Monday, January 30, 2017

CP 274 'See' the glory, that surpassing glory, know the truth, live that call...

CP 274 ‘See’ the glory, that surpassing glory, know the truth, live that call…
Today I’ll start with some stuff you know, and then show you something that, for the life of me, I can’t figure out why so many Christians don’t seem to be able to get into their heads, let alone their hearts.
So, let’s begin with why God gave the law in the first place. Which well taught Christian doesn’t know the SOS… the law ‘shows our sin’? Of course it does. Check these two texts below:
·         ‘I would not have known what sin was without the Law…’ (Romans 7:7)
·         ‘The purpose of the Law? It was added because of sin… until the Seed had come.’ (Galatians 3:19)
The bottom line is that the Lord God Almighty gave the commands to Moses to teach to Israel, but, and this is important, he did not give the Holy Spirit with it so that it could actually be fulfilled. Did you get that? The Law was given, but the Spirit was not given with it!
The Law is good. The Law is holy. The Law is, as Psalm 119:105 tells us, a lamp to our feet and a light for our path. Above all, the Law is / was a revelation of our Lord’s glory, which we can measure by what was happening to Moses’ face. It was so transformed that the Israelites couldn’t bear to look at it. Too bright, too holy, too revealing.
The truth about themselves got exposed in the revelation given to Moses. Their sin was revealed, and its ‘wage’ was death. Period. Rightly understood, such exposure is a call to repentance, and inside the repentance was the continuing call to live according to those commandments. That’s where it stays for most Christians. ‘Yes, your sins are now forgiven, so go and live your new life according to the commandments. That’s your standard, that’s your guide, that’s your rule, that’s what the Lord requires of you.’ Think all ten commands, or even the two: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your neighbour as you love yourself.’
Now, given all that, I want to shift your thinking, shift your will, and get a much larger truth into your newly-created heart. Consider this text I’m sticking under your nose:
“Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, transitory though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? If the ministry that brought condemnation was glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! 10 For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory.” (2 Corinthians 3:7-10)
My challenge question is this. Which glory will more powerfully and deeply show the truth of human sin? The fading glory of the Moses revelation, or the lasting glory of the Son of God / Son of Man who dwelt among us, who lived, suffered and died sacrificially among us, and who was raised to life and is at the right hand of the Father? Think contrast. Picture the difference between a 40 watt bulb lighting a filthy shed and a 10,000 watt globe doing the job! Or perhaps, shining a bright light on your hands in the dark and seeing the redness, compared to the extraordinary X-ray vision that servicemen saw in their hands when the first nuclear bomb was exploded at Woomera in the 1950’s.
Are you gripped by the Moses-type glory or the Jesus Christ, Saviour Lord and Redeemer revelation of glory? Truly the latter, the marvel of being in the presence of the holiest, holiest, holiest, reveals the truth which cannot be hidden. Surely, now we can’t help but admit, with our mentor, the Apostle Paul, that, ‘I know that in me, that is, in my flesh there dwells no good thing!’ (RSV Romans 7:18) Right here you have my personal testimony. The longer Jesus has known me, the more he has shown me insights about himself, who he is, what he did and does, the brilliance of what Paul names as ‘all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge’ found only in Christ, the more profoundly the truth of myself has been made clear. The glory of Christ reveals my sin in a deeper, inescapable way. And I don’t mind one bit. I’m glad beyond words. The glory of Christ reveals a forgiveness which can’t be withdrawn, and a status as child of the Father which is liberty in my body, soul, mind and spirit. It’s all grace, it’s all gift, it’s all mind-blowing and it is established in my heart with unshakeable comfort. And it has one final challenge which I love…
I have the call to live this extraordinary glory, and I can! His glory covers everything in Moses’ commands and much, much more, but I can! He says to me, ‘Follow me’, and I can. He says to live as he lived, to love as he loved me, and I can! I hear him call, ‘Take up you cross and come with me,’ and I can! The Father  me to ‘Listen to Him!’ and I can! He declares, ‘I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done for you,’ and I can!
Really possible? Yes! How come? Simple really. He has built into me a living trust that he is the one the Father sent. He has given me this faith through his Spirit. I know what I know that I know. And inside that faith and gift of righteousness he has given me not only Jesus’ heart, but also his mind, his Spirit and his strength. I couldn’t keep the law to bless myself, but I can live the glory of Christ because its truth and power is within me, and his Spirit constantly lifts me up.
And by the way, when I dip it, fail, crash, miss the mark, bomb out, I always hear his voice, ‘It’s forgiven already, let’s keep going, I’m here.’ Freedom!
Be blessed this week…


Saturday, January 21, 2017

CP 273 Missing in action. The concept lost amid the words...

