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!

When you feel sin creeping up…

#hymnsforHim

I’m posting a song that has a chorus. But when you read the verse, and place a refrain of the chorus between each verse, it has a true cadence that really drives home the central focus of the song. 
Chorus: To see the Law by Christ fulfilled, 

To hear His pardoning voice, 

Changes a slave into a child 

And duty into choice.
1. No strength of nature can suffice 

To serve the Lord aright 

And what she has, she misapplies, 

For want of clearer light.(Repeat chorus)
2. How long beneath the Law I lay 

In bondage and distress 

I toiled the precept to obey, 

But toiled without success.(Repeat chorus)
3. Then to abstain from outward sin 

Was more than I could do 

Now if I feel its power within 

I feel I hate it too.(Repeat chorus)
4. Then all my servile works were done, 

A righteousness to raise 

Now, freely chosen in the Son, 

I freely choose His ways.(Repeat chorus)
I feel like so many of the older hymns focus on one main subject, one main aspect of God: grace. Grace is what the authors want us to see in this life. Grace is what is so amazing about the Christian’s faith. It is so drastically different from every other religion. God came down in humility and picked us up. No merit. No rules. No “IOU” required. How beautiful is that?
I read these verses, and ask myself, “is that me?” Can I say that I am able to joyfully give up those fleshly pleasures that so enticed me? Honestly, that’s a hard answer to give. Many days it’s no. Many days my sinful flesh beats me. But I pray, that little by little, Christ is working to make that gap larger. That my trust in Him may grow stronger. 
And I think that is the point. We can’t do it ourselves. We can’t beat sin with just us and a mirror. We must have Christ. He is that catalyst that brings change. I guess my prayer today is that we can allow that catalyst to work in our lives. That we would let Him in. Let Him work out that grace so freely given. To turn this slave of unrighteousness into a child of righteousness. 
May that be your prayer too. Amen?

We have nothing to do with our salvation

#hymnsforHim

There Is A Fountain

1. There is fountain filled with blood
Drawn from Emmanuel’s veins;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood
Lose all their guilty stains.

2. The dying thief rejoiced to see
That fountain in his day;
And there may I, though vile as he,
Wash all my sins away.

3. Dear dying Lamb, Thy precious blood
Shall never lose its power
’Til all the ransomed church of God
Be saved to sin no more.

4. E’er since, by faith, I saw the stream
Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme,
And shall be ’til I die.

5. When this poor lisping, stammering tongue
Lies silent in the grave,
Then in a nobler, sweeter song,
I’ll sing Thy pow’r to save.

Salvation. There are many in the world today who say it is a farce. The only “salvation” you need is from your own insecurities and hindrances. That salvation comes from within – from realizing and tapping your own potential, your own “divine.” But why? Why would our insecurities be what holds us back? And why is there that sense of brokenness in the first place? We aren’t taught to feel broken – typically – we aren’t taught to sin, or break rules. We do however have be taught rules, guidelines, “do’s and dont’s.” Why is that the case? This hymn doesn’t speak to these things directly, but it does point to the facilitator of our salvation. The blood of Christ. And it is the sinners who are plunged into that pool that find their sin and brokenness paid for, and wiped away for eternity.

This salvation isn’t earned. And that is beauty of it. Think about it, if we needed to DO something to get saved, how would it be that the the sinner on the cross beside Jesus could be brought into heaven? He had done nothing – in fact, the Gospels together show us that he actually mocked Christ for a time while hanging beside Him. But in the end, he saw his error begged forgiveness, and was accepted immediately into the family of God. He prayed no specific prayer. He wasn’t baptized. He had no extreme conversion story to tell other Christians. He was simply a broken man, turning to the source of Life. And we, “though vile as he,” have the same chance at redemption, if we simply give up our “so-called” power for salvation.

