Victory in Jesus

“Take heart; I have overcome the world.”
(John 16:33)

Last Sunday, the elder leading worship began the service with a quote from David Wells’ book, God in the Whirlwind.  Here is a portion of that quote:

Worship, then, is all about refocusing our lives. It is about confessing our sin together, for God is holy, and once again hearing the words of assurance that Christ has borne sin’s penalty. It is about remembering the resurrection of Christ, his grace, his holy-love, and his reign that will one day sweep away all that has broken life and defied God. There is no other reason to be in worship than to remember and celebrate these truths. They will endure for all eternity because they all correspond to what happened in the cross and to what is there in God’s character. They will be celebrated in eternity. They will be our eternal song.

I had read this passage in Wells’ book, highlighted it, and flagged it for use as an introductory statement as our worship begins.  Still, when the Elder read that quote this week – it got me thinking, and I quickly had to write down some notes while the congregation started singing the opening hymn.

We need worship to refocus our lives.  While I may not be very consistent at vehicle maintenance (how’s that for a leap in thought – trust me, I will come back around), I know that having your alignment checked and the tires balanced regularly is a good thing.  When your wheels are out of alignment, and the tires are out of balance, your tires will wear unevenly, deteriorating faster than they ought, and the general handling and performance of your vehicle diminishes.  If you’ve driven through the streets of Cherokee, IA for a couple of years, crossing the train tracks on Willow, Cedar, or Bluff streets on a regular basis, chances are your alignment is out of whack, and it’s time to have it checked.

Each week, as we gather for worship, we come to get our life back in alignment.  Each day is filled with bumps and pot-holes that make a wreck of our faith.  We face obstacles that seem overwhelming: the bills are more than the paycheck; a friend turns her back on you; the doctor said it’s cancer; your marriage is falling apart.  We struggle daily with sin: we do the things we know we shouldn’t (and often we enjoy it), and we neglect the good that we ought to do; the careless word that cuts someone down, the bitter attitude that can’t let go of old wounds; the arrogance and selfishness that disregard God’s word for what we think is right and best in our own eyes.  We wrestle with doubt: can God really love me; could one man on a cross truly pay for all my sins; if God makes all things work for good, why am I facing this?

This is just one reason why we desperately need to worship.  We may put on a good front when we come in and find our pew on a Sunday morning, but if we could see with the eyes of Christ, what a different picture that would be.  Each one of us comes into the house of prayer beaten, weary, worn, tired, frustrated, confused, broken, wounded.  Our lives are so out of alignment, so out of whack, it’s only by the grace of God that we made it back to worship.  We come, not to show off how right and good we are, but because each of us is sick and we need healing.

There is a balm in Gilead, that makes the wounded whole
There is a balm in Gilead, that saves the sin sick soul.

We come to worship confessing our sins, not so that we can wallow in the mire, but so that, having confessed them, we may find healing in the assurance of pardon.  That’s why, at least in our serve, there is no “Amen” after the Prayer of Confession – that prayer is not done until you hear the assurance of you salvation.  “In Christ, your sins have been forgiven.”  That is the proclamation of the Gospel!  That’s what we need to hear, before anything else.  You are at peace with God, you are forgiven your of your sins, the wrath has been born by the Lamb, you are a new creation!

What obstacles do you face this week?  What hardship do you bear?  What sin has beset your soul?  What grief is too much to carry?  What doubts and fears overwhelm you?  Does it seem like God has let go and things are beyond His reach?

Do not lose heart.  Christ has overcome all things.  He has overcome all sin.  He has overcome all doubts.  He has overcome the grief, the fear, the shame.  When we come back to Christ as our foundation, He brings our lives back into alignment.  We find assurance when assailed by temptation, peace in the eye of the storm, hope in the midst of despair.  We will still face suffering and loss, but we know that even these things draw us closer to Christ, in whom we have ultimate victory.

Return to this foundation in the worship and praise of God through Jesus our Savior.  Know that “everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world.  And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith.  Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:4-5).  Come back to the message of the Gospel, the truth that will endure for all eternity, the truth that will be our eternal song.

Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength.
Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted;
but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.
Isaiah 40:28–31 (ESV)

SDG

Summer Reading List

“The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight.”
(Proverbs 4:7)

With the summer almost halfway completed, I wanted to share my Summer Reading List before it was too late.  I pass these titles along to you for your consideration and edification.  Enjoy!

