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Are You Living Your Eternal Life Today?

“LORD, make me to know my end, and what is the measure of my days, that I may know how transient I am. Indeed, You have made my days as a handbreadth, and my age is as nothing before You; indeed every man at his best is as a breath.” Selah. Surely every man walks in a mere shadow; surely he goes as a breath; he heaps up riches, and does not know who will gather them. Now, Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in You.          Psalm 39:4-7

Here’s a question for you: when does eternal life begin?

Is eternal life a duration of life that only begins once you die? If so, then Christianity is about dying and not much about living. Christianity is, therefore, something for old people to think about at the finish line and nothing for young people to fret about at the starting line. This may explain why churches are filled with grandparents but not their grandchildren.

On the other hand, is eternal life a quality of life that starts at the moment of your salvation, infects and effects all of your life, and culminates at your death? If so, then Christianity is about living a new life from the moment you meet Jesus and receive His Spirit that continues forever and ever. If eternal life is the Spirit-filled life of Jesus empowering your entire life, then any day lived any other way is a wasted day.

I believe in heaven. I look forward to heaven. I hope that in my resurrection body my hair will not be as thin as it is right now, venturing home to be with the Lord before the rest of me. I hope that my current two-inch vertical leap will be replaced by the ability to dunk a basketball and that when I sing it will not sound as if I was captured by al Qaeda as is currently the case. In heaven, I also look forward to skateboarding on the streets of gold and discovering what a perfect cheeseburger actually tastes like.

Even if there were no heaven, I would want to be a Christian solely for the benefits in this life. If I died and became nothing more than mulch, or if everyone went to hell including me, I would still want to know Jesus and be filled with the Spirit in this life because it is the only way to truly live.

The Spirit-filled life with Jesus is so wonderful that even one day of it makes life worth living. In the next chapter we will learn what this looks like for you and your family.

The Greatest Thing You Could Do Today

Imagine walking up a mountain alone. But it’s no ordinary mountain. The ground beneath you is shaking, and the entire mountain is covered in smoke. At its peak is a thick cloud with lightning and thunder. God descends onto the mountain in fire, and each time you speak to him, he responds in thunder. This is what Moses experienced in Exodus 19.

Now compare that experience to your last time in prayer.

Distracted, obligatory, ordinary — I doubt any such words came across Moses’s mind as he ascended the mountain. But some three thousand years later, we rarely marvel that God permits imperfect humans into his presence.

How did the shocking become so ordinary to us? Is it even possible for our experiences with God to be that fascinating? When was the last time you enjoyed meaningful time alone with God? Time so good that you didn’t want to leave. It was just you, reading God’s words, in his holy presence.

It is alone with him that I empty myself of pride (1 Timothy 6:16), lies (Hebrews 4:13), and stress (Psalm 127:1).

We live in a time when most people have a difficult time concentrating on anything. We are constantly looking for the quick fix and for faster solutions. So the thought of sitting quietly to meditate on Scripture and praying deeply in silence can be eagerly replaced by listening to a sermon while driving to work. While it’s definitely better than nothing (considering all of the other messages we are bombarded with daily), the point of this article is to say that there is no substitute for being alone with God.

We must learn to be still again.

It was simple for Paul. He loved being with Jesus. “To live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).

Knowing Christ deeply consumed him (Philippians 3:8). There is no substitute for being alone with God. If you don’t have time, you need to quit something to make room. Skip a meal. Cancel a meeting. End some regular commitment. There is literally nothing more important you could do today.

God literally determines whether or not you take another breath. “He himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything” (Acts 17:25). Could anything be more important than meeting with the One who decides if you live through this day? Could anything be better? How can we not make time to be with the Maker of time?

What plans do you have today that you think so important that you would race past the Creator to get to them?

By Francis Chan

A Lamp and a Light

When was the last time you needed to use a flashlight?

I’m guessing your answer will include some variation of “dark” or “darkness”.

As a sinner living with other sinners in a fallen world, you encounter darkness every day. While you may experience Instagram-worthy, sunny day picnic lunches, the reality is that life is more of a midnight walk through the woods.

