Don’t Harden Your Heart!

-Heading Out On A Little Vacation-

-Next Post: August 25th-

-God’s Intentions Are Good!

God is benevolent toward us! That simply means that He is well-intended! His intentions toward us are good! It is in His very nature that He is loving, gracious, and merciful! His benevolence is not only intended toward us as individuals; but, also toward the nations of the world! However, while He is well-intended toward us— the people of the world— He holds the Sovereign right, as Creator, King & Lord over His creation, to withdraw His intended blessings from us as individuals; or, as a nation, when we fail to listen to His revealed Word!

-It’s His Sovereign Right To Judge!

He holds the Sovereign right to act toward us in the judgment that our actions deserve! And, listen, friend, you don’t wanna go there! God often warns us, in His Word, not to test Him! He often railed on Israel, His chosen people, for their constant testing of His resolve! He will judge! He will punish! It’s not what He wants to do; but, it is what He will do! Over the last several posts, we’ve considered the parable, in the Old Testament book of Jeremiah, about the “potter and the clay.” In the parable, God is said to be the “potter”; while, we are His “clay.” We’ve discussed God’s Sovereign right to make of each individual lump of clay what He wills to create! We’ve also discussed how gracious God is to “remold” us after we’ve lived a life of rebellion that did not conform to His will! If we’ll confess our sinful & stubborn will, He will put us back on His spinning wheel and make of us a remolded piece of pottery!

-God’s Sovereign Right To Cast Us Aside!

In this post, we want to point out, from God’s parable in Jeremiah, that God also has the Sovereign right to cast us aside when we become hardened against Him:  “This is what the Lord says: ‘Go, buy a potter’s clay jar. Take some of the elders of the people and some of the leading priests and go out to the Valley of Hinnom near the entrance of the Potsherd Gate. Proclaim there the words I speak to you. Say: Hear the word of the Lord, kings of Judah, and residents of Jerusalem. This is what the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel, says: I am going to bring such disaster on this place that everyone who hears about it will shudder because they have abandoned Me and made this a foreign place. They have burned incense in it to other gods… you are to shatter the jar in the presence of the people traveling with you, and you are to proclaim to them: This is what the Lord of Hosts says: I will shatter these people and this city, like one shatters a potter’s jar that can never again be mended” (Jeremiah 19:1-10). Those words are terrifying! It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of an angry God! Don’t mess with Him! Yes, He is loving, gracious & merciful! But He is equally just & righteous; and, He will punish those who harden their hearts against Him! If you harden your heart against God’s Word, He has the Sovereign right to cast you aside!

-Submit To The Designer’s Will!

We are a lump of clay in God’s hands! We are like clay, which has little value, until we are molded, by the Master Potter, into Jesus’ likeness! God has a design for you; and, in the eternal sense, it’s the same for each one of us! He intends to mold us into the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. “For we are His creation,” Paul wrote the Church of Ephesus, “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). There’s a story told that when Michelangelo was asked how he could fashion his masterpiece, of King David, he’s reported to have said:  “It wasn’t that difficult. I just chipped away every piece of the stone that didn’t look like David.” That’s what God, the Potter, is doing in your life. He’s forming you! He’s shaping you into the image of Jesus. Sometimes it hurts a little as He’s forming us; but, He always works on us because He loves us & His plans are best for us!

Jesus In The Flesh!

-Do We Look Like Him?

In a conversation one of our church family members had with someone, who was struggling to understand & accept the Gospel, she said to them, “I just need to see Jesus in the flesh!” She meant, by that, that she needed to see what it looked like for someone, claiming to be a follower of Jesus, to actually live it! That’s a powerful statement! And, the Gospel of Christ actually frees us to be “Jesus in the flesh” to everyone we encounter!

-It’s A Radical Transformation!

When we truly humble ourselves before God & submit to Him, Jesus moves into our lives— by the Power of His Holy Spirit— and, radically begins to transform us in every way, including our relationships! We can actually become Jesus to everyone we meet! Let me explain! When humanity, in Adam, sinned, it was a complete breakdown of our ability to IMAGE God. We were BROKEN! Because of our fallen nature, we are born into this world with an inability to love like God loves! So, we hate others! We lash out! We become self-absorbed! We use people for what they can do for us! That’s our default condition at birth!

