Put on the Gospel of God

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Putting on the armor of God is like putting on the gospel of God – you arm the mind and heart  with what God has done for us in Christ – “the mystery of the gospel.” And having armed your mind with the gospel, you are prepared to take a stance against what the world, your flesh, and the devil tells you differently about life. Each piece of the armor is like a piece of the gospel that shapes our identity in Christ. Read Ephesians 6:10-20, then spend some time in prayer asking the Lord for grace to arm your heart for this week’s walk of faith.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 
Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.
To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

 

Jesus Christ is my “belt of truth.” Therefore I reject any claim on how to live my life if it does not lead to knowing Christ more fully.

Jesus Christ is my “breastplate of righteousness.” Therefore I reject all performance-based impulses that attempt to impress a Holy God.

Jesus Christ is my “shoes for my feet.” Therefore I will gladly embrace the truth that reminds me that God is no longer angry with me; he has defeated my sin on the cross and now I stand firm in the gospel of peace.

Jesus Christ is my “shield of faith.” Therefore I reject any notion that Christ is insufficient for what it takes to persevere to the end. When I begin to doubt and linger too long around the campfires of the devil, I will move in faith to Christ, for he has prayed for me and I will return to the hard and narrow way that leads to eternal life.

Jesus Christ is my “helmet of salvation.” Therefore I reject any and all propositions that attempt to undermine my identity as “in Christ.” I will preach the gospel to my head and heart when the world calls me to assimilate my faith to its idolatry.

Jesus Christ is my “sword of the Spirit.” Therefore I will at all times take up the Word of God, praying in the Spirit, to stay alert to any scheme of the Devil that attempts to dethrone Christ in my heart. Jesus Christ is King of kings and Lord of lords! No worldly offer of personal peace and prosperity can match what I already have in Christ. No kingdom of man can over-rule the Kingdom of God. My life is not my own, for I was bought with a price and therefore I will glorify the Lord with my whole being until he returns.

When Greatness meets Emptiness – Michael Jordan at 50

Another great post by Matt Smethhurst! at thegospelcoalition.org.

Matt raises the valid question: Do you still want to be like Mike?

“If you’ve watched ESPN at any point in the last week, you know Michael Jordan just turned 50. With six NBA titles, five MVPs, ten scoring titles, 14 All-Star appearances, and many other feats posterized on my childhood bedroom wall, Jordan’s legacy on the basketball court is unmatched. But life off the court, particularly since his final retirement in 2003, hasn’t been so pristine.

In anticipation of Jordan’s 50th birthday, ESPN senior writer Wright Thompson spent some time with Number 23. The product is an Outside the Lines article titled “Michael Jordan Has Not Left the Building,” a fascinating behind-the-scenes glimpse into the mind of the man who revolutionized the world of sports.

Unquenchable Fire

Thompson’s piece pulsates with the sense that Jordan isn’t happy. “I would give up everything now to go back and play the game of basketball,” the Hall of Famer confesses. When asked how he replaces it, Jordan simply states, “You don’t. You learn to live with it.”

For almost three decades on basketball’s supreme stage, Jordan lived for the next challenge, the next challenger. Naysayers became friends, for they brought the nightly fuel that reignited his drive to perform, to conquer, to vindicate his name. This insatiable drive to prove himself propelled Jordan to the pinnacle of the sporting world—and motivated him to remain there. Even today, Thompson writes, he cares what his critics say. “He needs to know, a needle for a hungry vein.”

Jordan might have stopped playing basketball, but the rage is still there. The fire remains, which is why he searches for release, on the golf course or at a blackjack table, why he spends so much time and energy on [the Charlotte Bobcats] and why he dreams of returning to play.

The man has left the court, but the addictions won’t leave the man.

Even ‘Yahweh’ Ages

Jordan’s surroundings only reinforce a perception of otherworldly status. Thompson remarks:

Jordan is at the center of several overlapping universes, at the top of the billion-dollar Jordan Brand at Nike, of the Bobcats, of his own company, with dozens of employees and contractors on the payroll. In case anyone in the inner circle forgets who’s in charge, they only have to recall the code names given to them by the private security team assigned to overseas trips. Estee is Venom. George is Butler. Yvette is Harmony. Jordan is called Yahweh—a Hebrew word for God.

Yahweh. I am who I am. I will be what I will be. Not exactly the sort of nickname that fosters meekness.

“My ego is so big now that I expect certain things,” Jordan admits. But, as Thompson observes, this is a natural consequence of life at the very top. “Jordan is used to being the most important person in every room he enters and, going a step further, in the lives of everyone he meets. . . . People cater to his every whim.”

Imagine that life for a moment. Put yourself in his shoes (Air Jordans, of course). You can’t recall the last time you weren’t the most important person in the room. No matter where on Planet Earth you go, you’re king. Thirty years and counting. What would that recognition do to someone? To you?

