Thursday, December 23, 2010

New Life Like Fresh Water

Followers of Christ are baptized into a new community and a new humanity. We still have relationships with many people who are not a part of the new community, and we have many points of contact with the old humanity, so much so it seems we have one foot in the grave. But Christ is Head of the Church, the Firstborn of the New Creation, the Image of the Invisible God where Adam failed. So in being united to Christ, we are part of a new community, the Church, and our identity and destiny is linked to a new humanity that labors not under the sentence of death but rather serves with the promise of eternal life. These thoughts are introduced in Romans 5, and the implications are worked out in Romans 6-8.
There is a neat illustration of this reality in the book of Ezekiel, chapter 47. The picture is of a deepening stream that flows from God's new temple. It is fresh water, and as it flows as a River toward the Sea, this fresh water reaches the salt waters of the sea and makes them fresh. There are at least two points to consider:
First, how deep are we into Christ, the new Temple? Positionally, you are either all-in or not at all. If you are in Christ, you are in Christ. But experientially and submission-ally, are you ankle-deep? Are you merely wading in Christ, or are you all-in?
Second, let me tell you my paint story. A customer met with Jane and they carefully chose just the right color, but then before I could get it on the wall, the customer changed his mind. I went to the paint store to see if they could lighten it, but the paint man said that to lighten it instead of just "gray" it up, you would need to add about half a gallon of white. Now think of the Sea: how much fresh water must enter from a stream into the sea to turn salt water to fresh? It seems there could never be enough. In fact, just a little salt water can spoil a great quantity of fresh water. But this is where the Romans 5 principle is so penetrating: "where sin abounded, grace did much more abound." No matter the overwhelming tide of salt water, the freshness of Christ over-whelms salt, and sin.
So, as believers in Christ, we are members of a new community that seems in constant danger of being contaminated by worldliness, and of a new humanity that still makes regular visits to the funeral home. But our fears and senses cannot be allowed to tell us what is true. Rather, Christ is true, and He is the fountain of fresh water that can utterly transform the brine and sin of our world and our selves. 
This is a promise with which we can live.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Peace on Earth

We hear the Christmas refrain, "Peace on earth, and goodwill to men." In the coming of Jesus, there is the promise of Peace, of Shalom, of unity and harmony. And yet we know that Jesus was misunderstood and rejected. He was killed on the cross. And so we ask, "where is the peace?"
We understand that these present conflicts will be followed by eternal peace. Jesus has set the table for future peace by dealing a death blow to the devil, sin, and death. Though fatally injured, they are not yet dead, and so we feel the effects of this unholy trinity, and perhaps more fiercely, as the bull in the ring is more dangerous when injured.
So where do we find peace today? "We have peace with God though our Lord Jesus Christ" (Romans 5:1). Peace is found among Christians, expressed in "same mind,. same love,. same spirit,. same purpose" as they "let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 2:2,5 paraphrased).
The irony is that Christian peace and harmony are hard-fought prizes. To gain peace, Jesus died. To share peace, Christians seek to tell of Christ to those who may not want to hear. To maintain or re-gain peace, believers "speak the truth in love," employing honesty and humility to un-cover and root out buried lusts and lies that interrupt Christian fellowship.
Peace and harmony, heavenly realities, can quickly become twisted to describe earthly travesties. We do not have peace when we do not speak the truth, and we have no harmony when there is not the flow and expression of love. Absence of conflict can just as well be a "cold war" as peace. Failure to confront can be an expression of "I don't care." 
There will always be a host of antagonisms and frustrations on earth. There will be none in heaven. In the communities of believers, heaven's outposts on earth, let there be "peace on earth, and goodwill to men."

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Give Glory to God!

Who could argue? Sounds like a good thing. Except when the Pharisees say it to the man blind from birth who now sees (John 9:24), they are saying anything but. Why do I say that? It's all in the echo.
The Gospel according to John is one of sixty-six Bible books that makes up one Book, the Bible. Though written over several centuries by many authors, this one Book is self-interpreting. The only reason for this is because behind and above all human authors is a single Author who is also the Architect of history who directs and discloses according to a single Divine plan.
And so, when we hear a "Give glory to God" echo, we stop and think how one passage reflects on another.
Many centuries ago, Joshua led the people of Israel out of the wilderness into the Promised Land. Moses was left behind; Joshua was the new, prepared and appointed leader. They crossed the Jordan River and marched around the walled city of Jericho. God knocked down those walls, and the Israelites were there to pick up the pieces, every one to be devoted to God. They then hurried up the road to Ai, an un-walled city that looked like easy pickings. They were defeated. In the midst of their wailing, God revealed that their defeat was due to disobedience. Someone had stolen plunder from the Jericho loot. Lots were cast, a tribe was indicated, then a clan, then a family, and there stood Achan.
As Joshua confronts this man, he opens his interrogation with these words: ““My son, I implore you, give glory to the LORD, the God of Israel, and give praise to Him; and tell me now what you have done. Do not hide it from me.”” (Joshua 7:19 NAS95) Joshua (the Old Testament name that is rendered as "Jesus" in the New Testament) is assigned to confront the sinner.
But the echo doesn't quite fit, does it? In the Old Testament, God's man confronts the sinner. But in our New Testament passage, it is not the New Testament Joshua who confronts the one regarded as sinner. Rather, he heals him. On the other hand, the Pharisees confront the man with the gloriously changed life, commanding him to glorify God by accusing the God-man of wrong-doing. The Pharisees are seeking to distort the blind man's vision of the God-man who gave him his sight. They are seeking to pit a sinner against his Savior. They are saying "Give glory to God," even as they set themselves against God's Beloved, and as they attempt to make use of the only man within reach who is just now enjoying a wondrous foretaste of God's glory in the forms of restored sight and changed life. At the end of the story, Jesus like Joshua confronts the Pharisees, who now look now seem to fit quite nicely into Achan's shoes. They were seeking to steal what only belongs to God.
The Pharisee-in-me distorts the echo of the purpose and plan of God. Yes, sin must be identified. But God's purpose is to save sinners, and His plan points to Christ. Any activity that aims to keep sinners separated from their Savior must be rejected. Those who would recover a heart of worship would do well to learn from the now-seeing-man, who accepts rejection by men in favor of acceptance by the Son of Man.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Bright Eyes

