October 08, 2013

The Poem of a Repentant Pharisee


What Great Love Is This?

The poem of a repentant pharisee.


~ ~ ~ ~

What great Love is this,
There hanging on a tree?
That God should die so I could live,
And from sin's effects, be free?

He was seated in His throne on high
All-sufficient and complete.
Yet freely, to us, He instead drew nigh
The God-man, for all to see.

But alas, we esteemed Him not,
For He did not come as a King.
Instead He came as a peculiar servant,
Preaching repentance, and washing people's feet!

He said we must place our faith in Him,
And that 'He was the only way to God!'
But instead, we accused Him of blasphemy,
And demanded the shedding of His blood.

He was arrested and He was mocked,
With hatred, I even spit in His face!
But when He turned and looked up at me
His sad eyes were only filled with grace.

At His trial, the crowd yelled "Crucify Him!"
I myself joined in with the throng.
And so He was nailed up on a cross;
This Man who had done no wrong.

Yet even in His dying breaths,
Not one angry word did He speak.
It was then, in that moment, I realized
That my God was dying for me!

No earthly father's love compares,
No tender mother's touch,
No one else on earth could dare
To love someone that much!

What great Love is this,
There hanging on a tree?
That my God died, so I would live,
And from sin's effects, be free!



August 14, 2013

King and a Friend

This week, I finally started reading a book that I'm way overdue on cracking open, and that is Desiring God by John Piper. My wife is also reading it with me too, as are a group of guys from my church. So far, we've only made it through the preface and introduction, but some of the concepts that Piper has elaborated on have already begun to resonate in some very deep and profound ways.

If you've never read the book, you might do good to take a look at the free PDF version of it which is available directly from the Desiring God website, so that you know exactly what I am talking about here. In a nutshell, the introductory sections of the book contain Piper's explanation of how he became a "Christian Hedonist" (a term that he himself coined decades ago, and has received no small amount of criticism for ever since - but trust me, it does not mean whatever your initial negative reaction to it is telling you it means).

Christian Hedonism, as I understand Piper to be explaining it, is the lifestyle pursuit of highest pleasure, delight, and satisfaction in the Triune God of the Bible. Not pleasure in merely the blessings He gives us, but in the very character of who He is intrinsically as God. In other words, seeking to enjoy God for who He is. As Piper points out, he does not mean to say that our own happiness is the highest good, but rather that the pursuit of the highest good (God) will always result in our greatest happiness, and therefore to pursue happiness in God is a good and desirable thing that we ought to seek to do! (Head spinning yet?)

Piper builds on this from the old catechistic saying that "The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever." It is in drawing from and building upon this saying that he posits his now-famous quote that "God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him." To many, that may seem like a bold statement for a man to make. After all, it's not a verse in the Bible -- at least, when phrased exactly that way. Many people have stumbled over that saying of Piper's -- and yet, I am growing increasingly convinced that he is correct. Indeed, the Scriptures themselves testify that God regards His own glory as the most important thing there is. It's the reason behind everything He does. Look at just a few of the verses that support this statement (emphasis in verses is my own):

Isaiah 43:7
"...everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made...” 
Isaiah 48:9-11
"For my name's sake I defer my anger, for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you, that I may not cut you off. Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another." 
Psalm 106:8
"Yet He [God] saved them for His name's sake, that He might make known His mighty power.
Ephesians 1:5-6a
He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of the glory of His grace... 
(You can read a zillion more verses like this right here, if you want.)

As I mentioned, God's own glory is the primary reason behind everything He does. Absolutely everything - His love for us, His coming to earth and dying on a cross for our sins, His blessings that He gives, and even the judgments that He passes - all of these things He does for His ultimate glory because He is ultimately glorious above all other things, and He alone is worthy of all glory (Ephesians 3:21, Revelation 4:11)! As God Himself says in Isaiah 42:8: "I am the LORD; that is My name; My glory I give to no other." He guards His glory fiercely.

In the rest of the introduction to the book, Piper goes on to debunk the myth that just because something is pleasurable, it is inherently wrong or bad. I'll let his own words elaborate on this point:

"I [had wrongly] figured that the goodness of my moral action was lessened to the degree that I was motivated by a desire for my own pleasure. At the time, buying ice cream in the student center just for pleasure didn’t bother me, because the moral consequences of that action seemed so insignificant. But to be motivated by a desire for happiness or pleasure when I volunteered for Christian service or went to church—that seemed selfish, utilitarian, mercenary. 
This was a problem for me because I couldn’t formulate an alternative motive that worked. I found in myself an overwhelming longing to be happy, a tremendously powerful impulse to seek pleasure, yet at every point of moral decision I said to myself that this impulse should have no influence. 
One of the most frustrating areas was that of worship and praise. My vague notion that the higher the activity, the less there must be of self-interest in it, caused me to think of worship almost solely in terms of duty. And that cuts the heart out of it."

Can you identify with what Piper is saying here? I know I sure can, and so can my wife too. Is that notion, that feeling, that impulse of seeking happiness always bad? Many are led to think so, or at the very least, conditioned to regard it as selfishness from within. Admittedly it could be, depending upon what the object of your happiness is centered on. But intrinsically - is that impulse always a bad thing in and of itself? What if instead of getting rid of it altogether, we re-focused towards being happy in God instead? Consider this quote from C.S. Lewis' sermon, The Weight of Glory, that Piper himself goes on to quote in the book:

"If you asked twenty good men today what they thought the highest of the virtues, nineteen of them would reply, Unselfishness. But if you asked almost any of the great Christians of old he would have replied, Love. You see what has happened? A negative term has been substituted for a positive, and this is of more than philological importance. The negative ideal of Unselfishness carries with it the suggestion not primarily of securing good things for others, but of going without them ourselves, as if our abstinence and not their happiness was the important point. I do not think this is the Christian virtue of Love. The New Testament has lots to say about self-denial, but not about self-denial as an end in itself. We are told to deny ourselves and to take up our crosses in order that we may follow Christ; and nearly every description of what we shall ultimately find if we do so contains an appeal to desire. 
If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased."

