Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Saturday, October 11, 2008
Monday, October 6, 2008
"Having come to the light of the knowledge of the glory of Christ from Scripture or by the preaching of the gospel, let us regard it as our duty to meditate frequently on his glory. It is the neglect of meditation that keeps so many Christians in a feeble state, regardless of their privileges. They hear of these things and assent to the truth of them or at least they do not question them. But they never solemnly meditate on them. They think that meditation is above their capabilities, or they are totally ignorant of how to go about it, or they are not too concerned about it, or they treat it as fanaticism. Many cannot meditate because their minds are so cluttered up with earthly things. The mind must be spiritual and holy, freed from all earthly clutter. It must be raised above things here below if we wish to meditate on the glory of Christ. So many are strangers to this duty because they do not mortify their earthly desires and concerns."
-John Owen from his book "The Glory of Christ"
So what is it in this life that actually matters and why do I find it so hard to stay focused on it? Well, the answer to the first question is glorifying Jesus Christ and His work on the glorious cross for my once wicked soul. And I'm still trying to figure out how to pinpoint the answer to the second one. All I can say is, what in the world? How is it that two years ago the Lord could completely come in and intervene in my life, draw me unto Himself, convict me of my sin, grant me repentance, and completely captivate my life as a whole....and yet, now, I'm left just wondering where it all went. Don't get me wrong, this is not a post about me questioning my salvation. It's nothing of the sort. The writing of this post, as crazy as it seems, is evidence in itself that I am saved, because the Lord is bringing to light many things that need to change in my life. Chastisement- a very good sign that you are a child of God.
So the quote that I put up at the top of this post really woke me up yesterday when I read it on the plane. John Owen did a really good job of awakening me with his descriptions of the glory of Christ...and then followed it up with a slap in the face with his calling out of the lazy people who are finding it hard to stay focused on it. I'm not being too hard on myself either (even though a lot of Christians would identify with the same convictions of not being focused enough on it either) but I'm seriously tired of letting myself off the hook. This is getting ridiculous. How does Christianity become so 'cultural' and 'watered down' anyways? Because people compare themselves to people who profess Christ, who then compare themselves to other people who profess Christ (instead of comparing themselves to the Bible), and the cycle gets more and more vicious until everyone just walks around thinking they are off the hook because they don't look any different from Johnny down the street who grew up in church and has a WWJD bumper sticker on his car. Excuse my tangent, but I mean isn't it true? And isn't that the very thing I am guilty of right now as I watch my walk with the Lord go down the tube on account of MY laziness and unwillingness to remove unnecessary worldly clutter from my life? Well, since most of you don't know me or my life...the answer to that question is YES. YES that is exactly what is happening to me right now, and I am confessing it.
What amazes me is how I could have let it get so out of control. I mean I got so lazy. It started out with the small things a few months back and just kind of built itself up, until a huge wall formed and I found myself surrounded, once again, by my selfishness and worldliness. I HATE worldliness, and yet I'm afraid right now that if you took a snapshot of my life you would see a whole lot of it. Whatever happened to the gospel being on my lips continuously? Why am I not taking advantage of witnessing opportunities like I used to? Where has the reign on my tongue gone? Where is my boldness that I used to have? Why am I finding myself enslaved to so much sin? These questions are driving me nuts because I'm finding myself completely helpless in changing a thing about the situation. I'm finding myself completely without the strength to simply 'pull myself up by the bootstraps' and start performing better. So this isn't the point in the post where I guilt trip myself into doing a better job and start turning inward to make myself change this. No way, my theology teaches me better than that- and so does the word of God.
I am seriously not resting in Christ. I am not denying myself. I am not mortifying my flesh. I'm not setting my mind on the things above. And it is all because I am being seriously lazy and not spending enough time TRULY taking in His word. I am making no true effort to mortify sin or remove worldly clutter. It is not my job to change myself. But it is my job to meditate on Christ and His glory! It is my job fight like crazy against the powers and principalities of this world, and most of all, my own sinful nature. I have corruption in my heart- I SERIOUSLY cannot fall asleep on this fact. And if I do, the result is a life that starts spinning out of control, even for a believer. The fact of inevitable indwelling sin does not mean I excuse it; no, in fact as a child of God, I hate it. And I must not fall asleep on it or it will take over and surely enslave me. I'm afraid that is exactly what I have let happen and I am now reaping the consequences.
One night getting ready for bed, just last week, this feeling was so strong and I felt so dirty that I was trying so hard to externally remove it. This is so sad, but it's true. I took a shower, I washed my face and hands, I scrubbed my teeth with extra toothpaste, I tried to get all my ducks in a line so that MAYBE I would find peace and comfort for a moment. Just maybe I wouldn't feel so dirty. WOW. How incredibly sad to even recall that about myself. I wasn't aware that was the reason why I was doing it at the time...but shortly after it dawned on me. You see, for a short time I lost sight of the glory of Christ. I wasn't making a serious effort to keep thoughts about the Lord and His glory in the forefront of my mind and look what came about. My life started to slowly spin out of control. To think that you can struggle with this and it not affect everything is completely absurd. To think that you can 'compartamentalize' in your life the gospel of Jesus Christ, which alone brings life, is completely absurd. My relationships were getting sloppy; I started to get lazy even with the people I love the most- namely my long distance relationship with my boyfriend out in California. A godly relationship with him even started to lose its fervor all because I was too busy being cluttered with the world. What a shame. But as shameful as that sounds, how much more shameful is it to lose fervor for your Lord, the one who reached down and saved you from the muck and mire of your sins? Only the blood of Christ can wash me clean of my iniquities, but not taking the time to retreat to the foot of the cross in humility is just pathetic. I am so thankful that the Lord brings these things to our attention so that we may awake out of this deranged state. I am so grateful for repentance and the healing that it brings.
All of this can be described as deception at its finest. And mix deception in with distraction and you have a deadly combination. Please listen to me...you cannot fight deception OR distraction on your own. Are you kidding me? You will just continue to fall in deeper and you will wonder why you can't seem to turn things around. You can't turn things around because you CAN'T turn things around. God is the one who TURNED things around for you in the first place when He saved you from your walk down an extremely wide path to Hell and placed you on the straight and narrow. And if He is the one who was in charge of doing that from the beginning, then why would it be any different now? Don't chase worldly things when they are the root of the problem. AND DO NOT put your affection on worldly things either because it will just leave you deceived and distracted. You will be left wondering how you got so off track in such a short period of time. Please do not keep turning to yourself; I promise you, you are mostly the problem. So what should we do then? We should turn to Christ. Quit putting it off. I don't care if you just sinned and you are ashamed. RUN to Christ. He is always always way more willing to forgive us than we are capable of sinning. Run to Christ, even when your deceived heart is not inclined to do so. If you are not spending time in prayer and in the word then you cannot expect to be able to fight temptation when it presents itself. The Bible says that the Lord never leaves you to a temptation without providing a way to escape it. Don't be too lazy to find the escape.
It seriously is a vicious cycle, my friends. If you are not making the effort to meditate on the glories of Christ and His word, then you are bound to lose your passion and zeal and desire for the things of God. And if you lose your desire, you will stop spending time in prayer and in the word. And if you stop that, it just leads to more worldly clutter and less thoughts of Christ...thus starting the cycle over again. Do you see now how even the strongest of believers can find themselves on the slippery slope? Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Do not take your sin lightly even for the slightest moment or you will learn the hard way. I am so grateful that the Lord has revealed this to me and even provided the desire to put in out in writing. I know I needed to hear it.
"For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith."
Enjoy this wonderful sermon by Charles Spurgeon on Indwelling sin:
Saturday, September 20, 2008
Saturday, August 23, 2008
In one of his letters to Erasmus, Luther said, "Your thoughts of God are too human." Probably that renowned scholar resented such a rebuke, the more so, since it proceeded from a miner's son. Nevertheless, it was thoroughly deserved. We, too, prefer the same charge against the vast majority of the preachers of our day and against those who, instead of searching the Scriptures for themselves, lazily accept their teachings. The most dishonoring conceptions of the rule and reign of the Almighty are now held almost everywhere. To countless thousands, even professing Christians, the God of Scriptures is quite unknown.
