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

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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
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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
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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

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.

desert

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.

Examine Yourself

“Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.”    

 1 Corinthians 11:28

“Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!”    

 2 Corinthians 13:5 

OH CHRISTIAN!!  BROTHER!! SISTER!!  READ THIS AND UNDERSTAND!!

When you examine yourself what are you examining?  Or better yet WHO are you examining?!?!

When we examine ourselves we often start tacking off all of our most recent mistakes correct?  We start examining us, ourselves, who we are apart from Christ.  We get all giddy over the spiritual growth and improvements that we make and beat our chest over our failures.  We focus and examine self.

We examine what we have done NOT what Jesus has done.

But wait…if we are in Christ then…

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 

2 Corinthians 5:17

“And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God.”    

 Ezekiel 11:19-20

“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.  For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.  We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.  For one who has died has been set free from sin.  Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.  We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.  For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.  So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”

Romans 6:3-12

So now…take a look at and examine yourself…if you are in Christ, if anything or anyone other than the person and work of Jesus Christ does not show up for the test, then you are examining the wrong person…and you are not realizing “this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you (2 Cor. 13:5).”

The failure of the test, of this examination is if you find that Jesus in not in you…

Open up your soul. Who is there? Who is covering your soul?  Is Jesus? Has He saved you and drawn you to Him?

Look at Jesus….how does He look?  Perfect right?

“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.”  Galatians 2:20

No

Longer

I

It

Is

Finished.

If you are NOT in Christ and Christ not in you…then of course all that you have is to examine you….not so good, huh?

I’ve got good news…Jesus offers His life, His righteousness to you to cover you and reconcile you with God.  Not because you’ve stopped sinning or promise to (yeah right, right?)  But because He loves you, died for you, already consumed God’s complete wrath for your past, present and future sins and this act of Jesus saving you will glorify God.  It pleases God to offer this gift of grace to you if you are a child of God.

Imputed righteousness

Unmerited favor/grace

Unconditional Love

Justification by Faith Alone

Reconciled with God

Atonement

I pray that the Holy Spirit will provide the inner witness testimony to the truth of and provide the faith you need to realize that the gospel is God’s gift of grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

Has Jesus saved you?  Praise God!  Now go tell others the good news!

The Little Engine Who Can’t

We all know the old story, (or maybe it is just fresh on my mind being the daddy of a 3 year old) about the brave little engine who with all her might and despite her lack of ability climbed the top of the mountain to bring all of the snacks, candy and toys to the little boys and girls on the other side of the mountain.  While huffing and puffing up the mountain the brave little engine kept saying the same thing over and over again “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.”  Sound familiar now?  It was a heroic moment.  It taught little boys and little girls that it is wrong to come with the attitude of “that’s not my job” and it is right to try to help others who are in need regardless of what you may believe your ability to help may be.  It also was a lesson in heart and actually trying to do something to help others.  It promoted action rather than inaction and that is a very good thing.  That is a very American thing.  To pull oneself up by their own bootstraps and get to work is antithetical to what sometimes feels like the majority of the political voices in American are saying today.  The modern “Little Engine That Could” would probably have a Federal Government Seal emblazoned on the side of it’s iron hide.  However, this post is not about American exceptionalism, capitalism, politics or anything like that.  I do love politics and find it fascinating but right now is neither the time nor the place therefore, I digress.

When reflecting on the story of “the Little Engine that Could” in a Christian perspective, biblical reality seems to go in a different direction in the understanding of how this story should turn out.  The reality of life will find that many of us, if not most of us, find ourselves bogged down and exhausted with life.  We try harder, try to live better, doing righter, keep on keepin’ on, struggling to finish the race well and finishing the race well seems to somehow always paint a picture in our minds of running a race alone and all by ourselves.  Why do we never see Jesus as the one who is running our race?  We even rely on and declare funny sayings that we think are in the Bible but really are not like, “God helps those who help themselves” and “God will never give you more than you can handle.”  NEITHER of these statements are found in the Bible and quite frankly are against what God’s Word actually says and teaches.  They may be found on coffee cups but not in God’s Word.

