Friday, October 19, 2012

Love, Consume Me!

What is it to love You, my God, with pure and holy abandon?  I want to be able to say Your love is better than sex and food and sight, and to say it whole-heartedly, joyfully, so consumed with Your love that I give no mind to weak and twisted perceptions of my flesh which cannot conceive of a love that is pure and reckless, holy and passionately abandoned.  Yet You can both fill me with such love and renew my understanding that I may see as You see and forget utterly my sinful self.  This is why I can say with confidence that Your love, my King, brings greater joy, pleasure, and satisfaction than anything in this world and it is what I long for.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Colossians 2: United in Love

"My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge."
Colossians 2:2-3
Very interesting in light of Church history (which I have been studying) and all the arguments and schisms and heresy.  But we are told to be united in love, indicating that this unity of love confers the full riches of understanding.  That is, to know Christ who is the Mystery of God revealed, in whom are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.  Not some, but all.  How petty then are all arguments over points of knowledge, another instance of addressing symptoms rather than source.  Greatest love given rightly makes all other goods fall into place.  If we wish to know, to have the riches and knowledge, it is found in all its fullness in Christ and also abounds to us as a consequence of love.  Knowledge itself is not our greatest goal, but comes packaged with love.  "I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments" (v.4).  For the unity of the Church -- which we ought to desire, Jesus prayed for it -- our aim is not same knowledge but same love.  If we are united in love, unity in knowledge, in all wisdom will follow.  Make our joy complete by having the same love!  "Knowledge puffs up but love builds up" (1 Corinthians 8:1).

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Proverbs 20:30

"Blows that hurt cleanse away evil, as do stripes the inner depths of the heart."  Proverbs 20:30

One of the verses that stood out to me from this chapter.  Why is that true, I wonder -- I know it is.  I do not think it is saying that everything that hurts is good for you.  I'm sure some ascetics/gnostics have misused that verse and similar ones.  But I think it is pointing out the reality of pain, discomfort, and trial that accompany a real purification when what the natural man clings to is stripped away.  Like when Eustace is transformed from dragon to boy, it is not an easy thing to shed his skin.  Aslan uses sharp lion's claws to rip and tear and cut and scratch off the dragon scales bit by bit until they are all gone.  That must hurt tremendously, to have the natural man torn off.
You've harrowed my soul
And that so sweetly
You rip and tear and strip away all
That keeps me from coming to You
And that so tenderly
How can I not love You?
You break my heart to make me whole.  This is what it is to die to self.  If you value your own life, then it is costly to follow Christ.  If once you have recognized the value of His life, then giving up your own is nothing to having His in you.  But to gain the life He gives -- eternal life -- requires the recognition and realization of the surpassing value of Jesus Christ, that He be your greatest love.  And the only right response for us lowly sinners is total surrender, even unto pain and death.  He humbled himself to the point of death on a cross.  Can we call Him Lord and be willing to go through less for His sake?  Paul said, "Count it all joy" when persecution and trials and stripes are given -- not because these are good, but because these are purifying, completing the work Christ did by His stripes and suffering, if suffered in obedience to Him.  Not that it is any credit to anyone to suffer for doing wrong.  That is merely justice.  But remember the great promises of the Lamb of God to those who overcome in the letters to all seven of the churches in Revelation 2 and 3.  To those who are steadfast, who obey, who cling to what is good and hate what is evil will be given blows that hurt and stripes that cleanse away evil and the inner depths of the heart.  And resultant overwhelming joy in the knowledge that you are the disciple Jesus loves.  For those He loves He chastises.  That is what comes of the realization and response to who He is, isn't it?  And it always seems to come back to this: "Who do you say that I am?" 
I say you are Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, my Beloved, all-surpassing in beauty, all-surpassing in holiness, all-surpassing in love, all-surpassing in glory, for Whose sake I willingly offer my life and my all.  And I say that I am the disciple you love.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Romans 5--6: Much More