“And the light of my eyes, even that has gone from me." (Psalm 38:10 NAS95)
I would like to think that my mind rules over my moods. But personal experience argues against this. Our minds are often clouded by the crush of emotions which are reactions to experiences, and there is a mental and spiritual "dimming of the eyes." The psalmist describes this condition. We understand.
Let's be clear. This condition does not imply that the sun has stopped shining or that God has abdicated His throne or that His promises have failed. Rather, there is in us an obstruction that shields us from that light, or a resistance that pushes it away. There is something in our hearts that does not want the light to shine, that does not want the truth to re-form, that does not want the heavenly vision to reign. 
Sin will bring about a dimming of the eyes. Suffering can lower one's gaze, so that we see only ourselves. Disappointment and failure can lead us to focus on what is wrong with us, and it can lead to an unwillingness to look up, to look forward. We find ourselves bereft of courage and imagination. Again, let's be clear. My sins are mine. I lower my gaze out of self-consciousness, consumed with my situation. I can really enjoy a little self-pity. This is me. This is my heart. We may indeed be victims, but we are most definitely sinners.
And sinners need to be reminded again and again of the Gospel which refreshes and renews, and which paints a picture of a heavenly future toward which we journey as saints who trust in a God who makes good promises. Yes, suffering and disappointment and rejection and pain are all facts of life. But the Gospel and a heavenly vision brighten my eyes.
Let's give Isaiah 30 a chance to help us with a dash of heavenly hope and vision. The people are off on a wrong foot once again. They are seeking help in all the wrong places. They are looking for someone to trust, someone on whom they can depend. But they don't look up. They veer sideways. In spite of this, God offers a word of hope. Yes, there will be trouble. Good times will be postponed. But God's hope comes shining through, nonetheless.
 “The light of the moon will be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun will be seven times brighter, like the light of seven days, on the day the LORD binds up the fracture of His people and heals the bruise He has inflicted.” (Isaiah 30:25–26 NAS95)
There are so many other themes in this section of hope, but notice the light! Every color shines brighter, every detail clearer. What was murky has now become plain, and what was confusing is now obvious. We see the truth about ourselves, and we are cleansed of our deception. We see the truth about God, and He is glorious.
And then we add in some of the other elements noted in Isaiah 30: "weep no longer;" "your Teacher will no longer hide himself;" "He will give you rain;" "rich and plenteous;" "streams running with water;" "songs in the night; gladness of heart." A new day is dawning. It will be bright.
"Lord, give me bright eyes, that is, eyes to see Your brightness."

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Re-Framing the Picture

How we view life will determine how we evaluate our pleasures and our troubles. If the frame is narrow, eliminating all but ourselves or what is close at hand, then every pleasure will be a "got-to-have" and every trouble will be monumental. But if we allow Scripture to help us in re-framing the picture, then God's presence in our view of life will dramatically change our perspective. We won't live because of our pleasures, or die because of our troubles.
Romans 5:1-5 helps us with re-framing the picture. "Having been God-justified through faith (of) Christ, we have peace with God." The text goes on to say that, not only do we have peace, but we also have access to God, and then, that we have reason to rejoice.
We are aware of our immediate troubles, those closest to home. But few of us deeply grasp the seriousness of our trouble with God, a trouble that began long before we were born, and a trouble that will pursue us past death all the way to judgment day. By re-framing the picture to include God and our trouble with God that has now been solved and replaced with peace, our more immediate troubles shrink in perspective. If God has solved this huge problem, then He surely can help me through these other struggles.
We often face disappoint or rejection. Husbands and wives experience the cold shoulder. Parents of teens experience the sullen stare. Employees experience being overlooked and under-appreciated. But (re-frame the picture) God's door is always open. We have access to the throne-room. The King of the Universe is always listening, and He always cares. If I am rejected by every human person I know, I will never be rejected by God, and that makes human rejection bearable.
There are as many different joys as there are persons, it seems. "To each his own," so they say. But many of these pleasures are short-lived, and the fallout is less than pleasurable. God gives us reason to rejoice that looks forward to a world that does not yet exist, and that focuses on a Person that is not me. "We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God." And we believe, based on God's promise, that our highest satisfaction will be found in His glory. Moreover, we rejoice in life's troubles, realizing that God is so great and gracious that He can make stinky situations result in sweetness for our souls. And then, we rejoice that God loves us no matter what with a love that is deeper and richer than any other love that we have ever known.
So since the picture has been re-framed, we are not free to draw back to our narrow snapshots of our worlds that are only big enough for our own mug shot. I am not free to view my troubles as the end of the world. I am not free to do illegitimate or immoral things because some person has rejected me. I am not free to be consumed by temporary pleasures, or whine and complain about temporary problems, or to go looking for love in all the wrong places. I can't, because of a view of the world in which God is big and great and gracious, and He changes the way I see things.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Sighing, Throbbing, Failing (Ps 38:9b,10a)

Sighing is the ouch of a pinched soul. It wants to breathe and expand as a spiritual lung. But there is constriction, whether within, or without. It can be caused by sin and guilt. It can be caused by sadness and sorrow. It can be caused by an obscuring of hope and by present difficulties. It is the soul's effort to relax and rest, but it can't.
Faith rests. It rests in Jesus. It rests in the promises of God and the comfort of the Spirit. A pinched soul is struggling with these things. It has not necessarily abandoned these things. But such things as pain and doubt are running a serious interference.
Romans 8:23 reads: “And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.” The pinched soul wants resolution. But it has to wait. Things are not as they should be. So in this mean-time, this cruel time, we wait.
One more thought on this word, addressed to "leaders." Hebrews 13:17 says that leaders of the local body of believers are to do their duty "with joy and not with grief (or sighing). They are instructed not to allow their souls to narrow due to pains and doubts. They must not lose their rest, their trust, their comfort. How could they lead?
A throbbing heart is a heart not-at-home. It is on the road; on the run. A throbbing heart is a hunted heart. It is a hiding heart. Powlison says that some are tempted to "tower," that is, to act as though they are bigger than they are. Others are tempted to "cower," to go into hiding in an attempt to disappear. Both are wrong. Better to have a big God, and to rest safely under His wings, growing and fulfilling service and responsibility under His care. 
Jeremiah 14:18 has an interesting rendition of this trading term - "gone roving." The priest and the prophet are either casting about, looking for something to do, or for somewhere to hide. They seem to have lost their vocation. They are unsettled.
The heart's vocation is to center on God, whether you call it waiting or exulting or loving or listening. The vocation of the believer is to believe. Jesus says in John 14:1, "Don't let your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me." But the pinched soul is accompanied by a throbbing heart that is more aware of its troubles than its God or her Savior.
Failing strength is the human condition. We are finite, and we fatigue. Except for one thing: our strength is to be in the Lord. Flesh is short-lived, but the Spirit is an inexhaustible and inextinguishable fire. This poor sinner of sighing soul and throbbing heart and flagging strength desperately needs the buoyancy of the Spirit. And He is there; right here, ready to lift and restore. Confess your sins. Bow in the dust, and let Him bear you up, and breathe heavenly air into your soul and supply firmness and solidity to your heart and an impossible strength to your mind and will.
The psalmist is at the cusp of something great. No, not in the next couple of verses, but before long, the light will shine through, and something surprising will happen. Do not give in to the darkness. Do not abandon hope. Take a breath, drop to your knees, and let your requests be made known to God. This is the beginning of rest; this is your home and your strength.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


