Don't Lose Your Appetite for Grace

When I find something new I like to eat, I eat it till I’m sick of it. Whether it is a new restaurant or a new snack I devour it till a lose my appetite for it. I experienced this recently with Chick-Fil-A. For a myriad of reasons I went to Chick-fil-a about five different times that week. Now I love Chick-fil-a, but by the end of that week the thought of waffle fries and chicken nuggets made me queasy. Why? Well our bodies are designed in such a way to encourage us to eat a variety of foods for our health, and a consistent diet of friend chick nuggets just doesn’t seem to be a healthy diet. We all need food to live, but there is something we need much more, the grace of God. We are dependent upon it not just the hour we first believed, but every moment sense. We are not only saved by God’s grace, we are sustained by it. Yet, I think there is a huge danger in our Christian life to begin to be so accustomed to consuming God’s grace that we lose our appetite for it. Each day we wake afresh in desperate need of God’s mercy, yet like so many other things, we begin to take for granted what we’ve been given. The beautiful truth of the Gospel can become to us something we take for granted or worse, something we feel entitled too. It is vital for us that each day as we live in God’s mercy that we beg for our souls to be awakened to the costly beauty of that mercy.

The grace we are given was incredibly costly. We are sinners, wretched and wicked, have been saved. We do not deserve mercy, grace, or forgiveness yet God has made a way and this through His son. Jesus entered into this world on a rescue mission to save sinners. He did this by going to the cross in our place, laying down his life as a sacrifice for our sins. At the cross Jesus absorbs our punishment and our condemnation and he justifies us before the Father. All of this is undeserved and all of this by grace. We who deserve death have been given life.

Christian, do not become so accustomed to the grace of God that you cease to be in awe of it. Do not let a day go pass where you sit in awe over these glorious truths and of God’s divine love for you. We daily consume his mercies each day as he sustains us in the faith, and as the decades pass may our awe of Him be ever-increasing. May our appetite for divine grace be ever-increasing and ever-growing, longing for more of Jesus. May those who have had their hunger satisfied by God always be hungering for more of God. In the words of Jesus “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied”.

Grace for Your Failed New Years Resolutions

Chances are you probably made a New Years Resolution.  Many this time of year muster the will power to make the next year greater than the one before.  We set ambitious goals for ourselves and chances are many of us have probably already failed at them by now.  Maybe your resolution was to eat healthier but for lunch today you couldn’t help but go through the drive through at McDonalds.  Maybe it was to read Scripture every morning, but you found that this morning you hit the snooze button more times than you’d care to admit. Following through on resolutions can be difficult.  Creating new habits and adjusting our lifestyle can be a rocky road filled with failure. If your like me, you tend to beat yourself up over the failure.  You may berate yourself verbally or fill ridden with guilt.  Failure can often paralyze us and instantly take the wind from our sails.  Chances are if you have not failed yet, you probably will fail at your resolutions at some point.  The key to follow through is resiliency and being able to bounce back from our setbacks.  Here is where the wonderful and radical grace of God can help us in those times where we fail. Thank God our salvation is not died to our performance, even at New Years resolutions.  The grace of God empowers us to bounce back from our failures and shortcomings.

  • The Gospel reminds me that my acceptance before God is not dependent on my performance, but on Christ's. 
  • The Gospel reminds me that God’s love does not increase or decrease depending on completing my resolutions. 
  • The Gospel reminds me that though I may fail miserably, in Christ I’ve been given His great success. 
  • The Gospel reminds me that I’m free from guilt, because Jesus bore the punishment for my sins.

You see the amazing grace of God frees us from the oppressive burden of failure. In Christ we are free to fail and empowered to get back up and try again.  This truth is absolutely liberating. There is no need to sit and wallow in your failures, God’s grace compels you to get back up and try again.

You may have already failed miserably at your resolution.  You might have committed some grievous sin.  You may think of yourself as an incredible failure.  Yet, with God there is no cease to second chances. Remind yourself of the security, the comfort, and love you have in Jesus Christ, then get back up and try again.

Grace for Your New Years Resolutions

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New Year's Resolutions: You either love them or you hate them. If your like me, at this time of year you are filled with past reflection and future hope.

