Thursday, September 29, 2011
One thing I would like to say are that the nature and character of God remain the same in both views. Both free-willers and predestinarians believe that God is all-powerful, all-good, all-loving, all-knowing, and ever-present. They believe that the Bible is the inherent word of God and that Jesus is the salvation for all who place their faith in Him. They also believe that because of sin, the necessary atonement for our sins was a perfect God-man, whom Christ is.
For me, when I look at the predestinarian view, I see a very strategic God with a microscopic perspective. God seems to be very impersonal in many respects because it appears that no matter what I do, all things were predestined before I could even decide on a thing. It seems to give a sense of rest in the fact that I don't have to save myself. However, when I look at the theology of predestination, I find that it can often times lead to laziness, complacency, and apathy because God has already predetermined everything.
When I take a look at the free-will view, I see a very lax God with a telescopic perspective. God seems to be very personal because every choice we make matters, but that places all responsibility on me to do all things. It seems to give a sense of urgency in the fact that choices matter and since I can influence the choices of others, I should do my best to share the Gospel with everyone I can. However, when I look at the theology of free-will, I find that it can often times lead to anxiety, stress, and neuroticism because everything we do on a moment by moment basis might determine our rewards in Him.
I was at a Bible Study at my church and my pastor said something very insightful regarding this very topic. "Theology is the attempt by imperfect people to understand a perfect being," therefore, it leads to flaws, holes, and mysteries that either side, if polarized, cannot answer. There are verses and biblical passages on either side that cannot be explained because they seem to contradict their standpoint. I think this well illustrates that theology, in and of itself, is not enough. This does not mean that we should be intellectually lazy in our pursuits of understanding God, but we should make sure that we don't elevate our standpoint to be above our call to love our neighbors (including those who oppose us) as Christ called us to.
When I look at what happens during an argument, I see a person take one standpoint, and another take the opposing standpoint, and shout at each other until someone either gives up, concedes, or agrees with the other. However, what I see does work is when people rest in the relationship they have with Christ. They don't necessarily give up their theological point of view, but instead, allow it to be worked out in love. The thing is, there are too many people that have elevated their theological perspectives to be more important to them than God is. In other words, "truth" becomes more important than the reality of truth, that is the Gospel. This is often times what leads to arguments and divisions amongst Christians which the world sees as disunity within the church.
When I see the Gospel and the relationship between an individual and God become the defining thing in someones life, I don't see division, but unity. The gospel allows people on both sides to realize that God's sovereignty will reign and that trust in Him will ultimately lead to results that neither party can produce on their own. They return to the nature and character of God and rest in that and nothing more.
Monday, September 26, 2011
Let the righteousness of God be a holy flame that burns
Let the saving love of Christ be the measure of our lives
We believe You're all to us"
[All to Us, Chris Tomlin]
The lighting of the torch during the Olympics is one of my favorite ceremonies to watch. People from all over the world come together to pass a torch that both unifies the nations and culminates in a grand lighting of an enormous cauldron to symbolize one goal, one focus, one dream. It puts everything into perspective, that all people are gathered with a singular purpose. The unity reflects what is possible, that people can all gather with one vision in mind. When I reflect on the symbol of the flame, what I think of is a unification of even greater measures, the unification between man and God.
When a flame gets passed from one person to another during the torch passing, the recipient is at the mercy of the giver. The holder of the flame possesses something that can be kept to themselves, shared with one person, or spread out to many. The same flame gets passed from one person to another and in the passing of the flame, the light doesn't diminish, but maintains its brightness while transferring an flame of equal luminosity to another. The amazing thing is that no one owns the flame as it was freely given to them and by sharing it, the gain of another isn't a loss to them.
This is how I see the grace of righteousness. Romans 4:23"But the words "it was counted to him" (referring to Abraham) were not written for his sake alone, 24but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, 25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification." It is the righteousness of Christ that burns in our lives as our righteousness. The righteousness of Christ is something that we either have or we don't. It is something that is given to us freely, not because we have earned it. And once we have received it, it is something we can walk in confidently without needing to be righteous on our own count. Perfection, moral goodness, and good works all become secondary attributes in our lives as what makes us pure and perfect is the blood of Christ and not our efforts.
