Sometime last year I read a review of the movie “Avatar” by Mark Driscoll, an emergent pastor from Seattle. He claimed it was the most Satanic movie he had ever seen and decried almost every part of it. Now I have not gone to a movie theatre in many years, but since "Avatar" came out on television I decided to watch it and see what all the hypertension was about.
To be honest, I TiVo’d it so I could fast forward through the scenes that I did not desire to watch. Those scenes were many and I found it a dull and predictable movie with little more than some new image technology. I find it difficult to see how this could have been the all time box office movie. But that is beside the point. Basically the plot is this: There is a new mineral that conducts energy in A.D. 2154 and it costs 20 million dollars an ounce. It is found in great quantity on a planet called Pandora that is inhabited by a humanoid species called the Na’vi. (I do not believe in aliens.) The mining company from Earth, who look and talk like Americans (they probably were) travel to the planet in order to mine this precious mineral.
They attempt to entice the Na’vi into helping them at first, but when the indigenous inhabitants refuse the mining company uses force. The Na’vi are pagans and have some connection to nature, but the mining company workers never exhibits any particular religious manifestations. There is a love story between a crippled war veteran who visits Pandora with a Na’vi body and a female Na’vi. As I said, the Na’vi are pagans and worship nature. OK, we get it. But Driscoll rants and raves over their paganism while refusing to criticize the hedonism and violence of the humans. The entire movie is a glorified cartoon, however it seems to have struck a nerve with American capitalists.
The scenario in the movie is perhaps too close to some scenarios that have actually played out upon the earth, and that is what has some hyperventilating over it. But if you listened to Driscoll’s rant, you may have noticed the absence of correction for the attitudes and actions of the mining company. Their lack of compassion and concern for the native inhabitants is breathtaking. And even when their own spies return with new that is incongruent with their overall plan, they ignore it.
Driscoll states that he loves theatre, and in fact, has two home theatre systems and three TiVo systems at home. That is curious in and of itself. He claims that Satan is using the technology in Avatar to lure you into his way of thinking. He also claims that the movie is attempting to suggest that primitive is good and that advancement is bad. Wow. Where did he get that from in that movie?
What I took away from that movie was how insensitive human beings can be when faced with a challenge to their lifestyle. Even if it means obliterating a species, technology marches on. And as a believer in Jesus, I would have to view others as lost pagans. (This is all fiction since Jesus died for mankind and not other aliens.) I can see why Americans would recoil at such a caricature, but why would believers?
But to put the entire thing in context let me reveal who Mark Driscoll is and where he is coming from. He is an aggressive person who is boldly American and profoundly capitalist. He has advocated violence when an elder acts out of line. And Mark sees God teaching oral sex in the Song of Solomon. He also suggests that a woman offer her anus to her husband during menstruation if he so desires. His favorite movie is “Fight Club” and as I said, he has no problems with violence.
He was roundly criticized for using profanity in the pulpit (You can imagine what language he uses in private.). He presents Christ as a rugged macho man who lusted after woman as a normal 30 year old male. And he rules his church with an iron fist, and insists that anyone who questions his authority is sinning against God. Alright, enough about Driscoll.
But I wanted you to see how easy it is to view things as American capitalists and not as followers of Jesus. I did not like the movie “Avatar”, but not because it maligned capitalism, but because it was not a good movie in my opinion. I do not have a home theatre system, and I have one TiVo setup. I prefer non-fiction movies, especially documentaries. But I refuse to watch them as an American. I will always attempt to see things as a believer.
I saw some recent polls among Americans. One suggested that the past decade was the worst in American history, while the other showed that a majority of adults feared that their children would not be better off than they when they reached adulthood. Of course that is obviously based solely upon money. But we as believers should never assess things through the prism of economics. Never. Our prayer should be that the next generation should experience a spiritual revival, even if it means an economic collapse.
Most of the western church appeals to the mind and the emotions. Very little appeals to the spirit. Like a cascading waterfall, the western church continues to reject Jesus through compromising theologies and carnal methods of entertainment that profess to be sacred gatherings. The Risen Christ remains an aside who only gets top billing on Easter Sunday.
Little by little believers have given over their minds to seminary trained men who are very adept at running an ecclesiastical business but who have no experience in leading a flock to the throne room of the August Redeemer. If we wanted religion with a sprinkling of Jesus, we have gotten our wish. But if we are thirsty for more of Him, then we must make a break with the stale, activity laden construct that still calls itself the church.
If you desire to seek Jesus with all your heart, do not expect much help from the visible church. In fact, what is being taught is a decidedly compromised message that is counter productive to deep devotion to Jesus. Millions of believers have spent and charged billions of dollars this Christmas time. They have spent many hours practicing choir specials and pageant scenes. They have expended much energy in decorations and preparing food. They have attended Christmas parties, both religious and secular.
But how many have spent one hour in the prayer closet with the Christ who is supposed to be at the center of this “holiday”?
Think about it. The Spirit of God visit’s the uterine tube of a young virgin, possibly as young as 14 years old, and she is impregnated with God. Just that sentence alone is more profound than any human mind can fully grasp. This virgin was not from the king’s house, and she was in fact a mere peasant. Completely obscure and with no remark ability, Mary is chosen and submits. Sacred beyond imagination.
Joseph is given the grace necessary to lend support, however his understanding is far from complete. No one knows, not even Mary. Of course she heard the words of Gabriel, but they quickly become clouded. Even if Mary had understood Who was growing inside her body, no one saw the cross. But without a working knowledge of the Trinity, Mary surely could only grasp one thing: She was a virgin and yet she was pregnant.
Gabriel considered this event so important that he informed Mary himself. So God could impregnate a human being with Himself, but He could not provide adequate lodging for His Son’s birth? Oh no, you miss the point. It isn’t that God couldn’t, but that God didn’t. God speaks through this narrative. Infinite is the condescension of God coming in the likeness of sinful flesh, but so often we miss the living metaphor of Jesus being born among animals. That reveals to us, however incomplete, the depth that God lowered himself to reach us.
Over the years man has attached all sorts of sentimentality to this wonderful event. But stripped of the cultural and festive atmosphere of human holidays, we can get a glimpse of God’s glory. The mystery of the Incarnation is pervasive, but the mission ultimately becomes clear. This baby, Emmanuel, has come to die. God, the author of all life, has come to die. And not just a quick and merciful death, but a vicious and wrenching death that belies everything we think we know about God. Crucifixion awaits this newborn.
So go ahead and smile at the caricatures presented at this “Christmas” time of year. Feel warm inside when someone allows their child to be used in a Christmas pageant. And while perusing the retail establishments looking for the exact gift for some relative, go ahead and breathe in the “spirit” of Christmas. But be aware, that is not the spirit of Christmas. The spirit of Christmas can only be found at Golgotha.
Go ahead and feel the spirit of that tree with all its festive ornaments. Not lights but the Light; not red and green but mostly red; not carols but groans; not punch but vinegar; not the giving of gifts but the giving of the gift; not the fragrance of evergreen but the fragrance of sweat and death; not a time for family but a time to create a family. Oh yes, the Incarnation was a infinite mystery which will never be fully understood by fallen man. However we can understand death. And Christmas was not just a time of new life, it was also a time of impending death. God would die. Go discuss that around the water cooler. Instead of “Merry Christmas” shout out “Praise God for His Son’s death!” during Christmas. And instead of “Silent Night, Holy Night” sing “O Sacred Head now Wounded”.
Let us as believing followers of the Incarnate One shuffle off all vestiges of sentimentality and holiday spirit, and let us bow in worship before the Risen Christ that still bears the nail prints from Calvary!
Sinners are curious people. They cull out certain sins and label them as inappropriate while enjoying the exercise of their own sin. The cast system of sin continues today in the western church. One man can lay up obscene amounts of money for himself and still be considered a faithful church member, but another man who struggles with homosexuality is ostracized until he gains complete victory.
And in a stunning example of self righteousness, the military will allow you to lay down your life for your country but will not allow you to admit you are gay. Today a law was enacted that will change all that. Let us as believers make it clear that the ground beneath the cross is level, and there is no sin too great or too culturally unacceptable that cannot be reached by Christ and His gospel. Some people are born with same sex attractions. The curse has had ramifications for many millennia and it rears its head in all sorts of ways.
