Statement Concerning SCOTUS Decision for FBCPTC

I’m deeply grateful to be a citizen of the United States of America. As one who has traveled outside of our borders, I’m often reminded at how blessed we are as a nation. I consider my citizenship to be one of my most prized possessions and something I must never take for granted. Yet as with anything in life, with great privilege comes great responsibility. As an American, I think most would agree that what makes being an American so special is freedom. But what is freedom? One definition states freedom is the privilege to experience life without constraint.

But freedom stands for something greater than just the right to act as I choose; it stands for securing to everyone an equal opportunity for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Meaning… freedom is more than ‘free to do as I want’ – it requires that I’m free to do as I need to for the sake of others.

The one thing you can’t have unless you are willing to give to others is liberty. William Allen White

As we gather this morning to worship and celebrate the nation in which we so proudly live – we do so in the wake of a landmark decision that stands juxtaposed to the beliefs we hold about God and the Bible as evangelical Christians.

The propitious smile of heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself hath ordained. George Washington

In a 5-to-4 decision, the Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that states can no longer ban same-sex marriage. Disregarding whether as citizens we believe the court has overstepped her boundaries or not – whether we agree or disagree with the ruling of these justices – the moral, ethical, political, and religious landscape of our nation has been greatly affected – and to what end we do not know.

I must confess. On hearing the ruling, I was saddened and ashamed that the future of our nation once again took a monumental step away from God and that it has happened on my watch as I stood by with limited ability to prevent it.

I was too young to prevent the ruling of Roe vs Wade in 1973, but not this time. And while I certainly have shared my heart on the issue of same sex marriage – I fear, along with far too many people, that I did not do enough to uphold the biblical portrait of marriage. I’m reminded of the words of Carl F. H. Henry, “If the church fails to apply the central truth of Christianity to social problems correctly, someone else will do so incorrectly.”

With this said, let me state clearly that the words I am sharing today have come after much thought and prayer. There is no contempt or disgust for anyone in these words; nor am I embittered because of the celebration of a lifestyle that is both contrary and foreign to my convictions and sensitivities. Instead, there is concern for our nation and brokenness over our apparent national proclivity to ignore the Word and will of God for the sake of our own wants and desires. I am sorrowful for what we have brought on ourselves by allowing our penchant for our individual liberties to become the very battering ram used to destroy the sanctity of life, the sanctity of family, and the sanctity of faith.  So no, I do not celebrate this ruling any more than I would celebrate any pattern of behavior I believe is contrary to the will of God and the health of our great nation. No, today as we celebrate our nation for who we have been, I believe a part of our celebration must include prayerful mourning and repentance as we look to the future and our responsibility to live as one nation under God.

At the same time, I also recognize that many good, even God-fearing people are caught in the cross-fire of this cultural decision. Even this week after the decision, a dear friend in the faith wrote to me over her concerns for my gentle, yet direct response to the Supreme Court ruling. As I wrote to my friend who finds the ruling a positive decision, I realized even more how challenging this issue is for our nation and for the church.

For while I do not discount that people genuinely love each other no matter their sexual orientation, I believe the Bible is crystal clear in Romans 1:24-27 that homosexuality, like adultery and formication, lying, stealing, or murder, is a deviation from God’s will and design. Yet, as with all people who desire a lifestyle contrary to Scripture, we find a way for our actions to be accepted by man while we attempt to cast the Creator God off into a corner so that we can do as we please without conscience. I agree with Dr. Billy Graham that, “Our society strives to avoid any possibility of offending anyone – except God.”

As such, while any sin might become social-ably acceptable, politically correct, and in this instance, now legally binding – it does not mean that God accepts or approves such activity – He does not! Be assured, while five justices might have given their approval, and while even some churches and church leaders have offered their assent, God has not and will never be accepting or approving of any sin. This does not make God any less loving, but if man’s ideology could change the Divine landscape, it would most certainly make Him not holy. Yet, because God is immutably holy, His love penetrates the darkness in our culture in a relentless pursuit to draw us into a saving relationship with Him. It is true, God loves everyone, but it is equally critical we understand that loving someone does not mean accepting or condoning their behavior when it is contrary to the heart of God. It is an incorrect idea that the Holy Creator would accept our sin and give us a pass for our unrighteous activity.  God accepts no one in light of their sin – no matter the sin – this is the reason for the cross. His acceptance of us is based solely on His amazing grace and nothing else. Our sin can only usher in the wrath of God because He is holy, holy, holy. This means that our sin cost God everything to make it possible for any person to be reconciled back to God.

