Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Bold Prayers

Hello friends.

Imagination is a powerful tool that God has given human beings, but like most other things that God has given us imagination is, for some, energized by evil passions and corruptions of the human heart.  The godly also have use of imagination, and this is a wonderful tool God has given us. From a pure heart and with a mind structured by God’s truth, we can understand the times, the impact of ideas and actions on people’s lives, and help the church engage the world to preserve all that is truly of God and good to the world.  This is a monumental task, one that we are not sufficient ourselves to accomplish. But we know from history, and we sense in our own spirits, that times for Christians to rise up and engage wickedness and corruption do come. There are people who will rise up and offer themselves to God for that job.

Beloved, such a time is our time.  As Christians, we know humanity does not progress with any sort of evolutionary dynamic leading to some idealistic superman or divine like race to rule the world in purity and goodness.  Observation, and God’s word, say humanity is on a steady decline, dehumanizing itself and taking societies across the world down with it.  Corruption, injustice, godlessness, wickedness, greed, self-interest, unrestricted power to plunder, pressing people down instead of building them up into all they can be, mandating people serve the state over freely serving God, all these man-based demands by the godless on the world are damning the world (people) to the effects of God’s judgment for rebellion and sin.  I’m sure we could fill pages with the effects of a world gone mad under the rule of sinful man left to his own devices. But enough on our foe. We know he is here.

In May 2013, I pondered Psalm 94 and the Spirit of God opened my eyes to understand how humanity has not changed over the centuries and God’s word applies today as it did when this Psalm was penned.  The world external to man changes in many ways, but man stays man. This observation was nothing new, but it was different.  I found a new passion in my heart: The desire to speak, to say publicly what I found in my heart on these matters; which was fashioned and tuned by the Spirit of God.  The wickedness of our nation, other nations, and what I call the Religion of Death, are on a steady march to destroy and eliminate what is good, holy, upright, true, and all that is from the only True and Living God. I must engage this massive foe as yet I have never done. I know I’m not alone in seeing and understanding our world’s condition. I know I am not alone in carrying a heavy heart and a sense of helplessness to alter what is happening.  Most of us are aware of citizens groups, many having individuals with no prior involvement in politics or anything of the sort, who are coming together to try to do their part to stop this flood of destruction across our land. Christians all across the world are calling on God to intervene as we never have before. We know our strength is not sufficient, and we know His is sufficient. So we seek Him fully, daily, yielding ourselves to His wisdom and righteous judgments, moving toward our foe in confidence and with boldness.

By the end of my meditative reading on Psalm 94, I asked our Lord that I be able to pray this Psalm publically one day and that people would hear God’s word applied to this crooked and perverse generation. That request He granted last week.  My prayer based on Psalm 94 follows. I had the opportunity to give it at a meeting of veterans and others assembled with the united purpose of protecting liberty in our country. May this prayer be an encouragement to you, and may you petition God to direct your mind and heart, and hands and feet, your time and resources, and your very life for the good of people, the good of our nation, and the glory of God.  Be bold! Ask our Lord and our Father to strengthen your spirit, stand firm in the gospel, and engage the ungodly where they are found with the Truth and Love of God. This is our time, and the Church of God must rise up in the spirit and power of God Almighty! Ecclesiastes 3:1 states there is a time for every purpose. In verse 3, we are told there is a time for war. There is a purpose to war. Often it is to rid the earth of evil. While not condoning or implying anything, every one of us, I believe it reasonable to say, should put this issue and our current national condition before the Lord and wrestle with this and similar realities, which have littered human history, on the assumption that we too may be caught up in such a time and purpose.

God’s best to all.


