Who Titles Your Life Story?

ourstoryThis blog was originally posted on Dr. Bob Kellemen’s site, RPM Ministries. Entrusted By God is re-posting it with Bob’s permission. The original post can be found here.

Two Editors to Your Life Story 

Your life is a story.

And two people seek to write the title to your story.

Satan’s Shaming Story

Satan seeks to title your life story using the lens of shame, guilt, sin, and condemnation.

Satan’s story is the story of the law…which condemns.

Christ’s Grace Story

The Author of Life is the only One with the right to name your story.

He—Christ Jesus—names your story through the lens of grace, forgiveness, the cross, justification, reconciliation, regeneration, and redemption.

Christ’s story is the story of the gospel…that forgives and makes all things new.

Consider David—Through Satan’s Law Lens

If King David were to allow Satan to write the title to his life story, what would that title be?

“The King of Sin and Shame!”

“Adulterer!”

“Murderer!”

“Hypocrite!”

“Shameful Failure!”

Consider David—Through Christ’s Gospel Lens

Instead…Christ titles King David’s story. David ends up not in Satan’s Hall of Shame.

No. David ends up in Christ’s Faith Hall of Fame.

“By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient. And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, and Jephthah, and about David and Samuel and the prophets. who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies” (Hebrews 11:31-34).

Did you catch who made Christ’s Faith Hall of Fame?

Rahab—the prostitute—is there—by faith.

David—the Adulterer-Murderer—is there—by faith.

That’s not enough? Here’s Christ’s title to David’s life story:
“Man After God’s Own Heart.”

Here it is, right in inspired, inerrant Scripture:

“After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’ “From this man’s descendants God has brought to Israel the Savior Jesus, as he promised” (Acts 13:22-23).

David’s life story is sandwiched by grace. By grace he is a man after God’s own heart. In the flesh he sins gravely. By grace from David’s descendants God brings forth the Savior Jesus.

Let the Gospel Rewrite the Title to Your Life Story

Martin Luther understood how Christ’s gospel of grace rewrites our sinful, shameful life story. Luther points us to the center of Scripture—the comfort of the gospel.

“It is a falsehood, that God is an enemy of sinners, for Christ roundly and plainly declares, by commandment of the Father: ‘I am come to save sinners.’”

When we are tempted by the devil to doubt the grace of God, Luther encourages us to fight Satan’s condemning lies with gospel-grace truth.

“When the devil casts up to us our sin, and declares us unworthy of death and hell, we must say: ‘I confess that I am worthy of death and hell. What more have you to say?’ ‘Then you will be lost forever!’ ‘Not in the least: for I know One who suffered for me and made satisfaction for my sins, and his name is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. So long as he shall live, I shall live also.’”

Spit on the Devil

Luther continues…

“Therefore treat the devil thus: Spit on him, and say: ‘Have I sinned? Well, then I have sinned, and I am sorry; but I will not on that account despair, for Christ has borne and taken away all my sin, yes, and the sin of the whole world, if it will only confess its sin and believe on Christ. What should I do if I had committed murder or adultery, or even crucified Christ? Why, even then, I should be forgiven, as he prayed on the cross: ‘Father, forgive them’ (Luke xxiii. 34). This I am in duty bound to believe. I have been acquitted. Then away with you, devil!’”

Luther urges us to “depend boldly upon this” in order to experience peace with God.

“Christ is not the one who accuses or threatens us, but he reconciles and intercedes for us by his own death and by his shed blood for us, that we may not be afraid of him, but draw near to him with all confidence.”

Luther counsels us to draw near to Christ with full confidence and assurance of his love. Awareness of God’s grace friendship has the power to entice prodigals to return home to the Father.

“Believe that he esteems and loves you more than does Dr. Luther or any other Christian. The conscience, spurred by the devil, the flesh, and the fallen world; says, “God is your enemy. Give up in despair.” God, in His own Fatherly love and through His Son’s grace and through His Word and through the witness of His people; says, “I have no wrath. You are accepted in the beloved. I am not angry with you. We are reconciled!”

Title Your Story through the Lens of the Gospelthestory

Who is writing the title to your life story?

Is it Satan—through his condemning/law narrative?

Or…

Is it Christ—through His grace/gospel narrative?

