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

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

explaining why

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Horatio Spafford and his wife Anna had moved from England to the United States to build a life together. They had 5 children: four daughters and a son. The family settled in Chicago where Spafford began a successful law practice.

Within a matter of a few years the couple’s life began to fall apart. Their infant son passed away without warning in 1871. Later that same year Spafford’s law office burned to the ground in the Great Chicago Fire, ruining him financially. Two years later, 1873, as they were seeking to rebuild, Anna and the girls set sail to visit family in England. Horatio, delayed by business, made plans to follow in the coming weeks.

On its way to England, the SS Ville De Havre, the ship Anna and the girls were aboard, collided with another ship and sank. As Anna reached the shores of Europe she telegraphed her husband two crippling words, “Saved alone.” All four of their daughters had drowned. Only she had survived.

While trying to make sense of all of the tragedy that had occurred and was occurring in his life, as he crossed the Atlantic Ocean, Horatio Spafford penned these words on a borrowed piece of hotel stationary….

When peace like a river attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, “It is well, it is well with my soul.”

When peace like a river attendeth my way…. What I hear Spafford describing is a beautiful portrait of a gentle river that runs along side the pathway he is travelling. It is a river that accompanies him on his journey. And it is a river of peace.

The Apostle Paul writes of a peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7). A peace that transcends reason. A peace that even in the midst of tragedy accompanies us on our journey. A peace that is found in Christ.

I wonder if we truly know that sort of peace? I wonder if we experience it often? A peace that stills anxiety. A peace that quiets stress. A peace that heals tragedy. Does that sort of peace accompany you every step of the way in your journey of life?

True peace is found only in Christ. Only in closeness with Him. So often we find ourselves searching for calm. Searching for serenity. Searching for inner stillness. What we are seeking is a peace that is only found in Jesus. Wonderful, soothing, healing peace.

And when peace begins to overwhelm and characterize our lives – especially in those moments when we cannot explain how – we can indeed explain why.

Glory to God!

Jason

victorious in our salvation

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In Luke chapter 4 we are given insight into the human and divine nature of our Savior as Jesus is led into the desert by the Spirit. During forty days of fasting (or at the conclusion of them depending upon your understanding of the text) Jesus is tempted by Satan. “‘If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.’ Jesus answered, ‘Man does not live on bread alone.’ The devil then led Him up to a high place and showed Him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to Him, ‘I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. So if you worship me, it will all be yours.’ Jesus answered, ‘It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.’ The devil led Him to Jerusalem and had Him stand on the highest point of the temple. ‘If you are the Son of God,’ he said, ‘throw yourself down from here. For it is written: ‘He will command His angels concerning you to guard you carefully; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’ Jesus answered, ‘It says: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left Him until an opportune time” (Luke 4:3-13).

Much could be said about this event in Jesus’ life and ministry. The fact that it occurred (when you consider Matthew’s account) immediately following the baptism of Jesus is significant. Jesus’ discipline and complete and total reliance upon God in fasting during this time powerfully speaks to us. Jesus’ response to each test while abiding in God’s Word is crucial. Certainly Satan’s distortion of Scripture in Jesus’ testing is something that should be emphasized. But what I’d like for us to consider are the reasons behind the specific ways in which Jesus is tempted/tested.

“If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” Notice Satan’s condescension: “If….” Did Satan know that Jesus was God’s Son? Absolutely. Did Jesus know? You better believe it! Was there anyone else present for this conversation besides the two of them? No. So why begin with question? He’s testing Jesus’ character! And why bread? Because of Jesus’ hunger? Yes. But even more so, if ever there was going to be a moment where Jesus was susceptible and fragile in His humanity this would have been it. Our Lord, however, stood firm. And why the temptation of the kingdoms of the world? Power. Prestige. Authority. Ego. The temptation of salvation while falling from the pinnacle of the temple? Along those same lines: Pride. Arrogance. Ability. Worth. The writer of Hebrews acknowledges that Jesus was “tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). And we see this reality clearly lived out in our Lord’s life in His testing. But in doing so, do we to see our own humanness as we are tempted by Satan every day as well?

John the Apostle writes, “For everything in the world – the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes, and the boasting of what he has and does – comes not from the Father but from the world” (1 John 2:16). Precisely the three areas in which our Savior was tempted.

We are in such dire need of salvation. So God sent us Jesus. But He sent Christ not only to save us, but to show us. To show us how to live victorious in our salvation.

Glory to God!

Jason

is the cross enough?

Cross of Christ

For the next three months our congregation will be investing into a study of 1st and 2nd Corinthians. Both Sunday morning classes and sermons will be pursuing these two wonderful texts. As a church we will be pouring ourselves into these letters and striving for a willingness and openness that would allow our Father to pour Himself into us as His holy people. “Ancient Church, Modern Challenges” is the general theme we’ll be working under. I cannot imagine a more timely, unifying study for us to engage in together.