His blood washes over the sins of His people. Regardless of nation, creed, language, or sin leaning. His own, the elect, the chosen from eternity – they will be washed in His sanctifying blood. Again I say, we have nothing to do with our salvation. We want to – oh, how badly we want to. We probably have a harder time coming to full grips with the Truth that we never deserve grace. That we will never earn the right to be called “sons and daughters of The Most High.” Look at most religions of the world:

  • Judaism – worship in the temple, follow the guidelines of Moses, sacrifices, be good. Two of which cannot be fulfilled fully now because there is no Davidic temple. It is about creating a ladder or sorts to reach up to YHWH to find salvation.
  • Islam – follow the 5 pillars as closely as possible (testimony, prayer, almsgiving, fasting, and pilgrimage). It is about reaching up to the heavens to find salvation.
  • Hinduism – pray to your god(s), participate in as much good karma as you can thus outweighing the bad karma, participate in the many rituals. Hinduism is a difficult system to pin down as there are multiple legitimate ways to practice the religion.
    • New Age, or Westernized “Eastern Religions” fall into a similar category. Do good, think positively, good karma > bad karma, be respectful, et al
  • Buddhism – again, this is difficult to pin down fully. There is the threefold jewels (the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha), the threefold way (ethics, meditation, and wisdom), the four noble truths, and the noble eightfold path. Buddha is not worshiped, but revered as the first to discover the path.
    • There is more sampling of Buddhism in Westernized “New Age.” The concept of doing right by others, treating all life with respect. Doing no harm. Veganism. Yoga. The eventual end is nothingness/oneness with all.
  • Paganism/Earthy religions – These revolve around conceptions of dharma, without the word. Doing right by Gaia, or Mother Earth. These religions/cults simply spring up everywhere, so pinning anything specific down is impossible. You can see reflections in Wicca, Celtic religions, and even the “new” Jedi Temple followers.
  • Mormonism – believe in the works of Christ, follow the tenets prescribed in The Pearl of Great Price and Doctrine and Covenant. The Book of Mormon is seen as a supplementary work to the Bible. In addition to knowing those scriptures, you are expected (basically required) to do a host of other things that are honestly contested among Mormons because of their secretive nature around many aspects of their faith.
    • It should be mentioned that the Bible explicitly states the following two things that Mormonism clashes with
      • 1) “if another teacher, or even an angel from above preach another message than the one you have been given, may they be cursed.” – (paraphrased) Galatians 1:8
      • 2) “if anyone adds to this book of prophesy may the curses be added to him, and if he takes away may his name be taken away from the Book of Life.” – (paraphrased) Revelation 22:19

 

I could go on to other religions/off shoots but I think the point has been made. Every other major religion across the world, and across time revolves around mankind doing something. Right worship, right speak, right actions, supplementary actions, etc… Christ is the opposite in every way. Christ was the one who had right speech, right actions, right worship, right living, etc… He, being God incarnate, came to earth and followed His own law to the letter from the Torah and fulfilled it! He came and reached down to his creation in it’s sin and despair. He saved us.

That is not an easy concept to want to grasp. It is honestly much easier, and much more enticing (on the surface) to simply follow a few rules. Be a good person. Do good things. Be kind. Smile. And find eternal bliss. But sin is more prevalent, and more encompassing than we wish to admit. Which is why we needed a perfect substitute for the sin. Christ was that propitiation. He was that perfect sacrifice that is called for in the Law of Moses. His blood, that was poured out at His crucifixion, is what washes away our guilt, our shame, our bad decisions, our mean words, our callous hearts. It can’t be us… we are broken.

 

But thanks be to God, that He has a way to find communion again.

“When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”

“When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”

#hymnsforHim

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross

1. When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

2. Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God;
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.

3. See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down;
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

4. Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small:
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

The cross was a bloody incident. The cross was death in a most excruciating way. The cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18). The cross before Christ crucified was a death reserved for the worst criminals they could find. It was a warning to other criminals to steer clear of that one guy’s crime. After Christ crucified it became a symbol of hope to those associated with the Christ. Today, we seem to forget the power of the cross. What it means. What had to happen for us to see the cross in a positive light. This hymn does a great job of reminding us of it all.