Of old, God complained to an apostate Israel, "Thou thoughtest that I was altogether such as one as thyself" (Psalm 50:21). Such must now be His indictment against apostate Christendom. Men imagine the Most High is moved by sentiment, rather than by principle. They suppose His omnipotency is such an idle fiction that Satan can thwart His designs on every side. They think that if He has formed any plan or purpose at all, then it must be like theirs, constantly subject to change. They openly declare that whatever power He possesses must be restricted, lest He invade the citadel of man's free will and reduce him to a machine. They lower all-efficacious atonement, which redeems everyone for whom it was made, to a mere remedy, which sin-sick souls may use if they feels so disposed. They lessen the strength of the invincible work of the Holy Spirit to an offer of the Gospel which sinners may accept or reject as they please.
The god of this century no more resembles the Sovereign of Holy Writ than does the dim flickering of a candle the glory of the midday sun. The god who is talked about in the average pulpit, spoken of in the ordinary Sunday school, mentioned in much of the religious literature of the day, and preached in most of the so-called Bible conferences, is a figment of human imagination, an invention of maudlin sentimentality. The heathen outside the pale of Christendom form gods of wood and stone, while millions of heathen inside Christendom maufacture a god out of their carnal minds. In reality, they are but atheists, for there is no other possible alternative between an absolutely supreme God and no God at all. A god whose will is resisted, whose designs are frustrated, whose purpose is checkmated, possesses no title to deity and, far from being a fit object of worship, merits nothing but contempt.
The supremacy of the true and living God might well be argued from the infinite distance which separates the mightiest creatures from the Creator. He is the Potter; they are but the clay in His hands, to be molded into vessels of honor or to be dashed into pieces (Psalm 2:9) as He pleases. Were all the denizens of heaven and all the inhabitants of earth to combine in open revolt against Him, it would cause Him no uneasiness. It would have less effect upon His eternal, unassailable throne than the spray of the Mediterranean's waves has upon the towering rocks of Gibraltar. So puerile and powerless is the creature to affect the Most High, Scripture tells us that when the Gentile heads unite with apostate Israel to defy Jehovah and His Christ, "He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh" (Psalm 2:4).
The absolute and universal supremacy of God is plainly affirmed in many Scriptures. "Thine, O LORD, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty; for all that is in the heaven and the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O LORD, and thou art exalted as head above all...And thou reignest over all" (1 Chronicles 29:11-12). Norw "reignest" now, not "will do so in the Millennium." "O LORD God of our fathers, art not thou God in heaven? and rulest not thou over all the kingdoms of the heathen? and in thine hand is there not power and might, so that none [not even the devil himself] is able to withstand thee?" (2 Chronicles 20:6). Before Him presidents and popes, kings and emperors, are less than grasshoppers.
"But he is in one mind, and who can turn him? and what his soul desireth, even that he doeth" (Job 23:13). My reader, the God of Scripture is no make-believe monarch, no imaginary sovereign, but Kind of kings, and Lord of lords. "I know that thou cantst do every thing, and that no thought can be withholden from thee" (Job 42:2; or another translator, "no purpose of thine can be thwarted" (RSV). All that He has designed, He does. All that He has decreed, He perfects. All that he has promised, He performs. "But our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased" (Psalm 115:3). Why has He? Because "there is no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the Lord" (Proverbs 21:30).
God's supremacy over the works of His hands is vividly depicted in Scripture. Inanimate matter, irrational creatures, all perform their Maker's bidding. At His pleasure, the Red Sea divided and its waters stood up as walls (Exodus 14); the earth opened her mouth, and guilty rebels went down alive into the pit (Numbers 16). When He so ordered, the sun stood still (Joshua 10:1-13); and on another occasion it went backward ten degrees on the dial of Ahaz (2 Kings 20:1-11). To exemplify His supremacy, God made ravens carry food to Elijah (1 Kings 17); iron to float on the waters (2 Kings 6:1-7); lions to be tame when Daniel was cast into their den (Daniel 6); fire to burn not when three Hebrews were flung into its flames (Daniel 3). Thus, "Whatsoever the LORD pleased, that did he in heaven, and in earth, in the seas, and all deep places" (Psalm 135:6).
God's supremacy is also demonstrated in His perfect rule over the wills of men. Ponder carefully Exodus 34. Three times in the year all the males of Israel were required to leave their homes and go up to Jerusalem. They lived in the midst of hostile people, who hated them for having appropriated their lands. What, then was to hinder the Canaanites from seizing the opportunity, during the absence of the men, to enslave the women and children and take possession of their farms? If the hand of the Almighty was not upon the wills even of wicked men, how could He make this promise beforehand, that none should so much as "desire" their lands (v.24)? "The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will" (Proverbs 21:1)/
But, some may object, do we not read again and again in Scripture how men defied God, resisted His will, broke His commandments, disregarded His warnings, and turned a deaf ear to all His exhortations? Certainly we do. Does this nullify all we have said? If so, then plainly the Bible contradicts itself. But that cannot be. What the objector refers to is simply the wickedness of men against the external word of God. We have mentioned what God has purposed in Himself. The rule of conduct He has given us to walk by is perfectly fulfilled by none of us. His own eternal counsels are accomplished to their minutest details.
The absolute and universal supremacy of God is affirmed with equal positiveness in the New Testament. We are told that God "worketh all things after the counsel of his own will" (Ephesians 1:11)-- the Greek for the "worketh" means "to work effectually." For this reason we read, "For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory forever. Amen." (Romans 11:36). Men may boast they are free agents, with a will of their own, and are at liberty to do as they please. But Scripture says to those who boast, "We will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, " that they ought to say, "If the Lord will" (James 4:13,15).
Here then is a sure resting place for the heart. Our lives are neither the product of blind fate nor the result of capricious chance. Every detail of them was ordained from all eternity and is now ordered by the living reigning God. Not a hair of our heads can be touched without His permission. "A man's heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps" (Proverbs 16:9). What assurance, what strength, what comfort this should give the real Christian! "My times are in they hand" (Psalm 31:15). Then let me "rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him" (37:7).
Monday, August 11, 2008
The times when we went without faith, the times as slaves to sin.
Oh how easily we forget the dreaded days when our eyes were blind,
When my thoughts were only selfish, and when true depravity was mine.
Oh how sick and sad to see, how we forget so easily
About the former days of empty praise we sang with worldly ease.
I for one, come before you Lord, so broken and contrite
So much so, my flesh and bones will get no rest tonight.
For quite a bit of time has passed, before I’ve now come to see,
That I have been living in great sin and running away from Thee.
O Lord, how easily I have forgotten, my former days of carnal lust
And instead of staying alert and awake and giving You my trust,
I have given way to earthly treasures which have rotted and collected dust.
But a child of God cannot go on deceived by its youthful lusts,
The Lord will stretch and pull and pry and chastise when He must.
Because it is so clear how fast we steer from the straight and narrow path
I know personally, for a season now I have lost all sight of His holy wrath.
And what a frightening time indeed, when you have lost that holy fear
Of the Lord and His righteousness; instead you put on the deceptively fake veneer.
Oh hypocrite, your lips may sing but your heart is far from Me
Father, I beg you now, draw me back in so I’m near to Thee.
Oh how easily I have forgotten the times of those dreaded days
When my heart was only selfish, so depraved in all my ways.
For just as easily as I’ve forgotten, just as easily I have seen
That same person I once left behind has come back in a nightmarish dream.
But I am grateful that tonight, Lord, You’ve given me eyes to see
That I’ve been blinded once again, and its time to come running back to Thee.
So I pace and pace, and pray and pray until wee hours of the night
Reading psalm after psalm, no rest or peace, not until I'm reconciled in Your sight.
What is this Lord, can’t I come back to fellowship with Thee?
Seems not until I’m stripped and still, knowing I’ve sinned in thought and deed.
I acknowledge it Lord, I’ve sinned against You! Be merciful to me indeed.
Deal with me not in your anger, I beg, and my confessions I do concede.
So for now, I know one thing, I will sit and wait upon your gracious gift,
The gift of repentance, Lord, so this great burden may finally lift.
I exalt you Lord, so abase me now, so I remember again those days
When I was so dependent on your grace, that it guided me in all my ways.
Because it seems that I’ve forgotten and now my heart has become so hard
Only to come to grips with my sin, feeling trapped and chained and barred.
But oh how merciful you are to the righteous, even though I don’t feel I qualify
I know I’ve been washed and cleansed by your blood, I pray the flesh now I mortify.
For sin leads to death, to destruction, to despair, and I’ve tasted that tonight
But gracious you have been to me, Lord, though I’ve been anything but upright.
You’ve heard my cry and delivered me, and your faithfulness is clear
You will have nothing to do with a prideful heart, but the humble you’ll draw near.
Why do I insist on forgetting this, like I haven’t learned it before in my past?
Transform me by the renewal of my mind, so this spiritual growth with last.
