Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day 2012

Everything good and noble in our world should magnify Jesus' name.  I think Memorial Day does that in many ways.  It is a picture of what Jesus did for us out of unconditional love. Fighting a war for freedom is exactly what Jesus did on the Cross.  He finished the war and won it on that day.
Soldiers have been a picture of this unconditional nature by risking and/or giving their lives so that we can have and keep our freedoms here in the United States.  I think those who risked their life deserve just as much praise as the ones that gave their life.  So to anyone who reads this, that knows God spared them, I thank you just as much.  I want to use this post to share another blog post I read on the subject.  It is very well written and makes some tremendous points.  Let's keep Memorial Day something that these men and women deserve and earned. Enjoy.

Saturday, May 26, 2012


Webster's definitions of sanctify/sanctification are: 

1. To make holy, to set apart as sacred
2. To purify or free from sin
3. to render legitimate or binding
4. to entitle to reverence or respect
5. to make productive of or conducive to spiritual blessing

The Theopedia (Biblical Dictionary) has these definitions:

1. To set apart by God for special purpose
2. Riches of Divine Grace
3. Change brought about by God

The Westminster Shorter Catechism says Sanctification is "the work of God's free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness."

This is a word from the Bible used in sermons in different ways to get Christians motivated to get better.  The definition is rarely explained and new Christians probably just glaze over the deeper meaning of it.  I know most of my life, until recently, I have never really looked into what this means and how God does the work in us.  I wanted to get my thoughts down on the subject after reading three or four articles/sermons relating to "Christian Progress".
Too many of us think that Christian progress is about us and our dedication and love for God.  Or we think that we get better with each "good" work we do for God.  Let me remind you that our dedication and love for God is not unconditional or enduring, but His love endures forever (Psalm 136).  Others look at it as they make progress with each time they refrain from outwardly sinning.  The older a person gets, the more tired they get.  If Christian progress is based on a mature 50-something or 60-something outwardly sinning less because they've already sowed the oats of their youth, then sanctification isn't very powerful or meaingful.  I believe, Biblically, there is more to it.  God gets all of the Glory in our sanctification.
Sanctification is a work of God through the Holy Spirit.  Sanctification is a process that will be completed in glorification before we reach His presence.  We have to be Holy as He is Holy to be present with Him (Matthew 5:48).  We are not Holy in the least but the Bible promises that this work process in Christians will be faithfully brought to completion (Phil.1:6). 
My default position on things biblical are these truths:  1. God is Sovereign over everything and has had His plan before time began.  2.  He gets ALL the Glory and is deserving of it.
When I put those two things to my thoughts on Sanctification I have to take myself out of the equation.  I have no part in santification.  The more the Holy Spirit reminds me of that and helps me remember God's gospel of grace found in Jesus, the more thankful and responsive I become.  That is sanctification in my life, Andy getting smaller and Jesus being magnified by the Holy Spirit.  This act of "dying daily" is sanctification.  This produces the fruits of the Spirit through thanksgiving in our life.  We are saved by Grace alone through the gift of Faith.  Therefore, our sanctification or Christian progress is not by our own works or efforts (Romans 11:6) but by standing still as what we are, sinners helpless without God's grace.  Being sanctified is living under the freedom-giving Grace of God and knowing you can't earn it in any way.  We are saved by Grace alone (Romans 3:24) and sanctified by growing in Grace alone (2 Peter 3:18). 
When we fail to look to God's grace and Jesus Christ, we start looking at ourselves.  When this happens a self-righteousness can take over because our hearts are sinful.  The act of holding in sinful desires and not acting on them is not what it means to be a better Christian.  Realizing and believing more and more that your only Hope, because of this sinful heart, is found in God's grace alone and is defeated by Jesus' finished work in His life and on the Cross, is the act of Sanctification.  This makes me so thankful and gives me a heart to respond to these truths (Hebrews 13:8-9).  Amen!  Love Y'all.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

God's Grace fulfills God's Law

""Run John Run" the Law demands, but gives me neither feet nor hands.  Better news the Gospel brings.  It bids me "Fly!" and gives me wings!"
-John Bunyan (Puritan/Reformed Baptist preacher and author)

Let's start dissecting this quote with "Run John Run".  The Law is good and perfect.  It is God's Law.  It shows us everything we are to do to be right with God.  It paints a picture of sinless perfection.  This is what is expected by God and the only life that can be in the presence of God.  The Law tells us to do, do, do or work, work, work towards favor from God.  It should be seen by us as a wall in which we, as sinners, crash into on our own.  We cannot scale that wall and we cannot live up to its "demands". 

Enter the Good News.  The Gospel brings this news to sinners.  "It bids me "Fly!"  The Gospel tells us we are free through Faith in Jesus.  It lifts the burdens of our sin and gives us the "wings" or fuel to live out a more Christ-like life.  The gospel liberates us because it tells us there is nothing we can do to earn God's favor.  The gospel is not about us.  It is about Jesus Christ alone.  It is about His finished work in his life and on the Cross.  It is an unconditional love that we just have a hard time wrapping our minds around.  It is hard for us because we don't do it in our relationships.  We are conditional in our friendships, parenting, and marriages.  Grace changes all of those relationships for the better.  Deep down we expect God to be conditional, but His gospel of grace shows us that he is not.

