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.

Advertisements

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)

137487b9de32bf31

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.

neo1

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.”

neo2

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

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.

Grace Pharisee

To be honest I am not sure how long ago this started to happen to me.  Maybe a year or so?  I have grown up in the church and honestly can’t remember a time in my life when I did not know who Jesus was.  Knowing how unfaithful I have been to Him throughout the years would cause any Pharisee to look at me with side eyes and grumble “lukewarm” or “unclean heathern.”

I gave my heart to Christ in 1989 just a few months before my 8th birthday.  Yet part of what has happened to me in the last year would change my confession to not that I gave my heart to Christ, but that Christ gave His heart to me.  This change has been inspired by God through people like John Piper, Steve Brown, Tullian Tchividjian and more recently Andrew Farley.  I have been shown over and over again that it really is not about me but all about Christ when it comes to my reconciliation with God.  Something happens to a person when they realize that all of their spiritual needs have already been met by Jesus.  Now that you know that you don’t “have” to do anything for God in order for Him to like you, love you and cling to you shakes and crumbles any idea of what bartering system you think existed between the both of you before.

This has changed me.

This has set me free.

I believe that most people in theological circles would refer to this as the message of grace, or the teachings of grace which is a little confusing because if you have ever read the New Testament, I am not sure how you can walk away from it without thinking about anything else or any other message.  To read about the glory of God’s grace through Jesus and somehow walk away thinking “ok now where can I go in the New Testament that will tell me how to work on improving my walk with God by living the radical, obedient, right living, disciple-making life?  Tell me my part now.”  How can there be another dominant message absorbed from the New Testament other than what the grace of God has done for sinners?  It leads me to think, “did you even read Galatians? Hebrews?  Do you even Romans bruh? What gospel did you smoke?  Not that there is another gospel…(shout out to Paul).”

I used to preach this message of what you now need to do oh Christian and I now bristle, feel embarrassed and Raiders of the Lost Ark Playdoh-face melt when I hear or read about any Christian who is presenting the challenge to live righter, be more radical, do better, sin lesser, claim more of what you want from God, in order to be doing the Christian life the right way…to be clean and acceptable to God, here are the 5 easy steps you need to be sure you are doing.  “If your life sucks, it is probably because you don’t fast.”

What the what…

I now get why Paul was all like FOOLISH GALATIANS…EEDEEYOTS!  WHY ARE YOU LEAVING GRACE TO GO BACK TO THE LAW? STOP DIPPIN IN THE STOOPID SAUCE!

It really is stupid when you think about it.  Grace has set you free.  Jesus has set the captives free.  You are no longer a slave to the law you have died to sin and you are now a slave to righteousness who is Christ.  If you were in shark infested water, drowning, and someone came and got you out and you asked if you could go back into the water you’d be committed to a padded room.

Well..ok…another post might be to describe our condition before Christ…to be more accurate you’d be dead in the water and Jesus swam up to you and said “wake up, let’s go” which you obey…not out of your ability to obey but out of the reality that Jesus just raised you from death to life…ask Lazarus…one minute he is deader than dead stinkin up a cave and then his eyes open of all a sudden…did Lazarus do that?  Nope…Jesus did.

I digress…another blog another time I’ll try to explain.

(For those who would love swimming in shark infested waters…that illustration will fail you…the Movie “Jaws” touched me as a kid).

Sorry, chasin rabbits for a second there…where were we…

How silly is it when Pharisees present the argument against grace as conjuring up some make believe person who would still want to sin after accepting the offer of unconditional grace?  As if someone like that even exists…”Oh yeah well what about unicorns and how they will handle grace, hmmmm?”

“But I can still sin can’t I?” – Unicorn

Face Palm…

Then the Pharisee will usually ask something like…

“I still need the law right?” “Tell me what my part is, tell me what I am supposed to do, what I need to do!”

Um….yeah….say “wow” and “thank you (Shout out to Andrew Farley).”

YOU DIED TO THE LAW…D.E.D. DED!  Or in my Georgia accent “Day Ed.”

Do you still sin?  Yes of course but any sin committed by an individual who is in Christ, already has the covering of the righteousness of Christ. Jesus did not only just die for you but you died with Jesus…let that sink in…

So wait…calm down…no, I am not saying lets go sin more since grace has already covered it…Paul had to calm folks down from this kind of freak out in Romans 6.