LORD God, to whom vengeance belongs,
O God, to whom vengeance belongs, show Yourself.
Lift up Yourself, O Judge of the earth.
Reveal Your strong arm of truth and justice upon this world. Open people’s eyes!
Make known Your truth, righteousness and justice in this our country and in every land.
Let not the wicked cause the innocent and the godly to perish. Strengthen us, O Lord.
Find the godless and the wicked who pervert Your truth,
who exalt corruption and greed, who fuel self-interest, and who exploit people for gain.
 These spew lies. They cannot speak truth, yet they govern nations! They live in darkness and fashion corrupt systems which deliver harm, perpetuate discrimination, divide peoples, and destroy the very foundation of this our own special and blessed country, The United States of America.
LORD God, tonight, we, these people here, and countless others across the country, have had enough of men exalting themselves as if they were God! They expect us, who are a free people, to turn from the liberty we know so well, which was obtained by and known through Your Son Jesus Christ, they expect us to submit to their attacks on the free worship of God simply because men rule it evil. We pursue what is holy, just and good. We want to help others and not hinder. This country’s foundations and structures from the beginning are solid and good and we pray once again this nation would be governed by them. Lord, wicked and corrupt people seek to force us to live as unto them! And that we will not do!
Find them LORD. Lead them into their own traps. Give the proud and boastful of the world a fitting reward. Their rebellion is against You! Fill their mouths with gravel!
We assemble tonight as one in spirit. Many a time in this country’s history, men, women, and children have sought You, O Gracious and Merciful God, to guide minds and hearts and actions, to know the way, and to know how to go on that way.
We are no different. It is our time to stand for truth, justice, and goodness.
It is our time to humble ourselves unto You and enter the battle to preserve all that is good,
to protect it and promote it. We cannot and dare not attempt to accomplish such a task as this from our own imaginations and powers, but we call on You, The Sovereign of all Life, Order, Creation, and Judgment.
Tonight, we ask that through Your Spirit’s work and our lives this nation would repent, leaders would be removed by Your divine hand or repent of their wicked ways and live and govern as accountable to You.
We ask for wisdom, O Lord. We ask for counsel. We ask for strength, endurance, special connections with others we don’t know yet who can make a difference for good later.
We ask the religions of death suffer their own death and people be set free!
God, be near to us, and may we draw near to You.
Be with us now, as we move through the evening and consider who we are and how we can best save this country and its people. Give each of us wisdom on levels of protection we may one day need to apply to protect the innocent from evil people.
Thank you, Father, for hearing and answering our prayers. You are faithful and true.
We offer this to You through your Son, Jesus Christ, the name above all names.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Thoughts on Sin: Perspectives

Greetings my friend.

This is a follow up piece to what I recently wrote on Hebrews 12. Mulling over the subject of sin, I have concluded the following: Most Christians and churches exist as if either there is no such thing as sin, or, sin exists, but we needn’t concern ourselves with it. Seem shocking and completely false? Perhaps, but these conclusions are not simply my own. I have discussed this subject with many others who also recognize the same. Still, such a determination may come as a shock. Why do I have this perception? What causes would create such a condition in the church? Immediate replies might be “Because Christians don’t really believe the bible as they claim,” and “Because Christians are focused on other things.” Both statements deserve to be explored and unpacked some time, but for now let us just consider the following perspectives that a Christian may have about sin:

Sin doesn’t exist.

Sin exists, but I don’t have a sin issue.

Sin exists, I have a sin issue, but I’m not interested in dealing with it.

Sin exists, I have a sin issue, I’m not interested in dealing with it, and my eternal relationship with God through Christ has me secure from needing to deal with sin.

Sin exists, I have a sin issue (like all Christians), but none of my Christian relationships, including my pastoral leadership, ever talk about or put any emphasis on actually dealing with sin. They may make some passing comment regarding sin in general in a sermon or as touched on during a corporate congregational prayer Sunday mornings, but that’s it. Apparently sin isn’t important to others, so it’s not important to me. Everyone spends so little time actually dealing with the issue. No one ever talks about it. I’m just like the others. For us, it simply doesn’t exist.

Sin exists, I believe that, but I’m so busy with life in general and church activities that I just don’t have time to think about and deal with sin. I do all I can to just make it through my day. If I focus on Jesus and behold him, won’t that eventually somehow move sin out of my life: focus on the good?

Sin exists, and I believe I should understand it better, and believe God wants me to be someone less sinful, but I don’t know what to do. I know I’m saved. I go to church. Sometimes I read my bible. That’s about all I can realistically do. God is love, and I believe He understands how busy my life is. I guess I’d have to say that dealing with sin just isn’t important to me, but many other things I and my church spend a lot of time on are important to us. That’s why we do them.

