Can you imagine the early church looking to the government for its ethic?
Glory to God!
“It’s not so much who killed them but what killed them. And when we move from the who to the what, in a very real way we begin to see that we are all in this together.” – MLK after the murders of Freedom Riders: James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner in Mississippi and then after the beating death of Princeton Seminary student James Reeb in Alabama.
Please be in prayer for Charleston, SC.
Glory to God!
“God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like Him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:16b-18).
There’s a lot that has brought the Apostle John to this point in his first letter. There are those who feel as if they have the market cornered on God and who readily belittle others who they consider as “less spiritual.” John writes to encourage those who are taking criticism and who are truly seeking to have high view of God and humble view of themselves.
The theme of “love” is a thread that runs throughout John’s literature. John assures that the very nature of God is love. The Apostle affirms that love is not only the foundation of our relationship with the Father, but is foundational in our relationship with others. With both those whom we agree and those we do not.
Everything of course is encompassed within Jesus’ beautiful message: “God so loved…” (John 3:16).
But here in 1 John, the Apostle moves from “love” to “fear.” “There is no fear in love.” “Perfect love drives out fear.” The connection to love (and context of John’s message) is enveloped in relationship. Relationship with God. And relationship with others. And what I believe our Father through His servant John hopes to communicate with us in this is that for those who are in a right relationship with God fear is not a part of the equation. The perfect love of God revealed in the Gospel of Jesus drives it away. However, if we were to be honest, we each, very often, have our fears. And even though John is speaking of eternity and how there is no fear (“condemnation” to use Paul’s word – cf. Romans 8:1) for those who are in Christ Jesus, I wonder what might be weighing on your heart and mind right now?
I wonder: What is it that you’re afraid of? What is it that is causing you concern right now? What is it that is weighing you down? What is it that is keeping you up at night? What is it that is dividing your attention? What are your fears?
Because the message of Jesus can be summed up in these words: “You are not alone.”
Jon Walker in his book, Costly Grace, writes: “Fear whispers in our ear that we face danger alone, that God is unaware of our plight and that Jesus is unavailable in our time of need” (p217).
You are not alone. You can trust God. You can trust our Father. You can trust Him.
You are not alone.
Glory to God!
So often we struggle with self. We struggle with self-doubt. And we struggle with self-righteousness. The question should never be: How do I see myself? The question should always be: How does God see me? And, how do I see God? This places us and God where we need to be.
Isaiah steps into the Temple and he’s not expecting much. But when he opens his eyes to the wonder and power and holiness of God, it’s then that Isaiah the priest becomes Isaiah the prophet (Isaiah 6).
God is holy. He is pure. He is righteous. He is worthy. We understand His holiness no more clearly than when we are confronted by His magnificence and our own inadequacy.
But in this we find the beginning of our dilemma. Because no one knows us better than us. No one knows our inability to measure up to God better than we do. The Gospel calls us not only to salvation, but to see ourselves through the eyes of God. As those who have been made holy through the holy sacrifice of Christ. Holy not because of us, but because of Him. Holy not because of us, but in spite of us.
“Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now He has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation” (Colossians 1:21-22).
Holy in His sight? Without blemish? Free from accusation? Yes! How? Through Jesus. God sees us as holy because He sees us through the lens of Jesus. And this is what we call “Gospel.” This is what we call “Good News.”
We’re tempted to not believe it. Maybe we understand it intellectually, but we struggle with allowing it to take hold of our hearts. Because doing so compels us to relinquish control. And to allow God to be God.
When King David prays to God, “Wash me, and I will be whiter than snow” (Psalm 51:7b), literally in the Hebrew his prayer is: “Un-sin me….” “Cleanse me. God, take away my sin. Make me whiter than snow. Remove all my sin stain. Remove my guilt. Make me pure. Righteous. Holy. Accomplish that which I cannot accomplish on my own. Make me more like you.” And the amazing thing is, through hearts that turn to Him, He does just that.
