Confession


What is man, that he should be pure, or he who is born of a woman, that he should be righteous?

Job 15: 14

 

The answer to this ancient question is that we humans are neither pure nor righteous. These are not the characteristics and the qualities of the creature that we are. This state of affairs is not the product of upbringing and it is not the result of the conditions that we live in. It is who we are, and we are defined by a very stridently self-absorbed and God denying existence. The human animal made a determination to leave the orderly place that God had designed for our safety, nurture, and pleasure; then, we stepped defiantly out into that broken land of our own choosing where danger, starvation, and pain are the community’s welcoming greeting.

 

Despite our efforts to distance ourselves from the righteous rule of God, we just can’t seem to shake His presence. When all appeared to be desperately lost; when humanity had reached the point of collapsing under the weight of its own depravity, God sent Himself into this world. He came not as an avenger of His rule of law, but rather, He came as the lamb of love that brings life to all. Christ the perfect and the pure came to live as a member of this human race, and we will never be the same. People can now relate directly to God, our Creator and Lord. We can now live in the possibility of pure love and grace.

 

In our old humanity, Job’s question has nothing except negative answers. In the state of our births, we can never be pure and righteous; so, we can never draw near to the glory of the all-righteous and holy God. However, through Christ and in His grace, we are brought out of the old and transformed into a new form of humanity. This is one that enters into the possibility of who and what we are and that recognizes that God crafts it in His perfect image. Purity and righteousness can now be our normal state. Selfless love and fearless grace can be the characteristics that mark and measure our days. In Christ, the answers to those questions shout out, “Yes, I am pure, for my Savior has made me righteous!”

Advertisements

There was not a word of all that Moses commanded that Joshua did not read before all the assembly of Israel, and the women, and the little ones, and the sojourners who lived among them.

Joshua 8: 36

 

This event might not look the same in our times as there is little probability that any large gathering of people, much less that any nation of people would gather together in this manner. Here the sum total of the people of Israel had come together across one great valley and its adjoining mountain sides in order to worship God in celebration of the Lord’s redemptive work in their military victory over the city of Ai. The centerpiece of this celebration was the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord, and the priests were the ones who were leading the nation in both substance and in the form of this great victory party. Yet, as they transition from focusing on the tactics and the methods of war and return to the task at hand of settling the land, the people are reminded of the true power that was behind their success and of the basis for all that defines their national and individual character.

 

They are a people who have been given their identity by God, and they have gained their understanding of morality and of justice through God’s Law, His Holy Word. There is nothing that stands before this recitation of God’s will in the law of the land or in the ordering of their society. This was a special time and place in the history of the world, and it has really never been duplicated since. Even under Joshua’s strong and Godly leadership, the people were very quick to depart from the Lord’s way and to set out upon their own course of thought and action. Today the best that we can hope for is an off-handed reference to God or a quote from His Word, but our nations seldom express any real interest in following the Lord or in even hearing and utilizing His truth as counsel or as direction to be followed. It is as if God were now an irrelevant part of ancient history and His Word is granted the status of troublesome and obscure literary fiction.

 

None of these modern attitudes can possibly be pleasing to God. He is not amused by our self-reliance and negation of His wisdom and direction. Although a modern day turning to God on the parts of people, our leaders, and nations might not look exactly like that assembly in a natural amphitheater at Shechem. Yet, the location is not really the point. The idea is that the entire collection of people were giving praise and honor to God as their one true King, and as they did this they engaged in group recitation of God’s Word in its entirety. They left out nothing; so, they made no editorial or cultural changes to the message of that word. In sharing it in this highly public manner, they were also affirming its priority as their singular point of guidance for their moral, cultural, and spiritual lives. Thus, they were affirming that the Lord was the singular and final authority over all aspects of life and over its conduct into the future.

It seems to me that this might not be such a bad idea in our world. There is an aimlessness to the way that our nations and our leaders are going that might find focus and valid purpose in God’s Word. The degree to which the people of this earth have become self-reliant and absorbed in actions and enterprises that we think will benefit ourselves primarily and that often work against the well-being of others must be troubling to the God of justice and peace. God’s design for this world works, and our redirection of it has not. Although I am not so naïve as to think that the leaders of nations or the people of those countries would actually do what the people of Israel did on that day, I do wonder what effect such a turning to God would have on us all. So, how might our world be different if each of us began to do the sort of things that Joshua led them into as they centered their day upon worship of God, devoted themselves to reading and to sharing His Word, and gathered openly in a universal fellowship of faith? What might that world look like?

Get up! Consecrate the people and say, “Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow; for thus says the LORD, God of Israel, “There are devoted things in your midst, O Israel. You cannot stand before your enemies until you take away the devoted things from among you.””