Oh how easily, Lord, I had forgotten my former days of bondage to sin.
So use it now to remind me how if I don’t have your grace I’ll be there again.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Saturday, July 19, 2008
Here is just a quick excerpt from Jeremiah Burroughs' book The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment. I'm posting this because of a conversation my friend and I just had over dinner. We were talking about our lives and past experiences and how both of us have gone/are going through VERY similar situations. What happened to me a year and a half ago has been happening to her (freakishly similar) in the past 5 or so months, and it has been SUCH a blessing to see this verse right here really take place in my life:
2 Corinthians 1:3-4
Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them who are in any trouble, by the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted of God.
We are both athletes in which the Lord used our sports as a means to completely break us down and remove the pride out of our lives. The very same comfort that the Lord gave me during that time is the same comfort I was able to offer her through the grace of God while she was going through it. But we talked about how alllllll of that hard stuff that we went through was amazing now that we look back on it, because had we not gone through it we wouldn't have been broken in our sins and seen the work of Christ for the precious jewel that it is. We would still be serving the idols of our fleshly desires. It reminded me of the passage that I had read in this book and immediately after dinner we went back to my apartment to read through this. It is very biblical for those that the Lord calls His to be afflicted greatly here on earth. In fact, it is promised- but all our afflictions represent blessings in disguise.
The carnal mind will NEVER grasp or understand this concept, but thank the Lord that He gives us the understanding and the spiritual eyes to see the purpose of our afflictions. I know that it has been the great trials and sufferings in my life that have yielded the greatest amount of growth. I know I write about this a lot, and it almost seems to be the subject of all my posts, but honestly, it is the issue that I find myself in practically all the time. Whenever one trial ends, it seems another one begins, and we all need to keep it in perspective. The perspective that God is in control and if we are His then we can rest assuredly- knowing that it is all for the furthering of our sanctification and preparing us for that Great Day when we join our King for eternity. I write about it a lot because I am tempted to forget this truth on a DAILY basis. Also, I know a few people in my life who are being broken by the Lord and are having trouble seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. I have been there, and I pray that this passage brings them encouragment. And for those of you have experienced those tmes of being completely broken before an almighty God, rejoice for those moments of pure desperation that they brought, knowing that they helped refine your faith. I pray we will be transformed by the renewing of our minds with these truths, because it is an ongoing process that will be with us for as long as we are on this earth:
USUALLY WHEN GOD INTENDS THE GREATEST MERCY TO ANY OF HIS PEOPLE HE BRINGS THEM INTO THE LOWEST CONDITION.
1 Samuel 26:29). God dealt this way with his Son: Christ himself went into glory by suffering (Hebrews 2:10); and if God so deals with his own Son, much more with his people.
A little before daybreak you will observe it is darker than it was any time before, so God will make our conditions a little darker before the mercy comes. When God bestowed the last great mercy at Naseby* we were in a very low condition; God knew what he had to do beforehand, he knew that his time was coming for great mercies: it is the way of God to do so. [*In 1645, the parliamentary army won a decisive victory against the Royalists at Naseby, Northamptonshire. The messages which comprise this book were preached by Burroughs in that year.] Be instructed aright in this course and way that God is accustomed to walk in and that will greatly help us to contentment.
IT IS THE WAY OF GOD TO WORK BY CONTRARIES, TO TURN THE GREATEST EVIL INTO THE GREATEST GOOD.
To grant great good after great evil is one thing, and to turn great evil into the greatest good is another, and yet that is God's way: the greatest good that God intends for his people, he many times works out of the greatest evil, the greatest light is brought out of the greatest darkness. I remember, Luther has a striking expression for this: he says, 'It is the way of God: he humbles that he might exalt, he kills that he might make alive, he confounds that he might glorify.' This is the way of God, he says, but every one does not understand it. This is the art of arts, and the science of sciences, the knowledge of knowledges, to understand this, that God when he will bring life, brings it out of death, he brings joy out of sorrow, and he brings prosperity out of adversity, yea and many times brings grace out of sin, that is, makes use of sin to work furtherance of grace. it is the way of God to bring all good out of evil, not only to overcome the evil, but to make the evil work toward the good. Now when the soul comes to understand this, it will take away our murmuring and bring contentment into spirits. But I fear there are but few who understand it aright; perhaps they read of such things, and hear such things in a sermon, but they are not instructed in this by Jesus Christ, that this is the way of God, to bring the greatest good out of the greatest evil.
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
"We may sometimes thank God not only by feeling thankful, living thankfully, and speaking our thanks, but by silently blessing Him. This consists of suffering patiently and accepting the bad as well as the good from Jehovah's hand; it is often better thanksgiving than the noblest psalm that the tongue could express. When you bow down before Him and say, "Not My will, but Yours, be done" (Luke 22:42), you show Him honor equal to the "Hallelujahs" of the angels. To feel not only submitted, but willing to be anything or nothing as the Lord wills it-- this is, in truth, to sing a song to our Well Beloved."
I think we all can relate to this feeling of silently enduring what the Lord is willing us to go through....and not just enduring it, but being thankful for it. What a task it is! One that can only be done with the strength given to us from our Lord Himself.
Have a great day today in the Lord and be blessed my brothers and sisters!
Thursday, May 29, 2008
But then I got to thinking. Sanctification at all costs? Maybe I am looking at this all wrong. I mean, if the price of sanctification is compared to the reward that is on the other side...can I even call it a cost at all? I'm beginning to think that I might need to change my phrase. Even in my marketing class I learned that the value of something is equal to the price divided by its benefits. The benefits of the heavenly reward outweigh the price we pay on this earth so much that I don't even think it can be said that there is a cost involved. So then I found some verses in Hebrews from a Piper sermon that I really think drives it home that the eternal reward that is awaiting us is a free gift that I gladly will endure all things on this earth to inherit. And not only endure them...but realize that it cannot even be compared to the glory that is on the other side. Of course, the reward should not be my main focus-that should be on bringing glory to the all-encompassing name of my Heavenly Father-but the reward is real and it should no doubt encourage us in our earthly affairs. It definitely was one of the driving forces behind the courage of the saints that came before us....take a look at some of these verses regarding this subject:
But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a time; Esteeming the reproach of the Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he looked for the recompense of the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.
Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.
Looking unto Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Therefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate.
So in these verses we see the theme of both suffering and enduring affliction but doing it all [with joy] to inherit an incorruptible reward. You see, no amount of earthly affairs, no matter how tragic or how disastrous they are, can separate you from the promise of God to grant you the ultimate reward: to live forever IN Christ- no longer separated from your Creator by your sins. Wow, I mean can you really imagine this?? I thank God for the moments, and sometimes the milliseconds that he gives me the eyes to see just how glorious this will be! Those milliseconds are enough to keep me going for the rest of my life here on earth!!
So if we take God at His word, which thankfully we can do because He is faithful and never changes, then we can take comfort in the fact that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28). I mean think about what that verse TRULY means. It means that if you belong to the Lord then NOTHING that happens to you is outside of God's will which is nothing but for your own good. Now, lets stop right there and define the word good in this context. It doesn't mean earthly good like many would try to twist and make it out to be. It means good in the TRUEST sense...which is good in the eternal perspective. It means that NOTHING happens to you that isn't used to bring you closer to God. Nothing happens that does not work towards the ultimate goal of conforming you to the image of Christ.
If you really get a hold of the sovereignty of God and you believe that HE is the one who is indeed in control of all things (like the Bible tells us He is) then you can rest assure that what you go through on this earth is not hopeless and purposeless. Go back to the verses posted above. Does it look like that God's people went through those sufferings with no purpose or redeeming outcome in mind? No. It's the opposite. They endured their affliction KNOWING that they had something better in store, and that it was all just part of their sanctification that would bring them to their Savior, Jesus Christ. And we can even look at Jesus' life and see the same thing. He endured the afflictions knowing that He would also be seated at the right hand of God AND ALSO knowing that He was doing the will of His Father so that ALL THOSE BELIEVING on Him would be sanctified through His blood and be brought unto Him for all eternity. What a self-less sacrifice. And let's take a look at what the Lord continues to say after Romans 8:28 in verse 29 and 30: For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.
