Grace City Church Wilmington https://gracecityilm.org Wilmington, NC Tue, 04 Oct 2022 18:54:31 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=6.0.3 https://gracecityilm.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/cropped-site-icon-32x32.png Grace City Church Wilmington https://gracecityilm.org 32 32 People of Unflinching Resolve https://gracecityilm.org/people-of-unflinching-resolve/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=people-of-unflinching-resolve Tue, 04 Oct 2022 15:29:51 +0000 https://gracecityilm.org/?p=216182 If you’ve been attending Grace City Church for any length of time, you probably know that I’m a big fan of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings film trilogies. So when Amazon announced that it was making a TV series based on the Middle Earth story, I was cautiously intrigued, though […]

The post People of Unflinching Resolve appeared first on Grace City Church Wilmington.]]>
If you’ve been attending Grace City Church for any length of time, you probably know that I’m a big fan of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings film trilogies. So when Amazon announced that it was making a TV series based on the Middle Earth story, I was cautiously intrigued, though skeptical that it could outperform the classics I’d grown to love. Truth be told, I have mixed opinions about it. Morfydd Clark plays a decent “young Galadriel,” and I’m warming to Robert Aramayo (Elrond) and Ismael Cruz Córdova (Arondir). My favorite character is Owain Arthur (Prince Durin); and, at least so far, I could do without the Harfoots and their songs.

Opinions aside, however, one theme that has remained consistent across the six episodes I’ve watched is the iron-fisted determination of Galadriel. Ever since her brother died in the first episode in search of Sauron, her vow to hunt down Sauron has been unabated, almost comically so. In each episode, she is serious, unflinching, full of resolve (bordering to grouchiness), undeterred in her mission to hunt down the evil antagonist of Middle Earth.

I enjoy film because I love looking for the biblical themes found in it. And seeing Galadriel’s resolve has made me wonder: Do I have this level of determination as a Christian? Am I that unflinching in my resolve to follow Jesus? If I’m honest, I often feel more like Merry or Pippin wanting another second breakfast than I feel like getting up to follow Jesus when life is hard.

I think that Galadriel’s resolve is a message for us all. We live in an age of non-commitment. Every day we wake up, we’re thinking unawares about how we can improve the situation we find ourselves in. We’re spinning, pondering, mentally-maneuvering—trying to figure out how to get ourselves and our families into a position where we finally have all the things we want: perfect peace, comfort, fellowship, health, and happiness.

But friends, while there is nothing biblically wrong with seeking to “better” things or walk in the good works that God has ordained for us to walk in (Eph 2:10), studying 1 Corinthians 7 with you in the month of September has taught me that if I my life is going to matter (so far as Heaven is concerned)—if I am going to really make a difference, I need to be a man who is undeterred in my resolve to remain where God has placed me. I will never be content without this. I will always be looking for the next thing, always doing things half-way today but never fully in a way that is pleasing to the Lord. I will overlook what God has handed me now because my eyes are fixed on what I hope He hands me later.

Can I tell you a secret? This is simply not the way of the Cross. We were purchased by and belong to a Savior who was both unflinching in His resolve to secure our redemption (Lk 9:51) in pleasing obedience to His Father (Jn 8:29), and was always fully present wherever He was. He was always moving toward Jerusalem to become a sacrifice for our sin; but on the way He didn’t overlook the child who needed healing (Lk 9:37-44), or the woman with an incurable medical issue (Mk 5:25-34), or the Pharisee who had questions (Jn 3:1-21). Jesus knew what it meant to remain where He was with God (1 Cor 7:24), while not losing sight of His rescue mission.

I get it. It’s just not the way of the world we live in to remain in the condition we find ourselves—especially if *right here* feels uncomfortable, awkward, purposeless, isolating, and feels like an exile of sorts. But guys, my marriage, my job, my church, and my neighborhood is where Christ is, because He has sovereignly placed me here and He promised He would be with me always…Here (Matt 28:20). I should not expect to receive His grace of blessing elsewhere if I cannot receive His grace of discipline *Here.* Here is the unmistakably-and-divinely-chosen position where you and I must plant our feet. It is in the stillness where God promises to reveal Himself to us (even if Here is exile!) when we search for Him wholeheartedly (Jer. 29:13). Often the godliest believers are those who’ve learned endurance in the difficult stillness. As Spurgeon wrote, “People learn to swim by swimming. You cannot learn that skill on dry land. Nor can you learn endurance without suffering” (Rom 5:3-4).

