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Changed By Glory

"And we all… beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another." II Cor. 3:18

Month

October 2009

Delivered…. Are we living like it?

“Behold you are trusting in deceptive words to no avail. Will you steal, murder, commit adultry, and swear falsley, and offer scarifices to Baal, and walk after other gods that you have not known, then come and stand before Me in this house, which is called by My Name, and say, ‘We are delivered!’- that you may do all these abominations?”  Jeremiah 7:8-10

Christianity across history has always been plagued with people who “..turn the grace of God into licentiousness…” (Jude vs 4). The worm of idolatry and self-pleasing is a trap that gets glossed over by preaching and our own reasoning. Truly we have been delivered, but we must never become puffed up about this fact, keeping focus on our utter depravity apart from Christ and on growing in grace. Our deliverance is never a license to sin,”should we sin that grace may abound? God forbid!”(Romans 6).

Today this type of self-justified, self-seeking lifestyle seeps into the church in ways that do not seem perhaps as blatant as offering sacrifices to Baal or holding grotesque orgies in groves and highplaces, but the danger exist that we could find ourselves in the same state of spiritual deadness while laying bold claim to being the seat of the display of God’s glory and rejoicing in deliverance that is not manifest in our daily lives. We see these same things that God is rebuking Israel for in Jeremiah seeping into the pews and podiums off our churches, the very place that is supposed to be a display of the body of Christ to a lost and dying world. We steal from employers by wasting time and not “doing our work as unto the Lord”. We murder by hating our brother, envious of his success. We commit adultry, and this one is a rampant deception and weakening of the church, by divorcing and remarrying; making unbiblical exceptions in order to gratify ourselves. We lie on our tax returns in order to squeeze out a bit more material wealth while selling our conscience. We offer sacrifices to the idols that distract us from living out the Kingdom mandate in the form of new cars, nicer houses, higher salaries; all that serve  no eternal purpose but merely the temporal purpose of improving our comfort and self-image. We pursue goals that have no eternal depth and that vanish with our passing.

The deception and the real tragedy comes when we then come before the Lord and we praise Him for delivering us, when we are not even fulfilling what He delivered us to do. We are incapable, fettered by idols and the sins that so easily beset us. Of truth, God can and will deliver those whom He has called, but we must surrender. It may look strange, it may be painful, but that is what it means to take up your cross and be a disciple of Jesus Christ. I know that daily God reveals to me new things that I need to lay aside. It hurts and sometimes those things I have to let go of seem so harmless, but God gives grace, shining His love in my heart and opening my eyes to see the eternal.

Remember why we are here. We are to bring glory to God and bear His image, displaying His glory and grace to the nations! I pray that daily I will fall on my knees before the Lord and that He reveal to me the things that hold me back. Surrender all to Him who will complete a peferct work and remove the idols from your life, if indeed you are His.

I do not mean to be legalistic, but somber, for this is a grim topic. I want to end by addressing all my fellow saints in Christ Jesus with the last words of 1 John, “Little children, guard yourself from idols.”

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Jerusalem in Ruins: Corporate Repentance

“While Ezra prayed and made confessions, weeping and casting himself down before the house of God, a very great assembly of men, women, and children, gathered to him out of Israel, for the people wept bitterly.” Ezra 10:1

In our culture it is often a noble concept that one can make a difference for the masses. We see this concept idealized in the media, through books and movies. Sadly, often those seeking to motivate the masses due so for their own gain, perhaps a stirring speech by a politician for votes or a patriotic call to arms by a power-hungry dictator. It would seem that perhaps this idealism is a redemptive part of our culture, but we must remember that the root often ties back to one major hurdle that the western church has in rebuilding Jerusalem, individualism. This is that pesky hater of Zion that waits for the workers to begin their work then starts to throw spears from the darkness, disrupting the work and sowing distrust among the workers.

The first step in putting down this barrier is humility, which stems from genuine personal repentance. I will not go over the subject again as I talked about it already. It is easy to say that perhaps the message of “revival starts with me” is cliché and ages old, but that depends on how we approach the matter. Being a catalyst for rebuilding Jerusalem goes much further than just repenting on my part. That is a start indeed, but when we repent we must view the affect our sin has on the body. We should not be closet repenters, who then go to church every Sunday and continues to check the pulse of the fellow saints, waiting for our holiness and repentance to rub off on them. It is about being an active part of a body. We will find ourselves against one barrier after another unless we put aside the obsession with self and grasp the concept of Biblical community.

I Corinthians 12 refers to the church as a body with many different members. Continuing with that analogy I may point out that if I have a sore throat, my whole body is in a drag. When I fractured my toe a couple of months ago, it changed the way I walked and the pain caused me to clinch my teeth, which led to a toothache… and so on. As we function (or disfunction) in the Biblical concept of the church as a body when one part is sick it effects the others. This is key, my personal sin never, ever, ever just effects me.

The core example in scripture is when Adam sinned. When Adam sinned, sin fell on all mankind. Since Adam all men from birth are utterly depraved. David sinned with Bathsheba and as a result Uriah was murdered to cover it up and the child that was born as result of the sin fell ill and died. Solomon strayed and God told him what would become of Israel as a result of his sin. It seems we often don’t view these passages of scripture as we should. Many Christians agree with the concept of living in Biblical community without realization of the effect their sin has on the body.

I would like to note that the reason that many churches are sick, weak, and full of holes today is because of the decline in church discipline. God has ordained this function of the body (knowing the effects of individual sin on the church) not only to purify the body, but as an act of mercy toward those that are sinning if perchance they will be grieved to the point of true repentance. Again this is another subject that I don’t feel led to explore in depth.

Ezra and Nehemiah understood how sin effects Zion. They were leaders and as leaders they took responsibility despite the fact that they were righteous men with a jealousy for God’s glory and a passion for the restoration of the glory of the Zion. A good leader lives above reproach without becoming self-righteous, he takes responsibility for the people he has been called to lead. In Hebrews 13, it is clear that those that have authority will give an account for those they lead. In Philippians 4, Paul admonishes the people that “The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things; and the God of peace shall be with you”. God is unchanging and thus His methods of leadership can be seen throughout the scope of the story of His people. Ezra understood this and when he found out about the unfaithfulness of the priest, he made confession before the people, weeping and throwing himself down before the Lord (Ezra 10). Nehemiah showed his understanding of leadership in this area before he even rose up as a leader. While still a mere wine-taster for the king he declared upon hearing of the state of Jerusalem, “….even I and my Father’s house have sinned.” (Nehemiah 1:6) If we desire to be a leader, a catalyst, in rebuilding Zion to be a vibrant display of God’s glory to the nations then we must seek to lead in repentance. There is no room for individualism in Zion. Nehemiah understood this, Ezra understood this, and the apostle Paul understood this.

As a final note to drive this point of corporate repentance home I look to the back of the Bible. When Jesus is addressing the churches in Revelations, He offers both commendation and warning in the context of the body has a whole, using a singular reference towards the body of Christ. To be sure these churches had variations amongst them in levels of faithfulness and sincerity, but He called out to the whole church in order that the church as a whole would repent. We are called to “bear one anothers burdens” not to maverick our way through our existence making sure that we alone survive. The survival of one only merely prolongs the inevitable, extinction.

Take courage in knowing that throughout scripture we see not only sin effecting many through one, but also righteousness being spread abroad by the leadership of God’s people. Noah, Abraham, Joseph and on and on. Ultimately, let us look to Christ, the blameless lamb of God who bore the sin of many, bringing life.

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