Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Blood Still Cries Out

Gen.4:8 - And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him. 9And the LORD said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother's keeper? 10And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground.

Cain thought he could hide his evil deed, but God knew and hears Abel’s blood cry out metaphorically from the ground. Cain stands indicted. There is a movement aflame throughout all of Christendom to silence the blood from another murder. Abel did not wish to die, but this Person came to die. The movement to suppress the voice of His blood takes on many forms, but it is a coordinated effort orchestrated by the one who motivated Cain. Let us be perfectly clear. Without this blood there is no faith, no power, and no redemption. The spiritual battlefield has always been played on and around the crimson flow that drenched Golgotha’s ground. Whether it be the diminishing of the One who shed this blood, or redefining the meaning of that blood, the evil one has always attacked that which defeats and destroys him. The conversation about the blood is now seen as unsophisticated and unpleasant and even ignorant in today’s spiritual marketplace. The blood has been given a back seat to string theories, esoteric theologies, and the earthly works of man.

It is assumed that the modern, intellectual man may be allowed to list the blood in his systematic theology, but to discuss it openly is probably unwise and unpalatable to the post modern audience. The blood of the Lamb is now so obscure that it must be assumed that the church does not attribute any real power to it. This is not just another sign of the great apostasy, but it is the cornerstone of the current apostasy. And it isn’t just men like Rob Bell, Brian McLaren, and the entire emergent movement who are the leading guides into spiritual darkness, but most of evangelicalism preaches a man centered gospel of self help and success.

Terms like success and prosperity and wholeness have been repackaged in order to be attractive to the flesh and even to be offered as the will of God. And where does the blood fit into all this? If mentioned at all, the blood is granted a cameo mention at the very end of a sermon, right before the masses are dismissed to commit gluttony. Do we think that God is impressed with a theological acknowledgment of His Son’s sacrifice? Are we so comfortable with our doctrine that we assume the blood does not deserve consistent preaching? As long as we have a written belief system we are satisfied.

But the blood of Jesus Christ is the only saving agent for all eternity. The further we distance our preaching and teaching from the blood the further we distance ourselves from God Himself. The Redeemer was not ashamed to shed His blood openly and in the midst of mocking sinners, so why are we so reticent to powerfully profess our faith in that blood? The voice of that divine blood cries out from the sacred ground of Calvary. The shame, the grief, the pain, the suffering, and the sacrificial death that are all woven inside that blood cry out to those who have been redeemed by its power. Where are the human voices that are lifted with worship as they exalt the Lamb and give praise to His scarlet glory?

Why isn’t the blood being voiced throughout the world by lips that know His cleansing power? Why are wicked men stripping the blood of its power while so called orthodox believers just shake their heads or defend their doctrines on sheets of paper and electronic screens? Millions of western believers have sold their birthright for a mess of national or moral pottage. Why does the world not accuse us of being archaic in our faith because we still adhere to the blood sacrifice? It’s because they hear us endorse candidates, and criticize homosexuals, or scream about economics, but they hear precious little about the blood of Jesus Christ when in fact that is what they need to hear.

The blood is still crying out to sinners. The church needs to have a revival of the blood which would not only reinvigorate our evangelism, it would draw us once again to holiness. Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. Do we believe that is an ancient practice observed and believed by uneducated and unenlightened men? Or do we actually believe that is a dynamic truth that is true for all eternity and transcends all times, all cultures, and all intellects?

The church has drifted. But instead of using the compass of God’s Word to get back on course, we have embraced our position and soothed our consciences by confronting those who have drifted further than have we. One day in eternity all of creation will be witness to the eternal glory of the bloody wounds of the Risen Christ. In that moment, it will no longer seem barbaric and unseemly, and we will feel a tangible sense of shame when we realize how sinful was our timidity about discussing, much less our preaching, the redeeming blood of God’s only Son. In fact, those who speak against the blood seem much more vocal and bold about diminishing its significance and even suggesting the entire gospel narrative has been misinterpreted. Some even go so far as to suggest that the blood itself is meaningless. The cross to them is an example to man as to what not to do to each other.

