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17
Mar 12

The Believer’s Nature

As I have already shared, the past several months, I have been reading the Scripture with a specific question in mind, “Who does God say I am? Who is the ‘new me’?” I have shared my decision to believe what I read in Scripture, rather than merely reading what I believe.

I recognize that what I am about to share may be controversial to some and may be misunderstood by others. However, I do not write to be controversial; I have a growing passion for the person of Jesus Christ to be revealed through His body. The Lord has shown me the folly of my own way of thinking, and I have a new desire for everything that I share to be judged by the Word of God. If I’m wrong, I’m wrong, and I need to change. It’s really that simple. I desire to be like the Bereans who searched Scripture to see if the things they heard were really truly, and I challenge you to do the same.

With that introduction, let me cut to the chase. In regard to our identity in Christ, I have been asking this simple question, “Do we have a sin nature?” Regardless of the theological and doctrinal answers I had received to that question, the impression that I had received from much of the teaching I’d heard had implied (and sometimes outrightly affirmed) an ongoing struggle with the sin nature.

Because of this, if I will be completely honest, it was difficult for me to even visit this question. If I say my nature isn’t to sin, is it not pride? If I visit this question, will I create some kind of faith that allows total lawlessness because it denies our capacity to sin? The true question, of course, is simply, “Is this concept Biblical?”

As I read Romans, I realized that Paul went to great lengths to persuade us that we died. What he means…we’re dead! If I’m dead, it means that the “old me” is dead, gone, and buried–because that’s what happens to dead people. The “old me” was crucified with Christ, and a “new me” rose with him. The “old me” was under legal obligation to sin, but he’s dead, so I’m not under obligation. The “old me” is not something I have to kill; it’s something that happened on the cross 2000 years ago. In fact, because this is our reality, Paul tells us to consider ourselves as being dead to sin! This means that we need to change our thinking to believe that we are dead to sin. The “old me” is dead, along with its bent towards sin, and the “new me” is alive to Christ.

The question naturally follows, “If I’m dead to sin, why do I not always feel like it?” However, we can ask this question differently, “If the Word of God does not match my experience, which do I believe?” If the Word of God says I’m dead to sin, it means that I’m dead to sin. If we believe that we have a sin nature, we will live as if we have a sin nature. The trouble with believing that we have a sin nature is that it keeps us in bondage to sin. How can I get free from sin when it is part of my nature? And is that not the reason we died with Christ, because we were fundamentally broken and could not please God? However, if we believe that we are truly dead to sin, we will live as though we are dead to sin, and we will live free from it–because Jesus really did die to set us free from the control of sin!

I have heard many people quote Romans 7:15, which says, “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” At first glance, it appears that perhaps Paul is saying that he has a sin nature. However, as we look at the context, we see that he is describing us before Christ. The law that was given is a spiritual law, but those who are of the flesh (non-spiritual) cannot fulfill a spiritual law. In fact, he sets the context of this passage with verse 14, “I am of the flesh, sold under sin.” In other words, you can embrace verse 15, “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate,” only if you embrace the previous verse that you are of the flesh, sold under sin. When Paul wrote this, was he really confessing that he was of the flesh and sold under sin? And if this is what Paul meant, why did he continue in Romans 8 by thanking God for condemning sin in the flesh through Jesus Christ? How can this tension continue if God has taken care of the underlying problem?

I have heard a second explanation, that if we must die daily, implying that if we don’t, our old self will resurrect. I can find two passages possibly supporting this. In 1 Corinthians 15:31, Paul proclaims, “I die every day!” However, Paul is not talking about dying to sin. In the previous verse, he talks about being in physical danger every hour, and in the following verse he talks about the beasts of Ephesus. This concept is in reference to Jesus’ words in Luke 9, where he instructs us to take up our cross daily. This is in the context of Him telling His disciples that He must suffer and must face persecution, and I personally believe Jesus’ intent was that we not shrink back from facing suffering or persecution.

