He is Risen: A New Old Song

We are introducing a new song in our congregational singing this month (starting this Sunday). I would like to give special attention to this song because of it’s focus on the resurrection of Jesus Christ. As we approach Easter Sunday, I pray the lyrics of this hymn text will encourage you to celebrate the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. For without the resurrection, our faith is in vain (1 Cor. 15:14-17)

I greatly value hymns of the Christian faith for both personal and corporate worship. A couple of years ago, wanting to dig a little deeper into hymnody, I purchased Our Own Hymn Book compiled by Charles Spurgeon. I began reading it as a devotional, marking texts that caught my attention. One of those was Ye Humble Souls That Seek The Lord by Phillip Doddridge. It’s a hymn encouraging believers to look to the empty tomb of Jesus Christ and joyfully celebrate his victory over death. I thought, “We should be surveying the wondrous cross AND the empty tomb!”

So I got to work on an original melody and some added choruses. I wrote, re-wrote, prayed, and so on until completing the finished product. You can read the original text HERE. The following is the version we will be singing in our gatherings (Note that I didn’t change much!)

He Is Risen
Oh, humble souls, that seek the Lord,       

Chase all your fears away;

And bow with joy your head to see

The place where Jesus lay.

Here, low the Lord of life was brought;

Such wonders love can do:

Here, cold in death his heart did lay,

Which throbbed and bled for you.

He is risen, He is risen

Weary souls rest in His name

He is Risen, He is risen

He has conquered the grave

So raise your eyes, and tune your songs,

The Savior lives again:

Not all the bolts and bars of death

Could Conqueror detain

Above angelic bands He rears

His once dishonored head;

And through unnumbered years He reigns,

Who dwelt among the dead.

The grave has no victory

death has no sting

Christ, the Lord is risen

He has set the captives free

With joy like His shall every saint

His empty tomb survey;

Then rise with His ascending Lord

To realms of endless day.

I’ll leave you with this quote from R.A. Torrey
“Gospel preachers nowadays preach the gospel of the Crucifixion, the Apostles preached the gospel of the Resurrection as well. (2 Tim. 2:8-Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead, according to my gospel.”) The Crucifixion loses its meaning without the Resurrection. Without the Resurrection the death of Christ was only the heroic death of a noble martyr; with the Resurrection it is the atoning death the Son of God. It shows that death to be of sufficient value to cover our sins, for it was the sacrifice of the Son of God.”

He is risen!
He is risen indeed!


Day 34; Hebrews 2-10

Wow!  What a Savior our Jesus is!

Today’s reading in chapters 2 through 10 of Hebrews is an exhaustive treatment of the nature of Jesus Christ and the nature of His sacrifice for our sins.  As I read through this passage, I was overcome with a sense of worship for our Lord Jesus.  It seems as though the writer of Hebrews is attempting to get his readers to come away with that same response.  He challenges his readers in verse 1 of chapter 3 to “fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess”, and then proceeds to explain what Jesus is like.  He uses analogy to compare Jesus to other figures of Israelite history, and his conclusion is that Jesus is better than all of them.  He is greater than Moses.  He is greater than Aaron.  He is greater than the high priest.  He is greater than them all.

Instead of me explaining the meaning of these passages, I want to just list a few of the verses that stood out to me, and led me to respond by worshiping and exalting this Jesus who is our great Savior.  See if the Lord does not likewise use these descriptions of His Son to elicit a response of worship from you:

2:9 – But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

2:17-18 – 17 For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. 18 Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

4:15 – For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.

7:24-25 – 24 but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. 25 Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.

9:14 – How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!

9:26b-28 – …But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, 28 so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.

10:12-14 – 12 But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. 13 Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool, 14 because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.

What a Savior this Jesus is!  What a Christ!  He who was before all things, became a sacrifice for undeserving sinners like you and I.  Let us worship this King who so willingly offered Himself for us.  Is one lifetime spent worshiping this great Messiah enough?  No, but may that be what our lives are expended doing…worshiping and glorifying the One who deserves it.  May my life (and yours) be poured out as a sacrifice of praise to the One who poured out Himself for us.

Day 26: 1 Corinthians 2 – 9

We live in a culture that is obsessed with celebrity.

