Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Inside the Cup

The one thing that separates Christianity from every other world religion is that God came down and did for us what we could not do for ourselves. It's a complete dependance on the One who's name is the Word of God. It's a complete turn from ourselves to a mighty God who is able to save us, change us and call us by a new name. When we embrace Jesus we release the things of this world and our purpose and vision will be about glorifying Him in word and deed. When we turn to Him, he changes us from the inside out and the Holy Spirit comes into our frail and broken bodies and begins the amazing process of conforming us into the image of our Savior. When the Holy Spirit comes within us, our desires change. The Spirit begins to wage war against our flesh and our flesh against the Spirit and during these intense times of inner struggle our desire must be to glorify Him no matter how we feel and trust Him as He begins to change us from within.
It is not the healthy that need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." Luke 5:31,32. The gospel of Matthew expounds on this verse with these words, "But go and learn what it means :'I desire compassion, and not sacrifice,' for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners." Matthew 9:13
The Pharisees' loved their rituals and religious ceremonies, they focused on the outward appearance of their faith and neglected the inward renewal of their heart. They were more concerned with appearances than dealing with the inner secret sins, the sins that put their rituals and religious ceremonies above human compassion. They believed the lie that righteousness was to be acheived by their works and sacrifices alone. Their salvation was all about them. It was an acts of service based religion. It was a religion based on appearances. Jesus, put's it this way, "Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the platter; but inside of you, you are full of robbery and wickedness. First clean the inside of the cup and the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also. " Luke 11:39; Matthew 23:26 The people were more concerned with their outward appearances than with their inward morality.
I have found personally that it is much easier "to do" for the Lord than "to be" in the Lord and in His Holy Word. For when I am in the Word I am reminded of my need for Him to do what only He can do, to change me from within.
"I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance", What does this mean? This verse is directly linked to those who will likely oppose the message of Salvation. It will be the people, like the religious leaders, who do not recognize their need for a Savior. It will be people who replace their inner need of salvation with acts of service instead of repentance, which is a COMPLETE turn from self to God. Jesus came to save all who would come to repentance. When He stated that He came to save the sick but not the righteous, what He was saying was one has to realize they are sick to be saved. The religious leaders of Christ's day didn't recognize their need for the Savior. They trusted in their abilities and their ways and not in the way of repentance and inner renewal. Therefore, bear fruit in keeping with repentance. Matthew 3:8
Post written December 13, 2010

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Finished Work of Christ

You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain-if indeed it was in vain? So then, does He who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? Even so Abraham believe God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. Galatians 3:1-6
The Galatians, which were predominately Gentile were being told by the Judaizer's that they must be circumcised to remain in right standing before God. That their faith in Christ did not justify them before God but their works, and to remain in Christ, they most adhere to the Law of Moses. Paul's letter to the Galatians was to counteract this heresy and further explain the finished work of Christ which was sufficient unto salvation.

I, like the Galatians, am guilty of falling for the temptation to make my justification about what I do instead of what Christ has already done for me. I recognized this within myself when the majority of my focus is about what I'm doing or not doing and in turn base my acceptance before God on my performance instead of rejoicing in His performance for me. I do this when I withdraw from God, as I have once again, yelled at my girls or failed to get up at the crack of dawn for a quiet time. I realize this when I become prideful over my accomplishments and despondent when I fail to perform. I do this when I concentrate on the speck in my friend's eye and yet fail to remove the log from my own eye. I do this when my identity is more based on my performance for Christ than on His covenant which has been cut and established by the shed blood of His Son. What do all of these temptations imply? They imply that I believe my SALVATION IS BY FAITH BUT MY PERFECTION IS IN KEEPING THE LAW. I'm saved initially by faith but I must sustain that which I've already been given by keeping the law. It's believing the lie that Christ's death was enough to get me in but not enough to keep me in. This my friend, is not the gospel. The gospel is all about Him, it has nothing to do with us. If we could obtain perfection by keeping the law, then Christ died needlessly and His death wasn't enough to justify us before God. It would also imply that we could be justified by God apart from Christ's finished work on the cross. In essence, we could work the works of God apart from Christ and his finished work. Does God care how I live?? ABSOLUTELY! But I live for Christ because in Him I am already approved before God NOT because I have to gain God's approval. It's out of my sincere gratitude that I want to die to myself so that I might live for Him. It's His Spirit within me that causes me to walk in His ordinances and leads me into a further appreciation for all He has done. I am justified before God because my sinful record became Christ's, and he suffered the punishment I deserved. Christ did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it. Matthew 5:17
So what was the purpose of the law? The purpose of the law is to lead us to Christ. It shows us our inability to keep perfectly the law and to yearn for the One who would free us from the bondage of sin and the law. It even now redirects us to Christ's finished work on the cross as we become conscience of our inadequacy to keep perfectly every letter of the law. Before Christ, it shows us a holy God and His standard of righteousness. The law focused on the outer man but Christ came to purify the inner man. The law was once written on tablets of stone but has now been placed within our minds and on our hearts as the promised Holy Spirit comes in to take up residency inside our frail and broken bodies. It's to show us that our adequacy before God is based on Christ adequacy for us and not our adequacy in ourselves. 2 Corinthians 3:5, Hebrews 8:10, 2 Corinthians 3:3, Galatians 3:24
But when the fullness of time came, God sent forth His Son born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!" Therefore, you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God. Galatians 4:4-7