Join the Conversation: What is Christ’s grace-gospel title to your life story?

bob_kellemenBob Kellemen, Th.M., Ph.D. is the Vice President for Institutional Development and Chair of the Biblical Counseling and Equipping Department at Crossroads Bible College. Bob was the Founding Executive Director of the Biblical Counseling Coalition, and is the Founder and CEO of RPM Ministries. For seventeen years Dr. Kellemen served as the founding Chairman of and Professor in the MA in Christian Counseling and Discipleship department at Capital Bible Seminary in Lanham, MD. Bob has pastored three churches and equipped biblical counselors in each church. Bob and his wife, Shirley, have been married for thirty-six years; they have two adult children, Josh and Marie, one daughter-in-law, Andi, and three granddaughters, Naomi, Penny, and Phoebe. Dr. Kellemen is the author of thirteen books including Gospel-Centered Counseling.

Jesus, Lord and Savior-Part 1 (Romans 10:9-10)

ww_jesus_landsI have an interesting relationship with my parents. They are not only my parents but attend the church where I currently serve as associate pastor as well. Therefore, I am their son and their associate pastor. From time to time, my father will joke around and say, “But you are my son first.” To that, I tongue-in-cheek respond, “That is true, but it does not negate that I am also one of your pastors!” I am not only their son. I am both their son and their pastor.

While such an illustration is meant to be lighthearted, there is a similar mindset among some Christians that is serious, contributing to a faulty understanding of Jesus Christ and what it means to be a Christian. There is an accepted idea that somehow a person can have Jesus as Savior but not trust in Him as Lord. They are willing to say they believe in Jesus and know He died for their sins, but they may not yet be ready to surrender to Him as Lord. They don’t think they need to trust in Jesus as both Savior and Lord to be saved.

With matters eternal, this is not an issue to overlook. It is serious and worthy of our attention to clarify. The question we must ask, then, is: What does Scripture say? The testimony of Scripture, particularly the New Testament, shows Jesus as Savior and as Lord. In speaking of Christ’s incarnation, Luke 2:11 says, “for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Still, while it is true Jesus is both Savior and Lord, we have not answered the question in terms of how that impacts what it means to be a Christian.

In Romans 10 we find an answer. In the context of Romans 9–11, concerning Israel’s unbelief and God’s sovereignty over the salvation of His people, we are told that the means by which people respond to the Gospel is through the hearing of God’s Word (10:17). How does one respond to the Gospel in order to be saved? By confessing and believing in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Listen to the Apostle Paul in Romans 10:9–10,

“because, 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.”

There are a number of observations we could make from this text, but there are two in particular that are pertinent to our discussion. The first is recognizing what we are confessing. We are confessing Jesus is Lord. The term here used for Lord conveys the ideas of authority. Pertaining to Jesus, it “acknowledges the superiority of Jesus over all things (e.g., Rom 10:9, 14:9; 1 Cor. 12:3; Phil 2:11) and his universal rule over all things on behalf of God (e.g., 1 Cor. 15:25, 28; Rev 1:5, 17:14).”[1] In other words, we could say Jesus is King. He is the King who has died to bring us into His kingdom. He died on the cross to save us from our sins. In understanding the saving work of Jesus, we must believe God raised him from the dead. He is the Lord who is over all and He is the Savior who has died for all who repent and believe.

This leads us to consider the second point from these verses. A belief in Jesus as Savior and Lord is not merely a doctrine to affirm. It is a truth to take to heart. As the Holy Spirit inspired Paul, he wrote, “confess with your mouth” and “believe in your heart”. It is not in mere words but with a sincerity of heart. This belief is not merely intellectual either. It is a belief, or trust, evidenced by actions. What is the action? Confessing your sins, repenting of them, and following Jesus Christ. How do we know how to follow? By studying and obeying God’s Word. We are not saved by our obedience, but our obedience is the evidence that we are saved. That is why it is eternally significant to understand that a Christian is one who has repented of their sin and has placed their trust in Jesus as Savior and Lord.

Reflection Questions:

  • Why is it important to understand that a Christian is one who trusts in Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord?
  • Read John 14:15–17. How do Jesus’ words, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments,” contribute to this discussion on the Lordship of Christ?

[1] Lo, J. (2014). Deity. D. Mangum, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, & R. Hurst (Eds.), Lexham Theological Wordbook. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

15871997_10210430005099789_6580064576224717116_nThis post was written by EBG Lead Writer and Founder Theron St. John. His joy is serving God and His people, both in the church and the academy. He is the associate pastor of Blue Ridge Christian Union Church in Shelbyville, Indiana and an adjunct professor at Crossroads Bible College in Indianapolis.

