September 2018


And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Hebrews 10: 10

 

God’s will is not something to be trifled with. We may attempt to ignore it for a time, but the Lord will always prevail. That is a part of the nature of being God; ultimately, He calls all of the shots, and when everything is resolved at the end of time, it is far better to be counted among those who decided to join with God than it is to be on the outside of His will. One of the most important and powerful aspects of the expression of that will of God is found in the way that He determined to save people, that is to save you and me, from ourselves and out of the state of sinfulness that we were born into. God imposed His will upon Himself in giving His Son, Jesus the Christ, as the culminating sacrifice that put an end to all other forms of external sacrifices that had previously been used to temporarily bridge the great gulf that existed between God and people due to our rebellion and rejection of following God’s will.

 

Now, in Christ, we have the opportunity to draw near to God in all ways and at all times. The former law and the rules for living righteously that were formed out of it are put behind us by the sacrificial blood that Christ shed for us. The cross is the point in time and the place where all other religious practices reach their terminus, for the effectiveness that may have come out of these ordinances and institutions was temporal and short lived to the point of fading away even before the aroma of the incense or the bleating of the sacrificial lamb had vanished from nose and ear. Even the most rigorous adherence to the law did not sanctify people, and the faithful practice of its ordinances was ineffective in granting us a state of permanent right standing, of holiness, before God. Thus, the law and the practice of its requirements could never sanctify any of us.

 

Christ alone does that. His blood is more than sufficient to cleanse any of us so that we are wholly and absolutely worthy to stand before our God and to withstand the judgement that will come for everyone at the end of time. As we are in Christ, so it is His holiness that is seen when we are so viewed. But this holiness, the sanctification that Christ gives to all who follow Him, is not solely intended to bring us into a place of acceptance into the presence of God in eternity; for, Christ sanctifies us in order to prepare us to engage in living out His will on earth for the remainder of our days here. As we have been made clean on the inside, so too we are to dwell as holy and righteous people in this world. Christ’s presence in and with us grants to us a form of freedom that allows us to love others, to pour out grace upon their pain, to give life where death attempts to rule, and to sooth and comfort souls that are being crushed by oppression of many kinds. These thoughts and acts and many others that imitate the manner that our Savior demonstrated to us are a direct expression of God’s indomitable will and are the sweet fruit that His Spirit brings into our lives and thus into this world.

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And Christ said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weakness, that the power of Christ may dwell in me.

2 Corinthians 12: 9

 

Do you ever wonder about the way that our culture seems to be fascinated with stories about people who possess remarkable skill, power, and dominance over what life throws at them? Along these same lines, look at the popularity of superheroes in books and films; we spend a lot of money on escaping from our reality into one where evil is defeated by someone who seems to have strength and capacity that comes from a source beyond our access or understanding. Thus, they are heroes for saving us, and since their ability to do the saving comes from a seemingly miraculous source, they are super. How odd is this fascination with power that comes from beyond the human realm; yet, it is all actually completely natural.

 

We live in a world that is at least as perilous and as frightening as the ones where these characters of fiction dwell. We may not be faced by an angry god from some other dimension who decides to take his frustrations out on our planet, but we might consider that, in fact, the war that Satan is raging with God and with His creation is an even more intense one than those in the films. It is also real. This fight for survival and for our eternities is going on at this moment. As the struggle is enjoined, Christ does ask His people to engage in it. However, it is in His approach to it where the story takes a dramatic turn from most of the fiction that we encounter. Christ does not grant us great physical powers and send us into the battle to crush our opponents. Rather, He tells us to develop hearts that love them and that pray for their salvation.

 

Christ sends us into the battle without human strength or skill. He tells us to counter oppressive might with a turned cheek of obedience to God. He has us stop arrows with His shield of faith and protect our hearts from fatal blows with God’s unequivocal righteousness. This is all counter intuitive, and it can make us feel very vulnerable and even helpless. That just might be our Lord’s point! We do have a superhero as our Savior, and He has already completed the victory that we desire. He doesn’t need us blindly and wildly attacking a vicious but defeated foe. Christ wants us to yield our selves to Him and to empty our hearts and minds of our impotent power. Then we are truly strong; for then, Christ with His love, grace, mercy, and righteousness stands prominently before evil, and reconciliation comes under the shadow of the all-mighty cross of Christ.

The heavens declare the glory of God,

and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.

Day to day pours out speech,

and night to night reveals knowledge.

Psalm 19: 1, 2

 

This world is a very noisy place. Now, most of us would probably readily agree with that idea as there are machines and vehicles running everywhere, music playing constantly, and our phones are now “lit up” with prompts that inform us of incoming posts. Many people go through their days with the world’s noise shut out by the personal form of it that is running through ear buds and headphones straight into our consciousness. All of this sound might tend to drown out the voice of God as it fills us with this world’s rhythms and wordless music; but, somehow, I think that the Lord’s speech will still get through to any of us who desire to listen and that His words of righteous truth will penetrate to the depths of our souls as they go far deeper into us than the outer shell of sound that attempts to insulate us.