When He said, "A new covenant," He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear. Hebrews 7:13

Our justification before God comes from faith in His Son and not by our works. Romans 3:28

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Work the Works of God

"Rabbi, when did you get here?" Jesus answered them and said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal." Therefore, they said to Him, "What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?" Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him who He has sent." - John 6:26-29

To be honest with you, this verse haunts me. When I was a new believer it was hard for me to study the words of Jesus because it was so contradictory to what my mind had created Him to be. My mind created a loving, pacifist, who catered to the needs of all people. He spoke of things like loving your enemy, turning your cheek and pursuing a life a peace. I imagined Him to be a pushover that I could somehow pacify with my good deeds. You see when I began my walk with the Lord, I wanted all the benefits with none of the cost. I had the attitude of,"what have you done for me lately." I asked Him to come into my heart so I could go to heaven just in case He really was the one He claimed to be. I did this while continuing to worship the god of self. Like the people of Jesus' day, I wanted to make my salvation about something I was doing instead of just believing Him to be who He claimed to be and following Him out of my abundant gratitude for all He secured for me by becoming sin so that I could be declared righteous. What was the work they were to work? The work was to believe in the finished work of Christ that would soon take place on their behalf. Jesus wrapped Himself in humanity so that we could wear His robe of righteousness. He, who was rich in heaven, who spoke creation into being came down to do for us what we could not do for ourselves. Jesus, who was before all things and in him all things hold together and have their being did not consider equality with God something to be grasp but humbled Himself, came down, lived under the same limitations you and I live under and did for us what we could not do for ourselves, kept perfectly every letter of the law. As if this was not enough, He then became sin, his flesh torn in two on the cross where He received and absorbed the wrath of God. The cross where every sin I have ever committed or will commit was placed upon Him. He took upon Himself the the full penalty of sin and the wrath that we deserved was placed upon Him. God poured out His wrath on His perfect Son, who was fully God and fully man.
How then can I make my salvation based on what I do, instead of, what has already been done on my behalf? You see, it was easier for me to trust in my ability to perform for him than to trust in and believe in the finished work of Christ. The root of my problem was unbelief. When he proclaimed in great agony "it is finished" it really was finished because it has everything to do with Him and not me. In the book, Because He Loves Me by Elyse M. Fitpatrick, she makes this amazing declaration. "We are, each one, more sinful and flawed than we ever dared believe, but more loved and welcomed than we ever dared hope. page 57
Why do I reveal this to you? I reveal this to you because we see in the passage above that the people of Jesus' day were doing the same thing. They heard about the miracles He was performing and they pursued Him out of their selfish ambition and to have their earthly needs met, full stomachs. (John 6:26). His miracles left no doubt that He was who he claimed to be and yet they still focused their attention on themselves and their desire to perform the works of God apart from God. They wanted the accolades, the acceptance, the following. They wanted full stomachs and a delectable life. John 6:14, tells us that the people saw the signs which He had performed and believed Him to be the prophet they could make king and deliver them from the oppressive arm of Rome. The chapter goes on to tell us the people believed they could take him by force and declare him king. Because they intended to take him by force, Jesus withdrew from the crowd. The people got in their boats and followed him to Capernaum. Which leads us to the verse above, John 6: 26-29."Rabbi, when did you get here?" Jesus answered them and said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal." Therefore, they said to Him, "What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?" Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him who He has sent."
They sought him but not because they believed him to be who he claimed to be but because he was meeting their physical needs. I also believe they sought him because they wanted to be entertained by his many miracles. They wanted an earthly political messiah, one who would bring them power, comfort and earthly security. They were looking for the King of Kings in his first coming and not a suffering servant. In the book, Jesus Among Other Gods, Ravi Zacharias states, "Before his record of this conversation, John had already described several miracles that Jesus had done. The first was the conversion of water into wine, in which Jesus revealed His power over the elements. Then John narrated two episodes of healing, in which Jesus showed His power over sickness. Following that, he relates Jesus' multiplication of a young lads's lunch to feed five thousand-His power of provision. Finally, he pens the well-known story of Jesus walking on water-His power over natural law. Capturing the beauty of the conversion of the water into wine, the poet Alexander Pope said, "The conscious water saw its Master and blushed." That sublime description could be reworked to explain each one of these miracles. Was it far-fetched for the Creator of the universe, who fashion matter out of nothing, to multiply bread for the crowd. pg 80. But don't we do the same thing? Jesus was the One who created all things! He was the One who created us in our mother's womb, who spoke and it was, who even now holds everything together and yet we marvel at the miracle and not the Maker, Master and Sustainer.
Also notice, they referred to Jesus as the prophet, merely a man blessed by the power of God, but not God Himself. This reminds me of the discourse between Jesus and His disciples. Jesus asks His disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" And they said, "Some say John the Baptist and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah , or one of the prophets." He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter answered, " You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Jesus responds, "Blessed are you Simon Peter because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but my Father who is in heaven." Matthew 16:13-17.
So often, we allow the culture to define for us, who God is. We look to the culture to determine what we believe to be true about God. In essence, we look to the world and not the word.
We trust in things we can see and understand rather than the things we can't see and our minds can't comprehend. We get caught up in the current of culture and swept away. I think it is fitting that Jesus asked His disciples first, who do the people say that I am, instead of, who do you say that I am? I think He did this knowing that often times the culture defines for us our beliefs. I also believe He did this to commend Simon Peter for not conforming to the ideas and beliefs of the culture and to explain that unless God reveals to us the truth, we will confirm to the ideas of this world.
Let me ask an uncomfortable question, Are you following Jesus for all of the benefits and none of the cost? Are you following him only when it's convenient or meets some emotional/physical need? Or are you following Him in full assurance that He is who He claims to be, the Son of the Living God, who was and is and is to come? Are you following Him to gain His approval or because you already have His approval? Do you believe that in Him, you are freely loved, accepted, forgiven, made NEW?
It is my hope that as I share with you my inner wrestling to make my salvation all about Him and not about me that you are encouraged to press further into Him and ponder these amazing realities that bring freedom.
As always, please overlook ALL the grammatical errors. A lot of times, I am writing with four kids coming in and out and numerous interruptions.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Come Home