You are looking over the past year and examining your life. "How have I grown spiritually this year?" or "Am I more like Jesus than I was a year ago?". These are great questions to ask. We need to constantly be examine our lives and seeing where we can grow and mature.

You are looking towards the future year as well. "What will this next year bring?" or "What areas of my life need to be changed?" or "What ways will I grow and what ways do I need to repent of sin?". Again, these are all great questions to ask and the end of the year brings these questions to to forefront of our minds. We form our resolutions and our hopes based off of the answers to those questions.

Tomorrow is 2013. You will begin to put those resolutions into practice. Filled with hope and excitement, I'm sure you will start off strong. You will hit the gym every day this week. You will read that book every single day. You will have great success for the first couple weeks. As we all know, starting something new is easy, but finishing is very difficult. We are all great at starting new years resolutions, but we are terrible at finishing them. Let me give you an example.  We all know that the busiest time of year at the gym is in January. Why? Because everyone is starting their resolution, but by the end of the month those resolutions wain and those new people disappear. Each and everyone of us has experienced personal failure like this. Why do we have such a hard time with follow through? Why is change so difficult for us?

I want to provide you with some encouragement to help give wind to the wings of your resolution. It is a simple truth, but I think understanding this will greatly aid us as we make changes to our lives. The simple truth is this:

Whether you succeed or fail in your resolutions, God's love for you does not change.

You see, even though we have put our faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. Even though we believe that we are justified by faith and not by works, we still believe that we have to earn God's favor. So often, our twisted motivation for our New Years resolution is some hopeless attempt to make God love us. We think, "If I read my Bible more, then God will really love me" or "If I can start being a more loving spouse, then God will really care about me". So often we are trying to earn God's factor through our actions and through our New Years resolutions.

Here is the good news, God's love for you will not change depending on your behavior. Your standing before God has absolutely nothing to do with your ability to keep New Years resolutions! Your worth, your righteousness, and your hope is intricately tied to your union with Christ! As the Scripture says, "Even while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom 5:8). Even when we fail miserably, God's love for us doesn't change. God loved you at your worst. He loved you when you couldn't sink any lower, and his love towards you is just as extravagant whether you keep your New Years Resolution or not.

There is that dose of grace to help you in your New Years Resolution. Work hard and make sacrificial changes so that you can ben more like your Lord Jesus. Make those resolutions and do your best to keep them. However, even when we fail or fall short, God's grace enables us to get back up and try again. His merciful unconditional love for us empowers us for change.

What are your New Years resolutions? Have you had success in keeping them in the past? Why or why not? Share with us in the comments!

"I Deserve This" - The Poison of Entitlement

"I deserve this". Have you ever thought that before? The more I observe my thoughts and motives, the more I find myself thinking like this. I've had a long day at work and I drive by Starbucks and I think, "I deserve this", and I find myself stopping in for a hot drink.

You see, many people think just like me. Our sinful flesh tells us that we are entitled to good things. Entitlement is a lie that we deserve blessings and good gifts. When our thanks and enjoyment of what God gives us turns into harsh demands we go from humble gratitude to spoiled Brat.

We are just like spoiled Veruca Salt from Charlie and the Chocolate factory (the good one, not the weird Johnny Depp one). We stomp our feet, raise our voice and yell "I want the golden egg now!" We want the gift. We want the blessing, and if we don'g get it, we make everyone else's life miserable including our own.

Entitlement is the opposite of the Gospel, yet many of us treat our relationship with God just like this. We demand. We yell. We get angry, demanding that God give us ___       . If he doesn't give it to us, we throw a temper tantrum, just like a 3-year old. Although most of us don't still bang our hands on the ground kicking and screaming, we do the spiritual equivalent. How can you tell if you have a heart of entitlement? Two quick tests:

  1. Do you get angry when you don't get what you want? Do you scold God by saying, "I deserved that promotion!" or, "I don't deserve this health ailment!"
  2. Do you reward yourself or think God ought to reward you with presents when life gets difficult? Do you angrily pray, "God, I just went on that missions trip to Mexico, why haven't I found my husband yet?" or "I deserve that new HDTV, I've had a rough season at work!"

