Monday, October 31, 2011

The Surrender Empowered Humility of God Empowered Exaltation

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. (James 4:10)

Excerpt from “Walking with God in Humility” – 2011-10-30
Our sinful pride will always cause us to humbly exalt ourselves. But our text for today calls us, commands us, to another way. The truth is, we cannot exalt ourselves – only God can do that. And God will not “exalt” us until we take our proper place before Him. Three different times (Mt. 23:12; Luke 14:11; 18:14) Jesus said: “he who humbles himself will be exalted." In all of these cases – and in our text for today – the word “humble” is in the passive mood, which means “humble yourselves” literally could be read “allow yourselves to be humbled.” We cannot be humble ourselves. God must be the one to humble us, but we must surrender and submit to Him first. We will always naturally resist being humbled because we are naturally prideful in our sin. Before a horse can be of any use, that horse must be broken of its self-will. It must be brought to the place of submission. Likewise, before we can humbly be of any use to God, we must first be broken of the self-will of our pride. It’s our fallen sinful nature to defend ourselves, to deny that we are prideful. But we are prideful, so God calls us to humble ourselves before Him and when we do “he will exalt” us. 1 Peter 5:6 says: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you.” What does it mean to be “exalted” by God after we have “humbled” ourselves before Him? This is where our second text that we are looking at comes in. 1 John 1:9 tells us: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” The context of these words from the apostle John is acknowledging the true depth of our sinful nature.

When we do “confess our sins” God will then faithfully “forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” – which means that we will then become righteous by the sacrificial work of the cross of Christ. And at “the proper time” – either on the day we die or on the day the Lord comes back, whichever comes first - God Himself will “exalt” us! And God will wipe away every tear from our eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain (Revelation 21:4); And we will see His face, and His name will be on our foreheads. And night will be no more. And we will need no light or lamp or sun, for the God will be our light, and we will reign with Him forever and ever (Revelation 22:4-5); Jesus said: "Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh!” (Luke 6:21).

Monday, October 24, 2011

Confessing Our Sin for the Greater Healing

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. (James 5:16)

Excerpt from “Walking with God in Confession of Sin” – 2011-10-23
We are to use our tongues to confess our sins to one another and to pray for one another. Note how this sentence is grammatically connected: confession of sins to one another plus prayer for one another equals healing. The inference here is that there is that there is some sickness in life that is the result of unconfessed sin in our relationships with others. The first step in that healing process is to confess our sin to those we have hurt and then pray for them. Now there are proper guidelines and boundaries in doing this. James is not telling us we are to publicly confess our sins to the entire church. There may be specific instances where public sin must be confessed publically, we see that in cases of church discipline. But we must never confess sin beyond the circle of that sin’s influence. We know from texts like Matthew 18:15-20 that private sin is best dealt with privately. God is urging us in His Word today that if we have sinned against someone, we are to privately confess our sin to the one we have offended and to seek their forgiveness and pray for them so we might be reconciled, just as Jesus taught us to. . .

Walking with God in confession of sin means that if sin is the root cause of our sickness then we must confess our sin so we can be forgiven and pray again for healing. Yes, there are sins that will cause us physical sickness – but the greater sickness caused by sin is the effect sin has on our soul. Sin breaks our fellowship with God. Sin rejects the cross of Christ. Sin grieves the Holy Spirit who lives in us.

1 John 1:9 tells us: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Confession of sin restores us back to God. Confession of sin cleanses us anew with the blood of Jesus. Confession of sin empowers the Holy Spirit to once again rise up in our hearts. Confession of sin agrees with God that we are guilty and humbly receives the mercy of God that was brought by the violent grace of the cross. Like the scraping of barnacles off the hull of a ship so it can move freely again - confession of sin frees us from the bondage of guilt and shame so we might joyfully live with God and fully live for God. Confession of sin deepens our hearts and heals our souls and fill us with joy, humility and gratitude like a child who needs to own up to their rebellion before Mom and Dad – but not to earn God’s love, but to know it, to live in it, and to fully rest in it. Romans 8:14-15 says: “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’"

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Blind Spot of Loving Ourselves More Than God

Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the LORD! (Lamentations 3:40)

Excerpt from “Walking with God in Self-Awareness" – 2011-10-16
When struggle and suffering and pain come into our lives, our fallen sinful tendency is to complain and grumble and protest and question God as to why we have struggle, suffering and pain in our lives. That is our fallen, sinful tendency because, like Narcissus, our fallen, sinful tendency is to stare into the deep pool of own reflection rather than keep our eyes on the One in whose image we were created. Because we are so often madly in love with our own reflection, we are unable to see even the true depth of our own sin. The very fact that the chosen people of God Jeremiah was writing about questioned God’s motives and goodness proves they were not self-aware of how blind they were to their own sin.