The reality is that God often, if not most of the time, gives us things that we cannot handle.  He does so specifically and purposefully so that we will come to the realization that we NEED His help.  Look at the Law.  It is impossible.  You cannot handle it on your own.  Yet somehow in the name of free will and individualism we pervert the understanding of both to love and latch on to the idea that we can be in control and if we work hard enough and try hard enough we can figure out how to keep the law and how to win at life for our own righteousness sake.  Take note that this is done for our own righteousness sake and never in worship of God’s namesake and the righteousness of Christ.  Yet in our self-help, self-worth, self-pride, worship of the idol of self in the religion of “me” we look as if we are a little engine struggling, pulling, tugging up a mountain saying “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can, I think I can” and never moving an inch.  Sometimes slipping and sliding down the track until we hit rock bottom.

Yet rock bottom is where Jesus often meets us isn’t?  It is in those moments of “I can’t.  I can’t do this.  I give up” where Jesus reaches out his hand and offers Himself, His ability, His strength, His hope, His way, His truth, His life to us.  Not his help.   He is NOT our co-pilot.  He does not help us to make it happen.  He MAKES it happen.  It is ALL on him.  He IS the pilot, he IS our life, he IS the catalyst, the ignition, the initiator.  We never start looking for Jesus without God’s gift of grace placing the desire in our heart to look for Jesus.  We love Him because He first loved us.  We need to realize that we are the Little Engine Who Can’t and rejoice in the fact that God has given us His grace in the ability to understand and see that truth about us. (Those who do not understand this truth have not been given God’s grace and understanding to see it for they are not the children of God.  This will sound offensive to them and will only harden their heart more.  Think Pharaoh in Exodus and what the Old and New Testament say about Him and his relationship with God.  The heart that receives by faith in the truth of God’s gift of grace through faith in Christ is a heart that has already been changed, regenerated by God in order to receive this as truth…heavy stuff, I know, so maybe a future post can explain all of this).

Since we are on the topic of childhood memories, remember the first Church song you remember being sung?  For me it was “Jesus Loves Me.”  One of the key lines in the song is “they are weak but He is strong.”  Remember that and hold on to that.  Apart from Christ you will never ever EVER reach the top of the mountain.  Yet, the moment that you give up and look to Jesus for His finished work, for His peace for His love for His forgiveness for God’s grace,  is the moment that the Engine Who is the Way, the Truth and the Life steps in to take over everything.  EH VA REE THANG.  You never stop being the Little Engine Who Can’t but you have a friend and a master in the Engine Who is the Way.  When He covers you with His own power and nature, you have a new nature being in Him.  With His covering, it is His ability that is now in control and getting the job done.

He cannot be stopped.

He cannot be exhausted.

His grace cannot be swallowed up by your inability and failure.

He has enough grace to cover it all and all of you.

And He is always on time.

God WILL give you more than you can handle.  Those moments are given as a gift of grace to realize how much you need Jesus, how your only hope is if you are in Him.  Use those moments to praise God that He is able to bring you through on the other side of the mountain.   Smile, praise and worship God, enjoy the ride, and rest in the finished work of the Engine Who is the Way the Truth and the Life.

Let this new found freedom and rest motivate you and inspire you to call out to others, “All aboard.”

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”  

John 14:6

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 

2 Corinthians 12:9 

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” 

Matthew 5:17

“Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” 

Matthew 11:28-30 

In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 

1 John 4:10

as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” 

Romans 3:10-12

“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.”  

John 6:44

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” 

Matthew 16:24-25

 “I protest, brothers, by my pride in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die every day!” 

1 Corinthians 15:31

“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.”  

Galatians 2:20

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”  

Ephesians 2:8-9

 

What Is A Child Of God?

A lot of my past and future posts may refer to a particular topic or condition that is contingent upon being a child of God.  For example I may write something along the lines of, “if you are a child of God.”  I even referenced in a previous post that I would create a post that answered the question “what is a child of God?”  First and foremost, I am not referring to the Son of God, Jesus.  Nor am I suggesting that people can one day become divine or God-like with God-like creative capabilities, that is completely different from Christianity and I would put this litmus test in front of anyone who would suggest that you can be a follower of Christ, a Christian, and believe that man can one day become gods or demigods (son of god like Hercules):

Litmus Test

  • What do you believe about the Person and Work of Jesus?
  • What do you believe about the Trinity?
  • Do you believe in justification by faith alone?
  • What do you believe about the authority of scripture?

