A Wretch Like Me

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“Where would I be without Christ?”

If I were to pose the question, and have you ask it of yourself, what thoughts immediately come to mind?

(I’ll wait a few moments for you to think and carry this through a bit).

“Where would I be without Christ?”

We all approach a question like this from differing perspectives. From varying backgrounds. Some were raised with a Christian worldview. Others come to Christ much later in life. But regardless of the journey, surely we’ve come to a maturity of faith that recognizes our reality in Jesus. And in our understanding of who we are in Christ, do we ever consider who we would be were it not for the Lord in our lives?

Without Christ we are lost. Lost. Lost to ourselves. Lost in ourselves. In our sin. In our own depravity. Perhaps a sober consideration of past failings brings us to an inkling of who we would be were it not for the Spirit of Christ. And I believe it can be extremely healthy to recognize who you and I would be without Him. The reality that without Him we would be morally ruined. Spiritually bankrupt. When we come to this conclusion, we in turn are better enabled to minister to those who are indeed outside of Christ.

The Apostle Paul opens our eyes to who we are outside of covenant with God when he writes, “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were…” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). However, praise God his pen continues, “But, you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (v11).

The wonderful question that comes out of Paul’s message to these Christians is: “Who can be saved?” And the answer that wonderfully springs to life in verse 11 is: “Anybody!”

Do we see those who are outside of Christ for their lostness? Are we aware that they are who they are and do the things that they do and live the way that they live because they’re lost? How else do we expect them to live? They’re lost! Do we see them in and for and through their lostness?

If so, does it elicit compassion or disdain on our part? In our heart of hearts, are we filled with the loving kindness of God for them? Or is there a slight (or not so slight) hint of contempt?

Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now I’m found. Was blind but now I see.

Glory to God!

Jason

the moment of the Cross

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“We have, alas, belittled the cross, imagining it merely as a mechanism for getting us off the hook of our own petty naughtiness…. It is much, much more. It is the moment when the story of Israel reaches its climax; the moment when, at last, the watchmen on Jerusalem’s walls see their God coming in His Kingdom; the moment when the people of God are renewed so as to be, at last, the royal priesthood who will take over the world not with the love of power but with the power of love; the moment when the Kingdom of God overcomes the kingdoms of the world. It is the moment when a great old door, locked and barred since our first disobedience, swings open….” – Dallas Willard, “The Spirit of the Disciplines”

Glory to God!

Jason

our brokenness

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Yesterday at Eastridge we completed a two month Sunday morning series that we called: He is Greater Than.

Basing the series off of the victory of David over Goliath, each week we sought to address real world Goliaths.

Issues our God equips us to overcome.

Over the course of nine weeks we affirmed that our God, He is greater than our fears, our inadequacies, our failures, our control, divorce, addiction, our sin. And then the final message yesterday: He is > our shame.

In each message, our hope was to established the truths that:

1) our God is sovereign,

2) He can be trusted,

and 3) His strength is made complete in our weakness.

In wrestling with these difficult, emotional topics over the last nine weeks as a church family; and in light of the recent reminders within the world in which we live of how broken we truly are, I have been (perhaps more-so than usual) acutely aware of how very fragmented and marred humanity is because of the Fall.

How very fragile and how very vulnerable we truly are.

And our innate, insatiable need for God.

Our view of God, our view of ourselves, our view of the world in which we live is crucial.

Perspective is imperative.

A God-given, Christ-centered, Spirit-fueled, Kingdom-ordained, Cross-shaped, Resurrection-powered lens with which we view everything is central.

I’ve actually had folks say to me, “Jason the world is more messed up today than it has ever been.”

And I want to scream back, “Are you kidding me?!

More messed up today? Than ever?!

Do you remember Apartheid in South Africa? The Killing Fields of Cambodia? Have you read about the American Civil Rights movement? Have you ever heard of Auschwitz? The Civil War? Slavery in the US? And that’s only in recent history. Do the cities of Sodom and Gomorra ring a bell?!”

More messed up today? Than ever? Hardly.

The world has been equally messed up since Genesis 3.

Equally.

And we have all needed God equally since Genesis 3.

Equally.

And if we have come to understand much at all from our God, it is within the most difficult, darkest moments, when all seems most oppressive and least hopeful, that He does His best work.

Isn’t that what we learn from the cross and resurrection of Jesus?

Somehow only through the cross and resurrection, only through the Gospel of Christ, does all of this brokenness, all of the effects of the Fall, begin to be healed.

My friend Jack Reese helps us to understand not only this broken state, but the God designed healing of this brokenness.

In his book, The Body Broken, Reese offers affirmation of peace, even amidst our brokenness:

“The body of Christ indeed is broken. We live in narrow worlds surrounded by people mostly like ourselves. We talk too little to anyone whose opinions differ from our own. We seldom see beyond ethnic and social boundaries. We engage too often in accusation and blame. Each of us bears responsibility. No one is innocent. We build walls of self-protection. We seek our own interests. We do not love as we ought. We are silent when words must be spoken. We shout when everything in the universe calls for silence. Christ’s body is broken because we, in our sins, are broken….