This holy flame of righteousness that burns is Christ and as we accept Christ into our lives, the flame grows brighter as we stop trying to hide it from others. I heard Francis Chan's wife speak about how we diminish God's glory through our attitudes and our actions and that in everything we do, God's revealed glory through our lives is at stake. The truth is, if we let Christ shine through us, and we don't cover the holy flame that burns with our own idols, that the flame is more evident to others. We have to remember it isn't what we do that brings us into the greatest positions of eternity as children of God, but Christ covering us with His love and His ultimate sacrifice.
The holy flame that burns, in my opinion, does 4 things.
1. It marks us as His children
As tattoos in many tribes show belonging to a particular tribe the flame of righteousness that we received through grace distinguish us as His children. It gives us a crown that allows us to sit at the King's table and partake in the King's feast. This flame, much like a signet ring, a crown, or even a tattoo shows belonging and full inheritance of the Kingdom of God. It gives us God Himself to be our eternal father in full intimacy and complete joy. This mark, grants us identification to something greater than the most elite and exclusive of charters. It's the all access pass to the greatest party in the universe and the only way in is through affiliation with the God who came down as Jesus to die for us so that we may be raised with Him for eternity future.
2. A lamp unto our feet
"Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path." Psalm 119:105
The thing that so many of us have a hard time with is the idea that a relationship with God is daily, going moment by moment. It isn't yearly, monthly, or even weekly, but daily because we are faced with the constant distortion of our flesh to become self-sufficient and the regular distractions by the enemy to focus on things apart from that which is most important, God. In John 1, it says, "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." The phenomenal thing is that Jesus is the word. As we have this flame that burns within us, it acts as a lamp unto our feet which gives us guidance and wisdom from the simple decisions to the difficult decisions. From the moral decisions to the amoral decisions everything is cast a light, and as we allow that light to shine, the decisions often times becomes clear. Only when we have desires that a greater to us than God does the lamp become dim and the decisions become hazy, only then, do we fall into sin and destruction.
God desires to lead us to walk in the light, away from darkness. God desires for us not to stumble, trip, or fall on our face as to embarrass ourselves. He desires no reason for us to approach Him with shame upon judgement day.
3. Our Purification
My heart breaks every time someone calls them self a Christian and lights up a cigarette or talks about how they went to a bar or a club the weekend before. I don't think that they are sins per se, but they are terrible witnesses to other people.
The thing is, this Holy Flame that burns is not like a wildfire that destroys, but like a refiner's fire that purifies. It takes away all toxins and all impurities so that what remains is left more precious than what was.
17 You have wearied the LORD with your words.
“How have we wearied him?” you ask.
By saying, “All who do evil are good in the eyes of the LORD, and he is pleased with them” or “Where is the God of justice?”
1 “I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the LORD Almighty. 2 But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. 3 He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the LORD will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, 4 and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the LORD, as in days gone by, as in former years.
God makes us pure. This flame that burns inevitably leads to radical change. Going to church, serving people, and giving a lot of money does not save you. What saves is that we have the righteousness of Christ counted as our own and as we continue to live with the light, the light will bring about a change in us that makes us unrecognizable to the world, different from the world, and give hope to the world.
4. Burns out the enemy's efforts
As the flame purifies us, it destroys the enemy's attempts to take us away from God. To use, its a focused flame, to the enemy, its destruction is like the wildfire. The righteousness of God gives authority to those who possess it and the flame spreads like wildfire as it grows. It gives to all men and women who possess it the ability to call upon the name and power of God to destroy the works of the enemy and bring forth the works of God. This power given to us is not so that we may be glorified, but so that people may be able to know God in this lifetime and the next. The power of God is given to us as if we are superheroes with supernatural abilities to combat the powers and principalities that are of the flesh and the spiritual realms.
