God never…. never changes

God never…. never changes

(In response to John Pavlovitz’s Things I Stopped Believing After the Election)

We live in a world of opposing concepts. It is a world of flux, and a world of constance. We wake up, and the sun shines. We take a breath. Constance. Yet, the world is in flux. We learn news from around the globe that we weren’t expecting. Empires rise, and they fall. Power comes to some, leaves others… and soon enough the first to gain power have lost it. Political parties do this and that. People die. Babies are born. We may miss that bus, or meet a random stranger in the line for coffee. Our lives are dichotomies. But, as the title suggests, God never changes. He is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. He has no variation. No shadow. No internal conflict. No unexpected qualities or events. He is – יהוה. Yahweh. From before the beginning, and even after the end, God will have been the same being that sculpted the something from the nothing. He will be the Creator of life from emptiness. He will be the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, as. He. has. always. been. God never…. never … changes.

We cant say the same about people… We disagree with people. We dislike people. We may even hate some people. And hatred seems to be a prominent issue in todays culture. Both the right and left side of the political aisle have found that pandering to fear and hate produces voters, and voters keep them in power. This election cycle has been a nightmare, a dream, or a twilight feeling that you cant seem to shake! Many are dissatisfied with everything about everything that was this last election cycle. They are calling out. They gnash their teeth in anger. They seek something else to explain why and how and WTH?? Many have lost hope, they have lost faith, they have lost feeling.

I myself have not lost faith. Nor have I lost hope, or joy, or understanding. So, as I look out over this country after more than a quarter under a new president, I see a few truths that I feel need to be drawn out. This post is in response to many who have spoken out since election results, but particularly in response to John Pavlovitz, a man who leads a church and seems to forget what Christ’s Church is ultimately. It is not a place to feel warm and fuzzy, not like the American church is today. Christ’s Church is universal, it stretches across political boundaries, denominations, geographical distances, and space-time. Right now there is an American missionary in Turkey, held without a real sense of any release coming – and he is living a life not unlike Paul, that reflects Christ more truly than these politically comfortable churches out there! But that is another post for another time…

People are completely broken.
When Adam and Eve ate of their own pride and arrogance, mankind was broken. We are totally deprived, totally bad – though not as bad as we could be. Obviously there are people worse than you, dear reader. But you are never as bad as you could be. Sin hasn’t tainted you quite that badly. If you have kids, or have been around people for any amount of time. If you have friends – you know that people are not inherently good. To quote one of my favorite shows (and excuse the language – it has its place) : “people are bastard coated bastards, with bastard filling.” We cannot deny that. There is no human on the face of this planet that doesn’t have sin nature they are hiding. Your kindest, sweetest, most generous person goes home to a room full of baggage and sin that manifests differently for everyone. Your most devout Christian dad is hiding a tempting sin just waiting to overcome him.

I point this out to say that no man is perfect. No woman is perfect. Additionally, people are as broken today as they were thousands of years ago. Paul writes to Christians around the Mediterranean reminding them that they once lived in the most despicable sins. From lying and adultery, to homosexuality and murder. They were once, too, part of the damned crowd. This election cycle brought out the worst in many, many people. We saw, and still see, an unbelievable amount of hatred spewing forth from far too many powerful people. But look back at Cain, the Tower of Babel, Sodom and Gomorrah, the Pharaoh, the Philistines, the Syrians and Babylonians, and so many more. Think about the many historical figures you have studied that have done terrible things. Think about the articles you read, or specials you watch, that tear down the image of these supposedly “standup citizens” who actually have many many demons. People are broken. It is undeniable.

Sin corrupts our whole being, and we cannot deny that broken nature. It’s why we want to backstab when a wrong is felt. It is why we cannot help be feel selfishly angry when our friend is successful in the midst of our perceived failure. No man is good, not even one, and our brokenness leads to our eventual demise for said evil nature. If left to our own devices, void of any of God’s grace, we would tear down the walls of hell itself to let ourselves in. We would simply be given over completely to our passions, to our natures, to our malice and hate and pride. It would be an unnerving life to live. We would truly be like the animals. But there is an answer, and a solution to this dilemma we find ourselves in. Though many will never seek this road.

