The Gospel for Real Life


More Like Falling In Love?

“More like falling in love Than something to believe in More like losing my heart Than giving my allegiance Caught up, called out Come take a look at me now It’s like I’m falling, oh It’s like I’m falling in love.”  These are some lyrics to a song that I’ve heard on different occasions while driving the car, but I can’t hold my tongue any longer.  I have to say this:

What is this guy talking about?!

When you read all the lyrics (click here), you realize he’s talking about a sterile belief versus a belief that shapes and changes your life.  I think I get what he’s saying.  I think he’s affirming what Jesus says when he said that he came to give abundant life (John 10:10).  To believe on Jesus isn’t supposed to lead someone to be able to merely recite facts.  Instead, believing on Jesus leads to delight in God and to experience life-change!  So, I get what he’s trying to say, but I hate the way he is trying to say this.

I hate the lyrics because what the songwriter does is replace biblical terminology for modern 21st century, frail, faulty terminology.  Falling in love, really?  We have people falling in and out of love all the time.  Losing my heart?  What does that even mean?

I don’t think this songwriter is planning to do this, but through his lyrics, he actually elevates 21st century terms above the Bible’s terms.  He says it has to be more like falling in love than something to believe in.  Wait a second.  The Bible calls us, over and over again, to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.  Then this singer says that it has to be more like losing my heart than giving my allegiance.  Ok, there are a myriad of issues with that phrase, but let’s just remember that to come to Christ is to give your allegiance.  And, how can you love someone if you don’t give them your allegiance?  Psalm 2 calls us to “kiss the Son.”  This means to pay homage to Him as King.  However, I have yet to find a verse that alludes to “losing my heart.”

This singer seems to react against sterile faith by turning completely to emotions and chucking biblical words. And that is concerning to me because the words God chose are infinitely more glorious than the words we could choose. In addition, we must be careful how we speak because whenever we teach, we incur a stricter judgment (James 3:1). While I joyously affirm what the author says he intends (see articles here), I think that he pendulum swings too far to the other side with his word choice.  He goes too far because the Bible says we must grow in our knowledge of God (2 Pet. 3:18).  How can we love a God whom we do not know?  We simply cannot.  But when we know Him truly, our praise will increase (read Romans 11 for an example of theology leading to praise).  Sadly, I think this song ends up throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

So, what’s the issue here? My concern is that the songwriter, instead of defining words like belief and submit, simply decided to use new terms and put them in contrast with the biblical terms. But the biblical terms are deeper than what the song suggests. Instead of an “either/or” or “more than/less than” situation, this song could have revealed that these words in the Bible mean both/and.

Yes, I get what the writer is trying to say, but I fear the song can be unhelpful at other points – leading us to misunderstand the depth of the biblical terms.

The truth is that whether I feel in love today or strong or weak, I have a Savior who died for me, rose again and reigns today.  I have a God who will not allow anyone to pluck me out of His hands.  I have the Bible which says of God in Psalm 16:11, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”  This is a Savior that I will joyously submit to, depend on and praise forever!  Does it have to be more like falling in love?  No, not according to the general understanding of that phrase.  Instead, it has to be more like His love opening my eyes to look to Him for grace to believe on Him, love Him, obey Him, seek Him, submit to Him and glory in Him.

It has to be more of Him.


Halting the Blog

To those of you who have subscribed via RSS/e-mail or to those who simply visit this site, I am writing this post to inform you that I am currently unable to update this blog as I had originally hoped that I would.  For a couple of months I was able to stay active in regularly updating this site; however, as I’m learning more and more, there are various other opportunities that I must focus on.

I am not going to officially close this blog or the comments.  People can still communicate with one another if they would like; however, I will not be visiting this blog myself given the numerous other tasks that I need to prioritize.

Thank you for “following” this blog.

Christ in Psalms – 6*

Whether you’ve gone through extremely dark seasons of depression or you’ve never thought about the shady side of the street, this passage can help each of us understand more of God’s mysterious ways in the lives of believers.  This passage of Scripture can help us to heed the words of Spurgeon (a man who dealt with depression very deeply at times), “Reader, never ridicule the nervous and hypochondriacal, their pain is real; though much of the [malady] lies in their imagination [thought-processes] it is not imaginary.”

