Thursday, June 26, 2008

A New Dependence on Christ

Nothing in my hand I bring,
simply to the cross I cling;
naked, come to thee for dress;
helpless, look to thee for grace;
foul, I to the fountain fly;

wash me, Savior, or I die.

One of the things that saddens me the most about current Christianity is the lack of dependence we have in the cross. We have come to the point as a culture where we do not need to worry about our next meal, our national security, and if a common virus will kill us. Regardless of our comparative struggles, we live in a nation that is still blessed beyond measure and richer than the rest of the world. We have highways, cars, groceries, Wal-Mart, sports teams that play in stadiums used 6 days out of the year. I will leave my office in a few minutes, go home to a fridge with food in it, when I flip a switch light will come on, and I can go to the store and buy clothing with money in my wallet. Is this so bad? I would say not, but we must never put the gift above the giver. Romans 1 talks about worshiping the created things rather than the Creator, and the dangerous idolatry and eternal punishment that ensues from this.
What has been lost through this? I would contend that we have lost our need for God, and this is the stumble before the fall. We have become clothed, full, fat, and happy. And in this happiness and contentment we have lost God, we have forsaken Him and live in rebellion against Him.
The only way we can live in Christ and make it in this world that seeks to devour and destroy us is to come to the cross naked and hungry! We must run only to Christ to meet our needs, anything else is spiritual adultery. Our need is far greater than where our church building is (a present concern for the congregation I serve with), where we will be going for our mission trip, the style of music, and what will be for dinner on Wednesday night. Our need is to be washed by the Beloved, for Him to clothe our nakedness and feed us a meal only He can. We settle for mud pies when there is a great feast waiting for us (ref. CS Lewis). We bring nothing to the cross of our own, our great works and finest behavior is still before God like dirty rags. We have a problem, that problem is sin. Calling it anything else, ignoring God, being unsatisfied, struggling, etc. is a weakening of the very danger of this problem.
In Christ we are satisfied, blessed, saved, full, but more than anything else when we are saved it is the only way a human being can glorify God. Come to the cross naked, come hungry, come wanting, come with an outstretched hand Christian. And get ready for what Christ gives you! Don't settle for whatever else is there, and don't come with anything already on because Christ must be your all and all.
Wash me Savior, You are all I need. Wash me of every word and deed. Teach us to follow and depend on You. Amen

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Something to chew on...

Back in January 2007, I was working on some J-Term classes at Southern in an effort to get done with the M.Div. much quicker. My fiancee's roomate Julia sent home a CD with me that her mom had given her entitled The Revival Hymn. It was a collection of sermons on revival set to the music from the movies Last of the Mohicans, Glory, and several classical scores. What ensued was me sitting in the library at Southern weeping not only over my own guilt and unrighteousness, but also at the apathy with which I had lived for a long time, and the current state of despair and comfort that the American church is in. This amazing piece of work, with its stirring score and untold riches of Truth, is a must for anyone in spiritual leadership, and for that matter, any Christian who cares an ounce for the Kingdom of God. We cannot expect our evangelistic crusades and endeavors to work unless the Spirit of God is involved to awaken hearts and be the vehicle for grace which responds in faith to the call of the Gospel.
So often we do what is called "Utilitarian Religion" where God is a means to this end, namely our happiness. There are countless people who preach the benefits of salvation, the reward to the soul, and this is all true and good, but when we lose sight of the glory of Christ and the redemption He provides, we rob the Gospel of its earth-shattering, culture-changing, eternally significant power and make it into a vehicle for feeling good about yourself and having purpose. Listen, watch, enjoy, pray for your role in the Kingdom. May God do this great work again in our midst, my question is... Are you ready?

