Monthly Archives: June 2010

Are You Dead Yet?

Victory of the Heart

Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me.

Luke 9:23 NLT

Dying to self is not strictly the idea of giving up possessions: it is giving up the right to myself. My ways, my wants, and my demands are yielded to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Want a full, deep, intimate experience of Jesus? Give up the right to yourself and hand your heart and will over to Jesus and there find “joy inexpressible and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8).

Naturally, a man regards his right to himself as the finest thing he has, yet it is the last bridge that prevents Jesus Christ having His way in a life.

The approaches to Jesus are innumerable; the result of coming to Him can be only one—the dethroning of my right to myself, or I stop short somewhere.

Jesus Christ is always unyielding to my claim to my right to myself.

The one essential element in all our Lord’s teaching about discipleship is abandon, no calculation, no trace of self-interest.

Oswald Chambers, Disciples Indeed (London: Marshall, Morgan and Scott, 1955), 35.

When you are forgotten or neglected or purposely set at naught and you don’t sting and hurt with the insult or the oversight but your heart is happy, being counted worthy to suffer for Christ – THAT IS DYING TO SELF.

When your good is evil spoken of, when your wishes are crossed, your advice disregarded, your opinions ridiculed and you refuse to let anger rise in your heart, or even defend yourself, but take it all in patient, loving silence—THAT IS DYING TO SELF.

When you are content with any food, any raiment, any climate, any society, any solitude, any interruption by the will of God–THAT IS DYING TO SELF.

When you lovingly and patiently bear any disorder, any irregularity, any impuctuality or any annoyance–THAT IS DYING TO SELF.

When you never care to refer to yourself in conversation or to record your own good works, or to itch after commendation, when you can truly love to be unknown–THAT IS DYING TO SELF.

When you stand face to face with waste, folly, extravagant spiritual insensibility—and endure it as Jesus endured it– THAT IS DYING TO SELF.

When you can see your brother prosper and have his needs met and can honestly rejoice with him in spirit and feel no envy, nor question God while your own needs are far greater and you are in desperate circumstances—THAT IS DYING TO SELF.

When you can receive correction and reproof from one of less stature than yourself and can humbly submit inwardly as well as outwardly, finding no rebellion or resentment rising up within your heart—THAT IS DYING TO SELF.

When like Paul-you can throw all your suffering on Jesus, thus converting it into a means of knowing  His overcoming grace; and can say from a surrendered heart, “most gladly,” therefore, do “I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake”(2 Cor. 12:7-11)–THAT IS DYING TO SELF.

Are you DEAD yet?

In these last days, the Spirit would bring us to the cross. “That I may know Him…being made conformable unto His death” (Phil 3:10).

Anonymous, Bethany Publishing House Tract

The Adequacy of Christ

Christ Changes Lives

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

2 Cor. 5:17

In the ancient world, it was believed that you were born with a certain character qualities (or lack thereof) and those qualities were yours for the rest of your life. The ancient world was fatalistic: the personality and character attributes that you have as a child is the kind of adult you will be. You can never change. Born a thief, always a thief. Born a liar, always a liar. Born with courage, always courageous. However, Christianity breaks forth in the first century and proclaims forgiveness, hope, and real transformation. By the power of Christ, a real change of life and character is offered. Fatalism is rejected.

The apostles proclaimed the power of Cross which saved us from the penalty of sin and is saving us from the power of sin and will save us from the presence of sin. The chains which bind us and bondage of sin which control us are defeated by Christ’s sacrificial death. Christ’s presence, person, power and work is more than adequate to transform us freeing us from our past.

We need not make excuses: the sins that plague us and seem to dominate our lives can be conquered by the blood of the Lamb. We can trust Christ to free us: he is more than adequate.

The adequacy of Jesus Christ to deal with our helplessness is indisputable. He is able to save to the uttermost all who come to God by Him. This was the purpose of His coming: “Thou shalt call His Name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins.” The adequacy of Christ to deal with our helplessness is something that is basically surely true. If He cannot save you from your temper, what kind of Savior have you to offer to this world? If He cannot save you or me from thoughtlessness or selfishness, from unreliability, from jealously and envy, what kind of a Savior is He? He is no Savior at all. The whole testimony, the whole message of the New Testament Gospel, is that He is able to save. And His adequacy to deal with man’s helplessness is seen here. I hope it is seen in your life and mine.”

