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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I Am Not The Church! We Are!

-Jesus Sanctifies Us Through His Church!

Jesus uses His Church as a significant means to produce His intended changes in our lives.  Now, for many professed believers, in America, that is dissident because the Western Church has been such a huge disappointment & embarrassment. The problem has never been with Jesus’ Church; but,  with the human operation of His Church! We’ve “institutionalized” it when Jesus created it to be “communal.”

-What The Church Should Look Like

The Apostle Paul sets up what the Church should look like in his letter to the Church of Ephesus—I think we forget that this is written to a specific, local Church! He writes to “…the faithful saints in Christ Jesus at Ephesus…”; and, 9 times in 6 short chapters he refers to them as the “Church”—“ekklesia” is the original Greek word; and, it literally means a “called out assembly.” God calls out His Church of Jesus-Followers from the people of the world; and, the point of their being “called out” is to “assemble” in “community”; or, “communally” like a family; and, to meet each other’s physical, emotional, and spiritual needs.

-The Church Does Life Together

Just take the time to read through ch. 4 of Ephesians; and, don’t read it through the glasses of your “American Church culture.” The “you’s” are NOT to be read as individual “you’s”—it’s “YOU”, the CHURCH, the community of believers doing life together! “I urge YOU (the Church of Ephesus),” Paul says, “to walk worthy of the calling YOU (the Church of Ephesus) have received…” It’s a corporate calling—YOU, the Church of Ephesus, have this calling TOGETHER! Paul says they ought to be so entrenched in their calling, TOGETHER, that the fruit of the Spirit is evident in the way they do ministry as a BODY—v.2 “with…humility…gentleness…patience & love…”; v.3 there should be unity in their community that’s Holy Spirit driven “…with a peace that binds US.”

-The Local Church Is One Body

Read it in context—the “US” is the Church of Ephesus! And, the Church of Ephesus is ONE BODY (v.4); and, Paul doesn’t break the body down to it’s “individual” parts until we get to v.7, “…now grace was given to each one of us…” And, this “grace” came to each individual—in the Church of Ephesus—in the form of a GIFT (v.8) from Jesus, our Messiah & Savior, to build up their local Church in Ephesus!

-Jesus’ Goal For His Church

In ch.4, v.13, of Paul’s letter to the Church of Ephesus he writes, “…that we (the Church of Ephesus) reach unity in the faith and the knowledge of Jesus growing in maturity…” Because of our “American Church Culture” we read into that our “individual” walk with Christ; but, that’s NOT the context of Paul’s words! Their individual spiritual maturity was not to be a “solo” act! Paul is saying that the goal was a spiritually mature “Church community”—a Church no longer resembling a bunch of immature little brats (v.14); but, mature believers speaking the truth to each other in love (v.15).  In the next verse, Paul tells them it’s the “whole body” (the Church of Ephesus) that ministers to their “whole body.” So, here’s the application—Jesus intends to use our local churches to sanctify us as individuals! We grow spiritually in the BODY!

 

Gripped By God’s Greatness

-Satan Always Offers A Counterfeit

When Adam & Eve chose to listen to the wisdom of a talking snake shortly after taking their 1st  breath—air, compliments of their Creator God, by the way—the result was more than just a severed relationship with God. It was more than getting kicked out of paradise. What the serpent offered them, in exchange for their soul, was individual sovereignty;—or, “god likeness”—without the Power of God! The Power of God, necessary to carry out individual sovereignty, was NOT the serpent’s to give! So, they chose to accept Satan’s counterfeit offer “to be LIKE god”; but, without the “Power of God” all they could make was a decision to disobey.

-Our False Sense Of Individual Sovereignty

So, that decision to “be like god” was hard-wired into every individual through Adam & Eve’s original sin.  We’re all born into the world “acting” like we believe we’re “God”; and, growing up with this false sense of “individual sovereignty” without the “Power Of God” to back it up! The result is what some people call a “god complex”—it’s in our DNA. We’re self-deluded from birth! We’re arrogant! We think we’re infallible! We seek to control our environment from the moment we’re aware of it! It doesn’t help that we have parents; or, other people in our lives, who say silly things to us like: “You can do anything you put your mind to!” Really?

-You Can Do Anything You Put Your Mind To! Really?

