The Difference is …

To say that words hold significant meaning might be an obvious understatement. Just reading the sentence to myself causes me to roll my eyes and ask, “What were you thinking?” But that is precisely the way I want to start answering the questions I posed at the end of June. If it were not for the significance in the definition and meaning of words, I would not have asked those questions. In fact to trace back further down the rabbit trail this entire blog would not exist. After all it is modeled on the idea that the words that we say (or write) matter, and we must choose careful how we use those words. The words in question are childlike and childish. It is important that we exhort one and avoid the other.

In Mark 10:15 Jesus tells his disciples that in order to enter the kingdom of God, one must receive with childlike faith. Childlike faith is a faith that is relentless in its adoration of a perfect and loving Father. It requires that we correctly focus our gaze on God and be undivided in worship of Him. Childlike faith is genuine awe in the goodness and graciousness of God. It is simple in construction, uncomplicated by the lures of this world. In much the same way as a child trusts that their parents are looking out for them and providing for their every need, childlike faith takes the focus off what we can do for ourselves and places it squarely on what God has done for us in sending his Son, and continues to do for us by his own volition. Matthew Henry sums it up best when he says,

Little children depend upon their parents’ wisdom and care, are carried in their arms, go where they send them, and take what they provide for them; and thus must we receive the kingdom of God, with a humble resignation of ourselves to Jesus Christ, and an easy dependence upon him, both for strength and righteousness, for tuition, provision, and a portion.[1]

Childlike faith frees us to be joyful children sitting at the foot of the throne of our heavenly Father who gives us every good and perfect gift. Childlike faith frees us to ask questions and learn things anew. That’s the message that Jesus was conveying to his followers, the message that he wanted them to really understand. Childlike faith is what we are to chase.

The word childish is defined in many ways, but the most striking definition, the one I will focus my attention on is “marked by or indicating a lack of maturity”. To be childish is to be self-centered, to think of your own wants and needs, and literally sulk and cry until you get them (or not). Childish believers spend their time stuck sucking down milk and stunting their growth. Borrowing from a sermon by Jeremy Myers, we can learn a little bit more of childishness and its effect on a believer:

“What is childishness? Childishness is childlike behavior gone sour. Childishness is a refusal to grow up. Childishness is when a person of any age acts younger than they are. While it is natural for children to act like children, it is expected that they will grow up and stop acting like children. When they do not, they are being childish. Childishness is when people who should know better throw temper tantrums and pout when they don’t get their way. Childishness is when people are irresponsible and behave as if the world revolves around them. Childishness is when people make petty demands and selfish complaints.[2]

Paul’s admonition is to move from being a child, to grow up, as is the natural order of things, to move onto solid food, food designed for those that are maturing. Just as growth applies to nature, it applies also to spirituality. And we must live in light of this reality. We must pursue maturity, not just cross our fingers and hope that one day we will be strong enough to move from milk to filet mignon. We must guard against self-centeredness, which entrenches us in childishness and instead strive for gospel-centeredness. In the gospel we get the clearest picture of God and His selfless love for His creation; The sending of His prized possession, His only begotten son. There was nothing childish about Jesus’ unwavering obedience to the Father; there was nothing immature in His willingness to lay down His life for the joy set before Him. But all these actions exuded the characteristics of childlikeness. Jesus fully and completely trusted the Father, and he knew that even though the cross meant pain and suffering, it also ultimately meant joy.

So the difference is not the same, the words may look similar but what they convey is not. Understanding how both words function transforms our relationship with the Lord. It is choosing the difference between death and life. Which one will you be drawn to?


[1] http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/matthew-henry-complete/mark/10.html?p=3

[2] http://www.tillhecomes.org/sermons/luke/luke_7_31-35/


My Assurance of Salvation

“How did this happen?” That’s been a constant question in my mind over the past month. The past year or so has been a very rough time with the Lord for me. There has been nights I laid awake truly believing I didn’t know Jesus. I thought he left me. His voice was too faint, his grace too bland and my heart too hard for me to believe I ever actually knew the living God. But, here I am now, more vibrant in my faith than ever before. Here I am, experiencing the waterfall of God’s grace yet again. So this question bothers me. How did this happen? How did I make it through that? I have an answer, and I want to share it with you. I’m no fool. I know some of you believers have as cold a heart as any pagan out there. I know you’re doubting God’s faithfulness, and you need fresh wind in your sails. I know that’s out of my power to create that in you, but I’m here to use my gifts to share my experience and what I learned in hopes that God will do something in the hearts of my readers… even through a measly blog post.

How?

So first off, how do we get to places like this? Well to make it as short and simple as possible, there’s only one answer: the sovereignty of God. He is sovereign over your heart. He’s in control of your spiritual state and determines the amount of authentic joy in Christ you’re experiencing. He’s sovereign over that, but I think there are two different disposition of hearts that can be found in these dry seasons.

