Monthly Archives: February 2010

Psalm 34

Psalm 34:1-22 (NIV)

Of David. When he pretended to be insane before Abimelech, who drove him away, and he left.

I will extol the LORD at all times;
his praise will always be on my lips.
My soul will boast in the LORD;
let the afflicted hear and rejoice.
Glorify the LORD with me;
let us exalt his name together.

I sought the LORD, and he answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant;
their faces are never covered with shame.
This poor man called, and the LORD heard him;
he saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him,
and he delivers them.

Taste and see that the LORD is good;
blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.
Fear the LORD, you his saints,
for those who fear him lack nothing.
The lions may grow weak and hungry,
but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.

Come, my children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the LORD.
Whoever of you loves life
and desires to see many good days,
keep your tongue from evil
and your lips from speaking lies.
Turn from evil and do good;
seek peace and pursue it.

The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous
and his ears are attentive to their cry;
the face of the LORD is against those who do evil,
to cut off the memory of them from the earth.

The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them;
he delivers them from all their troubles.
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

A righteous man may have many troubles,
but the LORD delivers him from them all;
he protects all his bones,
not one of them will be broken.

Evil will slay the wicked;
the foes of the righteous will be condemned.
The LORD redeems his servants;
no one will be condemned who takes refuge in him.

Relaxed and comfortable?

 

Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple.   And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it?   For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him,   saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’
“Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand?   If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace.   In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.
“Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?   It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out.
“He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

Large crowds were travelling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it?   For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’

“Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.

“Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out.

 

“He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

 

Luke 14:25-34 (NIV)

 

I strongly recommend listening to Peter Jensen’s address to CMS Summer School (2007) on this passage. 

Human Wisdom

In this world we’re under pressure to believe that human rationality is the pinnacle of wisdom and the measure by which religion (and the bible) is to be judged. The bible tells us, however, that without God there is no wisdom, only facts:

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. Proverbs 9:10 (NIV)

Christians understand this, but we still have a tendency to mix in the messages of the world – our self-worth, our strength, our will, our freedom, our rights, etc – with God’s wisdom, ending up with a poor version of knowing and serving God that ultimately short-changes us. For instance, we sing songs that say ‘Jesus, I’ll never leave you’, when the truth is more in line with Keith Green’s lyric ‘I know that I would surely fall away, except for grace, by which I’m saved’.

Another example is something that a Christian friend said recently, along the lines of “People don’t love others because they don’t love themselves – they need to love themselves first before they can love others”. This saying probably has a degree of truth in it, but if we were to follow this advice to its logical conclusion, it would take us inside ourselves, to focus on loving ourselves more so that we can love others. The bible has an altogether different view:

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Saviour of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgement, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother. 1 John 4:7-21

So where does love come from? From loving ourselves or being confident of our self-worth? No, from God. How do we love others? By being born of God and knowing God. If we don’t love, what should we do? Know God. What is love? God loving those who do not love Him (other passages call us ‘enemies’ of God) and sacrificing His son so that those enemies can be in relationship with Him. And how do we know God?

My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. Proverbs 2:1-5

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God. Colossians 9:10

“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Tim 3:14-17

John Piper points out that we often expect God to love us by ‘making much of us’, ie. that we want or expect love that puts us on a pedestal. But because God is God, the most loving thing He can do for us is ‘to make much of Himself’ and point us to Him, because walking through this life looking ourselves makes as much sense as visiting an art gallery and walking around looking at the floor rather than the pictures. The single most loving thing God can do for us is to point us to Himself, and the single most valuable thing we can do in response is to gaze into Him:

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42

If we leave all the human wisdom behind and sit at the feet of Jesus, soaking up His word and gazing into the Lord’s face, this gets stripped away. But something interesting happens here, something we don’t expect. By gazing at the Lord’s holiness we are convicted of our sinfulness but are not downtrodden because we also see God’s love, faithfulness and plan for us.

