Saturday, June 14, 2014


We talk about change in a person’s life that authenticates his conversion experience. And well we should. However what do we mean when we say “change”? After a bone fide conversion a sinner usually gives up things he used to enjoy. Drugs and drunkenness and cursing and smoking are some of the usual suspects. And indeed being freed from such things does glorify God and provide a witness to the world of the power of Christ.

But let us not stop there. In fact they are only the beginning. But so many professing believers become satisfied and complacent just because they do not run with the old crowd and party as they used to. But there are hidden issues of the heart that loom large as it pertains to being like Jesus and following His teachings.

There is coveteousness and unforgiveness and idolatry and self righteousness and hatred and malice and honesty and just to name a few of the “don’ts” of the heart. But there is also love and mercy and grace and humility and selflessness just to name a few of the “do’s”. So often professing believers stop at some of the outward sins and disregard the sins of the heart.

II Cor.7: 1- Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

Look at that! Paul divides sins into two categories – the sins of the flesh (outward) and the sins of the spirit (inward). But notice with full attention how we are to cleanse ourselves of these sins. He calls the Word of God “promises”. Wow, what a glorious term! Even those verses that correct and indict us are promises. Even the warnings of eternal punishment are promises. Everything God says are promises backed by the full integrity and authority of Almighty God. It is an incredible gift we have been given. It is God’s eternal and infallible Word.

So I have been saved for almost forty years. I have read through the Scriptures many times. I have preached thousands of times. I have written many things and I have taught the Word of God. But I still am in desperate need of having the Word through the Spirit prick my heart and change me. Unbelievers give up drugs and violence and stealing and the like. But a true believer never steps down from the potter’s wheel and claims he is finished. Our salvation was finished at Calvary but our sanctification will be an ongoing process until we meet Christ.

The first step is to read and meditate and allow the Spirit to reveal to your own heart the Word of God. Allow your heart to be revealed to you. Look deeply into your own heart by the illuminating ministry of the Spirit. Are there things there that are not of Christ?

Heb.4: 12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

I never want to give the impression that I have arrived. Far from it. But what a glorious gift of grace when the Spirit takes God’s Word, illuminates my understanding, convicts me of my sin, and then forgives me and empowers me to repent and change. It is a great mystery and an unseen power which glorifies God within my own heart. To think that God not only redeemed my soul but also guides me with His Spirit, and then conforms me to the image of Christ is an immeasurable act of grace even post-redemption. And can I reveal something which is both to my own shame and the glory of God? Through forty years God has forgiven me of some of the same sins many times. Can you even begin to imagine such a grace? Such a love? Does that not convict us when we refuse to forgive because that person has committed the same offense against us?

So we who love Christ…just what is our calling? Yes we are to win souls and spread the gospel, but as it pertains to widening and deepening our relationship with our Savior, what is our calling?

Eph.4: 1 - I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called…

This calling is our vocation. It is our “career” so to speak. And we are to pursue Christ and submitting ourselves to His potter’s wheel. And our heart is where sin abides and hides. How many of us have hidden some sin within our hearts and yet enjoyed the falsehood of an outward appearance? Men are ignorant of our sin and yet God sees and knows. Man looks on the outward appearance but God sees the heart. The church has become consumed with the outward man and has profoundly ignored the heart. And yet the issues of God’s life proceed from the heart.

We are called to seek Christ and change throughout our Christian journey. There can never be a time when we sit back and tread spiritual water. Have we lost our hunger and thirst to be like Jesus? Are we content with how far we have come and thereby we no longer labor for the personal metamorphosis which honors God? When was the last time you were profoundly experiencing the Potter’s wheel? When was the last time you were broken because you realized how holy He is and how stagnant you are?

Change honors and pleases God. Yes, one day God will change us completely and we will be like Him. But until then we have been given an incredible gift of grace. He has called us to be like Jesus, and He has promised to empower us when we truly seek Christ. In the 60’s people watched the Beatles so much that they literally changed their appearance and their speech and their clothing in order to look like them. They idolized them.

In order to be like Jesus we must sit at His feet, listen to His words, and surrender to the ministry of His Spirit. We cannot change ourselves. That is always legalism and is fraught with self righteousness. But when we are changed by God’s Spirit deep within our hearts it pleases the Father. Thoughts and intents and motivations and attitudes that are against Christ must be crucified. And like David we say,

 Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.

The secret sins of the heart are the most difficult to see and the most difficult to renounce. But our wonderful Master has promised to reveal our sin and forgive us and to help us repent.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

The Harmony of Redemption


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.