How that individual answers these questions will give you a pretty good idea whether or not they are following the Jesus of the New Testament.  There are many different versions of Jesus that try to mislead people to believe a false version or anti version of Him…Biblical Eschatology refers to these false Jesus’s as anti-christs (not to be confused with THE anti-christ).

To help clear up any further understanding when I refer to a “child of God” in the remainder of this post I will be referring to what the Bible defines it to be, just to make sure that we are all on the same page.

Where were we…ah yes “What is a Child of God?”   Maybe it would first help to list some scripture, place some Bible down as the foundation that we play on top of in this post.   In no way is this an exhaustive or complete referencing of what the Bible says about what a child of God is but it is just a snipit.

John 1:12:  “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” 

To be honest that was pretty straight forward and more direct than I had previously thought.  Of course the “he” in this passage is referring to Jesus.  If you need more Bible (who doesn’t?) here are some more verses that help in understanding what or who is a child of God:

Galatians 3:25 “For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.”

1 John 3:10 “By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.”

Romans 8:14-17 “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.  For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”

Hopefully that helps…now here is a follow up question to the question that this post is featuring…how do I become a child of God?  That will be for another post….

Why another post?  Because there is a quick answer and then a really deep, deep, heavy (Marty McFly voice) answer….but it has given me such comfort and joy….and peace in knowing how I became a child of God…I have truly been set free and liberated by knowing how it all happened…

As a teaser into the future post that answers the question “How do I become a child of God?”  take a look at this to prepare you for what lies ahead.  I pray that the Lord will bless you and guide you in His will and His purpose for you and your life:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.  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, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.  In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”

Ephesians 1:3-14

Reference List

All Bible references are from the English Standard Version (ESV).

No Longer I

I thought I would take the time to introduce myself with a little more detail than what my profile says.  I am a rare native of Georgia and an even rarer native of Atlanta (statistics in 2008 said that roughly 60% of people living in Georgia were born in Georgia and just 30% of people living in Atlanta are actually from Atlanta). I currently live in Sugar Hill, GA which is in Gwinnett county just NE of Atlanta.  I am a fan of all Atlanta sports teams, which proves that I have to be a subscriber to grace, mercy, hope, loyalty, love and long suffering.  I am unashamed to admit that I am a fan of the Falcons, Hawks, the 2017Atlanta MLS team and I am a fan of the Braves who can remember when Dale Murphy was the only reason to go to a game. I grew up watching NASCAR with my grandfather back when Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt and Bill Elliott were the names to beat. I currently root for Dale Earnhardt Jr. and up and coming son of Bill Elliott, Chase Elliott. I am also an avid supporter of the USA Men’s soccer team. My father went to the University of Georgia so I have been barking like a Georgia Bulldawg all my life and believe it is no coincidence that the Bible is written in red and black (humor). I graduated from Kennesaw State University with a B.A. in History and I am looking forward to their first football season in 2015.  I currently have only 4 classes left of my Masters of Divinity degree in Theological Studies at Liberty Theological Seminary and I am a huge Liberty Flames fan! I enjoy sports but I have learned not to allow them to rule and run my life or become so emotionally entangled with my fandom that it jeopardizes or harms my relationship with God.

I was raised in a Christian home and realized that Jesus had claimed me as “His”, repented of my sins and believed in Christ at a young age in 1989. I thank my parents often for the foundation that they laid for my life. In April of 2003, I joined the United States Marine Corps and served for five years. During those five years I made many mistakes and rebelled against all that I knew was right and pleasing to God. There were many times where God made it crystal clear to me that He had a plan for my life and that He was protecting me in a mighty way. One of the sparks that helped my spiritual awakening from my sinful coma was a radio program by Ravi Zacharias that I would listen to inside a small Barracks room in North Carolina. The seed of an obsessive desire to draw closer to God, share with others the Gospel and an interest in apologetics kindled in me in late 2007.

