Path with Focus

God Will Fulfill His Purpose for You

“I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me.

This is the straightforward truth that David clings to in Psalm 57:2.

Here he states two basic facts: God has a purpose for him and God will fulfill that purpose. Both these truths combine to become that deep and wondrous theological concept we call “providence.” The word was much more common centuries ago than it is today, though its relevancy has never waned. Its meaning captures God’s relationship to the created world, namely, that he both preserves the order of all things and guides them toward his intended end.

Providence is the sovereignty of God made palpable. It’s the outworking of his power and authority for his children in space and time, which means, in the things we schedule, the air we breathe, the moments we move. Providence is observed, experienced, tasted. We may even say it’s the distinctively Christian term for reality.

Since God is sovereign, and this world is his, then every moment, in a sense, is a moment of providence. Wherever you find yourself right now has come by the process of events he ordained. Every past moment of your life has led to yournow. The same will be true tonight, and tomorrow, and ten years in the future. Our experience of providence is our experience of the present, which we know has been wondrously woven together by God.

And because God is behind it all, we, as those united to Christ by faith, are assured of this: God’s providence neither gets it wrong nor lets us go, ever.

His Decree and Promise

First, we should immediately stop every instinct in us that wants to pass this off as cobweb orthodoxy. It is orthodoxy, and it’s beautifully ancient, but it’s more current than we ever expected. Providence is actually so contemporary that it anticipates how vastly different things often seem from our perspective. Rarely does it feel like every event in our lives is for our good. But providence, in its mysterious movements, flanks the arguments about how we may feel and compels our faith in the God who is doing “ten thousand times more” than we realize. This doing, whether seen or unseen, whether painful or pleasant, is resolutely and effectively targeting our eternal joy. We will be like Christ . . . with him . . . forever (1 Corinthians 15:49; Psalm 16:10–11).

God’s intended aim for his people, after all, is that we are conformed to the image of Jesus. This is his decree and promise, having chosen us for this before the foundation of the world and having promised us unto this that all things will work together (Romans 8:28–30).

God’s providence is his execution of that decree and promise, as Puritan John Flavel explains. In fact, nothing ever happens in the universe that is outside of fulfilling that decree and promise. Nothing. There isn’t a single incident, or tragedy, that will result in something other than the “true interest and good of the saints” (Mystery of Providence, 19).

God never gets it wrong. He doesn’t swing and miss. Every detail of our days comes through the blueprints of his meticulous care for us. And even when all hope seems lost, remember he is the one who “gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist” (Romans 4:17) — and he will do that for you.

His Resolute Focus

Not only is God flawlessly at work for our good, but he doesn’t let loose until he’s finished. God’s providence never dries up or fizzles out. It is always in action to accomplish his intended aim. Everything he does is right, and it is all right until it’s done. Flavel writes,

[Providence] goes through with its designs, and accomplishes what it begins. No difficulty so clogs it, no cross accident falls in its way, but it carries its design through it. Its motions are irresistible and uncontrollable. (19)

“He does all that he pleases,” “no purpose of [his] can be thwarted,” and “none can stay his hand” (Psalm 115:3; Job 42:2; Daniel 4:35) — these words about God are assurances that he will complete what he began in us (Philippians 1:6). Nothing can separate us from his love for us in Christ (Romans 8:39), and nothing can distract the simplest of circumstances from hitting the target of our transformation. There’s no stalling with God. He doesn’t procrastinate. Even if we are innocently obtuse to his designs right now, God’s providence is blaring full-throttle toward our Christlikeness, and his glory.

Be revived, encouraged, comforted, God is fulfilling his purpose for you.


God Will Never Regret Saving You

It was almost 7 AM — opening time for a tiny concession stand dubbed the Eureka Café. I was there first, leaning on the counter and staring happily at the trademark: “We Proudly Brew Starbucks Coffee.”

I had expected this summer retreat center to be nestled miles away from a good cup o’ Joe. But according to the words on this sign, and the rustic fragrance that filled the air, I had found it. So I went on to order my coffee — a scene that repeated several times in the course of five days — and it didn’t take long to figure out that “proudly brewing” a brand of coffee and being an official institution of that brand are two different things.