I have heard a third explanation for this, that we are “positionally sanctified” and “progressively sanctified”. I understand that we grow in faith and knowledge of our Lord, and I understand that not everyone’s spiritual journey continues at the same rate. However, my concern is that our belief in progressive sanctification keeps us from experiencing the fullness of what God has already done. If Scripture teaches that it’s normal for us to continually battle something we call a sin nature, I am willing to embrace that. However, that’s not what I read. What I read is that we are not under obligation to sin; and if we are not under obligation, why would we live under it? No matter what our experience, we must believe what God says about us. As we embrace what He says, our experience will follow. If it is what God has spoken, it means it is truth and reality. To live according to that is to live in reality.

The issue of a sin nature is not merely an intellectual issue. It is an intensely practical issue. Our beliefs drive our actions. If we believe that our nature is sinful, we have no way of escaping the control of sin, because it is part of who we are. We will continue to fight with something that Jesus dealt with 2000 years ago. If we believe that we are dead to sin and alive to Christ, we will live free from its grip and control.

As a final disclaimer, I am not saying that we cannot sin. Adam and Eve sinned before the fall, and we have the option to obey sin and become its slaves. Though we have the choice, we are under no obligation!

I recognize that this discussion opens a plethora of additional questions. As I said, I do not intend to argue or invoke controversy. I only desire the Word of God to be my ultimate authority, and I want to allow what He says to dictate my life, not my own opinions or experiences!

Soli Deo gloria.


12
Mar 12

Experiencing Truth

Here is another simple concept that has been reshaping the way that I live: “God wants our experience to match truth.”

I have two examples.

First, the truth is that God loves me. God wants me not only to know it in my mind, but He wants me to know it in my heart. Because He is a real God, He wants me to not only know in my mind that He loves me, but He wants me to experience His love.

Second, the truth is that God is always present. He does not merely want me to know that intellectually, but He wants His truth to define my experience. When God says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you,” His heart is for me to know His presence. When God says that I am His temple, His heart is for me to know His indwelling presence. He does not just want it to be in my mind, but He wants me to experience His presence.

I could give a hundred more examples, because this truth applies to every facet of God.

Am I now reducing Christianity to merely a pursuit of an “experience”? Absolutely not! Some of us have gotten scared because of people who seem almost drunk with a desire for some of kind of “experience”, and in their pursuit, they have lost sight of truth. Yes, we must learn from their failures, but we can’t let their failures keep us bound in fear! We must pursue God, and in our pursuit of Him, we must pursue His truth. And we must allow Him and His truth to dictate our experience. 

Whenever we separate truth and experience, we end up with an intellectual gospel that is merely about ideas and theology but is void of power to change lives. I have seen young people who, having grown up in the church, leave searching for more–sometimes desperately seeking God in hunger for more and sometimes completely disillusioned with what the church offered. These people are not looking for more ideas or better theology; they are looking for the living God.

How can we come to this place of experiencing God’s truth?

Jesus said we must come to Him as little children. It is as simple as coming to our Father like a little child, crawling up into His lap, looking up into His eyes, and telling Him, “I believe you.” It is not by our own effort; it is not something we earn. It is simply because He has spoken it, it is truth, and we believe what He says.

May we never lose the simplicity or reality of the gospel, and may our lives be transformed by His truth. May we know Him deeply, and may the reality of His love and His presence not just change our minds but change our lives and ultimately transform our experience of Him!

Soli Deo gloria!


7
Mar 12

Christ Is All

The past several months, my life has been getting more and more wrapped up in the person of Jesus Christ. It started when I made a commitment to believe what I read in Scripture, and not long after that I began to read things like this–that He lives in me [1], that I am in Him [2], that I have the mind of Christ [3], that my body is Christ’s [4], that my spirit is one with Christ’s [5], that I am dead [6], that I am alive to Him [7], that I am His righteousness [8], that I am seated with Him in heavenly places [9], and that I am no longer by nature a child of wrath but have a new nature [10].

I came to realize that my identification with Christ runs really, really deep. While I had no trouble believing it intellectually, it is taking me a long time to truly internalize it and embrace it. I’ve had to change the way that I think, sometimes in drastic ways.

I would like to make two bold propositions for you to consider and weigh:

First, we cannot truly understand the gospel until we can start imagining Jesus literally walking around in our flesh, because this is how deeply we are identified with Christ. If we can imagine Jesus doing it, maybe we should be doing it as well–not because we want to merely be like Jesus, but we want to live out Jesus. From what I read in Scripture, this means things like loving the unlovable, healing the sick, raising the dead, unraveling the enemy’s kingdom, setting captives free, glorifying and magnifying the Father, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom.