Sounds like a promise to me. There isn't any room for doubt in those verses. What God says He will do, it is a promise set it stone never to be gone back on. He has predestined His followers before the foundation of the world to be conformed to the image of His Son and to be justified in His eyes and to be glorified. AMEN. And you can be sure that no earthly circumstance can separate you from that promise, if you are indeed His (which is what Paul goes on to describe in verses 31-39). All this being said, I am not downplaying the hurt and pain that we no doubt experience in this world. It is not something to be taken lightly BY ANY MEANS. It is our duty to be comforters to those who are in need and who are experiencing great anguish due to circumstances of this world. But we are to do so with the hope and the promise that has been given us. And when it comes to our own lives we are to approach our sanctification with the same confidence-that is mindful of the greater reward-that Moses had and that every other saint (of whom the world was not worthy of) had. O that that very phrase could be said about me! It would be only by the grace of God. For it is Him who wills and works in me to transform me and my mind so that I think in this heavenly perspective that this world does not even recognize.
So is it really sanctification at all costs? Yes, sometimes it may feel that way, but I think I am going to start rewording that. It is my privilege and honor to endure sanctification that will lead me to the greatest gift that anyone could ever imagine. It is sanctification at no cost at all....it is sanctification with only a reward. When you look at it in this perspective, you will lose focus on all the earthly things you feel you are missing out on, and instead you will be motivated by the incorruptible crown that is incomparable with anything in this life. It seems simple, but I believe it is a misconception that our natural, fleshly mind still wants to lean towards. Like "look at everything I am giving up for the Lord." NO...it should be "look at all the things He is GIVING me that I don't deserve!" And even with that, though the Lord gives and takes away, you can tell by those verses that He does so because of His lovingkindness to lead us into greater fellowship with Him. He does so that we may keep the heavenly reward in priority at all times. What an awesome God.
My prayer is that this will not just be words on a page for me, or for any of my brothers and sisters. I pray that the doctrine of sanctification and what all it encompasses and what purpose it serves will not just be head knowledge, but instead that it will invade every aspect of our lives. This is a way of thinking that I pray never leaves us, just like it never left the saints of the Bible when they faced the most difficult of decisions and circumstances. It is my prayer that next time you are faced with a circumstance or a choice that forces you to endure a denial of yourself and your creature comforts, that you will keep in mind that you are doing it so that you may obtain a better resurrection and because you are knowing in yourselves that you have in heaven a better and an enduring possession looking for the recompense of the reward. If it helps you, then remember that it isn't sanctification at all costs, but instead, by God's grace, it is sanctification for a reward.
Here is a great song that goes along perfectly with this topic:
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
"But I know that the Lord hath set apart him that is godly for himself: the Lord will hear when I call unto him."
*Psalm 4 was the Psalm that the Lord showed me early on last year...and continued to bring me back to throughout all my struggles this past year. It was incredible. Then to hear Doc use it in the video blew me away. When I found myself, night after night, desiring so badly to just sit upon my bed and examine my heart in the presence of Almighty God, I began to be discouraged because, turns out, most people (including professing Christians) think that is crazy...or at least crazy to do it more than once a month or once a year or so. But no, God was calling me to do this night after night until my soul was resting in Him and Him alone. Oh what a process! Oh what a work the Lord was doing in my life and continues to build on today....a work that would have been impossible if I would have gotten distracted or found something else to do with that time! Then one night when I had withdrawn to the coffee shop that I go to in order to get away and get into God's word...there it was....there was the verse that God showed me for the first time (I probably had read it before, but didn't ever take it in):
"Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still." Psalm 4:4
Wow, considering that was word for word describing the state that I was finding myself in- literally upon my bed- BLEW ME AWAY. And from that night on it became the verse, and the entire chapter really, that the Lord would bring me back to whenever I got discouraged, or whenever I found myself wanting to do God's will but was finding huge amounts of struggle against it, either from within my own heart, or from the people and influences around me.
I know that James is known for his tough, apologetic, no-nonsense stance....but this is a great example that just because you are out there taking what the world calls a "judgmental" stand on objective truth doesn't mean that you are tough and unloving. No, in fact it is the opposite. It just means that you care enough about people to tell them the truth in love and don't waver on God's word. I don't expect the world to recognize this true love though, because it is not of the world. If it wasn't for the moments and hours and days and even years like James describes in the video, there is no way one can even have the strength and courage to stand up for Christ and His truth in a world that will toss you to the waste-side for doing so. That strength can only come from the grace of God. But I know that if it wasn't for those times of God bringing me through the valley I would not be where I am today. You really do learn to, not necessarily look forward to those times, but you definitely realize that those times reap a spiritual growth that cannot even be described, so you really do look forward to the fruits that come as a result of the intense struggle.
Most Christians can relate to the feelings that James talks about. But most won't admit it. I know that until about a year ago I didn't admit it. In fact I spent most of my time fighting these types of feelings because it is what the world told me to do. But I noticed that when you start being open about this stuff and start to actually be guided by the Holy Spirit and not the world and you share what the Lord is REALLY doing in your life...well, people start to treat you different. And not usually in a good way. But hey, God tells us ahead of time about this, so we shouldn't be surprised...in fact we should rejoice. After all, you realize who your true brothers and sisters in Christ are. I know I did. And I wouldn't trade it for anything. So if you feel the Lord calling you out from among them and drawing you unto Himself...please please please don't fight it. Set your affections on the things above and commune with your own heart alone with the Lord. And be encouraged by these moments of being stripped of all earthly comforts...it is just the Lord getting you to trust solely in Him. I pray that the Lord will continue to draw His children in so that we may grow in holiness and be sanctified and conformed to the image of His son. Amen.
Saturday, May 17, 2008
I thank Ingrid Schlueter from sliceoflaodicea.com for posting this quote from C.H. Spurgeon. I saw it and had to post it as well:
“The Church of Christ is continually represented under the figure of an army; yet its Captain is the Prince of Peace; its object is the establishment of peace, and its soldiers are men of a peaceful disposition. The spirit of war is at the extremely opposite point to the spirit of the gospel. Yet nevertheless, the church on earth has, and until the second advent must be, the church militant, the church armed, the church warring, the church conquering. And how is this? It is the very order of things that so it must be. Truth could not be truth in this world if it were not a warring thing, and we should at once suspect that it were not true if error were friends with it. The spotless purity of truth must always be at war with the blackness of heresy and lies.”
–Charles Haddon Spurgeon
Thursday, May 15, 2008
"So that we may boldly say, The Lord is
my helper, and I will not fear what man
shall do unto me."
"Because God will never leave nor forsake us
we may well be content with
such things as we have. Since the Lord
is ours, we cannot be left without a friend,
a treasure, and a dwelling-place. This
assurance may make us feel quite independent of
men. Under such high patronage we do not
feel tempted to cringe before our fellowmen,
and ask of them permission to call our lives
our own ; but what we say we boldly say, and
He who fears God has nothing else to fear.
We should stand in such awe of the living
Lord that all the threats that can be used by
the proudest persecutor should have no more
effect upon us than the whistling of the wind.
Man in these days cannot do so much against
us as he could when the apostle wrote the
verse at the head of this page. Racks and
stakes are out of fashion. Giant Pope cannot
burn the pilgrims now. If the followers of
false teachers try mockery and scorn, we do
not wonder at it, for the men of this world
cannot love the heavenly seed. What then?
We must bear the world s scorn. It breaks
no bones. God helping us, let us be bold, and
when the world rages let it rage, but let us
not fear it."
Saturday, May 10, 2008
Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that you sorrowed to repentance: for you were made sorry after a godly manner, that you might suffer loss by us in nothing. For godly sorrow works repentance to salvation not to be regretted: but the sorrow of the world works death. For behold this same thing, that you sorrowed after a godly sort, what earnestness it worked in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what full punishment! In all things you have proved yourselves to be pure in this matter.
