Monday, May 18, 2009

Reflective Thoughts as of Late

Here was the thought that permeated my mind Sunday morning that I just had to write down lest I forget it.

The only thing that shakes me out of my self-centeredness is not ponderings of my relationship with God but increasing awareness of God's Glory.  My relationship with God can still be all about me.  Recognition of His Glory, of His Intensity, drops me to my knees and I'm compelled to love Him accurately and obey His Kingdom design to represent Him to others through love.

Then, during the sermon, I watched the faces of my fellow congregants as my Pastor spoke on our identities' foundation being God's Love.  He prefaced the sermon saying this was one of the most essential truths needing to be understood by the Church.  The faces of those listening throughout the sermon, for the most part, were not filled with anticipation of affirmation of thought, as if they just needed to be reassured God loved them, so they could then go out and live properly.  They, for the most part, were not on the edge of their seat soaking up anything they have never heard a thousand times before.  

God's love is foundational to understanding our identity as Children of God, as Christ's representatives for the Kingdom, as ambassadors of reconciliation.  God's love has no meaning if we fail to understand who God is!  The only thing that makes me comprehend God's more true nature as loving and gracious and compassionate is when I understand that God should slay us all for our inadequacy compared to Him.  Moses would have surely dropped dead if he beheld God's presence face to face.  

I hear how great God's love is for us.  If I don't understand the Glorious, Horrifying Might of Him who acts in lovingkindness toward undeserving sinners, but rather view him like my biological father, I would quite think God's love is a waste of time and not worth the heart-ache.  Not as if my biological dad is a scumbag (he is not); he simply does not offer a love that inspires me, nay compels me, to die for the world to know about it.  His love is not that big.  God's love is that big, however, but not if we fail to grasp who He is.  

My pastor used John 15:8-11 as a proof text for his point but passed right over the most central point of it:

"My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.

"Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love.

"If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love.

"These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full."

Did you catch it?  Jesus speaks first about the Father's glory!  Why mention it if it is not central to His message?  Jesus is most concerned not with us abiding in His love, but with the Father's glory being recognized; it just happens to be that He has planned for His Glory to be seen through our abiding love in Him. 

The Abiding Love is not the END.  It is the MEANS to the END!  What good is it to teach the mean as being the end when it is not supported by Scripture and does not bear much fruit (I have been taught for twelve years that it's all about our relationship with God and that He loves us, to no avail... I've been only slightly influenced to abide in Christ as a result and that has only been out of pride to do the Faith thing better... it looks a lot like me earning my keep more than God serving me)?  

We need to teach that we have an incredible God, far greater than we can comprehend and that if we were to go before Him in judgement, the verdict should be frightening.  Then we should teach that there is no hope us according to anything we can do.  Nothing we accomplish for God should foster a sense of propitiation in us.  All service to God is filthy rags, including those commands straight from Jesus that sound great.  Then we should teach that God, first as reflective of His Glory, shows mercy on the depraved and serves us by making communion with Him possible.  Then we should teach that it is out of both gratitude and fear (for God remains wrathful) that we gladly accept the new nature in the spirit, empowered only by the Spirit, and that we should be conscientious to keep in our thoughts that all is possible only when God acts, not us.  This teaching rightly remains focused on God's centrality and sovereignty.  It does not even hint at the possibility of us having any power, for we do not (apart from God).  And it is offensive, as the gospel should be.  

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Divine Appointments

I was preparing research on a Bible Study that I'm doing soon for  2:9-23, listening to John Piper's sermons that cover this text.  Well, in one of his sermons, his context regarded the amendment of his church's bylaws concerning alcohol consumption of members.  He focused on verse 16, and compared Alcoholism and Legalism.  It sounded completely irrelevant to the direction I sense God wanting to take His church currently (since Piper's sermon was delivered in 1982), but then I started to listen to some of the descriptions of his concern over legalism vs. alcoholism.  Piper spoke on concerns that legalism strived to improve moral righteousness by human means as alcoholism encouraged blatant immorality through its lack of effort.  An underlying theme was that of legalism was more dangerous than alcoholism because it aims to attain righteousness, in the guise of God's will, but it is entirely of the Deceiver, since Man's attempts at fulfilling Law are always failure to actually succeeding.  Its cloaked appearance of honorable intention blinds people of its danger.  Then an interesting thought crossed my mind.  

