Truth


And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.

Ephesians 2: 17

There are separations, divisions, and animosities running wildly amok in our world today. This is not a profound revelation that has come to me; rather, it is the reality in which we all dwell. I submit that it is easier to identify conditions, situations, and identities that divide us than it is to do the same with those that bind people together. In part, this is true because we are more interested in the tensions than we are in their reconciliation, but it is also the continuing arch of the playing out of the fallen state of creation, itself. This world has been headed in this direction from its earliest days, and it continues to spiral downward; however, it does seem that the spiral is growing ever tighter and the rate of spin is continually increasing. Perhaps we are living in the midst of the death spiral of this world?

The saddest aspect of all of this is the fact that it doesn’t need to be so. God planned and established the way and the means for reconciliation of any and all differences. The Father does not want to see His people caught up in the animosities, hatred, and the violence that stems from them. He would have all of us learn to accept each other, take the risk inherent in peacemaking, and reach across all of our points of division with the hand of fellowship and grace. So, the means that God established for doing this is Jesus and the way is the cross. Christ’s love and grace serve to bring people into a relationship with God that ends our separation from all that is righteous and holy; thus, Christ reconciles people to our Creator. This is a part of what God intends to see happen. The other primary aspect of the Lord’s desire and will is carried out when we seek to reconcile with each other.

It is not easy to love people who are different, care for those who seem to be natural enemies, and enter into the stories of those who make us uncomfortable or who actually frighten us. Yet, Christ calls upon His people to do these things. He also goes with us as we seek to extend that hand of fellowship to others. For as we look upon the cross and consider what it means to join with Jesus in the sacrifice and the commitment to righteousness that is centered upon that torturous implement, all fear and concern should be left behind us. Christ experienced all of the pain, grief, and terror for us during those agonizing hours of hanging upon the cross. In Christ we are not only set free to love those who are different from us, but those differences are, in fact, made to disappear. They become meaningless in the context of God’s newly redeemed existence as citizens of His kingdom come to earth. In Christ and by the sacrifice of the cross, we can know the true peace that comes through loving all people as Christ loves them and from no longer seeing their difference but rather from looking upon them as fellow bearers of God’s beautiful and perfect image.

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Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD?

   And who shall stand in his holy place?

He who has clean hands and a pure heart,

  who does not lift up his soul to what is false

   and does not swear deceitfully.

Psalm 24: 3, 4

David was referring to the temple in Jerusalem and to true and worthy worship there when he speaks about ascending the hill of the Lord. Although the physical climb required of a worshiper was not all that challenging, the spiritual and moral one was quite steep. God is holy in every sense. There is no compromise or area of lapse in the Lord’s perfect existence, and we are not so perfect in ours. It is people’s disobedience and misbehavior that erodes away and diminishes the righteousness that God originally intended for each of us to center our lives around. We are each born into life with this process of decay and the distance from our Lord that it causes already well established within us. As we draw our first breath in this world, we are already struggling to find the spiritually pure air that the climb to that sacred place requires.

David knew more than he would wish to know about the challenge that keeping his hands clean and his heart pure would bring about. He had done neither of these things in his life; yet, he still desired to be in the presence of the Holy One, the Lord God Almighty. The Lord granted David the grace and the forgiveness that he required in order to enter into that holy presence, and David recognized his own sinfulness and engaged in the true repentance of a person who desires to change and who seeks to live out his remaining days as a person who demonstrates the result of God’s redemptive work in him. David was a lot like most of us in that he was a flawed and a sinful person that had been made holy and acceptable to be in the presence of the Lord by virtue of God’s grace and love.

We are each faced with a hill to climb every day. That ascent takes us toward the place of holiness wherein God dwells in His fullest expression. The work of climbing can seem to be overwhelming at times, but we are not left alone in that endeavor. Christ goes with us, and He participates in every step of the journey. Although He is there, we are allowed to choose to let him guide our steps and support our climb. Frankly, there are days when it seems better to go another way or it feels right to take those steps as a solo climber. There are also other guides that we will encounter along the way, and their route sounds good and pleasing when it is placed before us. Still, there is only one way to that holy objective, and there is one true and trustworthy guide for us to listen to and to follow along His singular path. Christ goes before us and He travels with us as He provides the possibility of possessing the clean hands and the pure heart that are required of those who enter in the Lord’s holy presence. 

And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say,

            “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty,

                who was and is and is to come!”

                Revelation 4: 8

These words are at the center of the vision of God’s throne room that was given to John by Christ. John was allowed to see a part of the universe that most of us can only speculate about. He was taken, in this visionary state, into a reality that followers of Christ often dream about and desire to enter at the soonest possible moment. This is the place where death is no more, and the pain that accompanies life as does Noon follow dawn is far off in the past. In this longest part of existence, perfection and peace reign as strife and striving are left to wrestle in the dusty and temporary atmosphere of earth. We can dream of a time when we, too, will join these incredible creatures as we spend our hours, days, and eternity expressing worshipful praise to God.