Second, this concept of the revelation of Jesus Christ is a very foundational concept in a believer’s life with profound implications, but in my many years of attending church services, I can count on one hand the number of sermons on this truth. I have heard many times that we cannot measure up to God’s standard, and this is true–or rather, this was true! This was the truth that drove me to the cross! However, we dare not stop there! A half truth can be the most dangerous weapon, and we dare not preach half the gospel! We cannot allow us as believers to think, act, and believe as if we were not saved, not redeemed, not identified with Christ, not sons and daughters, and not heirs! Thanks be to God! Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, I have access to His riches not because of what I’ve done but because of what He’s said about who I am. If this is what God says about me, no feeling, no opinion, and no experience will counter it. He is truth, and I choose to pattern my life around what He says.

May Jesus Christ truly become the central figure in our life!

Soli Deo gloria.

Footnotes:

  1. Gal 2:20
  2. Col 3:3
  3. 1 Cor 1:16
  4. 1 Cor 6:15
  5. 1 Cor 6:17
  6. Ro 6:6, Gal 2:20, Gal 5:24, Col 2:12
  7. Ro 6:8, Gal 2:20, Col 2:12
  8. 2 Cor 5:21
  9. Eph 2:6
  10. 2 Cor 5:17, Eph 2:3

20
Feb 12

The Living Gospel

What is the gospel? Is it an idea? Is it a doctrine? Is it a feeling? Is it a behavior?

No, the gospel is more than that. The gospel is a person. It is not merely about Christ. It is not merely for Christ. It is Christ.

If we preach good ideas, people may learn more about Christ. If we show kindness to them, they may learn more about how Christ would act. But unless we lead people into an encounter with the living person of Jesus Christ, it all falls short. An anointed teaching will lead people into an encounter with the living Christ. An anointed act of kindness will lead people into an actual encounter with the love of a living Christ.

How does this happen? This happens by the spirit of revelation that causes the reality of Christ to explode in our lives. The natural mind cannot understand spiritual realities; it takes the Holy Spirit to understand spiritual realities. (They are spiritual; therefore, they are related to the spirit and are spiritually discerned.) This is what Paul prayed for the Ephesian church–that they may receive the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of God.

My prayer for you is very simple–that the Father would give you a spirit of revelation, that you may receive the revelation of the person of Jesus Christ!

Soli Deo gloria.


10
Feb 12

The End of Silence

Those of you who have been following my blog know that I have written almost incessantly for a year. However, last October I all but quit writing.

I’m here to tell you that I’m back. However, I am not writing as the same man as before. I am writing as a man who has been dramatically changed, dramatically wrecked, and dramatically ravished by God. I am writing as a man who feels like he knows less of the Bible, who feels like he has less faith in God, and who feels like he has given so little for the sake of the kingdom.

When I wrote my Sola Scriptura series, I underestimated how radically this concept would shake my world. I’ve taken it upon myself to believe the Word of God and to let God stretch my faith in obedience to His Holy Spirit. God has opened my eyes to huge levels of unbelief and disobedience in my life. It is difficult for me to boast in my strengths when God has so clearly defied my strength and my wisdom.

No cost is too great to align ourselves with God’s Word. No opinion of man is so wise as to counter what God has written. No scoffing, no scorn, no concern, and no disagreement can diminish the supremacy of Christ and the glory of Christ. God has shown me the utter foolishness of man’s thinking–specifically my own–and because of that, He has had to turn my theology upside down. I can no longer live as I have lived in the past, nor can I speak as I have spoken in the past. I am under obligation by the God of the universe to preach only Christ, and to allow the reality of His kingdom to turn my world upside down. “God has, in these last days, spoken through His Son.” Anything apart from Christ is powerless, foolish, and quite simply, wrong. He is perfect theology, and He is wisdom fully alive.

We are called to be witnesses of that which we have seen and heard. I am witnesses not of the teachings of man but of the revelation of the person of Jesus Christ, and I will testify to that revelation. What I will write is a testimony of what I have seen and heard, and it is an invitation into the greater glory that is available for all those who believe.

