As with the photos from Wednesday, these too were taken back in November 2009 at a park in New Braunfels, TX.
In this last photo, you can actually see someone very dear to my heart.
Blessed are the merciful,
For they shall obtain mercy (Matthew 5:7).
I preached on this verse recently and during my study, it hit me all over again: you cannot have true biblical mercy apart from the Law of God. This is why the world’s mercy is so empty. As Jordan Peterson pointed out in one of his lectures, the left’s concern with the poor is never a concern or love of the poor, but born out of a hatred for the rich. That is not true biblical mercy.
First off, how should biblical mercy be defined. Allow me to quote from John Stott:
“Mercy is compassion for people in need. Richard Lenski helpfully distinguishes it from grace: ‘the noun eleos (mercy) … always deals with what we see of pain, misery and distress, these results of sin; and charis (grace) always deals with the sin and guilt itself. The one extends relief, the other pardon; the one cures, heals, helps, the other cleanses and reinstates.’”
As you can see, true biblical mercy is seeking the wellbeing of the person in need. It’s not just compassion. Many can have compassion for the downtrodden that never goes anywhere. We are to have compassion, but compassion that is not left alone. It must result in mercy, actually working for the wellbeing of the person in need. This may include giving money, but that should not be the sole basis of our mercy.
The Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) shows us what true biblical mercy looks like. It’s not my purpose to exegete the entire parable, but to show that the mercy that the Samaritan showed the man who was in need, was born out of the Law. The entire account was started by a lawyer, who was trying to test Jesus, who stood up and said, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus takes him to the law: “What is written in the law?”
The lawyer rightly answers and says: “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’ ”
Then the crucial question follows: “And who is my neighbor?”
the neighbor is the one who showed mercy to the downtrodden. It wasn’t the lawyer, who knew the law. It wasn’t the Pharisee or the priest. It was the one who carried out the law by showing mercy.
The Samaritan carried out the law by loving the wounded man as he would have loved himself. The greatest commandments are a summaries of the Ten Commandments, the Law itself. While the Ten Commandments are in the negative, keeping them is in the positive and how we show mercy and love towards our neighbors. Putting others first is at the heart of the Law. We see this being born out by Christ Himself, the Lawgiver and Law keeper. He showed complete and true mercy in carrying out His ministry, not at the expense of the Law, but grounded in the Law.
The beauty in His mercy is that is goes much deeper than the mercy we can give. He became our curse for us, a curse brought on by breaking the Law, in order to show the greatest mercy to us. Jesus ends up being our Good Samaritan. He is the one who finds us, binds our wounds and rinses us with His shed blood. He is the One who provides what we need in order to be healed. He takes care of us.
But unless we see the Law as it is intended to be seen, we will fail to see our need for mercy, and fail to see the richness of the Mercy giver toward us.
“First, regeneration will be shown in conviction of sin. This we believe to be an indispensable mark of the Spirit’s work; the new life as it enters the heart causes intense inward pain as one of its first effects. Though nowadays we hear of persons being healed before they have been wounded, and brought into a certainty of justification without ever having lamented their condemnation, we are very dubious as to the value of such healing and justifying.”
It’s hard to imagine this ever being preached in our pulpits today. Far too many men enter to the pulpits of the church, merely to blow sunshine up the skirts of their congregations, and never mention the painful reality of becoming a Christian. If we come to Christ, we will suffer, as He suffered.
This is undeniable truth of the gospel. Coming to Christ will be a joy, but it will also be painful as we will learn to loath the sin that remains in our own hearts. This is one of the marks of a true believer, we mourn our own sinfulness. This is what Jesus was saying when He proclaimed “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”
We mourn, if the Spirit really works in us, because of the sinfulness that we still struggle with, knowing that we will continue to struggle with that sin until God calls us home. This doesn’t mean we give into the sin. We are to fight against it, mortifying the flesh. But the battle will remain as long as we are on this side of glory.