For everything that was written in the past [the Scriptures] was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Romans 15:4

Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. 2 Peter 1:2

God does not provide us with a legalistic ‘you’re worthless’ view of the world, He tells us the truth, – that:

  • we are desperately sinful beyond our understanding and can in no way make ourselves acceptable to Him,
  • that we can and must be reconciled to Him through his free gift of grace, and then to
  • focus on Him so that we can experience the magnitude of his grace and love, learning to love Him

In doing so we won’t attempt to find heaven here but look forward to the the real heaven, where all things will be restored. For Jesus called us to fullness – “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10). Anything else is a half-baked compromise.

Can I therefore encourage us to commit ourselves to prayer, that God would give us:

  • wisdom
  • a heart to read, learn and know His word,
  • a heart to pray to Him, and
  • a heart to share His word with each other and others we know?

On that basis, and sharing the Lord’s word with each other, rather than homilies, we can renew our minds so that we:

“… not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2

Transformed! This is not being a little different to everyone else, it’s being transformed. By God’s power to become utterly, totally and dramatically different to the people we were. In the previous verse (Rom 12:1), we’re ‘urged’ that “in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship”. Living sacrifices! Nothing of me, and all of Him.

At what point should we be content with our Christian walk? Surely we are to go deeper and deeper into the Lord’s love all of our days. Where is the limit of “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”? (Deut 6:5). I cannot see one. But this is not to be a discouragement but instead an encouragement to press on:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons:

 “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.”

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed. Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. Hebrews 12:1-11

So yes, we have the freedom to share human wisdom with each other, but what a waste of our time together. Let’s commit ourselves to knowing God and making Him known to each other, speaking the very words of the LORD to each other so that we can be transformed.

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgements, and his paths beyond tracing out!

“Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?”
“Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?”

 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen. Romans 11:33-34

 My prayer for myself is that I can also live up to what we are called to.

Finally, here a some valuable sermons that have instructed me on these topics. I encourage you to listen to them.

John Piper on A Generation Passionate for Gods Holiness

Matt Chandler on The Path series (particularly 1, 2 and 3)

Mark Driscoll on 1 John 1:1-4 and 1 John 1:5:2:2

What Jesus demands from the world

I’ve benefited greatly from John Piper’s desiring God ministry, and have just discovered another book of his that I’m looking forward to getting into.

It’s called What Jesus demands from the world and in it John has collected 48 demands (commands) from Jesus in the Gospels. The demands John identifies are:

 You must be born again

 Repent

 Come to me

 Believe in me

 Love me

 Listen to me

 Abide in me

 Take up your cross and follow me

Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength

Rejoice and leap for joy

Fear Him who can destroy both soul and body in hell

Worship God in spirit and truth

Always pray and do not lose heart

Do not be anxious about the necessities of daily life

Do not be anxious about the threats of man

Humble yourself by making war on pride

Humble yourself in childlikeness, servanthood and brokenhearted boldness

Do not be angry – trust God’s providence

Do not be angry – embrace mercy and forgiveness

Do the will of my Father who is in heaven – be justified by trusting Jesus

Do the will of my Father who is in heaven – be transformed by trusting Jesus

Strive to enter through the narrow door for all of life is war

Strive to enter through the narrow door for Jesus fulfills the new covenant
Strive to enter through the narrow door, for you are already in the kingdom’s power
Your righteousness must exceed that of the pharisees, for it was hypocritical and ugly
Your righteousness must exceed that of the pharisees – clean the inside of the cup
Your righteousness must exceed that of the pharisees, for every healthy tree bears good fruit
Love your enemies – lead them to the truth
Love your enemies – pray for those who abuse you
Love your enemies – do good to those who hate you, give to the one who asks
Love your enemies to show that you are children of God
Love your neighbor as yourself, for this is the law and the prophets
Love your neighbor with the same commitment you have to your own well-being
Love your neighbor as yourself and as Jesus loved us
Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven by giving sacrificially and generously
Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven and increase your joy in Jesus
Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven – “it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom”
Do not take an oath – cherish the truth and speak it simply
Do not take an oath – let what you say – be simply “yes” or “no”
What God has joined together let no man separate, for marriage mirrors God’s covenant with us
What God has joined together let no man separate, for whoever divorces and marries another commits adultery
What God has joined together let no man separate – one man, one woman, by grace, till death
Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s
Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s as an act of rendering to God what is God’s
Do this in remembrance of me, for i will build my church
Do this in remembrance of me – baptize disciples and eat the lord’s supper
Let your light shine before others that they may glorify your Father who is in heaven
Let your light shine before others – the joyful sacrifice of love in suffering
Make disciples of all nations, for all authority belongs to Jesus
Make disciples of all nations, for the mission cannot fail