So, my dear brothers and sisters, let us remain Here, with God. By grace, let’s be a counter-cultural people, following our Savior in the way of the Cross. Let’s stand out in our world by the commitments we make and stick to, even if we can’t classify them as “ideal.” By grace, let us be unflinching Galadriels who are committed to the mission God has called us to Here until God clearly opens the exit door. Until then, there are lessons He’s not quite finished teaching, people He’s not quite finished changing, and grace He’s not quite finished giving…Here. In your marriage. At Grace City Church. At your job. In your neighborhood. In this season. And Jesus will be with us always, even to the end of the world.

“I promise you there is not a soul amongst our company who yearns for home more than I. I can still feel the light of the trees on my face. I can still see it. And until we are certain every trace of our enemy is vanquished, I can never return.”

-Galadriel, The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, Season 1 Episode 1

 

The post People of Unflinching Resolve appeared first on Grace City Church Wilmington.]]>
Responding to Evil in the World https://gracecityilm.org/responding-to-evil-in-the-world/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=responding-to-evil-in-the-world Wed, 25 May 2022 16:05:03 +0000 https://gracecityilm.org/?p=216086 Our hearts grieve as we watch the news coming out of Uvalde, Texas. Another shooting. Today the families of at least 19 students and 2 teachers are beside themselves with grief, and another community is in shock. We look on with a sense of hopelessness. We’re sickened. Having school-aged children myself, my heart feels especially […]

The post Responding to Evil in the World appeared first on Grace City Church Wilmington.]]>
Our hearts grieve as we watch the news coming out of Uvalde, Texas. Another shooting.

Today the families of at least 19 students and 2 teachers are beside themselves with grief, and another community is in shock. We look on with a sense of hopelessness. We’re sickened. Having school-aged children myself, my heart feels especially heavy this morning knowing that this evil could happen anywhere. We hurt. We weep. I definitely hugged my kids a little bit tighter this morning before sending them off to school.

As is expected, politicians and world leaders express condolences and outrage, while renewing the call to take action—to do something to curb violence like this from happening in the future. Legislation will be presented again, and the chambers of our governments will once again be filled with frustrated debate for a while.

Yet, we still grieve. How should we as Christians respond to horrific evil like what we’ve seen in Uvalde (or Buffalo or Ukraine)? I want to offer us a few suggestions. Please know that I don’t wish to add to the wave of rash political punditry, nor am I suggesting that these thoughts are an ultimate answer to the issues our country is facing. I’m just a local pastor seeking to care for his local church.

First, it is entirely appropriate to grieve.
When King David was being pursued by enemies and was filled with sorrow, he cried out, “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me” (Ps 13:1)? In times of national tragedy, our natural first reaction is to provide our shaken hearts with answers. Why? we ask the Lord. Why would you allow such an evil act to unfold?

But events like what we’re seeing in Uvalde have no logical answers (at least this side of heaven), and this really isn’t a time to look for them. Rather, the Bible invites us to express our grief to God. Let us grieve over the condition of our fallen world ravaged by sin and hatred. It’s okay to shed tears. Express your confusion and anger to God and a trusted friend (rather than on social media or a public arena). He understands your sorrow. He can take your anger. Grieve.

Second, realize who the real Enemy is.
When tragedies of this kind occur, the world responds by pointing fingers and leaping into action. Again, political action may be entirely appropriate to try and curb such senseless acts of hatred. But as Christians, we know that the god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers from seeing that evil is resident first in the human heart (2 Cor 4:4). So, our fight is not first with “flesh and blood” fellow humans, but with “the cosmic powers over this present darkness, the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph 6:12).

Church, let us see the activity fueling the hatred. For generations the devil has been fashioning a culture of death in our country. America was founded on the individual citizen’s right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” But when one’s right to be happy is thoroughly mingled with the sin nature, one’s own human rights will eventually usurp the rights of other more vulnerable humans—whether they be ethnic minorities, women, or children. We’ve been seeing this for centuries, and Satan is the puppeteer holding the strings attached to the hearts of men and women—influencing, tugging, blinding. We have an enemy, and it isn’t our neighbor, Republicans, or Democrats. Again, we should be angry, but let’s focus our anger on the ringleader.

So finally, we should pray.
Paul says that when we sight our Enemy, to “take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day…praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication” (Eph 6:13, 18). As families, let’s gather together tonight and pray against the evil one. Let’s pray against his deception over the hearts and minds of our neighbors and politicians. Let’s ask God to bring a kind of comfort to the weeping families of Uvalde that only He can bring. Let’s ask Him to send a widespread revival of the gospel in Uvalde, and in the cities of America, and in Wilmington, so that the evil so visible around us would be upended as God transforms hearts through the message of the crucified and resurrected Savior. Let’s ask Jesus to return to make all things new.