It is completely appropriate to ask why we do the things that we do. Why do I so often respond with anger? Am I following an influential person's example? Maybe. Am I reacting against some kind of offense or injury? That may be. Is it because I want to be God, to be the center of my world, and therefore I expect all persons and things to bend their will to mine? Ouch.
You see, asking why is not wrong, so long as my explanation does not explain away my own responsibility. If a parent or teacher was a bad example, shame on them. But I am still responsible for my own angry outbursts or sullen attitudes.
Now let's think carefully. There is a distinction between scope of responsibility and depth of responsibility. And we make mistakes with both. I am not responsible for the behavior of bad examples. I am responsible for whether or not I follow those examples. I cannot take responsibility for the actions of others. I must take responsibility for my own actions. That is the scope of responsibility - I am responsible for me, and will be held responsible for me.
That brings us to depth of responsibility. To whom are we responsible? Ultimately, the answer is God, and we have a regular tendency to understate our responsibility to Him. He is our Creator and Redeemer. We owe Him gratefulness and service. We owe Him worship and obedience. Every failure to do so with each element of our being is a breakdown of our responsibility. And we will be held accountable.
This is why the previous article on God-justification is so important. The scope of my responsibility for all of my actions and attitudes is heavy, and all my past failures give me no indication that I will be blameless in the future. But then add in the depth of our responsibility to God, and we find that we have no hope except that God justifies the ungodly.

God-Justified, or still Self-Justifying

Romans 5:1 says, "having been justified by faith, we have peace with God". There are at least a couple of huge things to note: 
1. this justification is a past event for the believer, not an ongoing process. It is done, and we now enjoy the benefits; 
2. it is clear that the justifying is not done by us, but rather done for us. Self-justifying would be an ongoing process which would continually endanger "peace with God." 
Therefore, efforts at self-justification are out of line. They are not productive, but rather destructive. They may feel good at the moment, but they do not result in "peace with God." They may get us out of trouble with offended parties for a brief time (though not usually), but self-justifications do not work with God. The Puritan, Henry Smith, says that "a sin is two sins when it is defended."
  • Self-justification takes several forms. It can range from "it wasn't me" to "it wasn't my fault." We often give long lists of extenuating circumstances that explain or excuse our "bad" behavior, as though that makes it somehow less bad. It often involves rationalizing and blaming others. It is a regular refusal to take responsibility for our own sins and failures.
  • Self-justification is abandoned as we confess our sins, and as we admit that we are sinners. God justifies the ungodly. That's me. 
  • Self-justification is abandoned as we understand the fallen world in which we live and of which we are a part and even a product (Romans 1). 
  • Self-justification is abandoned when we realize that even our religious and moral selves have inconsistencies and hypocrisies, let alone when we go a.w.o.l. and plunge into sin and filth (Romans 2). 
  • Self-justification is abandoned when we listen to ourselves talk, and realize that our words and attitudes are only a reflection of what is going on in our hearts (Romans 3). 
  • Self-justification is abandoned when we realize that our biggest task is not merely developing a skill to get out of trouble, but rather trusting God to do what we cannot do ourselves, justify sinners through the sin-bearing of Jesus on the cross (cf Rom 5:9).

God does not excuse sinners, he justifies them. And so we must not engage in strategies and schemes to excuse ourselves, but rather receive His justification by faith. There really is no excuse for us. But there is peace with God for us.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Does God Speak for No Reason?

God is the Creator of heaven and earth. This God is the God of the Bible, and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the only God who matters, because He is the only God who is real, the only God who is. “I Am Who I Am,” He informed Moses.
That means that we owe everything to this God. He lends us life and breath. We are accountable to Him in every dimension. We owe Him gratefulness and glory.
Therefore, when God speaks, all creation should jump. His creation should respond to His voice, and His image-bearers, men and women, are especially designed and obligated to respond, not only by instinct, but with heart and mind and soul and strength, ways in which cows and cats are incapable of responding.
In Amos 3, today’s OT reading, God’s says, “shouldn’t my chosen people be responsive?” The question is rhetorical. The answer is obviously “yes.” But the rhetoric is not finished. 
If we are in a partnership (covenant), should not the  partners be expected to partner?
If a lion is king of the jungle, do not the inhabitants of the jungle shudder when he roars? And if God is the king of the universe, should we not do likewise? 
If you are bright and clever enough to catch a bird, do you think God will have any trouble catching you?
If the fire alarm goes off, do you assume that it goes off for no reason? And do you suppose that if God gives a warning to the world and a warning to His people, that these are meaningless warnings that can simply be tuned out or turned off?
Does God speak for no reason? No. He speaks that His children would hear and respond appropriately. This is not a game.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