Strive to enter through the narrow door for Jesus fulfills the new covenant

Strive to enter through the narrow door, for you are already in the kingdom’s power

Your righteousness must exceed that of the pharisees, for it was hypocritical and ugly

Your righteousness must exceed that of the pharisees – clean the inside of the cup

Your righteousness must exceed that of the pharisees, for every healthy tree bears good fruit

Love your enemies – lead them to the truth

Love your enemies – pray for those who abuse you

Love your enemies – do good to those who hate you, give to the one who asks

Love your enemies to show that you are children of God

Love your neighbor as yourself, for this is the law and the prophets

Love your neighbor with the same commitment you have to your own well-being

Love your neighbor as yourself and as Jesus loved us

Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven by giving sacrificially and generously

Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven and increase your joy in Jesus

Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven – “it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom”

Do not take an oath – cherish the truth and speak it simply

Do not take an oath – let what you say – be simply “yes” or “no”

What God has joined together let no man separate, for marriage mirrors God’s covenant with us

What God has joined together let no man separate, for whoever divorces and marries another commits adultery

What God has joined together let no man separate – one man, one woman, by grace, till death

Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s

Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s as an act of rendering to God what is God’s

Do this in remembrance of me, for I will build my church

Do this in remembrance of me – baptize disciples and eat the Lord’s supper

Let your light shine before others that they may glorify your Father who is in heaven

Let your light shine before others – the joyful sacrifice of love in suffering

Make disciples of all nations, for all authority belongs to Jesus

Make disciples of all nations, for the mission cannot fail

  As John Piper says, “the aim of this book is God-glorifying obedience to Jesus”, but note Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:28–30:

 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (NIV)

And from John 10:10:

 I have come that they [= you] may have life, and have it to the full.

 In Jesus’ demands we won’t find harsh rules that we must obey to obtain salvation – that would be religion, the false hope of trying to change ourselves to somehow become acceptable to God. No, in Jesus’ commands we find life, forgiveness and friendship with God, freely given to us through Jesus death on the cross, his offer of salvation sealed by his rising from the dead.

And once we are in relationship with God, we have His strength through His Spirit to become more like Him by following Jesus’ commands for us, noting stern warnings for those who think a relationship with God means saying sorry once and continuing to live as we see fit:

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. 1 John 1:5-7

The man who says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did. 1 John 2:4-6

So whether you’re already a friend of Jesus’ or not, I encourage you to discover what Jesus demands from us.  What Jesus demands from the world can be freely downloaded here.

A call to action

As Christians we often fail to comprehend both our sinfulness and God’s holiness. In turn we can lack appreciation for Jesus’ sacrifice and believe that the world is basically okay. We’re pleased with what little we do for God and boast of it, and believe that we are free to enjoy this life as we see fit.

 

Instead we need to understand the great depth of our sin and the sheer majesty and perfection of God’s holiness. We are undeserving recipients of God’s amazing grace, the grace that the world desperately needs to hear and respond to. In response to this free gift we are called to be servants, sharing the great news, spurring each other to run the good race and boasting in nothing but the Lord. As we do so and set our minds on Him, we ache for the restoration of all things – God’s judgement on sin and the redemption of those He has called.

 

Below I’ve copied twenty five or so passages on these topics that we as Christians will hopefully benefit from reading, meditating on and praying through, having first prayed that the Lord would speak to us through his word.

 

There’s a lot here, so take your time and if you don’t see the point in a particular passage – I’ve avoided the temptation to write any notes with each passage – skip it and return to it later. You also might find it helpful to print this list out and make notes on each passage.