In 2012 I knew that I had the desire to pursue a M.Div. at Liberty University but I had no further direction than that. I struggled for months with the thought of “wasting” my military service benefits on higher education other than a discipline that would better prepare me for the business world or something more “stable” according to the world. The closer I sought the Lord, the more push back I got from these thoughts and I stepped out in peaceful faith that I was doing the right thing. Not only have I for the first time in my life been able to now live with such peace and freedom out of total surrender to Christ, I have been so incredibly blessed for attending Liberty. Once I surrendered my plans to Christ, He is revealing His plans for me. My thirst for apologetics has increased over the years from that seed that was planted in 2007 in my Marine barracks room.

What really plunged me forward in this were the questions that one college age young man had for me. Some of the questions I was able to answer with confidence, the others not so much. This motivated me to pursue studying the answers or how to answer. It has opened my realization to loving the Lord with not only with all my heart, soul, and strength but MIND as well. As I surrender to Christ daily, the more I realize that He is all that I need and that He is worthy of all that I am. Knowing that He is in control is a type of relief that I cannot fully explain and I am confident that only the one who experiences it for themselves can fully understand. I am now in a place where I not only love Jesus because all that He has done for me, but because of Who He is.

The Lord has blessed me so much through all of this to draw me closer to Him and I am so excited to see what He has planned.  I am not sure where exactly He plans to take me, but knowing that He will be with me is all the confidence that I need.  I have 0% confidence in me but I have 100% confidence in Christ!  My favorite Bible verse is 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.”  This is where the name of this blog comes from, “No Longer I.”  The more I press into the reality of who I am in Christ, the more I realize that it is truly, “no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”  This has helped me to understand the true freedom, liberty and joy in Christ that comes from saving faith in Him.  It has helped me to see that when I examine myself to see if I am in the faith, if I am looking to see how I am growing, how I am doing better spiritually, then I do not understand spiritual growth, do not understand grace, and do not understand what Jesus meant when He said, “it is finished.”  Whenever I or anyone else examines ourselves to see if we are in the faith, if we do not think of Jesus and what He has done as the source for our faith and examination then our hope is placed in our “doing better” “trying harder” “living righter” attempt at life than Jesus’s conquering and fulfilling of it.  Salvation comes by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone.

I yearn for and desire the growing bond and cooperation between followers of Christ, no matter denomination, geographical location, cultural difference, barriers to language or personal Biblical convictions that are not essentials in order to be considered a follower of Christ.  I yearn for a united Church who is united by a belief in the person and work of Jesus Christ, justification by faith alone, the Trinity and the authority of Scripture.

I believe that America is in need of and is on the verge of another Great Awakening or potentially another Reformation.  Yet instead of the Protestant Reformation that was ignited by Martin Luther in 1517 in response to the Catholic Church, I believe that if a Reformation occurs it will be in response to the American Western Evangelical Church.  None of this will be achieved without a serious repentance and return to a church life of prayer.  I have an amazing wife and 3 year old little boy who are both showing me a kind of love that is beyond what I deserve. Every time I am around my wife I am reminded how God likes to show off. Every time I am around my son, I am reminded how much it cost God to send His Son to the cross and how much God loves me.

I have recently been capture by God’s amazing grace.  More so than I ever have before.  I have always enjoyed God’s grace but not at the level that I am right now.  I am currently soaking up material that is being presented by individuals like Tullian Tchividjian, Steve Brown, ministries like Liberate and Key Life.  If the American Western Evangelical Church experiences a Reformation it will again be because we have uncovered the joy of God’s grace once again.  To give a better idea of what I am referring to, please allow this illustration that I found in Tullian Tchividjian’s book, “One Way Love.”

“As Robert Capon writes:

The Reformation was a time when men went blind, staggering drunk because they discovered, in the dusty basement of late medievalism, a whole cellar full of fifteen-hundred-year-old, two-hundred proof Grace—bottle after bottle of pure distilate of Scriputre, one sip of which would convince anyone that God saves us single-handedly.  The word of the Gospel—after all those centuries of trying to lift yourself into heaven by worrying about the perfection of your bootstraps–suddenly turned out to be a flat announcement that the saved were home before they started (Tchividjian 2013, 24).”

May you be overwhelmed and in awe of God’s glory and grace where you cannot help but desire to worship Him and enjoy in the joy that comes from doing so.

Because He Lives,

Zachary James Cole (a sinner who Jesus loved and died for)

Reference List

Tchividjian, Tullian.  2013.  “One Way Love.” Colorado Springs: David C. Cook.