To the Unfaithful and Far Off

The first disposition is the consistently disobedient. Personal and habitual sin that we are absolutely responsible for has sent you into a dark place. The quickest way to to silent the Holy Spirit is to quench him with your constant disobedience. Most likely, there was some specific besetting sin that He called you to floor on, he called you to repent of, and you’ve been stubborn to repent. And as a result, that Holy Spirit that would illuminate, teach, and instruct has now gone silent, withdrawn His light and caused darkness. He that grieves the Spirit quenches it; and he that quenches the Spirit vexes it; and he that vexes the Spirit sets himself against it. So, sure enough, here you are, hard hearted as ever because of your unrepentant sin.

The Spirit called, you continually rejected, and the result is now a dull faith that’s too weak to trust in God. Christ seems so far off that you can’t even imagine that you ever truly knew Him.

Now, let me say, for some of you that’s the truth. You haven’t really come to know Christ. You thought you did because you answered a bogus and manipulative altar call. Maybe some of you came to Christ for some gift you thought He would give you. Your whole “faith” has just been an outworking of your idolatry. You had the same luggage, Jesus was just another bellhop. It was the same meal you wanted served, just a different butler. You never knew him, but that doesn’t mean you can’t now. Turn from your idolatry and in truth cling to Christ. He’ll take you in.

But for others of you, the accusation of a false faith is a lie. You have truly come to faith, and the Holy Spirit, though faint, still does reside in you. How do you know if that’s true for you? Well, the thought of being separate from Christ, what does it do to you? Does it make you fearful? It should. And if so, what kind of fear? Fear that makes you think you have to get yourself together or fear that makes you cling to Christ? Where does the fear find it’s end and is quenched? Is it calmed by a delusion of your ability to get good with God in your strength or is it calmed at the foot of the cross? The true believer will always make his way back to the cross, no matter how long it takes to get back.

So now, to you, the genuine believer in Christ, know you are loved deeply. I know you feel abandoned because of your sin. You aren’t. You are still covered. For you, the blood of christ is an objective reality, not subject to your emotions or feelings. Its there, covering you and pardoning you, whether you feel it or not. “If we are faithless, he remains faithful- for he cannot deny himself.” 2 Timothy 2:13. The Father gave up His own image, the Son, at the cross. “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature..” Hebrews 1:3. It was that radiance of glory that took on the stench of your shame. It was this Blessed Name that became a curse for you. This sacrifice is too final and the blood of Christ too potent for you to wiggle your way out or wash it off with your sin. You, believer, are covered, redeemed, and kept. Persevere; He will be faithful to you.

To the Faithful Yet Cold

But then for some of us, God’s sovereignty has brought this about in a different way; He himself has hidden His face from the faithful. You’ve been faithful in trusting God’s promises in such a way that brought about obedience, yet the presence of God seems to have gone out from you. That flame is just a flicker, and you feel like one more day of desperation or silence will blow it out. Has God forsaken you? No. Quite the opposite.

God is good and He does good. You believe this. If you didn’t, you would have walked away a long time ago. God is good to his people and is in control of their experience of him. For you, God in his wisdom has hidden his face, regardless of you being obedient and not provoking such a season.

Be careful here. Yes you have been faithful, and at a surface level it seems like God has not been. That’s a lie. Don’t ever think you’ve been more faithful than him. He’s the perfect Husband. Never has he had eyes for someone other than His people. And quite honestly, you’ve been faithful cause he’s being faithful to you. He’s the one who worked that into you. It’s his hand thats held you up, and his strength that has brought you this far.

So dont’ believe the lie that he’s forsaken you. It’s impossible for him to forsake you; he made you his child through his Son. And he is a good Father who gives good gifts to his children, and this season is a good gift for you. It doesn’t feel like it, but it is. And the only thing the Enemy wants you to believe is that it’s not good. If it’s not good, then he must not love you. As with a deadly wound, he taunts you all the day long, asking, “Where is your God?” (Psalm 42:10). Your tears have been your food day and night as he pesters you, “Oh he’s forsaken you. He’s forgotten.” It’s a lie. God will vindicate you (Psalm 43:1), and will break the teeth of your accuser. (Psalm 3:7). He will not delay forever. “For the LORD will not cast off forever, but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love…” Lamentations 3:31-32. His love is in abundance for you. He showed that at the cross. He who gave up his Son initially, how could he not now give you himself eternally? (Romans 8:32). He didn’t spare his Son, and because of that we can have confidence he won’t withhold any and every grace he has for us. He will make his presence known. He will deliver you from the deadly pestilence of doubt and unbelief in his love for you. (Psalm 91:3). Hope in him. In him is your salvation from dullness.