It seems plain then, to me at least, that God has indeed created within man-- as something intrinsic to his very nature-- an innate desire and need to seek out happiness. Simultaneously, God also provides the one solution for satisfying that desire most fully and completely - Himself! Sadly though, as Lewis points out though, sin has tainted our pursuit of happiness by adding "selfishness" to our moral makeup, if you will. As a result, we are far too easily pleased with things that have no lasting value, and even worse, sins that are detrimental to our very souls! But the solution, then, is not to seek fulfillment through self-denial of all pleasure as an end in and of itself - but instead, to seek fulfillment in the very character of God -- in Jesus Christ alone, in whose presence abounds the richest and most indescribable pleasures of all! As David puts it in Psalm 16:11: "You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore."

As my wife and I were discussing these concepts with each other, we began to speculate on how finding pleasure in God can be sought after without compromising the requisite diligence in the honor, respect, and fear that is rightfully due to Him as well. For indeed, He is God - the all-powerful, all-knowing King and Creator of the universe, whom angels cover their faces from when they are in His presence (Isaiah 6:2). Aren't we supposed to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12)? What place, then, does reverent solemnity have in our worship of God, and how does one balance that with vibrant expressions of joy and pleasure? Because, let's face it, who hasn't been in church during the worship time (perhaps singing along while standing still or only swaying very minimally), when all of sudden - someone right behind you lets out a loud yip and starts vigorously clapping with heated enthusiasm - and you thought to yourself "Well this is awkward. How disrespectful of that person. This is church, not a U2 concert. That person is weird. I am uncomfortable. Must stay still. Do not acknowledge. Continue as if nothing happened."

For the record, I have had those exact thoughts in several church services before.

And yet, I read of David dancing before the Lord in 2 Samuel 6:14 out of pure joy and love towards God. The joy of the Lord was the strength of the Israelites in Nehemiah 8:10. In Acts 16:25, I read of Paul and Silas singing and rejoicing in the Lord while they were locked in a jail cell, and Paul even issued a command to rejoice in the Lord always in Philippians 4:4. In James 1:2, it says to count even trials as joy! And for heaven's sake, Galatians 5:22 teaches that joy is part of the fruit of the Spirit.

The more I dig into this, the more I am becoming convinced that joy is essential to the worship of God. Piper definitely sees things that way, because again in the book he makes another bold statement: "God is not worshiped where He is not treasured and enjoyed."

Let that statement sink for just a moment.

Now, I am not advocating craziness or lunacy in worship. Real expressions of joy might seem uncomfortable when displayed by some, but I don't think that Godly joy upsets the kind of orderly worship that Paul instructs in places such as 1st Corinthians 14. But -- I'll also step out on a limb and say that it probably looks like more than just standing still with your hands in your pockets while softly mumbling the song lyrics printed on the overhead projector screen.

So where does one find the balance in all of this? Where do we get an accurate picture of two seemingly-incompatible things coming together as one, while yet still preserving their complete distinctness? Well, the title of this blog article was called "King and a Friend", and there is a very specific reason I chose that as the title. At my other church back in Reno, we sang a song of the same title, written by the worship leader there. It just so happened that today on my way to work, my iPod was on 'shuffle' and that song came on. Part of the lyrics go like this:
A King and a Friend that reaches down
Your voice rings; our hearts resound
We believe the King and Friend we know 
I totally believe this was a God thing, but all of a sudden as I listened to those words, it hit me! The song, which is speaking about Jesus, specifically talks about how Jesus is both King of the universe, and yet also our closest Friend. The emphasis here -- at least the way I take it to be -- is that it demonstrates how He is both divine ruler, and yet also a human man. He is the God of the universe who has existed since eternity past, yet He is also the baby who was born in a manger. He is the immortal, all-powerful Creator of all things, yet He was also the righteous man who was wrongfully hung and killed on a cross. He is (as I mentioned earlier) the God who does not share His glory with another, and yet we are promised that because Jesus rose again to life, we who are in Him will one day share in that very glory (Romans 8:17)!!!



This perfect, incomprehensible hypostatic union is possible only in the person and work of Jesus Christ,  and therefore I believe there is no one else better to look to than Him to find that balance! The more we look to Jesus and come to understand the depth and riches of His Gospel, I believe we can and will find out what it means to worship God in complete, ecstatic, indescribable joy and at the same time, total, honor-filled reverence, respect, and awe.
Hebrews 1:3a
He [Jesus] is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature, and He upholds the universe by the word of His power.
~

Good heavens, that all came about from just reading the introduction to Desiring God! I wonder what awaits next in chapter 1 of this book?

Until next time :-)

-Michael

March 24, 2013

Would Jesus Boycott Starbucks?

My Facebook news feed has erupted with the rapidly-spreading story of Howard Schultz's (Starbucks CEO) apparent stance of supporting gay marriage, and how Starbucks as a company recently endorsed a same-sex marriage bill in the State of Washington.

Some of the more sensationalized headlines have said things like "Starbucks CEO: If you support traditional marriage, we don't want your business." Lots of people, predominantly Christian conservatives, are calling for an all-out boycott of the entire Starbucks company as a result. It seems they are not at all happy with the fact that their beloved coffee chain could commit such a grievous moral travesty as this (after all, Starbucks is practically in the Bible, right??). What other choice could there possibly be but by retaliating with a boycott (and a bunch of clamoring on Facebook about it)?

Well, for one, they could not boycott Starbucks (or they go about it quietly and personally, if it really goes against their conscience). I personally tend to think that a boycott is one of the worst things we Christians could do, because in no way does it lead anyone to know or see the love of Christ working in us and through us. Allow me to explain...

First Things First: The Facts
Let's begin by first getting something straightened out. What did Howard Schultz (and Starbucks) actually say or do that has prompted this uproar? Here is a video of exactly what happened. You can't get anything more accurate than that, really. Schultz never said "If you support traditional marriage, we don't want your business." However, he did declare that Starbucks openly supports "diversity" in marriage law (i.e., same-sex marriage), and the company did indeed endorse a bill supporting gay marriage in Washington. At this 2013 shareholder meeting, one of the shareholders questioned this decision by Schultz, pointing out that since Starbucks took this position publicly, boycotts have caused some drops in sales figures. Schultz responded, and said basically that if the shareholder wasn't happy with this, he was free to sell his stocks and go invest in some other company. That's hardly anything astounding or sensational.