The cross is where our Prince of Glory was slain so that we may be set free. The cross is where God Himself took up our sin – the full weight of it – and bore it so that we would not have to. He did it all Himself, without us doing a single thing… so that we may not boast. Those many vain things that we seek because they give us fleeting pleasure… they count naught when weighed against the power of His blood. That one act would cover all sins past, present, and future of the people of God. His sacrifice would lay, like a purifying blanket, over the course of history, swaddling those who would become – or had become – His.

But what was the cross like? Verse 3 brings out some of it. The Roman empire was very good at one thing: killing. Whether in war or in peace, they had produced an almost scientific algorithm to killing effectively. Crucifixion was one of those of the gorier persuasion. You didn’t die from the beatings, the floggings, or the bleeding produced. You didn’t fall from the cross due to poor nailing – for they nailed through the wrist bones. No, you died of asphyxiation. Your feet were nailed together… to the wood… but through the unbelievable pain, you would push up to allow yourself to breathe. At least until they broke your legs… now you would hang there, in terror, until you suffocated.

Christ would take beatings, whippings, mocking, a crown of thorns smashed into His head… He would walk His final means of death up a hill… He would then be nailed, and mocked some more… But they would not break Him, not spiritually or mentally, and not physically.

See…from His head… His hands… His feet… Sorrow and blood flow mingled down…

Most of us have heard the phrase, “Christ paid the ultimate sacrifice for youuuuu!” or “Christ died for youuuu, won’t you pleeeeaase accept Him into yer heart??” But have you ever actually sat down and thought about what Christ did so that we may not find ourselves one day eternally separated from God? That is where we find ourselves when we deny Him for a lifetime. It isn’t this place where the Devil is king, and all those rabble rousers get to spend eternity partying in sin. No. Hell is as much a prison for Satan as it is for the reprobate.

gustave_dore_inferno34
Look how big he is… and how stuck…

Hell is where the love and mercy and grace of God are absent… Hell is where only the wrath and righteous justice and judgment exist. God is still there, but not the lovey-dovey One. The righteous judge that produces just condemnation of the unjust. Christ sacrificed three days of the “three-in-oneness” He had experienced from eternity so that we would never have to experience that hell.

Were the whole realm of nature mine…. THAT were a present far…too…small

That love is so amazing, that love is so divine. There is nothing we can offer God to give us the same result that Christ’s sacrifice did. All we can do is give our life, our all, to the Man who gave His life – His all – so that we would never know the wrath of hell. There is no gift or offering big enough to satisfy the gaping hole sin leaves. But we can offer our thanks, our repentance, our faith. A faith that manifests itself if works for the Kingdom. We can survey the cross with wonder, and with sincere thankfulness!

Yes, the cross can be a tripping hazard for some, but for me… it is beauty so divine that all I can do is sing about it!

Luke 5:12-16 “Touching the Leper”

I taught on this passage, as well as a few other miracle passages of Luke a couple Sunday’s ago at my church – and wanted to extend my lesson (to an extent) here as well.

12 While he was in one of the cities, there came a man full of leprosy. And when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and begged him, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” 13 And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him. 14 And he charged him to tell no one, but “go and show yourself to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing, as Moses commanded, for a proof to them.”15 But now even more the report about him went abroad, and great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities. 16 But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray. 

This is one of my favorite passages because it hearkens back to one of my favorite Old Testament books to study and teach on – Leviticus! I know that may seem ridiculous, but Leviticus is an awesome book! The Law found there just exemplifies how much Christ did for us!

