Saturday, May 22, 2010

He knows His will - He knows when too

I don't know about you, but I find myself frustrated with how He times the revelation of will.  I realize there's a certain amount of arrogance that says He needs to tell me when He's going to do something, but I can't help it.  I often pray for His intervention then go on to show Him how I think it ought to occur!  I hope His response is an "Oh, Talley" then He nudges Jesus and says, "He's trying to hint at how I need to answer Him again!"  Jesus laughs and says, "Remember when My brothers wanted me to go to the Feast of the Tabernacles so My disciples could see more of My miracles?  They didn't believe in Me yet, but I knew that was not My time and waited."

I will offer that what follows is possibly not what the Lord had in mind when John wrote his gospel, specifically 7:1-14, but my time spent with the Father yesterday morning spoke to me.  Read the following excerpt from John's gospel:
"After this, Jesus went around in Galilee, purposely staying away from Judea because the Jews there were waiting to take his life. 2 But when the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles was near, 3 Jesus’ brothers said to him, “You ought to leave here and go to Judea, so that your disciples may see the miracles you do. 4 No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.” 5 For even his own brothers did not believe in him.
6 Therefore Jesus told them, “The right time for me has not yet come; for you any time is right. 7 The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that what it does is evil. 8 You go to the Feast. I am not yet going up to this Feast, because for me the right time has not yet come.” 9 Having said this, he stayed in Galilee.
10 However, after his brothers had left for the Feast, he went also, not publicly, but in secret. 11 Now at the Feast the Jews were watching for him and asking, “Where is that man?”
12 Among the crowds there was widespread whispering about him. Some said, “He is a good man.”
Others replied, “No, he deceives the people.” 13 But no one would say anything publicly about him for fear of the Jews.
Jesus Teaches at the Feast
14 Not until halfway through the Feast did Jesus go up to the temple courts and begin to teach."
The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996 (electronic ed.) (Jn 7:1–14). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
I've highlighted the portions of the scripture that I want to address. Let's set up some context here:  Jesus recently fed the 5,000, walked on water (whole other story there with Peter) and had many of His disciple desert Him over His teaching about being the Bread of Life. We find His brothers taunting Him and saying, "Hey, if You really want to show off why don't you go to the Feast so everyone can see all Your miracles?"  I pray that way sometimes.  Admittedly I don't feel as if I'm taunting Him, but I basically lay down a "challenge" and say, "This is how I want to see You."

It's funny to me to see grown men basically calling Jesus a chicken!  Even with that accusation Jesus' response is to go back to His mission and when He wants to execute it.  "Now is not the time, guys.  I get that you want me to act in ways that fit within your box for Me, that you want to rub the lamp and have Me pop out to do your bidding, but you've got a messed up view of how this whole thing is going to work."  I do that to Him all the time!

His brothers go on to the Feast in Jerusalem, but what does Jesus do?  He goes too!  They don't know He's there, nor does He show up when they expect.  It wasn't until halfway through the Feast that Jesus begins teaching in the temple courts.  Did you get that?  He was teaching in the temple courts, not performing miracles like His brothers suggested.  He had a plan that was better than, more important than, and certainly more mission minded than theirs!

If you read further on in John 7 you see that Jesus about got Himself killed because of His message. (John 7:25-31)  This was not what His brother's had in mind at all.  They were mocking Him, trying to get Him to do miracles and prove His claims about Himself, yet Jesus goes and throws down the gauntlet saying the Jews in the temple courts did not know God!  Why does God do that?  He sends the King to earth in a stable.  He establishes His covenant of grace through the death of His Son.  He tempts men to seize Him and kill Him.  Could it be that I don't think the way He does, that my plans are not His plans? (Isa 55:8)

This is how He applied it in my life:  He goes ahead of me and is waiting for me when I get there.  His plan is infallible and is based on His counsel, will, and wisdom, not my frail, sightless, and selfish will.  Even when I don't think He's there, He is.  When He shows Himself He does not "ride in" to see what is going on, He steps from behind the curtain in the room with me and says, "See, I'm here.  I've been here the whole time.  I went ahead of You, I walked beside You on the way, and I was your rear-guard during the journey.  You can never be out of my presence, I won't allow it.  My will is already in motion, my plans cannot be thwarted by man, and peace unto you, Talley, because of it."

