One Pursuit

“Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.” — Maya Angelou

New Covenant Living

(Continued from the previous post)

“God doesn’t want us to have rigid rituals with Him. In the new covenant, He is more interested in having a relationship with us.”   Joseph Prince

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit… For this reason, the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law—indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”   Romans 8:5-8

These words sound discouraging when read by themselves, apart from the “rest of the story.” They need not be discouraging, for our God has in place an elegant and effective solution to the shortcomings of our human nature and our weakness against sin.  That solution is the core of new covenant living.  So, what do we do to experience this new covenant solution?

We change the entire focus and purpose of our living.  “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.  The Greek for “set their minds on” means literally to strive for something, to put personal opinion into action. The term combines both the cognitive and visceral aspects of choosing, making this a choice of the mind and the heart.  If we choose to remain in control of our living and to not yield control to the Holy Spirit, we are set on the flesh.   Even as believers in Jesus we may be living an old covenant religiosity relying on works we generate in our own strength.

The Holy Spirit frees us from the power and control of sin – the principle or law of sin – if we live not according to our own choices but set our minds on the Spirit.  This setting our minds on the Holy Spirit is what Paul is also refers to as walking according to the Spirit in Romans 8:1-4. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin,  he condemned sin in the flesh, so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”  New covenant life is predicated upon the decision in both mind and heart to walk not by our flesh but according to the Spirit of Christ in us.  When we choose to turn to our God to have full control over us, we gain the fullness of His new life and resurrection power in us.

The new covenant relationship with our God is completely different from the old covenant.  It is not based upon the work of humans but the work of God in Christ and through the Holy Spirit.  Instead of humans doing the work of religiosity, Jesus Himself does the work of redemption and renewal for us and in us.  We no longer try to please our God by our human efforts.  We can never please Him more than He is pleased right now, because of the work of Jesus Christ.  Instead we relinquish control over our living to the Holy Spirit, who lives the life of God and accomplishes the work of holiness in us. See previous posts on the crucified life for more on this.

The old covenant relationship with our God appeared to be a covenant of works humans did in the flesh –  rituals, festivals, sacrifices, and obedience – to please their God.  These practices were prominent under the old covenant, but they were not intended to provide the salvation for which the people longed.  Salvation came through faith in God, and it was intended to produce a deep love for Him, and a deep and intimate knowledge of Him.  The laws of the old covenant were in place to prove that by works of human effort could no person ever be justified before our God.  Try as we might, old covenant law-keeping never saved anyone.  What it did was point ahead to the work of Jesus as our justifier and redeemer. And in so doing, it set the stage for the coming of our redeemer, Jesus, and the new covenant.  The central focus of that new covenant is the Holy Spirit of Christ, alive in us and living the holiness of our God in us.

“The law is about you looking at yourself.  The new covenant is all about you seeing Jesus.”  Joseph Prince

Resurrection Power

“You will never know the fullness of Christ until you know the emptiness of everything but Christ”  Charles Spurgeon

“And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.” Galatians 5:24-25

The only life to which our God is calling His followers is a life lived in resurrection power.  It is living in this resurrection power to which we were redeemed by our Savior, Jesus. The only way for us to live the life of resurrection power our God intends, the only life that will bring us peace and joy, is to walk in the way of the cross every day.  The crucified life by itself is not that life for which we were redeemed.  It is the pathway into that life of the power of the Holy Spirit lived in us.  We live the crucified life so that our old nature, our natural self is put away, and we get out of the way of the Holy Spirit who then lives His live in and through us.  This is what releases true power, resurrection power.  Our God does not intend to pour out His Holy Spirit and power into unyielded, self-driven lives.

Living a life no longer under our management and completely under the management of the Holy Spirit, opens the way for the Spirit to fulfill the promises of God in us.  AW Tozer stated that when we refuse the Holy Spirit’s claim of control over every area of our living,” …we doom ourselves to shadows and weakness and spiritual sterility.”  The new life we have in Christ is to be a life of transformed living.  Far too many Christians today live lives that have missed this transformation. They experience slow spiritual progress, limited victory over sin.  They do not often hear the voice of the Spirit.  They feel left alone to face a life they must navigate on their own.  God seems distant, occasionally answering prayers and granting a blessing.