My Assurance

So I realize I haven’t answered my question yet. How did this happen? After all those nights I was pestered with lies of abandonment and condemnation, how am I still here? The answer is simple, and it’s found in John 17. Jesus prays:

I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name… John 17:9-11

What’s interesting about this is when Jesus says “Holy Father.” This is the only time in the New Testament that this form of address is used with reference to the first person of the Godhead. It’s an echoe of the assertion of God’s awesome purity described in Lev. 11:44. God is our Father, but he’s a Holy Father. His Fatherhood is set apart from and transcends any other weaker and less pure father. So here again we see, he is the perfect Father.

But more than that, Jesus says, “keep them in your name…” He’s asking God, in and by his name, to keep those of true faith. And what’s his name?? Yahweh. I AM. His name is “I AM.” Jesus is asking the Father to preserve his people by his very Being. By the absolute reality of the existence of God, believers are kept. That’s what Jesus is praying for here. To say it more clearly, because God is still God, believers are kept. The day God stops being God is the day true believers will fall away from the faith.

So why am I still here? Because God is still God. He’s still reigning, which means he’s still sustaining. The assurance of my salvation is, at it’s core, tied into the very Being of God. Oh, believer, what a sure and firm Anchor of hope you have.


What’s the difference?

It is always a joy to watch a 3 year old try define a complex emotion with their limited vocabulary. It’s not like it’s the child’s fault, it is after all, merely all the child has to work with. Inadequate as their expressions may be, that’s the extent of their command of the language. But one day, those incoherent utterances will turn into the fine tuned rhetoric and musings of an adult; an adult fully capable of articulating and spewing forth idiosyncratic jargon with great poise and abandon. This is just one facet of growth and maturity, an expectation that we hold forth for all people. The movement from childish to maturity, is not only expected, it’s necessary. There’s nothing endearing about a 50 year old man that still throws a tantrum and rolls around on the ground when he doesn’t get what he wants.

Mark 10:13 – 16 “And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them.14 But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me;  do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 15 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.(emphasis added)” 16 And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.

1 Corithians 13:11 “ When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.

Two words that cause great confusion, childish and childlike. Although they seem similar, they are miles apart in their definitions and therefore their implications to us. But what is the difference? And does that difference really have that much bearing on life as we know it? That’s the question I want to pose at this juncture. I want to leave it unanswered this week to give you, the reader, an opportunity to determine whether you ask yourself this question often, if at all.

What is the difference between these words?

What are the implications of that on my walk and my life?

How do I uphold one and avoid the other?


Debt Cancelled

This is from a Good Friday service by Pastor Rick Gamache at Sovereign Grace Church. It’s too good not to share:

 

 

 

Jesus is bowed and bloody. One hundred and ten pounds of lumber is strapped across his shoulders. The weight of the rough wood proves too much as it grinds against the lacerations left by the Roman scourging. Pain explodes like light in his brain, and Jesus crumbles under the beam. When he comes to himself, Jesus feels somehow weightless and he realizes the wooden crossbeam has been cut from his back. Another man is carrying it now, a dark man who’s face he cannot see, but he does see the face of another. Mercifully, a Roman centurion bends and takes Jesus under his arm to lift him gently to his feet again. Jesus looks up and holds the soldier captive in his gaze. The victim’s eyes does not pierce the centurion with the hatred he expects. Instead he finds love in those eyes; love mingled with pain yes, broken-hearted love, but love nonetheless. And not love excited by one mere act of kindess, this love preceded the moment, this love preceded his existence, this love preceded the existence of the world. Somehow the centurion knows that these are the eyes of eternal love. Jesus holds the soldier’s gaze as long as he can, but the blood that dripped off the ends of his hair to the ground when he was bent low under the cross beam now drops into his eyes. The blood mixed with sweat stings and Jesus blinks. By this time Friday Jesus was familiar with this sting, but it was a new sensation on Thursday  night in the garden.

There in the garden he walked with his friends singing hymns and speaking quietly. They passed through the city gate and walked up the hill to Gethsemane through the olive trees. But there were only eleven friends with Jesus, not twelve. One of the twelve chosen proved no friend at all. Satan already held Judas the betrayer by the hand then and now he has him by the neck. Judas hangs pale and gasping, swinging from his belt under the limb of a tree, the flames of hell already lapping at his feet. It would of been better if he had never  been born. Eleven remained then, but soon there would be none. Not one friend would stay. Strike the shepherd and the sheep will scatter. One would run terrified out of the garden naked and the rest would follow. Jesus fell on his face in prayer. He tasted the dirt as he fought for the eternal destinies of his eleven sleeping sheep only a stones throw away. “Let the cup pass!” he cried, “Father if possible let the cup pass!” The Father gazed lovingly at his Son, and the Son stared back knowingly. “Your will be done, Father” whispered the Son. And the Father held out the cup, Jesus looked in. What he saw there flung him into the throws of agony. He pressed his forehead deep into the dirt which softened to mud when mingled with his tears. Jesus felt several small explosions of pain under the skin on his face. The tiny capillaries in his sweat glands burst under the stress, blood flowed through his pores and dropped in his eyes, and it stung. Jesus lifted his head to the sky and cried out, “I will drink from this cup Father, I will drink from this cup so that your glory may be vindicated and my name may be glorified. And so that the sheep you have given me will see our glory and enjoy it forever. I will drink on behalf of our rescue mission.” Just then, through blurry eyes, Jesus saw the lines of torches slithering like a snake up the hill to the garden. The mob arrived, Judas kissed, friends fled, soldiers arrested and Jesus’s world became a swirl of torment and mockery.