Whenever we think like this, we must remind ourselves of the Gospel. We must remind ourselves of what we actually deserve. I don't deserve that new car. I don't deserve that great new job. I deserve hell. I don't deserve material blessing. As a rebel sinner, I deserve condemnation. Then we must remind ourselves of what we've been given in Christ! In Jesus, I have everything I will ever need. I don't need to reward myself with food, Jesus is the reward! I don't need to find comfort in shopping, in Jesus I've found everlasting comfort.

The Gospel purges all self-sufficiency and all entitlement. The wonderful promise of the Gospel is that although I deserve death, I've been given life. Even though I deserve hell, God in Jesus has lavished me with every spiritual blessing! The truth of the Gospel runs in opposition to our sinful entitlement. We must put this sinful root to death in our lives with the life altering truth of the Gospel!

Jonah Part 2: Nineveh Repents

Click the link to read the first post in this series, Jonah Part 1

Have you ever seen someone’s life totally turned around? Do you have a friend who has come to Christ and it is like a 180 degree turn?  It is always amazing to me to hear the stories of these amazing testimonies of these people.  God has truly done the miraculous in their lives.  We might not always have such a radical testimony, but they are encouraging to hear none the less.  The people of Nineveh are a people with that sort of testimony.  The whole city makes a 180 degree turn when Jonah comes to preach the Word of the Lord.

Jonah Goes to Nineveh (Jonah 3:1-5)

Jonah gets a second chance at obedience.  After deliberately disobeying God and going to Tarshish, God calls Jonah a second time.  He tells him to go to Nineveh again.  God intends to use Jonah to deliver this message to Nineveh, whether he wants to or not.  God is going to use him.  Jonah goes to the city of Nineveh.  It was a big city.  The Scripture says it was three days in breadth, meaning that it took him three whole days to preach his message to the surrounding areas of the city.

What was the heart of Jonah’s message?  In 40 days, Nineveh will be over thrown.

Although I’m sure Jonah’s message was more lengthy than this one sentence, but this one sentence does reveal a little bit about Jonah’s heart.  Notice Jonah preaches the condemnation of the people without calling them to repentance.  Jonah doesn’t invite them to turn away from their wicked deeds, he just tells them.... You’ve got 40 days.

Jonah continues to remain apathetic towards the people God has called him to minister too.  He didn’t care for the pagan sailors on the boat, he doesn’t really care for the Ninevites.  He wants God’s wrath to be poured out on the people.  In some twisted way, Jonah desires that the city perish.  We don’t see that fully here, but in chapter 4 Jonah reveals to us his true heart and motivation.  The wretched hate in Jonah’s heart is despicable and describes the same hate in our own hearts.  We look at people who are different than us.  Who are maybe of a different skin color or a different nationality.  We see those who live in open flagrant sin, and we hate them.  We don’t want them to repent.  We don’t want them to turn to God.  We just want them to burn.

If we are really honest with ourselves, many of us think more like Westboro Baptist Church than we would like to admit.  We refuse to cross the rail road tracks to share the Gospel with another ethnicity.  A heart of racism runs through many Christians.  Although none of us would claim to be racist, many of us live that way.  We joke about racial stereotypes.  We segregate ourselves at our schools.  We even segregate our churches so often.  At the end of the day, we find ourselves wanting God to bring down his wrath on them rather than God’s kindness leading them to repentance.  Westboro Baptist Church is just like Jonah.  They preach condemnation and wrath, but the do not desire repentance.  The do not desire this nation come to Christ.  They hate this country and they hate the people who live here.  You and I must not be like this.  We are not to hate the very people God has called us to reach.  If God shows his love to wicked idolatrous people, so should we.  We shouldn’t hate them, but love them and share with them about Jesus in hopes that they would repent and believe the Gospel!

Yet, even though Jonah wishes ill on the city.  God does the miraculous.  Jonah preaches his fire and brimstone message of coming destruction, and the people begin to repent!  Verse 5 tells us that the people of Nineveh believed God.  The fasted and put on sackcloth, which is a sign of humble repentance.  And this wasn’t just the poor and lowly people who were repenting.  All of them, from the greatest of them to the least of them.  The whole city began to abandon their evil ways and trust God!

