Sunday, June 1, 2014

Union-The Rest of the Gospel

"We have this treasure in earthen vessels."  Jesus Christ lives in us!(those of us who believe in Him)  We are the vessel.  He is the treasure.  The treasure is everything.  It is about Him, not us.  We find out identity in Him(Col. 3:10,11).  More than any other thing(father, daughter, Baptist, teacher, lawyer, Republican, American etc.) we are Christians.  We contain Christ.  Our faith is in the person of Jesus Christ.  He is love (not has love or gives love) and He is my peace, my joy, my light, my strength, my salvation, and much more.  I don't have to pray for peace if I have Jesus because He is my peace.  If I have Him, I have peace.
I can love anyone because it is really Christ loving through me.  It is Christ in me, as me.

He is in me and I am in Him.  God is not out there somewhere.  He resides in me and He will never leave me nor forsake me.  "Nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus."  Even our sin cannot break that relationship!  Don't let anyone tell you anything different!  A believer is one with Him.  We are not Jesus--He is the unique and eternal Son of God.  But we do contain Him and nothing can change that.  The promise of Romans 8:39 is great news!  It is God's word.  We can take Him at His Word.  That's what faith is:  believing what God says is true and living by that word. 

Have faith in Christ.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Restoration to Sonship-the rest of the gospel.

Read Luke 15:11-32

In the beautiful and familiar story of the prodigal son we see how our relationship with God is meant to work. The young son rebels from his father, demands his inheritance(which could be done legally and was a strong slap in the face for the father.  The Son took the money and ran as afar away as he could to the fartheresr place away from his Dad.   So a reconciliation is needed.  Whenever the relationship is broken like that the greater of the two must be the one to initiate the reconciliation  so the Father goes looking for the son.  "When he was a great way off his Father saw him".  This action pictures the cross because, in Jewish society, it was humiliating for a Father(already humiliated by his son)to go searching for a wayward child.  This picture is Christ seeking us: "God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself"(II Cor. 5:21).  Our sins never ultimately separate us from God.  The only unpardonable sin is unbelief.(when we refuse to come to Him who calls us the Himself)  God's work is to come for us.

Our work is to say "yes".  The prodigal son comes to his senses and decides to go home.  He has enough faith to think that at least his Dad will take him back as a servant.  He rehearses a speech but when his Father sees him he does not give the son a chance to say it.  The father gives robe, ring, and shoes to his son and throws a big party.  The dynamic of faith at work here is this: When something is desirable and available we can make it actual by speaking a word of faith("He said...I will go to my father...") and it then becomes reliable as it actually happens("faith is the substance of things not seen" Heb. 11:1)  So here is the son's faith:  The abundant life of a son is desirable, available, becomes actual and reliable.

The older son is upset about this upstart getting the royal treatment.  He thinks he has earned his Dad's favor(vs. 29).  He doesn't understand grace.  His Father says, "all that is mine is yours" but the older boy doesn't get.  So he becomes another prodigal(wasting grace by doing trying to please the Father by works).  All this time the older brother could have had and still can have the true life of a son--it is there any time he wants it!

The younger son just receives what he knows he doesn't deserve.  The older son tries to earn what he thinks he deserves.  God's abundant resurrection power is ours.  We don't earn it to start and we don't try to finish it on our own.    It is "grace upon grace"(John 1:16) which is God's work and "faith to faith"(Romans 1:17) which is our work(John 5:28,29).  Grace is giving(from God).  Faith is receiving(from God).  Notice the story doesn't end.  We don't know if the older brother ever came to the party.  And we don't know if the younger one stayed.  It is Christ's open invitation to us to rest in Him and enjoy his Life forever.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Bearing Fruit--The Rest of the Gospel

Romans 7:1-6

The first command in the Bible is Genesis 1:28"  Be fruitful and multiply".  Non-life cannot produce life.  Knowing  good and evil cannot bring life(so don't eat of that tree; Genesis 2:17).  It takes life to produce life  (so eat of the tree of Life, which is Christ; Gen. 2:9).  God's law is good and true but it cannot produce life.  If we are to obey God's first command we must partake of Jesus Christ.