Christ makes the world better.
So what is the answer. Is it money? Power? Love? Karmic balance? Good works? No, surprisingly it is what the heading of this section is. Christ. Christ is what makes the world better, it is wha- Who – will save this world. The dilemma we face is a lack of Christ. Not a lack of the church. Not a lack of government funding programs. Or denominational support. Or parachurch ministries. We need – you and I and the world need – Christ. But which Christ? Suit and tie wearing, right wing, gun toting Christ that fought and died for your right to beat people over the head with His book while simultaneously breaking commandment after commandment in secret (many times while people know your sin)? Is it the grandfatherly character who just loves you so much that he sent another to take your place and redeem you and love you and blah. Blah blah? No. He also isn’t Christ of multiculturalism or the Christ of a meta-narrative. He isn’t the one who matches your every need, want, desire, wish, and belief.

Who He is is the Savior. The Son of the Living God. He is the one who by which all creation unfolded. He is the Word of Truth. He is the Bread of Life. He is the Living Fountain. He is the fulfillment of Scripture. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. What He isn’t is a catch all. He is not everyone’s Savior, but He is the world’s, because people from every tribe, nation, and tongue will be found in His Kingdom. Christ makes the world better. Not religion. Religion is man-fused. It has many bits and pieces of human in it. It tastes spoiled and poopy.

America is completely broken.
This sentiment may seem to go against the typical, conservative, Christian, political stance. Additionally, it may seem to fall in line with the progressive, leftist concept that America is a terrible place due to anti-this/that ideas and policies. Neither is true. The fact that America is completely broken has nothing to do with worldly things, and everything to do with spiritual things. It is also wrong to think I am simply pointing out America’s shortcomings. This spiritual brokenness spans across all countries and nations the world over!

Many conservatives read portions of Scripture and believe that they refer to America. The main verse used is 2 Chronicles 7:14, which reads, “if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” It is anachronistic and honestly foolish to think this. The people of God are no longer tied only to a nation, or country, or nationality, or any outwardly distinguishing factor! The people of God are the Church. And the Church is full of people who have a Savior. That Savior brought them up out of sin and brokenness. And America is terribly broken. We all can see that.

Beauty is not found in broken things. It is found when things are fixed, and put back in their true state. Many times things must be broken to see their beauty, but brokenness is not beautiful. It is this Truth that makes the Gospel more amazing. Christ saved those who were unbeautiful. Those who were unlovely and unwanted. America is many of those things, but America is not special. It is another broken nation of broken people needing Christ. The Church needs to show that more and more – especially when politics and other such things (many of which were relied upon as allies for many many years) are no longer showing that message. We need to be preaching salvation. Redemption by work that is not our own. Grace that abounds even in the face of our brokenness. Mercy that exists without expectation. Justice that will inevitably find its place, the question is where will we find ourselves? When time runs out, where will we be? Fighting for a better tomorrow that eventually will cease to exist, or existing to bring about a tomorrow that has already been set in stone by He who created all things? A tomorrow that is more beautiful, and unbroken, than we could ever imagine?

His table is big enough
This future date will come. All of creation is crying out for its arrival. A time is coming when people of every tribe, tongue, color, background, struggle, triumph, wealth class, societal class, etc… will be brought together. Under one banner. To one table. And that table will be overflowing. There will be more for those there than they can ever imagine or consume. But this table will not be furnished by mankind. It will be furnished FOR mankind, IN SPITE of mankind’s failures and faults.

Christ’s table is open to all who would be brought in. It’s a difficult subject to fully understand, but His table has had place settings since before the beginning of creation. Those who would come hadn’t even been born yet and God chose them to be there. We can be assured that His table is sufficient because He is without change, and knows who and what is necessary – always has, always will. This table will be overflowing with the best food and drink and fellowship that we could ever imagine. His table is being set, and the guests are being called. The invitation is simple, “do you believe in your need for salvation due to your undeniable brokenness? Do you believe that the Gospel, life, death, and resurrection is all you need to fulfill the debt of your brokenness?”

