Monday, January 30, 2012

Why Preach the Gospel to Yourself?

According to 2 Corinthians.....

1. The gospel is how we change
          2 Corinthians 3:18 "So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image."

2. The gospel is what empowers me to serve
          2 Corinthians 3:5  "It is not that we think we are qualified to do anything on our own. Our qualification comes from God."

3. The gospel is where I meet God
          2 Corinthians 4:6 "For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ."

Friday, January 27, 2012

Sex, Marriage, and Fairytales

Jefferson Bethke with a spoken word on sex, marriage and fairytales.

Titus 3:3-7 Part 4 (New and Clean)

"For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient
led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures,
passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.
But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 
he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, 
but according to his own mercy, 
by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,
whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,
so that being justified by his grace,
we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life."
Titus 3:3-7

Up to this point, we know that God, through Jesus Christ has saved us. More specifically, we read today that God saves us by the 'washing of regeneration' and 'renewal'. In other words, God saves us by making us 'new' and 'clean'. The new birth is a theme that runs throughout the Bible story, especially the New Testament. In John 3, Jesus says that "unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3). Again in 2nd Corinthians, Paul writes, "if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come" (2nd Corinthians 5:17). At the heart of the Christian story is God making new that which was lost in the fall. God created all of life to be held together in intimate harmony with himself. At the fall, that perfect relationship was lost, and since then everything is suffering. The promise of the Old Testament is that God will redeem his creation from this mess. The glory of the New Testament is that this promise is completely fulfilled in Jesus Christ. This was his plan from the beginning. Here, as Paul writes to Titus, he reminds Titus of this good news.

So, by the blood of Jesus Christ, we are given completely new life. I love this language of the 'washing' and 'regeneration' and 'renewal'. Sometimes its easy to minimize the Christian faith to a few external acts like going to church and 'being good'. Yet, this language shows how this gospel is something way different. It is a complete renewal. It is a complete washing away of the old nature and an implantation of the new nature. It is a complete regeneration. Jesus came to give new life, not second chances. Now, when I say 'complete', I am not implying that we will no longer sin, or that we are now perfect. Far from it. But, we have been completely redeemed from the reign of sin and death. In other words, we are no longer slaves to sin, it is no longer our master. Secondly, we are redeemed from the punishment of sin and death. There is no more condemnation. Jesus died and resurrected that we may be 'new' and 'clean'. Next time we'll talk about how this gift is a one of complete grace, and how this gift changes our lives. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Titus 3:3-7 Part Tres (The Great Motivation)

"For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient
led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures,
passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.
But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 
he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, 
but according to his own mercy, 
by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,
whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,
so that being justified by his grace,
we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life."
Titus 3:3-7

So, at this point, we know that God has decided to appear and save man. The Hero has arrived to save wicked man from their sin. But Why? Why would God do this? What's the motivation?

If I'm being honest, I am hardwired with a 'pick yourself up by the boot straps' mentality. If something is wrong, its on me to fix it. I'm that guy who never asks other people for help. I am disciplined and committed enough to get it done myself. That being said, I'd naturally be expecting this verse to read something a little more like this:

"He saved you, because you were strong, smart and wise enough
to pick yourself up and turn to him. You aren't actually that bad, you just 
needed a little help from God. God saved those who help themselves!"

And this is why I need to pick up my cross daily and die to myself. My old self keeps telling me God loves me, and saved me because I'm good enough or strong enough. The Gospel tells me God loves me and saved me because HE IS MERCIFUL. This is a contrast I need to hear everyday. It changes everything. It turns self-boasting into humble worship. It turns pride in performance to pure amazement at God's grace. It turns self-righteous bitterness into contagious joy. The great motivation of God saving us is based on His mercy, not our merit. Thanks be to God!

Titus 3: 3-7 Part Deux ( The Great Rescue)

"For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient
led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures,
passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.
But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 
he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, 
but according to his own mercy, 
by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,
whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,
so that being justified by his grace,
we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life."
Titus 3:3-7

I love all the "Buts" in Scripture. Just when everything was hopeless, when the darkness had closed in all around, God appears! We were hopeless, BUT, God stepped in. For all of human history, we were hopeless wanderers, lost and left to die in our own vices. But, about 2000 years ago, God our Savior entered human history in real time. Jesus is the hero. He saves us. This is the story of all life. We need a hero to rescue us. Jesus is that Hero. He entered the scene with the mission to rescue his people. In order to do that, he had to live the perfect human life (so he could count it towards us), die the death that we deserve (substituting for our sin) and resurrect from the dead, thus conquering death and defeating sin once and for all. The Hero has won, he has accomplished his mission. Some 2000 years later, we are still characters in this same story. I'm glad the Hero has rescued me. 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Titus 3:3-7

Just read came across this verse this morning. A great summary statement of the good news of what Christ has done to redeem hopeless sinners.