In the first part of Romans 7, Paul talks about a marriage.  A woman is married to a perfect man.  The only problem is that he expects her to be perfect too(which she cannot do).  How can she love such a demanding man?  She needs to get out of that relationship and marry another man but she cannot unless her husband  dies(or she will be guilty of adultery).  That perfect and demanding man is  the Law(and he is not going to die!).  Is she stuck?  No.  If a death must part them, then she can die.  We are that woman and we can die. In fact, if we are believers in Christ, we already have. Through the cross of Christ we have died to the law(vs.4), to ourselves(Romans 6:6), and to sin (Rom. 6:11).  So the woman, having died (that's all believers) is now free to marry another.

The other man is perfect also.  And he expects perfection.  But He does it for us.  Jesus is the fulfillment of the law.  It ends with Him!  Such a man is very easy to love for all He wants from us is to love Him back and trust Him.  Now, as He lives His life in and through us, we can and will bear fruit for God(vs. 4).

We cannot obey any command in our own strength--even the one to "be fruitful".  But He can and will.  Like women, we are receivers.  No woman can get pregnant without the help of another man.  The man gives or plants the seed.  The woman receives the seed and life begins.  Nine months later fruit is born.  We are containers--"we have this treasure in earthen vessels".  The way God planned physical birth is for it to issue out of a love relationship between a man and a woman.  Spiritual fruit is born out of our love relationship with God in Christ, as we receive His life into us.  And the fruit comes naturally and almost spontaneously. 

A person in love wants to tell others of his or her love.  As we allow Christ to live in us, others see Him in us and we share the same good news with them that we now enjoy.  And "faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of (or "about") Christ(who He is and what He has done and continues to do for us).

Our focus should be on God, not on ourselves.  We should not dwell on our sins or our management of them.  We certainly should not dwell on the law(rules, precepts, commands etc.).  Our focus is on Jesus Christ through His Spirit(Colossians 3:1-3).  The result will be life, not death(Romans 8:1-11).  We will bear fruit for God.  We will "be fruitful and multiply".

Friday, May 16, 2014

FROM HERE TO MATURITY. The rest of the gospel

Read I John 2:12-14

I hope almost all believers want to become mature Christians.  In John's first letter he talks about three kinds of Christ-followers: children, young men and fathers.  Children need rules.  They need to know that they are loved and they need to be told what to do.  Spiritual children are similar.  They need to know what the rules are and they need to learn the consequences of disobeying.  But they understand that they are loved and forgiven.  The one basic thing they come to understand is God is on their side(Christ for me).

Young adults(I' making the term inclusive) are discovering who they are and they are realizing that they have power to do things.  They can make most of their own decisions, drive a car, vote, solve their own problems, and many other things.  Spiritual young adults  are finding out that they have great power in prayer and in spiritual warfare.  They can tell the devil to get lost!  They are beginning to see that Jesus is not only for them, he is also in them.  In the fullness of the Holy Spirit they can exercise His gifts.  They realize that the power within them is God Himself(Christ in me).

Parents("fathers" and mothers) have a perspective on life that lets them know that there are times of difficulty but things usually turn out OK.  Parents enjoy intimacy--an intimacy that can result in children.  Spiritual parents have wonderful intimacy with God the Father.  They know that, while life can have its problems, God is in charge and is working things out for our and His best.  Parents have an eternal perspective.  They have found that knowing God and producing more spiritual children is what life is all about.  They also know that having children also involves rearing children.  These parents are the mature Christians.  They know that the Lord's purpose for them is to express Himself in and through them(Christ as me).

The only authentic life is the one that Jesus lives in and through us.  Yes, I am forgiven.  Praise the Lord!  Yes I have great power available to me.  Praise the Lord!  But bearing fruit is the goal for all of us and that can only come as He lives and loves through me.  Out of a wonderful intimacy with the Father I come to allow Christ(who dwells in me by the Holy Spirit) to be my life--in all of life. 

I am meant to be a container of Christ.  "We have this treasure in earthen vessels that the surpassing greatness of the power may of God and not of me." (II Cor. 4:7)  He is my life!  The expression of life is His life in me. ("I am the Life")  He lives in me and desires to live through me.  "I am crucified with Christ, never-the-less I live, yet not I but Christ lives in me.  And the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me."  (Gal. 2:20)  That Life is maturity.