Joshua 7: 13

 

The story has taken a very difficult turn. Defeat has come to the Israelite warriors, and this was not just a loss in battle. This was a turn and run, flee for your life after being overwhelmed sort of loss. Soldiers had been killed, and the victorious Amorites were beating their chests and taunting God’s people with all manner of derogatory words. To say the least, this was a very bad day, and there was nothing about tomorrow that looked any brighter. It seemed that maybe the long years of hard journey that had followed upon generations of hard life were just going to continue on without let up from this generation through to the future ones. Joshua was discouraged, and the people that he was leading were down hearted and defeated as well. This was that moment when God seemed far off and they felt quite alone in their struggles with life.

 

Yet, that was not true. God was more near than any of them realized. They were so caught up in the pain of defeat and in their fear for what sort of disaster was to come upon them soon that they forgot to stay worshipful and focused upon God’s faithful promise keeping history with them. The reason that God’s favor had left them was that they had turned from trusting Him. They had gone off on their own and done things as they pleased without the Lord’s guidance. They had also deviated from God’s word of truth and life so that their sinfulness had become a barrier between them and their Lord. This combination of entering into thoughts and behaviors that run contrary to God’s righteousness, this sinfulness, and turning away from a relationship in which we trust God fully is a common process in human endeavor.

 

We reject God’s truth because we would rather do things our own way. Then we take action upon our own desires and wishes so that our lives turn away from God’s path of righteous engagement with our world. Finally, we stop trusting God and placing our faith in Him as that form of closeness has become uncomfortable and our troubled hearts can’t handle that level of intimacy with God. However, God does not go far from us. He may allow the situations and the circumstances of life to become big and powerful. He may, as He did with the Israelites, allow us to experience defeat and very real loss. Yet, the Lord is there with us. He will step in to pick us up and set us back on His course through this world. God will point to our sinfulness, He will work within us to bring about repentance and restoration, and His Spirit will continue to guide us back into the joy of life that comes when we are fully devoted to the Lord and our lives are lived in close relationship with Him.

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.

John 5: 24

 

When does life begin? This is a question that has been debated for a very long time, and it continues to be a point a real contention to this day. Some people argue that life commences at conception, others say that it is at birth, and still others hold that it doesn’t begin until an individual draws independent breath. I am proposing a fourth alternative. This is that life truly begins for each of us when we accept God’s offer of His Son, Jesus Christ, as our Savior and Lord. The rest of what we might consider to be life is a weak shadow in comparison to being fully alive in Christ, and this new state of being alive is ours from the moment that we surrender ourselves to Christ as this is when His Spirit comes to dwell within us and God’s sentence of judgment upon us as sinners is placed upon Jesus as our personal redeemer.

 

Thus, from that moment forward our lives take on a new meaning and a redeemed purpose. In accepting Christ we have also entered into the will of the Father for relationship with Him. Jesus is the mediator who brings people into the holy presence of the Father with our sins removed and the judgment that we so rightly deserved taken on by Him on the cross. As we are right with God, we can live righteously throughout our days in this world. This is an important aspect of the calling that God has for us as His children and that Christ places before us as His redeemed. Christ’s sacrifice upon the cross has an eternal purpose and it also has one that is for this moment in time.

 

The life that w have been granted as a gift from God through the loving sacrifice of Jesus is to be used to bring the character and nature of the Father and the Son into direct contact with this world. As we who know Christ go about our lives and engage in the activities of our days, we can touch others with love, grace, mercy, and the truth that comes from God’s Word. We can have a redemptive effect upon the brokenness of this place where we live in the manner that we conduct ourselves as we follow the example of Christ and the leading of His Spirit. In Christ we are set free to live without fear of judgment, and we are also granted the freedom to proclaim the redemptive love of Christ to a world where death rules. So, this is the primary purpose of this new life that we receive in Christ. We can demonstrate and speak of life as something that we possess and offer that same life to anyone who accepts God’s offer of it through Christ.

And the LORD said to Joshua, “See, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king and mighty men of valor.”

Joshua 6: 2

 

Whether the walls are made of stone, or they are formed out of the harsh and craggy barriers of anger and distrust, we all encounter barriers in our journey of following Christ in the world. The obstacles will be there, and that is something that God has actually informed us about in advance. The simple truth is that much of this world stands firmly in the way of God’s redemptive desire and His related calling to His people to be servants of the Gospel of Christ. After we have engaged in a few encounters with the forces of this world and probably gained some bruises and perhaps even come away with some blood dripping from our wounds, it is easy to be apprehensive about the next encounter and to have our confidence shaken. There is nothing quite like a sharp rebuke or the loss of a relationship to bring about the need for caution, and there is truly nothing to compare with real physical peril in the process of dampening zeal.

 

If we seek to do the Lord’s bidding in our lives and attempt to do it on a regular basis, we will crash into the walls of disbelief that are surrounding many of the hearts and the minds of people that we will encounter. There is no way to avoid this aspect of serving Christ. Although the Lord comes with love as His message and an offering of grace and salvation as His gift, He also demands that we face into the truth of our sinfulness and repent from the direction that it has taken our lives. This is challenging and very hard for many people to do. Humanity has created elaborate systems, institutions, and arguments that are all formed with protection and defense from Christ’s Gospel as their ultimate objective. So, when we go into our world with that same message of redemption through relationship with Christ, we are going up against well-developed and powerfully constructed defensive fortifications.