With this said, I must state that I am not a condemner in the area of same sex marriage, because while my sinfulness is not in this area, I am still a fellow sinner who has fortunately been rescued by God’s grace; but neither am I a condoner. I am a follower of Christ called to love people to the truth of the Gospel and to the love of Christ. So yes, I’m heart-broken over the depravity in our culture and the absolute disregard for God’s truth and will. And I’m concerned for the future ramifications this will have on our nation, the ministry of the Gospel, and religious freedom. But at the same time, I’m equally heart-broken over a young man walking into a church to execute a group of people because of their skin color. I’m burdened over the protection of the unborn child in his mother’s womb.

So where does this leave us? Where do we begin? By what standard do we seek and make our stand? The simple truth is depending on the standard one uses for truth – the Bible, the laws of the land, or their own conscience – it will determine where a person falls on all issue morality.

With regard to this recent ruling by the Supreme Court deciding in favor of what God calls sin doesn’t change God’s Word any more than if they had ruled that lying was no longer a sin. Sin is sin – no matter what you or I think. Thankfully, God so love all of us sinners so much that He gave His Son to die on a rugged cross to provide for us that what could not obtain for ourselves – grace (Romans 5:8). Grace is a gift we do not deserve and cannot earn for ourselves – it is an act of mercy generously imbued by a merciful God. As a result, it is never to be used as a license to sin and rebel from God (Romans 6), but an invitation to have a relationship with Him.

As it pertains to same sex marriage and the practice of homosexuality, let us all be aware and assured that the Bible is not silent about such decisions and that God’s grace is sufficient and available to rescue and restore any person given to such activity. And while I am concerned for such individuals, my greater concern in this decision is not solely for the individuals involved but for our nation as a whole. Because alongside the clearest explanation of the sin of homosexuality in Romans 1:24–27 stands the indictment of God not just of the action but also of the approval and institutionalization of homosexuality. Paul’s words express that while people know intuitively that homosexual acts (along with gossip, slander, insolence, haughtiness, boasting, faithlessness, heartlessness, ruthlessness) are sin, “they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them” (Romans 1:29–32). Sadly, this is what the Supreme Court determined this past week – knowing these deeds are wrong, by a 5 to 4 vote – they approved those who practice them, and in the process, influenced our nation in a direction contrary to God’s Word.  I think John Piper spoke well to the concern of this decision.

My sense is that we do not realize what a calamity is happening around us. The new thing – new for America, and new for history – is not homosexuality. That brokenness has been here since we were all broken in the fall of man. (And there is a great distinction between the orientation and the act — just like there is a great difference between my orientation to pride and the act of boasting.) What’s new is not even the celebration and approval of homosexual sin. Homosexual behavior has been exploited, and reveled in, and celebrated in art, for millennia. What’s new is normalization and institutionalization. This is the new calamity.

As believers who understand the holy justice of a righteous God, we can never forget that all sin carries a price. All sin carries a tidal wave of pain known as the wages of sin. Meaning all sin, whether immediate or future carries its own misery no matter the defiance. In Colossians 3:5–6, the Apostle Paul wrote that on account of these sins God’s wrath is coming.

As Christians we must grasp this truth because we see it in the Scriptures, but also because we have tasted the bitterness of our own sins and the chastening of our loving Father. The simple reality is no one can escape the truth that we shall reap what we sow. Thus, instead of celebrating and institutionalizing our sins we should be weeping over them.

Yes, our society appears to have taken a seismic shift in the wrong direction this week. The decision of the Supreme Court has the potential to leave the church and our communities anxious and troubled. And certainly, while those of us who hold to traditional marriage have a right to be concerned, I am not so certain we have need to be in despair. Yes, the highest court has redefined marriage. And for those who cannot accept this redefinition of marriage as a matter of morality and ultimate truth, we are being forced to acknowledge that the laws of this nation concerning marriage will indeed be defined against our will. Furthermore, in spite of our objections, we have no choice but to acknowledge the authority of the Supreme Court in matters of law, while never forgetting there is a Law exceeding the laws of man and that is the Law of God. This requires we embrace our calling to be good citizens and neighbors as we contend for marriage as a gift from God.

Yet we are to do so under the God’s authority and with respect for all people never forgetting the Supreme Court can do many things as it pertains to the laws of our nation, but they have no jurisdiction over Christ.

