From Sodom to Jesus

22 So the men turned from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the Lord. 23 Then Abraham drew near and said, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24 Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city. Will you then sweep away the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it? 25 Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” 26 And the Lord said, “If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will spare the whole place for their sake.”

27 Abraham answered and said, “Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes. 28 Suppose five of the fifty righteous are lacking. Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five?” And he said, “I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.” 29 Again he spoke to him and said, “Suppose forty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of forty I will not do it.” 30 Then he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak. Suppose thirty are found there.” He answered, “I will not do it, if I find thirty there.” 31 He said, “Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord. Suppose twenty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of twenty I will not destroy it.” 32 Then he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak again but this once. Suppose ten are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of ten I will not destroy it.” 33 And the Lord went his way, when he had finished speaking to Abraham, and Abraham returned to his place.

(Genesis 18:22-33).

 

  • But there was that one time when God would spare the wicked for the sake of ONE righteous man…Jesus Christ.
  • This is good news to all of us who are wicked…(that’s all of us).

And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:

“Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
    and whose sins are covered;
blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”

(Romans 4:5-8).

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

(Romans 5:6-11).

 

In the name of Jesus Christ, may God keep you and bless you.  Grace and peace to you.

Escape From The Château d’Me

At this point in my life God’s grace has me hysterical. I laugh at times when I shouldn’t, see sunshine in rainstorms. I hear the Hallelujah Chorus instead of Hank singing “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.”  This is how my feels are right now.

singing-in-the-rain

I am Edmond Dantes—running like a madman, laughing over the fact that I am free from the prison that I once was in. Unlike Edmond, the prison that I ran from was forged and locked by my own hands. If you asked me to trace the steps of how I got here on the beach, sprinting and laughing with my arms in the air, I honestly am not sure how to respond (it probably would be best to watch the movie “The Count of Monte Cristo” for the Edmond reference if you have yet to see it).  All I know is that I am here and I know that it was Jesus who brought me here. Probably the best way to tell my story is to rewind to the beginning and fast forward in true flash back fashion.

I do not remember a time in my life that Jesus was not in it. By outward, public appearances my family nucleus was perfect. My mother was the youth director at our church before I was born. I can remember seeing my Father early in the morning reading his Bible in his chair. I didn’t know it at the time, but witnessing my Father’s morning Bible reading had a huge impact on my life. I grew up in a house of love. It was not perfect, by any means, but a house of love and grace. There were strict rules, but I always knew that no matter what happened, I was loved.

Fast Forward—April 27, 1989. I was 7 years old and in the shower when these thoughts hit my heart: “It’s true Zack, it’s true. You belong to Jesus. You are His. Now go tell your mom.” It wasn’t necessarily in those specific terms, and not in an audible voice, but I can remember being pummeled by those thoughts. I knew that salvation came from Jesus. I knew that moment is when I believed what Jesus did 2000 years ago for a sinner like me, was true.

Fast Forward—September 12, 2001. I was in college and conflicted about whether or not I should sign up to go fight global terrorism.

Fast Forward—April, 2003. America had invaded Iraq and I heard someone say: “We need more people to enlist.” I enlisted in the United States Marine Corps and got in the best shape of my life. I was injected with confidence and felt like I owned every room I entered. I learned very quickly that girls were no longer pranking other girls by leaving fake love notes on my desk, quite the opposite. It was easy. I was away from home, doing things that I knew were against how I was raised. I had no time for God. I was too busy having fun in my deliberate sin and open rebellion.

Fast forward—2007 Iraq. Bombs were going off all around, also several bombs that did not go off that should have when my Humvee ran over them. God showed me explicitly that he was protecting me on several occasions. I saw death staring me in the face, and I felt God’s sovereign hand covering me. Why God? I had done nothing to deserve His protection. I thought that I was in a spiritual desert far from God. But here, in the physical desert, God showed me that he had been right next to me the entire time.

Fast Forward—2008. In an empty barracks room I watched the Passion of Christ and collapsed In a puddle: tears, snot, choking on spit.

Fast Forward—2013. I was married and had a little son. I remember wondering one day in the guest room of our new house: “Why do I love Jesus? Well, because He has given me this wonderful life. He has given me salvation, a beautiful wife who loves me, a son who I would walk through fire for, our house that we live in, a good job, good health, love. Jesus has given me so much.”  Then, another thought hit me: “Why do you love your wife? Well, because she is my wife. I love her because of who she is, not because of what she has given to me…” Again, I collapse In a puddle: tears, snot, choking on spit. “Jesus I love you because you are Jesus, because you loved me first, not because you give me stuff.”