Okay, So Starbucks DOES Support Same-Sex Marriage Then, Right?
Yes, that is correct. And by that definition, so do these other companies too (I've highlighted some of the more notable ones in red letters):
ABC
Abercrombie & Fitch source
Adobe Systems
Aetna source
Akamai Technologies source
Alcoa
Allstate Insurance
Amazon.com
American Apparel
American Airlines
Apple
Applebee's
Banana Republic
Barnes & Noble source
Ben & Jerry's source
Best Buy & Geek Squad
Boeing source
Cablevision source
Cisco Systems source
Clorox
The Coca-Cola Company
Concur Technologies
Costco
Delta Airlines
Dropbox source
eBay source
Electronic Arts
EMC Corporation
ESPN
Expedia
Facebook source
Ford
Gap
General Mills
General Motors
Goldman Sachs source
Google source
Groupon
Hewlett-Packard source
Hilton Worldwide
The Home Depot
Houghton Mifflin source
IBM
Intel source
Intuit source
J.C. Penney source
J.D. Power & Associates
The Jim Henson Company (Muppets) source
Kraft Foods
Levi's
Land's End
LinkedIn source
LucasFilm
Marriott Hotels
Marsh & McLennan Companies source
McDonald's
McGraw-Hill source
Marvel
Microsoft
Morgan Stanley source
Nationwide Insurance
NCR Corporation source
Nike
Nordstrom
Old Navy
Olive Garden
Office Depot
Oracle source
Orbitz
Oreo
Panasonic source
PepsiCo
PG&E
Pixar
Procter and Gamble
Qualcomm
RealNetworks, Inc.
Red Lobster
REI
Rite Aid
Salesforce.com source
Sears
Standard & Poors
Southwest Airlines
Sun Life Financial source
State Farm Insurance
Target
T-Mobile
United Airlines
UPS
Verizon Communications source
Vulcan Inc.
Walgreens
The Walt Disney Company
Wells Fargo
Xerox source
Zynga source
(Please note that this list is far from being totally comprehensive. But hopefully you get the idea.)

The Problems With Boycotting
The first problem with a boycott of Starbucks because of their stance on gay marriage is that it is inherently selective and hypocritical, unless you are also willing to boycott ALL of these other companies as well. Why single out only Starbucks, while continuing to post status updates on Facebook with quotes read from books on your Amazon Kindle that you bought at Target on the way home from dinner at The Olive Garden a few nights ago in your Ford Taurus that you also spilled your Pepsi in last week because you were talking on your Verizon cell phone while pulling out of the Costco parking lot after church on Sunday? Well?

The second problem, and perhaps the one that gets much more to the heart of the matter, is that it only serves to further embitter same-sex marriage supporters against Christians, and vice-versa; while doing NOTHING to show off the fact that Jesus came into the world to save sinners (1st Timothy 1:15).

Straight Talk
The fact of the matter is, all sin is evil in God's eyes. Sin is, quite simply, the transgression of God's righteous and holy Law, laid out clearly and unequivocally in the Scriptures; and every man and woman on the earth is guilty of sinning. While it is true that the Bible defines homosexuality as one of the several types of sexual sin, it sees self-righteousness as something even worse. Christians, more than any other people group, ought to be the ones most aware of how much sin they themselves have been forgiven of; and consequently, the ones most eager to do as Jesus did: go and meet sinners where they are, befriend them, and tell them about the realities of sin, and the hope that the Gospel offers them. We shouldn't be demonizing secular companies and people who aren't even Christians for not holding to morals that are inherently Christian in nature. There's no love in that kind of behavior. Instead, we need to be talking with people about the truth of sin and the reality of grace; pleading with them to examine the story of the cross for themselves, and to see their sin in light of the holiness of God. If He so chooses to quicken their hearts, the Holy Spirit will take care of convicting them of their sin. After all, that's His job, not ours.

Would Jesus boycott Starbucks? I personally don't think so. In fact, I would actually be quite confident that if Jesus was physically here walking around our towns today, Starbucks might be one of the many places that He specifically would visit to to talk with people about the Gospel. I don't think it's too unrealistic to imagine Him buying coffee for a group of people and sitting them down to talk with them about the Kingdom of God, the condition of their souls, the reality and consequences of sin, and their need for salvation.

Mark 2:15-17
And as [Jesus] reclined at the table in Levi's house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Shouldn't we go and do likewise?

If you want to dig just a little deeper, also check out this article called "Are You a Friend of Sinners?"

January 13, 2013

And I Bear It No More

My sin - oh the bliss of this glorious thought! -
My sin, not in part, but the whole
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more!
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, oh, my soul!

These words are found in the old hymn "It is Well With My Soul," and we sang it tonight at a church that my wife and I visited here in Raleigh. I've long loved this hymn and considered it my favorite, because it talks about how no matter what kinds of storms or hardships may bear down on life, we can anchor our hope in God and experience joy through anything because He is faithful.

Well tonight, this later verse in the song hit me even deeper. For a long time, I've carried around guilt associated with my struggles against the sins of lust and pornography. Even after confessing it, praying, telling the people I've hurt around me (like my wife) about it, I would still find myself feeling guilty about it. I felt like an awful person, unfaithful to my wife, a horrible role model especially since I know people look up to me... and then before long I'd be going back to it yet again... seemingly unable to break free from the bondage and enslavement of this evil desire in my heart. Then I'd hide it, and then it would only get worse, and then a breaking point would come and I would confess it to God, then go and tell someone about it again so that I could "be accountable," and then ultimately have to go to my wife again and confess it to her and ask her to forgive me again. But no matter how hard I would struggle against it, I always kept feeling the guilt of it. The guilt led to fear, the fear led to lack of faith, and the vicious cycle would repeat itself.

Most recently, just last month, I had to confess openly yet again that this struggle continues to knock me down. And even up to today, though at times the temptation to sin in this area subsides, it also still hits hard at others. And every time it does (sometimes prompted by something I see or just something that comes up in my own mind), and I let myself even dwell on impure thoughts for what I consider to be a moment too long, I begin to feel guilty yet again for all the times I've failed and for having the thoughts in that moment.