A few years ago a study was conducted in which people ages 18 to 25 were surveyed to discover what their most important values were. Far and above all other values were two that tied for first among this group. They were fame and money.

The study revealed that Americans in this age bracket wanted to be rich and famous more than anything else in life. In fact, the study went on to demonstrate that they didn’t even care what they were famous for, they just wanted to be famous…and rich. Let’s not forget rich.

I often shake my head in scorn when I see leading news stories about the new hairstyle of an actress, or how one celebrity is dating another celebrity, or how some talk show host insulted another talk show host on some absurd level.

“Who cares?!” I yell at the computer screen. “We are involved in two wars, our economy is on the brink of destruction, there are millions of people without jobs who are losing their homes and this is news?!”

It makes me angry, and I am disgusted with the fact that there are entire websites, magazines, and TV shows dedicated to nothing but celebrity gossip.

The problem is that this obsession with fame and celebrity has made its way into the church as well, and I am ashamed to admit that I am just as guilty as anyone when it comes to this obsession.

We say the names of Christian “celebrities” like Matt Chandler, John Piper, John MacArthur, David Platt Francis Chan, and others with awe and reverence. We imagine them as some type of spiritual giants, and we buy their books, and listen to their pod casts, and watch their videos and hang on every word they write or utter assuming that if they have said it, then it must be absolutely true.

We forget that they are men. Mere men. They sin, they fail, and they need grace just as much as you and I do. I think they would tell you that as well.

My in-laws attend Matt Chandler’s church in Texas. In fact, they are friends of his. It’s true. Do you know how many times I’ve told people that in some ridiculous and pathetic effort to impress them? Even once is one too many.

I wonder what Paul would say to this obsession with celebrity we have in this country. Actually, we don’t have to wonder. He wrote it down for us in 1 Corinthians 3:4-7.

For when one says, ‘I follow Paul,’ and another, ‘I follow Apollos,’ are you not being merely human? What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.

I don’t know any of the men that I listed above, and in no way am I attempting to minimize or belittle the vital ministry that God is performing through them. But let’s remember that it is God who is doing the work, not them.

I also think that if I know anything of them from their sermons and books, I imagine that they are more interested in making Jesus famous than themselves.

So should we.

After all, the only one who truly deserves to be famous is the One who created, saved, and sustains us.

Let’s be obsessed with Jesus.

Day 17: John 15-19

Some of the most powerful passages in the Gospels are found in these chapters

In John 15 Christ talks about the vine and the branches, a beautiful metaphor that perfectly depicts our relationship with Him and our utter dependence upon Him.

In John 16 He talks about the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives as believers and how we are to overcome the world because of what Christ has done for us.

In John 17 we read the High Priestly Prayer of Christ, one of the only extended sessions of prayer we are given from Christ’s life. A prayer in which He cries out on our behalf, that we would share intimacy with the Father and the Son and that we would be in the world, but not of it.

In John 18-19 we read of Jesus’ mock trial and crucifixion, where He took your sins and mine on Himself and suffered God’s wrath for the glory of the Father and our deliverance.

We are wrapping up our readings in the Gospels with these chapters and preparing to enter the story of the beginning of the church in the book of Acts. We must understand that everything we know and have experienced in the history of the church is based on the stories we read in these four Gospels. Everything depends upon what we read in these last chapters.

Think about it. We know Christ and live the life of His disciples, because of what He has done as described for us in the Gospels. These are our stories as God’s people. Without them, we cannot possibly understand what it means to be a Christian.

As we read these chapters, I pray that we would let the truth and power of these stories awaken us to a deeper reverence and appreciation for what Christ has done. May His teachings and prayers, and death awaken in us a depth of worship and joy. I pray that these stories would never become “old” or so familiar that they lose their power to move us to delight in the One who loves us.

Everything else depends on the fact that what is described in these chapters is real.

Book Recommendation: Which Real “Jesus”?

NewBranch was privileged enough last month to have Dr. Steve Bateman of First Bible church in Decatur, AL speak at our 2nd missions conference. If you haven’t heard those 3 sermons I encourage you to have a listen here.

Dr. Bateman wrote a book entitled Which “Real” Jesus? Jonathan Edwards, Benjamin Franklin, and the Early American Roots of the Current Debate. Following the missions conference, I gave it a read and loved it! Let me give you a few reasons why I love it. Hopefully this will serve as an encouragement for you to pick up a copy from our resource table on Sunday mornings.