"For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient
led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures,
passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.
But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 
he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, 
but according to his own mercy, 
by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,
whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,
so that being justified by his grace,
we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life."
Titus 3:3-7

Wow! There is so much jaw-dropping stuff in here, I don't even know where to start. How about with us? Paul paints a picture in which we all exist (or once existed) as characters. Foolish, disobedient, slaves to various passions and pleasures. From Paul's description, I conjure up two images. The first being us in foolish disobedience. The second is our restlessness and enmity. Without Christ, what makes our lives foolish disobedience? I don't think it is so much that we disobey God's rules. I think it is that we willingly bow down and serve these various pleasures and passions as our god. It is that we think we have life figured out, that our purpose and pleasure is for these things. God created us to be infinitely intimate with him, experiencing the fullness of true joy. It is foolish disobedience that we turn away from this like a ignorant, disorientated child. 

The second image is one of hostility. There is no peace; within us, between us, and between God. Apart from Christ, we are bound to have enmity everywhere, because deep down, we have not found what we are looking for. This makes us extremely insecure. We pass the days in malice and envy, because we are never satisfied. Like Adam and Eve, we are always looking for another 'apple' to eat, that we think will fulfill us. But, life, as it was created to be, is to be lived in relationship with God. Without the saving work of Christ, we are bound to be at war with each other, and with God. 

These two images combined are one of chaotic, restless frustration. We are wandering children, completely lost and led astray; yet, unwilling to give ear to the tender and loving words of our Heavenly Father. This is where the awesome mercy of God comes in! More on that tomorrow. 

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Think Big Ideas About God

I was watching the movie "All the President's Men" (film about Watergate break-in) last night with my family, and this story popped into my memory. It was too good not to share. The following is an illustration by Tim Keller from a sermon titled "Does God Control Everything?" Listen from about 24:00 - 29:00. This story is straight cool. Below is a summary I found of this section from a blog by Andy Naselli. I don't know you Andy, but thanks for typing this up...
  1. Tim Keller planted Redeemer Church because he entered a Presbyterian denomination that encouraged church planting.
  2. Keller entered that denomination because in his last semester at seminary he took two courses with a professor who convinced him to adopt Presbyterian theology.
  3. Keller sat under that professor because at the very last minute the professor arrived at the seminary after having bureaucratic visa problems. (The professor was British.)
  4. While that professor was having visa problems, the seminary dean prayed one day about how he didn’t know how they were going to get the professor to arrive, and his prayer partner happened to be a seminary student named Mike Ford.
  5. Mike Ford happened to have some clout to get them through the bureaucratic snag because he was the son of Gerald Ford, the sitting President of the United States.
  6. Gerald Ford was President of the United States because Richard Nixon resigned.
  7. Nixon resigned because a bunch of burglars broke into Watergate and were caught.
  8. The burglars were caught because one of them happened to leave a door unlatched to an office they had just bugged, and then a night watchman just happened to walk by and notice the unlatched door.
  9. So “if that [burglar] had latched the door,” Keller half jokes, “if that door had been closed just two more inches, we wouldn’t be here tonight. Even Watergate happened for you.”

I love this story. There are no coincidences in life, though we often attribute many occasions to them. This serves as a reminder to me to think big ideas about God. This sequence of events was so easy for God to orchestrate, yet it still blows my small mind away. Imagine the orchestration it required for each of us to be saved. Every person we encountered, every conversation we had and every feeling involved, which in perfect sequential order the Lord use to bring us to himself; each a miraculous story. Should that be attributed to chance or human effort? It seems only possible that was God chasing after each of us, to write us into His Story.

All Sin Punished

"No one anywhere at any time gets away with anything. Every sin, every crime will be punished--either in hell or on the cross."

John Piper

These may come across as hard words from John Piper, but they get at what primarily happened at the Cross. The words are hard because they condemn every single person who has ever lived. Everyone has lied in their life. Everyone has sinned either in thought or deed. And because God is holy, He must judge this sin. The just or righteous judgement is death. All have sinned, and all sin is punished. 