Fast Forward—2014. I was in seminary. I got on Twitter and accidently bumped into folks who were sharing messages by Steve Brown, Tullian Tchividjian, Elyse Fitzpatrick, Paul David Tripp, the Zahls and other like-minded individuals. I thought to myself:  “Woah, haha! I can’t believe they just said that… but it sounds good!”  Something sucked me in like a bug to a front porch bug zapper. I became obsessed as I discovered podcasts, blogs, folks on Twitter that were a part of what felt like an underground revival on the internet.

Fast Forward—wait stop! Too far! Go back! Right there. I was struggling with my spiritual growth class in seminary and failing my spiritual growth goals all over the place. I went on an early morning run before work so I could talk to God—just the two of us. I didn’t even make it for two minutes before I passed a Starbucks. “Mmm coffee” was my only thought. Prayer completely went out the window and I was furious. “God! I hate myself! I can’t do this! I can’t even run five minutes without thinking about something stupid like coffee when I am supposed to be spending this time talking with You and working on my spiritual growth. I don’t want to sin anymore. Take sin out of me! I can’t do this. I just can’t. I’m sorry.”

“Then….Run!” was the response that hit my thoughts after the fit that I had just pitched. It finally hit me.  God is well pleased with me because he is well pleased with Christ. When I am focused on myself and constantly examining myself, of course it will be a demoralizing enterprise. But when I examine Christ and remember my identity in Him, there is perfection, rest, joy, grace, peace and love. My prison cell popped open like a Coke can left in a hot car in August. I ran out of it and yelled “cannonball!” off a cliff into the ocean of God’s grace. I ran all the way back to the office that morning laughing and crying. I imagined Jesus right next to me running and laughing with me. I imagined Jesus being so thrilled to see me and overjoyed that I was finally at rest in Him.

Fast Forward—Today. I do not have enough space or memory to write down all of the people who God has used to impact my life on social media and beyond. So many have helped me to see that I am not alone in discovering the beauty and good news of God’s grace for sinners. I cannot pinpoint or remember ever being burned or hurt by the church. Many have that testimony but I do not.  I grew up in a house of grace and love. Many grew up in a house of hate, of the Law, or anti-God. Many have that testimony but I do not. My testimony is that I was the Pharisee. I was the older brother before I was the prodigal. Even when I came back to my Father’s house it was I who still peddled and had hope in cheap Law. My testimony is that I thought I was the younger brother returned, while at the same time I was channeling the older brother and his tendencies. My testimony is that I used to thank God that I was not like those “dirty tax collectors.” I was the white washed tomb who thought everything looked good on the outside, but was blind to how bad my flesh heart was on the inside. I was unfaithful to the message of God’s grace and the good news of who Jesus is and what he has done.

Yet Jesus met me on my Damascus road. When I finally confessed while running on that Georgia blacktop that I was too weak to hold fast to Christ…that is when it finally hit me….Christ will always hold fast to me. I’ve been laughing ever since. I can’t stop talking about Jesus. I can’t stop reading and listening to what he has done for others. It is my drug. I geek out with joy when I hear about God’s grace in the lives of others. I am confident that those who have written before me, and those who will write after me, will be used by God to impact my life and put a song in my heart. I feel like I have to write, read, listen, talk about Jesus or I will die. I take heart that if and when that day comes, when I don’t feel like laughing, when my world has been shattered, that Jesus will still remain faithful to me. I am obsessed with the good news of God’s grace for sinners, and I want other fellow sinners to find out. It is just too good not to share and see others enjoy it as well.

woooooooooo

The Fight

Ok,

Maybe you are like me and you have gone through the exact same thing that I am about to explain.  I’m swimming in the ocean of God’s grace and the thought hits me; “well, what I am supposed to do about obedience now?”

Like a flood all of the memories of sermons, lectures, principle offices, family meetings, “come to Jesus” moments at Summer Camp and at Marine Boot Camp come rushing in like an under tow.  “You can do better!”  “What is your major malfunction?!”  “What would Jesus do?!” “Remember your promise, promise keeper!” “You bear the name of Christ, Christian!  It’s time to live like it!”  “How can you do this?”  “Not in my house!”  “I am very disappointed in you!”

What on earth do we who have been set free from the Law of sin and of death (Romans 8:2) do with obedience?  I HATE it when I do not obey the Law.  I HATE IT I HATE IT.  It’s like I am in a fight with myself or something.  Which is truer than you think.  The Old Adam verses the New Man in Christ.  It’s like when it hits you that you are not being obedient and you are all like

liar liar 1

You sin that same sin for the umptienth time in 1 week and your inside doing this

liar liar 7

Someone asks you how your spiritual growth is going and you are all like this

liar liar 6

You are failing at this obedience thing big time.  “You?  A Christian?”, you imagine coworkers, family members thinking.   The gospel set you free!  You have grace!  You are no longer bound to and under the Law!  You should be happy and doing better right?  You have joy in the Lord right?  What about your light?  Aren’t you gonna let it shine?  Can’t you finally take that bushel off now, you smoldering wick you?