1. It’s relevant for the Christian: As Dr. Bateman points out, Jesus is under attack by a number of scholars who wish to separate the Jesus of history from the Jesus of the Bible. Also, many well known spokesmen for Atheism like Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins want to remove Jesus all together.

In this book, Dr. Bateman shows where these debates began to take root in American history, advocates of each side, and how Christians today should humbly respond to such criticisms of the real Jesus of the Bible.

2. It’s relevant for the Skeptic: There were a number of times while reading this when I thought, “I wish I had this when I was talking to _______”. I already know of 2 people I am sending this to. The book acts not only as a brief American history of the debate of the real Jesus but also as an apologetic for the Jesus of the Bible.

3. Jonathan Edwards: The book gives a great introduction to one of the most important Christians in America:

“…if any reader grows in appreciation for the remarkable contribution of Jonathan Edwards, not only to our understanding of the real Jesus but to the history of America, I will be a happier man. Jonathan Edward’s was widely viewed as America’s greatest theologian and philosopher. But he was a local pastor. not a college or seminary professor, and he took seriously his duty to prepare his congregation- people who spent their weekdays running businesses, selling products, building houses, teaching school, growing crops, administering government, and raising children to ‘contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.’” (p.3)

4. Humble Confidence: Dr. Bateman is aware of man’s pride in defending anything, even the Jesus of the Bible. The book ends with a call to humble confidence in defending the supremacy of Christ noting, “There is a direct link between humility before God and humility before people.” (p.153) We are to be humble but not ignorant, humble but not unsure, humble but not silent (p.157).

In short, I would describe this book as a great help in applying 1 Peter 3:15 to our lives: “But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect…”


Yielding, When We Should Be Going

Each morning, I drive my son to school.  It’s a great time to just hang with him, hear about what’s in store for him that day, remind him I love him. and pray with him.  On the way home there is an intersection that apparently causes some drivers to suffer temporary amnesia. Many of those who approach this intersection with the intention of making a right turn, yield instead of going ahead and turning.  Now, yielding is important because if we all drove our cars without yielding, then we’d have accidents every day; however, yielding at an intersection where you don’t have a “yield sign” is not only annoying to other drivers, it’s also dangerous.

Let me try to paint the picture for you.  These characters roll up to the intersection with their right turn signal on.  I’m coming the other way, attempting to turn left.  Without a yield sign, what are they supposed to do?  They are supposed to go ahead and turn right.  But do they do that?  No.  They stop and wait for me to turn left in front of them.  This bothers me.  I’m not sure why, but it bothers me.  I’m waiting for them to do what they’re supposed to do (turn right), and they are waiting for me to turn left.  All the while, the traffic builds up behind both of us, and then the horns begin to blare.  Not only does this annoy me, but it’s also dangerous.   Now, I’m in danger of making a hasty decision to turn left in front of oncoming traffic because the folks behind me don’t know why I’m not turning.  And consider the folks who are behind the too-cautious-to-turn-right-guy.  They’re blaring their horns trying to get this guy to see that he has the right-of-way, and should go ahead and turn right.  More than a few times, I’ve nearly collided in these situations because we both end up turning at the same time.  Nice!

All because someone decided to “yield”, when they should have been “going”.  Again, learning how to yield is an important part of driving; however, yielding when you should be going is not only annoying and dangerous….its also against the law.  When there is no yield sign, we’re supposed to “go”.

No, this post is not about my driving idiosyncrasies, and yes, these is a spiritual parallel.

We who profess to be Jesus’ disciples have been told to “Go”, but far too many of us “yield” instead. We’ve been given a command to “go and make disciples of all nations”…that is to take the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the lost people around us and partner with Him as He transforms people from living for self to living for God’s glory as a disciple of Jesus.  This means we are to “go”.  Go to our lost friends and family.  Go to our lost neighbors.  Go to the lost in our community.  Go to the lost around the world.  Go, Go, Go.

But instead of “going”, we “yield”.

