Bell Creek Community Church

A non-denominational church in Livonia, Michigan with Biblical teaching, worship, and kid's ministries.

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How Important Is It to Confess My Sin to Someone Other Than God?

Wed, 02/07/2018 - 11:02am

The New Testament teaches that Christians should confess their sins regularly — not only to God, but also to each other.

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Do You Struggle with Doubts?

Wed, 02/07/2018 - 8:00am

At some point, everyone struggles with doubt. But for every child of God, the Holy Spirit will sustain your faith when you need him most.

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The Sweetest Words We Never Want to Hear

Tue, 02/06/2018 - 8:00pm

Some of the sweetest graces I have enjoyed tasted bitter before they were ever sweet to me.

Anyone who follows Jesus will experience “trials of various kinds” (James 1:2), but the bitter-then-sweet graces I have in mind are the times others confronted me when I was wandering into sin. I don’t remember all the specific conversations or circumstances, but I do remember each of the handful of people who have loved me enough to love me well in those moments.

Do you have friends like that? They’re hard to find. And we’re all sinfully prone to push them away, or keep them at arm’s distance, whenever we do find them. But we desperately need their love, however bitter it may feel at first. And we need to love others with the kind of humble courage and gentle boldness we receive from friends like them.

Because I’ve come to prize hard conversations that push me closer to Christ, I’ve learned to read the beginning of one of Paul’s letters a little more slowly.

(Not) Grace to You

Paul opens his letter to the Galatians like he opens almost every other letter: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ . . . ” (Galatians 1:3). But what he says next sets Galatians apart from every other letter, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel” (Galatians 1:6).

In almost every letter, Paul begins by giving thanks to God for his readers:

  • To the Romans: “I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you . . . ” (Romans 1:8).
  • To the Philippians: “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you . . . ” (Philippians 1:3).
  • Even to the Corinthians, with all of their problems: “I give thanks to my God always for you . . . ” (1 Corinthians 1:4).

But to the Galatians: “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel” (Galatians 1:6). Not a joyful word of deep gratitude. No pleasantries or small talk, but a sudden, strong word of rebuke. The transition is jarring. “Grace to you” may seem to instantly flip to “No grace to you” — in only three verses.

Wading Pools of Comfort

Is Paul speaking out of both sides of his mouth? Was he lying about grace, knowing full well he was about to charge into severe warning and bold confrontation? Did he really want the Galatians to experience grace?

If we don’t recognize love in the gravity and severity of Paul’s letter, we’ve settled for splashing in a wading pool of comfort when we could be learning to sail on the ocean of real grace. Paul raises the stakes, and changes his tone, in an effort to pry their eyes open to the miles of grace washing up on the shore at their feet. They have no idea they are drowning in the wading pool, and that true comfort lies with Christ out on the waves.

Like a lifeguard along the narrow path to life, Paul raises his voice hoping to save the ones he loves. He dives into their crisis to pull as many as he can to safety. True grace throws itself in front of hell for the wandering. That’s what loving rebuke is: a massive blinking road sign in front of never-ending danger.

Not All Grace Feels Like Grace

Some of the most precious grace feels harsh in the moment. But it will not seem harsh when we rehearse the same scene in heaven. “Turn back from your sin, or you will go to hell!” will be some of the sweetest words we’ve ever heard. Hearing those words in eternity, we would trade a thousand compliments for one correction spoken in love.

When someone confronts you about something you said, or did, or didn’t do, or about some other potential area of weakness or failure in your life — and everything in you wants to ignore them, or argue with them, or make excuses — what if, instead, you stopped and searched their words for grace? What if you gave yourself space to ask if they are seeing something in you that you cannot see? What if you slowed down enough to hear and test what God might really be saying through this friend?

Correction may not look like grace, feel like grace, or sound like grace, but it may just prove to be some of the sweetest grace you’ve tasted.

Deserting Grace

Don’t miss one more seed of grace in Paul’s strong rebuke:

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel — not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. (Galatians 1:6–7)

He writes with boldness and severity because he is watching people walk away from grace. He is not withdrawing or withholding grace; he’s calling wandering believers back to grace. They have “fallen away from grace,” (Galatians 5:4), and he’s trying to lift them back on their feet again. He even signs his letter of correction, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit” (Galatians 6:18).

If someone in your life is willing to say the hard thing to you in love, they are not robbing you of grace. They may be the only one courageous enough to offer you the real grace you need. They are stepping out in faith, often risking their own time and comfort, to bear your burdens and bring you back into the sweetness of the light — the sweetness of confession, repentance, reconciliation, and Christlikeness.

Ask God to give you eyes to see the beauty of grace in loving rebuke, and to prize friends who love you enough to say the hard thing. Then ask him to make you that kind of friend for someone else.

How Important Is It to Confess My Sin to Someone Other Than God?

Tue, 02/06/2018 - 7:00pm

The New Testament teaches that Christians should confess their sins regularly — not only to God, but also to each other.

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What Is It Like to Enjoy God?

