Keep the Gospel Rhythm.

Erik Raymond —  April 26, 2011

If there is a potential danger following the celebration of the events surrounding the Lord’s Passion it has to be the let down. Or more accurately, the ‘potential’ for a let down.

It is somewhat of a Christian reflex to emphasize the life, death, and burial of Jesus during the days leading up to and on Resurrection Sunday. However, what do we do with the other 51 weeks? What sermon text does the preacher load into his homiletical satchel? What is the soundtrack he is to hear as he jumps on the pastoral saddle?

The reality is that the tone and topic of our Holy Week services should not be much different than the services during the rest of the year. After all, we are Christians! Our chief (and only!) boast is in the work of Christ (Gal. 6.14). This is the foundation of who we are. It is the basis of our identity as Christians (1 Cor. 1.29-30). Therefore, to flip the page onto other topics or themes is to leg-swipe our own identity.

One of the reasons we as Christians gather together on Sundays is to trumpet the resurrection. We enjoy the sacrament of communion together to emphasize the completed work of Christ (1 Cor. 11.26). We are to sing songs and hymns that exalt Christ (Col. 3.16). Preachers are to preach the word (2 Tim. 4.2) which always showcases Christ. You of course can see why turning the page from Christ crucified and risen is a turning away from the heart of Christianity.

As a pastor it was greatly encouraging this weekend after our Good Friday and Sunday am service to hear several folks remark that they appreciated that this is not a once a year thing. In other words, they see the importance of the gospel being heralded not only every year, or week, but every day.

This is of critical importance for us as Christians, in particular, as pastors. There is never a day when you turn the page and move on. We are to be the congregation’s drummer: always keeping the gospel rhythm. We are never to leave that song. If pastors do their jobs right then heaven will be less of an adjustment (Rev. 5!).

I love the scene at the end of Matthew’s narrative. In particular, the scene involving the ladies at the empty tomb. Mark their response and learn from your great grandmothers in the faith: “they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him.” (Matt. 28.9)

Amen. This is the right spot for the Christian, for there is no better place to be than clasping with white knuckled faith the nail pierced feet of Jesus. The word chosen here for “took hold of” is also translated arrest, seize, and retain. We are told in Hebrews 4.14 to hold fast to our confession, it is the same word. What a great picture here, clinging, arresting, holding fast to the feet of Jesus; taking a mouthful of dirt and muddying the ground with tears of joy. Yes Christian find yourself here, trusting fully in the crucified and risen Savior who has defeated death and stands risen to greet you.

The text says that they worshipped him. Yes this is the picture of worship. He is standing and they are prostrate. There is no room in their hands for religious works, idols, or any other rivals to the Savior. No, all that fills their clinging hands is Jesus.

Dwell long on this meditation friends for it is the essence of the resurrection. He is supremely powerful and so therefore awful (causing awe). All of his claims are true therefore Christians are filled with mega joy. We therefore run and cling to him in full dependence, satisfaction and worship.

(Mat 28.10) Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”

What a scene this is! The resurrected Savior is standing before two women. Their hearts are full of worship as they cling to him. But Jesus is not done, he instructs them to go and to tell…his brothers!

Do you see how far God has condescended in Jesus? Do you see how successful Christ’s work is for us? He has come down among us to bring us to God (1 Pet. 3.18). This is not to say that he is to be forever of the earth but that his people, his brothers and sisters, are to be forever with him in heaven.

By means of the payment of his life, death and resurrection, Jesus has purchased a new family. The great heavenly prince has plundered the enemy’s stronghold. He has kicked in the door of death. He has broken down the castle of sin. This great multitude of captives were formerly ‘sons of disobedience’ (Eph. 2.2) are now ‘sons of God’ (Gal. 3.26). That is, we have been adopted by the work of Christ, our older brother (Heb. 2.14-17).

O’ the eternal marveling we will do when we consider that he has made us fit to be called ‘brothers’!

Do you see and feel the heaviness of this term? The privilege of being called Christ’s brother is not cheap. It is not an unalienable right. It is not like voting at 18. No, no. Instead, being lavished with such a title is expensive. The very precious thought of it is soaked in Immanuel’s blood. The reality of being such a brother, such a member of the royal family is a gospel privilege. It was purchased by means of our great Savior, the Lord Jesus.

Your blood has washed away my sin
Jesus, thank You
The Father’s wrath completely satisfied
Jesus, thank You
Once Your enemy, now seated at Your table
Jesus, thank You. (from Worship God Live)

A Resurrection Day Prayer

Erik Raymond —  April 24, 2011

O GOD OF MY EXODUS,

Great was the joy of Israel’s sons when Egypt died upon the shore,

Far greater the joy when the Redeemer’s foe lay crushed in the dust.