That these things are happening is not because our God is not wanting to work in us.  He desires to speak to us daily, to empower us to conquer sin and challenges.  The issue is that when we retain control of our living we cannot receive these works of our God.  We are retaining control in our living, and the Holy Spirit, who gives these gifts to us, is pushed to the sidelines.  We long for the blessings, but wander in shadows, weakness and spiritual sterility.

Paul, the writer of the book of Romans, is describing this to us in the last part of Romans chapter 7.   I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.  Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good.  But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.  For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it.  For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.  Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.” 

Do you hear the defeat in his description?  “For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hateFor I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do

It is sin in us, the principle of sin that is resident in our flesh, that governs our will when we not completely yielded to our God.  In the unyielded life, sin is the main driver of one’s choices. It hides its work so well that we assume we are driving our lives.  Every effort we do in the flesh to be holy is doomed to failure because it is based upon sinful flesh.  The new covenant life in Christ Jesus requires us to live in self-denial and total surrender. Even if we try to defeat sin in our own flesh, we are trying to achieve a new covenant end using old covenant religiosity of works and human ability.  We cannot succeed in this.  So, what do we do?

In the next post, Paul’s answer to this dilemma will be presented.  The path to the transformational power of the Holy Spirit in us is found on the other end of the crucified life.

“In coming to Christ we do not bring our old life up onto a higher plane; we leave it at the cross.”  AW Tozer

Climb Free: Not Religion

A few weeks ago, one of the newer guys who attends a weekly men’s gathering I host asked a great question that occasioned much conversation.  His question was this (I am paraphrasing):  “The Baptists say this about God, the Catholic church says that about God.  The Lutherans say this is the way to follow God. How do we know which religion is right?”

How many people have asked the same question over the years?  With all the differing denominations of what are known as Christians, Christianity is certainly a bit confusing.  Then there are the other religious groups and belief systems to think about.  How will we know for sure where the truth lies in this jumbled religious scene?

After a lively and enlightening discussion, we had arrived at the three points below.  Because our group has a Christian orientation, our answers are more geared toward denominational differences among what are known as Christian churches.  I hope they are useful to any with the same kind of question.

First, no “religion” is “right,” be it Baptist, Catholic, Covenant, or whatever.  Religion represents our man-made attempt to make our God fit into our thinking. It is how we try to squeeze Him into our frame of reference.  Religion may start with the idea of God and may include little or much from the Bible.  The various denominations, often seen by others as separate religions, usually have at least some truth mixed into their religious expressions. Sadly, their differences in religiosity have caused them to separate from each other, which is clearly not a Christian or biblical pattern. They become so separated from each other, they function as separate religions.

What makes belief into a religion is when humans add all kinds of truck to the truth.  They invariably add extraneous forms, practices, rituals, and expectation over time. Each group has its own interpretations of scripture, its own rules and expectations not found in the scriptures, and additional interpretations of the added rules and expectations.  Corporate structures and systems, professional programs and curricula, and more and more elaborate buildings are added to each denomination.  Local “churches” (not the definition of “church” in the Bible) function like franchises of the religious brand, and often compete with other brands for “customers.”

The “church” in most people’s eyes is buildings, corporations, and entire industries, but not really the people of God (which is how the church is defined in the Bible).  These religious corporations are run by the business principles of the world, complete with marketing strategies, gimmicks, and flavors of the month.  We have added rituals, entertainment, and layers of organization between us and our God.  We have encrusted the work and the word of our God with so much distraction that it is hard to find God in the way in which He wants to be found.  We have substituted religiosity for relationship with our God, business for intimacy with Him, and systems and rituals for communion with Him.  No religiosity is “right” if we are seeking to follow Jesus, for He and His apostles warned us against religiosity in all forms.  Religiosity stands in the way of the pure work of our God in us.

Second, what is “right,” what is true faith in our God is the pursuit of the priorities our God has in mind for us, the pursuit of His work in and among us.  Following are five key avenues of pursuit that draw us near to our God and allow His Holy Spirit to live in us without the encumbrance of our distracting religiosity.  It is for this one pursuit as expressed below, not for empty religion, we were saved.

