Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The New Martha's

The cry is ringing out all over Christendom. It is time for Christians to get busy. No more sitting around listening to the teachings of the apostles (Acts 2:42), no more growing spiritually fat on sermon after sermon (1 Cor. 1:21), no more exclusionary salvation by faith in Christ alone (Acts 4:12); it’s time for Christians (or perhaps I should more accurately say “Christ followers”) to stop going to church and to start being the church!

The new Martha’s are aggressive in their pursuit of works righteousness, not content to quietly do their good deeds in secret, they insist upon having their rewards now; on letting not only the right hand know what the left is doing, but in declaring that every hand must see and participate or risk being relegated to the scrap heap of irrelevance.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against doing good deeds; as the fruit of the Holy Spirit is produced in our lives through relationship with Christ that love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control is going to find expression in all sorts of wonderful ways. Husbands are going to be more loving of their wives, employees are going to be more conscientious as they do their jobs “unto the Lord” rather than from selfish ambition, widows are going to be treated with love and kindness, the sick are going to be visited and yes Martha, dinners will be served to the hungry and homeless. (Read: Jesus and His entourage)

The trouble with the new Martha’s is the same one that existed in Jesus’ day at the home of the original Martha. Not content to joyfully serve the Lord in the capacity they have chosen, like their hard working ancestor they feel compelled to criticize - even to call into question the very salvation - of the Mary’s who know and love the Lord and treasure every moment of rest, sitting and learning at His feet.

Now as then the Martha’s complain to the Lord, - now as then the answer remains the same,

"Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!"
"Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her." (Luke 10:40-42)

Monday, November 17, 2008

It's All Him!

In the first chapter of Acts Jesus tells His still bewildered followers that they are not to rush right out to work on His behalf; rather they are to gather and wait in Jerusalem until they have received the promised Holy Spirit. It seems they are to be baptized in a manner that has not been experienced until now in the history of humanity and that that this new baptism of fire would in some way result in their empowerment to “be” His witnesses in the whole world. Does this seem a little strange?

The job has been completed, the cross has been endured, redemption has been secured, the redeemer has risen from the dead, and all that is left is for the story to be told; yet even this is not left up to human effort. “Wait until you are empowered”.

The New Testament teaches that through faith in Christ we are reborn and that in this reborn state we actually become the temple of the Holy Spirit. God Himself comes and takes up residence in us. Think about that. Is there anything that you could possibly have done to make yourself worthy of this honour?

While we were still lost in the deep darkness of our sin, Jesus came to seek us out and to save us from the coming wrath of God. Without any acknowledgement or assistance from us He died on the cross and took upon Himself the penalty for our misdeeds and in so doing bought us back or redeemed us from our sorry condition of utter slavery. All that is required of us is faith, is to believe in the sent One, and even the faith for that is given to us by Him.

Why are we so intent on turning Christianity into a religion that requires human effort for validation?

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. – Galatians 5:22-25

The Spirit of God lives in us and as we “keep in step” with Him or as we walk with Him the evidence of His presence within naturally becomes apparent; just like the apples on an apple tree, and this empowers us to spread the good news.

Apple trees do not work hard to produce apples; as long as the connection to the source is secure they just naturally appear. The same is true for Christians and the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

Ignore the purveyors of works based righteousness and simple enjoy walking with God. This is not an ego-centric religion; Christianity is not about what we do Christianity from beginning to end is about what Jesus does, that’s why He’s known as the Alpha and the Omega.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Really Inconvenient Truth

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

When I was kid I took religion class once a week all through grade school. The Catholic kids; because there were so many more of them, had their class in the gymnasium, which for some reason seemed like way more fun to me. My Protestant classmates and I were relegated to one of the larger classrooms which made the long hour seem like the last thing I wanted – more schooling.
I can remember sitting at my desk fidgeting, bored beyond comprehension, searching for anything that might help the time pass. My standard issue “Good News Bible” was good for a few minutes of diversion with its stick men drawings of fishermen and farmers but honestly most of the lessons were wasted on me if recollection is any indicator. I can remember the day the Gideon’s visited and presented me with a little red New Testament and Psalms (I still have it and the sinner’s prayer is signed in my wobbly grade five signature). For some unknown reason I can remember the day the lesson was on the Good Samaritan, and I can remember being taught the Ten Commandments which to my shame (and most likely somewhere out there; Padre Blacks stern disapproval) I still have not committed to memory.