Jesus strides forth as the victor, conqueror of death, hell, and all opposing might;

He bursts the bands of death, tramples the powers of darkness down, and lives for ever.

He, my gracious surety, apprehended for payment of my debt, comes forth from the prison house of the grave free, and triumphant over sin, Satan, and death.

Show me herein the proof that his vicarious offering is accepted, that the claims of justice are satisfied, that the devil’s sceptre is shivered, that his wrongful throne is levelled.

Give me the assurance that in Christ I died, in Him I rose, in His life I live, in His victory I triumph, in His ascension I shall be glorified.

Adorable Redeemer,

Thou who wast lifted up upon a cross
art ascended to highest heaven.

Thou, who as man of sorrows wast crowned with thorns,
art now as Lord of life wreathed with glory.

Once, no shame more deep than Thine, no agony more bitter, no death more cruel.

Now, no exaltation more high, no life more glorious, no advocate more effective.

Thou art in the triumph car leading captive Thine enemies behind Thee.

What more could be done than Thou hast done!

Thy death is my life, Thy resurrection my peace,

Thy ascension my hope, Thy prayers my comfort.

Valley of Vision, pp. 86-87

Think with me about the specific qualifications for humanity’s savior. He must be a perfect man. He cannot sin. If he is to be our substitute and rescuer then he cannot be a transgressor of this same Law. He must be perfect. He must be both God and man. Wholly God and fully man.

Of course there is no one created who qualifies for this post. We are, after all, created beings. And, as descendants of the first Adam, therefore beset by the same weakness as he.

Furthermore, no angel may pick up this mantle. In addition to not being eternally and inherently righteous they are not human. Therefore, the arch-angel Michael is not a suitable substitute for humanity.

There is but one in heaven who qualifies for the post. It alone is Immanuel, God’s own beloved Son. He is the special, unique, Son of God (Col. 1.13). Only he can be both God and man. Only he can come and bear the unrelenting weight of the Law and then go and swig down the eternal vat of condemnation that awaits all who rebel against God.

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I am looking forward to attending the Men’s Breakfast tomorrow at Omaha Bible Church. Here is the info:

Omaha Bible Church is excited to have writer and cultural analyst, Ted Kluck join us for a Men’s Breakfast on April 23rd at 9 a.m.  Ted will be speaking on the Art of Manliness in two sessions on Saturday morning from 9:00 to 11:00. Breakfast will be served starting at 8 a.m. (map)

Ted Kluck is the author of several books, on topics ranging from Mike Tyson to the Emergent Church. Both Why We’re Not Emergent and Why We Love the Church (with Kevin DeYoung) won Christianity Today Book of the Year awards. His work has also appeared in ESPN the Magazine and Christianity Today.

I recently finished another one of Ted’s books The Reason for Sports and plan to review it soon. It was a good read.

If you are local, make plans to attend (it’s free). It should be a good time of encouragement in Christ.

Luke 22:31-32 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.

As the Savior is looking down the barrel of the unmitigated wrath of God he speaks to his disciples rather cryptically about the ‘one’ (Judas) who would betray him and then quite specifically about the Apostle Peter’s impending defection.

In the midst of this dialog between Peter and Jesus we have these two verses nestled in full of encouragement for believers today.

We learn of Satan’s desires. It is to “have” believers. Satan is not concerned so much with the unbelievers, for he already has them, but rather those who are following the Messiah. Satan’s desire is to have Peter. Satan already ‘has’ Judas (Luk 22.3) and now he wants Peter too. He wants to undermine the work of Jesus by attacking his followers. So believer, know that just as sure as you have the Holy Spirit you have been ‘painted’ with a demonic laser sight…he wants to have you. For truly nothing would give the Devil more joy than to see the narrow road depopoulated, for there is plenty of room on the broad road for apostates.

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As a church planter I’ve enjoyed Mike McKinley’s book Church Planting is for Wimps. Mike planted through Mark Dever and Capital Hill Baptist Church in D.C.

These words are particularly helpful to the young guy who wants to see impact and is thinking about the means to that end.

Without God’s Word, a church has no hope as it prepares to meet this God who is to judge the living and the dead. It has no way to know the gospel in a saving way (Rom. 10:14; 1 Cor. 1:21). It has no way to grow in Christ. Without the Word of God, a preacher, especially a young preacher with little history, has no true authority. He might be able to woo them with the desires of the flesh just like any comedian or rock star. But without the Word he will have no true spiritual trust from his people.

Why would a church entrust its spiritual good to a know-nothing twenty-nine-year-old? Why would an older man who has been a Christian for twenty years, raised a family, and had a creer care what this twenty-nine -year-old says about marriage or children or money or taking up your cross and following Jesus?