There was a man who lived in the 1700’s named William Cowper.  He wrote many hymns: “There Is A Fountain Filled With Blood,” and “God Moves In A Mysterious Way” are just two.  Cowper was plagued with depression most of his life, and John Newton was a great friend of his – constantly coming alongside of him to encourage him in Christ.  At one point in time, Cowper wrote the following:  “Loaded as my life is with despair, I have no such comfort as would result from a supposed probability of better things to come, were it once ended … You will tell me that this cold gloom will be succeeded by a cheerful spring, and endeavour to encourage me to hope for a spiritual change resembling it – but it will be lost labour.”  Some of you have felt that way before.  Some of you might think that now – wondering if God will ever bring you spiritual vibrancy again.

Whether you are a John Newton personality or you tend to be more like Cowper, Psalm 6 can teach us much as we see how God works in individuals.  And, as has been the goal throughout this study, we find ultimate hope as we are pointed to the Messiah!

Verses 1-3 deal with the psalmist’s plea for mercy on the basis of his own self.  In verse 2, he declares that he is weak, and therefore in need of mercy.  The phrases “in your anger” and “in your wrath” (v. 1) are emphasized in the Hebrew.  The point is not that David thinks God shouldn’t discipline him.  The point is that David seems to think that God has gone too far and he is experiencing God’s wrath.  David seems to think that he may lose the salvation he was so confident he had (see Ps. 5:7).  His depression is causing him to lose sight of reality.

What I find so amazing in all of this is that while he feels as though God’s wrath may be towards him, he cannot stop praying.  This is very important in all believers.  Even though they feel slain by God, they continue to follow after Him and seek Him through prayer.  A believer’s faith is like a hot ember in their soul that cannot be put out completely.

In David’s initial plea for mercy, he asks on the basis of his weakness.  The word “weak” in verse 2 metaphorically refers to strong things becoming weak.  Think about the Titanic becoming weak, although it was built as an “unsinkable ship.”  Think about the walls of Jericho.  Think about people as they experience physical trauma like a stroke.  David places himself in this category.  He was very strong, but he has become weak in the midst of despair, and he cries out, “How long, O LORD?”

In verses 4 and 5, David makes a plea for God’s mercy on the basis of God’s mercy.  This is vital for a believer to do in the midst of depression.  D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote a book on depression and he said one of the biggest problems he sees in the lives of believers is that they spend far too much time listening to themselves instead of preaching to themselves (read more here ).  In this psalm, David focuses his attention, for a moment, off of himself as a reason for attaining mercy, and he calls on the faithfulness of God.  He calls God to return to him.  It is as if David feels like God has turned away from him, and he is pleading for God’s face to shine on him once again.  In Psalm 5:7, David says God’s mercy is his security and hope in all abundance, and he is right.  In the Hebrew, the word mercy has a lavish meaning.  As one children’s book says, the LORD’s mercy is His “never stopping, never giving up, unfailing, always and forever love.”  So, the logic follows that if God’s love is unfailing, then how could God leave David?  God made a promise, and God must be true to His own character (see also Jas. 1:18).

David then says, in verse 5, that there will be no public worship of God (i.e. – “remembrance”) in death and no gratitude in Sheol.  I believe that a man who is depressed and believes he is under the wrath of God also seriously thinks he is going to experience Hell.  In verse 5, David is pleading with God, basically saying, “You saved me so that I would worship and declare You to others.  Keep your promise.”

In verses 6-7, David describes a little bit of the background to the current situation he finds himself in.  He is groaning, crying wherever he goes and his eyes are tired from the oppression he is feeling.  Verse 7 indicates that his despair has arisen either because of enemies or it is being sustained because of his enemies.  Either way, in many scenarios, depression has a spiritual and physical explanation.  For the believer, we also have to remember that our enemies are not only past, present or future circumstances, but they are also demonic forces (Eph. 6:12).  These enemies can cause extreme weight to our soul so that we are groaning – not even having words to speak because the pain is so deep.