liar liar 2

Yet there I am, the sad sack of out of shape spiritual fat body.  Feeding on Christ and his bread?  More like feeding on a disobedience filled

full_metal_jacket_jelly_donut

New Years resolutions shot, spiritual growth chart goals gone and I’m right back in the confessional booth like Pre-Tower Experience Martin Luther.

liar liar 5

To really make matters worse, what if you are a preacher who has taught the gospel of God’s grace and unmerited favor all courtesy of Christ’s cross and blood and are now tasked with speaking about the Christian life and Christian obedience on Sunday and right now all you have planned to share on that is

liar liar 3

Well, you are not the only one. Even if you are not preaching on Sunday, maybe you have run into a friend who has asked you the same questions.  Well now that you are a Christian, saved and set free by grace what do you do about obedience?  Feel free to be a fly on the wall reading on the following modified conversation between ummm lets say Cack Zole and Brad Chird

————————————————————————–

Brad,

I have had a few things gnaw on me, to try to tell me that things such as a theology of the cross, grace, Law and Gospel distinctives are ultimately too good to be true.  I have had the pull to question and ask “what about holiness?  what about godliness?”  Are these things not to be pursed for the sake of resting in Christ?”  I fully believe that by faith I have been given the righteousness of Christ.  I have faith that sanctification and any pursuit of anything holy or godly is all Christ doing his work in me.  So it feels very dangerous for me to move towards an emphasis of the intentional and conscious pursuit of holiness and godliness.  I do not trust myself in the pursuit of either and only trust in the hope that Christ is working both in me himself.  I often fall back on Galatians 2:20, that it is not me who is living and doing things that could be counted as “holy, godly, etc” but it is Christ who lives in me….

I find it so very hard and quite honest repulsive to go back to a mindset that produces in me a desire to show that I am approved, to display that I am regenerate, and to be as dismissive as I was when looking through the lens of glory rather than cross…

Is the command to a pursuit of godliness meant to crush to cause us to run to Christ or is it a command for us to try?…

I humbly ask counsel all of this, appreciating and valuing your thoughts and understandings on the matters such as these.  I often have come across moments where deep questions are presented to me in a spirit of “I-believe-that-I-am-right-but-I-am-going-to-ask-a-challenging-question-to-prove-that-you-are-wrong-so-that-I-can-feel-more-pride-in-my-original-stance-and-feel-victory-over-revealing-to-you-how-stupid-you-are.”  I cannot stress enough that this is not the case.  My questions have no motive of quarrel or argument but a genuine thirst for counsel and good news.

Because He Lives,
Cack Zole
————————————————————————–
Good morning Cack,
     You’re caught in tension we all feel in this life as those who are simultaneously saints and sinners, who feel the law at work in us and yet find comfort in the grace of God.
     The call to lead a holy life, to pursue godliness, is nothing more than the demands of the law. Yet these demands are good. The law is not bad. It is given by God to show us the life that he desires for us. Yet, as you well know, as you experience in your daily life, no matter how hard you try, you always fall short of the law’s demands. That’s why we say that the law always accuses. It always finds something in our thoughts, words, deeds, and desires that convicts us. The law will never give us rest. And the law will always kill.
     That’s why the Gospel defines our life. This Gospel not only forgives us, but also fills us with the Holy Spirit, who produces fruits in us of which we may not even be aware. The Gospel is that life of Gal 2:20. We have died (by the law) and it is not longer we who live, but Christ who lives in us (by the Gospel). And since Christ lives in us, we are pleasing to God, even if we are not pleasing to ourselves. His righteousness, his life within us, and for us, is all that matters.
     The life of holiness is a gift. You are made holy, your life is made holy, exclusively in Christ. He is your sanctification, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians.
     The struggle between the Old Adam, who is always under the law, and the New Man, who is always free in the the Gospel, is a daily struggle. God is always putting us to death and raising us to life. Every day is Good Friday and Easter for us. It can feel almost schizophrenic at times, pulled this way and that. But above all this is Christ. His opinion of you is all that counts. And he says, “You are holy in me. You are righteous in me. Your are godly in me.”
     The theology of the glory will always take you back to yourself. The theology of the cross will always bring you to Christ. It is the way of life through death, resurrection through crucifixion.
I hope this helps. Blessings to you, brother!
Brad Chird
————————————————————————–

After hearing this Cack was like this

top gun

Man that is good news isn’t?  You are free!  And then leave it at that….Fight the good fight, telling fellow sinners the good news of God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ.  Let’s attack licentiousness and sin with more grace so that Fundy’s can always be like

what are you doing

The Passionate Human Response that God’s Grace Deserves

cower

When I first read Radical by David Platt I thought “YES, THIS GUYS NAILS IT.” And in many places he does make some very good points and provides as a jolt to the system for our need for Christ.  But I am hoping I am not the only one who tried to do the radical challenge and ended up feeling like a failure.  I couldn’t successfully do the radical challenge and quite honestly got burned out by it.

