Friday, September 29, 2006

The Hidden Man

…your real life is hidden with Christ in God
(Colossians 3:3 – NLT)

In the Westminster Confession of Faith, the Shorter Catechism states that the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. To glorify God is to worship Him. The big problem with people and their desires today is that they don’t enjoy God, and they don’t want to worship Him. They go to church, but they don’t enjoy it. Perhaps they go to church to find enjoyment, then they have a problem or two or a few, and then they don’t enjoy church anymore, and they leave.

Unfortunately, some have then justified the means of doing whatever it takes so that people WILL enjoy a worship service, but that isn’t of God, necessarily. They are doing the enjoying before and in order to do the worshipping, and putting the cart before the horse, so to speak. To be able to enjoy God, we must first worship Him, and to do that, in Spirit and in Truth (John 4:24), we must find our hidden life in Christ.

If we are truly enjoying God, we won’t be affected so much by what happens, because we won’t notice, because we are enjoying God. It is not “blessing out” or denying reality, but living a new reality where what happens to the flesh is inconsequential to your joy; you take whatever remedial steps are necessary and then get back to focusing on God. You enjoy even in the trials (James 1:2) because it is just God letting you suffer the death of the flesh (1 Peter 4:1), and it is a wonderful thing if you want it to die (Romans 12:1-2), and so you further enjoy God.

Look for things that come from above, stop focusing on the flesh, to focus on the flesh is to not enjoy God, and you will find yourself in sin. Your old man is not subject to the law of God, never was, never will be (Romans 8:7-8). To find your life you must find Christ, who is hid in God. The question about everything and every situation is, “where is Christ in this?” We need to find Him to find ourselves enjoying God, because that is where we are if we are born again.

Many can say that they have Christ in them, but they haven’t yet found themselves in Him. No wonder we don’t enjoy church and the things of God, no wonder we spend so much time focusing on the flesh, its desires, and how to overcome them. The truth is that The New You doesn’t need to overcome, he just needs to be found, and he is hid with Christ in God. So where is He and how do we find Him?

John 12:20-26
It would seem as if Jesus is avoiding the question, but in reality (verily, verily) He is pointing them to the real answer to seeing Him as He truly is. If you would see Jesus he tells you how it’s to be done; you must be willing to die. So to die is to find Him, to find your life in Christ.

Romans 12:1-2
A living sacrifice seems to go against what Jesus was saying in John 12, but think about it, what happens is that you find a new life, you live in the flesh still, but a new man emerges (1 Corinthians 15:10 / 2 Corinthians 4:10-5:15 / Galatians 2:20 / Ephesians 4:22-24 / Philippians 1:20-21 / Colossians 2:6-11). This is your spiritual act of worship, yes; it is how we can begin to enjoy God. So to die, to find your life in Christ, that is what it is to worship God, and that is how we can enjoy Him.

Remember, dying is painful (1 Peter 4:1), and the hidden man of the heart doesn’t care for superfluous ornamentation (1 Peter 3:4), He does only what is necessary and moves on to God (2 Corinthians 5:16). Consider Ephesians 4:17-18 – many are alienated from the Life of God, not being broken by their sin. Consider 2 Timothy 2:11 – most people haven’t as yet died to the flesh in their condition.

When your life is hidden, it doesn’t matter what happens in this life, you can James 1:2, you can be free of the fear of those that would kill the body, but can’t kill the soul, you can wear the full armor of God, you can be filled with the Spirit, and you can manifest the life of Christ in your body. The hidden man can’t be touched; he is hid with Christ in God. Only the old man can be slain. And the hidden man gladly accepts this so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in his body (2 Corinthians 4:10). He understands that though his outward man perishes, yet his inward man is renewed day by day (2 Corinthians 4:16).

He is there, hidden behind your flesh; find Him

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Rule or be Ruled

He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls.
(Proverbs 25:28)

This verse parallels Proverbs 16:32. To be tossed about by every whim of emotion makes us vulnerable to attack, and we have no defense. If we cannot control our passions, like anger for instance, we cannot focus on resisting the enemy, and we become caught up in a world of self-induced slavery. If you cannot control yourself others will always control you. If everyone can push your buttons, perhaps you have too many. On the contrary, self-control is identified as the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:23).

It grieves me to hear of people who always have to “vent” their anger and frustrations. The truth is that you don’t have to vent if you’re already ventilated. Are you as a cool breeze or a hot house? Allowing your thought life to be controlled by expectations will lead to anger, for that is what unmet expectations engender.

We must keep on maturing in the ways of God; it ought to be the normative pattern. However, this is simply not happening in the Christian world today. It seems that the moment there is conflict and discord people toss off all religious pretence and go after each other with the same fervor and passion as the unregenerate, who don’t even claim Christ.

Satan will always go for the most vulnerable part he knows of. He will try and enflame the flesh, excite the passions, and arouse the emotions. If you have self-control you disarm the enemy. But people want to cry and say “woe is me” before they even let a situation play itself out. They immediately go into attention getting mode. However, the only prize that real life drama kings and queens win is the crown of self-pity.