God will not overlook what happened yesterday in Uvalde. He will right this wrong and bring justice to the earth at last. We know this because the cross of Christ is the place where God refused to overlook evil and where Christ identifies with our sorrows and grief. It is the answer to the problem of evil and suffering, though we may struggle to see this clearly right now. But, as Randy Alcorn says, “One day it will prove to have been the final answer.”1

“Moreover, I saw under the sun that in the place of justice, even there was wickedness, and in the place of righteousness, even there was wickedness. I said in my heart, ‘“God will bring into judgment both the righteous and the wicked, for there will be a time for every activity, a time to judge every deed.’” (Ecc 3:16-17)

Amen. Even so, come Lord Jesus!

[1] Randy Alcorn, If God is Good: Faith in the Midst of Evil and Suffering, pp. 208.

 

The post Responding to Evil in the World appeared first on Grace City Church Wilmington.]]>
Upcoming MC Book Study https://gracecityilm.org/upcoming-mc-book-study/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=upcoming-mc-book-study Thu, 27 Jan 2022 22:06:27 +0000 https://gracecityilm.org/?p=215948 Hey dear church! I have a question for you. Whenever you have a personal problem, where do you go for help? For example, where do you go for help when your marriage isn’t going the way you would expect? Where do you go when parenting is exceptionally hard? Or you’re battling anxiety and you feel […]

The post Upcoming MC Book Study appeared first on Grace City Church Wilmington.]]>
Hey dear church! I have a question for you. Whenever you have a personal problem, where do you go for help? For example, where do you go for help when your marriage isn’t going the way you would expect? Where do you go when parenting is exceptionally hard? Or you’re battling anxiety and you feel trapped? Or anger seems to be a constant companion and you’ve damaged relationships at home or at work? Where do you go when you need help thinking biblically about your finances, relationships, or any number of other things? Who are the trusted people in your life that you confide in, confess to, and have given the permission to say hard things at times?

To be honest, for me there was a time when the answer to those questions would have been, “I need to seek professional counseling;” or “I need to talk to an expert.” But, as I look back on the last 17 years of following Christ the most impactful people in my life have been ordinary people that I have been in community with.  (This is not to say that there is no room for specialized counseling or seeking people that have experience in certain fields from time to time, but we are not dependent upon them.) My fellow brother and sisters in my local church are not necessarily experts, but they certainly have loved me, pursued godliness, and have been devoted to God’s will as its revealed in scripture.

This is one of the reasons why I’m excited about our upcoming Missional Community book study of Side by Side, written by Ed Welch.  The book begins with the assumption that “God is pleased to use ordinary people, ordinary conversations, and extraordinary and wise love to do the heavy lifting in His Kingdom.”  Church do you believe that statement? Do you believe that the work of the ministry is still assigned to all of us as a local church—to ordinary Christians? We hope and pray that you do.

And if you feel somewhat intimidated about being weak and needy in front of others, listen to what Ed says: “If you feel quite weak and ordinary…if you feel like a mess but have the Spirit…you have the right credentials. You are one of the ordinary people God uses to help others.”  What a glorious endeavor the Lord has called us to! This is the Pilgrim’s Way where as sojourners we lock arms and make the journey to heaven together. Along the way we’ll see that the path is rough and very hard at times—but as we walk with integrity, honesty, and transparency the path will become brighter, and the fellowship sweeter.

As I mentioned on Sunday, the book is divided into two parts:

Part 1: “We are Needy”— helps us learn what it looks like to be needy in community and not needy while alone, which is very often our reality. We try and deal with our struggles by ourselves or we go outside the church away from ones who love us and seek help from people who are not in community with us.

Part 2: “We are Needed”— is helpful because it reminds us of who we are and who already lives inside of us (the Holy Spirit) and supplies us with the necessary tools to be disciples who make disciples.  Each chapter ends with discussion questions that will be great to work through in our MC’s.

Dear church, lets walk in the light as He is in the light so that our joy may be full! Please remember to bring $10 (check or cash) to your next MC, and please let a pastor know if you cannot afford the book so we can provide one for you. We’ll start the second week of February!

