I’m a Pretty Good Boy

My senior year of high school I took a law course. One class period we were visited by two convicted men serving time in an Oregon state prison; one for armed robbery and the other for murder.

The men talked about the conditions they faced growing up, the influences that led them to lives of crime, details of their trials, and pain of being in prison. Both asserted their innocence.

When they finished telling their stories we were allowed to ask questions. I asked: if you were a judge sitting on a trial with your exact circumstances, would you find the person guilty, and what sentence would you give?

The thief said it was an interesting question, but both refused to answer.

It’s easy for us to judge others based upon our own circumstances.

See, I’m a pretty good boy. Sure, I’ve made some mistakes over the past 50 years, but overall … you’re still a far worse a person than I am. I can think of a hundred and one reasons to condemn you and excuse myself.

God, however, doesn’t judge us by how we compare to our neighbor but according to the standard of His Law, the Bible. Where we don’t measure up, where we miss the mark, God calls it sin and sin makes us guilty before God and deserving of punishment.

The punishment for our sins? The wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23), physical and spiritual death.

Yet God has done something remarkable. He sent His beloved Son to the earth to stand in your place at the sentencing hearing. Yes, you are guilty, but Jesus took your guilt upon Himself and died for your sins. To be saved you must accept what He gave without claiming innocence, shifting blame, or trying to add any of your own merit to the court case.

Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and He was buried, and He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast (1 Cor 15:3-4; Eph 2:8-9).


The Parable of the Ant

So much to do and it seemed so little time to do it. He didn’t know where everyone else was going, but everyone was certainly busy. Always going. Always busy. At least that’s how it seemed.

The little black ant scurried his way along the invisible ant highway through the kitchen and up the table leg where he hoped to find a few crumbs of toast left behind. It was his job. He worked all day, every day, and would keep at it until the day he died.

Ant kept himself busy doing what he needed to do to feed his family, never dreaming that there was a world beyond what he knew. Why would he think beyond reality? He was busy in his own world; it was all that mattered.

There were times however, maybe better described as flickering moments, when the ant thought that maybe there were things bigger and greater than himself, his world, and what he knew. “Someday” he kept saying to himself, he’d find the time to ponder these things … but not today. Today would soon end and there was yet more work and even less time.

As Mom cleaned the kitchen and Dad walked out the door for the office, Timmy sat alone, his chin resting on the breakfast table, watching the little ant hurry back and forth searching. Like he did each morning, Timmy dropped a few crumbs from the crust of his toast for the ant to find. “Someday” he kept saying to himself, the ant would stop, look up, and thank him.

What is man that You are mindful of him, or the son of man that You take care of him? (Hebrews 2:6).

The Parable of the New Suit

Monday morning always felt early for Martin. He dragged himself out of bed and into the shower, out of the subway and onto the sidewalk, out of the elevator and through the office door. This morning he already had a new client waiting for him.

He looked over the paperwork on his desk and then made some preliminary observations about the client. Male. Early 20s. Straight teeth. No tattoos. No needle marks. Homeless, but somebody’s son. Martin had grown tired of the same clientele day after day, but something about this young man was different. He would treat this man differently.

Martin took the client into the dressing room and began the search for the perfect new suit. “It really is the suit that makes the man,” Martin said. White shirt with spread collar. Navy suit with a modern skinny cut … Perry Ellis would look great. Most important was the necktie; two-inch, solid black. He worked carefully to ensure that the tie reached down just over the top of the belt buckle. His client looked like a million dollars. Perfectly perfect! As they said in Martin’s business, “Fit for a funeral.”

Hair trimmed and styled with a barely noticeable touch of makeup, his client was ready for the debut. It wasn’t often, but today Martin was proud of himself and his work as he wheeled the young man in the coffin into the Hearse.

A dead man is still a dead man no matter how he’s dressed.

The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord  (Romans 6:23).


The Sign Reads: Resurrection Taxidermy

Resurrection Taxidermy

The sign on the little building near my home reads: Resurrection Taxidermy. Taxidermy is the art of taking the skin of an animal and arranging it over a form to make it appear alive. While the outside of the animal is forever preserved, it’s not living. It’s only an illusion of life.

The Christian doctrine of resurrection isn’t the rearrangement of skin over a lifeless skeleton.

When Jesus died, His body was buried (Lk 23:50-56). Three days later, His spirit returned to the body that was in the grave and that body returned to life (1 Cor 15:42-44). This is resurrection: when the spirit returns to the body.

