Truly living, Truly seeing

I shall never be truly living
so long as I see the world
through anything but
the eyes of
He Who
made it.

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I thought you might think better of me this way…

Time for a major confession here; no more hiding: I try to maintain like I’m not selfish…EVER! (I know, how believable, right?) But, the problem is that I believe that this is a facade that others should be able to easily equate with the real me. I don’t feel like I can deal with the truth if it were to be universally acknowledged.

I struggle, trying to always be ahead of where I really am spiritually. I don’t like thinking I’m a sinner–that is so just…ugh! Who wants to believe that about themselves? Certainly not anyone who has any pride. (Ding! Ding! That would be me.) The truth is that I have not yet gotten to the place where I do not want my image to be a prominent part of my life in Christ. I cannot seem to let it go.

I like the idea of being linked with Christ, but in my heart I do not yet understand all that such a union must entail. I do not have a strong enough concept of Christ. I perceive that I must be always seeing Him in light of me rather than having it the other way around. I believe I’ve it here before that I see myself as the measure of all things, if I’m truly honest.

So the question then becomes, if I see myself as the one the universe revolves around and hinges on, how can I possibly have the capacity for being unselfish? Surely, God who is truly the embodiment of these things, does yet remain unselfish though He does have the right to absolute rule over His universe. But, as one who has a heart-problem that projects myself into His place of infinite prerogative, I cannot maintain sinlessness in attempting an unauthorized copy of His deity.

So the fact that I can say I appreciate God for who He is, is largely influenced by the fact that His identity is something I covet for myself. I want His image to cover me, but in the wrong way. I anticipate how He will make me look good–almost like I favor Him as my ticket to achieving a spiritual make-over. I love Him for me, not Him.

But, if this is not how God intends for us to love Him, how can you and I move beyond living heart-lives similar to what I’ve described above? Is there hope for us and, if so, what does that look like? How can God invade our hearts to the point that our hearts look more like His than the ones we started with? Where does the transformation come from?

I think the secret is found woven into the very questions we’re posing. The necessary ingredient to spiritual transformation is not expecting it to come from us. We broach the journey with the assumption that we are going to be worked on far more than we will ever be purely working out.

We trust that God will be the miracle-worker here. Whatever He asks of us we will do, but nothing that comes about will be recognized as purely our effort. There is so much more going on here than we can see; therefore, we cannot possibly be leading the project at any time. Our change is in God’s hands.

Because all that needs to change us must be God’s project, we do not relate the facts about us to the case first. We sidestep everything that there is to be known about us and choose to boast with God only in the Person of Jesus Christ. If we want to stay where we are in our selfishness, we need not reach out for God at all. But if we want to take on the character of Christ in its place, then surely we can do no less than set our focus Him.

In fact, we must seek Him for the power to lay aside every other enticing focus of our affections and interest. We want self to lose all of its governing power over us. But this victory is truly only as valuable as the internal territory that God gains by the fight. If we become selfless but do not become godly, there is no credit to the Savior. He wants the end to show that He was the One who brought, not just change, but redemption. Selfishness is wrong and distasteful because of the corruption that it is of God’s original design for us. We don’t just need to become less self-intensive but to be redirected to become beings of glory-giving to our God. Does this sound like it might be the offensive strategy we need against the self that seeks to use all our hearts for one who is not one with the Father, Son or Holy Spirit?

Morality is empty without the Man who makes it

Without Jesus Christ, the perfection of righteousness, struggling for morality is a sham. It is a failed attempt at being good. Because, the fact is, if Jesus Christ is not central to what we understand of morality, we have one of two problems:

1) We believe that there is no God. Should this be the case then there is no reason for us to practice morality. He is the one we are moral for; He is the reason why we desire right living.

2) We believe there is a God who has high center, but He is in no way connected with Jesus Christ–we certainly do not think that He is Jesus Christ. In this case, we must lose our hope of being moral, of being pleasing to God because if we are not accepted on the merits of Jesus Christ, we have no merits at all by which we may be accepted.

Both problems given above can be represented here with a single inequality:

man + no Jesus Christ + work//does not equal//the rewards of God awarded to man

Instead, we must substitute God into the first side of our equation and remove the factors we have named “no Jesus Christ” and “work” to resolve the inconsistencies on the right side of our equation:

man + no Jesus Christ + work = man + God – no God – work      >

Now our changes can be substituted into the original equation:

man + Jesus Christ = the rewards of God awarded to man

And we have a perfect equation–both sides are consistent with the whole.

 

Wikipedia: God is the English name given to a singular being in theistic and deistic religions who is either the sole deity in monotheism, or a single deity in polytheism.

Who is Jesus Christ anyway?

So Jesus is our Savior, but where does His power and authority to save us come from?

