Friday, October 7, 2011

GOD Has Thrown in the Towel!

Strange title for this entry, eh?

Some of you might remind me that God wouldn't "throw in the towel", He wouldn't quit, or relent or give up - He can't grow weary because it says so in His Word:

Isaiah 40:28

Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding
.

Others might see a contradiction between this verse, and the creation account described in Genesis and later commented on in Exodus 20:

Exodus 20:11

For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it
.

Incidentally, this is a great proof text to show (from vs. 10 to 11) that the six days of creation are a literal six days as vs. 11 is comparative to vs. 10!

Yet when God "rested" it wasn't demonstrating weariness, but simply having completed a task, He stopped working. I can go about the task of dusting furniture and when I'm done, I can immediately go and lift weights. I've "rested" from dusting, but not weary at all.

No, what I'm referring to is something altogether different.

Let's turn back the clock of time to about 33 A.D. in Jerusalem and visit the dwelling that's come to be known as the Upper Room (a place I've visited twice now when I traveled to Israel).

It's the Passover: the LORD Jesus Christ had made arrangements previously to celebrate the Passover with His disciples here, which many believe was the residence of John Mark's parents (Mark, who became a believer, was the amanuenses for Peter in writing his gospel account; hence the Gospel of 'Mark'; and was the nephew of Barnabas who accompanied his uncle 'Barney' and Paul the apostle on a missions trip).

This was a blessed event, and one I'm sure that every believer would have loved to partake of, with our LORD actually present with us - but this is no vain wish you know! There is coming a day when we will partake of this Supper, with our Resurrected LORD in the Kingdom! See Matthew 26: 29

Blessing was mixed with burden however on that night, because the LORD disclosed to His followers that "one of [them] with betray [Him]" Matthew 26: 20 - 25 states: "and they were extremely sorrowful and asked 'LORD, is it I?'." Eleven of them asked Him that question, but a twelfth said something similar:

"Master, is it I?" Note, this disciple didn't call Him "LORD" but "Master" that is, 'teacher'. This was Judas Iscariot, the self-serving disciple! Interesting!

Then something else happened:

Luke 22:24 And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest.

Could you imagine being a fly on the wall in there? Seeing these apostles bickering among themselves?

"James and I are going to be the greatest! After all, we're the sons of thunder! And we were on the Mount of Transfiguration when the LORD allowed us a special revelation!"

"Don't you two forget, that I was there too," exclaimed Peter. "And I might add, who of you have ever walked on water?!"

"Typical boast from a big brother!" retorted Andrew, but which one of you is always leading people to Jesus, hmm? That should tell you something!"

I can hear a crescendo of cacophony as tempers flared and heated words became hotter, and in the midst of this tumult, a lone figure arises and quietly goes about a needed task. He pours water into a basin, then girds a towel around His waist. Slowly, so as to not spill the basin filled to the rim with water, He makes His way to the first of His disciples.

While on the way, one of them notices, and falls silent and stares. Another sees the disciple staring and turns himself to see what he was looking at. He too falls silent in shock.

The basin is set at the foot of the recliner (people ate at the tables while reclining on couches in those days; chairs were an invention of previous times, but in the Middle Eastern culture of those days, this was the preferred method) of the first disciple and suddenly the room was hushed until all you could hear was the sloshing of water as the towel was dipped, and the LORD Jesus began to wash the disciples dirty feet.

You see, it was typically the job of a hired servant (and then, the lowest of these) to greet guests at the door and offer them the customary foot washing, as people in those days wore sandals and walked miles of dusty, unpaved roads. I can just picture the disciples as they first entered this place, noticing that there was no basin of water ready, and no servant . . . can you just see them staring at each other with disdain, each knowing what the other was thinking?

'There is no way, I'm going to wash your feet! Don't you know who I am? I'm the greatest in our LORD's kingdom, that's who!"

And yet there they were, reclining, bickering and insisting on the greater virtues of themselves as being worthy of the greater honor in the kingdom - still and silent however, were those men as the LORD quietly, humbly and willingly washed one man's feet after another, and another.

Note that not one of them interrupted the LORD and said, "Please, let me do that!" Peter came closest in refusing to have the LORD wash his feet (John 13: 8). Yet the LORD insisted, saying that if He didn't, then Peter would have "no part with Me" and upon hearing that, Peter said, "Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head." I have to smile when I read these words of such love and devotion.

