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.