We need to exercise self-control. Think about that; exercise, work it out, keep it in shape, don’t get used to letting go, but get trained to staying in control of your emotions. This doesn’t mean we need to be a stoic, a monk like robot with a steely stiff upper lip. No, emotions are God given gifts, they just need to be used properly and understood, not given into without any thought. We need to learn to process things before we “go off” about them. Yes things can hurt our feelings, but remember this: in the long run, what counts is not how you feel but how you deal.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Achilles Watch Your Heel

…in order that,…we too might walk in newness of life.
(Romans 6:4 – ESV)

I would like to follow up and to continue the discussion we began in this post with some further thoughts and articulation. Perhaps it may serve to enlighten your understanding; at least I hope so.

In a post at Buggy’s site, Daniel, in talking about sanctification, said this:

we would be just as happy if we were told that this wasn't sin and we could keep doing it - that God was okay with it. That would please us even more, because we don't really want to be free from sin - we want to be free from sin's stigma.

He was speaking of not taking our lives to the cross, and not walking in newness of life.

To which I, in agreement with the whole post, replied:

I am free from sin's power. When God, through life's circumstances, presents sin in my life, I have a choice, do I believe or not...

I liken the process to being an unbeatable, un-killable warrior. Let’s call him (you) Achilles. When someone says you will always have sin, well yes, because you haven’t gotten round to that one yet, but not the same old sins, these are killed as soon as Achilles finds them. You are never done with the process, there will always be some “sin” that God hasn’t revealed to you yet, but still, when He does reveal sin, it is wiped out completely. Achilles goes about, day after day, proving that God is right, killing off all the old man. It is just that there are 6 billion people on earth, and he can only get to so many each day. He wipes out a whole country, and it seems like the work is done, but God moves him on to the next country, and he flawlessly begins to wipe out all these people (sin) too.

It is a process, but it can be flawless, you CAN be making ongoing progress in the process. Achilles cannot be killed; his only problem is his heel, which is like you not advancing to meet the next set of people (sin). God gives Achilles marching orders (where sin is at). Achilles then simply marches into battle and realizes that God has given him the power to destroy the enemy effortlessly; it is automatic. If he will but approach the enemy, the real enemy, then Achilles realizes the enemy is already dead, killed by the hand of God. Achilles looks not at the wounds but at who caused them, he looks not for the bullets but for the gun, and who is firing it. But in order to realize this, Achilles must “go there and see it for himself”. The enemy is dead, and all Achilles must do is plant the flag for His king.

Does this make sense to you?

Friday, September 22, 2006

Playing Favorites - Book of the Bible

This week we are continuing to “play favorites”. Today, I would like to know what your favorite book of the Bible is.

I want everybody in on this one, including all the PyroManiacs .

Phil "Spurgeon is my homeboy" Johnson

Dan “booyah” Phillips

Frank “centuri0n” Turk

The Infamous “Pecadillo”

If you must give more than one, then rank them.

As always, there are really no wrong answers, and do not answer, "they are all my favorites", or give us some super spiritual sanctimony.

Bless God as we continue to magnify the Word of the Lord!

Don't try and impress us with the one you think is the most theologically deep, and don't worry if someone else took yours or all the good ones or whatever, just repeat it. Come back and post more than one. What are your special favorites? Which are ministering to you now?

You have another chance to glorify God, and tell the world what His Word has meant to you, so EVERYONE speak up! That means you!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

What Is Your Favorite Bible Chapter?

Alright, another simple one; we covered verses, and keep 'em coming in the comments for that post, but in this post I would like to know what some of your favorite Bible chapters are. If you would like, give us the "why". How have they impacted you?

As before, there are really no wrong answers...However, as last time, do not answer, "they are all my favorites", or give us some super spiritual sanctimony.

We want to continue to magnify the Word of the Lord!

Don't try and impress us with the one you think is the most theologically deep, and don't worry if someone else took yours or all the good ones or whatever, just repeat it. Come back and post more than one.

You have another chance to glorify God, and tell the world what His Word has meant to you, so EVERYONE speak up! That means you!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

What Is Your Favorite Bible Verse?

...for you have exalted above all things your name and your word
(Psalm 138:2 - ESV)

Okay this one is simple; I would like to know what some of your favorite Bible verses are. If you would like, give us the "why". How have they impacted you? How have you ministered to others with them?

It doesn't even have to be the verse you think is the best or something like that, it could just be a verse that gave you special comfort at a difficult time, even just once. Maybe it is a verse that is your favorite right now. There are really no wrong answers...

However, do not answer, "they are all my favorites", or give us some super spiritual sanctimony.

What we want to do is magnify the Word of the Lord!

Don't worry if someone else took yours or all the good ones or whatever, just repeat it. Come back and post more than one.