Learning how to “yield” is a critical part of growing as a disciple of Jesus.  After all, it was Jesus who modeled yielding for us when He cried out to the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night he was arrested, “Father, if You are willing, take this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42).  Yielding is remembering that we are not our own, but have been bought with a price.  It is remembering that the reason for our existence is to glorify our God, not ourselves.  It is finding joy in pleasing Christ, rather than in pleasing self.  Ultimately, yielding is doing the will of the Father, not our own will.

But if the Father says “Go”, and instead we’re “yielding”…then we’re not just yielding, we’re breaking the law.

We yield for a number of reasons.  Just as the “too-cautious-to-turn-right” guy, sometimes we yield because we’re afraid.  Fearful of not saying the right things and fumbling over our own words in an attempt to share the Gospel.  Fearful of what others might think of us if we talked to them about the hope we have in Christ.  Fearful of being seen as different; of being rejected.  Other times we yield because “going” doesn’t fit into our schedule or “our plans”.  It takes us out of our comfort zone.  It requires us to change priorities.  It means we may need to give something up in order to “go”.

Regardless of the reason, our “yielding” when the Father has told us to “Go”, simply means that we are yielding to “self” instead of yielding to our God.

Friends, Jesus said, “Go”.  That’s His plan for your life.  Are you going? Or are you sitting in the turn lane, “yielding” to your plan instead?

Why Change?

Is there something about your life that you know you need to change?  I’m not talking about changing your job or changing the car you drive or anything like that.  I’m talking about the need for change inside you; something about your heart, your actions, or your behaviors.  Maybe it’s an unhealthy habit you need to stop, or an attitude that needs to change.  Perhaps there’s something you know you should be doing, but for some reason you’re not doing it.  Whether it’s a sin of commission or a sin of omission, there’s something in your life that you know needs adjustment.

Now I need to clarify at the outset that we don’t change ourselves.  Our role is to simply surrender to the work of Christ in us as He changes us.  In this post as I talk about changing, please understand that I am referring to the aspect of surrender to Christ’s lordship and His work of redemption in us, not to some human effort to effect change from within.  This post is not addressing that aspect of change; however, Joe published a post specifically addressing this last week (click here).   The question I want to pose in this post is this:  What will be your motivation to change?

Why will you change?  Will it be to improve your life, make you happier, or less stressed out?  That’s the message of our culture, and far too often it is also the message of today’s church as well.  Today we hear a lot about living your best life now and how we can be a better person, but at the end of the day, isn’t this really just self-centered motivation?  Should my fundamental reason for changing be to just improve my life or be better?

What about changing in order to serve others?  Should my motivation to change be so that I would be a better father so that my sons would be better equipped for life?  Should my motivation to change be so that I am a better witness to a lost world?  One of the cornerstones of Biblical Christianity is an “others-centeredness”, so this motivation seems to be moving in the right direction.  But even this falls short of what the Bible provides as our primary motivation.

As we’ve talked about so often, our primary purpose in life is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.  This means that the reason God created us, the very reason for our existence is to worship and exalt our Creator with our lives (2 Cor. 10:31, Is 43:7).  Every action we undertake, every attitude we exhibit, every decision we make, and every relationship in which we participate is an opportunity to display to goodness and glory of our great God.  So as we talk about a motivation for change, we must elevate our focus from improving ourselves and serving others to the ultimate motivation of glorifying God.

So, what will keep us surrendered to Christ’s work of redemption as He changes us from the inside out?  Not a self-oriented desire to be a better person or even an others-driven desire to serve people, but instead it will be a heart-driven passion to see Christ glorified in our lives.  It is knowing that as I allow Him to change me from being Ken-like to being more Christ-like, I will be able to glorify, worship, exalt, and magnify Jesus more with my life.

What about you?  Is this your fundamental motivation for change?  If not, what is?

If you want this to be your fundamental motivation, here are a couple of recommendations:

1. Pray – Ask the Lord to adjust your motivations.  Ask the Lord to give you a greater passion for His glory.  Ask Him to redirect the focus of your affections from yourself and those around you to Him.  Prayer works, and God loves to answer these kinds of prayers.

2. Read the Bible – Don’t read the Bible just to check off a “to-do list”.  Read it to encounter the living God.  As you saturate your life with His Word, you will come face to face with the nature of God.  As you get to know Him as He has divinely revealed Himself in His Word, a natural consequence will be that your love for Him and your passion for His glory will grow.