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180: a powerful film you must see

March 17, 2012 4 comments

This is a half-hour film that I wish everyone would watch and consider. Give  it a chance. It could be a life-changer for you or someone you know. Warning: it does contain some graphic images.

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God’s motivation was love (video added)

June 30, 2010 4 comments

I always tended to be an intellectual type. And though my parents sacrificially provided everything we kids needed – it wasn’t always easy, I know, and I will bless them forever for that – there really wasn’t much sense of affection, belongingness or guidance as I grew up. As humans, we tend to project our earthly experiences onto God, especially family of origin issues, and because of that, I’ve often had a hard time trying to relate to God’s love. I saw that love written in the Bible, I heard it preached, and I’ve certainly even had wonderful times of communion in prayer and worship, but generally I’ve not understood or even had a functional belief in God’s love for me.

Instead, the motivation I could relate to for God saving us was the one I had seen in my parents – a commitment to high principles and ideals, to doing what was right. God was going to see through what He had started. It was His duty, as the one whose idea Creation was, to put an end to the evil and chaos that had spoiled it. And after all, He had His reputation to restore. He had been slandered in the Garden, when the devil charged Him with withholding good from humans and ruling over them for His own selfish pleasure. That had to be set right.

So the most I could relate to was that God saved us in order to do the right thing, but in my heart’s thinking, love and intimate interrelatedness had no place in it. He remained aloof from us.

But I hadn’t followed through the ramifications of one foundational point far enough. God knew everything that was going to happen before it occurred. He so easily could have avoided placing Himself in the position of having to do the right thing, and having to preserve His reputation, all at such a high cost, merely by not creating in the first place.

But create He did. Now God, the Self-Existent One, is perfect is every way and has no needs, so why did He do so? It boggles my mind, but He whose joy is already perfect takes joy in being a “cheerful giver”, in giving us life and happiness. He did not have to do it. But in order to give us a life of unending bliss, He committed to a path that would lead to Jesus dying a horrible death on the Cross. He esteemed it all to be worth it, so that He could share his glorious nature and have communion with us

Not duty, not vindication, but Love – love is why He made us, and love is why He paid the price to redeem us.

The distinction between love, as against principle, being God’s motivation toward us is beyond enormous. It is the difference between a personal and impersonal God. It is the difference between having an arrangement and having a relationship. It is the difference between being alone in a crowd, and really belonging. In short, it is the difference between just existing and being gloriously alive.

Over in 2 Corinthians, Paul gives us a compelling graphic image:

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. - 2Cor 3:18

The right person could probably write a book on this one verse, but basically it tells us that as we gaze upon Christ’s glory, that glory fills us and transforms us into the very image of Christ that we are beholding. And it tells us that there is no end to it. As we keep beholding the glory, we keep being filled with more glory.

We can do that because we are “with unveiled face”. Anyone who has entered into covenant relationship with God through Christ the Lord has given Him the right to apply Christ’s holy blood as payment of our sin-debt. Just as the veil of the Jewish temple was torn in two when Jesus accomplished His vicarious, sacrificial death, when we trust Jesus for salvation the veil that separated us personally from God is torn away. We now have the right to behold our glorious God and Father in all His holiness, not through the keeping of law, not through external religion, not through any works of our own, but through the merits of His Son, our mediator.

Jesus the “only-begotten” Son of God has through His resurrection become the “first-born of many brothers”. We are adopted into the family of God, not as servants, being mere cogs on the wheel, but as brothers and friends. It is not a cold business arrangement we are called to, it’s a loving family unit. Mere principle is not the glue that holds it all together, and neither is vindication of God’s name. Rather, God’s unfathomable perfect love, lavishly poured out on us, is the very substance of our shared union.

Oh, how glorious heaven is going to be! That is why Paul could speak of all the woes and sorrows of this fallen world as a relative “momentary, light affliction”! It’s hard to see that sometimes, when troubles and sorrows come roaring in, but we need to keep reminding ourselves of it, because the beatific vision of God is where His “zoe” life is found.

Scripture warns us that God’s people perish for lack of prophetic vision. I’ve found that when I lack vision and can’t find my way through a situation, I need to repair back to the one central vision that drives the whole life in God. And that is the vision of who He is, what He has done and is going to do, and what ultimately drives His wonderful plan for us.

