Wednesday, July 28, 2010

moral relativity and expedience

Isaiah 5:20
Woe to those who call evil good
and good evil,
who put darkness for light
and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet
and sweet for bitter.

It's not hard to identify where our culture has embraced moral relativity and expedience over Truth and character. In the public schools children are taught that homosexuality is an acceptable alternate lifestyle. Culturally, we've been sold the lie that pornography is art. "We're only human" has become an excuse for misbehavior rather than a call to conform to the humanity created in the image of God (Gen. 1:27). We've sacrifices logic and reason for the tolerance of humanism. We've lost the distinction of role and identity by declaring all people equal rather than distinct. We've lost the value of the community by exalting individual rights over the security, preservation and well-being of the group. In every way, our world has been turned upside down.
Yet, isn't the same true in me? I justify my behavior and selfish indulgences by ignoring God's truth. I claim that my needs and desires and natural and therefore justified when met. I consider myself better than I am and manipulate circumstances to promote or exalt myself over the group. I show favoritism to those I like and paint those I don't agree with in broad ugly brushstrokes.
I find that the tendency of the human heart (mine included and especially) is to sink into relativity and expedience for selfish gain and comfort. The desire of the Spirit however is to remind us of God's Truth and convict us when we stray from it (John 16:13-15). I must discipline myself to live moment my moment in the Spirit and listen to His voice rather than to my flesh. I must evaluate everything according to God's Truth, His Word and lean on the illumination of the Spirit to help me avoid expedience and embrace justice. If I am to be blessed in this life and the next, I must turn myself upside down and daily live by God's standards rather than the world's or even my own.

Father - teach me to hear more clearly Your Holy Spirit. Strengthen me to avoid selfish relativism and expedient decisions. Let my life be marked by obedience rather than indulgence. Amen.

John 16:13-15
But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Mediator & Judge

Isaiah 3:13 (NKJV)
The LORD stands up to plead,
And stands to judge the people.

What a beautiful picture of Jesus Christ, the one God-man that will stand as both advocate and judge over both Israel and the Church. Because He stands with us, He can identify with us (Heb. 4:14-16). Because He stood in our place, there is forgiveness for sin (Heb, 9:15). Because He is perfect and righteous He is able to be our advocate before the father (1 Jn. 2:1). Because He is also fully God He stands as the eternal Judge (2 Tim. 4:1) and is able to apply that forgiveness to the people He has ransomed (1 Tim 2:5).
No other person could possibly provide such perfect and complete justice, mercy and grace other that Christ; fully God and fully man, standing as both mediator and judge. Praise Jesus!

Hebrews 4:14-16
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. 16Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Hebrews 9:15
For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.

1 John 2:1
My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.

1 Timothy 2:5
For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,

2 Timothy 4:1
In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge:

Father - help me to see Jesus more clearly each day and more fully understand and embrace His ministry in my life and on my behalf.
In Jesus powerful name, Amen.

Monday, July 26, 2010

What does God really want from me?

Isaiah 1:16-17 (NKJV)

"Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean;
Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes.
Cease to do evil,
Learn to do good;
Seek justice,
Rebuke the oppressor;
Defend the fatherless,
Plead for the widow.

It is God's will that we be perfect (Mt. 5:48) and holy (Lev. 20:7 & 1 Pet. 1:15-16). While our gut reaction to perfect holiness may be "impossible!" God gives Israel and us a good idea of where to start. And the reality is, Israel (and I would bet you and I as well) would struggle with even the simple few suggestions that God gave. Here in this passage Isaiah lists eight commands that we can use to both pursue and measure our progress toward holiness: wash, remove, cease, learn, seek, rebuke, defend and plead.
The first three commands have to do with getting rid of the sin in our lives. We must pursue God's forgiveness (wash) as well as remove from out lives the things that would cause us to sin and the habits (thoughts, attitudes and actions) that perpetuate sin. Therefore, our holiness can be measured not by the amount of sin we have in our lives, but by the amount we remove daily.
The second two commandments push us to fill the hole from where sin was removed with things that honor God; good and justice. As Jesus taught in Matthew 12:43-45, it is crucial that we fill our lives with what honors God, not just remove the evil. Therefore, out holiness can be measured not just by the our recognition of evil or injustice, but by our identification of what is good and just. Anybody can point out what is wrong, the godly see what is right and affirm and pursue it.
Finally, the last three commands lead us to live out the good and justice we identify. It is worth noting here that God does not list anything religious, liturgical or overtly pious (in fact Isa 1:11-16 actually opposes such empty practices). Holiness is not about meditation and prayer, Bible reading, church attendance or tithing (though these are all important and powerful habits to embrace). God's favorite measure of holiness throughout the Bible is how well we care for the poor, isolated, abandoned and neglected. Anybody can log off hours in personal piety, but true piety is outward, public and practical. To fight for the needy is to do the work of God (Mt. 25:31-46). James 1:27 says, "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure (holy) and faultless (perfect) is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."

In response, I must ask myself a few questions.
Am I rooting out sin and evil from my life daily?
Am I seeking and pursuing a better understanding of what is good and right?
Am I acting out the good and justice that I see in tangible and practical ways on behalf of the poor and needy?

This is true religion. This is what the Lord desires of me.

Lord, keep me from evil, teach me what is good and right and use me to care for the poor and needy. Amen.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

sin, repentance and me...

"The line between good and evil runs, not between 'us' and 'them', but down the middle of each of us."
- Tom Wright on Romans 1:28-32
"Repentance does not simply initiate the spiritual life, it sustains it."

"To do so no more is the truest repentance."

- Martin Luther

Psalm 51:1-12
1 Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.

2 Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.

3 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.

4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are proved right when you speak
and justified when you judge.

5 Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.

6 Surely you desire truth in the inner parts a]">[a] ;
you teach b]">[b] me wisdom in the inmost place.

7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

8 Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.

9 Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity.

10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

11 Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.

12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.