Thursday, April 24, 2014

What is Life?

What is Life?
Lk.12:13-21 - And one of the company said unto him, Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me.
14 And he said unto him, Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you?
15 And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.
16 And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully:
17 And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits?
18 And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods.
19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.
20 But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?
21 So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.

What is life? Is it just the beating of one’s heart? Is it just breathing? Is it the enjoyment of things? Jesus, the Creator of all life, makes it very clear that life is none of those things. And yet, in this day of extreme hedonism the church has slowly but surely adopted a world view of life.
We have millionaire preachers flying in private jets. We have believers accumulating much money. We have believers surrounding their lives with all sorts of earthly accoutrements. And the church has assimilated material prosperity into its theology. Poor Abraham, he never realized his experience would be used and abused in order to make it seem like God desired all of us to have what God gave him. Gone are the spiritual lessons. Everything is now material and self centered.
“Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.”Even in the face of such a direct and clear admonition preachers can manipulate and twist it to accommodate their worldly lusts. And in so doing not only are they promulgating error, but they are missing life itself.
Col.3:1-4 - If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.
2 Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.
3 For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.
4 When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.

Did you catch that phrase? “Christ who is our life”. OK, let me add some words from His own sacred lips.
“I am the way, the truth, and the life.”Come on, how much clearer can it be? And unless you have a personal agenda of lust you cannot deny that our life is Christ. And yet millions upon millions of professing believers walk around draped in death and without the life that can only be found in Christ. The church has relegated Jesus Christ to a redemptive theology but has kept Him outside the daily life experience of His professing followers. Houses and cars and clothes and success and salaries have crowded Him out.
Jn.15:4-5 - Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.
5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
To abide in Christ entails much more than embracing an orthodox doctrinal statement.Rev.2:2-4 - I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars:(And I know you have uncovered false teachers like Bell and Osteen and that you are diligent to confront evil men…)3 And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted.(And you have remained faithful to my Word and the faith once delivered to the saints.)
4 Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.
And here we find an admonition to us who embrace an orthodox theology and even rebuke false teachers and heretics by name. Sometimes in our clear sighted energy to warn others of the errors of false teachers we neglect to lay ourselves before Christ. We sometimes are satisfied with defending Biblical truth. But the Spirit recognized the labors and patience of the Church at Ephesus, but reveals a serious flaw in their spiritual walk.
They had left their first love. This is no minor or fringe issue. In fact, the Spirit warns the believers at Ephesus that their candlestick is in jeopardy if they do not repent and return to their first love. Do you not think that this is a solemn issue that must be identified and addressed? What does the Spirit mean when He says “thy first love”? The word love is used loosely as a pronoun and obviously refers to Christ Himself. That much is clear.
But how can we who boldly espouse an orthodox doctrinal statement leave Christ, our love? That is the penetrating question that is rarely addressed within the church and within the hearts of individual believers. But it is not just an important question, it is the paramount aspect of a disciple’s life. Jesus must be our very life, and he must be our first and continuing love.
All to Jesus, I surrender;
All to Him I freely give;
I will ever love and trust Him,
In His presence daily live.We must guard against getting so caught up with chasing error that we fail to see how far we have strayed from Christ Himself. That is not only possible, but it is a very slippery slope. Our relationship with Christ should be much more intimate and personal than just checking theological boxes. He is not just some doctrinal fort to be defended.
“Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb's wife.”We are His bride and His wife. That metaphor is meant to indicate an intimacy in the Spirit that surpasses head knowledge alone. God has left behind the stone tablets and has placed His very being inside the believer. How intimate is that? And yet how often do we live with a spectacular awareness of that immeasurable reality? And with that incredible truth, Paul makes this sweeping statement.
Gal.2:20 - I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
So class, Who IS our life? Is it not obvious that we have allowed all sorts of distractions and sins to rob us of the surpassing glory of His life in this present spiritual subsistence? Again Paul states a unfathomable truth.
Phil.1:21 - For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
Say it out loud. Meditate on the veracity of its words. All of us know this sentence, yet how many know its experience? In light of just the verses I have shared in this post, does it not seem obvious that there must be more - MUCH MORE - to the life of a believing follower of Jesus the Christ? And if our love for Jesus should make our love for our mothers look like hate, then where oh where has such love gone? Have we not allowed that love to be parsed out among the things of this world?
Brethren, we have much work to be done with God and the road ahead can be a glorious path of repentance and revelation. To know Him is to love Him. And if our love has waned it is because we have relied on knowing Him from a past understanding and not a revelation of Christ that is as fresh as today. Our life is not just a string of adjectives.

Our life is the Lord Jesus Christ.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Glory of God

Throughout time we have been given only glimpses of God’s glory. We can peek at it through creation or through the power of nature or through a baby’s birth, but they are only glimpses. There are hundreds of billions of galaxies which contain hundreds of billions of stars in each one. It is impossible for a human mind to understand the enormity of one light year’s distance, but the universe is billions of light years across. There are tens of trillions of cells in one human body, and there are 100 trillion atoms in one cell.

Now I ask you, what kind of Being could create such things? And what if this Being created it all with a Word? And if creation speaks of the glory of God, what will we see when our spiritual eyes lay hold of this Being?