CP 273 Missing in action. The concept lost amid the words…
Recently I called a brother Pastor whom I respect greatly, especially for his passion for clarity in what we believe, teach and confess. I had a particular question for him. It was this: What do you think of my idea to start this Sunday’s sermon with the statement that, ‘The point of the coming of Jesus, and everything associated with it, including the Cross and resurrection, was not primarily about the forgiveness of sins, but about the righteousness it would enable us to have?’
His initial reaction was to be somewhat taken aback. Understandable. I went on to explain to him that during the 50 or so sermons we had listened to over the last twelve months, I had heard the word ‘righteousness’ used only once. Just once! And that was by a Lay-Preacher in north Qld. I had this constant awareness that something was missing, something was not being declared that simply must be declared.
In all 50 services there was mention that ‘Jesus died to save us from our sins.’ And that is true. But forgiveness has a point, and that point is, ‘…the holiness without which no one can see the Lord!’ (Hebrews 12:14) Have you ever thought about that? The Cross is the means to an end? And that end is not simply the forgiveness of sins?
Consider the following verses…
1.       ‘I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the Gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last…’ (Romans 1:16-17)
2.       ‘But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known… This righteousness comes by faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.’ (Romans 3:21-22)
3.       ‘…I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.’ (Philippians 3:8-9)
4.       ‘…unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.’ (Matthew 5:20)
5.       Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness…’ (Matthew 6:33)
6.       ‘It is because of him (God your Father) that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God – that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.’ (1 Corinthians 1:30)
There are dozens of verses like it. The sine qua non (without which nothing) for inheritance in the kingdom is not simply to have heard of the forgiveness of sins, but to be qualified to share in the inheritance, and that is through righteousness, and that comes through faith. How many times in scripture do we read of Abraham, that he believed God, and it (his faith) was credited to him as righteousness.
I know about the forgiveness of sins, and I know about the Christly sacrifice of the Lamb of God which makes it possible. But what has become crucial to me is that we comprehend, know, understand, ‘get’, are embraced by, and astonished by, the gift which forgiveness enables, which is nothing less than the righteousness of Christ. It is Christ’s righteousness, and his alone, which is our qualification for ‘being in the presence of the Holy One, for being a child of the Father and an inheritor!
There is no better, more profound way of putting this than to stick under your nose for your eyes to see, and for your mind to consider, and for your heart to know, this scandalous and liberating insight of Paul the Apostle:
“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
Get that into your head and heart… So that… so that… so that… so that… so that… we might become the righteousness of God!
Be free!
Before I let this go a couple of points…
  • ·         My Pastor friend shared a gem in our conversation. ‘We will never be more righteous than we are in Christ by faith, and we will never be less righteous than we are in Christ by faith.’ How’s that! And it’s all by unfathomable grace.
  • ·         It is not simply the word ‘righteousness’ that is missing in action. The very concept of it, even using different words, is just as missing. Preachers are short-changing their churches. Does such short-changing constitute spiritual abuse?
  • ·         The ‘better righteousness of the New Covenant’ is not simply that Jesus fulfilled the requirements of the law. No, much more than that, Jesus the Christ fulfilled the requirements for grace and mercy, humbly in human form, even into death. HIS credentials are credited to the eternal account of those who have faith. And it’s all by unfathomable grace.
  • ·         I was delighted, and I knew myself blessed, when my NSW Bishop, Mark Lieschke, included a worthy quote from ‘blessed Martin’ in his Christmas note to his Pastors… “It is a Christian sermon… when you make it clear that the aim of the Christ event is to help us believers to righteousness and salvation.”

In Him, stay free.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

CP 272 Ask not for whom the siren sounds...