 

The wonder, majesty, and glory of God are so powerful in their beauty and so prevalent in their universal presence that it is not possible to ignore them. They fill the sky with reminders of God’s handiwork. They also demonstrate His thoughtful engagement with our world and in each of our lives with the finely tuned details of the changing of the sky from day to night and from season to season. God provides for our physical needs in the bounty of this earth, and He fills up our souls with the indwelling of His Spirit and all of the gifts that come to us through that relationship. There is nothing that we truly require that is lacking from God’s design for our world as we are given all of the love, grace, comfort, and forgiveness that we will require to sustain us through the days of our lives.

 

The Lord also provides us with the all of the knowledge that we will need to use in all aspects of living well in our world. It is as if the natural world is speaking out the language of truth to our hearts and into our minds. For God’s word of life so permeates His creation that it is taken in by us in things as basic and as fundamental as the air that we are breathing. The Lord envelopes His people in His knowledge of how the world operates and of what we should be thinking, saying, and doing in order to follow Him into living in an upright and a just manner throughout our days. Christ and His Spirit infuse us with the wisdom that operates out of Godly knowledge in order to process the world, its people, and our place among them and in it in a way that leads us to bring glory to Christ’s name in all that we do in life. The Lord surrounds us with His presence in order to fill us up with the knowledge of Him that leads us into wisdom that prepares us to love others with the redemptive form of love that Christ has for all of the world.

The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

Romans 8: 16, 17

 

People like tangible things. We want to be able to see, touch, smell, and taste everything that we encounter, and I must admit that I am not different from this. I like for my world to be comprised of things, situations, and experiences that are understandable by virtue of being seen, having dimensions that I can grasp, being formed of substantive material, and admittedly, being mostly under my control. One of the truly challenging aspects of the life that Christ calls upon His people to live is that it defies much of this description as it is a life that is formed and established in the spirit, is guided and informed by Christ’s Spirit, and it operates mostly in the realm of the spiritual.

 

Yet, we are not left with nothing solid or tangible to rely upon as we consider what it means to live out our lives as followers of Christ. We are provided with real evidence such as that which would be presented in the most exacting of courts of law, and this evidentiary material is placed before us to examine at the most intimate and personal of levels of our hearts and minds as it is laid open for our spirits to search and to interrogate. In Christ we are different people, and this occurs from the inside of our hearts and is then expressed by our inner selves and by our outward actions. We are made alive in spirit and we are given a living and vital understanding of righteousness that flows directly from the Spirit and is then informed and shaped by the Spirit’s revelation of the deeper truths contained within God’s Word.

 

In obedient following of Christ, our lives take on a form and are shaped by the way that Christ lived as well. He entered into the pain, grief, and desperation that fills our world, and He brought healing for these suffering souls by virtue of granting those who believe in Him a new reality that exists within the presence of God and that is lived out daily in His kingdom as full heirs and as chosen ones who are adopted into a new form of life that is experienced here and now and onward into eternity. This new life is not without its pain and suffering, for it is lived out in the shadow of the cross, and it is one wherein sacrifice and service to others are its guiding principles. However, in suffering along with others and for the sake of granting to them the hope, justice, and dignity that God desires to see conferred upon all people, we enter into the glory that God poured out on His Son, and we bring true glory to the name of Christ, the Redeemer of the world.

The Lord will cause your enemies who rise against you to be defeated before you. They shall come out against you one way and flee before you seven ways.

Deuteronomy 28: 7

 

When the bad of this world strikes, it often seems as if it is coming after its intended victim with all of its furry and might concentrated into a singular moment and point of assault. These are the days when everything that could go wrong does so. The friends that you had been able to count on to get your back are suddenly traveling on the other side of the world, or, even worse, they are leading the charge against you. On these days, which can stretch out over weeks and also years, it is hard to find the strength to just crawl out of bed. In fact, the reasonable thing to do might just be to burrow down under the blankets and pray for divine deliverance.

 

That, in fact, might be Moses’ point. Not the lump under the covers at the foot of the bed part of it, but the praying aspect of that image. There is a war on. Anyone who pledges allegiance to God and seeks to follow Him will become engaged in the fight, whether we want to be so engaged or not. Although today may be calm and there might not be an angry army camped outside your door at this time, you will be under siege from them in the future. It is also an almost absolute guarantee that you will be called upon to do some skirmishing during some part of the most peaceful of days. Satan does not stop. He is not willing to yield, and he will be relentless in his futile attempts to get to and at God’s people.

