Friday, April 22, 2011

Don't Say Goodbye, Because I Need You Tonight

"Those who have been justified are now being sanctified; those who have no experience of present sanctification have no reason to suppose they have been justified." - F.F. Bruce

If there is any idea that I am just not comfortable with, its the thought that I might be incomplete. Just being part of a whole has never sat well with me and I have always fought to gain whatever I didn't have. Its a great moral "believe in yourself" doctrine, but that kind of faith has no place in the kingdom of heaven. Bruce in spot on in his assessment; if we aren't being sanctified, we haven't been made righteous. But no matter how hard we want to believe, how hard I want to believe it, I still don't like being incomplete. And then what, you tell me I can't even work for my wholeness? You expect me to just sit around and piddle away while I wait on You to do some divine work? I am a doer of things, and patience is only needed when there is certainty. So I read, I pray, I fast, I seek Him alone, I seek Him in others, and the return seems void. But the only work is faith (John 6:29) and even that isn't accomplished alone (Romans 8:26-27). Its just a question of faith and I will never have enough. The work is accomplished, all that's left is to repent and believe. Even that is fruit of the Spirit so really its just try to love Jesus and accept that He has to do everything for you.

Everyone is a product of their environment, whether positive or negative. Sin taught us to work, and we knew it long before we knew Christ. It said to us that you have to work for everything to gain approval. It said if you don't do everything yourself people won't respect you. It said if you don't make yourself into God, you'll be alone. It said that if you apply yourself enough you will earn your salvation and you will never be alone again. Sanctification is the constant work of the Father removing idols, and replacing them with Himself. It happens by our plans because He works in His time. I have never felt more alone than when the Lord stripped me of my iniquity, my delights. He said to me "you will NOT seek these things and by MY work will you know that I AM THE LORD". How can I overcome this kind of grace? And so having been blessed with revelation, I seek to be a man with nothing. For the sake of my heart and His glory, I dare not look to anyone for assurance. Assurance is my revelation and I mark it by grace. The fears wash away though rather slowly and even now I hope to be made whole. It is a promised sealed in the next life, but by His grace I will come as close as I can. I will not seek my sanctification for it isn't an end in itself, but I will seek the face of the Lord know that in time, it will be brought to me.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Grace as it Conquers the Shadows of the Heart

Were it not that wickedness plagued my heart, I would never yearn for the things of this world. Were it not for the selfish rule of the flesh, I would never chase afters shadows amidst the light. I speak as one who has seen, heard, and given account yet constantly the darts penetrate me for my faith is weak. Its a though a stick of dynamite were strapped to chest, set to go off the instant my brain finishes tearing itself apart. Anxiety, jealousy, remorse are the outcome of these lies, these lurking shadows. Were I in darkness, misery would never claim me. Contentment in the shade would cloud my mind, hiding from me things that are good, revealing only that which destroys. It comes as a wolf in sheep's clothing. It bears no warning of its impending work, giving only whispers of satisfaction never to come. But there is the light.

Light cannot be overcome. Shadow has no weapon for it, so it places the things of this world before it so that the shade may roam for a time. In anger and in fury by the grace of our Lord I have beheld this shadow amidst the light. Violently I attack, blinded by rage at the sight of such a wicked curse setting itself against me. These thoughts of jealousy and remorse become my enemy and I am set against them with the fullness of my being for their evil offends me. But as with all things the Lord awaits patiently at my side. Nothing of what I do is hidden from His eyes, yet instead of joining me in this war against the flesh He but mourns. Compassion for the fool before Him shows that as I battle against this present darkness, I myself stand beneath a shade of self-righteous hate giving credence to the power of the air.

Sorrow is a tricky business and one that I am most unaccustomed to. It is the predecessor of rage as rage is sorrow put to action by those who do not wish be feel feeble. I have never wanted to be weak and though I have no acquaintance with rage, I accept it in the hopes that sadness might depart from my flesh never to return. By the grace of God I have seen that neither anger or sorrow can solve the puzzle of the heart. Guilt and regret may permeate as a false stain but there is still truth. The process is slow for I am still weak but truth begins its work upon the pain of guilt. With wisdom the Spirit has entrusted its truth with a work to give answer for regret. For regret in the midst of the light has but two choices. It can fade in the thoughts of a foolish child, revealing purpose that drives past decision. Or it can transform into promise of something to return to... something lost that might be received anew by grace in time. The Lord's will in all things and by it I put my trust, and in prayer will I place my requests for I am still a foolish child in need of grace.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Insufficiency of Wickedness

Time and time again the proud are humbled, the wise are shamed, and the rebel is made to kneel before the Cross.

