Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Tragedy of Knowledge Without Action

It has been far too long. To be honest, I cannot believe I've even found time in my busy schedule to write this post. Much as happened over the past several months. I became a married man. I stepped up into a leadership position at my church. I began discipling a few men. New-found responsibilities have begun to take shape in my life. Everything has changed. Except for the consistency of my sin. Unfortunately, that's still going strong. However, to quote the words of one of my favorite seminary professors, Dr. George Robinson "You're a bigger sinner than you think you are....but God's a bigger savior than you think He is". The fact that I still struggle with sin may not have not changed, though my slavery to it was defeated on the Cross. However, my understanding of the grace of God has radically exploded. God is so much more bigger than I ever dreamed Him to be. He is in control of my life in ways I never understood before now. And so, it is with great pleasure that I confidently, and boldly, make this proclamation to you today: though my life has changed dramatically, my passion for the Gospel has not. Today, I am more in love with Christ than I was yesterday, but not as much as I will be tomorrow.

This world may have changed, and we see that it has (still is, in fact), but the Gospel has not. The un-changing, life-transforming, world-shaking reality that Jesus Christ alone is the way to God, that He provides  salvation from sin and the promise of eternal life, has not escaped my heart. It has not left my mind. A greater understanding of the knowledge of the awfulness of my sin verses the holiness of my God has awakened me to more fervent repentance, a stronger urgency to pray, and above all the recognition that the gospel is not meant to be kept a hidden secret for those "who are able to find it". This understanding is foolish. This view is not only damaging to the believer, it is a misrepresentation of the Gospel. Because it is the very word of God, it is meant to be preached, followed, and  replicated (Matthew 28). Because it has been entrusted to us, it has been commanded to be taught (2 Timothy 2). Because it is the only source of eternal truth, it towers over the falsities of other world-views, and man-made attempts at religion; and is therefore worthy to be defended (1 Peter 3). It is able to awaken dead hearts. It has the power to convict. It is worthy to be accepted. The gospel is not just a message. The gospel is not just a story. The gospel is a person, and his name is Jesus Christ.

All this to say that, in all things and in all circumstances, in great achievements and in painful failures, we must never forget this: our knowledge of who God is and what He has done must lead to a constant application of that knowledge in our daily lives. It must move us to have the kind of faith in God that persists in trusting Him throughout everything; never yielding to circumstance. It must enliven us to proclaim the beauty of who God is and the wonder of what He's done for us. This is something that I have come under great conviction of recently. Knowledge of who God is and what He has done for sinners was never meant to simply be received, and kept locked away. If knowledge of God doesn't result in the consistent application of it and a willingness to share it, then all we end up doing is developing large, conceited brains and empty, action-depleted hearts within ourselves. In seminary circles, I'm tired of a focus being placed more on what we can know about God, and less on taking what He has already revealed about Himself and His purposes for the world and being intentional in seeking to share that with the communities around us, and the world beyond our borders. That brings me to my main point. My last paragraph, and the main thought behind this blog post, is for those who are aspiring to lead in a ministry capacity.

To my fellow brothers and sisters in the faith, I say this to you: all the seminary education in the world doesn't matter if your faith is silent. All the knowledge of memorized scripture verses accounts for nothing if the application of it is non-existent in your life. Every theological stance you possess on various, popular doctrines is rendered useless if you do not actively represent them with how you live in accordance with Scripture. Stop valuing everything you think you know about God. At best, those types of issues can only ever be hot-beds of eager debate. They do not equal a greater knowledge of God. They do not position you in a place of elevated, special favor with God. If you're going to value something, value an opportunity to share the Gospel whenever you see one! If you're going to value something, value the reality of who God is and the sacrifice of Christ on the cross that brought you back to a right relationship with Him. And to take this a step further: Prioritize the consistent, intentional, and joyful re-telling of this truth to all people, in all places, at all times, and in all situations. It may hurt your pride to have to hear this, but the reality is people do not care about all the knowledge of God you claim you have. You will not be effective if all you have is lofty words and complex thoughts of who God is. Somewhere in between all the knowledge and the academic jargon, there needs to shine forth evidence that your life has been changed. What people care about is the application. They care about how the message you're bringing has taken affect in your life. They want to see how it has changed you. They want to see if the gospel is really relevant for them in their lives Today! Your journey of faith doesn't have to be a past event that took place a long time ago. Even more so, it should be a current occurrence in your life that still demonstrates who God is and what He's done. Personally, I hunger for a revival of authentic, missional Christians. I thirst for a fresh re-discovery of the captivating presence of God in the lives of Christians who have become too complacent and apathetic to notice it's power. Please join me in prayer for a more committed generation of Christians who will focus more on sharing the Gospel and less on intellectual gain.

