Saturday, May 2, 2009
"First, the cross is the ground of our justification. Christ has rescued us from the present evil age (Gal 1:4) and redeemed us from the curse of the law (Gal 3:13)...
Second, the cross is the means of our sanctification. This is where the three other crucifixions come in. We have been crucified with Christ (Gal 2:20). We have crucified our fallen nature (Gal 5:24). And the world has been crucified to us, as we have been to the world (Gal 6:14)...
Third, the cross is the subject of our witness. We are to placard Christ crucified publicly before people's eyes, so that they may see and believe (Gal 3:1)...
Fourth, the cross is the object of our boasting. God forbid that we should boast in anything else (Gal 6:14). Paul's whole world was in orbit around the cross. It filled his vision, illumined his life, warmed his spirit. He "gloried" in it. It meant more to him than anything else. Our perspective should be the same.
To be an enemy of the cross is to set ourselves against its purposes. Self-righteousness (instead of looking to the cross for justification), self-indulgence (instead of taking up the cross to follow Christ), self-advertisement (instead of preaching Christ crucified) and self-glorification (instead of glorying in the cross) - these are the distortions which make us "enemies" of Christ's cross.
Campbell Morgan expressed it well:
It is the crucified man that can preach the cross. Said Thomas "except I see in his hands the print of the nails. . .I will not believe." Dr. Parker of London said that what Thomas said of Christ, the world is saying about the church. And the world is also saying to every preacher: Unless I see in your hands the print of the nails, I will not believe. It is true. It is the man. . .who has died with Christ, . . .that can preach the cross of Christ."
Friday, April 17, 2009
I wanted to post the following quote from this book:
"I could never myself believe in God, if it were not for the cross. The only God I believe in is the One Nietzche ridiculed as "God on the cross". In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it? I have entered many Buddhist temples in different Asian countries and stood respectfully before the statue of the Buddha, his legs crossed, arms folded, eyes closed, the ghost of a smile playing round his mouth, a remote look on his face, detached from the agonies of the world. But each time after a while I have had to turn away.
And in imagination I have turned instead to that lonely, twisted, tortured figure on the cross, nails through hands and feet, back lacerated, limbs wrenched, brow bleeding from thorn-pricks, mouth dry and intolerably thirsty, plunged in Godforsaken darkness. That is the God for me! He laid aside his immunity to pain. He entered our world of flesh and blood, tears and death. He suffered for us. Our sufferings become more manageable in the light of His. There is still a question mark against human suffering, but over it we boldly stamp another mark, the cross that symbolizes divine suffering. The Cross of Christ...is God's only self-justification in such a world as ours."
Friday, April 3, 2009
* Verse 1:
O Lord my God! When I in awesome wonder
Consider all the works Thy hands have made.
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee;
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee:
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
* Verse 2:
When through the woods and forest glades I wander
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees;
When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur
And hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze:
* Verse 3:
And when I think that God, His Son not sparing,
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin:
* Verse 4:
When Christ shall come with shouts of acclamation
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart!
Then I shall bow in humble adoration,
And there proclaim, my God, how great Thou art!
Every day I will praise you
and extol your name for ever and ever.
Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise;
his greatness no one can fathom. - Psalm 145:2-3
Monday, March 16, 2009
The Webster's dictionary defines the word "travail" as follows - "work especially of a painful or laborious nature".
Travailing in prayer is laborious and can be violent at times when we are desperate for God's presence in our lives. Are we as God's people born by the Spirit of God desperate for more of His tangible presence in our lives?
As a woman cries out in labor from deep within her I believe we as God's people need to cry out in a loud voice as the Spirit leads us in our desperation for more of Him in our lives.
I believe this type of prayer is a soul thirst which longs for the living God to continue to break through in our lives. It does not take a prophet to say that we are living in some dark times and it seems to be getting worse. What we need now more than ever is not simply an answer from God to our petitions and requests (although He does answer us and cares for us). We need is palpable presence to infiltrate our souls and His glory to be manifested in us.
This sort of travailing prayer I believe has the following results:
1. A recognition of the Sovereign Lord being above us and we who are His children being under Him. He must increase we must decrease.
2. It causes our hearts to be softened as we recognize our humanity and our utter dependence upon Him.
3. When this broken and contrite spirit is produced in us as we travail in prayer directed by His Holy Spirit it makes us candidates for more of Him.
4. The ultimate result is worship, adoration and the exaltation of God Almighty as He manifests His presence in our lives which we are able to cultivate by the Spirit into a Spirit-led lifestyle. As we behold Him we are transformed with ever increasing glory in the likeness of Jesus Christ by the Spirit.
Consider our Savior as the writer of Hebrews points out in the 5th chapter 7th verse:
"During the days of Jesus' life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission."
Are we approaching God as the Holy one of Israel? Let us ask God to enable us by His Spirit to be a people of reverent submission like Jesus displayed in His life on earth.
Notice Jesus was not "saved from death" but God heard His loud cries. Ultimately in Jesus' humanity He desired the presence of God. God answered His prayer.
In these days that we live in particularly may we be a people who travail in prayer for the Lord's presence to breakthrough in extraordinary ways in our lives!