So getting back to the song: as we sang it tonight in church, I felt the words of this particular verse hit me even deeper than they ever have before. They declare the Biblical truths found in Colossians 2:13-14 and 1 Peter 2:24 which say: "When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross," and "He [Jesus] himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed."

For all who acknowledge their sinfulness and trust in Jesus and call upon the Name of the Lord to be saved-- our sins have been nailed to cross of Christ; they died with Him on that tree almost 2,000 years ago! And even though He arose from that death He died, our sins remain in the grave, dead and gone forever. And not just the past sins, but the present ones and the future ones too! "Even the future ones," the pastor preached tonight, "that we cannot even imagine ourselves capable of committing!" What is this grace that God gives us so freely?

My mind cannot even fully fathom the kind of love that God has demonstrated in Christ, but tonight I feel like a heavy weight was finally lifted off my shoulders. I bear this sin, it's guilt and it's shame too, NO MORE! That means I am free to confess openly the terribleness of my sin, and I don't have to hide it! I am free to no longer live enslaved to a master that is now dead! My Master LIVES! My Master has set me free to follow HIM! My master LOVES ME! And I love Him.

"But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." - 1st Corinthians 15:57.

April 27, 2012

The Image of God

Last week, I was gathered with some friends for our community group hangout, and we had sort of an "open question and answer night" where anyone could ask questions about God, the Bible, the Gospel, or life in general, and others would offer answers and thoughts from Scripture and a Christian worldview on them. One of the high-schoolers in our group brought up a really great question: “What exactly does it mean to be made in God’s image?”

To clear something up upfront, because some people were wondering about some of these specifics, the Bible would indicate to us that we did not descend in an evolutionary way from monkeys, apes, giants, nephilim, or Avatar-like creatures. We didn’t all used to be 9-feet tall, nor did we all used to be midgets or hobbits. While it’s true that some adaptations and slight changes in physical characteristics have come about over time (different-colored skin, body types, hair colors and hair coverage on the body, etc…), the Bible is very crystal clear that we were regular humans back in the early days of the earth, just like we still are today.

When God created mankind, the Bible says in Genesis 1:27:
“So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female, He created them.”
When we think of an image, we generally think of a pictoral or artistic representation of a real thing. The image is not the real thing; it can’t do everything the real thing does. For example, I can’t go for a ride in a model of a car, I can only go for a ride in a real car. Nonetheless, the model (which is like an “image”) of the car still bears resemblance and many similarities in attributes to the real car that it is made after.

In the same way, God has many attributes. We divide these attributes into “communicable” and “incommunicable” attributes. Those which are termed “communicable” mean that, to varying and lesser degrees, we as human beings can also have / exercise / experience some small measure of those attributes too. These would be things like love, kindness, mercy, wisdom, truthfulness, jealousy, or having a will— just to name a few. We can’t be all-loving like God is, for example, but we can still show and receive love. We can’t be all-wise like God is, but we can still exercise wisdom.

Then there are God’s “incommunicable” attributes – those which we can’t really have / exercise / experience ourselves. These are things like God’s timeless eternity (He has no beginning and no end, and was not created by anything or anyone), His omnipotence (God is all-powerful), His total independence (God does not need anything or anyone to sustain Him or give Him life), and His unchangeableness (God is always the same, yesterday, today, and forever). While it’s true that perhaps you could say that a small number of these “incommunicable” attributes will be experienced by us in lesser ways (for example: like God, Christians will rise from the dead and live for eternity; but unlike Him, we still had a definite beginning and creation), they generally are spoken of in terms as really only applying to God. For example, no human will ever be all-powerful.

As we put all this together, the analogy of the image of the car can be really helpful. Like Genesis 1:27 said, God made us in His image and likeness – much like a model car is made in the image  and likeness of a real car. We can’t do everything God can, and even in the attributes that we do share with God, we still can’t exercise or experience them to the full amount that God can. But He patterned us – everything about us – after Himself. This doesn’t just mean intangible characteristics like love and mercy; it means our physical characteristics too. For example, the Bible speaks in numerous places of God “watching” with His eyes (2 Chron. 16:9), “speaking” out of His mouth (Gen. 1:3), “listening” with His ears (John 9:31), and “upholding” with His hands (Isaiah 41:10). Moses even saw God’s backside once, as He walked by him (Ex. 33:18-23).

Do our hands and fingers look the same as God’s? Does He have two eyes placed on either side of a nose that rests just above His mouth, like we do? Are His ears on the sides of His head? The Bible doesn’t outright say anything specifically to this effect, so we don’t quite know for sure. The Bible does say, however, that God (the Father) is Spirit (John 4:24). While many theologians would like to be able to neatly “box up” what that means, and how it works with the Bible talking about God’s eyes, mouth, and hands, I want to simply just offer up to you that we can’t quite fully comprehend what that means, and how all those details works out, with our limited and finite minds. What we do know is what the Bible does reveal to us though, and it says that when Jesus, who was God in the flesh, came down to earth – He came in the form of a human being (John 1:14). He looked liked, talked like, walked like, and actually was a human being, just like us! And when He died and was resurrected from the dead, the Bible says that His resurrected body was the pattern by which all Christians will be restored to when God resurrects us as well (see 1st Corinthians 15:35-58).

So why do we need to be restored? What exactly about us is being restored? Before sin entered the world, the image of God that humanity was made in was perfect – much like a painstakingly-accurate and detailed model of a car that was made by a skilled artist. But when Adam and Eve sinned, that image became fractured, damaged, and marred. And though we don’t know if it exactly affected how Adam and Eve looked physically at that initial moment of first sin, we do know it affected their souls and their spirits; and eventually their physical bodies too. Their minds knew the differences between good and evil. Their flesh desired to do evil and rebel against God, and their bodies began to decay, grow old, wither, and die. Really, no part of their spiritual and physical being was left unaffected by sin. And that’s why Jesus had to come and die on a cross to save us! It was the only way that the deteriorating and deadly effects of sin to humanity could be reversed! When Jesus came to earth, He lived a perfect life on our behalf, and died the death for sin on our behalf, so that we could be restored to the perfect physical and spiritual state that Adam and Eve were originally made in before they fell – the state that allows us to be in the very presence of God, completely unhindered by any sin. That process was started on the cross with Jesus, and is going on in our lives right now through God’s active work of “sanctification” that He’s doing in us every day. The trials and struggles we face, the hardships we endure, and the love and grace we experience from Him, are all working together to lead back towards that perfect, unblemished, unmarred image of God that we were originally meant to bear. And when we finally die and are resurrected with Christ, we will truly and completely – just like Jesus – be formed perfectly into image of God like we were always meant to be.

