Not Yet

Indwelling sin, and we all have it, is not the chief identity of the Christian. Our union with Christ is.  We belong to him and he belongs to us. And the Holy Spirit keeps us together. It takes his power to keep us united.

It’s the Holy Spirit’s job to keep teaching us about Christ, helping us in our prayers, and empowering us to serve the Lord. He’s got a lot to do. That’s why Paul says not to quench or grieve him. IMG_0985

What’s the key to all this? It’s faith. Faith in Christ our Savior, faith to keep believing he’s paid all our sins, faith that he took us with him in his resurrection, and faith to rely on the fact we have already arrived in heaven. Wherever Christ is, we are. And since he’s in heaven, that’s where we are.

Hard to believe. Especially when life gets in the way with its struggles, hardships and trials. Most days I don’t feel forgiven or resurrected. I live in the trenches with my fellow Christians. Our dreams are shattered. The attacks of the devil get nastier by the year. I know I’m not living up to my potential. And this is not my best life now. Thank God.

The wilderness journey – our life from the day God rescued us to the day to we enter heaven – is not meant to be a cruise vacation. And yet that’s what we expect. We want luxuries, comforts, successes, and ease. Where do we get that idea? Was that Paul’s life? How about Peter’s? How wonderful was the life of Jesus, the designer of the universe? If anyone deserved applause, honor and glory, it was him. Instead, he got rejected, slapped in the face, and crucified.

God knows our longings. He’s not going to shortchange us. It’s just that our timing is off. All our heart’s desires will come true when we live in our resurrected bodies in the new heavens and the new earth.

Until then, we wait, and sing with our Savior.

Talk to me.

 

 

 

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It’s Yours for the Taking

Christ died so we could be justified. We have all our sins forgiven. He has made us new creatures in our union with Christ, and now God sees us like we had never sinned or had a sin nature. This change allows us to come home to the Father, where we stay forever. God never kicks us out.

Now, as wonderful as this is, I still had a nagging question: Why couldn’t I trust these truths about me? Why couldn’t I settle into God’s love and stay there? What happens to me when I sin again, which I do all the time? Does God stop loving me? Is he disappointed in me? Does he pull out my picture from his wallet and tear it up?

lily12I asked the Lord these questions recently, and this is what the Holy Spirit brought to mind:

If God held even one of my sins against me, he’d be declaring the blood of his Son to be insufficient to cover and blot out that sin. God can never go back on his Word because then he’d be saying his Son’s sacrifice was not good enough, that there was something lacking that I would have to make up for.  And he cannot do that. It cost the Father everything to send Jesus to the cross where all of God’s wrath for sin and sinners was poured out on him. The Father crushed Jesus for me. Everything I deserved from God’s hands was put on Jesus. How then could God hold any sin against me?

Not believing this with my whole heart is the greatest sin. It reeks of unbelief. My flesh wants to participate in self-salvation strategies. It wants to contribute to my salvation. It wants me to despair, fear and struggle. It delights in doubt.

But faith says otherwise. The greatest act of faith is to believe God and the Son he has sent! He is the solution to our estrangement from God. He is the answer to our love problems. The longing of our heart is fulfilled in accepting what the Father says of us – we are his beloved children.

Talk to me.

How to Be Happy

I’m always taken aback when I’m reminded that God wants happy people around him. I’m generally not a happy person. Nobody would call me a bubbly personality. Just the opposite, I tend to brood and be serious about practically everything in life.

So to call me to be happy is a tall order, one which I fail at. photo(43)

That’s because sin damages happiness. It’s twisted, mangled and polluted. The world is choked with sin, but thank God, there’s always a flash of glory we experience every so often. We see this is the narratives of the bible. God covered naked Adam and Eve with animal skins. He preserved Noah and his family during the flood of judgment. He gave Esther favor and audience with the king, which ultimately saved the Jews from extinction.

His greatest flash of glory was sending Jesus, his Son to be our sin bearer so we could be reconciled to him. God didn’t have to do it, but he did because he wanted a people for himself to share his glory.

