Sunday, April 18, 2010

Strength in weakness through Christ . . . appearing strong vs. being weak

"So many things about you annoy me. . . .You appear to be strong but you really aren't. You are weak. I need a strong man."

Such were the words spoken to me recently by a, sadly, now ex-real time and ex-Facebook friend here in Jerusalem.

I will spare the reader of the other comments made about my alledged pride, self-pity, brainwashing ability, talkativeness and other non-glorifying-to-God behavior and character.

May the words spoken produce a spiritually poor and broken spirit in me.

"But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite/broken spirit, and who trembles at My word" (Isaiah 66:2).

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:3).

Upon reflection--and with my Bible-based masculinity intact--I praise the Lord for such a comment, one that I hope is and will always be true as I continue on my Christian pilgrimage of faith.

Yes, I privately and publicly confess that I am a very, very weak and desperate man in need of and dependent upon God's grace moment-by-moment and for everything, be it the constant fight against sin and temptation, wisdom in decision-making and relationships, desire to pursue and love God and not the lies of this materialistic and sin-loving world, courage to face reality and obstacles, guidance in writing a book or preparing a sermon, and even the motivation to get out of bed each morning.

It has been a glorious and adventurous 17.5 years since I began being a weak man and finding my strength in Someone much more stronger and powerful than me, namely, the God-Man and Jewish Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ.
I can do everything through [Christ] who gives me strength.
Philippians 4:19

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.
Ephesians 6:10

[The] joy of the Lord is your strength.
Nehemiah 8:10
Here are some verses from the New Testament (NIV) on weakness for my fellow striving uncommon Christians:
Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.
Matthew 26:41 (Mark 14:38)

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.
Romans 8:26

Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.
1 Corinthians 1:26-29

I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. . . . We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored! . . . . To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.
1 Corinthians 2:3, 4:10, 9:22 (Apostle Paul)

If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. . . . I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses. . . . Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take [the thorn in my flesh] away from me. But [Christ] said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 11:30, 12:5, 12:8-10 (Apostle Paul)

[Christ] is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful among you. For to be sure, he was crucified in weakness, yet he lives by God's power. Likewise, we are weak in him, yet by God's power we will live with him to serve you. . . . We are glad whenever we are weak but you are strong; and our prayer is for your perfection.
2 Corinthians 13:3b-4, 13:9

For we do not have a high priest [the Lord Jesus Christ] who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.
Hebrews 4:15

[Those who walked by faith] whose weakness was turned to strength.
Hebrews 11:34

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Celebrating the Gospel this Easter . . . Gospel defined . . . James Brainerd Taylor, Gospel-centered uncommon Christian

From Jerusalem, Israel, Uncommon Christian Ministries wishes you a blessed Easter/Resurrection Sunday.

For the sake of those who are still spiritually "dead in [their] transgressions and sins" and are thus "by nature objects of [God's] wrath" (Ephesians 2:1-3), please join me in praying that the Gospel be preached in churches and street corners throughout the world as God's people celebrate the life, death/crucifixion and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-8). May many people repent of their sins and place their faith in Christ this Easter season and thereby advance God's global and eternal kingdom.

I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written [Habakkuk 2:4]: "The righteous will live by faith."
Romans 1:16-17

Relatedly, I am excited to learn of and wholeheartedly recommend two American Evangelical Christian entities that the Lord has raised up recently to unashamedly defend and proclaim the Gospel.

Led by D.A. Carson and Tim Keller, The Gospel Coalition (est. 2005) exists to equip "the next generation for Gospel-faithful ministry and promote church reform and culture transformation." The Coalition does this by
+ providing Gospel-centered online resources;
+ posting blog entries by various theologians and pastors;
+ hosting national and regional conferences (the next national conference is April 12-14, 2011 in Chicago);
+ publishing Themelios: An International [Online] Journal for Pastors and Students of Theological and Religious Studies; and
+ helping like-minded, Gospel-centered Christian individuals and churches encourage each other--both in-person and online--via the The Gospel Coalition Network.
For the "Foundational Documents" of The Gospel Coalition--"The Gospel for All of Life, Confessional Statement and Vision for Ministry"--and a list of its members, click here.