Show me someone who says that they get and have received the message of grace and will say something like “Now it’s time to sin all the sin I ever wanted to sin!! YARRR!!” And I will show you someone who hasn’t really gotten grace.  I think I can confidently say that because I do not know of anyone who has been broken and liberated by grace to ever feel that way or want to go sin some more….new creation….Jesus in them….there will be inner conflict now with sin…Yet, the person who has been saved by grace does not stay long conflicting with sin because worship jumps in over the knowledge that Jesus has covered their sin already.  But for those who are Christians that may have been led by a Pharisee to freak out over present and future sins….

NEWSFLASH…no sin is greater than or more powerful than Christ…your hope is not in hoping that you can hang on to Christ but in knowing that Christ is hanging on to you (Romans 8:31-39; John 10:27-29; and Hebrews….yes all of it slacker…are you not saved or something?) Just want to make sure that’s out there. Grace covers more than you realize…

All of this has heightened in me an intense disliking of so many task masters who have lived their life behind a pulpit or behind Christian celebrity status; reigning down condemnation on Christians for their mistakes and their sin…Romans 8:1, Pal…Romans 8:1.

I fight myself from responding to tweets and blogs from these Christian Pharisees that rail against the need to improve spiritually, to grow more holy, to do everything on our end to make sure we are holding up our commitment to God.  As if anyone could hold up their end of the bargain…wait, what bargain?!  I’ts a gift, amirite?!

Those who peddle cheap law are the only ones who will try to convince you that you ever had a chance of living up to the law, serving up the lie that you could some how pay it off with your works and right thinking.

And then it hits me…

I am a Grace Pharisee…

I am mad at them and have chosen in my own self-righteousness to condemn them for their self-righteousness…

Zoinks…

It is one thing to call a pal of yours a goober smooch and another thing all together to call a total stranger a goober smooch.  The Galatians were no stranger to Paul so in that case I have a feeling that his words were meant and received as a concern from a loving friend…well maybe not…but as far as I know he didn’t go to Mars Hill (the real one in the New Testament) calling people knuckleheads, just sayin.

The good news is that even when I am a Grace Pharisee…there is enough grace to cover me in those moments as well.

Jesus will never regret saving me and he will never regret saving you.  His desire to save you does not hinge on who you are but on who He is.

The true gospel is what needs to be trumpeted and defended not the gospel of works.  GATFAICA=Grace Alone Through Faith Alone in Christ Alone is how salvation…reconciliation with God comes to sinners.  Not LATWAIYA=Law Alone Through Works Alone In You Alone…

It is grace that causes me to calm down and respond in love or keep quiet…sometimes.  As if a response from me is truly needed or warranted by a stranger who is peddling LATWAIYA.  Come to think of it…anyone who is a Pharisee might find him or herself in the Matthew 7:21 crowd that are headed for the same destination that anyone from any other religion is headed.  Both will tell you that it all comes down to what you do with salvation, what you do with their god and their teachings.  Their gospel is that your hope is if your good deeds outweigh your bad.  That’s not good news at all.  That is performancism…a term coming I believe from Tullian Tchividjian.  It a system based on what you do and not on what Jesus has done.

Our only hope is in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

This frees me even from being a Grace Pharisee.  In those moments when I want to Hulk Smash verbally peddlers of LATWAIYA I remember that there is enough grace for them too if they were to ever realize it and have faith in the One Who offers it.  Just as much as I harp on their need to serve grace to their audience, I need to be sure that I am serving grace to them.

Correction…I don’t “need” to…Jesus took care of my “need to’s.”  But I “want” to be sure…that is the difference…my wants have changed…New Covenant, New Creation stuff….all because of God not because of me…I can’t boast in something I did not do.

Grace changes everything because God used it to change the system.  The Law is not cheap; you can never hope to buy it with your works.  You aint gonna do it, you won’t and you cant.  Grace is not cheap; it cost the blood of the Son of God.  The value of grace is seen when you realize the value of the Law.  It is perfect and Holy and is fatal for sinners.  Thanks be and glory be to God that He loves sinners and sent Jesus to die for sinners so that they could die with Christ. If you have died with Christ you have been raised with Him as well.