 

It seems to me that this condition of being in an ever present state of war in this life is the result of God’s very nature. He does not force people to follow Him; rather, He pursues us and graciously loves us. God allows us to stand up and be strong; yet, He is continually ready to sooth our wounds and stand us up when we are knocked over. He also knows that we tend to think that we only need Him when things are tough. We tend to only call upon God when the first arrows of the volley are starting to strike our flesh, when we have shattered our sword, and when our armor is out to be cleaned and polished. God wants us to learn to be dependent on Him in and for all things. He wants us to do this by staying close to Him in prayer, in deep study of His Word, and through close association and involvement in His community of faith. This is how people can stay equipped and ready to engage in the battle. In this way those seemingly mighty forces that are coming after us will be sent fleeing in every direction.

But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.

Hebrews 9: 11, 12

 

Over the years of our existence upon this earth, people have done many things that have been intended to win God’s favor and to secure our places in His presence. Some of this effort was even a part of what God dictated to us to do, and much of it has been made up by various ones of us out of our own creativity or by virtue of some other motivation. Most of us still engage in activities and in personal rituals that we think will improve our status or position in God’s eyes. We attempt to avoid the deep soul-level commitment to Christ and the personal surrender to Him that is God’s real requirement and we attempt to do works that will demonstrate our goodness to the world and thus do the same in God’s view of us. When we think and act like this, we are engaging in human futility as we attempt to do for ourselves something that Christ has already fully accomplished for us.

 

As we are in Christ, so we are also in God’s favor. When we submit our lives to Christ’s authority and thus to His direction and will, we are living out our lives in the center of God’s righteousness and are walking in His holy path. There is no need for purification prior to this journey, for Christ has accomplished those sacrifices for us. Also, we do not have need for ritual cleansing as a result of our contact with the world, for Christ’s blood provides a permanent form of such restorative touch. It does not wear off, become tainted by the world, or grow less effective over time. Christ grants His people the gift of a continuous and unending, thus an eternal, covering of right standing before the absolute holiness of God. As we have given ourselves to Christ, so our state as people who are dead in our sins is transformed into one in which we are granted spiritual life for the balance of our days on this earth and a place in the presence of the Lord for all of eternity to come.

 

All of this is a small part of what Jesus accomplished by and through His obedience to the Father in giving up Himself to be sacrificed on the cross. We have been redeemed from our rightful places as eternally condemned beings, and we have been granted the extraordinary gift of place and position in God’s kingdom come into our world while we are also provided with assurance of a future of dwelling for eternity with Christ in Heaven. There is both freedom and responsibility in all of this. We are free from the need to frequently and regularly be going before God to seek His forgiveness for our sins so that we can engage in serving Him and in order to remain secure in our eternal status. Yet, we are now obligated to obediently serve Christ and to follow His righteous way of thinking, speaking, and acting; so, the gift of life comes with a holy and a heavenly purpose for our lives attached to it. All of the days of our lives and each of the actions and interactions that are contained within them are to be dedicated and carried out as servants of Christ. Thus, each of our lives can serve as a blessing to our world that is given in the name of Christ, our perfect High Priest and Savior.

Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him,

but the righteous shall live by his faith.

Habakkuk 2: 4

 

Soufflés are interesting baked items. When they are perfectly done, they stand tall and have a delicious lightness in the experience of their taste. However, they seldom stay tall for long, and there is really not all that much substance present when you cut into them, for they are mostly filled with hot air that rapidly dissipates when its inner soul is exposed. Now, a well prepared soufflé is still tasty and worth eating even after it falls, but a puffed up person is another matter entirely. In this passage, Habakkuk is discussing the king of Babylon in contrast to people who follow God. Yet, the reality of what he says is still with us today. I would guess that almost all of us have known people whose greatest promoters are themselves and who are continually working to let others know how great their ideas are and how important they are when it comes to things that matter.

 

The soul, our internal spiritual self, requires care and nurture. It does not grow strong and wise out of the resources that we can give to it alone. We all need the input and the influence of God in order for our souls to become substantial and be filled with a knowledge of the Lord that leads us into living a life that is oriented toward eternity. This sort of depth cannot be founded on ourselves and is not formed up out of the content of our hearts and minds alone. God takes what we have been given as our birthright and He works within us to shape and to mold it so that we begin to function in a manner that more closely resembles Christ. The Spirit reveals deep truths to us as we seek after them, and this revelation provides the substance of Godly truth to our souls that we can rely upon in making decisions and in setting the course for our days.

 

It is in this seeking after the Lord and His wisdom that people who truly live out of their faith in God differ from others. This is what made that difference between Babylon’s king and God’s people in Habakkuk’s times. The substance of a soul that is founded upon God’s truth and that conducts the affairs of life based upon the guidance of God’s Word stands tall but never proud in our world.   In stark contrast, the arrogance of people who are standing proudly before the world as they declare themselves to be great and whose glory is based upon the shallow accomplishments of human endeavor does not contain the sort of eternal basis and strength of character to withstand the test of righteous application in our world. These people do not meet God’s standards for love, care, justice, and living out His truth, and their glory will last for only a moment and then it will follow after the king of Babylon as it is blown away into oblivion as the dust that is its true identity and worth.

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