Wednesday, February 15, 2012

God's Will: Christ in you

Maybe someone can help me: was it Aristotle who said a thing cannot be beautiful if it is too big, cannot be comprehended as a whole, or viewed all at once? One can’t help but wonder how one looks at a starry sky or the majestic mountains much less smell a flower and say “this is not beautiful.” One wonders if the other is not confused between the absolute (there is something a thing called “beauty”) and the particular (“this or that is beautiful”). I could say, “That is beautiful,” and you may disagree. Contrariwise, I may disagree with you say is beautiful. Yet, there is one point of agreement we share: beauty exists. The particular of what is beautiful is where we differ. No, there is beauty in complexity and simplicity, in part or as a whole.

This is the beauty of God’s will. What He desires for mankind is complex but simple and stunningly beautiful: complex on His part and simple for us. Since man desires to do his own for himself with the hope that God understands, man makes complications for himself. This is not God’s will. “Save yourself some pain” is a piece of conventional wisdom worth considering.
Two items for consideration:

First, God desires no person to perish but come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). When we see how God sees our heart, we should be humble and desire to be cleansed from sin. God does not “understand our shortcomings” and simply forgive. His will is repentance, putting our faith and trust in the fact that He stepped into time and space to pay the penalty for our sin through the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Second, God’s will is that Christ indwell and thus complete His child (Colossians 1:27-28). I received an e-mail from a reader who wanted to know if it is possible for one to love God and not believe Christ. No, it is not possible because that is not God’s will. God intends to be believed and Christ is the central feature of what we believe. Believe God (this is simple) because of what He did for us in Christ Jesus (the complex that He did for us).

Another piece of (now) conventional wisdom says, “There is no try. Do!” Quit trying to please God. Since He makes His abode within every believer, we are to allow Him to live His life through us. This is simple and this is where beauty literally explodes. This is where life awakens and blossoms and breaks and dawns and breaches and flourishes and every other adjective applies. God’s will at work is stunning. Awesome in the sense that “awesome” is meant to be. He is the very definition of the word.
Don’t see it yet? Consider this: we don’t deserve what He has given us in Christ Jesus. We deserve to die in our sins but because Christ died, His love for us lavishes grace so when we repent, Christ is in you and me--His will, undeserved. If we simply see that He has made it simple for us by doing the hard part for us, we enjoy the beauty of a restored relationship with Him and He indwells us.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

The Baptizer

When I was perhaps six or seven years old we made a vacation stop at Carlsbad Caverns in Carlsbad, New Mexico. I did not appreciate the adventure as much as I could have being so young. Perhaps I was travel weary. Perhaps I was scared to death. Maybe both.

One feature along the path was dark hole opening up in the floor just a few feet beyond the rail. Not much separated small children from the void and there was no help to confidence in the placard that read, “The Bottomless Pit.” Walls and columns of stalagmites were lit up with blue and pink and white lights, but this hole was the epitome of all things black. I distinctly remember a rope ladder with wooden rungs anchored at the top of the hole spilling down into the abyss and it may be a trick of memory, but I recall the ladder seemed to be broken just about the place where the light ended and the yawning chasm began. There may have been some dusty scientific equipment staged to feed the imagination.

As if I was not terrified enough, my father was looking over the rail. This was not the walk-pause-gaze-snap-a-picture-and-move-on kind of look. “Gotta see more; get what you pay for, so let’s keep moving.” No, no. This was the peer-and-lean-over-the-rail kind of look. Like this-one-hole-was-the-price-of-admission kind of look. The kind of look that is usually followed by one leg going over the rail, then the next leg . . .

Did I mention I was terrified? While certain I could hear the screams of young hippy scientists that were still clinging to a broken ladder while dropping through very space itself, I could not bear that my dad was looking into that hole. I screamed, I cried, I clung, I begged him not look over the rail. Somehow, he made the point that he was safe.

“Well, at least let me hold your glasses, so they don’t fall off.” I whimpered.

“But how will I see?” he asked.

It was all a nightmare.