It was always a amoral conundrum. They will provide you with the bombs, the aircraft, and the necessary training to drop indiscriminate bombs that kill women and children, as long as you do not admit to being gay. Fallen man has his fallen views of morality. The people who die in those bombings do not care if the bomber was gay or straight. They are just as dead.
Phil2:3-8 3Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. 5Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
I Pet.5:5 Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.
Humility. The enemy of western culture, capitalism, and politics in general. And sadly the church has adopted a superficial specimen that barely passes the comparison test, much less the Christ test. While we elbow our way around the marketplace in an attempt to make more, we have taken on the mantle of the humanistic “can do” spirit and have left the mind of Jesus Christ. But the apostle doesn’t just suggest we be humble, he exhorts us to be “clothed with humility”. What in the world does being clothed with humility look like? And since most of us show no remarkable difference in our speech and lives, does that mean that most people, saved and unsaved, are clothed with humility? Or does it mean that being clothed with humility is so very rare that it has become a curiosity rather than a Christ trait that should find a home within us? So often the church bellows about morality and political issues and demands her public platform. When Jesus is maligned by secular sources we return evil for evil and stand upon the shoulders of the founding fathers rather than remaining silent as the Lamb who was brought to the slaughter. We hear a lot about “losing our rights” and believers attend rallies in order to force the issue and squeal with indignation. Yes, you will find very few churches that even strive to be clothed with humility. But let us go a major step further in ferreting out just what it means to be clothed with humility. Paul addresses it in his letter to the church at Philippi. His basic premise in the second chapter is a genuine concern for the welfare of other over your own needs. But in order to bring that principle home, Paul uses the supreme template, the Lord Jesus Himself. And he begins with the incarnation. Would you submit to plastic surgery that would make you into a striking resemblance of Charles Manson? Adolf Hitler? Ted Bundy? Just the thought of such a thing is repulsive. But that is infinitely more palatable than a holy God allowing Himself to be made into the likeness of sinful and rebellious man. The gulf that had to be crossed cannot be fully understood by those of us on this side of that gulf. We can understand sin much easier than we can understand holiness. But even our understanding of sin is shallow and allows many loopholes that ease the violence it does to the Creator. But it isn’t just the shame of being made in the likeness of a fallen man, it also entails the demonstrable releasing of His equal standing with God, or at least part of it. I confess a mystery here and an incomplete knowledge of such things, but Paul clearly tells us that Jesus released His hold on heaven in order to come to this earth as a man. Of course when we discuss such things we are like a man born blind discussing the color red, or even describing color itself. The incarnation was an astounding exhibition of humility which confounded the angels themselves. The answer as to “why” has to be love, but that kind of love is foreign to earthlings except in Christ. But how does the Incarnate God show His love toward us? Will he pat us on the head and whisper sweet words of affirmation? Will He write soaring love songs that make us delirious with emotion? But Paul, in his exhortation concerning humility, points to one thing. The cross. While the Incarnation was exhilarating, the cross was confounding and even a little embarrassing. This is the Creator God? He could not even save Himself and yet He claimed the I AM status? In the end, the greatest revelation of humility is found in redemption. Paul states that reducing oneself to nothing and becoming a willing figure of death so that others may live is the epitome of humility. And therein lies the conundrum. How do we take what Christ displayed at Golgotha and incorporate that into our lives in such a way that it becomes observable to others? Just lowering your voice, or letting a car into line, cannot be considered humility at the cross level. Humility is different than being just courteous. It goes further than meekness and gentleness. All of those things are surely evident in humility, but being clothed with the humility exhibited by the Lamb of God’s sacrifice goes much deeper than even the sum of those parts. And if we truly desire to humble ourselves, then we must be crucified in the likeness of our Master. God does not just map out a pragmatic plan, as is so popular in today’s Christian world of stocking stuffers and chic quick fixes. Being clothed with the humility of Christ requires much. It cannot be achieved without sacrifice, inconvenience, and complete disregard for your own self esteem. Retribution can never be considered, and your “enemies” must be front and center as objects of your servanthood. If you do not place a watch at your mouth’s door you will undermine your spiritual journey. You will have to speak less and listen more. And you will have to significantly hone your spiritual ears to hear the Holy Spirit. Your needs, your desires, your wants, and your entire situation must be subordinate, and many times sacrificed completely. The needs of others must be your constant concern. Everything you buy must be approved by the Spirit. You must allow that Spirit to retrain your mind and heart to seek the things that enhance God’s kingdom. This is a monumental task in a culture that treats narcissism like an attribute. And on top of it all, you must resist becoming proud of your humility and judging others who do not seem to care about being humble. If you begin a journey into judging your entire life will be consumed. “That seems so very difficult,” you say. It depends upon your willingness to pray. It depends upon the time you devote to television as opposed to the time you spend in prayer. It depends upon how badly you want to be like Jesus. It depends upon what you are willing to sacrifice. It depends if you allow the Spirit to resurrect in you a profound thirst for God’s Word again. It depends upon whether Jesus can be Lord over your entire life, every day, every hour, and every moment. Although the Amish people are not evangelistic, their humility isthe one quality that draws much attention in the midst of a culture that is antithetical to their lifestyle. They are humble people, and that alone draws people from all over the world just to gaze at such a curiosity. But imagine what would happen if God’s people, who were living within the culture, showed such crucified humility that those around us could not just ignore us. What would actually happen?
Capitalism inevitably leads to hedonism, self centeredness disguised as individualism, hoarding, competitive materialism, and a pervasive practice of living significantly above what is necessary combined with different levels of debt. Expressions of charity are comparatively minimal, and are motive compromised by tax breaks. The goal of capitalism is to benefit the individual rather than the collective group. The theory is that a rising tide elevates all boats, however there are two flaws with this scenario, especially as it pertains to the principles that all believers should follow. First, capitalism almost always creates a wide schism between the wealthy and the poor. The promise of all boats rising is not true since the fallen nature of man, and environmental upbringing issues, create all sorts of differing types of people. And that fallen nature finds capitalism an easy grazing ground for corruption, manipulation, different forms of bribery, and a rather large cache of unethical leverages for financial gain. Second, we as believers should not be consumed with elevating our own earthly boats financially. Although God’s will does include a wide range of financial status among His people, that must never be our goal. But within the western church lurks a monstrous sin that goes almost unnoticed and even welcomed. The visible church is filled with people who exhibit lifestyles outside their means, to say nothing of outside their necessity, and who spend enormous amounts of time, thought, and energy to achieve and maintain their lifestyles. But within a culture of capitalism and self centeredness, the community of believers had an incredible opportunity to live in a remarkably different way, one that might ultimately draw attention to the source of their contented lifestyle…Jesus. But alas, we have been assimilated, even to the point that most evangelicals embrace capitalism and all its accoutrements, and some even suggest a divine approval. And the number one reason for divorce? Money issues.
Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself. But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.
Many of you can relate to this. A friend to whom I was once a pastor went to be with Christ this year. I wrote a post about her journey here. During the times when I participated in Christmas I remember many times of caroling and times of fellowship at her and her husband’s home. I realize she beholds His face now, and that she dwells in unspeakable glory. But I do not think I am out of line to admit that I miss my sister…
Years ago I began to think about the various greetings that all of us used during the “Christmas season”. Merry Christmas - Seasons Greetings - Happy Holidays - Have a Good Christmas - Have a Blessed Christmas - all of which are nebulous greetings that are suggestions about the enhancement of us and not the glory of God. “Happy, merry, and blessed are aimed at having Christmas be enjoyable to us. Rarely if ever did someone say, “Glory to the birth of the Incarnate King!” And the time and money spent for each other seemed out of character for a celebration that was supposed to commemorate the coming of Emmanuel. The word “Christmas” itself is a Roman Catholic combination of Christ and mass. This holiday was not observed in the early church, and was an invention of the institutional church as a response to the winter solstice pagan observation. That is the reason it is celebrated in December and not in the fall when Jesus actually was born. Shepherds do not sleep outside in the winter “keeping watch over their flocks”. It is far too cold. And just an hour long study of when Elizabeth became pregnant, and when Mary visited her, will reveal that John the Baptist was 5 or six months older than Jesus. But even if “Christmas” was accurately celebrated in September today, the current mode of celebration undermines the entire essence of the story and purpose of the Incarnation. The sentimental “peace on earth” blanket is misleading and in fact disguises the very purpose of God the Son’s Incarnation. It is a disgrace. And to think that millions of believers join energetically in this pagan celebration must grieve the very Spirit that impregnated the young virgin. How self righteous it is for us to create a holiday, force feed it with Jesus, and then celebrate it like drunken sailors spending their paychecks at a foreign port. And what does this holiday bring to a culture?
