Monday, March 26, 2007

A Matter of Life & Death

All the pagan trappings aside, the nearer the approach of Easter, the more my thoughts are drawn to the pinnacle event of the Christian faith: the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ from the dead. The entire validity of Christianity stands or falls on the Lord Jesus' resurrection. As Paul so eloquently reasons in I Corinthians 15:13--19, if the Lord Jesus was not raised, everything vital to the faith (preaching, faith itself, witness, hope) is in vain. No resurrection, no Christianity.
And in a seemingly obvious relationship, the Lord Jesus' death is pivotal to the entire resurrection event. No death, no resurrection. And suddenly, John 19:34 receives the attention it deserves.
The apostle John witnessed (v.35) the flow of blood and water from the Lord Jesus' side, following the soldier's spear puncture. Had He been alive at that moment, blood would have spouted out with every beat of His heart. Instead, as Samuel Houghton, M.D. stated, "...water and blood would only flow from the wound if the heart was ruptured."
Indeed, in an article, "On the Physical Death of Jesus Christ," in the Journal of the American Medical Association (255: 1455--1463), W.D. Edwards, W.J. Gabel, and F.E. Hosmer conclude, "Modern medical interpretation of the historical evidence confirms that Jesus was dead when taken down from the cross."
Now, for what may seem an unusual application of this event, which occurred to me recently. As physical death was a physical reality and requirement for physical resurrection, so spiritual regeneration necessitates spiritual death. Taking God's salvation seriously requires taking the total spiritual inability of sinners seriously. Grant even the slightest inkling of contribution a sinner can make to his/her salvation, and the Scriptural message of death-to-life is marred, if not destroyed.
Taking God and the complete glory He (and He alone) deserves, seriously, involves whole-heartedly accepting & proclaiming that the natural man is "dead in trespasses and sin" (Ephesians 2:1); and nothing short of God-initiated, spiritual regeneration will save.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Faithful Wounding

"Speaking the truth, in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Christ," (Eph. 4:15); "Faithful are the wounds of a friend," (Prov. 27:6). Faithfulness in speaking the truth is rare, these days. And among those who have a bent for ruthlessly speaking the truth, doing so in love is even more rare. Only as a believer "grows up," taking God and His Word more and more seriously, does he or she find the balance of truth with love.
In the context of Eph. 4:15, Paul is admonishing the believers in Ephesus to move on to maturity, no longer acting as gullible children who are led astray by the cunning of false teachers. Instead, they (and we) are to learn to speak the Word (John 17:17) in love.
This love in which we are to speak the truth is not some sentimental or superficial feeling of endearment. Indeed, the friend may be wounded in the process. This love is one which seeks the good of the friend beyond the possible hurt the truth may produce. It is not unlike the spiritual surgery which the Holy Spirit performs, in convicting us of sin. Often He must cut deeply, and our flesh detests His knife, but it is always needed for our holiness and usability. The mature Christian yearns for the scalpel, willing to be pained for the purpose of producing more fruit.
Great grace is needed, both for the speaking and the receiving of biblical truth, with sensitivity to timing and wording being crucial.
May God grant us this grace, and with it the determination to grow up in all ways, in Him.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Philippians 4:8

A.W. Tozer phrased it this way: "The most important thing about you is what comes to mind when you think of God." From the time I began taking God seriously He has given a consuming desire to think of Him as He is, not as I imagine Him to be. His precious Word is the prime tool for learning Him, given that we might worship Him rightly, refusing the maudlin superstitions, the emotional inventions men have concocted as to who He is. One passage always comes to mind at this juncture: "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Neither are your ways My ways," declares the Lord. "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts, " (Isaiah 55:10, 11).
Since this is so, there must be daily diligence to renew the mind by refusing conformity to the world system. As I persevere, my life is gradually transformed, and my concepts of God come closer to reality.
Is all this so important? Immeasurably... for, (a.) how we see Him is how we serve Him; (b.) How we see Him is how we'll speak of Him to others, and to ourselves. Yes, some of the most important things we say are self-sermons, rehearsing the truth for encouragement & exhortation.
And (c.) how we see Him is how we'll speak to Him. Thinking of Him as He truly is makes a monumental difference in our prayer lives.
Proverbs tells us that, as a man thinks, so he is (23:7). Not as he thinks he is, nor as others think he is, but as he thinks, that is who he truly is. The challenge, then, is to take every thought "captive to the obedience of Christ," (II Cor. 10:5). A lifetime task, to be sure, but one worthy of the God we are to take seriously.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

The Freedom of Grace

Someone has said, "Grace is always amazing." Indeed, it is... and the more perfectionistic a person's personality, the greater the appreciation for the freedom of grace. Martin Luther would be an excellent case in point. So thoroughly consumed with the 'salvation by works' (regardless how much grace is mouthed) message of the Roman Catholic Church, Martin came to the edge of sanity in trying to appease God. Against this pitch black background of legalism, the apostle Paul's message of "the just shall live by faith" in Romans shown like a brilliant diamond of release. Luther reveled in grace for the rest of his days, saying "Love God, and sin on, bravely." For those who fear grace as a means to excuse sin, his words seem blasphemous... but for those who take God and His grace seriously, it is an appropriate expression of freedom in Christ. The judaizer focuses on "sin on, bravely", considering such a thought unbearable. Yet the primary emphasis is on "Love God." The only ones who truly love the God Who is are His children, since the lost person cannot do so. And the one who knows and loves the Father in spirit and in truth knows moment by moment that grace is truly amazing.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

The Blessed Holy Spirit

Of the multitudes of questions which can be asked of someone about his/her spiritual life, my favorite is: "Has the Lord Jesus changed you?" For when a person is genuinely regenerated by the blessed Holy Spirit, there is a radical change, and the person knows it. I know my theological stance on salvation is punctilliar, meaning a certain point in time. No doubt some embrace the possibility of a gradual change by the Lord, but I am not one of them. As varied and creative as the Holy Spirit's means and methods are, I do not see Him gradually regenerating anyone. There is a moment, an instant, when He vivifies the spiritually-dead person's spirit, transferring him/her from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light. Now, to be sure, depending on the individual's age, competency, awareness, etc. the realizing that this change has taken place may be in stages. Yet, I would insist, from the blessed Holy Spirit's perspective the change is instantaneous.
If one has no recollection of a time when he/she was not a Christian, some serious reflection on the Scriptural doctrine of salvation would be in order, as well as seeking the Lord for either assurance or conviction.
There are few greater joys in this life than to know that you know you are saved and on the way to an eternity with the One Who saved you.

Friday, March 2, 2007

Loving the Word

One of the key characteristics of someone who has been changed by the Lord Jesus is a love of the Scriptures. One who says, "I love the Lord", and yet thinks little of the Bible and obeying its truth, is demonstrating the likelihood of self-deception. For, the one who loves the risen Word also loves the written Word.
Those who take God seriously take His Word seriously. The maturing Christian understands that God has provided an objective source of Truth-- the Bible, as well as the subjective Source in the Person of the Holy Spirit. Someone has well said that the Bible is the only Book where the Author is present at every reading. As the Christian hears, reads, studies, memorizes and meditates on the Word, the blessed Holy Spirit Who inspired that Word applies it specifically and particularly to the teachable heart. His ministry attests to the fact that the Word is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and training in righteousness (II Timothy 3:16, 17).
May we who take God seriously reflect afresh as to whether or not we are paying the price in time, energy, and discipline as a result of loving the Word.