  • Commandment 1: Pursue a Great Commandment love for your God, whereby you love Him with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, in which you love your God more than you love yourself or anyone or anything else.
  • Communion with God: Make it your daily priority to recognize that He is with you always and wants to be consciously speaking together with you and enjoying intimate companionship with you.  All day, every day.
  • Crucified living daily:  every day begin the day by denying your self-life, self-direction, and self-protection.  Ask your God to put to death your selfish self, every dependency that is not Him, and any attitude or idea that is not of His doing.  Ask Him to live His life in you instead of yours.
  • Community of saints: spend significant time every week in the company of those who are truly pursuing God with their whole heart.  Talk about the things and the work of God, and not about weather, sports, or business.  Pray, dig deep into the word of God, and share from the heart.  Let the Holy Spirit and the Bible, not curriculum, guide your time together as much as possible.
  • Commission living: be energized about and committed to the ministry of the Kingdom of God in your life and in the lives of those around you.

Where do you find these five priorities?  You can find them in many places, usually under the surface of what is going on.  They pop up in nearly every church at different times, not by human will or plan but by our God doing this despite our religiosity.  When they pop up, it is not because these priorities became part of the “program,” but because the Spirit of our God has broken through the religious trappings and crust to revive a few people. The righteous are always few, as A.W. Tozer once said.  Do not be discouraged by not seeing these five priorities up front and in lights.  God is on the move.  A reformation is in the works.  Stay the course with where you are, seek your God earnestly, and let your God pop these priorities up in your daily living.  Pray for them to be revealed and to take shape in your life.

These five avenues of the pursuit of our God are reflected in many of the posts found on the Adventure Blog and the Climb Free posts on the 1Pursuit domain.  Please peruse them for more information.

“If Any Want To Become My Followers….”

“The way to bliss lies not on a bed of down, and he that has no cross deserves no crown.”  Francis Quades

“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves?”  Luke 9:23-25

Walking in the way of the cross is the foundational lifestyle choice for the follower of God.  This is stated clearly and often in the New Testament, and we have explored several of the case statements in previous posts.  The transaction that takes place when a person chooses to devote his or her life to following Jesus is life changing in its implications.  We are placed into Jesus Christ, meaning the salvation, death and resurrection in His life become effective in our lives.  When we identify and align ourselves with Him and His purposes, He imparts these to us as a means of restoring us to permanent fellowship with Him.  All barriers arising out of our rebellion against Him are removed, and we are now free to be friends of God.

Also imparted to us is the life of Christ Himself, given in the Holy Spirit who dwells in us.  Now we have the power to live a holy life in communion with Him.  All that is remaining is for us to choose to live accordingly every day.  This is the purpose of the crucified life in us, for we are independent beings by our God’s design.  We can choose to go with Him each day or go apart from Him each day.  To choose our God is to choose the death of self.

To choose to go with Him requires the denial of our self-direction and promotion and surrendering ourselves to His will and life in us.  We die to everything selfish, and seek to be crucified to that life. If we have chosen to follow Jesus, it is a consuming choice and not a “Sunday and Wednesday night” arrangement.  It is not about having devotions in the morning and being free to live my life the rest of the day. It is a total, all-day-every-day yielding of the entire living of the person to Him, or it is nothing.

In Colossians chapter 3 we read,Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.  For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” In choosing Christ to be our life, we are choosing a life of seeking Him above all else.  A life of seeking the things above, the things that are with Christ and of Christ.

To “set one’s mind on the things above, and not on the things of earth” is the description of crucified living.  To “set one’s mind” as it is used here means to have a personal opinion that is expressing itself in action.  It is an unusual Greek term because it combines the visceral and cognitive aspects of thinking in a way that communicates strong commitment of mind and body to the task.  The implication is to continually direct one’s mind to a thing, to seek or strive for it continually.  This captures the underlying commitment to our God that caused New Testament writers to use terms such as “fixing our eyes on Jesus” (Hebrews 12:2), and of course, “I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).

