Monday, April 21, 2008

Our Copious Christ

           In Aldous Huxley’s, Brave New World, society is ignorant of reality.  They exist in this state of mind mainly due to the drug supplement, Soma.  Soma is a drug that keeps the grown humans of Huxley’s world ignorant, and in doing so, keeps rebellion, curiosity, and all hostility and negativity at bay.  Every time a character in the novel uses the drug, it is either for the purpose of heightening a sense of pleasure or pleasantness, or to subdue feelings of negativity, anger, or any extreme emotional or, worse, intellectual response to a foreign or hostile situation. 

In this sense it is seen as the addictive behavior of people in general who run to their addictions as a numbing supplement to the problems of life, or use them to stimulate or increase natural pleasures or happiness.  The addiction leads to more addiction as each time builds upon itself a greater happiness, therefore a greater crash at the end, seeking a supplement that will now fill the bigger void, therefore causing a bigger supplement, and so the vicious cycle goes on and on.

Is this not the behavior of the average churchgoer?  Better yet, you or I as believers?  Do we not wait for Sunday to “fill” ourselves, to numb the pain of life?  Why do we do this?  Church was meant to be a fellowship of the believers in Jesus Christ as sole Savior.  It was not, however, meant to be a place where struggles, pain, and sin are left at the door.  It is in church these needs and fleshly deficiencies should be ministered to and given encouragement for proper healing by faith, prayer, confession, repentance, honesty, passion, and thought, all centered around and only existing through the Words of Scripture.  Instead what we have created is a rehab center that takes on a philosophical, shell-like life.  How did we arrive here?

I don’t know if I’ve made my point clear as far as distinction between The Church, and church.  The difference lies really upon whether we are performing what we call church in the proper boundaries or at least guidelines of God’s Word.  How nonchalantly we walk into our tower of Soma.  Do we come here to face the problems, or to ignore them?  Do we come here to fuel our passion or numb it?  What I fear and what I know is that we have created a self-idealized Utopia that is truly non-existent and bringing about a decay of the real church with its constant fa├žade of non-Biblical and extra-Biblical promises that carry no real, divine power.

It seems as though we’ve turned the church into a self-help program seeking to relate to people on an emotional level so that we can feel human.  What we do not do most of the time is to understand the Word of God as our life, not its supplement.  John Piper said it best during his sermon at Passion conference 2007 in Atlanta Georgia; “Heaven is not your pre-nup to salvation.”  What an honest and very true statement.  How do we understand salvation?  Do we see it as solely the promise of eternal life in Heaven?  But, is Heaven really the thing of it?  The real prize of being saved by grace through faith is that of an eternal, un-hindered and non-tempestuous relationship with the unconditional Lover of our soul Jesus Christ.  On top of this ignorance the church has missed the very concept that defines it.  The marriage ceremony of Christ and His church comes after, and only after, the preparation for and of the bride.

We must understand that our lives are to be Christ’s.  This is the standard that we obviously fall short of before becoming saved.  So what about after we are saved?  The very simple answer is that we are now joint-heirs with Christ.  We take the inheritance that he takes part of, that of eternal relationship with God and the glorification of our bodies in which we will know no inner chaos that is the nature of human temptation.

So what of our daily lives?  Colossians 1:19 says, “And it pleased the Father that in Him (Christ) should all fullness dwell.”  To understand this fully while we are sewn up in these fleshly bodies with finite minds is impossible, as finite will never comprehend infinity.  I wish so much that I could right now, but this was obviously no the best thing for me to know right now.  But at an attempt to at least understand the enormity and effectiveness at this will truly revolutionize one’s outlook on this Christian life.  In another note I’ll write more about this, but when we participate in communion we are remembering the practice and teachings of the last supper and understanding them as our very own.  What happens is that, when we take the “blood” and “flesh” of Christ (I don’t mean this as transubstantiation), we are literally taking on His fleshly life; his perfect, sinless life lived in a human body with a human mind and with human desires.  When I understand this, it convicts me in a way that nothing else does.  My Savior shows such love with this statement and I realize how lightly I have taken communion in the past, not realizing how serious the implications of this practice and just how much I had fallen short of living the life of Christ.  The Bible, as seen from these two passages, shows us that as Christians we are to live the life of Christ knowing from Colossians that, literally, there is no deficiency with Christ. All fullness dwells in Him and we are part of that, if only we would realize it.