Mon, 02/05/2018 - 8:00pm

The enjoyment of God is the enjoyment of a Person — not just the enjoyment of a thing, or an idea, or a pattern of actions, or a mysterious force. The ultimate joy of God’s creatures is joy in a Person — joy in God.

This is exactly why Jesus died. The apostle Peter says, “Christ suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18). To God. The Person. What makes eternal life desirable is not just that it lasts forever, but that it is knowing and enjoying an infinitely satisfying Person. And he is also a Person who, in his human nature, died so that he could be known and enjoyed.

Enjoy the Person

But how do we come to know the Person? We come to know him by his actions, his ideas revealed in his word — things that he has made as pointers and foretastes of himself.

“In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him” (1 John 4:9). We know the love of the Person by the action of the Person. We know the power of the Person by the action of his creation of the universe (Romans 1:18–20). We know the wisdom of the Person by his purposeful providence in history (Romans 11:33–36). We know the justice and righteousness of the Person by the punishment of sin in the death of Jesus (Romans 3:24–26). We know the faithfulness of the Person by the keeping of his promises (2 Corinthians 1:20). We know the compassion and patience of the Person because we know Jesus Christ who said, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).

So as you meditate on the perfect work of your God, let Scripture compel you to enjoy the Person:

  • Rejoice in the Lord always. (Philippians 4:4)
  • Delight yourself in the Lord. (Psalm 37:4)
  • Be glad in the Lord. (Psalm 32:11)
  • In your presence there is fullness of joy. (Psalm 16:11)
  • The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup. (Psalm 16:5)
  • As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. (Psalm 42:1–2)
  • I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land. (Psalm 143:6)
  • We rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation (Romans 5:11).
Enjoy His Gifts

And the same is true with things and human experiences. God gives them to us to reveal more of his character, essence, and unsurpassed worth.

We know something of the sweetness of his friendship because we have tasted honey. We know something of his sustaining richness because we have eaten rich bread. We know something of the refreshment of his fellowship because we have drunk water when we are thirsty. We know something of the personal depths and exquisite intensity of person-to-person pleasure because we have felt sexual desire. We know something of the warmth of his affection because we remember being held securely by our mother. And we know something of his worth because we have coveted gold. Even our sins witness to his worth.

One of the best pointers and tastes of the experience of enjoying God as a Person is the enjoyment of the human persons we know, not just their gifts. So, when you have some quiet moments, think of the kindest person you know, the most loving person, the wisest person, the most patient person, the most intelligent person, the strongest person, the most tenderhearted person, the happiest person, the most peaceful person, the most optimistic person, the meekest person, the most courageous person, the most articulate person, the person with the best sense of humor, and the most generous person. Think about what it is like to enjoy these persons when their personalities are at their best.

Then combine all the good traits of all those persons into one person. And then increase those traits to perfection in quality, and to infinite beauty in how they are proportioned and exercised. And then let all the enjoyment of all those persons for all those personal excellencies, heightened to perfection, give you some hint of what it will be like to enjoy God fully. And then pray that the Holy Spirit would grant this miracle to happen.

Delight Is Our Duty

The first and greatest commandment is that we love God. And the essence of loving God is that we delight in God — that we enjoy God, that we find God to be our all-satisfying treasure, our gold.

Loving God is not first working for God. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). He did not say, “Loving me is keeping my commandments.” He said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Love is first. Commandment-keeping follows. Doing is fruit. Loving is root. This is why Jesus put the heart first in this highest duty: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart.” The heart is not the organ of performance. It is the organ of preference. It’s not the organ of doing for God. It’s the organ of delighting in God. Therefore, the great and first commandment is: Delight yourself in the Lord!

Joy in God is our first obligation and delighting in God is our highest duty. The second greatest commandment — to love people — is the overflow of the first (2 Corinthians 8:1–2). Joy in God is the essence of loving God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength; and joy in God is the wellspring of loving your neighbor as yourself.

God has made it plain to us that we exist to magnify his incomparable beauty and worth. “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). But in order to glorify God from your heart, you must delight in him above all else. Joy is not optional. Delight is not peripheral. Satisfaction is not secondary. They are the root of all Christ-exalting love for people, and all Christ-exalting worship of God.

Enjoying God is our first and greatest duty.

John Piper recently preached to more than 30,000 college students at the Passion Conference in Atlanta. In that message, he expands on his answer here to the question “What is it like to enjoy God?” Click below to watch, read, or listen to the full message.

Luke 18:18–27: Your Money May Keep You from Heaven

Mon, 02/05/2018 - 8:00pm

Many of us read that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God and think of millionaires. The rest of the world reads it and thinks of us.

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Help My Unbelief

Mon, 02/05/2018 - 8:00am

Bible reading isn’t just a transfer of truths and propositions, but an encounter with the living God. Ask him to bless you every time you meet him.

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Did Jesus Say I’d Be Healthier If My Faith Were Stronger?

Mon, 02/05/2018 - 5:22am

If you have a mustard seed of faith and mountains aren’t moving, you may have the wrong kind of faith — or God may have a better plan.

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The Healing Power of Forgiven Sin

Sun, 02/04/2018 - 8:00pm

His body didn’t work.