To live a crucified life is the commitment of mind and body to seek Christ and His priorities above self and self-derived priorities.  It is to see one’s human existence as completely centered on Christ Jesus and all He would do in the person, and to see oneself as dead to worldly priorities and self-derived living.  It is a commitment made anew each day, many times each day to seek the denial of self and to yield anew to the Holy Spirit of Christ within.

The crucified life costs us everything, yet everything it costs us is a thing not worthy of us, is not that for which we were made.  By the crucified life we gain everything we were created to have in this life and forever.  To walk in the way of the cross requires us to pray for our God to slay us each day, so that He might live His life in and through us.

“Christ is Lord and can make any demands upon us that He chooses, even to the point of requiring that we deny ourselves and bear the cross daily. The mighty anointing of the Holy Spirit that follows will restore to the soul infinitely more than has been taken away. It is a hard way, but a glorious one. Those who have known the sweetness of it will never complain about what they have lost. They will be too well pleased with what they have gained.”  A.W. Tozer

The Gifts of Easter Pt. 3 –Big Story or Small Stories?

“In speaking of “a new covenant,” he has made the first one obsolete. And what is obsolete and growing old will soon disappear.”   Hebrews 8:13 

 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.  Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”  John 3:16-17

The new covenant our God has established with us by the blood of His Son Jesus, can be understood in part by the ancient Hebrew covenant of marriage with its customs and practices.  This is because the new covenant is born of the great love story of our God and His pursuit of a people to be the bride for His Son. The role of the Hebrew father in arranging the marriage, the payment of the bride price and the giving of gifts, the betrothal and waiting, the preparing of a new home for the bride, and the final celebration of the wedding feast all point to our God. The famous passage in John 3 above helps us understand the new covenant and its connection to the love story.

The Father in Heaven has chosen a bride for His Son; it is the church of the redeemed.  God the Father of both the Son and of the church has made the arrangement by covenant with Himself to deliver to His son a bride both beautiful and prepared for Him.

The Father is motivated by love not only for His Son but for the bride He is preparing as well.  “For God so loved the world.”  Do we really believe that?  Do you really believe that your God loves you enough to send His Son to die for you?  At the core of this new covenant is this unfathomable love for each of us. Think about how transformational this new covenant could be if we lived like we really believed it.  For many this transforming power may be diminished by the fact that it happened about 2000 years ago. Would we live differently if this had happened last Friday, if it were that fresh in our experience?

Look at what that means for us, from verse 17: “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”  You are absolutely, positively, irrevocably not condemned.  Our God’s intention is not condemnation but is our transformation into His heirs and into a partner worthy of His Son.

To accomplish this preparation, this transformation, the fullness of our God is alive in you.  More intimate than any human could be, He is present in you to make you into the person you must be as a member of His church, the Bride of Christ.  The love of our God  is such that He is the one who makes us fit for that role by His own presence within us.

“That He gave His only Son.”  Here is the bride-price of inestimable value.  The price was the Son Himself.  Jesus the Son knew this was the price, and knew He was to pay it forward if He was to gain His beloved.  Our God demonstrated His love for us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

“That everyone who believes in Him.”  All who in faith look to Jesus’ sacrifice will be saved from their deadly sin nature and will take their place in the church of God, the bride of Christ.  The idea of belief as Jesus uses it here means a full commitment and submission to the will of God. The surrender of self is the condition Jesus set forth: “…if any would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily and follow me.  For the one who finds his life will lose it, but the one who loses his life for my sake will find it.”  Luke 9:23-24

Those who commit to a life changing belief “…may not perish but have eternal life.”  This “eternal life” does not start after we die; it starts as soon as we turn in submission to our God. Our God fills our being by His Holy Spirit.  As we allow Him control over us that fullness takes over our living each day and leads to our transformation into his children and His heirs.  This transformation prepares us for our place in the church of the redeemed, the bride of Christ.  Many have viewed this passage of scripture as our God’s evacuation plan for us.  Rather than an evacuation plan it is a transformation plan, as Bill Johnson so aptly states it. 

Jesus has given to us gifts by His Spirit living in us.  Like the “mattan” gifts given to the bride (see previous post), these gifts express our great value to Him, and aid in our transformation and preparation for our role with Him.  While this transformation is underway, Jesus is preparing for us our new home with Him in the fully restored heaven and earth.