So let us not… be anxious for anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6,7

Likewise, let us never forget that God is still on the throne. He is still the sovereign Savior and His love endures forever – and to everyone.  Just as the prophet Daniel reminds us:

He needs no counselor; seeks no advice. He is equally everywhere. He never wearies, sleeps or struggles. He has never been confused, thwarted or contested. He reigns supreme over every detail of the universe. “He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him, ‘What have you done?’ Daniel 4:35

As Max Lucado so eloquently stated in his response to this decision, “God is still God and His word is still sure. His sovereign grace never changes. Everything else may change. But He doesn’t.”

So let us never forget that the more God-less and anti-Christian a culture might become the more imperative it is that God’s people live for the cause of Christ by exemplifying His love and grace to others to point them to the only One who can truly transform their lives. And make no mistake, this will require we respond to all people not out of our anger or frustration, but out of His grace and forgiveness. God has never intended that we treat what He calls sin with any other form of sin no matter how well intended this sin might be.  As Christ-followers, we are called to be His hands, feet, and voice of love, grace, and truth. Furthermore, we can all be assured that God does not need for us to be His hand of wrath and justice. So instead of turning away from the challenges or turning away people whose ideas are indifferent to our own, let’s determine to live and model the life and teachings of Christ by loving them without compromising the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Or as my friend Marty Duren reminded us this week:

We cannot forget that the church in the first century did not “turn the world upside down” by pointing out every single cultural flaw. It did so by bearing witness to Jesus and living counter to that culture. The early church has demonstrated for the modern church that the Way, God’s Way, is the better way.

I’m reminded of the words of French writer Alexis de Tocqueville, after visiting America in 1831. He said, “I sought for the greatness of the USA in her commodious harbors, her ample rivers, her fertile fields, and boundless forests – and it was not there. I sought for it in her rich mines, her vast world commerce, her public school system, and in her institutions of higher learning – and it was not there. I looked for it in her democratic Congress and her matchless Constitution – and it wasn’t there. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame w/ righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great b/c America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great!”

With this said, let me call all of us to take a renewed stand for Christ. Let us not lose heart or grow weary in doing and pursuing good. Instead – let us be steadfast, immoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord knowing that our labor will not be in vain.

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The Surrender of Worship

The highest calling and privilege of man is to bring honor and glory to the Creator through a life of worship.  This is the very reason we were created – to put a smile on God’s face! But what is worship? I have come to believe worship is giving all who I am to all who He is to position Him in His rightful place on the throne of my life.  It requires giving my mind’s attention, heart’s affection and life’s ambition fully to the Lord.

Surrendered

Surrendered

In 1 Chronicles 16:29, we find an amazing passage calling us to the heart of worship.

For great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods.  For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the LORD made the heavens. Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and joy in his dwelling place. Ascribe to the LORD, families of nations, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength, ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name.  Bring an offering and come before him; worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness. 

As I reflect on this amazing passage of ascription to the Lord, I am struck by the phrase, “bring an offering.” I am reminded that authentic worship requires I bring something to the dance – and what I am to bring is me as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1-2).  My very life is to be an act of worship.  So whether I am gathering with other believers to worship or spending time alone with God in solitude, I am called to live for the single purpose of putting a smile on God’s face.

Unfortunately, I fear we have moved into an era where we have substituted worship at church for the true worship of God. We have mistakenly exchanged singing songs and getting lost in the emotion of the moment for life submission to the heart and purposes of God.  This is not to say the elements of the corporate gathering are frivolous, but that they are only one dimension of meaningful and fulfilling worship.    

As I have searched the Scripture, I have come to believe the activity of worship must first occur in solitude before it can ever be warranted in public.  A worship leader friend once asked a powerful question in the corporate worship setting I have not soon forgotten – “Have you brought your worship with you today.”  This question pierced me because I have long understood that worship is not something we do on Sunday morning for 30 minutes to music; it is a disposition of surrender in every aspect of our lives 24/7/365.  

To be a contributor in the corporate worship setting requires that we have been a private worshipper the other days of the week.  In reflecting on Psalm 51, David reminds us that God does not delight in our manufactured offerings but in a broken and contrite heart.  What I have discovered in my own experience is when I worship privately, God washes over me to humble and teach me about how great He really is and how He desire to live and move in and through me. This occurs because in private worship there is no false pretense – it is just you and God.  In private worship we draw near to the Father to become the living sacrifice he longs for us to become publicly.