This idea is a wonderful one. And the hope that its promise provides is useful for us as we face into the challenges of living in this world. However, it seems to me that looking ahead to the day when this heavenly escape will be my own is not what God wants me to focus my sight upon today. Instead of looking ahead to a time when I will be transported into an existence where praising the Lord is the singular focus and work of my days, Christ’s purpose in doing all that He did was to set me free from all that inhibits me from engaging in this same form of worship on an on-going basis during my time of living in this world. Although I do not have six wings, or any wings for that matter, am not all that gifted in sight, and my endurance tends to fail me, I can still spend my hours, days, and years in active and persistent praiseful worship of the Lord. 

As one who has been redeemed from sin and its death by Christ, I am called by my Lord into service to His kingdom come upon this earth. My life is no longer my own. I am given the singular task of worship to pursue for the rest of my life, and I am granted the gift of the capacity and the capability to do that very thing. Every thought that comes to my mind is to be formed out of the truth and the wisdom of God’s Word. Each word that I speak is to be formed out of a vocabulary of love, grace, and understanding, and all of the actions that I take are to be carried out with God’s holy and righteous purposes as their object and objective. This is the central point and purpose of being a follower of Christ. We are to make worship of the Lord the center of our being, and as we do this, God’s presence is made tangible and real to others as His redemption is poured out into a troubled and broken world. 

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us.

Ephesians 1: 7

God never wanted people to be held in captivity to sin; yet, He knew that we would place ourselves into that state of bondage. So, the Father planned the way and the means of our escape from the self-devised prison that we were to be held in, and He also made it possible for us to be set free on a permanent basis. Jesus is the Father’s response to both of these needs. He is our source of redemption as He is the means by which we are redeemed. In other words, Jesus paid the price for our release from captivity to sin. This was accomplished in His act of sacrifice upon the cross, and it was sealed by the blood that flowed out of Christ’s pierced body. There is nothing left to be paid in order for our soul’s jailer to release any of us. If we choose to follow Christ, we are granted a full pardon and our parole is effected.

The hard part for most of us comes in the choosing to follow Christ. Why should I do this? What do I gain in so choosing? Is this Jesus even real? These are questions that multitudes of people have asked over the long history of the world. From my point of view, it is all very simple. I know, through faith and by virtue of experiencing life that Jesus is real. The narrative that is written in the Bible is the real and the accurate recitation of God’s engagement with His creation with a particular emphasis upon the Lord’s involvement with humanity. I hold this to be true, not because I have absolute tangible proofs or due to some form of exhaustive research, for I have experienced the presence of God in my life, and I know that the best of the person that I have been and that I am to be is found and made known in the commitment of my heart, mind, and spirit to living in a righteous manner after the modeling and the leading of Christ, Himself.

In the conduct of my life I have certainly placed great demands upon the love and the grace that Christ has poured out upon me. Sadly, I continue to do this to this day; yet, the journey has gotten easier as the Spirit has continued to work within my heart and my mind to bring about an ever-increasing level of understanding of what it means to live as a person that loves others, seeks after justice, and desires to share God’s redemptive love with others. Choosing to follow Christ places each of us on that same journey as the Apostle Paul traveled upon. In so doing we enter into God’s will for us, and we find peace with our Creator in the process. This adventure that Christ takes us on will not be easy as there will be temptations to overcome, an adversarial world to confront, and doubts that grab hold of us and attempt to wrestle our hearts and minds into submission. In all of this I have found that Christ is with me. That riches of grace that Paul mentions and the Lord’s abundant love and mercy are truly poured out upon me in a supply that can be described in no other word but lavish. 

We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch hum.

1 John 5: 18

If you have lived for any period of time in your new Christian skin, you know that this statement is not exactly true. No one that I am aware of lives a sinless life. In fact, we all go off the righteous track on a more or less regular basis. The reality of our need for God’s grace is one of life’s certainties, and Christ has granted an endless supply of that same grace and forgiveness to each of His people. So, what does it mean to “not keep on sinning,” and who is it that does the protecting in this verse? John makes this statement with such authority and with a very positive emphasis; so, it must be important, and it must also have rather universal application.

The easy part of the answer to my self-imposed question is Jesus. He is the one who was born of God and who does the protecting. In our fallen humanity, we are powerless against evil and the state of separation from all that is holy that comes about due to our birth-right of sinfulness. This is a state of being that Christ’s death and resurrection have worked to radically alter. In Christ, we find forgiveness of all of our sinfulness, and we also receive acceptance into the full presence of all that is holy, that is, we are taken into the everlasting presence of God, Himself. As we dwell in this new home in the kingdom of righteousness, any and all of our continued sinful thinking and acting is discordant with and anathema to all that we have become.