-Everything Changes In Jesus!

But, when the Gospel of Christ is introduced to us & accepted, everything changes! Just read Matthew, Mark, Luke & John’s account of Jesus’ life & marvel at the way He loves…  even His enemies! And, we are transformed, into His image, as we dwell in His presence through the written Word! The Apostle Paul described it like this, when he wrote the Church of Corinth:  “We all, with unveiled faces, are looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit” 2 Cor. 3:18.  By the Power, of the Gospel, we see God’s Glory— in Jesus— and, we are transformed into that SAME IMAGE from one Glory to another!

-Re-Imaged Into Jesus!

We are being “RE-IMAGED” into Jesus! We need to hear this! Far too often, the inter-personal relationships, within the body, look no different than the relationships among unbelievers! And, I submit to you, that THAT plays a huge part in the overall ineffectiveness of the Western church when it comes to making disciples & attracting people to the church! So, how do we change this? How can this trend be reversed?

-Jesus’ New Command!

Jesus told His disciples: “I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” John 13:34,35. As He transforms us to love others— in the SAME way He loves us—  the world will know we belong to Jesus! They’ll know we love Jesus because we love them! Here’s what I believe God wants us to do about this— He wants us to REPENT over our broken relationships! To repent literally means, “to change your mind.” So, God wants us to change our minds about our broken relationships! We used to think they were okay! But, they’re NOT OKAY! We need Him to fix them! So, the world can see Jesus in us!

 

Don’t Eat Each Other!

-Not All Cannibals Are Alike!

Did you know that not all cannibals are alike? An “Exo-Cannibal” eats only those outside his immediate social circle (i.e. his “enemies”). While an “Endo-Cannibal” will eat those within his immediate social circle (i.e. his “friends”). But, a “Pan-Cannibal” is indiscriminate & will eat anyone! Bet you didn’t know that! You probably thought that all cannibals were alike! Let me share a true story with you! The world’s most infamous cannibal was the legendary Fijian Chieftain, Ratu Udre Udre.

-A Guinness World Record!

Listen to this— he actually holds the Guinness World Record for eating the most people! I was surprised, personally, to discover that Guinness actually kept such a record! Ratu Udre Udre ate between 872 and 999 people.  According to his son— whom he did not eat! Guess that made him a “good father”— Ratu Udre Udre kept a stone for each body he ate! Now, unfortunately, many Christians have more in common with Udre Udre than you might think because many Christians “eat” their own! You might say they’re “church cannibals” & Paul’s letter to the Church of Galatia bears that out. His 5th chapter begins like this:  “Christ has liberated us to be free. Stand firm then and don’t submit again to a yoke of slavery” Galatians 5:1. That’s the “good news” of the Gospel! We’re born into this world with a yoke of slavery around our necks! And, we can try with all our might to get out from under our sin; but, we’re incapable! But, Jesus liberates us by His atonement, for sin, on the cross! He liberates us from the penalty & power of sin over our lives!

-Don’t Devour One Another!

So, “stand firm,” Paul says, “don’t submit to that old yoke of slavery” again! And, continuing in that context, he speaks to the Gospel’s power to affect our relationships with people! We’re no longer enslaved to the world’s way of “devouring” one another; or, hating one another & holding grudges! That’s what Paul says a little later in the same chapter:  “For you were called to be free, brothers; only don’t use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but serve one another through love. For the entire law is fulfilled in one statement: Love your neighbor as yourself.  But if you bite and devour one another, watch out, or you will be consumed by one another.” Gal. 5:13-15

-Are You Drinking Poison?

Someone has accurately stated that “unforgiveness is the poison you drink, hoping it will kill someone else!” And, in this scripture, Paul is reminding this local church that the Gospel sets us FREE from those kind of toxic relationships. The Gospel of Christ frees us to be Jesus to everyone we meet! When we truly humble ourselves before God & submit to Him, Jesus moves us— by the power of His Holy Spirit— and, RADICALLY begins to transform us in every way including our relationships! When humanity sinned, in Adam, it was a complete breakdown of our ability to “image” God, the Father & our Creator! We’re BROKEN! We’re all born into this world with an inability to love, like God loves, because of our inherited  fallen nature! Only a conversion to Christ can change us! We’ll pick it up there @ our next post!