I have never been in the condition to doubt myself. Doubt how others may react to me yes, but never taking the burden of doubt itself. Part of my condition, my self-imposed disease is to see myself as greater than I am. My pride is ladened with deception, greed, envy, and malice all of which work together to enhance what I consider joy. The result of my pride is that I desire others to experience the greatness I consider myself so that any adoration can satisfy my desire to be praised. Yet though I desire the affections of others I do not need it. At the end of the day, were all the world against me I would still insist that jealousy drove my enemies further escalating my self-made pedastal to new heights. My pride delights in itself and is self-seeking.

"No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up on the last day." - John 6:44

Now ultimately my pride does not matter. It is a horrid, wretched thing that stains the earth with its filth and pollutes the hearts of those it meets. It garners no love for others, but only imitates love to fulfill its wicked purpose.

Jesus was punished on the Cross by His Father, because when His Father saw Him, He saw my pride. He saw my selfishness, my deception. He saw how I used others maniacally for my gain without care for their well-being. God the Father saw it all and He punished His perfectly righteous Son for it. What's worse, if you are in Christ, that same disease and selfishness was placed on the Son to be punished by the Father. What is the punishment? Separation from the all-fulfilling, all-knowing, all-loving, all-merciful, all-righteous, all-just God of the universe who knew your name before time began. This is the God we worship. I accept all that I have done to further myself, poison those around me, and defile the name of God but I have not the right to bear shame or burden for any of it. Because to bear the burden, the shame, the condemnation for my sin would mean that Christ's work on the Cross was not sufficient. It would mean that the death of God's Son was not good enough to cover my pride. That is unacceptable. To live in self-pity is to spit on His sacrifice and that is the worst opponent of gratitude.

I don't say this in condemnation of anyone, but only to show myself how wretched I truly am to bear any burden for evil deeds that Christ attoned for. Repent? Yes. Wallow in disgrace? Never. I have lied to those I claim to love. I have toyed with hearts and minds for the sake curiousity and discovery. Yet for all my filth, the Father of Christ sees me as righteous. Not because of my works, so that I may not boast, but by the work of Christ on the Cross that cannot be defeated.

Grace is a gift greater than life and I am blessed to receive it. I am blessed that even in my reckless ignorance, the Lord continually leads me towards Himself through sanctification. I never recognize its full scope and never appreciate it as much as I ought, but it still remains faithful. Grace is all-sufficient as Christ is all-sufficient and I live by both.

- A Wretched Child, Eternally Blessed

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Being Wrong Never Felt So Right

I find it very hard to admit that I'm wrong. This has been the case as long as I can remember but I don't think I've ever considered it much until recently... probably because I have been wrong a lot. If you hear it from no one else, hear from this objectively prideful legalist that being wrong is no fun. Granted I have seen how the Lord has used my failings to edify me, it still doesn't take away the sting from my ego (a good thing no doubt). Oddly I have felt very pressured to be right as of late. Its mostly self-inflicted pressures but still, I don't like the fact that I'm having to make decisions with the full confidence that they will be the wrong ones. Just as a side note I would like to say that the Lord has kept me in surprisingly good spirits so praise be to His name.

During my flu infested week I had the great privilege to sit at home and listen to sermons from John Piper for 5 days (I can think of few other men alive that are as filled by the spirit). Taking advantage of the wisdom of another, I listened to a sermon on decision making. Let the record stand that up to this point I had never heard a talk on decision making that gave any practical application. Anyway he specified that good gospel inspired decision making came from an overflow of the Word. At this point the Lord began to work in my mind and I considered the nature of "overflow". Considering a cup I determined that if a cup is being filled with water, the only way to ensure that some water does not go to waste is to place it in another cup... bingo. Therefore effective decision making is not just a product of being filled but placing the excess of the Spirit into others. So the solution to my crisis was not to hole up and think for a week, but to experience an outpour of the faith in evangelism and discipleship.

