Saturday, April 30, 2011
What, in general, is “moralism”. Moralism has a wide variety of manifestations, but in general it is replacing the gospel of Jesus Christ with a crusade of morality. It can be identified easily by its culling out of certain sins and making them the focal point of one’s attack or crusade. It can be abortion, homosexuality, liberalism, or any number of issues that do damage and obscure the gospel of Christ. To be sure, Jesus Christ did not come to the earth to upgrade its moral condition. He came to provide a sacrifice that would save the souls of those who would trust in Him. And the change in the lives of those believers is residual and the observable effects of a changed heart.
So many in the church have been caught up with all sorts of moral issues that the world wrongly assumes must be adhered to in order to “go to heaven”. Much of this deception has to do with nationalism and politics. The paradox of the entire situation is that the gospel is for the immoral. While it is true that after a person comes to redemption through Christ the Spirit begins a work of what we call sanctification. That means that a saved person’s life is now in the potter’s hands and usually begins to change in many different ways.
But none of us changed to become saved. All of us came to Christ as committed sinners, and only after the Holy Spirit gave us both the light to see and the power to change did our lives change. And yet some believers use their “conservative” moral stances as the phalanx of their conversation to a lost world. It is the height of hypocrisy as well as completely at odds with grace. A moralistic message misrepresents Christ and His gospel and confuses the lost world into seeing us not as ambassadors of God’s love and grace, but of a collection of moral police who hold themselves in high esteem.
The old farmer said that when you see a turtle high atop a fence post you know someone placed him there and he did nothing to get there himself. Paul said, “I am what I am by the grace of God.” The church seems so bent on projecting perfection and positioning itself as moral judges on everyone from Hollywood to Washington to sports figures. When lost sinners behave like lost sinners why are we so amazed and why are we so quick to condemn them?
Jn.3:17 - For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
I Tim.1:15 - This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.
Jn.20:21 - Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.
Do you see the progression and the mission? We are Christ’s representatives upon this earth, and we are to walk in His steps. Ours is not the seat of the scornful, ours is the doormat of sacrifice. Ours is not a conservative cause, ours is a redemptive cause. Ours is not to attack, ours is to surrender. Ours is not self, ours is Him. Ours is not the wrangling of this world, ours is the kingdom of God. Ours is not exaltation, ours is the cross itself. The world understands shouting and battling and demeaning verbiage. What they cannot understand is love without condition.
Like turning a large vessel, little by little over many decades the church has been turned into some moral village that is interested in politics and nationalism and an accepted list of the morals du jour. The epistles were written to believers who have the Holy Spirit. The world needs Christ and not some moral cast system which in effect is nothing more than a modern version of the law. How many immoral thoughts does it take to make an immoral person? The answer is one.
Thursday, April 28, 2011
I heard Robert G. Lee preach in 1976 at my first year in Bible school. He pastured the Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee, and he served as president of the Southern Baptist convention for three terms. He was in his eighties when I heard him in chapel. He told this true story and made the following application.
“When I was about ten years old I was playing on the floor as my mother knitted in her rocking chair. I looked up at her and asked, “Momma, what is the most amount of joy you’ve ever felt in your life?” My mother put down her knitting and replied, “Son, you’ve asked a hard question but I think I know the answer.""
“I grew up in South Carolina during the war between the states, and the time came when all the men folk went off to war. As an eight year old little girl I watched my Daddy go to war many months before. Times were very hard and food and water were very scarce. Every now and then a straggling soldier would walk up the dirt road that lead to our house and ask for some food and water. My Momma would give him what we had.”
“One day two nicely dressed soldiers came riding on horses up our dirt road and spoke with my Momma. They told her that Daddy had been killed in a battle outside of Richmond. My Momma cried, but tried to be strong for me. Many months passed and one day we were sitting on our front porch and in the distance we saw another straggling soldier slowly making his way up to the house. While he was still a long way off my Momma said, “Elizabeth, that man sure walks like your father.””
"I said, “Momma, please don’t say that. We know Daddy’s been killed and he’s not coming back.” After a while my Momma said, “Elizabeth, you may think me strange but that man sure looks like your father.” Again I implored my mother not to say things like that. But in a few minutes my mother rose to her feet and shouted, “Elizabeth, that is your father!”"
“Well we shouted and danced and cried, and I felt a sleeve where an arm used to be. Son, I believe that was the most amount of joy I have ever felt in my life”.