Now don’t get me wrong, the coffee was great. But the Eureka Café was a far stretch from a bona fide Starbucks. Sure, the baristas were nice and the drinks were good, but there were several things you couldn’t get. The half-and-half didn’t need refrigeration. There was nowhere to sit. There was no music, no coffitivity. Of all the similarities, it still wasn’t the real thing. You know what I mean.

It’s sort of like how we think about the Holy Spirit, when we think about him wrongly. We tend to make him the Eureka Café of God. Sure, there are important similarities, but he’s not the real thing. We know he is related to God, but we can easily hold back from thinking of the Spirit as God himself, which he truly is. And I’m afraid that until we really understand this, we sell ourselves short of living gladly in his benefits. I have two specifically in mind.

1. We Are Inseparably United to Christ

Because the Holy Spirit is God — not a mere emissary of God — it means that our union with Christ is inseparable.

The Spirit’s central role in the life of believers is to show us Jesus and unite us to him. He opens blind eyes to behold Jesus and awakens dead hearts to believe Jesus. The Spirit, through the life-giving faith he empowers, makes us born again (John 3:8). He makes us new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17). He brings us into Christ and becomes the bond of our union with him. Sinclair Ferguson writes, “The closeness of our union [with Christ] is dependent upon our mutual possession by, and possession of, the Holy Spirit” (The Holy Spirit, 106).

This is important. Our union with Christ is dependent upon the Spirit — not our will to believe, though the Spirit fuels our faith; not our intellect, though the Spirit gives light; not our affections, though the Spirit makes us feel; not our obedience, though the Spirit produces fruit. The Spirit himself is the bond of our union, which means, because the Spirit is God, the bond of our relationship with God is God himself. And that means there’s no going back.

This bond does not expire or dissolve. This is what the Spirit does and has always done. Before the foundation of the world, the Spirit was the personal bond of glorious love between the Father and the Son. And now, the Spirit is that love in us (John 17:26; Romans 5:5). He has brought us into an inseparable union — one that is as secure as the Father’s love for the Son, as sure as God’s love is for himself.

Because the Holy Spirit is God, we’re in for good.

2. We Are Inseparable Without Regret

Because the Holy Spirit is God, and therefore our union with Christ is inseparable, it means God will never regret saving us.

This part is more than a theological point of our security. It has to do with how we grasp it. It’s not enough to say that we are inseparably united to Christ. But how does God feel about that? What good would inseparable union do for us right now if we thought that God was unhappy about it? What tempered good is eternal security if we thought God felt stuck with us?

Because the Spirit unites us to Christ, it means that all of Christ’s benefits become our own. His sin-defeating death was where the guilt and power of our sin were defeated (Romans 6:3). His death-defeating resurrection was where the power and sting of our graves were overcome (Romans 6:4). His vindication as God’s Son is a vindication in which we now share.

In Christ, as the Spirit himself bears witness, we are God’s children (Romans 8:16–17). We are fellow-heirs with Christ — beloved of the Father like he is. And this kind of love from this kind of Father is not begrudging.

Because we are united to Christ, and the bond of that union is God the Holy Spirit, then even in our worst moments, in our lowest lows, in our deepest darkness, God has never regretted saving us. Never.

He chose us for the praise of his glorious grace (Ephesians 1:4–6); he made us his own workmanship (Ephesians 2:10); he will complete what he began (Philippians 1:6) — all of which the Spirit guarantees (2 Corinthians 1:21–22). It really is true: God will never regret saving us. He is irrevocably glad in the inseparable union we have with Christ that he has accomplished by his Spirit.

You can’t get that at the Eureka Café.


Something Very Important About God

2 Chronicles 16:9 says something very important about God. He is a God who lacks nothing, and therefore gives everything. He is the source of help for all our needs. And because this is the case, because he is the giver and there is nothing we have which has not been received (1 Corinthians 4:7), he gets all the glory (1 Peter 4:10–11).

But we can read this wrongly. So easily in texts such as this one, we can detach God’s action from his actual posture. We know from this text that God gives — that his eyes “run to and fro throughout the whole earth to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him.” We know that because the text says it. But what expression do we picture on God’s face in this work? What type of attitude do we project upon him in all his supporting and giving?

The Sketch We Bring

Even though we read about him giving, we can imagine harsh things about him, as if he gives with a frown. Or as if he opens his hands reluctantly.