* The suicide rate increases. * Many secular businesses make astounding profits. * Many marriages begin to crumble because of the stress. * Many people add to their personal debt.
This coming Christmas will be just another spiritual tragedy to God’s Kingdom. Any observance of the Incarnation must be projected through the prism of Golgotha and the resurrection. They cannot be an aside or an “Oh by the way”. The focus must not be on wise men (who were not there anyway) or shepherds or mangers. The focus must be on the Glorified Christ, crucified and risen! And if you understand this: He must not just be our focus - He must be our life. And if we desire to make Him our Lord, we must be willing to hear what He says and obey. So in the interest of hearing Him let me share a few of His words.
Gal.4:7-11 -Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ. Howbeit then, when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods. But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage? Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain.
So instead of observing the Old Testament holy days, we have created our own. That is a shadow of the law. At least “Easter” falls on the resurrection day and is not encumbered by the enormous weight of hedonism and sentimentality, at least in the church. And even though it should have another name it cannot be placed in the same category as Christmas. But if we truly desire to obey and please Christ we must not observe “holy days”. God instituted holy days and feasts as fore shadows of the coming Christ. He has come, and the shadows must now give way the fulfillment.
Col.216-17 - Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: 17Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.
Here Paul encourages believers not to take offense when others persecute you for not observing the holy days that they do. Do you realize that one of the ways true believers could be a peculiar people in the darkness would have been to do nothing? When the world invented Christmas, all believers had to do was humbly not entered into that observance and they would stand out. I sincerely believe that could have been a great source of evangelism and it would have consistently invited curious questions. But alas, the church decided that Christmas was too good to pass up. I was raised with Christmas, and to my mother it was her favorite time of year. All sorts of sentimentalities are observed within the holiday name Christmas. People have a favorite Christmas tree ornament; many treat picking out a Christmas tree as a spiritual event; some have special cookies they make; some take great pride in outdoor lights and different Christmas scenes; and some observe traditional Christmas Eve events. And there is the obligatory gluttony. All of which are designed to make us all feel good and enhance the experience of Christmas. Of course everything I mentioned is only available to people with means. I do not expect anyone to read this post and have an epiphany. What I do hope is that some will allow the Spirit to ask questions within them. And if that happens, you will see how great a cultural idol Christmas is, and how great the peer pressure will be if you even breathe the suggestion of abandoning Christmas. People will be much more understanding if you admit to having a drinking problem than they will if you suggest that Christmas should not be celebrated. I cannot fully convey to you the freedom that comes when you take a step of faith like this. I must confess to enjoying the lack of pressure to spend and the consternation over what to buy and the counting down of days and the horrific migrations to malls and other retail places. Yes, I enjoy that part of it. But more than that, I hope I have pleased Him who actually did come in the likeness of sinful man in order to suffer and die for my sins.
Christmas isn’t about Bethlehem, it’s about Calvary.
In fact, if you desire to celebrate Christ's birth, celebrate it on "Easter".
Most of you know that I do not participate in politics. I do not vote or salute the flag or anything connected with nationalism. But some believers who love Jesus still do. I do not judge them since I was once with them.
To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men. For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. (Ti.2:3-4)
But to campaign against providing healthcare for those without it, and your reason is that your premiums will increase, is sin.
Ps.27:1-14 - 1The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? 2When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell. 3Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident. 4One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple. 5For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock. 6And now shall mine head be lifted up above mine enemies round about me: therefore will I offer in his tabernacle sacrifices of joy; I will sing, yea, I will sing praises unto the LORD. 7Hear, O LORD, when I cry with my voice: have mercy also upon me, and answer me. 8When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, LORD, will I seek. 9Hide not thy face far from me; put not thy servant away in anger: thou hast been my help; leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation. 10When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take me up. 11Teach me thy way, O LORD, and lead me in a plain path, because of mine enemies. 12Deliver me not over unto the will of mine enemies: for false witnesses are risen up against me, and such as breathe out cruelty. 13I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. 14Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.
The psalmist, possibly King David, recites such a testimony and prayer before God. But in the midst of praise, he utters these words:
“One thing have I desired of the LORD, that I will seek after;”
And what is this one desire? Is it wealth or success or even good health? Let’s be honest, even though God does provide for us, the heathen seek these things. It rains on the just and the unjust as well. Jesus Himself exhorted us to “take no thought” about these things, and yet how often are we consumed by them? On one side of our mouths we claim to have all the riches of God’s glory awaiting us in heaven, and on the other side we consistently worry about and strive for all things temporal. And even entire movements are created that deceive people into believing God desires to pour material blessings upon us. We seek the pottage and sacrifice the Person. But not this psalmist. He has a central desire, one which he is willing to “seek after”. It is Scriptures like these, along with thousands like them, that undermine those who teach that God hasn’t gifted man with a free will. This psalmist does not say that God has made him, he clearly states his own will is to seek Jehovah, and in the now revealed context of the New Covenant, to seek the Risen Christ. And what exactly is it he seeks?
“that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple.”
Since David did not live in the physical temple in Jerusalem, he must be speaking of the glory of God’s presence in the spirit. He says “to behold the beauty of the Lord”. Now when we meditate upon that thought, does it not occur to us how much is available to us and how little we settle for in Christ? I mean here is a man, not inhabited by God’s Spirit, and yet he has, through God’s grace, been given a portal into the presence of God. He is not yet aware of the coming Jesus, and yet he sees the beauty of God. This psalm is a mighty departure from the violent and fearful God so often outlined in the Old Testament. What does he mean to “inquire in His temple”? Here he refers to a glorious communication that includes praise, prayer, and worship. “What is man that you are mindful of Him?”, says another Psalm. That the Creator of all that is or ever will be would invite us into His presence and communicate with us is mind boggling. Something else that is mind boggling is the way we so often ignore Him and are consumed by the things of this fallen world. In the movie “Star Trek - Generations” the plot centers around a place called the “nexus”. This place is describe as “being inside joy”. One of the main characters who has been inside this nexus is obsessed with returning to it since his experience was so overwhelming. This character could have been told by someone else about the glory of the nexus, but I doubt he would demonstrate such passion purely based on second hand testimony. But he has been there, and that memory, along with the unfulfilling state of the present world, drives him to enter into it again. Do you see the parallel? Perhaps the reason that we do not diligently seek the presence of Christ and His glory is because we have never been there. And like the children of Israel, soon after seeing the power of God at the Red Sea, our desires once again turn to temporal things. Brothers and sisters in Christ, the world continues to turn and the things of this world continue to reach out and capture us. And weighted down by all these things we find comfort in the fact that everyone else is bound as well. Eventually we redefine Christianity to incorporate the very thoughts and practices that imprison us and keep us from Christ. And finally we become content with practicing our ecclesiastical construct while ignoring the One whose being should be our very lives.
But the unfathomable riches found only in Him are still available today
to all whose thirst requires them to seek after Him.
In the weariness that is this world, I can honestly say I only really now look forward to one thing and one thing alone. To be with Jesus. I cannot imagine what that will be like, but a thousand lifetimes cannot compare with one moment of glory before His Majesty. It is what gives me strength to go on.
