Quote

Double Jeopardy

We’re often told that Christians shouldn’t beat themselves up for their sins and yet so many do it. Maybe that’s because the advice has been understated. Maybe we should go one step further to say that Christians mustn’t beat themselves up for their sins.

I’m reading Watchman Nee’s The Normal Christian Life for the umpteenth time. This quote reminded me today why this book is a classic:

What then of our attitude to Satan? This is important, for he accuses us not only before God but in our own conscience also. “You have sinned, and you keep on sinning. You are weak, and God can have nothing more to do with you.” This is his argument. And our temptation is to look within and in self-defense to try to find in ourselves, in our feelings or our behavior, some ground for believing that Satan is wrong. Alternatively we are tempted to admit our helplessness and, going to the other extreme, to yield to depression and despair. Thus, accusation becomes one of the greatest and most effective of Satan’s weapons. He points to our sins and seeks to charge us with them before God; and if we accept his accusations, we go down immediately.

Now the reason why we so readily accept his accusations is that we are still hoping to have some righteousness of our own. The ground of our expectation is wrong. Satan has succeeded in making us look in the wrong direction.

Our salvation lies in looking away to the Lord Jesus and in seeing that the blood of the Lamb has met the whole situation created by our sins and has answered it. That is the sure foundation on which we stand. Never should we try to answer Satan with our good conduct but always with the blood.

Blame You

Christ’s commands us to love each other. It’s such a simple rule and yet we can’t do it without him. This is why he calls it a new command even though it was the one the Jews had heard from the beginning. Christ came to love and he left a community of love which he expected to remain and spread. Praise the Lord it has! On the night of his betrayal, Christ prayed that we would be one so that the Father would be glorified in the Son.

Conversely, this world and its Prince continue to conspire against God’s project by sowing bitterness among God’s people. In Ephesians 4:26, Paul warns his audience to forgive quickly lest they give the devil (blamer) a foothold among them. Nothing arrests our progress toward oneness like bitterness. When a fellow believer does something careless or even malicious (as will inevitably happen), we must at the foot of the cross offer them forgiveness. Why? Because mercy lives at the foot of the cross. In order to harbor bitterness, we must abandon the hope of our own forgiveness and flee the cross for exile in the solitary seat of judgment. In that realm “they” come to offer us aid and comfort as they help us build our case against our offenders and eventually the entire world.

Though this demonic program carries especially grievous implications for the believing community, every person on the planet has encountered it. The animated feature, “Meet the Robinsons,” offers one of the most poignant examples of the dynamics of bitterness and its power to ruin lives. At the end of the clip, the advice, “Let it go and keep moving forward,” is useful if we can understand where we can let it go to and which direction is “forward.” Those answers have been released in the gospel of Christ.

Life Transformation Groups – A Testimonial

I have a friend who is also an elder at our church.  In the past couple of years I’ve watched him grow into a spiritual leader who inspires and challenges me every time we talk.  God has done many things in his life to effect this season of growth but much of it started with his participation in a Life Transformation Group or LTGRead his testimonial below –

“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” James 5:16a NIV

For many years I struggled with a particular sin that was very stubborn. Try as I might, I could not get mastery over this shortcoming. I pleaded with God to take it from me but I was unable to get any lasting relief. Last summer I started an LTG with another guy. To my amazement the sin I had struggled with became a footnote. It is not to say that there has been no struggle whatsoever, but knowing that I am going to be asked about it every week is a strong deterrent.  I have been able to move on and work on other areas where God is prodding me.

An LTG is formally called a Life Transformation Group, but it could also be called a laughing together group or a learning together group because those things happen as well.  An LTG has three parts to it: scripture reading, accountability questions and praying for the lost.  The scripture reading is done at home. You come together once a week and ask each other the scripted accountability questions, discuss the scripture reading and pray for three people you know who are lost.

It is interesting that James says to confess your sins and pray for each other and you will be healed. Sin does a powerful amount of damage to ones soul. Spiritual progress cannot happen until the wound of sin is healed. An LTG with another committed believer can be a vehicle of healing that allows your relationship with God to go to a much deeper level. Won’t you consider joining one?

For more information, click the picture below:

LTG

Testimony

In Bill Hybels’ book, Just Walk Across the Room, he challenges his readers to write out their faith story in 100 words or less.  Here is my 105-word attempt:

As a young person I dreamed of growing up to become a doctor.  Then, I saw a “20/20” special on successful people who had attempted suicide.  Their reason: Once they had reached their goal in life, they still felt empty.  I projected myself into their shoes.  I thought, “If this is all there is then life is meaningless.”  So, I began reading the New Testament.  Within those pages I met a man who transcended the vanity of this mortal coil.  His name is Jesus.  He invited me to train under him and so to become like him.  I accepted and have never regretted that decision.

