October 2009 Posts

Repenting for right-doing

One of the best known, engaging, and profound books in the Bible is the Book of Jonah. I’ve been living with Jonah for a couple of weeks and I’m stunned by the depth of this great story.  Most of us know of “Jonah and the whale” (great fish) but have you really considered the deep truths of the story.  Consider a few:

Lessons from the life of Jonah

1. I am called by God to bring His truth to the world- to be a witness for Him.  (1:1-2) Like Jonah, you and I have been called to be evangelists- we are all called to proclaim the great love and mercy of our great God.

2. I do not set the agenda for God’s call on my life. (1:3) You must answer God’s call on your life with no strings attached.

3. Delayed obedience can come with a huge price tag. (1:4-17) When God speaks we need to respond immediately.

4. The storms of my life will make you or break you. (2:1-10) It’s not whether or not you will go through a storm; it’s a matter of when. You’re either coming out of one, in one, or heading into one.  In the storm you will choose God’s salvation of not.

5. God’s plan for me supersedes my own plans and desires.  (3:1-10) As a Christ follower my only role is to trust and obey. Jonah wanted to decide for himself where to go and what to do.  He wanted to put discriminatory limits on God’s grace.  But unlike Jonah, God’s love is not bound my limits.

6. I may need to repent of my reasons for right-doing. (4:1-4) This is an amazing and troubling thing about this story: Disobedient Jonah was no better than obedient Jonah (in fact, he may have been worse).  He did what God wanted him to do but he loathed the people God sent him to and he loathed God throughout.  He is never positive about God, about the people, about his role… never!  He proclaimed the destruction of Nineveh and when it didn’t happen he is angry with God.  Imagine: he’s angry because God is so compassionate.  Jonah wanted God to prove that he was right.  He was using God to confirm that he was right, he wanted God to confirm his ministry, his existence- he wanted to use God for his own means.  Why do you do what you do?  What motivates you to do what you do as a Christian… really? Is it purely out of your love for God or do you have other motives?

Heart check: Am I truly grateful for all Christ has done for me? (4:5-11) At the heart of Jonah’s problem was his ingratitude.  Nothing satisfied him.  Ungrateful people are never positive people.  There is no such thing as a joyful, ungrateful person.  Jonah demanded mercy from God for himself but didn’t want the same for his enemies. Like us, while Jonah is consistently inconsistent, God is consistent throughout!  Don’t run.  Join God in what He’s up to in your life today!

Let Justice Roll

Our God is a God of justice. We often speak of His righteousness, but “righteousness” and “justice” are actually interchangeable words. Matthew 6:33 could be rendered, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His justice, and all these things shall be added to you as well.” Obviously, justice is a big deal to God. At it’s core, doing justice means doing the right thing. In so many ways we have missed the mark. Listen to the His words in Amos (an entire book on justice):

“I can’t stand your religious meetings. I’m fed up with your conferences and conventions. I want nothing to do with your religion projects, your pretentious slogans and goals. I’m sick of your fund-raising schemes, your public relations and image making. I’ve had all I can take of your noisy ego-music. When was the last time you sang to me? Do you know what I want? I want justice- oceans of it. I want fairness- rivers of it. That’s what I want. That’s all I want.” Amos 5:21-24 (The Message)

Are you just doing church or do you practice justice? Do you simply offer commentary on the plight of the poor, the oppressed, the under-resourced, or are you actually doing something about it? If so, then you are a kingdom person; if not, read those words above again- and again- until you’re moved to action. Let justice roll in your life.

Mercy triumphs over judgment!

Our God is a God of mercy.  In its simplest form, mercy is an act of love to someone who does not deserve it.  At its root it means that there is some punishment or wage to be paid but it has been pardoned or paid for.  If we are to be kingdom people, we must learn to be merciful toward others.