The People of Nineveh Repent (Jonah 3:6-10)

The word of God eventually reached the king of Nineveh, and something amazing happens.  He repents too!  He coveres himself with sack cloth and ashes.  The King of Nineveh publishes a proclamation that everyone in the city, including the beasts, fast and be covered in sackcloth.  He commands them to call out to God.  So the whole city, down to the animals fall on their face calling out to God to mercy! Imagine how extravagant this scene must have been to watch!  Seeing a whole city repent and believe God!  Imagine of something like that happened in your city. What kind of transformation would happen?  Can you picture the thousands and thousands of people falling on their face calling out to God. The whole city turned from their evil ways.  They pray that God might spare them from His wrath.  They do not want to perish!

The contrast between Jonah and the Ninevites could not be more stark.  The Ninevites do not want to perish, and Jonah could care less.  He did the same thing with the sailors on the boat.  Jonah is only concerned about number one.  He doesn't want himself to perish by being tossed into the sea, but when it comes to lost people, Jonah doesn’t want to see them saved.  He is completely apathetic towards them.  Then we see something even more amazing.  Not only does the whole city repent, but God shows them mercy (v. 10).  When God sees how the city of Nineveh turned from their evil ways, God has compassion on them.  He spares them from his wrath.  As we will see in chapter 4, Jonah isn’t going to respond to well to this!

Jonah Points us to Jesus

Despite Jonah’s failures, his life points us to the greater Jonah, Jesus.  Jesus succeeds where Jonah fails.  You see, Jesus the jewish Messiah, brings the nations to repentance and faith.  Jonah who has figuratively been raised from the dead after three days in the belly of the fish calls out to the pagan people and they come to repentance and faith.  Jesus who was literally raised from the dead after three days in the tomb calls out to the nations of the earth and they come to repentance and faith.

You see, a major theme that runs throughout all the Bible is God’s passion to bring every nation and people group to praise his glorious name.  He wants all the nations to worship him.  He says in Psalm 46, “I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth”.  So when God chooses the children of Abraham, the nation of Israel as his covenant people, God never intends to isolate his love and mercy only on them. The people of Israel were supposed to be a nation of priests interceding on behalf of the nations of the earth to the great and powerful God. However, Israel’s election as the people of God bolstered them with pride and ego.  They began to despise the very nations God had called them to interceded for.  They began to look down on all the other sinners, and feel self-righteous and confident.  The tragic mistake of Israel is that they would not repent of their idolatry.  They continued to become like the nations rather than reaching the nations.  The contrast between Israel and Nineveh is astounding.  Nineveh repents and turns to God at the word of the prophet Jonah.  Israel rebels and disobeys God.  The pagan nations repent, Israel rebels.

Israel fails all through out their history.  They are condemned because the do not repent.  This is why in Matthew 12:41 Jesus says, “The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.”  What is Jesus saying here?  He is telling the Jews that the Ninevites put them to shame.  The pagan nations repent, but the chosen people of God do not.  Jesus tells them the Ninevites repented at the preaching of Jonah, and Jesus tells them “I am the greater Jonah and you, Israel, do not listen to me and repent”.  This stiff-necked people refuses to believe the Prophets of God.  Indeed Israel rejected their own Messiah.  They mocked him.  They tried him.  They crucified him.  They rejected THE prophet of God, Yet Jesus tells us that the stone that the builders rejected has become the corner stone.  The rejected Messiah of Israel is the Messiah for the whole world and now invites the nations, pagan, gentile sinners like many of us, to repentance and faith.

Jesus is the greater Jonah. I know the temptation for us is to look upon Israel with disgust.  How could the people of God refuse repentance?  How could the people of God reject their prophets?  How could they become so self-righteous and filled with pride?  How could they hate the people God asked them to reach? Be very careful Christian, your thinking indicates that you might very well be like the nation of Israel.  In fact, those of us who grow up in the church have a tendency to be far more like the people of Israel than we may know.   You and I have the Word of the Lord.  We have faithful pastors who preach it to us week in and week out, yet we deliberately disobey.  We look down on others because we think that we are more moral and superior.  We refuse to share the Gospel with others, and do not desire to see our friends come to repentance and faith.  You and I are much more like Israel than we care to admit.

May we be like Nineveh and respond to our sin with incredible repentance!  May we fall on our face and be humbled.  May we turn from our wicked ways and turn to Jesus and be saved!