 

Complementary Love & Submission!

-It’s Not About Inequality!

In our culture we tend to equate any kind of “submission” to another person as a sign of “inequality.” That’s unfortunate because it simply isn’t true! All of us submit to our boss at work; not, because of inequality; but, because of order! God designed order into every area of His world; including, the home! Jesus, Himself, submitted to that order in the home:  “And He (Jesus) went down with them (his parents) and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them” Luke 2:51.  I certainly hope that doesn’t mean that Jesus, the 2nd member of the Triune Godhead, was somehow BENEATH His human parents!

-Jesus Submitted To The Father!

And, what of Jesus’ submission to the Father within the Triune Godhead? He is just as much “GOD” as the Father and the Spirit. But, He voluntarily gave in to the Father’s lead:  “Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus, who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage. Instead He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men. And when He had come as a man in His external form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death—even to death on a cross” Phil. 2:5-8. Did you see that? He was EQUAL with God, the Father; but, He didn’t use that to His own advantage! Rather, He humbled Himself and voluntarily became obedient to the Father!

-Wives Looking Like Jesus!

Wives—nothing you do, within the structure of your home, makes you look more like Jesus, than when you VOLUNTARILY give up control to your husband! Not because you’re incapable! In fact, I’ve counseled many marriages in which the WIFE was clearly the more “CAPABLE” leader; but, when she gave that up voluntarily it changed the entire dynamics of their home. By doing so, she empowered her husband to lead and love; and, she “imaged” Jesus for her children. Ladies, that’s how you complement your husband according to God’s design for the home! And, men, you complement your wife’s voluntary submission by your LOVE for her.  “HUSBANDS, LOVE your wives…” Colossians 3:19.

-A Voluntary, Sacrificial Love!

The context, of this Colossians 3 passage, shows that the wife’s submission is prompted by a husband who shows her unselfish love. In no way does the Scripture imply that the husband is to DEMAND submission from his wife! It’s impossible to draw that meaning from this text. The relationships are understood to be reciprocal. He gains the voluntary submission of his wife as he loves her & she enjoys more of his love as she voluntarily submits to him! That word translated “love” is “agape” in the original language; and, it’s interesting that “agape” love is a “voluntary, sacrificial kind of love.” Her submission is to be voluntary & his love his to be given voluntarily. It’s not governed by feelings! It’s a love that looks out for her best interests, regardless! A love that refuses to turn “bitter” as Paul points out in the rest of v.19.

 

Honoring Jesus With Our Gender!

-The Culture Doesn’t Get It!

We honor Jesus in our hearts when we obey Him with our lifestyles! And, by our obedient lifestyle, we create curiosity! The answer the culture is giving, about our sexual identity, isn’t working! And, it never will! But, when we live, sexually, in obedience to God’s word, we earn the right to share it when the world gets curious— to share with them the Gospel and God’s purpose for gender. This is difficult subject matter! It’s layered with lots of abuse & painful injuries dating all the way back to the Garden of Eden; and, it’s just not easy to jump into without laying a foundation of understanding with empathy and love.

-Say It With Empathy & Love!

And, that is what the world needs from us— understanding, empathy and love! It’s simply not helpful when, instead, we offer them self-righteous judgment and vindictiveness! So, let me try and unpack some of the main points from the first 2 chapters of Genesis; especially, as it relates to gender & sexual identity. We need to take note of some of the implications it plays for our homes, our families, and, how it plays into our child rearing. Keep in mind,   from an interpretive standpoint of the text, that Genesis ch.1 presents the “Big Picture” of God’s creative act; and, ch. 2 fills in the “details.” Chapter 1 is like the Super Bowl headlines the day after—  “Patriots Win The Most Boring Super Bowl Ever”; and, ch.2 is like the story that fills in the details how the Patriots pummeled the Rams into submission.