This is your chance to glorify God, and tell the world what His Word has meant to you, so EVERYONE speak up!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Pure Speculation

All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the spirit.
(Proverbs 16:2 – ESV)

The “spirit” here means the intentions of the heart, or motives, the purposes of a person as dictated by the inner man. Often we rationalize our behavior in light of what we think are good intentions, but we are actually trying to carry out our own will without truly knowing the big picture. We might do some small good, in order to bring about our own desired end, we help others because of what they can or will do for us.

Have you ever been to a prison, and asked those on death row if they thought that they were basically a “good” person? You might be surprised at how many would respond in the affirmative. And so it is with all of us; we think, no matter how much evil we have done, no matter how much we have disobeyed God, that we are a good person “at heart”. However, God says that “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)

We must yield to God, and know His Word in order to be able to make a true judgment. The key is to know that “I the Lord search the heart” (Jeremiah 17:10). Then we can pray, like David, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24).

Monday, September 18, 2006

Humble Beginnings

…an arrogant spirit before a fall
(Proverbs 16:18 – HCSB)

The pride of life is not from the Father, it is from the world (1 John 2:16), and it must give way to the fear of the Lord. In the kingdom of the world, the aggressive, the arrogant, and the audacious receive reward. In the kingdom of God, those who humble themselves will be lifted up (James 4:10). This is one of the most often revealed themes in the Word of God.

A modern day parable will give us a perspective on this. A new candidate for minister was to give his trial sermon. He studied intently, prepared his sermon with excellence, forming the message with precision and with purpose. The exegesis was done with the utmost care, and the exposition would contain both wit and wisdom. The clarity and accuracy of the message was certain. Everything seemed to be in perfect order; the stage was set for a great service. The young man was supremely confident that his trial sermon would come off as a rousing success, and he daydreamed that many souls would be saved, many believers would come to renew their commitments, and that the “crowd would be wowed”.

When the day arrived, the man ascended the pulpit, holding his chin high, and staring at everyone. With a look of ultimate assurance he began his magnum opus. Much to his surprise, no one responded. Not during the message, and not after, at least not positively. There were no shouts of amen, no nodding heads, no movement to the altar of repentance, and further, looks of bewilderment. He left the platform with his head held low, looking down so that no one could see his obvious failure on his face.

The church elders looked with disdain at the man. The man thought to himself, “How could they not understand?” Surely these men and this church were not very wise, seeing that they would judge such superior craftsmanship with such apathy. How could they improve upon his masterpiece? What had he done wrong?

The truth is that his delivery lacked the one thing that he hadn’t considered: the unction of the Holy Spirit, the enduement of power from On High that comes about when a message is bathed in fervent prayer, accompanied by a humble ascension into the chancel as God’s minister of His Word. The man’s mind was prepared but his heart was not.

As he descended into the crowd, an elderly woman, who had seen scores of men preach the Word, and dozens give their trial sermons, approached him with a word of wisdom. She said, “Son, don’t give up. You just need to remember that if you had went up to the platform the way you left it, you would have left it the way you went up it”.

That is sage advice indeed.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!

The sluggard says, "There is a lion outside! I shall be killed in the streets!
(Proverbs 22:13 – ESV)

Another one for Adrian Warnock

The slothful man in this proverb is right; he is going to die, just as every one of us is. We cannot avoid it by hiding indoors; life will never let you live. Even so, how many so-called believers are like this man when it comes to witnessing or to their sanctification?

We fear failure, we fear folly, we fear frustration, and we fear fighting. But we are called to fight, and to win, but our fear invents for us lions and tigers and bears, oh my!

We need to be diligent and not derelict in pursuing our sanctification. Consider this illustration:

You have two lions in your backyard. One is your “flesh lion”, and the other is your “Spirit lion”. Whichever one you feed is naturally the one that will grow bigger, and dominate the other one. You might also realize that Satan masters the flesh lion, and Jesus masters the Spirit lion. The flesh lion feeds on fear and sloth, the Spirit lion on love and faith.

Galatians 6:7-8 (ESV) – Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.

Which lion are you feeding? The Lion of the tribe of Judah (Revelation 5:5), or the roaring lion, who is seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8)?

The slothful in sanctification would be wise to heed this analogy.

Why should we worry if there is a lion in the streets?
And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell (Matthew 10:28 – ESV).

Isn’t death what we signed up for?
For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered (Romans 8:36).

Many frighten themselves from real duties by imaginary difficulties, but God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control (2 Timothy 1:7 – ESV).

Charles Spurgeon talked of holy boldness not slothful shyness. In which way are we to be a lion tamer, or tamed by a lion? The roaring lion can destroy us, or we can be conformed to the image of Christ, and become a lion. The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion (Proverbs 28:1 – ESV).