Once you add anything to salvation you have abandoned the salvation that is found in Jesus Christ. Anything added, whether it be baptism, church membership, good works, a holy life, communion, or a long list of religious rituals, poisons the salvation that is only found in Jesus Christ. Works, as defined by acts of love toward fellow humans substantiate faith, but they are not only unnecessary because Christ’s redemptive work is finished and complete, but they revert back to Moses and leave Christ. Paul is very adamant in this teaching, and in fact insists that whosoever drags any part of the law (works) into the New Covenant has “fallen from grace” and that “Christ shall profit you nothing”. That is very serious business. When a family has issues they deal with them internally and offer remedies from punishment to counseling and other kinds of help. But when you sit down and discuss your son’s misbehavior, you do not say, “Listen, unless you straighten up you are no longer my son”. Or even worse, “Listen, when you were born we made you part of this family based upon the precondition we would approve of things you do.” Your child was born of your flesh and upon conception he was indeed your God given child. So it is with all who are born of the Spirit. The sooner a sinner realizes that any good works he thinks he has are not only substandard, they are filthy menstrual rags as it pertains to gaining the acceptance of a Holy God, the sooner he can turn to Christ and Christ alone for his salvation. Salvation by works, or faith and works, is usually the hallmark of cults. Either Christ’s work is sufficient or it was a big first step. Do the Scriptural math. The Roman Catholic Church teaches a salvation by works including all sorts of bizarre religious rituals. It does not mean that all Roman Catholics are not saved, but it does mean that if they are saved they were born again through faith alone and fail to see clearly the error of Catholic teaching. I have met brothers and sisters like that. During the first millennium the early church moved steadily away from salvation by faith in Christ and began to adopt all sorts of religious obligations that were meant to control the ecclesiastical proletariat and elevate the Ecclesiastical Bourgeoisie. As is the design of man’s flesh, the church left Christ and became a controlling religious institution. God then used a man named Martin Luther, a demonstrably flawed man in many respects, to give a rebirth to salvation by faith alone. I believe God used such a man so that Luther would not be given the glory, however many revere him above that which is appropriate. We must always sense the Spirit in all things and never elevate any man, regardless of how wonderfully God has used he or she. Sadly, in today’s culture of idolatry, all it takes is for a person to record a hit Christian song and they immediately gain a following. And mirroring the Church at Corinth, the western church divides as they follow different preachers and personalities. I am of Warren; I am of Osteen; I am of McArthur; I am of Bell; and on and on goes the list. But the bastion of our faith is redemption through Jesus Christ alone and by faith alone. That must never be compromised or negotiated in the slightest. The glory of Christ's cross is that it was complete and is offered by faith alone and without any ancillary works of man. When man’s works are inserted into Christ’s work at Calvary, redemption withers up and dies. The vegetables of Cain must never touch the blood of the Crucified and Risen Christ. As time goes by, and as movements that claim to be Christian spring up more and more, listen for the cross. If they have a new age twinge, and if they seem to be intellectual and incorporate words and practices from other religions, and if they are presenting something new and fresh without the cross of Jesus Christ, reject them soundly. And if they rely heavily upon Jewish rabbis from long ago, view them as very suspect. Make no mistake, the evangelical community is expanding its parameters to include all sorts of spurious teachings and movements. People, both professing believers and others, are being attracted by the sparkle of today’s evangelical message of family, finances, altered states, eastern practices, inclusivism, and all sorts of new, new, and more new. Much of evangelicalism could be considered Mormon as they focus of the family, finances, morality, politics, and all sorts of western lifestyle accoutrements. We do not need new, we need to drink much deeper from the old, rugged cross. We who still cling to the message of the cross are now Christian refugees. We have been driven from the mainstream evangelical tent, not because we have aberrant teachings and views, but because the visible church began a journey away from Christ and His cross and we would not go with them. In a discussion on another blog, the administrator claimed “the resurrection is more important than the cross”. What?? Without the cross there is no forgiveness of sins, and without the cross there is no resurrection. The man that made that statement holds Rob Bell in high esteem which explains his comment. Brothers and sisters, the end is near and Christ is at the door. The signs are all here, and one morning we will awake to find some nation has lobbed a nuclear bomb into their neighbor and all hell will break loose. One morning we will awaken to find Israel has bombed nuclear facilities in Iran. But we do not have to wait until “one morning”. Tomorrow morning we will again awaken to a hedonistic and idolatrous church that commits all sorts of sins, moral and financial, and whose pulpits treat the cross gingerly because it seems so unsophisticated and archaic. Most preachers have sources for jokes with which to lighten up their messages. And when asked if they really believe men and women are going to hell without Christ they present their doctrinal phylacteries as proof but continue to preach soothing messages designed to enhance this present life. But where is the cross? Is it a doctrinal tenant or is it our life? Except for some past event that serves as proof of our salvation, the cross is relegated to obscurity. “Take up your cross and follow Me!” says our Lord. But what does that mean in today’s culture? Is there no difference between those who follow Christ and those who do not? And with so little distinctiveness and distinguishing features, just who are we following, the culture or Christ? The blessed and glorious cross of the Redeemer Christ is now a religious relic, safely tucked away in doctrinal archives and statements of faith. Sit for a few months and listen to the pulpits of Saddleback or Lakewood or Mars Hill or Word Centers or most of the evangelical churches in America. Listen and weep as you hear all sorts of nonsense and narcissistic advice that sounds like a religious Home Depot mixed with philosophy and psychiatry. The cross, the only fountain of redemption, sits silently among the religious folk and if at all, is only asked to make a pitiful cameo. What transpires on Sunday morning in America has long since left being defined as Christian. Couched between breakfast and lunch, the perfunctory oblation is observed, usually driven by excellent worship music, but without the spiritual conflagration emanating from the pulpit. And as the congregants scuttle to their cars, they leave without being challenged by God’s Spirit concerning the life that carries the cross and dies every single day. Constantine incorporated the cross into the culture, and even used it as a talisman for war. I dare say he has become the mentor for the western church. God forgive us for how we have treated that cross. God forgive us for defending it with words that in large part stand alone, while we enjoy the customs and pleasures of the heathen. God forgive us for not meditating upon that cross and allowing the Spirit to infuse its meaning and power into our very beings. God forgive us for a cross that finds its home on paper and not in believers. God forgive us for placing the cross at a round table where Buddha, Allah, and other false gods meet to find common ground.
We have left the cross and do not even realize it.
Rom.7:17-19 - 17Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. 18For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. 19For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.
Rom.8:4-6 - 4That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. 5For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. 6For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
Gal.5:12-18 - 12I would they were even cut off which trouble you. 13For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. 14For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 15But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another. 16This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. 17For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. 18But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.
When a sinner believes on the Lord Jesus Christ and is born again, he receives a new nature that is both made in Christ’s image and in a mystery is Christ Himself. Jesus Christ, in the Person of the Holy Spirit, takes residence within the spirit of a regenerated man. Although this is a great mystery, all of us that have been born again can testify of how different we are on the inside. Others surely see and hear that difference on the outside, but all our lifestyle changes are due completely to the Person and power which now resides within us. But there remains the old man, the old nature, or the flesh. All of these terms refer to the same thing. All of us who have come to believe upon and love the Lord Jesus begin a new and wonderful life, but we also begin a spiritual war within us that was not there before. Suddenly we can tangibly experience the direction of the Holy Spirit within us, while simultaneously feel the enormous pressure of our old nature, the flesh. To be sure the power for victory over sin is present within us, but the flesh still attempts to have its own way. And the way of the flesh is always at odds with Christ and His kingdom. In thirty-five years of knowing and following Jesus Christ I have had many victories and yet I have many times succumbed to my own flesh. I desired to blame it on the devil, but I must rise up and admit my responsibility for my own sin. And how many sinful thoughts must come beneath the blood of my Savior in thirty-five years? My experience is that even though I have been born again, I still need and walk in God’s amazing grace. There is not one single day, or even one single moment, that I have felt so secure in my own obedience that I did not need the grace of God. I suggest my experience is yours as well. The flesh is a monster. The power and desire to do evil is relentless and uses all sorts of deceptions and outright temptations. It is a multifaceted world of evil that was born in Eden but with the assistance and nurturing of sinners throughout the centuries it has gained influence and subtlety. From the Day of Pentecost the flesh has refused to retreat from the lives of true believers, and has actually flexed its evil muscles with great cunning. I suppose the greatest hindrance to the gospel is not the flesh of the unbeliever, but the exhibitions of the flesh of the believer. This flesh of ours desires camaraderie with others and uses the friendship of this world as comfort and affirmation. So often we judge our spiritual walks by the template of others and in so doing we embrace a compromised form of discipleship based upon what others accept and not what the Scriptures and the Spirit teach. The church in many ways has given way to and been an accomplice to the practices of the flesh in believers. We have been deceived in so many ways that many fleshly practices are even considered God’s will. That is not only tragic, it is sacrilege. Let us examine the fruits of the Spirit, or that which comes from the Spirit and not the flesh.