Soli Deo gloria!


17
Dec 11

Real Men

Dedicated to my father, who gave me more than he had received, so that I would go places he could never reach.

Real men are those who are willing to live by conviction, who chose to live by what they themselves know to be true rather than by the opinions of others.

Real men are those who are willing to break the status quo, to say, “This is not the way things should be!”

Real men are those who are willing to stand up and face the crowd, who are willing to cry “foul” while everyone looks on in helpless and hopeless silence.

Real men are those who are willing to face the uncertainty of the future and to bring vision into reality.

Real men are those who take the risky steps into the unknown, creating a path for others to follow.

Real men are those who press on to their destination when the road is dark, when they still see no fruit of their labour and no evidence of progress.

Real men are those who give  their lives to a cause that is worth dying for, so that even in life, they die; and even in death, they live.

Real men are those who rise to the challenge, not only when they feel like it, but especially when they don’t–when the situation seems hopeless and out of control and all strength is exhausted.

Real men are those who give of themselves, fighting for the breakthrough of those who may never remember or whose path they may never cross again.

Real men are those who carry themselves with dignity, using it not for their own good but to bestow dignity to the undignified.

Real men are those who fight for those weaker than themselves, who give a voice to the silent one, and who recognize the hidden ones.

Real men are those who are willing to speak the truth in love, who are willing to cross the threshold of pain for someone else’s good.

Real men are those who keep on being real men, long after their manliness has ceased to be glamorous or poetic, when being a man feels more messy than mighty.

These are the men who deserve the accolades of crowds, the honours of medals, and the gratitude of their friends–but who serve with no regard to their attention, their honor, or their recognition.

It is by the choices and actions of such men that the world is changed. One man is a minority, but one man and God is a majority. The world around you is waiting for that one man who, because of His faith in God, stands as a majority. The world around you is waiting for that one man who, because of his fearlessness, steps out in a bold act of faith and obedience.

You were called to greatness. You were called to make a difference. Christ came in the flesh so that we could see a real man, and He raised us up with Him so that we could become real men. And Christ died so that you would not only be raised up with Him, but that you would also reign with Him. He gave His life so that your life would be significant and so that your life would make a difference.

These are real men.

It is upon the shoulders of such men that I stand.

By the grace of God, it is in the footsteps of such men that I will follow.

Soli Deo gloria.


28
Nov 11

Being Responsible

Responsibility is a funny thing. It’s one of those things that we laud, but sometimes we use it as a coverup for deeper problems.

Imagine: Your coworker is assigned to clean the restrooms at work. He doesn’t. You “assume responsibility” and clean it for him.

You seem like such a team player. In reality, your “responsibility” is masking his irresponsibility. You’ve just become an enabler for his poor choices.

Imagine: You are burning out because you’re stuck in a role that is extremely difficult for you to fill, a load that’s bigger and more difficult than you were ever intended or created to fill. But you are a “responsible person” so you stick it out with Herculean effort.

You seem like such a disciplined person. In reality, your “responsibility” is preventing you from taking care of your own body, investing in your family or friends, and being everything you could be to your team.

Sometimes we define “responsibility” as a “sense of guilt” or “obligation”. We feel a sense of guilt, then follow we through with a certain action in the name of responsibility.

I’m learning to redefine “responsibility”. Responsibility is not guilt but accountability.

As ridiculous as this may sound, I’ve often carried guilt for other people’s poor decisions. After all, is it not “responsible” to care for other people? The truth, however, is that your parents were responsible to raise you, and you are responsible to live your life. Your parents are accountable for how they raised you. You are accountable for how you live your life.

For you leaders, one day you will need to give an account for the souls of those you lead. Because you are accountable, they are also your responsibility.

Meanwhile, I will not give account for everyone else’s actions, decisions, or mistakes. I will give account for how I live my life and how I respond to God’s call and commands. That’s my responsibility.

Go forth in responsible accountability, not in irresponsible guilt. 🙂


22
Nov 11

Growing Up Too Fast: Introduction

Have you ever thought about what it means to grow up too fast?