And the reason for that plan, and for the great and precious promises He has given us, and for the amazing introduction to grace that we already enjoy, is that He loves us eternally, with a limitless love beyond our ability to understand.

Praise be His glorious Name, forever.

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On the Cross, and in complete control

April 2, 2010 4 comments

When he had received the sour wine, Jesus said, “It is completed!” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.  -John 19:30

When Jesus cried out, “It is finished”, He wasn’t saying that His personal ordeal was over. He was proclaiming that the task He had been sent to perform had been accomplished. All the suffering and sin of lost man had been poured out on Him, and now the price of our redemption had been eternally secured. The doorway to heaven had been opened, and we had gained the right to become partakers of the Divine nature.

And when Jesus gave up His spirit, He was not overcome by death. In the Greek, paradidomi means “to give into the hands of another; to deliver to one something to keep, use, or take care of; to permit, allow”. And it is recorded in the active tense, meaning that Jesus’ spirit didn’t just leave Him; His task being done, Jesus dismissed His own spirit into the hands of the Father.

Think of that. All during His passion, Jesus was in complete control. Every tearing of flesh by the lictor’s whip, every driving of thorns into his head, each nail, each unending agony of heaving breath while on the Cross – at any time, Jesus could have ended it at will, with one word (see Mt 26.53). He endured the unspeakable agony of not only the physical pain, but far worse, the righteous wrath due our separation from God.

He did it all to free us from the captivity of satan, sin and death, and to reconcile us to Himself forever. As has been written, it wasn’t the nails, it was Jesus’ love that held Him on the Cross – and when He was on the Cross, we were on His mind.

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Amazing Watchman Nee anecdote

February 3, 2010 1 comment

This amazing tale comes from Voice of the Martyrs, USA’s Facebook page, which I follow. Always good, they’ve been having some very interesting stuff lately. Following VOM on Facebook or Twitter is a good way to stay connected to the church persecuted in other lands and to check one’s own discipleship quotient.

Watchman Nee has long been one of my top favorites. No one, and I mean no one, explicates the Gospel as he does. Though his writing is intellectually advanced and satisfying, its real strength comes from his deep submission to the lordship of Christ. Simply put, he walked the talk.

Nee began writing at only twenty-three years of age, if my memory serves, and his writings are unparalleled for depth and clarity. But this is the first I’ve ever heard of his doings later in life while in prison in China for the Gospel. His dedication, insight and power in the Gospel amaze and humble me.

Limited Time to Lead Others to Christ

Watchman Nee, the Chinese church leader, had only six hours. He must lead the guard in front of his prison cell to Christ so that his letter of encouragement to Christians outside the prison could be delivered.

Chairman Mao’s government was infuriated by the spread of Christianity in China. In order to stop the spread of this “foreign cult,” they had forced out or killed all foreign missionaries and had sent thousands of Chinese church leaders to prison or to “re-education through labor” camps. But the church still grew.

When the police discovered that Nee’s beautiful, powerful letters of encouragement were making their way out of the prison and into the hands of Christians, they doubled the number of guards and never allowed a guard to stand outside Nee’s cell more than once. They shortened shifts to six hours, hoping Nee would not have time to convert the guard.

Nee told the guard about the Father’s love and willingness to give up his own flesh and blood so the guard could live forever in heaven. “Communism cannot get you to heaven,” he said. “Only the blood of Jesus Christ can do that.”

Five hours into the sermon, with tears streaming from his eyes, the guard accepted Christ. Yet another soul was won for the kingdom, and yet another of Watchman Nee’s letters would be safely delivered.

If Christian martyrs teach us anything, it is that we must use creative energy in order to promote the gospel. Their ingenuity, courage, and even craftiness ought to awaken our own spirit for spreading the Good News. While not everyone has the opportunity to smuggle Scriptures into restricted areas, we can still be willing servants for the kingdom. It might mean having a cookout in the driveway for neighbors. It may mean signing up for golf lessons or another community class in order to meet nonchurched people. A new method of witness always risks consequences. But we should always be willing to take the risk instead of settling for mediocrity. Which describes your evangelistic life today? Mundane and mediocre? Or creatively energetic for Christ?