R.G. Lee continued, “Well I submit to all of you that the joy my mother felt as an eight year old little girl after her father, as it were, came back from the dead, was just a thimble full compared with the endless oceans of joy we will feel when we lay eyes upon Him who actually DID come back from the dead!!”
When I left that chapel service I was again changed.
Monday, April 25, 2011
We live in an age of great technological advances, amazing discoveries, and more sophisticated levels of knowledge. In less than one hundred years astronomers have gone from believing in one galaxy (ours) to hundreds of billions of galaxies. In less than one hundred years the discovery of antibiotics have saved millions of lives. In less than one hundred years we have postulated both General Relativity as well as Quantum Mechanics. We now routinely transplant hearts, eyes, other organs, and even faces. America alone uses 500 millions gallons of gasoline every day. There are nearly 2 billion cell phone subscribers world wide. Men have walked the face of the Moon, and our machines have visited all the planets. The leap in information during the last one hundred years is beyond imagination.
But in the midst of all this technology and the actual tsunami of knowledge, we are faced with the one constant reality that looms over all of mankind - what happens when a person dies? Mankind would trade almost everything to know the answer to that question. But that question has lived within the hearts of men and women since Adam and Eve walked upon the Earth. The more wealth man accumulates, the more he seeks to lengthen his years. Better health care, more vitamins, exercise, and all sorts of ways to both lengthen and enhance our lives is in direct proportion to our level of opulence.
Death still stalks the entire human race. Everyone dies - the rich rock star to the poor widow, the young politician to the old construction worker, the aerobics instructor to the couch potato, the billionaire to the Darfur infant - all will die. We should all help feed the poor and minister to the destitute and needy, but all we do, all doctors do, is prolong life and stave off the inevitable. Death is patient and relentless. You may cause it some pause, but it still awaits that which it knows will one day be his. No exceptions. All of us are heading for death.
Mankind has attempted to suggest some life recycling process called reincarnation, and others suggest that through levels of knowledge men can attain immortality. And in an attempt to lesson the fear of death, even Christian pastors and teachers are offering saccharine words of false hope that imply, or openly suggest, that everyone will enjoy a blissful eternity regardless of their religious beliefs. The subject of hell is considered outdated and unsophisticated in the modern day spiritual parlance. But if, as the Scriptures teach, there is a hell, then the current shift in teaching and preaching is a diabolical deception perpetrated by the one for whom hell was originally made. We should take no joy in hell, but we should also not soften God’s truth to soothe unsuspecting consciences.
Of course it sounds so Dante-esque and so science fiction, but may I suggest something in response to that thought process? The spirit world operates in an eternal reality that is a billion times more tangible and real and is experienced perfectly by those already abiding in it. I do not believe that heaven’s gates are made of oyster spit or that its streets are made of real gold. I believe those word pictures are just understandable looking glasses into a realm which can never be accurately revealed by mere words. Even the Apostle Paul had no words for what he saw. And I also believe that the words which describe hell are poor definitions of what awaits those who will suffer the second death. Darkness and gnashing of teeth - fire and brimstone - worms and suffering, are just a few literary devices meant to convey a reality that is a million times more savage and obscenely unpleasant than any human words can convey.
Think on this: If hell is indeed an eternal reality, and if every sinner who dies without Christ finds hell his or her eternal reality, then what in God’s dear name matters more than the gospel? Of course it is extremely difficult to emotionally maintain a passion for directing lost souls out from an eternal path to hell, but we can never do what is being done today by preachers who tickle ears and lead millions into a false comfort which may well cost them their souls. But there still is only one answer and one remedy for sin and its eternal consequences. The cross and resurrection.
Oh it sounds so quaint, and many times the gospel is treated like a doctrinal antique. We think ourselves so advanced spiritually that we no longer need the gospel in simplicity. Heaven and hell? Come on, be real. Those things were for cave men of old, but today we have been able to see things in the Scriptures that preachers in times gone by could not see. The open and simple meaning of the words in Scriptures have now been unraveled to expose all sorts of nuanced principles which spread their wings to include the most unorthodox interpretations as well as other religions. That is what we all desire to hear, but that is not what we all NEED to hear.