The Holy Flame that burns is Christ in us. It is not in myself, but in Christ whom I can find eternal security and infinite peace. It is Christ who offers a joy that goes beyond all the desires of this world.
1 For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent,
and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be quiet,
until her righteousness goes forth as brightness,
and her salvation as a burning torch.
2 The nations shall see your righteousness,
and all the kings your glory,
and you shall be called by a new name
that the mouth of the LORD will give.
3You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD,
and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
(Post dedicated to a dear younger brother of mine J.Y. who posed the question of the meaning of the verse "Let the righteousness of God be a Holy Flame that burns.")
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
I can't believe I'm now at the back end of this 62 day project. Taking some time to reflect, this day seemed like the furthest thing from possible - well, this state of relationship with God seemed like the furthest thing from possible. Now, I'm in a place where things are greater than I could've ever imagined.
When I look back at what I've been through, the one thing that has changed is desire. I can't say that I had any desire to respond to God's nudging me to fully give my life over to Him; this includes my worries, my future, my security, my identity, and even my sense of self-worth. The one thing I knew was that if at any point you don't desire God above all things, you have other desires that have consumed you and more than likely blinded you by rationality or emotional selling. If I could recognize anything, it was that God was calling me and I was rejecting His call. Every now and then, I get a phone call from someone (usually a random number) that bugs me because I don't know who it is. Other times, I vaguely recognize the number and still choose to ignore it because I am not absolutely certain. Before I started this 62 day project, I recognized the number, I just didn't want to hear what was on the other end of the line. I kept pressing ignore when God called, until finally, I realized that people usually call multiple times if it is an emergency regardless of whether or not you pick up the phone.
You see, I was in such a state of darkness that I had no ability to look in the mirror to see the darkness that had consumed me. I was ignorant of the distance I experienced with God and it made me extremely apathetic and sometimes even irritated at the thought of God. I didn't want to follow God because I had forgotten His perfect goodness and I didn't want to follow God because I had carved out a little piece of hell on earth for myself in which I had dominion over. The problem was, I thought that this hell I created was actually heaven because I was so diluted to think that this time on earth was greater than any time in eternity. I had forgotten that this life was made for decisions to be made that would affect the rest of my existence into eternity.
The thing is, there really is no way to convey what I feel right now. I've become a fanatic, absolutely obsessed in everyday with God, and the thing is, I know I may look ridiculous-ly cool... (ha, just kidding) but all I want is for others to experience this crazy love that I am experiencing daily. I can't express it in words and all I can really look to are other people who have experienced it at one point and the scriptures which describe that you will experience this incredible joy. There is a great reality that there is nothing that is as good as God in the entire world.
What I feel like has happened was that everything I learned in Sunday School, Wheaton College, YWAM, Retreats, Biola University, and church all at once shattered the ceiling and walls that I have built to keep God from penetrating all of my heart. And the presence of God has done just that, He allowed for everything that I have known in my head to just drop into my heart.
In 62 days, if you allow, God can show you things more incredible than miracles and wonders, because He can show you Himself. The things about God revealing Himself is that He is showing you something more glorious and more beautiful than anything you could ever imagine - that if there is anything you could be addicted to, it should be Him because this addiction only leads to you greater joy and greater love. I'm absolutely hooked and look forward to the life ahead of me not because of what I will do, but who I will be doing it with.
In a nutshell, I've learned much about God's goodness as dictating all things He does, His provision for me in so many different ways, and His presence being the game changer.
My hope for anyone that reads this is that they will embark on their own 62 day project to find God. It started with a response to the call in which I was challenged to "drop everything until I was on fire for God" and that is absolutely what happened.
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
As I reflect on my 62 day journey, I'm blown away.
I'm blown away by God's faithfulness, His mercy, His ABUNDANT love, and His perfect grace. I'm amazed at how far I've come even though I didn't spend as much time with Him as I would've liked, but I will say I have spent more time with Him than I ever have in my life. This creates a level of certainty that the more I dwell in the heart of God, the more I will experience this indescribable joy. I'm absolutely grateful to Him for the absolute sufficiency of the Cross, in that His perfection, not mine, is what allows me to enter into the greatest relationship of my life. The thing is, I've finally begun to grasp the relational aspect of faith beyond what the head knows it should look like into what the heart understands it to feel like.
