Grace on Display

December 31, 2010

Top 5 Books Read in 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — philbiesser @ 8:51 AM

I have been reading a number of blogs recently where people have been posting some of their favorite books they have read this past year. While this post is not original in its idea I feel compelled to list 5 of my favorites that God has used to work in my life in 2010. There are many that I have had the opportunity to read this year but these five have had the most impact. Maybe you have read some of them and if not I would definitely recommend them.

(1.) John Piper- “Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God”

I had the opportunity this year to be in Minneapolis for the Desiring God Conference focused on the very theme this book is centered on. This book has helped me tremendously in fighting the desires to obtain knowledge and become prideful in that knowledge. The mind is essential to the maturity in the Christian life and this is a great resource to show people how knowing God correctly will lead to loving him accordingly. If I hadn’t been at the conference this book would still top my list but being at the conference around great thinkers with a love for God and people was life changing. Get this book and let your heart and mind be challenged as well.

(2.) John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, &  Doxology

I picked up this book a few months ago from Ligonier Ministries (R. C. Sproul) on one of their $5 Friday sales. I was intrigued to read it because the chapters are individually written by a number of my favorite authors and pastors. I don’t ever remember reading a book so fast as this one. It is about 250 pages and I finished it in two days because I just couldn’t put it down. When most people hear Calvin’s name the typical response is one of disgust because of his immediate connection to predestination and the controversy that dwells there. However, after reading this book I came to appreciate this man of God like never before. It wasn’t too long ago I hated everything about Calvin which in hindsight realize I didn’t know much about him. This book shows Calvin as a man who endured much suffering but never lost sight of living his life for the glory of God. He was gospel oriented and Scripture saturated. Check out this book because you might be surprised at how great this man of God truly was.

(3.) Tullian Tchividjian- “Surprised by Grace”

I picked up this book sometime in the middle of the summer as I was walking through Barnes and Noble. I didn’t know who the guy was much less how to pronounce his name but the title of the book immediately caught my attention. The book walks through the story of Jonah in the Old Testament while at the same time reflecting the authors dependence on grace as well in his life. I found myself being convicted often in this book but much like Tchividjian says, I too am a rebellious sinner overwhelmed by the grace of God. Tchividjian has a firm grasp on the gospel and is currently one of my favorite preachers that I try to listen to as often as I get the chance. He is also Billy Graham’s grandson which is interesting. Hands down one of the best speakers I heard in Minneapolis a couple of months ago. For those in need of the grace of God, which is all of us, please check out this book.

(4.) A.W. Pink- “The Sovereignty of God”

The last two years I have faced a number of trials but have come to see them differently because of this book. I remember a friend tried to encourage me over a year and a half ago with understanding the sovereignty of God. I got angry with him thinking that theology wasn’t going to help me but something practical would be better. My heart softened and soon I realized that my God had been too small. My heart was awakened to the God that gloriously displays himself in Scripture and throughout all of creation. When I began to see God as truly in control and nothing happens outside of his decreed will then I knew peace. I began to face intense trials and circumstances with the conviction there is no greater God and nothing stops his purposes.

(5.) David Platt- “Radical”

Back at the beginning of the summer this book was making all kinds of headlines and probably still is so it was natural that I would pick it up. It had only been about two weeks that it was out and I remember several people talking about the “radical” nature of the book, hence the title. I would love to go back and reread it because there was so much to meditate on and take seriously. The American Dream for all its intentions seems to stand in contrast to the message of Jesus to his disciples. I think Platt does a tremendous job of pinpointing some of the flaws in which the gospel has been polluted by the American Dream. He spends quite a bit of time talking about missions and has a tremendous heart for reaching the world with the good news of Jesus Christ. He has motivated me to become more involved and I hope in 2011 to be able to go on a missions trip.

A Quick Glimpse for 2011

Here are a few that I am currently reading and will finish quickly into the next year….

  • Sam Storms and Justin Taylor-“For the Fame of God’s Name: Essays in Honor of John Piper”‘
  • Paul David Tripp-“Instrument’s In The Redeemer’s Hands”
  • John Bunyan-“Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners”
  • C.S. Lewis– “The Weight of Glory”
  • John Owen– “The Mortification of Sin”
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October 10, 2010

Boast in the Lord!