They Put Away Serious Reflection as the Very Bane of Pleasure

In my reading, I stumbled upon this great quote from an older work by Archibald Alexander on Thoughts on Religious Experiences (1841).  In his book he has a great description of the lost and of man's natural state apart from the grace of Christ.  All though this was written many years ago, it still bears a vivid picture of humanity today.  Because technology and progress come, but sinners like myself never change.  Thanks be to Jesus for redeeming us through His blood!

There is, moreover, another class, who seems never to feel the force of religious truth.  They are such as spend their whole waking hours in the giddy whirl of amusement or company.   Full of health and spirits, and sanguine in their hopes of enjoyment from the world, they put away serious reflection as the very bane of pleasure.  The very name of religion is hateful to them: and all they ask of religious people is to let them alone, and seize the pleasures of life while within their reach.  If we may judge from appearances, this class is very large.  We find them the majority in many places of fashionable resort.  The theatre, ball-room, and the very streets are full of such.  They flutter gaily along, and keep each other in countenance; while they are strangers to all grave reflection, even in regard to the sober concerns of this life.  If a pious friend ever gets the opportunity of addressing a word of serious advice to them, their politeness may prevent them from behaving rudely, but no sooner is his back turned, than they laugh him to scorn, and hate and despise him for his pains.  They habituate themselves to think that religion is an awkward unseemly thing, and wonder how any person of sense can bear to attend to it.

Bonhoeffer on Cheap Grace

While sermon prepping for today, I opened up Dietrich Bonhoeffer's book "The Cost of Discipleship".  As I was thumbing through it looking for a quote I needed, I looked through all my highlights and remembered just how challenging this book is.  One of my favorite chapters in the whole book is the first one called "Costly Grace".  In this chapter he calls "Cheap Grace the deadly enemy of our Church" and defines cheap grace and costly grace as follows:

Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession.  Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living incarnate.

Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all that he has.  It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods.  It is the kingly rule of Christ, of whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble; it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him.

Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock.  (44-45)

If you have yet to read this Christian classic do yourself a favor and go pick it up on amazon today.

Am I Ready to be a Father?

So my wife, Kaitlyn, and I made it public today that we will be having a baby!  The due date is on January 31st.  We are super excited, and in my personal journal I wrote this over the past week.  Thought I might share with you all the thoughts wrestling in my brain.  

Am I ready for the task of fatherhood?  Am I ready to image God as the gracious and loving Father?  In a day and age where Godly fathers are hard to find, will I be faithful?

The thought of being responsible for another person is intimidating.  I hope to be the perfect Dad, but I know my sinful flesh will keep that from happening.  I will fail.  I will sin.  I will fall short from perfect fatherhood.  As a result, my goal is not to be a perfect Father, but a radically Gospel-centered dad.  A dad who constantly confesses his own failure.  A dad who repents daily and finds his restoration at the cross. A dad drenched in the grace of God.

I know my task as a Father is to be a man who stands with his arm stretched pointing to the cross.  No matter how hard I try to be everything my children need, at the end of the day, they do not need me to be a perfect dad, they need perfect Jesus.  My role as father will only be to show them the radical love of God the Father who did not spare his own son but gave him up for us all. I will do my best to love my children, to protect them, to provide for them, and to disciple them.  But, no matter what my future failures, if I can just point them to Jesus I will hear the words from God, "Well done my good and faithful servant."

So I am praying for that little soul growing rapidly in my wife's womb, my own flesh and blood.  All the while being painfully aware that my job as Dad is to father this child and one day release them to be obedient to their true father, the most glorious and perfect God.  I pray  already that one day the spirit moves powerfully in my child and that by God's precious grace he would open his or her eyes to see the wickedness of their own sin and the beauty of God's gracious, sin-atoning work at the cross.

Precious son or daughter, I'm praying that you will one day walk hand in hand with your heavenly father, and that he shows you his glory and that He uses you powerfully for the sake of the Gospel.

To the Praise of His Glory

This is a manuscript of the sermon I preached this morning at my church, Forest Hills Baptist Church.  Due to the quick pass of the message, I put it up here for their use to consult and as a reference for anyone. 

