The Joy of Glory

Discovering endless joy in the boundless glory of God…

Month: April, 2014

Why Am I a Christian?

christianHave you ever thought about why you are a Christian?

I’m not asking if you have thought through a list of apologetical arguments that help demonstrate that your faith is reasonable (even though such arguments have their place).

No. I’m asking if you have thought about how you became a Christian. What happened to you to make you believe? Why did you come to faith? Why are you a believer in Jesus?

Why are you a Christian?

Throughout my life, I have thought about this more than a little and continue to find myself reflecting on it quite often. Why? Because it amazes me! Grace amazes me! And grace is the reason that anyone is a Christian!

I am a Christian because God saved me! Why?

Grace.

I am a Christian because God gave this blind sinner sight! Why?

Grace.

I am a Christian because God raised this dead man to new life in him! Why?

Grace.

I am a Christian because God set this prisoner free! Why?

Grace.

grace_logo_whitebackI am a Christian because of nothing in me! It’s not because I’m smart, or wise, or good looking, or moral, or, or, or, or… It is because God is gracious! I have nothing to boast in except the grace of God through Jesus Christ!

I am a Christian because of grace!

And yet… I think about much more than grace when I reflect on the question, “Why am I a Christian?” I do so because the grace of God comes to us through various means… and I find these means most fascinating. The means through which God works his amazing grace in salvation is his Holy Word…the Gospel! Romans 10:17, “Faith comes from hearing and hearing from the Word of Christ.”

It is through hearing the Gospel that the Holy Spirit of God works to open our eyes of faith, give life to our dead heart, and break the bonds of sin! Yet, we can still trace the means of grace further back… for the Word of the Gospel must be proclaimed to us!

Romans 10:14-15, “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!'”

God wills to save his people through the proclamation of his Word! He works through people to save people! God is the one who saves, but he loves to work redemption and reconciliation through his Word being proclaimed by puny, powerless people like you and me. In this way, it is obvious that he is at work and he gets all the glory and we get the joy!

There are countless examples of this throughout Scripture…just think about a few in the book of Acts alone!

Acts 9: Who saved Saul on the road to Damascus? God did! Yet, God used his servant Ananias to proclaim his Word to Saul!

Acts 10: Who saved Cornelius the centurion? God did! Yet, he commissioned Peter to take the Word of the Gospel to him!

Acts 16: Who saved Lydia, the seller of purple clothes in Philippi? God did! Yet, he used Paul’s proclamation to bring her the truth.

Over and over and over we see that “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb…” (Revelation 7:10) yet, he uses his people as the means by which the glorious gospel of the kingdom is proclaimed!

So when I reflect on why I am a Christian… I don’t just think about God’s grace (even though I know him to be the ultimate reason behind my redemption)… no… I don’t even just think about the Gospel (the Word through which I believed)… I also think about the people who brought the Gospel to me.

Such reflection leads me to see so many faces in my mind. Everyone from pastors, to Sunday School teachers, to friends, to siblings, to my mother and on and on. However, one person stands a head taller (literally and figuratively) than all others in that sea of faithful witnesses.

IMG_8849My Father.

When I think about why I am a Christian… I think about my father. The man who, throughout my entire life, has consistently declared the truth of the Gospel and demonstrated the love of the Gospel.

My father grew up as an orphan. Like… think “little orphan Annie” orphan. “The hard-knock life” is an extreme-understatement when you hear his testimony. He grew up in a state run orphanage in Texas. Yes… places like that really exist. I will not regale the countless stories of his upbringing that still make me weep, but suffice it to say I can easily see how he grew from boyhood into an angry, bitter young man.

During childhood, his only real exposure to “the Gospel” came from a “hell-fire-and-brimstone” church that would “kindly” allow the orphans to sit in the balcony. Needless to say, when he left the children’s home at the age of 21, Christianity was not even on his radar.

It wouldn’t be until he met my mother. Through her family, he would discover what it actually looked like to have a family and, more importantly, he would come to know who Jesus Christ really was and is.

224650_1914834717790_5209740_nStill… he resisted.

It would be several years before God used the consistent witness of my mom to break through the hardness of my father’s heart and save him by grace! I’m sure if you asked my dad why he is a Christian… he would talk about God’s grace through the gospel… and then he’d talk about my mom.

Not many years after becoming a believer in Christ, my father felt called to full-time ministry. Over the span of 35 years, he would faithfully serve three churches. It was during this time that I would be born and grow up… always looking up to this giant of a man (if you don’t know… my dad is 6′ 5″ and I’m still only 6′ 0″).