Sorrow of this world works death. I need those words to sink in with me right now. The Lord is in the middle of stretching me right now this very second...words cannot even describe it. Though what a blessing it is to be under affliction and endure it for our Lord Jesus Christ. I feel like I have a few things being thrown at me all at once right now that are trying to throw me so off track and get me so focused on worldly sorrow that I lose sight of what really matters in this life: and that is to live to glorify the Lord in all that I do and say and think. Wow. Brothers and sisters, just know that when you possess the truth you are GOING TO SUFFER because of it. It is a promise. And here is something amazing that I have learned recently, and talking with one of my friends last week confirmed it for me....when the Bible says that those who are the Lord's WILL SUFFER for His sake, it is not just referring to the times when you are treated badly for sharing Christ. Yes that is a huge part of the suffering, but it also includes the trials and sufferings that come up in your life that force you to deny yourself and all the fleshly, carnal things that come natural to you. Take that in. That means that whenever you find yourself crying out to the Lord for Him to show mercy on you during a time of intense affliction, you are enduring suffering for His sake. It is not just when someone throws a rock at you for sharing the gospel. This is a huge encouragement to me. This means that all the times that I am face down on my bedroom floor agonizing over the circumstances in my life and presenting the burden of my sin to the Lord and it causes great anguish amongst the deepest parts of me because I long to see righteousness take its root in me....that is suffering. It is the Lord's promise to me that this will take place in my life, therefore I should rejoice when it happens? Haha, man don't you wish it was that easy. No suffering is easy at the time. In fact I am finding myself in the midst of it right now this very second and it is only by the grace of God (as it always is) that I am even typing out these words right now. Because honestly about 15 minutes ago I was begging the Lord to show me Himself so I could see Him and His will through all the worldly, sinful MUCK and MIRE that was plaguing my life and my view of things. And I debated writing a post or just going to sleep, but the Lord led me to this keyboard, so here I am. I am not writing this tonight to in any way, shape or form act like I have this all together. I am simply passing on what the Lord is teaching me this very second. And in return, just knowing that the Lord has brought me back to enough sanity and emotional stability to write these words is so encouraging. You have no idea.
Look, the truth is I have NO IDEA what the Lord is up to right now when it comes to circumstances in my life. But I do know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. The Lord is always so gracious to use my times of uncertainty and freaking out as times to stretch and grow me beyond anything my little finite mind can fathom. He has been faithful to me up to this point; I have a whole testimony to show for it. So why in the world would this be any different? Great goodness, it isn't....I just pray that I take in my own words and hear the scriptures on this and not what my emotions are screaming. The Lord desires us to be meek and lowly and to be poor in spirit, and most of the time the way He accomplishes that is by humbling you down to the ground (quite literally sometimes) so that you come up broken and contrite and in a million different pieces so HE can reconstruct you into the child He has called you to be. HE is the one equipping me for this Christian life in which I fall unimaginably short of qualifying for, so of course I trust that He knows the means in which that must come about.
But I am learning what a blessing it is when the Lord brings these moments when everything I am putting my trust in on this earth is stripped away from me (not literally, but comfort-wise in my heart) and I am left feeling wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind <---not just feeling that way but actually realizing that without the Lord I am that way. The feeling is awful, and I don't wish it on anyone, but the weeping only lasts for the night because His joy DEFINITELY follows it up in the morning. And how can it not? To be emptied out and stripped of dependence on carnal affections means that the Lord is about to abundantly fill you up with what is good and pure and holy and of Him! I know I shared this before in a previous post, but one thing I have learned from reading The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs is that when you find yourself discontent with your worldly circumstances, then a way to take care of that is to remind yourself of the great burden of sin you have before a holy, perfect righteous God. Boy does that work- it quickly puts things back into perspective and within seconds turns all that worldly sorrow into a godly sorrow that works repentance, the sweetest gift that God can give us. I love it when I get to put my theology into action :).
Right now, I confess that the road up ahead of me seems long, and dark, and lonely and well...impossible. That is why the Lord tells us to take no thought for tomorrow for sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. So true. I also know that the Lord loves taking what seems impossible to me and bringing it to pass in such a way that leaves me in awe of His glory, so in that lies my hope. Jesus Christ has risen from the dead, so my faith is not in vain...and I take hope in the promise of the things unseen. Praise God for that.
So Lord Jesus if this is the way in which you have willed for me to be drawn in closer to You, then I count it but a privilege to endure such afflictions. I pray that you will bring comfort to me during this time, though, so that I may know for certainty the path in which you are leading me. Comfort me in a way that no worldly possession or promise can comfort me, and help me to long after the true peace that is found in you, instead of settling for the fake peace that is offered by the world that leaves only emptiness. Help me to be guided by Your Spirit so that I do not grieve You, and please rid me of any worldly sorrow that is blinding me and keeping me in bondage to the carnal affections. I pray for all my brothers and sisters out there that are experiencing similar afflictions. Please comfort your people during their times of uncertainty and open up their eyes to your will so that they may take great pleasure in it. Thank you for your Grace, Father, for without it I would not last a second in this world. It is amazing how you can bring me from a feeling of despair to hope in just a twinkling of an eye, and thank you for your precious word: I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for you, LORD, only make me dwell in safety. (Psalms 4:8 )
Wednesday, May 7, 2008
Here's some of the video clips of Paul Washer at their Reality Check Conference a couple months ago. I know I post a lot of Washer on here, but I am just so encouraged by all of his messages. Until I get a chance to blog again...God bless you all!
Thursday, April 24, 2008
"I don't need to be a prophet or a son of a prophet to know what your God is, I only have to watch your life. When Jesus Christ is just something you do at the beginning of the week, but yet throughout your life you are a practical atheist, I know who your God is and it is not the one who is the One true God. When you have just enough Christianity to make you moral and comfortable in the south, I know who your God is. If I could look into your mind to see what occupies your mind I will know what your God is."
Saturday, April 19, 2008
“The great need of the church, the great need- I have to say- of the professing church is to know God. We don’t know God! We have not studied, and meditated, and worked, and digged, and seen all the glories and the wonders of who He is! Therefore when He says trust Me, we don’t know who we’re trusting!” -Jeff Noblit
Thursday, April 10, 2008
Well, God is good my friends. If there is one thing that I am learning, it is that God is indeed in control and sovereign over all things. And when I get comfortable in that and drift from the reality of that, He always finds a way to wake me up. There is a purpose for everything, and God is not just going around reacting to the things that go on in this world. No, in fact He is the one who ordains them. Everything that I do was predestined before the foundation of the world. A lot of people are uncomfortable with that. It makes them uneasy, and it might even go against the idea that they had of God in their minds. But I tell you, search the entire counsel of the Scriptures and discover the character of this God of ours. It is incredible and it will blow your mind. The more I learn about God's sovereignty, the more I want to submit myself to Him and His will...because guess what...I can't resist it. If God wants to do something then He will do it, and it is not without good reason- that reason being to bring glory to His Name! Wow. Talk about something that will change your perspective on life. I know that the Lord is in complete control over my life, and I know that because I am His child, He has promised to conform me to the image of His son. Therefore, I know that everything that happens to me is ordained by Him to further sanctify me. What an incredible thought.
(side note- I have been following Dr. James White's debate with Steve Gregg over Calvinism and Arminianism over at AOMIN.org for the past week or so, and well, the arguments in favor of the arminian point of view just make me sad. The God that it portrays is not one that is in control, and if I held to that position, I'm afraid that I would be at a loss for answers in my life right now. One can't read the Bible honestly and come to the conclusion that God isn't all-powerful and sovereign over ALL things (including the will of man), and if you think that He is not, then, I have to say, you have opened up a huge can of messy worms in trying then to determine what He controls and what He doesn't, leaving you with no real set purpose or guidelines for the things that happen in your life. I'm not going into a theological explanation right now, but I found myself compelled to mention this. You can get an archive of the debate at aomin.org).
Anyways, the Lord is teaching me that everything I have and everything that happens in my life is a gift from Him. I am a totally depraved sinner who deserves death, not mercy from my Lord. And like I said before, whenever this thought begins to slip my mind, the Lord is quick to remind me. My faith is a gift dependent on Him, and so is my repentance even, and so is my holy fear of Him. Without the Lord granting me these things then I am left hard-hearted and searching this world to fulfill my own lusts of the flesh. Eeek, what a terrible thought. I have gone through times where the Lord has withdrawn my repentant heart and has made me realize that it does not come from me, but instead, I am dependent on Him to be the author of my salvation. What a lesson to be learned. So when I found myself incapable of writing for weeks on end, I knew it must be for a reason.
And indeed it was. Not only was it to teach me that even my ability to write hinges on the grace of God, but also some other things as well- even though it took me weeks to see these things (leaving me in somewhat of frustration until then). But the Lord gave me this great sense of responsibility and made me realize that writing is a very powerful thing, not to be taken lightly. I mean, I am held responsible for every word that flows from my brain and onto this computer screen. There was this fear of accountability and it caused me to take a huge step backwards and view my writing from afar. This is not a light subject; this is the Word of God. This is the difference in where eternity is spent. This is the difference between living a life that is pleasing to your Savior, or storing up the wrath of God upon yourself because of sin separating you eternally from Christ and all His holiness. Perhaps I needed to see that in order to check myself. The devil would love to take this fear and cause me to stop writing, but I know that the Lord was just showing me that I am to stay continuously in His word and learning about His character and His will, because if I am not sensitive to His voice, then I can easily blurt something out on this blog that is not of Him. And that's a scary thought to me, because I know that I am going to have to give an account for every word that I write.