If you have your Bible’s go ahead and open them to Ephesians 1:3-14. It seems in my experience there is an ever pressing question that haunts each and every one of us. It is a question that always lies dormant in the back of our mind, and it is a question that is the most visible when we think about the graduation and recognizing these graduates. The question is this: What is my purpose? It is a simple question, but one that many spend the rest of their lives trying to answer. The reason why this question is so common is because we all desire to be significant. We want to leave our lasting mark on this world. We are ambitious and want to get the most out of life. We want to reach the mountain top of scholasticism, or we want to climb that corporate ladder. Or we want that picture perfect family that gives us meaning. Every human being I think is intrinsically looking for an answer to that question. What is my purpose? Although we all wrestle with that same question, we run to very different answers that don’t ever satisfy that longing question of purpose.

The pursuit for purpose and meaning is a noble one. In fact, there is something about the way God designs us that compels us to find meaning. In that pursuit, rarely do we go to the word of God to find the purpose for which we were made. For many the question of purpose is personal and subjective, not theological. However, as we will see today in God’s word, you and I were created for a very specific purpose and that purpose is found in the purpose of God. When reflecting on the purpose of humanity the Westminster confession of faith summed it up rightly when it says that, “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” You see, the purpose for which you and I exist is for the glory of God. The reason the glory of God is our purpose is because it is God’s purpose. You see God’s chief end is for his own glory. He is passionate about the preservation of his holiness and the praise of His own name! You and I were created for that same purpose as well. Here is what I want you to understand from this sermon today. God’s chief end is for the exaltation of his own glory, therefore the divine purpose of man is to glorify God.

So here is our plan of attack this morning. I want to show you in the Bible God’s zealous passion for his own glory, and then discuss about what this truth means for you and then give some practical implications for what this means for graduates and really anyone wrestling with the question of purpose. We are going to be looking at several different passages in the Bible, but we are going to kick off in Ephesians 1:3-14 to get us started in seeing God’s passion for His Glory. As we get ready to read this passage I want you to watch out for a phrase “To the praise of his glory”.

God’s Glory is the Purpose of Creation

I hope you noticed the repetition of that phrase about God’s glory. Paul starts off in Ephesians as he normally does, with doxology. Paul tends to do this in most of his letters. He will introduce himself and state who he is writing too, then he will begin with a few verses of praise and exaltation about God. However, in the book of Ephesians Paul starts getting really excited as he is writing and he just writes and writes and writes about how great God is. In this passage he begins to describe the astonishing truth of God’s sovereign plan from the foundation of the earth to predestine us and call us as his own children through Jesus Christ. This passage has some incredible truths in it, but for the sake of time I want draw your attention to one thing.

For what purpose did God do all this? Paul lays out this amazing truth of God’s plan from the beginning to save us through Jesus. Why did God do all of this? Why did God save us? The answer is repeated several times, for the praise of his glory! His repetition of this phrase is trying to draw our attention and remind us of this. It is all for his glory! Paul is telling us, “It is all about God. It is all about his praise and his glory!” In this passage Paul is taping into a theme found throughout the whole Bible. The chief purpose of God in creation is to exalt over his own glory!

We see this throughout the whole scriptures. Although the passages are many, I want to share a few of them with you so that you can feel the weight of God’s glory as a theme throughout the Bible.

God Creates us for his glory: Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, every one who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory. (Isaiah 43:6-7)

God makes Israel for his glory: I made the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah cling to me, declares the Lord, that they might be for me a people, a name, a praise, and a glory. (Jeremiah 13:11)

God Forgives for his glory: I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins. (Isaiah 43:25)

Creation exalts God’s glory: The Heavens declare the glory of God - Psalm 19

For my name’s sake I defer my anger, for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you, that I may not cut you off. Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another. - Isaiah 48:9-11

You see, all throughout the Bible God is telling us that he is for his glory. He is about the exaltation of his name. In fact, creation is nothing more than an outpouring of his own glory. God didn’t create the world to fill some empty void in his life, he is self-sufficient in community with himself as the triune God of the universe. Creation itself, our existence is simply the over flow of his own goodness and magnificence!

Now this truth should make us ask a very important question. If God is so zealously passionate about his own glory, what is God’s glory? That’s a good question. I like John Piper’s definition: The glory of God is “the going public of his infinite worth”. When his holiness and worthiness is made public we call it his glory. When his goodness is revealed it’s called glory. When his holiness is demonstrated it’s called his glory. If his love is put on radical display, it’s his glory. When his justice and righteous wrath are being poured out, it is his glory. God’s glory is the public declaration of his infinite worth!