As a Christian, you have a choice.
You can either die to self or die from self.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

All Dream and No Steam

The desire of the sluggard kills him, for his hands refuse to labor
(Proverbs 21:25 – ESV)

This one is for Adrian Warnock

The promises of God are active for those who act in accordance with them. It does you no good to post a promise on your refrigerator and use it like some magic spell. You must attach concrete action to your declaration of God’s truth or to you they will be but vain words. How many long to claim the promises of God by which we are made partakers of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4), yet they become unfruitful in their knowledge of God because they will not be diligent to add to their faith (2 Peter 1:8-9)? They don’t act in accordance with the promises of God and the talents He gave them. Instead of an increasingly fruitful and blossoming relationship with Christ we can become mere talkers and actually forget that we are even His.

Imagine this scenario: two boys dream of being big league baseball players. Then one day, God comes down and tells the two boys that they will make the major leagues when they grow up. The first boy says, “cool, I guess that means I can just do what I want to, God promised me that I am going to make it”. He promptly begins a life of leisure where he sits around all day eating potato chips and watching TV, never getting any exercise and certainly never practicing baseball. The other boy, however, acts in accordance with the promises God made to him. He goes out and practices real hard, and he says to himself “I’m not only going to make it to the majors, I am going to make it to the Hall of Fame!”

As they grow up, it is more of the same; the first boy becomes more and more engrossed in the idea that he will make it, and revels in that alone, never paying attention to his body or his craft. He plays the big shot as he works his way up the ranks of little league, high school and eventually all the way to the major leagues, getting one big break after another, all the while never improving his skills.

Unlike the first boy, the second boy isn’t able to coast on his way up. His breaks his arm in middle school then his leg in high school, but he never gives up. He remembers the promise of God. He understands that God started it and God is going to finish it (Philippians 1:6). He acts in accordance by working out, understanding that God is working in him (Philippians 2:12-13). He forgets what is behind and presses on toward the mark (Philippians 3:13-14). He learns that he can do all things through God who strengthens him (Philippians 4:13).

God was true to His Word. The first boy, who was slothful, makes the majors, but he never cracks the starting lineup. Just as he did in his earlier years, he now sits idly by while watching others do what he now wished he could do. He plays only one year, and then he gets demoted, and then a year later he is out of baseball altogether. He has his memories, but not much else. Since he didn’t even pay attention to his body, he begins to lose his health at an early age. The first boy had become bitter against the second boy saying he got all the breaks and it was all “luck”. He grows cold against God, wondering why he didn’t keep His promise, and he dies in his embittered state.

The second boy has a wonderful career, and when his long and distinguished baseball days are over, he is elected unanimously into the Hall of Fame. The second boy goes on to live a long life after baseball, and becomes an ambassador to witness to people of the power, promise, and purpose of God.

How many people are lazy about the promises of God? Daniel 9:2 reveals that the prophet understood that Jeremiah told of seventy years of captivity. He understood that they were almost to the time. He might have used that as an occasion to relax, but instead he got more fervent and acted in accordance with that truth by crying out to God (Daniel 9:3). Now that is what God is looking for!

I leave you with some admonitions. You need to bloom wherever and whenever you are planted or else you will be stuck there in the mud of mediocrity wishing you could be a tree when you won’t even try and be a twig. Do today what others will not, and you will do tomorrow what others cannot.

You might be making it to heaven, but are you taking anyone with you? Where does your treasure lie? Is your house made of wood, hay, and stubble? How many crowns do you want to throw down at Jesus’ feet? Are you sitting idly on the bench, or are you on your way to the Hall of Fame? You may have a desire but do you have the fire: you may have a dream, but do you have the steam?

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Lead or Lose

… a generation whose heart was not steadfast, whose spirit was not faithful to God
(Psalm 78:8 – ESV)

Did you realize that Shiloh was the first “capital city” of the Jews, not Jerusalem? That the Tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant had its first “permanent” dwelling there? However, after a time, God refused to give honor to the tabernacle of Joseph and the tribe of Ephraim, and chose the tribe of Judah, the mount of Zion, and David to be His servant (vs.67-70). It was taken from Shiloh because of the rebellion of Eli’s two sons, and the rebellion of Ephraim in general, as Asaph here recalls (vs.60).

The Israelites had not been following after the Lord, and when the time came to fight the Philistines, they were struck down. So they reasoned among themselves that they needed the Ark of the Covenant to help them win the war. But they were only presuming upon His power and their position as His people. The Philistines seized the Ark of the Covenant, which was in accordance with Divine providence (Genesis 49:10 / 1 Samuel 4:11).

God did not bless Israel’s superstitious belief in the power of the Ark. They were seeking God as the final resolve for their problems, not as the first reason for their plans. Because of their lax attitude, they had developed a blind spot as to the belief of God’s favor being upon them.

The wisdom from God is predicated upon a present tense relationship with Him. No amount of “build up” or maturity can take this fact away. Want proof? How about Solomon: Once he strayed from God, he sank into doubt and seeming apostasy. If the wisest man who ever lived can fail to use the wisdom God gave him, then surely it can happen to us. You cannot dial up the “God link” if there is no connection.