His trial was a sham as liars lied and mockers mocked. God claimed to be God, and it was called blasphemy. And the face that Moses longed the see, the face that he was forbidden to see was slapped and spit on. More blood in the eyes, more stinging. As he was dragged from the high priest’s house, Jesus managed a bloodied eye glance at Peter. This friend ran from the garden but this friend followed as well. And this friend had done the unthinkable three times, and now, the cock crowed, and Jesus held Peter captive in the gaze of eternal love. But Peter looked away and ran. Just outside the city gate he stumbled and fell to the ground, heaving sobs, and considered joining Judas on his tree. But he pleaded to the Father for forgiveness instead, and the Father looked a few hours into the future, to Friday afternoon, and on behalf of what He saw there, He granted Peter the forgiveness he requested.

The governor of Judea was up early this cold, wet, gray Friday morning. The city still sleeped as the the priests and soldiers led Jesus to the palace of Pontius Pilate. But soon the priests would have a sympathetic crowd as news of Jesus’s arrest moved from house to house. They leveled their charges, “This man forbids us to pay tribute to Caesar and he calls himself a king.” Pilate stares intently at Jesus, he questioned him, and found no guilt. Neither did King Herod. So Pilate offered to release Jesus to the swelling crowd, but they chose freedom for the murderer Barrabas instead. “Then what should I do with Jesus of Nazareth,” Pilate shouted to the mob. The mob thundered back, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” And their voices prevailed. Pilate washed his hands, and delivered the innocent one to death.

Now, Jesus was stripped, and his hands were tied overhead to a post. A large shirtless Roman soldier stepped forward towards Jesus, fondling a short whip. Several heavy leather thongs hung off the handle, weighed down by the small balls of lead attached near the ends of each. The muscles in the soldier’s back and arms bulged as he brought down the heavy whip with full force again and again and again across Jesus’s shoulders and back and buttocks and legs. The Jews would of been more merciful; no more than 39 lashes, but the Romans extended no such mercy. And the balls of lead yielded large, deep bruises, only to be broken open by the endless blows as the thongs cut through the skin, and then they cut deeper into muscles. From behind, Jesus no longer looked human, his skin hung in long bloody ribbons of tissue. Fearing they had gone too far and kill Jesus before it was time, the soldiers cut him loose, he fell in an unconscious heap at their feet. Jesus was forced to stand. A purple robe not his own was wrapped around him and clung to his open wounds. They made him hold a stick; a mock scepter. And now the King of Jews needed a crown. One of the soldiers picked up a thorn branch from a pile of firewood and braided it into a circle. Never did thorns compose so rich a crown. Another soldier took the scepter from the hand of the King of Kings and beat the crown into his skull. Bloody sweat blinded him and his stinging eyes momentarily took his mind off the pain in his back. And then the purple robe was torn from Jesus, and ribbons of flesh that adhered to the cloth were ripped off with its removal. Each wound had a voice of it’s own to shriek it’s pain, and Jesus collapsed again.

Now Jesus is dressed in his own clothes again, and before the merciful centurion can move Jesus along behind the dark man now carrying the cross, an old woman approaches and wipes his face with a linen cloth. Jesus looks into her eyes and then looks to the crowd of weeping women behind her. And he says, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and your children. The days are coming when they will say blessed are the wombs that never bore and and the breast that never nursed. They will say to the mountains, ‘fall on us’ and to the hills ‘cover us.'” And to the old women he adds, “If they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it’s dry?” Then Jesus walks on beyond the city gates. It’s nine ‘o clock in the morning Friday. Through the steady rain Jesus glances up from the base of a rocky hill, it’s name Golgotha, “the skull.” At the top he sees several posts fixed in the ground, three of those poles stand ready to receive their cross beams and the tattered body of Jesus and the two criminals behind him. At the top of the hill the merciful centurion hands Jesus a cup. Jesus sniffs the liquid; it’s wine mixed with myrr, a mild narcotic to dull the pain. But Jesus is meant to feel all the pain, so he hands the cup back, this is not the cup of the Father.