You see, class, we are paupers rummaging through an endless treasure. We are infants reaching out for stars. We are blind men drawing Rembrandts. We are cripples running marathons. We are deaf men listening to Beethoven. We are dumb men speaking mysteries. When we say “the glory of God” it runs off the tongue as if we said “pass the salt”. But one unimaginable day we will behold the true and undiluted glory of God and still live.

And on that sacred day when the glory of God permeates every nook and cranny of heaven and lights up the entire expanse of heaven forever, on that day we will see God’s ultimate glory in perfect bodies provided for us just for that awesome day. And on that same day, and on that first moment when we see fully the glory of our Great and Eternal God, we will then be able to see that all of God’s glory was in one place and in one Person.

Jesus, oh Jesus. HALLELUIAH! WHAT A SAVIOR!!!!!!!!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Mind of Christ


I Cor.2: 14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
15 But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.
16 For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? but we have the mind of Christ.

I Cor.2: 15 But the spiritual man tries all things [he [g]examines, investigates, inquires into, questions, and discerns all things], yet is himself to be put on trial and judged by no one [he can read the meaning of everything, but no one can properly discern or appraise or get an insight into him].
16 For who has known or understood the mind (the counsels and purposes) of the Lord so as to guide and instruct Him and give Him knowledge? But we have the mind of Christ (the Messiah) and do hold the thoughts (feelings and purposes) of His heart.

I usually only quote the King James version. It is only because I am used to it. But in this case I believe the amplified gives us a fuller platform from which to build upon. “The mind of Christ”. What a thought! What a truth! The phrase itself relates to us as humans because God does not have different parts which include a “mind”. The word “mind” suggests some form of thinking and God does not think. He knows. God knows everything from eternity past to eternity future without the process we know as thinking. This, of course, is really beyond us completely and yet the Spirit beckons us to know Christ more fully and with His guidance and revelation.

That in and of itself is a great mystery. That the infinite Spirit can communicate to a finite mind is a miracle of grace. And it is one thing to communicate do’s and don’ts, but to communicate the mind and the heart of the Second Person of the Trinity is an unparalleled wonder. But here is where it gets even more profound if that is possible. The Scripture declares we “have the mind of Christ”. And that is only possible because we have “Christ in us the hope of glory”. I realize we are dealing in territory mostly unknown and irrelevant within much of the church, but it carries with it a glory that is quite foreign in this temporal world.

When we say the mind of Christ we are referring to His heart, His will, and His very Being. And God has not only redeemed our souls but He has given of Himself to us in an incredible personal and intimate way. Does that not speak loudly of His unfathomable love? As if the gift of eternal life was not enough, God comes and inhabits our very beings. What words can provide a complete understanding of that miraculous mystery? This is the fine china of truth. But how can we fully grasp that truth in such a way that will also allows us to manifest it in the here and now?

The church has become consumed with the temporal and all the legalisms and moralisms so that it no longer knows, much less seeks, to allow the mind of Christ to control and envelope our lives in such a way that men can see Christ through us. Fallen men give up smoking and drinking. Fallen men avoid pornography and drugs. Fallen men are against abortion and gay marriage. Fallen men are rich and prosperous. But no fallen man can ever be a conduit for Christ and know His mind and heart. It is a great tragedy that the church has diminished and diluted and distilled the power of Christ living in a redeemed life until what is left are arguments over clothing and tithing and elections and pitiful allegiances to a fallen and wicked nation.

This is not the gospel; this is not God’s Word; and this is not Christ.

Can you grasp the enormity of what I am saying and the implications it casts upon the church? If you can see what has happened then you can perhaps understand the spiritual situation in the church is abysmal and crafted after a religious system and not after Christ. To put it succinctly, the church no longer preaches Christ because the church no longer follows Christ because the church no longer knows Christ.

But oh the soaring majesty of the Risen Son of the Living God! Please, I beseech you, take your eyes off of this world and look upon the eternal feast of glory which shines through the Risen Lord! Everything, and I mean everything, about this world seeks to draw us away from Christ and His heart. What a colossal waste when we feed at the world’s trough while the Spirit bids us come and dine at the table of His awesome fellowship. To seek and find Christ is not just for the lost sinners of this world. It is also for those who have been grafted into His family. And He Himself empowers us to seek and to find more of Him if we are willing to sacrifice the fallen crumbs of this present world.

To have and embrace and live through the mind of Christ translates you into His realm. And even though we work and play and eat and do other things in this temporal world, our hearts are prisoners of His heart. We see the things of this world through our earthly eyes, but we look at Him with our hearts. He is our portion and we are pilgrims traversing this earthly sod seeking His face and doing His bidding. And through the power of love we receive His Word and hear His Spirit and follow His steps. This is no mind trick. This is a sacred mystery which has been entrusted to those who diligently seek His heart.

Does that sound too mystical and ethereal? Oh please do not dismiss it that easily. I do not suggest it is without cost or that you become irrational and draw attention to yourself. No, never. But I am exhorting us to press toward the mark of His high calling. I am exhorting us to dig deeper wells of living water that gushes from His Spirit. I am exhorting us to lay aside the sins and the weights that keep us from entering into the hallowed ground of His presence. I am exhorting us to humble ourselves before Him and embrace Him as Lord of all.

