Your Good Works Offend God!

-Because Jesus Already Did It!

Being a disciple of Jesus does not begin with something we do; but, with something Jesus already did! When Jesus went to the cross, He redeemed our relationship with the Father.  A relationship broken by our sin against Him! By Jesus’ death on the cross, He paid the penalty, for our sin, that we should have paid so that the Father would be just to grant us forgiveness, grace, mercy & love.  By Jesus sacrificial act, He made a way for the Father to actually adopt us into His family when we accept the work of His Son & His payment on our behalf.

-Don’t Disrespect Jesus’ Sacrifice!

But, Jesus’ work, on our behalf, is only effective when we quit trying to work our own way into the Father’s favor! We must accept God’s offer of salvation through Christ alone by grace alone; and, cast aside any hope that our good deeds might impress the Father.  Can you see how offensive it is to God when we try to make ourselves presentable to Him? We trample on His Son’s sacrifice when we try to impress God with our “perceived” good deeds! We spit in His face & tell Him His Son’s work on the cross wasn’t good enough; that, we need to “add” our own. What God requires of us is nothing more than humility & brokenness, along with a confession that we’re not worthy & incapable of ever becoming worthy of the salvation He offers us!

-Are You Heaven’s Citizen?

What we need is a new start; a new beginning; a new birth! “You MUST be born again,” Jesus said. He was referencing a “SPIRITUAL” birth. Your “physical” birth makes you a citizen of this world; but, only your “spiritual” birth can make you a citizen of heaven! That becomes your new identity! You’re no longer a citizen of this world; rather, Scripture calls you a “temporary resident” here! Your citizenship is heaven! And, that’s where we have to begin when we start a conversation about “spiritual growth.”

-An Identity In Christ!

You have to be sure of your identity—in Christ—before you can ever hope to mature as a disciple of Christ. That, in fact, is what Paul said happens at the moment of faith. Here’s how the Amplified Bible expands on the meaning of Paul’s words:  “Therefore if anyone is in Christ [that is, grafted in, joined to Him by faith in Him as Savior], he is a new creature [reborn and renewed by the Holy Spirit]; the old things [the previous moral and spiritual condition] have passed away. Behold, all things have become new [because spiritual awakening brings a new life]” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

-You’re Not The Old You!

If you’re a believer—or, a disciple—of Jesus, you’re no longer that OLD you. You’ve become; and, are becoming the NEW you—the spiritually born again you! And, one day God will finish the work He began in you that day you were converted—that’s the coming day of “glorification”! Until that day, God will be at work, in you, sanctifying you. That’s a big word—SANCTIFICATION—but, break it down to it’s simplest form & it’s the process by which God makes you more like Jesus and less like you! He does that, in part, by revealing to us our sin, convincing us to forsake it, and, empowering us to actually overcome it!

 

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Daniel: Questioning Civil Disobedience!

-There Is A Law Above Our Laws!

(NOTE: This Continues A Series Of Posts On Daniel’s Life)

I have a huge curiosity for all things Adolf Hitler & WWII Germany—perhaps, in part, because I’m of German descent; but, mostly, I think, because I find it incredulous how an entire nation could be duped by such an ungodly man! How could they ever go along with a plan to round up a certain people group & have them exterminated as Hitler did some 6 million Jews; not, to mention the thousands of non-Jewish German citizens that he killed because they wouldn’t go along with his plan? When WWII ended, in 1945, a series of military tribunals were held by the Allied forces, in Nuremberg, Germany, to prosecute the prominent leaders of Nazi Germany who carried out or participated in the Holocaust & other war crimes. Painted as patriots,  by their attorneys, their defense was that they were only carrying out the direct orders of their government; and, therefore could not be held responsible for their actions. But, one of the judges dismissed their argument with one simple question: “But, gentlemen,” he asked, “Is there not a law above our laws?

-We Ought To Obey God!