His power — yes the one thing in His personal profile that puts Him above every other holy man the world over — is in the fact that He is God’s choice; God’s specific means of saving us.

God looked on us in our sin and saw it as so definitive of our identity and nature that only He could do anything to save us from being who we are. He would send His only Son to work out in our midst the Father’s plan of salvation for us.

But, what did it mean for Him to be the Son of God? How is He different from us who also have the privilege of being called God’s children when we are reconciled to Father God through His Firstborn?

Well, for one thing, Jesus’ coming into the world was marked by the birth of a virgin. Mary carried the Savior of the world in her womb because the Holy Spirit (God) had enabled the physical conception of He who would be God in human form.

From the very beginning of Christ’s life on earth He was strikingly different than any man on earth. Yes, He was similar in visible form to His earthly companions, and yet there was so much of His composition that would not make sense to them unless they believed that He was at once the Son of God and God Himself.

This may sound like a peculiar thesis, but it is on this that the whole of Christianity hinges. Unless Jesus could be God and human simultaneously, He could not reconcile the two. These parties have been astranged because man’s sin can not be deleated and God’s glory cannot be compromised. If God accepted us on our own merits — with our sin — He would need to change His commands and become like we are in character to fellowship with us. This transformation would have done nothing good for either of us; after all, the predicament was not due to the fact God is not good, but that He is and we are in conflict with Him because we are evil.

Therefore, God had to do what would not alter His decree, but deliver us from the harshness of its punishment. The only way for us to be excused from serving our sentance was for it to be served by One who could give perfect righteousness to us in exchange for paying for us a debt He did not owe.

None would do that — none could do that — but Christ. Only He could boast the credentials necessary for a salvation proposition worthy of God’s divine consent. He was holy — it radiated from His whole identity: He glorified God in everything He did; He kept the law in every way, even when it came to the executing the Creator’s intent in His motivations; He knew God and had unbroken fellowship with Him; and He had power over the hearts of man — to declare to them the truth, convict them of their sin and save them from the penalty they deserved by offering divine forgiveness. Yet even in all these things that He did, He did not work to bring glory to Himself; He was faithful to His mission and the temporary limitations that it brought upon the revelation and exercise of His glory and majesty.

Though He was with God when He formed the earth and the world (as it says in John 1:1), He is also the reason all these things were formed. In Christ resides all the essence of God though He for His particular responsibility took on the fullness of mankind’s essence.

The second thing that distinguishes Christ in the eyes of God and the world is that He was sinless throughout the time that He was wrapped in the physical. The weakness of our fleshly bodies subjected Him to every sin that we are tempted and taken in by, but He was greater than the trap. Our mortal limitations were not His whole; He wrestled with sin because He was not under its power and it could have no claim over Him.

This sinless identity and legacy left no room for a barrier to exist between God the Father. In all things He was obedient; The Word (as He is called in John 1) was able to communicate God’s plea for faith to arrise within His people that they might accept His sacrifice on their behalf.

First we were sinners guilty of cursing God and incurring His just wrath, but how much more are we worthy of death if we should bear the guilt of an Innocent’s death rather than claiming it as our only hope before God?

If Christ is not the only thing that we have, then He is the condemnation against us in everything else we have. If I would offer an aliby it would discredit me in the eyes of the Judge; the only plea He will hear is Christ.

More clearly than anything else, Christ reveals the boundaries of God and man, but He also reveals what was the mystery of where they are meant to intersect.

God the Father, our Redeemer Christ, and the guilt of our consciences form the three-fold witness against each of us for our crimes. There is no reason that we should be released from death row except that One who knows our sins would bear them to the grave — putting all their power against us to death under Him.

Christ cannot be dismissed as a false witness on the part of His testimony of our sin. When He was tried to prove the legitimacy of what He testified, He told our end because of what we have done and announced that He would not let us go there without giving us access to His full pardon — a pardon He would offer at the cost of His own life. (God would know death for us so we could freely enjoy His eternal life).

Where does Christ fit in Christianity?

If you have heard anything about Christianity, you may be wondering, where does Christ fit in there? Is He just a person to give this vein of religion a name, or is He somehow more central to a believer than can be perceived at first glance?

I would certainly be a proponent of the second concept. Christ is everything to Christianity; without Him, there would be no reason to be a Christian. But, I would not stop here, I would go so far as to say that without Him, there is no reason for engaging in moral or religious exercises at all. How can I say this? Because I believe that life is not really about being good or getting ourselves right with God, but in recognizing that Christ is good and that He alone is the Way that we can become right with God.

Jesus Christ is not merely a complementary addition to our salvation agenda. If we should presume to have a salvation agenda for ourselves, we would certainly not find it necessary to consult Him as our edge. But even so, Christ does not provide us with any kind of edge.