I often want Him to go to the Feast do what I want, yet I'm grateful in hindsight that He reveals Himself at the Feast when He knows is best.  He shows Himself and answers my prayers better than I could've hoped.

Father, I love you and thank You for Your time.  If I've in any way misrepresented You please forgive me and convict our hearts by Your Spirit of what is true.  I love you, Lord.  In Jesus' name, amen.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Test #5: Do you still sin?

STOP READING!!!!  Pray first before you read anything following this sentence as He can give you better answers by His Spirit to what He's talking about in 1 John about sin than I ever could!!  That said, I'm going to do my best to listen to Him and see what He means by, "No one who lives in Him keeps on sinning.  No one who continues to sin has either seen Him or known Him." - 1 John 3:6, NIV.

First rule - we can't take this one verse, omit context, not look at the rest of scripture and say that somehow if I sin I'm not a Christian.  Why?  Because of 1 John 2:1, "My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin.  But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense - Jesus Christ, the Righteous One." - NIV.

Second rule - just because I sin and He speaks on my behalf does not mean that I get to water down the message He's giving me in 3:6.  Hold on because I'm going to make another attempt at looking at a language I've not learned...Greek.

First, take a look at the following:

1. aorist — The aorist verb tense is used by the writer to present the action of a verb as a “snapshot” event. The verb’s action is portrayed simply and in summary fashion without respect to any process. Heiser, M. S. (2005; 2005). Glossary of Morpho-Syntactic Database Terminology. Logos Bible Software.

2.  present — The verb tense where the writer portrays an action in process or a state of being with no assessment of the action’s completion.
Heiser, M. S. (2005; 2005). Glossary of Morpho-Syntactic Database Terminology. Logos Bible Software.

I don't know about you, but when I was in school I NEVER paid as much attention to tense as I find myself needing to do now.  I had breakfast with a friend yesterday and made the comment that I'm glad the Lord used Greek for the NT as opposed to English as Greek seems to be a much more robust language.  At any rate, using the two definitions above lets compare 2:1 to 3:6 and 3:9.

2:1 uses the Greek word "hamartano":  to sin.  3:6 and 3:9 use the Greek word "hamartano" as well.  The major difference is that in 2:1 the verb tense is the aorist and in 3:6,9 the tense is the present.  As best I can tell it is the "snapshot" sin versus the "ongoing" sin.  Said another way, if I am living a life separate from Him I am by definition living in sin, a constant state of being, the state of being in which He found me before raising me to life with His Son (Eph 2:4-9).  Because Jesus speaks for me before His Father my "one off" sins, those committed post salvation, are covered by His blood.

Here is how the test works in my life.  Am I convicted that what I've done is wrong?  Am I concerned about a trespass against Him or do I have a vague moral objection to my actions?  Is my lifestyle one that would provide no evidence of salvation?  I'm not saying this very clearly....

I enjoy playing golf.  It is an infuriating and rewarding sport (okay some will debate with me the "sport" aspect due to all that walking and loafing about).  Let's assume the life of sin looks like using a baseball bat to hit the ball around the course, par is a random number made up by each individual player, and 18 holes has no real meaning.  Salvation looks like Arnold Palmer walking up to you with a bag of golf clubs, lessons on the rules of golf and how to swing the different clubs in the bag.  Post salvation you now know to start off in the tee box of hole one (unless the course is crowded and they send you off on number 10, that's okay too) and you only have the number of strokes equal to par for that hole within which to get the ball in the hole.  What happens when you don't get the ball in the hole at or under par?  Does that mean that you are in the same boat as those running all over the course with baseball bats?  Absolutely not!

My life is spent on the driving range (reading, praying), going out on the course (the rest of my day), hitting slices of the tee box (aorist sin), playing out of the rough into the fairway (forgiveness and restoration) and hopefully not 3-putting!  By His grace I am no longer playing the right game with the wrong tools (present sin).  This is important to me because I am tempted to take what I read in 1 John 2 and 3 while listening to the enemy in my ear telling me that there's no evidence of my salvation, that I am falling short.  By His grace and mercy I have fallen short (Rom 3:23), but He paid the price for me (1 John 2:1,2).