Soldiers strip Jesus, again his back is set on fire as skin tears away with the cloth. Jesus now lays naked in the dirt as the dark man places the cross beam by his head, this time Jesus sees his face. It is Simon of Cyrene, Jesus knows him by name and did before there was time. The beam becomes his pillow now. Two men take hold of his hands. The soldier on his left yanks his arm as far as it will go, but the soldier to his right is gentler. Jesus turns to him, it’s the merciful centurion again. He picks up a cold spike and places it to Jesus’s wrist, then he picks up a hammer. Their eyes meet and eternal love shines forth again and the centurion is undone, he looks away and lifts his hammer. In that moment Jesus hears his own word of power. The word of power that holds the merciful centurion in existence, the word of power that causes the hammer to be; he’s speaking it all into being. The soldiers, the priests, the thieves, the friends, the mothers, the brothers, the mob, the wooden beams, the spikes, the thorns, the ground beneath him and the dark clouds gathering above. If he ceases to speak they will all cease to be. But he wills that they remain, so the soldiers live on and the hammers come crashing down.

Jesus is lifted on his cross beam to the post. He sags, held only by the spikes in his wrist. Jesus designed the median nerves in his arm that are working perfectly now; the pain shoots up those nerves and explodes in his skull as the cross beam is set in place. His left foot is now pressed against his right foot, both feet are extended toes down and a spike is driven through the arch of each. His knees are bent. Jesus immediately pushes himself up to relieve the pain in his outstretched arms. He places his full weight on the spikes in his feet and they tear through the nerves between the metatarsal bones. Splinters from the post pierce his lacerated back; searing agony. Quickly waves of cramps over take him, deep throbbing pain from  his head to his toes; he’s no longer able to push himself up and his knees buckle. He’s hanging now by his arms. His pectoral muscles are now paralyzed and his intercostals are useless, Jesus can inhale but he cannot exhale. His stressed heart is struggling to pump blood to his torn tissue. He fights to raise himself up in order to breathe, and in order to speak. He glances down at the soldiers now gambling for his clothes, he pushes himself up through the pain to pray aloud. “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they do.” Then he sags back into silence. But the crowd is not silent, though  he can barely hear their taunts through the dim of his pain. “He saved others, let him save himself! If you’re the Christ come down off the cross. Save yourself King of the Jews!” The criminal on the cross to his left joins the mockery, but the thief to his right repents. Jesus pushes himself up to say, “Truly I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

It’s noon now. The rain falls harder and the clouds blacken. Jesus looks down through wet strands of hair into the familiar face of a woman. A new pain grips him, greater pain than all the whips and spikes in the empire of Rome; it’s his mother. She’s sobbing so hard that her breathing is as labored as his. Without word she looks into his eyes and begs to know why, he longs to hold her and tell her it’s all for her. He pushes upward and says as he looks toward John, “Woman, he is now your son.” Then to John he murmurs, “And she is now your mother, take her away from here.” And he sags back into silence, back into countless hours of limitless pain.

Then Jesus is startled by a foul odor. It isn’t the stench of open wounds, it’s something else, and it crawls inside him. He looks up to his Father, his Father looks back but Jesus doesn’t recognize these eyes. They pierce the invisible world with fire and darken the visible sky, and Jesus feels dirty. He hangs between heaven and earth filthy with human discharge on the outside, and now, filthy with human wickedness on the inside. The Father speaks:

               Son of Man, why have you sinned against me and heaped scorn on my great glory? You are self-sufficient and self righteous, consumed with yourself and puffed up with yourself in selfish ambitions. You rob me of my glory and worship what’s inside of you instead of looking out to the one who created you. You are a greedy, lazy, gluttonous slanderer and gossip. You are a lying, conceited, ungrateful cruel adulterer. You practice sexual immorality, you make pornography, you fill your mind with vulgarity. You exchange my truth for a lie and worship the creature instead of the Creator, and so you are given up to your homosexual passions, dressing immodestly and lusting after what is forbidden. With all your heart you love perverse pleasure. You hate your brother and murder him with bullets of anger fired from your own heart. You kill babies for your convenience. You oppress the poor and deal slaves and ignore the needy. You persecute my people. You love money and prestige and honor. You put on a cloak of outward piety but inside you are filled with dead men’s bones, you hypocrite. You are lukewarm and easily enticed by the world. You covet and can’t have so you murder. You are filled with envy and rage and bitterness and unforgiveness. You blame others for your sin and are too proud to even call it sin. You are never slow to speak, you have a razor’s tongue that lashes and cuts with it’s criticism and sinful judgement. Your words do not impart grace, instead your mouth is a fountain of condemnation and guilt and obscene talk. You are a false prophet leading people astray. You mock your parents, you have no self control. You are a betrayer who stirs up division and factions. You are a drunkard and a thief. You’re an anxious coward, you do not trust me, you blaspheme against me. You are an un-submissive wife, you are a lazy, disengaged husband. You file for divorce and crush the parable of my love for the church. You are a pimp and a drug dealer. You practice divination and worship demons. The list of your sins goes on and on and on; and I hate these things inside of you, I’m filled with disgust and indignation for your sin consumes me. Now, drink my cup!

