Bible Study Cross-Centered Life Sermons Theology

Romans 1:18-25 The blessing of giving thanks

This post is based on a SERMON that is available by clicking here.

In a previous post, I talked about why thanklessness is a sin.  You can read that post for more detail, but here is a summary:   My starting point was the following definition of thankfulness…

We give thanks when we acknowledge the goodness of another

as it is expressed to us in real benefits.

The reason thanklessness is such a sin is that the real benefit we have all received from God is everything pertaining to our existence.  He is our creator, and everything we have, even our very life-breath comes from him. Not only have we failed to thank God for these real benefits, we have also failed to acknowledge the goodness of God in giving them to us.

Everything around us in the creation proclaims the infinite goodness of God!  To reject that and to scorn the Giver of life and existence is to scorn his infinite goodness.  Scorning an infinite God is an infinite sin, and a sin that is worthy of infinite condemnation!  That is why Romans 1:21 says that God’s wrath is being revealed against men for their failure to give thanks!

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened

As I thought about this verse, I began to wonder:   If God’s wrath comes when we fail to give thanks, then is it possible that there is a tremendous blessing that comes when we do give thanks?

I think there is a blessing that comes from thankfulness.  Giving thanks is a blessing because the joy and gratitude and happiness that we feel when we are thankful isn’t primarily from the benefit that we have received, but from the goodness of the one who gives us that benefit.

This is the real blessing: We are able to consciously experience the goodness of God.  Ultimately, BEING THANKFUL is a blessing in and of itself!  There is the joy and happiness and satisfaction of witnessing daily the goodness of our wonderful God and Savior, the Lord Jesus.

So the question is, how can I begin to walk daily in the blessing of thankfulness?  How can I experience the joy and satisfaction of being thankful?  Do I just walk outside and look up at the stars, or at the beautiful autumn leaves, or at the glories of creation and thank God for my existence?

The problem is that just as those pagan gentiles in Romans 1, you and I (and the religious jews in Romans 2), are ALREADY under the condemnation of God for our FAILURE to give thanks.  If the only thing you do to try to remedy this problem of not giving thanks is walk outside and look up at the stars and be grateful for your existence, you will be looking at the revelation of a holy and just God who says that he will not leave the guilty unpunished.

Because of the wrath of God that we deserve, we cannot become thankful people just by making a list of the blessings that God has given us:  like your family, your job, the turkey you ate this past Thanksgiving Day, etc., 

There is only one way that we can become thankful people, and that is through the cross of Jesus, our Savior.  Jesus took upon himself at the cross the wrath of God that we deserve for our thanklessness.  Think about this, God himself took on human flesh and suffered the just penalty for our rejection of him.

When God did this, it was a far greater display of his goodness than the creation of the entire universe.  Through the creation, God’s eternal power and divine nature are clearly seen, but through the cross, God’s justice and his grace are clearly seen.  

We criticize these pagan gentiles for their failure to see God’s gracious benefits to them in creating them for his glory, and yet so often we fail to see God’s grace and love displayed to US when he REcreated us for his glory, at the cost of his own Son, Jesus.

So how can we experience the blessing of thankfulness?  We do it by living a cross-centered life.


Thank God every day for the Cross

I began a practice some time ago that should be second-nature to all of us as Christians, and that is to thank God every day for what he did for us at the cross.  I’m sad to say that I don’t yet have this godly habit ingrained in my life like I wish I did, but by his grace, I will!  May not a day go by that I don’t thank my Lord for his death for me on the cross.  

I need to keep this always before me, that I am a sinner, deserving of God’s condemnation, but instead receiving his mercy.  I deserve hell, but I get heaven.  I deserve separation from God, and instead he adopts me into his family and cherishes me as he does his only begotten Son!!! Imagine the difference it will make in your life if you are meditating EVERY DAY on the wonderful grace of Jesus expressed to you at the cross!

And as I thank him for my salvation, may it remind me not just of the fact that I am SAVED, but of what an infinitely GOOD God he is!  


