“He has now reconciled . . .”

And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him . . .

– Colossians 1:21-22 (ESV)

The straightforward drumbeat of truth from Colossians continues.

Notice how Paul points to the state of our minds when we were unsaved; alienated and hostile. Before I became a Christian I often wondered what it was that people who loved Jesus were getting at. I think I admired them, somewhat, but I didn’t quite get what they were about, and I certainly didn’t understand what Jesus was about. Something about a cross and “dying for my sins” (whatever that means, I would think to myself), but I didn’t really understand.

I don’t claim to fully understand now, but one of the most striking things about redemption is that when Jesus saved me I began to understand. It wouldn’t be too dramatic to say that it was like blinders coming off my eyes. My mind, which had been alienated, separated, foreign to God, began to see him. And the wall of hostility and incomprehension toward the Dying Savior was demolished.

Now it seems that I can’t understand why people who don’t know Christ don’t see the truth! It seems so plain . . .

Of course, redemption isn’t a psychological exercise and Paul is writing here about more than our depraved and broken minds. The alienated and hostile mind that he describes produces evil deeds. And that’s another thing I never knew before; I never realized that I was evil. But the moment I finally saw the truth of my own depravity was the moment I began to seek for Jesus.

We’re all fallen and evil, by nature. In College my friends and I used to listen to a song called Am I Evil by the band Diamondhead. The chorus went like this:

Am I evil?

Yes I am.

Am I evil?

I am man.

Now there’s some straightforward, spot-on theology in the lyrics of an (as far as I know) un-Christian band. But the symptoms and proof of our evil permeates our world; it is in every newscast, nearly every bit of entertainment, it languishes on the pages of our books, is the subtext of most of our conversations and dwells deep in our inner thoughts. Without the redemption of Christ we are hopelessly evil. And all through the sanctification process we still struggle with our fallenness.

At least I do. Daily.

Thank God for the gift of reconciliation through Christ that he has given us! Becoming a Christian isn’t “turning over a new leaf”. It is becoming a new leaf! And one finally, finally capable of bearing good fruit (to strain a metaphor a bit).

“. . . he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him . . .”

Examine that sentence fragment for a bit. Meditate on it. Notice the finality with which it is stated. He has now reconciled us in his body of flesh by his death.

He died for a specific reason. And the death of the only begotten Son of God is not something that God chose lightly. It was for a particular purpose: “in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him”.

I’ve struggled with shame most of my life. Whenever someone asks that classic ice-breaker question “So, what’s your most embarrassing moment?” I often want to respond “um, all of them.” I am, in my natural state, full of reproach, full of blame, full of shame.

But my destiny in Christ, and yours too if you are his child, is to be presented to the Father holy, and blameless, and above reproach!

That’s why Christ died. To reconcile you to God through his death and to sanctify you and redeem you beyond what you can imagine. And, I’ll hazard that for many of us the goal Christ has for us goes beyond our desires, because most of us desire to hold back some of what we call ourselves. But our destiny in him is to be fully and completely his. He died to redeem all of us, and he will settle for nothing less. He will make it so.

Holiness, no blame, no reproach . . . child of God, that is your destiny!

More thoughts on the Bride

Recently Blest wrote a post called Stoning the Bride. She’s speaking my language. Amen x a million:

I’m not saying there isn’t anything wrong with the Christian church. And perhaps God has called someone to be like Jeremiah, prophetically called to denounce the sins of the many. But I don’t think as many people have been called to denounce as enjoy doing the denouncing. After all, it’s a lot more fun to feel like a rebel and a sage while you point out someone else’s sins. Why spend time staring in the mirror working on my own sins when I can think on the sins of the church? But honestly, we don’t need more polished and piercing posts on what’s wrong with the church. We don’t need songs like Todd Agnew’s My Jesus, with its self-righteous “My Jesus wouldn’t be welcome at my church”.

We can denounce the group to our heart’s content, but the solutions have to come at the individual level. What would happen if each Christian stopped looking for the sins of the establishment, and simply worked on rooting out their own sins? What if each church member worked to the best of their abilities to be what they think a good church member should be? I have to take my own advice and ask myself – Am I doing all I can in the church? Do I pray for my leadership? Do I participate in small groups? Am I committed to reaching out to unbelievers and in to my church family? Because that’s what the church is, you see. A family. God placed us in a family with a vast array of brothers and sisters. And the beauty of it is that these new siblings are not always ones we would have chosen for ourselves.