On any given day, you probably encounter more darkness than you do truth – both internally, and externally. So if you are going to move forward, to make your way without danger, and get to where you are meant to go, you need something to light your way.

No passage gets at this need and God’s provision better than Psalm 119:105 – “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”

You need light for your marriage and your parenting. You need light for your job and your relationships with your neighbors. You need light for your struggles with desires and temptations.

You need light to help you deal with the unexpected. You need light to cope with new difficulties that emerge. You need light for when you have been sinned against. You need light to deal with weaknesses of the body and hardships of the heart.

You need light for those moments when you’re alone and overwhelmed. You need light for all those unknowns that will show up on your doorstep tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, and for the rest of your life.

It is hard to find a better description of Psalm 119:105 than what the great nineteenth century preacher, Charles Spurgeon, wrote about this verse.

“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet. We are walkers through the city of this world, and we are often called to go out into its darkness; let us never venture there without the light giving word, lest we slip with our feet. Each man should use the word of God personally, practically, and habitually, that he may see his way and see what lies in it. When darkness settles down upon all around me, the word of the Lord, like a flaming torch, reveals my way. Having no fixed lamps in eastern towns, in old time each passenger carried a lantern with him that he might not fall into the open sewer, or stumble over the heaps of ordure which defiled the road. This is a true picture of our path through this dark world: we should not know the way, or how to walk in it, if Scripture, like a blazing flambeau, did not reveal it. One of the most practical benefits of Holy Writ is guidance in the acts of daily life: it is not sent to astound us with its brilliance, but to guide us by its instruction. It is true the head needs illumination, but even more the feet need direction, else head and feet may both fall into a ditch. Happy is the man who personally appropriates God’s word, and practically uses it as his comfort and counsellor,—a lamp to his own feet.” (Treasury of David)

You don’t need to bloody your nose and bruise your toes by bumping into trees and tripping over roots. And you don’t have to grope around fearfully in the darkness.

The Light of the World has graced you with the light of his Word! It will shine around your feet in the midst of the darkness so you need not stumble and fall.

By Paul Tripp

Can You Really “Just Do It”?

If you want to live productively in this fallen world, it’s absolutely critical that you humbly admit your limits as a human being, and then proceed to live within them.

You won’t get much encouragement from the surrounding culture. In fact, think about all the branded slogans, advertising campaigns, or inspirational Instagram quotes that encourage you to deny or even ignore your limits: Just Do It; If You Can Dream It, You Can Do It; Be All You Can Be; Impossible Is Nothing.

While the Bible is filled with verses about the importance of discipline and hard work, the limits on our abilities are extensive and profound. When we consider a typical day, we’re confronted with how little is actually under our control. When we reflect on our life, we see a trail of weakness and deficiency.

We can only be in one place at a time, no matter how hard we dream. We can’t tell gravity that impossible is nothing. We can’t just do it and be all we can be without oxygen, food and water. Which, by the way, we don’t supply for ourselves.

We can’t remove our words and actions from history or redo a situation. We can’t know the details of tomorrow, let alone know where we’ll be or what we’ll be doing in five years.

We can’t accurately read the desires or predict the actions of someone else, and certainly not control them. We can’t make our acquaintances respect us, and we can’t assure that our family members will treat us with love. We can’t change our spouse or force our children to have faith.

We can’t avoid natural disasters or protect ourselves from suffering. We can’t ward off disease and sickness or keep ourselves from aging. We can’t defy the mortality of our humanity.

Discouraged? Don’t be, and don’t panic; reality is a healthy place to be.

Think about this: only when I humbly embrace my weakness, humbly admit my limits, and humbly recognize how small I actually am, can I begin to reach out for the help of the loving, powerful, and gracious Redeemer who is the true source of my strength, wisdom, and hope.

Only then can I begin to function as an instrument in his powerful hands, rather than being in his way because, in forgetting who I am and who he is, I have been trying to do his job.