But this is what makes the gospel good news. Jesus took the punishment for sin at the cross. For all who would believe in Him, Jesus died a substitutionary death on our behalf, taking upon himself the punishment we rightly deserve. Now, that's what I call love. 

We are all guilty and in our selves, deserve death. But God offers life to everyone who would turn from trusting in themselves, and turn to trusting His Son. 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

I Will.....

  “Now therefore thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning this city of which you say, ‘It is given into the hand of the king of Babylon by sword, by famine, and by pestilence’: Behold, I will gather them from all the countries to which I drove them in my anger and my wrath and in great indignation. I will bring them back to this place, and I will make them dwell in safety. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God.  I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me forever, for their own good and the good of their children after them.  I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to themAnd I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me.  I will rejoice in doing them goodand I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul."
Jeremiah 32:36-41

The marvelous news is that God has done all of this through Jesus Christ. What a promise! What a Savior! I am simply overwhelmed to be a part of this story; that God has pursued myself (along with all His people) with his whole heart and soul, and has brought me back unto himself. I want to spend my entire life mining the riches of this beautiful gospel. 

The Essense of the Christian Faith

"The determining factor in our relationship with God is not our past or present, but Christ's past and present.

'How then does it work?' It works like this. God accepts this righteousness of Christ, this perfect righteousness face to face with the Law, which He honored in every respect. He has kept it and given obedience to it [through his perfect life], and he has borne its penalty [through his death]. The Law is fully satisfied. God's way of salvation, says Paul, is that. He gives to us the righteousness of Christ. If we have seen our need and go to God and confess it, God will give us his own Son's righteousness. He imputes Christ's righteousness to us, who believe in Him, and regards us as righteous, and declares and pronounces us to be righteous in Him. That is the way of salvation, the Christian way of salvation...

To make it quite practical let me say that there is a very simple way of testing yourself to know whether you believe that... [After] I have explained the way of them, then I say: 'Well, then, you are now ready to say that you are a Christian?' And they hesitate. And I know they have not understood. Then I say: 'What is the matter, why are you hesitating?' And they say: 'I do not feel that I am good enough.' At once I know that in a sense I have been wasting my breath. They are still thinking in terms of themselves; their idea still is that they have to make themselves good enough to be a Christian, good enough to be accepted with Christ. They have to do it! 'I am not good enough.' It sounds very modest, but it is the lie of the devil, it is a denial of the faith... The essence of the Christian faith is to say that He is good enough and that I am in Him!

As long as you go on thinking about yourself and saying: 'Ah, yes, I would like to, but I am not good enough; I am a sinner, a great sinner,' you are denying God and you will never be happy. You will continue to be cast down and disquieted. You will think you are better at times and then again you will find that you are not as good as you thought you were... How can I put this plainly? It does not matter if you have almost entered into the depths of hell, if you are guilty of murder as well as every other vile sin, it does not matter from the standpoint of being justified before God. You are no more hopeless than the most respectable...person in the world. Do you believe that?"  

D.M. Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Gospel As Contra-Conditional

This week I'm enjoying taking a class with Scotty Smith called, 'Disciplines of Grace'. Yesterday we talked about the gospel being contra-conditional. This is opposed to the gospel being conditional or unconditional.

The gospel as conditional....If you obey me, I will love you

The gospel as unconditional....I love you without any conditions

The gospel as contra-conditional....I love you because I delight in my Son who graciously fulfilled ALL your conditions

As human beings, we primarily operate in a conditional mode. Think about it. Grades, sports, jobs; these are all based on performance. An A receives more praise than an F, being 1st string is more celebrated than being a bench warmer, and climbing the corporate ladder comes with a fatter pay-check. This doesn't go to mention that, even though we wouldn't want to admit it, to some capacity all our relationships are conditional. We like people because of similar interests, because of what they can give us, or because they make us feel good. To some extent, these are all conditions.

On the other end of the spectrum is unconditional. This claims that there are no conditions, and that God's love is accompanied by no character. This unconditional view ignores God's absolute holiness. God is all-glorious and perfectly right. Therefore, he desires to bring his creation into this 'rightness', or shall we say, 'righteousness'. If you think about it, this view really cheapens God's love, because, in it, God no longer rescues us and restores us from everything that is wrong with us and the world, but loves us in a way that says nothing is wrong with us in the first place.