Modern day examples abound. Consider the great preachers who had anointing by the barrelful yet fell all the way down the mountain because they trusted in the past without tending to the present, treating God as a means to an end, rather than their relationship with Him being the purpose itself. He is not a cosmic concierge, waiting at our beck and call.

Looking to our own lives, and the corporate life of the local churches, we cannot simply rest on our laurels. Leaders are to set the example, to live by a higher standard so that those who follow have something to look forward to. When called to lead we must do exactly that: lead, not lounge. We must move forward, not sit idle. We must continue to learn if we are to continue to lead, else we will learn, the hard way, as the Israelites did here. When the battle comes, as it surely will, we must remain steadfast in spirit, or resolve, and not give in to temptation. To presume upon God and His power without the obedience of a relationship is what causes us to lose fights that we should win.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Divine Destruction

The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit
(Psalm 34:18 – ESV)

Brokenness before the Lord is a sure sign of the Holy Spirit at work (John 16:8-11). This verse is a clear indication, but certainly not the only place where the need for repentance shows forth in prominence. REPENTANCE IS A MUST FOR SALVATION, and it always has been. This verse is from the Old Testament, but here in New Testament times, God does not bring the Spirit into someone’s life just to have them accept Christ as a person only, they are made to see their utter despair, their need of a savior, and the provision of God through the death, burial, and resurrection of his Son Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). It is not that repentance gains salvation, but that it accompanies it. Repentance and faith are two sides of the same coin (Acts 20:21); it is part of the belief of the Gospel (Mark 1:15).

Why would someone want to be saved from the just wrath of God upon sin, if they don’t believe they are a sinner? How can someone claim the name of Jesus as Savior if they have not seen the severity of their sin? What is He saving them from? How can He be Lord if we are still on the throne? Only when brought to an understanding of their worthlessness before a holy God, when they know of their lowly estate and humbly confess their lack of merit can a person have the humility to step off the throne of his or her life. God is the one who orchestrates this action (Acts 11:18 / 2 Timothy 2:25).

For you who know Christ, realize that it is the same in our sanctification as in our justification: God causes us to be broken before Him. We must be broken by our sin and rediscover the fact of our utter wretchedness without Him, and our utter assurance with Him. He breaks us of our self-sufficiency and causes us to rest in His. When we see the depths of our depravity, compared to the heights of God’s holiness, then we can truly see the measure of His love toward us. Only then will we come running into the arms of the God who so freely pardons the penitent (Psalm 32:5 / Proverbs 28:13 / Ezekiel 33:11 / Isaiah 57:15 / Isaiah 66:2 / Micah 7:18-19 / Matthew 26:75 / Acts 3:19 / 2 Corinthians 7:10 / 1 John 1:9).

Monday, September 11, 2006

What it means FOR me

We wish to know therefore what these things mean
(Acts 17:20 – ESV)

Have you noticed or been a part of the so-called Bible studies where it is just a pooling of ignorance? The group goes around the room, and asks each other, “What does the verse (or passage) mean to you?” Instead of trying to discern authorial intent, in other words, what the original author of the passage intended as the meaning, we turn it around and the modern day reader becomes the arbiter of truth.

The idea is that the text means whatever the reader wants it to. However, if meaning is the reader's prerogative and not the author's – if the meaning of a text is tied to the reader's response and not to the author's intention – then a text has no meaning until a reader gives it one. Because there are many readers, all with potentially different interpretations of the text, then there are many possible meanings of any given text, none of which is subjected to the author's intention. This is relativistic nonsense, but it is happening all over the world today, and especially in individualistic America. What a passage “means to me” is prized as the divine intent.

How did this happen, and how did it become so prevalent in the last thirty years or so?

It comes down to hermeneutics – the rules of interpretation. When we are beginning to develop our study techniques, we tell people to look at a passage and ask three things:

1. What it says
2. What it means
3. What it means to me

And that is where the problem starts, because #3 has been understood to be “what do I think this passage means”, and it is on par with the authorial intent, and indeed, it becomes the final outcome of “bible study”.

We are confusing interpretation with application. Now seeking to understand the passage in its original context should lead us to be able to arrive at an application suitable for our present beliefs and behavior. In order to do this however, we should change #3 to say, “What it means for me”. That way, instead of people thinking

#3 = what I think it means, it would be

#3 = how now shall I live...

Not, what's your interpretation, but what's your application...

What it says
What it means
What it means for me

Friday, September 08, 2006

The Buck Stops Here

Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit is no guile
(Psalm 32:2)

This is the point that Paul was making in reviewing this verse in Romans 4:8. The righteousness of God comes from God, and our works are of none help to us, and actually hinder us if we trust in them. When we attempt to cover up our sin by circumstance or denial, or by shifting blame, we are in serious error. Even when we do not cover up, our brokenness before God is not a virtue that was not given us by God, it is all his doing; he is the one who causes our spirits to cling in true repentance to him.