Book Review: 90 Days in John 14-17, Romans, & James

As Christians, we need to be people of the Word. We need to be a people who study and know the Word. This is needed today as much as ever. We live in a day of biblical illiteracy. Unfortunately, devotionals meant for growing a Christian’s understanding and living often fail to produce. Why? Because while it may share a Bible verse with the thought for that day, it does not encourage the reader to dig in deeper their study of the Bible. Not all is lost, though. There are those out there who see this same need and have the initiative to do something about. That is why I am excited to share with you Explore By The Book: 90 Days in John 14-17, Romans, & James.

explore_by_bookPublished by the Good Book Company, this devotional features a verse by verse study through Romans and James as well as John 14-17. Pastors Timothy Keller and Sam Allberry serve as the reader’s guide through these three books of the Bible over the course of 90 Days. While some devotionals can be read with little Bible reading done, it is not so with this volume of Explore by the Book. This book not only points you to the Book, it also walks you through it. These devotionals place before the reader questions of the text in regards to observation and application. Keller and Allberry also direct the student of the Bible in how they can pray based on what they’ve just studied.

Explore By The Book: 90 Days in John 14-17, Romans, and James will lead the reader into a great understanding of what God’s Word means and how it can be applied in life. What many devotionals lack, The Good Book company has produced in Explore By The Book. If you are a Christian who desires substance in their Bible reading, then pick up a copy of this volume.

I received this book for free from The Good Book Company via Cross Focused Reviews for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own and are my honest review of the book.

Book Review: Bible Studies on Mark

This semester I have been entrusted with the responsibility to teach Bible college students how to properly interpret and apply the Bible. One thing is certainly clear: There is a great need for biblical literacy in the church today. Even when students are given the tools of studying the Bible in theory, they may find themselves asking what this looks like in practice. Thanks to William Boekestein an example is set forth in his work Bible Studies on Mark.

Conbib_studies_on_marktained in 21 lessons, Boekestein guides the reader through the Gospel of Mark. He begins the book by addressing the introductory matters of describing the genre of the Gospels, considering how we profit from the Gospel of Mark, and developing themes seen throughout Mark. Each lesson walks through the text in a satisfactory manner. Pastor Boekestein explains details of the text where needed, such as when Jesus asks, “Who touched me?” (Boekestein 66). He also tackles difficult matters, informing the reader Mark 16:9–20 was not included in the earliest manuscripts (Boekestein 203). The defining characteristic of Bible Studies on Mark is its knowledge of all Scripture. The author has a great knowledge of the New Testament’s use of the Old Testament. In case one thinks the author is studying the Bible in isolation, the end of each chapter features endnotes of good sources, making it evident the book has been well-researched.

While the lessons are sound in their interpretation, some side applications of particular texts seem to be a stretch in making application from the text. One particular example is the lessons that can be learned from Peter’s denial (Boekestein 184). This is not to say one cannot make such side applications; it is simply that some side applications are not the most convincing. Yet, this minor critique does not take away from the solid teaching William Boekestein has provided in Bible Studies on Mark. The book begins by encouraging us to ask throughout the lessons, “How does Jesus’ life teach us good news?” (Boekestein 3). If you let Pastor Boekestein walk you through this Gospel, you will arrive at a biblically informed answer. Bible Studies on Mark is a study for those who want to be guided into a deeper study on Mark in a timely fashion.

I received this book for free from Reformed Fellowship Inc. via Cross Focused Reviews for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own and are my honest review of the book.

The Refuge in the Refugee Crisis

refugeesJust one week into his presidency, Donald Trump signed an executive order on immigration. Many of the president’s supporters saw this as a campaign promise fulfilled while those who have opposed his presidency viewed it as a problem needing to be fixed. Debates have ensued, covering immigration and the refugee crisis and recognizing the differences between the two. I have friends on both sides of the discussion and, to be honest, my desire is to understand both sides. For the purpose of this post, though, I would like to direct attention to my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ and challenge them. My point is not to choose a side or to comment so much on policy because there are no easy answers and, frankly, I realize my knowledge is limited on the subject. My intention here is to observe an underlying heart issue and a growing mindset on this topic among American Christians.

My concern for Christians, particularly those who lean far right on the issue, is they have misplaced their source of rescue and security. They have sought shelter in the wrong refuge. Those who say they have placed their trust in the Lord and yet display little to no compassion toward foreigners, especially refugees, reveal the idolatry of their hearts. As American Christians, they view America as their refuge. Therefore, they are resistant of foreigners coming into their place of refuge. The problem with such a perspective is summed up well by IMB President David Platt when he said, “Much of our response to the refugee crisis seems to come from a foundation of fear, not faith. Much of it seems to flow from a view of the world that is far more American than biblical, far more concerned with the preservation of our country than the accomplishment of the Great Commission.” The testimony of Scripture is our refugee is to be found in God, something that is mentioned at least 45 times in the Psalms alone. Part of the biblical response, then, is found in Psalm 118:9, “It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes.”