In verses 8-10, David immediately turns the corner.  I do not think that circumstances have changed, but I think David has been strengthened by God to preach truth to Himself.  David’s looked at his situation.  He’s recalled God’s faithfulness and in boldness he commands his enemies to depart.  This is kingly speech that is much like Jesus’ statement in Matthew 7:23.  In Christ, believers can have that same humble boldness against our enemies through prayer.  David uses the dynamic use of “three” in this psalm.  To say something three times is a symbol of perfection and completion.  So, David reiterates that the Lord has heard and will receive his prayer.  In God’s timing, an answer will come that will result in David’s rescue.  He does not know when, but he knows that it will come.  As a result, his enemies ought to flee.  God is for him, no one else can be against him (Rom. 8:31).  John Bunyan, the writer of Pilgrim’s Progress and a man who struggled with depression for at least 8 years of his life says this, “Say to your soul, ‘This is not the place nor the time for despair. As long as my eyes can find a promise in the Bible, as long as I have life and breath, I will wait for mercy, I will fight against doubt and despair.’”

Now, does this psalm point us to the Messiah?  You may study this psalm finding a great source of encouragement that a man after God’s own heart struggled so deeply; however, do you realize that Jesus, and the pain He experienced, can minister to your soul in far greater ways than David and his pain?

Do you see Jesus weeping over Jerusalem?  Do you see the Savior when He was hungry and tempted in the wilderness by Satan himself?  Do you see Jesus in the Garden of Gesthemane?

We humans sometimes tend to prefer to lighten the intensity of Jesus’ pain in the garden by saying, “Well, He’s God.  Of course He knew He was going to be ok.”  Our response to that thought ought to be, “He was fully human.”  The Bible said that He was experiencing such trauma of soul that he bled out of the sweat glands on His face.

When I hear David saying, “Rebuke me not in your wrath,”  I hear Jesus saying, “Lord, let this cup pass from me.”  Yet Jesus was not going to experience being back at the right hand of the Father until He experienced the punishment for the sins of myriads of people.  Then Jesus experienced the Father forsaking Him: “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?”  He literally experienced the horrors of Sheol on the cross.  With that, He breathed His last.  And, the Bible says that Jesus died.

How could Jesus have died?  How can there be any remembrance of God in death – especially the death of the Messiah?  How can there be any thankfulness given to God in the grave?  These questions are legitimate, and they’re answered by Jesus’ resurrection just a few days later.  He rose from the dead in order to give victory!  And, for those who are despairing and despondent, the Word says that He ever lives to make intercession for us.  Hebrews 7:24-25 says, “But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood. Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.”  Jesus is the perfect High Priest and He is risen and lives to make intercession for you so that you would endure even in the midst of despair.  And, if You are God’s child, He hears your prayers, too.  We know this because as Hebrews 4:15-16 says, “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”  His discipline does not seem pleasant at the time (Heb. 12:11).  It is painful.  Some receive that pain much more than others.  If that is you.  I desire to encourage you in the sovereign greatness of God, the all-sacrificing love of Jesus and the eternal power of the Holy Spirit to trust in God.  He will sustain You.  God’s grace is sufficient.  Entrust yourself to Him and embrace whatever trials He allows.  Remember that His wrath is never towards His children.  He has heard your cries, and someday you will be with the Father in Heaven for all eternity and you will agree with the Apostle Paul’s statement, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18). Seeing God face-to-face and being encompassed by His glory in Heaven will overshadow your years of pain and despair.

So, whether you are a hurting, despairing Christian or a hurting, despairing unbeliever – turn to the Savior.  Repent of trusting in yourself and things around you and trust in the loving Messiah who came to rescue you.  He will give needed strength to endure.  He does this because Jesus laid aside peace with God on the cross.  Jesus laid aside the strength of being the Sovereign Lord by coming to this earth.  He laid aside hope while He was enduring the wrath of God in your place.

Turn to the Lord.  Your enemies will flee, and you will find that He has always been turned towards you.

