world.

Jon Bloom (@Bloom_Jon) serves as author, board chair, and co-founder of Desiring God. He is author of three books, Not by SightThings Not Seen, and Don’t Follow Your Heart. He and his wife have five children and make their home in the Twin Cities.