Gal.5:22-23 - 22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
Notice there are no “don’ts”. It does not mean that there are no “do nots”, but it does suggest that victory and Christlikeness come through positive manifestations of the Holy Spirit. And at the very forefront of this list is love. It is a monumental calamity that believers have allowed love to be so compromised and diluted that we are no longer known for our love, either for sinners, for each other, or most tragically for Christ Himself. If we are ever going to glorify God in this fallen world, we must return to our first love, and let His love consume us with such intensity that it becomes an irresistible spiritual force with our hearts. We must again be known for God’s unquenchable love. Read the accounts of many, many martyrs who walked in love while on their way to the gallows, or sung hymns of love to God as the flames gathered around the very mouths that sang His praise. Read the words of Stephen, the first martyr, who asked forgiveness for those who were murdering him at that very moment. And in the midst of the stoning of Stephen was Saul, who would one day be called Paul, the great apostle. A believer named Stephen asks for forgiveness for his persecutors, but today believers complain and attack the unsaved for the slightest words spoken against us. Believers fill their hearts with the darkness of talk radio and television, and then sing praises to the God who is love on Sunday. No one can claim with any authority that Christ dwells within him if he does not exhibit a sacrificial love that should remind others of the cross-love. Away with all this smug moralism and the self righteous manifestations of Christianity that disdain sinners, worship doctrine, and seeks the things of this world. Away with the poison of politics that instead of revealing the kingdom of God pours shame and contempt upon it. Away with the kind of Christ that directs war and violence according to the interests of certain nations while allowing other nations to starve. Away with it all! But we must humbly take inventory of our lives in the glorious light of God’s redemptive love. When we see the bleeding figure of the suffering Messiah dying for His very enemies, how can we even call what we exhibit as mild fondness? He who gave His very life for an entire world of wickedness calls us to live in such a way that the love mentioned in John 3:16 shines through our lives. And that kind of love does not come naturally, it comes supernaturally. It is not of the flesh, it is of the Spirit. The church has become so imprisoned to the flesh that she barely understands what walking in the Spirit is anymore. Moral stances, building programs, Sunday School attendance, tithing, church membership, and Christian patriotism are important features of today’s walking in the Spirit. But those things are all vacuous shows of religion that tarnish the Person of Christ and create a cast system made after the likeness of Moses and not Christ. Without love you have nothing. And since we have left our first love, we must again seek and explore what loving the Lord Jesus means and looks like in these dark days. Everything…everything must be scrutinized. Now if you are content with the status quo, or if you desire some insignificant adjustments, then this challenge is not for you. But if you desire, no, if you cannot live without, a fresher and more potent revelation of the Lord Jesus, then you must begin and prepare. This kind does not come without prayer and fasting. If Jesus was in England, would you go meet Him? Well He is in your room. Will you go meet Him? The journey is expensive, but well worth the trip.
Eph.1:3-4 - 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:
In this hedonistic culture the church has slowly but surely adopted their fallen view of almost everything. When a believer uses the word “blessings” he almost always is referring to some form of gain, whether it be financial, material, or some advancement in a particular field of endeavor. But Paul refers to “spiritual blessings in heavenly places”. Many translations refer to the blessings in the “heavenly realm”. How many of us actually think on the heavenly realm or much less dwell and meditate there? Our blessings in Jesus Christ are far greater than green paper or earthly successes. What a shame it is that God has so graciously and abundantly given us ALL spiritual blessings and yet we remain transfixed by the glitz and glitter of this passing world. We seem somewhat grateful for homes and cars and food, but in reality so are the heathen. But do we retreat from all of this and in the secret place of the Most High do we bask in the glory of His presence and the eternal blessings in heavenly places? Remember, God divided the land of Canaan by tribes, but to the Levites, the priests, God gave them Himself as an inheritance. What a blessing! The other tribes have dirt and stone but Levi has Jehovah as his glorious inheritance. The New Testament teaches us that we are priests before our God, and in that vein God has bestowed upon us “an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you”. Why do God’s people walk in the ways of Esau and daily trade their spiritual birthright for the perishing pottage of this fallen world? How tragic it is when we realize just how much we have given up to capture a few fleeting moments of carnal satisfaction, when the eternal blessings from the very hand of God await us in heavenly places. The heartbreaking truth is that we do not even seek the heavenly realm and we have grown content to warm our hearts by the fires of this earthly realm. What abundance we miss, and what glory we sacrifice. In fact, we sacrifice the manna of His wonderful presence for the leeks and garlic of this fast food culture. So often we seek God’s hand and not His face. We have become accustomed to dead ritual and redundant observances instead of the freshness of a daily encounter with the Risen Christ. Spread out some of those spiritual blessings upon the altar of prayer and worship. Look over His grace and His mercy and His love and His eternal redemption. Embrace His sonship and His adoption and be nourished by the Vine into which you are grafted. His joy, His guidance, His healing, His forgiveness, His friendship, His unfathomable love. Do not just recall these blessings, but live in them. Let go of the temporal and grasp the eternal. Halleluiah, the Lord God reigns! This world is passing and Christ is coming! We are His children and He is our Father! The ebbs and flows of this earthly life will continue. We will be well and we will be sick. We will have money and we will need money. We will rejoice and we will mourn. But our Great God and our Savior Jesus Christ does not slumber nor sleep.
Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding. He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.
Let the moth eat and the thief steal and the dust decay. But as for us, we will abide under the shadow of His mighty wings and there we will find our life. Is the end near? For those of us who live in His everlasting presence and with the aroma of heaven saturating our very beings, this world has already ended. For those of you who still endure the whips and scorns of this present world and whose life in the Spirit is being sorely compromised in the earthly rat race, I say take some bread and take some juice and find a secluded place. In that place have a personal time of communion with Jesus and renew the reality of His covenant. And as you rise from that place, embrace with determination His blessings in the heavenly realms, and leaving the past once more, seek Him with all your heart. He is right there to receive you into glorious presence.
O soul, are you weary and troubled? No light in the darkness you see? There's light for a look at the Savior And life more abundant and free!
Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face, And the things of earth will grow strangely dim In the light of his glory and grace.
Thro' death into life everlasting He passed, and we follow Him there; Over us sin no more hath dominion- For more than conq'rors we are!
Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face, And the things of earth will grow strangely dim In the light of his glory and grace.
His word shall not fail you-He promised; Believe him, and all will be well; Then go to a world that is dying, His perfect salvation to tell!
Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face, And the things of earth will grow strangely dim In the light of his glory and grace.
For thousands of years God spoke through prophets and written Scripture and foretold the coming of His only begotten Son. But despite such announcements and warnings, the world and God’s people were oblivious when He arrived.
For thousands of years God has used written Scripture and pastors and teachers to warn the world and God’s people about the second coming of His Son. But despite such announcements and warnings, the world and God’s people are currently oblivious just before He arrives.
Is.57:14-15 - 14 And it will be said: Build up, build up, prepare the road! Remove the obstacles out of the way of my people. 15 For this is what the high and exalted One says— he who lives forever, whose name is holy: I live in a high and holy place, but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.
Is this not the time to ask for, to beg for, a spiritual revival? I realize that the subject of revival is passé and out of the context of contemporary Christianity, but what can be done without it at this point? The entire world is about to collapse under the weight of sin, and yet the church houses are still dark except at the usual times. Where are the all night prayer meetings; where are the fastings; where are the tears; where is the desperation? Believers talk of North Korea and Iran gaining nuclear capability and they wring their hands and offer foreign policy advise. They speak of the gay agenda and the liberal influence and the socialist movement, and yet they are blind to their own spiritual plight before God. This cannot be what God intended for His bride. Billions upon billions of dollars of God’s money is spent upon building mortgages while millions dies of hunger and disease. We are more faithful to feed our pets than we are our spirits. Pastors play golf every week and enjoy multiple lunch times with all kinds of useless conversations. No where is there even a scant trace of desperation at the spiritual vacuum and the rapidly unfolding destruction. It is an unwritten rule that a pastor leave his people with a feeling of encouragement and an uplifted spirit. Conviction, repentance, and self assessment do not translate into contentment and good offerings. Are there any who even entertain a thought of genuine revival? I realize the overwhelming majority do not even see the need or even understand the nature of revival, but are there any who do? I sat several years ago in a pastor’s study in a very large church with he and his staff. I suggested we seek a revival, and I asked if they could imagine more people than the auditorium could hold and men and women on their faces throughout the massive parking lot. One of the associate pastors spoke up and said, “We are not set up for that.” That statement says it all.