"Then he said to Him, If Your presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here." - Moses (Exodus 33:15)
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
God used specific verses in this book to call us to a new church where He healed us, built us up, encouraged us and gave us a whole new vision of what it means to BE the church (not just go to a church). We have been pleasantly surprised over and over again as God has used the book of Ephesians to reveal more of Himself and His love for His people to us. Along with a deep understanding of the purpose and identity of the Body of Christ, the book of Ephesians teaches us about the powerful work of the Holy Spirit and demolishes the Western Christianity that diminishes emotion and experiential faith. I absolutely love this book - not that I don't love other books of the Bible, but I'm sure you know what I mean.
What I want to do today, though, is to look at Revelation to see what eventually happened to the Ephesian church. Though we are not told the ultimate fate of the church we do get a much different picture of the Ephesian church in the book of Revelation than we do in the book of Ephesians. It is a church in danger of having the very presence of God removed from their midst. It is a church that has walked away from the living God and are in danger of an actual "falling away." I don't care how reformed you are (I am very reformed), the warning given to the Ephesian church in the book of Revelation is frightening and goes against every Calvinistic doctrine I know and cherish.
To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: "The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands. I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name's sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent."
Jesus begins, here, by commending the Ephesians for their hard work, their patient endurance and their commitment to truth. This is evidently a church with impeccable orthodoxy and a fierce devotion to the truth about who God is in Christ. I imagine a church that says all the right things, contends for the truth, preaches the gospel and shoots the wolves. And Jesus gives them glowing encouragement for these things. Amen to that!
But something is amiss with the Ephesian church and it will cost them dearly unless they repent. What is it that can be so terrible if they believe the right things and preach the right things? Isn't that, in the end, what it means to be a church-to preach the gospel and see people come to know Jesus Christ; to contend for the truth about Who Jesus is; to protect the church from wolves and impostors; to discern truth from lies? No! That is not what it means to be a church! These are some of the things that the Church does...but it is not what/who the Church is. From the rebuke that Jesus hammers the Ephesian church with we can rest assured that to miss what Jesus is about to remind them of is to miss everything and to lose our very identity in Christ. Jesus is threatening to remove His presence from among them and to demolish their identity in Christ. In other words, they will no longer belong to Him and be His representatives to the world. Even though that flies in the face of your system, you must accept it because these are the words of Jesus Christ Himself.
Jesus rebukes the Ephesians for having "abandoned the love you had at first." Now, depending on which commentary or commentator you refer to this could mean that either their love for Christ Himself had grown cold and stale or their love for one another had diminished. I would submit to you, however, that neither of these interpretations of the text are wrong and that if the love for Christ has grown cold, their love for one another would be diminished. The same is true the other way around: if their love for one another had diminished it's directly related to their love for Christ having grown cold. Reading John 13 - 17 will show that if we love Christ we will keep His word, and His command to us is to love one another. It's really that simple. If deep, humble, steadfast love for and devotion to one another is missing, then the love of Christ Himself has grown cold...or worse yet, maybe there is no love for Christ there anymore. This helps us understand why Jesus' rebuke and threatened punishment is so severe.
In John 14:22 Judas (not Iscariot) asks Jesus why He intends to manifest Himself only to them and not to the whole world. Jesus' answer is astonishing - "If anyone loves me, he will keep my word and my Father will love him and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words." John 14:23-24 Christ intends for the Church to reveal Him to the world and this is accomplished through our love for Him and our love for Him will be displayed in our obedience to His word. But what does Jesus mean by "keep my word?" Is He referring to all of the commands that He has made in all of the gospels here? I don't think so! The discourse of John 13-17 is all in the context of Jesus having washed the disciples feet. From that moment on Jesus keeps referring to one thing over and over again - "love one another" or "love one another as I have loved you." In John 13-17, what Jesus means by "keep my word" or "keep my commands" is simply that we love one another. And just in case some of you want to disagree with this, there is a wonderful passage immediately following the foot-washing in John 13:34-35
"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."
The context of this command is the foot-washing that has just taken place and Jesus repeats this command "to love on another" over and over again in this discourse. The deep, profound, humble, steadfast and sacrificial love that we have for one another is how the world will know that we are ambassadors for Christ and His gospel. Our doctrine does not do that! Nor does our success in numbers, baptisms, converts, influence, reach or anything else other than this kind of love for one another.
So you see, the Ephesians were lacking both in love for God and in love for one another because the two are inseparable. "for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen." 1 John 4:20b And to wash one another's feet is not a dull, dreary love like that among those who belong to the same club or root for the same team. To touch another person's dirty feet and to tenderly serve another person by washing their feet is deep, profound and full of humility and devotion. Such is the love that Jesus commands us to have for one another. Such is the love that the Ephesians had abandoned and Jesus rebukes them severely for it and threatens to remove them from among His people for this sin.
I love the book of Ephesians. I love it because it destroys our individualistic, numbers-driven, hero-worshipping, and life-less American Christianity and brings us to our knees in repentance before God. If we heed the words of Ephesians well and pay attention to where they went wrong after a time, we will see that there is nothing sexy, glamorous, or grand about BEING the church...it's simply to humbly love Christ and love one another exemplified in mundane and menial tasks like washing the dirt off each other's feet. Anything beyond that is clanging cymbals and noisy gongs that will gain us nothing but rebuke and may endanger our very life with Christ.
"You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe - and shudder!" James 2:19
Blessings to you all!