-What Shapes Our Opinions?

Let’s also remember the most important detail as a Follower of Jesus Christ—  When determining our roles, as men and women, God’s Word must shape our opinions, not the culture! And, perhaps, the most significant point, of the text, is that God created humanity to reflect HIS IMAGE.  “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness. They will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, all the earth, and the creatures that crawl on the earth’” ch. 1:26.  God created humanity to function as His living image over the creation; and, I believe it’s correct to interpret “man” here as “mankind”; including, BOTH man & woman! I believe the next verse bears that out—  God created humanity to bear His image as MALE & FEMALE!

-God Created Maleness & Femaleness!

The text says, “So God created man in His own image; He created him in the image of God; He created them male and female”  ch. 1:27. Our “maleness” and our “femaleness” are essential parts of being God’s image bearers! Somehow—and, I don’t want to get “weird” here—but, somehow it seems that God is saying that it was in the “complementing” or the “completing” of the man with the creation of woman, that humanity was created in the image of God. That image wasn’t clear or evident until woman complemented God’s creation of man. So, here’s my plea:  Men & Women! We need each other to correctly image God in His creation! When we grasp the significance of that we’ll begin to glory in both “MANHOOD” & “WOMANHOOD.” Together, we are God’s intentional design of human diversity!

 

The Fading Glory Of Creation!

-Don’t Accept A Cheap Substitute!

When we refuse to give God the glory He alone deserves, we exchange the glory of an immortal Creator for the glory of created things! In other words, we accept cheap substitutes! When we could have gloried in an eternal, immortal, all-powerful Creator, we glory instead in the FADING glory of a creation that groans & dies under the weight of sin’s curse! James wrote:  “Let the rich man glory in his humiliation, because as a flower of the field he will pass away. For no sooner has the sun risen with a burning heat than it withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beautiful appearance perishes. So the rich man also will fade away in his pursuits” James 1:9-11.

-Beauty Queens & Hip Replacements!

That means that beauty queens grow old & decrepit. It means that sports stars grow old; and, get hip & knee replacements.  So, if you value anything more than God, you’ve exchanged the “imperishable” for the “perishable.” You’ve traded the diamond for that rotten peach that’s been in the back of your fridge for the last 3 months! You’ve traded gold for a rusty bolt! In Paul’s letter to the Church of Rome, he also says that when you dismiss or deny God’s glory that you exchange the truth of God for the lies of sexual perversions— “…God delivered them over in the cravings of their hearts to sexual impurity, so that their bodies were degraded among themselves. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie…” Romans 1:24-25.

-God’s Not The Kill Joy In The Sky!

Listen, God is NOT the big “sex KILL JOY” in the sky! He’s NOT a PRUDE! He created sex! Contrary to what some people seem to think, sex wasn’t our idea! God created sex; and, the reason He restricted sexual activity to a HUSBAND & a WIFE is because He loves us! His way is the BEST way for us! All sexual activity—outside that which is between a HUSBAND & a WIFE— will always result in painful, negative experiences! Humanity keeps ignoring God’s glory when it comes to sexual conduct; so, God delivers them over to sexual impurity, Paul says. And, our society is bent on degrading their bodies because they’ve believed all the lies of sexual perversions! There’s a really important principle here!

-Living With Regret!

You can glory in the lies of sin & get some momentary pleasure out of it; but, the pleasure is soon gone & what remains is regret! Or, you can glory in the truth of God; and, gain happiness & joy that does not fade in this life! A joy that actually carries over into eternity! You can live without regrets now! Give God the glory due His name! Redirect any praise— that might come your way— to Him! Humble yourself before him! Admit that you’re NOT a self-made man or woman! You’re made in the image of God for His Glory! If you’re a follower of Jesus, His Spirit indwells you; and, it is He who is making you into the image of Christ.  Everything you have— Yes! Everything— comes from Him! Don’t take any credit for your accomplishments! That’s what unbelievers do. Stand with the Apostle Paul: “As for me, I will never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ “ Galatians 6:14. Brag on the cross & Jesus’ work for our salvation!