Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Sun and Rain

A poem I wrote in high school:

By the meandering creek grows a daisy
Its outstretched arms basking in Sunlight drenching
As it sways naively in a dainty breeze

Consumed in ignorant wonder
An army to the east mounts unnoticed
And soon pelts of ice Rain land irately upon it

Flustered it awakens from its trance
With the Rain it cries while viciously blown about
It cannot see beyond the storm
It cannot know its purpose

It's only after the tempest does part
That the young flower learns
The Rains of life make it stronger

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A Beautiful Exchange

Imagine this: A people soiled in sin. Lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, and disobedient to their parents. Ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self control, brutal, not lovers of the good. Treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.

Now imagine this: Love, perfect love. His name: Immanuel—"God with us." Jesus, the Christ, lived and breathed and walked upon the earth. He was tempted in every way, yet was without sin.

Love led Jesus to the cross. In fact, His mission was love: Not to be served but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many.

At the cross a beautiful exchange occurred: "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Jesus took upon Himself the iniquity of all, and dying upon the cross He endured the wages of the world's sin: "For the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23).

Jesus offered for all time one sacrifice for sins: Himself. "Such a high priest meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart for sinners, exalted above the heavens. Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself" (Hebrews 7:26-27).

By faith, we have access to His forgiveness. And by that same faith, we have access to His spotless righteousness.

"You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ" (Galatians 3:26-27).

We are clothed in Christ. We are clothed in His righteousness!

Jesus took upon Himself our sin, and He gives us His righteousness. Though we are soiled with every kind of evil, we are clothed in the pure and spotless righteousness of Christ. His righteousness covers us, and we stand before the throne of God without blemish and free of accusation!

"Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel" (Colossians 1:21-23).

Christ's righteousness is our identity. The doing of righteousness, therefore, confirms the being of righteousness: "He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous" (1 John 3:7).

Let me be quick to clarify: The pursuit of righteousness is not a work of the flesh! How foolish to think that depraved sinners can achieve righteousness by self-effort! The pursuit of righteousness is rather the working of the Holy Spirit. Our identity is Christ's righteousness and day by day we are transformed to reflect that reality. That is sanctification. It is the process by which we are made holy.

Jesus' grace is sufficient. In our pursuit of God, His grace covers our failed attempts to live out our identity in Christ. To live out our imputed righteousness. And His grace propels us forward. The Apostle Paul wrote: "But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I but the grace of God that was with me" (1 Corinthians 15:10).

I pray that Christ humble us with His love and mercy. May His grace work in us. May we continually be molded into His likeness. May we, by the Spirit, increasingly reflect our true identity.

abandonded to Love

We have all fallen short. We have all sinned and defamed the glory of God (Romans 3:23).

We are in need of Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.

Jesus lived the life we never could. He was sinless. He was an acceptable sacrifice for the sins of all men.

Out of love, He took the sinner's place. He took my place. He endured the wrath of God and died my death.

Yet Love was victorious—even over hell. On the third day, He rose again and now sits at the right hand of God the Father.

His gift of life is free to all. "That if you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved" (Romans 10:9).

Accepting Jesus' grace does not simply save us from hell. His grace enables us to enter into a relationship with our Creator. Our sins no longer separate us from a holy God, because we are clothed in Christ's pure and spotless righteousness.

Knowing Jesus Christ compares to nothing in this world! Along with the apostle Paul, I count all things as rubbish compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord! In the same breath I humbly confess I did nothing to unearth Christ's surpassing worth. My conviction is solely the working of the Holy Spirit, which unblinded my mind and enabled me to behold Christ's glory. I am the worst of sinners and yet Jesus did not come to call the righteous. He came to call sinners to repentance.

While I have accepted Jesus into my life, I have in recent months been wrestling with what it means to allow Him to become my life:

"If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it." (Mark 8:34-35).

"In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:33).

These verses call for radical abandonment to Christ. Deny yourself. Take up your cross daily. Give up everything.

I have been wrestling with these verses for months—and still am. The following is what the Lord has revealed to my heart:

In Matthew 7 Jesus says: "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles? Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'"

There will be people who will stand before the throne of God—people who called themselves Christians—who will be rejected by Christ. Why? A label is not enough to save us. Christian deeds will not save us. Nor is it enough to have an intellectual knowledge of Jesus Christ. We must be born again. We must be filled with the Holy Spirit—the seal of redemption. And the Holy Spirit will lead us where He led Jesus: the cross.

Jesus' yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matthew 11:30). Why? Jesus' call to abandonment and self-denial is a call of love. Jesus Christ is the only One who can truly satisfy. All is rubbish compared to Him! His love—which surpasses knowledge—is so wide, long, high and deep that He longs to give us that which is best: Himself.

"Crucify your desires that you may know Me more." "Give up everything to obtain Me, the true treasure." "Carry the cross of Christ that others may see Me, the Christ on the cross."

Pursue Jesus!

There are three paths to walk upon: lawlessness, legalism, and love.

Lawlessness is the disregard of God's design for creation. It is manifested through immorality, idolatry, envy and the like.

Legalism is the false belief that right standing before God is obtained by works and good deeds.

Both lawlessness and legalism reveal one thing: a lack of relationship with Jesus Christ.

Lawlessness reveals that one is not finding supreme satisfaction in Christ. Thus, the one who disregards God's pattern for life is not pursuing the Lord, because all things are rubbish compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Jesus Christ (Philippians 3:8). Legalism likewise reveals that one has a self-righteous view of him or herself. The legalist is not pursuing the Lord, because he or she is blinded to Him who died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous (1 Peter 3:18).

The solution, therefore, to both lawlessness and legalism is Jesus Christ.

Pursue Jesus and you inevitably pursue love.

Jesus said: "If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you an do nothing" (John 15:5). Apart from Jesus we can do NOTHING! We cannot produce fruit. We are depraved sinners lacking every good of our own merit. Jesus alone produces fruit when we abide in Him; when we pursue a relationship with Him. And so how do we remain in Jesus? 1 John 4:16 says: "God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him." Jesus Christ (one with God the Father) is love. Thus, whoever lives in love lives in Jesus, and Jesus in him.

We abide in Jesus when we love. And how do we love? We love out of His love, which is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. We have been crucified with Christ and we no longer live, but Christ lives in us! We walk empowered by His Spirit. We allow Jesus to love through us.

I pray that our eyes will ever be fixed on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith. May we pursue Him. May we come to know His surpassing worth. May we continually forsake lesser treasures to obtain Him, the true treasure. May we see His holiness and our own depravity. May our hope rest soley in His gospel of grace through faith. May we abide in His love; may His love compel us.