Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Live 120%…Right Now (Week 4)

Three weeks ago, I started a four week series on “Faithfulness.” The four week series focuses on faithfulness in four areas of life: to Christ, to spouse, to children, to mission or personal ministry. I wanted to save the most significant one (living relationship with Christ) for last. So, the first week I hit on “Faithfulness in Marriage” (http://nbfamilies.blogspot.com/2013/11/live-120right-now-week-1.html). The second week I wrote on “Faithfulness with Children” (http://nbfamilies.blogspot.com/2013/11/live-120right-now-week-2.html). Last week I hit on “Faithfulness in Missional Living” (http://nbfamilies.blogspot.com/2013/12/live-120right-now-week-3.html). This week I’m going to focus on being Faithful in relationship with Christ Himself. 

What is Jesus to you? Do you see Him as a living Person or is He merely an idea of good luck and good morals that you try to abide by. Nobody would say that is what their Christianity is defined by—but what if we took time to slow down and really think about why we do Christian stuff? Why we go to Christian churches? Why we attend all the Christian events? Why we use Christian lingo? 
In answering those questions—does that get you into the room with Jesus? Do those things get you close to God? 
What does trusting in what Jesus accomplished for you on the cross mean for you on Monday through Friday in a busy schedule? 

It’s Christmas time. Many say, “Jesus is the reason for the season!” But even with the increasing pressure in culture, academia, and community for diminishing “Christ” from “Christ mas” most people would say that Jesus is the reason for everything (theoretically speaking). But how entrenched is that in my thoughts and heart? 

Do I enjoy the living, reigning Person of Jesus Christ? Am I enjoying His living Presence through the Holy Spirit as He promised in John 17 and Acts 1:8? He told those disciples, upon His ascension, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you in power and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). He was saying, “Your life is going to be about ME! Your life is going to be radically changed because of who I am as Lord and King and Savior of your life—your life is going to be about Me!”

Loving Jesus means being amazed by Jesus’ love for me.
  • Much of American status quo Christianity is not remotely amazed at God’s love for them. As Americans, we sort of have this mentality like “Of course God loves me—have you met me?” We believe there is so much to love about ourselves! Our intelligence, our uniqueness, our abilities, our giftedness, our creativity, our successes. The list goes on. I mean, what’s not to love about me? 

Well, what’s not to love about me is a little thing called sinful depravity and total corruption. 
  • We were made in the image of God and in the beginning all was completely loving about Adam and Eve. We don’t know how many days they worked and served God and enjoyed His direct communion before the fall into sin. But then they chose to sin. And at that point, all of their offspring, all mankind, had a fallen and sinful nature. We have sinful, depraved, and corrupt hearts that reject God’s authority and seek to go our own way (Is. 53:6, Rom. 6:23). We are far off from God’s righteousness and separated from Him by our sin (Rom. 3:23). 

  • This sin has affected our entire being (Ps. 51, Jer. 17:9). I was being facetious above in saying “what’s not to love is a little thing called sinful depravity and total corruption.” It’s not a “little” thing. It’s a magnanimous, unbelievably huge, horribly glaring thing up against God’s holiness and righteousness. We don’t see our sin as being that bad—when God saw it as so wretched that He would kill His own perfect, righteous Son as the sacrifice and atonement for our sins. Again, in light of that, our sin is no “little” thing.

Now that’s not popular jargon or conversation in today’s culture. We even have many leaders who try to avoid talking about sin and purposefully refuse to speak about it because they know that talking about sin is confrontive. But we must remember that the cross was always meant to be confrontational. Holy God plus a dead, innocent, perfect Son on a cross—and guilty, condemned, sinful, depraved man at a confrontation. If we’re afraid to stare at our sin and see how revolting it is we will see no desperate need for a Savior and to stare at Him for our reconciliation to this confrontation. 

So, first, we’re not amazed by Jesus’ love because we don’t see how gross and horrible our sin is in light of God’s holiness. Grace isn’t amazing—instead we’re presuming upon grace because we believe we’re worthy of it.

Second, our culture has successfully and almost completely eradicated the word and topic and thinking and terminology of “sin” from our vocabulary. When we remove sin from our thinking and vocabulary, we make the need for grace very small—or nonexistent. 

God would have us see grace as amazing. God would have us see His Christ, who died to pay the penalty of sin, as captivating. 