1 Corinthians 15:51-57 
"Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: 
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?” 
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!"

For further reading about this, I really recommend taking some time to read slowly and carefully through the entire chapter of 1st Corinthians 15, and spend some time meditating on it. The best source of information and answers to any Bible question is the Bible itself! Think about what the implications are of you being made to be an image-bearer of the Almighty God!

Grace and peace,

April 25, 2012

I'm Not Worth It: The Danger of Poverty Theology

James 1:17 says that "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change."

Good fathers love to give good gifts to their children. God, being the perfect Father, especially delights in blessing His children with good gifts. Though us Christians would probably all give mental ascent to this (meaning, we would all agree with it in our heads), there is sadly a sweeping tendency among many of us to functionally reject it at the heart level, because we deem ourselves "unworthy" to receive anything good from the Father above. This is especially true for those of us raised in a "religious" setting, where law abounded and grace was in short supply. We might accept the fact that God has given us His grace (grace is God's unmerited favor and gift of eternal life that He gives to us freely through Jesus), but we wrongfully, and sinfully, think that we must forsake everything else in order to stay in God's grace. This is actually legalism - when we think that our performance either merits, earns, or retains God's favor. This comes about because we sometimes forget how deep the depths of God's love for us really are.

First, let's look at grace...

We Are Unworthy
When it comes to understanding the grace of God, everyone first has to face the answer to this question: "Am I unworthy?" There is only one answer: Yes, we are all unworthy of God's love and kindness and grace. We're unworthy because we are sinners, who've offended the perfect holiness of God with our sinful thoughts, words, and deeds. Romans 3:23 tells us that "All have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God." Romans 6:23a tells us that "The wages of sin is death." Put quite simply, every one of us deserves death because of our sin.

Only Christ is Worthy
In the realm of human history, there is only one man who was ever completely worthy of God's favor, because He never sinned. That man was God Himself in the flesh: Jesus Christ. Jesus succeeded where every other human being had failed... He obeyed God perfectly in thought, word, and deed. When God looked down on His Son from Heaven, he said "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:17). God could only say that to someone who was perfect, inside and out. The slightest, faintest, tiniest speck of imperfection would be enough to disqualify anyone from such a commendation by the Creator of the universe. But Jesus had no such blemish.

In Christ, We Are Made Worthy
Though Jesus was perfect in every way, He did not come to earth to merely show off His perfection and set a standard of righteousness that none of us would ever be able to attain to on our own-- the Law had already done that! Jesus came to save us from the effects of our failure to keep the Law-- that is to say, our sins. Remember how Romans 6:23a said that "The wages of sin is death"? Well, the verse goes on to say "...but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus, our Lord." Jesus came to earth to rescue us from death, and to give us life. He did this on the cross by taking the punishment for our sins upon Himself. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says "For our sake, He [God] made Him to be sin who knew no sin [Jesus], so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God." What this verse is telling us is that on the cross, a great exchange took place. Jesus, the perfect Son of God who had never done anything wrong, took on Himself the awful, excruciating, terrifying fury of God's righteous wrath against our sins. And we, whose very sins had nailed Jesus to that cross, received the perfect, pure, completely unblemished righteousness of Jesus in place of our sin, and the promise of eternal life. This was not because of our own merit, but because of Christ's! For those who believe this truth through faith, John 1:12 teaches that God adopts us into His family, granting us the right to be called His sons and daughters - adopted siblings of Jesus Himself (see also Hebrews 2:11)!

Receiving God's Good Gifts
How does this all relate to accepting good gifts from God? Think back to the concept of grace that was discussed briefly above. Grace is God's unmerited favor upon us, which He can give to us because of Christ's atonement for our sins. Because of grace, we are adopted as sons and daughters into the family of God. A good, loving father doesn't adopt a child and then expect him or her to live a joyless life in his house, demanding that the child continually earn their place in his house by afflicting themselves, denying any comforts, and walking around on eggshells trying not to break them. A good, loving father brings the child into his home, sits him or her down at his table for food, clothes the child, provides for the child, plays with the child, buys gifts for the child, enjoys life with the child, raises and teaches the child to be mature, loving, giving, and caring like he is; and loves him or her forever.

This is what God does with us when He brings us into His family. He is a good father who loves His children dearly, and wants to bless us as we grow and mature in our relationship with Him. To reject any expression of God's love that He wants to show to us is a grievous thing. It grieves God's heart, and hurts us in the process. Why would we want to do that to someone who has shown us so much love?

You might be thinking, at this point, that all this sounds just too good to be true. Maybe you're too caught up in the shame of your sins from the past. Let me tell you in no uncertain terms that if you are a Believer, Jesus already paid for those sins! Or do you think that what He did on the cross wasn't sufficient enough, and that you still need to add something extra to it? Remember Jesus' words on the cross: "It is finished" (John 19:30). There is nothing that can be added to what He did.

Maybe you just cannot believe that God wants you to be happy, because that sounds too much like "prosperity gospel" stuff. I'm not presenting any sort of prosperity teaching here. But if this is you, think about what the opposite of your assumption is. Are you saying you think that God doesn't desire to see you happy (in Him)? Because that certainly isn't true.

For a little further reading on this topic in a short story format, check out this parable on Mark Driscoll's blog about a boy who rejected a good gift from his dad, and the sadness that came about as a result: http://pastormark.tv/2011/09/21/a-poverty-theology-parable. I think it drives the point home well.