 

Here we have a man afflicted by a disease of the flesh. A disease that has almost 100% physical attestation. No one can miss how this man has been afflicted.  He sees Christ and he sees a way out. Maybe this man can help the leper, maybe not. But the leper is going to try anything. If we read other miracle stories in Luke we find specifics not found in the other Synoptics. Luke was, by all accounts, a physician. He had scoured the records to find the best sources to write his gospel. He is incredibly thorough. Mark is the exact opposite. He’s the action gospel. Everything is immediately this, and then immediately that. You’d think that Jesus and His disciples were sprinting everywhere! Luke takes a more detailed approach. He reminds his readers that he took a slow study of the events surrounding Christ. He interviewed people. He checked sources. He went to locations of interest. This gospel is one written out of evidence – evidence for Christ.

We read in Luke about a man with a withered “right” hand. Mark and Matthew just mention that the hand is withered. We read that Peter’s mother had a “great” fever. You get a sense that Luke did some serious research in writing this account. He interviewed with great intensity to get the closest account he could for his gospel account. When Christ comes to the man with leprosy we read his is “full of leprosy.” This man doesn’t simply have a bad case of dandruff. He isn’t just reacting poorly due to his eczema. He is full of this disease. It affects him through and through. This is important, as it points to a dire dilemma Jesus walks up to. But Christ knows all things and is over all things. He approaches this man regardless of his physical condition.

 

 

Let’s think about this again. The Jewish heritage, their law, had been passed down for ages. It reflected in nearly every aspect of their lives. It gave them something to do at waking up, at eating, for dealing with neighbors, for dealing with enemies, how to ask forgiveness for a multitude of kinds of sins, how to make a pleasing sacrifice (though the root of that concept had been lost). Etc. Basically they knew the systematic and ritualistic right from wrong. To have leprosy was to have sin. It covered you. It was a part of you. Either you or your parents caused some an ailment. It was a physical embodiment of sin. There were rituals and finely tuned sacraments to perform to remove such a bodily issue.

 

Jesus was a rabbi. He was “better” than the common Israelites. He knew His law. THEY knew that He knew His law. There were factions among the religious elite that would have been around. We read that no one was around actually there to see the miracle happen, but we also read that the man (undoubtedly known as the leper) was charged to go to a priest to make offering to God after the healing. So we know that the religious elite would have learned about this. They would have known a healing of a leper had taken place. But what would have stunned them, what would have no doubt enraged them, would have been to see how He healed this man.

You do not touch lepers. Ever. For any reason. It causes uncleanness. It makes you unworthy to be before God. But Jesus. He knows the will of God. He knows the law of God. He is God. He sees this man. A wretch. Not unlike us in many ways. He has compassion. He sees faith that He can actually heal this physical, and spiritual illness. He walks up to the man. He walks up surrounded by His disciples. These big, burly, fishermen. This guy must have thought, “here it comes. They’ve come to kill me.” But Jesus walks up to this man, who has fallen to His face in reverence, and reaches out His healing hand – the hand that helped form the cosmos – and He touches this man. He puts His hand that has shaped stars on this man who has probably never had positive physical contact in years.

The disciples must recoil, thinking that this is the end of their journey. This rabbi is infected now. But no. This man has been touched by God Himself. The skin on his arms and legs immediately – we see that word – clears up. Where normally sickness would spread, salvation overcomes. Rather than becoming unclean by touching this leper, Jesus makes this unclean leper clean. He reverses the effects of sin. This one miracle foreshadows Jesus’ entire mission on earth.

 

“Wretched man that I am, who can save me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” This passage reminds us that Christ is not turned away from our state of sin. In fact, He is our only way out. It is not what we do that brings us to a good standing with God. It is what Christ has already done! When Christ said, “it is finished,” on the cross He wasn’t just stating the chronological facts. He was using a common Greek phrase used in the court system. It meant “paid in full.” It was used to complete a bill of sale. Christ paid our bill before a holy God. He reached out, and touched a man, me, full of leprosy – and I became clean!

Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ His Son!

 

How often today are we surrounded by the lepers of our society? How often today do we shy away from those who we feel would make us diseased in their pattern? How often do good church-going Christians abstain from work in the world – from real light giving – to keep from mingling with the sinners? I challenge you who read this to ask yourself that, and ask God to show you your lepers. Ask Him to help you to better reflect His Truth by reaching out to those lepers and letting them into your life! He who began a good work in you, can in turn use you to work in other’s lives for His glory! Amen!