Filed under: Uncategorized — philbiesser @ 6:47 AM

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection

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. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”  – I Corinthians 1:28-31

 

The song above along with the passage from I Corinthians are two of my favorites for one very specific reason: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord”. All sin begins with pride and God in his infinite wisdom before the foundations of the world (Revelation 13:8) designed a way for sinful man to be reconciled to him through the death of his Son, Jesus Christ. No wisdom, no insight, no plan could obstruct or add to this wonderful design of the maker of the heavens and the earth. What an amazing revelation in the passages from I Corinthians that it is because of Him that we are in Christ Jesus because we had no wisdom in ourselves to recognize our need for a Savior. The cross was designed with what I believe to be three central focal points. The first is that we are reconciled to God and through Christ’s death God’s holy wrath against us has been satisfied. Secondly, I believe it was designed in such a way that only Christ would get the glory. Third, because all sin is rooted in pride the cross was meant to completely crush the pride of all men. If any man has been forgiven of his sins he owes it to nothing of any kind of goodness in himself but only to the infinite wisdom, mercy and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Let him who boasts boast in the Lord!

September 6, 2010

What is the Gospel

Filed under: Uncategorized — philbiesser @ 9:30 AM

“Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.” -St. Francis of Assisi

For Christ did not send me (Paul) to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.” -I Corinthians 1:17

I am currently reading Michael Horton’s book “Christless Christianity” and by no means is it an easy read. It is tough on a lot of the current trends across all denominations and beliefs. While reading I came to one place in chapter 4 that made me put the book down and do a little reflection. The quote from St. Francis seen above stood out on the page. Many are familiar with the quotation and it has been used seemingly in all evangelical circles. I do wonder with the popularity of the quote how it holds up in light of Scripture. I do no not deny the importance of living our lives to honor and glorify God as well as living in view of being a light to the world. I simply ask the question today what is the “gospel” and what does St. Francis as well as Scripture mean when referencing this same “gospel”.

In fairness to St. Francis, I do not suppose to fully know his intentions with this quote because I wasn’t around in the 13th century but I can make some reasonable observations in light of what I do know. It would seem he is advocating the gospel as proper living as an example to show others. While there is truth that believing the gospel in faith will necessarily lead to holy living isn’t there more truth than reducing the gospel to relational aspects of how people view me? In reality we are more than just isolated failures…we are sinners in need of a Savior. Even after professing salvation in Christ we will sin but we are nonetheless being conformed to the image of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. When people look at my life I want them to see the grace of God present in order to glorify God. However, no one except Christ is a perfect example to show others so “preaching the gospel” has to be more than just way the world sees me. For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.

In Michael Horton’s book he says, “I am a Christian not because I think that I can walk in Jesus’s footsteps but because he is the only one who can carry me. I am not the gospel; Jesus Christ alone is the gospel. His story saves me, not only by bringing me justification but by baptizing me into his resurrection life.” This is reminiscent of Paul’s view of the gospel in I Corinthians chapter 1. Paul makes the same emphasis in vs. 17 as St. Francis in the necessity of preaching the gospel. It does however seem to be slightly different in the way it is presented. In this day and age the gospel is seemed to be communicated through relevant means instead of the message of the cross. Paul refrained from relying on any human methods in sharing the gospel. He understood it was imperative to get the focus off of us and to put the focus back on the cross. Isn’t this where the gospel message is located…at the foot of the cross? The cross reminds us all of what we could never do for ourselves absorbed by the death of Jesus in our place. When we share the gospel it should be centered around the person of Christ. Trusting in other methods and putting man in the center “empties the cross of Christ of its power.” Michael Horton explains it as “good news” to preach Christ crucified. “That my life is not the gospel is good news both for me and for my neighbors. Because Christ is the Good news, Christians as well as non-Christians can be saved after all.

Most people who know me well know that John Piper is one of my favorite preachers so I will defer to him in presenting a very clear view of what the gospel is in the short video below.

September 4, 2010

Handling the Word of Truth

Filed under: Faith,Importance of Scripture — philbiesser @ 5:48 PM

 “Believers should acknowledge and wrestle with doubts…It is no longer sufficient to hold beliefs just because you inherited them.”Tim Keller

Tim Keller is one of my favorite preachers. He is the pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian in New York City and was formerly a pastor of a local church in Hopewell, VA where I grew up and lived for the majority of my life. I honestly had never heard of him until probably a year and a half ago. His teaching has been instrumental in the last several months in helping me not only share my faith but also showing me how to defend it. My mother first told me about him when she came across a video of him on facebook and recognized him as a preacher who had talked with my dad after he became a Christian. After my dad’s conversion, naturally he had questions so the man who led him to the Lord brought him to talk with Tim Keller to help instruct him in the faith. When I found this out I became intrigued with learning more about this man who had helped my father. The first book I picked up of his, “The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism”, is probably his most well known since it is a New York Times Bestseller. With chapter titles in the book like “How Could a Good God Allow Suffering”, “Christianity is a Straightjacket”, and “How Can a Loving God Send People to Hell”, I knew this would be a helpful book in defending and strengthening my faith with those who do not claim to be a Christian. Little did I know how many people in the church would need solid answers on most of the same questions.