I just had a small revelation reading Romans 5 and 6.  I say small because it is one of those things that I have long known but not always grasped.  So I shall try my best to put it in words.
"Much more then, having been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him" (Romans 5:9). 
Much more.  It almost sounds redundant, the claims of this "much more."  But I think it fits well with what comes later, our newness of life in Christ, freedom from sin, and death of the old man with Christ's death.  While we were yet sinners Christ died for us, the ungodly.  That changes the whole paradigm, changes our standing, changes how God sees us.  If while we were sinners, revilers, rebels and enemies of God, God's Son died for us; much more will He desire to save us now that He sees us justified, reconciled to himself, beloved children, even the righteousness of God.  If He was willing good for us while sinners, how much more when we are His children?  Because of this we have a hope that does not disappoint (5:2-5).  Hope can sound like a risky thing.  But this hope of glory of God, for those who are justified, is a sure thing.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Jesus as Man: The Continuing Significance of the Incarnation

Much has been said and written defending the divinity of Jesus Christ according to the Scriptures.  So much that it has become easy to overlook the importance of the duality of Christ’s nature.  His humanity is less controversial, but holds a great deal of weight in understanding who He was, and what the New Testament claims about Him.  Jesus at the Incarnation became fully Man while retaining the fullness of the Godhead.  He continues to be fully Man as well as fully God, which has significant implications for His followers at the time the New Testament was written and now.
The writers of the New Testament clearly looked to the Old Testament writings, as well as the Gospel accounts, to understand the nature of Jesus Christ and prove who He was and what He came to do.  In the Gospels, Jesus Himself quotes from the Law, the Prophets and the Psalms to defend His own divinity (Matthew 22:44, for example).  The Gospels also quote directly from the Law and the Prophets to show who Jesus was; like Matthew 21:5 quoting Zechariah 9:9.  Even after Christ’s ascension into heaven, Acts records the apostles heavily relying on Old Testament Scripture to prove the truth of the Gospel.  The epistles also quote extensively from the Old Testament writings.  The first chapter of Hebrews alone quotes Psalm 2, Psalm 89, Psalm 97, Psalm 104, Psalm 45, Psalm 102, and Psalm 110, all to illustrate Christ’s supremacy over angels.  Jesus was regarded as the fulfillment of the Old Covenant (as He claims for Himself in Matthew 5:17), and also as God (John 8:58; John 10:30, 36; Colossians 1:15-17, Acts 20:28, 1 Timothy 3:16, John 14:9, John 20:28, to name a few references).  The New Testament gives us to understand that God is Trinity (John 15:26, Matthew 28:19); that is, that He eternally exists as three distinct Persons with one Nature or Form.  John 1 suggests this by describing Jesus Christ as the Word, who was with God in the beginning and who is God, and through whom all things were made.  Jesus claims unity with the Father in John 17:11.  The clearest description of God’s Trinitarian nature is described in 1 John 5:7, “For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one.”  God’s Trinitarian nature is also implied in the Old Testament; in Psalm 110, in prophecies by Isaiah (9:6 and 48:11), in the pluralistic language used in the first few chapters of Genesis (in the original text “God created” is plural; “Let Us make man in Our image,” etc.).  There are also several instances in which the “Angel of the Lord” appears, foretelling Isaac’s birth to Abraham and Sarah, wrestling Jacob, giving instructions to Joshua on how to defeat Jericho, which may be manifestations of the pre-incarnate Son of God.  Taken with Jesus’ repeated affirmations of His oneness with God the Father, it would be hard to take these as indication of multiple or separate gods, especially with proclamation to Israel: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord your God; the Lord is One.”  However, given the clear relationship of Jesus to the Father, His obedience and dependence on the Father in prayer, the Persons of the Trinity must also be understood to be distinct in relationship to each other and in their roles, though they are equal – as Jesus has the fullness of the Godhead (Col. 2:9).  Since the fullness of the Godhead dwells in Christ, it follows that every attribute ascribed to God belongs equally to the three Persons of the Trinity, who are also cited as present and active at the beginning of creation (John 1, plural language of Genesis 1, Jesus the Creator and Sustainer of all things as in Colossians 1:16-17, etc.).   The three Persons of the Trinity exist eternally as non-created beings.  Mankind, on the other hand, was wholly tainted by the fall of Adam and so was rendered incapable of attaining holiness (Romans 3:23).  Because humans are created beings, they can never become God (See Isaiah 43:10).  Only God, Who is eternal, can restore mankind into right relationship to Himself and give them righteousness (Acts 4:12).