Come, ye sinners

Come, ye sinners

#hymnsforHim

Come, ye sinners… once we are brought into His family, THIS …this… is the Truth that we are promised. I am poor. I am wretched. I sin. I am weak – weak willed, and weak minded. Christians are not perfect. We cannot, and should not, claim to be. THAT is what makes us stronger. So, let’s read this:

Come, ye sinners, poor and wretched,
Weak and wounded, sick and sore;
Jesus, ready, stands to save you,
Full of pity, joined with power.
He is able, He is able;
He is willing; doubt no more.

Come ye needy, come, and welcome,
God’s free bounty glorify;
True belief and true repentance,
Every grace that brings you nigh.
Without money, without money
Come to Jesus Christ and buy.

Come, ye weary, heavy laden,
Bruised and broken by the fall;
If you tarry ’til you’re better,
You will never come at all.
Not the righteous, not the righteous;
Sinners Jesus came to call.

Let not conscience make you linger,
Nor of fitness fondly dream;
All the fitness He requireth
Is to feel your need of Him.
This He gives you, this He gives you,
‘Tis the Spirit’s rising beam.

Lo! The Incarnate God, ascended;
Pleads the merit of His blood.
Venture on Him; venture wholly,
Let no other trust intrude.
None but Jesus, none but Jesus
Can do helpless sinners good.

When I read/sing these words they cut at every aspect of my life. It’s just amazing what God does in this world by speaking through His people. Gifted people who can discern His Truth on such a beautiful level.

Come ye sinner poor and wretched, weak and wounded, sick and sore… weary and heavy laden, bruised and broken by the Fall. Who doesn’t feel that burden daily? Who isn’t reminded our life’s brokenness on a consistent basis? Yet, truly, if we tarry – if we push ourselves to be better…. to be stronger… to just fight that tempting mistress just a little more earnestly.. maybe God will like us more? Maybe if I’m just nicer to that weird guy at work. Or say my prayers more earnestly… Maybe I can tithe more! Or say more kind words? If I just read the Scriptures more! Do even more devotions! That is surely find favor in His eyes! If we tarry until we are better… we will simply never come at all…

How many people live their lives this way? How many religions are founded on such premises of merit based salvation? I sit here just exhausted contemplating doing those things simply to gain favor with an almighty being. Those works above are not bad things! In fact, as we read in James, if I am to count myself in the family of believers and do not do those things I have no faith. Faith without works truly is a dead faith. It is lukewarm, and Christ will in the end times spit you out for you were never truly for him. Our faith, wholly given in grace by God (so that none may boast), finds completion in works. But if we simply lean on them for salvation we will surely fall!

True belief… true repentance… they are found in Him. Lo! The Incarnate One pleads on our behalf – those who look to Him in grace given faith. Amazing grace it is! The merit that we desire is His blood. The works that we want to offer are simply to accept His sacrifice and offer our lives to the one who gave His. Him and Him alone do us good. We must, MUST, venture on Him – and wholly on Him – to find that true belief and true repentance. It is through Him that we find relief. Relief from hardship. From pain. From suffering. From heartbreak and tears. From the cascading and, at times, all enveloping sadness of death. It is He who breaks the cycle that sin tosses us into.

If you want to know more about Him who calls us ugly sinners to Himself. To come and dine with Him. Not to find wagging fingers, but a firm vision of who He sees you to be in Him – please, let me know. Share this with your friends, with your family. Reach out to me! I am by NO means an expert, but I can pray with you, pray for you!

And be praying for me! I thoroughly enjoy writing these posts! Hymns are beautiful, they bring such passion in such few words. But I need to keep my focus on this! Sometimes life can get confusing, and I will get pushed back and just need God to keep me pushing forward on my blog posts. Thank you for reading!