He couldn’t be any more right could he? “Belief in an age of skepticism” that is. We are no longer modern but postmodern in our thought and everything that once was thought to be claimed without a shadow of a doubt to be true is now up for grabs. In Christian circles some have heard of the Emergent church (see at the end of the post) while for those outside of the church there is skepticism. Such common objections are often heard like how can we know there is a God and how do we know the Bible is accurate? My entry for today isn’t so much directed for those who do not adhere to Christianity. It takes a supernatural awakening of the Spirit of God to open the eyes and the hearts of unbelievers. Until then the message of the gospel and all its truth remains utterly foolish to them. My concern, rather, is for those who claim to follow Christ but choose to believe that truth is relative and can’t be fully known.

The quote I posted from Keller at the top is amazing when you truly think about it. How many of us have beliefs because of the church we have grown up in or because of what are parents have told us to believe about the Bible. It is fine to question what we have been taught but it is not good to remain in an uncertain questioning state. Every Christian has wrestled with doubts and it is wise to not just believe something because someone told us to. In Acts 17:11 we are told of the Bereans who are praised in the Bible for not just receiving the message but daily went to the Scriptures to see if what was being taught by Paul was truth. We see very clearly when there is doubt there is one place to turn and it is the Word of God.

The danger of our postmodern thought is that Scripture is no longer highly esteemed. In some cases it is deemed culturally irrelevant and for those who do value its truth are labeled as arrogant, bigoted, lacking humility, narrow minded, and unloving. How can this be? Look only to the example of Jesus Christ. The most loving humble person to ever walk on the face of the earth made the same claims about the truth that Scripture does. In fact in John 14:6 Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” This does show the exclusiveness of his claim in being the “truth” and to know God requires knowing Jesus. Still, they push back, how can we know your version or opinion of the truth is really truth? In fairness to the emergent church Jesus is believed to be the only way to heaven from what I understand to be the view from most of its leaders. The problem in their view is not all truth is believed to be contained within the words of Scripture. Truth it is said can possibly be found in other religions. I say how can this be? If Jesus is the “truth” then necessarily it means there is something that is also false. If something is not of God or against the God of the Bible it is anti-God meaning it can’t possibly be truth. This is where I usually get in trouble with my conversations. To have a claim on truth or any doctrine for that matter means not being tolerant of other views as well as lacking humility. Basically by questioning doctrine and truth it is seen as more loving and coming from a humble spirit. You can imagine how much I disagree since the words of Scripture are filled with doctrine and precious truth.

Imagine you are college student and are required to take your final exam for one of the courses you are currently enrolled in. The professor gives you the test along with the instructions and tells you there is one hour to complete. The minutes creep by until finally it is time to turn in your work. There is only one problem though. You have decided not to fill in any of the answers for fear of answering incorrectly. The professor glares at the exam while noticing you haven’t answered any of the questions. He asks you why it is blank and your response is that you were afraid of getting something wrong. Instead you tell him that by actually not getting any of the answers wrong you are somehow smarter. The professor firmly responds that it doesn’t make you smarter by leaving it blank but only makes you unwise because now you have failed the exam and possibly the class. I am aware this isn’t a perfect example but you can see the similarity in the way a person claims to be a follower of Jesus and denies believing in and doing anything that is required. It doesn’t make a person humble to question the truths of Jesus and the Bible rather it makes a person very unwise to deny what has been so freely given to us. True humility is understanding who we are apart from Jesus and submitting to his commands and truth because of the precious price he paid for us on the cross.

I expect someone who is a new believer like my father was at the time he talked with Tim Keller to have doubts and questions. The beautiful thing about faith is that it is a gift from God and we continue to live out our lives with Christ in this same faith. We are called to mature and grow in the faith. Maturity doesn’t come from denial and questioning the truth but from yielding and submitting to the truth. We are expected to conform our lives to God’s Word not the other way around. Can it truly be honoring and glorifying to question the God we claim to know? Without believing we can know truth leaves us open to the trap of the enemy Satan. How will we know what is false without knowing what is true? How can we pursue holiness if we don’t know what truths along with the Holy Spirit lead us to holiness? To be indifferent about the truth is to be indifferent about God. God is truth and truth is central to the gospel.

**For more information about the emergent church check out Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck’s book “Why We’re Not Emergent”. This book has been a great resource in helping me understand the teaching coming from several of the leaders in that camp. **

June 30, 2010

Born Again?

