Archive for June, 2014

RENOVATE: Week 39

…the one who trusts in the LORD will be happy. (Proverbs 16:20, HCSB)

This statement comes from the June 26th reading of Proverbs in our devotional Bible. It is simple, yet completely lost to the majority of people. Due to life’s difficulty, human beings continually strive for some concept of perceived happiness. Everyone falls into this category. Circumstances usually dictate the level to which someone “feels” happy. Why does the entire race “need” to have the demand for happiness met?

With the majority of humanity, when an established object or station in life is acquired; an individual is left wanting because the imagined euphoria is fleeting and does not bring the sense of peace, security, and satisfaction hoped for. I am amazed at how prevalent this need exists even within the church, a people group who should know better; additionally more alarming, for me, how unbridled the objective in my own life!

In the fleshly fallen nature of man is left an insatiable vacuum. An empty void that can never be filled by anything external. The human being is born into the world slavishly reaching for the elusive prize which forever remains just out of reach. Truly, a large part of hell will be the eternal grasping for a personal mirage one imagines will provide ultimate fulfillment that seems so real and attainable but never realized; the insane quest going on forever and ever never to be apprehended.

Consider Eve’s temptation in the garden: Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?”

And the woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, lest you die.’”

And the serpent said to the woman, “You surely shall not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:1-5, NASB)

Humanities’ problem begins with the assumption that fulfillment and contentment come from a source beyond the Creator. He is not enough to complete a person in every way. Furthermore, He is the enemy because He is keeping things hidden that ought to be exposed; knowledge one has a right to manage; specifically, what is considered good and evil for each individual.

True happiness is actually attained internally. It resides first in the understanding that an empty void does exist due to a total separation of man from his Creator because of the aforementioned temptation and subsequent action of Adam and Eve passed down from generation to generation (everyone sins). Then an acknowledgement that God and God alone is the only One Who can define what is good and what is evil for His creatures. And finally, as the only resolution, a perceiving and receiving of Jesus’ (God in the flesh; the substitute and sacrifice for this dreadful depravity) life, death, burial, and resurrection as the only means by which the emptiness of eternal death can be restored with everlasting life. Upon the acquisition of these truths, God, the Holy Spirit, literally indwells the empty void within the individual. He is the ultimate source of life, satisfaction, contentment, and fulfillment. From Him flows “happiness.”

Why must I continually wrestle with this in my own life? Why is my tendency, one who has actually discovered the above certainty, to revert to seeking external happiness through worldly means? I say with the Apostle Paul, “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death (Romans 7:24, NASB)?” I suppose it helps to read a bit further, “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death (Romans 8:2, NASB).”

I am no longer chained to the insanity of an endless, fruitless pursuit of happiness rooted in my dead sinful nature inherited at birth. It was borne by Jesus on the cross and left in the tomb of His death. I now walk in the power of His resurrection! Do you? May this be a reminder to both of us.

In Christ,

Pastor Rob

RENOVATE: Week 38

“And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin, and righteousness, and judgment; concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you no longer behold Me; and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged.” (John 16:8-11, NASB)

These verses, from the New Testament reading on June 14th, are words of Jesus in reference to some of the major responsibilities of the third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. Notice the progression of the three specific elements contained herein and make application to your personal life.

First, in order to come into the rest and peace afforded the believer through the plan of God, one must be keenly aware of personal responsibility in sin. The Bible clearly teaches that all humanity is born with a sinful nature; “THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE… (Romans 3:10, NASB).” To convey the seriousness of this plight the Apostle Paul states, “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins… (Ephesians 2:1, NASB).” Most individuals generally see themselves as good. Yet good is a relative term. “Good” compared to what. There is an ultimate standard of good; God’s “good,” or complete and utter holy perfection. It is to this standard we will all be held accountable and only by the supernatural, sovereign intervention of the Holy Spirit can an individual genuinely comprehend the depth of their sinful nature. This, of course, leaves a person in total helplessness and despair. If you and I are truly dead in our sin, we need resurrection from Someone who has the power of life; which certainly is not us!

The second aspect mentioned by our Lord is righteousness. Yet again, when reflecting upon the inherited sinful nature within every individual, one’s natural bent is to construct a righteousness of their own based on their own ability to be “good” and do “good.” Once more opening up the issue as mentioned previously; good based on what standard. God’s standard of righteousness is absolute perfection in thought, word, and deed. It is here that the unique work of the Holy Spirit is tangibly realized in the Jesus follower as He applies the perfectly righteous life of Christ to all who come to the Father by faith. The believer is perfect because he or she is “in Christ.” This new life and power is actually lived out by faith. As Paul encourages, “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who indwells you (Romans 8:11, NASB).” Who raised Jesus from the dead? The Holy Spirit!

The last facet from our focal passage is judgment. Take note that Jesus connects to this the assertion “because the ruler of this world has been judged.” Who is the ruler of this world? None other than Lucifer, the fallen archangel himself. While Satan would vehemently try to convince the Christ follower otherwise, he and sin have no power over them. Think about how he works to assure the unbeliever how “good” they are and that they have no need for Jesus and His “religion.” Then he completely changes the approach regarding one who makes a profession of faith in Christ as to how “bad” they are; that they could never achieve the standard expected of them. The perpetual work of the Comforter, the “One Who comes alongside to help” (paraklētos in Greek, a title given to the Holy Spirit in the New Testament), is to remind children of God through God’s Word that the chains of sin are broken. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1, NASB).” Yet not only remind, but empower them to live in a way that exemplifies that truth. In other words, as individuals called out of darkness into light, we are no longer slaves to our sinful natures. We have been set free toward a new life with the real possibility through the Holy Spirit who resides within us to live from a Godly nature, His nature inside us! Our thoughts, words, and deeds can reflect our Creator; yes even imitate Him! The actuality that we were created in His image becomes more than a statement over our lives; it begins to be revealed in our conduct.