Think back to Isaiah chapter 6. Isaiah has his vision of the throne room of heaven. He sees the angels swirling around and what are they singing? “Holy, Holy, Holy! The whole earth is filled with his glory!” God’s holiness and worthiness being revealed to us on this earth is the out pouring of his glory!

God’s Glory is Tarnished by our sin

So if we were created to bring God glory, to image him and reflect back to him his own likeness, there is a problem. We are not doing our created purpose. We are sinners, and through our treacherous disobedience have tarnished the glory of God. In Romans 1:22 we see that we “exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and bird and animals and creeping things”. We who were created to worship God have now decided to be idolatrous and worship creation. So we worship sex, fame, fortune, security, comfort, earthly pleasures, and anything else the world will offer us. We worship anything other than God. We are not only failing to achieve our divinely created purpose, we are bringing God’s name dishonor instead of Glory. We are doing the opposite of that for which we have been created! Oh what damnable sinners we are! Is it no wonder then that every one of us deserve hell? We mock the almighty God in our sin and spit in the face of his glory and goodness!

However, by his incredible mercy God set forth a plan in motion. Remember Ephesians 1? He put a plan in place before the foundations of the earth to vindicate his own glory and his own holiness from the wickedness of humanity’s sin.

God’s Glory is preserved through the death of Christ

Turn over to your bibles with me to Romans 3:21-26. In this passage we who have fall short of the glory of God are justified by grace through redemption in Christ Jesus! That was God’s plan from the foundation. To redeem us from our sin and vindicate his own glory through the death of Christ. Paul continues in this passage and tells us that Jesus’ death served as a propitiation for our sin in verse 25. Your translation might say a “sacrifice of atonement”, which is an ok translation but doesn’t quite capture the force of the greek word here. For reasons we don’t have time to discuss, a better translation of this word is propitiation. Now propitiation is a word that we don’t use very often anymore. Here is what this word means in this passage. Propitiation means that on the cross Jesus absorbed the wrath from God that you deserved. The punishment for your sin was payed and was payed by the holy, blameless, and righteous son of God! So why did Jesus have to die for you? So the righteousness and holiness of God might be preserved. You might have thought this before, “Why did God have to kill Jesus? Couldn’t he have just said ‘You are forgiven’? I mean he is God isn’t he, he can do whatever he wants. Why put Jesus on the cross?”

You see, God as the holy and righteous judge of the earth would be unrighteous if he allowed the desecration of his own glory go unpunished. If his glory is the most sacred and precious thing in the universe, he would be an unjust and evil judge. Imagine for a second a earthly judge who allows someone convicted of rape and murder get off without giving him a sentence. What if that judge just told the rapist and murderer, “I know your convicted and guilty, but he don’t worry about it. Go and keep on living your life”. What would we say to such an judge? You see, if God allows your sin to go unpunished he would be an unjust judge. In our sin we stand condemn, and to vindicate God’s own glory and righteousness God sent his own son like a lamb led to the slaughter for the purchase of your freedom. This is what Paul means when he says that Jesus died so that God, “might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus”. My friend, Christ has taken on the punishment for your sin and the justice of God is vindicated and you are made just before an infinitely holy God!

This is why Jesus prays in his high priestly prayer right before his arrest, “Father the hour has come; glorify your son that the son may glorify you.” What? Jesus you are about to be arrested! You are about to get tried unfairly! You are about to get scourged with the whip! You are about to get mocked and humiliated! You are bout to be nailed on a rugged tree hung naked and exposed while the people laugh at your torment! How could this hour be for your glory? For it was precisely at the cross where the mystery of God’s will was revealed. At the cross, the crux of the hinge of eternity, that God’s glory and justice was vindicated and you and I were given our salvation!

We were saved for God's glory

Let’s reread Ephesians 1:11-14. What does Paul say here? Those of us who have hoped in Christ and were sealed by the Spirit was for what purpose? To the praise of his glory! Humanity, who was created by God for the purpose of exalting God’s glory, has now been restored to that original purpose through Jesus. If God’s chief purpose in creation is the exaltation of his glory, we now have the opportunity to join God in this most sacred task of glorifying him with our lives. Your purpose is this: to glorify God with every fiber of your being. What is your purpose and why did God create you? For the exaltation of his glory!