A Contrary View:


“O Father, sanctify them in thy truth, because thy word is truth.” (Jn 17:17)

“For whom the Lord loves, he chastens, and he disciplines the son with whom he is pleased.” (Heb 12:6)

“Now, therefore, endure discipline, because God acts toward you as toward sons; for where is the son whom the father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, that very discipline by which every man is trained, then you are strangers and not sons.” (Heb 12:7-8)

“Furthermore if our fathers of the flesh corrected us and we respected them, how much more then should we willingly be under subjection to our Spiritual Father, and live? For they only for a short while disciplined us as seemed good to them; but God corrects us for our advantage, that we might become partakers of his holiness.” (Heb 12:9-10)

“No discipline, at the time, is expected to be a thing of joy, but of sorrow; but in the end it produces the fruits of peace and righteousness to those who are trained by it.” (Heb 12:11)

“I rebuke and chastise all those whom I love; be zealous, therefore, and repent.” (Rev 3:19) *

We are told that God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ are actively engaged with each Christian in particular and the body of Christ universal, motivated by love, to lead Christians from sin into the presence of God; that is, God is redeeming a people for Himself; a people who will be with the Father and with the Son. God is holy, separate, distinct, unique when compared to anything. Christians, through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, have been saved and brought into that inner-most seat of relational fellowship which the triune God experiences Himself. Christians have been grafted into the life of the Son of God. THAT relational positioning, the reality of it, is the holiness the author of Hebrews 12:10 is discussing. God is uniquely other than this world and all created things. His holiness, which Christians now participate in at a most foundational level to their lives, should express itself in and through their lives above any competing structure that originates from the created order.

These Hebrews 12 verses are set in the context of Christians being directed to deal with sin. Jesus’ declaration in Revelation 3 is made in the context of his actively governing his church, which entails judgment: dealing with their false notions of themselves, their not understanding his concurrent rule over them and consequences for disobedience and living a lie, and that their lives were not reflecting outwardly his rule over them inwardly. In both chapters, Hebrews 12 and Revelation 3, love is the revealed motive from which God engages those who are his, so that the truth of Jesus Christ’s atonement and lordship is lived and manifest to the world. It is from love that Jesus confronts. It is from love that the Father disciplines. The consequences for not hearing Jesus’ rebuke and instruction, and repenting, of not understanding the Father’s work in one’s life, should themselves cause us to fear and humble ourselves before God Almighty and move us quickly to ask for more of that divine instruction!

Much is made of God’s love in our contemporary Christian culture, and rightfully so. But the absence of any seriousness toward dealing with sin by individual Christians and by the church at large produces an erroneous view of that very love. Thankfully, John 17 tells us our Lord’s concern for those who trust him. Jesus Christ made a specific request to his Father concerning the purifying, or separating out, of those who are the Lord’s. He petitioned his very own Father to care for those He had given him. The Father loves the Son and fulfills his petition. The record of Hebrews 12 is a testimony or a glimpse of the Father’s answer to His Son’s prayer. It is revealed to us that the Father’s sanctifying work is directed toward each Christian. This is fact. Thus, discernment of the Father’s chastening and discipline should be pursued and sought by each Christian to the point that they know without any hesitation their sonship. The absence of this Fatherly work is disallowed for true children.

How then do I explain my observations and conclusions concerning the absence of Christians mindfully dealing with sin? How do I explain so many Christians having no clue of the Father’s or our Lord Jesus Christ’s disciplining work in their lives? Many of these people bank on the love of God to the apparent exclusion of His other qualities and ways. Lord, may we all who call on your name daily ask for the loving hand of discipline in our lives to prepare us here and now to be with you then and forever.

The writer of Hebrews knew very well there were Christians who did not understand God’s love and discipline, His work of shaking described later in Hebrews 12, or that the love of God the Father and of the Lord Jesus Christ moves them to care about the holiness of each Christian. That is why the author ended chapter 12 with a reminder of Who it is we are actually positioning ourselves before. Who it is that has actually done the saving, and the implications of that glorious salvation. He admonishes his readers to live reverent and godly lives because God is a consuming fire! It matters very much to God that you and I, and each Christian, participate in His holiness (v. 10). We do not manufacture a life condition referred to as “our own holiness.” We are called to participate in His holiness. The two are very different and this difference must be clear when daily dealing with sin.

Participating in God’s holiness is a condition or requirement for what we find Jesus petitioning the Father about in the later part of John 17: that we would be with him, that we would be one with Jesus and the Father, that we would see Christ’s glory that he had before the world was, and that the love that is shared between the Father and His Son would be our experience. Jesus’ passion was that all that the Father gave him would be with him. That is why we must undergo the Father’s discipline which leads to holiness: so we can be with him! As the Hebrews writer says elsewhere, without holiness, no one will see the Lord: see Him themselves in the end and along the way; and others seeing Him as those who set apart their lives by following Jesus Christ testify of Him to the world.