So, I started putting my mind to it—I was going to be 6’ tall and play basketball in the NBA! I was going to be valedictorian in my class! I was going to become independently wealthy! Guess what! I’ve never been any of those things! It’s not until God lets us “crash & burn” a few times that we begin to realize we’ve been duped; and, with the Holy Spirit’s help, the Gospel begins to make sense to us! Hey! We’re NOT in control! We’re out of control! We’re broken; and, we need a Savior because we can’t save ourselves! Jesus became that Savior through His work on the cross! And, He saves us from ourselves—from our “god complex”! Then the Holy Spirit moves in & begins to “reprogram” us; so, we start to look more like Jesus! Let us be gripped, Church, by the greatness of our God!

-Above And Beyond

In Ephesians 3:20, the Apostle Paul encouraged the Church of Ephesus with these words: “Now to Him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us.” God can do more than we could ever ask or think because His Spirit indwells us! It’s not about US! It’s about the BIG GOD who indwells us! That’s where the power is! If our ministry is not about Him & His glory our efforts are futile! “Self-Reliance” is such a subtle sin! It constantly slips into our ministry efforts! Let us humble ourselves before Him—“He must increase; and, I must decrease!”  Dear God…bring Revival!

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!

 

Does God Get Disappointed With Us?

Can We Hurt God?

I know of a Youth Pastor who handed his students a 3-inch nail & told them to keep it in their pocket. Whenever they had a lustful thought, sassed their parents, or mistreated a classmate, they needed to reach in their pocket & poke that nail into their finger ‘til it hurt. “Draw a little blood,” he told them, “that way you’ll remember the pain those actions are causing God. You’ll know how disappointed He is with you right now!”

Ever Feel Like You Can’t Make God Happy?

Maybe that’s the picture of God that someone painted for you when you were growing up! Maybe you live every day thinking that you’re nothing but a big disappointment to God! Maybe you’ve messed up so badly & so many times that you think you could never make God happy with you! Well, here’s a statement that’ll rock your world— “If Jesus is your Savior, God will never be disappointed with you!

Is It Even Possible To Disappoint God?

Disappointment is comprised of 2 elements: surprise & frustration! People disappoint us when we’re surprised by something unexpected that they did; and, we’re frustrated by it! If Jesus is your Savior, God will never be disappointed with you because He is “omniscient”; or, “all-knowing.” Because He’s omniscient, He’s never surprised or frustrated! He’ll never say, “Wow! I never saw that coming!” The psalmist said, “Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I stand up; You understand my thoughts from far away…You are aware of all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue, You know all about it, Lord” Psalm 139:1-6  God knows everything about us! So, we never surprise Him! Not once is the word translated “disappoint” ever used, in the Bible, in reference to God! An All-Knowing God can never have His hopes or expectations fail!

God’s Theology Of Forgiveness

Ultimately, He’s never disappointed with us because all our sin has already been paid for by Jesus on the cross! It’s been replaced with the “righteousness of Christ”! So, grab hold of God’s forgiveness! God’s forgiveness, through Christ is total! What God offers, through Jesus’ substitutionary work on the cross, is a radical, sweeping removal of every sin you’ve already committed & every sin you will ever commit the rest of your life! Review Colossians 2:13-14 and Psalm 103:12—He’s “removed our sins from us as far as the east is from the west”! So thorough is God’s forgiveness that we were forgiven before we ever sinned—our names were written in God’s book before the “foundation of the world” Revelation 13:8. He no longer holds our sin against us—“…God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them…” 2 Cor. 5:19. So, does God get disappointed with us? No! How could He when He no longer holds our sins & our missteps against us? He’s canceled our debt of sin!

 

 

Growing In Church Community:

Called To Be Rugged Individualists?

We live in a culture where “rugged individualism” is heralded as a good thing! The individual “self” is celebrated! The Apostle Peter—by divine inspiration—seems to offer an alternative view for the follower of Jesus: “Coming to Him (to Jesus) a living stone—rejected by men but chosen and valuable to God—you yourselves, as living stones, are being built into a spiritual house for a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” 1 Peter 2:4-5.

Who Are You?

