Monday, February 25, 2008

Another 3 weeks! I was supposed to write in this blog every week. Well, that tells us something about me, doesn't it?! It truly does.

Some brothers and I were wrestling together in the book of Galatians this morning. Through their help I was thinking about the distinctiveness of the "gospel of Christ." In Galatians 1:4 Paul defines the work of Christ, the gospel, as the "rescue." "He gave Himself for us to rescue us from this present evil age..." Rescue. Jesus the Rescuer. Richard the Rescuee. I'm not sure that's a word, but I'll use it anyway (go figure, I make up words).

I think that too often I don't treat Jesus as my rescuer, but rather as my teacher. Not that Jesus doesn't teach, I believe that His teaching is fundamental and necessary to know God. However, I don't think that His primary work in the gospel is to instruct us, but rather to rescue us. I imagine that if you asked Christians what a Christian is, many would reply that a Christian is "one who follows Christ." A good definition of a disciple, but it really implies that what defines a Christian is not their rescued state, but rather their power to follow the teachings of Christ. I think that this falls woefully short of the gospel.

The gospel is the good news for lost sinners that there is a Rescuer who is willing and able to save us from our desperately woeful condition in sin, enslavement, death, and God's wrath. In this paradigm there is no room for "my righteousness" or even my values as the delineating factor in God's approval of me (or, by extension, of anybody else). When I live in the light of Christ as my Rescuer I cannot rely upon moralistic success or "good values" to give me any position of acceptance before God. I needed rescued, completely rescued b/c I was completely lost! Therefore, I cannot look down on those living in sin. I cannot withdraw from those who are still lost. I must tell them of the Rescuer, rather than condemn them with their moralistic failures.

The religious heart (who sees Jesus as the teacher whom they emulate) thinks that God owes them good things because they have followed the teachings. And the Scripture tells us that Jesus did not come to those who think that they are righteous, but to those who know that they are sinners (Luke 5:32). To the "righteous" (in their own estimation) Jesus has nothing to offer! He is not merely a Teacher who shows us how to live "righteously" so that God will accept us. He is the Rescuer who "gave Himself in our place." Through His blood He has rescued us. By His death He has satisfied the wrath of God and placed us into the New Kingdom where He sits enthroned for all eternity to be honored, worshipped, and joyfully enjoyed forever. This Rescuer moves us with great affections to love Him. The Teacher demands respect, but the Rescuer compels love!!

Learn with me daily that Jesus is our Rescuer to be loved and honored in the infinite gratitude of a soul set free from the death of sin and condemnation. This humble rest springs forth from the powerfully effective working of the Spirit of God into the joyful exuberance of God-honoring grace-filled worship.

Oh, Jesus, my heart longs to see you again. To know You as You are and to rest in the lavish wonder of the fullness of Your grace. Break my heart away from its foolish wandering and draw my by Your Spirit within me into the joyful wondering of Your glorious grace.

~ To the Glory of God Alone

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Atrocities of My Culture

I've been studying this week the truth that the church is God's display of His powerful authority over all that exists. How the assembly of the redeemed, simply by the fact that we are the recipients of God's gracious plan of salvation through Jesus Christ, display His power to overcome sin and its disasterous effects and to produce for Himself the glorious reconcilation.

Then it struck me how we don't always look different than the world. Some cases in point:

My home group has been reading God's Word in the book of Judges. Just last week we came to the story of Jephthah in Judges 12 and his horrific sacrifice of his own daughter. Human sacrifice!! He offered her up as a burnt offering! How ugly is this?!! It completely offended my nature that a man would do such a heinous thing and call it good. In our home group we wrestled with how much Jephthah's culture had impacted how he functionally believed and behaved. To him, because his culture understood it as OK to sacrifice humans to the gods, what he was doing was OK. He was not living according to the revealed Word of God (God hates human sacrifice; Deut. 12:31) but rather according to the accepted principles of his culture.

I was shocked this week to hear again of Al Qaeda's use of mentally handicapped women, having Down's Syndrome, as "suicide" bombers in Iraq. I was angered and disgusted that these evil men would go so far as to use these weakened humans, made in God's image, to carry out their plans. John Piper said it well when he states, "This was not this was not suicide bombing, but the detonation of retarded girls at a distance." Did this news anger you?! Did it send you into a fury over the depths of this evil? It did to me. "How could they do that?! They are so evil!!"

Then Dr. Piper made an interesting parallel to our culture that blew me away. Not that it was true, but rather that my heart was not angered by its truth. Piper drew the parallel between what Al Qaeda did to those two women and what we in the U.S. and in England do when tests show that our unborn children have Down Syndrome: 90% of the time these children are aborted. They are torn limb from limb, "blown up from a distance." For the studies and to read Dr. Piper's blog, click here.

Why am I not as angered to this truth of such terrible atrocities toward the weak and helpless? Shouldn't my heart cry, "How can we do this?! We have been so evil!!" My culture has affected my heart more than I realize and I need to be transformed by the renewing of my mind to come into line with God's revealed Word. Am I speaking out on the horrors of evil here? Now? Am I challenging my culture's accepted norms in order to defend the weak, the helpless, the destitute?

So, what are you going to do about it?