But go ahead all you false teachers and blind guides. Go ahead and create some form of human endeavor that needs not the Lamb’s shed blood. Go ahead and mock His eternal sacrifice and replace it with your own fleshly machinations. Go ahead and sell your books and hold your interviews and spew forth that which cannot save and is an abomination to the Lamb Himself. Go ahead and bask in the adulation of the spiritual Bourgeoisie and be exhilarated with the controversy that surrounds you. But do not be deceived, the controversy isn’t about your humble walk with Jesus. It is about your wicked boldness that appeals to the fallen nature of sinner and professing saint alike. You have even drawn the fascination of the wicked and fallen media.

But the blood of God still cries out, and to those who have ears to ear that cry is both a glory and a warning. God will not be mocked, and God sees and knows all. He will one day take up His own defense for the blood of Christ. And the blood of humans will be spilled by the millions, and that blood will be hollow and meaningless and without the slightest particle of redemption. And if you helped a billion old ladies across the street and fed three meals every day to every starving child on the planet it still would not find any favor with the Creator God.

Many have strayed so far that only a sovereign miracle could reclaim them. But let all of us allow, yea beg, the Spirit to revive us to His will and His ways so that our discipleship does not rest in identifying the apostasy in others. But let our discipleship be know for its love for the Lord Jesus and our unashamed boldness for the blood that gave voice to the everlasting gospel!

The blood still cries out; let us cry out with it!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Banal Christianity
There used to be power; there used to be mystery; there used to be sacredness; there used to be eternity; there used to be the afterlife; there used to be a second coming; there used to be glorious revelation; there used to be passion; there used to be uncommon sacrifice; there used to be all these things associated with the post resurrection church. But year by year and decade by decade the church has allowed the world and its system to eviscerate those things from the faith until what we have now is nothing more than a mundane religion of the “now” that is no different than the mosque or synagogue down the street.

In fact, there is more difference between denominations then there is between believers and unbelievers. People like Bill Gates and secular organizations dwarf what evangelical churches give in humanitarian efforts. But let us examine what churches give toward gospel missions. The largest evangelical organization in the world is the Southern Baptist Convention. They provide a good measuring stick.

Churches cooperating through the Southern Baptist Convention spend, on average, $1.31 per member annually to reach every person living in the U.S. and Canada while they spend $0.04 per person to reach the nations.

You do the math.
I am sure we spend much more than that on our dogs.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Authentic Manifestation

