Thursday, September 27, 2007
I've found over the years that people like to feel needed.
And when we become Christians, this desire to be needed carries over into our relationship with God. We want to be needed by God, and sometimes we try to "serve" Him in such a way that we look or feel indispensable to Him.
But the more we learn about the Lord, the more we realize something that we really don't want to admit ... God doesn't need us.
He really doesn't. If you doubt that, then you need to know more about God. Take a look at the photo I've included above in this post.
It's the gas pillars in the Eagle Nebula, 6,500 light years from Earth. Now light travels at 186,000 miles per SECOND! So this is a long long way away. But even the pillars themselves are light-years tall, so this seemingly insignificant far away blip in space is really a huge multi-universe of its own, forming new universes.
And God created it, and the trillions of other outer space phenomena, with a word, a phrase really, "Let there be..." And there was.
Now do you really think this God needs us? Oh, I know we say that we are His hands and feet and mouth on this earth. But He only uses hands and feet and mouth because He chooses to. He could use a donkey. Or the rocks could cry out. Or He could do nothing.
But before you get all sad on me because God doesn't need you, let me tell you something far better.
He WANTS you. And He wants you just because He does.
And to be wanted like that is infinitely better than to be needed. Because if we are just "needed", there may be a time when we're no longer needed, and then what? If we're just "needed", then what about when someone comes along who performs our job better than we do?
And because of that aspect of being needed, there is a perverse idea behind being "needed". The perverse idea is that if we "do a good job for God" then we'll be needed, and then we will be wanted, because we're needed. And what we really desired all along is to be wanted. Feel free to read this paragraph over again :)
But to be wanted, just because God chose to want us, is a precious thing. He doesn't want us because we are flawless. He already had that in the Trinity. And He doesn't want us because we're needed.
He just wants us.
He chose to want us.
He chose to love us, and so He wants us.
But to be wanted by the Creator of the Universe is a hard thing to believe, sometimes. And so God came to dwell with us as a Man, Jesus. And the Father showed us how much He wants us by giving His Son to die for our sins. And the Son, Jesus, showed us how much He wants us by shedding His blood, and even having His Father forsake Him in some mysterious way. And the Holy Spirit showed us how much He wants us by awakening us to the Truth, and giving us new Life, and sealing us for eternity. We can't fully comprehend.
But we can comprehend, by God's grace, that the One who launched the stars and the planets, and the Eagle Nebula with a word, WANTS you and me.
Monday, September 24, 2007
Monday, September 17, 2007
Saturday, September 15, 2007
"For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds;" 2 Corinthians 10:4
The picture God is painting here is one of storming and conquering a fortress, or castle. There are a lot of aspects to this, like our spiritual armor, prayer, the Word of God itself, faith, and so forth. But the most important thing in this raiding of the Castle of Evil is the Gospel itself.
We are not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ for it is the power of God for salvation to those who believe. (Romans 1:16)
See that? Don’t take this lightly. Do you know that you will never really change a person in the core of their being? You may clean them up and make them look better and make them a better businessman or public speaker, or more successful, or more powerful personally or politically, but may I ask the question the Scripture asks?
“What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world, but foreits his soul?”
You see the fortress or castle that we want to pull down is the Kingdom of Darkness, a kindgom of "works religion" that has enslaved every man and woman since Adam and Eve. It’s the Kingdom of lies, and the lies are against the One who is the Truth, and the Way and the Life.
And the primary thing that pulls down that fortress, that Kingdom of Darkness, is the Gospel of Grace, because it not only shines truth in the darkness, it actually has the POWER to change the heart. To grant the free gift of a new spirit, to make a new creation.
Friday, September 14, 2007
Continued from Part 1
The devil loves this confusion between Saint and Sinner, and between New Covenant and Old Covenant. He loves confusion between the biblical concept of a "Saint" as anyone who is a born-again child of God, and the Roman Catholic nonsense that a "Saint" is someone who meets some elaborate criteria of the Mother Church, and is "voted in".
The devil loves confusion between the Old Covenant (which Hebrews 8 says couldn't bring righteousness because of man's inability to keep the Law) and the New Covenant, in which God puts His laws in our hearts, fulfills those laws in Christ on the cross, declares us righteous (Justification), and forgives us of all our sins, past, present and future.