The world knows nothing about this. Instead it pins its happiness on things – possessions, wealth, health, leisure, and good relationships – but these are fleeting as most people eventually discover. There is no anchor for the soul here. Only a series of missteps that run into a dead end. However, when we realize that everything our hearts long for is found in Jesus, then he becomes our treasure, and as we live our lives in his presence, we are drawn into the happy fellowship of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

What could be more sublime than that?

Talk to me.

 

 

 

No Despair

Jesus has removed your burden of striving for God’s approval. He has taken away your self-help attempts of winning God’s love. You don’t have to clean yourself up to be presentable and acceptable to God. The world wrestles with that. It battles guilt and shame and an over-burdened conscience of law keeping, whether it’s one of its own making, or the real list of moral commands from the bible.

There are really only two camps to be in: the one of self-effort, like a gymnasium, full of sweat and exertion, or the one of surrender because you can’t conform to any of it.

There is more hope of finding the gospel in the camp of the dejected than in the camp of the proud. FullSizeRender (21)

Today, if you find yourself feeling hopeless, you’re in a good place. It means you know you don’t have the answers or the strength for living life well.

None of us do. It just takes some of us longer to realize it than others.

Don’t despair.

Look up.

Jesus lived life well for you.

He obeyed God for you.

He loved God with all his mind, heart, will and strength for you.

He served God perfectly for you.

He also paid the price for your sins on the cross.

He was the Perfect Man who was well pleasing to God.

And if you believe in him, then God has given you his Son’s perfect record as your own.

That means when God looks at you he sees you as never having sinned, ever, and as never having had a sin nature.

He only sees Jesus in you.

You need joy today? Read this post again!

Talk to me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Horror of Idolatry

I’ve been reading Iain Duguid’s commentary on the book of Ezekiel. As you know, Ezekiel was an Old Testament prophet who was given the unenviable task of indicting the nation of Israel for its sins of idolatry. They preferred every carved image to the God who loved and saved them. And God was furious at them and he wanted them to know that.

“Idolatry is adultery because it makes me unfaithful to God and his truth. It flows from the inordinate desire for a person, plan, or sensation, a desire stronger than my love for God and my desire to obey him,” Duguid says.

That pretty much slays me.

Duguid goes on to say, “Idolatry is the desire for something other than God at the center of my life acting like my guiding star, the source of meaning in my life.”

How often I live my life, as a Christian, desiring things that God has not given me and believing if I had them I’d be a happier person. The advertising industry thrives on that lie. So does the devil with his poisonous thoughts that suggest that God is stingy, or has overlooked me, or marginalized me in his kingdom.

We are not immune from the siren calls of the world and it’s temptations. If that doesn’t get us, then it’s our flesh that clamors for more attention, and if we can be the center of the universe, all the better. But even if we can withstand the flesh, there’s the devil lurking in the background waiting to bait us with his venom.

Is it any wonder we are messes?  IMG_4730

But there’s hope for messes. Jesus died for messes. He nailed us to his cross so we could be given a clean slate in his new life.

We are the only people on earth who have died and been resurrected! Do you realize that?

It happened at the cross. When Jesus died there, we died with him. When he was buried, we were in the tomb with him. And when he was resurrected on the third day, he took us with him! What a glorious trip!

Do you believe that? You should. See Romans 6.

These truths all flow out of our union with Christ.

And how did we get there?

God put us there. See 1 Corinthians 1:30-31.

So what does that do to our idolatry? First, it’s pretty horrible to be in Christ and still crave lesser gods. Second, we have forgotten our position and privilege as children of God. Third, the only way to deal with idolatry is to run to God and repent. “It’s the ultimate idol-smasher,” Duguid says.

“Lord, forgive me for the sin of lesser loves, and remind me I am not my own but belong body and soul, in life and in death to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.”

Talk to me.

 

 

 

 

The Gospel is for the Heart

Psychologists and motivational speakers claim that a person has six basic needs in life. If these aren’t being met, then the person is living a life of misery.