Monday, June 23, 2008

A Fascination with Indelible Grace

So lately I have become fascinated with a group called Indelible Grace, along with some of the contemporary hymn writers and others who seek to bring some depth and content to the music scene (i.e. Derek Webb, David Crowder, Chris Tomlin, etc.) where for so long it has been saturated with shallow, cliche-driven lyrics grounded on the same principles as Top-40 radio that if you get a cool catch phrase that repeats well and sounds good set to a beat, it can be successful. For many years in college and Seminary I was very jaded and unappreciative of Christian music for those very reasons, that the depth and wonder of the Gospel was watered down to Spector-ish garbage that packed sold-out arenas full of screaming hand-lifting young people who had no idea their minds were being sucked dry by empty lyrics.
The beautiful thing about depth of lyric is that we as people were created with a certain sensitivity to music and poetry and our memorization is increased when things are put to a rhythm and melody. Therefore, what better to commit to memory than rich theological Truth of great importance? Many of our hymns were written as confessional statements set to music, so that the church would sing with one accord what they believed. Sadly in recent years, the contemporary scene has reduced corporate singing to "Jesus Jesus how I love you, Jesus Jesus hold my hand" where we could replace Jesus with "baby" and it be a secular love song. I love contemporary music, and think there can be much good drawn from it and much benefit to the church from it. But may we never seek to replace doctrinal truth and depth of teaching in music with shallow catch phrases and an emotive response. Right now I am listening to In Christ Alone, a hymn that stirs the heart not because of the beat, but because of the amazing Truth that we find in it conveyed to us in our situation of living in light of the power of the Resurrection.
Sing church, sing about the hope of our Redeemer, sing of the Resurrection, sing of His power, sing of His mercy, His love, His grace, sing about His abiding with us and making us His treasure, sing with all your heart, sing with all your soul, and sing with all your mind. May we never tire of singing the praises of God, and may we never ever sacrifice the exaltation of the Son for the sake of sounding catchy, attracting attention, or getting a response from people.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Faithbook, the latest "You've got to be kidding me"

Today I read an article from The London Times online about a new group starting on Facebook called Faithbook (did I lose anyone... k good). Here is the link to the article:
It is a discussion forum started by a group of Reformed Jews in England wanting to promote interfaith discussion. That's great and all, I feel we should discuss with our Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Mormon, etc. friends the tenants of religion and in particular the distinctiveness of Christianity.
However, I fear the central premise under which Faithbook operates is yet another glorious step in the direction of religious ambiguity and the dissolution of the very concept of Truth. It is now no longer enough to not be exclusive, that it's bad to say that certain people genuine about a religious system will go to hell while others who are equally genuine about another will be rewarded with heaven. Now it's now just enough to say "don't be judgmental towards others," rather now the battle cry of the religious community is "there's nothing to be judgmental about!"
Think about it for a second, if all religious traditions are placed on equal ground with equal consideration with equal truth content, then there is no need to practice a certain kind of religion. Faith would be reduced to wearing a red hat one day and a blue hat another, the parts would be interchangeable and the distinctives of each would lose their meaning.
I believe that the imminent threat is there for the loss of the worldview that has prevailed for centuries that there is a definite right and wrong, and that things can not be any longer mutually exclusive. Language will now be the ultimate arbiter of truth, and if you choose to call the light darkness and the darkness light, good for you because you are using language to be the arbiter of truth. Truth by itself will cease to exist, there will be no need for an ontological necessity for Truth, everything will be relative.
What does this mean for religion? Well if the lines are blurred between the faiths, this means that the Christian will face hardship for quoting Christ when He said "No one comes to the Father but by me." It means the Jew will have a hard time in telling other people "The Lord is our God, the Lord is One." It means that the Muslim will no longer be able to say that Mohammed is the Chief Prophet of God.
Discuss faiths, discuss Christ, engage in conversation with those around you Christians. Do not do what we have typically done and retreated to our holy huddles. It is our fault for the loss of objective Truth, we have not stood firmly enough on the reality of a Source for Truth that must be in place in order for things to be true or not. Do not put different faiths on equal grounds, at the core of the major world religions is the fact that they are mutually exclusive. The Muslim is to look at the Christian, Jew, and anyone else not Muslim as an Infidel. The Jew is to look at the rest of the world as Gentile, not Jewish.
For us as Christians it means we see the world for what it is, a world inhabited of sinners lost and swimming in circles, and that the Cross of Christ is their only hope for salvation, forgiveness, purpose, reason, life, breath, and hope. Without that, we all blend into a blob of confused people chasing after the wind. Christians, read this and take heart, stand strong for the Faith, run the race boldly, and never compromise the Truth in Scripture for a sorry pluralism that gives everyone what they want but nothing what they need.