The church is relying upon itself to help itself.  When I say the church I’m including myself, and all I’ve said came by conviction of my own actions.  So, what the church, what I have not done is to run to Christ, in whom all fullness (the fullness of God, who is infinite) dwells.  If I did understand this I would understand that in running into the fullness of Christ I am running into the arms of eternal forgiveness, of unconditional love, and unlimited regenerating power.  Some would say that this has been commonly preached, but what is not commonly preached is how we do that.  Actually it is, but I don’t know if it’s fully realized by the congregation, the pastor, or both.  Christ is also the Word.  The Word of God is the written life of Christ.  It is our fullness for it is Him in text form.  But “text” is so limited in its connotation.  It is a living, breathing, inspired book that literally can, if we run to it, define our lives as Christians.  But by this self-same book, reading is the first part, action is the second.  Real action.  There is just such a lack of Christian activity in my life. How much ministering am I doing?  What does this mean? It means me looking for someone who either is not saved or who needs to know the Truth of Christ’s life, and, consequently, His words.  If this is not attempted, how then can I saw the love of Christ is in me?  Is there any fruit?  Where?  Can I honestly say that compassion is a familiar feeling to me?  If I were to be completely candid, which I am, I’d say no.  Compassion cannot exist in a selfish person.  By it’s very base nature, compassion is selfless.  I have to get my eyes off of myself for two seconds to see those around me, screaming, grasping, and failing for answers to what this life is for.  I can’t imagine what life must be like as an atheist.  How can anything ever be enjoyed?  Better yet, how can anything be experienced?  Experience and joy are, by means of the standard definition, abstract.  How can the literal produce an abstract outcome without an outside mediator and a founding intelligence?  I must know what it is to feel compassion for the atheist.  We must learn to have compassion for the atheist.  The church should be flooding the desk of Richard Dawkins with letters of complete and honest love.  Compassion really is just as simple as that; a genuine love for the lost. 

I’m a Calvinist, and I know a lot of people will have a problem with that, but truly I don’t see how Romans, specifically chapter nine, could be any less clear.  It’s not that I’m a follower of Calvin, I’m a follower of Christ, and God, in His sovereign grace, has seen fit to teach me finally to accept all things in His Word, both “logical” and not, due to the fact that I am under Him; creation will not define its creator, it can only display Him! I loved Piper’s quote about this.  His words were, “Christianity begins with the great conviction that quite apart from my ideas, and my feelings, and my thoughts, and my desires, there is objective reality defined by God.  God absolutely is.”  This is nothing but scriptural truth resonated by a completely surrendered servant.  Imagine if you will, what would happen if we were to begin to define objective reality.  Can even the grandest fantasy of our own minds create credibility great enough to match that of absolute truth?  No.  The very fact that there will be disagreements about things such as “Calvinism,” should tell you that we do not have, as a church, the kind of absolute nature that God does.  We are fickle, and change over time.  This is sanctification.  Do you have to be a Calvinist to be a Christian?  No.  Do you have to put a whole and unapologetic faith in the Word of God to be a Christian?  In the most absolute way, yes.  Why?  Because Christ is the Word!  So what is the point about me rambling on about this?  It’s very simple.  We have been given grace by the unconditioned love of Christ, grace unto salvation by faith.  If we truly accept this love, we will understand it as the greatest act of love to ever present itself to creation.  If we know this, and we know, as was said before, that this Christ, this ever-faithful lover of our souls is inside us, defining our life in the most literal and spiritual sense, then we will know what it is to love others in the deepest most profound ways.

To conclude, while this entry may seem long, convoluted, and given over to scatter shooting, I mean it all to come to this.  We as the Church must start relying on the Word of God, and the fellowship granted in that same Word by our mutual faith, in a complete way.  We are to come to Christ with the faith of a child, not just in salvation, but in all things.  Remember your faith as a child, and know that the innocence which spurned it, was given to you in the purifying blood of Christ, to an even deeper sense, removing all sin from your countenance before the Father, allowing your body to be glorified as to Christ’s, the ever and copious Christ of love, forgiveness, and innocence.  May you know the Word and the power it has to transform, regenerate, and renew those who will come to it.  And may you catalyze your church to a full reliance upon Him by examining and refining your own faith to be a complete reliance and full acceptance of the perfect and omni-powerful Word of God, and through this, love unconditionally.  Amen.

2 Timothy 3: 14-17- “But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned [them] And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.  All scripture [is] given by inspiration of God, and [is] profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Conquering Logic

John 16: 17-33, "Then said [some] of his disciples among themselves, What is this that he saith unto us, A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me: and, Because I go to the Father? 18. They said therefore, What is this that he saith, A little while? we cannot tell what he saith. 19. Now Jesus knew that they were desirous to ask him, and said unto them, Do ye enquire among yourselves of that I said, A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me? 20. Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy. 21.A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world. 22. And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you. 23. And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give [it] you. 24. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full. 25. These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs: but the time cometh, when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs, but I shall shew you plainly of the Father. 26. At that day ye shall ask in my name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you: 27. For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God. 28. I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go to the Father. 29. His disciples said unto him, Lo, now speakest thou plainly, and speakest no proverb. 30. Now are we sure that thou knowest all things, and needest not that any man should ask thee: by this we believe that thou camest forth from God. 31. Jesus answered them, Do ye now believe? 32. Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me. 33. These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world."