Filed under: Faith — philbiesser @ 4:30 PM

John 3:3

“I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”

Born again? Have you ever stopped to consider what Jesus meant behind this phrase? There isn’t one person on this earth who remembers the day they were born. We might have heard stories about dad passing out or even heaven forbid you have seen a video of it but no one remembers the day they were born. If we don’t know much about our first birth because we weren’t aware of what was happening how can we possibly know anything about being born again? Well, this is kind of what the setting is like in John 3 when Jesus is speaking with a religious leader name Nicodemus. What we find in this passage is Jesus description of the person who has eternal life and how it is received.

Nicodemus is the classic example of a religious person who has in every way attempted to earn favor with God as we know with his background of being a Pharisee. He realizes Jesus is from God because of the miraculous wonders he sees but something is still missing in the equation with Nicodemus. I think many people today have a false assurance in their standing with God because honestly their religious background looks great with church attendance, choir performances, and a host of other busy church activities. As a Pharisee, Nicodemus was very knowledgeable about the Old Testament and went to great lengths to obey the law as any religious leader would do. We quickly see how Jesus cuts right to the “heart” of the issue in John3:3. For Jesus it wasn’t enough for a person to believe in wonders coming from the kingdom of heaven but it was imperative that “no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” Nicodemus’s response makes it very clear that Jesus has just spoken something that sounds entirely foreign to him. He says, “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!” It is easy for me to look back now as a follower of Christ and think Nicodemus is kind of silly but in all seriousness his response to Jesus seems fairly intelligent. What person wouldn’t think it is absurd if someone said, “you know what I understand you are born because I am talking to you but if you want to be in the kingdom of God then you need to be born again.” Honestly you begin a physical assessment of the situation and wonder how in the world an adult size body is going to fit back in his mother’s womb. Seems crazy at first glance but we soon find out who is able to receive and make sense of this message.

Just knowing about the truth of the gospel and truly understanding and believing are completely different. Understanding what it means to be “born again” has absolutely nothing to do with how smart or intellectual you are. In fairness to Nicodemus he was probably significantly smarter and wiser from a worldly perspective than I ever will be but once again something is missing in his life. Jesus very plainly tells us, “flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.” In I Corinthians 2:14 Paul says, “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.” Jesus proceeds to tell Nicodemus essentially that the Holy Spirit is sovereign and does what he pleases in bringing about life from death and renewing a wicked man’s heart. Still Nicodemus seems to still not get it because he asks Jesus “how can this be”. Intellectually, Nicodemus seems to have it all together. He continues to miss what Jesus is saying because without the Spirit’s regenerating effect and the quickening of his heart to receive the gospel message that Jesus is laying out then the gospel message is foolishness to him. Jesus proceeds to tell him the only way a person will enter heaven is through the Son of God who will die and all who believe in Him will have eternal life.

Consider this scenario for a second…you are in a room with fifty people listening to a pastor preach and none of you are followers of Christ. You all arrive at the same time and listen to the same full length sermon as the other 49 people. There is an invitation at the end of the sermon for all to talk with a pastor to know more about what it means to follow Christ. Only one person, you, hear the message and go forward to speak with the pastor. Why is it that 49 people remain seated and you go forward in act of faith and repent of your sin? Was it because you are smarter and intellectually able to understand or perhaps you are not as hardened of a sinner as those around you. Neither of these is what Jesus explains. He tells us the “flesh gives birth to flesh” and “the Spirit gives birth to spirit.” Ask yourself how did you come to believe, how did you come to repent, how did you come to pray, and how did you enter into spiritual life?  Jesus says again in John 6:63, “The Spirit gives life, the flesh counts for nothing” and then goes on to say “no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.” The Spirit is responsible for the saving work in any man who would come to Christ.

Why born again? The answer is clear. There is something so messed up about our first birth that to enter into the kingdom of heaven we must have new life, new spiritual life. Have you been born again?

December 10, 2009

Bitter Roots Lead To Bitter Fruit

Filed under: Forgiveness — philbiesser @ 2:20 PM

See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. –Hebrews 12:15

Over the last year I have had the opportunity to share with numerous people how bitterness had destroyed my relationship with God and how it affected my relationship with everyone around me. It would be fair to say there were “legitimate claims” I could make about someone or something wronging me much in the same way there might be for those reading this. The problem began when I dwelled on the hurt and started sowing a seed or root of bitterness. The issues I had went unresolved and eventually destroyed me. In the end, like the verse above says, not only caused trouble but defiled many. As I began to share my testimony with people I would meet there was always this one line that would come out of my mouth. I said, “We are filled with hatred and bitterness at those who wronged us but have you noticed as bitterness begins to take over our lives we become very similar to that which we are angry at.” Usually the person would agree with me and share an example from their past and as we left each other I felt like the point had gotten across.

