We are all of us gospel amnesiacs, in need of preaching the gospel to ourselves again and again, as long as it's called "Today," until the Lord returns. Over the next several weeks, here are half a hundred things (one per year) I need to remind myself of, things I would want to tell my younger friends and family when they are old enough to have ears to hear. May the Lord bless them to your encouragement as well.
|Rose window, Little Chapel in the Woods, Denton, Texas, 2021|
31. Gratitude is the will of God for every Christian. When things are going well, we may forget gratitude because we forget how desperate we are for Him. It is all too easy in the flesh to become complacent and even entitled. The sin of ingratitude is a much graver failing in God’s sight than we are inclined to think it (see Romans 1, much of Exodus and Numbers). On the flip side, trust, dependence, and gratitude are foundational to experiential communion with our Father.
Gratitude to God when everything about us seems to be going wrong is our shattered alabaster vase of costly perfume, and that act of faith is precious to our Father. He is still on the throne. He is still at work. He will bring “all the things” together in goodness and beauty and use them for His glory, our good, and the gain of the church (Romans 8:28ff). Even if none of the hard eucharisteos (i.e., thanksgivings) improve in this life, they are actively working glory for us in eternity. Furthermore, the blessing of belonging to God because of the death and resurrection of Christ is better than I deserve, whatever this earthly life may bring. Anything better than hell is a grace from His hand, and He is so much better to me than hell.
Yes, I live with pain, weakness, crosses, burdens, griefs, and difficulties every day, but I do not bear that alone. The Triune God is with me and will not leave me or forsake me. Christ has borne my sin and all the wrath I deserve; in exchange, He has clothed me with His righteousness and given me His Spirit to give me knowledge of God and a desire to do His will. How can I not thank Him? Blessed be His name.
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:17, ESV).
...giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 5:20, ESV).
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thessalonians 5:16–18, ESV).
32. All of life except sin can be worship. When we continually draw the gaze of our hearts back to our Beloved, we can live our days in interior conversation and communion with Him. Brother Lawrence called this “the practice of the presence of God.” Jean Pierre de Caussade called this “The Sacrament of the Present Moment.” I call this “The Sacrament of the Ordinary.” Anything is worship that I do for the glory of God, in obedience to the commands of Christ, in dependence on the Holy Spirit living in me to enable me.
33. There are no cookie-cutter Christians. God designed each one of us as a unique fragment of stained glass in the rose window of the invisible, eternal church He is building. He doesn’t want another Elisabeth Elliot or Amy Carmichael or Beth Moore or Florence Nightingale. He doesn’t want another Chuck Swindoll or Tony Evans or Billy Graham. He wants the first you.
34. Do you remember the children’s table grace, “God is great; God is good; let us thank Him for our food”? This points to profound spiritual truth. “God is great,” so He is able to meet our needs and orchestrate every detail of our lives and this world. “God is good,” so He will do so, and He will rule in love and grace toward His children. Like Aslan, He is not safe (but great), but He is good. David expressed it this way:
Once God has spoken;
twice have I heard this:
that power belongs to God,
and that to you, O Lord, belongs steadfast love.
For you will render to a man
according to his work (Psalm 62:11–12, ESV).
35. God’s love goes with us into the hottest fires, most overwhelming floods, and darkest pits of despair and depression. He may hide His face, but He will never withdraw His hand from His son or daughter. The treasure of knowing the fellowship of His suffering transforms our worst times into the most intimate moments of our walk with Christ. “There is no pit so deep that His love is not deeper still” (Corrie ten Boom). Elisabeth Elliot said it this way: “The deepest things that I have learned in my own life have come from the deepest suffering. And out of the deepest waters and the hottest fires have come the deepest things that I know about God” (Suffering Is Never for Nothing).
36. “Courage is not the absence of fear; courage is fear walking” (Susan David). I would add that courage is fear walking in the Lord’s will. Knowing He is the one who called me, who appointed this path, encourages me that He will enable what He commands.
37. Contentment and joy are less a function of circumstance and more a function of the habit and orientation of the heart. If I am not content and cannot rejoice in the Lord in my current job/home/marriage/income/church, chasing happiness through change is not likely to give lasting help. Happiness is a wild bird that cannot be had by pursuing it but alights on my soul as a byproduct of loving the Lord and loving my neighbor.
38. Discontent and self-pity are less a function of circumstance and more a function of the habit and orientation of the heart.
39. Friendship, music, laughter, and children’s books are good medicine for a bruised and aching soul.
40. If you are a Christian, God is not angry with you. Jesus bore your sins and all the wrath deserved for them so that you could be free of condemnation and have eternal life.
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1, ESV).
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31–39, ESV).
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