If we truly have the mind of Christ then how can we be so obsessed with earthly matters? Does not that mind speak to you of eternal things? Does not that mind lead you into walking in the Spirit? Does not that mind speak to you of Jesus and not of man? And does not that mind speak to you of gospel love for sinners? There is precious little time left before the door of the gospel is closed. We must be about our Father’s business and embrace the mind and heart of our Redeemer. Be still and know that He is God.

And in that stillness is the hum of the Potter’s wheel as He shapes and corrects and molds us into the image of Christ Himself.
And that, my friends, is a mystery of grace for all eternity.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Moral Outrage or the Cross?

Moral Outrage or the Cross?

To be able to provide an outlet for the flesh by castigating others is quite the carnal pageantry. It comes with a heavy dose of self righteousness, a fleshly delicacy, as well as something very, very special. If you can fulfill the lust of the flesh and simultaneously claim divine direction and divine favor inherent in that very act, well that is some mental gymnastics. And sprinkled with a dose of “courage” as well as “boldness”, and you have the perfect meal served and consumed by your old man.

Brethren, there is a distinct difference between correction within the body and castigating sinners. It is beyond me how anyone could read the gospels and not see that one of the reasons our Lord was criticized was because He was a friend to sinners. He was seen in their company, and He showed uncommon love for them in spite of their sin. He reserved His most poignant rebukes for the self righteous leaders of the Temple.

But within today’s church it has become fashionable to exhibit moral outrage to lost sinners and their sin. Instead of spreading the good news of the gospel, and instead of fasting and praying inside the kingdom of God, the church releases concerted efforts to change the culture. The church even goes so far as to embrace a false mission to return America to the intent of the founding fathers. And in so doing the church has left the Christ and chased after idols.

But the moral outrage syndrome is very curious and incongruent with the teachings of the New Testament. The scenario is this: God by His grace reaches down and plucks a sinner from his sin, gives that sinner His righteousness, and allows him to inherit eternal life. In fact, God makes him a son or daughter in God’s own family. Halleluiah!

Oh but then that saved sinner turns around and views the pigpen from which he was so graciously removed, and that saved sinner now shouts words of condemnation toward the very crowd in which he once roamed. It is so very wrong and it exhibits a profound ignorance of the nature of the gospel and the grace which saved his own soul. And the level of self righteousness is breathtaking.

Requiring lost and dead sinners to alter their lives so that their sin is contained inside acceptable religious norms is Biblically unsound as well as morally self righteousness. Much of it stems from an unbiblical meshing of the temporal and the eternal. And much of it is a subconscious attempt to avoid looking into our own mirror by pointing the finger of condemnation at lost and needy sinners.

Let us complain about the gay pride parade rather than pray all night for them, or even line the parade route handing out fresh water. Let us protest against abortion rather than donate time and money to the nearest Crisis Pregnancy Center. Let us be death penalty advocates rather than go inside prisons and share the good news. Let us spread fear about Muslims and Sharia law instead of weeping and interceding for a lost and deceived people. If Jesus came to provide a platform for moral outrage and condemnation of sinners, well then the church is fulfilling His mission.

But that is not why Jesus came. Jesus came to die for the sins of the world, and as He left this world He gave us a gospel commission. That is our calling; that is our mandate. This contrived moral outrage is nothing more than pointing out the obvious and using it to present your own moral credentials. What role did you have in where you were born? What role did you have in who your parents were? Suppose you had been born into an atheist family? Or a Muslim family? Or adopted by a gay couple?

If any of those scenarios had been true, would you listen to a voice of condemnation or a voice of redemptive hope? Would you desire someone to share Jesus with you or someone to castigate you for who you are? Suppose Jesus had been born of a virgin named Mary, grown up in Nazareth, and after the Spirit fell on Him in the Jordon, He traveled into the desert. He climbed up Mount Sinai and there He lifted up His voice and castigated all the sinners of this world. Suppose He loudly condemned all the sinners who have made such a mess of the culture. Suppose He stood there for over three years and shouted out moral indictments to the entire fallen world. Then He ascended into heaven.

If that had happened then we all would have been included in that expression of moral outrage. And if perchance someone could have saved himself, then he would also imitate that Jesus by shouting out a similar moral outrage. But that is not what Jesus did.

Have you not read the gospel narratives of the Passion Week? How long has it been since you read how Jesus suffered for us? Have you moved on from that story and gone to fry bigger spiritual fish? Has the passion of our wonderful Lord become a lost doctrinal vision? Do you consider His sufferings a child’s story that has no bearing on the most important issues of today? When have you last seen yourself in those stripes, and in those punches, and in those thorns, and when have you last watched as YOU spit upon that lovely face?

Oh yes, it was all you and me. And tell me then, where is the moral pedestal upon which we can stand when we realize who we were before He found us? Why don’t you voice moral outrage about your role in His sufferings? Why don’t you express moral outrage because after He saved your soul, and after the Spirit of God came to live inside your being, you still sin? Where is your moral outrage over that shameful behavior?

Oh, I see. It is a matter of degrees and a matter of sin choices. Some sins are worse than others? Than I would guess the worst sin of all would be taking one bite of one piece of fruit since it was that sin that doomed the entire race. And in the light of that truth remember this: If you were Adam today, then any sin you commit today would doom the entire human race. As you go to work and do 27 mph in a 25 mph zone we are all doomed. As you look at a commercial and wish you had something - we are doomed! When you look at a scantily dressed woman - we are doomed. When you speak about someone negatively - again, doomed. When you think more highly of yourself than you should - doomed.