The cross can never be diluted or compromised. The glory of that sacrifice must not only be spared the wisdom of men’s contamination, it should be, it must be, held up high and heralded without shame or timidity! The cross has no competitors and it has no comparison. The cross is the only vehicle through which a soul can be redeemed and find eternal life. This is no game of science, and the cross must not bow to cultural changes and intellectual progress. We need to reexamine the cross of Jesus Christ, not to suffer it any changes but to suffer ourselves many deep changes in its penetrating shadow.
The cross has been given over to the theological taxidermists and they have stuffed it and hung it upon the doctrinal big game wall. It is time we rescue it from that innocuous existence and place it at the very center of our gatherings and give ourselves wholly to it. The church must again bask in its glory and give life and voice to reflect its illuminating power to a lost and darkened world! Oh yes, very unsophisticated, so barbaric, such mythology, so stark, so outdated, so over simplistic, and so yesterday’s news.
Gal.6:14 - But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.
Gal.2:20 - I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
I Cor.1:18 - For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.
Heb.12:2 - Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
The cross of Jesus Christ, along with the ensuing resurrection, is the very heart of our faith. But one would think that finances, marriage, success, and a litany of other temporal issues are the essence of what it means to be a believer. Eternity is passé and so out of spiritual vogue. The average believer spends almost no time thinking about eternity, to say nothing of preparing for it. And the cross? It makes for nice jewelry and the occasional sermon reference and is sometimes paraded around as proof of our orthodox doctrinal pedigree. But it rarely is given the place of everyday honor it so richly deserves. But without the cross, doctrinally, practically, personally, and as a model that demands emulation and self sacrifice, our faith is hollow and a form of godliness that denies the actual power.
We understand the earthly particulars of death by crucifixion. Millions perhaps have died in that fashion. And as we consider our Lord’s crucifixion, do we not sometimes substitute awe and profound mystery for a doctrinal acknowledgement, antiseptic and dry, but without the painful spiritual application as it applies to our very lives? The redemptive understanding should bring forth such gratitude and worship, that it should lead to an embrace of that cross which manifests itself in many observable ways. But instead it has been given a place upon the doctrinal back burner in deference to more pressing issues that lend themselves to a more generous and successful western lifestyle.
I speak this to our shame. Shame on us for allowing the cross to become so obsolete and so unremarkable in the congregation of the saints. Shame on us for going day after day without meditating upon that cross with such reverence that it must draw our tears as well as our hearts. Shame on us for making the cross an “easter” pageant relic that is dusted off and presented more clearly once a year. Shame on us for emulating Constantine’s heresy and using the cross as some talisman that may bring us good luck or even help us fare well in war. Shame on us that the cross can be seen so clearly on top of a church steeple and remain blurred and obscured in the lives of those who claim it.
Before Christ was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, he commanded his disciples to watch and pray with Him. On the Day of Pentecost, the disciples were in an upper room praying. After Pentecost, the elders of the church delegated responsibility and proclaimed,
“But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.”
Before Peter was shown the vision of the unclean meats being made clean, he was praying. God sent Peter to the house of Cornelius because his prayers were heard. Paul and Barnabas were sent out after fasting and prayers. Paul saw a Macedonian man praying for help. Paul and Silas were praying when the prison doors were opened.
Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer
Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer (husbands and wives)
Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints
Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving
Night and day praying exceedingly that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith
Pray without ceasing.
I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men
I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.
The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.
But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer.
But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost,
And he came and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne.
And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odors, which are the prayers of saints.
And these are but a small sampling of the New Testament mentions and exhortations concerning prayer. But where is the passion, or even the practice, of such prayers today? The church is relying on its own ingenuity and cleverness and has found precious little time for prayer. In fact, many churches observe the “National Day of Prayer” which incorporates all religions and faiths and is both an abomination to God and an indictment to the church of Jesus Christ. Prayer is considered an ancient custom and by its token practice the church has openly manifested its scorn for seeking God.
For every prayer meeting there are a thousand Bible studies and sermons, whether they be in a book, Cd, Mp3, or other mediums. Prayer was central to the early church and was a core element in the life of our Savior. The disciples approached Jesus and they did not ask how to perform miracles or how to preach. They said, “Master, teach us to pray”. How many churches have a Sunday School class on how to pray? The family altar is an outdated fragment of days gone by. The television is now the modern day Dagon.
The obvious and tragic conclusion of our prayerlessness is that we can do things without God, and that the church no longer believes in prayer. The average pastor spends more time golfing than in the prayer closet. And the brief, mundane, emotionless, and redundant prayers offered in Sunday morning services are an affront to God and to the gracious gift of prayer. And like Sampson, we don’t even realize that God’s power and presence are gone.
