Some of us within Christianity act as though God’s only desire for our lives and the only thing we should strive for in the Christian life is the avoidance of sin.
How so, Ben?
We come to faith when we repent for our sins.
We hear sermon after sermon that drives us into introspection, searching for those deep down sins hiding below the surface.
Our prayer life is 90% confession and 10% petition (for those of you who might not speak Christianese that means 90% saying I’m sorry to God and 10% asking God for stuff.)
Here’s a thought for you.
What if the Christian life is not all about sin?
What if the kingdom of God is not the absence of sin, but righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit?
What if righteousness was not “sinless perfection” but it was simply doing the things that God had created us for?
Think of it this way for a minute.
Let’s say you’re a parent and you have some young kids that you want to take to Disney World for a vacation. However, no matter how you try to save for this trip, life keeps getting in the way. Cars breakdown, kids need clothes (no matter how many times you tell them that if they keep growing they can’t go to see Mickey Mouse.) Every time you get a little bit set aside for your big trip, you have to use it for a real emergency.
Now let’s say someone comes along and gives you an all expense paid vacation to Orlando, with weeklong passes to all of Disney’s fun filled parks. He pays to fly you there; he pays for your hotel rooms, your meals and all the passes to all the parks. He even gives you some cash to buy some Mickey junk to put in your closet and forget about when you get home. (Sounds like Pat Sajak to me – …tell them what they have won Charlie.)
So you get off the boat and head for the entrance gate – there you stand ready to go in – tickets in hand and looks of awe and wonder on every face.
You and your family walk through those gates, then you turn around and stare in wonder at the entrance. You think to yourself – I thought I would never be able to get though those turnstiles. I am so thankful to the one who paid the price.
Then you spend the entire week that was given to you coming inside the gates – and standing there looking at the gate. You never walk down Main Street USA, you never ride Space Mountain, or Pirates of the Caribbean. You don’t visit Tomorrow Land. You just stare at the gate.
Your benefactor appreciates the daily notes of thanks, but when he realizes you stepped in and stopped he is actually upset with you. He did not send you to Disney’s magical kingdom to stand at the gate. He wanted to you go in and experience the wonder of it all.
Ok – so the analogy breaks down pretty quickly, but I hope you can see what I am saying here.
We Christians are stuck at the entrance gate. We’re stuck at the cross.
Yes – we must regularly remember the cross – that’s why Jesus said as often as you eat this bread and drink this wine, remember me. But He did not intend that we spend 30 years of Christian life sitting at the Last Supper.
There is more to the Christian life and the new birth.
Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, - Hebrews 6:1 NASB
The Father wants us to step into the fullness of Christ.
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. - Ephesians 2:10 NASB
It’s time we realized that the Father sent Jesus to bring us before the throne so we can be in His presence, so we can enjoy His company, so we can partner with Him in the work He is doing.
Lord, I am eternally grateful for the great price you paid. I am ever thankful for the way you made to come to the Father. Today, Lord, help we walk in the life you saved me for. Help me step out in the works you created for me to accomplish in Your wonderful kingdom.
Thanks for coming by.
Thanks Deb for getting me pondering along these lines.
His grave was assigned with wicked men, Yet He was with a rich man in His death,
Isaiah 53:9 NASB
He was crucified between two thieves, and then buried in the grave of a rich man.
It interests me that rich and wicked are contrasted here.
In our day the rich are by default the wicked in most of our minds and hearts.
Not on Calvary.
That old rugged cross stood between two men convinced of their wickedness in a court, and even then – even at deaths door – one of those wicked would walk with Him again in paradise.
Much like this wicked man. I stand convinced of my wickedness as I see the Son of Glory walking this lonely road.
The tomb – only borrowed for a long weekend was given freely by a rich friend of the Master. We don’t know much about Joseph of Arimathea save that he gave the Lord a cave and paid for an honorable burial.
It wasn’t Peter or John who negotiated for the body of Christ, it was this rich man.
I opened up my browser to MSN Monday morning and the first news which greeted me was North and South Korea had taken shots at each other. History tells us it largely about POWER. North Korea wants power over South Korea.
Everyone probably knows the events which have consumed the news about Ukraine over the past couple of months. From the refusal of signing a document with the EU, international events have changed. A peaceful protest which turned ugly. Resignation. Rejoicing for a new hope and beginning. Russia overtaking Crimea with threats of more encroachment. It is about POWER.
Raising the price of gasoline to astronomical heights, not because it is best for the consumer, but because it lines pockets with more cash. POWER. ... Read more
I have been talking about the garden of our maiden’s soul since early January in my SoS Saturday posts. Today, I want to make mention of another bible garden. There are a few. There is of course that heaven on earth, Eden, and that hell on earth, Gethsemane. But the garden I want to speak of today is found in the book of Isaiah.