So it's no surprise -- though a crying shame -- that children of God think that God is angry at them when they fall short and sin. And otherwise fine Christians, who mean well, perpetuate this ridiculous notion, without one shred of support from the New Covenant Scriptures!
And so we Christians often run away from this angry God, instead of toward Him, when we fail. We won't look Him in the face, because we think it's a face of anger. What a tragedy.
This is not the place for an extended explanation of the subject in the scriptures. But here's a challenge for those who doubt what I'm saying: Search the epistles of the New Testament for any teaching that God is ever angry with His children.
By the way, don't think the passages on God's chastisement are regarding some kind of punishment out of anger. Study them closely, and you will see they involve loving, usually gentle correction, from a loving Father, who just wants his children to be in close fellowship with Him. No condemnation, no unforgiveness, no bitterness, no anger.
Like a daddy teaching his 1-year-old to walk, while the kid keeps wobbling, staggering, and falling...sometimes painfully in the wrong direction, but often into a laughing Daddy's arms for a big hug.
And that’s the biggest reason why grace is so important to the Christian life. Because it causes us to want to fellowship with Christ. To draw near to Him, and not away. And that drawing near is the very SOURCE of our Life.
"...Christ, who IS our life...", Colossians 3:4.
And ironically, moving away from a Law-based life to a Grace-based life doesn’t cause us to sin more, but less. That’s why Romans 6:14 says “For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.” You are not judged or loved or favored under Law, which says “do”, but under Grace, which says “done”.
With apologies to Jimmy Stewart, it can be a Wonderful Life between our initial salvation and our glorification, if we heed Colossians 2:6, and walk in grace just as we received Christ in grace ... by simple faith.
Faith that He has already forgiven us of all our sins, past present and future.
Faith that we are no longer under condemnation, because our sins have been paid for and put away as far as the East is from the West.
Notice I didn’t say He overlooked our sins. He couldn’t be that unjust. No, He exercised His great Justice, by taking our sins on Himself. He became sin FOR us, that we might be made the righteousness of God.
I love the hymn by Annie Johnson Flint that goes,
"His love has no limit, His grace has no measure,
His power has no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus,
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again."
You see, it’s His love that supplies that grace for salvation and living. His love for you and me.
On Sunday, August 16, 1987, Northwest Airlines Flight 225 crashed just after take-off at Detroit, Michigan.
155 died, and one lived.
That one who lived was a little 4-year-old girl named Cecelia. The wreckage was so bad, that the authorities thought at first she had not been on the plane. Checking the flight roster, however, and with Cecelia's own testimony, the following was discovered:
As the crash was developing, Paula Chichan had unbuckled her own seat belt, got down on her knees in front of her daughter, wrapped her arms and body around Cecelia, and would not let her go! Nothing could separate that child from her parent's love...neither disaster, nor crash, nor flames, nor pain.
Such is our Savior's love for us...
"...that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:38,39)
Colossians 2:6, is a terrific verse of the Bible.
"As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him."
Now the only way to become a son or daughter of God is to receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, to believe in Him. "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name." (John 1:12)
This entrance into the family of God is accomplished by God's GRACE through faith. "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast." (Ephesians 2:8,9)
We can’t brag about earning our salvation, because we didn’t earn it, did we? It’s completely based on God’s Grace, His undeserved favor toward us. It’s a free gift.
Good works are the fruit of our new life, and we are a new creation, with a new life. But no good works have any part in our receiving eternal life, or as the Bible calls it, being "saved". "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them." (Ephesians 2:10)
The salvation, the eternal life is an absolutely free gift.
Some say that’s not fair. It’s too easy.
"You don’t know the sins I’ve committed. You don’t know how I’ve spit in God’s face for so many years. It’s not just, it’s too simple. Why should I be saved through simply believing in Jesus?"
We naturally gravitate toward trying to earn acceptance, and that attitude resists the simplicity of God's grace.
Yet the Bible is clear: "But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness." (Romans 4:5) "And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. . ." (Romans 11:6) No wonder John Newton's hymn, Amazing Grace, has such meaning to saved people of God!
So we received Him by Grace, didn’t we?
Well, let’s go back to our verse, Colossians 2:6, "As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him."
What role does God’s grace play in living and growing in Christ? What role does God’s grace play in living abundantly?