Thank God for good gifts  

Every good gift that comes into your life is due to the cross of Christ!  When God blesses you as his child with ANYTHING, no matter how small, remember this.  If Jesus hadn’t died on the cross for you, he would not be blessing you now with that meal, or that car, or that relationship, or anything.  Let every good thing that comes into your life remind you of this.  It is all because of Jesus’ cross.

You may wonder, “But what about those who are NOT followers of Christ?  Where do the benefits in THEIR lives come from?”  The answer is the same, from the cross of Christ, and just like the pagan gentiles in Romans 1, those who are not followers of Christ will be held accountable for their failure to give thanks to God for everything that they have been given.


Thank God for difficulty

Not only are the good things that come into your life through the cross of Christ, so are the difficult things.  Peter said in 1 Pet. 4:13, Rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.  God has promised us that our sufferings are not without a point.  He promises in 2 Cor. 4:17, “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.

There is a pernicious lie in the church today that a life of obedience and submission to God means that everything will go well for you, you will never suffer.  But the promise of the gospel message of the cross is that we are blessed to share in Christ’s sufferings, and for that we can be thankful!  

Sometimes God removes his temporal blessings to show us that the greatest blessing we have is  HIMSELF!


Get rid of distractions from the cross

Finally, and probably most important of these four suggestions, is to rid your life of everything that is a distraction from the cross of Christ.  We fill our lives with so much activity, with so much entertainment, with so much busyness that we simply don’t have time to live a cross-centered life.  Even God’s good gifts can become idols in our lives if they keep us FROM God rather that directing us TO God.  

Don’t expect to become a thankful person just by adding these first three suggestions to a life that in all other respects shows no desire to know God as he has revealed himself at the cross of Christ.  The overall movement and direction of your life must be toward Jesus if you are to live a cross-centered life.  

When Jesus died on the cross he accomplished our RECONCILIATION with God.  That is the gift he has given us–the way is opened once again for us to have fellowship with God.

Would you not agree that the greatest thanklessness that a person could express would be to fail to appreciate and use and enjoy the gift that they have been given?  Which hurts more, kids?  When your brother or sister unwraps that toy that you spent all your allowance to buy and immediately begins playing with it, but forgets to say “thank you”?  Or when he opens it, and then casts it aside disinterested, looking for the next present?

Do you want to be a thankful person?  Enjoy the gift that God has given you–HIMSELF!

I heard about a missionary wife who had been without her husband for almost 10 weeks as he toured in the churches.  On the day he was to arrive home, a huge package arrived for this lady by delivery truck.  It was from her husband.  She was so disappointed.  She didn’t just want a present, she wanted HIM, and when she opened the box… out he popped!

That’s what God has done for us.  He has reconciled us to himself.  He has given himself to us!  What goodness he has shown us!  Let us thank him!


This post is based on a SERMON that is available by clicking here.

Bible Study Cross-Centered Life Sermons Theology Uncategorized

Isaiah 1-2 How God sees sin (part 2)

This post is based on a SERMON that is available by clicking here.

In an earlier post I talked about how God sees our sin, and that if we want to be victorious in our battle with sin, we need to see it from God’s perspective.  When God sees our sin, he sees the pervasiveness of our sin, and in his holiness, he rejects us in our sin.  The way Jesus saves us is by being rejected for us.  When Jesus declared on the cross, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” he was being rejected in our place, so that we might be accepted by the Father.  Understanding this perspective on sin is the crucial first step to living in victory over sin.

In this post, I want to talk about what we can do to make our perspective on sin more in line with God’s.


1.  We must humble ourselves by confessing the truth about ourselves

In our struggle with sin, we have to come to the point where we admit the truth of what God has shown us in Isaiah 1:5-6  the whole body is sick.  

The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint.  From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it, but bruises and sores and raw wounds…

 I think we have an amazing ability to accept our total depravity as a theological proposition, and yet fail to ever make it a personal affirmation.  

When was the last time you saw yourself in this way?  If you look at your life and your behavior, chances are that you will not come to this conclusion about yourself.  Oh, after a big failure, you may see it a little more clearly than you do at other times, but even then you will be likely to say, “but at least I’m not as bad as I could be.  At least there are some others out there who have done worse than I have.” 