If that seems unbelievable or totally far fetched – you aren’t alone. Most don’t want to believe that’s all Christ is about, that this is all Christianity is about. They see crusades, and perceive bigotry in Christ and His followers. But Christ loves His own. His yoke is easy, and His burden is light. The call is a high one though, and a rough road. It is a humbling road. It asks you to give yourself up, a highly erratic thing to consider nowadays. To come to the table is to admit you cannot feed yourself – truly – on your own. But Christ is sufficient. His table is full, and will forever be full.

Our table is not. The worlds table is not. It will be ultimately found bare. It will exclude many. So for someone to claim that THAT table is not big enough, is simply an understatement. The world, with all its claims of love and acceptance, it will leave many out. New tables form. More are left outside. The world wants to provide but has not the means. Only one does. Christ.

Christ is all you need
This world has many gods. Many little cords that pull on our hearts. Greed. Honor. Pride. Niceness. Tolerance. Deeds. Family ties. So very many. And everyone is guilty of falling into their enticements. Many times we are enticed by promise of a better life, or at least and easier one. Before moving onto the obvious answer (it’s set up in the section title), let’s take an honest look at the other options we find in the world.

Money is a popular option. Money buys happiness. Money creates stability. It makes the world revolve. Wealth is a symbol of completeness. When you can lean on your wealth, you have little to worry about. But who can name the top wealthiest in the world? Who can remember the wealthiest of the 19th or 20th centuries? Where did Rockefeller, or the railroad tycoons’ money go? Who remembers the great fall of the Wall Street brokers in the past? Money causes the best of men to make the worst of decisions to simply obtain more of it. It turns us into slaves.

But what about spirituality, or godless religion? Doing good. Karma! These things bring about good in the world, no? Think about Buddha, or Ghandi, or Nelson Mandela! These people had no Christ. These people did good things in the name of mankind! If we can just do good, if we can just put more good in that we put bad we will have done our good service and can die in peace, to be taken back into Mother Earth! Right? This is a nice thought. No doubt about that. But did their work ultimately fix anything? Buddhism has been around for ages, longer than Christianity, yet their philosophies haven’t made any lasting impact. Ghandi’s passion still exists in many places, but racism and classism still pervades many minds. These actions will eventually fade. Every aspect to their work will become simply history – forgotten. And remember, there have been plenty of terrible things done in the name of “gods.” Every religion has had something attached to it, even anecdotally that is bad for publicity. I myself have asked that question before many times. Why do I need this Christ person? I am a nice guy. I do nice things, kind things. I seek to bring about good in others, I seek their good. But the question that always comes back to me is “why?”

Why do this? Why do one thing, and not the other? What reason do I have? Is it societal clues we have developed and trained? Is it evolutionary biology which has brought us to a realization of some form of right and wrong? Can we look out on the world we have created, and live in, and honestly say that there is even good or evil? This is a tough question, and one that has plagued theologians since we first sinned. But something that nearly all thinkers, scholars, theologians, sociologists, biologists, economists, philosophers, and many others can agree on is this: this world is broken. We have droughts, and famines. We lie, cheat, and steal. We murder – many times without remorse or second thought. We blindly follow passions and fears. We die. Civilization is crying for something to make sense of this “why.” And it is this “why” that I see such Truth in the Cross.

“Christ is all we need” can be a rather pithy statement. What about air, or water, or food, or warmth, or love? What about technology? Well, yes, our bodies need those things. But we are more than a body. Biology tells us that without a shred of doubt, these bodies will decay. There is practically nothing we can do to stop this slow churning to demise. But the “why” tells us something about after that happens. These bodies will die. We will take our last breath eventually. But, and I truly believe this scientifically and spiritually, we are more than our physical bodies. That spirit which lives inside us is more real, in many aspects, than the nose on our face. That spirit needs more than wealth, or religion, or warmth – it needs Christ. It needs salvation from the shackles it finds itself in. It needs redemption from its numerous short comings and pitfalls. It needs assurance of a brighter tomorrow. Things of this world will not bring those things. Not politics, not wealth, not preachers or teachers or gurus. No thing of this world will satisfy that hunger within you crying out for more. No song will ever fully satisfy that voice. No promotion will fully satisfy that desire. No women, or man, or child, will satisfy that need for family or relation. Christ. Can. So when I say that Christ has the ability to fulfill your every need, I mean it in a Spiritual way.