224001_1914835077799_1283029_nMy father was far from perfect… and who could blame him… he had no example to go on when it came to fatherhood. However, despite his imperfections, my father grew into one incredible dad! How could a man with no father figure, become such a great father himself? As a young boy, I knew that the God whom my father called “Father” must be real and must be good if he could transform my dad into this kind of man.

Throughout my years at home, my father taught me the Gospel, spoke it to me, and demonstrated the love that flows from it over and over. He was not afraid to admit his mistakes, humble himself, and ask for my forgiveness when he needed to do so. He loved me, my siblings, and my mother unconditionally and through many difficult waters (and she did the same).

As far back as I can remember, I’ve watched my dad love other people deeply. I’ve seen him spend countless hours by hospital beds, in homes, comforting those weeping, and even holding those who are dying. I’ve listened to him counsel, pray, weep, rejoice, encourage, preach, teach, and comfort. I’ve watched him give to those who could never repay him as he housed the homeless, fed the unemployed, paid taxes for those in debt, carry addicts through recovery, talk people down from suicide, adopt the elderly as his own family… I’ve seen him walk beside families for decades as they struggled, fell apart, we’re reconciled, and on and on and on.

Even through all this, I’ve watched some people whom he has loved reject him, ridicule him, and spread lies about him at various points throughout his years of ministry. This is perhaps when my father has amazed me most. In any difficult situation, I have never heard him speak ill of those who would do him harm. Even at times when my own anger has flared up on his behalf, he has calmed me down and taught me to forgive, to love, and to suffer in silence… counting suffering itself as a grace from God for his ultimate good and ultimately…for God’s glory.

I have never known another man like my father. I would speak the same words of him which Jesus did of John the Baptist in Matthew 11:11 , “…among those born of women there has arisen no one greater…

Needless to say, God used my father to pierce my heart with the truth of the Gospel because he spoke that truth, breathed that truth, and lived according to that truth. He always has… and I believe he always will.

So… why am I a Christian?

393701_10150600247774199_1812445521_nGrace.

Grace coming through the Gospel.

Grace coming through the Gospel declared and demonstrated by my Father.

I am a Christian because God brought the Gospel to me through Tony Haefs.

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Easter Devotional: John 20:1-29

John 20:1-29 (click here)
Simon Peter… went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, 7 and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. (John 20:6-7)

Reflection
Peter and John have just been told that Jesus’ body is gone! They race to them tomb, John gets there first and peers in, but as soon as Peter has caught up he barges into the cave-like grave. Then we are given some interesting details… the grave cloths have been left behind and the face cloth has been folded like a freshly washed towel.

Why do we need to know these tiny details?

I believe there is a practical reason and a symbolic reason. First, on a practical level, this story is true… it is not and myth, and small details like this help affirm that “realness.” Why did John tell us about the grave clothes?…Because they were really there! He’s describing the situation as they found it.

Secondly, John has mentioned grave clothes one other time in his gospel. In John 11, he tells us the story of Lazarus being raised from the dead by Jesus and in verse 44 the text says this, “The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go.'” Lazarus came out of the tomb still bound up in his grave clothes. It is almost as if he brought them out because he would need them again one day.

But, when Jesus rose, he left behind the grave clothes. He wouldn’t need them anymore! He was alive forevermore! Death defeated! It’s almost like he folded up death and left it in the grave! Hallelujah, what a savior!

Jesus has permanently defeated sin and death! He has no need of grave clothes and neither do we…for through him we are promised life eternal! This Easter…remember that Jesus resurrection guarantees you resurrection. You have been freed from the grave so that you can live fearlessly for Christ!

*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

Lent Devotional: Job 42

Job 42 (click here)
And the LORD blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning. (Job 42:12)

Reflection
God brought Job’s suffering to an end and vindicated him through blessing. He showed Job’s “friends” and all the community that Job had been speaking truth all along. This is what God does for his people, he vindicates them!

Often, the world looks at believers as they suffer and go through so many struggles and (in one way or another) they ask, “Where is your God?” Sometimes we struggle with those thoughts ourselves…but the good news of the Gospel is that God will vindicate his people and show himself to be for them through eternal blessing.

One day, all our suffering will cease. We will dwell with God in endless celebration with no more tears, no more pain, no more sickness, no more sin, and no more death!  The ending of the book of Job gives us a temporal picture of the eternal reality awaiting all God’s people. Suffering ends and God wins!

This truth is guaranteed to us by the event that we celebrate tomorrow…the resurrection!  The resurrection vindicated Jesus! It showed that everything he ever said was true. It brought his suffering to an end with celebration! And tomorrow, we celebrate that his resurrection guarantees our resurrection! The end of his suffering guarantees the end of ours!


*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

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