Most churches “experience” the presence of God through wonderful music, but without a foundation of searching and sacrificial prayer that is nothing more than manipulated emotion. I love worship music and am demonstrative in worship, however God desires more than just emotion. God honors prayer: And not just “God give me this” prayers, but “God break me and mold me” prayers. The kind of prayer that reaches God and invites the molding ministry of the Spirit takes time. This kind of prayer is more than a five minute model recited over coffee before rushing off to work. This kind of prayer takes time and as Paul said is a labor of love.
One Chinese pastor got to visit America. He was the guest at many evangelical churches. He saw the crowds and the buildings and the technology. Upon his return to China the believers were anxious to hear of his observations. He said, “I was amazed at many things. But mostly I was amazed at how much the western church can accomplish without God.” How tragic, how sad, but how true.
I have no faith that the church as a whole will awaken to a prayer revival, but there is only one thing standing in the way of a personal revival of prayer.
Sunday, April 24, 2011
Our commitment to Jesus Christ is in response to His commitment to us. Let us take a look at just what was His commitment.
It is literally impossible to estimate the breadth and depth of the condescension that took place when Jehovah was born in the likeness of sinful flesh. Think for a moment if you were asked to be reborn in the exact likeness of Adolph Hitler. Even that thought is repulsive, and yet the gulf between you and Hitler is infinitely closer than the gulf between a holy God and a sinful man. You are completely sinful and so was Hitler, even though his outward acts of sin were more remarkable. But God has never known sin, and furthermore He is holy and august. So for God to become a man requires a level of commitment unknown to the human mind and the normal understanding of commitment.
What if you lived in the Taj Mahal and you were asked to leave that opulent lifestyle and move to the most crime ridden ghetto in your city? That would require a substantial and sacrificial commitment. But that cannot compare with the sacrifice and commitment exhibited by the Son of God when He left the glory of His eternal throne to live in this fallen world and walk among those who were His own created rebels. He who created everything allowed Himself to be dependent upon that which He created, water: food, and air. To say that was just an inconvenience would be blasphemy.
And with the event of the Incarnation, as well as the consequences, already established, let us move on to that which obliterates all other definitions of commitment. This act is the single most sacrificial and selfless act that could ever be displayed. This revealed a level of commitment that was perfect and complete, and manifested the love that drove this commitment. The Incarnate Son of God laid down His life and died for those who were His enemies. Now let us attempt to place that in its proper context.
Jesus, or the Word of God, existed or lived, throughout all eternity past. That is to say Jesus was never created; He in fact was the Creator. He was the giver and the sustainer of all things living and nonliving. What fellowship does the Eternal Life Giver have with death? The mystery of God’s death must always astound us and draw us into a deeper, and yet an incomplete, understanding of God’s love and commitment.
Rom.5: 7-8 - For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
The word translated “commendeth” in the Greek means to show, prove, establish, or exhibit. But this was no innocuous show and tell, or some detached exhibition of God’s power. This was an event filled with extreme passion and so confounding to the human mind that only the Spirit Himself can illuminate a sinner’s darkened heart. Even after a sinner has become born again from above, and even when that same sinner understands the overarching meaning and purpose of the cross, the greatest and most unnerving and exhilarating part of his understanding is that he now knows how deeply he still does not understand. And when asked if he understands the cross his answer is always yes and no.
Who can understand the death of deity? And who can fathom the sufferings of the Creator? And who can comprehend the weight of all of mankind’s sins being placed upon the Lamb of God? He who knew no sin - NO SIN - was MADE sin for us??!! Oh my soul, such thoughts render me undone and force me into a place of worship that is covered by the shadow of His own wings. I have nothing of value with which to compare, but I can only bow my head and heart and surrender to His majesty and His unsearchable commitment to me.
Away with all this self esteem nonsense, and all these messages that lift up man and self righteous claims to be favored by God and that attempt to use that favor for personal aggrandizement. Away with all the Joel Osteens and Rick Warrens and Rob Bells that smear the glory of the cross with great swelling words of deception and the glorification of man. Away with those who contend that human works of kindness and philanthropy gain any redemptive sway with God. It is The Christ and The Christ ALONE that can redeem a soul and translate a sinner from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of God’s Dear Son! Christ and Christ alone!!
