June 2014


Now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter.

Romans 7: 6

 

Freedom is such a precious thing; people will do almost anything and will risk everything to get it. It is also very illusive, for the thing that we feel has given it to us on one day just might be the thing that enslaves us on the next. We are never truly free until we realize that there is one and only one path that leads to a life that is absolutely free of the chains of imprisonment.

 

Christ alone releases us. Christ alone takes the chains off, and He also works on our battered bodies, minds, and spirits to restore them. He heals the ugly welts and bruises that the shackles have left, and Christ works in us to build up the withered muscles that have grown weak during the long days of confinement. The Word of Truth that is God’s expressed desire for living in complete freedom is brought to life and is implanted in us by Christ’s Spirit. We are made new. We are made whole. We are released from the dungeon of sin’s oppression.

 

However, the sort of freedom that Christ calls us into brings with it the same sort of price that He willingly paid. As we are freed from a law that demands personal performance, we are led by Christ to put to death our old ways of thinking, relating, and engaging with our world. We are granted the freedom to serve, to love, and to sacrifice all for the sake of the Kingdom of God in order to bring others into the presence of Christ. In Christ we have all of our needs met, we have all of our desires fulfilled, and we are given a purposeful mission to fulfill every day. With Christ sin no longer wins, and His loving righteousness blocks open the doors of its prison. There is no going back, for there is now only moving deeper into Christ.

The Lord will go forth like a warrior, He will arouse His zeal like a man of war. He will utter a shout, yes, He will raise a war cry.

He will prevail against His enemies.

Isaiah 42: 13

 

There are some fights that seem way too big to deal with myself; sometimes the enemy is so mighty and its forces so well armed that the cause appears impossible. When we are looking at accounts of genocide, epidemic poverty and starvation, and widespread governmental corruption, it is truly hard to see a personal role in their defeat. Sin with its ability to get a death-hold like grip on people’s lives is another category of enemy that I think is just as daunting. Those nagging and sometimes utterly damaging issues and patterns of behavior that war with our better intentions can seem to be as far out of our control as the newsworthy events that come from across the world. Sometimes the great struggles and the epic battles are fought on the field of battle that is known as friends, family, and neighbors.

 

Devising an effective game plan to deal with any or all of these struggles can be hard to the degree of impossibility. We don’t have the training to think through the complex issues, our resources are too limited, and the opponent is too powerful. This is exactly how Satan wants us to think; for he would love for us to surrender and admit defeat in the arena of relationships. This is as close as he will ever get to a victory. When evil convinces us to give up the fight or to try to tough it out on our own in isolation, our effectiveness in living within Christ’s victory over sin is diminished, and our witness to His salvation is clouded.

 

The Lord never leaves us in an unwinnable battle, and He will not place us in a situation where we don’t have the resources required for the struggle. God’s might and power is so very real that it is tangibly present. He is always ready for the battles that are at hand for us all. How do I have an impact on the racial hatred that is spreading across the globe? Seek to continually love others as Christ does. How can I help to solve long-standing issues between family members? Take the need to the Lord and follow His directions. What can I do about my own disabling sin? Get on my knees before God and surrender control to His cleansing hands. There is no struggle, no battle, and no war that is too great for the Lord, and there is no place in this life that we can need to go where He will not lead us to victory.

 

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.

1 John 4: 18

 

My feet are made of clay, and my heart trembles in the face some of the strangest things. You know, little things, simple things, and routine things like talking with people who I am close to and people that I am closely connected to about the sorts of issues that make up living. Sometimes, I am fearful about talking to God about the issues of my own life and about living it; and sometimes I get overly concerned about opening up the aspirations of my heart and my mind to my spiritual family. Yet, holding back like this by not giving an honest recitation of where I am and what I am feeling is at best not relationally progressive and is at worst damaging to those relationships.

 

Perfect love comes from one source. The very concept of love and what it is to care about people in this deep and other-oriented manner is provided to us through and by God. The first love relationship was between the Lord and His created man, and the first human love relationship was designed and given life by God’s hands. God loved us into existence, and He loves us into eternity. During every moment that comes in the time between these bookend points in our lives God’s Spirit is with us, and He continually tells us about and demonstrates to us His unwavering love for us.

 

Here is a truly simple, yet incredibly profound thought for me to consider today, God’s love has never failed me, and He has never rejected me. He always listens and always provides me with empowering feedback; so, why should I ever be reluctant to open my heart and my mind to Him? Likewise, the Spirit of Christ is with me always and in all situations. This is especially true in all of my relationships, for the interaction of people is at the top of God’s priority list right after our relationship with Him. It is God’s desire that our connection to others would be modeled after His with us; therefore, He wants us to love the people in our lives totally, unfailingly, and unrelentingly. This is done as we dwell in the fearlessness of Christ’s perfect love for us.

 

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

2 Corinthians 5: 21

 

The idea of righteousness implies separateness. As much of our experience in life involves words and actions that are anything but righteous, this idea seems highly appropriate. This is a characteristic that sifts out people and that often leads them to produce statutes and laws that are just or its absence brings about oppression and biased treatment of some. Unfortunately some people, operating out of a self empowered understanding of righteousness, set themselves up as the holy ones who have a moral right to pronounce judgment upon all of the unfortunate, sinful people who do not measure up to their standards.

 

This is a very difficult and sad way to view the world. God does not intend for people to be the judge of righteousness, and we are not qualified to do this work. Everything that we know and understand about righteousness comes from outside of our natural selves. Humanity surrendered all of its grasp upon this Godly characteristic in our rebellious turn away from the Lord, and we have absolutely no way to get it back on our own. However, God’s perspective on what righteousness is about is different from the way that people often view it. Although God does hold righteousness as a quality that separates, He does not separate Himself from us on account of it.