My Desire

A fitting title for Psalm 38 is "Psalmist Under Seige." He is surrounded by enemies, and he is beset with his sins.
The psalmist spends a good share of his time describing his condition. It's not pretty, but it is good for us to know. Now what we must believe both internally and effectually is that the same pain that has come upon him will surely come upon us whenever we succumb to the pressures and temptations, whenever we walk the wayward path, whenever we choose to honor sinful flesh instead of holy God.
In earlier posts, I have commented on previous verses. It has been over a month, and I've held off writing on Psalm 38:9, because I find the statement to be so profound, so humbling, and so true.
“Lord, all my desire is before You;”  (Psalms 38:9 NAS95)
I would guess that few are so glib as to read this little phrase and think, "Yes, Lord, you know how much I desire all that You desire." It is true that we do have high and holy desires. And God knows all about them. He knows our stated desires; our praise-song professions that we desire Him more than silver or gold. But God also knows about all the other desires as well. He knows not just our professed desires, but our practiced desires; not just our desires in theory, but our desires in practice; not just our intended desires, but also all the things to which we resort in times of weakness and willfulness and fatigue and frustration. "Lord, all my desire is before You."
Our desires are what we want. We do what we desire. I do not desire one thing, and want another, nor do I do things that I don't desire. Romans 7 indicates that we have layers of desire, and I'm not sure if we most often do our deepest desires, or the ones that are closest to the surface. Nonetheless, we still do what we want, what we desire at one level or another. And God knows every one of them.
As I was thinking and preparing to write about this phrase, it was tough to avoid a strong theme with regard to desire. It is not all about my desire. It is much more about God's desire. My problem and yours is not so much that our desires are wrong, but that we don't desire what God desires. That is what makes our wayward desires wrong. Our desires trump God's desires. I'll share just two examples.
“Listen, O daughter, give attention and incline your ear: Forget your people and your father’s house; Then the King will desire your beauty. Because He is your Lord, bow down to Him.” (Psalms 45:10–11 NAS95)
This is a royal psalm describing the glories of the King and the privilege of those who serve Him. To apply this verse in New Covenant format, Jesus treasures His church. He loves His bride. He desires sweet fellowship with His disciples. And so, the tragedy is when the church/bride/disciple(s) spurn Jesus' desire so that they might pursue their own interests.
“For the LORD has chosen Zion; He has desired it for His habitation. “This is My resting place forever; Here I will dwell, for I have desired it." (Psalms 132:13–14 NAS95)
God the Father has focused His desire on a place that is all about a Person. Zion does not have an address so much as it has an identity or fulfillment in God Incarnate. God loves and desires the revealing of Himself in His Son. There is nothing more important or valuable than that, for it is in this way that God is glorified. 
The Psalmist Under Seige, as well as the struggling pilgrim, find true peace and rest when Jesus becomes the well from which our desires are drawn. We will experience assurance and confidence when we turn away from broken cisterns in favor of living water. God has given us Jesus, and so, in the end, not only are all of our distressing desires known to God, but we find that the one True Desire is before Him as well.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Heavenly Hug

We watched the recent movie Temple Grandin last Sunday night with our young adult group (I'm not sure why they put up with us, but they do). It is the life story of a girl with autism who fights and grows through the struggles of her condition and ends up making significant contributions in the her fields of interest.
One interesting feature of learning to cope with her condition was her "squeeze machine." She was averse to human touch, even from her mother, but evidently still had the need/desire for some kind of hug. One day, watching the herding of cattle, she saw how an animal was calmed by being confined in a pen that contricted movement, that hugged the cow. Later, in a moment of agitation, she ran to that place in the pen, and begged to be constricted in the same way. She found that it helped.
Temple later constructed her own "squeeze machine" which she used on a regular basis to provide comfort and security. What others enjoyed by way of human touch, she found and enjoyed an alternative.
I have been thinking about Jesus as our "squeeze machine." Colossians 3:3 says, "your life is hidden with Christ in God." Sure, human touch is a blessing. But frankly, human hugs are unavailable to many people much of the time. Are they just out of luck? The natural man's response is then to come up with some alternative, and some of those alternatives turn out to be perverse and destructive.
But fellowship with Jesus is sufficient and satisfying. Listen to this description: "if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion .." (Philippians 2:1). That's pretty good comfort and security. And how about one more: "and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete" (1 John 1:3,4). That would be a heavenly hug.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

No Excuses

God met with Moses from out of the burning bush to assign him an important but difficult mission. Moses had been tending sheep in the wilderness for years. I'm sure there were some difficulties that accompany that kind of work. But God's mission would now push Moses beyond the realm of the uncomfortable to the land of the impossible. And Moses was not sure that he was ready.
Following God is like that. Most of us can figure out how to manage life "on the farm," so to speak. It's when we realize that God wants us to live beyond our chores and love beyond our families that it begins to get difficult. And so, like Moses, we begin to make excuses.
Excuse #1 - Who Am I?
“But Moses said to God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?”” (Exodus 3:11 NAS95). This sounds humble at first. "I'm not worthy." "There are others who would be better choices." But once we get past the humble-jumble, we have to realize that God knew to whom He was talking. He had rescued Moses' life from its basket beginning. He had placed Moses for a time in Pharoah's household. He had watched over Moses during those years with the sheep. He knew Moses inside and out. He knows Moses better than Moses knows Moses. And He knows you as well.
It's a little impolite to criticize the tools when they are God's tools, made and designed by God. We are certainly invited to talk to God about our sins, our worries, our fears. But don't tell God that you can't do what He is asking you to do. If He is asking you to be His instrument, He'll provide the strength and the wisdom to get the job done.
Excuse #2 - Who Are You?
“Now they may say to me, ‘What is His name?’ What shall I say to them?”” (Exodus 3:13 NAS95). How is Moses supposed to explain Someone who is unlike anything else in the world to slaves in Egypt? It is as though he is saying, "God, I know who you are. But those people in Egypt don't. How will they follow me if they don't know You?" The truth is, none of us would know God if God hadn't revealed Himself to us. And if God doesn't reveal Himself to someone, then we can't make it happen, no matter what names or words we use.
God had revealed Himself and something about Himself to Moses out of the non-extinguishing bush. An apt image for "I Am Who I Am," God's existence owes nothing to anyone or anything else, and He borrows resources for continuing existence from no one and nothing. He simply is. He is independent, unlike us. And He is perfectly able to make Himself known as He sees fit. The ignorance and unbelief of people around us are no excuse for avoiding God's mission. 
Excuse #3 - How Will I Convince Them?
“Then Moses said, “What if they will not believe me or listen to what I say?” (Exodus 4:1 NAS95). Moses is saying, "I don't have the resources I need to do this impossible job." God says, "What is that in your hand?" (v.2). A staff. Just a stinkin' staff, the symbol of Moses exile and boredom for all these years in the wilderness. And God can transform it into a fearsome serpent that Moses can once again handle. "Now put your hand into your bosom." (v.6). And Moses sees God introduce and remove plague right in his own body. And further, Moses was instructed to take some water from the Nile in Egypt and pour it on dry ground, and it would be turned to blood. God was able to actually transform properties and natural laws. 
Again, it was not up to Moses to do the convincing. God would do that. Moses was just to obey. There is no debate that the obedience was going to be tough. It would be uncomfortable and seemingly impossible. But the results would be totally up to God. So no excuses.
Excuse #4 - I Regard My Past as Determinative for My Future
“Then Moses said to the LORD, “Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past, nor since You have spoken to Your servant; for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.”” (Exodus 4:10 NAS95). We only know what we've experienced. For many of us, that has been a string of disappointments. We haven't measured up to our own expectations, let alone God's. But while my imagination might be bound by my history, God's plans and purposes are not. The miracle of redemption and forgiveness is that we are set free from our pasts, and God is doing something new in us and through us.
Moses and I should learn from our past experiences. But faith would lead us to obey God and to do His will no matter what. God's mission would lead us beyond ourselves, no excuses.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Grand Praise