I am supposed to give a talk on the importance of the spiritual disciplines. In considering what the disciplines are I also feel it necessary to explain the significance of each one. To be honest I have been worried how I'm going to find the root of each discipline but the grace and peace of the Lord has been sufficient as usual. Moral of the story, I'm going to make bad decisions and fail often. Yet Christ supplies me with my needs and all my successes will come through Him. Blessed be the wondrous cross and our Saviour by which we are saved.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Servant, the Soldier, and the Man with All Joy

"In the beginning there was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth." - John 1:1,14

"For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." - Isaiah 55:9

"There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." - Romans 8:1

"For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, 'The righteous shall live by faith.'" - Romans 1:16-17

"Then he said to his disciples, 'The harvest is plenty, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.'" - Matthew 9:37-38

Lord, let us not be deceived by the wickedness of the world, for surely there shall be no fear of sin before out eyes. Guard your sheep, for we are weak and seek to stray, but let none escape the hand of Lord for surely His kingdom reaps the greatest of all things. Instill the faithfulness, kindness, passion, grace, and humility of Christ within all your children so that you might be glorified before all.

By the providence of God, we are sent out into the world so that we might face its trials and know God (John 17:3). We come in without knowledge of our purpose or its reasons, but only the promise that there is a purpose and it has its reasons. Faith is a gift from God because in and of ourselves we would not seek it (Romans 3:11), yet despite our stubborn heresy the Lord of the harvest comes to us with mercy and grace so that we might be made His. The debt has been paid, the burden is lifted, and the joy is made present... present in the fulfillment of God's promise through the works of His children and the fruit He renders. We are shown the glory of Christ, we are taught the ways of Christ, we know the value of His death, we see the power of His gospel, and finally we are given His work to perform not only to bring forth the kingdom, but to expand the joy of the believer. Any Christian who labors in vain, only does so because he sees it as vain. The works of Christ are meant to supply our joy until our consummation with Him; therefore, engage fully in everything that is of service to the Lord so that your joy will maximize. That is not to say that we should enter every small group, attend every church function, and serve in every ministry. Paul writes:

"Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure." - Philippians 2:12-13

So engage in service, but only that which serves your own salvation and only that which instills fear and trembling before the Lord. Certainly this suggests that we all become selfish and I would say that inevitably that is the goal. What good is our service if we do not conduct it with love and joy? The Father has designed us so that our selfish joy might be fulfilled in doing that which glorifies Him the most. The cynic in me would say that you're going to be selfish anyway, so why not do it in service of the Lord? The romantic in me would say that your Father that at one point hated has not only saved you from damnation, but also supplied an endless fountain of joy in service to Him, so why not jump in? Christ has set us in the armor of God so that we might understand that all things are either for or against the Lord. There is nothing between, there is no neutral; therefore, wage the war by the power of the gospel, with the promise of salvation, for the sake of Christ who has paid the debt you could not and who has conquered the death that would have taken you. The body is all for Christ, because Christ is for all of the body and His love is without mistake and without error. Peace and love to all my siblings in Christ, may we pray for those who have not yet been made known.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Quandary of the Rock and Feather

The more I see the way Christ works in my life and the lives of others the more I'm convinced that our perspective walks can be summed up by density. Psalm 144:1 states "Of David. Blessed be the Lord, my Rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle." (ESV). Here David refers to God as a rock, which if grounded, is an unmovable object. In Matthew 16:18 Christ is speaking to Peter when He says "And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it." (ESV). Here Christ is not identifying Peter himself as the rock, but rather Peter's confession of Christ as Lord as the rock. John 1:1 "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." Here we can see that Christ, the Rock, is the Word of God which Peter is speaking in Matthew 16. Furthermore we can conclude that Peter was always the Rock because in Galatians we see Paul rebuke Peter before the Church. Also in Acts 15 we see that although Peter resides on the Jerusalem council, it is James who has the decisive final word. So if we know that we ourselves are not the truth we can then realize that the Rock is indeed in us when we speak the Word, which is that Christ is Lord!

Now certainly no one would doubt the density of a rock, especially in the first century AD. However the reality is that like any scale, density has two sides. If the rock is representative of something with maximum density, I would argue that the feather would be its opposite. Feathers are thin, light, and even when placed in the ground they continue to sway. The feather represents the flimsy faith we have in our dryness which can be made to go in whatever direction the wind chooses. To back up this theory, I would present some compellingly convenient scripture from Ephesians 2:1-2. "And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience." Here Satan is described as being the "the prince of the power of the air" and I don't think its a stretch to say that air has its sway over a feather.

The big thing that has been difficult for me recently is that no matter what I do in life, I am always going to be in service to someone. Honestly that hurts my pride a lot to know that inevitably I am called to serve no matter how I live my life. Even when I don't choose Christ, I am still a slave to Satan and all my sin works towards his goals. But as always there is that hope. We were not made to live in service of ourselves, because we can't! It isn't in our design to be self-sufficient; in fact, self-sufficiency would lead us straight out of existence all together. So if we accept that ultimately we must serve, the question then becomes which side do we choose? On the one hand you have Christ, the living God, who came and died in SERVICE to His people so that they might experience INFINITE and ENDLESS joy. On the other hand you have Satan who is purely selfish and delights in men working towards their own destruction. The great thing about service to Christ's kingdom is that He has served us first. For every non-believer that you lead to Christ, I promise His reward to you is infinitely greater than your works. Choosing Christ isn't a commission into bondage, but a welcoming into the greatest joy known to the universe.