Jesus said “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)
"That they may have life... (that’s salvation, the new birth, the new creation, eternal life)
"...And that they may have it more abundantly." (that’s living as a believer AFTER our initial salvation.
What role does grace play in that?!
Well, it is VITAL to the Christian life.
Why? Why can’t I just pull out my Bible, find all the rules and laws for living the Christian life, and live it?
I’m tempted to just write, "OK, go ahead and try it." But I know better than that. I know from personal experience, from the experience of others, and from the Bible itself, that this makes a miserable Christian life. It’s what we call Performance-based Christianity, and it stinks.
First of all, if we make the Christian life about rules and laws, we will find ourselves constantly falling short. If we think we are successfully following the laws and rules, then we don’t really understand them.
We don’t understand how Jesus elevated the laws to reflect how holy and perfect God is. When He said that adultery included even the very THOUGHT of lust in our hearts, He put the cards on the table.
And if we try to live the Law way, we will always be thinking that God is angry with us, His children.
You may already think that God must be angry with you, either directly or by implication. Admit it.
You may even think when you are sinful or disobedient to the Word of God that God sees you as "wicked", and everyone knows "God is angry with the wicked every day", right?
Jonathan Edwards preached his famous sermon, "Sinners In The Hands of An Angry God" in the 1700's, and the picture has been applied to BELIEVERS and has stuck...
...with those who don't understand the difference between a Sinner and a Saint. Or who don't understand the difference between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant.
Read Part 2
Saturday, September 08, 2007
Dr. D. James Kennedy went to be with the Lord on September 5, 2007.
When we speak of contemporary "giants" of the Church, he certainly has to be included. Since I love Theology, the study of God and His Word, my heart resonated with Kennedy's, because he loved Theology, too.
I didn't always agree with Kennedy. I didn't agree with him that America was once a "Christian Nation", and needed to be restored as a Christian Nation, though by God's grace we have certainly been heavily influenced by our Christianity, and blessed by the Lord. I believe the Bible teaches the view that the Kingdom of God is a spiritual one, with Christ reigning in the hearts of anyone who is His, whether in America or the deepest darkest Communist or Muslim environment.
Ironically, it is Kennedy's evangelistic endeavors that I believe have had more influence on America and around the world than any political preaching or lobbying he has ever done. Only eternity will tell if I'm correct.
But having said that, my greatest debt to D. James Kennedy was his simple Two Question "formula" for quickly getting at another person's understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
It was formulated as Evangelism Explosion, and again only eternity will reveal what an enormous influence Kennedy has had in souls led to Jesus Christ. It has simplified and clarified my own thinking since the late 1970's, when I first was "trained" in Evangelism Explosion.
Frankly, I've forgotten most of the details of the Evangelism Explosion book -- my copy was a thick padded Olive-Green-covered manual we so cherished back then.
But I've never forgotten the Two Questions, and I pose them here for anyone who may be reading this and has an interest in Jesus Christ:
1. Have you reached the point in your spiritual life that if you died today, you know you would go to heaven?
Whether the answer is "Yes" or "No", the 2nd Question may help you in understanding the Good News about Jesus Christ:
2. If you stood at the gates of Heaven and God asked you why He should allow you in, how would you answer?
If your answer has anything to do with "earning" Heaven, or, "I did my best," or any other kind of works or merit or religion or baptism or "doing this" or "not doing that" -- in other words if your answer has anything in it of "deserving" Heaven, then you don't understand the Gospel. But we (me and D. James Kennedy) have Good News for you.
Though you, like us, don't deserve salvation from our sins, and don't deserve Heaven, God offers it as a Free Gift to anyone who will believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. That's what "Grace" means. Salvation is by Grace, a free gift, not by works or "earning" or "merit".
Jesus is God, but He came to earth as a man. He is God and Man, and He came to earth to die on a Cross, shedding His blood, to pay for sins, so that He might give eternal Life to all who would change their minds and believe in Him. Change their minds about their sins (recognize and oppose them), and change their minds about Jesus (recognizing Him as Lord God and Savior, Who paid for their sins on the Cross, and was raised again to life).
That's the Good News, that if you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, you will be saved. Jesus Himself said, "Whoever comes to Me I will never cast out." (John 6:37)
"...let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price." (Revelation 22:17)
Come to Him now. Believe in the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Call on Him. "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." (Romans 10:13)