“Let sinners be consumed from the earth And let the wicked be no more.” (Psalms 104:35 NAS95)
Our grand piano at church has a bad string. I believe its the "A" below middle "C." It's amazing how many times that key gets played. One string affects the whole instrument. The piano tuner says that we need to either deaden that string, or replace it.
God's creation is God's piano. The whole instrument is designed to offer a pleasing praise to Him. Each element of the instrument must contribute to that praise. This is that for which the instrument was created. All of creation belongs to God and to Him alone.
Psalm 104 is an amazing exploration into the interplay between God and His creation. He provides and protects. The creation shudders and shivers at His attention. He is both absolute Master of this creation, and He is thoughtful concerning it, and shows amazing goodness toward it.
So at the close of this psalm, when the psalmist says "Let sinners be consumed from the earth, and let the wicked be no more," he is saying what the piano tuner said of our piano. The offending string needs to be deadened, or replaced. And so will be the elements of creation that refuse to sing praise to God. 

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Redeeming Samson

After studying Judges 13-16, one might conclude that a character like Samson is beyond redemption. He does not observe his vows. He repeatedly exposes both his heart and his countrymen to the enemy. He is ruled by his passions, and he thinks mainly of himself. Even his prayers betray a self-centeredness.
And yet, here are some points that I call, "Redeeming Samson:"
1. It seems that Judges 14-15 recite events at the beginning of Samson's 20-year "reign," and that the events of chapter 16 relate events at the end of that 20-year period. We don't know how Samson worshipped or behaved during the intervening period.
If only the two worst moments of the past 20 years of your life were known, what would people think of you? While it is true that Samson may have been always willful and sinful, perhaps we should give him the benefit of the doubt.
2. God had a larger purpose. In Judges 13, God told Samson's mother that Samson would begin to deliver the people from the Philistines. As we read further, we find that it is left to a greater king, David, to finally deliver Israel from this threat. But it may be that God was delaying the Philistine advance through Samson until such a time that this nation could unite and defend against this enemy.
Samson was God's chosen instrument. Maybe he wasn't the best of instruments. But we had better be careful about discounting what God has chosen to use.
3. Samson shows up in the "Hall of Faith," Hebrews 11. He shows up next to Gideon, Barak, and Jephthah, all of whom had less than perfect faith. But it seems that all, including Samson, learned at some point that they must trust Someone other than themselves, and they did so.
4. When in trouble, Samson prayed. Do you? No, his prayers were not perfect. But he prayed. It was the right thing to do.
In the end, we can speak of "Redeeming Samson," not because of anything good in Samson, but because of everything good in God. God justifies the ungodly. Jesus saves sinners. And so, Samson qualifies. He is not beyond redemption.
We often say that Jesus saves us from sin and from Satan. But Samson needed to be saved from himself. In a sense, he was his own worst enemy. Perhaps you and I can relate. And I am glad that Jesus saves sinners from themselves.

Pragmatism and Postmodernism in the Church (excerpted from Strachan and Sweeney, and Guiness)

With the rise of the financial market and the cultural abandonment of various tenets of a Christian worldview, many of our evangelical churches have shifted from a richly biblical and theological perspective to one driven by pragmatic concerns. Congregations often do not make this shift to spite doctrine; instead, they do it because they think it will bring health and growth. Though they may mean well, a concern for numbers over a concern for personal faith makes it easy for nominalism to creep into the church. When churches concentrate so much on bringing people in, they can lose sight of building people up. That kind of atmosphere can make it easy for people to adopt a half-hearted faith, a Christianity that may be no Christianity at all.
     Cultural critic Os Guinness has written persuasively about the pragmatic mindset in the church. He notes that: “The concern, ‘Will it work?’ has long over-shadowed ‘Is it true?’ Theology has given way to technique. Know-whom has faded before know-how. Serving God has subtly been deformed into servicing the self. At its worst, the result is a shift from faith to the ‘faith in faith’ which – along with faith in religion – is a perniciously distinctive American heresy. But even at tis best, pragmatism results in an evangelicalism rich in ingenuity and organization but poor in spirituality and superficial, if not banal, in doctrine. We have become the worldliest Christians in America.” Strachan and Sweeney, in Jonathan Edwards on True Christianity, pp 37-38, quoting Os Guiness, Fit Bodies, Fat Minds: Why Evangelicals Don’t Think and What to Do About It, p. 59

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Samson's Revenge (Judges 14-15)