And Jesus does. He drinks for hours. He downs every drop of the scalding liquid of God’s own hatred for sin mingled with his white-hot wrath against that sin.  This is the Father’s cup. Omnipotent hatred and anger for the sins of every generation past, present and future. Omnipotent wrath directed at one naked man hanging on a cross. The Father can no longer look on His beloved Son, His heart’s treasure, the mirror image of Himself; and he looks away. Jesus pushes himself upward and howls to heaven, “My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?” Silence. Separation. Jesus now whispers he’s thirsty and sags. The merciful centurion soaks a sponge in sour wine and lifts it on a reed to Jesus’s lips. The sour wine is the sweetest drink he ever tasted. Jesus pushes himself up again and cries, “It is finished!” And it is. Every sin of every child of God has been laid on Jesus and he drank the cup of God’s wrath dry.

It’s three ‘o clock Friday afternoon. Jesus finds one more surge of strength as he presses his torn feet against the spikes, strains his leg and with one last gasp of air cries out, “Father, into your hands, I commit my spirit.” And he dies. The merciful centurion sees his body fall forward and his head drop low. He thrusts a spear up behind Jesus’s ribs; one more piercing for our transgression. Water and blood flow out of his broken heart. In that moment mountains shake, and rocks split; veils tear and tombs open. The merciful centurion looks up at the lifeless body of Jesus and is filled with awe. He drops to his knees and declares, “Truly, this man was the Son of God.” Mission accomplished. Sacrifice accepted.


Immovable Identity

 

i-den-ti-ty: The collective aspect of the set of characteristics by which a thing is definitively recognizable or known

 

“One of the great Christian clichés is that [our identity crisis] is neatly solved when we find our identities in Christ. I agree. I also have never heard what exactly this means, how you do it, or what it looks like. But sometimes I think we don’t know because we don’t grapple with it on a core level.” (Kelly Minter) This is the lesson I’ve been taught my whole life; once you are saved, Christ is the only identity that matters. We, as women, seem to be caught in an incessant pursuit to discover our identity. From a young age, our Christian culture has given us tenants on which to build our goals & dreams: marriage, motherhood, & even career, to name a few. None of those are inherently bad, on their own, but because of our fears, most of us have turned them into idols. I used to believe this lie that when I got married & started having kids, my life would begin…I would finally have an identity worth talking about. (Notable ‘career’ has never been a personal ambition.) The story of Sarai & Hagar in Genesis 16 calls out this idol & destroys my false sense of trust, in that lie. Sarai, Abram’s wife, is basically barren & has become impatient enough to “fix” things on her own. Her remedy is to send her servant, Hagar, to her husband so that “it may be that [Sarai] shall obtain children by her.” (Gen 16:2) The story progresses to show Sarai’s resentment of Hagar once she is with child & eventually to have the Lord resolve the situation in only a way that He can. Genesis 21 shows us the fulfillment of God’s plan. It could have ended with out all of the baggage Sarai’s manipulation brought about, but she was impatient & scared. God had fully intended to give her a “life”, an identity, but it did not happen within the parameters of time she & society saw as ‘right’.

Thankfully for me, a series of living arrangements fell through & a seizure took place to stop me from “fixing” things. I was no where close to being married but I had been throwing out my standards & dating people I thought would get me to the altar, so that my “life” could begin. God trapped me into a season where I was forced to denounce the hold my idol of marriage & motherhood had on my life. I’m not saying this happened easily…in fact, I’d venture to say I appeared to be a stubborn child, playing in the street after my dad’s numerous warnings. I didn’t get hit by anything or hurt too severely, while I continued in my rebellion; I just scrapped my knees a couple of times. Those things I admired & that I deeply desired were essentially poisoning my relationship with the Lord & it was hard to acknowledge those things as idols. There were times when the enemy used small things (even from the mouths of people I loved & respected) to feed into my fears, the fears that encouraged my need of those idols. Someone told me that my opinion did not matter because I had “no life experience.” Another used the phrase, “waiting for your life to start” when negatively referring to my stage of life & the way I was choosing to live. Those words were so wounding & even now, feel so harsh when I see them in writing. They stirred up insecurities in me & in my abilities that I had never struggled with before. I questioned every word to come out of my mouth, every opinion, & every decision. It’s good & healthy to have sought out counsel, desire confirmation before acting & to seek assurance that you are not functioning outside of Biblical parameters.  But, I was far beyond those pure actions & motives… I was sinning.  I had an absolute distrust in the abilities He had given to me & I was acting on my fear.

I cannot tell you exactly how, but one morning I woke up & it just clicked. I woke up in full revelation that the only mold I needed to fit was Christ. The truth had finally penetrated my heart…

My identity is Christ.”