In Christ,

Pastor Rob

RENOVATE: Week 37

What God has brought into the light cannot be hidden. The Bible makes very clear that the human heart is desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9). In that desperate state, human beings are capable of anything when attempting to suppress the truth about God in personal unrighteousness (Romans 1:18). Hence our scripture for reflection today taken from the New Testament reading on June 7th.

The great multitude therefore of the Jews learned that He was there; and they came, not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might also see Lazarus, whom He raised from the dead. But the chief priests took counsel that they might put Lazarus to death also; because on account of him many of the Jews were going away, and were believing in Jesus. (John 12:9-11, NASB)

Before I make application to everyday life, just a brief historical note. The raising of Lazarus from the dead is arguably one of the most significant miracles that Jesus performed while on earth. Critics often cite that it is very unusual that only John records it and not Matthew, Mark, and Luke; questioning its validity since it would have been so extremely notable. I believe an answer to this lies in our chosen passage today. The synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) were recorded much earlier than John. They would have omitted the miracle because most probably Lazarus and his two sisters (Mary and Martha) were still living when they wrote. To record the event, based on what John shares here, would have put Lazarus in grave danger following the ascension of Jesus. John writes his gospel at a later date when Lazarus was most likely deceased; or at least the threat had diminished.

I find the disposition of the chief priests astounding. For one thing, how blind were these men not to perceive that He who had raised Lazarus, after he had been dead four days, could do it again though they successfully murder him a thousand times? While it is true that they want rid of Jesus and they have a live man who used to be dead roaming around whose very existence was gathering crowds to Him; yet their behavior insinuates pure insanity. What could motivate such irrational behavior? I submit the impetus underlying such dastardly reasoning is absolute godless self-worship.

This is reflected first in the premise that they were threatened politically. They feared all those gathered around Jesus might start an insurrection and then the Romans would be forced to come and squash it. Consider verse 48 of chapter 11 in John’s gospel; these religious leaders state, “If we let Him go on like this, all men will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” (NASB)

Yet even beyond the aforementioned incentive, they were really threatened theologically. Many commentators suggest that the majority of the chief priests were Sadducees (notice that the Pharisees are not mentioned in regard to this particular decision and the most wealthy ruling class of Jewish society at the time were Sadducees; which would be individuals who most likely held such influential posts as chief priests). Sadducees had taught that there was no such thing as resurrection; and here they must contend with Lazarus who resurrected. To “save face” their only choice, destroy the evidence; God’s truth suppressed in their own unrighteous desire. What stunning indifference and blind self-ambition! John Calvin, when remarking on this event, stated, “For this wicked consultation is thus described, for the purpose of informing us that the enemies of Christ were led to so great obstinacy, not by mistake or folly, but by furious wickedness, so that they did not even shrink from making war against God; and also for the purpose of informing us that the power of God was not dimly seen in the resurrection of Lazarus, since ungodliness could contrive no other method of banishing it from remembrance than by perpetrating a base and shocking murder on an innocent man.”

What lesson can we take from this? We must seriously examine our aspirations and motivations for life. To assume that personal ambition can diminish Godly truth (we the creatures and He the Creator) is undeniable insanity. A human life lived with any objective other than glorifying the Eternal God revealed in Jesus Christ is a fool’s errand and will lead only to ultimate disillusionment and destruction. Without a clear understanding of who we are and our place in this universe, behavior similar to these chief priests will also characterize our lives. God’s light shines regardless of any effort to suppress it!

In Christ,

Pastor Rob

RENOVATE: Week 36

On this day, I am compelled to deliver a message to those who have been saved out of death into life, the church. While this is straightforward in its conveyance, it is truly profound in its symbolism. Two verses taken from John’s gospel recorded in the June 6th New Testament reading of our devotional Bible:

And when He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth.” He who had died came forth, bound hand and foot with wrappings; and his face was wrapped around with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” (John 11:43-44, NASB)

In these words, one of the church’s most important responsibilities is addressed. Within the context of these verses, Jesus has given life from the dead to His friend Lazarus; a man who was beginning to decay in a tomb after being placed there four days earlier (this is interesting since the Jewish community believed the spirit of one deceased would linger around the body three days and then depart; consequently making the case of Lazarus one of complete hopelessness). Just prior to the raising of Lazarus, Jesus affirmed to the sister of the one bound lifeless in the tomb that He Himself was the very embodiment of resurrection; He was, is, and will always be Life!

Obviously what is recorded here is an astounding miracle. Next to Jesus as the central figure in the event stands Lazarus, the recipient of the supernatural blessing; however, focus for a moment on those who were standing at the entrance of the tomb as Lazarus emerged. One command is given them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” I see in this an allusion to the church’s responsibility to teach and train those who have immediately been brought from spiritual death into eternal life, baby believers. Such people come out of death “bound” by much of the trappings of this world and the straps of sin and temptation that held them fast. Only the power of Christ can raise someone from death, yet the privilege of Christ’s disciples is to aid in the removal of the bindings that hold the newborn babe.

How? As an instrument for extraction, we use the sharp and precise instrument of the Word of God. The writer of Hebrews reminds us, “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12, NASB)

One last observation. In order to remove those bindings, we must be standing at the edge of the grave. We must be witnesses to the resurrection of the dead. In other words, we must be close to those who are dead in their trespasses and sins so our lives can be a microphone of the voice of Jesus as He cries, “Come forth!”

In Christ,

Pastor Rob