Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christ Heals the Brokenhearted

Colossians 1:16 says: “For in Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through Him and for Him.” We were created for Christ. We were created to worship Him, to know Him, and to love Him. We experience abundant life when we walk in submission to Him. Likewise, we experience nothing but emptiness and disintegration when we direct our own lives.

As humans we attempt to play God by deciding how life should operate. The problem, however, is we are not the Creator. We do not know the ultimate design.

Our stubborn disobedience results in nothing but brokenness. In my own life I have experienced much pain as a consequence of living outside of Christ’s Lordship. The tragedy is my spiritual blindness prevented me from seeing the damage I was inflicting, and it has only been since submitting my life to Christ that I have obtained the faintest glimpse of the latter.

I love this verse: “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3). I believe our God is a healer. I believe Christ wants to mend our bleeding hearts for His glory. I believe Christ came to redeem and restore. I believe God is near those who are crushed in spirit. I believe wholeness is not reserved for those who have never left the path of obedience. Rather, I believe abundant life can be shared by the broken and wayward, and I believe God deeply yearns to extend healing for His glory.

If your heart is broken find solace in Christ. Cling to Him dear brother and sister. He who promises is faithful.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christ's Covenant With An Impure, Adulterous Bride

Colossians 1 says that all things were created for Christ—all things were meant to glorify Him and point to Him. Marriage is no exception. God patterned marriage very purposefully after the relationship between His Son and the church, which He planned from all eternity. This is evidenced in Ephesians 5: Wives are instructed to submit to their husbands, as the church submits to Christ. Husbands are likewise to love their wives as Christ loved the church—namely by dying to themselves and putting their wives' interests before their own.

"'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.' This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church" (Ephesians 5:31-32). The Apostle Paul says that the union of marriage points to the covenant relationship between Christ and the church. The reformer Martin Luther describes this beautifully: Faith “unites the soul to Christ, as the wife to the husband, by which mystery, as the Apostle teaches, Christ and the soul are made one flesh.” One with Christ, as a wife is to her husband, the possessions of the believer and the possessions of Christ become likewise one. Christ, as Luther writes, “is full of grace, life, and salvation,” while “the soul is full of sin, death, and condemnation.” Tainted by depravity, therefore, “the believing soul, by the pledge of its faith in Christ, becomes free from all sin, fearless of death, safe from hell, and endowed with the eternal righteousness, life and salvation of its Husband Christ.”

In Hebrews 13:5 Christ promises: “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” From the moment of true, repentant faith, Christ makes an eternal covenant with the believer. If we are faithless, he remains faithful (2 Timothy 2:13). In John 6:39-40 Jesus further promises: “And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.” Christ will never forsake His bride, and nothing can separate the church from His love (Romans 8:38-39).

How deep is the love of Christ! The Lord makes a covenant not with a pure bride, but a disobedient and adulterous one. Hosea 1:13 says Israel went after other lovers and forgot the Lord. The Lord's response is immensely beautiful: "Therefore I am going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her...In that will call me 'my husband'; you will no longer call me 'my master'...In that day I will make a covenant for them...I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion. I will betroth you in faithfulness and you will acknowledge the Lord...I will show my love to the one I called 'Not my loved one.' I will say to those called 'Not my people,' 'You are my people'; and they will say, 'You are my God.'" (Hosea 2:14-23).

Christ laid down His life for those who did not love Him. He pursues the hearts of the disobedient and He calls not the righteous but sinners. He woos them with His love, and He clothes His bride in a spotless, white garment of righteousness. His covenant love can never be broken. How deeply beautiful!

Lukewarm Lovers and a Relentless God

In the book of Revelation, Jesus addresses the church at Laodicea: “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” (Revelation 3:14-16).

The church at Laodicea is lukewarm: The believers do not blatantly reject Jesus, but they have no zeal or ardent love for Christ. Such a state is not tolerable. In fact, it is appalling—so much so Christ threatens to spit the lukewarm believers out of His mouth.

Jesus continues: “You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked” (Revelation 3:17). These believers claim to be rich, but they are utterly impoverished. They have forsaken the true Treasure for the fleeting treasures of this world. They desire the gifts more than the Giver.

How can such a state be overcome? Lukewarmness is cured by Christ alone: “I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me” (Revelation 3:18-20). Notice Christ does not call the believers to work harder or attempt to muster up passion. Rather, He urges the believers to accept Him into their hearts. He urges them to be with Him.

When we are in relationship with Christ we cannot be lukewarm. It is impossible. All is rubbish compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ. His love is better than life.

The church is the bride of Christ. A bride does not have halfhearted love for her groom. Rather, she longs ardently to be with her lover—so much so that her heart and mind are bent towards her groom. In the same way, our love for Christ ought to be zealous. We ought to long to be in His presence and we ought to wait in anticipation for His return.