In Closing

Now, all of these sections could be expounded on. And maybe sometime in the future I will have time to. But I want to hear your thoughts. Your ideas on what I am saying. Wrestle with it. Question me on it. Dialogue. Think. Pray. This tumultuous time in our country should not be faced with fear and trembling, because He who as conquered the world is still in control. No politician can stop His kingdom advancing. No threat of violence can stop His Spirit from moving. No fear of oppression can prevent His Word from reaching the unreached.

Take heart brothers and sisters, Christ has won. There is no fear of today, for today is one day closer to Christ.

Take heart brothers and sisters, justice will be served. There is no need to fear those who oppose. Christ is victorious.

Take heart brothers and sisters, sin and Satan, have lost. Do not listen to their lies, for their lies cannot even convince their ears.

The world we live in may seem scary, may seem like a reality tv show – but remember to live everyday as to the Lord. To work your hardest to bring Him glory, and you will not be disappointed.

May the Lord bless you and keep you.

David

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Whose are you?

Whose are you?

The Question Posed

Are we conservative? Or Christian? Are we liberal/progressive? Or are we Christian? Are we conservative Christians? Liberal Christians? Which comes first? The world wants to know. When you identify as a follower of Christ, the main contention with the world hinges on where we fall politically. We ask silly questions of where Jesus would fall on this issue or that issue… We claim moral superiority based on which political leaning we cling to – but not due to the Words of the Lord. So, I ask again, whose are you? Which identity would most define you?

For some of you reading you may immediately answer “Christian, duh! I believe in the Bible, and I believe that God is sovereign, and I believe that Christ is the only way to eternal salvation!” But I want to ask you to look closer – look at your heart, and how you live your life functionally… Whose. Are. You? Do you make decisions based on what your political leanings state are acceptable? Do you make friends, and enemies, based on how they believe the nation’s Congress works with the POTUS? Do you find yourself quoting politicians, or knowing their beliefs to a better degree than you know your Lord’s? When you do quote Scripture is it to back up a politician’s words or platform? OR, maybe a more pressing question could be, can you quote your favorite team’s stats to a better degree than you can quote passages of Living Water?

For many in this nation politics take over their essential identity. For others it is their favorite sport team (whether pro or college level – sometimes both!). Some identify by their dislikes more than their Savior. Others find identity in their sexuality – their uniqueness – their race/nationality –  their wealth – their self-approval/disapproval – their denomination… Brothers and sisters, we cannot make a living that way! Not a living that glorifies Christ, at least! We need to develop a “Gospel Identity.”

The Answer – Gospel Identity

Finding identity in the Gospel means that our life is shaped by the Truth found in Christ’s words. It means that our life is shaped by Christ, and not the other way around. THAT means you like a politician, or a song, or a celebrity, or any other thing BECAUSE that thing is pleasing to Christ (or at the very least not offensive to Him). What aspects of your life are not affected by the Truth of Christ? …the answer is none… None parts of your life are absent from Christ’s desire for you.

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I understand “none parts” isn’t grammatically correct

Christ asks for nothing short of all of us. When we find ourselves compelled by grace, we should find that our whole selves are compelled – not just those parts that are easy. Those easy parts would be our kind words, our gestures of kindness towards kind people, lending a hand when convenient – and the like… When Christ calls us “Come and die,” He calls our whole person. And that is not easy. Finding our identity in the Truth of the Gospel calls for a surprising life. But what would that life look like?