Yet, if we were left to our own devices and were required to operate out of the strength of will and character that we possess, most of us would not last for very long in this world of temptation, fear, and misinformation. Thus, Christ does not leave us. His Spirit is implanted within the being of all who know Christ, and the Spirit works continually to establish each of us in the truth of God’s Word and to set our feet firmly upon the solid footing of its ethical and moral direction. We will all sin, but we are no longer required to continue into the future along those destructive paths. We can trust Christ to protect all that truly matters in us when we choose to turn away from each and every thought, word, and act that falls outside of that which is strictly and fully righteous. The Lord is my protector, and He is yours, too. He will save each of us from the grasp of the evil one, and this is a truth that we can trust with all that matters in life and in the eternity to come.

Having been freed from sin, you became slaves to righteousness.

Romans 6: 18 

The drive to achieve freedom is an ancient one in both the history of people and in our individual stories. It is an essential urge that runs deeply in our hearts and that helps to define the boundaries of our existence. From Icarus to modern astronauts we have been compelled by this urge to rethink and to expand the horizons that create a physical perimeter around our worlds. People will risk all in order to gain even a momentary taste of the air on the outside of a prison cell; while, oppressive governments grind away the spirits of their subjects to the point where we can be fundamentally changed when living under their rule. 

We can strive to gain freedom throughout life. Yet, there is always an illusive quality to it, for regardless of how much freedom we have, it is never satisfying. There will always be something that ties us down and that inhibits us. We will never have enough resources to acquire all of the land that our hearts desire to roam. We can jump on the largest motorcycle made, ride as fast as we can to catch the sun, and there will always be an ocean in our way. If we rely upon this world’s devices and methods, true and lasting freedom will always elude our grasp. 

Yet, beyond all of the other boundaries and stronger than any ropes that might tie us down, there is one aspect to life that is supremely constraining. There is one law of nature that is stronger than gravity. This is the law of sin and death. We are all born into bondage to sin, and we will all live out our lives in a constant struggle for freedom from it. However, Christ gives us the only freedom that actually matters, for His freedom has no boundaries, no horizon, and it is not defined by time, by space, or even by death, itself. In and through Jesus we all gain a freedom that cannot be purchased with anything that we could ever earn, and as we surrender more fully to being slaves of Christ, our hearts and our minds gain an ever-increasing degree of this unimaginable freedom. We can turn to the Lord in prayer continually for understanding of the things that are enslaving us; then, surrender the control of them to Christ, and live in His total freedom. 

He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.

2 Corinthians 9: 10

Paul understood working, and he was very familiar with the direct relationship between the effort that a person puts out and the productivity of the day. It would have been easy for him to connect those earthly concepts of labor and result with the world of the spiritual. He was raised in a system where works of various kinds were required and were even essential. Righteousness was not something that came to people without adherence to the system and absent personal, committed effort. Yet, this is not the way that he had learned about Christ, and this was not the way that the Lord had conveyed salvation and a renewed calling to Paul. In Christ, Paul was set free from the compulsion to labor in order to achieve acceptability with God.

In this new freedom, Paul could go into the world around him and live out Christ’s calling without reservation or concern for the propriety of what he did or said. He was able to confront where that was necessary and embrace those who were in pain. He could share God’s word of salvation and healing with people from every corner of the world and from each of its many walks of life. Christ personally called Paul out of service to a form of false god that people had contrived out of the holy foundation of truth that God, Himself, had provided for them. Now this newly formed and sent out evangelist, teacher, and shepherd of souls was out in the world, and he saw opportunity to proclaim truth and life all around him. In order to engage fully in this work, he required an endless supply of God’s grace, love, and the gospel of salvation. That is exactly what Christ gave to him.

This follower of Christ was blessed with all that he needed in order to go into his world and do what Christ asked of him. There was nothing lacking and there was also not a thing that Paul was required to supply out of his own labor beyond a willingness to do anything that Christ asked of him. We, too, are blessed with this same abundance of provision of all that we will need to answer Christ’s call to follow Him into service to God’s kingdom come to earth. Although Paul was sharing an aspect of his own experience in telling of God’s bountiful provision, he was saying these things so that we would see and accept the reality of this same supply of all that is needful in order to fully and continually proclaim Christ in our world as our own gift from God. Christ has done all that is required for each of His people to be sowers of saving grace, truth, love, and redemption in our world. We have no bill to pay at the supply house, but we have an endless abundance of life to spread in a world that knows only death and its pain without the Savior that we have come to give to it as our life’s true work.

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