Archives For Mike Riccardi

Several years ago, Justin Taylor linked to a moving and encouraging account of a pastor coming to grips with the fact that his second child, like his first, would be born with spina bifida. Amazingly, this man has found great comfort in rejecting the common notion that God will merely use this bad situation for good, rather than the biblical truth that He has ordained it for His glory and His people’s good.

Stories like these continue to confirm the reality that we must prepare ourselves to undergo suffering and trials righteously. We need to learn how to suffer well. And, as I’ve said over the past couple weeks, the way we do that is by being equipped with a theology of suffering while not yet in the midst of a particular trial.

And to that end we’ve been looking to Jeremiah’s experience with devastating suffering at the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC, and hoping to glean some lessons on how to respond to suffering righteously. First, we learned that a righteous response to others’ suffering includes suffering along with our brothers and sisters who suffer. Secondly, we learned that we must acknowledge the role of sin in our suffering. Today, we find a third lesson from Jeremiah’s righteous response to suffering: we must acknowledge, and trust in, God’s absolute sovereignty even in the unpleasant and painful circumstances.

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A while ago I met with a prospective seminary student for lunch. As is common for first-time meetings at Grace Community Church, our discussion began with testimonies of how the Lord saved us. This particular brother had a Christian friend whose very welcoming family often shared the Gospel with him and invited him to church. As friendly and as clear as they were, though, the seed of the Gospel fell on fallow ground—until the father of the family had contracted a life-threatening illness. When this young man saw how the family responded to suffering with such confidence, joy, and peace, his heart began to pay attention to the Source of that steadfastness. He began to read his Bible with greater earnestness and listen to the sermons he heard in church with greater interest. Eventually, the Lord saved him.

I tell that story because it only further legitimizes the need for Christians to learn how to suffer well—how to suffer righteously. I mentioned in last week’s post how necessary it is to be equipped with a theology of suffering while not yet in the midst of a particular trial. The fact of the matter is, the heat of an intensely trying time often clouds our vision and our judgment, so that we fail to act the way we know we should. We respond to suffering sinfully because we have not prepared to suffer righteously beforehand, when our vision is clear.

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Many times when we suffer, the first Bible book and Bible character that pops up in our mind is Job. And that makes sense. That’s why the book of Job is in the Bible—to teach us how to actually trust in God’s sovereignty and respond to suffering righteously.

But the suffering that Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, endured at the time of the Babylonian captivity was just as severe. Job’s sufferings were indeed horrifying, yet there’s something to be said for the fact that his sufferings were fairly personal. Jeremiah’s sufferings, on the other hand, were on behalf of an entire nation wickedly brutalized and ripped from its land. On top of that, Jeremiah himself had not followed in the unfaithfulness of his countrymen which brought this judgment upon them. All the while, he acted righteously and proclaimed the word of Yahweh as the sole voice of faithfulness. Certainly his suffering is worth considering, and the way he responds is worth imitating.

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I recently had the privilege of sitting down with the brothers of the Glory Books ministry and talking with Pastor Will Costello about my book, Sanctification: The Christian’s Pursuit of God-Given Holiness. It was a pleasure to be a guest on their Inner Revolution podcast and to talk about the foundational truths concerning the believer’s growth in Christlikeness. I hope our conversation will be edifying to you as well.

3:23 – Could you tell us a bit about the sanctification debate that has been going on in the last four or five years?

10:13 – You’ve contributed to this discussion in your book, Sanctification: The Christian’s Pursuit of God-Given Holiness. What did you want people to take away after reading your book?

13:15 – You describe sanctification as an internal and supernatural work of the Holy Spirit, which He accomplishes through means. A key thought in your book is that the foundational means of sanctification is beholding the glory of Christ. Can you unpack what it means to behold the glory of Christ?

22:05 – Comments on looking at Christ as the example of our holiness, as well as beholding Christ as the fuel of our holiness.

24:11 – Is it right to say it’s our responsibility to actively behold Christ, but that we are passively transformed by the agency of the Holy Spirit?

28:04 – So is it right to say that sanctification is both a gift and a reward? A reward because we have to work for it, and a gift because we can never achieve it ourselves?

31:06 – Understanding God’s role and man’s role in sanctification.

32:42 – I like that you say in the book that sanctification is glorious because it is through sanctification that God gets what He is worthy of in us.

34:33 – Sometimes people speak of sanctification negatively. They’re having a hard day and they say something like, “Yeah, well I guess this is supposed to work for my sanctification.” It’s not very joyful. And yet Scripture wants us, on the front end, to consider it pure joy when we enter various trials, because that suffering is designed to conform you to Christ. What do we need to keep in mind so that we can embrace sanctification as a wonderful thing?

39:30 – A quote from John Owen on sanctification, one of the greatest paragraphs Mike has read outside of the Bible.

Sundays ComingOver the last three weeks, we’ve been considering the biblical and theological implications of the resurrection of Christ. First, we examined the significance of the resurrection as it relates to the person of Christ. Over the past two weeks, we took a look at eight implications the resurrection of Christ has for believers in Him. Because of the resurrection, the believer enjoys the blessing of regeneration and deliverance from the fear and slavery of death; the resurrection is the foundation of justifying grace, the guarantee of the indwelling Holy Spirit and the present intercessory ministry of Christ, the ground of our sanctification, power for holiness and for ministry, and the guarantee of the promise of a resurrection body of our own, free from sin and decay.