But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.
There is no glory but His, and there is no value apart from Him. Paul said that no good thing dwelt in him, and that he was the chief of all sinners and less than the least of all saints. Spurgeon was said that if he would be granted eternity on the floor mat of heaven’s door he would consider it a far greater gift than he ever deserved. Amen! Beloved, let us take our eyes off ourselves, and off this evil world, and let us gaze at our Lord Jesus Christ. It is He alone which deserves our allegiance, praise, adoration, and our worship.
I do not desire to outline our deficiencies as it pertains to our commitment to Him. I decided to lift Him up and let The Spirit do His work in all of our hearts. In light of Who He is and what He has done for us, what can we withhold from Him? What is so precious in this present life that can compete with Him? Spurgeon again, my favorite preacher even though a Calvinist, said that when we get our very first glimpse of the Risen Christ, we will think ourselves a thousand fools to have ever been fond of anything temporal.
One day, THAT day, we will actually experience His presence and His throne room in a way that is unattainable in these earthly bodies. And on that day we will all realize what we owe Him and the price He paid. And every blood bought saint will begin an eternal journey to praise and worship the Risen Christ and the mystery of the Trinity. Let us now lengthen the cords and deepen the stakes of our earthly commitment as we look forward to a house not made with hands!
Today is not "Easter" which was derived from a pagan holiday. Today is Sunday, which is a one of 52 days of celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In fact, it is one of 365 days of such celebrations.
He is risen! He is risen indeed!
Saturday, April 23, 2011
10Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years.
11I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain.
What I do celebrate is the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Every day.
Monday, April 18, 2011
Sunday, April 17, 2011
Friday, April 15, 2011
Sunday, April 10, 2011
Saturday, April 09, 2011
The entire plan is a mystery. In fact, God Himself is a great mystery. We cannot even understand the nature of a “spirit” and yet God is a spirit. We so matter-of-factly say that God created everything out of nothing with just a Word, and yet that in and of itself is a colossal mystery. The nature of sin and the nature of holiness and the nature of man are all great mysteries which we have reduced to doctrinal check boxes. We have taken the sacred mysteries and made them into a safe set of spiritual tenants that stand without the soul shaking effects that such truths should, or must, have.
Of course they have been shared to us by revelation of the Holy Spirit and on a level that we can understand, but that should not negate their monumental and eternal truths. This Christianity, this faith that we claim to embrace, is much more than systematic theologies and moral philosophies. This faith centers around the Person of Jesus the Christ Who is the ultimate mystery.
I Tim.3:16 - And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.
If God Himself is a great mystery, then of what sort of mystery is the Incarnation where God comes as a man? And if you will bow to that mystery, then of what mystery is the Incarnate One’s mission? Why has He come? And surrounded and even overwhelmed by all these mysteries, and if you can surrender to their incomprehensible magnitude, then let us walk into the greatest mystery of them all which has sprung out of all the rest. The cross.
Intricately woven together and precisely placed within a chronology, these mysteries brought forth the greatest expression of the mystery that we call God. Lifted high upon a wooden death instrument, God Himself suffers while impaled upon that which He Himself had made. Just that sentence alone confounds the angels and sends all religions and philosophies running to find safety. The cross unveils a mystery that is dangerous and unbending, bloody and loving, vicious and graceful, repulsive and beautiful, and pulsating with eternal majesty inside the basest of all human deeds. The word “mystery” find its complete etymology in this cross. The source of all spiritual power lives and breathes in this cross, and the cross provides the classroom for studying the continuing mystery of God.
Most humans do not even feel a need for redemption, and most religions provide that redemption through systems of higher knowledge and levels of consciousness. But here is Jesus, the Author and Finisher of this faith, and the One who has existed eternally without having a beginning. Here He is, shamed as a man and abused by His own, and pierced with all sorts of wounds. All this while claiming to be all powerful and the creator of all. He does not exact from His followers a higher level of consciousness or some spiritual cast system where men can rise upon the basis of their own endeavors and labors. Here is Jesus, the God of all mysteries, dying upon a cross and at the hands of wicked men.
Even the angels cannot fathom what is happening. This cross is not for them. How can we understand the Creator of all life succumbing to death at the hands of those to whom He gave life? Only the Spirit of God can open a sinner’s heart and deposit the knowledge of Who this is and the personal nature of this sacrifice. And when this enlightened sinner touches the knowledge of the Holy One and the completeness of His sacrificial death, then he must deal with his own fallen flesh which provides ample excuses for refusing God’s offer.