I leave you with this final thought: The greatest tragedy is not in seeing a person live without the saving knowledge of Christ. The greatest tragedy is in witnessing a Christian who has the saving knowledge of Christ who not only possesses no desire to share it with others, but sees no need to.

As always, my thoughts are merely my personal views on different matters. Which means they have the possibility of being not only wrong, but completely misinformed. I only ask that you, at the end of the day, are able to understand that: My desire is for the progress of Christ and his gospel. My focus is on the passionate, biblically-faithful teaching of the gospel, My hope is for the salvation of souls. My heartbeat is for the un-reached people of the world.

Father God, continue to guide us with your unfailing love and always sustain us with your unfathomable grace. In Christ's name I pray, Amen.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Walking in Wisdom

Whatever happened to the days when reading the bible changed everything about us? Where did the genuine heart-change disappear to? When was the last time reading the truth of Scripture made you break down in tears because of the sin you struggle with? I guess what I'm trying to ask is when did growing closer to Christ, receiving his instruction, stop meaning the world to us? I'm going to make a dangerous claim today. But please bear with me because I include myself in it. I think this has become a serious problem for Christians in the faith today. It's a tragedy really. Not that truth is often misinterpreted. Not even that scripture is misunderstood. Though those are serious issues we do face. No, I would argue the greater tragedy is not misinterpreting the truth; but rather walking away from it unchanged, unaffected, and unwilling to walk in wisdom. You see, misunderstanding can eventually be fixed. But an unwilling, indifferent heart, apart from a miracle of God, is near impossible to penetrate. Proverbs 4 speaks volumes of this. The entire chapter is a dialogue between a Father and a son, in which the son is encouraged to receive his father's wisdom eagerly, heed it obediently, and walk in that wisdom all the days of his life. The instruction received is described as "life" (verse 13). Those who disregard wisdom walk "in deep darkness" (verse 19), and have no hope of ever knowing where they're going, or how to stop stumbling in the darkness they're already lost in. The truth of what we read in scripture must be treasured as precious wisdom. We cannot afford to just go through the mindless emotions of reading words, and let the life-giving instruction of God pass right over our heads like a quick breeze in the wind. We must realize that the way of wisdom IS life! To disregard this wisdom is foolishness, which is the way of death. Walking in wisdom keeps you from death and bonded to God. Coming into contact with the God of the bible that offers this wisdom, and turning away from that with an apathetic attitude is like saying you like how what the bible says sounds, but you don't really take it seriously. Sadly, that's exactly the cultural mindset of Christians in the church today. Being saved from sin sounds awesome. Jesus dying on a cross is totally what we understand we need. But you mean we have to actually deny the sinful pleasures of the world?!?! Wait a minute, that's hard! That requires effort! Why in the heck would i ever want to sacrifice things that make me feel good and things that make me happy to strive for holiness? Sound familiar? That's because it's the battle cry of fake Christians nationwide. We have become a generation of Christians who count the cost, decide it's just too much, and then claim we still follow Christ in true obedience. Talk about a lie dressed up to look pretty. Unfortunately the culture of non-believers surrounding us keep buying into it. We have become completely and utterly unaffected by what the bible has revealed to us. And something's gotta give. We cannot and must not be unaffected by what we read in scripture. When we do this, we treat what we read in scripture like those who walk in evil. Those individuals are consumed with thoughts and actions of evil. It plagues them like a disease. They can't keep themselves from doing it. If the truth of the bible means anything at all to me, I'll never walk away un-changed by what I've read. The unbeliever does not understand the God of the bible. He will read the words and walk away the same man. But the believer in Christ will read the scriptures, receive the instruction and grace from it's powerful pages, and never be the same man again. Instruction is precious. You guard it by maintaining it. The way of wisdom is found in being truly affected by what you learn from the scriptures. By making a point to apply it your life. It's not just about the things you know, it's about what you do with what you know. When I encounter truth, when I read it, it must penetrate deep into my heart. It must absolutely devastate my heart, rather than just make me feel good. When we are rooted in the wisdom of God, that which we have received based on what we have read and what we have studied, it will be virtually impossible to walk away unaffected. And in that we will be rooted in the God who is the source of that wisdom. To cease desiring wisdom, to no longer be moved to change who we are by what we find in scripture, is the day we become spiritually dead. May we never pick up our bibles, examine them closely, and put them back down the same people we were when we picked them up. Be devastated by the truth. Be transformed by the truth. Be changed.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Understanding Our Identity