This is an important distinction that David makes here, one that needs to be pointed out. Guilt is not guile, and David was truly repentant. He was guilty of his sins, but he also repented when confronted with them. He did not try and cover them up by saying that it was some psychological problem, or circumstance, or blame God for the temptation.

Hearken back to the Garden of Eden, and think about how human nature always tries to “pass the buck”. Adam blamed Eve, and was really blaming God for making her, and Eve blamed the serpent. This is such a valuable lesson for today, and one that shows us the true sinful nature of man. How many of us, reflecting upon the sovereignty of God, are quick to blame him. “Well, he is in control of us, isn’t he?” they might say.

How sad. The fact of God’s total sovereignty does not lessen our responsibility. The Puritans had a saying – what God sovereignly decrees in eternity, man will freely choose in time. Acts 2:23 presents this seeming paradox in beautiful tension and yet harmony. The first part of the verse shows God’s sovereign will – Him (Jesus), being delivered by the determinate counsel, and foreknowledge of God. The second part of the verse reveals man’s responsibility for his actions – ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain.

No amount of philosophical reasoning, or covering up, or passing the buck, no amount of guile will justify our evil actions before God. Truly, blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin. Amen.
Voice of Vision

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Cause and Effect?

To whom hast thou uttered words?
(Job 26:4)

Unlike Job’s friends and counselors, a person filled with the Holy Spirit knows what to speak, comfort and not hurt, etc. Job is rebuking those whose religious spirit leads them into a cause and effect relationship with the Lord, one whose whole experience is based upon a works sort of mentality, and not one of fellowship.

How similar are the parallels today! How many people have left the church when, because they were struggling as all Christians will, they were chastised as if they were nothing but outright, rebellious heathen! How many “armchair theologians” today use the “you must have done this (a), that is why this (b) has happened to you” formula? How many others see someone hurting, and their first thought is, “I wonder what they did wrong?” How many are excited to be helping everyone they perceive as hurting only so as to find the supposed cause?

What nonsense – and it is explicitly countered here in the book of Job.

God works everything out after the counsel of his own will (Ephesians 1:11), and just because He is a good God does not mean that our definitions of what He ought to do are correct. God causes the rain to fall on the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45); our part as Christians is to have faith even when things are seemingly going against us. Job was right, God gives, and God takes away (Job 1:21).

God does as He wills, not as we will, and He is NOT bound by our obedience. This is a ridiculous assertion: that our obedience makes us worthy and makes God act regardless of His wishes! Doing what we are called to do only makes us unprofitable servants (Luke 17:10), and we can do nothing without God (John 15:5).

That is what this whole book of Job is about; our repentance in the face of God’s sovereignty no matter what, and so many today make a mockery out of this! Pray that God would bring them into the true light before they start heaping condemnation upon the heads of others, which really lands upon their own head.

Voice of Vision

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

I’ve Got A Word For You

…that you turn against God and say all these evil things?
(Job 15:13 – NLT)

In declaring that Job had turned against God, Eliphaz was acting self-righteous. If you had gone through what Job had, the last thing you would want to hear, and would need to hear was some “sanctified” person spouting off platitudes to you. We may not understand exactly what a person is going through, and we may bring false accusation against them as Eliphaz did to Job. His words were good, but his application was wrong. Just because we know a person has sinned doesn’t mean we know the remedy, save going to God in repentance.

Perhaps Job would not have continued to complain as much had it not been for his “friends” deriding him continually. When someone is a Christian, they are close to God already, and it can be counterproductive when they are down and out to keep reminding them of their duty. When we are riding high we need to be careful about how impatient we become to those who are having a tough time; we must walk a mile in their shoes, as it were. They are human and so are we, and just because we know the divine perspective it doesn’t mean that we have the wisdom and the prudence to deliver it properly. Remember, A word FITLY SPOKEN is like apples of gold in pictures of silver (Proverbs 25:11).

This is a vital lesson for today. When someone is hurting, especially a Christian, we should not always rush forth to declare what the Bible says about complaining, using the Word as a club instead of as a consolation leading to a cure. Yes it is wrong to accuse God, and no, we dare not refuse the counsel of God in dealing with others, but prudence must be used. We must first be concerned with comforting rather than confronting, we must reach people not repel them, in order to turn them toward God, and together work to bring healing.

Consider also the fact that ministry is more than words. James 2:15-16 put the matter of empty words into perspective – If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?

Is our goal ministry, or malice? Think about it.

Voice of Vision

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Postcards from the Edge

Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof…
(2 Timothy 3:5)

My wife and I moved into a new house in a new neighborhood last November. Soon thereafter we received the first of several postcards from some of the local mega churches. Basically there were three different churches that sent them to us. One church talked about doctrinal distinctives but did so in a way that was a simple explanation, and stressed common interests to all Christians. The second was basically telling about the church and an invitation to come see them. The third, the biggest of the three, sent several cards, and they all focused on felt needs, and why they understood the problems people have about church, and promises that they weren’t like that. There was talk of coffee, laughter, friends, and fun, but no Jesus, no God, no Holy Spirit, and no Bible.