In order for a sinner to be saved the Holy Spirit must illuminate his heart to things that seem so foolish and unsophisticated. That fallen heart which embraces all that is fallen and remains hardened to spiritual truths, must be cracked and opened and by a miracle of the Invisible Spirit as He deposits the truth about Jesus. At that moment the free will of man comes face to face with the everlasting gospel and the Everlasting Savior. There may be a time of assessment and contemplation as was my case, or there may be an instant embrace of the Risen Christ. But if that sinner waits too long and becomes adept at living with the spiritual tension, the power of that truth will begin to erode and eventually that sinner will consider his spiritual encounter as nothing more than a passing thought.
But if and when that sinner meditates upon the gospel, and if his heart is chased by the relentless Spirit of Truth, then he may come to a saving faith in one glorious moment. His eternal destiny has been changed and he now belongs to God. But the exhilaration of that new birth is not automatically sustained. Just as the children of Israel could not depend upon the Red Sea experience, so the new born child of God cannot receive life from the memory of his salvation experience. The complete and panoramic landscape of all things eternal does not naturally capture a believer’s heart.
The things of this present world are louder, more aggressive, more natural, and much more visible than the things of the Spirit. The believer is inundated constantly with things that malign Christ and with things that imprison the mind and even the heart. To walk in the Spirit is a labor of love, but make no mistake it is a labor nonetheless. The way of Jesus, which is the way of the cross, is no simple task and certainly not a course which can be audited. Living with the brightness if Jesus in this evil world must have at its core a determined and sacrificial heart that will pay any price to have the fellowship of His presence.
And so there must come a time, or perhaps several times, in a believer’s life where he asks himself once again, “Do I actually believe these things with all my heart?” And I do not mean some rhetorical question that is answered with the carelessness of a quiz show question, but I speak of a deep examination within one’s own heart to see with uncomfortable vulnerability just how much stark evidence there is to substantiate an affirmative answer. In other words, what observable criteria in my life separate me from those moral beings who do not believe? Do I have a statement of faith, or do I have a life of faith?
And before we answer those questions we must revisit what we say we believe in all its severity and colossal implications. As believers we have grown accustomed to regurgitate our beliefs with little passion and with the sincerity of a homework assignment. It has become all too familiar and unremarkable. We believe that God came down to Earth in the flesh and in the likeness of a man. That statement in and of itself is enough to ponder for all eternity, and yet we are much more prone to defend it as truth rather than allow it to transform our entire being. If you could see and talk with the Incarnate Jesus would it change your life? That implies that we believe in Jesus much more if we could see Him, and our belief in Him now is lacking the depth and power that would revolutionize our way of living.
Upon further investigation we say we believe that Jesus died for the sins of the world, and that He resurrected from the dead. That, my friends, is either powerfully true or it is the fairy tale of the ages. But it cannot be just some doctrinal point about which some attack and some defend. If Jesus resurrected from the dead, then the life we now lead must be nothing less than a showcase for the Risen Christ which is used up for His glory. We must come to as place where we exit this fallen world and open our hearts once again to hear the voice of the Spirit. Do we believe and live the Resurrected Savior or do we just believe? Is my life so dramatically different than my neighbors that even those who do not believe have no doubt that I do?
We say that the Jesus who resurrected and who was God the Son actually lives inside of us. It is almost impossible to imagine all the implications of that assertion. Even the cults attempt to construct distinctive and observable differences from ordinary people even if they do it through the flesh and through legalism. We cannot be satisfied with the way the church has morphed into an organization which exists neatly fitted into the cultural landscape. The effect of the western church is little more than some benign talisman passed down from generation to generation.
But let us cut to the chase. We say that we believe that every soul lives forever either in a place we call “heaven” or in a place we call “hell”. The former a place of eternal bliss and the latter a place of unspeakable horror. And with a straight face we profess to believe that scenario while enjoying the pleasures of this world and literally denying ourselves nothing but sin, and even enjoying some of that as well. And given the passive and even vacuous nature of our so called witness, the validity of our profession is extremely suspect. And if our prayer lives were uncovered, most of the church would blush with embarrassment.
We seem so satisfied by using heretics as scapegoats for our own grevious shortcomings, and as we beat the dead horses of the usual suspects we have become blind and deaf to our own comfortable lives. If we are consumed with the false teachings of others we become indifferent to the false manifestations of our own discipleship. While we indict others we stand indicted ourselves.
The disproportionate nature of what we say we believe and the way our lives are lived must be addressed. It is time to look deeply into the mirror of God’s Word and with the eyes of the Spirit come to an understanding. Do we really believe these things. If we say we do, what are we willing to do to authenticate that profession? If we continue on this present path we will be known as one of the great religions of the world on Wikipedia, and we will have earned that debased moniker.

The doctrine of hell, an eternal place of justice where sinners outside of Christ are separated from God eternally, is a Biblical truth. I do not relish that thought and I do not profess to know the extent of the horrors of such a place. What I do know is this:

No one really believes in hell.

What I mean is that even those of us that claim to believe in such a place, do it overwhelmingly in the doctrinal abstract. For if we truly believed in hell and allowed that belief to permeate our beings and melt our hearts, we surely would act and feel very differently. If we embraced such a reality, we might weep for our lost loved ones and neighbors. We might push aside our timidity and become a bold witness for the Savior. We might reject this entertainment laden culture and be consumed with spreading the good news of Jesus Christ and the serious nature of that call to redemption.

We might spend hours in trailing prayer begging God to use us to rescue the perishing. We might spend our money sacrificially to help send dedicated missionaries to the four corners of the world. We might feel a sense of fear and foreboding for those who walk in darkness. We might feel such gratitude for our own salvation that we offered our lives as a living sacrifice. We just might experience bouts of sleeplessness as we anguished over the eternal plight of those we know and those we do not know.

The truth is that if we actually believed in the place called hell it would radically change the way we pray, the way we give, the way we worship, the way we loved, and the way we live. But until we believe it on that level, we will have to soothe our conscience by showing our membership card in the club called "doctrinal orthodox". Read our systematic theology and you will see that we do indeed teach that we believe in hell.