On behalf of the Pastors,

Aaron Beane

 

The post Upcoming MC Book Study appeared first on Grace City Church Wilmington.]]>
Each Step an Arrival in 2022 https://gracecityilm.org/each-step-an-arrival-in-2022/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=each-step-an-arrival-in-2022 Mon, 27 Dec 2021 14:32:52 +0000 https://gracecityilm.org/?p=215923 The year (2021) has run parallel with our Genesis sermon series. We began that series November 2020, and here we are going into 2022 still trekking the rough, and often times dangerous, terrain of this book of beginnings. I feel very strongly that this series will shape our future together. The reason I say that […]

The post Each Step an Arrival in 2022 appeared first on Grace City Church Wilmington.]]>
The year (2021) has run parallel with our Genesis sermon series. We began that series November 2020, and here we are going into 2022 still trekking the rough, and often times dangerous, terrain of this book of beginnings. I feel very strongly that this series will shape our future together. The reason I say that is because at the center of this book, we’ve learned, is a sovereign God, who is writing a story of redemption. Chapter after chapter we’ve been confronted with the ugly truth that man is broken and needs a savior, and starting in Genesis 3:15 all the way through to the end of the book we see His plan unfolding as He uses the dysfunctional family of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to bless the world, ultimately in the coming of Jesus the Messiah. We have seen so far that He is the better Adam, the better Noah, the better Abraham, the better Isaac and the better Jacob, etc.

One of our hopes as a pastoral team is captured in a quote from James Hamilton commenting on Genesis: “it’s not enough to know the story of Genesis, it’s when we begin seeing our story in His story that everything changes.” We couldn’t have said it better. This coming year, we hope and pray that as a church united to Jesus, strengthened and knit together by love, fellowship, and prayer, that the effect would be that His story would become so much more beautiful than the pitiful one we’ve been conditioned to narrate ourselves.  May the old, old story be ever new in our hearts in 2022.

Preparing for 2022

There is a term that theologians use called “means of grace.” The most effective means of grace that Christians can utilize in maturing in their relationship with God are regular bible reading, personal prayer, and reading theologically sound books.

One way to prepare for godliness in the new year is to have a plan in place. Below we have put together some thoughts and suggestions for how to cultivate healthy habits of growing in Christ. These are in no way to burden you! Many of you have likely already begun planning your new year with godly, biblical, categories in mind. But for those of you who haven’t thought about how to structure your time, this is for you.

We also have offered book recommendations from GCC’s pastor’s wives Sharon Hawkins, Michelle Earl and Andrea Beane that you can draw from if you so choose.

1. Bible Reading Plans

  • Mcheyne Bible Reading Plan: Takes you through the Bible once in a year and the Psalms twice.
  • Five Day Bible Reading Plan: Read the Bible semi-chronologically in a year, reading each day for 5 days, giving you Saturday and Sunday off, or any two days of your choosing. This plan also gives you two days to catch up, or to allow bringing other books into your reading diet.
  • Grant Horner’s Bible Reading Plan: This is not for the faint of heart! In this plan you will read ten chapters from 4 different books of the Bible each day. I have tried this before, but failed. But it promises to be a great plan if you desire the intake of a lot of Scripture.
  • The Bible Recap: This is a bible reading plan that goes through the bible chronologically. Each day you’ll read the scripture assigned to you, and then you’ll listen to a short 8-minute podcast that will highlight and summarize that day’s reading. You’ll not only read through the bible in a year, you’ll love doing it. Many of our ladies already are using this method.

2. Cultivating Your Prayer Life

Apart from the daily habit of hearing God speak to us through His word, we also want to encourage you to speak back to Him in prayer. Below are some helpful tips to cultivate your prayer life.

  1. Use a list by utilizing index cards. Take each card and make it a separate category to pray about. Very simple, and you can keep your index cards near the same place you read your bible. This plan is described here.
  2. Concentric circles. Closest relationships first, then extended family, friends, then Grace City Church, co-workers, neighbors around you, the city of Wilmington, global missions, etc. This is one way to utilize your list, and of course you don’t have to pray about everything on the same day–you can space it out throughout the week.
  3. Use the Word of God. Pray the Word of God over the people in your life. This will keep your prayers from being merely repetitive. Read the word of God first. Meditate on it. Pray on it. Then pray what God shows you from the word for the people that are appointed to be prayed for that day.
  4. General and specific prayers. A general prayer may go something Like “draw the city of Wilmington to Yourself Jesus,” and a specific prayer may be “Lord please draw Tim to Yourself as I share about Jesus with him.”
  5. Be quiet. Be silent after reading Scripture and think about how God wants to answer your prayers in light of what you’ve read.

3. Create a Book List for 2021

Aside from the daily habits of hearing God speak to us from His word and us talking back to Him in prayer, it’s also a healthy habit to think through where you are now and where you’d like to be spiritually. Reading good, theologically sound books is one way to cultivate personal discipleship. One way to do this is to pray about where you feel God wants you to grow this coming year and then put a book list together. For instance, if this past year you really wanted to grow in Evangelism, I would suggest a book list like this:

Or if parenting was tough, or marriage needs attending you could choose a book as a married couple and read it together. Remember you can do it anyway that best fits your life, the most important goal is growth in godliness. We recommend using this site for choosing good books to read, and always feel the freedom to ask your pastors for good book recommendations if you get stuck.