When John the Baptist was preaching and the whole countryside was going out to him, John makes an intriguing statement about himself. He says he is not worthy to untie the thong of the sandals of the greater one who is coming, the one about whom he is preaching. Ok, so what?

Rabbis in these times had followers, and some of these followers were servants. One act even the most pompous rabbi would never ask (or should never ask) of a servant is to untie his sandals. John says that he is not worthy to do even the most unthinkable even if were asked. This is not a reflection on the one who is doing the asking, but on himself as a servant. He is down-in-the-hole low.

John was standing up and announcing the Lord and people were not ready for Him. People responded by leaving where they were (literally and symbolically) and were coming out. He was saying what God has always said: Repent! Be overwhelmed with cleansing!

What do you think John’s ministry would be like today? Would it be any different now than it was then? Now think for a moment what you do for God, or say you do for God. Why is what we do any different? Could it be because we are not low enough, humble enough?

Consider: people went out to John, so what drives your ministry? Why do people come to where you are? Is it because of your location, your dress, your diet; or is it because from the hole of humility you proclaim the one who is greater, the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit?

Down in the hole it’s lonely and scary, but this is where the adventure begins . . .

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

The Prophecy of Scripture and John the Baptizer

Superman is easy to pick out in a crowd provided he is not out of costume. Any figure able to squeeze into smashing tights and a cape instantly conjures the image of “hero.” The Incredibles helped us rethink the whole cape thing; nevertheless, we still have this modern-day picture of a figure based on those tell-tale signs.

The Gospel of Mark begins with a description of a very peculiar man. He is dressed in camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist and his diet is locusts and wild honey. We are also told the whole country of Judea was going out to him and all the people of Jerusalem and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan river, confessing their sins.
Now, what was attractive about this man? Why were so many going out to him, spilling their guts and being baptized? Was it is attire? What does the dress say about a man? Guys, there’s a great website out there called, “The Art of Manliness” which comes complete with a section on dress and grooming. Yes, men must be told how to dress and groom; otherwise, we would look like a bunch of wild men, and smell like wild men too. Catching where this is going? John the Baptist was a sight to behold, to be sure. I am confident that many did not go out to copy his attire nor did anyone come very close to him unintentionally. One almost visualizes people approaching him for baptism, holding their noses. But they were not looking at him this particular moment, were they? They were looking beyond him . . .

People were going out to him not because of his wardrobe and diet. People were going out to him because of his voice and because of what he was saying. People were going out to him because his voice was recognizable. Why is his voice so familiar? His voice is ancient and the gospel writer tells us something about John long before he is identifiable with the eye.
God in His unchanging Word said he was coming. “As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, ‘Behold, I send my messenger before you who will prepare your way. The voice of one crying in the wilderness . . .” 400 years before John was born, God made this voice heard and anyone who read scripture heard it. This is why his voice was familiar. Mark says in the next verse, “John appeared in the wilderness preaching . . .” What was John preaching but the same message God said he would preach, “Make ready the way of the Lord. Make His paths straight!” When John preached, he said “One is coming who is mightier than I . . .” John said the Lord was coming, so get ready. This is why people repented: God’s Word was at work.

Dr. Robertson McQuilkin in his book, “Understanding and Applying the Bible,” describes three purposes for prophecy: first, to establish the authentic of the one who is speaking. God had John’s back. Second, to cause a change in those who heard and this is precisely what happened. Finally, to establishing confidence in God who foretold the events. People were directed to look beyond John through the lens of scripture in the power of God’s Holy Spirit to see Him who was coming.
John is a divinely promised messenger preaching a divinely promised message for the divinely promised Messiah. The message he delivered was in a recognizable prophetic voice declaring “Make ready the way of the Lord,” meaning that people cannot carry on as they always have. Change is required—not a change of clothes or diet but change of heart.

The Bible is God’s unchanging word, so as you move through the world, take a moment to consider the source of your confidence for ministry. Who is your supreme your subject in every way you handle and dispense scripture? How dare anyone presume it fails!

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