Amen times a trillion.

My wife was telling me tonight about some negative comments some Christians we know were making about some decisions our church recently made. After hearing it I thought, “Fine. I’m not going to listen to these comments anymore”. I even asked Jill to be a filter for me. I don’t need to hear this stuff.

I’m done. The Christian blogosphere is, at times, one long torrent of slander against the church. But I’m not part of that club.

I know the church isn’t perfect. I know that it needs reform. But in my opinion, less than 10% of the criticism in the blogosphere or by churchmembers is either warranted or given in a spirit of humility or a desire to actually make the church better. Most of it’s just talking to talk. Some of it is hugely destructive.

I’m done with that. If you want my opinion, here it is: The Bride is Beautiful. Not perfect. But being perfected. If you want to make the Bride better, look at yourself first. Examine your motives. Compare the obedience you desire of the church to your own obedience to God. Compare the boldness you desire from church leaders to your own boldness. Compare the faithfulness to Scripture that you desire of the church to your own faithfulness. Learn church history. Learn how to separate essentials from non-essentials. And learn to take concerns, in person and in private, to those who need to hear them.

Anyone can write a post.

For some more good reading on a related topic, check out this post from Jared: Trusting God for the Sanctification of Others.

It’s not just that we should respect our brothers and sisters in Christ enough to assume they are capable, it’s that we ought to trust the Holy Spirit with these folks’ sanctification, just like we trust Him with ours. Not that we don’t get all discerning up in their grill (provided it’s real discernment). Not that we don’t rebuke or correct or criticize or even contend when all those things are really called for. But that we do not condemn as if we know God’s gameplan for people outside our own box of discernment.

Dismissal is not one of the fruits of the Spirit. But patience is. People are going to screw up, and they’re going to have some screwy ideas. We can help them, no doubt. But let’s trust that God knows how to finish the good work He began in believers we think aren’t as far along as we are. He will certainly be better at working their perseverance than we are.

The scandal of grace

I can’t think of anyone who writes about grace better than Jared these days.

The following is from an excellent post he wrote a few days ago: The Scandal of Grace:

Isn’t that completely illogical? What weirdos this following Jesus thing makes us. C.S. Lewis was once asked what the main difference between Christianity and all other religions was, and he answered, “Oh, that’s easy — grace.”

Grace isn’t just amazing; it’s ridiculous. It’s revolutionary to our thoughts and feelings. It humbles the powerful and empowers the humble.

Jesus didn’t die so you could learn how to be a better person. He died because you can’t be. (That’s grace offending your sensibilities right now.)

The grace of Jesus is a foolishness that, when believed, brings power to save (1 Cor. 1:18).

Grace is that bizarre missing ingredient that mucks up all human foibles, flaws, and fears. Grace is the thing that turns lives upside down. It is a sweet, beautiful irritant.

Grace is scandalous. It makes murderers into apostles, it makes victims into forgivers. It takes “never the twain shall meet” and makes “reunited and it feels so good.” 😉

Have you been scandalized by grace lately? Has Jesus shocked you through someone’s granting grace to you?

When was the last time you offended someone’s expectations by extending grace to them?

That last question is a very good one.

Rethinking my advice

In the past year and a half or so I’ve had conversations with two people who were strugging with issues at our church. They were both hurting and disillusioned. Although our church is a good church, Biblically sound and full of lots of good people, in both of these instances I encouraged them in their desire to find another church. “The Kingdom is big” I said.

I guess I thought that finding a new place that fit them better and offered healing would be a good thing.

The problem is, neither of these people – to my knowledge – is going to church anywhere now. I should have urged them (as others did) to stay at the church and work things out. I thought I was being the less legalistic one, the more gracious one. Boy was I wrong.

I really regret my advice now. I think it was used for evil, and not for good. And I’ll never give advice like that again.

Ashira l’adonai

Ashira l’adonai ki ga’oh ga’ah

I will sing unto Adonai for He has triumphed gloriously

Ashira l’adonai ki ga’oh ga’ah

I will sing unto Adonai for He has triumphed gloriously

Michamocha, ba-elim adonai

Who is like You, O Adondai, among the gods?

Michamocha nedar-bakodesh

Who is like You, glorious in holiness?