You don’t have to fear your limits. They were designed by the God who is the definition of everything that is knowledgeable, understanding, wise, and true. Your limits are not a flaw in his creative plan. They are the product of his wise choice and the fulfillment of his intentions. God made you limited, in exactly the way you are.

Your limits are meant to drive you in humble and worshipful need to your Lord, who has promised never to turn a deaf ear to the cry of his children (Psalm 34:15). He has welcomed you to cast your care on him (1 Peter 5:7). He has said that he will never leave you by yourself (Deuteronomy 31:6).

Admitting your limits is not a sign of weakness; it’s an essential ingredient of mature faith.

By Paul Tripp

When Your Soul’s Affections Are Dead

If a man or a woman came to me and said, “Pastor Matt, I get that. I understand what you are saying about stirring my affections for Jesus Christ. But I don’t feel like I have anything that is really stirring those affections.” First, I want to confirm that salvation is there and regeneration has actually occurred.

In the South, a lot of people think they are Christians because, when they were seven or eight years old, mom and dad asked them, “Do you want to come to heaven with us, or do you want to go to hell?” A seven-year-old will take heaven with mom and dad, but there has never been any objective evidence of regeneration: no love for him, no pursuit of him, no understanding, or no lordship. I want to make sure that there is a right understanding of what Christ has accomplished on their behalf.

Once we get that settled, I always want to go to Scripture. Let’s see what the Bible says. Let’s find something to marvel at in the word of God. This step is far more effective in the hearts of people.

I encourage them not to read the Bible like we read a newspaper. Go to Psalm 1: “The Lord watches over the path of the righteous.” Think about what it means. Stop and think about what it means that the Lord watches over our path. There is nothing coming today that he doesn’t see or make provision for. Let’s find a nugget in the Word and meditate on it, own it, and thank God for it.

Look for evidences of that truth as we walk through our day. Let’s throw more fuel on that flame the next day and pay attention to anything that might snuff out that smoldering wick.

By Matt Chandler

Do you think about your death?

Wisdom Ponders Death

I understand that Christians should not fear death. Jesus died and rose from the grave, therefore death has lost its “sting” (1 Corinthians 15:55–56). But just because the fear subsides, it doesn’t mean we are left feeling indifferent. Death has a way of jolting us into seriousness. Don’t you still get an eerie or maybe even sick feeling when you think about your own death?

Some of it is just trying to grasp something so foreign to us: the separation of the soul from the body. We are unable to fathom existing apart from the only body we’ve known. The other troubling mystery is trying to imagine what we will first see and experience after death. What will it be like when we first see a heavenly being or God himself?

Death is not an easy thing to meditate on, but the wise person will think about death often.

Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. (Psalm 90:12)

When was the last time you prayed that prayer? A wise man thinks about his death often, and the fool ignores it. This is why the enemy keeps us from thinking and talking about death. And this is why we must work to keep the brevity of life on the forefront of our minds.

Next week, one of my friends is going to court. There is a chance that he will be sentenced to several years in prison. As you can imagine, it is hard for him to think about anything else. As much as he will try to have a “normal” week, I’m pretty sure his mind will be preoccupied with what the judge is going to say.

Shouldn’t we also be preoccupied with our upcoming day in God’s court? The Bible says that one day we will stand before a Judge who is referred to as a “Consuming Fire” (Hebrews 12:29). Unbelievably, some will go their whole lives without ever considering what this moment will be like.

Ignoring Death Leads to Ignorance

I can only imagine how you as a reader are responding at this point. This may be the first time someone has encouraged you to think deeply about death and judgment. We are unaccustomed to conversations about death. Our society goes to incredible lengths to hide the inevitable reality of death from us. It is considered intrusive or even rude to ask others to think about their deaths. Inevitably someone will quickly change the subject once it gets too serious or solemn. But should we?

It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart. (Ecclesiastes 7:2)

It is better to go to a funeral than a party? The fact that you’ve never heard this expression in conversation reveals just how far our society is from biblical wisdom.