The gospel(good news) is that I can't live the Christian life.  Only God can.  And He wants to live it in and through me. 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Noah and God

I have been off line for a while and I have a lot of catching up to do.

It is spring and Easter is coming.  The theme of death, burial, and resurrection is powerful and can be seen everywhere.  I recently attended two very good movies:  The first one was Noah.  As with most biblical films this one deviated from the truth.  But the law of death, burial, and resurrection came through powerfully.  Humans sinned (even Noah) and the penalty was death.  The whole world was wiped out and (according to the screenwriter)  Noah wanted his family to die out as well.  And so the world was buried and through an Abraham offering up Issac type moment Noah's family almost died too.  But the Noah family survived as a type of resurrection.  The flood subsided, land appeared, and a beautiful rainbow completed the picture of new life and with it hope.  As distorted as it was, Noah reminded me of God's ability to bring new life out of a very sinful situation.

The second film was God's Not Dead.   It this movie several characters are dealing with extremely difficult problems, one life-threatening.  All the various story-lines come together beautifully as despair, doubt, dejection, and defeat give way to victory demonstrating that God is indeed not dead, but very much alive.  It was interesting to see people making free choices while God worked everything toward drawing them to Himself.  The main character of the movie was pitted against an atheistic philosophy professor in trying to demonstrate that God is alive.  The young man's arguments were good but the reality of God came through in His working in people's lives.  The best proof for the resurrection is what this risen Christ does in individual lives.

It might be time for some of us to put some things in our lives to death, bury them, and then let God breath His resurrection life into our lives.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Glorification of Being Gay

I have always thought of myself as a fair-minded, even liberal (in the classic sense) person.  I agreed with the civil rights movement of the 50's and 60's.  I supported much of the feminist movement.  I believe that all people, regardless of race, creed, gender , or sexual orientation are entitled to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."  I am for giving homosexuals all the same rights that I have.(marriage is another issue because there always have been and should be restrictions on marriage.  ie: 11 year-olds cannot marry, nor can siblings. Also forbidden is marrying an animal, your mother, or more than one person).

Lets be fair to all people. As Christians lets even love all people.  But what is happening in our country is the glorification of being Gay.  It is not enough to be tolerant of homosexual behavior saying, "I don't agree with it, but consenting adults should be free to do what they want to do behind closed doors."  It's not even enough to say "they should be allowed to marry each other."(which I do not say).  What they seem to want, and what the media seems to want to give them is God-like status.  In America, Gays have become hero's.  Jason Collins, a gay athlete, was given a standing ovation when he first appeared in an NBA game.  Football player Micheal Sam has been praised from the moment he "came out" as gay.

Give them their rights, but please don't deify them!  Especially when a significant minority of Americans are highly offended by Homosexuality which is condemned in the Bible.  The majority of these offended people are not homophobes or bigots.  They simply believe the scriptures and want to be obedient to the God that they love(and the God who loves everyone). 

Hollywood and the mainstream media seem to be on a campaign to make gods out of gays and cults out of Christians.Their excellent PR has apparently given them the high ground.  But believers in Christ are grounded in the Bible and will always stand for truth-even when it hurts.  Who we believe in and what we believe has stood the test of time and will last into eternity. 

Here is a good question:  Why does Paul (under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) pick out homosexuality as the sin that serves as an example of the fall of humanity?  Read Romans 1:16-32.  Why is gay sexual activity chosen as proof that humanity has "worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator" and "exchanged the truth of God for a lie"?

Since all of us have sinned in some way, I am eternally thankful for the gospel "which is the power of God for salvation to the Jew first and also the Greek"  And it's the power of God for salvation also for the gay.

Monday, January 13, 2014

From Here To Maturity

When you think of maturity, you think of being complete.  Our goal and God's goal for us is Christ-like maturity.  It helps if we understand that we can't pull this off on our own.  We are not and never can be Christ.  But we can(and believers do) contain Him.  He lives in us.  "We have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power might be from God and from ourselves."