Oh yes, false teachers like Rob Bell tickle the ears of millions and help allay the fears of sinners by doctrinally eviscerating what God's Word teaches. But let us not derive too much comfort from the fact that we disagree with men like Bell. In the end, most of our disagreement with false teachers is confined to words spoken and words written but with precious little living demonstrations that would substantiate our professions of faith in such a serious and eternal prospect.

If we say we believe something and it does not deeply and observably change our lives, then we do not believe it at all.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Flee the Wrath to Come

It is beneficial to communicate the gospel through all sorts of mediums and with all kinds of words that amplify the glory of redemption. But we must be careful not to journey so far away from the Biblical story with our creative and modern terms that in essence we are preaching another gospel and another Jesus. The writer of Hebrews tells us to not to let the things that we have heard slip away.

Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.

Apostasy is a gradual process, both in an individual and in a segment of the body of Christ. A faithful believer does not awake one morning and walk in apostasy. It slips in through many portals and by various methods of deception. We live at a time in which deception is rampant and apostasy has found its way into many corners of evangelicalism. And many children are now being born into apostasy who have never known the faith once delivered unto the saints.
The idolization of man is a common thread in apostasy. Some preacher with a gift for communication, or an alluring intellect, or a charismatic personality draws people away from Christ and His gospel. And he or she does this while claiming to believe and be sharing the gospel and the Person of Jesus Christ. Talk about deception! Clever books and packaging designed to appeal to the senses aid in spreading falsehoods. And a positive and hopeful message is consumed by the masses. No one wants to be a “downer”.
Pastors are now referred to a Christian “rock stars”. Many preachers are millionaires and live lifestyles of privilege. It is a sad spectacle when so called Christian leaders refuse to answer direct questions on national television. Preachers like Osteen, Bell, Warren, and many others hold special nights where throngs come to affirm them with their presence and their pocketbooks. It is a sign of spiritual bankruptcy.
The western church is caught in the quagmire of the hedonistic culture and has long since succumbed to the temptations of wealth, entertainment, and national assimilation. And many preachers have pounced upon the opportunity to financially benefit from the situation by presenting clever messages and alluring stories that tickle the ears and harden the heart. And some weave a quilt of shallow Biblical phrases with erudite philosophies and present them as enlightened insights into God and His plan. In fact, they are instruments of spiritual death.
Be not deceived in these last days. As the day of His appearing approaches, so does the apostasy increase. The Evil One has many weapons at his disposal and he is using them all. Angels of light roam all over the world today and are harvesting hell’s crop. So often we are taught about the cults as if they are the only arena in which the devil works. But in reality Satan is doing his finest work among the evangelical churches. The day of reckoning is upon us and who will be counted as a follower of the Most High God?
As believers we must all humbly admit that we have failed our Lord in many ways. Our salvation was a great gift and we did nothing to earn it. We must be broken before the Lord as we seek His face. But we cannot, we must not, align ourselves with those who deny His name and claim souls can be saved either without Him or in some post mortem altar call. In the end the final line will be drawn around the Person of Jesus Christ and His glory. It is one thing to struggle and fall short of our glorious calling. It is quite another to dismantle the Risen Christ and present a false caricature that cannot save and in fact leads souls to hell.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, these are the days about which we were warned. The signs of the times envelope us and yet believers watch the news with no emotion and no discernment. God’s voice is blaring with a call to watch and pray! I suggest that the events in Japan and elsewhere are just a minor foreshadowing of what is to come. We may be on the brink of a worldwide calamity that cannot be envisioned by the human mind. And this will not be the work of some “mother nature”; this will be the work of the Creator God.

Flee the wrath to come and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ!

Monday, March 14, 2011

A Living Theology

Theology is dead without a life to inhabit. Books and blogs and Cds and computers can defend doctrinal truth, but only a life can project Jesus.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Are You Listening??