The issue is how we connect these details about what God does along to our big picture understanding of who he is. We all have a big picture understanding, you know. We all bring a sketch of how we perceive God to every passage of Scripture we read. And unless we check that sketch and consistently subject it to the biblical text, it can blur the wonders before our very eyes.

Keep It Sharp

Something that helps keep the big picture sharp is to compare multiple descriptions of God from throughout the Bible. For example, how does the description of God in 2 Chronicles 16:9 fit with the description of God, say, in Psalm 94:19.

When I thought, “My foot slips,” your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up. When the cares of me heart are many, your comforts cheer my soul.

Like the Lord giving strong support, this passage also speaks about God’s action for his people. And the picture here is amazing. When the psalmist was about to slip, the Lord held him up. This is a picture. Imagine walking on ice. Just when you get unsure and your feet start to slide opposite directions, your dad reaches out and grabs you with his hand. He holds you up. All your weight that would have crashed into the frozen floor instantly shifts onto the hand that has securely taken hold of you. He’s got you. Isn’t that great?

The psalmist continues: when his cares are many, he says the Lord is his delight. “Cares are many” means stress and anxiety. When things get out of hand and life feels overwhelming, God is there. He is full of comfort — of consolations — that cheer our souls. God is a God who is there. Who is so involved in our details that he reaches his hand out when we’re about to slip. He’s so on top of our schedules that he has comfort when we feel empty.

Glory Isn’t Shared

This is the one whose eyes run to and fro throughout the whole earth to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him. He isn’t stingy in his grace. He is abundant in mercy, in love, in doing the highest good to his people through the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ. And this means all boasting is excluded (1 Corinthians 1:30–31; Ephesians 2:8–9). We are weak. We are desperate. God is mighty. God is all. And we better get this, for he says,

For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another (Isaiah 48:11).


God Is the One Who Gives

2 Chronicles 16:9,

For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him.

Far from a motivational line, 2 Chronicles 16:9 is actually a rebuke.

The truth in these words are contrasted with the behavior of King Asa toward the end of his life. Things began to go haywire for him, as we see in 2 Chronicles 16:2. Judah would be at war with Israel. Asa, king of Judah, rather than relying on the Lord for victory, goes out to buy help from Syria. This is not sharp military tactic — it is faithlessness.

Hanani the seer makes sure we get this. He steps up in 2 Chronicles 16:7–8 to speak the definitive word on what’s happened. “You relied on the king of Syria,” he says to Asa, “and did not rely on the Lord your God” (verse 7).

But Asa, Asa! Don’t you know that God supports those who rely on him? Victory comes when you stop looking to other things for the solution and start looking to God. “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him” (2 Chronicles 16:9).

Asa didn’t get this. Will we? Will we learn from this story?

There are at least two points to take with us. First, God supports us. Second, his support is to those whose heart is blameless.

God Supports Us

God supports us and it will never be the other way around. We don’t support God, or help him, or give him anything as though he has any need. Self-sufficiency is what it means to be God. Only he is independant. Only he is satisfied within himself in everlasting joy. This truth is pervasive in the Bible: Job 41:11Psalm 50:9–12Acts 17:24–25Romans 11:35–36; 1 Peter 4:10–11 (See John Piper’s explanation).

To act contrary to this, to act as if we give God something, is actually our attempt to play his role. To act as if we do him favors is our subtle attempt to put ourselves in his place and project upon him creaturely need. It is a false religion, and a popular one at that.

Be overwhelmed today that God is God and you are his. The reason your heart beats is because he speaks it. All that you have is given to you by him. Don’t ignore this wonder. Let us be humbled by it.

The Blameless, That Is

This verse gets more specific. God’s action on behalf of his creatures is peculiar to those whose hearts are blameless toward him. Now what does this mean? Considering the story of Asa and Hanani’s rebuke, we see that the parallel to blamelessness is trusting the Lord.

Here’s the snapshot: Asa didn’t rely on God, therefore God doesn’t support him in battle. Verse 9 gives us the rationale that God supports those whose hearts are blameless toward him. . . which means, to not trust God (like Asa) is to not have a blameless heart. And the converse is true, to trust God means to have a blameless heart.