Our God is inviting us to take our places in this sweeping epic love story.  He is inviting us to join in the Kingdom of His Son and be transformed for our place with Him for eternity.  If we join Him, that eternity becomes our reality now and forever.  The question for us is this: are we living life as a part of this grand story of the ages?  Or are we living our lives in our own small stories every day?  Sadly, far too many believers have chosen an old covenant form of religion out of convenience, ignorance of the new covenant realities, and an unwillingness to surrender fully to their God.

“To our forefathers the Christian faith was an experience. To our fathers it was an inheritance. To our generation it is a convenience. And to our children it is a nuisance.”

The Gifts of Easter Pt. 2 – A Love Story, A New Covenant

“God doesn’t want us to have rigid rituals with Him. In the new covenant, He is more interested in having a relationship with us.”   Joseph Prince

“And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”  Luke 22:20

The new covenant initiated by Jesus in His death and resurrection defines our God’s desires for the church of the redeemed.  Yet this new covenant is so much bigger and more exciting than most Christians realize.  It is part of an ongoing love story between our God, His Son, and His Son’s future bride.  It is a love story full of rich symbols, plot twists, and fierce conflict.  It is also full of great longing and yearning, unrequited love, a return to love, and ultimately a happy ending. Indeed, all the great love stories through the ages are merely dim reflections of this grandest love story of all.  If we do not grasp this love story, we may end up living an old covenant religiosity instead of a new covenant relationship with our God.

The old covenant with its rituals and laws, sacrifices and priesthood may look like it is a failed attempt at redemption, but it was not.  It clearly demonstrated important truths about our God and about us it set the stage for the greatest redemption, the greatest rescue of any story ever written.

The old covenant revealed that our God loves His children.  He loves us as a group or a race of humans.  He loves each one individually with a fullness and richness that cannot be imagined or described.  He created us to be the objects of His relentless, consuming, passionate, always pursuing, always kind and merciful love.  Every interaction with us is determined by that love.

Our God loves us richly despite our failings.  He chose each one of us knowing our most sinful moments, our darkest thoughts, our biggest failures.  We are the ones who He wants to love.  His love for us never flags even though we are often completely disinterested in Him.  It goes beyond anything we can possibly imagine.

The old covenant also revealed that we by our nature are incapable of loving our God as we were intended to love Him. Responding in love and obedience to Him cannot be found in keeping rules and laws, in religiosity and ritual, in a righteousness derived from within us. Sin is not something we choose to do or choose to not do.  Sin drives our choosing as long as we are retaining control over our living.  Humans are fallen, and we can’t get ourselves out of that state. This is why we need a new covenant with our God.

The old covenant also set the stage for the next chapter in our God’s incredible love story, the new covenant. This new covenant was unveiled through His incarnation, death and resurrection.  Easter then is a celebration of the unveiling of this new covenant between our God and His people.

Through the various covenants between Himself and his people throughout history, our God has been moving this love story forward toward its fulfillment.  Each covenant age in the Bible is rich with metaphors and examples of how this love story is playing out and how it will end. The ancient Hebrew marriage ritual is one of those metaphors.

In Jewish culture, when a man desired to marry a woman, certain customs were followed.  Hebrew marriages were arranged by the fathers on behalf of the groom and the bride.  The arrangements, once agreed upon, became a covenant between the families, and especially between the groom and the bride.  This is still the case in traditional Jewish families, where these arrangements are included in a contract for marriage called a “ketubah.”  The groom would pay to the father of the bride the “Mohar” or bride-price.   The bride-price was seen as a form of ransom by which the bride was freed by the family to live with the groom.  It is a carefully protected term, for it is never to be construed as purchasing a wife as one would purchase a slave or servant.  The bride was not a servant to the husband but a co-equal.

Also, the groom would pay the “Mattan” to the bride, which was a package of gifts given to express her value to the groom.  The groom then left the betrothed bride at her home while he prepared a home for them.  While he was gone on this mission, which could take a year or more to complete, the betrothed bride would prepare herself for the wedding and her new life with her husband.  She would not see her betrothed during this time.  When the preparation of the home was complete, the groom would come to take the bride away forever.