*Depression affects people physically and spiritually.  This overview of Psalm 6 primarily addressed depression from a spiritual standpoint.  If you are experiencing or know someone who is experiencing depression, I would also recommend that you consider medicine as a viable option.  Medicine can be a good, common grace of God to help some people in the midst of dark times. Read more about Christianity and depression from an author and professor, David Murray, in this book, “Christians Get Depressed, Too.”</em>

Christ in Psalms – 5

Psalm 5 can be broken up in at least three different categories: 1) David’s Requests, 2) The Consequences of the Wicked, and 3) The Blessings of the Righteous.

David’s requests are mentioned in verses 1-3, 8, 10 and 11.

Verses 1-3 are merely repetition of what David is about to do and say.  But, there is very important wording here.  He is asking and pleading for God to listen to him.  This is many times missing in the prayers that we make to our Father.  While Jesus says that God listens to His children, He also communicates that we need to go to Him with dependency.  The mere fact that David is pleading to God for Him to answer reveals that he is not arrogant in his attitude.  He can, in other psalms, boldy say, “Save me, O my God!” and “Arise, O LORD,” but he always asks that on the basis of God’s character – not ultimately on the basis of his own character.  David asks humbly and then expectantly looks up to God for an answer.

Verse 8 is a personal request.  David says, “Lead me, O LORD, in Your righteousness because of my enemies.”  This is a two-fold request which is summed up nicely at the end of verse 8: “Make Your way straight before my face” (see also Prov. 3:5-6).  What this means is that God will bring us to our expected end.  David expounds on that here by saying that we will only get to our expected end if the LORD – Yahweh, the covenant-keeping Creator – leads us every step of the way.  David is asking that God’s righteousness would be worked through his actions because of David’s enemies.  David seems to be asking that the Lord would lead him and work His righteousness through him so that God’s enemies would see that God’s path is right and just and best.  In other words, David wants God’s enemies to be put to shame in their sin and to see God’s Truth.

In verse 10, David asks that God would pronounce the wicked guilty, and he asks that a just punishment is given to them.  David wants their own sin to be their ruin and he prays that God would cast them away from His people.  This theology is also seen in the New Testament in Romans 1.

All this said, David’s requests do not end on punishment.  Instead he focuses on God’s design for human beings.  Verse 11 gives us David’s final request: let all who trust in Yahweh, rejoice.  David emphasizes the word joy three times.  When authors in the Old Testament times wanted to reiterate a fact, they would say something three times.  They didn’t have punctuation.  They didn’t have exclamation points.  They could not put a question-mark and an exclamation.  Instead, they would say something like, “Rejoice, shout for joy, be joyful!” God desires that we be full of joy.  If those who trust in God understand the severity of God’s punishment (which all of us deserve) then we ought to be people who are full of joy.

The next question one may ask is, “What does God’s punishment look like?”  That’s another theme David addresses: the consequences of the wicked (vv. 4-6, 9-10).  In order to understand the riches of God’s grace, we need to understand the horrors that our sins deserve.  David cries out against the wicked because they have turned against the Lord.  Since David is confident that God is righteous, he knows that the Lord will act righteously towards those who do not trust in Him.  A few points we see in verses 4-6 (which are similar to 9-11) are that 1) God takes no pleasure in wickedness, 2) Evil will not dwell with God, and 3) The LORD abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.  This does not negate the chance they could repent and receive God’s eternal love.  This does not mean that God is not showing mercy to them even today in allowing them to experience many of His blessings.  But, the Bible does say that God’s wrath abides on such a one who has not turned to God through Christ.  In some mysterious way, God can hate and also display love towards unbelievers for a time.

The promise is that because the people are living this way, they will never dwell with God because evil will not dwell with God.  Some argue that God cannot be loving and send people to Hell; however, in the Scriptures, we see a portrait of people in Hell who continue to deny Him.  Hence, we can more fully understand a phrase like, “Cast them out in the multitude of their transgressions.”  Throughout all eternity, if you do not trust in the LORD, your sin will be yours.  It will cling to you and you will waste away in that sin for eternity – always being tormented, never finding relief because you cling to your sin.