Through the prophet Isaiah, God paints a picture of a garden, a vineyard to be more precise.
Let me sing now for my well-beloved A song of my beloved concerning His vineyard. My well-beloved had a vineyard on a fertile hill. He dug it (fenced it - KJV) all around, removed its stones, And planted it with the choicest vine. And He built a tower in the middle of it And also hewed out a wine vat in it;
Then He expected it to produce good grapes, But it produced only worthless ones.
And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, Judge between Me and My vineyard.
What more was there to do for My vineyard that I have not done in it? Why, when I expected it to produce good grapes did it produce worthless ones?
Isaiah 5:1-4 NASB
It’s such a sad picture. When you read this, do you see an angry God, or do you see a wounded God.
I see the later. I can almost hear the Father say “why have you forsaken Me?”
I have loved you well.
I have placed you in nutrient rich soil.
I have hedged you about - surrounding you with angelic protection. I have turned the soil and taken out anything that would impede or hinder your growth. I planted within you the imperishable seed of the gospel. I have grafted you into the true vine. I have erected in the center of all history, a tower – a cross. To this tower any man can run for safety – for salvation. The vat around the foot of this tower is full of the wine – wine pressed from the very Son of God. In this wine is everything you need for life and godliness.
Judge between yourself and this Vinedresser.
Lord help me to bear fruit that is pleasing to you. I know this fruit does not come from my own effort, but by abiding in You. Please cut away – prune – the branches in me that are fruitless, or worse, those that would bear wild grapes – sour grapes – rotten fruit. Help me keep my eyes on the tower – the fountain – You have placed in the middle of Your garden.
I have come into my garden, my sister, my bride; I have gathered my myrrh along with my balsam. I have eaten my honeycomb and my honey; I have drunk my wine and my milk. Eat, friends; Drink and imbibe deeply, O lovers.
Song of Songs 5:1 NASB
Jesus, the creator of all things comes into the midst of His creation.
The infinite God steps into the soul of this one who has an ugly history but has been called out and washed in His wonderful blood.
Anything good in me comes from Him. He is the one who has eliminated my sketchy past. He is the one who gave me this new heart. If my heart is a garden, He gave me the land, He put up the fence, He formed the gate, He gave me a desire to plant, He gave that which is beautiful in me the ability to grow and flourish.
What can this garden offer the Lord?
Myrrh and balsam
Myrrh and balsam point to Christ’s suffering and death on the cross. Having received the life that comes from His death, our lives, our gardens are always marked by our remembrance of Him.
As we take communion, we remember His words
While they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, "Take, eat; this is My body." And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins. - Matthew 26:26-28 NASB
Paul said this about his life
But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. ... From now on let no one cause trouble for me, for I bear on my body the brand-marks of Jesus. - Galatians 6:14, 17 NASB
So it is with our garden. The death and resurrection of Jesus are easily remembered. “And He built a tower in the middle of it” (Isaiah 5:2)
Our maiden, this “all in” believer, not only remembers the cross of her Lover, but embraces it in her own life. She takes up her cross, whatever the Master puts before her, with joy.
Honey and Wine
Honey speaks of pleasure, wine of joy. Though she bears in her body the marks of suffering, her garden blossoms with deep joy and pleasure.
You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.
Psalms 16:11 NASB
As the Father opens our eyes to the path He has for us to walk, though it may be the road to the cross, He does not leave us or forsake us on that path.
Get this! It’s really important. When we walk the “path of life” in communion with the Lover of our Souls, He will not leave us or forsake us. If He is with us, simply put, we are in His presence. In His presence is fullness of joy. At His right hand there are pleasures forever.
This path of life David speaks of is not ‘show me how to live so when I die I get You Lord.
No No No. More like this:
Help me walk this life in You, so I can see what You are doing and do it with You, so that I can hear what You are saying and say it too.
Sounds just like Jesus, doesn’t it? And the writer to the Hebrew believers said this of Jesus.
"YOU HAVE LOVED RIGHTEOUSNESS AND HATED LAWLESSNESS; THEREFORE GOD, YOUR GOD, HAS ANOINTED YOU WITH THE OIL OF GLADNESS ABOVE YOUR COMPANIONS." - Hebrews 1:9 NASB
(I’m not shouting – that is how the NASB does quotes from the Old Testament)
Because Jesus walked in unity with the Father, His life was marked with joy and pleasure, in spite of the suffering.
This is what He finds in the garden of His beloved.
They forced Him to drag that massive cross through the streets
They pounded nails into His hands and feet
He could have prayed and the Father would have scrubbed the mission and annihilated the nations of Israel and Rome in one fell swoop.
But like a lamb to the slaughter He was quiet, and continued to turn the other cheek.