He’s talking about our “identity”! This is “who” we are in Christ! First, we are “living stones.” By coming to Jesus, THE “living stone”, we become “living stones”, Peter says. Second, as “living stones” we are “being built into a spiritual house.” We were like dead rocks until Jesus saved us! But, now we’re “living stones”; and, becoming more like Jesus, THE “living stone.” And, He’s building a “spiritual house” with us! This is the coolest picture because it establishes our “identity” as “individuals” & as “community.” It confirms the prominence of “community” in our “individual” lives!

Conformed To His Image In Community

If you don’t “get” this, than you don’t “get” Jesus’ Church! This “building” process is how He sanctifies us; and, He uses the rest of the individual “living stones” who make up the Church—specifically, those in our individual “local” churches—to conform us to the image of Christ! He doesn’t build us, or sanctify us, in isolation! He uses the rest of the body, the “living stones”, to mature our faith! Practically, that means personal conflicts must not be viewed as a reason for leaving your local church; but, as God’s means to alter our own behavior for the unity of the body! Only then do we become a “holy priesthood”; and, a faith community that intercedes between Holy God & sinful man! Only then can we serve our nation; and, our cities as God’s mediators; and, faithful disciple makers! Only then do we become a city, set on a hill, that cannot be hid; a light that draws unbelievers away from the darkness of this broken world!

The Church Is Not Brick & Mortar

We are “living stones” that God is building into a living community of saints; a, spiritual house full of “priests.” We’re not a passive building, church! Don’t GO to Church; BE the Church! God indwells—not a building—but, a “people.” We will only find our true “identity” as Jesus builds us & adds us into His Church; this, spiritual house! When we know who we are, relationships will be birthed that will stand the test of time! We’ll take our ministry seriously—as a sacrifice of praise—with a sense of urgency! Our worship together will be sweet because Jesus is infinitely precious to us!

 

 

What Happens After We Die?

That Question Has Some Anxiety Attached To It

I’m convinced that even the most devout follower, of Jesus Christ, approaches death with some anxiety. You can be secure in your faith & in your relationship with Jesus! You can totally believe that you’re going to spend eternity with Him; but, still have a certain fear because of the “unknown”! There’s always some anxiety when we’re forced into something new; what does it feel like to die? In part we fear death because it’s beyond our control, isn’t it?

Don’t Fear The Reaper

It’s that image of the Grim Reaper lurking around the corner; stalking us; and, we never know “when” he’s gonna show up, do we? John 14:1-6 begins with Jesus words to His disciples: “Let not your hearts be troubled…”; and, He tells them why in v.6: “…because I am the way, the truth & the life.” If you’ve placed your trust in Jesus’ atonement work on the cross than you don’t have to fear death because Jesus IS your life! The fear of death can paralyze you; but, knowing you have eternal life in Christ sets you free from that fear! And, in that text, Jesus tells the disciples that they don’t have to fear death because after they die, they get out of here! “I will come again,” Jesus says in v.3, “and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”

Death Benefits

That’s one of the benefits of death—we get out of here! No more heartaches & betrayals; no more worries & anxieties! Jesus said: “In this world you will have trouble.” And, don’t we know it! Jesus shared another benefit in v.2—after we die, we get a room in God’s Big House! “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told that I go to prepare a place for you?” God has a house! Not a hotel! Not an Inn; but, a big house! He’s not going to run out of space; and, if you have life in Christ, there’s a room reserved for you, with your name on it! We’re not going to be guests in a lodge! We’re His CHILDREN! We’ll live in His house with Him! In v.3 Jesus said: “I will take you to myself!” That’s the best part of death! We “inherit” Jesus! He’s the real “treasure” that we seek; and, we’ll have Him—ALL of Him—when He takes us to Himself!

We Don’t Mourn Like An Unbeliever

I have watched many friends & loved ones die; and, I mourn! But, not for them! I don’t wish that they could come back to me! I would never wish that upon them! I would never wish for them to come back to this place! I mourn for ME! That I remain behind! While I suffer & mourn the temporary loss of their friendship, I rejoice for them! I’m jealous for them; and, I long for the day when we’ll be reunited in a better place; but, NOT HERE! Oh, there’s some tension there, isn’t there—we still have Jesus’ Kingdom work to do while we remain! But, we don’t hold too tightly to anything here!