When Christians look to America as their refuge, their place of security, their default priority will be protection. But when Christians in America look to God as their refuge, their priority will be to share the hope of the gospel with the hearts of refugees. After all, followers of Christ are called to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:18-20). As Christians, our deepest concern must not be self-preservation; it must be gospel proclamation. The call to discipleship is a call to go, and we most certainly still need international missions. Yet, consider the thought-provoking question from Global Frontier Missions: “What if the influx of immigrants, refugees, and international students is a blessing, an opportunity orchestrated by God to fulfill the Great Commission?” We have various people groups coming to America, providing the possibility of fulfilling the Great Commission to disciple other nations.

To be firm, the refuge in the refugee crisis is not America. This is the reality for both American Christians as well as for immigrants and refugees. The refuge in the refugee crisis is God. It is in God we are rescued by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We are secure as we are in Christ. For those who are in the shelter of God’s salvation, we ought to be the very people to welcome the opportunity to see those who are enemies of Christ be transformed into brothers and sisters of Christ. We may not have all the answers on how to deal with immigration or how to handle the refugee crisis, but we are able to examine our hearts and ask where we are seeking refuge during this time of the refugee crisis. As those who are the children of God, may our refuge be our saving God.

15871997_10210430005099789_6580064576224717116_nThis post was written by EBG Lead Writer and Founder Theron St. John. His joy is serving God and His people, both in the church and the academy. He is the associate pastor of Blue Ridge Christian Union Church in Shelbyville, Indiana and an adjunct professor at Crossroads Bible College in Indianapolis.

An Exhortation to Praise God (Psalm 150)

ww_psalmsThe Scriptures possess that peculiarity of being understood by a child while boggling the mind of the scholar, and the last psalm is no exception. After reading it to my three-year old daughter, I asked her, “What do you think our Papa God wanted us to do with this psalm?” Her response was, “To praise Him…with lots of instruments”.

Although praising Him is the central message of the psalm, as Christians we might be tempted to restrict and/or downplay its whole meaning as just a passage about worship time in church. But we should be wary of our own presuppositions! For starters, even though we don’t know who the author was, we can be certain that the psalmist did not write this with a church’s morning service in mind. In God’s providence, He allowed this to be the last of 150 psalms recorded in five different books. Thus, this psalm serves as the ending of the fifth book, as well as the whole Psalter[1].

Two conclusions can be drawn from this: 1) As the fifth book begins and ends with a call to praise God (Ps. 107), we can see praise as a common element within the Christian life in the middle of struggles, enemies’ attacks, times of afflictions, times of prosperity and other topics covered in the fifth book; 2) A similar conclusion can be drawn by taking the whole Psalter, which begins with the two ways of man: the way of life and the way of death (Ps. 1). He who chooses the way of life might go through all the blessings and difficulties described in the Psalms, but at the end of his life, he will be able to praise God. The blessed man will always praise God at the end of the day, but there is no song for those who choose the way of the wicked, and once they pass through the gates of death, there will be no praise in their graves (Ps. 6:5).

Moreover, it is easy to trivialize everything related to music in our contemporary mindset. We automatically classify it in the “entertainment” section of our minds. But the Scriptures don’t approve of such mentality. Take Deuteronomy 32 as an example. Did you know that God chose to warn Israel with a song He wrote? God commanded Moses to write it as a witness to testify against their future wickedness (Dt. 31:19-22), and right after finishing the song, He gave the following warning: “They are not just idle words for you—they are your life…” (Deut. 32:47). Surely there is nothing trivial about this song!

Psalm 150 contains 13 admonitions to praise God. It is rather clear that God wants us to praise Him on a constant basis. In contrast, we read in Romans 1:21 how Paul brings the two main accusations against all humankind and one of them is lack of praise (“they neither glorify God…”). This shows how serious God feels about praising His name. Psalm 150 can be divided into four sections that can be easily remembered: 1) Where to praise (v.1), 2) why praise (v. 2), 3) how to praise (v.v. 3-5), and 4) who ought to praise (v. 6).