It has been scoffed at and maligned. It has been the brunt of jokes. It has been merchandised and used to spread fear. Many have attached dates to it and made outlandish predictions. The common word “rapture” is taken from the Latin word “rapio” which means “caught up” in English. It is the glorious gathering of the Bride of Jesus Christ when God takes up the living believers and gathers them together with Him in the air. Then begins the Great Tribulation.
No one knows when this event will take place, but the Scriptures give us clues at to which generation will see it. Famines and earthquakes, diseases and violence, and hatred and greed will accompany this cataclysmic event. And even though Jesus warned against setting dates, He admonished those who were so blind that they could see the weather but could not see the signs of the times. And so it is today.
I am not a date setter, however I can clearly see the signs all around us. If there ever was a time for sinners to seriously consider their standing before God and the claims of Jesus Christ it is today. We are being enveloped with signs and events that point to the coming of Jesus Christ. The church has treated the second coming of Christ as a doctrinal curiosity and relegated its importance far behind finances and marriage and earthly success. But it is upon us.
Do not be satisfied with identifying the spiritual lethargy of the church. And do not soothe your conscience just because you are a little more aware of the approaching hoof beats of the coming King. This is a time for personal repentance and spiritual inventory. The King of all Kings is at the door and will make His entrance with great power and glory. No longer the gentle shepherd that allowed wicked men to spit upon His face; this coming Lord will reveal a glory and majesty that will chase away mountains and cause the entire world to tremble before Him.
This world has been our enemy and has done everything in its power to draw us away from our Blessed Lord and Savior. Through temptation and greed, lust and avarice, and deception on every level the world has cooperated with our own flesh to divert our attention away from the glory of the narrow path and led us into the path of least resistance. We have been captured by all kinds of things that are enemies of the cross but soothing to the flesh. Our ears are inclined to the drum beats of this present world.

Rev.2:7 - He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches...

WHAT DO YOU HEAR???????????

I hear the panicked sound of demons as they scurry to steal, kill, and destroy before they are bound. I hear the whole world preoccupied with this world as they neglect the world to come. I hear the cackles of Lucifer's legions as they mock God's people and their anemic commitment to the Savior Himself. I hear the satisfied groans of Satan as his massive deceptive shift from the unseen to the seen has produced results beyond his expectations. I hear the clinking of coins as believers lay treasures upon treasures on this earth. I hear the echoes of the empty prayer closets and the silence of the unturned pages of God's Word. I hear the constant sound of the last sands of the hourglass hitting the bottom but void of the bold prophets of God unashamedly calling us to prepared repentance? I hear the vows of men to men and women to women pledging their marital commitment to each other while I hear God's spouses breaking theirs. I hear the silent screams of unborn babies being murdered alive in their own mother's wombs while the sound of computer keyboards in the houses of God's people check their portfolios. I hear Israel's enemies gathering around her and the church calls no solemn assembly with prayer and fasting. I hear hell giggle as preachers tell stories and jokes and congregations leave feeling good about their situation without ever knowing what it means to be under the mighty Sword of God's Word. I hear 150,000 souls slip into a tormented eternity ever single day while we sleep on dry, careless pillows.

WHAT DO YOU HEAR???????????

I hear a faint but growing, guttural, powerful roar in the distance as if coming from a magnificent, celestial Lion. It's permeating the atmosphere, connecting with the Spiritual ears of His pride, and sounding out a warning of impending doom to all His enemies. He has already marked His territory and the sound of His gigantic paws grows closer and closer. He started with a determined walk two thousand years ago, began to gain speed through the centuries, and He now runs with His fiery eyes fixed and with justice dripping from His tremendous jaws from which He will roar out His irresistible and powerful Word to the four corners of the Earth. I hear His enemies turn their heads in fear as they recognize the gathering storm in the distance is rapidly coming to fulfill the destruction which this Lion has promised to all who oppose Him. All will tremble, all will wonder, all will bow before Him on that great and terrible day. I hear the growing echo of "Behold He Comes" surrounding this Mighty Lion of Judah as He snorts great clouds of wrath from His nostrils!! His subjects prepare to welcome Him with waves of regal worship as this Lion King promenades through His victory. I hear the voice of Judah's Lion beckon for His rightful bride with a wave of His nail-pierced paw, and I hear Him lovingly purr "Come up with Me". I hear a blood bought lioness brought before her Worthy Bridegroom and prostrate herself in love and worship, and I hear this August Lion say "Well done thou good and faithful servant" to His bride.