I can't speak for the world, but I have no desire to be like a feather that blows back and forth at the will of sin. Instead I will be founded in the Rock that is the truth of Christ. A Rock that will endure tsunamis and hurricanes for my sake.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Seated Where I Don't Belong

Where I Started

Sadly the Christian life is rarely lived with much foresight. It is when men reflect back on their lives that the truly see the grace, mercy, compassion, righteousness and love the Lord has shown them. Sanctification often happens through trial and suffering to the believer. Summer Beach Project 2010 has been the ultimate display of God's sanctification through suffering in my life. Don't misunderstand me, I enjoyed every minute of project and would do it all again in a heartbeat. However my heart today views my heart the first day of project in remorseful regret. If the office of apostle were ever to come into the world again, I would have believed myself to be the perfect candidate. I was unteachable, without compassion, and self-absorbed to an extreme for one whom Christ had already redeemed. And in the midst of all that pride, I have never experience so much failure in such a short time. All the wisdom I sought to spread seemingly fell on deaf ears. I became one of Satan's favorite tools for turning souls away from the love of Christ and all of this stemmed from seemingly unconquerable pride. I was angry at myself for not having the ability and endurance to overcome these obstacles and "serve" Christ the way I thought I should. I was an unhappy camper.

"Humility for Dummies"

Out of every believer in all of the world, I could not have been given a better one to act as my d-group leader. He was and is a polar opposite of me. My shortcomings are his successes and the more I began to see that the more jealous I became. He is relational, compassionate, caring, loving, and a true servant... I was (and to a large degree still am) not these things. He led in a way that I didn't understand. D-group wasn't about performance and living up to a certain mark, but instead it was concentrated on recognizing our distress and seeing the evidences of grace amidst that distress. It was being focused on dependency and praying despite our pride for that dependency. I always thought I knew what humility was, and thought my pride was necessary to accomplish works until I could figure out how to merge humility and service together. Isn't there a fundamental problem with that statement?! Is service not in and of itself humility? When we count others as better than ourselves and give because we recognize the immense need we all have for Christ, is that not humility? After a five minute conversation with me, one would not have thought so.

Revelation (not the book)

If I remember only one thing from this project it will be the last night. We were having one last night of worship before everybody left to return to their normal lives the next day. I don't really get into musical worship that much. I don't know why, and the more I learn about worship the more I think its not good. But for whatever reason this night I could really here the lyrics as being truths of God, and hindsight I see how it glorifies God to repeat His character back to Himself. I remember getting in the car afterward with a good friend and hearing this question "So, that's it, that's beach project... what do you think?" I thought for a second. God had shown me a lot about His sovereignty, His mercy, His righteousness, His holiness, etc. But for whatever reason none of those things individually were the answer I gave. All the things I had been living for were just my attempts to satisfy my ego and convince myself that I really was okay, and at the end of the day... who cares? Why does any of that matter? If anyone has ever seen the movie Troy, there is a scene where Achilles is talking to His mother about possibly going to fight in the Trojan War. She says that if he stays he will marry a woman, have children, and in a few generations his name will be forgotten. But if he goes to Troy and fights for something greater than himself, he will be a hero whose name will live on forever though the war will take his life. Of course to make a good story he goes to war, dies, and now we all remember Achilles... hooray. This does have application though, I promise. See Achilles could have preserved himself, lived comfortably, and died after a "happy" life. The alternative led to glory, and everlasting life.

If I live for myself, I may find satisfaction for a moment, but I will die like all the rest. But if we live for Christ and fight for His name's sake, it may cost our worldly lives, but we will reign eternally with the Father. Most of all we will be remembered and loved forever by the only one who remembers and loves forever.

The Take Away

I'm not that important and neither are you. Yet despite our unimportance, the Creator and Perfecter of all things loves us and desires us to be with Him. What's the catch? Faith, trust, love, and even humility... that's it. Its not that hard. The question is, can we love enough? Can we give away all our control, ambitions, desires for the sake of Him who loves us above all? I certainly think so, and I know He'll be leading us every step of the way.

"For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." - Philippians 1:21