“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 selfwas 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 6:5-10

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

The Year Of The Lord’s Favor

I ran across something over the internets a couple of weeks ago that produced an initial response in my gut of, quite honestly, sadness.  I thought of all of the people who would read what I had just read and think

“that’s my way out, that is how I will overcome my trial, that is how I will be able to survive,    that is how I will be able to prosper.”  That is how I

That is how I

That is how I

How I

How I

I

I

I

Being a Marine, this has me thinking about that poor recruit at boot camp who couldn’t get the whole “referring to self in third person” order down pat from the Drill Instructor.  I, me, my, our, us, we, was never allowed to come from your “filthy face.”  Only “this recruit, the recruit or these recruits” would be acceptable…

All this I and “self” stuff…What about Jesus?  What about His finished work?  What about sufficiency in Him?  What about His grace being sufficient?  That is how I?  What about that is WHAT Jesus did?

What about deny self?

What about Follow Christ?

What about No longer I who live but Christ who lives in me?

I immediately thought about everyone who would read what I had just read; to perform a specific spiritual discipline in order to obtain “increase” and assume that this is a call to fast and pray in order to receive increase from God.  There was a reference to this year as “the year of increase.”

I thought about all of the people who would be placing their faith into something that they are physically doing (spiritual discipline, works) in order to receive something that they believe that they need or believe that they should have already and are fretting over their lack of favor/increase.

DISCLAIMER:  CALM DOWN

I am not anti-favor, anti-increase or anti-spiritual disciplines.

In NO WAY is this a slap against spiritual disciplines or anti-bringing requests to God.  The Bible says to bring your requests to God WITH THANKSGIVING AND SUPPLICATION (Philippians 4:6-7).

Also, make note that we are to pray for God’s will to be done…this means that we are stating that if our requests are running in a different direction than what God would will, what His plan and His character would desire for us, then we are effectively asking for anything that is outside of the will, character and plan that God has for our life to NOT come to pass…

Yet we get mad when we don’t get our way…or don’t have our prayer answered the way we like.

We much rather our plans,

our desires,

our will come to pass and it will make us feel righteous, all high, mighty and anointed if God were to give it the green light/blessing.

We do not desire God’s will; we desire our will with the righteous comfort of God’s stamp of approval…so that we are still righteous, amirite?  C’mon…surely I can’t be the only one who has done this in the past…

If you desire to utilize a spiritual discipline as a form of worship rather than a form of magic, then by all means, do not let me or anyone other than God tell you to be silent.  It pleases God and magnifies His glory when we make Him the source of everything in our life (as if He isn’t already).  When we seek His provision we are showing our dependency on God and not on anything or anyone else.

Side Note:  A spiritual discipline that is produced naturally by your new nature in Christ should be what is valued not a bare branch which is what only the old nature of you all by yourself could ever produce.

Good works and spiritual disciplines are good things but not things that WE can fulfill.  Only Jesus can do that…which is why we need Him and when we do works it is out of a nature that we already have in Christ and not a nature that we wish we had (unless we are not in Christ).

In Christ alone will we find complete fulfillment of all the righteousness that we NEED.

Without Christ we have nothing.

Jesus + Something=Nothing  | Jesus + Nothing=Everything

But I have good news for those who may use spiritual disciplines as a magic spell mistakenly thinking that it will conjure up a desire that you have…

Well, first the bad news.  Good news is only good news when you know the bad news.

  • The desires of your human flesh-heart are not desires for God but for sin, more specifically for self. To desire “self” more than God is sin.
  • This nature will lead to a desire that leads to a choice that you will make. The choice that you make comes from the desire of your heart which will be according to your nature.  Does that make sense?
  • The nature of self, the sin nature of self will desire things that are not of God…this nature cannot desire the things that are of God because it is spiritually dead…dead is dead and cannot act…