The Corinthian letters center upon effective ministry. How is the church to be effective in a culture that is so very contrary to the God we serve? How might the relevance of the Gospel of Christ be communicated in a world that sees no need for faith? How can those who are followers of the Way of Jesus be united with one another, when while we’ve chosen to follow Christ, we did not choose one another? How do we as Christ’s Church today serve as a powerful, effective witness for the Kingdom? Unabashed. Unashamed. And unhindered

These are questions that the Corinthian letters will address.

Chapter 1 sets the stage: “I appeal to you, brothers and sisters,in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, ‘I follow Paul’; another, ‘I follow Apollos’; another, ‘I follow Cephas’; still another, ‘I follow Christ.’

Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so no one can say that you were baptized in my name. (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the Gospel – not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (vv10-18).

Are we sharing the fullness of the Gospel message or are we simply speaking with “wisdom and eloquence” emptying the cross of its God-designed, God-designated power? Is the message of the cross enough for us? Is the cross, and the cross alone, truly the power for we who believe and are being saved?

It all begins with the question: “Is Christ divided?”

It all begins with the decision: “I follow Christ.”

And it all begins this week!

Glory to God!

Jason

stealing joy

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“The one who has been forgiven little loves little” (Luke 7:47).

What is our Savior communicating to you in these nine words?

Jesus is in the home of Simon the Pharisee. The religious leader has gone out of his way to set the stage. Perhaps simply to gain a better understanding of what this proposed prophet from Nazareth is about. Maybe to make himself look good in front of his cronies by being the momentary big man on campus. Whether from false motives or pure, the fact is, the Christ has agreed to come.

But “when a woman who had lived a sinful life” is overwhelmed, simply by being in the presence of Jesus, crying as she is so humbled, overjoyed, as to be so blessed as to serve Him, Simon the host quickly turns into Simon the joy-stealer. “If this man were a prophet, He would know… she is a sinner” (V39).

“The one who has been forgiven little loves little” (Luke 7:47).

Have you been forgiven a lot or a little?

Are you sure that’s the perception others have of you?

If we view God as harsh and judgmental, guess what sort of lens we view others through? Exactly. If we see ourselves as somehow deserving of being in His presence, or of forgiveness, or of salvation, guess how we see others whom we do not deem as worthy or as orthodox as we are? (Do you sense a little sarcasm?)

What if you and I made a definitive decision today, that no matter what, that’s simply not how we’re going to be?

“The one who has been forgiven little loves little” (Luke 7:47).

And what about the one who has been forgiven much?

I’d say the one who has been forgiven much, refuses to steal another’s joy in the Lord.

Glory to God!

Jason

leaving the curtain torn

Cross of Salvation

“From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’ – which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’….  And when Jesus cried out again in a loud voice, He gave up His spirit. At that moment the curtain of the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom” (Matthew 27:45-51).

From noon until 3pm, during the time of day when the sun is at its peak, darkness covers the planet, representative of course of the sin that Jesus bore on the cross.  At 3pm Jesus cries out in the words of Psalm 22, a Psalm of anguish and a Psalm of victory. Jesus cries out again and gives up His spirit, meaning, He chooses to die.  And “at that moment the curtain of the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom.”

Here’s my question: How long was the curtain allowed to be torn?

Have you ever thought about that?  How long was the curtain allowed to be torn by the religious aristocracy? To the Jews who accepted Christ the tearing of the curtain meant no more obstruction, no more barrier between them and God.  To the Gentile it meant there was access granted to the One, True Living God that they had never known before. As believers today through this reality of 2000 years ago we recognize that we have access to the very presence of God and are ushered in to His glory through the sacrifice (and resurrection) of Jesus. But what about the Jews whose applecart had been upset?  Those who wanted everything to stay the same?  What about those “devout” Israelites who thought that they had the market cornered on God? What about the watchdog Pharisees who saw this as a threat to what was “right” and “proper”?

What do you suppose they did about the torn curtain?  The “veil that was rent” (to quote from the good king James)? Maybe they wrote it off as caused by the earthquake.  But Temple worship in Jerusalem continued another 40 years (until its destruction in AD 70). Did they leave the curtain torn do you think?  I bet not. Although well-intentioned, I would imagine they very quickly sewed it shut (or replaced it altogether). There’s no biblical or even extra-biblical evidence to support that notion.  But I just don’t see them leaving the curtain torn.  Do you?

Here’s my point: In Christ, God has unequivocally removed every hindrance from our living in His presence.  Right? And so why can’t we just leave it that way?

Glory to God!

Jason