These practices were pointing to greater truth, to greater transactions that are vital to the great story of our God’s love for His people. Our God is bringing to conclusion His great love story that includes the redemption, preparation, and presentation of a beautiful bride for His Son.  It includes a costly bride price as well as invaluable gifts given to the bride during her betrothal.

The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus together are the turning point in the great story of our God’s love for us.  He has initiated a new covenant, a great contract with Himself to prepare us for eternity with the Son and Himself.  We have been redeemed and ransomed with the greatest of all bride-prices.  These are gifts we celebrate at Easter.

“Thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” We were made not primarily that we may love God (though we were made for that too) but that God may love us, that we may become objects in which the divine love may rest….”  C.S. Lewis

Stay tuned for the final installment of this series.

The Gifts of Easter

Image via Pixabay

“I am wholly deserving of all the consequences that I will in fact never receive simply because God unashamedly stepped in front of me on the cross, unflinchingly spread His arms so as to completely shield me from the retribution that was mine to bear, and repeatedly took the blows. And I stand entirely unwounded, utterly lost in the fact that the while His body was pummeled and bloodied to death by that which was meant for me and me alone, I have not a scratch.”   ― Craig D. Lounsbrough

Thinking of the death of our Savior, Jesus Christ in our stead and on our behalf is a humbling and solemn line of thinking.  That our God would condescend to such forceful and costly action to save us, a wayward and rebellious race of people that had completely rejected His love and leadership over us, is stunning in its depth and breadth.  The love of our God for humans who bear His image is beyond comprehension.  It defies adequate description.

This gift of redemption we commemorate is perhaps the most prominent in a seemingly endless parade of gifts of love given to us by our God.  While the vast majority of humanity, and even a great number of those who claim to follow Him, are largely unaware of our God’s generosity and grace toward all people, and especially toward those who chose to follow Him as disciples.  Following are just a few, a sample, really, of the many gifts of our God to us when we choose to be true disciples of His Son, our Savior. Look at how our God loves and redeems!

We are saved from the consequences of our rebellion and our resulting sin nature, consequences that include separation from our God now and for eternity.  This separation is the essence of spiritual death and the cause of death infecting our physical bodies.  Now, though the body dies (true for all beings), the spiritual life of the person who is a true disciple of Christ Jesus lives past death.

We are reconciled to our God.  We were separated from Him by our sin and rebellion, at odds with Him without any way for us to remedy that problem.  To be reconciled means to have all differences, variances, and errors removed, and so our God has done for us in our redemption though Jesus Christ.  We could never do this for ourselves, for we in our guiltiness are incapable of the cost of reconciliation – the payment of a pure and sinless life.  Only a willing, sinless person could be the sacrifice to reconcile us to our God.  Jesus was that willing, perfect sacrifice.

We are adopted as children of our God and as heirs in His Kingdom.  We gain a share as joint heirs of Jesus Christ Himself, God’s Son.  This is wealth unimaginable to the human mind, far exceeding anything we could ever hope to gain on our own in this life or for eternity.

We have become new creations in Christ Jesus, “new creatures,” so to speak.  This is sometimes referred to as being regenerated or “born again.”  By this I mean we are given the life of Christ in us by the Holy Spirit of Christ placed in the regenerated disciple.  We no longer live by our own life and means, but now have the life of Christ in us, enabling us to live a new level of life daily.

We are the dwelling place of our God Himself because His Holy Spirit is placed in us.  The tearing of the veil in the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem at the moment of Christ Jesus’ death indicated His departure from the building in the midst of the people.  The arrival of the Holy Spirit into the people of God on that first Christian Pentecost signaled His placement into the humans who are His disciples.  The manifested presence of our God can no longer be found in a building anywhere on earth.  He lives directly in the life of every true follower.

We have become priests in our God’s eternal kingdom.  We no longer need any priest above us except Christ Jesus, our heavenly high priest.  We need no one to mediate between us and our God nor do we need anyone to officiate the things of God to us.  Christ Jesus Himself is our high priest, our only necessary mediator, and the one who officiates directly in us all we need for life and godliness.

“God proved His love on the Cross. When Christ hung, and bled, and died, it was God saying to the world, ‘I love you.’”   Billy Graham

Stay tuned for more on our God’s great gifts to us.