            My fears & the idols I had created to ‘self medicate’ my disposition to chase momentary securities were snuffed out. In No Other Gods, Minter says that “fear is the bond that attaches us to our idols.” Throughout that season, the Holy Spirit was so persistent in His pursuit of my surrender with those fears.

 

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” 1 John 4:18

 

Here is what this looked like for me as my heart & brain figured things out…

Ok, so there is no fear in love because perfect love has thrown it out & fear is connected to punishment…plus whoever fears hasn’t been fixed by love… Well, perfect love is Jesus (1 John 4:16)…and punishment is a result of disobedience, which is my sin…through the law- I can never make restitution for my sins on my own (Romans 3:19-20)…and I know that Jesus destroyed the law by taking on my punishment (Ephesians 2:13-16)…so of course those who don’t know what the Lord has done are still going to fear…wait…

Why am I still fearful??

 

            Why was I fearful? What did I have to fear? Why was I allowing social stigmas to have value when I knew they were not God-ordained? I had allowed my fear to build, & even secure, idols in my heart & life that were based solely on deception!

“Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” Proverbs 4:23

            Are there areas you’re allowing your fears to bond you to your idols? Have you allowed room for them to be broken? Do you even care? Stop believing lies, whatever they may be, because you are His treasured possession; you’re chosen & made holy. (Deuteronomy 14:2)


Still Not There

This post has been in the making for a long time. But it took some thought before I could decide whether or not to post it. The whole point of this blog is to resist wasting our words. To me, for me to waste my words would be anything, written or spoken, that’s not in step with the gospel or geared toward building others up to pursue Christ more vigorously. So is this a waste of words? Absolutely not. This is me coming to tear myself down, in the hopes of building you up. I want to publicly humble myself, and that is certainly not a waste of words.

Preface

I realize there will be two responses to this. Some of you will hopefully be encouraged and built up. And for those, I thank you for the grace you show me that allows you to rejoice in what God is doing in me. But I also know I might get some backlash for this. I’m okay with that; I’ve prepared myself for it. I realize there may be a lot of eyes rolled at the end of this post. But let me warn you, you’re on dangerous ground. In order to hold a grudge against someone, you have to see yourself as morally superior to them. Welcome to pride. Be careful how you read this.

My Apology

The biggest means God used to save me was through study. To keep it short, all of my life I thought that I knew Christ, when in reality I believed in some ethereal Jesus I had always heard about. Because of only hearing of him and not actually knowing him, I had no foundation of truth. It was almost this mystic Christianity. I had plenty “warm fuzzies” to point to, but none of them came from an actual knowledge of who God is. After realizing this, I was encouraged by a brother to go and study. Go and seek; go build up that foundation of truth and pray the Spirit would come and blow you up. And He did. After about 2 months of dull, dry gathering of kindling, the Holy Spirit came and ignited everything I had been learning. Finally, the new birth occurred. I could see and savor the saving merits of Christ Jesus.

I don’t regret any of that. I shouldn’t regret any of that. But it’s what came after that I’m here to apologize for. Just for a timeline’s sake, this was August of 2009. I was just moving up to Denton and getting into college. After seeing what God could do with the little bit of truth I had come across, I wanted more. I wanted to know and soak up all I could. From this came a lot of growth, intellectually at least. I began to build up this reservior of knowledge, and began to look on it with pride. I understood things very quickly and could grasp some difficult things. I looked down on those who didn’t have that same capacity to understand as if they were lesser. They were second-hand citizens in the kingdom of God. It’s for this that I apologize. I hurt some of you, and I ruined a lot of meaningful relationships. When my tongue should of been salivating with grace, I began to spit the poison of condemnation. I made some of you feel lesser. You are a fellow heir with me. We are both adopted children of God. But I treated you as the outcast in the family. I may even of made you feel as though God didn’t quite love you as much because you weren’t as quick to understand. It was a disgusting display of pride and clear evidence that I myself didn’t understand the things I came across. I spoke of the doctrines of grace with zero grace. It wasn’t just a contradiction, it was a blatant sin against God and against you. I’m here to confess these things to you and to ask for your forgiveness. I hate that I can’t make it clear enough how sorry I am. I was an ignorant, loud mouthed fool dishonoring the grace God had shown both of us. For that, I’m sorry.


Pity Party?

There a couple things I wanna make clear before I close this out. This is not me inviting you to my pity party. Pity?? What do I have to feel self-pity about? God has still forgiven me for these things. Christ, the eternal Son of God who “is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (Hebrews 1:3), has given up his life for me. He’s saved me. I’ve been bought with the blood of Christ. Adopted, sonship, an “[heir] of God and fellow [heir] with Christ.” (Romans 8:17). You have no reason to feel pity for me. I’m not asking for your pity, I’m wanting joy. Joy in that we serve a God who is continually patient in our pride, yet shows his might in bringing down the eyes of the haughty. Rejoice with me.

Self-Projection?