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Crucified with Christ

“We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified. “But if, in seeking to be justified in Christ, we Jews find ourselves also among the sinners, does not that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! If I rebuild what I destroyed, then I really would be a lawbreaker. “For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God.  I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law,Christ died for nothing!” Galatians 2:15-21

Surrendered

Surrendered

What does it mean to be crucified with Christ?  It means that through faith I have surrendered my life to Christ through His sacrifice and as a result I have died and the life I live no longer belongs to me but to Him.  These words of Paul require a faith response to the satisfactory atonement of Christ that requires the breaking and collapse of my independence brought about by my own hands to the complete abandonment of my life to the supremacy of the Christ.  It is coming to the realization through the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit that no one can do this for me, but rather that I must make a volitional choice to decrease so that Christ in me might increase (see John 3:30) as I accept the reality that God demonstrated His love for me in that while I was a sinner, Christ died for me (see Romans 5:8). 

To be certain, God may bring us to this point point of revelation 365 times a year, but He will not push us through it. He will always requires we make a willful act of surrender through faith. Such a faith transaction requires the breaking of the hard outer layer of our individual independence from God, and the liberating of our lives and nature into oneness with Him.  Quite literally, He requires that we choose to set aside our life agendas and ideas of followship in exchange for our utmost loyalty to Jesus. And once this act has occurred, there is no possibility of misunderstanding — our lives belong to Him for we have been bought with a price...” (see 1 Corinthians 6:20)  

With this mind, has that breaking of our independence come? If not, then we must own up to the reality that all our banter is but a religious sham until our surrender is complete.  so we must ask ourselves — Have I given up? Have I surrendered to Him?  Have I placed no conditions whatsoever as to how the brokenness of my life will come?  When I reach such a point, immediately the reality of the supernatural identification with Christ can take place and the witness of God’s Spirit will be unmistakable.

The simple reality is that the passion and vitality of following Christ comes from deliberately signing away the perceived rights of the flesh and by becoming a bond-servant to Jesus. Until then, our lives will serve to still arm God’s calling and commission. For until surrender occurs through His death on the cross in me, my life will seek only for “my” will to be done instead of for “His” will to be done.  So we all must ask if we are allowing Him to help Himself to us, or if we more concerned with our own ideas of what we are going to be?

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Heal Our Land

When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place. I have chosen and consecrated this temple so that my Name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there. 2 Chronicles 7:13-16

Heal Our Land

Heal Our Land

In recent years that has no doubt been a growing concern for our nation and for the direction we appear to be headed. Nearly daily, I hear my citizens comment on the need for some kind of intervention to turn our nation in a new and better direction to bring hope and healing. Recently, as I was speaking with a friend, he asked me a simple question — What is the key to experiencing the healing power and presence of God in our nation?  Immediately, my mind remembered 2 Chronicles 7:14 and a quote from Andrew Murray that reminds us that the key revival is having a genuine humility and desperation before God.  Andrew Murray wrote.

Humility is to expect nothing, to wonder at nothing that is done to me, to feel nothing done against me. It is to be at rest when nobody praises me, and when I am blamed or despised. It is to have a blessed home in the Lord, where I can go in and shut the door, and kneel to my Father in secret, and am at peace as in a deep sea of calmness, when all around and above is trouble.”

I have long believed the key to experiencing the promises of God is living out God’s prescription recorded in 2 Chronicles 7:14. The call is to humble of ourselves before God and to walk free from sin.  Equally important in this commission is to “seek God’s face.” In a sense, the humbling of ourselves and turning from sin are the byproducts, or end results, of coming to know God as He is by meditating upon His character and attributes. To “seek God’s face” is to meditate upon His sovereignty, His holiness, His power, His wisdom and His love.

A unique quality of the disciples of the first century church was they believed mightily in an exalted view of Christ as God. They believed nothing was too great for Him. Absolutely nothing was beyond God’s ability and scope.  As One who is sovereign, omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. God can do anything – including heal our hearts, or homes, and our nation.

As we enter into the July 4th holiday, will you submit and surrender your trust to Him today?  Will you humble yourself and pray, seek His face, and turn from your sinful ways? God is waiting to enter into our lives to work in a mighty way. I believe God wants to move not just in our lives, but also in our communities and in our country.

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No Other gods

Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:34-40

You shall have no other gods before me. Exodus 20:3

no other gods

no other gods

It does not get any clearer – every heart has a throne and every throne has a god.  The question is which (G)god is sitting on the throne of your life?  As Moses etched these words into the stone tablets I’m certain He understood that all the other commands hinge on the first one.  This is the BIG one.  Get this one right and everything else has a chance to fall into the right place but get it wrong and your life will be ruled by anything and everything that seems pleasing to you.

