Mar 13

Exalt Christ

“Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name is exalted; his splendor is above the earth and the heavens.”

Psalm 148:13 (NIV 2011)

“I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether in life or by death.”
Philippians 1:20 (NIV 2011)

         One of the greatest dangers for the Christian who is seeking to live a holy life is the temptation to make that kind of living an end in itself. That is, the focus comes to be on our achievement (or lack of thereof!) as a holy person. That is deadly.

Satan does not really care how he gets us to focus on ourselves. The result is a morbid introspection on the one hand, and an arrogant self-righteousness on the other, with every other kind of aberration in between. So what is the solution? It is to exalt Jesus.

The holy life is not an “it,” but a “him.” It is about walking with God through Jesus by the Holy Spirit, about knowing him, about pleasing him, about glorifying him. Let us not exalt an experience, but Jesus; let us not exalt this ideal behavior, or that, but Jesus.

The holy life is a by-product of a holy relationship. When we are in love with him, wanting him to be glorified in every part of our life, then life like his, a holy life, just naturally flows out of us. But that kind of life is not the goal. Jesus is the goal. Let us exalt him.

 


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Mar 13

The Christian Pilgrim

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Mar 06

Do Not Judge

Or do you not know that the Lord’s people will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life?”        

1 Corinthians 6:2-3 NIV

         In this so-called “post-modern” age, even more than previously, it seems that everyone’s favorite Bible verse is “Judge not that you be not judged” (Matt 7:1) That is because now more than ever we insist that whatever we want to believe about life and the way to live it is up to each of us alone, and that no one may dare tell us that what we want is wrong.

Yet in the passage of Scripture where the above verses are found (1 Cor 5:1 – 6:20), Paul is shocked at the Corinthians that they have not passed judgment on one of their members for committing a flagrant case of incest.
So is Paul contradicting Jesus? To use Pauline language, “By no means!” As always in the Bible, context is everything.

When Jesus told his hearers not to judge, he meant that they were not to judge others to make themselves look better. They were not to judge others in order to deflect attention from themselves. They were not to judge others so that they could avoid dying to their own passions and desires.

He did not mean that we have no responsibility to each other to challenge one another to the best and highest. He did not mean that there are no standards of behavior for Christian believers. And he did not mean that we should allow our own imperfect performance to rob us of our voices.

As always, the issue is, “Why am I doing this?” Paul passed judgment on this case of sinful behavior and called for the Corinthians to carry out his judgment for two reasons. The first was for the sake of the Church, “the fellowship.” The second reason was for the sake of the sinful person himself. Paul clearly wished the man to repent and be restored to the fellowship.

As in every issue in the Christian faith, the key is love. Do I love the Church enough to speak, to act? Do I love the person enough to speak, to act? If passing judgment can be a selfish act, so can not passing judgment be a selfish act. In the end, the question is always, whom do I love?

 


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Mar 06

Called by Christ – Weekly Sermon

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Feb 23

Walking the Walk

“‘To whom will you compare me? Who is my equal?’ asks the Holy One.”

Isaiah 40:25ff

            Throughout the Bible life with God is described as a walk. “Enoch walked with God”, “Abraham, walk before Me and be perfect.” A walk—that’s what you and I are called to, that’s what you and I are called to live out from the beginning of our lives until the end.

And that’s exactly where the Hebrew people felt that it was all over. They had been so certain that they had God figured out; they had God in their back pocket. They had His temple, they had His book, and they had His prophets. But then it was all over, their city was destroyed, their temple was destroyed, their land was destroyed and they were in captivity in the filthy, unclean, pagan land of Babylon. Much more than that, their hopes were destroyed. But they still had their faith and they were told to walk on.

To stop walking on is to start sliding back and so God says to us, “Walk on!”  There are times when we soar; there are times when we run in our lives, but most of the time we are called simply to walk. What is it about walking that makes this the persistent metaphor for life with God throughout the Scriptures? Well, walking is progressive. It is from here to there. If you’re on a walk you do not end up where you started.