Your life is about God and not about you

We are very selfish people aren’t we? Our motivations are constantly selfish. Even with college, we tend to pick a degree that makes us the most money. We want to pick the degree that will get us the career so we can buy that corvette. I want to be a doctor! We say. I get squeamish around blood, but hey the pay is pretty good. In light of these truths we just learned, we see that our lives do not revolve around ourselves. Don’t waste your life living for your own vain pursuits. Don’t just live your life to increase your own comfort. Don’t work hard at your career just for the pay check. You are living this life for something far more valuable and far more significant, the glory of God.

If your like me you might be thinking, I get this Justin. I understand that I exist for the glory of God, now how do I do this?

Everything you do should be for the glory of God

1 Corinthians 10:31 says this, “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God”. This text is huge! Every little thing we do we must do for the glory of God. From the next sip of water you take, to the lunch you are getting ready to eat, you are commanded to do it for the glory of God. That menial job you have that you hate, you are called by God to do it for his glory. Cracking open the books and studying and writing papers, You do it for God’s glory. The ways you can bring God glory in each of these situations are numerous. However I want to give you one main way you glorify God.

We glorify God by rejoicing in God

Imagine a painter who paints the most beautiful painting! It painted in incredible detail, its color and radiance captivating. If you want to glory in that painting, what do you do? You don’t put it in a closet for no one to see. You hang it up in a prominent place and you invite everyone to come and admire it’s beauty and magnificence. You put it in an art gallery so the public can come and witness the awesomeness of that painting.

Imagine it’s March Madness and your favorite team makes it and whens the tournament. How would you glory in that team? You would go crazy! You would wear a jersey the next day, you would announce it on Facebook or twitter for everyone to see, you’d talk about it at work for the next month, you would just go crazy and joy.

Here is the sad reality. Many of us would get far more excited and get far more joy if our basketball team won the championship than we ever will about the glory and majesty of God! You see the problem is not that we don’t rejoice, the problem is that we rejoice in things that do not satisfy. As the American Theologian Johnathan Edwards writes, “God is glorified not only by his glories being seen, but by its being rejoiced in.” God wants you to delight in his glory. He wants you to celebrate it. He wants you to tell others about it. He wants you to get excited about it.

Whenever I think about our misguided desires and think of a quote by CS Lewis. He says the following:

We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far to easily pleased.

Final Thoughts

Graduates, do not be satisfied with anything less than experiencing the fullness of the glory of God. No diploma, no job, no man, and no woman will never please you. Only Christ.

Church members, repent of your vain pursuit of seeking joy in the pleasures of this world. Delight in God and live every aspect of your life glorifying Him.

Non Christian, my friend, you know what I’m talking about better than most. You are in the trenches of sin looking for all kind of pleasures to satisfy your longing soul. Today God is calling you to find your rest in him. He has made a way through Jesus. Come and receive him this morning.

Freedom from Past Guilt

We all have skeletons in our closet. Even for the best of us, there are some sins that seem to haunt us when our soul gets quiet and still. Our past failures tend to come back over and over again to remind us of just how much we fall short. For some of us, these memories make us feel worthless and empty. So often we get plagued by thoughts such as, “I will never be good enough for God to accept me” or thoughts like, “I’ve failed so many times, there is no way I can be saved!” Oh friend, if this is you, you are being deceived by the lies of the enemy. You have forgotten the beauty of the Gospel! You see, the Gospel breaks us free from the chains of past failures. Although we are all failures, and although we have committed horrendous sins, the Gospel is the good news that Jesus was righteous for you. The apostle Paul tells us that, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Jesus took on your sins past, present, and future on the cross. If you believe in him, and trust in Jesus you are given the righteousness of Christ. You were once an enemy of God, but now you are adopted as a son or daughter.

Don’t be haunted by your past failures, the Gospel has freed you from guilt. In Christ, God sees you as valuable and righteous. You can never be good enough to earn God’s favor, but by God’s grace he has given you his favor through Jesus. Remind yourself of the Gospel daily. Preach it to yourself often, and counter attack the lies of the enemy with the truth. You are accepted and righteous before God not on your own merit, but on the merit of Jesus. What glorious news!