Also, what squeezes the most juice out of any book is being able to share with others. So, pick someone within GCC and ask if they’d like to read a book together, or spend time over coffee sharing what you’re learning in the book you’ve been reading.

Book Recommendations from Sharon, Michelle and Andrea

Sharon: 

Michelle:

Andrea:

4. Time Management

Lastly, we know that time management (how to prioritize and best use your time) is very difficult. We are so distracted. Below are three helpful resources to look at that have benefitted your pastors.

Well dear church, this blog post is long, but we do pray that it serves you as you prepare to enter 2022. This new year we desire nothing more for you than to see you grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ together!

On behalf of the pastors,

Aaron Beane

 

 

 

The post Each Step an Arrival in 2022 appeared first on Grace City Church Wilmington.]]>
Easter Sunday: Such Amazing Resurrection Love https://gracecityilm.org/easter-sunday-such-amazing-resurrection-love/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=easter-sunday-such-amazing-resurrection-love Sun, 04 Apr 2021 10:14:12 +0000 https://gracecityilm.org/?p=215590 “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have […]

The post Easter Sunday: Such Amazing Resurrection Love appeared first on Grace City Church Wilmington.]]>
“For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” (John 10:17–18)

Why does Jesus say this? Why does he stress his willingness to die? Because if it weren’t true—if his death were forced on him, if it weren’t free, if his heart weren’t really in it—then a big question mark would be put over his love for us.

The depth of his love is in its freedom. If he didn’t die for us willingly—if he didn’t choose the suffering and embrace it—then how deep is his love, really? So he stresses it. He makes it explicit. It comes out of me, not out of circumstances, not out of pressure, but out of what I really long to do.

Jesus is stressing to us that his love for us is free. He seems to hear some enemy slander saying, “Jesus doesn’t really love you. He’s a mercenary. He’s in it for some other reason than love. He’s under some kind of constraint or external compulsion. He doesn’t really want to die for you. He’s just got himself somehow into this job and has to submit to the forces controlling him.” Jesus seems to hear something like that, or anticipate it. And he responds, “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again.” So he is pressing this on us to see if we will believe his protest of love, or if we will believe the opposite—that his heart is really not in this.

Anybody who makes a statement like that is either mentally deranged, or lying, or God. I have authority from inside death, as a dead man, to take life back again, when I please. Now what’s the point here? Well, which is harder: to control when you die, or to give yourself life again once you are dead? Which is harder: to say, “I lay my life down on my own initiative”? Or to say, “I will take my life back again after I am dead”?

The answer is obvious. And that’s the point. If Jesus could—and did—take his life back again from the dead, then he was free indeed. If he controlled when he came out of the grave, he certainly controlled when he went into the grave.

So here’s the point. The resurrection of Jesus is given to us as the confirmation or evidence that he was indeed free in laying down his life. And so the resurrection is Christ’s testimony to the freedom of his love.

The Meaning of Easter

Of all the great things that Easter means, it also means this: it is a mighty “I meant it!” behind Christ’s death. I meant it! I was free. You see how free I am? You see how much power and authority I have? I was able to avoid it. I have power to take up my life out of the grave. And could I not, then, have devastated my enemies and escaped the cross?

My resurrection is a shout over my love for my sheep: It was free! It was free! I chose it. I embraced it. I was not caught. I was not cornered. Nothing can constrain me to do what I do not choose to do. I had power to take my life from death. And I have taken my life from death. How much more, then, could I have kept my life from death!

I am alive to show you that I really loved you. I freely loved you. Nobody forced me to it. And I am now alive to spend eternity loving you with omnipotent resurrection love forever and ever.

Come to me, all you sinners who need a Savior. And I will forgive you and accept you and love you with all my heart forevermore.

[This post is taken from John Piper’s book, Love to the Uttermost, also available here.]

 

The post Easter Sunday: Such Amazing Resurrection Love appeared first on Grace City Church Wilmington.]]>
Saturday: A Holy Week Volcano https://gracecityilm.org/saturday-a-holy-week-volcano/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=saturday-a-holy-week-volcano Sat, 03 Apr 2021 10:14:12 +0000 https://gracecityilm.org/?p=215588 Now the men who were holding Jesus in custody were mocking him as they beat him. They also blindfolded him and kept asking him, “Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?” And they said many other things against him, blaspheming him. (Luke 22:63–65) As I read these terrible words, I found myself saying to Jesus, […]

The post Saturday: A Holy Week Volcano appeared first on Grace City Church Wilmington.]]>
Now the men who were holding Jesus in custody were mocking him as they beat him. They also blindfolded him and kept asking him, “Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?” And they said many other things against him, blaspheming him. (Luke 22:63–65)

As I read these terrible words, I found myself saying to Jesus, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry, Jesus. Forgive me!” I felt myself to be an actor here, not just a spectator. I was so much a part of that ugly gang that I knew I was as guilty as they were. I felt that if the rage of God should spill over onto those soldiers and sweep me away, too, justice would have been done. I wasn’t there, but their sin was my sin. It would not have been unjust for me to fall under their sentence.