So we have a choice to make.  We can put Christ on the throne and serve Him or we can put someone or something else on the throne (most likely “ME”) and serve self.  But make no mistake this choice will have a ripple effect not only for today, but for all of eternity.  Why?  Because ultimately, either we are subjecting ourselves to God or we’re subjecting ourselves to God’s enemy.  Thus, like Joshua, we must choose this day who we are going to serve – the gods of this world or the Creator God of the universe.

So what does it mean to place God on the throne?  It means that everything we say and do is under the rule and reign of His kingdom.  It means that every thought and decision we make is performed in light of His purpose and will.  Our single ambition in life is to please Him in every way and to bring honor and glory to His name.  We truly desire to seek first His Kingdom and righteousness as we submit to His calling and serve His mission.

And what does such a life look like… it looks just like JESUS!

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Too Big for Your Britches

Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down,asked a favor of him. “What is it you want?” he asked. She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.” “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them. “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?” “We can,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.” When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers. Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”          Matthew 20:20-18

Pride

Pride

What is it inside a man that gives him the desire to see his name in lights?  Lately, it would seem that everyone wants their 5 seconds of fame (just watch American Idol during the audition stage).  But even among the ranks of those who follow Christ, there seems to be a great desire to become famous before men.  Why else do we have magazines reporting the top 100 fastest growing churches?  They might be growing fast but are they accomplishing the Great Commission?  I ask this because drawing a crowd and making disciples are two completely different things.  Sadly, I know of several men in ministry whose greatest desire is to have their name on that list with the hopes that they might get to speak at the next big conference.  Now, I’m not against growing churches who are reaching people for the cause of Christ, but when we start bragging about what we are doing, then something has gone awry.  Jesus does not measure success by nickels and noses but by transformed lives that are in the business of transforming lives.  In this text, Jesus reminds us that those who will be great in His kingdom will lay down their lives to give life whether or not they ever see their name in lights. 

I’m reminded of a story I heard about Billy Graham that I think makes Jesus’ point.  Rev. Graham was invited to speak on a panel and happened to be the first to arrive.  Instead of sitting backstage, Rev. Graham decided to go on stage and take his seat.  As he arrived to his seat and began to sit down, the people in the audience arose to their feet to give Rev. Graham a standing ovation.  Completely unaware that the audience was applauding for him, Rev. Graham stood up and started clapping as he turned to see who was walking onto the stage.  It never crossed Rev. Graham’s mind that the people we applauding for him.

Once we realize Jesus has served us even to the depths of our meagerness, our selfishness, and our sin, nothing we encounter from others will be able to exhaust our determination to serve others for His sake.  Genuine humility before God is the base principle of ministry.

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Under the Hood

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive (hurtful) way in me, and lead me the way everlasting.  Psalm 139:23-24

Clunker

Clunker

This passage has long been a favorite text I have prayed and considered.  Even today, I often pray this passage before I speak in preparation of being a clean vessel for God’s service.  But the truth is this verse should be a part of every believer’s daily life and spiritual vernacular.  Our thoughts and expressions should say, “God, look deep within my soul, at the inner workings of my heart and mind, and reveal to me anything that is not working appropriately, and either repair it or give me the courage and ability to address it.  Then take me out for a test drive to make sure that everything in me is in working order for You.”

There was a time I had the wonderful privilege of driving clunkers. On one particular occasion, I had to take my beat up jalopy in for service.  Not surprisingly, after a thorough evaluation of my car and a good laugh, the mechanic made several recommendations of items that needed to be repaired.  Needless to say, the cost of the repairs was of greater value than the value of my car.  Unable to make such an investment, I asked him to prioritize the list and then paid him to fix what absolutely needed to be repaired so that my car would be safe and road worthy.

I think we often do the same sort of thing with God.  We simply do not want to pay the price to have everything fixed in our lives so that our lives might function well for His glory (it would cost us too much to surrender).  As a result, we ask and allow God to only tinker with those areas that absolutely need repair so that our lives don’t fall apart and we are not exposed for who we really are on the inside.  We are looking for a band aid repair when we really need an overhaul. And of course, once the minimal repairs take place, we take our lives out for a spin until we need to come back in for additional repairs.

