Posts Tagged ‘Cross’

By Andy Constable

Last week we were at a conference for gospel centred churches who are working in housing scheme/housing estate ministry. The conference was focused on the book of Titus and the main speakers did a great job at expounding it for the context of estate ministries. One of the things that struck me at the conference was Titus 1:1: “Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith of God’s elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness.” Duncan Forbes spoke on this passage and made a great point that we are to explain the truths (or the doctrines) of the Bible to new believers (in fact all believers) because they lead to godliness. One of the doctrines that we need to know well is the doctrine of the Trinity and its application to believers. Here are a few things that I’ve learned about this important doctrine for our lives.

Firstly, the Trinity challenges us to be gracious people. Before the world began there was no, ‘you and me’. There was no world, no stars, no galaxies, absolutely nothing. There was simply God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit in perfect harmony, unity and love. There was perfect serenity and peace. Ed Sanders calls this the ‘Happy Land’ of the Trinity. God was happy and satisfied and needed nothing else because He was and is completely sufficient in and of Himself. And then God spoke and He created this universe and, eventually, you and me. He didn’t need to, and didn’t have to, but He did because everything is an overspill of His great love. All creation is an act of grace. Our lives are an act of absolute mercy. The world and all its fullness is not something that we deserve to have but its something that God created because of His great love. This is the very core of His character.

This grace is further shown in the fact that He then sends the eternal Son to die on the cross to buy back a people that He had originally created for his glory. The cross shows what has always been at the center of God’s character – grace. Everything we have, including our salvation, is undeserved. He doesn’t need to save us. But He chose to save us because He is gracious. This challenges me deep down. We live in a culture that is inherently self-centered. We give us little as we can away and keep as much as we can for ourselves. We are to reflect a God who is constantly giving to us by giving to those around us in time, energy, and finance.

Secondly, the Trinity challenges our individualistic society. Father, Son and Holy Spirit live in perfect harmony with one another. They are one and three, three and one. God is a community. And then God created humans to reflect this community. The Trinity says to itself in Genesis 1:26: “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness…” As one famous person said: “no man is an island.” We cannot live a full life without a network of relationships around us because we are wired to be in relationships. We are created with community in our DNA. In contrast, we live in a society that tries to push people away. We live highly privatised lives and try not to share too much with those around us. This has taken root in our churches. We see each other on a Sunday and a Wednesday and try to bypass people in between. And we wonder why nearly 1 in 4 people suffer with depression and isolation? In Acts 2:42 we see the model we are called to reflect as the Apostles met regularly with the people, preached, prayed and everyone shared everything with one another. The is something that challenges my way of life and the choices I make.

Thirdly, the Trinity challenges our selfish nature. The Godhead lives to serve one another and love one another. The Son is obedient to the Father and wants to bring Him glory. The Holy Spirit wants to point people towards Christ. They don’t live to serve themselves but each other. This is a challenge to a human race that looks after number one first. We sort ourselves out first and make sure we are all right but Father, Son and Holy Spirit are other centered. They are all co-eternal and co-equal. Think about this verse from the gospel of John (chapter 17) when Jesus prays to the Father: “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.” Now think about the conversations that we have everyday. We want respect. We want glory. We want adoration. We want to serve ourselves. But Jesus Christ came to earth and wanted to glorify His Father and carry out the work that He had been given before the world even began! God’s very nature challenges us to serve and to not look to our own interests first. God’s very nature challenges us to bring Him glory alone!

The Trinity is a complex subject but at the heart of understanding as much as we can, there are deep truths that we can use to apply to our lives. Let us continue to study God’s very nature not simply so that we can know God but so that we can reflect His character in our lives. He is a gracious God who calls us to be gracious people. He is a communal God who calls us to live in community. And He is a selfless God who challenges us to be selfless people. These doctrines can change churches and housing schemes and nations.

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by Andy Constable

We live in a highly sexualised culture with a multi billion pound sex industry. In the USA, 3000 dollars per second  is spent on pornography. Sadly, this is a problem that many Christian men struggle with. They try to escape the reality of their lives through sexual fantasising. They give in to their lusts and seek fulfillment through sexual satisfaction. As a teenager, and a young adult, I struggled with pornography and I would like to share a few things that really challenged me and helped me in my battle with sexual immorality.

The first thing that jarred me was Ephesians 5:3: “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.” Paul commands Christians not to have even a hint of sexual immorality. This means that we are to be completely pure in our thoughts and actions. Any wayward look at a billboard with a sexy girl on it, any glance at a woman that is not your wife, any view of pornography or any sexual contact outside of marriage is sinful. Now, you may be thinking, ‘how does browbeating me with the law help? It only make me feel worse.’ That may well be, but the reality is that many who struggle with sexual sin don’t take the holiness of God seriously enough. Too often sexual immorality is viewed as a small sin, a private sin, something that isn’t very important. But that is a lie from Satan – the father of lies. God takes all sin very seriously. He is holy and just in all His ways and hates sin of any kind. The battle for our hearts begins by seeing that we have a big problem that we need to war with. God is the reason that we need to battle. It is improper for God’s people to be involved with impurity.