The church is asleep in comfort and ease.
Jer.5:30- 30,31 - 30 A horrible and shocking thing has happened in the land: 31 The prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority, and my people love it this way. But what will you do in the end?
How can you converse with a sleeping man? How can you correct him or warn him or direct him while he sleeps. You cannot. He must first be awakened. And so it is with the church. When I speak of such things I am often met with caustic retorts and personal invectives from those who see things through rose colored glasses. Oh yes, these views are in the minority and are not warmly embraced by the majority of believers. In fact, these views are usually not even given a hearing, much less a thorough and fair assessment. But we do not answer to man. And we also do not claim to be completely free from capture on some level in this hedonistic and pluralistic quagmire. We are also in need of the revival of which we speak. We see self righteousness as our mortal enemy, but do you see cultural assimilation as yours? It is most difficult to see from where we came since we have been born in Babylon and into a compromised and backslidden church. We have nothing experientially from which to compare. And many of the believers we know love Jesus and are warm and authentic people. I do not dispute that and I know many believers just like that. But that is one on the monumental problems since we continue to “compare ourselves with ourselves”. We have adjusted our spiritual atmosphere so that our lives are in open compliance with the fallen culture, even though we retain a few moral objections that do little more than soothe our consciences. The church over the centuries has grown weary of battling and laboring to stay separated from a culture that is antichrist and seeks to remove all semblance of spiritual power from the church. The culture, in fact, embraces religion as a part of our community and even part of our heritage. That friendship is deadly. And so here we are. Caught in the clutches of deep spiritual compromise and in some quarters rank heresy, and yet the ecclesiastical machine rolls on. Soothing our consciences we castigate sinners and speak out against certain unpalatable sins, while our eyes refuse to be drawn to the mirror of God’s Word. We treat the Bible as a guide to the western lifestyle, and construct clever sermon series’ that are more like assembly directions to a children’s toy than they are mighty challenges to seek the face of the Risen Christ.
Jesus asked, “Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?”
Let us exhort one another while it is still called day. Soon we will be face to face with the One to whom we owe everything. Invite the Spirit to bring a revival that strips us of everything but Christ, and let Jesus Christ be glorified in the midst of His own bride.
The entire human race, from the African tribesmen to the Wall Street executives, are searching for personal significance. From power to authority to wealth and to physical strength, they all are leveraged to establish significance.
Gal.6:3 - For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.
I Jn.3:1 - Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God:
Those two statements appear to the natural mind to be contradictory. But to those of us who have been born again and have received the new nature, we realize that we are nothing outside of Christ and God’s sons in Christ. But mankind, individually and collectively, continues to seek his own significance through his own labors and righteousness. Only in Christ can we find our true identity, and only in Him are we made alive. Being dead is not always found in a coffin. The Scriptures teach us that sinners outside of Christ are dead in trespasses and sins. Spiritual death hides well within physical life and activity. It can use religious words and go through any number of religious observations, all while being completely dead spiritually. And surprisingly, spiritual death is very strong and seeks its own significance. In fact, spiritual death seeks all sorts of religious affirmation without seeking Christ and His life. And when spiritual death is allowed to roam free and unchallenged among the community of faith, then it will eventually spread and even be embraced as legitimate expressions of spiritual life. And that kind of living death begins to infect the entire sense of Christ within His own body until any semblance of His power and glory has vanished and heathen practices of all kinds are accepted as the norm. And the prophetic voices that should be calling correction from the pulpit have morphed into voices that affirm and encourage the entire tragic scene. The sheepfold is diseased and wounded and infiltrated by contented goats, and the pulpits are sources of entertainment. But in that very scenario sheep and goats alike find their significance. Like an algebra teacher who gives his students simple crossword puzzles to do, and the class feels a sense of accomplishment when they easily do them, but they are never given algebra problems or homework. So are many churches that concentrate on the family, or finances, or personal success, or moral outrages, or political activism, or even intertwine patriotism with Christianity. But even any problems that can be legitimately associated with those categories are spiritual issues and cannot be solved by activism or more information. Those issues are residual, but at the very heart of it all is following Jesus Christ with a humble and unquenchable passion. The only genuine significance is found in Jesus Christ, and the only way to deepen and actualize that significance is to seek and sustain a personal revival that increasingly makes your life insignificant and His life paramount. Therein lies the paradox. If you seek significance you will only find it when you become completely insignificant and Christ Himself becomes your only significance and, in fact, becomes your life. We call that “Jesus is Lord”. Let us unpack that particular phrase, “Jesus is Lord”, which was more common in earlier days. That concept is infinitely profound and yet was usually bandied about carelessly as a slogan, a church sign, a Christian shirt, or even some bumper sticker. But the true meaning and expression of that phrase is a million times more consequential and in fact carries the very essence of our faith. Who today even considers the Lordship of Jesus Christ in their everyday lives? Jesus has become a membership card in a religious club that is passed out to anyone who wants it. And after receiving such a membership card called “Jesus”, it is placed in the wallet of your life inside an inconspicuous flap. You forget it is there. And yet the Scripture declares that we are the sons of the Living God! How in God’s dear name have the Father’s sons fallen in love with the world of the father of lies?? We walk in darkness that is so deep and so vile that it exists on the brink of utter chaos, and yet the supposed lights live unnoticed. This culture murders millions of unborn babies, accepts all kinds of moral perversion, and proudly proclaims that all roads lead to God, and yet we as the followers of the Risen Christ remain powerless, dim, and unnoticed within that same culture. It is because we have found significance in Babylon. We love what the lost love and we are entertained by their entertainment. Our consciences are soothed by a couple of weekly religious observations, but our lives are contented participants within this very culture. And if we are against abortion, or against gay marriage, or do not commit murder or adultery, we consider ourselves as committed disciples of the Lord Jesus. But we have conveniently deceived ourselves, and our pulpits affirm us in our lukewarm condition. One of the greatest revelations of God’s love is that He hasn’t already destroyed the entire rotting mess. But what a glorious journey it is to fervently seek Christ, and in Him find a fathomless ocean of significance. The depths of His glory can never be fully plumbed, however He awaits with graciousness to fill us with His Spirit when we diligently seek Him with all our hearts. And this is another paradox. Seeking Christ requires spiritual labor, but within that labor resides a spiritual energy that cannot be found elsewhere.
But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.
How can I describe a “spirit” to you? And yet God is a spirit. Perhaps you can image eternity in the future, but how can you comprehend that God had no beginning? You cannot even imagine how large and how small the universe is, so how can you fully image the majesty of the Creator Himself? Look around you and see the houses and cars and stores and roads and food. Everything you see was dug up out of this earth. Nothing came from Mars or another galaxy. And who made this earth? The Father of Creation is powerful beyond imagination. He speaks, and a billion suns are made. He is immaculate and untouched by sin, and His holiness is a consuming fire. And although He is august, He has condescended and allowed His own created rebels to not only join Him, but to be like Him and dwell with Him forever. I said FOREVER! Does that not sink in? FOREVER! I wish we would assimilate that with a reality that transcends some written doctrinal creed. I wish we could embrace who God is and what he has done with such fiery passion that our lives would become nothing less than relentless journeys to seek and serve Him with reckless abandon.
I wish this world would be nothing to us and we would daily find all our significance solely in Christ Jesus.