I believe I may have mentioned this in an earlier post but I wanted to revisit something that haunted me for some time.  I am free of the story I am about to give, and all has been forgiven  but I believe that my experience may help someone else who has, is currently, or will go through something like this.  I pray that God will use this to help you in however way He chooses.

I had to write a review of “Radical” in school and I explained in the review that I submitted how God’s grace has set me free from the feeling that I “need” to live a radical life for Christ because He offers me His radical life through the gift of God’s grace.

Quick Disclaimer:  I admire the work of my professor.  He has done wonderful things in teaching the word of the Lord.  This is not a bash on him and it is not my intent to cast judgment on him.  This is not what this post is about.  End of disclaimer.

In the class there seemed to be an underlying theme different than what I had recently discovered, devoured  in the teachings of that Liberate Crowd.  You know, people like Tullian Tchividjian, Steve Brown, Elyse Fitzpatrick and so many others.  I received an A on my paper, but when reading the comments on what I had submitted, a lump in my throat formed and I felt cold all over as I read these words:

“Your paper is well-written with careful critical analysis . . . as I have come to expect from you.  I am glad that on your personal journey you have come to experience God’s grace rather than be caught up in trying to somehow please God.  But, perhaps in your freedom you can now examine the passionate human response that God’s grace deserves.  Yes, His grace is completely amazing and freely given.  We stand and rest in His grace every day.  Our surrender and service are a response to this grace which is so great.  I believe that a true experience and response to God’s grace, and an intimate relationship with Him, will lead us to Romans 12:1,2 where we are commanded to offer our lives as living sacrifices to God.  Not to earn His grace, but to respond to it.  I also believe this is what Platt is saying in his book.”

Lub dub

Lub dub

The sound of my heart beating out of my chest.

The dark room that I am in just got darker.  No doors.  No windows.  Just the pitch blackness of my ability and my performance.

The thought of delivering “the passionate human response that God’s grace deserves.”

The loss of breath.  Fear permeates the air.

The realization that I am not able to deliver such a response.  The realization that such a response means perfection which I am laughably incapable of. I literally laugh at the thought of it.  I can never nor will I ever be able to provide the response that God’s grace deserves.

I find myself backed into a corner in my cell.  Like a wretch I cower at such a demand of perfection.  What do I do?  What can I do?  Is there anything I can say, is there anything I can promise, is there anything I can try other than beg?  Broken by this demand of perfection I cry out;

“Woe is me!  I am a man of unclean lips!  I am undone!  Wretched man that I am!  Who will deliver me from this body of death?”

Thanks be to God, Jesus enters the room finding me huddled in a heap in my corner.  I beat my chest and with tears streaming down my face look into his and say “I am a sinner…have mercy on me!”  Jesus rushes towards me and clings to me greater than the fear of hopelessness in my lackluster performance.  Jesus liberates me from the slavery of Sin and the Law.  My body no longer feels the chains of either but the air of grace.  My joy is in knowing that I can put my hope in Who Jesus is and what He has done and not in the hopeless slack effort of failing any and every attempt at providing the human response that God’s grace deserves.

I can never hope to offer up a response worthy of such a gift.

The deserving 100% passionate human response to this gift of grace was given by a man who was also 100% God.

It wasn’t me and it wasn’t you.

Not the passion of Zack but the passion of Christ.

My response to God’s grace is a victory shout and a 10th Leper offering of thanks.

I have always had an intimate relationship with Christ.  He is in me and I am in Him.  This intimate relationship never loses its intimacy because of who I am and what I can’t do.  This intimate relationship is fixed because of who Jesus is and what He has done.

A living sacrifice does not struggle to earn the grace that it has been given.  A sacrifice is dead.  I believe Paul’s follow up to Romans 12:1, 2 would be found in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.  And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

I need to offer myself as a living sacrifice.  That means letting go of the hope that I had in ever performing at the level of surrender, the level of service, the level of gratitude that grace deserves.   My only hope in responding to the demand of the law is in Christ Alone.  Christ Alone is your only hope too.  My new nature in Christ does indeed lead me to want to obey.  But my hope is not in those moments when I obey.  My hope is in Christ who has already obeyed and fulfilled the law for me.

God’s love for me was never dependent on how I would respond to His gift of grace.  God’s love for me is eternal and without conditions.  He pours out His grace over sin zombie me without asking and without expectations.

Grace is grace not because of what we have, are, or will do but simply because God loves those whom He pours His grace on.

Salvation comes to sinners by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone all done for the glory of God alone.

You see, it was never about your glory, effort, or response in the first place.

Show me a sinner who has been drowned by God’s grace and I will show you a sinner whose response is “wow” and “thank you.”