I hear this Lion breathing, panting, speaking, and coming, shaking out God's glory from His massive mane and with all the armies of heaven His entourage. I hear the clarion call of this Holy Lion's Spirit commanding His pride "Awake from your sleep and arise! The battle is joined, run to it in My power. Put aside your worthless toys and glorify My Name. Away from your shaded places of rest and pleasure and spoil the enemy's camp. Speak what I speak, walk as I walk, shout my name in the heavenlies, stay under the banner of my blood, and be filled with My Spirit. Count it an honor to give your very life for Me and My reward is with Me! I will avenge my enemies, and all who follow Me will share!!"

WHAT DO YOU HEAR???????????

Sunday, March 06, 2011

The Blood of the Martyrs

When was the last time you allowed the blood of the martyrs to water your soul and saturate your faith?

And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held:

Thousands upon thousands of men and women have given their very lives for the Lord Jesus. It is beneficial for us all to pause once in a while and ponder the mystery of their sacrifice, and let it humble and embolden us to greater servant hood for our Master.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Thrust in the Sickle

All things are gathering in chaotic order as prophetic clouds that sound His coming. Flee the wrath to come and run by faith into the City of Refuge. Jesus offers more of everything you could ever imagine, all of which find their source in Him. He is the everlasting Vine from which all life comes and to which all eternal life is found. There is no hope outside of Him. Wars and earthquakes and disease and hatred are increasing and yet so many are blind to it all.

He came the first time as a baby in Bethlehem. He allowed wicked men to spit upon His face, and pull out His beard, and crush his skull with thorns, and mock Him publicly, and finally He embraced the suffering of a Roman cross. But He is coming again, and this time He comes as a Lion. To those who love Him He comes in deliverance and great grace.

Those that are not in Him are in eternal danger. There is no other way. I wish there was, but there is not.

"I am the way, the truth, and the life."
"No man comes to the Father but by me."
"Behold I come quickly."
...spoken by Jesus the Christ

Thursday, March 03, 2011

I See You

I must openly confess that I resisted the desire to see the movie “Avatar”. Of course the last movie I saw in a theatre was “The Passion of the Christ” so I had to wait until it was on television. And so I watched what was reported to be the largest grossing movie in history and what some pastors called “unchristian”. Of course if we are to use the label unchristian we can attach it to everything from the “Wizard of Oz” to “A Christmas Carol” all the way to much of Disney. Christmas itself is “unchristian” and so probably is ice cream as well. We live in a world that is decidedly “unchristian” and everything is fallen.
Anyway the story is compelling as it showcases the inhumanity of man, the folklore religion of the natives, and an interracial love story. But the indigenous people called the Na’vi had a greeting. Perhaps a little more than greeting. They would say “I see you”. Now the fictional Na’vi people said that this phrase meant more than just eyesight; it meant that you could see into a person and understand them. I was reminded of Paul’s statements to the Church at Corinth.

II Cor.5:15-17 - And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.
16. Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more.
17. Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

We quote that 17th verse much more than the previous two, and usually we have come to believe it means shedding some of the outward sins that we practiced before we came to faith in Jesus Christ. I am sure that verse includes those sins, but if we are to take the verses in context the Spirit is guiding us into a startling and incredible truth that is not only overlooked, but is at the very heart of reflecting the Person of Jesus Christ.
The 15th verse exhorts us to sacrifice our own lives and live a life unto Christ. And at the core of living a life for him is living a life for others. This is usually translated as a life that is associated to and loyal to a local, organized assembly of professing believers. Giving and supporting the activities of a local church is considered being “committed”. The western culture loves to compartmentalize everything and the believers living in this culture have adopted this kind of myopic definition of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus the Christ.
But stepping away from the force fed definitions, let us more closely examine what the Spirit teaches rather than what man has constructed. The 16th verse is an extremely penetrating truth. What does Paul mean that he no longer knows and sees men in the flesh? Notice he says that we have known Christ in the flesh but now no more. He is obviously speaking of the Spirit. We know Jesus Christ in the Spirit and it is impossible to know Him without the Spirit. To know Christ through the Spirit is to actually know Him experientially and in a way that the flesh cannot understand. This is the faith once delivered unto the saints.
But now that we know Him in the Spirit, Paul says he no longer knows fellow humans in the flesh. What? This is the path of discipleship. We concentrate on all sorts of outward things. We command believers to give up smoking and drinking and inappropriate entertainments, and there is a place for those exhortations. But it seems we have missed the essence of what it means to be a follower, an imitator, of the Lord Christ.
We chronically see others in the flesh and not the Spirit. To see others in the Spirit is to see them from the perspective of the cross. And that is to see them through the eyes of the Lamb of God. So often we see their sins and not their soul. The words “I see you” in the science fiction story were meant to proclaim that you really saw that person inside. All their needs, all their hurts, all their wounds, and all their fears were seen by you. I was once a lost sinner who was boisterous and arrogant, but inside I was fearful and in desperate need of hope.
To lead a committed life is to lead of life dedicated to others. Jesus came to Bethlehem for others, not Himself. Are you willing to eat with demonstrably gay people? Are you willing to love those who remain behind bars because they were so violent? Are you willing to love the abortion doctor? Do you see these people in the flesh or in the Spirit? Do you see them at the Great White Throne judgment or do you see them at Calvary? Do you feel negative emotions toward “liberals” or does your heart beat with redemption toward them?
The American pulpits continue to thunder down judgment and division, but refuse to see people who they really are in God’s eyes. There will be time for judgment, but that is in God’s hands. We are vessels of redemption’s light that are sent to illuminate the souls who dwell in darkness. The next time you see someone on television who affects you negatively, or someone who mistreats you in the mall, or even a lost family member who disrespects and demeans you, remember the words of the Apostle Paul. Look at them through the eyes of the Redeemer and say within your soul,