“But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” Ephesians 2:4-5

The problem is that we are too just.  We like justice too much.  We think, “I can’t offer mercy to them, they don’t deserve it” (They should get what they deserve).  But James tells us (2:13) that mercy triumphs over judgment (in fact, the NIV adds an exclamation point)!  Judgment, like justice is when we get what we deserve.  Mercy is when we don’t get what we deserve (judgment/punishment).  And grace is when we get what we don’t deserve.  So, mercy trumps judgment but grace trumps even mercy!  Wow.  Who are you prone to judge?  To whom do you need to show mercy?  Do it today.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” Matthew 5:7

“What Religion are you of?”

John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, preached a whole sermon in 1744 on Acts 4:31- (“And they were filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly”) to an audience at his alma mater, Oxford University, no less.  Here’s what he said:

“How few of you spend, from one week to another, a single hour in private prayer?  How few have any thought of God in the general tenor of your conversation!  Who of you is, in any degree, acquainted with the work of His Spirit, His supernatural work in the souls of men?  Can you bear, unless now and then, in a church, any talk of the Holy Ghost?  Would you not take it for granted, if one began such a conversation, that it was either hypocrisy or enthusiasm?  In  the name of the Lord Almighty, I ask, What Religion are you of?”

So, are you a hypocrite or an enthusiast?  (Or do you not speak of the Spirit and His work in your life at all?)  Let your words prove that you are a follower of Jesus Christ today.  Leave no room for questions regarding the “religion” you choose.  If you’ve chosen Jesus, let others know it.

Make sure HIS name comes up in your conversations today.  Let’s talk about Jesus.

When Truth Prevails

“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33

How do you do this?  How can you seek His kingdom and His righteousness in every day life?  Jesus spoke of the kingdom as a present and future reality- not simply something far off, out there in the distance. When Jesus taught us to pray He taught us that at the core of our prayers is this:

“Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Matthew 6:10

What does it mean for His kingdom to come “on earth as it is in heaven”?  It means that the values of the kingdom are the values I live by.  It means that the things that are happening in heaven are happening in and through my life.  It means that whatever God loves I love.  Whatever God hates I hate.  One of the things God loves is truth.

“Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.” Psalm 51:6

God desires total truth in every area of our lives.  Why?  Because He wants us to live full and meaningful lives.  And we’re only as sick as our secrets.  Sin, failure, and struggles that are brought out into the open can be addressed and dealt with.  There are certain things that grow in the dark- fungus grows in the dark.  Mushrooms grow in the dark- and SIN grows in the dark.  But sin is dealt with in the light.  It’s why, in John 1 it says that Christ came and He was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness but those living in darkness do not want to be brought into the light.  If you want to be a follower of Christ, you must come into the light.  In fact, that’s really what worship is: it’s stepping into the Light.  Truth prevails in the light.  Is truth a guiding force in your life?  Does it guide and direct your relationships?  Do you desire to be honest about who you really are?

Truth must prevail in your life (“prevail” means to “win, to succeed, triumph”)

Truth wins in your life only when you decide to get honest:

  • with God

This is why confession is so important.  Confession is actually “agreeing” with God.  When you confess your sin to God you’re agreeing that what you have done is sin.  You’re not telling God something He doesn’t already know; you’re allowing truth to prevail in your relationship with Him.

  • with yourself

We must see ourselves for who we really are.  We are sinners, saved by His grace.  And it’s “costly grace”- that costs you your life- every day.  Not cheap grace without repentance, without sacrifice, or without commitment. As we are honest about who God is and who we are before Him, we will confess our sin before Him and truth will prevail in our lives!  Confession is like spiritual breathing: You breathe out the truth about your sin and you breathe in the forgiveness of God.  Truth prevails when we keep a short list of sins before God.

  • with others

Being honest with others means we stop playing games with others about who we are.  We determine to be completely honest in our dealings with others.

Finally, truth is found in a right relationship with God through Christ.  If we know Him, we know the truth.  In the end Truth has a name and His name is Jesus.

Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  No one comes to the Father but through me.” John 14:6