Nachitah v’chasd’cha, am zu ga’alta

In Your mercy, you lead the people You redeemed

Nachitah v’chasd’cha, am zu gaalta

In Your mercy, you lead the people You redeemed

Ashira, Ashira, Ashira…

I will sing, I will sing, I will sing…

Take your kid to blog day

well its take your kid to blog day so im gonna write on this blog. im bills 3rd oldest child and i love theatre and music. currently my dad is teaching me the guitar and i’ve been playing piano for about 3 years. today i just started voice lessons and hopefully i’ll get better at that. so i am totally musiced out! i love to write and sing and act and dance and draw. all of the arts. well thats a little about me. not much has been going on in my life. i just started 8th grade and its really different. most of my teacheres are cool and all but like not really all of them. Yo tomo espanol dos. translation: I take spanish two. its pretty easy right now. basically we’re just reviewing. but very annoying people sit near me. oh well. im currently and almost finished reading uglies-a book by scott westerfeild. its really good. i am very entertained easily and i LOVE to laugh. im kinda shy at first but then when you really get to know me im not. so yeahh

my family is great. they crack me up. i love my family. each and every one of them. and my friends. they rock. junior high is a blast with my friends. i don’t want to leave arnold. even though its really ghetto. but like- im in A.L.O.T.T. [arnold leaders of today and tomorrow] and we basically help the sixth graders and our the leaders of the school. im playing volleyball and am shooting for the A team but don’t think i want or am gonna make it. life at home seems at lot easier for me then it does for others and like i feel very fourtunate that im happy to go home. yes anyways. well yes. i must be going. i would write more but not much to say and no time.

The future writer-

bethany

Jesus.

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

– Colossians 1:15-20 (ESV)

Paul continues here his letter to the Colossians, comprised of more compact, powerful truth than would seem possible in just a few short verses. Here he affirms the deity of Christ in no uncertain terms. Jesus is “the image of the invisible God”. By Jesus all things were created, both of the physical world we see and the unseens spiritual world that swirls all around us and is, I believe, far more solid than what we call reality. Jesus is the beginning, both the creator and the “firstborn of all creation”, meaning not that he himself was created (how could he be? He is the Creator), but that in his incarnation he is the firstborn of a new kind of creation: the creation of redeemed sons and daughters of God in the Kingdom of God. If you know him you are not just his child but also his brother or sister.

And in him “all things hold together”. This vast and elegant universe in its unimaginable complexity, the very cells of your body, our world, the seas, the lands, molecules, everything holds together in him. He is the Logos, the Word spoken by the Father that created and maintains all things and for which all things were made. “In him we live and move and have our being . . .”.

In this humble carpenter from Nazareth God incarnated himself into this world. and in him all the fullness of God dwells, though it was veiled while he walked with us. The world sees this as foolishness, but in Jesus we have our King, the head of his church, and the very One who through his own sacrifice rescued us from death and has reconciled us (and, indeed, all things) to God.

I don’t even know what all that means, fully. I just know the peace of the cross, and the joy of redemption, and the wonder of my King, who allowed himself to be humbled beyond words so that you and I could be redeemed beyond all understanding.

Under the Acacias

Keith writes about why he is a missionary in his blog Under the Acacias (now on the Bloogroll). Wow . . .

But there has also been the thrill of seeing people’s lives change as they started to make good decisions, excitement as people began to understand and respond to the message of Christ and find his blessing, satisfaction as individuals and families gained access to health or education or basic needs that would transform their lives. There has been the privilege of friendships and relationships made across vast cultural divides, the honour of being accepted into a culture so different from my own, the pleasure of watching the carnival of colour and humanity at the local market, or of sitting under the vast starry canopy, drinking tea on a mat in the bush among the cows with Fulani herders. And there have been the many unique opportunities for pure fun and wonder that life in Africa provides.

And there has always been God’s presence. And the more I have walked with him along that path, the more my perspective has changed on what is important in life, and the more I have got to know God in a way I could not have done if I had remained in the UK.

Life is not found in the amount of stuff you can acquire. Nor is it found in getting the highest high. Nor in the honour and comfort the world can bestow. All those things are temporary and fragile. Life is found in abandoning yourself totally to Christ and his way, living for others and not for yourself. In being willing to lose all we can have in this world, we are given a different sort of life – one that flows from the throne of heaven. It is painful to acquire because it is only found through death – the death of the cross. But it is the life that God gives.

That has been my experience. In spite of my failures and inadequacy, God’s faithfulness has been constant and dependable.

[Hat tip: Jesus Creed]