Over the weekend, I spoke at a retreat for a small church plant's college ministry. It was a group of about 10 awesome young men and women. I learned of the retreat a week and a half prior to its actual happening and had already planned a vacation/visit to Chicago for a friend's wedding and some time with old friends. My entire time in Chicago was spent with people for 8 days straight, all of it was enjoyable, but it meant that it left me no time to prepare for the 4 sermons I had to give two days after my return.
I am a 99% extrovert which means I can generally spend an entire week with people without getting drained, but two weeks is tough for me. If anyone has ever given a sermon or speech before, you know that it takes about an hour to two for every 10 minutes of talk. If you don't spend at least that much time, you end up spending too much time speaking nonsense and using too many words to make one point (much like this blog post). This left me exactly two days to prepare 4 sermons and if I worked two full days of 12 hours straight, I would be ready. So, in my determined state, I worked and worked and worked. I had finished my first sermon on my way to Chicago on the plane, but needed to work out the details and sharpen the points. Doing that made me spend 5 hours of day one. I was now five hours behind on sermon preparations.
I finished up in the next two days all four sermon outlines, but I can't say they were completely coherent to me, nor did I have enough illustrations to paint a more clear picture of the points I had extracted through the Scriptures. It felt like I was studying for finals in college again, you know, the brain drain that occurs when you just cram way too much thinking into a short period of time that your head feels like jello. After I finished, I felt inadequate, yet confident that God would go with me because everything in my life indicated to me that my greatest pleasure in life was knowing Jesus.
So off I went.
Before this retreat, there was another retreat I prepared for where between 2-300 kids came from 4 churches. The one thing I remember from that experience was that it was awesome, but we did not pray nearly as much as I think we needed to. I don't know how blessed the kids were nor do I know how much God was with me in my preaching. I'm not saying that God didn't use what I prepared and spoke on, but there was a clear difference between this retreat and the last one. One of the greatest differences were the willingness and volunteerism of many people. 10 students had 6 people who were willing to come with me and either lead worship, lead workshops, or just help out in any way. From what I know, they found themselves blessed being there as well, but the workshops were a huge hit amongst the kids and the worship band literally rocked our socks off. Thanks to those of you who came out with a willingness to help and serve, it only confirmed God's moving!
During this retreat, what I realized was the power was not in my efforts, but in the presence of God. The knowledge that God was with me in my preaching was evident in several ways: 1. the sermon points and illustrations fleshed themselves out to really make an impact on the the way the participants viewed themselves and God, 2. People were moved to repentance and tears in a way that only the Holy Spirit could've brought about, and 3. my preaching seemed to be better than my own ability to speak (still far from where I need to be, but I've only given about 50 or so sermons in my life!).
The thing is, nothing really matters unless if the glory of God goes with us, that is, His presence. There is something that occurs when we live out a life of relationship in Christ that can give power to our words and encouragement to those who hear them. Many times, I find that people are defensive to the Gospel, but as I engage more with Christ, I find that their defenses are melting simply because the presence of God is in my words. I cannot save anyone, only the love of Christ can, and it is in my own love relationship with God that His love extends to others - this is the overflow that I've heard of all my life!
As these 62 days are coming to an end, I am grateful to everyone who has prayed for me, sent me an encouraging word, and have bought me lunch! I can't wait to go to day 63 and beyond.
If there is any encouragement in what I have shared throughout the past 62 days, please recognize that 62 days ago, I hated God (although I would never admit it). I rejected Him at every pass and it was only by His grace through His constant nudging of me that I have returned to Him. I truly believe that if you pray, God, who foreknows your prayers before you even say them works to give you answers that are greater than you could ever imagine. If anything, please know that all I have experienced comes out of my own prayer life and my life in the Word of God (with the grand help of Tim Keller to give me thoughts to dig deep into!).