We are like a soccer player who has fallen down on a muddy field.  And the whole left side of our uniform is covered with mud.  And yet we look at the other player, who fell on his right side, and we somehow think we are better because we haven’t dirtied the same part of our uniform as he has.  Or we look at him and say, “yeah, but at least my mud is cleaner than your mud!”

We fight to save our reputation, in our own eyes, before God, and before others.  But if we want to experience victory, there must be a humbling of ourselves.  Several times in Isaiah, pride is pointed to as what will ultimately bring us under the judgement of God.  

Twice in chapter 2, God’s judgement is spoken of as being against the pride of man.  Isaiah 2:11-12

The haughty looks of man shall be brought low, and the lofty pride of men shall be humbled, and the Lord alone will be exalted in that day.  For the Lord of hosts has a day against all that is proud and lofty, against all that is lifted up–and it shall be brought low.  (see also verse 17)

This is why both the Apostle James and the Apostle Peter quote Prov. 3:34 God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.  And James adds in 4:10 Humble yourselves, before the Lord, and he will exalt you.  And how do we humble ourselves?  James goes on to tell us in 5:16:  Confess your sins to each other.

We humble ourselves by CONFESSING the truth about ourselves.  

 I have been amazed at how many times I have heard since coming back to the U.S., “Bryan, I just don’t have anyone I feel that I can open up to”  I’ve heard this so often its becoming a theme.  Even pastor-friends have told me this:  there is no one I can be honest with.  Brothers and sisters, together as a church we should be on our faces before God begging his forgiveness for the pride in our hearts that keeps us from confessing our sins to one another.  Do we want to see victory and blessing in our lives and in our churches?  Then let us humble ourselves before God, and confess our state of spiritual destitution before him and before one another!

I have found that when the Holy Spirit convicts me of sin, he almost always shows me to whom I should confess that sin.  There have been times that it has taken me days or even weeks to submit to his voice. (“Lord, there is no way that I can confess that to him!”) 

I can point to a turning point in my spiritual life as as teenager, when I confessed sin to my father that the Lord had been putting his finger on for a long time.  I have humbled myself on multiple occasions and gone to my sons and said, “I was wrong, will you forgive me.”  Countless are the times that I have confessed my sin to my wife, or to Christian brothers.  Confession of sin within the Body is an integral part of our lives as Christians, and it flows from our acceptance of the fact that we really have no reputation to uphold.  We are completely and totally depraved.  We are sinners of the worst kind, and nothing we can confess could make us seem worse that we actually are.  If we want to walk in victory, we need to rediscover this discipline of confession of sin.

2.  We look to Jesus and find our acceptance with God only in Him.

There is something extremely freeing in the fact that God rejects us as sinners.  When God forgives us and saves us, it is not as if he is just giving us a second chance.  It is not as if we have another opportunity to prove to him that we really can do it this time.  We no longer have to prove to him and to ourselves that we really aren’t that bad.  We are free to admit the truth, that we really *are* that bad.  We are free to reject our sinful flesh as totally unable to do anything that is pleasing to God.  And we turn in faith to the Lord Jesus, and trust him to do what we cannot do.

Your sinful flesh isn’t getting any better.  You are just as much in need of God’s grace today as you ever have been in your life.  When you fall flat on your face in your sin, God is showing you once again how much you need Jesus.  In Christ, he has rejected that sinful you, and He has given you a new identity in Christ.  So you need to reject that sinful you as well, and turn your eyes to Jesus and confess to him, It is only through your cross, Lord Jesus, that I can be acceptable to God.  Thank you for your grace!

It is only when we look at sin from God’s perspective that we can be victorious over it.

And what is God’s perspective on sin?

He sees the pervasiveness of our sin.  Our total depravity.  Will you agree with him about that, and confess your sin before him and before the Body?  

He sees that the sinner must be rejected.  And so his very Son was forsaken on the cross in your place.  Jesus died so that your sinful self might be forever and completely rejected.  Will you now live that out, by refusing to look for anything good in you apart from Christ?  Will you live that out by admitting that you are just as much in need of God’s grace today as you ever have been?

This post is based on a SERMON that is available by clicking here.