But if that twenty-nine-year-old can simply open the pages of the Bible and explain what God himself says, then the church has something with which to work. Then the authority rests not in the preacher or his personal wisdom and experience but in the authority of God himself who has breathed his Word. –Mike McKinley, Church Planting is for Wimps, p. 48

Luke 22:37 For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.”

Prior to heading up to the Mount of Olives the Lord Jesus makes this statement to his disciples. It is in the context of Jesus telling his disciples to get a moneybag, knapsack and a sword in preparation of the coming days.

The Scripture reference that the Savior sites is from the prophet Isaiah, specifically the 12thverse of the 53rd chapter. Of course the 53rd chapter of Isaiah is one of the clearest conglomerations of Messianic prophecy contained in the Old Testament. Isaiah writes with prophetic precision as he foretells of the manner in which the Son of David would suffer and die as he accomplishes redemption.

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Jesus Read his Bible

Erik Raymond —  April 19, 2011

It is the most common answer to one of the most common questions that Christians ask one another. Someone asks, “How can I be praying for you?”  Then we answer, “That I would be more disciplined in reading the Word.”

We know that this is the right answer. We also know our shortcomings in this area.

Therefore, it is as instructive as it is convicting to consider how quickly, regularly, and profoundly flips to the Bible for his answers. We are all familiar with his battle with Satan in the wilderness where Jesus quotes the Scriptures, slicing up the enemy like Zorro (Matt. 4.1-11). He does the same to Satan’s lieutenants and Bible teachers, the Scribes and Pharisees (cf. Mark 7.1-23). They keep after him and he keeps returning fire with the Bible.

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There are those times when stand in the midst of a sunny Spring day and see great shadows. You see the sun shining down on a building or structure and as you examine the shadow you see more of the building and vice versa.

The day that Jesus came to the temple should have been one of those days. The theological shadow of the temple was next to the substance, the structure. Jesus, the true and better temple, has come. The truth of God dwelling with his people has been realized finally in Jesus.

But this did not happen.

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Passion Week Devotions

Erik Raymond —  April 18, 2011

As I have done in previous years, I plan to write devotionals during The Passion Week. It is truly one of my favorite and most heart stirring times of year. As Christians we are always to live in the shadow of the cross of Christ, however, there is something about the calendar and this week that causes special gospel explosions of humility and joy for me.

My hope is that the devotions will do the same for you and perhaps even help you with devotions in your various settings (personal, family, small group devotions, etc.)

Here is one resource that I have found helpful. It is an attempted harmony/chronology of the words and actions of Jesus in the final week of his pre-resurrection life.

May God be pleased to stir our hearts with the glory of his grace.

It is my habit to read J.C. Ryle at the conclusion of sermon prep. This week I came across this quote pertaining to Mark 9.42-50 and Jesus’ persistence on mentioning and teaching on the reality of hell.

There is no mercy in keeping back from men the subject of hell. Fearful and tremendous as it is, it ought to be pressed on all, as one of the great truths of Christianity. Our loving Savior speaks frequently of it. The apostle John, in the book of Revelation, often describes it.

The servants of God in these days must not be ashamed of confessing their belief in it. Were there no boundless mercy in Christ for all that believe in Him, we might well shrink from the dreadful topic. Were there no precious blood of Christ able to cleanse away all sin, we might well keep silence about the wrath to come. But there is mercy for all who ask in Christ’s name. There is a fountain open for all sin.

Let us then boldly and unhesitatingly maintain that there is a hell, and beseech men to flee from it, before it be too late. “Knowing the terrors of the Lord,” the worm, and the fire, let us “persuade men.” (2 Cor. 5:11.) It is not possible to say too much about Christ. But it is quite possible to say too little about hell. –J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Mark, p.193

I am currently on the way back to Omaha from Chicago where we attended The Gospel Coalition Conference. It was a rich time of fellowship with believers from around the world in the gospel of Christ.

Think about it, several thousand people gathered together to encounter and be tutored in preaching Christ from the Old Testament. Very encouraging indeed.

But I have a rock in my shoe.

As I sat and listened to the sermons I was regularly distracted. In each session I sat near guys who felt that they needed to check their Facebook and Twitter as often as Sean Hannity says something negative about President Obama.

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Many people remark that they do not have a ‘good’ testimony of how Christ saved them. And by good they often mean, some sort of Acts 9 type experience; where the apostle Paul, the Christian killer, was on his way to continue the persecution of the body of Christ when he was blinded by heaven’s light and knocked off his horse.eye-chart_update.jpg

But do you have to be in Acts 9 to understand that you are a filthy sinner? Does not your day to day life as a believer testify to the marvelous depths that God has stooped to rescue you from yourself?!

We don’t need Acts 9 to know we are sinners; Romans 7 will do just fine!