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Two good laughs

January 8, 2010 Comments off

I’m in a zany mood, maybe as an aftereffect of that last post, but I just came across two items that made me crack up.

First, the inimitable Ramirez from IBD:

Calling Al Gore...

Then, a slightly offbeat but hilarious exposition of the Gospel by Ann Coulter. Here’s the end, but if you have the time don’t peek. Enjoy.

Christianity is also the hardest religion in the world because, if you believe Christ died for your sins and rose from the dead, you have no choice but to give your life entirely over to Him. No more sexual promiscuity, no lying, no cheating, no stealing, no killing inconvenient old people or unborn babies — no doing what all the other kids do.

And no more caring what the world thinks of you — because, as Jesus warned in a prophecy constantly fulfilled by liberals: The world will hate you.

With Christianity, your sins are forgiven, the slate is wiped clean and your eternal life is guaranteed through nothing you did yourself, even though you don’t deserve it. It’s the best deal in the universe.

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Made like us, so we could be like Him

December 24, 2009 Comments off

Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be. But we know that when He shall be revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. – 1John 3:2

Twenty centuries ago God established a beachhead in enemy territory. Unlike D-Day, this one came quietly and was barely noticed. Most people just continued going about their lives, not knowing anything had changed.

But everything had changed. God was finally executing His long-held plan to redeem fallen creation. And the Lord of Love was going to do it meekly, “through the frailty of [His] Son”, by giving Himself.

Had Jesus come merely to repopulate the earth with godly seed, none of the issues the devil had raised in his rebellion would have been resolved. And the new race could have fallen just as easily as had the first. But Jesus didn’t come to replace, He came to redeem. The Incarnation is only half the story, the other half being the Cross.

Every once in a while – ok, every once in a great while – a really classic Christmas song comes along. It’s too rare these days that a good tune also has lyrics that you can dig into, meditate on and learn from. Back in 1988, Michael Card penned To the Mystery, one such tune.

I pray we can embody the Christmas message and take it to a world in need of hope.

To the mystery

When the Father wanted to show, a love He wanted us to know,
He sent His only Son and so, became a holy embryo.

That is the mystery, more than you can see.
Give up on your pondering, fall down on your knees.

No fiction as fantastic and wild — a mother made by her own child!
The hopeless babe who cried, was God incarnate and man deified.

Because the Fall did devastate, Creator now must recreate.
And so, to take our sin, was made like us so we could be like Him.

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I’ve Updated ‘Hebrews 6: restoration of a fallen Christian’

October 17, 2009 Comments off

I reworked my post from last April, concerning how the difficult passage in Hebrews 6 is really about restoring, rather than condemning, fallen Christians, and I think it now speaks more directly and powerfully to the issue. This is one of the hardest passages in the Bible. It’s easy to misunderstand where the author is coming from, and to fall into a sense of condemnation that can have disastrous consequences.

So if you’ve wondered about what Hebrews 6 is getting at when it says that it’s impossible to renew someone who has fallen away, give the updated piece a read: Hebrews6: Restoration for Fallen Christians/

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The Gospel, reloaded. pt 2

September 11, 2009 Comments off

In part 1 I laid out my need to explicate the Gospel in its basics. Most already know the basics, but sometimes a fresh perspective helps shed new light in the heart. That’s my hope. And especially I would like to help people who are new to the Lord, or who do not know him, to understand him better.

So far, in Part 1,  we imagined a God who is absolute in knowledge and power, and who perfectly possesses such character qualities as righteousness, peace and joy. And to that we then added a most amazing aspect to his nature: love.

Love is amazing because it is the one quality that takes a person out of himself and focuses on seeking the good of others in a highly personal way. There are many aspects to love by which this can occur – mercy, admiration, empathy, etc. – but they all fall under the rubric of love.

God exists perfectly content, but if he had a way to express his love others would be blessed as well, and his love would be more fulfilled. He would take joy is seeing others happy. It’s not that he needs it, it’s purely generosity toward those he would love. I don’t have a better way to say it than that, and I suspect it’s ultimately a mystery that we can’t understand.

So God set into motion a plan. He would create. He would create inanimate objects, he would create living creatures, and ultimately he would create beings made in his own image and likeness, who could commune with his spirit. He would create man. Read more…

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