Yes, we have erected such a self righteous scaffolding and used it to pummel sinners and excuse ourselves. Grace has become a tenant of the faith rather than a living exhibition expressed through humility, gratefulness, and a passion to see others come into that grace. The same lips that are raised in worship on Sundays speak words of vitriol and condemnation throughout the week? It is a diabolical deception that is antithetical to all Jesus lived and taught.

In our world sinners contaminate the culture and become irritants to our way of life. In Christ’s kingdom sinners are to be called to Him. In our world certain sins carry more moral weight. In Christ’s kingdom all sins were addressed at the cross equally. In our world outrage directed at sinners magnifies the Judeo-Christian ethic. In Christ’s kingdom He is to be magnified. In our world we resist being seen with sinners. In Christ’s kingdom he embraces sinners and beckons them to believe in Him.

So go ahead and express your moral outrage. But if you do, please understand one thing. You are not preaching Christ, you are preaching Moses. And Moses cannot save anyone. How did God express His outrage over the sins of the world? He gave His only begotten Son. And when I think that God the Son suffered and bled and gave His life for me...well, that is an outrage.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Big Business


Man’s addiction, man’s obsession, man’s insatiable pursuit of money really knows no bounds. Some would say drugs and pornography and sex are very big business, and they would be correct. However what can compare with the profit creating business of religion? And given the tax free status of churches and religious ministries, the money just keeps rolling in. Think about what man has used to line his own pockets.

He has made and sold crosses and other religious jewelry. He has invented slogans and sold bracelets and bumper stickers and refrigerator magnets. He has made and sold clothing associated with religion. There have been innumerable books and pamphlets which claim to speak for God or to accurately interpret Scripture. Millions of tapes and CDs of teachings and sermons have been sold. Christian conferences have used hotels and motels and have supported local restaurants and airlines and yes, have increased the financial portfolio of the speakers and singers. The Christian music industry is an incredible avenue of the transfer of wealth. How many billions have been made by the production of Bibles in all different translations or paraphrases and with all kinds of reference themes and different bindings? Books that “prove” that the signs show Jesus is coming back at a certain time have been legion. Billions have been spent on Christian television and have made many men and women extremely wealthy. Christmas and Easter are cash cows themselves. And billions have been spent on church buildings and the interest paid on those loans have lined the pockets of banks and other financial institutions.

Yes religion, and Christianity in particular, is big business. It seems as if the money changers scourged by Jesus has lost its value in instruction today. Capitalism is now a great god.

In fact at its heart patriotism and nationalism in America is rooted in money. The Revolutionary War was over unfair taxes. And the “American way of life” and the “American Dream” are fundamentally a route to personal prosperity. I realize people use the term “freedom”, however money is at the core of it all. And make no mistake, money is a driving force within the institution commonly known as the American church. When a church grows, and their offerings grow, what does it do? It builds bigger barns and hires more staff. Money dictates everything.

If you see in the American church the compromise, and the slide, and the powerless redundancy, and the comfortable friendship with this culture and you wonder why then I believe it can be summed up in one word. Money.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

A Saved Sinner Surveys the Cross


When I survey the wondrous cross

How have we taken our eyes off the beauty of that which is our life. Not just a glance, not just a look, but a total survey of every nook, every truth, every essence of the eternal magnificence of that which is the cross. Take all your theology, all your doctrine, all your preaching, and your Biblical lessons, and distill them all into one glorious wonder and you have the cross. The cross, oh the cross.

On which the Prince of Glory died,

And on that wooden altar hangs in all His bloody resplendence the Prince of Glory. Alive and suffering and then dead. Dead, you say? Oh please do not press me to give you some pitiful explanation of God’s death, it is beyond me to tell and beyond you to hear. The Prince, the Exalted One, the center of heaven’s adoration and the Creator of everything, suffers and dies. On the cruelest of altars and the most public of spectacles, the Prince, the Exalted Prince of all Creation bows His divine head and expires. And He Himself has insured His humiliation will be forever captured in Holy Writ for all to either mock or embrace.

My richest gain I count but loss,

What gain could be held up to His sacrificial cross? How much gold could be removed from this cold earth and shined and presented in exchange for the excellency of the eternal crimson redemption of all mankind? How much silver and how many jewels could compete with the gain offered in His cross? How much learning and science, how much fame and fortune, and which monarchy or ruling power could even begin to be held up against the everlasting gain held within the wounds of this Prince? Drivel and dung are they all when their mirage is exposed by the glorious reality of God’s Redeeming Lamb.

And pour contempt on all my pride.

And what of pride and self righteousness? How can they find any place in us as we survey Golgotha’s act of glorious mystery? We are all undone, a people of unclean lips emanating from unclean hearts. We all must stand condemned by the revelation of this holy selflessness as the Darling of Heaven hangs arrayed in such a bloody garment sewn from His own veins.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,

Oh please, my tongue, let it forever remain silent about any suggestion concerning any imagined goodness of my own. I have nothing, nothing to be sure, about which to boast. I could boast of my sin, I could boast of my lust, I could boast of my pride, but I cannot utter one boasting lie about anything good about me that would cause One so Holy to do what I have seen on this wondrous place of atonement.