May you rest in the fact of knowing that God is a good God, who loves you dearly; who wants to give you good gifts; and in fact has already given you His very best gift of all - His own Son, Jesus. May your response be one of simple gratitude and worship towards Him, enjoying His good gifts and rejecting the false notions of poverty theology as lies from the pit; as you remember that this grace and love from God was not because of anything you did, but only because of His own great love with which He first loved you.

February 09, 2012

Remember Jesus

The book of 2nd Timothy is the last epistle (pastoral letter) written by the apostle Paul that we have contained in the Scriptures, and is also quite possibly the very last letter he wrote before he was beheaded at the order of the Roman Emperor Nero— widely regarded to have been the first major political figure to relentlessly persecute and kill Believers for their faith in Jesus. Nero’s hatred of Christians was reportedly so intense that he was known for martyring scores of Christ’s followers in ways that even some of the most violent, barbaric, and tortuous people of the day considered too heinous and grotesque for any human being to suffer (not too unlike Hitler with the Jews). Sadly, the thought of being tortured and killed for Christ’s sake was too much to bear for some; and, mistakenly thinking they could save themselves, those who had once professed a belief in Jesus were turning away from their faith and denying the only One who actually had the power to save them. In addition to all this persecution, false teaching was also on the rise, leading many more people astray. To put it simply, the situation and context within which Paul is writing this letter to Timothy, the young pastor of the church at Ephesus, seems pretty dire. Everything seems to be working against those who hold their allegiance to Christ. Paul writes this letter to encourage Timothy to remain faithful to his calling as a pastor and as a Christian; to boldly and unashamedly teach sound doctrine; and to endure in the midst of suffering and hardship, because Jesus is faithful and true.

The passage of this letter that I want to specifically examine and break down here, 2 Timothy 2:8-13, is relevant to us in many ways. Firstly, we know from just one chapter further in this letter (2 Timothy 3:16) that all Scripture is breathed out by God, and is profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness. If you would, just stop and think about that for a moment. Whenever you open up God’s Word, do you approach the entirety of it with this truth in mind? Do you see every verse in the Bible as a priceless asset to your soul? Just like we need food to survive and be strengthened physically, we NEED the Living Word of God in order to survive and be strengthened spiritually. In John 1, we read that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God… and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” This is speaking, of course, about Jesus Christ. In the passage we’re looking at, Paul talks about the need for endurance, and he tells Timothy that remembering this Living Word—remembering Jesus—is going to be paramount to his ability to be able to endure the struggles and challenges of ministry and the Christian life. These words are also especially relevant to men who serve in leadership roles in the church such as pastors and elders. Timothy himself was a pastor, and Paul’s instruction to Timothy should therefore be taken as instruction that is very applicable to those who shepherd God’s people.

Let's look at the whole passage of 2 Timothy 2:8-13 first. The ESV puts it this way:
"Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. The saying is trustworthy, for:

If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he also will deny us;
if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself."
The specific theme in this text that I’m going to draw out here is the need for endurance. Paul stresses to Timothy that he is going to need endurance if he is going to be able to faithfully carry out his duties as a pastor; and even Christian life in general—because all Christians need to have endurance. But the question then becomes, “How does one get endurance?”

Let’s go back now and take a look at the first three words of the passage. Starting in verse 8:

Remember Jesus Christ…

Just go ahead and stop there for a moment. This is the main point right here. In fact, I would argue that it could be said that this exhortation forms the foundation of the key to enduring in any form of ministry, and even the Christian life in general.

Remember. Jesus. Christ.

If we don’t remember Jesus; if we forget why we’re here doing what we’re doing, we will fail to endure.

If you’re a Christian, you might be thinking, “How silly! I’m a Believer! How could I possibly forget Jesus?” But let’s ponder some of the facts here. These words are pivotal. First off, Paul is writing this letter TO A PASTOR, and he still thought these were some very important words to say to him anyways (not to mention the fact that the Holy Spirit inspired these words in the first place). We all need constant reminders of Jesus, no matter how far along we are in our walks with God. Secondly, do you really constantly have Jesus on your mind? Be honest. What about when someone cuts you off on the freeway; or you are given the wrong food at the McDonald’s drive-thru while in a hurry? What about when you’re having a fight with your spouse, and things are getting pretty heated; or when someone is late in paying back the $400 you loaned them, and you aren’t able to pay your rent on time as a result? Maybe none of those exact situations have ever applied to you personally, but hopefully you have caught my drift. The fact of the matter is that human memory is actually quite erratic. It is sometimes possible for even the most precious of experiences to fade from our minds over time or under prolonged hardship and stress, if we’re not diligent to keep up our awareness of the reality that is there. This is especially true of our relationship with Jesus, which is why I think Paul reminds Timothy just a little bit earlier in the letter (1:6) to “fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands…” What Paul was saying to Timothy, and by way of application, to us, is that we must make a conscious effort to keep the awareness of Christ in the forefront of our thinking, through the power of the Holy Spirit, and not allow all the other experiences and hardships of life that we will face sideswipe the greatest experience of all, which was the grace of God that we received by faith in Jesus when we were saved.

So, in remembering Jesus, what does Paul tell Timothy to remember about Jesus in order to have endurance? I believe there are three key points that come out in this passage as follows:

  • We must remember who Jesus is, as revealed in the Gospel.
  • We must remember who Jesus is for the sake of the elect (Believers-- both those who do believe, and those who will believe).
  • We must remember that Jesus is faithful to Himself and to His promises.

Let’s look at the first key point that we are to remember about Jesus; that is, who He is as revealed in the Gospel.

Verse 8 of 2 Timothy 2 begins this way: “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my Gospel…”

Paul first mentions “risen from the dead…” Let’s think about this for just a moment. What is the Gospel without the resurrection of Christ from the dead? It’s no Gospel, that’s for sure. It would mean that Jesus was a liar, because He once said to some religious leaders “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it up again in three days” – referring, as we know from the context of that passage, to His own body. He also declared Himself to be God, (John 8:58 is one example: “Before Abraham was, I AM” or in John 10:30, “I and the Father are one.”) If Jesus was a liar, it would mean that He could not be God, “for God cannot lie.” If He was not God, then He certainly could not have the infinite power or righteousness needed to accomplish our salvation, and His death on the cross would be of no value or benefit to us. We cannot miss this!