I went through something very similar about a year or so ago. All of a sudden I found that the Lord was putting a reign on my tongue in certain situations. It was right after the Lord had awakened my soul to His holy righteousness and had revealed to me my unrighteousness, and the Lord was in the process of revealing to me the idols in my life. And I literally found that there were times when the Lord had put such a reign on my tongue that I could not speak about things that I knew were idols in my life. I had lost my desire to speak trivial things, and then to help me out in that the Lord took even my ability to speak those things away as a whole. Again, it was an interesting thing to say the least (I speak in past tense, but it still happens to this day), but I realized that I am going to have to give an account for every idle word I speak. It's another example of not doing what is natural to you so that God may apply His supernatural work in you. Sometimes, like in these instances, He will make it so known to you that you are not doing the work that you almost feel like you can tangibly see the reigns placed on you. What a beautiful thing it is to see the work of God take place in your life!
One of the reasons that this lesson is so important in my life is because it is teaching me, like I said, to discern the Lord's voice. I mean His voice in the sense that He will guide my EVERY step through the work of the Holy Spirit. I mean, that thought alone blows my mind. But then to experience it?...wow. God is faithful to His promises. He promises to sanctify me and to grow me in holiness like my Savior Jesus Christ. And that entails me living a Spirit-led life. So now when I see that the Lord is literally restraining me from doing something, I learn to sit back and listen and to wait upon Him. Do you know what happens when you disobey and don't listen? You start to strive in sin. You start to try and come up with your own way of doing the things that come natural to you, and well, you end up in a big mess of sin. God has showed me through His word that no man can receive anything unless it is given to Him from heaven (John 3:27 John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven). Our inheritance was given to us from before the foundation of the world (Psalm 47:4)....so um, when the Lord says you can't have something, it is best to wait upon Him to show you what to do instead because otherwise you will strive in sin (and still not end up with what you thought you wanted anyways). So it's like a double loss. I write this knowing that this revelation has delivered me from so much bondage in my life, but I also write this confessing that it is a huge struggle for me. I thank God for His truth though, because it sets me free :)
Lord willing, (this idea brings a whole new meaning to the phrase Lord willing, doesn't it?) I will have more on this topic of waiting upon the Lord during times of tribulation and not striving in sin. There are verses that I want to share and examples that I want to point out from the Bible, but for now, I might have to leave it at this and just bask in the grace of my God for granting me the gift of writing again. Another thing that the Lord was teaching me in all of this was to just to make sure that I am not just typing words and not living them out. It is a great gift from the Lord to have the opportunity to live out your theology, because living it out makes it real to you. When you step out of faith and apply the truth of God to your life, then you find 100% of the time that God is faithful and keeps His word every time. This just leads to an increase in your faith and more belief in His promises and then to a more righteous lifestyle. But the flipside is that this must mean that the Lord must promise trials and tribulations to arise to give you the opportunity to step out on faith. But like I said, more to come on that point later. For now, consider these words from Peter, "Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to test you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, since you are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, you may be glad also with exceeding joy." 1 Peter 4:12-13.
Being constrained by the reigns of our Heavenly Father can be an uncomfortable situation...scratch that, it IS an uncomfortable situation. It can feel like the very fiery furnace itself. But speaking for myself, when the reigns are removed and I find myself left to myself for a little while, I run back crying out to the Lord to restore the reigns and to apply his discipline. Why? Because it is during those times that I know I am doing the will of my Father and I am able to take comfort that He is the one that is guiding me. Without the reigns- nope, I'm just a restless sinner who is not content with the world because I have tasted and seen that the Lord's way is good. I'm praying for my brothers and sisters out there that find themselves striving to control their own reigns for their lives. Let loose and quit striving my brethren, it is a glorious thing. God bless you all.
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
"The hope of the New Age faith, or New Spirituality, is that when this One Humanity has achieved its 'divine potential' and all separation has been purged from the world, then world problems such as 'tribalism' and poverty and hatred and violence will be left behind. The world will then be transformed by this New Humanity into a divine new world of peace, love, good will, and sharing where everyone can be free to worship his own inner (immanent) 'God' of his own understanding in his own way. The call for this New Age 'kingdom of God' is now being so widely heeded, even in today's Christianity, that the building of humanity's Ark of Oneness is suddenly nearing completion."
One might read that and say, that has nothing to do with the Bible, how is that linked with Christianity at all??? Logically, one would think that something that teaches the opposite of God's word wouldn't even stand a chance in the church. Wrong. So what has made this New Age shift possible within "Christianity?" Three words for you: THE EMERGING CHURCH. Take a look at this document and see exactly how the Emerging Church is an open door for all this heresy to enter into what we are calling evangelical Christianity in America (which, by the way, is no Christianity at all.) The obvious, clear-cut line between true Biblical Christianity and heretical, blasphemous New Age is being completely muddled and blurred by the Emerging Church, deceiving hundreds of thousands of people. These people are subtly mixing Christian dialogue with New Age beliefs, and the result is the most dangerous and downright deceptive road to eternal destruction. There is one God to be served and worshiped and who deserves all the glory in the universe, and He is the God of the Bible, not some ambiguous god of our 'inner beings' that is different for each person. Ew.
Saturday, March 15, 2008
Zechariah 13:8-9 And it shall come to pass, that in all the land, says the LORD, two parts in it shall be cut off and die; but the third shall be left in it. And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will test them as gold is tested: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, They are my people: and they shall say, The LORD is my God.
Remember your brothers and sisters who are under great afflictions as we all endure the refining process of being conformed to the image of Christ. Keep them in your prayers, for we are all in this together. And do not forget the Great Comforter that we have on our side to lead us into all truth. Breathe your sorrows at the throne of Grace, for our God is faithful in hearing our cry. There is only one Comfort for our weary souls, nothing else of this world will suffice; run to Him.
By Jeff Reed
God assures us, if we truly are repentant, we can receive forgiveness no matter what our sins. When we initially repent and are baptized, we are washed clean by the blood of Christ. As we live our lives as Christians, still not perfect, we are continually faced with overcoming sin. We are assured in Hebrews 4:16 that we can “approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” The love of God for us is truly great.
I knew this when I was baptized over 13 years ago. I was eager to have my sins forgiven and washed away, and I assumed that now my life would also be perfect. I quickly learned I was wrong. I had received forgiveness, but I still faced the effects of my prior sins. Relationships with people I had damaged by my wrong behavior were still messed up. The effects of repeated sin on my character were still there. All the wrong television, movies, music, and twisted popular culture continued to haunt my thoughts. Eating the wrong foods for over twenty years would continue to have negative impacts on my health. The consequences of sin remained.
In Deuteronomy 28 God gives a list of blessings for obedience to Him and curses for disobedience. These were given to the nation of Israel at a national level. If they collectively obeyed His laws, great blessings would occur. If they disobeyed, there would be an opposite outcome. The outcomes are very natural and are part of the world He created. They are as natural as the law of gravity. If we toss an object into the air we know the consequence will be it will fall to the earth. Because the laws God gave Israel are natural laws, they can be applied to any nation at any time in history.
Let’s imagine that everyone in our country kept God’s law against murder. The consequence would be everyone would feel absolutely safe in every situation, time and location. But the reality is that even though the vast majority of people keep that law, because there are a few who don’t, and our justice system has become weak and ineffective, people are often faced with situations where they are on guard or fearful. It is why we have elaborate security systems, people carry personal weapons, locations are well lit at night, and many other precautions are taken to keep people safe.
We can apply these natural consequences to a personal level as well. If someone is an alcoholic or drug addict before they become a Christian, he will still be dealing with the consequences of that sin for the rest of his life. If someone engages in illicit sexual practices, before becoming a Christian or sometimes unfortunately after becoming a Christian, the effects of disease, broken marriages, unwanted pregnancy, and other problems will remain, even after repentance and forgiveness.
To truly repent is to also accept the consequences of our sin. In 2 Corinthians 7 Paul writes about the attributes of Godly sorrow the Corinthian church was displaying. He writes:
“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done.” 2 Corinthians 7:10,11
One of those attributes is “the readiness to see justice done” even if that justice is applied to ourselves. Imagine if you have stolen something and were sentenced to jail time and community service. If you have Godly sorrow that leads to true repentance you will accept your punishment willingly.
King David learned this the hard way when he was faced with his own terrible sins of adultery and murder. Nathan rebuked David for his sins and David repented:
“Then David said to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the Lord.’ Nathan replied, ‘The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die. But because by doing this you have made the enemies of the Lord show utter contempt, the son born to you will die” 2 Samuel 12:13,14.