Now I cannot speak for anyone but myself, but there has to be a better way.  And I think there is a better – higher way! My mechanic recommended a regular maintenance plan. He suggested a regular, scheduled time for an oil change, tire rotation, belt adjustment and tune up.  He even explained the value and protection of such a plan. With that being said, much like with my car, I think we all could use a regular spiritual maintenance plan – and that is exactly what a daily time of solitude and introspection with God is intended to be.  It is a time in which I get under the hood of my life with God and tinker around to make sure that my life is firing on all cylinders with Him, my family, my employment, my ministry and so on.  It is a time to get honest with myself before God so that my life might participate in something greater than myself and of eternal importance.

God created all of us for so much more than what the majority of us are experiencing. And thankfully, He will never relent is pursuing us to pursue Him.  If we will stop long enough to allow Him into our lives, He will shape and mold us into the person He created us to be. 

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It is FINISHED

16 So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. 17 Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). 18 There they crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle. 19 Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: Jesus of Nazareth, the king of the Jews.20 Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek. 21 The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews.” 22 Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.” 23 When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom. 24 “Let’s not tear it,” they said to one another. “Let’s decide by lot who will get it.” This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled that said, “They divided my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.”So this is what the soldiers did. 25 Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” 27 and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home. 28 Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” 29 A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. 30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Can you imagine the scene? A Roman executioner lays a crossbeam behind Jesus as two soldiers thrust Christ to the ground quickly penning each arm against the splintered beam by placing their knees on the inside of his elbows. With the blood-drenched crown of thorns pressing against His torn scalp, the executioner probes Jesus’ wrist to find the little hollow spot – and once found, he presses a square-cut iron nail to each wrist. Then, with hammer raised, pounds the nail-heads with such force it rips through flesh nailing the Christ to the beam. Once set, the soldiers work in unison by grabbing each side of the beam to lift this man heavenward until His feet are just off the ground – immediately causing His body to writhe in even greater pain as gravity began to inflict its torment. Then, once the crossbeam was set firmly, the executioner kneels before the cross as the other two soldiers hurry to help with each one taking hold of a leg at the calf. The ritual was to nail the right foot over the left. Now this was likely the most difficult part of the work – for if the feet were pulled too far downward, then the prisoner would die too quickly. But not to fear, for over time, the Romans had learned to push the feet upward on the cross, so the condemned man could lean on the nails and stretch himself upward to breathe – thus procrastinating his torture and prolonging his life.

Chuck Swindoll describes the likely torment.

Excruciating pain accompanied every upward push for breath and every downward release from fatigue. Each movement cut deeper into bone and tendons and raw muscle. Fever inevitably set in, inflaming the wounds and creating an insatiable thirst. Waves of hallucinations drifted the victim in and out of consciousness. And in time, flies and other insects found their way to the open wounds. At this point, Jesus knew He had accomplished everything the Father had sent Him to do. To fulfill one last Scripture, He said, “I am thirsty.” A jar full of sour wine was standing there; so they put a sponge full of the sour wine upon a branch of hyssop, and brought it up to His mouth. When Jesus therefore had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And He bowed His head, and gave up His spirit.

Simply stated – the cross is none other than the most sinister and painful way to save the world.  And yet it was God’s way to atone for sin. God’s holiness and justice made the cross an absolute necessity for the forgiveness of sin. Each and every event of the crucifixion was required so that Jesus might be unmistakably identified as the promised Messiah and the single solution to the problem of sin. In fact, no fewer than (20) Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled within the 24 hours leading up to Jesus’ death – many of which coincide with Psalm 22.

These last three words Jesus spoke that glorious day are the heart of the good news. Matthew and Mark testify that Jesus proclaimed them not as a word of defeat but as a shout of victory – It is FINISHED! Jesus exclaimed a cry of victory in the hour of seeming defeat. Personally, I imagine Jesus words reverberated much like Mel Gibson’s words in Braveheart – when at death’s door, William Wallace cried out “FREEDOM!” for in His death, Jesus had completed in full all the Father had given to Him. He left nothing undone – leading us to freedom from sin into an eternal and earthly relationship with God.

The phrase – it is finished(tetelestai) means that it has been and will forever be accomplished. It signifies the absolute completion of the work of Christ to make full atonement for the redemption of the creation – a declaration of victory. The word denotes the intentional carrying out of an assigned task, calling, or Divine obligation. Jesus knew His hour was completed and the consequences of His work would be enduring because the debt of sin was now PAID IN FULL!

Max Lucado expressed this well.