“God never clothes men until He has first stripped them, nor does He quicken them by the gospel till first they are slain by the law.”
And here is part of the problem. The Law is virtually ignored in the pulpits of our day. Too many have fallen into the Dispensational error of misreading Romans 6:14, For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. Indeed, we are under grace. But Paul was not removing the Law from our lives. He was telling us that we are now no longer under the condemning aspects of the Law. If we love Christ, then we will love His Law. If we love Christ, then we will keep HIS commandments.
Unless the Law of God is preached, mankind will never come to the reality that he needs a Savior at all. Without the Law, we think ourselves fine and dandy, and this is exactly the problem we have in the American church today. There is no Law to drive us to the cross. There is no Law to slay us. And never coming to the point of being slain, we never see any need for the true saving gospel of Christ.
Again, Spurgeon continues:
“When you meet with persons in whom there is no trace of conviction of sin, you may be quite sure that they have not been wrought upon by the Holy Spirit; for ‘when He is come, He will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.’ When the Spirit of the Lord breathes on us, He withers all the glory of man, which is but as the flower of grass, and then He reveals a higher and abiding glory. Do not be ashamed if you find this conviction of sin to be very acute and alarming; but, on the other hand, do not condemn those in whom it is less intense, for so long as sin is mourned over, confessed, forsaken, and abhorred, you have an evident fruit of the Spirit.”
The most essential attribute a boy needs to become a man is the ability to receive instruction and correction. Proverbs makes it clear that nothing is more crucial (see 1:7, 4:13, 5:23, 10:17, 29:1, etc).
This is why a society that coddles boy can’t produce men. It only can produce manchilds who are easily offended and buck against the slightest critique.
Boys are like iron on anvil. The hammer of correction makes them tough and useful.
The same can be applied to a church. A church that refuses to correct will only produce frail and feeble Christians. Give praise to God if you have brethren and pastors that are willing to make you strong.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,
But fools despise wisdom and instruction (1:7).
Take firm hold of instruction, do not let go;
Keep her, for she is your life (4:13).
He shall die for lack of instruction,
And in the greatness of his folly he shall go astray (5:23).
He who keeps instruction is in the way of life,
But he who refuses correction goes astray (10:17).
He who is often rebuked, and hardens his neck,
Will suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy (29:1).
When you stop to think about it, being woke takes work. A lot of work. It is work that requires the kind of perpetual sin-shaming of which Christ has assuaged us through His atoning and propitiatory work on the cross. There is very little, if any, grace in wokeness; only guilt and vindictiveness.
This is helpful in understanding the left. The left is never driven by grace, compassion, or true mercy. They are always driven by hatred. This is why they are so into hate-laws. They figure, since they are filled with hate, then everyone must be and seeking to outlaw the supposed hatred of others, never dealing with the hatred they have in themselves.
Driving into Jonesboro, AR., on 67, you will pass a small lake with this line of dead trees. I’ve been fascinated with the trees for sometime because I could not figure out why all of them died the way they did. From the road, it’s hard to tell that they are in the lake. To discover that, I had to enter a posted gate, and climb up on the damn around the lake to take these pictures. It looks as though the owners expanded the lake from a previous border, thereby killing off these trees. But when I asked a local resident, I was told that the trees were actually killed by a tornado. So I still don’t know why they are dead.
The non-Christian thinks that his thinking process is normal. He thinks that his mind is the final court of appeal in all matters of knowledge. He takes himself to be the reference point for all interpretation of the facts. That is, he has epistemologically become a law unto himself: autonomous.
Dr. Greg L Bahnsen, Always Ready, p. 46
What is sad is that the quote above could be said just as easily about evangelicals. When push comes to shove, most set themselves up as the final authorities of what is to be believed and rejected. They are all experts. They all know what is best. Even when what they think and know to be best, is in complete contradiction to what Scripture says.