The same body of Christ that entered the grave came out of the grave (Lk 24:39-40). His body, still sporting nail scars in His hands and feet, and a spear wound in His side, is the body that came to life (Jn 20:26-29). It is the body that Jesus still has, and is the body He will return in one day.

The Bible says that we all, the redeemed and the wicked both, will be resurrected one day to spend eternity in either Heaven or Hell (1 Cor 15:50-55; Rev 20:11-15).

Jesus said, The hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth – those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of the condemnation (John 5:28-29).


I’m the Sexiest Man Alive

Jesus said to them, “Who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15).

If I claimed to be . . . ohhhhh, let’s say . . . the sexiest man alive . . . at some point I’d have to either put up the proof or give up the fantasy.

Let’s also say that a group of children became my social media fans and took to devoting their lives to me.  Soon parents, the public school system, and the federal government determine I need to be stopped. I’m arrested, put on trial, found guilty, and scheduled for death.

By this point one of three things would happen: I’d either change my story and admit I’d made up my claims, everyone would know that I’m mentally insane, or people would accept my testimony as true.

Jesus didn’t hide or run away from the claims He made about Himself. In fact, he was tried, convicted, and then executed for His claims. He never walked back His claims. His press secretary never suggested, “Oops! Did He say He was the Messiah? He meant ‘Carpenter’.”

Accepting Christ means accepting who He claimed to be. Who did He claim to be? Almighty God, the Creator, in human flesh! “I Am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty” (Revelation 1:8).


We Do Not Lose Heart

Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day (2 Corinthians 4:16).

Paul knew the difference between his outward body and his inward man.

The outward man is the physical person we see each time we take a selfie or look in the mirror. It’s the person we watch brush his teeth, feed with three healthy meals, and who lays his head on the pillow at night. This is the “man” who generally gets all the attention despite that the Bible teaching that this man is perishing because of sin. It’s just like us to try and uphold what is terminally failing to the point of death.

Because of sin, the physical person we know is headed back to our initial starting point: And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return (Genesis 2:7; 3:19). There’s  nothing we can do to slow or stop that downward slide caused by sin.

On the other hand, those who are brought into the New Covenant of grace through the blood of Jesus aren’t discouraged by our frailty. Instead, we do not lose heart. Yes, the outward man is perishing, but the inward man is being renewed day by day!

Every trial and tribulation adds another wrinkle or achy join outwardly, but serves only to build inner strength because we learn to humbly, hopefully, and prayerfully depend on Jesus more and more.

My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness. Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities that the power of Christ may rest upon me … For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:10).


The Believer’s Hope and Joy

Have a walk worthy of the calling with which you were called (Ephesians 4:1).

Yesterday we learned of the death of Dr RC Sproul (1939-2017), a man who had a profound impact on both my beliefs and my preaching. Even at the end of his life, when he could no longer breathe, he made every effort to continue teaching the Bible. For a preacher, it’s all you can do!

The Bible says that for the believer, to be absent from this body is to be present with the Lord in Heaven (2 Cor 5:8). Upon hearing the news of Dr Sproul’s entrance into the presence of God, I thought of Jesus calling His apostles.

In Matthew 4:18-22 we’re told Jesus found brothers Peter and Andrew hard at their job as fishermen. He said, Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men. The Bible says the two immediately left their nets and followed Him (Mt 4:20). A bit further on Jesus found two more brothers, James and John in the boat with Zebedee their father … and He called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him (Mt 4:21, 22).

Imagine, in both instances, those whom Jesus called left everything to immediately be with Jesus. Without hesitation they left their employment. They abandoned their livelihood. They departed from their own families. Can you image what Zebedee said when his two sons left in the middle of the work day?

When Jesus called Dr Sproul, he didn’t linger. He didn’t say, “Lord, just give me a few more days with my family. Heal me so I can live a longer and more productive life.” No, when Jesus called, RC immediately left this world behind to be with Jesus. He lived to be worthy of the One who called him.

Suppose I was going to Disneyland. You wouldn’t be sad that I was going to California to be welcomed by Mickey Mouse into his Magic Kingdom. You would be glad. Your sadness would be that you’re not going along. So it is with God’s people whom He calls home.

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints (Ps 116:15). We should rejoice in what God rejoices. So we are reminded that in death we do not sorrow as others who have no hope (1 Thess 4:13). Death for the child of God is not a time to mourn like those with no hope, but a time for joy and personal longing to also be with Jesus.