While Scripture gives us the general principle that, “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities…” (Rom 13:1,2);  the higher, Biblical principle is this: “When ungodly men make ungodly laws, godly men disobey them!” The Apostle Peter taught the general principle to “…submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution…” (1 Pet 2:13-15); but, he also said, “…we must obey God rather than any human authority” (Acts 5:29).  It’s in that kind of quagmire that Daniel’s 3 friends found themselves in chapter 3 of Daniel’s story! King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, from chapter 2, becomes a “nightmare” for Hananiah, Mishael & Azariah as he builds a 90’ tall gold statue, of himself, and demands that everyone bow down and worship it—“…when you hear the music…you are to fall down & worship the gold statue…” (ch. 3:5) This was a problem! They had been raised in good Jewish homes & knew the commandments Yahweh had given to Moses in Exodus chapter 20: “I am the LORD your God; do not have any other gods besides me…”

-It Was Us Against The World!

They knew the law: “…do not make an idol for yourself,” it continued, “you must not bow down to them or worship them…” (Exodus 20). So, here they were between the proverbial “Rock & A Hard Place”—obey the King & face God’s judgment or obey God & face the King’s fiery furnace! Let me try & paint the picture for you as you follow the narrative in Daniel chapter 3. There are probably thousands upon thousands of people, representing all the nations that Babylon had subdued, waiting for the sound of the music! They hear it & all the thousands upon thousands bow down & worship the King’s gold image….. EXCEPT 3 MEN! They knew their insubordination wouldn’t go unnoticed; and, it didn’t! But, the fear of God outweighed their fear of man: “When ungodly men make ungodly laws, godly men disobey them!

 

When Will God’s Glory Return?

-The Ark Of The Covenant!

If all you know about the “Ark Of The Covenant” you learned from an Indiana Jones movie, then you need to be brought up to speed! One of the most depressing O.T. Bible stories actually revolves around Israel’s “Ark Of The Covenant”; and, it’s found in 1 Samuel 4. Israel finds herself at war with the Philistines & they’re defeated! This disturbed them greatly; and, in their debriefing someone came up with a great idea—“Let’s bring the Ark of the Lord’s covenant into battle with us next time! The Ark will save us!” Now, the Ark was a rectangular box made of acacia wood; and, overlaid with gold.  The top of the Ark contained the mercy seat where the “Shekinah Glory”; or, the manifest presence of God, rested.

-The Way Of The Transgressor Is Hard

When our children were growing up, we’d remind them that “the way of the transgressor is hard” whenever their sin got them into trouble. Well, it was because of Israel’s sin that God, in His Sovereignty, had allowed Israel to suffer defeat at the hands of the Philistines; and, when they responded by putting their faith in the Ark, rather than God, they would suffer another embarrassing defeat. This time, the Ark was also taken by the Philistines; and, we hear Israel mourning, “The Glory is departed! The Glory is departed!” The Ark; and, God’s “Shekinah Glory” had been taken! The Ark couldn’t deliver! Only God, in all His Glory, can deliver & save! It’s a reminder of how subtle the enemy, of our souls, can be— “Worship the God of the Ark”; or, “Worship the Ark of God”? It’s just moving around two nouns; but, it was devastating!

-The Idol Of Human Wisdom

I find the parallels, to the Church, to be haunting! Are we not guilty of worshipping at the idols of human strategy & technique for doing church? Like Israel, have we not become focused on the “horizontal”—adopting human wisdom & logic—rather than the “vertical”—seeking the power & glory of God! The Church has become weak and anemic because we’ve “settled”—we’ve “settled” for the glory of what we can do instead of the glory of an awesome, limitless God who is able to do above & beyond anything we could ask or think!