Daily Realities – Good Friday

“Christmas and Easter can be subjects for poetry, but Good Friday, like Auschwitz, cannot. The reality is so horrible it is not surprising that people should have found it a stumbling block to faith.”    W.H. Auden

“The marvel of heaven and earth, of time and eternity, is the atoning death of Jesus Christ. This is the mystery that brings more glory to God than all creation.”   Charles Spurgeon

The idea of Jesus Christ dying on the cross for the sins of the world can be abstract enough that we may miss its impact upon ourselves as well as upon the entire world. Abstract in that it was so long ago that it seems somewhat vague and, dare I say it, small as it recedes further back in history.  Abstract in that there are a lot of people in the history of the world, so many that it seems like my sin is not significant considering the whole.  Abstract in that few of us know much about crucifixion. We know even less about the realities of a sinless God condescending to become human for a lifetime, to die in the place of humans who were indifferent, hated Him, or had run away from Him in his hour of need.

I wonder if most view the events we commemorate on Good Friday as certainly difficult to contemplate, perhaps a bit cringe-worthy.   I wonder if for most the commemoration is not all that disruptive or disturbing.  The death of Jesus, due to the enormity of this sacrifice or the transaction it occasioned, is truly incomprehensible to our limited, self-oriented thinking.  The enormity of it knows no end, its implications are mind-boggling.

Think about.  At this moment, communist agents and religious and ideological zealots are planning or executing mayhem, evil, and death against Christians and others.  Jesus died for their sins.  Right now, pedophiles are destroying young lives, and sexual predators are ruining adult lives.  Jesus died for their sins.  Right now, most Americans (and citizens of every country) are planning their living with no thought of God at all.  Jesus died for their sins.  Murderers. Liars.  Manipulators. This list of those for whom Christ died could go on to include all humanity.

Christ, Himself very God, the creator and sustainer of all, became fully human, one of us.  Yet He did not allow His Godhood to interfere with the fullness of His humanity.  He pitched His tent with common folk, putting up with their unredeemed humanity and loving them with a great, relentless love no matter what.  He submitted to their ridicule, which gave way to abuse, and then to torture. He submitted to the most torturous death imaginable, all the while forgiving His tormentors and killers.  For people who did not accept Him, for people who never would.

Even more unfathomable is the great, seemingly unbearable burden of the perfect God assuming the darkness, the weight, the horror, the tragedy, the guilt, and the enormity of the sin of the world, for all time.  This is the part that we will never be able to comprehend, for we are creatures who know sin and understand culpability.  We get the rightness of “just desserts.”  We can never in this life understand perfect sinlessness taking on not only all sin, but all consequences.

Francis Spufford, writing in his book, “Unapologetic – Why, Despite Everything, Christianity Can Still Make Surprising Emotional Sense,” draws a picture in words of Christ Jesus on the cross that begins to approach the enormity of this spiritual transaction that took place on the divine, cosmic level.

“He cannot do anything deliberate now. The strain of his whole weight on his outstretched arms hurts too much. The pain fills him up, displaces thought, as much for him as it has for everyone else who has ever been stuck to one of these horrible contrivances, or for anyone else who dies in pain from any of the world’s grim arsenal of possibilities. And yet he goes on taking in. It is not what he does, it is what he is. He is all open door: to sorrow, suffering, guilt, despair, horror, everything that cannot be escaped, and he does not even try to escape it, he turns to meet it, and claims it all as his own. This is mine now, he is saying; and he embraces it with all that is left in him, each dark act, each dripping memory, as if it were something precious, as if it were itself the loved child tottering homeward on the road. But there is so much of it. So many injured children; so many locked rooms; so much lonely anger; so many bombs in public places; so much vicious zeal; so many bored teenagers at roadblocks; so many drunk girls at parties someone thought they could have a little fun with; so many jokes that go too far; so much ruining greed; so much sick ingenuity; so much burned skin. The world he claims, claims him. It burns and stings, it splinters and gouges, it locks him round and drags him down…”

If we could begin to grasp the enormity the transaction undertaken on our behalf, we might begin to experience the commemoration of Good Friday as a daily reality.

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