“I see you”.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

The Gospel Leaves as He Comes

I was born in 1952. By then the practice of Christianity had been smoothed by time and culture. But how can a believer come to understand just what the New Testament commands apart from the compromises that have crept into the faith over the years? I mean how we be sure that we are not embracing a significantly diluted and compromised brand of Christianity? And let us not forget that the nature of deception is a lack of perspective.
I suggest that a healthy reading of how believers used to live their faith will lend some of that much needed perspective. It is so easy to compare ourselves with ourselves and to surrender to what you were born into and what everyone else thinks and believes. After all, we all know people who love Jesus and their spiritual lives are no different than ours. Doesn’t that authenticate our own expressions of the Christian faith? And therein lies one major problem.
There is safety in numbers, and in that safety we find affirmation of our own spiritual lives. I mean could so many people be so wrong? It takes great courage to even suggest that there may be much more than what is practiced by those around us who we love and appreciate. And if some of those peers happen to be family it presents an even greater challenge to take an honest inventory. So often we are prisoners to the present and blinded by other people.
But by taking a look at previous generations and preachers of former times, we may just get a rude awakening. When we read about John Wesley, George Whitefield, Charles Finney, and many, many others we are faced with a startling reality. Their spiritual lives and ours are in conflict. And in order to resolve that conflict, we must believe that either they were obsessed legalists who sacrificed much needlessly, or we are living a profoundly compromised brand of Christianity. The two have very little common ground.
But that perspective is very unsavory to the modern mindset of believers since it presents a spiritual tension and undermines the contentment of the modern church. And when someone presents such a juxtaposition they are considered either negative or self righteous or both. Long ago the western church has abandoned the idea of spiritual disciplines and sacrificial lifestyles that are in stark contrast to the culture around them. But without entertaining the notion that we are living a life that not only violates God’s clear Words, but is even at odds with many historical expressions of a New Testament life.
In other words, we can never overcome our spiritual inertia until we overcome our denial. And the core element of beginning a journey to worship and obey Christ in the manner that glorifies Him can be summed up in one word - time. If we are willing to devote sacrificial amounts of time to spend seeking His face we can experience a deepening and even an awakening in our spiritual lives.

If not, move your computer cursor over 2010, and copy it. Paste it over 2011, 2012, etc., etc

The gospel is leaving just as He is coming.
When the Son of Man comes will He find faith on earth?

Let the tears come as the gospel almost disappears from God’s creation. But save some tears of love and worship as you reignite your heart with the thought that Jesus will soon come and receive us unto Himself. Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but by His precious blood he has saved us eternally. And this majestic Savior has chosen to bring us to spend eternity with Him. It is beyond magical, beyond the most courageous dream that has ever entered the heart of man. The Risen Christ melts our hearts and minds into broken worship, and that Christ desires our eternal presence. Selah.