I realize that some may have differing opinions about “methodology”. I do not feel as though these postcards are a matter of methodology, but of mindset, and no amount of talking to the pastor or hearing his sermons or seeing his doctrinal statements would alleviate this. It isn’t even foremost a matter of what we do to “get them in” that I am concerned with. The fact is that this campaign speaks of the church without speaking of Christ and it is an affront to God. That is the problem, and it doesn’t matter at all if everything else were perfect. The Lord Jesus Christ and His glorious gospel are not out front, and that is wrong. It is sin. Period.

One of the reasons the church is so cold and dead and lifeless is because she has lost her love for God. Instead of replacing that with something fleshly to appeal to fleshly men, we need to get back to our first love – God – and knowing Him. Now, in light of all that has been written here, lets consider the postcards and their content.

The first postcard speaks of things that make life “rich, full, and rewarding”, things like “a warm cup of coffee, listening to great music, and laughing with friends”. It says we can now “add church to that list”. It says we need to experience this. What about the holiness of God, or the worship of Him, or the experience of repentance? I know, these things aren’t popular, and perhaps we really don’t need to go to these things directly, in your face style. I can agree to that. But we do need to mention our worship of God, and the experience of Christ. To compare a (supposed) worship service to a cup of coffee is ridiculous. Adding church “to the list”? Okay then its Jesus plus coffee. I am being serious here: if you cannot see the major problem with that then you are probably not in love with God like you may think you are.

Let me say it again: it doesn’t matter how nice the people are or what the preacher then goes on to do in said service – anyone can parrot the party line but not have it in the heart – many ministers say all the right things but they aren’t even saved. It is just like those you and I and everyone else knows that can say the verses and know the doctrines but their obedience is nowhere to be found. I will not judge this man’s heart, but what I am judging is the content, and lack thereof, of these cards, which points out the fruit. Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks, and these postcards are the mouth of the church. That mouth does not confess Christ.

The second postcard then states that, “There are a lot of things in life that seem important – job, success, money. But when you look at the big picture, etc.”. They say that money and success aren’t so important, but yet they answered what was important in the first postcard, “a warm cup of coffee, listening to great music, laughing with friends”. No amount of “nourish your soul” (which is not defined) on the second card will change what they say it is nourished with on the first card, namely, fleshly things.

The only attempt to define what is nourishment in the second card is simply, “spiritual vitality, tons of children, and a relaxed, joyous atmosphere”. The first card gives us a more clear definition of what they are talking about, of course. They then use the third card to define it (what the church is about) even further, “warm feelings, gracious and real, and a loving community”. I would agree, these things can nourish our soul, but do nothing to feed our spirits, and certainly won’t result in the regeneration of dead men and women.

Consider the fact that if this church is truly concerned about bringing people to Christ and discipling them, if it is about glorifying God and expounding Scripture, worshipping in Spirit and in Truth, then these stealth tactics of the postcards are a lie.

The third card appeals to the youth and says, “Church – I don’t think so…” It states that they are place where “we could all admit what a struggle life is…imperfect people are welcome here…join us as we attempt to make the church the loving community we all long for”. Yes we are all imperfect, but just to commiserate together in our imperfect state is not enough. They define a problem, but their answer is to form a “loving community”. You can get that at the local bar, or the Kiwanis club, or at a Universalism church. This card mentions the fallen nature without presenting Christ and the forgiveness of sin as the basis of that loving community. That is bad news, not Good News.

For those out there looking for ways to make church more relevant, how about this idea? How about giving it depth and authenticity by focusing on something beyond mere human experience, by helping human beings to lift their eyes upward and see something greater than anything there is to offer here below? How about making church relevant by making it separate from the ordinary, a holy place, where, get this, God himself is exalted and expounded upon and worshiped. How about offering to the public, not just relevancy, but depth and authenticity through theology and application to the life of faith and worship?

Again, we received three cards: no Jesus, no God, no Holy Spirit, and no Bible.

This is just the beginning. It is and will be getting out of hand. They may have a great doctrinal statement, and the preachers may parrot out the party line, but this is only part of the equation. The postcards tell the story to those who haven’t yet visited the church, as to what it feels is important. Even when someone goes there, it usually will not matter what the doctrine is anyway, just the experience, after all, that is what the postcard said to do, right?

Monday, September 04, 2006

Modern Day Rainmakers

They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind
(Jude 12 – NIV)

The “job” of an evangelist has morphed over the years. Because of a misunderstanding of the sovereignty of God, and an overemphasis on the free will of man, the evangelists (not all, mind you, but many of the most popular, and those who are “learning” while coming up the ranks) have a new task or “job”, which is to precipitate a crisis.