There are many things in the Scriptures that are confounding. Mysteries abound and the way God operates sometimes seems very disturbing. In the Old Testament there are any number of events that would lead one to believe that God was not like Jesus, who actually was God. That in and of itself is an enormous conundrum. Jesus invites the little children to Himself and yet God wipes out entire cities. You can pretend you understand or even create some tortured reason, but if we are honest we must admit a finite understanding of the ways of our God. God kills the entire planet save eight, but John 3:16 tells us He loves the world. I do not understand all the workings and intricacies of an automobile, but I do comprehend the basic principle and the purpose around which all those workings function. Lift up the car’s hood and see the swirling mass of wires and hoses and metal, and you can be sure of one thing, they all are designed to make this car run. Some help make the ride comfortable while others are an integral part of internal combustion. Some keep the engine cool; some aid in creating electrical power; some distribute that power; and some are the actual chambers of mini-explosions. But the goal is travel and in one way or another all the parts work together to accomplish that task. And so it is with the divine interaction with fallen humanity. The entire Scriptural syntax coalesces around one overarching theme - redemption. We may not understand all the working parts and how certain actions are helpful in that endeavor, however we can still see redemption being shepherded along by the skillful and omniscient hand of Almighty God. In John Steinbeck’s classic “Of Mice and Men”, Lenny is completely dependent upon his friend George. Lenny is mentally retarded and is lost in a world of unsympathetic men. George takes care of him. But when asked, Lenny admits to another man that many times he does not understand what George is saying. But still Lenny loves and is devoted to George. And so it is with followers of the Lord Jesus. We know much more about Him than we need to in order to be convinced of His absolute love and grace, but there are things about God we cannot understand while in these earth suits. I think sometimes that the world is turned off by our smugness and unwillingness to humbly admit that we do not have all the answers. When we dilute God down to formulas and moral codes and religious rituals it comes across as self righteous, and many times it is. But the gospel, the message of God to mankind, is glorious in its simplicity. There is no deeper or more profound issue than redemption, however God has made the door to redemption accessible and easy to understand. Perhaps its that simplicity to which the pompous intellect of man objects. And I ask this question: If redemption is the main stream of Scripture from which all other issues are tributaries, then why do we argue about things that are not only subordinate, but many times pollute the pure stream of redemption itself? Scripture is only cohesive if it is permeated by the presence and power of redemption. Without redemption, Scripture becomes a collection of thoughts and events that are widely scattered and very varied in their topic and understanding. Redemption, redemption through Jesus Christ, is the brilliant light that shines throughout Scripture, and redemption must be the prism through which we interpret all Scripture. Even judgment and punishment are the negative side of the redemption issue. They are tools that God can use to prod a sinner into the redemption provided by the Eternal Redeemer. Sometimes the prospect of judgment can be a most loving tool. But we as the redeemed must never lose sight of that gracious redemption, and we must seek ways to further illuminate it to those who dwell in darkness. This is no religious game, and unless you believe that God has decided to only redeem a miniscule company of sinners, then you must believe that God has given us a divine mission. And that mission is to be conduits of His redemption. There is no higher knowledge than the knowledge of Jesus the Messiah and the spiritual context of His passion. When a sinner realizes that Jesus was God’s Son and that His death and resurrection was the only act of eternal redemption offered by God, then upon a simple act of faith that sinner steps into the expanse of eternal freedom and life itself. “Learn of Me” exhorts the Savior. But how often have we left the sacrifice and gone chasing after things which do not profit redemptively? And sharing Jesus is the message of redemption. Instead of sharing Jesus we castigate gay sinners for their sin. Instead of Jesus we do battle with liberals over money. Instead of Jesus we enter into strife over how the lost world acknowledges marriage. Instead of Jesus we organize movements designed to address all kinds of sins. Instead of Jesus we share our views about capital punishment. Instead of Jesus we argue over which version of the Bible God likes. Instead of Jesus we are forceful about the earth’s age. Instead of Jesus…instead of Jesus. There will come a time in the future that all humans will have to face God. Some will have had their sins covered and stand in the glory of His grace. But others will stand uncovered and with the vileness of their sin exposed and awaiting eternal judgment. And on that day those who have no redemption may cry out an indictment against us. They may well point out that we were so caught up in moral causes and denominational divisions and Biblical debates that we reduced the message and lifestyle of redemption to a small part of the ecclesiastical experience. In fact, they may well point out that we spent an inordinate amount of time money on buildings, books, music, mortgage interest, doctrinal defenses, and a plethora of church activities, while allotting the message of redemption only a nominal share. And in the face of such an indictment, we just may have to bow our heads in silence. Or, we can mitigate such a prospect by elevating Christ’s redemption to a place of supreme importance in both message and practice.
Lk.1:46 - My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior.
Mary...A little insignificant peasant girl from the loins of David and from the loins of Judah, from which the Lion will spring. Just being faithful in her walk with the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and not expecting anything special. Humble and obedient and obscure, but Jehovah had been watching. Jehovah had been guiding. Jehovah had chosen...her. The human ark of the New Covenant Lamb.
Mary...Before Jesus was born, before the shepherds worshipped, before the wise men brought gifts, before Simeon blessed Him, before Anna prophesied, before John the Baptist identified Him, before the Roman soldier knew who He was, before all of those and other declarations of who Jesus was, Mary identifies Him as "God my Savior" while He was still in her womb.
Mary...God borrows Mary's virgin womb with the unspeakable blessing of Himself. Not "a" miracle but "THE" miracle. The divine seed of God and the human egg of Mary combine to give life to the sinless "seed of the woman" as first prophesied in Genesis. Mary was obviously a godly and spiritual young woman and even though she must have been incredibly unsettled by the chain of events, she humbles herself and praises her Lord. God must have granted her a wonderful and unique covering of His grace that He had planned before He made the worlds.
Mary...The rumors, the embarrassment, the wonder, the pondering, all must bow as her soul magnifies the Lord. Just an angelic visitation must have been an amazing event, but when she, as a 14, 15, or maybe 16 year old young virgin, is told that she will be pregnant, she immediately asks "how can this be?". Pregnant? She truthfully confesses, with a quiet, trembling voice, that she has never been with a man and Gabriel confirms that as true. You see, not just "an" angel but the arch-angel Gabriel. Imagine the splendor, the brilliance, the beauty, and the aroma of heaven that must have been experienced by Mary in the presence of Gabriel.
Mary...Now, as she has been told she will be pregnant, Gabriel informs her that the baby will be a boy and His name shall be called Jesus(Joshua-"Jehovah saves"). Gabriel says that He will be called "the Son of the Highest". After she asks how, Gabriel tells her it is the Holy Spirit that will perform this miracle, and as Gabriel leaves he calls her baby the "Son of God". Wow. Mary has just had a one-of-a kind church service created just for her. With Gabriel the preacher, God prophesies to Mary about His will for her life and she surrenders. As she metaphorically comes down the aisle she bows at the altar and says,"be it unto me according to thy Word".
Mary...Just a righteous girl, chosen by Jehovah, invaded by God's Spirit, kept by God's grace, blessed among women, the earthly mother of God. Mary will be with Jesus throughout His life. She is with Him in Jerusalem at 12 years of age; she is with Him at His first miracle at Cana; She follows Him during His ministry; she is there as He stands before Pilate; she watches Him carry His own cross; she stands at the foot of the cross and watches her son be murdered, crucified; she is there as he is taken to a borrowed tomb. Beside the natural horror of seeing your son murdered, what must Mary have thought spiritually. Did she think it was over and the Romans had killed the Messiah?
Mary...It is significant that when Jesus is resurrected we find no accounts of Mary being there. The risen Christ is now stripped of all earthly ties and Jesus tells His disciples to go tell the brethren. No mention of Mary. The sword that Simeon had prophesied about has pierced her heart, and she is now just a disciple of Jesus. The maternal miracle is now over, but a new one is on the horizon.
Mary...The Day of Pentecost. The disciples are praying in the upper room and God feels it necessary to mention that Mary was among them. The last mention of Mary. She has fulfilled the mission God gave her and she is now a follower of Jesus. A humble, broken, Spirit-filled follower. And one day she dies, and as she enters the presence of Jesus she bows with the other saints and worships the King of Kings. That's right. This is not a mother-son reunion. She received a breathtaking reward for her earthly faithfulness, and she places it at the feet of, in her own words, "God my Savior". God broke the alabaster box of Mary's life, spilled it out on His Son, and the aroma of her humble faithfulness will last forever.
That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death...