When someone says, “God loves you!” we should all be halted and amazed at that reality. But we tend to think “of course He does.” Our minds should be screaming, “Why!!?…Why would such a holy God love such a miserable sinner such as I? Why should a holy God continue to pursue people who have thousands of sins and continue to struggle daily with sin? Why?” Again, that sounds foreign because we’ve made holiness weird and rearranged pride and self-esteem as the norm. 

Loving Jesus goes beyond knowing the facts about Jesus. 

I love and hold to the facts I know about Jesus. That is part of faith. But He is NOT merely the facts. He is more than the facts. We do not assemble a thousand little statements of truth to piece together the puzzle of Jesus. It’s just the opposite. Out of Him flow the truths and facts and virtues that we should grow to love and embrace and live out. He didn’t become truth. Truth came from Him. He was the embodiment of truth (John 1:1-3, 14-17; John 17:17-19). Out of His essence flowed truth. He is a living Person worthy of more love and adoration and worship than I can imagine. Sometimes my Christianity can fall into the rut of duty—in the name of Christianity. 

  • How far is the gap between all the facts I know about Jesus (i.e. born of a virgin, fulfilled OT prophecies, lived perfect life of obedience to God’s righteous law, inaugurated the Kingdom on earth, died on the cross for sins, rose the third day, ascended to heaven, is coming back soon) and my love for the living Person of Jesus?

Duty is far from delighting in Jesus Christ.1 We need to know the truth and clarify the truth about Jesus to others—but we must love the living Person those truths point to above all things. In heaven, we will not see literally billions of re-created people and all kinds of indescribable creatures bowing down to a list of truths printed on a wall—we will have eyes captivated on the living reigning King, Jesus Christ!

Loving Jesus means being transformed, little by little, to more Christlikeness by pleasuring in Him more than anything else.
2 Corinthians 3:18
“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

We tend to be conformed to the object that captivates our eyes and affections the most. Whatever object we deem worthy of our greatest pursuit is our most treasured prize. If that prize is a position, a title, a lifestyle, a home in a certain zip code, a possession, we will spend our time gazing and pursuing “that” in order to obtain it. 

  • What if being conformed into more Christlikeness meant to pleasure and gaze more at Him than anything else? Many times, we spend all of our energy and resources “doing” stuff in an attempt to “be more Christian” or “be more like Christ” when it’s actually all externals and no inner transformation of Christlikenss.
  • We say we want to be “better Christians” (little images of Christ) or better “followers of Christ,” yet many times we are not taking the time to be truly captivated by the one single pleasure which is Christ Himself. 

  • We see in 2 Corinthians 3:18 that the key is “beholding the glory” of Jesus Christ. We are “being transformed into (His) image” in small little phases of transformation by “beholding!” I would suggest this “beholding” means the difficult work of pausing and contemplating deeply the reality of what Jesus has already accomplished for us. It doesn’t say we are to be changed by our church attendance, giving, serving, quiet times, prayer times, or nice gestures to people. It definitely doesn’t say that our moral lists of do’s and don’ts is what changes us internally. Instead, it’s beholding—pondering, contemplating, treasuring, pleasuring, and being captivated by Christ! (See also Rom. 12:1-3; 2 Cor. 5:17-21)

And to reiterate, the verse says, “For this comes from the Lord, who is Spirit.” It is not a matter of me “doing” in order to become more like Jesus. That would be all external works. It is a matter of my thinking and core heart motives being changed by the work of the Holy Spirit—which only He can do. 
Many times in my own life, I am not seeing much change and not seeing sin defeated and passion ignited because I am not being stuck in a stare at Him. I am not taking time to gaze long and hard at the greatness of who He is and what He has already done on my behalf. I am not living “with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord.” Simply put, I am not captivated in amazement at Him. If I’m not “beholding,” I’m not being transformed. If I am “beholding” I may experience beautiful, enjoyable, rich transformation. 

This Christmas, I want to slow down and be more amazed at God's love in sending His Son, I want to worship and love the living Person of Jesus Christ and not just facts, and I want to spend time "beholding" and being captivated in Christ! 

1. John Piper, The Dangerous Duty of Delight (Multomah, 2001) 13-14

Sankie P. Lynch
Pastor of Families

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