Bible Study Cross-Centered Life Theology

Because Jesus Rose


Our Lord Jesus rose from the dead, and because he rose I, and many of you, are going to church this morning.  Every Sunday, the first day of the week, we gather to remember and to celebrate the single most important event in the history of the universe: the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. 

It’s easy to take for granted the dawning of a new day.   When was the last time you were up before dawn and thought, “I wonder if the sun is going to come up today?”  That thought rarely crosses our minds!  We just take for granted that God is going to give us and the other 6 ½ billion people on this planet another day of existence.  We take for granted that the sun will replenish the energy of all the plant life on our world.  We take for granted that its warm rays will continue to bathe the earth with life.  We don’t appreciate the blessings that we receive each day, just because the sun rose.

I think we often make this same mistake when it comes to Jesus’ resurrection.  We fail to appreciate the manifold blessings that have come to us because the Son of God rose.  So I want you to think with me for a few moments on this idea: Because Jesus rose from the dead… 

Because Jesus rose from the dead, we can be saved.  Rom. 10.9

if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 

Because Jesus rose from the dead, we who believe are forgiven, pardoned, justified, made righteous. Rom. 4:24-25

…It (righteousness) will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus, our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.

Because Jesus rose from the dead, he is able to save the hardest of sinners Acts 9:1-5

Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord…. approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him…I am JESUS whom you are persecuting  (Later, this same Saul would write in 1 Tim. 1:15) …Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. 

Because Jesus rose from the dead, he has defeated death.  Rom. 6.9

We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.

Because Jesus rose from the dead, he can raise us from the dead, and we will never die again!  John 11:25

I am the resurrection and the life.  Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.  John 5:21 For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will.

Because Jesus rose from the dead, he raises us from spiritual death.  Eph. 2:4-5

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…

Because Jesus rose from the dead, he can raise us from physical death.  Rom. 8:11

If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

1 Cor. 15:22-23

…so also in Christ shall all be made alive.  But each in his own order:  Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.

Because Jesus rose from the dead, he will raise our fellow Christians from the dead.  1 Thess. 4:14

For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.

Because Jesus rose from the dead, he can heal the sick Acts 4.10

let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well.

Because Jesus rose from the dead, we can receive mercy and grace in time of need. Heb. 4:14

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. 

Because Jesus rose from the dead, we have someone constantly praying for us Rom. 8.34

Christ Jesus is the one who died–more than that, who was raised–who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.

Heb. 7:25

…He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. 

Because Jesus rose from the dead, he can fulfill his promise to give us the Holy Spirit. John 16:7

Nevertheless, I tell you the truth:  it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you.  But if I go, I will send him to you.

Acts 2:33

Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. 

Because Jesus rose from the dead, he has authority over Satan… and everything else too.  Eph. 1:20-22 

…according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.

Because Jesus rose from the dead, the church belongs to him and him alone Eph. 1:22

And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him who fills all in all.

Because Jesus rose from the dead, we can be certain of his presence with us: Mt. 18.20

For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.

Mt. 28:20

And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

Jn. 14.18 

I will not leave you as orphans. I will come to you.

Because Jesus rose from the dead, we can have fellowship with him Jn 14.23

If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 

We can eat with him Rev. 3:20

Behold, I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.

We can see him Jn 16:16

…again a little while, and you will see me.

Because Jesus rose from the dead, he is present to see you through any trial.  Acts 7:55

(Stephen, as he was being stoned to death said…) Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God! 

Because Jesus rose from the dead, we have the hope of an eternal inheritance!  1 Pet. 1:3-4

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled and unfading, kept in heaven for you…

Because Jesus rose from the dead, we can live a holy, new life.  Rom. 6:4

We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.  

Because Jesus rose from the dead, he will return just as he said.  John 14.3

And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

Acts 1:11

…This Jesus, who was taken from you into heaven will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.

Because Jesus rose from the dead, he will one day settle all accounts with justice Rev. 22.12

Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay everyone for what he has done.

Because Jesus rose from the dead, we can enjoy his presence for all eternity.  1 Thess. 4:17

Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.

All of this…  BECAUSE this living, reigning, glorious SON ROSE, at dawn, on the first day of the week!