Our failure is not in failing to give a deserving response to God’s grace.  Our failure is in not resting in the hope that we have in the person and finished work of Christ Alone.

It Is Finished.

Funny…grace that demands a response is no longer grace.

Reference

Isaiah 6:5

Romans 7:24-25

Luke 18:9-14

Luke 17:11-19

Ephesians 2:8-9

Galatians 2:20

Matthew 11:25-30

Ephesians 1:3-14

Welcome, To The Real World…

morpheus-matrix

 

I am a nerd.

If I have not made that evident, this post will surely remove all doubt.

I love nerd things.  I love sci-fi, I love Start Wars, I love Comic Books and I have tried to keep up with the new story arcs throughout the years.  I squeal at every new Marvel Movie and GOTG (Guardians of the Galaxy, sorry non nerds I realized you wouldn’t know the acronym) was my favorite movie of 2014.  I love to read and read and read.  I love to read dystopian novels like 1984, Brave New World and One Second AfterThe Walking Dead is filmed in my back yard.  Well, not literally my back yard but not that far away over here in Atlanta, GA.  I can remember hearing radio announcements that would say, “if you hear gun fire or see zombies/walkers don’t freak out it is just the Walking Dead filming.”  I revel in the fact that you may be thinking to your self “The Walking Dead isn’t nerdy, I like it.”  That is awesome news to this nerd whenever nerdy things are more popular with the regular folks like you maybe.  But the point I am trying to get across is I probably easily fall into the nerd/fanboy category when it comes to my tastes in entertainment.  I like deep thought, I like deep books and movies and I love to talk about deep things especially theological stuff, like apologetics and junk.  I am a theology nerd which is a rare Captain Planet like combination of Geek, apologist, theologian, nerd.  When those powers are combined you get Captain Grace Nerd or something like that.

Therefore, I believe this illustration may not translate well to some, especially those who may roll their eyes at deep theological thinking and Sci-Fi as being a waste of their time or rubbish.  But for those who are wanting me to get on with this post to serve up some theonerd sauce, this post is for you.  Actually, it is for anyone who may not have figured out this grace thing out yet.  I was in your shoes not that long ago and I hope this helps.

There was a movie that came out in the late ‘90s that spawned a trilogy called “the Matrix.”  I absolutely ate this movie up.  If you had asked me at the time I would have said that it was my favorite movie of all time.  If you haven’t seen this movie you really need to go see it, unless of course you believe that seeing a rated R movie will send you to hell…wouldn’t want to send you into that dimension of guilt and personal unholiness.  I think it may come on AMC and or FX from time to time so wait and DVR that version; it should be on a more righteous setting for your taste.

Surely I am not the first one to create the parallel which I am about to serve up, it is just too good of a fit.

If you have not seen the movie THIS IS YOUR SPOILER ALERT DO NOT READ ANY FURTHER…

Personally…I’m the nerd who has that funny look and laugh whenever someone says that they have never seen Star Wars or the Matrix…”YOU’VE NEVER SEEN STAR WARS/THE MATRIX?”  YUK YUK YUK (nerd laugh)

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If you have seen the movie, you will remember the scene where the character Morpheus who has been to the real world and now operates freely and miraculously in the Matrix presents an offer to the other character in the movie, “Mr. Anderson” or his real world name “Neo.” No, my theological illustration is not comparing this to the Saul/Paul difference of before/after Christ identities, which is a neat one to make.  But what I am going to try to go after is something a little deeper I think. In this scene of serving up his offer to Neo, Morpheus presents this choice to him and says,

“This is your last chance.  After this, there is no turning back.  You take the blue pill—the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe.  You take the red pill—you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.  Remember: all I’m offering is the truth.  Nothing more.”

red-pill-blue-pill

Did this not have your theological connections spinning?  Haven’t we heard this before?  Remember Neo taking the red pill to realize that he is waking up from a prison cell; a cell that he has never been able to see before until now?

That is how I feel every day when I realize that Jesus has set me free from the bondage of the Law and Sin.  Grace has opened my eyes to see that I am now free from the bondage of my sin and my failure to fulfill the law.  The Spirit of life has set me free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:2).

In the rest of the movie, even though Neo now knows the truth, he still hasn’t fully realized what He is capable of in the Matrix.   It is not because he hasn’t trained to know, earn, or learn what he is capable of but it is about renewing his mind (yeah, renewing your mind, that connection can be made in the Bible too, Romans 12:9).  It wasn’t until Neo finally “got it” and realized who he was in the Matrix was he able to see the construct of the Matrix and how the enemy operated in it.  He was able to move freely, he was not bound by the law of the Matrix and was able to see through the Matrix because of something he always had with him but never knew how to tap into before, until coming to grips with his new identity.  Remember that part when Morpheus gets the question from Neo about what he will be able to do when he understands his new identity?