CrossPurposes 272
Ask not for whom the siren sounds…
Early in November we were at Foster, on the mid-north Coast of NSW, when at 3.00am in the morning I heard the unmistakeable siren of an ambulance… e-aw, e-aw, e-aw, e-aw, e-aw… On and on it went. I remember thinking, ‘I hope the person that is for will be OK.’ Still it kept on…e-aw, e-aw, e-aw… It struck me as strange that it was getting neither closer nor further away. Then it dawned on me that it was coming from inside me. And suddenly I knew what it was. My defibrillator alarm had gone off! Some problem in the implanted mechanism.
As soon as possible in the morning I called the office of my heart specialist in Sydney to make an appointment. ‘Impossible,’ the voice said. ‘No spaces any time soon. Try the pacemaker clinic at the Public Hospital’. I was told to come in ASAP, as in right now! Well we couldn’t do it because Forster is perhaps 350km from Sydney, and we had the caravan as well. ‘Then call the pacemaker clinic at John Hunter Hospital in Newcastle.’ We did. Again we were advised to get there pronto. We did. The technician checked the device and announced that my battery was dead. ‘You need to get it replaced ASAP.’ He called in a heart surgeon. Who insisted it should be done straightaway.
Long story short… It was replaced in Sydney a week later. Mind you, that was after the specialist in Newcastle advised me that, ‘If you have a heart issue before it is replaced you will die! All charming comfortable stuff. Anyway the battery in the new device will last me around eleven years, compared to the old one which lasted eight. Besides making a good tale, I have a reason for sharing this.
I was in trouble and I needed help. Not just from anyone, but someone uniquely qualified to deal with it. I had such help in the technician and the surgeon. Knew the problem, knew what I needed and could do what was required. Then did it.
I was reminded at the time of an occasion in 2001 when we were exploring the Kimberley region in NW West Australia. On the road across the Prince Edward River we were headed toward Mitchell Falls. The Land Cruiser suddenly lurched left and became unsteerable. Stopped, got out to look, and saw the front left wheel at an angle it should not have been, with grease oozing out of a sort-of-round-thing in disturbing quantities. In trouble, needing help, about 500km from the nearest mechanic at Kununurra. What to do? Got on the CB radio and got hold of brother Leon who was 5kms ahead of us. He owns Toyota Ceduna! Was there in 10 minutes, knew what was wrong, knew what he could do, and effected stopgap repairs within an hour. Amazing.
Both these events and their outcome are like parables of the coming of Jesus Christ into a world of mess, chaos, disrepair, brokenness and sin. He came to be Immanuel – God with us. Sounds like exactly what we need(ed). Which Christian does not know that Jesus died for our sin? I wonder though, if we think much about exactly why and how Jesus was the perfect unblemished Lamb who could go to the cross for us and be an acceptable sacrifice in the Father’s eyes. Has it ever occurred to you that if Jesus had offered himself as a sacrificial lamb when he was just one year-old he would not have been an acceptable sacrifice? Does that thought trouble you? It should, in a good way.
The writer of the great testimony we know as “Hebrews” has an intriguing insight in chapter 2. ‘It was fitting that God… should make the author of salvation perfect through suffering’. (v 10) In v17 he adds that, ‘he had to be made like his brothers in every way…’ Hebrews 5:8 adds, ‘Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered, and once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation…’
Get that? Jesus wasn’t automatically ‘fit’ to be our Messiah by virtue of being born. He had to be made fit, made perfect. Bottom line? His suitability had to be tested under extreme pressure. Did he, at any point under attack by the devil, by principalities and powers, or by human opponents, did he ever deviate from godly humility and meekness? Did you ever see him turn his back on those who mourned or who were broken in spirit. Was he utterly faithful to his call to hunger and thirst only for godly righteousness? Can you locate a single instance where he didn’t bother to be merciful or shunned the call to be a peacemaker? Was his whole life marked by ‘doing justice, loving kindness and walking humbly with his God. No, You can find no such failure regardless of whichever way the scripture holds out truth in behaviour. Always there for the ‘bruised reeds’ and ‘smouldering wicks.’ He was tested, yes. But without sin. Remained righteous regardless of pressure. Honoured his Father above all things, and loved even unto death… Tested under the very worst hell could throw at him. That is how he was uniquely qualified to be our Saviour and Messiah. Just what we needed.
Here is the truth. In his life on earth, before the Cross, Jesus lived the righteousness without which no one can see the Lord. His death for the forgiveness of our sin enabled righteousness to be bestowed as the only necessary requirement for life with the Father. It is given to all who call on Jesus’ name. And that is exactly what we needed from Jesus Christ, Immanuel – ‘God with us.’ This is all gift. So if you hear that siren sound over some issue or other in your life, remember that he’s got you covered.
Bless you.