George B. Duncan, “Christ’s Adequacy, Authority, and Availability (1965),” Daily Thoughts From Keswick: A Year’s Daily Readings, ed., Herbert F. Stevenson (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1980), 335.

A Love That Delivers What It Promises

Loving Us Out of the World & Its Influences

For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Rom. 5:7-8

Recently, I listened to Timothy Keller’s Counterfeit Gods:The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, ad Power and the Only Hope That Matters on audiobook. Pastor Keller deals with the abuse of money, sex, and power as false forms of fulfillment, empty substitutes for genuine love, and deceptive promises for real joy. Money, sex, and power are idols that promise a satisfaction that they can never deliver (1 John 5:21).

The world is a system that values money, sex, and power over and against God and his kingdom. The world believes that true spirituality is a waste of time, sacrifice is repugnant, and faith is naiveté (1 John 2:15-17). The world says that only unlimited sources of wealth, unbridled sex, and a power that dictates can bring us happiness.

However, Christ died so that we might be free from the delusions and deceptions of this world. The grip that money, sex, and power has over our lives can be broken. Our love and fulfillment needs can only be met in Christ. “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Gal. 6:14). Only the Cross of Christ displays, gives, and releases the love of God that can bring true joy John 3:16).

God saw Abraham’s sacrifice and said, ‘Now I know that you love me, because you did not withhold your only son from me’ [Gen. 22:12]. But how much more can we look at his sacrifice on the Cross, and say to God, ‘Now, we know that you love us. For you did not withhold your son, your only son, whom you love, from us.’ When the magnitude of what he did dawns on us, it makes it possible finally to rest our hearts in him rather than in anything else.

Timothy Keller, Counterfeit Gods (New York, NY: Dutton, 2009), 18.

Total Abstinence

Christ Keeps Us From Sinning

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy,to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

Jude 24-25

Day-by-day holiness is Jesus’ active obedience becoming our present obedience by the power of the Cross through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. This is the Life of God in us: we trust the indwelling Christ who changes our hearts, thus producing right character in us leading to right conduct through us. Jesus Christ has brought us into union with a holy God. His holiness becomes our holiness by faith. His victory is our victory. Jesus’ victory over the world, the flesh, sin, death, and the devil is our victory over the world, the flesh, sin, death, and the devil. The resurrected Christ lives in us by the Holy Spirit: He who raised Jesus from the dead gives us life and that life is the freedom not to sin (Rom. 8:11).

Day-to-day holiness can be great acts of sacrifice and suffering, but normally consists of a thousand little choices of yielding self in the minute, daily, ordinary stuff of life. This holiness by faith is a resting confidence in “a trusted Christ” who renovates our hearts, purifies our spirit, uplifts our soul, and strengthens our inner man.  Jesus Christ in us adjusts our character choices, He strengthens us to do the right thing.

Total abstinence is the watchword of the Gospel about all sinning on the Christian’s part . . . . And now let us remember that for this total abstinence there is stored up in Him divine sufficiency. Yes, and we are in Him. The feeblest believer in this tent is in Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ in the eternal covenant is in him. What we want is to turn the fact into practical realization; it is to turn what we have into what we use; it is to turn what we know into what we are. Look then, look off, look in, unto the Lord!

It is not manufactured within; it is derived from above; and it is derived in that most wonderful way–the embosoming of Jesus Christ in the very hearts of His own, by faith and by the Spirit . . . .

I will not think of the infinities of my need, except to lead me to the divine simplicity of the infinity of His supply. We are in Him; we derive it from Him. . . . I know what it is to lay the whole of it [i.e., besetting sin] upon my Lord’s head, and the whole of it beneath my Lord’s feet, and without anticipations of the future, to know that for the next step He is able to keep me from stumbling as well as hereafter, as He will, to present me faultless with exceeding joy (Jude 24-25).

Handley C. G. Moule, “The Total Abstinence of the Gospel,” Keswick’s Authentic Voice, ed., Herbert Stevenson (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1959), 55.

No Condemnation: The Story of William Herschel

He Took Our Place

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Rom. 8:1 NASB

Justifying grace is God’s undeserved, loving commitment to rescue us from his wrath and judgment. In Christ, God delivers us from sin and transports us into his loving kingdom of forgiveness.  Justifying grace calls us to trust Jesus Christ as our Savior, the one who has taken all our sin and just judgment upon himself on the Cross.