Asa’s problem was that he didn’t rely on God. He didn’t have faith. He ignored who the Lord is and what he has said. This goes to show that God’s work on our behalf is not generic. It is focused on all his promises made sure in Jesus — promises that we will only taste if we trust in him.

So as we see the supremacy of God in this verse, we are left with the imperative to believe. To trust in the finished work of Jesus for us, to abandon all efforts of our own (Romans 4:5Galatians 2:16Ephesians 2:8–9).

The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth to support — work for, provide every need for, give victory in every struggle for — those who are his by faith in Jesus Christ. Amen.


God Is Great in All the Earth

Over the past couple years I’ve had the joy of occasionally leading corporate prayer at Bethlehem’s Sunday night service. I write them out and read them, every time. By grace I mean it when I write it and I mean it when I voice it. Though I’ve archived them all, they’ve not been posted before. But perhaps they might be helpful — one more little means to direct our hearts and minds to the Lord and the wonder of his grace.

The prayers are typically angled by whatever the theme is of that particular service. This most recent theme was the greatness of God in all the earth.


Father, we come now and ask for a view of your greatness.

The nations rage and the kingdoms totter, you utter your voice and the earth melts. You have brought desolations to the end of the earth, you make wars to cease, bows to break, spears to shatter, and chariots you burn with fire. You speak and summon the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting, you measured the waters in the hollow of your hand, you make grass to grow in deserts that no man will ever see, you give food for lions and know every time a goat gives birth.

You know every star in the sky, every sparrow that falls on the earth, and every hair upon our heads. Your judgments are unsearchable, your understanding beyond searching out. You are greater than that which can be imagined, counseled by no one and constrained by nothing. Utterly independent and gloriously sovereign, you are great, you are good, and you do what you want.

And we don’t answer back, indeed we can’t. We are dust, our lives are vapors, you know our frame is like grass. You are eternal, your knowledge is incomprehensible, you dwell in inapproachable light. To see you would melt us, for you are holy and we are sinful.

For we have tried to be creatures apart from you. We have abandoned the glory of reflecting your image and have instead sought to forge our own. We have hoisted up for ourselves other gods who are not gods, and thus deserve your everlasting wrath.

But though great, you are not distant. You do not keep silent. You are high and lifted up, and yet you came and lived on this earth. Father, you have sent your Son, Jesus Christ, the word made flesh, who has come to reveal your glory and redeem your people. So that when he died in our place on the cross we see the preeminent display of your character, when he rose from the dead we witness the triumph of your greatest victory, and when we believed the news about this we experienced the power that it all accomplished.

Once separated and dead, now reconciled and alive, brought into fellowship with you, we realize that your sovereign prerogative is always aimed at your glory and our good. Glory and goodness that we will behold and delight in forever.

Thank you. In Jesus’s name, amen.

Either Jesus Changes Everything, or He Changes Nothing

It’s not always a good idea to listen to lectures on road trips. Especially not if you are already a little sleep deprived.

Traveling with Tony Reinke from Vancouver to Seattle last week, I decided to put on a little John Webster. Ten minutes into the talk, after nodding in an out a couple times, I persuaded myself it was too dangerous. We stopped and got coffee. But it wasn’t before I heard a line I’ve continued to mull over since. In this lecture on Christian discipleship, Webster commented something like, “Jesus either changes everything or he changes nothing.”

Think about that.

Either he’s King over everything or he isn’t. And if he is then everything must change. It must. And so he is and so it must.

This has become a topic of conversation for the whole family as we settle into the summer together. Everything changes. The way we brush our teeth. Drink orange juice. Commute to work. Jesus is risen. He is Lord. So every speck of this earth is, in one way or another, pointing to him.

A couple mornings ago we were having breakfast outside on the deck when I told Elizabeth, four, and Hannah, two, about Jesus changing everything. I explained this is what it means to be the forever King.

“So, Elizabeth,” I said, leveling my eyes and posture with hers, “How does Jesus change the way we eat breakfast outside?” She smiled, a true smile, “We enjoy it.”

I think that’s a good start.