So why does dealing with sin not matter to us; matter to the point where we read God’s word, think, pray and talk with other Christians about it and deal with our lives? Matter such that my having been separated unto a life with God through Jesus Christ continually frames what I think, say and do? This is a totally different outlook than mindlessly venturing through the week that perhaps culminates in a momentary petition for forgiveness on Sunday morning for that week’s sins. Faithful pastors shepherd their flocks with a degree of intimacy and care to where they help parse out godliness from corruption for those they have charge for. They understand the responsibility to lead people along that pathway that ends in what Ephesians 1:4 and John 17 tell us is our divine destination. They warn of temptation and expose the tempter! These things are openly and frequently discussed, and people are guided along their ways.

Given the truth about our relationship with the God Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, should we Christians not have a different understanding of sin, what it is and what is to be done about it? It seems very important to both the Father and His Son. We know too the Holy Spirit shares the very same concern and passion for purifying the individual Christian heart and that of the bride. Holiness and sanctification are truths and realities which exist as the base fabric of the Christian life and experience. When I write again, I will labor to detail three key divisions which knowing about and understanding may help Christians have discernment for making it through their days following the Lord Jesus Christ and actually engaging all that would wage war against them to forsake him.

Additionally, the world lost and without Christ needs the witness available from Christians living lives separated from sin. Living from that degree of division produces a discernment and a voice different from one who is self-deceived by sin.

God’s best.


* Verses are from the bible translated by George M. Lamsa from the Aramaic of the Peshitta.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Sibbes on God's Grace

Greetings, friend.

The following comes from The Bruised Reed, by Richard Sibbes. The chapter is Grace Shall Reign. The subsection is titled “Why the Enemy Seems Victorious.” (pages 95 – 96, Puritan Paperbacks)

“Third, God often works by contraries: when he means to give victory, he will allow us to be foiled at first; when he means to comfort, he will terrify first; when he means to justify, he will condemn us first; when he means to make us glorious, he will abase us first. A Christian conquers, even when he is conquered. When he is conquered by some sins, he gets victory over others more dangerous, such as spiritual pride and security.

Fourthly, Christ’s work, both in the church and in the hearts of Christians, often goes backward so that it may go forward better. As seed rots in the ground in the winter time, but after comes up better, and the harder the wind the more flourishing the spring, so we learn to stand by falls, and get strength by weakness discovered . . . (weakness is the keeper of virtue). We take deeper root by shaking. And, as torches flame brighter by moving, thus it pleases Christ, out of his freedom, in this manner to maintain his government in us. Let us herein labor to exercise our faith, so that it may answer Christ’s way of dealing with us. When we are foiled, let us believe we shall overcome; when we have fallen, let us believe we shall rise again. Jacob, after he received a blow which made him lame, yet would not give over wrestling (Gen 32:25) till he had obtained the blessing. So let us never give up, but, in our thoughts, knit the beginning, progress and end together, and then we shall see ourselves in heaven out of the reach of all enemies. Let us assure ourselves that God’s grace, even in this imperfect state, is stronger than man’s free will in the state of original perfection. It is founded now in Christ, who, as he is the author, so will he be the finisher, of our faith (Heb 12:2). We are under a more gracious covenant.”

We would do well to spend time talking through all that Sibbes puts before us. Reasoning together, our understanding would be developed, corrected, shaped, deepened, and what would emerge is a vision of life for us to follow. We would see how we are to be. As Christians, we must move beyond mere belief of these things to participation in the realities we confess. Living shows what we believe.