 

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1 Corinthians 15:1–8 (ESV)
 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 

 

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Romans 3:9–21 (ESV)
For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

 

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Ephesians 2:1–10 (ESV)
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

 

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1 Kings 19:9–14 (ESV)
There [Elijah] came to a cave and lodged in it. And behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and he said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He said, “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

 

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Isaiah 44:6–8 (ESV)
Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: “I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god. Who is like me? Let him proclaim it. Let him declare and set it before me, since I appointed an ancient people. Let them declare what is to come, and what will happen. Fear not, nor be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it? And you are my witnesses! Is there a God besides me? There is no Rock; I know not any.”

 

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Revelation 1:12–18 (ESV)
Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.

 

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Isaiah 6:1–8 (ESV)
In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”

 

And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.” 

 

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1 John 2:15–17 (ESV)
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

 

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Matthew 6:1–4 (ESV)
[Jesus:]  “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

 

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Luke 18:9–30 (ESV)
He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

 

Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” 

 

And a ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’ ”  And he said, “All these I have kept from my youth.”  When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. Jesus, seeing that he had become sad, said, “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” Those who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?” But he said, “What is impossible with men is possible with God.” And Peter said, “See, we have left our homes and followed you.” And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.”

 

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Luke 17:7–11 (ESV)
[Jesus:]  “Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’ “

 

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Acts 20:22–27 (ESV)
And now, behold, I [Paul] am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again. Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all of you, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.

 

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Philippians 1:18–26 (ESV)
Yes, and I will rejoice, for I [Paul] know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.

 

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Matthew 16:24–27 (ESV)
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.

 

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Matthew 13:44–46 (ESV)
[Jesus:] “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.

 

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Matthew 25:14–30 (ESV)
[Jesus:]  “For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money.

 

Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’  He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents.

 

For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

 

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1 Corinthians 3:10–15 (ESV)
According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I [Paul] laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

 

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Luke 12:22–31 (ESV)

And [Jesus] said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.

 

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Matthew 6:19–21 (ESV)
[Jesus:] “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

 

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Luke 10:38–42 (ESV)
Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

 

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Mark 4:1–20 (ESV)
Again [Jesus] began to teach beside the sea. And a very large crowd gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat in it on the sea, and the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land. And he was teaching them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it. Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” And he said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

 

And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, so that “they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand, lest they should turn and be forgiven.” And he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables? The sower sows the word. And these are the ones along the path, where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them. And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy. And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away. And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.”

 

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1 Peter 1:13–25 (ESV)
Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

 

And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.

 

He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you.

 

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2 Timothy 3:14–4:1 (ESV)
 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it  and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

 

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Hebrews 12:1-13

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

 

Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?

 

     “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,

          nor be weary when reproved by him.

     For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,

         and chastises every son whom he receives.”

 

It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

 

Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.

 

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Romans 12:1–2 (ESV)
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

 

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1 Peter 1:8–9 (ESV)
Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

 

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Psalm 23 (ESV)
1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
3 He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
forever.

Psalm 23:1-6 (ESV) 

 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.  

 He makes me lie down in green pastures.

 He leads me beside still waters.

 He restores my soul.

 He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil,

    for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;

    you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,

    and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

 

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Revelation 21:1–4 (ESV)
Then I [John, seeing a vision] saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

 

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Hopefully God’s word has made an impact on us – if not, I suspect that we’re taking God seriously enough. Lives that have been transformed by the renewing of our mind do not look like untransformed lives. Nor are we going to understand and become more like Christ in our own strength – we need to pray for repentance, encouragement, strength and a heart for Him.

 

I would also encourage you to:

  • listen to Matt Chandler’s sermon series called ‘The Path’ which discusses the process of sanctification (the process of becoming mature & more like Christ) and is available here – http://fm.thevillagechurch.net/sermons) , and
  • read John Piper’s book Don’t Waste Your Life, available free online as a PDF.

My hope and prayer is that by God’s strength you and I can run the good race, saying ‘Here I am! Send me’ as Isaiah did and one day hear: ‘Well done, good and faithful servant’.