Theology in Baseball and Blockbusters

My colleagues (and friends), Tony Reinke and David Mathis, have authored two posts this week I absolutely love. Now, I think it’s excellent content. But even more than that, it’s what’s under the hood that encourages me most. It’s the way these posts give us a model for seeing the world. Tony is drawing deep truths about God’s wrath from a movie about superheros. David connects John Frame on the Christian life to Major League Baseball’s league-leading homerun hitter.

Check them out: Tony’s The Avenger and David’s Josh Hamilton, Relapse, and the Means of Grace.

On Election and Faithfulness

Deuteronomy 7:7–9,

It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples,  but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations

The theology of election leads to the exhortation to know the very character of God. He is sovereign: loving whom he loves, having mercy on whom he wills — and he is not arbitrary. He acts in accordance to a standard, namely, himself. He is a God of covenant faithfulness.

This passage is a remarkable blending together of YHWH’s utter sovereignty and condescending relation to his people. He is sovereign enough to choose whom he wills, according to his own good pleasure, and yet he is guided by his own character such that he never acts outside of who he is. He is sovereign, in that he does whatever he pleases, and he is bound, in that he doesn’t contradict his character.

This is deeply rooted in the essence of the triune God, whose election is in reference to the Son (Ephesians 1:4). And the root of his election — his unconditional, because-he-is-God election — and his mind-boggling, mouth-shutting faithfulness is intrinsic to himself. It is in himself, “for he is content with his own secret good pleasure.”

How to Approach the Bible

The Bible comes from God; God doesn’t come from the Bible.

Our knowledge of God is a different story. What we know about God, definitively and redemptively, comes from the Bible. And that is, the Bible that comes from God, who himself comes from nothing.

These are the foundational pieces to understanding the doctrine of revelation, and therefore, the doctrine of Scripture. God, utterly independent and essentially revelatory, has made himself known. This is stunning. And it helps to read the Bible with it in view.

D. A. Carson writes,

To approach the Bible correctly it is important to know something of the God who stands behind it. God is both transcendent (i.e., he is “above” space and time) and personal. He is the sovereign and all-powerful Creator to whom the entire universe owes its existence, yet he is the God who graciously condescends to interact with human beings whom he has himself formed in his own image.

Because we are locked in time and space, God meets us here; he is the personal God who interacts with other persons, persons he has made to glorify him and to enjoy him forever. . . .

The point to emphasize is that a genuinely Christian understanding of the Bible presupposes the God of the Bible, a God who makes himself known in a wide diversity of ways so that human beings may know the purpose for which they were made — to know and love and worship God, and so delight in that relationship that God is glorified while they receive the matchless benefit of becoming all that God wants them to be.

“Approaching the Bible,” Collected Writings on Scripture, (Wheaton: Crossway, 2010), 19–21.

Read at DG.

What Seth Godin, John Piper, and Jesus Teach Us About the Mission of the Church

Seth Godin:

Fitzgerald nailed it when he described Jay Gatsby’s attitude: “What would be the use of doing great things if I could have a better time telling her what I was going to do?” It’s easy to fall so in love with the idea of starting that we never actually start. (Poke the Box75)

One of Godin’s goals in this little book is to expose the truth about failure — it’s not as bad as we all think.

And yet, the fear of failure is paralyzing. It’s the great deterrent to our starting things, to our taking risks. It is, as Godin explains, the dirt that buries us in the status quo program of the world around us.

Now, in my opinion, the biggest and simplest takeaway from reading Godin is how much more what he says applies to the Christian than to the secular professional.

Godin is brilliant in trying to convince his readers to step forward, to fly in the face of fear, to “start.”

And Jesus says this:

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:18–20)

Whatever it is caught in the brain storm of your starting, let it have this verb in its sights: make disciples.

Be about sharing the gospel and your very own self with people in order to present them mature in Christ (1 Thessalonians 2:8; Colossians 1:28).

Jesus has given us the commission, with all authority in heaven and earth. And he is always with us, always, with all authority in heaven and earth.

Pastor John writes,

When the threat of death becomes a door to paradise the final barrier to temporal risk is broken. When a Christian says from the heart, “To live is Christ and to die is gain,” he is free to love no matter what. . . . To every timid saint, wavering on the edge of some dangerous gospel venture, Jesus says, “Fear not, you can only be killed” (Luke 12:4). (A Call for Christian Risk)

How can we be afraid?


[Original post at Desiring God]