Recently, I have been studying greatly through the life of King David in I and II Samuel. I came across a story line about one of David’s sons, Absalom, that in my opinion portrays like no other this idea of sowing a bitter root and it defiling many. It begins in II Samuel 13 with David’s first born son Amnon having a shameful lust for his half sister Tamar. So much so that it made him sick for her and with the wicked advice of a friend he forcefully raped her against her will. Tamar’s full brother Absalom became angry and two years later murdered Amnon. Absalom, we might say, had a legitimate reason to be angry after his sister was abused. When David did nothing to punish Amnon there was a root of bitterness begun in the heart of Absalom. He took justice into his own hands and enacted revenge against his brother for the sake of his sister. I will admit it is very hard not to like Absalom up to this point. We may even like the fact Amnon “got what he deserved” and maybe even a few of us would have at least wanted to seek revenge much in the same way. The old saying is true that two wrongs never make a right and we see Absalom not allowing room for vengeance to be left in the hands of the Lord. We see that Absalom is just as lawless as his brother and the rest of Absalom’s life is dominated with the theme of bitterness and revenge.

For the sake of space, I would encourage others to continue reading through the life of Absalom in II Samuel chapters 13-18. You will see how Absalom is reunited with David after he was once banished from the kingdom. There were outward gestures of love but inwardly his heart was burning with evil. You will see how Absalom desired to overthrow his father and become king by conspiring and leading a revolt against him. Absalom’s heart continues to grow further and further away from God to the point of him committing the exact same sin, times 10, which his deceased brother Amnon committed against his sister. As David fled the kingdom, Absalom received unwise council from Ahithophel, who was Bathsheba’s grandfather. Ahithophel, was of course still very bitter of David’s adultery with Bathsheba and was willing to see harm come against others in order to see revenge come against David. (I will use this illustration again in another post in the near future about where and whom we seek counsel from. Any idiot can tell you what you want to hear but only a wise counselor will point you to what God says!) He counseled Absalom to sleep with 10 of his father’s concubines, or legal mistresses if you will, and it is widely evident at this point that he is no longer thinking in a right frame of mind. Full of pride he is counseled to lead his troops into battle and eventually he is killed. He is caught hanging by his head in the thick branches of a tree when his mule goes underneath it. As he hangs there in the tree he is pierced with spears straight into his wicked heart. Innocent people suffered due to Absalom’s sin and the ten concubines faced consequences for the rest of their lives. Bitterness caused trouble and it defiled many!

I understand with all of the names it might be a little confusing but we must remember one thing. Absalom became exactly like what he hated and even more. His bitterness led him to become a murderer, a rapist times ten as well as a traitor to his father. This story might make better sense if we make it relevant to our own lives. Because I have dealt with bitterness in my past I know first hand admitting to being bitter is not an easy thing or an enjoyable thing to do. Much like Absalom my past bitterness allowed me to become in the world’s eyes worse than those I had originally been angry at. Everyone else can see it so why not take a serious inventory into each one of our lives (me included) and determine if we have made room for a bitter root. Maybe even insert your name into the place of some of the characters in the story and see if that might possibly characterize your heart. I pray if we are made aware of any root that we will take the next steps in seeking repentance and ask God to change us. Every bitter root will lead to bitter fruit and every bitter fruit when bitten will lead to destruction. We all need the grace of God!

December 6, 2009

John Piper-“Don’t Waste Your Life”

Filed under: Forgiveness — philbiesser @ 5:43 PM

The following italicized quote is from, as you can see to the left, John Piper’s book “Don’t Waste Your Life. I took this excerpt from pg. 100-102 from the book because I had never seen anything written quite like this on the topic of forgiveness. I know from personal experience how destructive an unforgiving spirit and the smallest root of bitterness can be. I wasted many years of my life being angry with so many people and took such little interest in remembering all that Christ did for me. Piper makes the point in his book if you want to stop wasting your life then begin to learn how to forgive others. I won’t give any more details away but will let the words from his book speak for themselves. I am pleading with people, especially those who already profess Christ in their life, to reflect on what Christ has done so we can continue to carry out the message to the world.  I hope the following will shake up your perspectives much in the same way it has opened my eyes. By no means do I intend to replace the Word of God but John Piper has truly unpacked the truth of what it means to forgive one another as Christ has forgiven us!

The biblical motive for being a forgiving person may be deeper than being forgiven. It is true to say: The motive for being a forgiving person is that we have been forgiven by God when we did not deserve it. “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32). But the bottom of this motive is not God’s forgiveness, but what God’s forgiveness gives. It gives God.