Justification is his acceptance of us in the sight of God to be in right standing by the righteousness of Jesus Christ being accounted, credited, and positionally granted to us. To be credited as righteous is to be conferred the legal standing of Christ’s sinlessness making us free from the condemnation of sin, the fear of death, and the accusations of the devil. The imputed righteousness of Christ is a free gift; it cannot be earned. It can only be received from a grateful heart by faith alone.

The story is told of William Herschel. As a young boy he loved military music, and growing up in Hanover in Germany he joined a military band. When his nation went to war, he was one of those leading the military band. As a young man he was totally unprepared for the horrors of war, and the result was that before long he deserted his military unit and fled the battle scene during an intense period of fighting.

He fled to England, and began to pursue further training in both music and science. Thinking he was in the clear, he grew and prospered in his new country. In fact he made various scientific discoveries that made him famous, and he gained great renown for his musical abilities. However, after Herschel came to the British Isles, another Hanoverian also came to live there—George who in fact became the King of England. King George knew of Herschel’s past desertion of the army and summoned the great musician and scientist to appear before the royal court. Herschel went with fear and trembling, and when he arrived in the palace he was told to wait a considerable time in an ante-chamber to the throne room. Then finally, one of the King’s servants came to Herschel and handed him a document and told him to read it.

He opened it with fear, only to discover that it read ‘I George pardon you for your past offenses against our native land’. George had pronounced the verdict of no condemnation on William Herschel, and in fact the document went on to say that for his outstanding service to humankind as a musician and a scientist, he was now to become Sir William Herschel: he was to be knighted! He had gone from criminal to honored dignitary in an instance, quite apart from what he might have deserved according to German law (the penalty for desertion was death). Paul is saying that this is what God’s pronouncement of pardon does for all of us who accept it. It not only removes the source of alienation; it places us in a favored relationship with God.

Ben Witherington III, Grace in Galatia : A Commentary on St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1998), 195.

What Theologians Are Supposed to Do!

Theology that Quickens the Conscience and Softens the Heart

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.

Hebrews 1:1-2

Several years ago, Bishop Charles W. Jones graciously appointed me as his canon theologian. A canon theologian is responsible for advising his bishop in theological matters, teaching the classic truths of the Faith, and encouraging his fellow clergy in the study of the Word of God. I take the task seriously, perhaps too seriously. But, I feel a responsibility to equip the people of God in the truths of God for the upbuilding of the church of God for the advancement of the kingdom of God. Theology need not be a purely intellectual exercise: theology should elevate the people of God into the presence of God for the worship and love of God. Theology should be birthed in prayer, pastorally sensitive, and understandable to the everyday believer. As J. I. Packer states below, theology should clean out the church’s sewers so that God’s truth might flow to the benefit of all.

If our theology does not quicken the conscience and soften the heart, it actually hardens both; if it does not encourage the commitment of faith, it reinforces the detachment of unbelief; if it fails to promote humility, it inevitably feeds pride. So one who theologizes in public, whether formally in the pulpit, on the podium or in print, or informally from the armchair, must think hard about the effect his thoughts will have on people — God’s people, and other people. Theologians are called to be the church’s water engineers and sewage officers; it is their job to see that God’s pure truth flows abundantly where it is needed, and to filter out any intrusive pollution that might damage health.

J. I. Packer, A Quest for Godliness (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1990), 15.

HT: Ray Ortlund

Security Like No Other

The Covenant of Joy

This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant.

Hebrews 7:22

Next week will be my fifteenth anniversary as an ordained presbyter in the Charismatic Episcopal Church (C.E.C.). I have been blessed by God to preach most Sundays during those same years. I love preaching and one of my favorite topics is the blessings of the new covenant (Heb. 7:22). The New Covenant gives me a unsurpassed security in my relationship with the Lord: I do not have to fear being rejected, discarded, or ignored by God. The new covenant gives me and you a security that no other person, document, or event can provide.

What makes the New Covenant better than the Old? The New Covenant secures the promise of an indwelling Holy Spirit who by his mighty power will produce an obedient and holy people of God. In the New Covenant, God promises that he will keep us by his divine power, therefore we need never to fear losing our salvation (Eph. 1:13-14).