Throughout the years, I've been amazed at how many things are out there that distract us away from our identity. We have discovered multiple ways to detach ourselves away from a focus on God. We have found it more satisfying to immerse ourselves in material things that will not last. We are so easily swayed by the latest craze. The best fit. The most popular solution. And, above all, what helps us feel better about ourselves. All of these avenues of self-discovery have shifted our hearts away from our greatest purpose: to seek the glory of God. And with that, we've turned our backs on trusting God. We've decided that there are better things we can look to than a savior who died so that we might be made blameless before a holy God. Who defeated the grave so that we might have life, and have it everlasting. We have fashioned for ourselves our own personal identification cards. We are confident that they give us meaning. We chase after them when life gets too difficult to manage. Some of them are quite colorful. You may already know most of them: Drugs,Alcohol,Sex,Porn Addiction,Pride. The list could stretch on for miles but I'm sure you get the picture. You know how effective this has made us for the Kingdom? About as productive as a wet match in a dark cave. The goal of this thought piece is to encourage a return to our roots. To see an inner self-assessment of where our hearts truly lie. To help promote a strong foundation in a Christ-centered identity.

To lay bare the reality that most of us who call ourselves Christians, though we know all the catchy bible verses, sing all the modern worship songs, believe all the right Reformed ideas; that the heartbeat of our lives doesn't reveal us as identified in Christ as we'd like to think we are.

So, let's dig for those roots.

- I'm not talking about connectable-muddy sticks hidden deep beneath the ground that grow trees.

- I'm talking about the biblical truth of Jesus Christ as the foundation of what gives us meaning.

The foundation that explains who we are. Where we're found. Why we exist.

I am reminded of Matthew 7:24-27, where Jesus is wrapping up his Sermon on the Mount to the crowds that have gathered to hear him teach. By utilizing the metaphors of two houses, (one built on rock, the other on sand), Jesus is explaining the importance of finding and placing our firm foundation in him. In trusting him, no matter what comes our way in our lives.

The wise man builds his house out of rock. He began with the knowledge that a solid foundation is crucial in being able to weather the storms that inevitably will come. The foolish man builds his house out of sand. Even the most minor of disturbances sends his foundation crumbling to the ground. He did not understand the importance of laying a framework in a foundation that will last.

To make a long, drawn-out explanation short, this is the point: The wise man obeys the words of Christ and finds his identity only in Him alone. The foolish man convinces himself there's another way. Our faith cannot be grounded in our emotions, our experiences, or in anything that points towards us, or what we can make happen on our own. Why? Because those things change over time. They are not constant. They do not provide the answers to obstacles that we do not have the power to overcome. But a strong identity rooted in Christ, will stand the test of anything. And that type of identity will never yield to pain or circumstance. We must understand that we do not have the ability to reason what is good and make a consistent effort to do it. Nothing good comes from going your own way. In thinking that you can follow Christ with your whole life, and at the same time identify yourself with a lifestyle you've created. An identity placed in anything other than the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ will only ever be a false sense of security developed by a prideful person. As God's creation, we are called to be identified in Christ. To live in the image of God. If, to you, that looks like something different than the daily pursuit of holiness, then I can pretty much guarantee that the image you're trying to identify with isn't from God. It's a fabrication from the world. An empty promise. An attractive lie. A foundation that is destined to fail. And an identity that is about as identifiable to a follower of Christ as a Slim-Fast label taped to a McDonald's milkshake. It's a false advertisement and it doesn't show you as found in Christ. May we see that our hearts will forever be restless until they rest in Him.

Return to your roots. Examine your heart. Do you trust Him like you claim you do? Do you identify with the Savior that made you alive when you were dead in your sin? Do you think there's something better out there? If so, the first thing you need to do is identify yourself as the problem. And recognize an unwavering faith in Christ as the solution. Build your identity upon the solid rock of Christ. The world will try to tell you it can promise you everything you think you want. The world will even attempt to give you what you think can satisfy. But the words of the world are sinking sand. Your savior is the sure-footed solid ground. Understand who you're found in, and where you're called to stand. Build there. And remain forever.