The issue is and always will be: who is our final authority? What is our final authority? It must be, as always, God’s word. This means that when we come to God’s word that contradicts what we have commonly held to be true, we must reject what is commonly held to be true, and accept it as God’s word.
Otherwise, we are no better than the non-Christians that Dr. Bahnsen writes about in the above quote.
(Originally posted October 10, 2006).
Maurice Roberts writes:
It is of great importance to every believer that he should understand how to think of his own sins. Many of the mistakes which we make are miseries of mine which we suffer are closely connected to our ignorance about our present relation as Christians to our sins both past and present.
We assume that all well-instructed and experienced believers are agreed on the following points: that every sin, however small in our eyes, is most hateful to God; that the best actions of the best Christians are all defiled with sin; that sin in the Christian is still sin; that all the sins of the believer are pardoned for Christ’s sake; and that a believer’s lifelong duty is to strive towards unisnning perfection.
Puting these points another way, we may say that the following is our starting point as we review our relationship as Christians to our sins. First, sin in itself, in whomsoever it exists, is highly displeasing to God. Second, the best Christians have not in this life got beyond the commission of sin. Third, sin is not less sinful when committed by Christians. Fourth, no sins committed by a Christian can ever bring him condemnation. Fifth, a Christian must not rest satisfied in his mere forgiveness but should daily strive after complete and sinless obedience to God, even though he knows it to be impossible in this life.
Of course, this is why the Bible speaks to us to press on, and to persevere after the things of God. So many want to get the stamp of approval by being saved, but they do not want to walk in holiness. They want to cease from striving, instead of cease from sinning as Peter calls us to do. If we are truly in Christ, then we know that the power of sin has been broken, but the existence of it still remains and we must pursue holiness because He has called us to that way of life.
Frisco, TX is one of the up and coming cities here in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area. I’ve been told they expect the city to grow by 250,000 people in the next 5 years, so you can imagine all the construction that will take place, and has already taken place. City leaders have done a fine job of putting together a new town square, where you can find Frisco’s library, and city offices, all in the same building. Here are just a few of the images I took the other day on a morning walk through the square.
Have you ever heard anyone ever say those words? “I don’t feel saved.” Or a variation of that, such as, “I don’t feel like a Christian.”
These are words that true Christians will utter from time-to-time because they truly do not feel like a Christian, or feel saved, at least, not what people expect to feel when they are believers. I know there have been times in my own Christian walk where I have felt these things. The weight of sin in my heart, life, church, and the country are such that the joy of Christ seems to be extinguished.
So, lacking a sense of “feeling” like a Christian is quite normal.
Over the last couple of weeks, the level of Lake Texoma has been on the rise. You can get a glimpse of the level of the waters by comparing the first two pictures. In the second picture, you can only see a bit of the tree you see in the first picture.
In the third picture, that is the tree that me and the boys would sit under on the beach when we could.
Just a portion of a sermon… taken from 1 Peter 3:18… For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the Spirit.
Let it never be said that God owed us this atonement. Let it never be said that He was obligated to provide grace. Grace only comes out His goodness and is given to those who realize their own sin, helpless to do anything about relieving themselves of this insurmountable debt.
The debt of our sin is far beyond anything we can tackle. If you piled up your debt, it would be as high as Mount Everest, at 29,029 feet above sea level. For some of us, it would be higher. And no matter how much we worked on trying to free ourselves of this debt, it would be impossible for us to do so. It would be like God requiring us to climb Mount Everest with a pick axe, then chip away a bucket full of rock, then heading off to the sea to dump the bucket. And once we got the entire mountain chipped away and dumped in the sea, then He would free us from the debt.
When I first arrived in Osceola, I was saddled with the responsibility of doing a wedding. The woman getting married had been associated with FPC in the past and she had no real pastor. So the elders there agreed that their pastor would conduct the wedding once he arrived. I was the man.