One of Satan's lies in the garden was that we could be like God.  He tempted Eve and Adam to live out of their own strength and thus be their own gods.  Up until that point they weren't even human.  To be human they had to make a choice.  God allowed Satan to tempt them in order to help them become human.  By  offering them the opposite of God, he was making them aware of the possibilities and they had to make a choice.  Unfortunately they chose the non-God way.  but there is a sense which making the wrong choice make them even more human.  Now they discovered first-hand the consequences of going against God.  They experienced God's wrath which included pain, guilt, and separation.  And Satan got a curse.

"Just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all because all sinned."  Rom. 5:12   So now all of humanity has made the fateful choice and is living with pain, guilt, and separation from God.  Even for those of us who have been redeemed by accepting what Christ has done for us on the cross and receiving the risen Lord Jesus as our savior often make the mistake of being our own god by living by our own self-effort. 

God's desire for Adam and for us is that we allow Christ is live His life in and through us.  We are containers of Him.  A container gets none of the glory, does none of the work, and has only one function--to contain the treasure.  We now, as humans who have make many wrong choices now have the chance to choose life by choosing His life.  And the amazing thing is that, when we do so, we actually become what we are meant to be--like God.  Except that this time it is through union with Christ(the Tree of Life)as we allow Him to express His divinity through us.

The more we let Him be Himself in and through us the more fruit we bear and the more others see Him in us.  And we become spiritual parents.  We head toward maturity.

Friday, January 10, 2014

From Here To Maturity

Can there be little doubt that God wants Christians to be mature believers?  "...until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of god, to a mature person to stature that belongs to the fullness of Christ."  Ephesians 4:12  Clearly this does not happen all at once.  Just as physical maturity takes a while, so does spiritual maturity.  But it is supposed to happen!

I John 2:12-14 lists three types of believers which can represent the major stages of  Christian development: 
Little children; young adults; and parents.  Believers who are children understand that Christ died for them and has forgiven them of their sins.  They know that Jesus is part of the Triune God but they tend to see Him as up in heaven or "out there".  Sometimes He gets close to us and he does things for us when we pray but He is not really in me.  Young Adults are beginning to see that they have the power of God in them through Christ and the Holy Spirit.  They have some victory over sin and Satan and they know the power of prayer.  They may even experience miracles.  They are beginning to understand that Christ actually indwells them.  Parents have found that Christ is their life and that He lives in them, as them.  They have a deep relationship with God which leads to an eternal perspective.  They are far less self-centered and more Christ-centerd.
They are called parents because of their maturity and because they reproduce other Christians.  Their great love for God leads to babies and the process starts all over again.

And important verse in reaching maturity is Galatians 2:20: "I am crucified with Christ, never the less I live, yet not I but Christ lives in me.  And the life which I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me."  We will be spending the next few weeks expanding on the truth and implications of this  verse.  Ultimately I hope you will grasp that it is impossible to live the Christian life but that Christ can and will live it through you.  A mature believer lives by the life of God.

Here are some other examples of the three stages of growth:

       Children                                          Young Adults                                  Parents

     forgiveness                                      spiritual power                               knowing God
   Christ for me                                       Christ in me                                   Christ as me
       Jesus                                                   Christ                                             Lord
    crucifixion                                            resurrection                                  ascension
    sacrifice                                             empowerment                               fruitfulness
      Romans 3                                            Romans 6                                   Romans 8
     Moses                                                     Joshua                                     Melchizedek 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Wonderful things

In 1923 a team of archeologists entered into the passageway to King Tut's Tomb.   They came to what they thought was the entrance. Gradually they removed the rubble that blocked the entrance into the main room.  Howard Carter, the leader of the expedition held his lantern into the room.   Standing behind him, Lord Caravan asked, "Can you see anything?"  Carter's reply was, "Yes, wonderful things."

As I think about 2014, I see wonderful things.  There are many things that could give us fear, but I choose hope.  The circumstances of our world are not good.  But we know that God is in charge.  In the west, the time is right for revival.  I am praying that it will come in 2014.

Think with me about fear and hope.  Fear paralyzes hope excites. Fear keeps people from seeking and enjoying God's purposes for them.  Hope encourages us to trust the Lord and to walk in His ways.  "Fear Not."  "Hope does not disappoint."  Let's make 2014 the year of hope.

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy spirit you may abound in hope." Romans 15:13