Has it ever bothered you that sometimes in the Old Testament when one man sins, many get swept away in the punishment God brings? For example, when David sinned by taking a census of the people (2 Samuel 24:10), “there died of the people from Dan to Beersheba 70,000 men” (2 Samuel 24:15). In another example, Achan kept some of the booty from Jericho and his whole family was stoned (Joshua 7:25). Maybe my experience in reading Luke 22 is a clue to the divine justice in this.

My Volcanic Rebellion

An analogy came to my mind. The hearts of humanity are like a molten mantle beneath the surface of the whole earth. The molten lava beneath the earth is the universal wickedness of the human heart—the rebellion against God and the selfishness toward people. Here and there a volcano of rebellion bursts forth which God sees fit to judge immediately. He may do so by causing the scorching, destructive lava to flow not only down the mountain which erupted, but also across the valleys which did not erupt, but which have the same molten lava of sin beneath the surface.

The reason I confess the sin of beating Jesus, even though I wasn’t there, is that the same lava of rebellion is in my own heart. I have seen enough of it to know. So even though it does not burst forth in such a volcanic atrocity as the crucifixion, it is still deserving of judgment. If God had chosen to rain the lava of their evil back on their own heads and some of it consumed even me, I would not be able to fault God’s justice.

We may wonder why God chooses to recompense some evils immediately and not others. And we may wonder how he decides whom to sweep away in the judgment. Why seventy thousand? Why not fifty thousand, or one hundred, or ten? Why Achan’s wife and not the greedy neighbor two tents down? I doubt that answers are available to us now. We are left to trust that these decisions come from a Wisdom so great that it can discern all possible effects in all possible times and places and people. How widely the lava of one person’s rebellion and judgment will flow lies in God’s hands alone.

And I believe from Romans 8:28 that, even though the lava of recompense overtakes me at a distance from the volcano, there is mercy in it. I do not deserve to escape, for I know my own heart. But I trust Christ, and so I know the judgment will be turned to joy. Though he slay me, yet will I trust him. For precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.

[This post is taken from John Piper’s book, Love to the Uttermost, also available here.]

 

The post Saturday: A Holy Week Volcano appeared first on Grace City Church Wilmington.]]>
Good Friday: What Good Friday is All About https://gracecityilm.org/good-friday-what-good-friday-is-all-about/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=good-friday-what-good-friday-is-all-about Fri, 02 Apr 2021 10:14:34 +0000 https://gracecityilm.org/?p=215586 Consequently, he [Jesus] is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. (Hebrews 7:25) The great passion of the writer of Hebrews is that we “draw near” to God (Hebrews 4:16; 7:25; 10:22; 11:6). Draw near to his throne to […]

The post Good Friday: What Good Friday is All About appeared first on Grace City Church Wilmington.]]>
Consequently, he [Jesus] is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. (Hebrews 7:25)

The great passion of the writer of Hebrews is that we “draw near” to God (Hebrews 4:16; 7:25; 10:22; 11:6). Draw near to his throne to find all the help we need. Draw near to him, confident that he will reward us with all that he is for us in Jesus. And this is clearly what he means in Hebrews 10:22, because verse 19 says that we have confidence “to enter the holy place,” that is, the new heavenly “holy of holies,” like that inner room in the old tabernacle of the Old Testament where the high priest met with God once a year, and where his glory descended on the ark of the covenant.

So the one command, the one exhortation, that we are given in Hebrews 10:19–22 is to draw near to God. The great aim of this writer is that we get near God, that we have fellowship with him, that we not settle for a Christian life at a distance from God, that God not be a distant thought, but a near and present reality, that we experience what the old Puritans called communion with God.

This drawing near is not a physical act. It’s not building a tower of Babel, by your achievements, to get to heaven. It’s not necessarily going into a church building, or walking to an altar at the front. It is an invisible act of the heart. You can do it while standing absolutely still, or while lying in a hospital bed, or while sitting in a pew listening to a sermon.

Drawing near is not moving from one place to another. It is a directing of the heart into the presence of God who is as distant as the holy of holies in heaven, and yet as near as the door of faith. He is commanding us to come, to approach him, to draw near to him.