Sunday, September 9, 2012


Interpreting and comprehending Jesus’ identifying ‘the righteous’ with ‘the meek’ in Matthew 5:5 is the subject. Consider the following:

“The second word [meek] belongs with his own characterization in Matthew 11:29: ‘I am meek and lowly in heart . . . ‘ The word (praus in Greek) means one who makes no claim, but –having rights – nonetheless waives them. It denotes absorption of evil, rather than its requital in retaliation. ‘Do not resist evil’ (Matt 5:39) does not imply that wrong is never to be opposed, but rather that evil is not allowed to involve us in its resentments. Instead, for example, of the lex talionis (the right to exact one’s rights) by which the evil comes round full circle and persists in retaliatory being, ‘the meek’ stay (arrest) it in themselves and thereby purge the situation of its enmity. In so doing, they take the context into creative renewal and cause the goodness of the earth to be repossessed, whereas the contrary stance confirms its evil, serves its cynicism, sides with its contentiousness and justifies its despair. Only in the redemptiveness of which meekness is the nerve and fiber is the earth held in righteous trust.” (Kenneth Cragg, Jesus and the Muslim, 133)

It is important for those of us who claim to be Christians to grasp what Cragg is identifying here. Once understood, the imagery of relationships that begins to form in our minds should then grasp us and carry over into our actions. Read the paragraph again, then consider his points in light of the following verses. Think well on Matthew 11:27-30 and try to put words to how Cragg’s views above can facilitate soul rest. Christ’s yoke is his government. The rest he offers had previously not been available. Now it is. Enjoy thinking through this.

God’s best.


“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” (Matt 5:5)

“All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle [meek] and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matt 11:27-30)

“For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps.” (1 Pet 2:21)

See Romans 12:15-21

“He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.” (1 Jn 2:6)

Friday, July 13, 2012

Hugh Binning on Humility Concerning the Individual and the Body of Christ

“Humility makes a man compare himself with the best, that he may find how bad he himself is, but pride measures by the worst, that it may hide from a man his own imperfections. The one takes a perfect rule, and finds itself nothing; the other takes a crooked rule, and imagines itself something.

But this is the way that unity may be kept in the body, if all the members keep this method and order, the lowest to measure by him that is higher, and the higher to judge himself by him that is yet above him; and he that is above all the rest to compare with the rule of perfection, and find himself further short of the rule than the lowest is below him.

 If our comparisons did thus ascend, we would descend in humility, and all the different degrees of persons would meet in one center of lowliness of mind. But while our rule descends, our pride ascends. The Scripture holds out pride and self-estimation as the root of many evils, and humility as the root of many good fruits among men. Only through pride comes contention (Prov. 13:10).

There is pride at least in one of the parties, and often in both; it makes one man careless of another and, out of contempt, not to study equity and righteousness towards him; and it makes another man impatient of receiving and bearing an injury or disrespect. While every man seeks to please himself, the contention arises. Pride in both parties makes both stiff and inflexible to peace and equity; and in this there is a great deal of folly; for by this means, both procure more real displeasure and dissatisfaction to their own spirits.

But ‘with the well-advised is wisdom.’ They who have discretion and judgment will not be so wedded to their own conceits but that in humility they can forbear and forgive for the sake of peace. And though this may seem harsh and bitter at first, to a passionate and distempered mind, yet, oh how sweet it is after! There is a greater sweetness and refreshment in the peaceable condescension of a man’s spirit and the quiet passing by of an injury than the highest satisfaction that ever revenge or contention gave to any man. ‘When pride cometh, the cometh shame; but with the lowly is wisdom.’ (Prov. 11:2).”

Hugh Binning, Christian Love.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Thoughts on God’s Chastening: Hebrews 12:11

“Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” (Heb 12:11)

My friend,

Surely this verse gives us encouragement that God our Father works for our good; and, also that He is working for the good of all His children across the world, for those who are born from above. If one’s view of God is wrong and He is not trusted, His wisdom not yielded to, His Fatherly care not wanted, then the divine discipline that He intends for good may certainly go unrecognized. It could even be disregarded. And, if His chastening comes upon someone possessing unbelief and a partially hardened heart, the training and potential benefit may be wasted or even scorned. Those who do not understand that God works through chastening position themselves to miss out on an education that God wisely manages and which He declares is for our good.

We might say that if a Christian has not already experienced training by God’s chastening, then that person will not have the discerning eyes to know additional lessons which come in this same way. We, as individual Christians, participate in this divine action. This may seem obvious—Of course we as Christians participate in God’s chastening!—but, I assure you, I rarely encounter any Christian going through God’s chastening, so why should I think it actually goes on? Personal knowledge of this divine work requires going beyond only possessing informational understanding of it. One must render a personal interpretation of one’s life as having actually been through one or more episodes of it. To truly know the goodness of God through chastening, one must experience His discipline directly, come through it and be able to see the process and the good fruit it yields. I assume one can talk about what God did in their life and what came as a result. The difference we are pinpointing is between one knowing about something without having experienced it and one knowing it having experienced it. The way Hebrews 12 presents God’s chastening, it should be something each Christian both knows about and knows personally.