 

God’s response to our absolute need for righteousness, something that God requires of people in order to enter into relationship with Him, was to come out of His place in Heaven and intrude into the unrighteous kingdom of this world. Jesus, the Christ, not only lived with and among us but, more so, He did this without allowing any of the sinfulness that pervades our space to infect Him. Then, in an act of total sacrifice and infinite love, He took all of the sin that has ever or will ever exist in this world upon Himself so that God could view us as righteous. Thus, as we enter into relationship with Christ and He dwells within us, we become righteous; that is, we are then set apart from the sin that separates us from God. So, I believe that as we are made righteous by Christ in us, we are also called away from being judges and into bringing the truth, love, and grace of Christ into our world.

Good and upright is the Lord;

therefore he instructs sinners in the way.

Psalm 25: 8

 

God acts in ways that run counter to much of how our world does. When He holds an advantage by virtue of His wisdom and knowledge, He doesn’t move to consolidate that position of power. Instead, the Lord seeks to improve our standing. Rather than hold us in a state of fear for His might, He brings us the love of a Father. God makes Himself known to us in many ways. He revealed Himself fully in the person of Jesus, and He dwells with and within us as the Spirit of Christ.

 

We have been given the gift of God’s Word as it is expressed in written form and as it is revealed to us by His Spirit. The Lord is active and engaged in our world and in our lives. His wisdom is what brings truth to our minds, and His truth gives guidance to our thoughts and actions. Yet, even with wisdom, truth, and guidance we need strength and courage to withstand the forces of our world and Satan’s relentless drive to destroy and to defeat God’s hold on us. Strength and courage are ours by and through Christ who faced the full furry of evil and never faltered. He brings us through each and every hard situation and temptation that we encounter. Christ is the solid ground where we can plant our feet, and His hands hold us secure despite our weakness and fatigue.

 

Even as we struggle and fail to hold up; in other words, as even as we sin, God responds with grace and with love. He desires to be in a relationship with us that is not disrupted or interrupted by our disobedience and rebellion. God is very well aware of who we are and of how we function as children of this world. So, He works to change all of that. God shows us His character and teaches us His righteous way to live. His instruction is perfect for each of our learning styles and meets us where we are in our journey. The education that the Lord provides brings His children into life and peace and redeems us from the shame of our sinfulness.

 

 

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize wit our weakness, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.

Hebrews 4: 15

 

There are pressures and situations that take us outside of God’s will. Every person is born into this life with disobedience to God as our orientation; so, believing, thinking, and acting in ways that God calls sinful is our natural manner and certain approach to life. None of us get through our days without traveling along this devious path that leads away from God’s truth. Every human being fails to love absolutely and to give all for the sake of that love. Each of us compromises and is compromised in little and in great ways as we prosecute our journey through this world.

 

These statements present a bleak picture of humanity. Well, life can be truly bleak; however, that is not the way that God says that He desires for us to live. The Father wants us to join with Him in a life that is characterized by the experience of peace in our souls. He calls to all people to turn away from ourselves and to Him. This all begins with the acceptance of Christ as our Savior, and it continues with submission to Christ as Lord over all. There is no aspect of creation that is not under His authority, and there is no portion of our lives in which He does not have the right to reign supreme.

 

In the Father’s perfect plan, He established Christ as the high priest over all of creation. In this role as high priest Christ has the authority to act as judge and adjudicator of our righteousness. He has been well prepared for this position in that Jesus was truly tempted by all that we experience. Yet, He did not give in to any of the temptation. He remained true to His absolute trust in the Father and to a response to the world’s calling that is based upon faith. We can come before Christ with our brokenness and sinful hearts fully exposed. With total confidence we can open up the darkest corners of our lives to the light of His love. So, it is in the presence of God’s infinite grace that we can enter into the Sabbath rest that is the Father’s will and desire for our hearts and minds.

For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ.

Romans 3: 23, 24

 

I am not God, and this is the most striking example of this fact. I am sinful. I allow, even encourage at times, my mind to dwell on all manner of things that are clearly not in alignment with God’s will for me or for anyone else. For example, I am fearful or concerned; so, I contemplate all of the worst possible outcomes. I encounter disagreement or difference of opinion, and I assert my will over others in a way that damages our relationship. There are more ways in which my disregard for God and abandonment of the truth of His Word are expressed in my sinful ways; I will just stop the listing here.

 

My righteousness is nothing. It is flawed, failed, and bankrupt. There is nothing holy about this person, and there is no hope, within myself, of ever reaching that place of god-like purity. So, love, peace, mercy, and grace are foreign to me. However, that is not the state of existence that God desires for His people. God pursues us and He is a relentless suitor. God presents His truth to us in ways that can speak to anyone who is willing to listen. God has come to live with us, and Jesus gifted all of us with the image of who God is, with a permanent solution to our sin caused separation from God, and with a judge who finds His own people innocent.

 

With Christ all is changed. In Christ, I do not need to find my own resources in order to live in a manner that is god-like in its perfection; for He is now my righteousness. This does not mean that I can think and do as I might please. In fact, the Spirit of Christ who dwells within me makes that sort of thing very difficult and painful. He continually points me toward the peace that comes from following God’s will in all of the details of life. Although the damage that my past has caused, that my sinful disobedience to God creates, and that living in this world brings about is very real; I can have unending hope. For Christ has redeemed me from it all. He is my salvation, and because of Him and as a result of His infinite grace I now live in the reality of God’s glory.

Next Page »