I sometimes notice that we Christians will talk a lot about the death of Christ on the cross. Don’t get me wrong; this is a good thing! We should talk about it, for it was His death on the cross that purchased our pardon from God Almighty’s righteous wrath! But in all the talk of Christ’s saving work on the cross, we have to also remember to talk about how crucial the resurrection of Christ from the grave is as well! It is the resurrection that validates Christ’s deity and His victory over sin and death; it proves that He is God; it proves that He has power over death, and it shows that every word of His, therefore, is trustworthy and true. If we are going to endure the hardships of Christian life and ministry, we must be diligent to always remember that! Essentially, Paul starts off by saying, “Remember Jesus Christ: He is God.”

But that’s not all. Paul continues on… he says “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David… In remembering that Jesus is God, we must also remember that He is God in the flesh, born as a human being into the royal line of King David. He is the perfect man. The God-man. The promised Messiah whom God said would be born of the seed of the woman (Gen. 3:18). Why is Jesus’ humanity so important? There are a lot of reasons that could be given, but here’s a couple key ones:

1: For representative obedience:
This simply means that Jesus succeeded where Adam failed, and that in being perfectly obedient to God as a human, He did it on behalf of all humanity. This is talked about in places like Romans 5:18-19 and 1st Corinthians 15:45-47, if you want to read further.

2: His humanity makes him an acceptable substitute sacrifice for us:
If Jesus had not Himself been a human man, He could not have died in place of humanity and paid our penalty for sin. How do I know this for sure? Hebrews 2:14-17 puts it this way:
“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.
While we could go on with many more, the point here is that just as we remember that Jesus Christ is perfect in His deity, He is also perfect in His humanity. This Jesus, the true Jesus, is who Paul preached in his Gospel. He exhorts Timothy to do the same; and by way of application, he exhorts us to believe in and preach this same Jesus as well: fully God and fully man. This is the Jesus we must remember if we are going to endure.

Let’s look now at the second key point Paul goes into as to why we must remember Jesus if we are to have endurance, and that is we must remember Jesus for the sake of the elect. Look at the passage with me again:
Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.
Put yourself in Timothy’s shoes for a moment; Paul is essentially saying this (in my paraphrase): “Look Timothy. The Gospel you preach… it’s not going to be received well by everyone. You’re going to suffer for it. Trust me, I have experienced this firsthand. People are going to hate you, mock you, and ridicule you. You might even get thrown and prison and ultimately put to death for preaching this Gospel! But you know what, Timothy? It’s worth it! You know why, Timothy? Because no matter what they do to you, even if they chain you up, God’s Word cannot be chained!! Therefore, your hard work of preaching God’s Word will not be done in vain! It’s going to fall on the ears of His elect, and they are going to hear it, and they are going to believe it, and they are going to get saved! So endure persecution for their sake, Timothy, because that’s what Jesus did for you too! Remember what He went through for you, and that will help give you endurance in suffering!”

By the way, fellow Christians, can I just say that if nobody hates you, mocks you, or you aren’t ever undergoing some kind of suffering or persecution for preaching the Gospel and following God’s leading in your life, you probably are not preaching the true, complete Gospel and following God’s leading as much as you think you are! In fact, just a little later in 2 Timothy 3:12 Paul says “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” I’m not saying you need to go and seek out opposition; nor am I saying you shouldn’t pay any attention to your critics (sometimes, there is truth in criticism that we need to be humble enough to receive), but I am saying that if you preach the true Word of God and seek to follow Him, the Bible says that opposition will naturally find its way to you! And don’t think this opposition will only come from the outside world – you’ll quite possibly encounter it from friends within your own church and even your own family too! If you’re never encountering any opposition at all, that should be a red flag which must be brought before the Lord, so that He can reveal to you in what areas you are compromising on truth in order to please the ears of men, because you probably are fearing them more than you are fearing God. But, if you are encountering trouble while seeking to follow God’s leading in your life, then despite how bad it could ever get, your work will not be done in vain because God’s Word never goes out in vain! People are still going to hear the Gospel and get saved!

And that’s why we do what we do, isn’t it? So that more people may come to know Jesus? If we are going to endure in the Christian life, we must REMEMBER JESUS for the sake of the elect!

Now, let’s look at the last point that Paul goes into as to why we must remember Jesus if we are to have endurance, and that is: we must remember Jesus, because He is faithful. Look at verses 11-13 with me:
The saying is trustworthy, for:
If we have died with Him, we will also live with Him;
If we endure, we will also reign with Him;
If we deny Him, He also will deny us;
If we are faithless, He remains faithful—
for He cannot deny Himself.
Let me draw your attention to Jesus’ faithfulness to Himself and to His promises here. Like Paul said, these words are trustworthy and true. If we have died with Him, we will also live with Him. That’s a promise! Indeed, we who are saved have died to our old self and been raised with Christ; and the day is coming when we will also live with Him in the flesh. Remember that Jesus is faithful to His promise to return again; and if we endure, this passage here emphatically guarantees that we will reign with Him! But if we don’t endure, and instead we deny Him, He will also deny us before the Father. These are very harsh-sounding words to hear, but they reflect Jesus’ very own statement in Matthew 10:31-33. But then the passage closes with these words: “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.” Ultimately, even in our weaknesses and failures that we will experience because we’re human, and we don’t yet have our resurrection bodies, Jesus remains faithful to Himself and to His promises. If we are chosen by Him, we will endure because ultimately endurance comes from Jesus Himself, and not our own doing. Paul said in Philippians 1:6 that “I am sure of this, that He [God] who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” That’s why we look to HIM for endurance, because we simply don’t have the strength for it ourselves!

So, in closing, let me recap: If we are going to endure as fruitful and obedient Christians, faithful to Jesus’ mandate to proclaim the Gospel and make disciples, we MUST continually remember Jesus for who He is and what He's done as revealed in the Gospel; we must continually remember Jesus for the sake of the lost who need to hear the Gospel; and we must continually remember that Jesus is faithful to Himself, to His Word, and to every single one of His promises.