The history-long plan of redeeming man was finished. The message of God to man was finished. The works done by Jesus as a man on earth were finished. The task of selecting and training ambassadors was finished. The job was finished. The song had been sung. The blood had been poured. The sacrifice had been made. The sting of death had been removed. It was over – paid in full.

So what does it mean that Jesus paid it all and that it is finished? First, it means that the mission was fulfilled and sin was atoned.

In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purificationfor sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

It is Finished

It is Finished

Jesus provided the purification for sin. Sin was atoned. Our ransom was paid in full. And now forgiveness is available to all who will believe in the Son. Read again the last part of this passage — After he had provided purificationfor sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. The Greek aorist tense indicates that Jesus accomplished purification for sins once and for all. But Jesus death did not just make it possible, but effectual.

What does effectual mean? It means that on the Cross, while Jesus died to set all men free from sin and redeem the entire fallen creation to Himself – he only secured the forgiveness of sins for all who actually believe and seek His forgiveness. Thus, while forgiveness is available to all, it will only be experienced by those who turn from their sins to Christ by grace through faith. Purification is for the repentant. For catharsis to take place our stain of sin has to be washed by His blood. This requires His work on the cross to be met with our faith in His grace.

But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleansesus from all sin. 1 John 1:7

Jesus paid it all – and all to Him I owe.  Sin has left a crimson stain – He washed it white as snow.

This is how God showed his love to us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.1 Jn. 4:9-10

Second, His death and victory of sin satisfied the justice of the Law as God’s wrath was appeased.

Don not think I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.

The issue of the Law has always been difficult for people to understand. Whether it is by nature we think we have to meet a certain standard to earn God’s favor or maybe we think the way into God’s heart is by keeping the rules – the Law has long vexed the heart of man. Yet the intent of the Law was never to save but to redirect every person to the redemptive grace of God found in Christ.  It was to establish a standard to reveal to all people they were sinners in need of a Savior.

For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing! Galatians 2:16-21

Thus Jesus did not come to get rid of the Law but to complete where the Law fell short.

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. Romans 3:23-26

The Law condemned us all exposing us for who we really are – sinners in need of God’s amazing grace. But through the finished work of Christ on the Cross – to those who believe and trust in Christ for the forgiveness of their sins – God’s wrath has been appeased and the Law of sin and death has been satisfied through His atoning death.

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, b/c through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do b/c it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:1-4

Finally, through Christ finishing the atonement and satisfying God’s wrath, the enemy was defeated and Jesus delivered the deathblow to Satan.

So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, “Cursed are you above all livestock and all wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” Genesis 3:14-15

From the very beginning, since the Fall, God promised Satan of his defeat.  And at the Cross, Jesus delivered on that promise. And the result is not only that Satan is defeated in the future, but that we too now have the power to overcome the wiles of the devil.  

Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. Hebrews 2:14-15

Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. 1 John 3:7-8

So as you enter into this resurrection weekend, do so in the full knowledge that IT IS FINISHED! And let us never forget that it is by His stripes alone that we are healed.  For we trample the blood of the Son of God if we think we are forgiven because we are sorry for our sins. Why? It is because the only explanation for God’s forgiveness and for the unfathomable depth of His forgetting of our sins is the death of Jesus. Our repentance is merely the outcome of our personal realization of the atonement which He has worked out for us. Thus, it does not matter who or what we are; there is absolute reinstatement into God by the death of Christ and by no other way – not because Jesus pleads for us, but because He died for us. Therefore, His grace is not earned, but accepted (by grace through faith). And as a result, all the pleading which deliberately refuses to recognize the Cross is of no avail; it is battering at a door other than the one that Jesus has opened. So know this truth. God does not pretend that we are all right when we are all wrong. His single solution to the problem of our sin is the atoning sacrifice of Christ on the cross as our propitiation whereby God, through the death of Jesus, makes an unholy man holy. So let us never forget that the greatest note of triumph ever sounded in the ears of a startled universe was that sounded on the Cross of Christ— “IT IS FINISHED!” (John 19:30).

These three words are the final word in the redemption of humankind. 