You see, we desire a mystery which appeals to the senses and could make a wonderful visual effects movie. We desire a mystery which allows us to be something and elevates mankind. We desire a mystery that lifts our emotions and provides us a hope that is grounded in ourselves. We do not desire a mystery which sees the God of our hope in shame and torture and in a seemingly stunning defeat. That is a tough mystery to market to a self serving audience.
But again, that is just another facet of this great mystery. The cross does not come to us in order to stroke our need for self affirmation. It does not provide a place where we can feel better about ourselves. It doesn’t even provide a place of aesthetic visuals that lift our spirits. In the natural, this mystery is depressing and vulgar. But in the Spirit this cross is the zenith of mysteries that carries with it the entire provision for eternal redemption. Countless mysteries are inherent in this one event. The mystery of the Incarnation; the mystery of God’s love; the mystery of sin; the mystery of the blood; the mystery of His sufferings; the mystery of the Trinity; the mystery of redemption; the mystery of forgiveness; and the mystery of divine death. No one can completely understand this mystery. No one needs to fully comprehend this mystery. The only requirement is to believe in this mystery and you have become a part of it.
Friday, April 08, 2011
There she is; dancing around and on a pole. Men are glaring at her with evil intentions and planning their next move. She wears her most alluring face and smiles, beckoning at anyone who is watching and especially those who might have money. She offers herself on different levels. Inside she is empty beyond words. She left high school early and escaped the home life which had tortured her through all kinds of step father abuse since she was 9 years old. She knew her mother was aware of much of it, but her mother refused to intervene. New wounds opened up on top of freash scars; she drank daily from a mixture of fear, hate, and immeasurable shame. Hopelessness was her constant companion, and from time to time her self loathing led her to cut herself. Drugs? Whatever could soften the pain was welcomed into her mouth as quickly as she could get it, and alcohol was her daily bread. Any male who showed her any attention could have her on the same night she met him. Without skills or education she sought a way to earn money. She found it through stripping. So here she was performing her nightly masquerade in hopes of living one more hopeless day. Please, brethren, do not feel sorry for this immoral specimen. She is a slut by any definition, and she is a mockery to womanhood. She provides a wonderful example for sermon fodder, and her life can be castigated with Biblical terms such as harlot, whore, and temptress. If she votes at all she probably walks the liberal line, and when you see her in the grocery store, point her out to your children as one who hates God. This witch pollutes society and upstanding and patriotic believers must take a stand against such people. And we can feel good about ourselves as we kick these miscreants since the New Testament is full of examples of how Jesus Himself attacked sinners. We walk in His footsteps. And if she turned out to be a lesbian, it would only be icing on the moral cake we have baked. But if she repents, we might love her. Jesus died to have these people banished from our culture and stricken from the record of human existence. Oh how I love Jesus.
(As we worry about a government shut down, millions of lives have been shut down long ago. I was once one of them. I will never forget.)
Wednesday, April 06, 2011
Monday, April 04, 2011
Sunday, April 03, 2011
The word “passion” is often a term which refers to the time between the Lord’s Supper and Christ’s death upon the cross. It indicates both His intensity and the depth of suffering He endured. We can only imagine what He endured, but only the Christ Himself can ever know the extent of His redemptive sufferings.
We tend to view God through the prism of a “supreme being” whose power is His greatest attribute, and in so doing we minimize, as well as misunderstand, His heart. This perception has been handed down through science and has found some legitimacy in the church. Grief and sadness are viewed as weakness and part of the human experience, but those kind of emotions are typically downplayed as it concerns the Creator. But that antiseptic view of God severely constricts His glory and in fact leads to a divine caricature of God rather than one that embraces Him in all His fullness.
So how does God reveal His love to a lost and fallen race? And is His love enough, or must that love act to provide a way that leads to a living eternity in His very presence? And what act can provide both an expression of love and a tangible vehicle of redemption? Remove the sandals from your heart and let us look again at the horror of God’s love.
Love as we understand it is supposed to be a display of tenderness and gentle devotion, and two young lovers in a meadow sometimes comes to mind. Who can forget our first love when our hearts were drawn to someone in school or the neighborhood? We might have been drawn by their eyes or hair or personality, but something about them captured our hearts and we experienced for the very first time the emotion we call love. It was all so like a fairy tale.