 

There is only one reasonable way for us to approach all of this, and that is in prayerful submission to Christ and in the power of His Spirit. That is the place that Joshua found himself. His walls were made of stone, and the opposition was armed with spears and swords. Ours may be constructed in these ways, but they will probably be fashioned in some other manner. Yet, the opposition that we face in our day is as real and as potentially terrifying as was Joshua’s, and like it was for him, the Lord is with us and does go before us into each and every one of the contests that we will be facing. For Joshua, the walls were still standing, the angry shouts of the Canaanites could be heard clearly from within those walls, and the glint of the sun off of the swords was flashing in his eyes; yet, he knew that the Lord had already defeated the opposition. Satan is now fighting a futile and final campaign, and Christ’s ultimate victory is coming very soon. Today we can look up at the wall of doubt and disbelief that stands before us and enter into a contest for the souls of the people that we meet in our journey with the full knowledge and confident faith that Christ is fighting the battle and that He will topple over the walls that stand before us.

And I said, “Woe is me! For I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips, for my eyes have seem the King, the Lord of hosts!” Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said, “Behold, this has touched your lips, your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”

Isaiah 6: 5-7

 

It is not hard for Christians to find sin in our world. It is all around us. Unrighteous thoughts and actions fill out news and impact our lives on a continual basis. Inside of our halls of faith gathering we talk with our friends and acquaintances about the sad and disturbing direction that our world, our government, and our culture are headed. The trajectory of society seems to be pointed straight toward hell, or so we would say. This is exactly what Isaiah encountered as well. Perhaps we should listen to what he tells us God said and did to him.

 

As the prophet became increasingly aware of the evil that was filling his world, God turned his focus inward. There Isaiah saw something that was even more disturbing than what was going on in his land. For inside his own heart Isaiah encountered anger, lust, greed, stubborn pride, and all of the rest of creation’s fallen condition. These were the very things that were bringing him to tears for his nation and were raising up his anger at the injustice in his world. Yet, now he was seeing it all dwelling in himself, and now, in his Spirit led introspection, Isaiah saw just how far removed he was from the holiness and the righteousness of God. This was a sobering and a humbling truth to face for him, and it should be the same for us.

 

As we look at our world and seek to enter into its chaotic lostness for the sake of Christ and His gospel, we need to start our quest on our knees in repentance for our own sinful thoughts and deeds. I am not pure, and no one else is, either. We are sinners who rely on the same grace that granted acceptance to Isaiah. Like him we need the atonement for those sins that comes from God through Jesus Christ. Yet this is God’s gift to all who will turn to Him. We are cleansed, our lips and our hearts are seared clean by the work of Christ on the cross and we are called to draw near to that altar of grace so that the holy fragrance of God will surround us as we follow Christ into serving Him in our world.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

John 10: 10

 

There might have been another way for the Creator to become reconciled with the creation. Yet, God chose to do it in the way that He did by descending out of the eternal and engaging personally and directly with our lives here on earth. In so doing, Jesus brought a renewed definition of what it means to be alive into humanity’s vocabulary. In Christ, we are alive in the fullest sense of that concept, and with all of the implications that being vital, functional, and valuable carry along with them. The blood coursing through our veins has a revived force and power within it that has nothing to do with a literal cardio strength or conditioning and is compelled by the state of our souls and the renewal of our minds by Christ. In this new life, we travel through our days in the power of the Holy Spirit and by the guidance of God’s eternal wisdom.

 

This places God’s people in direct opposition to the rest of this world, which is owned by those forces that are committed fully to the forces of evil that bring about the theft of life, the death of spirit and of body, and the destruction of all that is holy, good, and loving in our world. That idea of ownership by evil may sound harsh and too absolute, but according to Jesus, that is the way that it is here in creation. There are certainly a wide range of degrees of involvement in living out and promotion of the destructiveness that Satan, himself, is determined to bring about. Many people do good things and live kindly, caring lives. However, all people are faced with a choice of only two ultimate masters who will rule over our lives and who will determine the eternal outcome of our time beyond this world. We either choose to follow Christ into relationship with God, or we determine to exist now and forevermore apart from Him.

 

It is in this decision point for us that God’s determination to bring about reconciliation to Himself by the blood of Jesus and through the process of dwelling intimately and personally with His people in life on this earth holds its greatest impact upon that new existence in Christ. For Jesus demonstrated for us what it means to belong to the renewed kingdom of God come out of heaven in order to reclaim creation from the works of destruction that have enveloped it. In this new life, we join with Christ in loving others and in pouring out His redemptive grace into the profound chaos that has been created by the work of that great thief that Jesus is describing. Christ restores His people to the abundance of God’s intent for our lives. He gives us back the peace, the deep joy, and the confidence that have been robbed out of our souls, and our Lord sends us into this world to live out this renewal of heart and of mind in a manner that brings the abundance of Christ into direct contact with a world that is oppressed under the destitution that has been caused by Satan’s rule.

Next Page »