This way a decision can be made, and the evangelist can be seen to produce results, which are equated by the host church or event, and by the evangelist himself, as doing the right things. It is seen as the favor of God over the ministry or as being faithful, and so God responded in kind with many “decisions”.

This results oriented measurement may or may not be a true measure in certain instances, but “decisionism” has crippled the American church, for sure. We have lots of baptized pagans in our pews, and lots of spiritual midgets in our midst. This can be a problem for the immature believer, the backslider, or the unbeliever, for that matter. The spiritually bored are most susceptible to this; they heed the dire diagnosis, and celebrate the loudest when the evangelist brings the supposed rain of revival to town.

When an evangelist comes into town, or when we go searching for that “event” or conference or seminar we need to go to get that “boost”, we can be setting ourselves up in a boom and bust cycle of spirituality. We get excitement, but we don’t get expansion. These are like the stony ground (Mark 4:16-17), they have no root, and while they received the Word with gladness, it ultimately did not produce any fruit. No root, no fruit, and a bunch of confusion to boot.

This is not to belittle the role of an evangelist. They do an important work in the body of Christ. First, they are to bring sinners to repentance, and second, to exhort and admonish backsliders and believers to an increased faith. We need our emotions stirred. We do not begrudge them this.

Of course, not all do these things with the same effectiveness, and herein we can see the root of a problem. Our culture in America is so tied to results that it has affected the Christian subculture in an adverse way. Considering this, when an evangelist comes to town, which ones will be invited back, the ones who “produced” results, or the ones who didn’t? How do we measure these results? Too often, because we don’t believe in the absolute sovereignty of God, we look to emotional outpourings and decisions to validate the work of those visiting us.

We would suggest that what we need to do to measure effectiveness is look at faithfulness to God and His Word. God is sovereign, and He is the one who is responsible for salvation and for growth in grace. We must recognize this, and not let decisionism take its place, or we might let those who aren’t so faithful but who produce numbers or decisions or effects or results have their way. This is how wolves get in, not to say we have had many, but to say we need to recognize the wiles of the devil for what they are.

Steadfast shepherds need to be on the lookout for modern day rainmakers.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Are You Ready?

Update 9-1-06 - 4:00 pm -
See the new link below, the old one has problems. The new one gives you extra stuff, but all I want is for you to see the video:

Check this out, and make sure your sound is turned on...

The Four Questions Every Christian Asks

But the fruit of the Spirit…against such there is no law
(Galatians 5:22-23)

These four questions that every Christian asks are such that they have been grappled with over and over by countless believers, and likely this missive will not settle the passions once and for all. This small contribution will not be exhaustive, by any means. However, by examining the questions in light of and living by the fruit of the Spirit, many of these questions will either be answered or we will have the answer coming to us very soon.

What does it mean to be spiritual?

Many would have us believe that it has to do with walking around in a cloud, acting as if we are nothing but otherworldly. Perhaps you have met those that seem to be kind of spooky, or that are deluded into thinking that they have special insight or a more mystical type of faith, while yours is a more “carnal” or “dead” experience. Often new converts are drawn into strange practices (unbiblical at that) wanting to be more “spiritual”, like so and so, and end up getting weird. They follow every new fad and their faith stays shallow, relying on experience rather than becoming grounded in the Word. Too many feel that they have to “go with the flow” or they are missing out on spiritual growth. Well, this is simply not the case. Operating in the supernatural is spiritual activity but to be more spiritual means to be more like Jesus. Paul explains in no uncertain terms what being like Jesus looks and acts like. He says, the fruit of the Spirit IS. When we are really living in a relationship with our Savior, we will take on His character, showing the beautiful fruit of the Spirit, replacing our old, bad traits with godliness. To be spiritual is to be transformed into the image (read: character) of Jesus Christ.

What would Jesus do?

First, it is more about what Jesus did, not what we do. It is a question that many people use as a sort of slogan, but one that would be better rendered, “what would Jesus have us to do?” Either way, the answer is the same in both these, and indeed all cases. Jesus would, and would have us to do whatever is loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, graceful, and temperate. Spiritual formation, whether it comes through the practice of spiritual disciplines or through life’s experiences, is effective only to the degree that it bears this fruit.

How does something “line up with the Word”?

Have you ever heard that something must “agree with the Word” or that it is not of God? Well, you cannot be expected to have memorized the Scriptures in their entirety as a young believer, and you don’t always have all the biblical knowledge on a certain matter. How then do you know if something is in agreement? These qualities of the Spirit of Christ are the filter by which we judge things. If something seems to have one, but not all of these, it is either not from God, or not His best for you. This is what is meant when you hear that all things must “pass through the Bible”, or that some experience must “line up with the Word”.

How do you stay in God’s will?

If we are doing what is lovely, joyful, peaceful, patient, etc., we are doing God’s will, for we are acting like His Son, which is His will for our lives at all times. This is how we know we are walking with Him: the change in our lives. This is how others, including non-believers will be able to tell that we are different. By their fruits ye shall know them (Matthew 7:20).