Monday, June 07, 2010

The Vessels of Redemption
When a lost sinner is drawn to Jesus he senses something unexplainable taking place within his heart and spirit. This happens in all kinds of ways and in all kinds of sinners. The one constant is that all are sinners and Jesus is the only Savior. But the fear of death mingled with the uncertainty of purpose lurks within every lost sinner. Blindness is the great equalizer, and regardless of the comparative depth of sin all sinners are blind until they receive the ability to see spiritually by God’s grace through the Lord Jesus. Thus the term “born again” explains what happens when a sinner is born into the kingdom of God.
And when this sinner now is a child of God, and when he now realizes just who Jesus is, then and only then can he worship Him who is now both Lord and Elder Brother. The mystery of such truth is profound, however we are allowed glimpses and unfolding revelations that are sometimes experienced by others and sometimes deeply personal. And along with the knowledge of Him and His redemption, God allows for some times of refreshing as well as moments and seasons of humbling glory that for moment, or a day, or a period of time lift the veil and allow us to see Him more clearly than our usual comprehension permits.
It is in those times that we are disarmed and brought low and high simultaneously. To enter into the presence of Jesus in a way that is extraordinary during a time of worship, or a time of penetrating prayer, or even listening to a song of praise changes us. We, by God’s grace, exhale more death and inhale more life. There is no drug or vicarious experience that can compare with touching the hem of His garment by faith through the amazing power of the Spirit. It may lead to tears, it may lead to joy, it may lead to repentance, and it may lead to celebration but when we meet the Risen Christ in reality we cannot treat it as just another episode in life’s mundane journey. If you can file it among all the rest then you have not really touched and been touched by Him.
It seems so mystical and esoteric, does it not? It surely is and anyone who has entered into the “Holy of Holies” as it were identifies with my description. These moments do come as an aside, and they are not an everyday or even every Sunday occurrence. They come to those who earnestly and sacrificially seek Him and His manifested presence. I do not speak of the wild, weird, and often contrived events by some of our denominational friends. Often times these times are so personal they cannot be revealed and are beyond verbal communication. But know this: regardless of how far you have gone with Jesus there is so much more. Not so you can be entertained or even amazed, but so you and I can continue to be changed from glory to glory.
Is your testimony relying heavily on what God has done in your life during the first year or two after you were saved? Where is the freshness of what God is doing in your life right now? Has the changing ceased with the rescue from addictions and habits, or is Christ’s refining fire burning new avenues of love and grace and witness in the life you now live? Are we breathlessly running to tell others of His resurrection or has it become a church doctrine alone? Do others observe that we have “been with Jesus” or are we identified by what we are against and what we say we believe?
The emergent church has asked some important questions but has come up with the wrong answers. The answer for the church is a revival of Jesus Himself. Doctrine is important, but when it replaces a vibrant and unmistakable manifestation of the life and spirit of Jesus being lived out in each and every believer, then doctrine has replaced a living faith with a library of written confessions that far outdistance their living revelations. And should not a living expression of Jesus be more and more luminescent as the darkness of culture grows ever so more deep? As it is we have been assimilated in so many ways and are unremarkable amidst so many who live and breathe unreceptive darkness.
Oh that men would see the radiant goodness of God in our lives, and in fact be drawn to us simply by the power of a sacrificial life that reflects the Risen Christ. The Philippian jailer saw the hope that made imprisoned men sing praises to God and he was moved to ask of the hope that was in them. How often do we complain about circumstances today and broadcast the sins of the unregenerate instead of praising God for this great opportunity to shine His redemptive light? This life we live and this time and place in which we have been born is a providential act of the Creator and when we complain about the sin of others we do despite to the unmerited grace that we received.
To know and serve the Savior is the ultimate life, and to increase His knowledge can only be done by reflecting His life and spreading His Word. It is a calling and privilege that no sinner ever deserved nor has the ability in himself to accomplish. Praise to His matchless Name who by the sickle of the cross has harvested a worthless crop and made it into a company of saints who will reflect His glory forever. And in the end it will all be about Jesus and His glory. In the center of heaven stands a Lamb, as it had been slain, and we will all with heavenly voices sing His praise forevermore. It all seems like some fairytale, and like some dream, but the reality will far surpass any and all imaginations. It has not even entered our finite minds what God has prepared for us.
And so, this that we call redemption, is a sacred trust that goes far beyond what we can ever imagine. Holding it high it shines like the heavens against the blackest night. But bring it down among those who desperately need it and it gets messy. It seeks out those who we would not seek, and it clings to some of the most undesirable among us. It finds the whore and passes by the elder. It finds a voice through an illiterate Sudanese mother and holds its tongue when the self righteous speak. It bows down to an eight year old and yet remains hidden to a genius. Redemption rests in straw and rejects the bed of down and extravagance. And what are to make of this? Redemption reaches out through the lips of Spurgeon and Wesley alike. Finney and Whitefield. MacArthur and Graham.
Oh the glory of God’s redemption! Would that men who claim its reward and are claimed of it as well would so illuminate its glory that sinners would run to us. And if our lives would manifest such redemption as we claim in our theology, well, who could withstand such convicting and drawing power? We would either gain a seeking audience or we would be put to death. To blend would be impossible. Jesus told us that lifting up Him would draw men to Him everywhere. And so why are men not drawn to Him today? Why does it take extravagant evangelistic programs and catchy sermon series and organized outreaches to draw sinners that live among us to show some interest in the gathering we call “church”? Why do men neither run to us or from us?
Could it be that we are living our lives and not His? To suggest that there are millions of believing followers of Jesus, inhabited by the Holy Spirit Himself, living in this darkened existence and yet with such little effect and with such spiritual ambivalence is a boast that cannot be true. And it isn’t just the formal churches, or the seeker sensitive ones, or the emergent brand, or the purpose driven type. No, it is all of us…all of us.
Dear Lord, help us to let go of this life and cling entirely to Yours.

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