Neo: What are you trying to tell me? That I can dodge bullets?
Morpheus: No, Neo. I’m trying to tell you that when you’re ready, you won’t have to.

That is like what has happened to those of us who finally get what God’s grace has done to us.  By God’s unconditional gift of grace, our new identity is in Christ, not in who we were before; dead slaves in our Matrix, Ghost Buster goo pod.  We now have everlasting life, reconciled with God forever, Because of Who Jesus is and what He did. Our earthly shells may fail us but our identity in Christ never will.  What I am trying to tell you is not that you will be able to fulfill God’s law by growing in obedience, growing spiritually, mastering your sin, gaining righteousness and gradually getting better and living righter because of Grace.  

I am not telling you that you can dodge the Law.  No, Neo.  I’m trying to tell you that because of Who Jesus is and What he has done for you, you won’t have to.

OwnIt-MatrixBullet

Jesus is the only person who ever can and ever will fulfill the law.  That is why our only hope is to rest in and have faith in Jesus.  That is why Jesus is the way, the truth and the life and that no one can come to God, be reconciled with God without going through Him (John 14:6).

Many of us have grown up in a prison cell in church or by a church where we are told that there are certain rules that we cannot break if we want to remain in close fellowship with God.  We are told that if we do not obey the rules of the Law or the Matrix than we will surely die and surely be in a position where God must thrash us.

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Yet this kind of talk does not even belong in the conversation in regards to someone who is in Christ.  Romans 8:1 makes it clear that there is no thrashing available for us.  These threats from these “Matrix Churches” are empty and quite honestly, a lie, all out of ignorance, lack of seeing the truth of the gospel of grace; or worse, out of a demonic desire for control and power over the members of said church.  2 Corinthians 5:21 says “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”  Jesus took your thrashing and God has offered you grace.

Grace in the realization that we are sinners and our only hope for mercy is Christ.  Knowing that God has given you grace by having faith in Christ changes everything.  It is like taking the red pill.  Does that mean life will now go perfect?  In the movie the Matrix that certainly was not the case, they still had their problems.  But as for Neo, he was no longer slowed down or enslaved by the Matrix.  The Grace of God frees us from being slowed down and enslaved by Sin.  Seeing this, growing into grace, lets you see the Matrix or better yet our world as it is.  Grace shows us how we can move through life unhindered by our sin and slack fulfillment of God’s Law because of Christ who is in us.

Christian, this is something that cannot be earned and cannot be learned.  It is something that has, is, and always will be present in you.  The only thing that is holding you back is that you are still stuck in the mode of waiting for something from Christ when you already have everything in Christ.

Christ alone, Christ in us changes everything. 

You might begin to notice opportunities to show grace to people who are spitting in your face or hurting others.  You will notice opportunities to serve and love other people.  You might even find a way to show grace to “Christians” who are still stuck in the Matrix of the gospel of works.  You will start to see the moves, steps and strategies of how God has divinely placed you in situations and conditions for His glory and for the gospel of His grace.  You will come to realize that there are no such things as coincidences and luck but were always God’s divine strategy, sovereignty and will; all done for the glory of His name.  You will laugh and feel joy/praise on those days when you do not feel like you are saved because of how you just jacked something up or thought BECAUSE you KNOW that God’s grace is STILL with you and that God will NEVER leave you and WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOU (Romans 8:35-39).  The one distinction I might make that would be more in line with how we are woken up from our spiritually dead condition, is if the movie showed Morpheus hover over to Neo’s bubble bath prison pod, leaned down to his ear and said “Neo, WAKE UP.”

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This is how it is with us when God calls us to salvation.  Our condition was dead, yet God’s gift of grace said to our spiritual corpse “wake up” and we did.  Think how silly it would look if we said, “man I’m so glad I woke up when God told me to, thank goodness for that righteous work of mine.”  It was all God, y’all.  All God.

If God has given you the red pill of being saved by grace through faith in Christ…”there is no turning back…remember: all I’m offering is the Truth [Jesus].  Nothing more.”

Welcome.

To the real world.

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Feeling is Great but Knowing is Everlasting (Or Half the Battle…Yo Joe!)

That song with the Michael Jackson hook “I always feel like somebody’s watching me”…what if it was instead “I always KNOW that someone is watching me”…that heightens the intensity of the problem.  To feel that someone’s watching would make you paranoid, to KNOW would enter you into fight/flight mode.  (Thanks to the Marine Corps my toggle switch for this mode has been snapped off on “fight” yut yut yay yut…so don’t sneak up on me creeper!)

I remember a while back watching a sermon on YouTube from Alistair Begg and I thought that he nailed something that I had never really sank my teeth into before.  Feeling comes and goes but knowing is what is needed.  He would go on about how miserable of a day he was having and then it always would send him over the edge when someone at church would ask him how he was feeling.  His premise was something like, “don’t ask me how I am feeling, ask me what I know.  I feel like crap right now but I am thankful that my hope is not in how I feel but in what I know.”  He then used this as a spring board into teaching that it is not our feelings or experiences in our life as Christians that are sustainable but it is what we know as a Christian according to God’s word that sustains us.

