Saturday, September 22, 2012

Can We See God?

Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the clouds.
Your righteousness is like the mountains of God;
your judgments are like the great deep;
man and beast you save, O Lord.
Psalm 36:5-6

How can we know God's established love, infinite faithfulness, immovable righteousness, and mysterious judgments?

He is the image of the invisible God. Col 1:15 
In the face of Jesus we see who God is. Jesus loved his Father and gave himself up that God and his children would be reconciled.

Jesus demonstrated his faithfulness to God's plan by going to the cross - knowing what was coming and choosing the sacrifice that saved us.

In Jesus we see a perfect righteousness - perfect because it cannot be moved. It is unshakable.

In Jesus we see in part, the mystery of the cross. We know by faith that Jesus came to do for us what we could never do for ourselves and by his blood we are forgiven forever.

Can we see God?

They walked up a hill outside the city. Jesus carried the cross on his back. Jesus had never done anything wrong. But they were going to kill him the way criminals were killed. 
They nailed Jesus to the cross.
"Father, forgive them," Jesus gasped. "They don't understand what they're doing."
"You say you've come to rescue us!" people shouted.
"But you can't even rescue yourself!"
But they were wrong. Jesus could have rescued himself. A legion of angels would have flown to his side - if he'd called.
"If you were really the son of God, you could just climb down off that cross!" they said.
And of course they were right. Jesus could have just climbed down. Actually, he could have just said a word and made it all stop. Like when he healed that little girl. And stilled the storm. And fed 5,000 people.
But Jesus stayed.
You see, they didn't understand. It wasn't the nails that kept Jesus there. It was love.
"Papa?" Jesus cried, frantically searching the sky.

"Papa? Where are you? Don't leave me!"
And for the first time - and the last - when he spoke, nothing happened. Just a horrible, endless silence. God didn't answer. He turned away from his Boy.
Tears rolled down Jesus' face. The face of the One who would wipe away every tear from every eye.
Even though it was midday, a dreadful darkness covered the face of the world. The sun could not shine. The earth trembled and quaked. The great mountains shook. Rocks split in two. Until it seemed that the whole world would break. That creation itself would tear apart.
The full force of the storm of God's fierce anger at sin was coming down. On his own Son. Instead of his people. It was the only way God could destroy sin, and not destroy his children whose hearts were filled with sin.
Then Jesus shouted in a loud voice, "It is finished!"
An it was. He had done it. Jesus had rescued the whole world.
"Father!" Jesus cried. "I give you my life". And with a great sigh he let himself die.

Excerpt taken from The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally-Lloyd Jones
(Watch Dr. Linebaugh's Knox Seminary chapel sermon - Who God Is)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Healthy People Don't Need A Doctor

I'm Not O.K.

I had a great conversation with a friend Sunday. He shared what God has been teaching him about resting in the amazing grace and freedom Christ came to bring. He admittedly does not have it all figured out but as I listened to him my heart burst with joy and gratitude for what God is doing! It's a big deal when we begin to grasp the freedom and liberty we have in Christ. His comments reveal the gospel taking root in his heart expressing itself in love.

I'm O.K.

Contrast that conversation with one I had last week with another friend. She is tired of talking about grace. Her comments reveal a fundamental misunderstanding among Christians today. It is a basic confusion about the gospel and our need to be reminded of it every moment of every day. We forget it and when we do our hearts waste no time in heading straight for the "be a better Christian" program which always leads to the inward focused questions of "Am I growing?" and "How am I doing?"

These two conversations couldn't be more polar opposite. They both reveal a deeper condition. One conversation reveals a heart being set free from having to get it all right and prove worth and value. The other demonstrates a heart set on defending a righteousness of their own and looking for more ways to accomplish or "build" worth and value.

I am reminded of how the bible portrays the condition of the heart by contrasting those who know their need of a Savior and those who believe they're doing just fine; the prostitute and the Pharisee, the older brother and the younger brother in the story of the prodigal, and the publican and the tax collector. The Bible is replete with examples like these. Jesus spoke of them when he said:
“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.
I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
I Am Capable

How is it that we've come to believe the lie that says we can help ourselves, and worse, that our self-help is actually working? How is it I'm so sure I'm doing just fine? Moreover, I have a constant underlying desire, a battle really, to promote myself by believing that I am better than I really am.

One of the major reasons is our ability to turn everything into a moral ladder to climb. We are giddy to complete checklists and we listen to the Christian culture around us shouting tantalizing solutions to our deepest desires. Want a Deeper Prayer Life? - 10 Easy Steps. Need a More Consistent Quiet Time? - 30 Days to Build the Habit of Morning Devotions. Longing for a more meaningful relationship with God? - 3 Steps to Memorizing Scripture.

Here's out it plays out:

I sign up for Moral Self-Improvement Project 101. I move along this path with the hopes of becoming more and more spiritually mature.

I believe I am improving and have mastered the basics so I now move on to Moral Self-Improvement Project 201. Because I continue to complete all of the required assignments I move up to the next rung each step of the way believing I'm advancing to a level of acceptability.