But how can we fully experience God’s love, and what about the Father can draw us to know and experience His love toward us as well as materialize within us a love for Him? Will it be the beauty of the mountains or the brightness of the stars? The majesty of the oceans or the wonder of the human figure? The expanse of the universe or the warmth of a mother’s affection? Which of these or others will God use to exhibit His matchless love for us? Of course all of these fall short in communicating the Father’s love but they all come with finite beauty and limited majesty.
But in the holy wisdom of God’s own counsel none of these created treasures are what God has chosen to reveal His everlasting love to us. Take a closer look and set your eyes upon a small hill just outside of the City of Peace, Jerusalem. Do not search for something warm and cuddly or even something pleasant to the eyes. The revelation of God’s love comes not with the normal expectations of man and his understandings concerning love, no, this revelation confounds the poetic and romantic inclinations of our hearts, this revelation is repulsive and frightening, but it is the powerful mystery that illuminates the divine love to the sinful heart of man. This is the cross, revealing the horror of God’s love.
What do I mean when I say horror? With that term I attempt to explain that the cross displays the depth of God’s love through the single most striking and chilling event that man can experience, the visual and elongated death of another man. A spectacle through which every sinner can identify because death awaits us all, but this death is so much different than any other, this is the death of God’s only begotten Son. Only the sadistic nature of a fallen man would be drawn to watch a tortured man die, but there is something about this death that has had a holy voyeuristic quality to it that has lasted until today. Something, some small inside voice says that there is more to this death than can be seen by the natural eyes, something spiritual and far more meaningful than a Jew taking his last breath at the hands of Roman soldiers.
The visual aspect of Golgotha is indeed filled with blood and water, sweat and agony, and the entire scene is most repugnant and yet there remains an attraction that is not explained by any sadistic element, this allurement has a redemptive essence that seems to seek some form of shelter from this bleeding form. People have worn it, made its sign, drawn its shape, placed it on graves, and it has found a place on and in buildings throughout the world. What is it about this death, this tortured punishment, that has so mesmerized much of the world?
Deep inside the physical nature of this death burns the inescapable motivation for it all, something that has had no beginning and existed before the first atom was spoken into existence. Underneath the bloody wounds lives the eternal love of God, the love that is now extended through this horror and which mysteriously flows out from those incarnate veins. No pleasant meadow and no tender scene comes to present God’s offer of love, no, a vicious and violent scene of torture and ultimately murder itself is the fresco upon which God expresses His love for us. The method of communicating this love, much less its very nature, is beyond the human comprehension since this crimson scene speaks of anything but love in the usual context.
This visual tells of murder and violence and vengeance and punishment, but surely not love. What kind of love lives and breathes in mutilated gore, and what loves reaches out through that which is feared most? Only the redeemed child of God can appreciate the meaning of Calvary’s mystery, but the horror of God’s eternal love draws from our bosom the sweetest emotions of gratefulness and praise for the measureless depths of that expression of divine love. It is the horror of it all that seems to awaken our souls to understand the august greatness of this love, and it is only the Spirit that can bring understanding to such a bewildering act. To say the cross was a selfless act is to severely diminish its glory, since it was God delivering His only Son for us all and that truth is incomprehensible.
But each and every sinner who, by faith, touches this love exposed in death, is transformed by its inexhaustible power. That God loves the universe is amazing, but that God loves mankind through the death of His Son is unfathomable. But that God would show His love through the horror of His Son’s murder to each of us personally leaves us speechless and indeed without the corresponding emotion that this act should require. To be horrified and yet loved at the same time remains a mystery, but it is the deepest redemptive mystery that will continue to redound to the glory of God throughout eternity. And deeper still is the mystery that when a sinner approaches this cross by faith, he himself becomes consumed by God’s love and made a part of this divine death, only to be resurrected into a new creature made in the image of God’s love, His Son. Selah.
And so a lonely man, as it were, barely walks His own beaten frame up the hill called Calvary, and allowing Himself to be nailed to the planks, and allowing Himself to be mocked, and allowing Himself to be unrecognized as to Who He was, He lasts six agonizing hours before bowing His head in death. And the glory of this horror continues to shine God's love without measure even unto today. Please bid me no further for my words only detract, but grant me this one last thought. In the end, there is no love but God’s, and the cross is the blood spattered mirror through which to see it most clearly.