That has helped me out on many occasions.  Especially in those moments when I don’t “feel” saved.  Surely I am not the only one who has experienced what I am talking about.

Everybody tracking?  Good to go.

Then why do I see so many social media quick thoughts, sermons, books,  from Celebrity Pastors, non-Celebrity Pastors, celebrities who may be Christians but I am not sure if they have ever said that they are, seem to be constantly commenting on the “feels” of a Christian or give calls for an invitation to Christ, to Church, to an event in order to feel this or that, or even worse, to come to Jesus to receive the constant flow of Snake Oil Christianity.

Yeah I’m reaching way back in the ole DeLorean with Doc Brown on that reference.  If I need to explain what I meant by Snake Oil ask me in the comments below.

Am I the only one who is picking up this constant dropping of the glorification of “feels” and “desires” as the ends and Jesus as the means of obtaining them?

I call it Snake Oil Christianity because in a quick glance it is nothing more than throwing out a sales pitch; hoping that it touches the soon to be church member’s eye.  “Are you poor and wish you were rich?  Are you sick and wish you were well?  Are you weak and wish you were powerful?  Need a job, need a wife, need a life?  Well I have to cure all for you!  It is right here in these hand crafted bottles of mine.  Just one swig of Gimmieemystuffhallaluyarglawry Tonic and all of your problems will be washed away.  That’s right this ri cheer is the cure for what ails ya.  That’ll be $$$$$$ and buy the Gimmieemystuffhalluyarglawry Tonic companion gift set with my book “How Jesus’ Gimmiemystuffhallaljuarglawry Tonic Gave Me My wildest Dreams RAT NOW.”

Should I not be concerned (is it even my place to be concerned) that the constant theme that I am seeing in so many areas of what are Christian circles and preaching is nothing more than instant blessing; just add the Trinity to your will and stir in order to receive whatever it is you are looking for?

I used to fall into this trap.  I used to buy into Jesus is a means to an end way of thinking.  “I want this….where is Jesus at?  I need Him to make this happen.”

Just reading the Beatitudes over and over again, I am not sure how we can get the idea that Jesus said God wants you to be rich, mighty and powerful.  He might indeed!  I am not saying that He doesn’t!  I am confident that if He does it is not for your glory but for God’s and good grief peeppell…our leader was a man who suffered physically and was broke like no joke.  He even told us that the world would hate us and that we would be persecuted because of Him.  His original 12…I think one died of old age but that was in exile (John on the Isle of Patmos I think).  The rest surely didn’t get “Their Best Life Now” according to the standards of the world but got their worst way to die right now…beheadings, impaling’s, stoning’s, upside down crucifixions you know the good stuff.  Let us not forget the early Christians who were sport in the Roman Coliseum either…

But if you were to ask them…because they KNEW that they had been given the grace of God…they would more than likely say that they had their best life now because they know that the life that they have is the life of Jesus.

Yes, we are to make our requests to God.  Yes, even when we do treat God like a genie in a bottle more than we do our Heavenly Father, He still loves us and still wants us around and His grace is still on us. Man that is good news….this grace stuff…I can’t get enough!

My goal is not to make you feel guilty.  My goal is to help you realize that as a child of God, the odds are…what you are really longing for (comfort, peace, love, joy, identity, purpose, etc.) you already have in Christ.

My 3 year old son often treats me the way I often treat God and it makes me smile because I realize that he doesn’t think that I know what game he is playing.  He gets very sweet, shows some affection and hits me with the hook, “can I pweese watch Wallykazam daddy?” while I am watching the Atlanta Hawks game.

I smile and hook him up with Wally because I love him and he said the magic word, so I am sure God feels the same some times.

BUT if I knew that there was something better to give him than Wallykazam…why would I let him settle for the cheap stuff?  Yeah, he might throw a fit “I WANT WALLAKAZAHHHM” but I may be planning something better for him…like hanging out with daddy.  Which is what happened last night and he loved it.  He wanted a mustache like daddy (don’t laugh it is still in the early stage!) So we spent time looking for something to make him a mustache with (pipe cleaners from my wife’s craft station stash…I’m sure she won’t mind).  At that point he had forgotten all about Wallykazam…and then I put it on without him asking…much to his joy.

If I knew that by giving Him something different or using his time in a different way would bring him more joy (even if meant temporary hardship) would I not want to hook him up with that instead?