To see ourselves as God sees us grants significant insight into faith. It empowers us to live more into (and out of) the lives that He has created for us to live in Christ Jesus.
Two questions remain: Will we allow Him to make us holy? And, do we believe that He can?
Glory to God!
Don’t we find ourselves at times spiritually plateaued in our journeys of faith? And maybe not even plateaued, but rather, more like spiritually bankrupt? What do we do when we begin to feel this way? Maybe it’s found in the ebb and flow of faith. Maybe it only characterizes a small portion of time. Or maybe it is descript of decades. Years of complacency. No zeal. No excitement. No anticipation. No experience of God. What then? What next?
In his book Attributes of God, AW Tozer writes, “A local church will only be as great as its concept of God. An individual Christian will be a success or failure (in the Kingdom) depending upon what he or she thinks of God. It is critically important that we not only have a knowledge of the Holy One, but that we truly come to know Him in all His majesty and wonder.”
Maybe what we “think of God,” as Tozer puts it, is directly related to our being spiritually plateaued or bankrupt.
Do we think enough of God? How much thought do we honestly give Him during the course of the day? How often do you engage in silent conversation with Him if even for a brief moment? How often do you pray? I mean really, really pray? Not as an aside. But heart and mind, engaged in prayer with our Father. How much time do you set aside in reading Scripture and being fed by God’s Word? How often do you read what others have written to broaden your concept of God? How many conversations do you have throughout the week with others who are seeking to be faithful to our Father as well? Do you seek out Christian insight from others who have faith? Because what we “think of God” is answered in questions such as these.
The Apostle Paul writes: “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know Him better.” – Ephesians 1:17
The question is: Do we really want to know Him better?
Somehow spiritual discipline has too often been divorced from faith. Faith is too often seen as mental ascent rather than a life characterized by discipleship. No wonder we find ourselves so often spiritually anemic.
Discipleship. Living cognizant of the presence of God. Spiritual discipline. A life characterized by faith and faithfulness. When our practice reflects our concept of God – it is then and only then that we will begin to know Him better.
Glory to God!
During the Civil Rights Movement, Martin Luther King Jr. would speak of moving “from the who to the what.” Both after the murders of Freedom Riders: James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner in Mississippi and then after the beating death of Princeton Seminary student James Reeb in Alabama, King declared “it’s not so much who killed them but what killed them.” And “when we move from the who to the what, in a very real way we begin to see that we are all in this together.”
Of course the “what” was the underlying motive of hate and bigotry and disunity that permeated so much of the world-view of the day. A world-view which in many ways has yet to be overcome. In regard to unity among races and cultures as a whole we still have a very long way to go.
In the church we are called to unity in Christ. To be one in Jesus. We who are many and yet comprise one body through the Gospel are called to oneness. The Apostle Paul implores, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to one hope when you were called – one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:3-6). Only God can bring this about. We are different in many, many ways. The call however is to unity, not uniformity. To “move from the who to the what.” That we would be united in spite of ourselves. In spite of our differences. Indeed we only truly know if we are united when we have differences. In many ways we have a long way to go. However we serve a God whose mercies are new every morning. A God who has revealed Himself as faithful throughout the history of mankind. And a God and who is at work in a wonderful way in the life of His people today.
We begin with the Gospel and we begin with grace. For when we begin to see ourselves in our need for God and in our need for His mercy, the playing field begins to be made level, and all pride is taken away. Only then will God begin to bring about unity.
Jesus on the night before the cross prays for Himself, His disciples, and then for us: “I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17:20b-23).
How is it that the world will believe and know the truth of God made manifest in Christ?
Only when they see unity and oneness in His people….
Glory to God!
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and He separated the light from the darkness. God called the light ‘day,’ and the darkness He called ‘night.’ And there was evening, and there was morning – the first day” (Genesis 1:1-5).