The new covenant is an eternal binding promise that God in Christ will love each believer and never let them go (John 10:25-30, Isa. 49:15-16). The new covenant is God’s promise that he will pursue us and woo us and guide us and change us so that we as believers will follow him all the days of our lives (Jer. 32:38-41). Not only does God commit himself to keep us, but he places his Holy Spirit in us as a seal to the deal. The Holy Spirit becomes a deposit guaranteeing our final salvation upon the Second Coming of Jesus (2 Cor. 1: 18-22). Therefore, we need no longer to be sin-conscious, self-conscious, or performance-conscious, we are now free to be fully conscious of Christ and all the benefits he has provided for us in the Cross (Eph. 1:3).

Here we have arrived at the central mystery of living the Christian life. Christ has died for our sins and risen from the dead. Because of his blood and righteousness we are forgiven and counted righteous by God in Christ (2 Cor. 5:21; Phil. 3:9; Rom. 5:19). Therefore, Christ has become the Yes to all God’s promises (2 Cor. 1:20). Everything promised by the prophets for the new covenant has been purchased for us infallibly by Christ. These new-covenant promises include, “The LORD your God will circumcise your heart . . . so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart” (Deut. 30:6); and, “I will put my law within them . . . on their hearts” (Jer. 31:33); and, “I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh” (Ezek.11:19); and, “I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes” (Ezek. 36:27).

All of these new-covenant promises have been secured for us by Christ who said at the Last Supper, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:20). The blood of Christ obtained for us all the promises of the new covenant. But look again at these promises. What distinguishes them from the old covenant is that they are promises for enablement. They are promises that God will do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. We need a new heart to delight in God. We need the Spirit of God whose fruit is joy in God. We need to have the law written on our heart, not just written on stone, so that when it says, “Love the Lord with all your heart,” the Word itself produces the reality within us. In other words, we need the gift of joy in God. Left to ourselves, we will not produce it. That’s what Christ bought for us when he died and shed the blood of the new covenant. He bought for us the gift of joy in God.

John Piper, When I Don’t Desire God: How to Fight for Joy (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2004), 52.

Change or an Exchange?

What is the Exchanged Life?

For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

Col. 3:3

The Exchanged Life is practical day-by-day trusting in an all-sufficient Christ who lives within us by an all-powerful and sufficient Holy Spirit. This same Holy Spirit enables us to live the life of Christ in a world gone mad. Christ’s life is our life when we receive his life by faith. As Christ lives his life in and through us, our life becomes an abundant life. As a result, our  Christian lives becomes lives of spontaneous joy. Joy is that deep, supernatural fulfillment that comes in knowing that we are experiencing and expressing the one who is true satisfaction, Jesus Christ. Joy is knowing that we are unconditionally loved, graciously forgiven, and eternally kept. Joy is released in our lives when we cultivate Christ’s conscious, constant presence. The Exchanged Life is the direct daily application of the Great Exchange—a continual substitution of our weaknesses, shortcomings, and failures for Christ’s strength, adequacy, and victory. The Exchanged Life is Christ changing us from within:

You can never have a changed life until you experience the exchanged life. Christians are continually trying to change their lives; but God calls us to experience the exchanged life.

Bob George, Classic Christianity: Life’s Too Short to Miss the Real Thing (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 1989), 108.

The exchanged life is passive in that Christ works in us, but it is active for Christ empowers us to make righteous right choices. We must choose to walk in the Spirit, put on the new man, and trust our heavenly Father’s guidance and direction. As we maintain the confident expectation that God will be faithful to his promises, then we can anticipate and expect his gracious exchange of our weaknesses for his strength.

Brothers and sisters, victory has to do with an exchanged life, not a changed life. Victory does not mean that one is changed, but rather that one is exchanged. We are very familiar with Galatians 2:20, which says, “I am crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live in faith, the faith in the Son of God.”

The overcoming life is not a change but an exchange. If it were up to you, you could not make it. But if it is up to Christ, He can make it. The question is whether it is you or Christ who overcomes. If Christ overcomes, it would not matter even if you were ten times worse than you are now . . . .