Why do we cherish being forgiven by God? There are answers to this question that would dishonor him, because there are benefits from forgiveness that a person may love without loving God. We might say, “I cherish being forgiven by God because I hate the misery of a guilty conscience.” Or “…because I hate the prospect of pain in hell.” Or “…because I want to go to heaven to see my loved ones and have a new body with no sickness.” Where is God in these reasons for cherishing forgiveness? In the best case he is there in all these reasons as the real treasure of life.

If so, then these delights are really ways of cherishing God himself. A free and clean conscience enables us to see more of God and frees us to enjoy him. Escape from hell at the cost of Christ’s blood shows us more of God’s commitment to merciful holiness and his desire for our happiness. The gift of seeing loved ones highlights God’s wonder in creating relationships of love. Getting a new body deepens our identification with the glorified Christ. But if God himself is not there in these gifts—and I fear he is not for many professing Christians—then we do not know what forgiveness is for.

Forgiveness is essentially God’s way of removing the great obstacle to our fellowship with him. By canceling our sin and paying for it with the death of his own Son, God opens the way for us to see him and know him and enjoy him forever. Seeing and savoring him is the goal of forgiveness. Soul-satisfying fellowship with our Father is the aim of the cross. If we love being forgiven for other reasons alone, we are not forgiven, and we will waste our lives.

What, then, is the root motivation for being a forgiving person? “Forgive one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” We are to forgive “as God…forgave” us. God forgave us in such a way that infinite joy in his fellowship becomes ours. God is the goal of forgiveness. He is also the ground and the means of forgiveness. It comes from him; it was accomplished through his Son; and it leads people back to him with their sins cast into the deepest sea. Therefore the motive for being a forgiving person is the joy of being freely and joyfully at home with God. At great cost to himself God gave us what we needed above all things: himself for our enjoyment forever. God’s forgiveness is important for one reason: It gives us God!

Our impulse for being forgiving people is the joy we have in a forgiving God. Not just in being forgiven, but in being given joy in God by being forgiven. If we do not see this and experience this, we will probably turn God-centered motives into a kind of benevolence that tries to do good for man without knowing what the greatest good really is—namely, all-satisfying pleasure in God. But if we experience forgiveness as the free and undeserved gift of joy in God, then we will be carried by this joy, with love, into a world of sin and suffering. Our aim there will be that others, through Jesus Christ, will find forgiveness and everlasting joy in God.

Joy in God overflows in glad-hearted mercy to people, because joy in the merciful God cannot spurn being merciful. You cannot despise becoming what you enjoy about God. Joy in the God who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for undeserving sinners cannot return evil for evil. That joy will love being merciful (Micah 6:8). Joy in the God who is slow to anger cannot coexist with its own impatience. It will fight for the triumph of what it admires in God. Joy in the God who spends eternity showing “the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness towards us” (Ephesians 2:7) delights to be generous and looks for ways to give.

December 1, 2009

I (Christ) Complete You

Filed under: Marriage — philbiesser @ 6:36 PM

If you have grown up in church from a very early age you most likely will remember the lyrics to the song “Jesus Love Me” along with the one line that sings “they are weak but He is strong.” From a very early age I remember singing this song and learning that God is my strength but say around 10-15 years later something happened. I am not the only one and my generation won’t be the last. Over these years boys and girls begin to realize that the opposite sex isn’t so bad and we desperately want to find one to be partnered with. This is natural and there is nothing wrong with wanting to love another human being. The problem is when our priorities and focus have shifted from what it was when we had faith like a child. One of the most troubling examples I can recall is a statement from a young woman I heard about a few years ago in reference to her new love, “When I am weak he is strong, and when I am strong he is weak.” It sounds really cute and you can just imagine the fireworks going off in the background as the words are spoken. In the midst of falling in love with the romance of that statement we are forgetting one major element. By nature both people are sinners so my question back would be, “What happens when both of you are weak?” Tragically, the answer is temptation which leads to sin and if not dealt with before and during marriage then ultimately will lead to divorce. Seriously think about this for a minute. Why is it that so many relationships outside of marriage and then so many within a marriage covenant end in such a nasty breakup? We watch movies about this and for every Hollywood romance flick there is an equally disastrous movie about some couple breaking up. Too many shows like “Sex and the City” have become truth for establishing relationships instead of the truth from God’s Word. There are so many couples putting their hope in one another and have forgotten that Jesus and Jesus alone is the source of our strength and he alone can complete us and fill our void (Exodus 15:2, Psalm 18:32, Psalm 73:26). Jesus is our perfection and only He will ever make sense of our world. The answer is if a relationship begins wrong then without the hope of Christ’s leading it is destined to end wrong.