One of the consequences of his sin was the death of his child born to Bathsheba. David faced this with much sorrow. He fasted and pleaded with God to save his son. Afterward David had learned a great lesson and was able to write, “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge” (Psalm 51:4). He accepted the judgment of God and was ready to see justice done in his life. His true repentance led him to accept the consequences of his actions no matter how painful they were.
We need to be very grateful that God has and will forgive us. We need to learn the lessons of our lives and what the consequences of sin can teach us. God, by His Spirit, is creating Godly character in us by those lessons.
This article can be found here.
Saturday, March 8, 2008
This is a great article to forward to your friends who you think might be caught up in this. Compare what is described in it to what the Emergent church leaders are teaching today and you will find that their gospel is not the one of the Bible, but instead a therapeutic one. Please hear me when I say that the Christian life is not about coming to Christ so that our needs are met, it is about becoming A NEW CREATURE through faith in Christ which leads to sanctification and a whole new set of unselfish desires. It is truly an incredible, supernatural work of God in which you desire to live holy and bring glory to Him; it's not an all-inclusive train ride that takes you to your 'best life now' here on this earth. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the power of God unto salvation for all those who believe, why do people think they have to change it? Because they don't believe in it themselves and they are blinded by their own sinful lusts. Pray for these people because their eternity is in danger. All the glory to Christ for saving us, brothers and sisters, from this mindset, for it is by His grace alone. Let this motivate us to study the scriptures like the Bereans and combat these lies with the truth. Ok, I could go on and on but I will stop and let the article do the talking :) Lord willing, take the time to read this entire thing; it is WELL worth the time. The article can be found here at 9marks.org.
By David Powlison
What may be the most famous chapter in all of western literature portrays the appeal of a "therapeutic gospel."
In his chapter entitled "The Grand Inquisitor," Fyodor Dostoevsky imagines Jesus returning to sixteenth century Spain (The Brothers Karamazov, II:5:v). But Jesus is not welcomed by church authorities. The cardinal of Seville, head of the Inquisition, arrests and imprisons Jesus, condemning him to die. Why? The church has shifted course. It has decided to meet instinctual human cravings, rather than calling men to repentance. It has decided to bend its message to felt needs, rather than calling forth the high, holy, and difficult freedom of faith working through love. Jesus’ biblical example and message are deemed too hard for weak souls, and the church has decided to make it easy.
The Grand Inquisitor, representing the voice of this misguided church, interrogates Jesus in his prison cell. He sides with the tempter and the three questions the tempter put to Jesus in the wilderness centuries before. He says that the church will give earthly bread instead of the bread of heaven. It will offer religious magic and miracles instead of faith in the Word of God. It will exert temporal power and authority instead of serving the call to freedom. "We have corrected Your work," the inquisitor says to Jesus.
The inquisitor’s gospel is a therapeutic gospel. It’s structured to give people what they want, not to change what they want. It centers exclusively around the welfare of man and temporal happiness. It discards the glory of God in Christ. It forfeits the narrow, difficult road that brings deep human flourishing and eternal joy. This therapeutic gospel accepts and covers for human weaknesses, seeking to ameliorate the most obvious symptoms of distress. It makes people feel better. It takes human nature as a given, because human nature is too hard to change. It does not want the King of Heaven to come down. It does not attempt to change people into lovers of God, given the truth of who Jesus is, what he is like, what he does.
THE CONTEMPORARY THERAPEUTIC GOSPEL
The most obvious, instinctual felt needs of twenty-first century, middle-class Americans are different from the felt needs that Dostoevsky tapped into. We take food supply and political stability for granted. We find our miracle-substitute in the wonders of technology. Middle-class felt needs are less primal. They express a more luxurious, more refined sense of self-interest:
-I want to feel loved for who I am, to be pitied for what I’ve gone through, to feel intimately understood, to be accepted unconditionally;
-I want to experience a sense of personal significance and meaningfulness, to be successful in my career, to know my life matters, to have an impact;
-I want to gain self-esteem, to affirm that I am okay, to be able to assert my opinions and desires;
-I want to be entertained, to feel pleasure in the endless stream of performances that delight my eyes and tickle my ears;
-I want a sense of adventure, excitement, action, and passion so that I experience life as thrilling and moving.
The modern, middle-class version of therapeutic gospel takes its cues from this particular family of desires. We might say that the target audience consists of psychological felt needs, rather than the physical felt needs that typically arise in difficult social conditions. (The contemporary "health and wealth" gospel and obsession with "miracles" express something more like the Grand Inquisitor’s older version of therapeutic gospel.)
In this new gospel, the great "evils" to be redressed do not call for any fundamental change of direction in the human heart. Instead, the problem lies in my sense of rejection from others; in my corrosive experience of life’s vanity; in my nervous sense of self-condemnation and diffidence; in the imminent threat of boredom if my music is turned off; in my fussy complaints when a long, hard road lies ahead. These are today’s significant felt needs that the gospel is bent to serve. Jesus and the church exist to make you feel loved, significant, validated, entertained, and charged up. This gospel ameliorates distressing symptoms. It makes you feel better. The logic of this therapeutic gospel is a jesus-for-Me who meets individual desires and assuages psychic aches.
The therapeutic outlook is not a bad thing in its proper place. By definition, a medical-therapeutic gaze holds in view problems of physical suffering and breakdown. In literal medical intervention, a therapy treats an illness, trauma, or deficiency. You don’t call someone to repentance for their colon cancer, broken leg, or beriberi. You seek to heal. So far, so good.
But in today’s therapeutic gospel the medical way of looking at the world is metaphorically extended to these psychological desires. These are defined just like a medical problem. You feel bad; the therapy makes you feel better. The definition of the disease bypasses the sinful human heart. You are not the agent of your deepest problems, but merely a sufferer and victim of unmet needs. The offer of a cure skips over the sin-bearing Savior. Repentance from unbelief, willfulness, and wickedness is not the issue. Sinners are not called to a U-turn and to a new life that is life indeed. Such a gospel massages self-love. There is nothing in its inner logic to make you love God and love any other person besides yourself. This therapeutic gospel may often mention the word "Jesus," but he has morphed into the meeter-of-your-needs, not the Savior from your sins. It corrects Jesus’ work. The therapeutic gospel unhinges the gospel.
THE ONCE-FOR-ALL GOSPEL
The real gospel is good news of the Word made flesh, the sin-bearing Savior, the resurrected Lord of lords: "I am the living One, and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore" (Rev. 1:18). This Christ turns the world upside down. The Holy Spirit rewires our sense of felt need as one prime effect of his inworking presence and power. Because the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, we keenly feel a different set of needs when God comes into view and when we understand that we stand or fall in his gaze. My instinctual cravings are replaced (sometimes quickly, always gradually) by the growing awareness of true, life-and-death needs:
-I need mercy above all else: "Lord, have mercy upon me"; "For Your name’s sake, pardon my iniquity for it is very great";
-I want to learn wisdom, and unlearn willful self-preoccupation: "Nothing you desire compares with her";
-I need to learn to love both God and neighbor: "The goal of our instruction is love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith";
-I long for God’s name to be honored, for his kingdom to come, for his will to be done on earth;
-I want Christ’s glory, lovingkindness, and goodness to be seen on earth, to fill the earth as obviously as water fills the ocean;
-I need God to change me from who I am by instinct, choice, and practice;
-I want him to deliver me from my obsessive self-righteousness, to slay my lust for self-vindication, so that I feel my need for the mercies of Christ, so that I learn to treat others gently;
-I need God’s mighty and intimate help in order to will and to do those things that last unto eternal life, rather than squandering my life on vanities;
-I want to learn how to endure hardship and suffering in hope, having my faith simplified, deepened, and purified;
-I need to learn to worship, to delight, to trust, to give thanks, to cry out, to take refuge, to hope;
-I want the resurrection to eternal life: "We groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body";
-I need God himself: "Show me Your glory"; "Maranatha. Come, Lord Jesus."
Make it so, Father of mercies. Make it so, Redeemer of all that is dark and broken.
Prayer expresses desire. Prayer expresses your felt sense of need. Lord, have mercy upon us. Song expresses gladness and gratitude at desire fulfilled. Song expresses your felt sense of who God is and all that he gives. Amazing grace, how sweet the sound. But there are no prayers and songs in the Bible that take their cues from the current therapeutic felt needs. Imagine, "Our Father in heaven, help me feel that I’m okay just the way I am. Protect me this day from having to do anything I find boring. Hallelujah, I’m indispensable, and what I’m doing is really having an impact on others, so I can feel good about my life." Have mercy upon us! Instead, in our Bible we hear a thousand cries of need and shouts of delight that orient us to our real needs and to our true Savior.