-The Rest Of The Story

As I read the rest of the story, my attention was arrested by what happened “after” the Ark was taken—what happened was a national “revival.” Israel repents & returns to the Lord; and, the Ark is recovered; and, the place of God’s glory comes home! And, that’s where I find hope—in GOD! There is hope for the Church in America—NOT at the polls November 8th; but, at the altars of our churches! Let judgment begin at the House of God! There is nothing happening in America that a “glory to God” revival couldn’t fix! Let us repent of our idolatrous fascination that politicians can save us!  Can I get an “Amen”?

How Important Should Politics Be?

We’ve Reaped What We Sowed

In my last post I talked about the Church’s well-intended; but, disastrous decision, to exchange Jesus’ commission to “make disciples” in the hope that their political clout—as a “Moral Majority”—could change our country, for the better, by electing the right individuals to office & through legislation.  Five decades later, we’ve “reaped what we sowed.”

The Incredible Shrinking Church

The Church has severely shrunk in size; and, for the most part, the strategy has failed to elect God-Honoring public servants or pass God-Honoring legislation. Let us NOT get back on the pendulum; and, swing it all the way to the other extreme, making government & politics of no importance! That’s reactionary! What we need is a Biblical Theology of the “Christian & Politics.”

A Biblical Theology On Politics

It starts with God! He’s the starting place for everything—“The earth is the LORD’S and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it” Psalm 24:1. “For the earth is the Lord’s, and everything that is in it” 1 Cor. 10:26.  Government was God’s idea! He created it— “Submit to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist are instituted by God…the one who resists the authority is opposing God’s command, and those who oppose it will bring judgment on themselves” Rom 13:1,2.  Clearly, the principle in Scripture is that God is Sovereign over human governments; and, uses them to advance His ultimate plans (Prov. 21:1;  Dan. 2:21; 2 Chron. 20:6).  At the same time, God blesses the nation that chooses Him (Psa. 9:17; 33:12; Isa. 60:12; Prov. 14:34).

Personal Responsibility

There’s an element of man’s free will involved. He’s made us a free moral agent; and, so, people often get the government they’ve “chosen.” There seems to be some “personal responsibility” required; especially, if we have the freedom to choose our public officials. If we’re given the opportunity to choose good governments that actually exalt God, that’s what we’re called to do! Paul told Timothy to pray for good governments that provide a peaceful atmosphere for us to do the Lord’s work—which, of course, includes “making disciples” (see 1 Tim. 2:1,2).

Balancing The Tension

In Philippians 3:20, Paul puts government & politics in it’s proper perspective—“But our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Peter says to “…conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your temporary residence here” 1 Pet. 1:17. It’s ultimately a matter of “identity.” I must view my identity as a “citizen of heaven” and a “temporary resident” of this world and the United States of America!  The moment I lose sight of that I’ve made my nation an “idol”! As one whose identity is “in Christ”, my goal must always be to pursue Christ as the prize!

 

Politics Is Like A Skunk

Touch It & People Will Notice

That’s what a pastor friend of mine told me once: “Politics is like a skunk: Touch it and that’s all anyone will notice about you for a long while.” When I was in my 20’s and 30’s I was very much involved in the political scene. I was part of the “Moral Majority” back in the 70’s and listened religiously to the political talk shows during the 80’s and 90’s.

Perspective Is A Great Thing

But, “perspective” is a great thing! It’s about the only great thing about growing older! Perspective is “the ability to see all the relevant data in a meaningful relationship to one another.” Over the last 20 years I’ve gained a different perspective for the Church’s level of involvement in politics during the “Moral Majority” years. From my perspective, the Church exchanged Christ’s commission to “make disciples” for the hope that their political clout (because of their “majority” status) could change our country, for the better, by electing the right individuals to office & through legislation.

We’ve Reaped What We Sowed

Almost 5 decades later, we’ve “reaped what we sowed.” Because we backed away from our calling to “make disciples” the Church has severely shrunk in size. Some of the most recent statistics I’ve seen reveal that 9 out of every 10 churches in America are in decline.  And, only 1 new church is starting for every 2-3 that are closing! We’re no longer a “moral majority”! So, we’ve—for the most part—failed to elect God-Honoring public servants; and, we’ve failed in the battle to pass God-Honoring legislation. We’ve lost the “Culture Wars”!