In this brokenness, however, lies our hope. Christ’s body was broken so that the body of Christ might be healed. He was wounded for our transgressions, as the prophet says. Here is the good news. Our brokenness is met in Christ’s. In this brokenness we become one with Him and, if we have the courage, with one another. We share in His suffering and therefore in each other’s pain. By this means, Christ’s peace heals us. It is healing us even now” (p170).

Glory to God!

Jason

relentless pursuit

Tree on a Hill Church Worship Background

For all of its immenseness (yes it’s a word – all I had to do was hit “ignore” on spell-check!) the Bible, although a lifetime of study only scratches the surface, entails an extremely simple story.

God creates humanity.  Humanity rejects God.  God relentlessly pursues humanity.

The overarching story of Scripture is the redemptive work of a God who would not let us go.

Whatever the expanse between us and God, He will traverse the gap.

Our God is a pursuing God.

He pursues us with His grace, with His mercy, with His love.

The Gospel message itself is of a God who relentlessly pursues us through Jesus.

Glory to God!

Jason

the imagery of forgiveness

compassPsalm 103:12, “As far as the east is from the west, has He removed our transgressions from us.”

Isaiah 1:18, “Come now, let us reason together,” says the Lord.  “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow.”

Micah 7:19, “You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl our iniquities into the depths of the sea.”

Jeremiah 31:34, “I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”

snowGod reveals relationship in vivid metaphor.  Sin removed as far as the east is removed from the west.  The stark contrast of scarlet and snow.  Sins plummeting to the depths of the sea.  An all-powerful, all-knowing God choosing to forget, and remember our sins no more.

The imagery of forgiveness.

Our Father forgives.  He heals.  He restores.  He delivers.  He rescues.

Through divine prerogative and divine covenant and divine eyes He sees us not for our sin, not for our shame, not for our rebellion, but for who we are through Jesus.

seaHe sees us clearly and in such a way we often find it difficult to see ourselves.  As whole.  As holy.  As righteous.  As forgiven.

Galatians 3:27, “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.”

He sees us through Jesus.

Glory to God!

Jason

un-sin me

snowHoliness.  Not the easiest concept for us to grasp.  Oh I think we have an idea of holiness when it comes to God.  But I wonder if we see it and believe it in ourselves?

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!

Jason

holiness

Angel Sculpture Christian Stock Image

Holiness. Not the easiest concept for us to grasp. Oh I think we have an idea of holiness when it comes to God. But I wonder if we see it and believe it in ourselves?

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!

Jason

the cause of redemption

Bible Love

“God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

Love is a quality that we develop. We learn how to love. We learn love from our parents and grandparents. We learn love from those who love us along the way. As we fall in love and marry we learn to love our spouse and learn love from our spouse. Tiersa and I have in many ways “grown up” together because we came to know one another at such a young age. As we look into our newborn children’s eyes for the first time we experience a love that gives us such insight into the love of God (although we’re certainly content to let grandma and grandpa give us a rest as often as they like!). Through life, through experience, through trial and error at times, we learn how to better love – and what it means to love.

And yet we often wonder, “How could God love us?” Or perhaps even closer to home, “How could God love me?” But I think as honest as these questions are, they don’t quite have a full grasp of God’s love. Or, the reality that the Apostle John unveils to us: “God is love” (1 John 4:8,16). Love is not a quality that God has learned. Love is who God is. God reveals love because He is love.

God does not love us because we are easy or difficult to love (although through relationship we oftentimes find ourselves either closer to God or distanced from Him – but this is our doing, not His!). God loves us because He is God. He is love. Love is who He is. Love is His character. His nature. The reality that God is love is as unchanging as He is. God’s love is not drawn out of Him by us, rather, it flows from Him constantly. Steadily. Why? Because God is love.

“God so loved…” (John 3:16) not because we were loveable, but because He is love. Christ did not die for the world so that God might then love us. Christ died because God loves us. He died as the ultimate revelation and realization of God’s love for us. Love is not the result of redemption, it is the cause of it….

Glory to God!

Jason

unconditional

handWe are a confusing people.  We say we wholly love.  We contend we are fully committed.  We promise we are all in.  But how often we fail.  How very often we fall short.  We are a people of conditions.  “If you’ll scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.”  “I’ll forgive you if you will jump through these hoops.”  “Do things my way and then we can be friends.”  “Let’s get on the same page” (and by same page, we mean our own).  “I love you, but I’d love you more if….”  In many ways we are conditioned to be conditional.

We are a confusingly, conditional people.

This however, is not the Jesus Way.

God has no conditions when it comes to His love.  Don’t mishear (or misread) what I’m saying.  Covenant with God is conditioned upon our being in Christ.  But, His love for us is absolutely unconditional.  Completely unconditional.  No strings attached.  No hidden agendas.  And it is at our worst of moments, when we are at our most unlovable, that this reality is most beautiful and most powerful.  And in those moments (as if it were possible) it feels as if He loves even us more.

“God demonstrates His own (unconditional) love for us in this: While we were sinners, Christ dies for us” (Romans 5:8).

“For if when we were God’s enemies we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life?!” (Romans 5:10).

At the first of each year we tend to reflect upon the previous year and consider the one that lies ahead.  My hope is that you enter into this new year knowing that you are deeply and unconditionally loved by our Father.

Glory to God!

Jason