I first began preparing to write this several weeks ago after I watched a YouTube video from one of my favorite pastors, Matt Chandler. I posted the link below and would highly recommend listening to his thoughts from this clip on relationships and putting your hope in God. Chandler says what makes a person the one or better yet how does he know his wife is the one is very simple. It has nothing to do with any idea that his wife is somehow completing him but rather the very basic fact that they are husband and wife. His idea of the “one” has nothing to do with emotions or giddy language surrounding the context of the relationship but has everything to do with a deeper God uniting bond between husband and wife. Matthew 19 reminds us that Jesus’ view was, “the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” When we perceive that another person has completed us outside the covenant of marriage then we don’t value and treasure the need of God uniting our flesh into one through the covenant of marriage. If we believe we are completing each other and not God then as conflict within the marriage arise it will be that much easier to walk away. It should not be this way because it is not as Jesus intended.

I would also recommend for those who are single, getting married, those who probably will get married, and for those who are already married to check out the book by Dave Harvey called “When Sinners Say I Do”. It once again reiterates the idea that two sinners cannot make something perfect, especially a marriage. We don’t perfect each other only Christ does because he is holy! We have built up our spouses and those in relationships with us to be something they will never be and that is perfect. It is inevitable that at some point there will be something done that is less than perfect whether it is accidental or intentional and we will be faced with the question of “Could the grass be greener on the other side?” I have a passion to reach youth who are already laying the groundwork for destruction in their teenage relationships. It is very common for teenagers to have 4 or 5 boyfriends or girlfriends a year at the very least. It is done with the hope that someone better will come along and when they get older and are confronted with the slightest trouble in their marriage the thought comes across that there might yet be someone better. If you are jumping from relationship to relationship and constantly desiring to be with someone then how solid is your relationship with Christ? No one would be excited for me to call this idol worship but it is exactly what it is. Are we pursuing or desiring Christ in our lives the same way we are pursuing or desiring another person. How our lives and relationships would change if we would only love God in the same way He desires to be loved.

Why is the grass not greener you might ask? Very simply and in its most basic form it is exchanging one sinner for another sinner, one sin for another sin, one transgression for another transgression. It is inevitable because sinners sin. The answer is not another person but is God’s grace made available through Jesus Christ that gives us strength. I see so many people wasting time and energy looking for the perfect person to date and potentially marry. Instead why not put the focus on becoming the right person and becoming exactly what Christ wants you to be? In order to have lasting marriages and Christ centered families then our relationships at its earliest stages need to be Christ focused. It begins with an individual who is focused on Christ and then two individuals who seek to begin a life’s journey together of loving Christ more each day which enables them to love one another.

November 18, 2009

Living God’s Will

Filed under: Uncategorized — philbiesser @ 7:05 PM

What is God’s will for my life? If you have ever had a thought about God then this is a question you have certainly asked yourself. Even after a person professes salvation in Christ this question doesn’t disappear. I have met Christians who are 60 yrs old and are still asking this same question. In Christian circles I would presume it is one that is most frequently asked. I hear it everywhere I go and after each time it makes me feel sad for the person because it reminds me so much of where I have been in my life. I have been a believer in Christ since I was 15 years old and it took 11 painful years for me to truly understand what God’s will is for my life. If I could ask just one question to Christians around the world it would be why such the difficulty in determining God’s will for our lives? God’s will is not a mystery like so many of us believe it to be and like I used to think it was within those 11 years of my life. If you don’t hear me on anything else in this post then remember this…God’s will for my life is no different than it is for your life. I know that may sound crazy at first glance but I hope my explanation in the next few paragraphs will leave anyone who reads this resting assured in the sovereignty of an Almighty God.

“What is God’s will for my life?” I have come to understand this question doesn’t mean so much what is God’s “will” for me but better yet what does God have in store for my life in the future. Sound about right? In a sense we are desperate to know what God has planned for us on this earth. We want to know God’s full plan revealed to us like what person we will marry, what are kids will be like, what job we will have, and where in the world I am going to live. If these are the kinds of things you want to know about your life then I completely understand the confusion when the question is asked, “What is God’s will for my life?” The person we marry, the job, the kids, etc are truly a mystery that we cannot know ahead of time. Why waste so much time and energy focused on wanting to know them? So do you want to truly know God’s will for your life? Are you tired of obsessing with endless scenarios and constantly worrying about what your future holds? I will say it again do you truly want to know God’s will?

This would probably be a good time to explain what God’s will is then. We have focused on what God’s will is not and what it should not be so then what is it? It is very simple and I pull it from two passages of Scripture that have dramatically changed my life. The first is I Thessalonians 5:16-18 and the other is Romans 12:2.

