Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Entry 4. You Were Once Fat With Sin, Too

I think oftentimes Christians, once they've been walking with the Lord for a time, find it easy to point judgmental fingers at those who are new to the faith. They look at someone's demeanor, dissecting it for all its godless characteristics, and come to the conclusion that God can't possibly live on the inside of them.

Never forget that we have all been fat with sin, overwhelmed by the excess weighing us down, longing for the day when we look in the mirror and see a new person. This is a goal worth having and one Christ has promised to see through. But, the mistake that is too commonly made is in our arrogance. Though Christ is our Redeemer, we have the audacity to think the current "new person" looking back at us has something to do with what we've done.

We are no longer fat because He has removed the excess weight. We are no longer under such a heavy burden because He is our burden Bearer. Don't you realize that your goodness is not yours? Without Jesus we are utter darkness, a body packed full of sin and sick. He is the goodness in us and He is the One that has delivered us from our past.

I think this is easy to forget, especially when seeking Him diligently. The change within feels earned: after all, you were consistent in devotions, went to church weekly, prayed every night before bed, etc... You've done the work and have the body you do because of it, right?

Not exactly. The only true requirement of you to be changed from the inside out is to have a heart for God. It is in your willingness to be transformed that He is able to transform you, in your submission to His will. The only thing you do is come to a place where you are willing to let Him work on you.

Yes, devotion time is great, church can be a wholly effective hospital, and your prayers are always heard. But, none of it matters if your heart doesn't truly belong to Him. These works are not works at all. They are simply the result of a heart loving the Lord. In other words, when you let Him, He will change you without you working for anything.

Be careful when you look in the mirror and see someone better than you used to be. Be careful that you aren't convinced within yourself that your current state belongs to you. I say this, not to discourage, but to correct. Jesus is willing to meet us where we're at and will work at His pace and in His time to sculpt the new from the old. This process is not for you or anyone else to oversee in others.

And when you do act as if your newness should be applauded while their fat is a sign that they don't know God, take a good hard look at the past. You were once fat with sin, too.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Entry 3. Finding Jesus in the Uncommon Places

It's alarming to think that Jesus is rarely found in the church anymore. And it's even more alarming to attend a service that is supposed to celebrate God but instead you find it feels like a funeral. What's worse than a spiritually dead church? I'd say the only thing worse is a body that is scared to speak against it, a group comfortable with going through the motions.

One of C.S. Lewis' most powerful quotes about Hell comes from The Screwtape Letters:

"Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one-- the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts."
There are two common religions that leave plenty of room for complacency while removing the Spirit entirely.

1. Catholicism

The only time it's alive is after the service, when people are quickly shuffling out the doors and to their cars; the other exception is one of those church-wide potlucks. Many of the people are kind and hard working, but they attend because it's tradition. Jesus isn't alive to them, He is still firmly on the cross. You can find little idols of this down every hall, above nearly every door. Of course there is little joy. Instead of focusing on the victory that was won on the cross, the culture of the church is of a severe nature.

There have been many cases of children being forced into accepting Jesus against their will, which in turn takes Jesus' free gift of salvation and turns it into a gag that is shoved down their throats. Mary is prayed to, an act of outright idolatry. And the official head of the Catholic body appointed by the pastoral office is not Jesus, but the Pope, who most recently claimed He has the power to forgive sins.

Catholicism isn't a staple of the faith; it is parasitic in nature, and has caused countless people to turn away from God entirely. This system has been spiritually dead for a very long time and yet it continues to thrive. But, be assured, Jesus is nowhere near it.

2. Lutheranism 

Though I could argue that the Spirit stops in from time to time, and that for the most part the teaching lines up with what's in the bible, I would be hard pressed to suggest anyone joining this religion. Yes, it teaches the Trinity correctly and gives Jesus adoration. But, where it falls short is in the teaching of grace.

The requirement for Salvation, according to Lutheranism, is that a few drops of baptismal water as a baby forever covers you in the grace of Christ. Is this biblical? Not even close. Accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior must be a personal choice, a conscious decision. Parents cannot cover their children with this one act of faith and claiming they can leaves all members open to a life of complacency and loose living: "If the grace of Christ covers me, there is nothing I can do to lose it." All responsibility and all relationship is removed. Jesus is seen as nothing more than fire insurance.