Secondly, as men we need to look to the future. One of the things that terrified me as a man of 20 was continuing to struggle with pornography into old age and turning into a dirty, old man. If we don’t battle with these habits at a young age then we will continue to have the same problem throughout our lives. We don’t grow out of pornography when we “grow up” or get married. That is another lie from Satan. The future involves, for a lot of young men, getting married and having children. If you don’t cut out porn before marriage then you will take all sorts of baggage into your marriage. Sex will be fuelled by lust and not love. Sex will be unfulfilling because your wife doesn’t ‘match up’ to the things you are watching. This will leave your wife feeling lonely and feeling like she isn’t good enough. This is heartbreaking when you think about it. The woman who you are supposed to love the most, feeling like she’s worth nothing to you. What about the impact this will have on your children? How will we raise our children with integrity if we are not matching our thoughts and actions with what we say and do? If we cannot be pure now, then how can we raise our children up into godliness?

This poem by a young woman shows the impact our addictions have on those around us:

I saved my best for you.

Other girls may have given themselves away,

But I believed in the dream.

A husband, a wife, united as one forever.

I saved my best for you.

Other girls may have given themselves away,

But I believed in the dream.

A husband, a wife, united as one forever.

Nervous, first time, needing assurance of your love,

I looked for it in your eyes

Mere inches from mine.

But what I saw made my soul run and hide….

Gone was the tenderness I’d come to know

I saw a stranger, cold and hard

Distant, evil, revolting.

I looked for love in your eyes

And my soul wept.

Who am I that you cannot make love to me?

Why do I feel as if I’m not even here?

I don’t matter.

I’m a prop in a filthy play.

Not an object of tender devotion.

Where are you?

Years pass

But the hardness in your eyes does not.

You think I’m cold

But how can I warm to eyes that are making hate to someone else

Instead of making love to me?

I know where you are.

I’ve seen the pictures.

I know now what it takes to turn you on.

Women…people like me

Tortured, humiliated, hated, used

Discarded.

Images burned into your brain.

How could you think they would not show in your eyes?

Did you ever imagine,

The first time you picked up a dirty picture

That you were dooming all intimacy between us

Shipwrecking your marriage

Breaking the heart of a wife you wouldn’t meet for many years?

You say the words, but love has no meaning in your mouth

When hatred rules in your heart.

Your cruelty has eaten up every vestige of the man

I thought I was marrying.

Did you ever dream it would so consume you

That your wife and children would live in fear of your rage?

That is what you have become

Feeding your soul on poison.

I’ve never used porn.

But it has devastated my marriage, my family, my world.

Was it worth it?

These are questions that we have to take into consideration as men! We need to stop looking to instant gratification and think about the future and how our addictions affect, now and in the future, those around us.

Thirdly, we need to begin to put practical steps in place in order to battle our sexual immorality. As with any war, we need plans, objectives and strategies. One of the things that really helped me was a book called Every Man’s Battle. The book refers toc the technique of ‘bouncing the eyes’. Instead of fixating on billboards, websites, and other women at work and in our neighbourhoods and churches, we need to learn to ‘bounce our eyes’ elsewhere. The battle for our minds starts with what we look at. We need to stop ogling, staring, and processing thoughts about other women. Other practical steps can be taken as well – cut out films that have sexually explicit material in, go to a newsagent where there isn’t an extensive porn section, and stop talking to that certain girl at church or at work. Get serious – plan, strategize, and battle!

Finally, and most importantly, we need to run to the cross. We need to confess our sinfulness. Without the help of the Holy Spirit any and all strategies are useless. We need outside help. Once we have run to Jesus then we need to know His amazing forgiveness and grace. The best sermon I have ever heard on this subject is by John Piper.

How to deal with the guilt of sexual failure for the glory of Christ and his global cause (http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/conference-messages/how-to-deal-with-the-guilt-of-sexual-failure-for-the-glory-of-christ-and-his-global-cause).

In this sermon Piper reminds us that God takes our sin so seriously that he made a way to deal with it by sending his Son. He says that the most difficult time for someone who falls into sexual sin is the day after. Many men live in a world of guilt and shame and so do not live wholeheartedly for Jesus. He says theology trumps biology. He quotes Colossians 2:13-14: “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.” On the cross a great substitution happens. Our sins are nailed to the cross and we receive forgiveness. Notice that Paul says that “He forgave us all our sins.” This is what we need to remind ourselves every time we fail in any area. Every time we fall we need to genuinely repent and remember the forgiveness we have in Christ. All of our guilt, and all our shame are nailed to the cross!

Men, if you have an addiction, then for the glory of Christ, the good of your soul and the future of all your relationships, begin to battle with it! Remember, this is a serious problem but also remember that we have a great redeemer who has given us His Spirit so that we can battle with our old nature. I pray that a generation of men would rise up who are filled with purity. Let me end with Paul’s words to the Philippian church: “Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”