What if Satan has shifted his strategy?  What Satan once did with Legalism, he now does with the relationally-focused, freedom-perverted "gospel" we now teach at our pulpits.  He no longer tries to force us into having tunnel-vision righteousness as practiced by observing strict religious laws; he makes us feel righteous by having us think our God is altogether like us (Psa 50:21), accessible through relationship and quick to ignore our sins, since Christ died for them already.  

I have serious problems with thinking the freedom God gives us through Christ is in regards to our preferential lifestyle choices!  I know we ignore Paul's words in Romans 6:1 when we think we are free to do anything other than loving God and our neighbor RADICALLY.  

As far as God's approachable nature: He is approachable and we can and do have relationship with Him.  That is not the whole picture, however.  We say all the time that God never changes, but most of us do not believe that.  We read the graphically violent, obsessive zeal of God in Exodus, Joshua, Judges, etc., where He slays thousands of Egyptian firstborns, hundreds of Egyptian soldiers, and commands His chosen people to leave none remaining in the land... we read it and dismiss that God remains that way because God is Love.  We fail to think critically that perhaps the love that we addictively affix ourselves to, is not a relationally-focused, "God is my best friend" kind of love.  

How many of us consider the Love that God is has not us as its subject, but God Himself?!  

God is most concerned with His own Glory and acknowledgement of His splendor FAR MORE than He is with how "healthy" our relationship with Him is.  

My fear is that if we do not start to address this in our teaching to the Church, the vast majority of believers will remain deceived and be utterly shocked the moment they appear before the glorified Lord, and not in a good way.  Why else do you think the apostle John fell to his face before Christ on Patmos when receiving the Revelation?  Why did Joshua fall on his face before the Commander of the Lord's army?  They were scared to death of their inferiority compared to Christ glorified.  

The Glorified LORD convicts Man of his utter depravity.  

When we think God is altogether like us, one who is strictly gentle and loving to us foremost, as we are to ourselves, we worship a false god.  

The true gospel is not freedom from sin to do as we please and abounding grace for our failure to engage God's commands.  It is not new-found relationship with God.  The true gospel is that there is a God so magnificently Glorious that He was compelled to express it through a created universe and that despite knowing the creatures He designed to bear His image would become completely corrupt, He chose to allow it to happen nonetheless so that the intensified display of His Glory may be seen by all, as He poetically works His sovereign might to correct it all through the work on the Cross, cursing His begotten Son to death, that the whole world may know that He is God and He will spare those that believe all that He truly is, none less.  

The true relationship and outpouring of His mercy and grace is found only as we recognize our place in creation, as He reveals it.  This is the only hope we have for salvation.  Anything that deters from it is false doctrine, intended to deceive and lead people astray from the commands God decrees for His creation, to love and adore God and express it to those around you, that they too may be fortunate enough for God to reveal Himself to them too.  

This post is titled "Divine Appointments" because I trust God orchestrated my listening of Piper's sermon with just that tiny little nugget of insight regarding legalism to help me connect Legalism's similarity to what we do now in holding fast to the presumptuous Relational Approach of the Faith.  We think by working on our relationship with God, we are fulfilling the Will of God, as if Man can do that.  We have deceived ourselves to think this is God's intent for existence.  We think we are charged to work at growing closer to God and growing closer together in unity, because we see descriptions of it is Scripture.  But we fail to see with "God's Glory" lenses that it is all about Him and His ministry to us, for Him to accomplish all of the unifying, all of the increasing intimacy with Him.  

To think we are capable of accomplishing anything of value in our own merit - even to label our own merit as God's empowering (when it is not because our perspective/motives are wrong) - is to cheapen the value of the Cross of Christ and dismiss the value of the grace which flows from it.  How dare we rather trust in our own fruit, which appears before the Lord as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).  How dare we preach anything that exalts our power to accomplish anything for the Kingdom apart from God doing it through us, His instruments.  How dare we attribute our own fruit as God's, further deceiving ourselves of our false doctrines' validity.  Is that not false humility?

I trust as God divinely appointed my listening of that insight, He will divinely appoint your reading of my post.  Seek God and ask for His insight on your life.  The consequences are too dire otherwise.