Here are the six:

Security – financial and emotional
SignificanceIMG_4606
Connection/Love
Variety
Growth
Contribution

Let’s see how the gospel speaks to these:

Security – you can’t find any in this fallen world because security is subject to change and decay – remember the dot.com and real estate bust – real security comes from belonging to Christ.

Significance – all of us want to be noticed and recognized and applauded – however, there’s been only One Significant Man worth our attention – Jesus Christ – and if you belong to him then you share in his significance. You can’t get any more significant than that.

Connection/Love – fallen creatures can’t offer the life you crave, they can’t fill you up with love and joy and intimacy, they can only offer self and that fluctuates every minute – only God’s love in Christ for you is the true connection you long for that stays steady forever.

Variety – fallen man seeks entertainment to be stimulated whereas following Christ everyday and doing his will is never boring.

Growth – growing in a skill or talent is temporary, whereas growing in the love that Christ has for you brings you increased joy and happiness.

Contribution – the best man can do is social work for the less fortunate – i.e. Tom’s Shoes – whereas your highest contribution is having faith in God and loving your neighbor out of a grateful heart for what God has done for you.

If all your basic needs are met in Christ, then how should you then live?

1. Stop looking to sinners and the world to fill you up – you are filled already in Christ.

2. Learn to be content with what you have and where you are right now – be thankful to God.

3. Serve others out of a grateful heart for God’s gift of his Son for you.

There’s one more thing. I believe there’s a seventh basic need that trumps all six, and it’s this:

How do you escape the wrath of God? How do your sins get wiped away?

Isn’t it interesting that nobody asks that anymore?

Talk to me.

Getting Down on Yourself

The essential mark of a Christian is love. Love for Christ, church members, neighbors, family, authorities and people who don’t know the Lord yet.

But let’s be honest. We don’t do this very well.

I don’t. You don’t.

Why do  I say this with such confidence?

Because we are lovers of ourselves first. I prefer myself over you, and I suspect the same is true of you.

Unfortunately we deceive ourselves into thinking we love better than we do, and our friends will do everything they can to convince us we’re doing okay.

Try this experiment next time you’re in a group: Say something that lowers yourself in your own eyes, like, “I wasn’t very patient with my mother the other day.” Then wait for people’s responses. Several will try to rescue you from your low-self esteem. Why? Because if they didn’t attempt the rescue operation they would have to face their own lack of love for others.

We settle for half-hearted attempts. Listening with half an ear; putting off calling that pesky friend who talks too much; holding on to revenge because the person who hurt you still hasn’t admitted it. IMG_6921

Our hearts are deceitful and compromised by the world, the flesh and the devil. If one doesn’t cause us to trip, the other will. Maybe all three at the same time.

And the biggest trap we fall into is looking inside our hearts to find those evidences of love, good feelings and caring.

Except that’s the wrong direction.

Nothing good resides there.

Love must come from the outside. Not as a sensational feeling that sweeps us off our feet, but in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ.

We are members of his body and united to him. Love flows down from him to us and then out to our neighbor.

That’s why the apostle Paul exhorts us to put on Christ. Not once or twice but everyday.

What does that look like?

It’s realizing his love is 100% perfect and it’s ours as a gift.

It’s being grateful that he loved perfectly when he was here on earth and his perfect record God has been put into our account.

From God’s perspective, we love perfectly because it’s Christ’s love he sees there.

From our perspective, we live a life of transparency before the Lord, where no secrets are tolerated. We no longer give ourselves permission to sin. We throw out old grudges and hatred and forgive the other person, a hundred times if we have to.

Sounds impossible?

It is!

It reveals how much we need Christ, which is exactly where we need to be. It’s confessing our sins and admitting our inadequacy. “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

And what does God think of this display of lowliness?

Take a look.

“For thus says the One who is high and lifted up,
who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy:
‘I dwell in the high and holy place,
and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit,
to revive the spirit of the lowly,
and to revive the heart of the contrite'”. – Isaiah 57:15 ESV

Talk to me.