The LORD in response said that " . . . He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit . . ." (vs. 10). We are washed judiciously from our sins by the blood of the Lamb, but in consecration of daily washing from our daily walks with the LORD where our 'feet' can get dirty in a world of sin, there is the washing of the water of the WORD. Once so washed, we "have part" with the LORD in fellowship, but not until then (Eph. 5:26-27; 1 John 1:7-9)

Yet the LORD continued, uninterrupted until He finally completed His task, and then (from different Gospel accounts) said:

John 13:13-17

Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am.
If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet.
For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him.
If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them
.

And then from Luke's Gospel we have:

Luke 22:25-27

And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors.
But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve.
For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as he that serveth
.

As is so often the case, the 'rules' of the kingdom, or 'kingdom principles' as they are called, are Topsy turfy, upside down, and diametrically opposed to the 'rules of the world'. And this is to a point, that God's "(blessed) ways are not our (baneful) ways" Isaiah 55:8-9.

The values, the estimable virtues, those things highly esteemed in the kingdoms of this world (whose ruler, or 'god' is Satan) are power and the acquisition of more power for the purpose of subjugating others beneath those with a 'will to power' as Nietzsche would put it.
To lavish oneself with wealth, opulence, even decadence in a self-serving philosophy motivated by pride, arrogance and "sensual wisdom"; this is what Satan offered to the LORD when he promised to deliver "ALL these things . . . (note: not some, much or most!)" at the temptation in the wilderness (Matt. 4:8-9).

I believe this may well be the deal with the devil that the anti-Christ will agree to, once he comes into his own.

Yet the kingdom of God is far different in its values, virtues and those things highly esteemed by God!
The riches of His kingdom are far and above greater than anything that this world can offer, thus to "esteem the reproach of Christ [as] greater riches" (Heb. 11:26) and be rejected by this world as He was (and still is!) by adhering to one's allegiance and loyalty to God and His Holy Word.

Meekness, humility, gentleness, surrendering and sacrificing self as a servant of God to people for the LORD's sake and out of a mutual love for those people - these are the things that make for greatness in God's Kingdom!

Now, its the same Person that gave us the greatest example of 'servanthood' Who will also be adorned and adored in worship, as the greatest King! The very KING of Kings and LORD of Lords, Jesus Christ.

And the LORD is building a kingdom where, not merely its subjects, but the co-regent who will sit with Him on His throne, "seated in the heavenlies" - an overcoming bride that mirrors the character and servanthood of her Bridegroom.

Luke 14:11

For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased
(Like Lucifer and all his followers); and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted (Like the LORD Jesus and all of His followers). See also Matt. 18:4; 1 Pet 5:6

James 4:6-10

But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.
Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness.
Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up
.

Those who are proud and resistant are not open to God's ways, but to the Frank SINatra method - they want to do it "MY way" and remember: all it took to turn a holy cherub into a devil was for him to say "MY will be done" rather than "THY will be done" (Isaiah 14:12-19. compare this with the admonition from James).

Those who are humble as a little child (Luke 18:16-17), who are willing to learn, to be led, teachable and obedient (who do not ascribe to themselves proud wisdom and lofty knowledge), these will be led into the Kingdom by those kingdom principles outlined in the Word, expressly described in the GOSPEL.

The Gospel's central message of course is the atonement for our sins by the LORD Jesus Himself, the very KING of Kings who clothed Himself with humility and died in the most shameful way possible: by bearing our sins upon His Holy Soul!

Matthew 20:26-28

But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister;
And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant:
Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many
(See also Phil. 2:5-11 the very opposite of Lucifer's pride and fall as recorded in Isaiah 14th chapter, cited above).

Such a ransom that was paid as we will never be able to conceive or fully understand! How our HOLY and PRECIOUS, GENTLE and GRACIOUS LORD suffered so terribly with our heinous sins laid upon Him!
This is the ULTIMATE in servanthood!!

Think of the LORD Jesus Christ and compare Him with the world leaders today: no comparison is there?

Yet when one considers Jesus Christ, there is no doubt that His holiness and virtue, His nobility and integrity, His truthfulness and sense of justice, and mercy and grace; His love and His peace and temperance, His patience and meekness; His possession of all knowledge and wisdom, His possession of all power, His possession of all good attributes causes any and all others to pale in utter absurdity as viable candidates for rightful ruling.

The LORD Himself stands apart as the singular candidate that is wholly and reverently worthy of rulership; and He desires to make us such as Himself.
And where does this sanctified training begin?

Perhaps right where the LORD Jesus threw in the towel in the Upper Room?
Will we pick up that towel and take up where our LORD (supposedly; He is still serving really!) left off?