Save in the death of Christ my God,

This is my boast, this is my glory, this is my life! The world wonders why I would embrace such an emblem of repulsiveness and defeat. The Leader is murdered and yet we receive it with joy unspeakable and full of glory. And they ask, why? I do not expect those to understand who have not been illuminated by God’s Spirit whose ministry is to lift up and speak of this Prince. Oh but once your heart is opened and the light comes streaming in you can never see the cross in the same earthly way as before. You do not see a Jew being punished by Romans, you now see ever so clearly the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Selah…

All the vain things that charm me most,

Spurgeon once remarked that when we first lay our eyes upon the Risen Christ we will think ourselves a thousand fools to have ever been attracted by anything upon this earth. All is vanity and vexation of spirit that is not of Christ. And the charm that draws my heart is my shame, and if things charm me most I beg for God’s cleansing.

I sacrifice them to His blood.

Let everything bow to His blood. If I gain the entire world let it be lost to His blood. Paul calls it the Blood of God and so it is, another layered mystery. But I cannot deny its cleansing power and the continuing place of sacredness it continues to hold in my heart. Let all but that most holy and powerful blood be sacrificed upon the altar of nothingness.

See from His head, His hands, His feet,

And now I am invited to a privileged spectacle before which I must remove the sandals from off my heart. I am the undeserving recipient of such a glorious sight, the view of faith that sees the Son of the Living God upon that rugged cross. This is no mental gymnastics and no New Age projectionism, no, this is a sacred work of the Spirit. I am allowed to see Him…Him…Oh my…Him. I should never have been allowed anywhere near Him, much less invited to view the sufferings which I indeed caused. This is not some curious voyeurism, this is worship in the deepest sense.

Sorrow and love flow mingled down,

Sorrow and love. Mingled and flowing inseparably down His Messianic form. How could this horror be God’s expression of love? How can I be watching both my punishment and my life being accomplished before my eyes in this single act of death?

Did e'er such love and sorrow meet,

The mystery is glorious, and this mystery bids me to follow and learn. I hear the centurian proclaim his wonderment as he says, “Surely this must have been the Son of God…”. And drained of myself I must bow and say, “Amen…amen, this was the Son of God who was thinking of me even in death…”.

Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Surely a crown of untold gold and silver must adorn this sacred head. Complete with jewels from every nation and molded into the most elegant of headpieces, fit for any king. But yet what is this I see, thorns? A headpiece of cruel and sharpened thorns? A crown that both adorns and pierces as well? Who could worship such a mocked king as this? And who then are these humble worshipers that bow before this one whose crown is composed of such thorns? We are they who have seen with the Great Apostle who knew that the sufferings of this present cross will seed the ground of the spirit which will bring forth a harvest of glory revealed in the very Being who now wears so rich a crown.

His dying crimson, like a robe,

He wears His blood like a robe. He is not ashamed to wear this not for Himself, but for us. A garment of hued suffering which will redeem that which was lost, even us. This not a coat of many colors, this coat's theme is deep red. This coat is sacrifice, this coat is suffering, this coat is blood, and this coat is death.

Spreads o'er His body on the tree;

His body looks completely bruised and bloody, swollen and worn, and showcased upon this cross as some kind of tortured trophy of justice, and yet victory pours from His wounds. Pitiful and yet powerful, this is what this Prince had foretold and even sought. This is His finest moment and even though the world will reject Him and His love, He will gather to Himself a body of believers who will forever praise His Holy Name.

Then I am dead to all the globe,

This world must now assess me as worthless, dead to all the success and grappling that seeks self elevation and the prize of wealth. They now see me as contaminated by a religious experience that taints my earthly usefulness. But they do not realize that once I was dead and now I live, I was lost and now I am found.

And all the globe is dead to me.

And what of this world? All its wealth and attraction has lost its glitter and the offer of the earthly kingdoms has become a weak and toothless competitor to the roar of Judah’s Sacrificial Lion. What could tempt those who cling to the bloody frame of some obscure Jew on an obscure cross, one cross among many thousands? What could this world offer us who have found everything in this glorious gore? The wise are now confounded, and the world must shake their head in utter amazement at this spectacle of once sound people now giving up their very lives to be subservient to this punished Prince.

Were the whole realm of nature mine,

But what can I give in return to so great a salvation? Look around and see what God desires and what could possibly be an offering of such dimensions that it would do justice to His sacrifice. What if I owned an entire city? What if I owned an entire country? What if I owned an entire continent? Oh no, still insignificant and small. What if I owned the entire world? What if I owned the entire galaxy? What if indeed I owned the entire universe down to the very last molecule? And what if I gathered it all together and laid it before His cross as an offering of praise and an expression of gratitude? Wouldn’t that suffice?

That were an off'ring far too small;

The entire universe placed before Him in grateful sacrifice would be an insult and counted as nothing in comparison. Too small, too insignificant, too incongruous to what is displayed upon Calvary’s cross. Please remove such an offering, its presence only detracts.

Love so amazing, so divine,

How many lips would it take to describe such a love? How many books, how many words, how many comparisons could even touch the garment of God’s amazing love? To touch God’s love you must touch God Himself who is love. The amazing effect that this divine love has upon all that receive it is without complete understanding. To receive it is to realize its depth is beyond you. It all comes together and yet it continues to elude any complete mental comprehension. To be drenched in God’s redeeming love is the single most transfiguring experience in a sinner’s earthly life. Would that word “amazing” could be multiplied by millions in its depth and length and width and height, only then could we even begin to communicate the love that drew salvation’s plan.