GOOD GOODS, BAD GODS
Properly understood, carefully interpreted, the felt needs make good gifts. But they make poor gods. Get first things first. Seek first the Father’s kingdom and his righteousness, and every other good gift will be added to you.
This is easy to see in the case of the three particular gifts offered by the Grand Inquisitor’s therapeutic gospel. It is a good thing to have a stable source of food, "bread for tomorrow" (Matt. 6:11, literally). All people everywhere seek food, water, and clothing (Matt. 6:32). Our Father knows what we need. But seek first his kingdom. You do not live by bread alone, but by every word out of his mouth. If you worship your physical needs, you will only die. But if you worship God the giver of every good gift, you will be thankful for what he gives; you will still have hope when you suffer lack; and you will surely feast at the endless Banquet.
A sense of wonder and mystery is also a very good thing. But the same caveat, the same framework, applies. God is no wizard of Oz, creating experiences of wonder for the sake of the experience. Jesus said "no" to making a spectacle of himself in the midst of temple crowds. His daily faithfulness to God is a wonder upon wonder. Get first things first. Then you’ll appreciate glory in small ways and large. In the end you will know all things as wonders, both what is (Rev. 4) and what has happened (Rev. 5). You will know the incomprehensible God, creator and redeemer, whose name is Wonderful.
Similarly, political order is a good gift. We are to pray for the authorities to rule well, so that we may live peacefully (1 Tim. 2:2). But if you live for a just society, you will always be disappointed. Again, seek first God’s kingdom. You’ll work toward a just social order, enjoy it to the degree it’s attainable, have reason to endure injustice. In the end, you will know unutterable joy on the day when all persons bow to the reign of the true King.
Of course, God gives good gifts. But he also gives the best gift, the inexpressible Gift of gifts. The Grand Inquisitor burned Jesus at the stake in order to erase the Gift and the Giver. He chose to give people good things, but discarded first things.
The things offered by the contemporary therapeutic gospel are a bit trickier to interpret. The odor of self-interest and self-obsession clings closely to that wish list of "I want_____." But even these, carefully reframed and reinterpreted, do gesture in the direction of a good gift. The overall package of "felt needs" is systematically misaligned, but the pieces can be properly understood. Any "different gospel" (Gal. 1:6) makes itself plausible by offering Lego-pieces of reality assembled into a structure that contradicts revealed truth. Satan’s temptation of Adam and Eve was plausible only because it incorporated many elements of reality, continually gesturing in the direction of truth, even while steadily guiding away from the truth: "Look, a beautiful and desirable tree. and God has said that the test will reveal both good and evil, with the possibility of life not death arising from your choice. Just as God is wise, so you the chooser can become like God in wisdom. Come now and eat." So close, yet so far away. Almost so, but the exact opposite.
Consider the five elements we have identified with the therapeutic gospel:
1. "Need for love"? It is surely a good thing to know that you are both known and loved. God who searches the thoughts and intentions of our hearts also sets his steadfast love upon us. However all this is radically different from the instinctual craving to be accepted for who I am. Christ’s love comes pointedly and personally despite who I am. You are accepted for who Christ is, because of what he did, does, and will do. God truly accepts you, and if God is for you, who can be against you? But in doing this, he does not affirm and endorse what you are like. Rather, he sets about changing you into a fundamentally different kind of person. In the real gospel you feel deeply known and loved, but your relentless "need for love" has been overthrown.
2. "Need for significance"? It is surely a good thing for the works of your hands to be established forever: gold, silver, and precious stones, not wood, hay, and straw. It is good when what you do with your life truly counts, and when your works follow you into eternity. Vanity, futility, and ultimate insignificance register the curse upon our work life – even midcourse, not just when we retire, or when we die, or on the Day of Judgment. But the real gospel inverts the order of things presupposed by the therapeutic gospel. The craving for impact and significance – one of the typical "youthful lusts" that boil up within us – is merely idolatrous when it acts as Director of Operations in the human heart. God does not meet your need for significance; he meets your need for mercy and deliverance from your obsession with personal significance. When you turn from your enslavement and turn to God, then your works do start to count for good. The gospel of Jesus and the fruit of faith are not tailored to "meet your needs." He frees from the tyranny of felt needs, remakes you to fear God and keep his commandments (Eccl. 12:13). In the divine irony of grace, that alone makes what you do with your life of lasting value.
3. "Need for self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-assertion"? To gain a confident sense of your identity is a great good. Ephesians is strewn with several dozen "identity statements," because by this the Spirit motivates a life of courageous faith and love. You are God’s – among the saints, chosen ones, adopted sons, beloved children, citizens, slaves, soldiers; part of the workmanship, wife and dwelling place – every one of these in Christ. No aspect of your identity is self-referential, feeding your "self-esteem." Your opinion of yourself is far less important than God’s opinion of you, and accurate self-assessment is derivative of God’s assessment. True identity is God-referential. True awareness of yourself connects to high esteem for Christ. Great confidence in Christ correlates to a vote of fundamental no confidence in and about yourself. God nowhere replaces diffidence and people-pleasing by self-assertiveness. In fact, to assert your opinions and desires, as is, marks you as a fool. Only as you are freed from the tyranny of your opinions and desires are you free to assess them accurately, and then to express them appropriately.
4. "Need for pleasure"? In fact, the true gospel promises endlessly joyous experience, drinking from the river of delights (Ps. 36). This describes God’s presence. But as we have seen in each case, this is keyed to the reversal of our instinctive cravings, not to their direct satisfaction. The way of joy is the way of suffering, endurance, small obediences, willingness to identify with human misery, willingness to overthrow your most persuasive desires and instincts. I don’t need to be entertained. But I absolutely NEED to learn to worship with all my heart.
5. "Need for excitement and adventure"? To participate in Christ’s kingdom is to play a part within the Greatest Action-Adventure Story Ever Told. But the paradox of redemption again turns the whole world upside down. The real adventure takes the path of weakness, struggle, endurance, patience, small kindnesses done well. The road to excellence in wisdom is unglamorous. Other people might take better vacations and have a more thrilling marriage than yours. The path of Jesus calls forth more grit than thrill. He needed endurance far more than he needed excitement. His kingdom might not cater to our cravings for derring-do and thrill-seeking, but "solid joys and lasting treasures none but Zion’s children know."
We say "yes" and "amen" to all good gifts. But get first things first. The contemporary therapeutic gospel in its many forms takes our ‘gimmes’ at face value. It grabs for the goodies. It erases worship of the Giver, whose greatest gift is mercy towards us for what we want by instinct, choice, enculturation, and habit. He calls us to radical repentance. Bob Dylan described the therapeutic’s alternative in a remarkable phrase: "You think He’s just an errand boy to satisfy your wandering desires" (from When You Gonna Wake Up?). Second things are exalted as servants of Number One.
Get first things first. Get the gospel of incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, and glory. Live the gospel of repentance, faith, and transformation into the image of the Son. Proclaim the gospel of the coming Day when eternal life and eternal death are revealed, the coming Day of Christ.
Which gospel will you live? Which gospel will you preach? Which needs will you awaken and address in others? Which Christ will be your people’s Christ? Will it be the christette who massages felt need? Or the Christ who turns the world upside down and makes all things new?
The Grand Inquisitor was very tender-hearted towards human felt need—very sympathetic to the things that all people everywhere seek with all their heart, very sensitive to the difficulty of changing anyone. But he proved to be a monster in the end. There is a saying in mercy ministries that runs like this, "If you don’t seek to meet people’s physical needs, it’s heartless. But if you don’t give people the crucified, risen and returning Christ, it’s hopeless." Jesus fed hungry people bread, and Jesus offered his broken body as the bread of eternal life. It is ultimately cruel to leave people in their sins, captive to their instinctive desires, in despair, under curse. The current therapeutic gospel sounds tender-hearted at first. It is so sensitive to pressure points of ache and disappointment. But in the end it is cruel and Christ-less. It does not foster true self-knowledge. It does not rewrite the script of the world. It creates no prayers or songs.
We must be no less sensitive but far more discerning. Jesus Christ turns human need upside down, creating prayer. He is the inexpressible Gift of gifts, creating song. And he gives all good gifts, both now and forever. Let every knee bow, and let everything that has breath praise the Lord.