To believe in Jesus is to follow Him. And to follow Him leads along a path of sacrifice that is wilderness to the world, but is glory to those who commune with Him. Although this path scorns earthly accolades, it leads to eternal life. To follow in His steps is a privilege above all else, but it requires a humility and love that is foreign to this world. For every ounce of personal sacrifice and denial, there is given a hundred blessings. The greatest of these blessings is the knowledge and fragrance of the Christ Himself. It is most difficult to communicate the experience of meeting the Lord Jesus. It is only natural that men would think us crazy and unbalanced. That indeed what it must appear to those who do not know Him, but shame has no power over those who gladly follow Him. When you have been allowed to enter the King’s chamber and experience His presence, His reality, His love, His grace, and a startling glimpse of His glory, you cannot find adequate words with which to present Him. As one who uses written carriers I am often undone, especially when I write or speak of Him. I am reduced to a child even while using some “great and swelling” words to share what the Spirit shares with me. I am not unaware that my writings, regardless of how verbose and well composed, are pitiful devises that attempt paint His being, but alas, only provide a sketch. Jesus cannot be captured by pen and paper. I have wept often when I write of Him, or worship Him, or pray to Him. When in His presence my masculine pretense is quickly eradicated and I am His servant child. I am grateful to sit at His feet even in silent meditation. Jesus is not just the most important part of our lives. He is our life.
Rev.1:13-17 - 13And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. 14His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; 15And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. 16And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp two edged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength. 17And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead.
The Book of the Revelation contains many prophetic glimpses. But the book itself is actually a revelation of the Risen Christ, Jesus. And here John recounts an encounter with that same Risen Christ, and it is startling. The description of Jesus is overwhelming in its majesty and glory. It is very difficult, and probably impossible, for the Spirit to communicate through human words the colossal resplendence of our Lord and Savior, but even those words are enough to shake our beings. It has become customary in today’s evangelical circles to treat Jesus as merely a divine friend, and someone who desires to help you be a success in this western culture. That is not to say that Jesus is not our friend, He is, but we must not reduce Him to that alone and strip Him of the majesty He so richly deserves and wears. Look at verse 17. This is the Apostle John who loved Jesus and so often laid his head upon the chest of the Messiah. John walked with Jesus for several years and knew Him most intimately, and I am certain they had many conversations that could very well be described as friend to friend. But now, in the presence of the Risen and Glorified Christ, John falls at His feet as if he were dead. Imagine that! Now if John was reduced to trembling worship when in His presence, how can we believers claim we have been in the presence of Jesus and yet be unchanged and even distracted? I am one who fully embraces intimacy and friendship with the Lord Jesus, but I also believe much of the church has robbed Him of His breathtaking glory. Where is the refiner’s fire that accompanies His presence? Where are the tears of brokenness that authenticate that we have met the August Lamb? How often have our knees buckled under the weight of our own sin and the weight of His eternal forgiveness? Our Christology may be Biblical and orthodox, but our prayer closets and worship times seem so shallow and perfunctory and diminish the Lord we have so neatly carved out in doctrine. Even non-liturgical church meetings have become so predictable and ritualistic in their own right regardless of their volume and demonstrative freedom. And do not believe that you can just conjure up Jesus at any convenient time and by the sheer force of your own will and imagination have an “in and out“ encounter with Christ. Jesus is everywhere, but experiencing His presence is more than just believing God is omnipresent. Entering into the presence of Christ requires a thirst and a seeking that is Jacob-esque in its relentlessness. If you can be satisfied without being in the tangible atmosphere of God’s presence, then you will be. I do not speak of emotionalism or displays of self serving melodrama that can be seen in some churches, but I do speak of a much deeper level of spiritual encounter in our devotional lives. And with all of this world, and our own flesh as well, weighing us down, we cannot just microwave our prayer and worship times and expect to please God or be changed from glory to glory. And that is the challenge laid before us. And this is a ministry to which all believers are called; it is ministering to Christ, worshiping at His feet and allowing the Spirit to filet our hearts wide open and cleanse us from all unrighteousness as well as continuing the process of Christ being formed within us. Let us not deceive ourselves and let us be painfully honest; this western culture of entertainment, success, television, debt, and idolatry has taken a savage toll on our devotional lives. We have at our disposal a plethora of Christian books and Cds and aids that are designed to communicate information to us. But we have allowed those things to replace elongated times of seeking God in the secret places. I believe most believers walk through the church doors on Sunday morning without ever having spent any serious or meaningful time with the Lord Jesus that week. And yet many of those same people can manifest all the outward demonstrations of worship on demand. And when the “service” is over the congregation exits to enjoy an afternoon feast, perhaps some football, and some well deserved rest. Viola! The redundant Sunday morning religious festivities have once again been accomplished until next week. If that is what you want then you can continue on that assembly line. But if there is something inside you that is stirring and creating a holy discomfort, and if you are willing to alter some things in your life, then Jesus awaits. But it will take more than turning over a new leaf; more than just reading one more chapter a day; and more than buying some new worship music. This is a labor of love that finds its joy in the labor and not some accomplishment. This is a thirst that when quenched breeds more thirst. I have in my lifetime lived in seasons with such a spiritual thirst for Jesus that I could not wait until the earthly work was done and I could surrender to the shadow of His wings. I long for a return to that sacred sukkah. Two sisters, Peggy and Christine Smith, were both over 80 years old. Peggy was blind and Christine was bent over with arthritis. They lived off the coast of Scotland in what is called the Hebrides islands. Although they were not physically able to make the church services, they felt strongly that God was calling them to a ministry of prayer and intercession, especially praying for revival. The Christian community in the Hebrides had grown cold by 1949 and the Spirit was knocking on the door of these two precious women. Both women felt impressed of the Spirit that revival was coming if believers would pray. They conveyed this to the local pastor, and they told him that he should organize prayer meetings. The pastor did so and many began to pray in earnest. After many weeks, a young deacon rose up in one of the prayer meetings and openly expressed his frustration with the group as a whole, including himself. He was convinced that their lives were not coming into compliance with what they were praying for and that they all needed to repent. The young man looked up into heaven and asked God if his own hands were clean before God. In a moment, that young man fell to the ground and was in a trance-like spiritual state. From there the revival gained momentum. A young preacher named Duncan Campbell was called to the islands, and on the very first day he arrived there were mighty manifestations of the Spirit. For months sinners were saved from all over the islands, and dance halls and bars were closed as people were inexplicably drawn to the church and convicted of their lost condition. Some further descriptions can be found here. I long to return to those days again…for His glory alone. In the midst of the candlesticks He stands, glorious and with indescribable power. The Lord of all Lords awaits with undeserved patience, for when that patience evaporates and the Lamb readies Himself for battle, the entire world will feel the horror of His wrath. Do not succumb to the noxious sirens of today’s evangelical counterfeits. They would strip the Lord Jesus of His magnificence and reduce Him to earth’s servant. He has played the servant once for us all, but that servant is now the Crowned Prince of Heaven.
Lord revive your stricken church. We have drifted so far and so wide, and we have become faithful Babylonians rather than faithful servants of the Most High God. You have suffered for us, but we have dined at the table of ease. We are blind and deaf, and our worship has become music and sound systems that elicit emotion and an appreciation for human talent, but our hearts remain unbroken and beating to our own fleshly wills.
Give us an unquenchable desire to pray, fervently and with passion and faith, and empower us with a relentless journey to seek you with our whole hearts. We have become satisfied with our own caricatures of Jesus. We stumble from week to week, and with each week replicating the former and foreshadowing the next, and still we are content. Believers have been burned at the stake in your name with a song on their lips, but our complaints blanket the smallest inconvenience. We have massaged our consciences by throwing stones at lost sinners, but we close our eyes to the mirror of Your Word that screams our spiritual indictment.
Lord, begin a fire within us that cannot be denied. Burn the dross of this world from the dwelling place it has found in our wayward hearts. We are in a desperate situation. Like Samson of old we pray, show Your power and Your glory once more. If we will not surrender then capture us with your love and grace and power. We are Your unprofitable servants; if You still can, ignite Your glory within us and by consuming all that is of us, may Jesus be high and lifted up.
Additional communications to me may be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Any negative e-mails will be deleted without response, however sincere questions will be answered. I seek edification and deeper knowledge of Christ and His truth not a destructive and meaningless religious chatter. May God's Spirit open all of our hearts to Him.
I am an ordained Baptist minister but more importantly I am a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. I was saved in 1975 watching Billy Graham on television after having lived a wicked and Christless life. I graduated with a three year degree from Trinity Bible College in Dunedin, Florida. I have three children, two grandsons, and one granddaughter. I not only see the obvious falling away of the present day church, but I humbly acknowledge that we all are in desperate need of a massive revival. I hope this blog ministers to you, and may Jesus Himself receive all the preeminence!