Demands my soul, my life, my all.

My life. It seems so insignificant and really unattractive to even me. How could God desire me? Oh my, I am writing through tears because I both am ashamed at my meager existence and yet eternally astounded and grateful that God allows me, desires me, to offer Him my life. And the only reason my life is worth anything is because of the One to whom I offer it. I will one day receive my opportunity to run and fall before my Risen Lord, and I will recall the many moments my mind ran to Calvary while I dwelt on earth. And on that day, oh bless His Holy Name, I will dwell where He dwells. I will dwell where He dwells because He called me, a sinner unworthy of even a divine glance, to live and dwell with Him forever.

My tears hinder me to write any further, but I am grateful for the survey this sinner has been granted to once again be both filled, and become thirsty as well, for the wonder of God's glorious cross...

Saturday, April 05, 2014

God Proved His Love


Rom.5:8 - But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Such a nice, tidy little verse that we've all used as a witnessing tool and yet the true depth of its meaning cannot truly be grasped until we "know as we are known". In order to fully realize that expression of love we must fully understand and know the Lover. The Lover is holy, never having being tainted by sin. Sin is so repulsive to this Lover that He can never even look upon it, and eventually He will cast all of it into hell itself. We as humans can understand sin-tainted love, sin-tainted mercy, sin-tainted peace, sin-tainted power, but there is no such thing as sin-tainted holiness. God is perfectly holy, and in human wisdom He should never desire, much less love, any sin cursed human being.

So a completely holy God "demonstrates" His love to a perfectly unholy man. Notice that word "commendeth" which can be translated proved, offers, shows, demonstrates, unveils, and unfolds. Our God didn't just let the truth of His love stand alone with no substantiation. This is no lip service, no, God takes His love and puts it on display throughout eternity so that no one can deny the evidence. Jesus Himself keeps His nail scars to forever prove His love for us. We would be embarrassed to admit we loved Hitler much less parade around a visible proof for that kind of love and yet Jesus is not ashamed to wear the wounds of love for sinners like us for all of heaven to see. Even the angels will never understand.

What more could God do? He has given His only begotten Son for us. Even the term “Son” if for our benefit so we can understand what a sacrifice it was. The cross was an open and public and eternal revelation of the love of God. It bears witness to His essence and His heart. And when received in the divine context in which it was meant it substantiates God’s love for us without any evidence to the contrary. We consider it heroic when a man gives his life for his family or loved ones, but we consider it weird and insane if a man gives his life for a stranger, much less his enemy.

You see this world teaches us to kill and destroy our enemies while the teachings of Jesus exhort us to love our enemies. And when Christ went to that cruel cross He authenticated all His teachings. He was not spouting off religious philosophy or moral suggestions that He Himself could not bear. Jesus was teaching Himself. Did you hear what I just said? Add up the sum of all His teachings and you have Jesus. That is not a clever turn of words. That is the truth. THE Truth.

The further we move away from Christ and into church structure and ecclesiastical habits and seasonal practices the further we move into an exhibition of a fallen religion. Jesus must not be just our standard bearer or our doctrinal centerpiece. He must be our very life. And that is a deep and challenging journey which ultimately leads to Golgotha. The reason professing believers are so satisfied and content with their lives is because they are not striving to follow Jesus. And they have no idea concerning the depth and power of His love.

The stage of history is littered with events from the totally insignificant to the supremely important; from the revolving electron to the revolving galaxy; from the birth of a slave to the birth of a king; from the glow of a lightning bug to a supernova; all creation shouts "The Creator is!". But center stage of all history is an event that shouts "The Creator loves!!!!". The cross. Unimportant in the affairs of man but the only seam that leads to life everlasting took place on a little hill in Judea. To the natural mind that cross blends in with the millions of other men and women that have met the same fate but to the eyes of the Spirit it is the triumph of eternity. Let's admit it, we have faith in measure about the coming events in eternal glory, but when it actually unfolds before us and we are granted a new body and we are like Him and we see Him face to face, not for a season but for eternity, we will experience something we can't even imagine. All because of that cross.

And today the cross is on the very "back burner" of the church's theology. Can you imagine that? Money, success, health, power, jokes, stories, and OUR happiness in this life has crowded out our Savior's cross!? It has become stale and unsophisticated in this "intellectual" culture and in this fleshly ecclesiastical genre. Preachers are invited on Larry King to discuss politics, morality, but never a show on the cross. Why? It is an offence to this world and it has become an offence to the church. Shame on us!! And if you peruse the internet you will find article after article about all the so called preachers that are taking the church further and further into Spiritual cotton candy, but we ourselves need to preach, meditate, describe, lift up, and exalt the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. For it is foolishness to the world but the power of God to us who believe.

It is beyond me that Jesus would love me much less die for me on a cross. It is way beyond reason and logic and I will never understand why He demonstrated such love for a disgusting sinner such as I. And while He died on that cross He knew I would let Him down thousands of times even after I found eternal life in Him, and He still died. What kind of love has no reason? What kind of love is without logic? What kind of love shows no vacillation for eternity? What kind of love gave everything? I know it is out of vogue today to say that I am a disgusting sinner saved by God's grace. I know preachers tell us we are little gods and we have as much authority as God Himself, but they are deceived. Without being seen through the prism of God's divine Son and His saving love, I would be a shipwrecked enemy of God walking toward judgment. The more I meditate on Christ's love for me, the more I am ashamed of my love for Him.