Have you heard stories of young children who are forced into difficult physical labor before their bodies are developed? Although I am no medical expert, I am certain this can cause a lifetime of physical ailments, and I can easily imagine it resulting in damaged backs.

Have you heard stories of young children who are required to nurture and care for their (much younger) siblings? Because of situations beyond their own control, they’re given too much responsibility too soon. Sadly, it can leave a deep scar on their lives.

Though these responsibilities are legitimate parts of a human experience, they’re damaging when they come too soon in life. These children lose the benefit of a truly healthy, joy-filled childhood.

Here’s what it means for me.

I just realized last week that it’s possible even for grownups to grow up too fast. More surprising, I found not only that it was possible, but that I was doing that to myself.

Sometimes we force ourselves to grow up too fast in life. We want to move on to the next thing. We want our driver’s license. We want to get out of school. We want to start our first job. We want to fall in love, get married, raise a family, start a business someday, retire eventually, and enjoy our grandchildren. In our haste to reach the next step, we don’t fully develop ourselves to gain the strength that we need for the next step. Even worse, we miss the wonder and joy each “childhood” season of our lives.

You may find yourself stretching for the next “big thing”. Anticipate it, but always remember–your growth in this season will be the strength that will sustain you in your next. Don’t miss what this season of life offers for you, because it can never be regained!

Live where God has you, soak up the wonder of being a child, and look forward to where He will lead you!


21
Nov 11

Output Is Input

Last week I was reminded of Jesus’ words, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me.” I’ve mentioned this verse in previous posts, but I keep returning to it. I’ve been pondering a new aspect of it. Simply put:

  1. Food implies input.
  2. Doing God’s will implies output.
  3. In other words, output is input.

Did you know that lack of activity can be the cause of fatigue?

I’ve been finding myself in that place in my personal life, where I cannot stomach another sermon, another book, or even another truth. I have these ideas swelling within me, and they are begging to be set free. Until I set them free, they eat at my insides like intestinal worms, stealing my appetite and robbing the nutrition of those things I do eat.

Deep within you, you have a compulsion for certain things. If you’re sensitive to those desires, you’ll find ways to express them. But if not, you will suppress them. These are things that God has placed within you to share with the world, and you will not be satisfied or fulfilled until you share them. You may actually find yourself getting tired simply because you’re not using them.

In fact, I believe a doing churches are hungry churches. The ones who can take the God’s truths and live them out are the ones who desire more of God’s truth. The ones who empower people to use their gifts and walk in their call are the ones whose people are pounding the gates of heaven for more of God. Sadly, I believe the opposite is also true. I believe the ones who hear God’s Word but don’t respond are the very ones who become full satisfied. I believe many of the dissatisfied people in the church are those who feel like they are making no significant contribution.

Jesus did not say that His food is to do good works, although Jesus definitely went about doing good works. Jesus said that His food is doing the will of the One who sent Him.

What is it that God has called you to? Where have you deviated from that call? How can you find your way back onto that path?

Soli Deo gloria.


14
Nov 11

Risk

What do you think of when you think about risk? None of us can see the future. Does that uncertainty strike fear in you?

I was recently telling my story to another young man, and he marveled at the risk I took to leave software development and embark on another journey. While he marveled at me, I marveled at him. You see, I don’t see myself as a risk-taker.

If I had moved from my starting point to my destination in a single leap, I might have called it risk! However, looking back, each step of the journey was so small and so measured that it hardly merits being called a risk.

When God calls us to a new task, many of us instinctively respond by calling it a risk. We become scared because the destination is so distant and seems so difficult. However, the same God who called you there is the God who will lead you there. As you follow Him step by step, He will show you the way and lead you there. The more that you journey with God and see His hand at work, the deeper your trust will be in Him to work out the details of the journey.

This is the story of the men and women of faith. God told Abraham, “I will lead you to a land that I will show you.” Abraham’s first step was leaving. After Abraham left, God led him, then finally God showed him.

What is it that God is calling you to that has you paralyzed in fear? What is the next step for you? Can you find the courage to lift up your foot and take the next step? (Or maybe you just need to get off your seat and stand up!)

Take the first step.

Then take the next one.

Keep going.

Then if He leads you to a roller-coaster, just strap in, hang on, and scream! 🙂