Servanthood isn't a drag at all when you're doing it along side of JESUS (Mark 16:19-20)! By His Spirit, you will find yourself anointed, to some degree as He Himself was, as a servant of the LORD! This is a blessed place to be!
Here is a biblical portrait of the SERVANT of the LORD, JESUS:

Isaiah 61:1-2a ¶ (See also 42:1-8; 52:13-15)

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD . . .


And this same Servant is coming back as the Rightful Ruler Who will dispense justice, equity and execute such as these as the KING and JUDGE of the whole Earth!

Isaiah 61:2b-3
. . . and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn;
To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified
.

Let's consider these truths as they've been put into song:

The SERVANT KING

Let's REMEMBER: OTHERS for THE LORD's SAKE, by HIS GRACE! And follow our LORD, the SERVANT KING!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Are You A CROSS cultural Christian?

American College Heritage Dictionary defines culture as follows:

The totality of socially transmitted behavior patterns, arts, beliefs, institutions, and all other products of human work and thoughts. These products considered as the expression of a particular period, class, community, or population.

A part of almost any culture you can think of is religion. It's no different here in America, where Christianity has been a significant contributor to the culture. In fact, Christianity itself has become so cultured and sophisticated and embellished that our pastors are now quite intellectual and open minded; the apparent need for modern apparatuses such as philosophy, psychology, sociology have been amply added to the church for the betterment of all concerned.

Our pews are plush, our crosses are polished, our congregations are dressed in their finest, perfumed and prim. Some of us are dressed like we are going 'clubbing' though, rather than to church!

Our messages are very 'today', concise and centered around how we can be made better: better parents, better children; better employees and employers; better neighbors, better friends, etc. They are peppered with anecdotal, positive words that tickle us and give us warm, cozy religious feelings. We learn how to have purpose, how to have our best life now, even how to see those in other religions as having their own corner on truth and spirituality.

Sometimes we even have joint services with them, or have their leaders speak from our pulpits and ours teaching in their own places of worship.

We have even come to see how there could very well be other legitimate paths to God and salvation!

Shame on us!

The church founded upon Jesus Christ, in that first and second century met in catacombs or desolate, dark buildings on the outskirts of villages, fully aware that if they were caught, it would cost them their lives. To be a Christian then meant suffering, blood and death in the physical world ...
Today's Christianity isn't about what it "will cost me" but "what can I get out of this?" Churches today are not about perilous meeting places, but plump and comfortable furnishings.

The early church confronted a fallen world with the truth, not fearing whether or not their words might offend those who would sneer at the idea that they were sinners. Today we are afraid to offend those in our own pews with the notion of our own sinfulness, of the need for repentance and living holy lives before God.
The early church was concerned about offending a Holy God; today we are concerned about offending the congregation that carries tithes into the collection plates.

Rather than polished crosses that Christians adorn on their sanctuary walls and altars or wear on necklaces or rings, Christians then wore crosses on their whip-torn backs - and those weren't smooth and polished but rough-hewn, splintered and stained with blood from frequent use. They willingly suffered and died on those crosses.

We prefer to keep our crosses clean though, and feel uncomfortable talking about Jesus' blood that He shed on His cross - there are even some pastors that deny the cross and the blood shed there, claiming that this is a 'slaughter house religion of barbarism' about a "vengeful God Who has a blood lust (and no, I'm not making this up!)."

Whereas today, churches and their pastors think nothing of mixing the Gospel with the more enlightened knowledge of modern science, philosophy and liberal-minded reception of religious ecumenism, the early church thundered with bold declaration, denouncing the prodigious lies and deceptions of the false religious systems and philosophies that surrounded them.

Yes, we are far more cultured today in the church, more refined and conciliatory towards a society that doesn't like the cross, doesn't like the idea of self-denial, doesn't like the distinction between truth and lies, of being right or wrong; doesn't like this 'Jesus' that demands whole-hearted repentance and commitment to Him as LORD and Savior . . . so we make things more 'friendly' for these 'seekers' and hide these offensive truths away from view.

We could very well say that the culture of the world has become our own!
And the culture we experience in today's churches are very much about human thinking and human works (sit and watch some videos by today's popular emergent pastors and tell me if they aren't espousing their own thinking and rallying people to engage in humanly-inspired works of the green or social [justice] gospel kind!), rather than the Divine thinking of the Word, and Divine work as already accomplished at the Cross of Jesus Christ.

This is not however, the culture of Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God! No, not in the least!

The culture that Jesus brought to His church was about spiritually transmitted (via the rebirth into Christ Jesus) behavior by the Holy Spirit - not a society. Behavior that looked to God as the highest priority; behavior that sought to please Him above self, behavior that led to dying and denying self, not greedily gathering up resources to better one self! Behavior that was consumed in love and obedience to God!