God Is Still Sovereign

We’ve paid a great price for our disobedience, Church! And, I’m pointing fingers at this guy at the same time I’m calling out the rest of the Church! I’ve been disobedient to my calling! There, I said it! Will you admit it? But, wait! This is not a message of hopelessness! All is not lost! God is still Sovereign! He’s still on the throne! He still listens & is moved by the repentant prayers of His Children! He continues to raise up “modern day prophets” who call the Church back to God; to brokenness & humility; to return to our calling; to fulfill our Lord’s Great Commission to “make disciples” as we “go” about doing life!

Another Election Is Only Months Away

Like most of you, I’m already sick to death of all the negative campaign advertising! It would be real easy, for me, to just walk away from the political process altogether! I’d have no problem finding something else to do on election day & I’m sure many of you feel the same way. But, we can’t! On the basis of Scriptural principle, there is simply no way that I can—in good conscience—recommend that you stay away from the polls on November 8th. Just because politics is less important doesn’t mean that it’s not important! There’s a tension there! It’s all about being a good & faithful steward!

(Part II Next Week)

Should A Believer Practice Political Correctness?

“PC” Defined:

“Political Correctness” or “PC” has been defined as “A term that describes language, ideas, policies and behavior seen as seeking to minimize social and institutional offense in occupational, gender, racial, cultural, sexual orientation, religious believe, disability and age-related contexts.” Taken at face value it almost seems like something we should support as followers of Jesus!

“Political Correctness” Is A Moving Target

In the “Politically Correct” world no individual or group is ever to be offended; but, it’s that word “offense” that becomes problematic because an “offense” can be very subjective. It’s based on the opinion of each individual; so, it becomes a moving target! What’s “offensive” to one person is not to another. So, the “offended” party makes all the rules in a Politically Correct world.

In the “PC World” everyone’s beliefs must be tolerated. Everyone’s faith or religion is to be equally validated. So, there can be no “absolute truth” in a Politically Correct World. Truth becomes “subjective”! But, Jesus said: “I am THE WAY, THE TRUTH & THE LIFE. No one comes to the Father except through ME” (John 14:6) That means Jesus is “exclusive”—He claims to be the ONLY way to God; the ONLY truth! That’s repulsive in the Politically Correct World because it “offends” every other system of faith!

Prepare Yourself

My purpose in writing this article is to prepare you for the inevitable! Taken to it’s extreme, Political Correctness will effectively censor the Church’s attempts to make disciples because that’s an “offensive” activity to some. When that happens, followers of Christ will be left with a choice—who will we offend? If our country continues the course we’re on, persecution will be the fall out; and, we need to brace ourselves! Choose you this day whom you will offend! I’ve already made my decision—when faced with the choice to offend God or man, I will choose to offend man every time!

The Anti-Political Correctness Movement

However, let me add some caution-don’t join the Anti-Political Correctness movement! I’ve noticed there’s been an “over reaction” to the philosophy of Political Correctness that is rude, crass, demeaning & not at all like Jesus! Paul wrote the believers in Ephesus to, “Speak the TRUTH in LOVE.” Don’t YOU, personally, be the “offense”! Jesus was the “friend of sinners” because He was full of “Grace AND Truth”! A casual reading of Scripture says to “guard your tongue”, “set a guard on my mouth”, “slander no one”, “avoid fighting” (Prov 15:1; 15:4; 21:23; Psalm 141:3; Titus 3:2; Colossians 4:6)

Don’t Forget Who You Are

We need to remember our “identity”—who we are! I am 1st a “citizen” of heaven; and, 2nd a “resident” of America! Our higher calling is our identity in Christ!