I know that's a good chunk of Scripture, but really, can that ever be said to be a bad thing? So, now I continue, and I kind of summarize the passage here as well. In this passage Jesus is telling the disciples that He is about to leave them. He is telling them that they will be sorrowful as a woman is sorrowful when she enters labor, but will possess the same joy of a new mother. He tells them they will no longer need to ask Him anything, because the Father will supply them according to His name. he says the Father loves them because they had loved Him (Christ). He continues on to tell them that all He has spoken here has been in parable, but that the time was rapidly approaching, when He would show them plainly, "of the Father." The disciples respond, almost offended, telling Him that right now even, he doesn't speak in parable and that He knows all things now, and that this is how they believe He comes from God. And Christ's response is as blunt as it is beautiful. He immediately poses the question, "Do ye now believe?" and proceeds to tell them of their forthcoming denials, betrayals, and abandonements. But He won't need them even so, for the Father will be with Him, He says. This is just as we are, when Christ is gone, while He is not here upon this earth, the Holy Ghost is, and we have access to the Father through Christ; finally the process complete, and the opportunity vulnerable.
In this passage Christ speaks about how after His ascension, no man will be able to pluck the joy from their hearts. Why? Because we now can ask anything we want of the Father. Our inheritance was and is and always will be the same as the disciples, which is to say that their inheritance was Christ's inheritance.
Why then are we so down-trodden by the ways of this world? Why am I continually sluggish every day with the voluntary vesting of this world's logic and thrill? No man can take my joy! Never! I think Christians who are either wallowing in their sin or are trying to make worldly sense of Biblical and divine Christianity, are even more miserable and confused and lonely than the unsaved and the scholars of the world themselves. Why?! Because we have the answer! We have the answer and yet we are almost trying to convince ourselves into the idea that we don't. It's like having the answer, the satisfactory, abundant, and ever sufficient answer to the world's hardest and most abstract equation. This is equation exists to the world as the equation of life and purpose. To separate these two things is to sever the spinal cord from the brain. The world can't figure it out! They can't! God makes no 'sense,' and in this world where life is seen only and fully as an equation, God does not, will not, cannot make sense to them until He shows them the answer. But we have it! We who are saved have it! Yet, we try and convince ourselves, almost daily, routinely, that we don't. THIS IS SINFUL. We aren't being satisfied with the answer God has given us, because we want to solve it on our own. But this is not what we are called to and this will never happen. It is like knowing that the answer to the equation 2+2 is 4, but trying to figure out a way to make it equal 5. It doesn't and it won't! The gospel is God given only. If it could be made and given by man, Christ being here would have been completely unnecessary, and yes, useless. But the gospel is that Christ came and lived a perfect life so the He would be the subsidiary sacrifice for us to put away sin, fulfilling the law, taking upon Him the ultimate spiritual death of spiritual separation from God, but then, being the master of both the physical and spiritual deaths, came back to life self-sufficiently, pure and holy, conqueror of all things that have, do, or ever will exist. If we only believe this as our own salvation by faith, that Christ brings us to Himself not of our own wicked will, but of His own perfect, holy, and conquering will, and that we are saved from our spiritual death only by His grace, and only through his death, his burial of separation, and His conquering and saving resurrection, then we will be saved. No man will come to this on his own, only be God can He be saved. Let every man who claims to have conquered death personally be conquered by the witness of the Scriptures of Christ's supreme resurrection. May you know the gospel, and may God see fit to pen your eyes if they are not already, and if they are, may you preach the gospel boldly and with joy, being soaked in the joy of His crusade against death, against flesh, and against your own will. Amen

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Sanctifying the Sinner

Romans 3: 3-4a "3. For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? 4a. God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar....."