From the beginning to the end, the story of the Bible is the story of journeys. From Ur to Canaan, from Egypt to the land of promise, from Babylon to Jerusalem, from Jerusalem to Rome. But not only is the Bible about outward journeys, it’s about inward journeys. From sinner to saint, from stranger to heir, from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light. The Biblical message says there is someplace for you to go and it’s not where you started, it’s infinitely better than where you started, walk on.

Walking is progressive, walking is intentional, and walking is persistent. We have a nation full of Christians who have only taken the first step…and no more. They stopped walking.

What keeps us going forward progressively? What keeps us going forward intentionally? What keeps us on the road is the character of our God, our God who reaches down to take us by the hand when we’ve fallen into the ditch again.  His arms are strong enough to defeat any foe, yet tender enough to hold the weakest newborn lamb.

What is the next step for you? Maybe it’s something as simple as a new consistency in your devotional life. That’s a continuing challenge for most people, to block out that time every day for the Lord. Maybe the Lord is challenging you to a new persistency in prayer for the world, for your neighbors. Maybe He is calling you to new physical self-denial. Maybe you need to be saying to the Lord, “What is the next step You want me to take?”

To quit reaching for more conformity to Christ and His character is to miss what the Christian life is all about. Walk on.


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Feb 23

Walking the Walk – Weekly Sermon

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Feb 10

The High Ground

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”

1 John 4:18

       Perfect love is the high ground of Christian life and experience. What do I mean by that? When armies are in conflict, each army tries to get to the highest ground—the position of strength.  Perfect love is the high ground in Christian theology.

We can say that for two reasons. The first is Biblical. None can doubt that love like God’s is the Biblical goal. It is here in 1 John; it is in Matthew 5:48; it is in Ephesians 5:1-2; and it is the clear implication of many other passages. We may try to explain it away, to make it meaningless with a hundred qualifications, but there it is.

The second reason is experience. None of us can dispute that this is this world’s need.  Many years ago a secular song writer said it very well, “What the world needs now, is love, sweet love.”   The child of the world knows that as well as the child of the Word. None of us can deny that perfect love is the need and the goal. Over and over again we are called to love, and love and love.

So the high ground, the ground that is most easily defended, and the ground that the enemy must somehow seek to drive us away from, is the idea that in some real sense perfect love is a reality which may be achieved. The problem is in two wrong conceptions: in the first case we see love like God’s as an impossible demand, a horrible, heavy requirement that we are supposed to achieve, but which we know we never can. The second problem is that we interpret “perfect” in a different way than the Bible means.

Today, stop struggling to love like God does. Instead, claim his promise to love through you and let his love, not yours, set your free.


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Feb 10

The Glory of God in Us

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Jan 16

Death: Friend or Foe

“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.”

Psalm 116:15

            Should Christians welcome death as the vehicle to get us from “this vile world” into the courts of heaven? St. Francis spoke words to that effect. Sometimes this verse is used in that way. It seems to say that God is especially gratified when someone dies in the faith. In fact, the psalmist is saying the opposite. He is saying that the death of a saint is terribly costly to God. That is what “precious” meant for the writers of the King James Version in 1611.

Like all the ancient Israelites, the psalmist sees death as something terribly wrong. He had been about to die: “The pains of death surrounded me…” (v. 3). [But] “you have delivered my soul from death” (v. 8). We can imagine King Hezekiah saying these words after his near-death experience. So when the psalmist says, “The death of his saints is very costly to the Lord,” he is saying that God does not want anyone to die. How true that is! God made us for life, a life that would begin in this world and move without decay, dissolution and pain directly into the world to come. But Sin has intervened and brought with it the great obscenity of all existence – Death. This is why Jesus agonized so in the Garden. He who was Life Incarnate was about to bear all the Death(s) of this broken world.

This is not to deny the reality of eternal life. But the death we now die is not the way God planned for us to transition from this life to the next. Death as we now know it, and as Christ experienced it, it a dark blot on the world, and God hates it.

So if you weep uncontrollably when a sainted loved one dies, know this: God is weeping too. The death of his saints is horribly costly to him – as costly as the Cross.


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Jan 16

Winners & Losers

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