This could very easily be interpreted as boasting in humility. Excuse my poor writing here, but ppssshhhh. Any true humility that ANYONE has is created in us by God and God alone. It’s a gift of grace that God gives us. It’s not something I could conjure up in myself. It’s been born from a clear vision of who God is and how low I really am. Besides, being prideful in humility is not humility. And prideful? What do I have to feel prideful for? I killed Jesus. I’m so wicked that it took the Son of God being tortured and killed to save me. The day I project myself on this blog is the day I’ll quit writing. I have nothing to proclaim in life except Christ and him crucified. It’s all I have to give, and it’s all I want to give.

Come Walk With Me

This wasn’t easy for me to write. Having to think again on the ways I’ve used theology to look down on God’s people and treat them as lesser Christians is not a fun experience. But in the end, this was a joyful experience. It’s been painful to think on just how sinful I have been and still am, but it’s life-giving to know Christ still covers me. Christ is deeper still. So come rejoice with me. I’d love to talk with some of you in person. This isn’t me hiding behind a keyboard so I don’t have to face you. I would love to talk with you if you have any questions or comments. So let’s do this. Let’s walk together. Not one standing over another, but side by side as we press on to know Christ Jesus in His fullness.


If God is For Us…

I’ve been a believer for about 2 years now. As I’ve gotten deeper and deeper into biblical community and seen more and more of my own sinfulness, I’ve noticed one sin that seems to creep in on every believer, anxiety. Whether anxiety as to physical needs (or wants), or being anxious in doubting our full forgiveness. The Bible answers this. Quite a few times actually, but nowhere as profoundly than Romans 8:31, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” Anxiety is a fruit of distrust. My hope is to lay out why the Christian has every right to confidently let go of anxiety and trust God.

Now, this is a very well know verse, which is why I worry most of us breeze over it without catching the weight of what it proclaims. To catch it, we’ll need to point out two key statements.

If God..

Okay stop. God. Who is God? Paul is speaking of the God of the Bible and the Gospel, “the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” (Ex. 34:6). This is the God who has announced his sovereignty: “I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.’” (Is. 46:9-10).

He is the Creator and Sustainer of all creation. It was by his word he spoke all things into being, and still by the word of his power he sustains all. “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.” (Is. 40:28).

This is the God who showed his sovereignty in bringing Israel out of slavery in Egypt and later in Babylon, and who brought Jesus up out of the grave. He is sovereign in salvation. He’s the God who calls, justifies, and glorifies all who “he predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.” (Rm. 8:29). He is the God who says to you, “you have been borne by me from before your birth, carried from the womb; even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save. (Is. 46:3-4).

If God is for us…

For us? What does that mean? “The words for us declares God’s covenant commitment to us. The goal of grace is to create a loving relationship, and the bonds of fellowship by which God binds himself to us is his covenant.” It is a unilaterally imposed covenant. Like when God says to Abraham in Gen. 17, “I am God Almighty… I will establish my covenant between you and me… to be God to you and to your offspring after you…I will be their God…you shall keep my covenant.” (vv. 1,7-9).

Covenant is an odd word to use in our culture today. The idea of covenant has been defamed and belittled, similar to the ways ‘love’ has. But, regardless of how light our culture views covenant, this covenant is an enduring one. The way it was meant to be. You see, covenant isn’t just an idea for the believer, it’s a reality. And it’s a reality because it was blood bought. We are partakers in the new covenant. The binding agreements have been made and held up by the blood of Christ. Sweet, precious blood of Christ, which holds me fast and covers me in the many moments I am unfaithful to this covenant. But God is not like me, he is ‘whole otherness.’ I can’t let my unfaithfulness be a gauge on how faithful the Lord will be. He has, is and will forever be faithful in carrying out his end of this blood bought covenant, to be ‘my God.’

Think

So think. That’s what Paul is trying to get you to do here. Compare the two sides. Your enemy/enemies, and God. The ‘who can be’ translation actually misses the point. What Paul is asking for a is a realistic review of the opposition, human or demonic, not a romantic pretense that it does not exist. Are you afraid of ‘them?’ You need not be. Whoever or whatever circumstance it is, God is greater. Fear not Christian, the Lord your God is for you. “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or dismayed before the king of Assyria and all the horde that is with him, for there are more with us than with him. With him is an arm of flesh, but with us is the LORD our God, to help us and to fight our battles.” (2 Chron. 32:7-8).

A sovereign protector I have,

Unseen, yet for ever at hand;

Unchangeably faithful to save,

Almighty to rule and command.

He smiles, and my comforts abound;

His grace as dew shall descend,

And walls of salvation surround

   The soul He delights to defend.

                -Toplady

 

 

Note: In the interest of full disclosure, this framework has been adapted from J.I. Packer’s chapter ‘The Adequacy of God’ in Knowing God. Any unclaimed quotations are from him.