“God saw that the light was good, and He separated the light from the darkness.”
From the beginning of time. From Creation. From the word “go” (literally). Light is separated from darkness. They are opposed to one another. Where one is present the other is not.
The Apostle John proclaims, “God is light, in Him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5b). Christ boldly declares, “I AM the Light of the World” (John 8:12). And in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus calls us to be spiritual light in a spiritually dark world: “You are the light of the world!” (Matthew 5:14).
We are called to be light. Light in a world of darkness. Why is it then that we so often toy with darkness? Why is it that we too often concede and rationalize and justify any relationship with spiritual darkness? With that which is spiritually opposed to the God we serve?
The Apostle Paul writing of the spiritual tempo of our lives asks, “What fellowship does light have with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14b). Light and darkness are enemies. The presence of one defies the presence of the other. How is that we can so easily walk out of spiritual light and into darkness? Is our faith so shallow?
In Ephesians 2:8 he asserts, “You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.” He doesn’t even say, “We were once in darkness, but rather we were darkness.” Outside of God. Outside of His light. But in Christ Jesus, our reality has radically changed.
Colossians 1:13 declares, “He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the Kingdom of the Son He loves.”
John affirms our calling in Christ and challenges that if we “claim to have fellowship with God and yet walk (live) in darkness we lie and do not live by (in) the truth” (1 John 1:6).
The call is just that. To accept and live into the calling that we have in this life in Christ Jesus to be light in a spiritually dark world. A city on a hill that cannot be hidden (Matthew 5:14). A lamp on a stand that gives light to all (Matthew 5:15).
Where there is light, darkness scatters. In our lives and in the lives of those we influence to the glory of the God we serve.
Glory to God!
Imagine as Christ’s church our having to meet in secret because of persecution. We tend to trivialize the notion in our Western worldview but the reality is that much of the church of both the past and present was/is forced to gather together in secrecy for the valid fear of oppression and persecution (either by government or society and culture). The first century church and Christians today in Muslim and Communist countries have much in common.
Beneath the city of Rome lies hundreds of miles of “catacombs.” The catacombs are underground burial places where Christians often met for worship and fellowship. For the almost three hundred years after Christ, Christians sought asylum in this underground maze of tunnels beneath Rome seeking to worship God in community with one another and as they were in constant fear of Roman violence.
In these underground tunnels a common inscription has been repeatedly found. Many recognize the symbol as the Jesus or Christian fish (the Greek word ichthus means “fish”) but it served as an early acrostic, which stood for: “Jesus Christ, Son of God, our Savior.” (I avoid acrostics at all costs in preaching – but this one I have to let slide….) What we have as magnets on the back of our luxury SUV’s complete with seat warmers, originally served as a ray of hope in caverns of darkness (physically and spiritually) for the early church.
I wonder about our investment of the Christian life. If in our ease of worship and ease of faith we aren’t crippled in our commitment. Not that I’m praying for persecution. But in times of oppression in the church’s history valiant faith has abounded. Why? Because it forced our hand whether we were in with both feet or not.
Here’s my question: Are we? Are we all in? Are we completely, totally, whole-heartedly invested (heart, soul, and self) into the Christian life?
Luke records these words of our Savior: “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to” (Luke 13:24).
We’re tempted to think that Jesus is talking about “them.”
I think it’s about us….
Steadfastness. Dedication. Investment. An investment of self. An investment of life.
We are too often too easily derailed.
We tend to take lightly the things we have not wholly invested in. The things we’re not completely committed to. Arenas in which no sacrifice has been required. The same is especially true of faith. For this reason Christ calls us to make every effort.
Glory to God!
The Reeves crew is very excited to announce we’ll be making the move to Rockwall where we will be ministering with the Eastridge Church of Christ.
We’ll be burning up the road over the next several months, commuting on the weekends to Rockwall while the kids finish the school year in Tyler.
Please be in prayer for our transitional time.
Glory to God!