I have performed many funerals. It’s not uncommon to see crowds go out drinking immediately following the service. It is their way to “move on” and not dwell on the severity of the situation.

Others may not get drunk, but they find other ways to intoxicate themselves — heading back to work, going to a movie, laughing, talking, texting, getting on social media. People will do anything to avoid thinking about the only thing that matters. Reality is right there before their eyes, but they’ll desperately pursue any alternative to facing the facts.

The Bible shows that ignoring death leads to ignorance.

The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth. (Ecclesiastes 7:4)

The wise man doesn’t quickly move past funerals. His heart lingers in a state of mourning. The fool tells jokes as soon as the funeral ends, not realizing the damage it does to his soul. Fools do whatever is easiest.

Eating pie is easy, but kale takes effort. The things that build us up require intentionality and work. Contemplating death takes work; watching a typical movie does not. The wise man makes time to think about serious issues. The hard work of mourning builds up the wisdom of the heart.

Linger in the House of Mourning

When I was in seminary, I learned that “the heart” refers to the mission-control center of our bodies. It is the seat of decision-making. This is why you and I make wiser decisions after our hearts spend time in the house of mourning. I tend to make good decisions at funerals and poor ones in restaurants. I have made wise financial decisions while surrounded by starving children, and poor decisions from the suburbs. We need to keep our hearts close to the house of mourning to avoid decisions we will regret.

As difficult as it is, we need to be mindful of death. We must make decisions with our day of death in mind. Please, please, please consider spending just ten minutes in solitude today, meditating about your own funeral. Imagine standing before a God who “dwells in unapproachable light” (1 Timothy 6:16).

But don’t stop there. Perhaps ponder some major life decisions after meditating on death. Your heart, the seat of decision-making, will then be better conditioned to decide where to live, what to drive, and which shoes to buy.

By Francis Chan

What We Were Made For

Christ suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God. (1 Peter 3:18)

 

The gospel is the enjoyment of fellowship with God himself. This is made explicit here in 1 Peter 3:18 in the phrase “that he might bring us to God.”

All the other gifts of the gospel exist to make this one possible.

  • We are forgiven so that our guilt does not keep us away from God.
  • We are justified so that our condemnation does not keep us away from God.
  • We are given eternal life now, with new bodies in the resurrection, so that we have the capacities for enjoying God to the fullest.

Test your heart. Why do you want forgiveness? Why do you want to be justified? Why do you want eternal life? Is the decisive answer, “Because I want to enjoy God”?

The gospel-love God gives is ultimately the gift of himself. This is what we were made for. This is what we lost in our sin. This is what Christ came to restore.

“In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).

By John Piper

Plunge Your Mind into the Ocean of God’s Sovereignty

Sometimes we need to plunge our minds into the ocean of God’s sovereignty. We need to feel the weight of it, like deep and heavy water pressing in against every pore, the deeper we go. A billion rivers of providence pour into this ocean. And God himself gathers up all his countless deeds — from eternity to eternity — and pours them into the currents of his infallible revelation. He speaks, and explains, and promises, and makes his awesome, sovereign providence the place we feel most reverent, most secure, most free.

Sometimes we need to be reminded by God himself that there are no limits to his rule. We need to hear from him that he is sovereign over the whole world, and everything that happens in it. We need his own reminder that he is never helpless, never frustrated, never at a loss. We need his assurance that he reigns over ISIS, terrorism, Syria, Russia, China, India, Nigeria, France, Myanmar, Saudi Arabia, and the United States of America — every nation, every people, every language, every tribe, every chief, president, king, premier, prime minister, politician, great or small.

Sometimes we need to hear specific statements from God himself about his own authority. We need God’s own words. It is the very words of God that have unusual power to settle our nerves, and make us stable, wise, and courageous.

On the one hand hearing the voice of God is like a frightened child who hears the voice downstairs, and realizes that daddy’s home. Whatever those other sounds were, it’s okay. Daddy’s home.