This is justice.  And, as we see clearly in the Scriptures, this is what we all deserve because we are sinners, all our words are like a grave (see Rom. 3 where part of this Psalm is quoted).  Our most inward part of our being is destruction because we are sinners – hence Hell is our destination if we have not turned to Yahweh.

Is there any hope?  Yes, definitely!  The final piece of this Psalm that we need to see is the blessing of the righteous.  Again, since God is righteous in His very being, He will act righteously towards the wicked and also towards the righteous.  But, there is none righteous, no, not one!  Thankfully, as we saw in our study of Psalm 1, only Jesus could be considered righteous, and it is on the basis of His righteousness that we, too, can be declared righteous.  All blessings are given to Jesus, and we receive them by trusting in Him – the LORD.  As a result, we experience an infinite number of blessings from the eternal God.  “For You, O LORD, will bless the righteous; With favor You will surround him as with a shield.”

What are a few of the blessings this psalm tells us that we receive through the Messiah?  First, God hears the prayers of the righteous.  Even if we cannot come up with the words and we can only groan, God will answer us (note: “meditation” means “to groan”).  Second, unlike the wicked, the righteous enter into God’s house.  Third, those who trust in God have His steadfast, forever faithful, love.  In spite of our disobedience, God showers down a love that never wavers.  Fourth, believers can truly worship God because of His forgiveness.  David realizes that he deserves to be punished, yet he says, “But as for me. . . .”

Ultimately, it is God’s character and actions that matter – not ours.  We need Him.  David makes this more clear even in the names he uses to reference God: 1) O LORD, 2) My King, 3) My God.

He recognizes God is the covenant-keeping God of steadfast love towards His children.  He recognizes that He can’t solve all of life issues and can’t bring about true righteousness – only the King can do that as He reigns from His throne on high at the present time.  He realizes that this God is not just a God off in the distance but He is his God.  One commentator pointed out that in Hebrew, to call God, “my God” was the greek equivalent to saying, “Abba” (Longman, Tremper & David Garland, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Psalms, p. 115).  It is no wonder that Jesus prays that way and we even find Paul calling God “Abba.”

So, what do we see of Jesus in this psalm?  Obviously, there could be a myriad of pictures of Jesus here.  I will touch on a few.  First, we see David, the anointed one, praying on behalf of those who trust in God. In John 17, we see Jesus, the Anointed One, praying on behalf of all who will trust in Him.  Second, we see that the LORD also refers to Jesus.  Salvation belongs to Him.  Through Jesus, we are saved.  He is the way, the truth and the life.  Third, we see that Jesus is also the King.  In Isaiah 6, Isaiah talks of God in the temple on the throne with the train of His robe filling the temple.  Then in John 12:41, the Scriptures say that Isaiah’s revelation was of Jesus’ glory.  Jesus is King. In this King, we can bring all of our cares – knowing that He will take care of us.  Fourth, we receive blessings through Jesus.  The last two lines can also be translated, “You will crown them with favor as with a shield.”  One commentator said, “From one hand the Lord extends his protection and favor, likened to a ‘shield’. . .; from the other hand he bestows his royal glory on the godly. . .” (Longman, Tremper & David E. Garland, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, p. 119).

It is very true what the psalmist says.  Those who trust in the Lord are immeasurably blessed and have eternal blessing in store for them.

Rejoice, all those who trust in Him!

Continual Repentance

(from “The Valley of Vision”)

O God of Grace,

Thou hast imputed my sin to my substitute,

and hast imputed his righteousness to my soul,

closing me with a bridegroom’s robe,

decking me with jewels of holiness.

But in my Christian walk I am still in rags;

my best prayers are stained with sin;

my penitential tears are so much impurity;

my confessions of wrong are so many aggravations of sin;

my receiving the Spirit is tinctured with selfishness.

I need to repent of my repentance;

I need my tears to be washed;

I have no robe to bring to cover my sins,

no loom to weave my own righteousness;

I am always standing clothed in filthy garments,

and by grace am always receiving change of raiment,

for thou dost always justify the ungodly;

I am always going into the far country,

and always returning home as a prodigal,

always saying, Father, forgive me,

and thou art always bringing forth the best robe.

