Monday, January 24, 2005
There are few words that I find sweeter than "Immanuel". It means "God with us", and refers to the Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:23). And not only is He with us, He is in us. "Christ in you, the hope of glory", the Bible says (Colossians 1:27). What is so beautiful about that? Simply that He is so attainable. We can fellowship with Him at will. And that fellowship is the partaking of the Manna that our spirits so hunger for, when we are in touch with even our own spirit.
Fellowshiping with Jesus is the most precious purpose for the Bible. Jesus said to the Pharisee crowd, "You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify of Me." (John 5:39)
The Bible is not a Manual. It's not primarily a book of rules, a how-to book, an "instruction manual" for living. It is the written Word of the living Word, Jesus Christ. And those of us who love Him will profit most if we go to the Word to meet Him, Immanuel, God with us.
"Come to the Word for one purpose, and that is to meet the Lord. Not to get your mind crammed full of things about the sacred Word, but come to it to meet the Lord. Make it a medium, not of Biblical scholarship, but of fellowship with Christ. Behold the Lord." -- Norman Douty
Saturday, January 22, 2005
Working definition of righteous: "innocent, faultless, guiltless" (Strong).
Question: If I gave you my Bible...I mean actually gave it to you to keep, whose Bible would it be? Yours, right? I mean it's my Bible, but now it's your Bible. Right? It may have "Terry Rayburn" printed in gold on the front, it may be filled with my lines and notes, it may even have pieces of paper, momentos, and church bulletins stuffed in it. It obviously has all the marks of my Bible. But now it's your Bible. Right?
O.K. That's what God has done for you, with His righteousness, if you are a born-again believer in Jesus Christ. It was His righteousness, not ours. Ours was "as filthy rags", the Bible says. But then, through the mysterious work on the cross, Jesus took our sins upon Himself (the Bible says He became sin for us...creepy!).
But He didn't stop there. He killed us too, that is, the old us. Our old man was crucified with Him. (Look, I know this is mysterious, even weird sounding. Hang with me a minute). We then were made a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17)!
And He didn't stop there. He became sin for us so that He could justly give us His righteousness as our own (the Bible says so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him...yikes!). And so here we stand --- or sit, in my case --- righteous before God. That is what "justification" or "justified" means: "declared righteous by God".
We are righteous. Do you see that?
"Yes, you say, but only in God's eyes."
Well, think a minute. Who's eyes count? Are you really prepared to say, "I know that the Creator of the Universe, the Alpha and Omega, the Almighty Jehovah says I'm righteous....but I've got a different view."?!!
To deny the above is not humility, it's unbelief. And it is bondage which traps us in a self-centered man-consciousness. There are many benefits of understanding our amazing total righteousness before God, but maybe the most important is this:
When we understand that we are righteous before God, we are set free to live with a Christ-focus instead of a sin-focus. With a Jesus-centered focus, instead of a self-centered focus. And you know what the real irony of that is? That Jesus-centered focus will lead us to live out our righteousness and actually sin less, as the precious Holy Spirit leads us and transforms us into His likeness.
"But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness." (Romans 4:5)
"Therefore having been justified [declared righteous] by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." (Romans 5:1)
"He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." (2 Corinthians 5:21)
Sunday, January 09, 2005
In the movie, Lord of the Rings -- The Return of the King, there is a character named Gollum. He once murdered to get "The Ring", and was so corrupted by it that he shriveled into a despicable little creature so pitiful it's hard to hate him. His corruption was characterized by intense self-centeredness, which culminated in a scene hard to forget. Having lost the ring, it was now being carried off by the Hobbit hero Frodo, to be destroyed. In the unforgettable scene, Gollum is once again contemplating murder, the murder of Frodo and his faithful companion Sam. The evil Gollum talks to himself in the mirror of a pool of water, getting more and more excited at the thought of murdering them to regain The Ring, hatching his plan to feed them to a giant spider, until he gleefully shouts to himself a climactic, "And take it for Me-e-e-e-e!!"
Such is the height of self-centeredness. Me! Me! Me!