He gave everything for me and yet what do I give for Him? Oh to be immersed in His love mentally and emotionally and spiritually and within my heart and being! Am I moved by doctrine? Am I energized by causes? Do my emotions run wild because of some current events? Or is my being enraptured by His unsearchable love for me? This is no Hallmark card sentimentality. This is the very life force which sent my Redeemer to that awful tree. The cross screams “I love you!” And yet do I have no tears of joy and love for Him?

What we must decide is was Jesus God in the flesh, and did God really die for our sins. And we cannot get away with some perfunctory religious nod. If we truly believe that unfathomable truth then it should, it must, shake our very beings down to the core. It must revolutionize our thinking and our hearts and our lives. But, sadly, familiarity breeds contempt. We have heard the story over and over and over again until it has become almost religious folklore. What kind of people say they believe the cross was God’s redemptive love for us and yet walk boldly into a gathering for worship without having spent any time with this Loving God? What kind of arrogance is that?

But if you truly, and I mean truly, receive the love of God in all its crimson fullness then you can never be the same. And you will hate the things of this world which summon you to leave His feet and enjoy the dalliances which appeal to the flesh. The world screams, but the Spirit gently woos. The world is sensational while the Spirit is quietly profound. The world points to you, but the Spirit points to Him. There can be no common ground. The cross of Christ calls us to surrender. The cross of Christ calls us to obedience. The cross of Christ calls us to die. To the unredeemed and darkened heart those are foolish words. But to those who have truly been to Golgotha they are life itself.

Widen the corridors of my heart, Lord Jesus, and fill it all with love for You.

The Word Made Flesh

The Word Made Flesh

Was Jesus an inanimate set of truths? Was He a pro forma statement of faith? Or was He a living, breathing manifestation of the Invisible God with a rescue mission of redemption? When the Scriptures declare that the “Word was made flesh”, does that suggest that before He was flesh He was in written form on a heavenly wall? And when we are told that as followers we are “epistles, read of all men” does that mean we are to tattoo the New Testament on our bodies? Now if we can see the fallacies in some of these statements, then we are left with this question:

What is the Word of God and how is it manifested in us? When a sinner believes on the Lord Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit comes to take up residence in his mortal being. Of course this is a great mystery, but it is a reality nonetheless. The Holy Spirit seals us until the day of our redemption becomes a reality in the life to come, but He also is sent to begin a metamorphosis within that believer which works its way out in observable behaviors that are far different than what had been practiced before. But to put is succinctly, the Spirit begins to mold us into a living, breathing facsimile of our Lord and Master, Jesus. But to take it a sacred step further, the Person of Christ lives within us, and the Spirit begins to crucify what is us in order to allow the resurrected Christ to come forth. Again, an eternal mystery.

But so often the evangelical church has defined itself in terms of what it believes at the expense of how it lives. Gather together 100 average evangelical believers and put them alongside 100 moral unbelievers and you will find precious little which distinguishes between the two groups, to say nothing of observing anything really remarkable in differentiating between them. That should be a shame to us, and in fact, calls into question what we really do believe. And in a subtle effort to soothe our consciences, we as evangelicals wear our statements of faith as a spiritual talisman designed to define us due to the lack of empirical evidence which should be found overwhelmingly in our lives.

We have used and abused the Bible for our own earthly benefit and spiritual self righteousness. The clarion call, “I believe the Bible!” has become a hubristic battle cry which usually exalts the evangelical choir and simultaneously assaults the lost world. But it cannot be ignored that we have to say it loud and clear because our lives are staggeringly insufficient to convey our Biblical adherence without our self serving commentary. Many church signs tout their Bible believing credentials with a spiritual pride that is contrary to the very Bible they profess to believe. In short, the church has become a sort of religious club which is revealed in doctrinal words far greater than it is revealed in remarkable lifestyles that run observably different than the darkness around them. Of course we can always cling to our pro-life stand and our traditional marriage convictions as proof that we “like Jesus”.

But the written Word of God was never meant to be a collection of doctrinal museum pieces that when neatly organized like a theological puzzle we can stand back and admire our work. Of course the Word is God’s truth, but it is not only in the abstract. The Word is powerful, and when allowed to be used by the Spirit it can both save a lost sinner, but also change a saved sinner. And so often when a believer is asked to give his testimony of how God changed his life, he speaks of changes made years ago experienced in the several years following his initial conversion experience. Rarely do we speak of how God changed our lives this year, or this month, or even this very day! How pathetic.

Paul warned the Corinthians against being of Apollos, or of Peter, or of Paul. To be identified with any man is not only unwise, it is unchristian. And yet we say we are Arminian, or Calvinists, or Wesleyan, and other monikers that do not exclusively mention Christ. Or we say we are conservative or fundamental or even evangelical which replace what we should be: Those who remind the world of our Master. And so often the Scriptures are treated as some spiritual algebra book that can only be understood by those with original language credentials. Some dissect the written scriptures down to the atomic level which appeals to the intellect but does little to change the lives of its readers. And many defend their inerrancy doctrine through words and Scriptural evidence without the foundation of a life which authenticates that same inerrancy.