Some Christians who access the scriptures regularly will come across this text and they will be able, with the Spirit’s aide, to interpret their experiences as this divine training. They will recognize God’ role and the blessing of God’s direct involvement in their lives, and they yield willingly to all God desires of them.  But others there are who need to be instructed that this is a foundational way in which God at times works to teach His children many lessons about their lives of faith. It is needful and helpful for Christians to understand how and why God works this way, so they can know Him better and understand their lives in light of His works.

This training from chastening, like “the shaking” of God mentioned later in the same chapter, comes to us in the context of dealing with sin. The record of these two divine actions declares how God works in people’s lives with the result that their lives conform to Gods, and that their lives are being prepared to be with God through eternity. Working through these topics in chapter 12 we enter chapter 13 where we are encouraged to love others. My view on this theme development is that if we do not follow scriptures call to forsake sin, then we will not love others. To help us forsake sin, God our Father lovingly and wisely disciplines us. As we grow through discipline, He also gives us understanding of our end with Him. Knowing our end, and having His careful work in our lives now, we become more like Him. This likeness is manifest in how we relate to others, and love is the chief quality.

It is imperative that we as Christians view our lives through what scripture declares. Christians with trained eyes see and understand what comprises their lives moment to moment, event to event, and they understand where it all leads. Others cannot see because they do not believe what God has said. Some have no or very little knowledge of His word. They neither see nor know their end, thus they cannot understand their present. Then, there are others who tend to believe strongly in themselves, in their wisdom, in their judgments, in their self-righteousness, in their power, and in their rights. They may not see this about themselves. Living this way is natural to them, and they do not discern their true condition. They live as gods, desiring self-rule. Categorically, there are others who having direct access to God’s word will learn on their own with the aide of the Spirit. And I know we will meet people who need much prodding and guidance. If a person does not have direct access to God’s word or demonstrates a lack of understanding, we need to inform them and lead them in the way. We, ourselves, also need to be led by those God provides to counsel us.

One conclusion from these many points is that because of the universal work of God the Father in the lives of His children, each child of God should be aware of this work unfolding in their lives. Some Christians are. Some Christians aren’t. All should be. One reason as to why any particular Christian may not be aware of God’s disciplining work in their life is because, in general, the church does not teach this or it fails to assign proper value and importance to God’s direct involvement in the process of personal holiness and sanctification. The subject of discipline itself has suffered by being redefined and marginalized into something that, at best, may happen only when church leadership address a gross sin in a member’s life. But discipline as a virtue of the Christian life, as it pertains to self and sin, is hard to find. This absence creates the needed environment for self to live secure. It is not looked at or talked about, and it takes cover and concealment from shallow and external religion. People do not know what to look for and they do not know how to deal with self and sin if they catch a glimpse of them in their lives.

The passage above makes very clear God’s discipline produces a pain. This pain is associated with God’s discipline and with the process of forsaking sin. The presence of pain lets a Christian know that God is working in their life. It is a specific type of pain, and it is a pain only experienced by Christians and only discernable by Christians. All true Christians are supposed to experience God’s chastening and this pain, but perhaps in different ways. Hebrews 12:8 provides the statement declaring the universality of Christians experiencing this divine work. The pain, I believe, is the sensation we Christians acknowledge within as we are transitioned degree by degree from being of the world to being of God, in Christ Jesus, by means of God’s pruning and chastening. God is separating out to Himself what is of Him in us, fashioning what will be fully in His presence and what will remain with Him everlastingly. This pain stems from a tearing of the heart, which alone is sufficient enough for us to endure. But, because this work is God’s work there is the issue of sin to deal with as well. Pain from sin comes by our seeing and acknowledging our commitment to self and sin, and the ramifications of this commitment as it affects other relationships. But this pain from sin also comes when we understand how it reveals what we think of God, and the offence He bears in relating to us. The pain from God’s chastening is unique. It is multifaceted. It reveals and redirects. 