True Community, Jerry Bridges – While I have already read this book, I am re-reading as I prepare the summer sermons series based on this theme of building authentic community as the Church in Jesus Christ.  Bridges presents some very deep theological foundations and explanations of what it means to be the Church and what our fellowship ought to be, but in such a way as to not bog the reader down or shoot over our heads.  I highly recommend this book, and there are six copies left in the Church Narthex.

God in the Whirlwind, David Wells – This is decidedly a more substantive theological work than True Community, but it is still very approachable and has much to say for today’s Church.  Wells argues that the church has lost sight of the character of God, his Holy-Love.  We hear a lot about God’s love but not much about his Holiness. Well’s writes,  “We have become inclined to think of God as our Therapist. It is comfort, healing, and inspiration that we want most deeply, so that is what we seek from Him. That too, is what we want from our church experience. We want it to be comforting, uplifting, inspiring, and easy on the mind. We do not want it to be something that requires effort or concentration. We want God to be accepting and nonjudgmental.”  In a masterful, yet compassionate and encouraging tone, Wells calls the church to engage our culture with the Holy-Love of God through the gospel of Jesus Christ; the gospel which should shape and influence our view of the world, ourselves, our worship, and our service.

Every Good Endeavor, Tim Keller – I have always enjoyed Keller’s writing, and this book doesn’t let me down.  I read this book as sort of a modern-day Christian response to the soul searching of Ecclesiastes.  Before Christ, and apart from Him, the author of Ecclesiastes, and those who pursue their treasures in the world today, all work, all success can seem empty and meaningless – there’s always more to do, always someone better to come along.  With great pastoral care, Keller shows readers that biblical wisdom is immensely relevant to our questions about our work. In fact, the Christian view of work – that we work to serve others, not ourselves – can provide the foundation of a thriving professional and balanced personal life. Keller shows how excellence, integrity, discipline, creativity, and passion in the workplace can help others and even be considered acts of worship—not just of self-interest.

Crazy Busy, Kevin DeYoung – This book jumped into my hands and screamed, “I was written for YOU!”  Now, if I could just find the time to read it.  If your life is anything like mine, you have a packed calendar, there are often things that done get done, or don’t get done well, and the most important things (like your family), often get the least amount of attention.  I’ve only just started  with this book, but already I’ve begun to see how my “busyness” is often a cover for my insecurity, and a way to feed my sinful pride.  Since I’m still early in the book, I’ll share this review from Publishers Weekly:

DeYoung offers a refreshing (and refreshingly short) take on the plague of modern American life: the too-long to-do list and the overscheduled calendar that produce the frazzled response ‘busy’ to the innocent question ‘How are you?’ DeYoung doesn’t offer time management but rather theology. God wants you to use your talents, but God is not nearly as big on the idolatry of self-importance that often motivates over-commitment.  DeYoung is clever (‘If Jesus were alive today, he’d get more emails than any of us.’), his analysis is well-organized, and he brings theological thinking without moralizing. If you are someone who checks your email before going to bed and as soon as you wake up, DeYoung has your number, and this is your book.”

One With Christ, Marcus Peter Johnson – Wanting to go deep with a Theology book this summer, I’ve selected this treatise from Dr. Johnson, assistant professor of theology at Moody Bible Institute.  From the cover of the book there is this summary, “Despite our love for the Bible, emphasis on the cross, and passion for evangelism, many evangelicals ironically neglect that which is central to the gospel.  In our preaching, teaching, and witnessing, we often separate salvation from the Savior.  Looking to the Scriptures and to church history, Marcus Johnson reveals the true riches of our salvation by reintroducing us to the foundation of our redemption – our mysterious union with the living Christ.”

Memoir and Remains of R.M. M’Cheyne, Andrew A. Bonar –Having read Metaxas’ biography on Bonhoeffer and Marsden’s on Edwards, I thought I’d turn this summer to the story of Robert Murray M’Cheyne.  M’Cheyne was a Scottish Presbyterian minister and missionary in the early 19th century who died at the young age of 29.  A preacher, pastor, poet, he was also a man of deep piety and prayer. His biography tells the story of his brief life, and includes all of his collected writings, letters, and poems.

SDG