Thank and praise the Lord. We have not been able to change ourselves for all these years. Now God is making an exchange. This is the meaning of holiness. This is the meaning of perfection. This is the meaning of victory. This is the life of the Son of God! Hallelujah! From now on Christ’s meekness becomes my meekness. His holiness becomes my holiness. From now on His prayer life becomes my prayer life. His fellowship with God becomes my fellowship with God. From now on there is no sin too great for me to overcome. There is no temptation too great for me to withstand. Victory is Christ; it is no longer I! Is there any sin too great for Christ to overcome? Is there any temptation too great for Christ to surmount? Thank and praise the Lord! I am not afraid anymore! From now on, it is no longer I but Christ.

Watchman Nee, The Life That Wins (New York: Christian Fellowship Publishers, 1986), 35.

Daily Drudgery

Abiding in God in the Monotony

As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father?

Hebrews 12:7 NLT

Drudgery is our ordinary, mundane, prosaic, day-to-day existence. Learning to live a supernatural life of abiding in Christ in the midst of the daily grind is a mark of spiritual maturity. The daily grind is an enemy to our spiritual lives only when we allow it to prevent us from experiencing God’s presence in the mundane routines and activities of life. We must understand that the ordinary, sometimes boring, activities of everyday living are a form of spiritual training used by our Heavenly Father to draw us into the presence of Christ.

As we look in faith, God can be found and experienced in the dishwashing, the lawn mowing, the vacuuming, and the driving commute. We must not forget that God’s presence is available to us in the boring, mundane, ordinary, routine tasks of life (John 15:1-5). As Brother Lawrence advised, God’s presence can be practiced, cultivated, and enjoyed in the daily tasks of cooking, cleaning, shopping, and work. “The time of business,” said he, “does not with me differ from the time of prayer; and in the noise and clutter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess GOD in as great tranquillity as if I were upon my knees at the Blessed Sacrament” [Practicing the Presence of God].

We do not need the grace of God to stand crises, human nature and pride are sufficient, we can face the strain magnificently; but it does require the supernatural grace of God to live twenty-four hours in every day as a saint, to go through drudgery as a disciple, to live an ordinary, unobserved, ignored existence as a disciple of Jesus. It is inbred in us that we have to do exceptional things for God; but we have not. We have to be exceptional in the ordinary things, to be holy in mean streets, among mean people, and this is not learned in five minutes.

Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest (Grand Rapids, MI: Discovery House Publishers, 1989), October 21.

We cannot escape from our daily routine, because it will go with us wherever we go . . . . God must be sought and found in the things of our world. By regarding our daily duties as something performed for the honour and glory of God, we can convert what was hitherto soul-killing monotony, to a living worship of God in all our actions. Everyday life must become itself our prayer.

Karl Rahner, “God of My Daily Routine,” in Encounters with Silence (Chicago, IL: St. Augustines Press, 1999).

Good Works

Good Works Prepared in Advance

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

Eph. 2:10 NASB

Good works are the fruit of salvation, not its cause or basis. Justification is by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone. No amount of good works can achieve salvation, however, a faith-filled salvation will produce many good works.  Works is a biblical expression to indicate all the righteous actions and virtuous deeds that we perform as a result of Christ living his life in and through us. We are not called to be fruit or works producers, but fruit bearers of the life of Christ in us.

Brothers and sisters, a great mistake is to think that salvation comes to us freely, while victory comes to us as a result of our own effort. We know we cannot trust in any merit or any work of our own for salvation. We simply need to come to the cross and receive the Lord Jesus as our Savior. This is the gospel. While we think that salvation does not require our works, we also think that we should have good works after we are saved. Even though we do not try to be saved through works, we try to overcome through works.

But just as one cannot be saved through good works, one cannot overcome through good works. God says that we cannot have any good works at all. Christ has died for us on the cross, and He is living for us within us. What is of the flesh will always be of the flesh, and God wants nothing that is of the flesh.

We think that salvation is through the Lord Jesus’ death for us on the cross, but that after salvation, we should try our best to do good and hope for the best. But let me ask, “Though you have been saved for years, are you good yet?” Thank and praise the Lord. We cannot do good. We cannot produce any amount of good. Hallelujah! We cannot do any good. Thank and praise Him that victory is a gift from Him; it is something freely given to us!

Watchman Nee, The Life That Wins (New York, Christian Fellowship Publishers, 1986), 34.