The Center of the Gospel

In fact, this is the very heart of the entire New Testament gospel, isn’t it? That Christ came into the world to make a way for us to come to God without being consumed in our sin by his holiness.

  • “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18).
  • “For through him [Christ] we both have access in one Spirit to the Father” (Ephesians 2:18).
  • “We also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation” (Romans 5:11).

This is the center of the gospel—this is what the Garden of Gethsemane and Good Friday are all about—that God has done astonishing and costly things to draw us near. He has sent his Son to suffer and to die so that through him we might draw near. It’s all so that we might draw near. And all of this is for our joy and for his glory.

He does not need us. If we stay away he is not impoverished. He does not need us in order to be happy in the fellowship of the Trinity. But he magnifies his mercy by giving us free access through his Son, in spite of our sin, to the one Reality that can satisfy us completely and forever, namely, himself. “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).

[This post is taken from John Piper’s book, Love to the Uttermost, also available here.]

 

The post Good Friday: What Good Friday is All About appeared first on Grace City Church Wilmington.]]>
Maundy Thursday: Thursday of the Commandment https://gracecityilm.org/maundy-thursday-thursday-of-the-commandment/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=maundy-thursday-thursday-of-the-commandment Thu, 01 Apr 2021 10:14:01 +0000 https://gracecityilm.org/?p=215584 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” (John 13:34) Today is Maundy Thursday. The name comes from the Latin mandatum, the first word in the Latin rendering of John 13:34, “A new commandment (mandatum novum) I give […]

The post Maundy Thursday: Thursday of the Commandment appeared first on Grace City Church Wilmington.]]>
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” (John 13:34)

Today is Maundy Thursday. The name comes from the Latin mandatum, the first word in the Latin rendering of John 13:34, “A new commandment (mandatum novum) I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” This commandment was given by Jesus on the Thursday before his crucifixion. So Maundy Thursday is the “Thursday of the Commandment.”

This is the commandment: “love one another: just as I have loved you.” But what about Galatians 5:14? “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” If the whole law is fulfilled in “Love your neighbor as yourself,” what more can “Love one another as Christ loved you” add to the fulfillment of the whole law?

I would say that Jesus did not replace or change the commandment, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” He filled it out and gave it clear illustration. He is saying,

Here is what I mean by “as yourself.” Watch me. I mean: Just as you would want someone to set you free from certain death, so you should set them free from certain death. That is how I am now loving you. My suffering and death is what I mean by ‘as yourself.’ You want life. Live to give others life. At any cost.

So John says, “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers” (1 John 3:16). Was Jesus loving us “as he loved himself”? Listen to Ephesians 5:29–30, “No one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.”

In the horrors of his suffering, Christ was sustained “by the joy that was set before him” (Hebrews 12:2). And that joy was the everlasting gladness of his redeemed people, satisfied in the presence of the risen king. Therefore, let us see the greatest love in action on Maundy Thursday and tomorrow on Good Friday. “Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (John 13:1). He loved us to the uttermost. And let us be so moved by this love that it becomes our own. “He laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.” This is the commandment. This is the Thursday.

[This post is taken from John Piper’s book, Love to the Uttermost, also available here.]

 

 

The post Maundy Thursday: Thursday of the Commandment appeared first on Grace City Church Wilmington.]]>
Wednesday: Why Jesus is All-Trustworthy https://gracecityilm.org/wednesday-why-jesus-is-all-trustworthy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=wednesday-why-jesus-is-all-trustworthy Wed, 31 Mar 2021 10:14:24 +0000 https://gracecityilm.org/?p=215582 “I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he.” (John 13:19) Jesus himself taught that all the prophecies about him would be fulfilled. In other words, we have a testimony, not only that the writers themselves saw Jesus’s life as fulfillment […]

The post Wednesday: Why Jesus is All-Trustworthy appeared first on Grace City Church Wilmington.]]>
“I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he.” (John 13:19)

Jesus himself taught that all the prophecies about him would be fulfilled. In other words, we have a testimony, not only that the writers themselves saw Jesus’s life as fulfillment of prophecy, but that Jesus did, too.

For example, in Luke 22:37, Jesus says, “I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment” (see Isaiah 53:12). Jesus saw that the predictions of the Messiah and his sufferings would be fulfilled in himself.

Jesus took up the principle of John 13:19 and foretold numerous details of what was going to happen to him so that we might believe when they happened. “He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again” (Mark 8:31). Jesus saw the predictions of the Messiah and his sufferings being fulfilled in himself.