I know the magnitude of my sin today far more than I did when I became a believer. As you age in life your physical eyesight may decrease, but as you mature in Christ your spiritual eyesight sharpens!

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‘Getting’ the Bird

Erik Raymond —  April 13, 2011

I was cruising along to work this am on my bike (mountain not motor) when I saw a somewhat common site but then had a rather uncommon reaction.  What I saw was a dead bird.  The deceased fowl had apparently flown foul into someone’s windshield and there laid motionless in my path.  This is not uncommon as you ride of course, but my reaction was.

No doubt stemming from a high exposure to the Book of Leviticus my first thought was ‘gospel’.  I looked at the dead bird and thought about the burnt offering.

If you haven’t read Leviticus 1 for awhile, the central issue facing the Jews was access to God as they received the divine Law via Moses and had the tabernacle contructed in the wilderness.  God had come down to dwell with his people.  But in so doing he demonstrated with clarity that he is a holy God who does not turn a blind eye to sin.  And as a result of the people of God’s prevailing sinfulness and God’s unwavering holiness something needed to be done in order allow sinners to enjoy the glorious and matchless blessing of fellowship with God.

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Leviticus 10 is an intrusion on ‘Safe-for-the-whole-Family’ Religion. The fact of the matter is that Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, became dangerously indifferent to the holiness of God. As a result, God judged them without mercy.

At the end of chapter 10 (verse 17), Moses asks why they are not doing what they should be doing. They are in effect, paralyzed. Aaron can hardly move.

Do you see how, without a perfect mediator, even the holiest men in Israel are frighteningly looking over their shoulders? Do you hear Aaron’s apprehension? You can almost hear his knees knocking and his voice quivering. Without assurances of God’s acceptance through a perfect representative or mediator they are paralyzed.

Can you imagine how valuable a perfect high priest would have been to Aaron, Eleazar and Ithamar that day? Consider how quickly they would shed their turbans, breastplates, and ephods, falling before the great High Priest?! O’ how they would flood the ground with tears of joy and thanksgiving if they were able to behold the Lord Jesus Christ.

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A couple of weeks ago I came to one of those times in sermon prep where I was just staring at the Bible and wondering what I was going to do with the passage.  Specifically it was in Leviticus 24.  This chapter deals with the regulations for the lamp stand and the bread.  Then, seemingly out of nowhere, we have a case of blasphemy.  The offender is the son of an Egyptian man and an Israelite woman.

(Lev 24.10-11) Now an Israelite woman’s son, whose father was an Egyptian, went out among the people of Israel. And the Israelite woman’s son and a man of Israel fought in the camp,11 and the Israelite woman’s son blasphemed the Name, and cursed.

The commentators debate about the specifics of the offense, but suffice it to say, this man spoke in an insulting, irreverent, and unholy manner concerning the Lord God of Israel.  He was not impressed by him and felt no obligation to fear him.  So like Goliath, he mocked him.

The penalty for this divine hate crime was quick and efficient community execution by way of stoning.

(Lev 24.15-16) 15 And speak to the people of Israel, saying, Whoever curses his God shall bear his sin. 16 Whoever blasphemes the name of the LORD shall surely be put to death.

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“Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” (Mark 9.38)

It is right and good to have convictions. We would be lost without them.

It is right and good to have zeal. We would be lifeless without it.

The danger comes when we flip our zeal and convictions on their respective heads and use them as puppets for our own pursuit of vain glory.

God does not promise to bless prideful people. He promises to oppose them (1 Pet. 5.6) and then to humble them.

It is staggering to think that we could use somebody like Jesus and something like the gospel as a catalyst for pride. Jesus sweats humility. His gospel is humility lived out. To steal his gospel bandwith to broadcast our own glory is the height of idolatry.

To invert this is to betray the gospel. It is to promote the small ‘k’ kingdom over the big ‘K’ kingdom. It is idolatry.

The elusive balance is achieved by being governed by the gospel, not running for our own office. As a Christian I need to spend more time looking in the mirror of the word than in the mirror above my sink. I need to spend more time drinking from the reservoir of grace than from the fountain of self-righteousness.

The gospel is a glorious truth with grand implications. Much of ‘getting’ this pivots on whether or not we will daily swallow the jagged pill of its central truth: “It’s not about you.”

There is such correction, liberty and joy for us when we are marinating in the truth of the gospel of the glory of Christ.

The Next Story

Erik Raymond —  April 9, 2011

I think Tim Challies’ new book looks really interesting. I think it blends two of the things that I really appreciate from him: Discernment & Technology. I noticed that the book was only $5.99 on Kindle and I picked it up. Other deals are still out there.

This video kind of whets your whistle for the book. It’s worth the watch.

Tim Challies: “The Next Story” from Ligonier on Vimeo.