Do you remember from previous letters my reference to Ephesians 1:4, and that I consider this passage one that reveals the end God has set for us?  And, do you recall how I believe that if God has set that as the end, then I argue that He also sets the means of shaping us along the way to that end? If we believe God has redeemed us, and we believe we will be with Him for eternity, then we had better see something of His work in our lives as we near that time when we will transition to being fully with Him. Holiness, blamelessness, and love are qualities of God and His environment. He fashions us here to be fit for there. Consider these verses:

“just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will.” (Eph 1:4-5)

“And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight. “ (Col 1:21-22)

“that He might present her [the Church] to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.” (Eph 5:27)

God’s righteousness by and through Jesus Christ is the all-in-all for our standing outlined above. God does this marvelous work and He is praised and glorified through age upon age! The divine work of preparation for eternity is a wonderful, good, and necessary task. Knowing this, we should thank God for this work and that He has not left it up to us to design and carry out our sanctification. What human could know the requirements to fashion a life to be fit for the presence of God? I dare not pretend I do. God does, and I trust Him. The apostle Paul does admonish us to work out our salvation, and he says for it is God who works in us. Thus, even here, our response to the divine initiative is declared. The way Paul presents this implies we can discern what God’s work is so that we know what to work out and how.

Now, permit me to circle back to the notion of that pain that accompanies God’s chastening or discipline. This passage is discussing Christians. There are Christians who have hardened hearts and who do not believe in what God declares. (I assume this view does not come as a shock to you.) To Christians in this category, the pain is also very real. It is magnified many times over because of their response. These Christians, committed to self, are not moved to confession and repentance. They are committed to life in themselves instead of life in God. Therefore, when the pain comes they move away from God. They do not understand what is going on. This movement seems to bring strength and security, because every thing resonates with self, but it actually increases frustrations that plague the mind and life. That peace which quiets the person and sets the person in a more God-ward fashion is not theirs to know.

Rejecting God carries an unpleasant edge into the person’s life that defines movement away from God and this edge cuts into life in a way that brings about additional hardness of heart. One is naturally fortifying self. As a person truly rejects God’s work in their life (even though they may not understand this is what is taking place), they cannot discern God’s work. Darkness increases. They lose ability to see and discern. They are functionally moving away from the Tree of Life toward the outer boundaries of the garden or out of the garden and functionally into the cursed and godless world. They live as without God. “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is death.” (Pv14:12) I am convinced that God will retrieve such a one, but when and how we don’t know. What I do understand is that I myself, due to sin and hardness of heart, I could find myself relationally moving away from God and back to self, sin and the empty crumbs of the world, and life could appear fine because “I” and not God am defining life. This potential I know about myself. And, my friend, perhaps you also share this possibility with me. Therefore, our need to talk and encourage one another becomes obvious.

Self-rule and self-justification not only lead one to reject and repel the divine advance intended for good, but the ungodly one manifests the opposite of a peaceful end. There would be increased tension, unsettledness, confusion and anger, because life in this condition gets harder and harder to manage and control. It seems that someone in this condition is destine for being totally out of control! Instead of the peaceable fruit of righteousness manifesting in relationships, warring and destructive powers of self-interest deliver to the person severe blows that must plague one’s life if God is not acknowledged as God. The very same work of God experienced by to two different types of people can bring life from the pain of correction for one and increased pain leading to further distancing from God (i.e., death) to the other. It is by God’s mercy and goodness that He tells us chastening or disciplining is to be expected and that it is for our good. He tells us the goal of manifest peace is something He works in our lives. God wants us to manifest that which is of Him as we pass through this world on our way to Him. We must believe that the end is real or we will not be able to rest in God concerning the means He uses to achieve that end. We must realize that God does this work on an individual level and on a corporate level collectively as the church. I will address below.

I find it remarkable that as you and I read and meditate on this passage, that we understand each Christian across the globe, at various times, and all under the Master’s crafting care, all are constantly undergoing the detailed work of God. Maybe the degrees and depths of the work vary over different periods, but God seems intimately connected to us in this way. Do you have any doubt that God is bringing many to Himself and He uses those things in our lives (illumined by His Spirit and His Word) to cause us to think and pray and pursue holiness?  We must interpret life this way, and we must help others see and know that God is always working in their lives. We must help others desire the good work of God, have discernment to see it, and to talk about it with us and others. Sanctification, separation, is a major element of the Christian life, and I fear that it is not addressed as a central Christian element with direction, conviction and passion! With its absence comes a lack of transformational activity in Christian lives. The tendency is to focus on gaining information, and lots of it, but the inside never undergoes change. Internal transformation comes through godly discernment, confession of sin, repentance, faith, and living in God’s presence. The danger the church faces is that people will not fully understand this divine work from chastening and shaking and, therefore, do not deal with sin in their lives by God’s provisions and power. They do not and will not yield to God. People naturally tend to still view themselves as better than God says they are, and they by default trust in themselves. (And I include myself!) I have one additional element pertaining to this topic to mention.