Give Me Jesus

I was surprised on my first visit to Mexico in 1998 to find so many men named Jesus in one place. In this culturally Catholic nation, about 1 in 10 males is named Jesus. It reminded me of the Apostle’s warning of pastors offering another Jesus we have not preached (2 Corinthians 11:4).

We expect an un-Biblical Jesus from the Mormons, whose Jesus is the blood-brother of Satan. We’re aware of the Jehovah’s Witness belief that Jesus is the embodiment of the angel Michael. But other Jesuses are sprouting up in places that should bring us pause.

A Grammy-winning Christian singer denies that Adam, Eve, and Noah were real people despite what Jesus said of them (Mt 19:4; 24:37).

We’re told that the real Jesus was a transgendered, homosexual, refugee, gun-hating, abortion-loving Socialist.

We can go to the theater to watch a movie which denies the Trinity, Hell, sin, and teaches that Jesus is nothing more than an example of what it means to love.

Without the Biblical Jesus, there is no payment for sin, no righteousness, no satisfaction of God’s wrath, no victory over sin or Satan or death or Hell. Modern theology leaves us with the empty figure of a man who inspires hopey-changey feelings but did nothing to solve humanity’s greatest problem: Sin.

A Jesus who doesn’t fulfill the Scriptures can’t do anything in the Scriptures. A false Jesus isn’t the Way, the Truth, or the Life leading us to God the Father; every substitute Jesus only leads away from the Father (Jn 14:6).

I’ll take the Jesus of God’s Word.

Even if we, or an angel from Heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be cursed (Galatians 1:8).


We Need This Reminder

Before ascending into Heaven, Jesus told Peter news that went in one ear and out the other, but later it had to be constant in his thoughts. “… when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.” This Jesus spoke, signifying by what death Peter would glorify God (John 21:18-19).

As Peter wrote his second epistle, he knew that his death was at hand.

If you knew you were going to die one week from today, what would you want people to remember about you? What you look like? A certain life-achievement? Something about your character? Maybe just that you loved.

In his last letter, Peter used words like remember, reminder, or don’t forget 10 different times (2 Peter 1:9, 12, 13, 15, 19; 3:1, 2, 5, 8, 17)!

What did Peter want his readers, like you and me, to remember? That he was an apostle or fisherman? Perhaps that he saw Christ transfigured? His grizzly bearded face or aged rough hands? That he was the first to understand who Jesus really was? Maybe his betrayal of the Lord? The text of his sermon the Day of Pentecost?

Nope. Unlike us, Peter didn’t want to be remembered at all. He wanted the truth that he knew, lived, and taught to be remembered. Like any good pastor, Peter kept teaching and reviewing the same truths again and again, continually repeating the same doctrinal themes. There was nothing new to tell; just the old, old story of Jesus.

The pastor who doesn’t remind his congregation of the basic truths of the gospel in every sermon he preaches, is a complete failure.

Before Jesus was crucified, He also had a message of remembrance for us.

This is My body which is broken for you … This cup is the new covenant in My blood … do this in remembrance of Me. For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes (1 Corinthians 11:24, 25, 26)

We are prone to obsessing over ourselves and the things in our lives we think are important. Really, when we die, we should want the faith we held in Christ to be remembered; and until then, we need to remember Jesus and His work. We remember and proclaim Him each time we partake of the Lord’s Supper. How very often we need this reminder!


Social Injustice and Our Message

As Christians, our primary ministry on this earth is to share the good news of Jesus to a broken, dead, and dying world.

We can’t fix the brokenness of a society. No political party or particular candidate can create a nation of godliness. There has never been a social justice campaign resolve age-old hatred and bigotry or save an innocent life from a corrupt police officer. Protests and chants in California don’t put food in the bellies of hungry African children or achieve equality for women in the Muslim world.

Too many Christians are distracted by the symptoms of sin around us and have ignored and even rejected the cause and remedy of all that ails the human race. Sin brings separation and death. It causes the separation of husbands and wives, parents and children, black and white, rich and poor, Kenyans and Canadians. Sin kills relationships and eats away at nations. The only answer for death is life, and life is only possible through Jesus Christ, the Prince of life (Acts 3:15).

After the massacre in Las Vegas in early October, my wife sorrowed over the loss of 59 lives. I agreed and then reminded her that in all likelihood, most of the thousands at the concert that night and survived were unsaved and would end up in the Lake of Fire. That is the greatest tragedy.

Salvation in Jesus must be our message to our hurting world.

These things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name (John 20:31).