But today I want to ask: What does the bodily resurrection of Christ say to the unbeliever? What is the significance of the resurrection for those of you who remain outside of Christ? Whether you’re an atheist or agnostic; Buddhist, Hindu, or any other religion; or even if you call yourself a Christian but have only an outward attachment to Christ—you would regularly attend church, and even read the Bible and listen to sermons—but you have no vital union to Christ, no living relationship, and you still cling to your sin and aim to be lord of your life: what is the significance of the resurrection for you?

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Empty Tomb 2Because it’s easy to limit our reflection and meditation on the resurrection of Christ only to Holy Week, we’ve been doing some post-Resurrection-Day reflection on the significance of the resurrection. Two weeks ago, we looked at some theological and practical implications of the resurrection as it relates to the person of Christ. Last week, we began considering the significance of the resurrection for believers. There we learned that the resurrection is the ground of our regeneration, the ground of deliverance from death’s fearful slavery, and the very foundation of the Gospel.

But that’s not all. There are more benefits the resurrection brings for the believer in Christ.

The Holy Spirit

Fourth, the resurrection guarantees the New Covenant ministry of the Holy Spirit.

In his Pentecost sermon, Peter is explaining the pouring forth of the Holy Spirit that has manifested in the disciples speaking in languages they had never learned. And he says in Acts 2:32–33: “This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses. Therefore”— that is, on the basis of this raising up of Jesus—“having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear.”

So Scripture links the coming of the New Covenant ministry of the Holy Spirit to the resurrection and ascension of Christ.

Jesus Himself teaches this in John 16. As He is with His disciples in the upper room on the eve of His betrayal, preparing them to live the Christian life without His physical presence, He says, “I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you” (John 16:7). The Spirit will come to permanently indwell the disciples because He is going to the Father. If Christ had simply died and remained in the grave, He would not have gone to the Father, and the Spirit would not have come.

And note how glorious Jesus views the privilege of the indwelling presence of the Spirit. He sees it as so valuable that He Himself says that it is to the disciples’ advantage that He—their Lord, their Master, their Savior, the Author and Perfecter of their faith, the one in whom all things hold together—go away from them! The permanent indwelling of the Spirit must be a phenomenal blessing! And it is ours as a direct result of the resurrection of Christ.

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Empty Tomb 1Last week, we looked at the significance the resurrection has as it relates to Jesus’ Himself. The resurrection identifies Jesus as the Second Adam, the seed of the woman, the Seed of Abraham, and the Son of David. It also vindicates the testimony He had given about Himself.

This week and next, I want to consider the significance of the resurrection for believers. What implications does the resurrection have for the people of God? In fact, every aspect of our salvation—our regeneration, our justification, our sanctification, and our glorification—is tied in some way to Christ’s resurrection from the dead.

The Ground of Regeneration

1 Peter 1:3 – “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”

Peter says our new birth comes through the resurrection of Christ. Our new spiritual life that is born in our regeneration has its source in Christ’s resurrection life.

And we are made to share in that resurrection life through union with Him. Ephesians 2:5–6 says that while we were dead in our transgressions, God “made us alive together with Christ . . . and raised us up with Him.” Because of the union that believers have with Christ, Scripture says that our spiritual resurrection in our being born again has its source in Jesus’ bodily resurrection.

And so the resurrection is the ground of our regeneration.

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He Has RisenLast Sunday morning, the people of God celebrated the triumphant victory of King Jesus, who died for our sins according to the Scriptures, who was buried in a borrowed tomb, and who three days later rose from the grave, triumphant and victorious over sin and death. And on Resurrection Sunday, we always say that our worship of Christ for His resurrection isn’t something that happens only once a year, but rather is something we do all year round. But I’ve found that that’s not always the case. It’s easy for the busy-ness of life, or even just the next sermon series to replace disciplined and sustained meditation on the significance of the resurrection.

So I want to do some post-Resurrection-Day resurrection reflection. And today I want to focus particularly on the biblical and theological significance of the resurrection with respect to the person of Christ Himself. What did the resurrection mean for Jesus?

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March 27, 2016

That’s My King

by Mike Riccardi

This just never gets old.

Rejoice with us this day in the resurrection and the life of our King, the King of kings and the Lord of lords, King Jesus the Christ, the Name above all names.

Being found in appearance as a man,
He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross.
For this reason also God highly exalted Him

and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow,
of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue will confess that
Jesus Christ is Lord
to the glory of God the Father
– Philippians 2:9-11 –

Jesus said to her,
“I am the resurrection and the life;
he who believes in Me will live even if he dies,
and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.”
– John 11:25-26 –

Isa 53;5Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve found that around Easter time it’s very easy for our thoughts to be occupied with the events of Resurrection Sunday—sometimes even to the exclusion of the events of Good Friday. That may be for a number of reasons. Perhaps it’s because the church’s time together on Good Friday is usually an abbreviated service at the end of a busy workday, while Resurrection Sunday is a special holiday spent with family. Perhaps it’s simply because it’s more pleasant and encouraging to meditate on the triumph and the victory of Christ’s resurrection than the injustice, suffering, and agony of His death.

But truly, you can’t have Easter Sunday without Good Friday. You can’t have the resurrection of Christ without the atonement of Christ. Each is vitally essential to the Gospel. And of all days, Good Friday is a day to give ourselves to the contemplation of and reflection upon the nature of Christ’s atonement on our behalf. Something that has stirred me to worship, supplemental to Scripture’s accounts of and commentary on the atonement, is a 19th-century hymn called “O Christ! What Burdens Bowed Thy Head.” It may be the best non-inspired worship song that I know of that captures the depth of the theology of penal substitutionary atonement. And it not only purveys the soundest of theology, but it’s also one of the most beautiful pieces of poetry I’ve ever read. Consider the words of these six verses, Christian, and worship the Lamb who has borne the wrath of God in your place.

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