  • He foresaw that his death would be by crucifixion (John 3:14; 12:32).
  • He predicted that the disciples would find an unridden colt when they entered the town (Luke 19:30).
  • When the disciples entered Jerusalem that last Thursday, he predicted they would meet a man with the water pitcher who would have a room for them to meet in (Luke 22:10).
  • After three years of waiting, he knew the exact hour of his departure out of the world (John 13:1).
  • Jesus knew that he would be betrayed, and who would betray him, and when it would happen (John 6:64; 13:1; Matthew 26:2, 21).
  • He knew and predicted the fact and the time of Peter’s three denials (Matthew 26:34).
  • Jesus predicted that the disciples would all fall away and be scattered (Matthew 26:31; John 16:32; Zechariah 13:7).
  • Jesus prophesied that he would be “lifted up from the earth” (John 12:32). That is, he would not be stoned but crucified—not by Jews but by Romans. So the decisions of Pilate and the Jews of how to dispose of him were a fulfillment of his prediction.

He makes all these predictions, according to John 13:19, so that we would believe he is God, that what he says about himself is true.

In other words, Jesus is saying, “If you are struggling to believe that I am the promised Messiah, that I am the one who was in the beginning with God and was God (John 1:1), that I am the divine Son of God, who can forgive all your sins and give you eternal life and guide you on the path to heaven, then I want to help you believe. And one of the ways I am going to help you have well-grounded faith is by telling you what is going to happen to me before it happens, so that when it happens, you will have good reason to believe in me.”

[This post is taken from John Piper’s book, Love to the Uttermost, also available here.]

 

The post Wednesday: Why Jesus is All-Trustworthy appeared first on Grace City Church Wilmington.]]>
Tuesday: Depth of Love for Us https://gracecityilm.org/tuesday-depth-of-love-for-us/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=tuesday-depth-of-love-for-us Tue, 30 Mar 2021 10:14:31 +0000 https://gracecityilm.org/?p=215577 While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6–8) As I […]

The post Tuesday: Depth of Love for Us appeared first on Grace City Church Wilmington.]]>
While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6–8)

As I have pondered the love of Christ for us, and the different ways that the Bible presents it to us, I have seen four ways that the depth of Christ’s love is revealed.

First, we know the depth of someone’s love for us by what it costs him. If he sacrifices his life for us, it assures us of deeper love than if he only sacrifices a few bruises. So we will see the depth of Christ’s love by the greatness of what it cost him.

Second, we know the depth of someone’s love for us by how little we deserve it. If we have treated him well all our life, and have done all that he expects of us, then when he loves us, it will not prove as much love as it would if he loved us when we had offended him, and shunned him, and disdained him. The more undeserving we are, the more amazing and deep is his love for us. So we will see the depth of Christ’s love in relation to how undeserving are the objects of his love (Romans 5:5–8).

Third, we know the depth of someone’s love for us by the greatness of the benefits we receive in being loved. If we are helped to pass an exam, we will feel loved in one way. If we are helped to get a job, we will feel loved another way. If we are helped to escape from an oppressive captivity and given freedom for the rest of our life, we will feel loved another way. And if we are rescued from eternal torment and given a place in the presence of God with fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore, we will know a depth of love that surpasses all others (1 John 3:1–3). So we will see the depth of Christ’s love by the greatness of the benefits we receive in being loved by him.

Fourth, we know the depth of someone’s love for us by the freedom with which they love us. If a person does good things for us because someone is making him, when he doesn’t really want to, then we don’t think the love is very deep. Love is deep in proportion to its liberty. So if an insurance company pays you $40,000 because you lose your spouse, you don’t usually marvel at how much this company loves you. There were legal constraints. But if your Sunday School class makes all your meals for a month after your spouse dies, and someone calls you every day, and visits you every week, then you call it love, because they don’t have to do this. It is free and willing. So we will see the depth of Christ’s love for us in his freedom: “No one takes my life from me; I lay it down of my own accord” (John 10:18).

To push this truth to the limit, let me quote for you a psalm that the New Testament applies to Jesus (Hebrews 10:9). It refers to his coming into the world to offer himself as a sacrifice for sin: “I delight to do your will, O my God” (Psalm 40:8). The ultimate freedom is joy. He rejoiced to do his redeeming work for us. The physical pain of the cross did not become physical pleasure. But Jesus was sustained through it all by joy. He really, really wanted to save us. To gather for himself a happy, holy, praising people. He displayed his love like a husband yearning for a beloved bride (Ephesians 5:25–33).

[This post is taken from John Piper’s book, Love to the Uttermost, also available here.]

 

The post Tuesday: Depth of Love for Us appeared first on Grace City Church Wilmington.]]>