The Joy of Glory

Discovering endless joy in the boundless glory of God…

Tag: Gospel

The Gospel According to the World Cup

I ran across this meme not that long ago that made me actually laugh at loud…

my-opinion-of-america

We laugh because we know it’s true. Perhaps this doesn’t make sense to those from “the greatest generation,” but the younger you are, the more you will chuckle at the absurd truth pictured above.

I find myself amidst a generation that has never showed much in the way of patriotism. However, the moment the Olympics roll around, we paint ourselves up in red, white, and blue and are proud to be Americans.

719px-WC-2014-Brasil.svgThe World Cup has reminded me of this reality over the past several weeks… especially with the USMNT about to play in the knockout round in less than an hour. Futbol/Soccer in America has been gaining steam throughout the years and it seems like more people are on board this year than ever before!

What amazes me is that many of these people are my age. The very generations who would never purchase a flag to fly in their yard, are wearing them like capes and chanting “I believe that we will win,” 24/7.

Now here’s the deal… I am NOT bemoaning the growing popularity of soccer in the states. Others have done that ad nauseum. I actually like soccer and welcome its growing popularity.  I definitely don’t think any sport should consume our lives, but I do believe they are a part of God’s common grace to be rightly enjoyed. I am also NOT trying to make an assessment about the state of patriotism (or the lack thereof) in the United States.

These are not the things that interest me most.

What I find intriguing is WHY worldwide sporting events, such as the world cup, can take a nation like ours, that is divided on nearly every public issue, and unite us all under one banner. What is it about soccer, or any sport that brings us together while all other things seem to drive us apart?

I think the answer is found in one word… CLARITY.

Sports may be the only place left in our culture that is able to maintain a sense of clarity. The rules are clear. Right and wrong are clear. Who we are for is clear. Who we are against is clear. Our heroes are clear. Our enemies are clear. The boundaries are clear. There is a beautiful sense of clarity surrounding these games, how they are played, and what the goal is. Thus, it becomes much easier for us to be united as a country.

In nearly all other areas of life we have lost clarity. Right and wrong are no longer clear. The “rules” are no longer clear…for many people it is not even clear whether there should or should not be “rules.” Who should make the rules is not clear. Morals are no longer clear.  Clearly (pun intended), we have managed to make all of life “fuzzy.”

How has this happened?

blurry peopleI have a theory. I think the same “fuzziness” we experience in the culture at large would invade sports culture if we made one slight change to the way rules are formulated for these games. What if we simply said every player is free to make up their own rules? They can each play the game the way they see fit. While we are at it, the fans can make up their own rules as well.

Such action, in one fell swoop, would destroy all the “unity” we currently experience through the games we love so much.

This is the epidemic we find in our culture at large. We have embraced the values of Israel during the period of the Judges… “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes (Judges 21:25).” We want no one to be king, but us. We each want the freedom to determine what is right and wrong for ourselves… and then we’d really love to enforce our own sense of morality on everyone else.

But, let’s be honest…this isn’t an American problem. It’s not a modern problem. This is a human problem. Ever since Genesis 3 we have believed the lie that we can “be like God.” We can know right and wrong and make the rules for ourselves.

The truth revealed by Scripture is that there is one God and I am not him. This God has designed the universe and all in it and has revealed his will for how it is to function. His will is good, loving, and perfect. We were designed to live with him as King! He defines right and wrong by his Word… and we live by faith in his goodness. We trust him.

red_main_1689473aWe all know that if a soccer player decided to make-up their own rules they would be ejected very quickly. In a much greater way, the same thing has happened in reality. Our rebellion against God has brings about death. That is the only thing that actually makes any logical sense! God is holy and deals with sin/evil in a permanent way. He eliminates it! Which is the good and right thing for him to do! All of us want God to eliminate evil, we just don’t want to believe that includes us… but it does!

Yet, the good news of the Gospel is that Jesus Christ has taken our death our rebellion deserved! Through faith in him, “being our own king” dies and “knowing God as king” comes to life!

The Gospel is clear! It declares that Jesus is King and we are not!

The church unites under him in a greater way than any nation has ever united under the banner of a sports team! And that is a beautiful thing!

Soccer is known as “the beautiful game.” Seeing a team work together toward the goal for which the team was created, and a whole nation get behind them…it really is beautiful. But, how much more beautiful is it when we as people strive for the goal we were created for…when we unite under the kingship of God! This is not oppressive, repulsive, restrictive, or unloving…it is beautiful!

Individual kingship is not beautiful… it is rebellion that rips apart what is truly beautiful. Much like individual rule-making would destroy the beauty of soccer.

The kingship of God is beautiful…more beautiful than any game!

Soccer may be just a game, but the reality behind why it unites and excites us is rooted in a much deeper, larger story… the story of the Gospel. We all long for the kind of clarity that can only be truly found in the Gospel! Soccer (and all sports) hint at this clarity. They point us to what it is like to experience the beauty of being united in a purpose we all agree is right and good! They point us toward the truth found in the reality of the Gospel alone.

usmntSo as the world unites behind their teams… as I unite with my fellow americans to chant “I believe that we will win…” I want to declare with ultimate clarity that my heart’s true chant is “I believe that Christ will win!” My real unity is with him as my king and the Gospel says he is your king too!

Into a “fuzzy” world, the Gospel cuts with ultimate clarity! Embrace Jesus by faith! I promise that more so than any game… he is beautiful… our beautiful king.

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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.

Lent Devotional: Job 9-10

Job 9-10 (click here)
For he is not a man, as I am, that I might answer him, that we should come to trial together. 33 There is no arbiter between us, who might lay his hand on us both. 34 Let him take his rod away from me, and let not dread of him terrify me. (Job 9:32-34)

Reflection
No matter how much Job feels that he is innocent and undeserving of the suffering he is experiencing, he knows that arguing such a case before the perfectly righteous, almighty God would be futile. No man can stand before the holy God and argue that he is righteous. Job knows that would never work!

Therefore, he longs for an arbiter…someone who could stand between he and God. Someone who could argue his case for him…someone who could relate to him as a man, but be worthy to stand before God. Such a person could perhaps save Job.

Is there such a person?

From our Christian perspective, we cannot help but think of Jesus. Fully God…able to stand before the Father in perfect righteousness. Fully man…able to identify with us. He is our arbiter…our mediator. He has born our unrighteousness so that we might be righteous before God…saved.

Job (and us) experiences suffering in this life, but God has provided a mediator who ultimately will bring our suffering to an end.  As our arbiter, Jesus has taken all the punishment for our sin so that we can know when we suffer…we are are NOT being punished! Job is NOT being punished and neither are you when you suffer for Christ has taken every ounce of just punishment you ever deserved!  When we suffer, it is mysteriously, providentially working for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison…it is working for our good, not our punishment (2 Cor 4:17, Ro 8:28).

Take heart…you have a mediator, an arbiter…the man, Jesus Christ (1 Tim 2:5)!

*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

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