I Hope You’re Satisfied

When the Son of God came to earth, the people who encountered him struggled to know how to relate to him.  This was because they didn’t know how to relate to each other.  From the time humans rebelled against God, their souls have been hungry.  They’ve developed methods to salve but never satisfy their hunger.  One method of hunger abatement has been mutual exploitation.

When Jesus fed 5000 people with just a little food, those present discovered that Jesus had much to exploit.  At first they attempted to build a relationship with Jesus based on feigned interest.  They asked, “So Jesus, when did you get here?”  Jesus brushed past this question to their real motives.  He said, “You’re only here because I filled your bellies with bread.”  Then he addressed their real need by telling them that they should work not for bread that will perish but for enduring bread.

But these people were very broken and they only heard the word, “work.”  They understood work.  “Of course,” they thought, “we know how things function around here.  If you want something you have to work for it.  He doesn’t want our feigned interest.  He wants us to work.”  So they asked Jesus what sorts of things they would need to do in order to satisfy God.  Jesus gave them the cryptic answer, “Believe in me.”

Then they thought, “Wow, this guy really expects a lot.  He wants us to revere him as a prophet.”  So they said, “Well Jesus, if you want us to treat you like Moses, you’d better act like Moses.  Give us some bread from heaven.”  Again Jesus responded with an offer of bread for their souls.  He replied, “Moses didn’t give you the real bread.  My Father gives the real bread from heaven.”

“Now, we’re getting somewhere;” they mused, “all we’ve got to do is revere this guy as a prophet and we’ll have our physical hunger fixed for life.”  “Sign us up, Jesus!” they said, feeling satisfied that they had finally brokered a mutually profitable deal.

Jesus, however, shattered their expectations with only six words – “I am the bread of life.”  Jesus did not come to broker a deal.  God, the Son, came to give himself as the only food for God-hungry souls.   He exposed and denounced mutual exploitation with reckless self-sacrifice.

So, how should we react to Jesus?  In the only way worthy of him: By acknowledging our need for him and by giving ourselves to him in kind through unconditional trust.  Hear his words again from John 6:35, “I am the bread of life, whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”

So I ask you:  Is your soul hungry?  If so, I beg you to stop salving that hunger through human relationships, personal achievement, or even religion.  Admit your need for him and give yourself to him in utter trust.  You will be satisfied.

A Little Peace

Why do Christian leaders tell people that they should tithe?  I don’t have the definitive answer but I do believe that I know something true about tithing.  Tithing is not for the generous but for the stingy.  Generous people need only hear of the need and they will meet it.  They do not need a minimum compulsory amount.  Church leaders feel the need to teach on tithing because they are leading a group of selfish people.  Take the selfishness one step further and tell the “givers” that God will return even more to them if they do tithe.

There was a time for tithing.  God assumed selfishness in the unredeemed people of Israel and made provision for it.  For those who have been implanted with the love of God, tithing has become obsolete.  The saddest aspect of tithing teaching is when we presume selfishness from the redeemed,  they begin to be selfish.

Here’s what Paul said about a general legalistic approach, which would include tithing.

The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.   Some have departed from these and have turned to meaningless talk. They want to be teachers  of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm.   We know that the law is good  if one uses it properly.  We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels,   the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious… (1 Timothy 1:5-9a)

Excuse My Insult

“I’m only human.”  That’s what people say to excuse repeated bad behavior.  Can Christians use this excuse?  They shouldn’t.  Paul used a very similar phrase to rebuke the Corinthian church over divisions among them.  Here’s the section.

You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans?   For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere human beings? (1 Corinthians 3:3-4 NIV)

Do you get the implication here?  Implicit to an identification with Christ is the transcendence of cultural norms.  We are no longer mere humans.  We’re something more.  What are we?

Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. (2 Peter 1:4 NIV)

We’re hybrids, implanted with divine DNA.  We’re aliens.  We’re morally supercharged creatures of God.  Our nature has become intertwined with his.  How could we ever claim to be ONLY human?

How could we use what to Paul would have been an insult as an excuse?  Imagine a man who threw a tantrum excusing his behavior on the grounds that he is childish.  Not only would he be rejecting personal responsibility for his behavior he would also be implicitly pledging to retain his faults.  With Christians who hide behind their humanity, the error is even more serious because it is God who has declared us to be more, based on the work of Jesus Christ and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.  When we assert that we are only human we insult not only ourselves but God.  Christians often behave like people of the world but when we appeal to our humanity to cover our culpability it’s not just a fallacy; it’s heresy.