Why are you silent, O precious Lamb of God?
Why do you heal the wounds of your attackers?
Why do you pray for the forgiveness of those who tear you apart?
…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you may not grow weary and lose heart. ~ Hebrews 12:2-3
Part of that joy was reconciliation with the very ones who beat Him.
So – are you wondering if I will ever move on? I am almost done – just stick with me for a little longer.
As, I am sure you remember, we are responding to Jesus’ words
Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. ~ Matthew 7:15-16
by digging through the little book of Jude to find some of the fruit that would identify such a tree – well in all reality we are letting the mirror of the Word give us a peak into our own hearts.
If you came here to load up with ammo to throw at your least favorite prophet, you will have to do some plank removal first.
Anyway – Let’s hear from Bro. Jude:
These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit. ~ Jude 19
One of the Lord’s core values is community. He went to considerable lengths to break down the formidable wall of sin keeping us out of communion with the Father. If we are to walk with the mind of Christ, this (community) must become one of our core values as well.
When words are used to insert a wedge between brothers, beware! When a message, a teaching, a word of prophecy makes you distrust others who are in Christ, or suspect their intentions, it would be a good time to step back and take it before the Lord.
Check your motives here too. Were you looking for a reason to divide? Looking for an exit strategy? Another one of the Lord’s core values is faithfulness.
Just as Jesus remained faithful to the Father, even when that faithfulness was going to cost Him a visit to the horrible and wonderful cross, so His hope is to find a willingness in us to bear reproach and insult if necessary, to maintain or restore relationship. (please see disclaimer)
God crucified Jesus – He let the Truth spend some time in the grave – in order to restore relationship!
What would you do?
Would you leave your gift at the altar, and go repair a broken friendship before going back to worship?
Beware of words that divide, and God forbid that we should use our own words to maim the Body of our Lord Jesus Christ. Don’t allow your words to be the spear piercing the side of the Body of Christ. [Tweet This] Don’t use the “sword of the Spirit,” His own word, to tear His body to pieces.
Tomorrow we will look at how Jude tells us we should use our words. I think you will like it.
Use good words to good purpose today!
See you tomorrow
--Disclaimer - I am not talking about abuse here - please hear me, I am not suggesting we door matt our way through life as physical or verbal punching bags, there by empowering some creep - got it? Good!
You know how people love to pass on bad news? Someone rushed to my lodgings to tell me the worst news there could be, and close behind them my daughters pushed past to kneel in front of me. They would have been more gentle with their choice of words but the news was the same, no matter how it was imparted.
They had him. There would be no walking away this time. They meant to kill him.
I have no words to describe the agony of that moment....
And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
For He (Jesus) grew up before Him (the Father) like a tender shoot,
And like a root out of parched ground; He (Jesus) has no stately form or majesty That we (You and I) should look upon Him, Nor appearance that we (You and I) should be attracted to Him.
He (Jesus) was despised and forsaken of men, A man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
And like one from whom men (You and I) hide their face, He (Jesus) was despised, and we (You and I) did not esteem Him.
Surely our griefs He (Jesus) Himself bore, And our sorrows He (Jesus) carried; Yet we ourselves (You and I) esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted.
But He (Jesus) was pierced through for our transgressions, (Your's and Mine) He (Jesus) was crushed for our iniquities; (Your's and Mine) The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His (Jesus') scourging we (You and I) are healed.
All of us (You and I) like sheep have gone astray, Each of us (You and I) has turned to his own way; But the LORD (the Father) has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him. (Jesus)
He (Jesus) was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He (Jesus) did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, So He (Jesus) did not open His mouth.
By oppression and judgment He (Jesus) was taken away; And as for His generation, who considered That He was cut off out of the land of the living, For the transgression of my people (You and I) to whom the stroke was due?
His (Jesus) grave was assigned with wicked men (2 thieves,)
Yet He was with a rich man in His death(Joseph of Arimathea,) Because He had done no violence, Nor was there any deceit in His mouth.
But the LORD (The Father) was pleased To crush Him (Jesus,) putting Him to grief;
If He (Jesus) would render Himself as a guilt offering, He (Jesus) will see His offspring (You and I,) He will prolong His days,
And the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His (Jesus') hand.
As a result of the anguish of His soul, He (Jesus) will see it and be satisfied;
By His knowledge the Righteous One (Jesus,) My Servant, will justify the many (You and I,) As He (Jesus) will bear their iniquities.
Therefore, I will allot Him (Jesus) a portion with the great,
And He will divide the booty with the strong; (Roman Guards)
Because He (Jesus) poured out Himself to death,
And was numbered with the transgressors (You and I;)
Yet He (Jesus) Himself bore the sin of many (You and I),
And (Jesus) interceded for the transgressors. (You and I)