The other Gospel-centered entity is Together for the Gospel (est. 2006). Led by friends Mark Dever, Ligon Duncan, C. J. Mahaney and Albert Mohler, T4G hosts a conference every two years to encourage Christians, and especially pastors and church leaders, to stand "together for the Gospel." The next conference is this month (April 13-15, 2010) in Louisville, Kentucky.

T4G is "convinced that the gospel of Jesus Christ has been misrepresented, misunderstood, and marginalized in many churches and among those who proclaim the name of Christ. Compromise of the Gospel has led to the preaching of false gospels, the seduction of many minds and movements, and the weakening of the church’s Gospel witness. The goal of [T4G's] friendships, conferences, [blog] and networks is therefore to reaffirm this central doctrine of the Christian faith and to encourage local churches to do the same."

T4G provides a nice summary of the Gospel when they state,

The Gospel is the joyous declaration that God is redeeming the world through Christ (Matt 1:21; Luke 1:68; Eph 1:7; Col 1:20), and that he calls everyone everywhere to repent from sin and trust Jesus Christ for salvation (Mark 1:15; Acts 2:38, 17:30).
Each of us has sinned against God (Rom 3:23), breaking his law and rebelling against his rule, and the penalty for our sin is death and hell (Rom 6:23). But because he loves us, God sent his Son Jesus (John 3:16; Eph 2:4; 1 John 4:10) to live for his people’s sake the perfect, obedient life God requires (Rom 8:4; 1 Cor 1:30; Heb 4:15) and to die in their place for their sin (Isa 53:5; Matt 20:28, 26:28; Mark 10:45, 14:24; Luke 22:20; John 11:50-51; Rom 3:24-25, 4:25; 1 Cor 15:3; 2 Cor 5:21; Eph 5:2; Heb 10:14; 1 Pet 3:18). On the third day, He rose bodily from the grave (Matt 28:6) and now reigns in heaven (Luke 22:69, 24:51; Heb 8:1), offering forgiveness (Eph 1:7), righteousness (Rom 5:19), resurrection (Rom 8:11), and eternal blessedness in God’s presence (Rev 22:4) to everyone who repents of sin and trusts solely in Him for salvation.
For the Affirmations and Denials document of T4G (in both English and German), click here.

James Brainerd Taylor (1801-1829), Gospel-centered uncommon Christian

Interestingly--and unlike Christmas, Independence Day (4th of July) and New Year's--the uncommon Christian and American evangelist James Brainerd Taylor never mentions Good Friday or Easter in his (extant) letters and journal entries. Nonetheless, we know that Taylor loved to preach "the truth of the Gospel" (Galatians 2:5, 2:14) by which repentant and Christ-believing sinners "are saved" (1 Corinthians 15:2).
+ I have longed to live and preach the Gospel. (Letter from Princeton University. February 13, 1825.)
+ That I have a call of God, besides, to preach the Gospel, I have no more doubt than of my existence. . . . It did not become mine but through strong cries, and many tears and wrestlings, when I was in college. . . . It is a blessing of great worth to any one who attempts to preach the Gospel to feel that he has a commission from God. I now feel as I have felt: "Woe is me if I preach not the Gospel" (1 Corinthians 9:16). (Letter from Trumbull, Connecticut. May 3, 1827.)
+ Never, perhaps, did any one more intensely desire to preach the Gospel than did James B. Taylor. (Memoir compilers John Holt Rice and Benjamin Holt Rice.)
 + A preacher of the Gospel. (Inscribed on Taylor's gravestone, located in the Hampden-Sydney College Church cemetery, Prince Edward County, Virginia.)
Excerpts (pages 273, 364 and 112, respectively) are from the Memoir of James Brainerd Taylor, Second Edition (New York: American Tract Society, 1833). Available online via Google Books--click here.