Hey, Samson, you look exhausted. Why are you so tired?
You would be tired too if you had just killed a thousand Philistines with the jawbone of an ass. But, hee, hee, I made donkeys of them.
That is an amazing feat. But Samson, what drove you to do such a thing?
It was clearly self-preservation. An army of Philistines approached three thousand of my own countrymen and persuaded them to hand me over. They would have killed me.
But Samson, it is an unusual thing for an army to pursue just one man. What made you so "wanted" in their eyes.
I was hiding from them because I had accomplished a great slaughter of their men down in Timnah.
Samson, so much killing! Why did you kill those men?
For good reason! They had burned down the house of my father-in-law with him and my wife inside. They deserved what they received.
Perhaps they did. But why would they burn down that house.
I suppose it was because of the fires set by the foxes tails tied together with torches, 300 hundred in all. What a success! It burned their standing grain and their shocks of grain and their olive groves and their vineyards.
And probably not a few foxes as well. I must say that was a clever and cruel deed. Why did you go to all that trouble.
I wanted to show them that they couldn't treat me lightly. My father-in-law gave my wife away as wife of one of my friends.
Well why would he do such a thing, in light of the family agreement and community celebration and all?
Maybe it was because I left angry and in haste after I had killed thirty men and stolen their garments. I guess he thought that I hated her.
Why were you so angry?
Well, it's a long story, but I lost a bet. I was sure it was a no-lose situation. They could never have figured out the riddle that I proposed. But they threatened my wife with burning if she did not draw the secret out of me. And finally, I gave in.
So Samson, these two chapters of revenge and retaliation all started with a riddle, with a bet? 
They deserved it.
So how's that working out for you? 
Everything's fine. I think my troubles are over.
(Read Judges 16)

Monday, September 13, 2010

Current State

“I am benumbed and badly crushed; I groan because of the agitation of my heart.” (Psalms 38:8 NAS95)
They say that in order to move to a desired state, we need to face the reality of today. What is my current state? The Psalmist says, "Uhh, ..."
The truth is, most of the time, you and I don't know our current state, especially when it comes to our desires and our motivations and attitudes and moods. We don't know ourselves very well. Our best moments can turn sour in a moment, and our depressions can sometimes reveal themselves in a sweet dependence on God. What is bad can be good, and what seems good can turn out pretty bad.
In Psalm 38:8, the psalmist uses three words that are bad, or good. The first two key words are passive. Then the psalmist groans because of a third condition, described by "agitation." So we will take them in order. "Benumbed" sounds bad to me. And yet this is the word that describes Jacob when he discovers that Joseph is alive after all those years (Genesis 45:26). He was "stunned." He was in shock, and his system did not know how to respond. But is that bad, or good? Maybe at times not knowing how to respond is a better response. "Badly crushed" sounds really bad. And yet in Psalm 51:17, the word is translated "contrite," describing a repentant heart. And that would be good. It seems that this psalmist is at the end of himself because of his sin. It is a most miserable condition. And it is exactly where he (we) need(s) to be.
These two passive verbs are translated somewhat differently in the LXX, and we find them used together, in the passive, in Genesis 15:13: "God said to Abram, "Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years.'" Our words are "enslaved" and "oppressed." That's got to be bad. And yet God's people were exactly where they needed to be in preparation for the coming redemption/deliverance. (The LXX translators chose the common Greek word for "humbled" to render "oppressed.")
"Agitation" may result from things good or bad. One can be agitated in anticipation, or agitated out of regret. Sure, we would like to be at rest, all relaxed. But both students before the test, one prepared, the other unprepared, may both feel a sense of agitation.
All of this is to say that when we are benumbed and badly crushed and groaning due to agitation, we still may not be able to say a lot about our current state ... other than this: God is still on the throne, and He is at work in the world and in our lives; His sovereign purposes are able to salvage sinners like you and me, and He is even able to use our mess-ups for good; All of life is His laboratory, and though we at times feel like lab rats, He will wisely administer His goodness. This is our current state. Not bad.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Congregational Concern and Cooperation

The Church of Jesus Christ is called by Paul "the body of Christ." Christ does not have many bodies, only one, but nonetheless, local congregations take on a "body" quality as they strive to recognize the "head"ship of Christ, and as they seek to acknowledge and utilize the giftedness of her people/parts to function joyfully and fruitfully.
There are various forms of church government out there. We are congregational. We understand that those who have believed in Jesus Christ have received the Holy Spirit. It is this Spirit who has been given to be a guiding force in our lives to help us live under the Lordship of Christ. Because we have the Spirit, the people of the church are qualified to lead the church together. Episcopal (bishop) forms of government expect that the bishop is especially equipped to lead. Presbyterian (elder) forms of government expect that the elders are especially equipped to lead. All groups understand that there can be un-spiritual bishops or elders or congregation members. But our understanding of Biblical teaching and theology requires that we strive for a Spirit-led congregation who will then, out of concern and in cooperation, lead.
I suppose that a congregation that does not congregate is a little bit like a student who does not study. But there is more to it than simply getting together. Something should take place as we gather - shared concern and willing cooperation. This is our privilege, and this is our responsibility.
A new form of church government has appeared recently. I'm not sure what it will be called, but it borrows heavily from corporate and executive practices in business. Local churches become franchises, and corporate control is used to ensure a quality experience. The preaching is good, the music is excellent, the crowd is big, and the programs are many. I expect that they are serious about the leading of the Spirit, but the Spirit leads from the top. I am not bold enough to say that this is not Christ's church. But a church of this type is no more yours or mine than Home Depot is my hardware store. They value their customers, but not individually, only in masses.
And so, what kind of church are we? What kind of church do we want to be? My desire is for our church to reflect the beauty of the Gospel, that in God's grace, God saves sinners whom He folds into His family and entrusts with gifts and responsibility to actually be involved first-hand in God's work in the world. We do it, not because we are strong and effective, but rather because we know that God delights to deposit "this treasure" in "jars of clay" (2 Corinthians 4:7) so that in our weakness His strength shines through. 
Church renewal will require a renewal of congregational concern and cooperation. No bishop or group of elders or board of directors will dictate this. It happens as the Spirit works in His people, and where concern and cooperation take the forms of prayer and fellowship.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

"We've Got Trouble Here!"