On the contrary to both ends of this spectrum, the gospel is completely other. It is contra-conditional. There are conditions to God's love. He is perfect and holy. We willingly choose to disobey these conditions and live apart from our gracious Creator. Yet, the beauty of the gospel is that God did something amazing. He did something that still has people turning their heads today. God became man to  fulfill the conditions we failed to achieve. The good news is that Jesus came, lived the life I should have lived, and died the death I should have died. He did these COMPLETELY. That is why on the cross he cried out, "IT IS FINISHED". The gospel being contra-conditional is amazing because if Jesus perfectly fulfilled all the conditions, that means, once we are in Christ, once we put our faith in Him, we can't be any more loved. We are fully blessed. All the blessings Jesus achieved, we now have. This is amazing. David Powlison says this well,

"God has blessed me because His Son fulfilled the conditions I could never achieve. Contrary to what I deserve, he loves me. And now I can begin to change, not because I can earn his love, but because I've already received it."

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Glory of the Coming of the Lord

The final words from Martin Luther King Jr.'s last recorded speech, given on the eve of his assassination.

"I just want to do God's will. And he's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!"

And what was the glory of the coming of the Lord that MLK was so aware of that enabled him to boldly proclaim these words. What was it that gripped MLK so tightly, that even in the face of death and hatred, he had no fear?

I think MLK had an acute awareness of the restoration that Christ would in his 2nd coming. His confidence and foundation wasn't in himself, or even civil rights, but in what God was doing, and what he will eventually bring to completion. Despite the hardships and struggles faced in MLK's time, one day, Christ will come back in glory. He will dwell with his people, he will establish perfect justice, he will reconcile people from every nation, tribe and language, he will make all things new. MLK knew that the coming of the Lord meant that "every tear would be wiped away", and that "death would be no more". MLK had no fear, and was happy, because he knew that one day, when Christ returns and establishes his kingdom, he would join his brothers and sisters (white and black), singing the heavenly anthem,

"Hallelujah! For the Lord our God Almighty reigns. 
Let us rejoice and exult and give him glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come, 
and his Bride has made herself ready;
it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure"
Revelation 19: 6-8

Monday, January 16, 2012

Look Unto Me

"...God says , 'Look unto me,' from the cross of Calvary, where the bleeding hands of Jesus drop mercy; from the garden of Gethsemane, where the bleeding pores of the Saviour sweat pardons, the cry comes, 'Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth.' From Calvary's summit, where Jesus cries, 'It is finished,' I hear a shout, 'Look, and be saved.'"
-Charles Spurgeon

Friday, January 13, 2012

Suits and Dresses For Down Here

"It's all right to talk about "long white robes over yonder," in all its symbolism, But ultimately people want some suits and dresses and shoes to wear down here. It's all right to talk about "streets flowing with milk and honey," but God has commanded us to be concerned about the slums down here, and his children who can't eat three square meals a day. It's all right to talk about the new Jerusalem, but one day, God's preacher much talk about the New York, the New Atlanta, the new Philadelphia, the new Los Angeles, the new Memphis. This is what we have to do."

Martin Luther King Jr. 
From his speech, I See The Promised Land, delivered in 1968 in Memphis, on the eve of his assassination. 

Yes, it is true that the final redemption and restoration of the world won't come until Jesus returns. Yet, Jesus came inaugurating his kingdom in the here and now, and we are called to participate in this redemption in the here and now. 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Jesus is Lord

I got goosebumps watching this one.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Gospel: Better Than A Second Chance

Sunday, I had the amazing opportunity to attend the graduation ceremony for the January class of 2012 from the Vincent Gray Academy, in which I was able to see one of our students receive his high school diploma. The Vincent Gray Academy is an alternative high school which provides free, private education for students who live on the margins of poverty in East St. Louis. For many students in East St. Louis who have fallen through the cracks, this place provides a 2nd chance in life....

Read the rest of the post here: The Gospel: Better Than A Second Chance

Monday, January 9, 2012

Psalms: Highlight Reel

For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah
I acknowledged my sin to you,
and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,”
and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah
(Psalm 32:3-5 ESV)

.... We were dying. You are gracious ....

“O LORD, make me know my end
and what is the measure of my days;
let me know how fleeting I am!
Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths,
and my lifetime is as nothing before you.
Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath! Selah
(Psalm 39:4-5 ESV)

.... We are finite. You give us hope in the eternal ....

Attend to me, and answer me;
I am restless in my complaint and I moan...
My heart is in anguish within me;
the terrors of death have fallen upon me...
Cast your burden on the LORD,
and he will sustain you;
he will never permit
the righteous to be moved.
(Psalm 55:2,4,22 ESV)

.... We have angst. You are peace ....