My comments regarding God’s intimate involvement through discipline thus far have been with reference to God our Father. He is the one behind the chastening and the shaking in Hebrews 12. I am passing over addressing the shaking now for the sake of brevity, but what it is and how it benefits us must be understood. Consider its placement in connection to the topic of sin at the beginning of Hebrews 12, followed by chastening, then comes the shaking, and once prepared we move into chapter 13 which begins with loving. There is a life process outlined here. I trust you recognize it.

Jesus Christ is Lord over all. He is priest. He is king. He is head of the church. He exercises his right of rule over all creation. Earlier, I referenced Ephesians 5:27: “that He might present her [the Church] to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.” (Eph 5:27)

Consider this passage:

“And to the angel of the church in Sardis write, These things says He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars: ‘I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.’” (Rev 3:1)

We find here, in the context of a specific church being addressed, the notion of being dead if not submitting to divine command and instruction, and with a deficiency related to godly works. The church spoken of was not living out a faith relationship with God the Father through Jesus Christ the Lord by the Spirit. But, it seemed to them, and perhaps others around them, that they were. Jesus being head over the church owns the church. He knew the truth about this church, and he knows the truth about us. The Father has given him all authority to rule. (Jn 5:27) Because he has this authority, Jesus Christ chastens or disciplines this church. I see no reason to assign the addresses to the churches in Revelation 1-3 as pertaining to the primitive church only and somehow the church today escapes the ministry of its Head.

“As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.” (Rev 3:19)

We have seen that the Father chastens. The Father has given all authority to His Son. Jesus Christ also chastens. He does this because of his love for the church; his bride. As priest, Jesus Christ intercedes for the church. As King, he exercises his right to rule his kingdom and bring all under submission. If the Father chastens from love and the Son chastens from love, and the Spirit works for our holiness, (thus, the Trinity is unified in this marvelous work!) where is the open and active proclamation of the fact of these realities in the church today? Where is the confession of these most intimate and all ruling realities? Where is the open discussion of these things being fact, taking place, and unfolding in my and your life? Where are the private self-reflective pursuits of these things on bended knee before God our Father and His Son? Why are we, as a church, so caught up in things that do not really matter and do not address and deal with the sanctifying work of God in dealing with sin and moving the body along to be renewed in the image of Him who created new creatures in Christ Jesus?

I have much more to say and many questions regarding this, my friend. Perhaps we can find time to talk about them later. I have more on the mind, but I need to close this letter and send it to you. Pray with me about these things, what they mean and for what God would have us also do.

God’s best.


Sunday, June 17, 2012

Sibbs on The Bruising

“We love to wander from ourselves and to be strangers at home, till God bruises us by one cross or other, and then we ‘begin to think’, and come home to ourselves with the prodigal (Luke 15:17). It is a very hard thing to bring a dull and an evasive heart to cry with feeling for mercy. Our hearts, like criminals, until they be beaten from all evasions, never cry for the mercy of the Judge.

Again, this bruising makes us set a high price upon Christ. Then the gospel becomes the gospel indeed; then the fig-leaves of morality will do us no good. And it makes us more thankful, and, from thankfulness, more fruitful in our lives; for what makes many so cold and barren, but that bruising for sin never endeared God’s grace to them?” (Richard Sibbs, The Bruised Reed)

Lord, if I know not which description above applies to me, then as I read through those words again, and perhaps even again, show me who I am. And Lord, if the words “unthankful” or “unfruitful” emerge in my mind and conscience, then most surely may I cry to You for mercy, and may I know Your graces such that my prideful and devilish self-will would exhaust itself in confessing Christ as my true and only satisfaction, and as my all in all! My Lord, if I do not understand and manifest the truth of the relationship between Your mercy, my gratitude and bearing fruit, then would You have mercy on me and lead me in the way where my life would overflow with kindness to others as a testimony of Your kindness and mercy to me. Amen.