On the other hand it feels like the seasoned troops, dug in at the front line of battle, and about to be overrun by the enemy. But then they get word that a thousand impenetrable tanks are rushing to their aid. They are only one mile away. You will be saved and the enemy will not stand.

Vague generalizations about the power of God do not have the same effect as the very voice of God telling us specifically how strong he is, how pervasive his power, how universal his authority, how unlimited his sovereignty. And that our times are in his hands.

So let’s listen. Let’s treat the Bible as the voice of God. Let’s turn what the Bible says about God into what God says about God — which is what the Bible really is — God speaking about God. And as we listen, let us praise him. There is no other fitting way to listen to God’s exaltation of God. This is what happens to the human soul when we plunge into the ocean of God’s sovereignty.

We praise you, O God, that all authority in the universe belongs to you.

“There is no authority except from me, and those that exist have been instituted by me.” (Romans 13:1)

 

We stand in awe, O God, that in your freedom you do all that you please and all that you plan.

“Whatever I please, I do, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps.” (Psalm 135:6)

“I work all things according to the counsel of my will.” (Ephesians 1:11)

“I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.’” (Isaiah 46:9–10)

 

We marvel, O God, that you share this total authority and rule completely with your Son.

“I have given all authority in heaven and on earth to my Son, Jesus.” (Matthew 28:18)

“I love my Son and have given all things into his hand.” (John 3:35)

“I raised my Son from the dead and seated him at my right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion. . . . I put all things under his feet.” (Ephesians 1:20–22)

“I welcomed my Son into heaven. He is at my right hand, with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him.” (1 Peter 3:22)

 

We submit with reverence to you, O God, because, through your Son, you remove and install the rulers of the world.

“Wisdom and might belong to me. I change times and seasons; I remove kings and set up kings.” (Daniel 2:20–21)

“I sent my angel and struck Herod down, because he did not give me glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last.” (Acts 12:23)

 

Indeed, O God, you not only raise rulers and put them down; you govern all their deeds in every age.

“The king’s heart is a stream of water in my hand, says the LORD; I turn it wherever I will.” (Proverbs 21:1)

“I will put an end to the wealth of Egypt, by the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. . . . I will break the yoke of Egypt, and her proud might shall come to an end. . . . I will strengthen the arms of the king of Babylon and put my sword in his hand, but I will break the arms of Pharaoh.” (Ezekiel 30:101824)

“I have given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, my servant, and I have given him also the beasts of the field to serve him. All the nations shall serve him and his son and his grandson, until the time of his own land comes. Then many nations and great kings shall make him their slave.” (Jeremiah 27:6–7)

“As I have planned, so shall it be, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand. I will break the Assyrian in my land; and his yoke shall depart from my people.” (Isaiah 14:24–25)

“I will make the nations the inheritance of my Son, and the ends of the earth will be his possession. He shall break them with a rod of iron.” (Psalm 2:8–9)

 

We acknowledge with wonder, O God, that no plan of man succeeds but those which you, in unfathomable wisdom, permit.

“I bring the counsel of the nations to nothing; I frustrate the plans of the peoples.” (Psalm 33:10)

“No wisdom, no understanding, no counsel can avail against me.” (Proverbs 21:30)

 

And how mighty and wise you are, O God, that no man, no nation, force of nature can thwart your holy plans.

“No purpose of mine can be thwarted.” (Job 42:2)

“I do according to my will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay my hand or say to me, ‘What have you done?’” (Daniel 4:35)

So, we bow, as dust in the scales, O God, and confess with joy, that we are as nothing compared to your greatness.

“I sit above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers. I stretch out the heavens like a curtain, and spread them like a tent to dwell in. I bring princes to nothing, and make the rulers of the earth as emptiness.” (Isaiah 40:22–23)

 

The joy of our hope, O God, is that you magnify your greatness by lifting up the low, and putting down the proud.

“I look on everyone who is proud and bring him low and tread down the wicked where they stand.” (Job 40:12)

 “I have scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; I have brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate.” (Luke 1:51–52).