The art in the culture that Jesus brought to His church is of His artistry and the artwork He is engaged in is . . . you! Did you know that as a genuine child of God, you are a work of art in God's eyes? Beautiful and attractive in the finished product that He knows you will one day be in Him (EPH 2:10 "workmanship" in the Greek is poema, which is where we get the word 'poem' from)?

The beliefs of Jesus' culture were all about the Word of God; He didn't use any philosophy or psychology, or even 'theology' in His ministry - Just the Word of God. He didn't take courses in 'seeker friendly' methods of growing congregations fast and bring popular and positive messages that made His hearers feel good about themselves. He never voiced His 'opinion' in ministry; everything He ever said was Truth.

The institution that Jesus Christ established was a singular institution and it wasn't a cemetery - uh, excuse me, I meant seminary (well, same thing these days, for the most part!). What He established was the church and He endowed the church with such power from the Holy Spirit that not even the gates of hell would be able to withstand our charge.

Oh, but that's right! Our modern churches have too much sense than to believe in a literal hell. How unsophisticated and barbaric that would be!

As Sure As Hell
It was the body of Christ that ministered the Word of God, and prayer, and the LORD's supper and fellowship - and that was enough (ACTS 2:42,47)!

There were no church programs, no youth groups, no Sunday Schools, no A/C, no Power Point presentations, no church membership cards, no 20 member praise bands, no Gramma Biker Bible Study groups or other specialized groups that tailored to the tastes of seekers who were hungry for more than just the Word of God. How uncouth and unprofessional of that ignorant early church!

All they had was the Word of God and the Holy Spirit - that poor, deprived pitiful band of believers . . . yet they turned the world upside down, and didn't employ a single modern-day method to do it with!

What do you think? Do we need to return to the culture that the LORD Jesus Christ intended for His church? What was that culture all about?

The Cross.

Are you a Cross-cultural Christian?
And what is that, you might ask?
Well, we covered some of it already, didn't we?

The Cross of Jesus Christ and what this represents is the pivotal point in the life of every soul that comes to Christ for salvation. It is the point where we die to our old life and start anew by the Spirit of God, and find that we belong to God Who bought us with His own blood (GAL 2:20; ROM 8:2, 11; ACTS 20:28; 1 COR 6:19-20)!


JOHN 3:16-17
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved
.

The KING of Heaven, the HOLY GOD Incarnate didn't come to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many (MARK 10:45) on that Cross and by shedding His righteous blood, bought and brought salvation to us all.

The Highest and Holiest KING anywhere in or out of the universe took upon Himself the form of a servant, and didn't merely bear our sins, but became sin for us Who knew no sin, that the righteousness of God would be ours! (PHIL 2: 7-8; 2 COR 5:21). He was obedient to the end of His Holy life and died for our sins.

This is the sort of "cross culture" He wants for and from His church, and the behavior, belief, institution and product that the LORD desires in and from us! A culture of love: love for our Father GOD, our fellow saints and the fallen sinners but with no love whatever for this rebel planet and the governing forces of evil that enslaves it.

Where we will no longer be concerned about self, but DELIVERED from self and all its bondage's and freely, willingly, cheerfully and lovingly devout ourselves in service to the LORD - even if it kills us! And if the cross has its way with us, it will!!

ROM 6:6-7, 11-13
Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.
For he that is dead is freed from sin.
Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord
.


Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.
Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God
.


Other passages (this list is not comprehensive, but a sampling) that describe the kind of culture that the LORD desires for us, His church that has encountered the cross as sinners, endured it as those who have died, and walked from the cross as those risen from the dead to new life in Christ, not self:

MATT 5
ROMANS 8
1 CORINTHIANS 13
GALATIANS 5
EPHESIANS 5



In the following video presentations by Gayle Erwin* and his teaching of The JESUS Style, we can see all the more clearly the culture of the Cross and LIFE in JESUS!

*Take note that this author doesn't necessarily agree with some of the statements and endorsements made by Mr. Erwin elsewhere; that being said, I can whole heartedly endorse these and other videos by him, as well as his books, and encourage everyone to watch and learn of JESUS, He Who is meek and lowly and from Whom we will find rest unto our souls!

The Nature of Jesus - Part 1 of 4
The Nature of Jesus - Part 4 of 4
If you would be interested in viewing these presentations in their completion, you can order the materials from Gayle Erwin's ministry:

http://servant.org/

or watch them online here:
Gayle Erwin's Teachings

Let's study closely the life that the LORD lived as our example and by His Spirit that dwells within us, walk in this way, and be truly CROSS Cultural Christians!