Grace's role in our "good works" is the key.  We get it backwards so much.  We think we are becoming a better Christian by measuring our works with others.  We look at our spiritual growth by looking to ourselves and what we need to do as a part of it.  Our actions are the fruit of God's favor on us, not the root of God's favor.  Christians obey God, or show some fruit in their life, because God is already pleased with us.  We shouldn't obey God to try to earn his favor.  As I have already mentioned, the Law shows us we can't live up.  Obeying God and good works is a result of the Gospel, by grace alone.  It shows a Living Faith in our life that we could not acheive on our own.

So what good is the Law then?  First the Law is good because it shows us our Sin and our need for a Savior.  It makes us very thankful to Jesus when we break God's commandments.  The Law also shows us how to love God and others.  God's commandements throughout the Bible and especially in the book of James, gives us a picture of what Jesus is and what He was for us.  Because of Jesus' life and death, this is now how God looks upon us.  It is as if we have always lived in accordance to His law.  Not by anything we have done, they are filthy rags, but by everything that Jesus already accomplished for us.  Realizing that truth is the "WINGS" and fuel for our Christian growth.

By God's promise that He is making ALL things NEW and the Holy Spirit's ministry in us, we are being made new and becoming more like Christ.  Pastor Tullian has a quote that fits here.  He says, "When we realize we are IN with God and we don't have to DO anything, it makes us WANT to do everything."  That should be the fuel for our spiritual motors, the constant reminders of God's grace found in the Gospel.

In Romans 7:4-6, Paul explains this "new way" we live by Faith:
"Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code."

Throughout the rest of Romans 7, Paul continues to talk about the Law showing us our sin.  He also goes on to talk about him wanting to do good but because of this sin it is hard for him to do it.  He says about his sin in verse 15,  "For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate."  As Christians the Spirit teaches us to hate sin, although we still struggle with it.  During this part of scripture you can feel the Law breaking Paul when he says in verse 24, "Wretched man that I am, who will save me from this body of death?"  As I stated earlier, that failure we feel makes us thankful for the One who frees us and fulfilled the law for us.  Paul praises Him at the end of this chapter as this Deliverer he seeks, "Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!" 

A great quote for this topic:
"When I thought God was hard, I found it easy to sin; but when I found God so kind, so good, so overflowing with compassion, I smote upon my breast to think that I could ever have rebelled against the One who loved me so, and sought my good."
- Charles H. Spurgeon
God's Law is good, we are the problem.  Jesus is the solution and the work is FINISHED.  For freedom He came to set us, the captives of sin, free. 
That is my pitch for today.  Amen.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Explaining the "Pitching the Gospel" title

Welcome to Pitching the Gospel

So I decided to come up with a new name for my blog, something more representative of how I have been using my writing on here.  I initially wanted to use the blog to bring the truths of the gospel to lyrics from songs I liked or relate it to situations from sports or scenes in movies.  Beyond the first two posts, I wasn’t really led in that direction while writing my entries.  I have used it more of a place to comment on what, through the Spirit, I am learning about my relationship and standing with God through Jesus Christ.  In that sense, I am “pitching” gospel truths on here.  Not a "sales pitch" because the gospel is so much more than that.  The gospel should never be reduced to that because the Holy Spirit doesn't need a salesman's help.  Jesus' life and grace does make you want to tell people about them though.  I pray that I am "singing His praises" on this blog, on pitch musically speaking and in line with Scripture.  Also, I hope to be "delivering" the truth of God's Word.  A clever play on words since I spent a long time in baseball pitching my heart out.  I hope to pitch my heart out again in a fresh and new way.  
I’ve heard it said that we should tell people about the Gospel so that they wish it were true and then show them that it is!  I hope to do that on here because I believe God’s grace and mercy is more awesome and radical than we even know.  There is also a quote from Charles Spurgeon that I love.  He was asked by someone, “Now that I know this truth, how do I defend the Gospel?”  His answer was great, “The Word of God is like a Lion.  You don’t have to defend a lion.  All you have to do is let the lion loose and it will defend itself.”  God’s Word is so powerful and His Holy Spirit and sovereignty cannot be stopped.  There is no part of our life or relationships where the gospel isn’t the answer.  If you struggle with something personal, apply a picture of God’s grace to it.  You will be wrecked afresh.  My first example would go back to my career in baseball.  I did not get a chance in the big leagues.  I was disappointed.  I have doubted myself, if I gave it all I had or wondered if I could have done something different to make that last promotion happen.  I also felt like I needed that validation for my hard work and that recognition from my peers.  When I apply the Gospel to that, I have no questions.  Any validation, recognition, love, or accomplishment I think I missed out on I have in my relationship with Jesus and standing with God.  By Grace alone, I have been made an heir of God’s kingdom and been given Christ’s righteousness.  Would a few years in the big leagues or not have changed any of that?  No sir.  That is what it means to cling to the Cross.  It is all we need.  Accomplishments and blessings here on earth are freely given by God anyway.  When you don’t like your situation then you are ultimately questioning God’s work in your life.  He will have you where He wants you.  As sinful men and women we will always struggle in these areas of doubt, disappointment and unbelief, but through continued reminders of the gospel we always keep the focus on Jesus and His grace for us.  This is always the answer that the Holy Spirit eventually teaches us in every situation.  Run to Jesus, who accomplished all you will ever need.  And that is my Pitch for today.  Amen!