Jeremiah lived during troubled times. He became a prophet during the reign of Josiah, who was the last faithful king in Judah’s history. Josiah’s death was the beginning of the last years of the nation of Judah. Within two short decades the great blessing and prosperity of the people of God was gone- replaced by political, social, financial, moral, and spiritual decay. God had warned them through not only Jeremiah but also through the prophets Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah that this is what would happen if they continued their persistence in focusing on themselves and their continual wandering away from God. And they ignored the warnings because they could not see their sin beyond the blind-spot of loving themselves more than God – and untold struggle and suffering and pain came into their lives, and they still couldn’t see their sin.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Proper “View” of Worship

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. (Romans 12:1)

Excerpt from “Walking with God in Surrender” – 2011-10-09
Worship is our response to the revelation of who God is in view of the reality of who we are. In view of how lost he was in his fallen, sinful nature and how spiritually proud he was as a Jew - Paul responded in worship to the revelation of the constant, abundant “mercy” and “the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge” that God had poured into his life and the life of God’s chosen people who had so willfully rebelled and rejected God: “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen!” When we see our desperate need in view of the revelation of God’s undeserved mercy towards us, our spontaneous response should be heartfelt praise and passionate worship.

True worship is not about music or emotions or what happens in this building on Sunday morning at 10:30 AM. True worship is about being overwhelmed with the reality that we are seeing God in all His mercy and sovereignty and joy and holiness and love and grace and power and truth and glory more clearly than we have ever seen Him before – because God’s mercy and sovereignty and joy and holiness and love and grace and power and truth and glory penetrates our hearts and souls more deeply than they ever have before - because we clearly see our great, deep, desperate need for God and His mercy and sovereignty and joy and holiness and love and grace and power and truth and glory than we have seen it before. That is exactly the true worship of God Paul was experiencing here.

Our struggle with worship is that we tend not enough time looking at God and too much time looking at ourselves. We tend to define worship in terms of whether we liked the music or how we were emotionally moved or whether or not we liked the sermon or how long the service went. But none of those kinds of things are about God – they are about us. Worship is our response to the revelation of who God is in view of the reality of who we are. Our worship of God will improve when look to God instead of at ourselves - and when our opinion about worship stops being the standard for worship.

You see when you do truly and deeply and passionately fall in love with someone - you stop measuring, manipulating, or trying to control what happens to you. You find yourself so swept away with the one you love that you really don’t pay much attention to yourself anymore. You are entirely taken in with the one who has taken your heart. That’s true for human relationships because that’s how we were created to be in our relationship with God. Paul was genuinely overwhelmed by who God was when He was writing about God. In seeing who God truly was in view of his desperate need for God, Paul was grabbed by God in a way that we all should be grabbed by God so that real worship can take place.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Let Your Kingdom Come - Bob Kauflin

Let Your Kingdom Come

Your glorious cause, O God, engages our hearts
May Jesus Christ be known wherever we are
We ask not for ourselves, but for Your renown
The cross has saved us so we
Pray Your kingdom come

Let Your kingdom come, let Your will be done
So that everyone might know Your Name
Let Your song be heard everywhere on earth
Till Your sovereign work on earth is done
Let Your kingdom come

Give us Your strength, O God, and courage to speak
Perform Your wondrous deeds
through those who are weak
Lord use us as You want, whatever the test
By grace we'll preach Your gospel
Till our dying breath

Let Your kingdom come, let Your will be done
So that everyone might know Your Name
Let Your song be heard everywhere on earth
Till Your sovereign work on earth is done
Let Your kingdom come

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Power of God in the Will and Work of Fallen Humanity

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12–13)

Excerpt from “Walking with God in the Power of God” – 2011-10-02
Paul is telling us here that God energizes, God empowers us in at least two ways. He energizes us both “to will” and “to work” (to do) what is pleasing to God (“for His good pleasure”). Without God’s empowerment within us, without God’s energy within us, there would be no will, no desire for us to do anything that is pleasing to God – and if even if we had the will, the desire to do what was pleasing to God, we would not have the energy, the power, to do so! Brothers and sisters, we can never take credit for anything good or godly we have done because “it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

Now there is and always has been and always will be a debate about how God “works” in us like this. We still suffer from the lack of humility and disobedience in the Garden because this debate has to do with us – how much good is in us, how sinful we really are, and how much free will that we have regarding our salvation and our ability to walk with God. There is a truth in tension here that cannot be solved with our human minds; God’s thoughts and ways are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8-9). But we do know what God says about this in our text for today. God’s word clearly tells us the work of our salvation - and our desire and ability live out that salvation in a manner that would please God - is absolutely and totally dependent on God in being the source of our power and God being the One who is always working with His power within us: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for (because) it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” We are powerless without God.

Deep down inside our souls we all know this. Deep down inside we know that before Christ was in our hearts we were dead to the things of God. And when Jesus did come into our hearts – we came alive! Some of us have forgotten what it was like without Jesus. Some of us have forgotten we have another life within us: God’s life, the presence of Jesus, the Holy Spirit. Yes, our hearts, our lives and our wills are involved in this too. But the truth is we never could come to faith without God’s sovereign divine intervention. But it’s also true that we would never have come to faith had we not chosen God. But we also saw last week that without God’s help – His energy, His power – we would not have chosen Him: “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out” (Romans 7:18). Without God’s power we are powerless; without God’s power we do not have the ability to do what is right. But with God’s power we can live above our sinful nature and we can do what is right. In Galatians 2:20 the apostle Paul writes: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” The power of God through the cross of Jesus Christ is the power at “work” within us when we live out our lives in humble obedience for God.