Christ is relentlessly pursuing His bride. May we, the bride, respond to His relentless pursuit. May He cure our wretchedness and present us to Himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Will You Stand in the Gap?

"So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one." -Ezekiel 22:30

This world is in desperate need of men and women who are willing to stand in the gap between an all-powerful God and a dying, broken generation. This world needs men and women who are willing to weep and ache over the lost. This world needs men and women are willing to die to themselves that Christ might live through them.

This world is not our home. Our citizenship is in Heaven. As followers of Christ, the only reason we exist on earth is to know Jesus and make His name known. We waste our lives when we store up treasures on this earth. We waste our lives when we cling to comfort and security. We waste our lives when we live for our glory rather than the glory of God.

We have the Spirit—and we hold the power of God. The Kingdom of God dwells within us. Jesus promised we would do greater things than Him. Do we believe that?

God uses the redeemed to spread His glory. He uses the redeemed to proclaim good news to the poor and bind up the brokenhearted. We are the body of Christ; we are His hands and feet.

Will we complacently hold the truth of life to ourselves? Or will we love by pointing others to what they need most deeply—namely, Jesus Christ? Will we live comfortable American lives under the guise of Christianity? Or will we walk in the way of the cross that others might see the Christ on the cross?

We stand before the throne of God clothed in Christ’s righteousness. We are free of accusation and without blame. We do not deserve such a pardon, and we are certainly not entitled to such a garment. Look dear brother and sister to your left and to your right. Look at the men and women who stand clothed in their sin. They stand condemned. They do not share your hope. They face an eternity separated from Love. How can that truth not grip your heart?

Oh Jesus, break our hearts for what breaks yours. Lord stir us from complacency. Lord empower us by your Spirit to live for you. Your Kingdom come on earth as it is in Heaven.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Suffering and Self-Denial Are Not Optional

Satan offered Jesus the splendor and power of the world: "The devil led him [Jesus] up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, 'I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.'" (Luke 4:5-7). I believe Satan's tactics remain unchanged today. Satan similarly tempts us to pursue the fleeting treasures of this life.

Jesus said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23).

Whoever wants to be Christ's disciple must deny themselves, take up their cross daily, and follow Him. Self-denial and suffering for the sake of Christ are not optional.

Jesus continues: “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?” (Luke 9:24-25).

What is our treasure? Is Christ so glorious—so beautiful—that we will forsake all for His sake? And if we are unwilling do we truly know the Jesus of the Bible? I bluntly say no.

Jesus Christ is worthy of supreme, absolute devotion. He is worthy of all.

While he [Jesus] was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.

Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly.

“Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Jesus to them. They were delighted to hear this and promised to give him money. So he watched for an opportunity to hand him over.

-Mark 14:3-10

The woman recognized Jesus Christ’s surpassing greatness, and she joyfully forsook lesser treasures. Judas Iscariot, by contrast, betrayed Jesus for money. To Judas, money was a greater treasure than Jesus. He never saw Christ’s glory and he was proven a false disciple.

Knowing Jesus Christ changes us: "No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him" (1 John 3:6). Jesus Christ is better than any sin, and a true disciple cannot continue sinning. That is not to say a true disciple of Christ will be without sin. 1 John 1:10 says: "If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us." In our pursuit of Christ, God's grace covers our failed attempts to treasure Him.

2 Corinthians 4:6 says: “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.” Treasuring Christ and beholding His glory is a work of God alone. What a humbling truth!

We are enabled to come to Christ by grace alone. In the same way, we are empowered to live a life of faith by grace alone: “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 confess I do not always treasure Christ, but oh how my heart longs for the body of Christ to hold Him as the true treasure! I long to see believers forsake the pursuits of this world for the sake of Christ and the joy of the nations. I long for Jesus to be loved with all our hearts, minds, souls, and strength. And so I pray, pray, pray His grace would not be without effect!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Freed to Worship

“Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God” (Exodus 34:14).

God is jealous for our worship. He longs not merely for external conformance to a set of rules. He wants our hearts; He wants our love.

The object of missions is worship. The Gospel is about Christ and His glory. The Gospel is not about making us greater, but making us less. We were created for an eternal relationship with our Creator. We were created to glorify Him.

In our pride and rebellion we long to be God. We long to be worshiped and praised. We long to be in control of our lives. We defame the glory which belongs to God alone.

We are enslaved to ourselves and we are far too easily pleased. C.S. Lewis said it best: “We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea.”

Mathew 27:51 says the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom after Jesus gave up His spirit and died. This is deeply significant.

In Jesus’ time a veil separated the Holy of Holies—the earthly dwelling place of God’s presence—from the rest of the temple. The veil symbolizes the separation between God and man due to sin. Christ was the perfect sacrifice for sin. He has torn the veil, and through faith in Christ we can have access to God the Father. We can have access to the source of true joy and life.

Christ frees us from the entangled trappings of self that we may live a life of worship. This is good news! Only the Creator’s love can fully satisfy our hearts.