 

And so it will be forever, O God. You rule over all, with an everlasting rule, for the sake of the lowly who trust your Son.

“I live forever, for my dominion is an everlasting dominion, and my kingdom endures from generation to generation.” (Daniel 4:34)

“My Son will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:33)

 

Therefore, overflowing with praise and thanks, O precious and holy God, we rest in your absolute sovereignty over our lives. And rejoice to hear you say,

“Your times are in my hand.” (Psalm 31:15)

By Paul Tripp

The Greatest Thing You Could Do Today

Imagine walking up a mountain alone. But it’s no ordinary mountain. The ground beneath you is shaking, and the entire mountain is covered in smoke. At its peak is a thick cloud with lightning and thunder. God descends onto the mountain in fire, and each time you speak to him, he responds in thunder. This is what Moses experienced in Exodus 19.

Now compare that experience to your last time in prayer.

Distracted, obligatory, ordinary — I doubt any such words came across Moses’s mind as he ascended the mountain. But some three thousand years later, we rarely marvel that God permits imperfect humans into his presence.

How did the shocking become so ordinary to us? Is it even possible for our experiences with God to be that fascinating? When was the last time you enjoyed meaningful time alone with God? Time so good that you didn’t want to leave. It was just you, reading God’s words, in his holy presence.

I was fifteen years old when my youth pastor taught me how to pray and read the Bible alone. Now, more than thirty years later, I still can’t find a better way to start my days. I can’t imagine what my life would be like if I didn’t refocus daily by going up the mountain.

It is alone with him that I empty myself of pride, lies, and stress.

  • Pride: standing before a Person clothed in unapproachable light has a way of humbling you (1 Timothy 6:16).
  • Lies: speaking to an All-Knowing Judge tends to induce honesty (Hebrews 4:13).
  • Stress: kneeling before the God who causes men to fail or succeed replaces our anxiety with peace (Psalm 127:1).

 

Something Has to Go

It was simple for Paul. He loved being with Jesus. “To live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).

Knowing Christ deeply consumed him (Philippians 3:8). There is no substitute for being alone with God. If you don’t have time, you need to quit something to make room. Skip a meal. Cancel a meeting. End some regular commitment. There is literally nothing more important you could do today.

God literally determines whether or not you take another breath. “He himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything” (Acts 17:25). Could anything be more important than meeting with the One who decides if you live through this day? Could anything be better? How can we not make time to be with the Maker of time?

What plans do you have today that you think so important that you would race past the Creator to get to them?

Divine Confidence

“The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me.”—Psalm 138:8

Most manifestly the confidence which the Psalmist here expressed was a divine confidence. He did not say, “I have grace enough to perfect that which concerneth me—my faith is so steady that it will not stagger—my love is so warm that it will never grow cold—my resolution is so firm that nothing can move it; no, his dependence was on the Lord alone. If we indulge in any confidence which is not grounded on the Rock of ages, our confidence is worse than a dream, it will fall upon us, and cover us with its ruins, to our sorrow and confusion. All that Nature spins time will unravel, to the eternal confusion of all who are clothed therein.

The Psalmist was wise, he rested upon nothing short of the Lord’s work. It is the Lord who has begun the good work within us; it is He who has carried it on; and if he does not finish it, it never will be complete. If there be one stitch in the celestial garment of our righteousness which we are to insert ourselves, then we are lost; but this is our confidence, the Lord who began will perfect. He has done it all, must do it all, and will do it all. Our confidence must not be in what we have done, nor in what we have resolved to do, but entirely in what the Lord will do. Unbelief insinuates—”You will never be able to stand. Look at the evil of your heart, you can never conquer sin; remember the sinful pleasures and temptations of the world that beset you, you will be certainly allured by them and led astray.” Ah! yes, we should indeed perish if left to our own strength. If we had alone to navigate our frail vessels over so rough a sea, we might well give up the voyage in despair; but, thanks be to God, He will perfect that which concerneth us, and bring us to the desired haven. We can never be too confident when we confide in Him alone, and never too much concerned to have such a trust.