But who among us can stand upon a platform and claim we have arrived? But if we have moved the destination, we then cannot even claim we are on the path which leads to Christlikeness. There is a vast difference between knowing the Word and eating it. A man shows you his pantry full of nutritious foods, well organized and with books that define and categorize all the different foods. He explains the different nutritious values associated with the different foods, and he even shows you how others have compromised their value by redefining the foods and by falsely attributing nutrition to those foods which have none. But since this man is sickly and gaunt, you can safely assume he understands nutrition and has a well organized pantry full of such foods, but he himself is not consuming them.

And such is a reflection of much of the “orthodox” community who have well organized pantries of doctrinal displays, but do not reflect the Christ about whom these pantries are supposed to speak. It is one thing to know that Jesus was born in Bethlehem and the prophetic significance of that birth, but it is quite another to be resigned to exhibit that same profound humility in our daily lives. It is one thing to recite the golden rule, but it is quite another to actually practice it. It is one thing to believe that Jesus was crucified for the sins of the world, but it is quite another to walk daily in a personal crucifixion. It is one thing to have Louis Sperry Chafer’s systematic theology in your library, but it is quite another to live the demonstrative theology of Jesus.

Perhaps a fresh look at how we view God’s Word might help us to come into agreement with the Spirit’s ministry. And perhaps a fresh comparison between our lives and the life of the Lord Jesus might also break up the doctrinal fallow ground and plant a new and vibrant crop that when watered and nourished could bring a harvest of spiritual fruit that could be labeled, simply, Jesus.

Or we can remain as we are.

To Know Him

To Know Him

The greatest spiritual danger for a nation like America is not the continuing slide toward immorality, greed, and self righteousness. Those things do not make a sinner more lost. The greatest danger is if the culture becomes more religious and makes moral changes due to legislation and the power of the flesh. That is when sinners do not see a need to be born again.

But the church continues to champion moral issues and legislative processes. That always indicates a shallow gospel commitment. It is the easy way out that avoids repentance and a sacrificial return to a life of prayer and self denial. It suggests that moral adjustments made in the flesh are somehow part of advancing the kingdom of God. It also reveals that some sinners irritate believers, and rather than fasting, prayer, and a gospel witness, we loudly require them to stop certain sins in order to make our societal experience less stressful.

That is humanism regardless of how you dress it up as Christianity. Please retire the worn out and inaccurate phrases such as conservative or Judeo-Christian ethic. This is about eternity, and any moral battle diverts the attention from the work of Christ and places it squarely upon the democratic process and the organized leverage of certain groups. It openly invites all sorts of unholy alliances and even joins hands with unbelievers. The gospel is good news for the lost sinner, and that includes the most demonstrative sinners among us.

We cannot carry two banners and we cannot have two messages. We only have one banner and that is Jesus, and one message and that is His gospel. When we blend in other issues that are coincidentally embraced by lost sinners who happen to stumble upon certain moral issues taught in Scripture, we dilute the gospel and inadvertently give false hope to lost sinners who happen to embrace those moral issues. The issue has always been about eternal redemption.

For what does it profit a man if he is conservative and helps stem the outward moral decline but loses his own soul?

But imagine living in a fairy tale. Think about flying dogs and talking cats. Imagine walking in a fog so dense you cannot see or hear anything. Imagine ghosts and witches and gnomes. Imagine living in such a fantasy land. But the truth is we are living in a fantasy land right now. This land tells us lies about success and self esteem and climbing some earthly ladder. It speaks of the importance of temporal things. It convinces us that about 70 or 80 years on earth is worth all of eternity. Yes, this life is a fairy tale.

But the reality is the life that cannot be seen with earthly eyes. It is the life in the Spirit and it is more real than anything here on earth. The life lived in the kingdom of God is infinitely deeper and more real than this passing, temporal life. But since the temporal life screams at us and demands our attention we pay it close attention.

II Cor.4:16-18 - For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.
17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;
18 While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.

These words are our blueprint for life. It is the eternal kingdom that should fill our hearts and minds, but yet we seem to concentrate upon the temporal. The words of politicians, the events of the world, the ups and downs of the economy, gas prices, and so many other things dominate our thoughts and our mouths. Prayer with the Father is a farce and yet we are not embarrassed. We rub shoulders with hell bound sinners without a thought.

It is time every one of us takes a spiritual inventory of our lives and compares it with the life of Christ. What a novel idea. Do we even desire to please the Lord Jesus anymore? Do we thirst to know Him more fully? Do we long to make Him known to others? Are we hungry for His Word? Is prayer our life force? Do we worship in secret or do we need Sunday morning peer pressure?

If the things of this world have not as yet grown strangely dim, then by all means give them your attention. But if you have met the Lord Jesus and have tasted of His eternal glory, then return to that glory. Let your life be in this world but not of it.

That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;

Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,

That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him:

Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;

That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;

Oh to know Him. To close my eyes and see His sufferings and to be bathed in His redemptive love. To understand just a pinpoint of His glory and to be empowered to search the unfathomable riches of His grace. To breathe in His eternal salvation and to have that salvation permeate every inch of my being. To see the cross. Oh, to see that cross. Away with all this temporal dross. Get behind me all that seeks to dominate my soul. Away with everything that is just waiting to vanish away.

Oh let me know Him again and again and again. Forever.