Then the Lord said to Jacob, "Go back to the land of your fathers and to your relatives and I will be with you." Genesis 31:3
Is the Lord calling you to go back? Is he calling you to stop running from your past and the sins of your youth and embrace forgiveness, restoration and reconciliation?
You see, Jacob fled his family because he had deceived his father, Issac, by pretending to be his brother, Esau, in turn receiving his brother's blessing from his blind father.
Jacob fled in fear of his brother's wrath for his brother had vowed to kill him. I believe he also fled out of shame because he deceived his father, Isaac to receive the family blessing. If anyone had reason to run it was Jacob but we see God calling Jacob home.
Can you relate? What are you running from? Is there a moment that comes to mind? A moment God wants to free you from. Is there a relationship the Lord desires to heal? He calls us to a life of reconciliation. A life of forgiveness. A life of total surrender to the One who has the power and the desire to heal us and restore us to Himself. He demonstrated this when he sent his only begotten son to the cross. God was pleased to make all the fullness of himself dwell within Christ and through him to reconcile to himself all things by making peace with us through his blood shed on the cross. Colossians 1: 19, 20
Jacob wrestled with God and was given the name Israel; which means one who struggled with God and with men and has overcome. Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he touched the socket of his thigh; so the socket of Jacob's thigh dislocated while he wrestled with him. Then he said, "Let me go, for the dawn is breaking." But Jacob said, " I will not let you go, unless you bless me." Genesis 32:24-26
I've heard sermons preached that it was in arrogance that Jacob wrestled. I beg to differ; I believe he wrestled out of desperation. He held on. He pleaded with God to bless him no matter the cost. He wrestled through the pain, all the while, trusting in God for deliverance from his past. He wouldn't let go. My biggest fear is that my life would make no real eternal difference because of my disobedience and fear of going back to the places of pain with my God who has promised to be with me. I fear I could miss out on the blessings of God because of complacency. I believe Jacob felt the same way, years after stealing Esau's inheritance he wrestled with God for His blessing. He wanted God to bless the inheritance he had already received. Having just his earthly father's blessing wasn't enough for Jacob. He wanted his heavenly Father's blessing.
Why is it important to go back? Why can't we just run from our sins and pretend they never happened? Because Christ desires to free us from our sin. He desires to completely heal us from our past. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.
You see un-confessed sin is bondage. It is a root that can become bitter. It is a weed in a garden that will over time choke out all the beautiful flowers the Lord has planted. If not pulled out by the master gardener this weed can take on many forms, bitterness, resentment, anger, jealousy, envy, strife, gossip, fear, self hatred, depression. It is so destructive that it can even cause us physical debilitating pain. But God calls us to a life of freedom. Therefore, whatever hinders a life of freedom must be exposed and pulled out. Are you ready to live a life of freedom? What is holding you back from coming home?
Wherever you go there you are but there is One who has the power to bring you home.
Post written and posted in February 2009