Every morning let me wear it,

every evening return in it,

go out to the day’s work in it,

be married in it,

be wound in death in it,

stand before the great white throne in it,

enter heaven in it shining as the sun.

Grant me never to lose sight of

the exceeding sinfulness of sin,

the exceeding righteousness of salvation,

the exceeding glory of Christ,

the exceeding beauty of holiness,

the exceeding wonder of grace.

Christ in the Psalms

On Sunday nights, I am preaching a series entitled “Christ in the Psalms.”  Yesterday, I preached on Psalm 1.  Here is a brief overview of the message.

I would imagine that one of the things Jesus taught that angered some of the scribes and Pharisees was Jesus’ definition of sin.  In the story of the Pharisee and the tax collector in Luke 18, Jesus teaches that the Pharisee was wrong for thinking he wasn’t a sinner simply because he had relatively good behavior.  It was the tax collector who walked away “justified” – a man who confessed that he was a sinner and plead for the mercy of God.

You might be thinking, “What does this have to do with the psalms?”  Psalm 1 compares and contrasts the man who is blessed and the man who is wicked.  The blessed man does not heed the counsel of sinners and he delights in God’s Law.  As a result, he is healthy – bearing fruit in the appropriate season and prospering.  The wicked man; however, is dead and rootless.  Because of this, he will not stand in the judgment nor will he be allowed into the congregation of the righteous.

There have been times in the past where I have read Psalm 1 with a type of mentality that focuses on my so-called “goodness” rather than with a Luke 18 mentality.  Yet, if we understand how Jesus defines sin, we begin to realize something.  All of humanity falls into the “wicked” category.  None of us glories in God like we ought to.  None of us delights in His Law perfectly.  All of us should walk away from Psalm 1 with an attitude similar to that of the tax collector: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner” (Lk. 18:13)!

But, how can we receive mercy?  We need to ask who the blessed man is.  Again, Jesus opens our eyes to the answer to that question.  Jesus says of Himself in Luke 24 and John 5 that He is the point of the Scriptures (referring to the Old Testament).  He even calls people foolish because they did not see that the Scriptures were written primarily about Him.  Since this is the case, we need to view Psalm 1 (and all of the Bible) through the lens of seeking and finding the Messiah.  Therefore, the answer to the question of “Who is the blessed man” is Jesus because He perfectly fulfills the qualifications of this person.

Now comes the next question.  Is there hope for other people to be considered “blessed” or “righteous” (v. 1, 6)?  The Scriptures give a resounding “yes.”  Just like the tax collector was justified (i.e. – declared righteous) upon the call for mercy, so humans are justified when they look away from their own self, and the things of this world,  to save them and then look to Christ to save.

As a result of this, Psalm 1:6 says, God knows (i.e. – is intimately acquainted) with the life of the righteous.  The Creator of the universe involves Himself in a loving way with those who are righteous.  What an amazing and blessed truth this is!

It is only on the basis of the Messiah that we can fully grasp Psalm 1.  But, does that leave the righteous in the slavery of sin?  In other words, do those who have been blessed by the Messiah seek to live in sin?  Absolutely not.  The Scriptures are clear that those who have been justified by Him now seek to be like the Blessed Man, Jesus.

The cry of the righteous is similar to the cry of Paul in Romans 7.  We realize that we are not the blessed man – even after being justified – because we are not perfect.  We have been rescued because we delight in God’s Law (Rom. 7:22), but we still have a “flesh” that weighs us down.  The response of Paul is similar to what our response to Psalm 1 should be: “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death” (Rom. 7:24-8:2).

Our response to Psalm 1 must not merely be “Try harder!”  Instead, our realization must be God’s perfection, our sinfulness and the redemption offered in Jesus.  Cry out to Him for mercy.  The solution for deliverance is found in God through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Then, by His grace, walk by faith in His greatness.  Enjoy the love He offers and be enthralled with the freedom to glorify God.  Stop wallowing in your sinfulness, and remember that your life is held together because of Christ and His work.  Let that be the impetus for your desire to be like the Blessed Man who rescued you.