How long had he been known as “the paralytic”? How long had his legs not obeyed? How long would he be held a prisoner in his own bed?

But the word on the street was that the Messiah was coming. When the paralytic heard of it, he couldn’t help the impulse to do what he had been scared to do for some time: hope.

Story after story testified that Jesus could heal him. He could raise a cripple from his bed, he could resurrect fallen limbs — but would he? These legs? Forsaking caution, the paralytic enlisted his friends to carry him to his only hope.

The house was full. They couldn’t get through the door — but going home was not an option. They climbed to the roof, bore through the ceiling, and his friends lowered him down through the roof. Though many pressed in on the miracle-worker, Jesus, delighting in their faith, called out to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son . . . ”

As the Messiah began to speak, rain began to fall upon the desert; the sun was cresting the horizon; hope, his estranged friend, drew near again. Unknown to even his closest of friends, the years had worn on him. His spirit lay nearly as limp as his legs. But Jesus commanded him to take heart. He knew. In the crowded room, the Messiah himself called him “my son.” Certainly, the healing was about to come.

“Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven” (Matthew 9:2). Then came the pause that felt like an eternity to a man with no use of his legs.

Imagine yourself standing there. You just made a way through a roof for your paralyzed friend to get to Jesus. As the Pharisees balk about his authority to forgive sins, you might wonder, “Does he not see him lying here on the bed? Does he not know our purpose for coming all of this way? Is he unable to heal? Would our friend not ‘take heart’ and feel more like ‘his son’ if Jesus healed his broken body as well as forgave his sins? What’s forgiveness when your legs don’t work?”

How often, in our own pain, have we been tempted to wonder the same thing?

Why Does the Caged Bird Sing?

With chronic pain in our bodies, with disabilities and heartache in our homes, with death and violence in our world, with hobbled hopes and drooping spirits, we wonder why our Messiah does not heal us.

At times, despair grips our throats so tightly that we can only lift our voices loud enough to whimper, “Why, Lord?” Why arthritis, why cancer, why autism, why divorce, why this loss and that grief, why? Some of us have moments when we wonder, like Job, why we were even born. We long for death — but it does not come (Job 3:21).

But what if, for those beaten by the violent winds of this life, Jesus’s words to the paralytic were a warm bowl of soup for our weary souls? “Take heart, my sons and daughters; your sins are forgiven.”

The greatest need for the paralytic was not the revival of his limbs, but the renewal of his soul. And this restoration came not through the healing that was to follow, but through the knowledge that his sin was forgiven. Take heart, take courage, take joy in the fact that you, though formerly red like crimson, are now as white as snow (Isaiah 1:18). He did not primarily need strengthened legs, but a strengthened heart — a heart that knew it had peace with God, a heart that heard God call him son. A heart we need today.

Jesus gave him something better than limb resurrection; he gave him soul rebirth. Even if he was to go home on that bed, trapped in the same prison of a body, Jesus’s words that his many sins had been forgiven, was reason enough to make the caged bird sing a thousand lifetimes.

A Few More Tossings of the Sea

If you are a child of God, if the Spirit bears witness with your spirit that you are his (Romans 8:16), if he whispers to your soul that these words are yours, then how can you not rejoice? Although your life is hard, although sleep is your greatest companion, although expectations and dreams lie upon your side as spent limbs, your sins are forgiven. You have a higher reason to reclaim hope than that your circumstances change and suffering ceases: your name is written in heaven (Luke 10:20).

Jesus did go on to heal his legs. In so doing, he proved himself to be God and showed that healing in this life is not insignificant, nor are decades of pain and disability. But healing in this life is not ultimate. Our Messiah does not mend the bodies of all his children in this age — though he certainly will in the next. What he does do, however, is speak to each of his sheep, “Take heart, my beloved. Because of my work on the cross for you, your sins are forgiven, your crimes are forgotten, and your future glory will one day make all this suffering like a distant dream.”

Let God’s forgiveness — that which no money can buy, no good deeds can earn, and no suffering can steal — breathe heaven’s air into your lungs. Satan is robbed of his accusations against you. You have been adopted into Christ’s family. You are perfect in God’s eyes in union with his Son. Let this news bear you up on wings like eagles — though your health, happiness, and legs be anchored to the floor. Christ has given us more than new legs; he has given us a new heart, a new hope, and a new future — by giving himself, bloodied on a cross, for us. He shall not spare us anything for our ultimate good.

Remember, in the words of J.C. Ryle, “A few more years of watching and praying, a few more tossings on the sea of this world, a few more deaths and changes, a few more winters and summers, and all will be over. We shall have fought our last battle and shall need to fight no more.”

And then we shall be with him without paralyzed affections, minds, or bodies.

Now, as we lie on the floor, he whispers, “Take heart, my child; your sins are forgiven.” Yet soon enough we will hear, “Rise, my child, and enter into the joy of your Master.”

Did Jesus Say I’d Be Healthier If My Faith Were Stronger?

Sun, 02/04/2018 - 7:00pm

If you have a mustard seed of faith and mountains aren’t moving, you may have the wrong kind of faith — or God may have a better plan.

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