So teach us to number our days
that we may get a heart of wisdom.
Return, O LORD! How long?
Have pity on your servants!
Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
(Psalm 90:12-14 ESV)

.... We are empty. You are filling ....

My soul clings to the dust;
give me life according to your word!
(Psalm 119:25 ESV)

I will thank you forever,
because you have done it.
I will wait for your name, for it is good,
in the presence of the godly.
(Psalm 52:9 ESV)

My Next Record

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Suppressing the Truth

"For the Wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.....

because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen."

Romans 1:18-19, 25

These verses capture the very essence of insanity. Paul gives us a swift kick to the face in these verses as he describes just how delusional our sinful, default worldview is. In our sinfulness, we suppress the truth about the Sovereign, Holy, Gracious God of the Bible. As R.C. Sproul puts it in his book, Defending Your Faith, the problem with Atheists is not an intellectual problem or a lack of information. Rather, it is a moral problem. We love ourselves more than we love God. Though God has made himself plain to us through the revealing of himself in nature, in the Scriptures, and in Jesus, we chose to deny him. Just as a child who is covering their ears and closing their eyes while shouting "NO! NO! NO! I DON'T WANT TO KNOW", so we too suppress the obvious truth of God's existence and character. We refuse to acknowledge God as God. In our ignorance, we love ourselves more than we love God. We want God on our terms.

And this has been our reality from way back. Ever since our parents, Adam and Eve, were deceived, so we too choose a self-centered worldview. God gave Adam and Eve everything, yet they thought they needed to find a higher, more divine meaning. They were created in God's image, that they might know their all-loving Creator. Yet, as the creatures, they wanted to fit God into their image rather than vice-versa. They wanted to flip the Creator-creature relationship. 

We still do the same thing today. At the heart of suppressing the truth, at the heart of sin for that matter, is  trying to fit God into our image. As Paul puts it, it is "worshipping and serving the creature rather than the Creator" (Romans 1:25). We know God exists, yet we only want God on OUR terms. We want God  as long as he fits our life, our image, our plans. We want Truth as long as its easy and godless. We will accept things as truth only if it allows us to continue our self-worship and unrighteous living. The second something demands change, we label it as intolerant.

This is why the post-modern worldview is so attractive to a sinful people. Everything is true as long it doesn't bring a real God into the picture. An 'all roads lead to Rome' worldview is a prime example of us trying to preserve our own self-worship. If truth is completely relative, then I don't need to change, and I can continue worshipping the creature rather than the Creator. This is insanity. 

Post-modernity may mask itself in humility, yet it exemplifies pride in its most basic form because it gives us the position of god. This is the definition of insanity. On the contrary, the gospel returns us to a position of true humility. It brings us back to our role as creatures made in God's image. It brings us back to a position where we can worship and serve the True and Living God. To many, this might sound like oppression, like God is a bully who demands that we bow below him. However, this couldn't be further from the truth. As stated, we were created in God's image with the purpose to know and worship Him. This is what's best for us. God wants us to return to him, not because he's a bully, but because he loves us more than we could ever know. Our hearts will always be restless when we worship our selves, the creatures. Our hearts were meant to find their rest, peace, joy, life, worship in God. This happens when we turn from ourselves and to God. 

This is contradictory to our default nature of suppressing the truth, but this is exactly why Jesus said, 
"Whoever finds his life will lose it,
and whoever loses his life for my sake
will find it" Matthew 10:39

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Only Antidote For Sin

"The only antidote to sin is the gospel"--Tullian Tchividjian

OK-this seems easy enough. The gospel, the Son of God becoming man, dying on the cross and resurrecting, was God's way of taking care of our sin problem. It is easy for me to recognize my need for the gospel in terms of my conversion.

But what about the sin in our everyday lives. A Christian is a justified sinner, so sin doesn't completely go away this side of heaven. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans, "I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes" (Romans 1:16). Therefore, we are in need of the gospel through the entire process of our salvation. We not only are saved by the gospel in our justification, but we also need to look to the gospel in our sanctification. The gospel is the objective remedy to our sin past sin problem, and it is the way we are supposed to deal with sin now. As Tullian puts it, the Christian life isn't moving past the gospel, it is moving more deeply into it. 