To be saved is to make the decision to follow Christ for yourself. Very few Lutherans have done this and so very few Lutherans even have "fire insurance".

Where you will find Jesus is where a true heart for God lives. I argue that this can be in any medium and in any form. Those set in their ways would disagree with me. They would tell me that worship sounds a certain way and must be handled a certain way. They speak against Christian rap, rock, etc... claiming that rock concerts aren't Godly, and that rap is something that is too rough around the edges to be Spiritual. The old way oftentimes sound far too much like the Pharisees to me. Instead of seeing that God wants to change us from within first, meeting us at our current state, they try to force everyone to follow a set of rules and conduct themselves in the "correct manner".

The Spirit is alive and well, friends, but He is in very few churches. Instead start looking for the passion for God in people, start looking for the fire again. Jesus is where life is. Jesus is where movement is happening. I'm not going to tell you that every Christian rock act is Spirit filled and that every new rapper to claim Christ is actually doing it for Him; I'm simply saying to start looking for God in the uncommon places. Don't judge anyone by outward appearance, because a new movement is starting and it's tailor made to speak to this generation in a way that Grand Dad's never can. Jesus is life and He can use anyone to reach lost hearts in the darkest of places.

I think Jesus makes more appearances in underground clubs, and dirty, rundown holes in the ground where the Spirit is starting to spread, instead of the church where complacency is at its worst. Start looking for God in the dark because the light is manufactured.  

Entry 2. The Devil Comes as an Angel of Light

What I think we forget about the devil is that he knows God's Word. He knows it intricately and knows the truth. You see this when he is tempting Jesus in the desert. He is quoting scripture to tempt the part of Jesus that would want the glory and the position of being seen as God. He tempts Jesus' pride, His hunger, and His power, and he references scripture all the way through.

Now, as we all know, Jesus was equipped and ready for the attack. He was prepared in His heart and knew the Word. The devil wasn't able to plant imaginations in Him; he wasn't able to catch Him up in a fantasy. Jesus didn't fall because He knew the true Word of God.

But, let's step back for a moment and say He came to earth with dueling identities. Let's say He relied on Mary's guidance to know His purpose. Let's say He stepped out into the desert with partial knowledge of Himself. The devil's temptations would have struck an entirely different chord. And they may have even caused Him to fall into sin. 

Jesus didn't fall because He knew the Word completely: He knew Himself.

The devil comes as an angel of light. He comes as dreams, desires, loves... he often works through people. This is common knowledge. But, the Lord has revealed another form to me recently. The devil also comes as spiritual enlightenment. He comes as that aha! moment, where spirituality suddenly starts to make sense and the pieces start to fit together. He comes as a softer god, a god of love and love alone. He comes as the grace of Jesus, convincing us that grace covers all, regardless of belief. The devil comes in pulpits and watered down messages and feel good stories that have had the most important parts removed. The devil comes in sweet messages of God that ensure and instill a belief that damnation is contrary to love.

"The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was to convince the world he didn't exist." -The Usual Suspects-

He has not only done this to great effect. By removing Himself he has effectively voided Jesus' willing sacrifice. He has started to become the epiphany in preacher's minds who read a certain verse in the bible and suddenly realize that hell is metaphorical and God's love covers all. The danger of the devil is not in the horror movies his underlings inhabit; after all, Christians mostly avoid them because they can smell his scent attached. 

The real danger is the love of God. This is the devil's greatest disguise. As the world continues to plummet into chaos and evils one has a hard time comprehending, the devil has firmly planted himself at the center of the church, in the message of grace above all.

Now, I don't want this to be misconstrued. I'm not saying that God's love isn't unfathomable and doesn't reach to a level we cannot comprehend. I am saying that God's love is found in the brutal, and excruciating sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. And the victory is found in the resurrection of the slaughtered Lamb, an eternal price paid for. 

Grace applies once you've accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior. You are seen spotless by the Father through the washing of Jesus' blood. And His love covers you through your addictions and falls and generational curses, etc... This doesn't apply to those who don't know Jesus. Jesus has stated that He is the only door to salvation. Even our limited minds understand that a door provides access to a location. If He is the only Way (as He claims) is it not heresy to claim other religions (other gods) can get you to heaven? 