I met with them once or twice before the wedding and did the best I could. But at one point during the wedding, I began to speak to the idea of “submission.” And the moment I said the word, there came a shocked gasped from the back of the room where the ceremony was being conducted.
(Originally published in August 2006).
Every now and then I pick up Maurice Roberts The Christian’s High Calling and read. It strikes me how astute he is concerning the church and trends. In his article “The Vulnerability of True Religion,” he writes the following:
“This downward tendency in the human heart accounts for all the religious errors of the church, and of the whole world indeed. The plain fact is that truth and pure religion are such high, holy and heavenly things that man cannot love them till he is brought under the power of divine grace. Even then, man is so liable to decline in grace that he can hardly bear true religion for very long. Two generations, or perhaps three, may hold fast to a sound creed. But for more than three generations to retain the truth without serious loss is remarkable and it is rare.”
“The above sad fact explains the shrewd saying that ‘every institution sooner or later becomes its opposite.’ If we confine the application of this saying only to the churches, we see at once how just it is. Every church, more or less, that we know of in history has ended up by disowning its original creed! It began by admiring the Scriptures and it ended by rejecting them…”
It is for this reason that we have so many church splits. The denominations, even though I believe in denominations, will all eventually fail. They will all eventually turn and reject the truths of Scripture that they once held so dear. Yes, they do it under the guise of becoming more enlightened than their forefathers. But all that they have really become is fools and their forefathers would reject them outright as heretics.
We ask, “how is it that the liberal church has become so liberal when they started out so strong?” And the above answers that question. Men turn away from the truth of the gospel and cover their repentance from the truth under the guise of becoming more educated and more enlightened. As if somehow, today, we can become more educated and englightened than say, the apostle Paul. As if, somehow, we can know more than Peter did, or have a better understanding than Christ Himself. We take a heretical approach to Scripture and say that we are enlightened. When in fact, all we have done is reject the word outright. Jesus, Matthew, Paul and Peter had a few things to say about such approaches. But, of course, if we are truly enlightened, then we know more than they do. Silly, huh?
When we fall to the temptation to think we know more than Christ and the apostles, we have set ourselves up as little gods, and do exactly what John warns us against: we reject our first love. We say we love Christ, but reject His word because we know more than He does. We say we love our neighbor, but then reject God’s Law on how it is that we are to love our neighbor. We say we love God, but then reject His commands on how we are to worship Him. We say we are followers, but our hearts are idol factories by the moment.
As Maurice Roberts points out, if we are to stay true to the true religion, we must watch daily over our affections. He writes,
“The moment we suspect that our love of Christ is waning we must cry out for grace. If our love for any point of truth becomes dim, we are to cast ourselves to the ground before God, fearing lest he should give us over to our hardness of heart. All this is deep and humbling work. But it is the only way to hold true religion fast. The alternative is to ‘lose our first love’ (Rev. 2:4).Not for nothing does the Spirit of God say: ‘Keep they heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life'(Prov. 4:23).”
Yes, I believe all institutions will eventually fall, even the denomination that I belong to. But we must remember, that Christ came to save sinners, not institutions. Yes, they will pass away. But let us hope and pray that our labor for Christ will last into the following generations and as our denominations fail, God will use our faithful descendants to raise up more that hold to the creeds of the faith.
You can read more by ordering his book here!
By now, you probably have guessed my views on keeping the LORD’s day, otherwise known as Sunday. I believe that Sunday should be set aside for the worship of God. This is not a play day, or a day to sit and watch the television. We are still bound by the Moral Law and keeping that day holy.
Many have often asked why was it that those in Acts began to keep the LORD’s day on the First day of the week? Well, the simple answer is that Christ rose on the first day of the week, and the day reminds us of His resurrection and points us to the new creation to come. The resurrection is the most monumental event in history, and for that reason, the day we keep holy has changed from the seventh day, which was looking back to the original creation, to the first day, pointing to the new creation and the hope we have in Christ.