Do not forget... Remember Jesus!

December 01, 2011

All I Have is Christ



I once was lost in darkest night
Yet thought I knew the way.
The sin that promised joy and life
Had led me to the grave.

I had no hope that You would own
A rebel to Your will.
And if You had not loved me first
I would refuse You still.

But as I ran my hell-bound race
Indifferent to the cost
You looked upon my helpless state
And led me to the cross.

And I beheld God's love displayed
You suffered in my place
You bore the wrath reserved for me
Now all I know is grace.

Hallelujah! All I have is Christ!
Hallelujah! Jesus is my life!


Now, Lord, I would be Yours alone
And live so all might see
The strength to follow Your commands
Could never come from me.

Oh Father, use my ransomed life
In any way You choose.
And let my song forever be
My only boast is You.

© 2008 Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI), by Jordan Kauflin

November 28, 2011

Bonheoffer on Confessing Sin

"In confession a man breaks through to certainty. Why is it that it is often easier for us to confess our sins to God than to a brother? God is holy and sinless, He is a just judge of evil and the enemy of all disobedience, but a brother is sinful as we are. He knows from his own experience the dark night of secret sin. Why should we not find it easier to go to a brother than to the holy God? But if we do, we must ask ourselves whether we have not often been deceiving ourselves with our confession of sin to God, whether we have not rather been confessing our sins to ourselves and also granting ourselves absolution.

And is not the reason perhaps for our countless relapses and the feebleness of our Christian obedience to be found precisely in the fact that we are living on self-forgiveness and not on real forgiveness? Self-forgiveness can never lead to a breach with sin; this can be accomplished only by the judging and pardoning Word of God itself...

Our brother breaks the circle of self-deception. A man who confesses his sins in the presence of a brother knows that he is no longer alone with himself; he experiences the presence of God in the reality of the other person...Mutual, brotherly confession is given to us by God in order that we may be sure of divine forgiveness."

-Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together, 1115-1116

October 24, 2011

Serving Out of a Gospel Identity

Today, I am sharing some thoughts that my girlfriend fiancée (updated 11/24/11 !!!), Stacey, recently wrote on the topic of why it's important for every Christian to step up and serve the church body in some way, and what should drive the motivation to do so. I hope you are encouraged and challenged by what she's written!

-Michael

-------------

“As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”
-1 Peter 4:10 (NKJV)

I was thinking about serving this morning – more specifically about serving the Lord. Why do we do it? What’s the purpose behind it? Is it really necessary? If it’s so important, why don’t more people in the church do it? Why is it that in every church I’ve attended or visited, they always seem to be asking for people to step up to “serve” or “volunteer” or whatever other name they want to put to it? Shouldn’t this be something that God’s people do without prompting? Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a problem with churches announcing when they have a need. It just makes me sad when I hear the same announcement week after week without people stepping up to meet the need. Maybe I’m just idealizing here, but these are my thoughts…

In more than one place, the writers of the New Testament identified themselves as servants of Christ. Now really the word so often translated “servant” should more accurately be translated “bondservant” or “slave.” There’s a difference there: a servant voluntarily serves for compensation and can leave his or her employment at any time. A bondservant or slave has at one point come under the authority and ownership of someone else. They do whatever their master tells them, and there is no leaving. They serve their master for life. For those of us who have been around the church and church vernacular for awhile, we might understand the difference and know what is being said when we read the word “servant.” But then again, maybe some of us really don’t-- otherwise, I think we would be willing to serve a lot more.

When we accepted Christ as our Savior, it wasn’t just “fire insurance” that we were “buying into”. What happened when we were saved was essentially a transaction where our identity was removed and we were instead given Christ’s identity because we realized that our identity, our righteousness, was worthless but Christ’s identity is holy and priceless. In essence, we were saying “Lord Jesus, I belong to You now. I give up my rights, my ideas, my everything for You. Where You go, I will go. What You say, I will do. I give up my rights to follow You because I see that You are Truth and Light and are indeed a good Master.”

Does that seem a little radical? Well, it is. But you see, nowhere in Christ’s teaching do I see Him calling people to follow in moderation. It’s kind of an “all or nothing” deal. This idea that we can have Jesus and still have the world is completely wrong. As a matter of fact, Jesus had something to say about that in Matthew 6:24 & Luke 16:13:

“No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon [money].” (NKJV)
You see, no matter what, we will serve a master in this life – whether it’s money or power or the flesh or ourselves or another person or GOD Himself. And there’s no room for trying to serve more than one master. We may fool ourselves into thinking that we can balance it, having two masters, but in the end if we try to serve God AND anything else, we’re going to be pulled apart as we’re led in opposing directions. The question is – which Master do you want to serve?

My Master is good, kind, holy, righteous, fair, and powerful. And I SO desperately desire for each and every person who reads this to know Him and want to come under His authority!
Now, I’m not saying I have this down. Anyone that knows me can testify to that. I struggle every day in choosing to serve God rather than this world or my flesh, and it’s only by God’s grace when I do choose to serve Him. My heart’s desire, though, is to see my life reflecting service to Him as my Master more and more each day. I’m sure that all you believers reading this have that same longing in your hearts, and I pray that it is fulfilled through the Holy Spirit working in us. :-)

But in getting back to my original thought on serving… as a slave of my Lord, He has called His people to serve Him. As the verse at the beginning of this note in 1 Peter shows, He has given each one of us a gift to use; and He commands for us to use it to minister to one another. We are called good stewards if we do, and that would mean we are bad stewards if we don’t. So I go back to my initial questions – Why don’t we serve? Why do we have to be coerced and sometimes even cornered to serve and use these gifts that we’ve been given? What’s holding us back?

Please don’t think I’m asking those questions so that people will answer me. I only bring them up so that you may search the Scriptures and bring this before God yourself. See where He would lead you, where He would have you go or what He would have you do. Remember, serving the Lord doesn’t just mean serving at your church (though that is wonderful); it’s a heart attitude for wherever the Lord would guide us to be. As Colossians 3:17 says “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” (NKJV) That’s really all that we can do – in faith look to Jesus, our Master and Redeemer, and follow Him.

-Stacey