As we raise our children, we celebrate growth and progress. Yet we must admit that much of life is taken up with damage control, dealing with break-downs of one type or another. The psalmist in Psalm 38:3-7 is in the midst of this kind of mess. I am selecting this portion of Psalm 38 since it is enclosed at beginning and end by the words, "there is no soundness in my flesh."
Integrity means "of one piece." The person of integrity is not fractured, but rather is whole. There is not a great distance between what he says and what he does. He does not pretend great success in the midst of prevailing failure. He is real, all the way through. The psalmist's references to "no soundness," "no health," "iniquity," and "wounds" show that he admits to a fragmenting of life.
To his credit, the psalmist is not claiming that everything is great on the outside while he experiences misery on the inside. These words from Isaiah 1:6 may match his confession, perhaps not physically, but mentally, spiritually and emotionally: "From the sole of the foot even to the head There is nothing sound in it, Only bruises, welts and raw wounds, Not pressed out or bandaged, Nor softened with oil." An essential step for each of us is to admit that there are real problems.
Three "because" phrases (vv 3,5) show his understanding of his situation. First, the psalmist knows that he is in trouble "because of God's indignation." "Who can stand before His indignation? Who can endure the burning of His anger?" Nahum 1:6. Second, he is in trouble "because of my sin." He has done what he has done (or not done), and he cannot change the facts of history. The record has been sealed. Third, he is in trouble "because of my folly." The dumb thing about folly is that we know that we are so foolish we will do the dumb thing again. "Like a dog that returns to its vomit Is a fool who repeats his folly" Proverbs 26:11.
When sin gets the best of us, it is like we are drowning in it. Verse 4 speaks of being "overwhelmed," the only negative use of this word in the Old Testament. It feels like we are going under for the last time. This verse speaks of a burdensome-ness to this condition. A bad man makes a rotten mule, unable to bear his load. Verse 5 then describes the sickening side effects: we are offensive to others, and we really cannot stand ourselves.
The last two verses of this section suggested to me several "d" words. When sin's grip is severe, it has far-reaching effects. "Bent" suggests a deranged condition. "Greatly bowed" indicates deep despair. "Mourning" points to a kind of darkness that obscures plain sight. The problem with this condition is that it renders one unable to function properly. Our senses are damaged by this dismal fog of sin and failure. The "burning" of verse 7 suggests disgrace. A dismantling has occurred, so that you are not the person you used to be. This is not progress. It is regress. There will no celebrations for you tonight.
I'm anxious to get out of this section, aren't you? But for each of us in the grip of sin, hoping to find ourselves once again in the grip of grace, this is an essential part of the experience. We need to see ourselves for the sinners that we are, and we need to see our sin for the damage that it does.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Invasive Surgery

The Bible uses language which leads me to think of God as a surgeon. He uses His "arrows" and "hand" to dig deep into our lives to correct the problems that we can scarcely describe, let alone repair. Listen to the psalmist speak:
“For Your arrows have sunk deep into me, And Your hand has pressed down on me.” (Psalms 38:2 NAS95)
Initially, this seems to us like bad news. We don't take kindly to the prospect of surgery. We warm to it reluctantly. We need to be convinced that it is absolutely necessary, and that we can trust this particular individual to do surgery on our person. This trust is based on some confidence and record of the surgeon's skills, and that he has the resources, tools, environment and support to do the work without complications. And even then, there are few of us who approach surgery without qualms.  
Our psalmist who testifies out of the circumstance of divine surgery - he is a sinner. Do I really want to go into surgery when the Surgeon knows that I am a scoundrel? As a sinner, we have violated the Surgeon's prescription and honor. He knows how likely we are to do it again. And he has my life in His hands. 
And yet it is this Surgeon alone who loves us enough to make the self-sacrificing investment in our lives. And it is this Surgeon alone who is able to successfully change us from the inside out. This divine action is our only hope. We need His arrows sunk deep into us, and we need His hand pressed down upon us.
Surgical language gets borrowed by those outside the medical community. The military speaks of "surgical strikes." These are lightning quick invasions into enemy territory, and then our soldiers/planes are gone even while the devastating effects are being realized. It might take a while for a population or government to even know who or what caused the damage. 
God the Surgeon not only operates on individual lives, but has acted as General as well in orchestrating a surgical strike into the enemy territory of this world by sending His Son into this world. Here is the Old Testament record of God's intent in Christ, using some of the same terms as in Psalm 38: 
“He has made My mouth like a sharp sword, In the shadow of His hand He has concealed Me; And He has also made Me a select arrow, He has hidden Me in His quiver.”
(Isaiah 49:2 NAS95) 
Most people didn't realize what had happened until Jesus was already returned to heaven. Many still don't get it. But as with God's surgical action in my heart, I see that God's military action in this world was necessary to deal a death blow to the enemy and establish His rule in our crucified Captain and resurrected King, Jesus.
And so for Christians who read Psalm 38 and Isaiah 49, we find that the surgical and military actions of God come together in Christ who rescues the world from death and the devil and changes us from the inside out. Psalms 38:2, and news of divine surgery is not a threat, but a promise. We need His work in our lives. We need it now. "Please Lord, drive your purposeful and powerful surgical instruments deep into me. Hold me back and down and close with Your loving and correcting hand."

Thursday, September 02, 2010


The psalmist is having trouble. We can relate. And so he prays: 
“O LORD, rebuke me not in Your wrath, And chasten me not in Your burning anger.” (Psalms 38:1 NAS95)
Let's be clear: the psalmist is not asking to avoid rebuke or chastening. He is asking that He be spared the fierceness of God's wrath and burning anger in the process. "Deal with me, but deal with me gently."
These two (Hebrew) words describing God's anger are used in a telling context at the foot of Mt. Sinai when Moses descends only to find God's people sunk in sin. As Moses recounts the scene years later, he describes it this way: “For I was afraid of the anger and hot displeasure with which the LORD was wrathful against you in order to destroy you” (Deuteronomy 9:19 NAS95). These people were in deep danger. Their sin, and mine, creates an acute problem.
The best cross-reference I have found for God's action of rebuking and chastening is in Jeremiah 2:19: “Your own wickedness will correct you, And your apostasies will reprove you; Know therefore and see that it is evil and bitter For you to forsake the LORD your God, And the dread of Me is not in you,” declares the Lord GOD of hosts.” Jeremiah 2 is a classic chapter in describing the loss and peril that attaches to those who walk away from God. Now apply this to your own situation. Think about your sin(s), and then state that first phrase: "Your own wickedness will correct you." That is, the sin that you yourself commit will become the stake that skewers you one day in the future. The commission of sin(s) opens the door for evil and bitterness to flood into your life.
This all stems not just from your attraction to sin, but much more from your aversion to the fullness of who God is. One aspect that you and I purposely neglect is this: that God hates sin. He hated Israel's sin. He hates my sin. He hates your sin. God is terrible in relation to sin, and will unleash His terrors on sin and sinners. Aslan is not a safe lion, and our God is not a safe God. It is good for you and I to know something of the dread of God.
We cannot stop here. The blessed Gospel provides a safe haven from which we, like Daniel's three friends, can feel the fire without being consumed by the flames. Our Savior, Jesus Christ stared deeply into the dread of God and was consumed by it. He bore the penalty of our sin(s) Himself in our place. In Christ, we have relief. In Christ, the psalmist's prayer is answered: God will  rebuke and chasten, but not in His wrath and burning anger, not because He has laid aside His wrath, but rather because His wrath has been spent and satisfied in Christ's sacrifice.
As I sit here, hidden in Christ, I now ask that I would not be ignorant or forgetful of the dread of God - that my Father in heaven hates sin with a vengeance, and therefore, so should I. And, if you sit there, apart from Christ, I pray that the dread of God would compel you to come quickly to Christ and find the answer to the psalmist's prayer in Him.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010