Every Christian has heard the concept of being Christ-centered versus being self-centered. And we all will agree that being Christ-centered is best. But what is being Christ-centered? Is it dutifully serving Him, honoring Him, doing good deeds for Him, etc.? You know what I mean, "Only one life, twill soon be past; only what's done for Christ will last?" I know this is the common view, but let me take a little different tack (actually a radically different tack).
Being Christ-centered, biblically speaking, is being in a relationship to Him in such a way as to be fixated with Him. It's not the deeds. It's the "looking upon" Him. Seeking His face. Seeking Him. Knowing Him, as opposed to knowing about Him. Fellowshiping with Him. Gazing on Him. Then, out of that, comes the serving, honoring, and so forth. But with joy and the power of the Spirit. When we look upon Him, we escape the obsession with ourselves. We stop asking ourselves, "How am I doing in my Christian life? Am I good enough? Am I working hard enough for the Lord? Am I acting holy enough? I, I, I, me, me, me!" We turn outward from our own navels to the glorious Son of God, our Lord, our Friend, our Savior, our Beloved.
And then something mysterious and wonderful happens:
"But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit." (2 Corinthians 3:18)
A.W. Tozer, in The Pursuit of God, put it this way:
"The man who has struggled to purify himself and has had nothing but repeated failures will experience real relief when he stops tinkering with his soul and looks away to the perfect One. While he looks at Christ, the very things he has so long been trying to do will be getting done within him. It will be God working in him to will and to do."
Saturday, January 01, 2005
I have a theory. If you make New Years resolutions, you will break them. I have much evidence for this theory. You probably do too. But that's O.K. I still say, "Go ahead and make them." Don't make too many. My theory on too many is that you will not only break them, but will utterly forget them, and lose the whole point.
I would recommend these two New Years resolutions for the born again believer:
1. I resolve to reckon that I am dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:11).
That word "reckon" is sometimes translated "consider", but my favorite loose translation is "choose to believe". But the point is that if I see myself as dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus, I am likely to act, respond, walk, etc. in that light. If I don't "reckon" that truth, then the world, the flesh and the devil will conspire to feed me the lie that I'm alive to sin, and dead to God, in some way that will lead me to act, respond, walk, etc. in that lie. If I believe the truth, I will likely commune with Jesus more. It's profoundly satisfying to commune with Him when you know He doesn't hold a grudge. When you know that you are His Beloved.
But Terr-r-ry-y-y -- you perhaps whine :) -- I don't feel like I'm dead to sin and alive to God. Well, that's why you have to "choose to believe" this simple biblical truth. You do see it as a simple biblical truth, don't you? It would be hard to make it clearer. Write it on the frontlets of your mind, and reckon it, consider it, choose to believe it.
2. I resolve to forgive everybody for everything, right away, in my heart.
Hardly anything is more destructive to the Christian life than holding unforgiveness in the heart. Remember Jesus' story of the unforgiving man who was delivered over to the tormentors? If you don't forgive, you shall be tormented.
Forgiveness is not forgetting (a human impossibility). Forgiveness is not enjoying being wronged. Forgiveness is simply "not holding something against someone to the point of withholding love from them". Love is simply caring for someone, desiring the highest good for them, and acting accordingly. So if you forgive someone, you will continue to love them, desire their highest good, and act accordingly toward them.
"Common sense" comes into play here. For example, if someone robs you, you may not let them in your cash register, or even out of jail. If someone has been destructive toward you, and is not repentant, you may be unwise to be "buddies". Nor is Matthew 18 correction and ultimate church discipline done away with. And so on. But you still forgive them in your heart! You still don't withhold love from them.
By the way, forgiveness is really just an expression of grace, isn't it? We are to forgive "as Christ has forgiven [us]". With love, and compassion, and caring, and appropriate action --- not because they deserve it (they probably don't), but by grace.
"But I can't forgive him for that!" Ahh, and there's the rub. Indeed you can't, and I can't, except as we have the life and love of Christ living through us. Forgiveness, like love, is the fruit of the Spirit, so we must walk according to the Spirit, be being filled with the Spirit, abide in Him, commune with Jesus. But that's another resolution.