I sit at Passion conference '07, waiting to hear someone who has been deemed somewhat of a legend within Chrisitian theology, philosophy, and preaching. I've read bits and pieces of his books here in there, and of course was impressed. But I had never heard him speak, an experience, my friends had assured me, that would not be quickly, if ever forgotten. So here I sit. Louis Giglio making the introduction, we're a few days into January. In a few short weeks I'll be turning 18, in fact, before the month is out. I didn't know what to expect really, about this whole, becoming an adult business. From what I saw and obeserved and analyzed, it seemed fairly predictable. But then again, from where I sat, my vision was blurred, my head noisy, and my soul down-trodden with sin. How had I come so far from God? How had I left my intimate relationship with Him at the door to pursue something that destroys me whenever I'm foolish enough to appease my flesh? I was the one all the leaders in the youth group looked to to be a leader, same story at school. I had a lot of friends, both close to Christ and not. My friends who seemed to be actively pursuing Christ thought of me as someone who could offer some cool or deep insights into the Word, and my friends who were not saw me either as their fill of good for the day, or someone who didn't "judge" them, as was told to me. Truly everything was coming to a climax that I thought was a fable to keep teens hopeful: the climax of 18. Yet, though I was suprised to see this apex of adolesence, I felt nothing. Absolutely nothing. No happiness, no sadness, no guilt, no joy, nothing. Actually, I take that back. I felt anger, anger that I couldn't feel. After all, I was the creative type, I thrived on feeling. Yet, it was no where to be found. And I couldn't cry. Have you ever wanted to cry about something so bad, that it made you furious that you couldn't? I had felt this the past year or so, like some disease of the soul had plauged me. Like some leprosy and its legions were leeching the life from me, and that I was near dead. So hear I am, sitting, in utter darkness.
Then, all of the sudden, in the midst of my own self-journey, I hear deafening applause all around me, and I realize John Piper has hit the stage. I stand and clap with everyone else, after all, I was expected to. I remember a lot about what he had said. In fact, as soon as he began speaking, I found myself clinging to his every word. I was interested. Interested? huh, hadn't felt that in awhile. But my ears were perked, and my heart seemed to be beating in anticipation of something I knew not of. But it was coming, I knew it, and right at that moment, John had just begun to utter the scripture, Michah 7: 8 and 9, "Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the LORD [shall be] a light unto me. I will bear the indignation of the LORD, because I have sinned against him, until he plead my cause, and execute judgment for me: he will bring me forth to the light, [and] I shall behold his righteousness." I sit in darkness, in my own darkness. I almost couldn't believe the apparent nature of the verse. here I was, literally feeling hopeless, given over to the enemy, sitting in darkness, and yet, this verse, this truth....THE TRUTH, had been spoken. You know I've come to realize, a year later, after countless experpts from messages of John's, what I love about him....He preaches the Word. And I realized something that day. No man, not myself, nor any other, nor what either of us had to say or do could pull me from where I was, only God could. I realized that misery I was in was not an absence of purpose, nor an absence of guilt. Indeed, it was the outcome of those two clashing together. This misery was the outcome of my sin. My sin that I had brushed under, almost unknowingly now. This misery, of course, was due to my breach in relationship with Christ. It was all I could do to keep from crying the tears that had been quarantined by my blackened heart for this past year from freeing themselves in pure joy of the strength, the love, the righteousness and justice of Christ. I realized now, if I will only bear this a bit longer, and realize what has caused this and what it is, God will bring me to Him. And within a few hours, He had. That night, I read the Word like crazy, going all over the place, but the one that struck me to the quick, was this, Collossians 1: 19, "For it pleased the Father that in Him (in Christ) should all fulness dwell." Why is that so monumental, it seems so simple? That is exactly the point my friend, exactly it! I've entitled this blog paradox ponderings. The purpose for this is that I've found that Christianity and all things related to Christ can all come back to a basic paradox. The fact that our weakness is made strong in him, that what men mean for evil, God will mean for good, that though I can't choose Him, he can choose me, and though I give him no love, his love is unconditional. There are millions of these if we are only careful to look and I find them more than beautiful. Look again at the verse, read it, think it, understand, and perceive it. We, when we are saved, take Christ's literal life, blood, and flesh, for our own (even though we take the literal in spirit. see what i mean about the paradoxes?) We are now part of His inhertance, that means, that our Christ, our intimate lover in Christ, has all fulness dwelling in Him, and we, the church, the Christian, the beloved, the justified, the saved, the glorified, and the sanctified can take all the fulness of God, all of His love, all of His justice, all of His joy, all of His mercy, all of His forgiveness, all of His purpose, all of Him, we can take for ourselves. And Christ who is infinite in these attributes, will never run dry. That isn't even the best way to put it. he is infinitely full, it has no beginning, it has no end, it is exceedingly abundant, and we, the forgiven, must must must realize this, and realize that our relationship with Christ, while being they only factor of our church-hood, is our relationship indeed. The only part of Christianity we can be selfish about, we must realize it is ours to develop with Christ being the one developing, perfecting, sanctifying it. Mine is different than yours, but remember friend, they are all just as infinite and eternal. Confess, forsake, live. live this Christian life, do not survive it. The Word is our only power, without it we sit in darkness, and with it we are brought to the light. May you know the infinite unconditioned love of Christ, our Savior, King, lover, and friend. Amen.

Proverbs 24:16 "For a righteous man may fall 7 times, but he will rise again, but the wicked are brought down by calamity."