That first commandment always struck me as being a little odd, unnecessary even. Why would anyone want a god other than the true God? In my mind I pictured some poor misguided individual bowing down before a lifeless carved image while all along the creator of heaven and earth could be plainly seen by anyone with the least good sense.

In Mark 10; when an anxious young seeker approaches Him with an urgent question, Jesus brings this first commandment a little closer to our modern reality.

As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. "Good teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
"Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: 'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honour your father and mother.'"
"Teacher," he declared, "all these I have kept since I was a boy."
– Mark 10:17-20

This young man, it seems, has been doing a pretty good job of keeping the law; but is he “in”? Will he inherit eternal life? He’s been good since he was a boy, but is it enough? Why does he feel that something is lacking?

That’s when Jesus does something that no respectable church growth trained modern church leader would ever consider doing. He lays down the law... and offends a seeker!

Jesus looked at him and loved him. "One thing you lack," he said. "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."
At this the man's face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.
Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!"

Jesus looked at him... and loved him. Isn’t that just what we would expect? Gentle Jesus meek and mild, looking lovingly at this eager lad? What comes next though is the opposite of what we would do or what we would expect Jesus to do.
He lays down the law.
He confronts this young man with a truth that crushes him. He hears what Jesus says and his face falls, he turns and walks away sad. Why? Why would Jesus do such a thing? This is not the formula for growing a successful ministry. This is not in keeping with addressing the felt needs in the community. This is harsh, this turns people off, and this certainly seems anything but loving. So, what is going on here?

Jesus is using the law to do what the law is meant to do.

Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. – Romans 3:19-20

We are supposed to be so crushed by the demands of the law, made so conscious of our sin, that we realize our need of Christ.

This rich young man is feeling good about his performance on commandments 5 though 10, so much so that he is completely overlooking his complete violation of commandment numbers 1 and 2. This young man has a small “g” god that is more important to him than the one true GOD. He loves his money and he cannot part with it... not even when presented with the opportunity to follow the Messiah in His earthly ministry.

This whole exchange blows the disciples away.

The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, "Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."
The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, "Who then can be saved?"
Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God."
- Mark 10:24-27

If this is the standard Peter says, who can be saved?
With man it is impossible. If salvation is based on human performance... it is impossible, nobody will be saved; but with God, with the sacrificial lamb, with the righteousness that is a free gift imparted by faith to all who believe... with God all things are possible... even the salvation of the likes of you and I.

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son. - John 3:18

For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. - John 6:40

Monday, September 15, 2008

Today I Need A Savior.

Today I need a savior.

I hear a lot of anger directed toward God and those who claim to proclaim His gospel these days.
“How can you serve a God, how can you even dare to believe in a God, who would condemn good people to eternal damnation?” they cry.

Hmmm, so many things wrong with that line of thought, where does one begin?

Could it be that, in our fallen state, we have so lowered the criteria as to what or who is “good”, that it now somehow actually includes some people? Do you know any “good” people?

"Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good—except God alone. – Mark 10:18

Have you somehow managed to overlook the glaring reality, have you somehow managed to convince yourself that you are a “good” person? Have you seriously earned the right to heaven? Are you meeting God’s perfect standard?

Blind Pharisee.

I started today with prayer and Bible study. I asked the Lord to help me to listen to His leading, to help me to walk in the Spirit, denying the flesh. I set out determined to love God with my whole being and my neighbour as myself; but... I cannot do it. No matter how hard I try, I fail. I do things I know I am not to do, but worse than that, I leave undone so many things I know I am meant to do. I say wrong words, I think wrong thoughts, I make harsh and wrong judgements, and I almost without fail prefer myself above my fellow man. I am not a good person.

Today I need a savior.

Not just to get me “in”.
Not just for some one time salvation experience, some momentary “rebirth”.
I need a savior today and every day, at every moment; because I cannot even come anywhere close to meeting the perfection required by the law.

For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. For he who said, "Do not commit adultery," also said, "Do not murder." If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker. – James 2:10-11

Today I need a savior

... And thankfully, graciously, before I even realized that this need existed...

One has been provided.

Now, my detractors may fume and spit, they may correctly point to the sins I have committed, they may more justifiably rail against my sins of omission. Let them.

Today I have a savior.

Today I know freedom.

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. – Romans 8:1-3

Care to join me?
Not sure how? How does one get a savior? What must I DO to be saved?

He then brought them out and asked, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" They replied, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household." - Acts 16:30-31

“It can’t be that easy” you say? Trust me it is!