Good news…

  • If you are in Christ, you have a new nature that will give you new desires that will influence new choices.
  • If you are in Christ, you already have all the increase that you will ever need. God’s grace supplies that in the reality that you are in Christ and that He lives through you.
  • If you are in Christ, every time you choose to follow the desires of the nature of self, God’s grace is and was enough to cover that sin, that mistake. It is finished means “it is finished (John 19:30).”
  • If you are in Christ, there is enough grace to cover you even when you try to use spiritual disciplines like magic. Yup, there is enough grace for that too (GLAWRY BE!)
  • If you are in Christ, resting in Christ is far greater than the anxiety, exhaustion and guilt that the Law gives. The Law gives the desire for you to feel that you NEED to do something in order to receive the Favor of God.
  • If you are in Christ, you do not “need” to do anything for God. He has already taken care of everything in Christ.  It is done.  A done deal.  It’s over.  It is really over…

I believe it was Tullian Tchividjian who I read saying something similar to:  Now that you realize that there is nothing that you “have” to do for God, What do you want to do?

If it is a spiritual discipline then PRAISE GOD for it will be Him alone that gets the glory.

Becoming a Christian, being saved by Jesus is not a means to an end, it IS the end.  A prayer for increase from Christ may appear as a conundrum when in reality there is nothing greater to increase into from Christ.

What happens when your expectations of worldly increase do not come to fruition?  Or worse, what happens when they do?  I can only imagine the damage that prosperity has done to an individual…leaving them to feel without a need for Christ…

Do you want Christ more, relax in Him more, rest in Him more, worship Him more for “increase?”  Has your faith now been placed in something else other than Christ?  Doing that will leave you anxious, guilty, burned out, exhausted and worrisome…I promise!

I know, I’ve seen me do it!

Do you not realize that when given God’s grace you already have everything?  You already have increase?  It is already yours?

In Christ you ALREADY are favored by God.  You already have favor, you already have strength, you already have joy, you already have love… all because you have Christ!  Christ is love!

Have you ever (like me) prayed that God would give you strength?

What if I told you that God IS your strength through Jesus…

There is a difference in praying for God’s portion and praising Him because you know that He IS your portion.

Everything that the Law and every end goal of every spiritual discipline that the Old Covenant hoped to obtain is impossible for anyone to fulfill (apart from Christ) and it was given freely as a gift of grace to sinners in the New Covenant!  Whenever this truth hits me I can’t help but think of the beginning of that old song “Shout”

Weeeeeheeeeehheeheeeeeell……you knowyoumakemewanna…SHOUT

As I was typing this all out and finding my self-righteousness flame I praise God for His grace on me the sinner and then for giving me the thought see and ask;

“How do you know that anyone is thinking what you are thinking?  Maybe you are the only one who is assuming the motive behind what you read.  Make sure that you are not doing anything in order to receive anything that your “self” may want to receive….which surely left unchecked, will desire something more than/different than Christ. Make sure that your desire to write this blog is a desire to glorify God and to share the message of God’s grace through Jesus with others for God’s glory not yours.

What is your motive Zack; to point to Jesus or to point to you?”

Gulp…

I am fearful of that thought for I know the nature of my “self” and I do not trust it’s/my motives.  All I do know is that the message of the grace of the gospel of Jesus Christ has changed my life and has given me so much peace, rest, love and joy.  I truly want and desire for others to experience Jesus in a way that sets them free, which is exactly why He came in the first place (Luke 4:18).

Stop right there…

While looking up that verse

As I am typing this, praise God, look at the verse after 18:

“to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor (Luke 4:19).”

That was Jesus quoting the book of Isaiah……the year of the Lord’s favor….the year of increase IS referring to Jesus.  The year of the Lord’s favor is referring to when Jesus came to earth.

The Lord’s favor IS Jesus.

Therefore we can stop looking for the Lord’s “favor” because WE ALREADY HAVE it if Christ has us.

And then like a flood God’s grace swept over me even more and the tension in my shoulders gave way

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,”     2 Peter 1:3

“For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”    Romans 11:36

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”   2  Corinthians 12:9

It is like fasting and praying for increase when increase was already poured out and dumped all over you…you are covered in favor for you are covered by the blood of Jesus…

When is the year of the Lord’s favor?

Correction…When was the year of the Lord’s favor?

Answer:  The time when Jesus came to Earth to save Sinners…

WOW.

THANK YOU JESUS.

I’ve got nothing after that…I don’t need any more I don’t think…sometimes all we can do is stand in awe and praise God…come to think of it…there is nothing else I’d rather do…