I tell myself that not only am I of more value to those around me but I have attained to an acceptable level before God.

While I am the first to admit I'm nowhere near the apostle Paul, I'm certainly way ahead of say, Charles Manson for goodness sake!

Granted I'm no angel, but I have managed to stay away from the really big sins and I have successfully progressed in virtue and right living. I look around and determine that I must be doing O.K. compared to most.

I Am Really Not All That Capable

The truth is the Moral Self-Improvement classes are a disaster and they are impossible to pass!

They look so easy and promise such fulfillment and satisfaction but they deliver an endless uphill climb which leads to the "top." They're moving targets so you can never be sure when you've climbed high enough. You're always left with questions about your performance.

Was I kind enough, loving enough, forgiving enough? Were my thoughts pure enough, my motives genuine enough, my giving sacrificial enough? Is my marriage a testimony for others that draw them to Christianity? Was I concerned enough for my neighbors, gracious enough with my grandma, compassionate enough with my toddler? Am I even in the ballpark with keeping up with my friends and staying in touch with my family? Have I evangelized my children's friends and do my kid's teachers know Jesus as a result of knowing me?

It just never seems to be enough. I'm not getting it done and on top of that, I feel guilty over the guilt I have for not being good enough!

Like Paul I cry out "Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?"

Who Will Deliver Me?

All of my attempts to either justify myself by my right behavior or give up because of my bad behavior are vain on both accounts. Neither will accomplish for me what I need. The problem is "I" am not the solution. Nothing in me, nothing I do, and nothing I can accomplish will ever be right enough. No amount of guilt, hand wringing, regret, or behavior modification will ever change that because the only solution, the only answer to my problem of me, has to come from outside of me. To the question at hand "who will deliver me" the apostle Paul answers himself, "Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!"

In his rich writing Who Will Deliver Us? author Paul F. M. Zahl comments:
"Progress in our lives is not principally a matter of new experience or new knowledge. It is rather a fresh returning, in every new round of events, to a very old conviction: Christ died for our sins." 

That is the good news my sin sick soul needs to hear every moment of every day. Jesus died for my sins. All of my defending, all of my striving, and all of my hand wringing vanishes at the cross. Like Paul I can cry out in anguish, "Who will deliver me?" and with great relief and joy the answer awaits. "Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ my Lord!"

Jesus is my one defense.

For all the not enoughs Jesus said, I'm enough.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Long To Be Faithful? Live In Liberty!

If thou wouldst be faithful to do that work that God has allotted thee to do in this world for his name labor to live in the savor and sense of thy freedom and liberty by Jesus Christ; that is, keep this, if possible, ever before thee—that thou art a redeemed one, taken out of this world and from under the curse of the law, out of the power of the devil, and placed in a kingdom of grace and forgiveness of sins for Christ's sake. 

~ John Bunyan

A Flock Of Guilt Defeated

I had no sooner began to recall to my mind my former experience of the goodness of God to my soul, but there came flocking into my mind an innumerable company of my sins and transgressions; amongst which these were at this time most to my affliction, namely, my deadness, dulness, and coldness in holy duties; my wanderings of heart, my wearisomeness in all good things, and my want of love to God, his ways, and his people, with this at the end of all: "Are these the fruits of Christianity? Are these the tokens of a blessed man?" 

Now, I sunk and fell in my spirit, and was giving up all for lost; but, as I was walking up and down in the house, as a man in a most woful state, that word of God took hold of my heart, "Ye are justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ." But Oh, what a turn it made upon me. ~ John Bunyan

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Wicked, Me?

Main Entry:
wicked [wik-id] 
Part of Speech:adjective
Definition:corrupt, bad
Synonyms:abandoned, abominable, amoral, arch, atrocious, bad news, base, contemptible, debased, degenerate, depraved, devilish, dissolute, egregious, evil, fiendish, flagitious, foul, gross, guilty, heartless, heinous, immoral, impious, impish, incorrigible, indecent, iniquitous, irreligious, low-down, mean, mischievous, nasty, naughty, nefarious, profane, reprobate, rotten, scandalous, shameful, shameless, sinful, unethical, unprincipled, unrighteous, vicious, vile, villainous, wayward, worthless

Transgression speaks to the wicked

deep in his heart;

there is no fear of God

before his eyes.

For he flatters himself in his own eyes

that his iniquity cannot be found out and hated.

Psalm 36:1-2

"Some think that David, in all this, particularly means Saul, who had cast off the fear of God and left off all goodness, who pretended kindness to him when he gave him his daughter to wife, but at the same time was devising mischief against him. But we are under no necessity of limiting ourselves so in the exposition of it; there are too many among us to whom the description agrees, which is to be greatly lamented."
~ Matthew Henry's Whole Bible Commentary

Even in the countless ways I deceive myself and believe I am actually better than I am, Jesus saves. The good news for sinners like me and like you is the incredible never giving up love of God that assures us if we are in Christ, our sins are forgiven.