It's tough to keep it inside the lines. Even so, there are many who hone the skills and master the court or field. These are the winners, the champions, the heros. But how often do we find that these athletic experts are often miserable outside the arena. Their skills are limited in scope, and their discipline is short-lived. Their muscular forms are betrayed by shrunken souls in need of a faith that strives and perseveres.
Hebrews 12 shows us that the real contest is not confined to a field. The race that is run is not on a track, and one does not retire one Coach as he moves to the next level. The life of faith is lived on all surfaces, and the tests of faith come one after another in many forms that first try the body, then the mind, and the soul, and the heart, and the will. The struggling saint finds no finish line in this life, and celebrations over temporary successes are often more signs of pride than maturity.
So Christian, don't be misled. Your greatest feats may be accomplished on your knees in helplessness rather than with the strength of arms or legs. Your toughest tests will not be in front of a crowd, but instead when no one is looking. Your greatest glory is not praise for self, but rather glory to God, and you find yourself eclipsed in service and suffering. 

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Lost in Time and Space

I have a hand-written cross-reference near the opening verses of Ezekiel 1 referring to the baptism of Jesus. Jesus was about 30 years old, and, like Ezekiel, here he was by a river, among "exiles" in the sense that they were still out-of-place in their land (under Roman control) and out-of-joint with God. Like Jeremiah, Ezekiel is asked to act out several of his lessons and sermons. But like Daniel, Ezekiel’s writings take on an apocalyptic, other-worldly character.

For instance, in the opening verses of Ezekiel 1, we find Ezekiel at a particular place at a particular time: 30th year; 5th day, 4th month, by the river. But then something happened that rendered Ezekiel “lost in time and space.” The heavens are opened and he sees visions of God. He is transported in his mind and spirit beyond where his feet are fixed, so that he can see and describe wonderful and amazing things to these poor exiles. We find something similar when Paul is caught up to “the third heaven” (2 Cor 12:2) and yet cannot put into words the things that he experiences. John, exiled on the island of Patmos, in a real (terrible) place in a real time (Revelation 1:9,10) is transported by vision to report on scenes from beyond time and place. We struggle with their descriptions, because words fail to portray what we have not yet experienced, and yet it is good for us to puzzle over these things, if only to remind us that this is not all there is.

It is good and gracious of God to take those whose lives are fixed in time and space, and through them to reveal to us “things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Cor 2:9). But it is better that God has sent One who was forever beyond time and space, to be born of a woman in a barn, and to die like a criminal on a cross – the eternal Son of God now not lost, but nailed in time and space, so that we who are but sinful creatures can know and worship the One and True and Living God forever.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Church's View of Discipleship

Acts 11:26and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.
  • not all disciples were known as Christians, but all Christians were disciples

Nominal Christianity (Christianity in name only) is dead.
1.   This is true in at least three senses: Christians in name only are really not Christians at all, and so are spiritually dead
2.   Our culture has lost patience and respect with this kind of “casual” Christianity, which is betrayed by the shallowness of its beliefs and commitments, and by the absence of life change.
3.   It is dead in that it has no spiritual power associated with it. It has institutions and patterns which have created a kind of Christian sub-culture, but it is dead and dying, and such churches are drying up and closing down.

Discipleship Christianity is alive and well

1.   These Christians are related primarily to Christ, and secondarily to a local church.
a.   It is Christianity; not church-ianity
b.   Their Christianity is personal, a real relationship with a living person.
2.   These followers of Jesus are consistently seeking how to live Jesus’ life in every arena of their lives.
a.   It is not Sabbath or Sunday Christianity; it is everyday
b.   Their Christianity is universal, pervasive
3.   These disciples accept responsibility for representing Jesus to their families, friends and associates; and they accept the consequences
a.   They do not rely on pastors, missionaries, or churches to take care of their Christ-representation
b.   Their Christianity is missional, persecutional

The Shape of New Covenant Discipleship

Old Covenant righteousness was law-oriented. Doubtless, there were some, perhaps many, who lived under the OC who had God-given faith and a measure of the Spirit. But righteousness was measured by full compliance with all the Law’s demands. Even Moses, the initial leader under the OC, failed to fully comply.

The blessing of a long, full and fruitful life in the land of promise was tied to compliance. While some complied in part, and were blessed in part, no one fully complied with the detail of the law. No one under the Old Covenant was perfectly faithful. The followers were no better than their leaders.

New Covenant righteousness is not less law-oriented, but goes deeper, and includes full compliance not only with the letter of the Law, but also the thoughts and intents of the heart. Jesus is the Righteous One, the Faithful One, the Only One to fulfill the demands of God’s righteousness.

New Covenant discipleship is not an effort to behave better, but to follow Jesus as fully as possible, to have his character stamped on our hearts, so that we resemble him. NC discipleship is not primarily performance-oriented, and it certainly is not a superficial conformity to a set of rules for appeance’ sake. It is transformational, as the Spirit of promise establishes ownership and control in our lives, including our minds, our affections, and our will.

New Covenant discipleship is representative. As I am fully and completely represented before God by Christ, I in turn seek to fully and completely represent Christ in the world.

New Covenant disciples have:
·      A new Captain under a gracious administration
·      A new identity and a blood-bought fellowship

·      A new mission that cannot be measured in dollars, or numbers, or status

·      A new worldview that drastically changes the definitions