God is God.  He is sovereign and there is nothing outside of his ability.  If there was anything that could bind God or halt God from accomplishing His will, then He would no longer be God.  His love for me is displayed through the grace that he gave to me in His Son Jesus.  After letting that sink in, knowing what God has done for me, changed everything.  What stuff…oh yeah that cheap stuff I was praying for yesterday…

The inspiration for this blog or rant is nothing more than I want everyone to experience the awe and the wonder of God’s grace for sinners.  It has conquered me, defeated me and raised me from the dead.  It has changed everything in my life.  God’s grace through faith in Christ has been the lone defining point in me.  It is No Longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.  All because of God’s love and His grace for loser, sinner me. Knowing this has caused me to have side eyes at Gimmieemystuffhallaluyarglawry Tonic and

I just don’t understand how I ever got over the truth of God’s grace to ever want to move on to talk about anything else.

And that is why I definitely have my eye on Snake Oil Christianity.

Verses that I love to Read When I need to remember what I KNOW.  Notice how a lot of these verses are telling us something that God is doing has done or will do.  Not suggestions or conditional hopes…but something that is happening will happen or has happened.  I love the “will’s, is’s and are’s”:

Galatians 2:19-21

Ephesians 2:8-9

Ok so really Ephesians 2:1-22

Hebrews 13:5-6

Philippians 4:6-7

Romans 6:1-4

Romans 8:28…ok all of Romans 8

Romans 8:38-39

Romans 8:1

2 Corinthians 5:21

Romans 5:8

1 Peter 5:7

John 11:25-26

Matthew 11:29-30

John 3:16

Matthew 28:20

2 Corinthians 12:9

Romans 6:14

Romans 11:6

James 4:6

Hebrews 4:16

John 1:16

Romans 3:20-24

2 Timothy 1:9

John 1:14

This Week At Seminary: Topic: Creeds and Confessions of Faith

I am currently in Seminary and I thought it would be interesting to post my responses to this week’s assignment questions or “discussion board posts.”  I have another blog post that I want to write but I have not yet find the time to do it.  It is rolling around in my noggin but it will have to stay there for now.

The Seminary assignment is to answer or discuss a series of questions in reference to the topic of the week which is, Creeds and Confessions of Faith.  To be honest, if the church I grew up in or if the church I attend now has an adopted confession of faith, I am not aware of it.  I am not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing but I digress.  The following are the questions that have been proposed to me and then my responses.  Feel free to discuss and let me know your thoughts on this matter.

What are some pros and cons churches should consider in adopting a confession of faith?

Some of the pros adopting a confession of faith is that it provides some sort of structure and may serve to remove any ambiguity for members and for visitors who may ask “what does this body of believers believe?”  Yet I understand that in saying that, just because a confession of faith has a particular stance, does not necessarily mean that every member will consider themselves following or subscribing to said confession.

There are several cons that I can think of when thinking whether or not a church should consider adopting a confession of faith.  One, there will be the temptation of prescribing authority on the confession of faith.  Meaning, shared or sole authority with scripture.  This may never be the intent or the spoken outcome, but one need only to observe a few churches to see that their veneration for a particular confession of faith seems to trump or be glorified more than scripture.  If this church body does not subscribe to the doctrinal authority of sola scripture (scripture alone) then I believe the skies the limit to whatever confession they want to adopt.  Man is fallible. Therefore, any creed or confession outside of scripture is capable of being corrupted by the error of man.  This is why I believe that there are potential cons that a church should consider when adopting a confession of faith.  Anything apart from a church placing their hope in the person and work of Christ alone will simply lead to preaching and adherence to Cheap Law.  This is the greatest con possible; that a church’s hope would be in a confession of faith rather than in Christ.

Ok.

That was my initial response.  There are more questions but I need to read more of this week’s reading assignments.

What are your thoughts on Confessions of Faith?  Is there anything more than saying what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 2:2, “for I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified?”  Do we really need anything more than that?  Hope in the person and work of Jesus?  On a side note I’d like to make an observation…I wonder if Paul did not include that Jesus had come back to life in this confession because it was a well understood truth in the time period of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians that Christ did rise because they saw him after his crucifixion?  Just a thought.

I have been under the impression that the following are essential beliefs that should break or create unity between self-professing Christians: The Trinity, the Person and Work of Jesus, the Authority of Scripture, and Justification by Faith alone.  But my question is, if an individual has been given the gift of grace of having faith in who Jesus is and what He has done…is that not the only confession we need?  Or better yet, is our confession not that we have done anything in order to cling to Christ, but that because of who Jesus is and what He has done, Christ is clinging to us?

I no longer look at my salvation as me accepting Christ, but instead Christ accepting me.  I no longer look at my salvation as me giving my life to Christ but Christ giving His life to me.  My confession is Christ Alone.

Christ Alone.

My Confession is that Salvation only comes to sinners by Grace Alone Through Faith Alone In Christ Alone.

My Confession of Faith is GATFAICA.

I am so thankful that God loved me first.

I am so thankful for God’s grace.  Without His grace, confessions are just words.