The devil has shed his 'terrifying' skin, realizing that the greatest disguise is found in God's Word. Remove Christ here, add love there, and you have a new Christianity that is marching swiftly toward the gates of hell. This is his greatest trick and we need to expose it and change it now.     



Thursday, February 9, 2017

Entry 1. Redefining the Lines

I think the best way to start this blog is to redefine the basic lines of the Gospel of Christ. Christianity is much like a house that is rotten in its foundation. The time for a simple remodel has come and gone. We are now at a point where it needs to be demolished and given a new foundation. Now, if you asked many people, they would tell you Christianity has never looked better. It's open to everyone. It has gotten away from that nasty habit of offending. It's even open to suggestions on how to better improve it's popularity: God is love and therefore would never send anyone to hell...

The message of Jesus' sacrifice has become common, a story that has very little effect because we know it. His birth is shared with Jolly Ol' Saint Nick; his death and resurrection is shared with a bunny. He is seen in the same light as a tale that has been told, a feel good notion of sacrifice for the greater good. Very few people see Him as the Savior; and those who do keep their mouths shut, because they don't want to offend.

We let the lie spread that Islam is our sister religion, when our so-called sister denies that Jesus is the Messiah and claims that His death on the cross was for show. Why do we do this? Well, we don't want to ruffle any feathers. We don't want to speak against the status quo. We don't want to be seen as close minded, bigots, or behind on the times. And so, we wait for a spiritual revival, as if God is going to snap His fingers and people will suddenly believe.

We attend churches that have cowardly leaders, but don't speak against them because it's not church culture. We accept compromise and start to flirt with the idea that maybe God has changed a bit to fit the times. After all, sweet Mary next door has been walking with Christ longer than you, and she has no problem with your pastor performing a ceremony for same sex couples. If she doesn't have a problem with it, why should you? You've seen her as a staple of the faith, an inspiration for your walk.

Inclusivity is the main reason the foundation is rotten. The body of Christ has taken his invitation to "come as you are" and use it to invite anyone and everyone into the church. The pastor feels blessed to have such a turnout and realizes that he should pick and choose verses in the bible that ensure his new attendees don't go away. We have stopped speaking the Word because the Word offends and instead are content to give them a sweet taste of the Gospel, removing eternal consequence from the equation entirely. In order to keep anyone and everyone, the message is tailored for them.

The time has come to tear down what is popular about Christianity and start over. The foundation is rotten because the foundation is no longer Jesus. There is a counterfeit Jesus being preached and it's leading countless to the edge of perishing. So, let's redefine the lines:

  1. The foundation of our faith is the truth that Jesus was born to this earth to die for our sins as the spotless, perfect Lamb. When He was on the cross, He was not Jesus, but sin itself. He willingly took on the sin of mankind, both past, present, and future, so that God could pour out his full wrath on Him instead of us. He, and He alone, won the victory. And He, and He alone, is the only Way to Salvation.
  2. Hell is real. The newest and most dangerous tumor in Christianity is the teaching and belief that hell is a metaphorical place, that a God of love would never send His children to a place of eternal torment. Claiming hell is not a real place is to void the purpose of Jesus' brutal, unimaginably painful sacrifice. It is heresy and it has opened the doors to a counterfeit Christianity. And with it, a counterfeit Jesus.
  3. There is only one Way to heaven and that is by accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior. All other gods are demons. Yes, unpopular, but truth is truth. And it needs to be defined, because Jesus Himself defined it in John 3:16 and John 14:6.
  4. God is three and God is one: the Holy Trinity. God the Father is the Source, Jesus is the Word, and the Holy Spirit is the Helper. Believing in Jesus while denying the power of the Holy Spirit is to deny Jesus Himself, because He Himself said, "It's better I go, so that the Helper can come." John 16:7
These are the very basic lines, the walls of the faith if you will. To blur any of them is to distort the Gospel. Know that the new Christianity I want to build is not new at all. Instead, it's wholly biblical and doesn't pay mind to the current state of the world. Truth is truth, and the time has come for it to be returned to the faith.

Stay tuned. This is a journey worth going on!