Saturday, August 08, 2009

To Be Like Him...

Can you feel your spirit grow ever thirstier for something more, something much more than you have ever experienced in Jesus Christ? If you are one who eschews any emotion and palpable brokenness, then this post is definitely not for you. Have you grown weary of what passes for following Jesus Christ in these last days? How, in God’s dear name, can we claim to a world in need that this visible church is the living, breathing manifestation of the Lord Jesus?

Truth not lived is hypocrisy, and relevance without truth is error. Doctrinal purity can become every bit an idol as the golden calf of Aaron. If God had to wait throughout church history to only send missionaries with impeccable doctrinal credentials then hell would have been enlarged. The redemptive truths can never be compromised, however, many of the doctrinal accoutrements that some hold in high esteem are stumbling blocks to the gospel itself.

The church seems to love the world and the things in the world, and she acts like the world and lives like the darkness that surrounds her. The church is filled with adultery, lying, greed, hedonism, sexual impurity, and an astounding amount of self righteousness. And when God provides the internet to His people for a vehicle for redemption, the church has filled its electrons with falsehoods, flesh, pride, and an array of revelations that distort, and in many cases, completely miss the very Person of Jesus Christ.

Think about what we owe Him with Whom we are to do. He Who created everything and Who has sustained the entire universe, has received us as sinful rebels and washed us clean before Him. What did we bring to Him that found favor in His redemptive eyes? And after we were given His everlasting grace by a Spirit led faith, what did our Lord ask of us? The Word of God asks , if not commands us, to be like Jesus. Have we treated that like a hardship and sacrifice? And not only are we “invited” to live the most rewarding and fulfilling life available to anyone, we are given the Spirit of Christ to enable us so to do.

Why would we take that promise and that commission and drag it through the fallen mud of carnality and hedonism? And armed with the knowledge of His grace, how could we ever exhibit the slightest portion of self righteousness and pride? The suffering that was most assuredly endured on that Roman cross was not just some exercise in prophetic fulfillment, no, it begins with that glorious fulfillment and continues to travel into 2009. Those wounds are our marching orders and our banner, and His empty tomb is our power. We must put on Christ, not just defend His truth and surely not change the very truth He has eternally established.

What does it mean to spiritually and practically “put on Christ”. Did not our Lord weep over those who rejected Him? Did Jesus not reach out in redemption to those who lived in sexual iniquity? Did Jesus endure the contradiction of sinners against Himself? And as we gaze at that wooden altar of eternal forgiveness, can we at least see the selflessness that embodied the life of God’s Son? Selflessness; now there is a practice that seems out of vogue these days.
Sometimes God’s truth is most accurately defended by a remarkable demonstration that responds to attacks against it with the greater truth of humility ignited by the boundless and immeasurable love of Almighty God.
Living the tangible life of Jesus Christ is the light that penetrates the darkness with the brightness of His redemptive love. Of course the gospel must be spread by the words of our mouths, but those words must make their way to a sinner’s heart upon the wings of the humble and dedicated expression of our very lives. Words seem hollow and worthless, and even counterproductive, when they are communicated through an organic epistle that demonstrates a willing disregard for many other words derived from the same source.

We are called to abide shame; to endure attacks; to receive condescension; to be despised; to accept ridicule; to allow mistreatment; to be demeaned; and all of this with joy and humility. Our weapons are not mirrored responses; our weapons are those of the Spirit that confound the wisdom of this world and many times achieve the victory clothed in the seeming garments of defeat. We have formulated and perfected the art of responsive dialogue that uses God’s truth as a means to the victory of debate, however we have long since abandoned the Incarnate example of victory through obedience to the death of our own reputation, our own linguistic arsenal, and indeed our own lives. Have we not set our sights on the lost wanderers of this culture and taken it upon us to aggressively dismantle them by our words and actions? Jesus was a friend – a friend I say – to sinners. Let us release our moral talismans and bear His reproach in the very midst of those who so easily dismiss Him. We were once like them, were we not?

The gospel is tailor made for the immoral, and to command them to cease to sin is to abrogate the gospel message itself. We are so smug and self righteous sometimes that it is a wonder that any sinner can be reached by our abject hypocrisy that so openly suggests we have arrived at God’s truth by the strength and cunning of our own investigation. The picture of a dead Jew on a cross can only be accurately perceived through the gracious enlightenment of the Spirit of God and is only hindered by any hint of intellectual acumen. And the ones who live fully by His grace only camouflage the glory of that grace when they speak as a warrior of truth and not a unworthy conduit of that same truth; one that strives to, but falls short of displaying an unabridged version of that truth.
After all the clamor and ecclesiastical dust settles, there is one supreme truth that should consume each and every born again follower of Jesus Christ:
He is worthy of all our obedience, love, and worship from this very moment and into eternity.
So should the lost world see that Christ has made us strong or should they notice He has broken us? Are we to be blinding lights that repel or soft lights that illuminate, warm, and draw the attention of the hopeless? Is our salt meant to make us unpalatable to the lost or is it meant to season just enough to create a thirst? Is our hill supposed to be so high it cannot be seen or is it perfectly placed as a pedestal for Christ? Calvary was never meant to be Mt. Everest; it was always to be a hill of grace that beckons those who recognized its condescending zenith is made accessible through the grace of the One who scaled it for us. And when we portray ourselves as something, we are nothing; and when we portray ourselves as nothing, we are something.

There is no greater calling than to emulate and reflect the Person of Jesus Christ through an earthen vessel. It is the pinnacle of the Christian faith and it is the greatest honor ever bestowed upon a redeemed sinner. But in order to pursue that goal we must first have an accurate picture of the Lord Jesus. All the particular events in the gospel narratives that give an account of Jesus’ life are facets of the one gem called the cross. If we really are serious about doctrine and theology and systematic Biblical truth then we must begin with the cross and go forth from there.

Truth is ultimately important, but that truth is Jesus, and He must be communicated not just by the vibrations of forced air through a human larynx; He must be seen by a continuing gospel narrative that is a living extension of the Living and Risen Redeemer. Jesus is to be witnessed through both the uttered words of the gospel message as well as the uttered words of visual acts that emulate the author and finisher of that same gospel.
Let us die daily to the things of this world, and most especially to ourselves.


Paul C said...

Thanks for these sound and extremely challenging words calling us to die to self. It is amazing how this escapes us, and yet, it is only through dying that we truly find life. May the Lord grant us courage and eyes to see.

Anonymous said...

"What did we bring to Him that found favor in His redemptive eyes?"

Nothing but a broken and contrite heart.