  1. Where: God wants us to praise Him in His sanctuary and in His mighty heavens. Although space does not allow us to make a deep study, we can easily infer that praise should be made in His presence. Of course, Israel understood this verse as praising Him in the Temple in Jerusalem, the place where heavens and earth met and the most revered place in the world. But now, He lives within our hearts. Thus, it is not about going to a physical place. It is a matter of disposition of the heart, to be face to face with Him and all the spiritual realities that come with it.
  2. Why: Praise is not to be made in an intellectual vacuum. There must be valid reasons for us to come with offerings of praise, and verse 2 summarizes these reasons for us: praise Him for what He has done (acts of power) and for who He is (His greatness).
  3. How: This passage must be a favorite for musicians, because it describes the varying arrays of musical possibilities. There is the wind section, strings, and percussion for a whole orchestra. There is a place for mellow styles (harp and flutes) and upbeat styles (resounding cymbals and trumpets), with dancing and joy. Most of all, God wants us to praise with instruments made by our own hands through our creativity and skill. He even gives us clearance to create new songs, and requires a certain standard of quality (Ps. 33:3).
  4. Who: On account of His creation, God takes the prerogative as the object of praise. Psalm 148 describes not only living beings but the creation as a whole praising Him: trees and animals; angels and mountains; everything that has been created praises the Creator.

Let us then praise the Lord. Praise Him in His holy presence. Praise Him for who He is and what He has done. Praise Him with music and joy. Praise Him with your every breath. Praise the Lord!

Reflection Questions

  • Do you think God is pleased in the praise you offer to Him?
  • Does it strike you as odd that the Almighty God wants us to praise with music and instruments
  • What conclusions can you make by the fact that the largest book of the Bible is a songbook?

[1] Actually, Psalm 150 is also the last section of the last “Hallel” (Ps. 145-150), which also begins with a call to exalt and praise Him (Ps. 145:1).

huriThis week’s devotional was written by Huri Cañas. Born in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Huri has been in the US since moving there in 2010. He received his Bachelor degree at Crossroads Bible College in Urban Leadership and is pursuing a Master’s degree with Indianapolis Theological Seminary. He is actively involved in worship at Neighborhood Fellowship and Zionsville Fellowship. Most importantly, he is blessed with his wife Gina and their two lovely daughters, Isabella and Alessia.

God is Good (Psalm 100)

ww_psalmsA thankful spirit doesn’t come naturally, does it? We obviously find it easy to thank God when we are experiencing a shower of blessings in our lives, but quite a bit harder to be thankful when difficulties and disappointments crowd in. No matter which situation we currently find ourselves in, we need to stop and simply remind ourselves who He is and what He is like.

As a child I remember the extent of my thankfulness to God was basically confined to our dinnertime prayer which I remember well, “God is good, God is great, let us thank Him for our food. Amen.” That was certainly a good start for a little kid, but far removed from the thankfulness displayed in Psalm 100! A glad and thankful spirit should become an integral part of our daily walk and not just confined to a November holiday or a child’s dinner time prayer.

I Thessalonians 5:8 is a familiar verse stenciled in on my bedroom wall, “In everything give thanks …” If only this verse would magically seep into my soul as I sleep! Psalm 100 indicates two things easily remembered which we can be thankful for no matter what our situation. First, we can always simply be thankful that the Lord is God! We are not on the wrong track. We are not thanking a God who is not even there. We have found the Truth that can be found nowhere else! He is the only true God, and we have the privilege of knowing Him.

Not only is our God the true God, He is also good! He is the Good Shepherd who continually watches over the sheep of His pasture, infinitely more than any good shepherd would do. He is working all of the events of our lives together for a good purpose – for His own glory and our ultimate good. Psalm 103 follows closely behind Psalm 100 and reminds us of some of the benefits we enjoy from His goodness: He forgives all our iniquities, and crowns us with lovingkindness and tender mercies, just to name a few!

Every day we should remember and be glad that, no matter what the circumstances, our Lord is God…and that He is good!

Reflection Questions:

  • Regardless of our circumstances, how can we find ourselves expressing thankfulness to God?
  • How have you seen the goodness of God in your life lately? Allow your experience to be expressed by thanking God for His work.

tnt_paschallThis week’s devotional was written by Tom Paschall. Tom and his wife, Theresa, have been married almost 34 years and have 3 married children and 3 grandchildren so far. Their youngest son Zach lives at home along with their lively dog Snickers and not so lively 25+ year old turtle named Chip. Tom works in the IT area at UnitedHealthCare and currently serves as a Deacon at Bethesda Baptist Church in Brownsburg, Indiana.