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Philippians 2: Consider Others Better Than Yourself

"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves."    Philippians 2:3
(Credit also to A.W. Tozer for the passage for March 17th in Renewed Day by Day).
That which is in other human beings because they are God's creatures is worth far more than anything that is in me apart from Him.  I think this is what verses like this mean.  I must esteem Imago Deo in the lowliest person far higher than anything that is purely from myself.  This leaves no room for pride or contempt.  I must also esteem Imago Deo in me as the pure center of my worth.  This leaves no room for conceit, and neither for pride, self-pity, or "low self-esteem."  If I esteem God as the highest Good, all else falls into place, and these things (pride, self-pity, conceit, contempt, etc.) must fall away.  Cool.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Mark 9: Help My Unbelief

"Jesus said to him, 'If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.'
Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, 'Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!'"  Mark 9:23-24
Many times I have prayed this and thought of it as faithful evidence of our dependence on God's grace, that we need it even to believe on Him.  And we need it to believe He can do what we call impossible.  This is a matter of heart attitude.  How do I, then, walk in such faith that I could truthfully say, "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief"?  The words were recorded here for a reason and they have long stuck with me.  How do I do this?  It seems to include a sort of letting go.  Or really a willingness to let go, a heartfelt desire to hold fast to faith with no confidence in the flesh.
All my good is in You.  Apart from You I have nothing of worth; I count it all dung.  But I am still here, so I need Your help to see that.  I need Your Word to light my way.  I need Your hand to guide me.  I need Your voice to lead.  I need Your Spirit working in me, even in the midst of my humanity to unstop my ears and unblind my eyes.  I need the light of Your Truth to walk in your ways.  I need You to help me be faithful to You.  And I believe that this You can certainly do: change my heart, refresh my mind, make me new, and call me wholly Yours.  But You have and can and will do this and more than this.  "You will see greater things than these" (John 1:50).  Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Notes on Tozer (January 23)

"It is altogether doubtful whether any man can be saved who comes to Christ for His help but with no intention of obeying Him, for Christ's saviourhood is forever united to His lordship."  --A.W. Tozer
from Renewed Day by Day, "Our Lord the Object of Faith for Salvation"

This essentially sums up what I got from this entry.  Jesus saves because He is Lord.  it is presumptuous, entitlement-minded ridiculence to ask for His help without intending to obey Him.  Not that our service to Him earns His help; but that faithful and faith-filled expectation of salvation must come from the recognition that He is Lord.  Not, "He will save me because I deserve it."  That seems to be the only attitude that would hinder an absolute unity in our mental concept of His Lordship and Saviorhood.  But, He will save me because He is able.  Why?  Because He is Lord.  My proper response is servitude, surrender; adoring, passionate obedience.  He is Lord, therefore He is able to save.  He is Lord, therefore He is to be obeyed (i.e. worthy of complete obedience and love).  Then, He is my Lord, therefore He will save me.  He is my Lord, therefore I will obey and worship Him.  These are two effects that come from the same cause; two responses both springing from the realization of who He is.  God's very nature is sufficient cause for both, such that if one is true the other is also.  If Jesus is Lord, He saves.  If Jesus saves me, He must be Lord.  He owes me nothing, and I do not deserve any salvation or mercy from Him.  But because He is Lord, the righteous Judge, the Lamb of God, the Almighty, He can choose to have mercy on me and save me -- but that is all His doing, His will, His grace, out of His Sovereignty.  So if I ask for and expect His help, I must do so recognizing who He is -- not, as Tozer pointed out, that we must (or can) know all of who God is.  But the expectation of salvation and the intention to obey ought to come from the same place.