I Thessalonians 5:16-18

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Romans 12:2

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Because of its simplicity there isn’t much need for explanation. God’s will is hating what He hates, loving what He loves, being in a constant attitude of prayer, and not necessarily being happy about your circumstances but finding joy in the middle of them because you know God is using everything for your future good and ultimately His glory. This is truly what God’s will is all about for each one of us. It is not that every detail of our lives is not important but that truly doing and knowing God’s will for our lives is so much better. Let me rephrase it this way. Knowing there is victory in Christ and the fact God has not stepped off his throne in any of our circumstances is far superior to anything and everything we might be able to obtain in this present world! God’s will is doing what he expects (obedience) and not what we expect to obtain from Him! If we believe in Christ we have far better than what we deserved because we are promised an eternity with Him.

At the Bible study I lead in downtown Greenville, recently we were talking briefly about God’s will for our lives and I suggested the following scenario. We want to know everything God has in store for us in our lives but is it necessary. What if God revealed everything future about our lives to us? What if he told some of us we would lose our jobs, have our spouse leave us, maybe have an abusive spouse, maybe you get terminally ill, maybe your martyred for Christ’s sake, maybe your children are kidnapped, maybe the worst things you can possibly imagine come true. At the risk of coming across morbidly concerned with negativity, seriously what if? If you knew all these things were going to happen would it make you want to trust and serve God more? If I knew 10 years ago some of the things that are happening to me now I can assure you it would only have made me want to question God more and focus on the circumstances instead of God. One thing I know about the future of each person is suffering must and will happen because of Philippians 1:29, “it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him”. The other thing I know is from Psalms 34 that a “righteous man may have many troubles but the Lord delivers him from them all” and Romans 8:28 “that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.” Because we can truly know God’s will for our lives we can truly face any circumstance. Rest on the promises of God and not on the perception of hopelessness in your situations. Rest on the sovereignty of God and not on the sovereignty of man. When we believe God is in control of everything we will no longer be obsessed with knowing every small detail but will focus more on obeying God today and in this minute. The good news about knowing and doing God’s will for our lives is that when we are truly seeking God it will allow us to be best prepared for the future. Instead of obsessing with the future I would challenge others to become obsessed with God’s Word and truly begin to understand God’s will.

November 17, 2009

Lessons from Francis Chan

Filed under: Uncategorized — philbiesser @ 7:42 PM

Over the past two weeks I have been reading these two books from Francis Chan. I had never heard of him until about 2 months ago when my friends came back from the Catalyst Conference in Atlanta raving about him. I still hadn’t decided to check him out until a pastor friend of mine in Rocky Mount, NC told me he had been reading “Crazy Love” as a one on one discipleship with a youth in his church. I respected his opinion so when I got back in town from speaking at his church I picked up the book for myself.  I first of all started reading “Crazy Love” which focuses on why Christians become lukewarm and how to reverse the trend in today’s church. I haven’t finished reading “Forgotten God” yet but it is opening my eyes to things I may have never thought about the Holy Spirit. Being raised in the Baptist church my entire life, admittedly there have been preconceived views about the Holy Spirit in my life. The Holy Spirit for a lot of Christians scares us because of the churches we have been raised in but this book reinforces the belief that the Spirit should be power in our lives. I have enjoyed searching the Scriptures as I have been reading both of these books and am more solid because of it. I would highly recommend reading what Francis Chan has to stay about the Holy Spirit in light with what the Bible teaches and determine for yourself if your views are grounded in God’s Word or a denomination. I wanted to post the following excerpts from the two books highlighting my favorite and most meaningful lessons from them. I hope they will be just as meaningful and possibly convict in a way that will find you back in the center of God’s will for your lives.

“Crazy Love

Chapter 4: Profile of the Lukewarm (pg.67)

“Has your relationship with God actually changed the way you live? Do you see evidence of God’s kingdom in your life? Or are you choking it out slowly by spending too much time, energy, money, and thought on the things of the this world?

Are you satisfied being ‘godly enough’ to get yourself to heaven, or to look good in comparison to others? Or can you say with Paul that you ‘want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death’ (Philippians 3:10)?”

“Forgotten God”

Chapter 3: Theology of the Holy Spirit 101 (pg 76)

-The Spirit has emotions

“I believe that if we truly cared about the Holy Spirit’s grief, there would be fewer fights, divorces, and splits in our churches. Maybe it’s not due to lack of belief but rather a lack of concern. I pray for the day when believers care more about the Spirit’s grief than their own. In fact, I pray that some of you readers would be broken over the grief you’ve placed on the Holy Spirit. So broken that you actually put down this book and work to resolve any conflicts you have with other believers. ‘If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all’ (Romans 12:8).”

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