A surprising life, centered on an identity in Christ, is covered in the just love of He who gave us life. It oozes a sense of wonder at our place in life – bought by our Savior’s blood. It supersedes every other consideration you can think of (even when there are times that other things may overtake it). A surprising life centered in Christ is one that can be counter-cultural, while maintaining a humility found only in Him who gave us faith. A surprising life finds God’s truth everywhere, but knows that ultimately it resides in His Word given to us in Scripture. A surprising life is had by one that can love his neighbor, but not accept their life decisions – and that neighbor never feels judged. A surprising life, found through holding to a full and true identity in Christ, is in itself full, and needs no nourishment from the world.

This life is hard, Christ promised it would be when He told His followers “I came not to bring peace, but the sword” (Matthew 10:34). A Gospel identity is very different than a conservative identity… or a progressively liberal identity… or a philanthropist identity… or a homosexual identity… or a black identity… A Gospel identity looks at what Christ said (I am the way, the Truth, and the Life – John 14:), and what He did (the Pharisees asked why Christ dined with sinners – Matthew 9:11). We live a life centered on Gospel identity when we stand up for our belief in the truth of heterosexual marriage – marriage founded in God, not man. We life a Gospel identity life when we vote for a candidate that wishes to care for the poor by giving them a hand up (John 9:6), not a hand out (2 Thessalonians 3:10). We live a life with an identity centered on the Gospel when we choose to speak words of mercy or love rather than curse another man made in God’s image (James 3:10). Yet we continue living a life of Gospel identity when we call out a brother in sin (James 5:19-20).

A Gospel Identity should be one that is counter-cultural. It shouldn’t just be a “nice life,” a “kind life.” When we do good, our actions should point back to Christ, who saved us from certain damnation. We do that by living unapologetically for Him! When we do good, when we are praised – direct that praise back to Him, not yourself. If I can give any other encouragement: when you live with this mindset, you will make a difference. People will notice. It has happened to me multiple times at my jobs. Speak up about your faith – don’t hide it, don’t apologize for it. That is how you live a life of Gospel identity.

 

will apologize for this post though, it may seem rambling – or seem a little scatterbrained. I write this sitting in a coffee shop, my first time really writing with some distractions around me… So, I hope this post makes sense, and that you find it encouraging yet challenging as we enter a time inundated in politics and sports, and so many other things clammering for a spot in your identity.

 

God bless!

Identity in Christ (GARPY Lesson 1)

Just thought I’d post my lesson on identity in Christ from last night here if you wanted to read it! There may be some typos or sentences that don’t make full sense – but I’m copying what I wrote which was a lesson that sometimes I expected responses! So keep that in mind! Thanks!

“The Already But Not Yet Nature”
1John1:5-2-6 

“This is the message we have heard from Him, and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, We have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and His Truth is not in us. If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins and to cleanse us of our unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned we make Him a liar, and His Word is not in us. My little children, I am writing these things so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not ours only but for the sins of the whole world. And by this we know we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. Whoever says “I know Him,” but does not keep His commandments is a liar, and the Truth is not in him, but whoever keeps His Word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him ; whoever says He abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which He walked.”

Tell me what you already have learned about what it means to find identity in Christ. What have the Christians and Bobby, and Garison, brought to you? 

Who here can tell us the difference between justified and sanctified? … Being justified is to be cleared in the heavenly courts. We are all sinners here, from the fib to pornography, no one can outrun that truth. In fact, what does John tell us? If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves. We deceive even ourselves! And worse still, His Truth is not in us. What does that truth do for us? Why is His Truth abiding in us matter at all? Hopefully I will answer that tonight! But what about to be sanctified. What does that mean? Pulling from OT law, it is making something pure before God. The priest class was sanctified before The Lord so that they could serve Him fully. So? The difference? Any more takers? … Justification, for all intents and purposes, is a once in a lifetime thing. You are justified – made right before God – once, and never again. Sanctified though – that’s a process. But you know what else is a process? Finding your identity grounded solely in Christ. 