The Flicker that Fades

Such an abnormal existence brings certain abnormal hopes, promises, expectations. As Thompson observes:

Most people live anonymous lives, and when they grow old and die, any record of their existence is blown away. They’re forgotten, some more slowly than others, but eventually it happens to virtually everyone. Yet for the few people in each generation who reach the very pinnacle of fame and achievement, a mirage flickers: immortality. They come to believe in it. Even after Jordan is gone, he knows people will remember him. Here lies the greatest basketball player of all time. That’s his epitaph.

There’s a fable about returning Roman generals who rode in victory parades through the streets of the capital; a slave stood behind them, whispering in their ears, “All glory is fleeting.” Nobody does that for professional athletes. Jordan couldn’t have known that the closest he’d get to immortality was during that final walk off the court. . . . All that can happen in the days and years that follow is for the shining monument he built to be chipped away, eroded. His self-esteem has always been, as he says, “tied directly to the game.” Without it, he feels adrift. Who am I? What am I doing? For the past 10 years, since retiring for the third time, he has been running, moving as fast as he could, creating distractions, distance.

In his supercilious 2009 Hall of Fame speech, Jordan called the game of basketball his “refuge,” the “place where I’ve gone when I needed to find comfort and peace.” Three years later, the restlessness remains.

It turns out the voracious drive that turned a shy North Carolina youngster into a household name comes with a price tag. And as the flicker of immortality fades, Jordan stares in the mirror, wondering where to turn. “How can I enjoy the next 20 years without so much of this consuming me?” he ponders. “How can I find peace away from the game of basketball?”

From Chicago to Calvary

As a Christian, it’s easy to read a piece like Thompson’s and feel discouraged by Jordan’s egotism. Yet as psychologists clamor to diagnose Jordan’s condition, we feel no surprise. The distance between him and us is, after all, uncomfortably slim. We want to be the most important person in every room; he is. As the apostle Paul might say, who is sufficient for these things?

In the world, status is tethered to performance. It’s the same in the gospel. The difference, however, is that our status as believers is not tethered to our performance, but Christ’s. Only the gospel can offer the resources to combat our pride, expose our emptiness, and flood our hearts with peace.

“How can I find peace away from the game of basketball?” the aging legend asks.

Michael, you never had peace. Triumph and fame, yes, but not peace. James Naismith invented a game that brought you a sense of purpose, of value, of calm. But it was only that—a sense, a counterfeit of the real thing. You will never find life outside the game for the same reason you never found life in it. It’s not there.

The peace you seek isn’t available on a basketball court or a golf course but on a little hill outside Jerusalem. There, Yahweh incarnate hung in the place of sinners—wannabe Yahwehs like you and like me.

You’ve gained the world and found it lacking, Mike. Don’t lose your soul.”

“in him” is My Identity

To compliment the previous post, I give you the apostle Paul and Jason Gray. First, the apostle:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption . . . the forgiveness of sins. . . an inheritance . . . sealed with the promised Holy Spirit . . . to the praise of his glory.” (Eph. 1:3-14).

And now, Jason Gray. Enjoy!

Are you Insecure?

Sam Storms is one of my favorite writers and pastors. He recently posted on the insecurity of pastors and its damage done to the church. But if we look at insecurity on its own, his words are true all by themselves. I’ve removed the application to pastors and made it more general to all of us. I hope you find Sam’s words helpful.
                                                                                                                                    “Insecurity makes it difficult to acknowledge and appreciate the accomplishments of others. In other words, the personally insecure person is often incapable of offering genuine encouragement to others. Their success becomes a threat to you.                                                                                                                                                                        
If you’re insecure you likely won’t pray for others to flourish.
                                                                                                                                   
Insecurity will lead a person to encourage and support and praise another only insofar as the latter serves the former’s agenda and doesn’t detract from your image.
                                                                                                                                             
An insecure person will likely resent the praise or affirmation that others receive from the people at large.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                           
For the insecure person, constructive criticism is not received well, but is perceived as a threat or outright rejection.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          
Because the insecure person is incapable of acknowledging personal failure or lack of knowledge, he’s often unteachable. He will resist those who genuinely seek to help him or bring him information or insights he lacks. His spiritual growth is therefore stunted.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 The insecure person is typically heavy-handed in his dealings with others.                                                                                                                                                                        
The insecure person is often controlling and given to micromanagement.                                                                                                                                                                         The insecure person rarely empowers or authorizes others to undertake tasks for which they’re especially qualified and gifted. He won’t release others but rather restrict them.                                                                                                                                                          
The insecure person is often given to outbursts of anger.                                                                                                                                                                                                        
At its core, insecurity is the fruit of pride.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  
In summary, and at its core, insecurity results from not believing the gospel. The antidote to feelings of insecurity, then, is the rock-solid realization that one’s value and worth are in the hands of God, not others, and that our identity expresses who we are in Christ. Only as we deepen our grasp of his sacrificial love for us will we find the liberating confidence to affirm and support others without fearing their successes or threats.”