In truth His only benefit to us is in welcoming us into God’s salvation agenda. And because ours is not even worthy of speaking of, we either choose to become a participant in God’s plan of salvation or Satan’s plan of refuting it.

In reading this you may surmise that we are just complementary elements to God’s salvation agenda. This is actually critical to the reality of salvation working for us. We do not work for salvation, but salvation works for us.

Salvation was conceived in the heart of God to bring glory to Himself through a display of His mercy and judgment on sinful people. If we were the main attraction in salvation, He could not be properly glorified: His judgment would look cruel and His mercy a sham.

Seeing things this way only serves to distract us from our real problem, which is that we need to be saved because of what we have done — there is something wrong with us — and not because of what He has done — there is nothing wrong with Him.

The purpose of salvation is to show us what we have denying all along: That God is absolutely right and we are in opposition to Him, which would automatically makes us wrong. This is our trouble. This is where Christ comes in.

Christ is the Truth that illuminates all the specks of deceit in our hearts. In fact, His light is so strong that our entire make-up appears corrupt. Under these floodlights we see God for who He truly is: The God we have no acceptable excuse for not serving. When we see Him this way, we must either stand down and allow the truth to humble us or stand up and pretend that everything is as it seemed before we saw the Light.

Welcome my fellow know-it-alls to the reality of how little we know. None of us will know anything of true condition, or the new condition offered us in Christ, unless He shows us! We may boast that we feel grief over our sin, but repentance can have no effect unless pride’s concentration on self has been broken by a humble understanding of what our sin has cost God. Regret for sin gets us no where unless it is in agreement with God’s justice and dependent only on His undeserved mercy. The conviction of sin that is brought upon us by the Word of God — the revelation of His gospel (the message of Christ’s death and resurrection over our death penalty) — has no other objective than reacquainting us with the character and construction of God.

Dying to Make Room for Him

Could there be any other way to learn to love my precious Savior without suffering in His will? If I were not pinched and picked by various things that His hand controls, if I did not learn to surrender in all things for the sake of what I cannot see, would I be what He needs me to be — a soil ready for sowing, a construction site ready for the cornerstone to be set in place?

His seeds of truth and righteousness will not grow unless they may be sown way beneath the surface. The excavation He does to get to the deepest places of my heart, are painful because He digs into flesh, and removes rocks and roots that I have wrapped myself around in comfortable companionship. But, the habitat for His precious embryos of hope must be cleared and contoured in such a way that it may be settled in place and remain upright and able to grow up and out of me.

The fruits of the Spirit cannot be plucked from other trees and shrubs around us, but cultivated from tiny seeds within our own souls. And in the hope that such Life will emerge, we die so that it might be nourished and protected, it’s life being far more important than the body that holds it.

God, give me the grace to see what you’re doing in my heart. You have bid me to die and I shall live in the fullness of Your never-ending life. You are Love and I can believe nothing less of all that You do. Help me to trust You, help me to lean on You and give You my all willingly.

Safe and Sound

“O Lord, how many are my foes!
Many are rising against me;
many are saying of my soul,
there is no salvation for him in
God.”     –     Psalm 3:1-2

As I read these verses this morning I realized that this is not only David’s cry for help, but mine as well. In fact, it is relative to everyone. All humans have a foe. Even so, when I look at a passage like this, I wonder do I have any “foes”?

I have known Satan is my enemy, but for some reason I suppose his terms of communication are so bold that I will easily apprehend his schemes. I feel confident that I’ll recognize the “roaring lion” when I see him and resist him. It will just be natural and automatic. Right?

 Wrong, I discovered. Yesterday I got to know my adversary a little better, and I learned that my understanding of him is deficient. You see, my foe was not the being for which I had prepared. He was a great force, but not in the way that I expected. He didn’t turn up in the form I had been anticipating. His blatant proposal for sin was missing too. Instead, my faulty perceptions of how he worked provided him the perfect accommodation for his purposes.

He offered me a stimulus that appealed to my emotions. An emotional response would divert me from considering who was truly stimulating me. Pointing to my feelings of discontent, he tugged on an inherent value (personal advantage), and incited me to question God’s character. Once I turned from trusting God, I could only turn to him with that same trusting submission.

I did not perceive the destruction he had drawn me into until I had pursued doubt into anxiety and depression. When I cried out to God for peace, He brought me out of the trap of my feelings, and back to the only foundation I can stand on: His steadfast love. This love is salvation from my foes and my own misdeeds.

And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him [Jesus Christ], having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he [God] set aside, nailing it to the cross. He [God] disarmed the [demonic] rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him [Christ]. – Colossians 2:13-15