And so I ask again, what did we learn about identity in Christ? Our identity is to be found in Him, and Him alone. Not in what I did, what I do currently (whether for good or ill intent), and not what I will or will not do down the road. That would be to find identity in self – or idols – or things. In beliefs. In emotions or science. Christ is more than those things. He promises more than they ever could. Identity in Christ is faith. And faith not from our own will or power. It is a faith gifted to us by the Lord through His Spirit. Faith is to believe in that which you can’t see.Identity in Christ is assurance. What is assurance? Assurance is the knowledge that something WILL happen. It’s a positively connotated concept. Identity in Christ is remembrance. Remembrance in what He has done. Past tense. Completed. Finished. Nothing for you to add. Nothing you can ever take away. Remembrance on what He promised would come to you. Identity in Christ will take you FAR. 

So, if we have identity in Christ that must have implications on us now right? And if you have gotten anything from me teaching its this: what does it mean to me? Now? Where I am? The Word is living. The Word is timeless. Let’s look back at Scripture. Someone read, with gusto, 1:5-7 of 1 John. Fellowship, and walking with the Light!? What does that mean??

John Piper says this in his book “Living to magnify Christ is costly. That is not surprising. He was crucified. He was treated like a devil. And He calls us to follow Him.” …whoa… Let that sink in. How many times have we heard the passion story. We could probably sum it up in a few sentences. But how many of us would sum it up to bare full notice to what cost our identity left on our Savior? He died in a horrible way. Crucifixion is death by suffocation. He was considered by many to be a force of evil – mainly through false reading of Scripture. But Christ died for what reason? … He died to repair a relationship. Genesis tells us that the way was barred so none could return to the garden. That garden held something sacred – God Himself. He is holy. We are not. We cannot apologize and ask for forgiveness. We are still putrid with the stench of sin. God is too far off. But only God can bring us back. Hence Christ and His sacrifice. Sin is not a heavenly traffic violation. Sin is severing a relationship. How many of you have lost a friend. Not a break up. Or someone who was a study buddy. A true, honest to goodness friend. They are gone, not by death but by simple words or actions that killed that relationship. How easy is that to fix? Nearly impossible on our own – and we are still two sinful people. God is above sin, wholly above. Sin is a real problem. 

So, identity in Christ? Is it making a little more sense? Or have I made it worse? We are saved, justified, Christ has entered our hearts and is sanctifying us. But that isn’t easy. We broke a relationship with the Creator. He is attempting to fix it. Who here has sinned today? This isn’t rhetorical – my hand is up. While preparing to write this lesson sin crept up on me. Our identity is Christ. But John warns us that sin is ever present in our lives. Until sanctification is completed unto glorification we will battle sin. So how does Christ as identity play into that? 

We need to daily be seeking to have a stronger identity in Christ. This is a battle not easily won. But who fights for us? And what tools do we have to better battle? And do you – I – we – use those tools? Do we read His Word daily? Do we pray? Not just before meals, or games, or bed time… Do we attempt to talk to our Abba? Prayer is conversation with the Almighty. We can grow in our identity in Him if we grow to know Him better, and learn what He wants for us. Because He wants so much more than we can think of. And such different things than we can see. Are we reaching out? Living a life that is surprisingly different? Do our friends know we are a Christian? Team mates? Coworkers? I’ll finish more on that next week. But in closing, does our identity in Christ, in the One who freed us from death shape our lives… Or do our lives shape the way we experience Christ? That identity will grow and mature every day if we let Christ have His way. I am speaking to myself too. I am no Garison Taylor, and I’m sure he has someone that he looks to for spiritual growth, and so on up the ladder. Looking at those who have gone before us is great! I encourage you to know those older and wiser. But are we actively, lovingly seeking out Christ to fill our identity? I have some ways you can save in your phone to try a new. Maybe they can help you like they are beginning to help me. God is actively seeking to draw us closer to Him, and to create a stronger sense of Himself in us. To help us to walk in the light, as He is in the light. To abstain from sin, but to know we have an advocate in His Son. We just need to let that grace wash over us, over our sin, over our unrighteousness and be cleansed. 
Let me pray for us, and after I’d like to get some questions from yall on how to live a life with Christ as our identity that I will incorporate into the last lesson this year.