The Reality of the Resurrection

I know it's not Easter, but here is a video entitled, Reality of the Resurrection from Odd Thomas of the Humble Beast crew. Great spoken word summarizing the gospel of Jesus Christ. A much needed daily reminder to cling to the cross and the finished work of Jesus.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Slavery of Independence

"The world says the more independent you become, the freer and stronger you'll be; The gospel says the more dependent on God you become, the freer and stronger you'll be." --Tullian Tchividjian

I love these words from Tullian Tchividjian. This is so counter-intuitive to what we are led to believe and on the surface doesn't make much sense. Yet, this is the beautiful truth of the gospel.

Jesus frees us from ourselves. When we are independent, everything depends on us. Our security, identity, peace, rest, joy, it all depends on us. This is enslaving. This is why as humans we experience anxiety, bitterness, insecurity. No matter how strong we are, or how good we are, in our own independence, we will never know the true love that we are searching for. We always fall short. The gospel tells us that Jesus already earned all the freedom, joy, peace, rest, comfort, and security we could ever hope to have. Believing that we are given all these things sheerly by the mercy and grace of God frees us from the burden and slavery of self-performance. The gospel frees us from focusing on ourselves and looking to fulfill our needs within ourselves. Rather, we are able to find all that we are looking for and more in Jesus. This allows us to focus upward (God) and outward (other people) rather than focusing inward (ourselves).

The Mortal Resurrection

With the passing of Christmas and the new year, I believe the holiday season certainly leads to an inevitable increase in religion. Whether it is going to church on Christmas and having to face the question of why Jesus came, or coming up with a new years resolution to be a better person, the combination of Christmas and new years brings with it an occasion for renovation. But, how much of this actually has to do with Jesus?

What I mean is this: It is common for people to think that Jesus primarily came to conveniently make our lives better by improving our behavior and making us 'nice' people. For many of us, our new years 'resolutions' will probably follow this pattern as well. They will be aimed at trying harder to be a better person. For the typical church goer, Christianity primarily equals moral renovation. Therefore, Christmas and new years becomes just another attempt at trying to re-prioritize our lives. However, the Bible tells us that what we need is not a moral renovation, but a mortal resurrection. We don't need to re-prioritize our lives, we need to be spiritually brought from death to life. So I ask this, is your Christmas or new years resolution aimed at some form of moral improvement, or is it aimed at mortal resurrection? Jesus didn't come to merely improve our behavior, or make us look better on the outside. Jesus came to give us completely new life. 

We far too often think of Jesus as a docile 'Dr. Phil' or 'Oprah' character who is safe, comfortable, convenient, and doesn't want to cause any real change. This couldn't be further from the truth. Jesus comes to us and tells us that we are dead, and the only way to be brought to life is through him. Listen to these words Jesus speaks to the Pharisees. Keep in mind, the Pharisees were the most moral, religious people of their day. They followed all the rules. They were the kind of people who, if they made new years resolutions, would keep them perfectly. Yet, Jesus says they are dead.

"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, 
which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead peoples bones and all uncleanness.
So you outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness"
Matthew 23:27-28

We can re-prioritize our lives and can strive for moral renovation all we want. Without the mortal resurrection that Christ gives, we, like the Pharisees are 'whitewashed tombs'. We are dead, and Jesus calls us to a radical new life by putting our faith in him. How many of us are trying to improve ourselves by being a good, religious, moral person. It's like spraying cologne on a corpse. We are dead, hopeless, helpless, and are in need of completely new life. This life is found in Christ alone. 

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Gospel Journey

"And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross."
Colossians 2:13-14

As Tullian Tchividjian puts it in his book, Jesus + Nothing = Everything, this is the Gospel journey. It is a journey from being dead, to being made alive. It is a journey of being under the guilt and shame of our trespasses, to being forgiven. The Christian life is not primarily one of trying to fix ourselves so as to make ourselves look clean. Rather, it is realizing we are not clean, and trusting solely in the work of Jesus on our behalf. The Christian life is gazing more intently upon the One who canceled our debt that stood against us and who triumphed over the powers of evil. The Christian life is growing in gospel-awareness. At the cross, Jesus accomplished our forgiveness, our life, our deliverance. He did what we could never do ourselves. 

I don't really like new years resolutions, so I'm not going to call this a new years resolution. But, as we begin this new year, I am making it my aim to grow in a deeper heart understanding of this Gospel. I want to know more fully the all encompassing sufficiency of Christ's work on my behalf.  All the acceptance, security, approval, status, love, and life that I consistently long for, in Christ, I already have. My hope is to become increasingly saturated with this truth.