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Tough Decisions Ahead

So Pilate decided to grant their demand. He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, the one they asked for, and surrendered Jesus to their will. As the soldiers led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus. A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him.  Luke 23:24-27

Tough Decisions

Tough Decisions

 “And he surrendered Jesus to their will.”  Have you ever wondered what Pilate would do if he were to get a do-over — a mulligan? Understanding the context of Jesus being falsely accused, I find Pilate’s words to be quite haunting.  Yet much like Pilate, there will be times when we will be faced with situations where we will have to make a tough decision to follow Christ or give Him up. From a human perspective, Pilate was in a no win situation – if he stood with Jesus, it would likely bring devastating personal consequences; yet if he stood against Christ, he would have to live with the guilt and consequences of falsely condemning an innocent man. History reports that he wilted under the pressure to comply and chose the road most traveled instead of the road least traveled.  He chose what was easy and convenient instead of choosing to stand with and for Christ.

When we are faced with a similar spiritual decision of followship, what do we tend to choose? In choosing to obey God, we can be certain it is going to be costly to someone. But what exactly is the real price of followship? Oswald Chambers reminds us, “If we are in love with our Lord, obedience does not cost us anything— it is a delight. But to those who do not love Him, our obedience does cost a great deal. If we obey God, it will mean that other people’s plans will be upset.”  The simple truth is that following Christ is costly, but not following Christ is even more costly.

In following Christ, we will all have encounters where we will have to make a choice regarding what we are going to do with Jesus. Sometimes the challenge is going to come from without, while more often than not, the greatest challenge is going to come from within in the face of temptation and sin.  Understanding this reality, we must be vigilant in our faith knowing that our human inclination all too often is to dictate to God what the results should be – and what would be acceptable to our will. Maybe this is why Dietrich Bonhoeffer once offered a penetrating statement regarding this challenge. He wrote, “When a man encounters Jesus he must do one of two things:  Either he must die, or he must put Christ to death.”   Either we will die to our will and embrace His will, or we will embrace of will and put Christ to death.  Faith in Christ is a precious gift we must never surrender to the will of others no matter how much our faith decisions might affect the lives of people around us.

When we choose to follow Christ, while it will be a joy for us, our choice to follow will impact the lives around us.  It will affect our spouses and children, our friends and colleagues, and even perfect strangers whose paths we cross. Why? Because when a person abandons their life to Christ, they no longer live according to an agenda of convenience or popular opinion, they live for a Person and cause greater than themselves.  As such, we carry around in us the life and ministry of Christ which causes other people to cross paths with Jesus.  And even while we are not Christ ourselves, the Spirit of God in us, living through us, supernaturally interrupts and disturbs the lives of others around us.  It cannot be helped if we all living holy abandoned to the Savior. 

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Seeing God

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were Seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” Then one of the Seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” Isaiah 6:1-8

Seeing God

Seeing God

Have you ever seen God?  Let me ask a different question.  Have you ever seen the wind?  Obviously we cannot see the invisible, but we can see the effects of the invisible when it blows through.  For Isaiah, his life was forever changed when the holy, glory of God filled the Temple.  His life was shaken to the foundations because of his close encounter with God.

Sometimes I’m afraid the modern churchgoer has seemingly lost their wonder and hunger for God.  It appears as if we have become afraid of the possibility of seeing God because He might ask us to give up something we hold dear or entertain an activity that might pull us out of our comfort zone.  Unfortunately, I hear too many stories of professing Christians exchanging the values of God for the values of culture — and we are all susceptible.  Sadly, I think we are more desperate for the American dream than we are for God’s will and commission. For far too many, we have seemingly lost our way in the hope that God will bless us in the midst of our consumption so long as we tip our hats, put in our few token hours of service, and chip in a few bucks when the plate is passed. But God is looking for so much more.  He is looking for a life that is fully surrendered to Him alone.

I would submit that too many churches and far too many Christians have lost the wonder of God.  We are not desperate for Him. In our fear of what might be required of us, we have settled for the convenient and the comfortable and have attempted to redefine “following Christ” by redefining what it means to be blessed.  We have even designed and attended churches that afford us anonymity with little to no accountability so that we can live as we desire and satisfy our religious notion without ever surrendering our hearts to the Father. Yet we can never forget that faith in Christ is not based in consumerism but in abandoned surrender to the Creator. Jesus did not lay down His life for our religious entertainment but for spiritual well-being. So thank goodness God has not acquiesced to our neo-Pharisee-ism.  And neither has He dumbed-down the Gospel nor the expectations He has for His people.  Instead, He still moves to bring us to the end of ourselves so that we might discover that Jesus is all we need.

So let’s make our prayer to see God for who He is as holy, holy, holy.  Let’s ask Him to help us see ourselves for who we are in light of who He is so that we might just rediscover what it means to be desperate for Him.

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