Father, please forgive me if I've in any way misrepresented Your word or watered it down this morning.  I don't want to make light of the sin that I commit, yet the accuser would have me bogged down in shame and condemnation, not the freedom You offer through Jesus Christ.  Please lead us in wisdom and discernment and the conviction of Your Spirit.  I love You, Father.  In Jesus' name, amen.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

What is Your will?

Does this situation sound familiar to you?  You spent more time in prayer these past few weeks than you have in a long time.  A decision looms that will impact not only you but those around you as well.  It's a good decision to make, but its not one made in a vacuum.  You continue to seek out His will, what He wants done, and to be honest, the decision looms without a real direction or answer yet.

Funny thing is, its not time for the decision to be made yet.  There is a time set for when it will be made, a time of prayer that is planned prior to making the decision, a discussion to be held after the prayer, and then on to the decision that you anticipate will be unanimous amongst those involved.  The point is you don't need to know His answer right now.  Does this sound at all familiar to you?

I can't take not knowing as a "lack of communication" on His part.  I remember when grades would be posted after a test; it wasn't that the professor was holding out on us, it just wasn't time for the information to be made available (I can say that the time spent between the test and the posting of the grades was full of prayer!).  I don't tell my children what I got them for their birthdays until they open their packages.

He's under no obligation to "let me in" on what He's doing until its time for me to know.  Because of who He is I can trust that I will find out when I'm supposed to, that the answer I receive will be the best one possible, and the answer will bring glory to Him.  I guess I'm saying that I've come to see it not as Him holding out on me, but on Him waiting until I can handle His answer.

Proverbs 3 tells me He directs my paths and makes them straight when I rely on Him, not me.  Romans 12 tells me that as I continue to renew my mind (read that as the Holy Spirit renewing my mind for me), through time spent with Him in His word and/or in prayer, I will be able to discern His Holy will for my life.  Pentecost in Acts shows me that if I will wait on Him and His timing He will show up with not only the plan but the resources with which to carry it out.

We were discussing what the Lord's will was for our lives in Bible study a few weeks ago.  One concern that rose amongst us was what if we missed what He was saying and messed up what He wanted us to do?  Let me ask this question in response:  How would you know that you weren't in His will?  Asked another way, what analytical process would you use to make the determination if your past decision was or was not "correct" with respect to identifying His will for your life?  I offer that the process by which you review the decision will be much like the one you used to make the decision in the first place; you will seek His face, His counsel, and His confirmation/assurance that you did what He wanted you to do.

So let me ask you, how does the Father speak to you?  For me its through His word.  He leads me by His Spirit to passages that speak directly to the answer I need (sometimes).  He speaks to me through my wife more than anyone else.  The Lord also gives me peace once a decision is made that is in line with what He wants done.  In the end I have to rely on the Holy Spirit's conviction within me that the decision made is the right one.  By "right" I mean in line with His will.  The challenge for me is to spend time listening to Him and not talking at Him.  When I ask Anna a question I will typically shut my mouth and listen to her answer.  My habit with Him is to ask, ask, ask, then get up and move on.

Father, I love You and need Your Spirit to speak to me.  Please remind me to sit with my mouth shut long enough for You to speak!  If I've in any way misrepresented how we discern Your will, please forgive me and point us by Your Spirit into truth.  Thank you for loving us.  In Jesus' name, amen.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Test #4 Do you acknowledge Jesus as the Christ?

1 John 2:21-23 reads as follows:
"I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth.  Who is the liar?  It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ.  Such a man is the antichrist - he denies the Father and the Son.  No one who denies the Son has the Father:  whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also." NIV
Remember that John is not writing to unbelievers, but to Christians.  (John wrote his gospel so "that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that be believing you may have life in His name." - John 20:31 NIV)  "I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do," leads off this particular passage.  It would appear to me that the early church was fighting off those who would say that Jesus was merely a prophet, a good man, a moral teacher, but certainly not the Christ.  John goes on in verse 26 to say, "I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray," and in 3:7, "Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray."

How does this apply to our assurance of salvation?  Let me build a little more on the "Jesus as Christ" theme first.  John 14:6 reads, "Jesus answered, 'I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me."  Paul affirms the "one way" in Romans 5:17, "For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ." - NIV, emphasis mine.  The writer of Hebrews affirms this as well in 9:27,28, "Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and He will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him." - NIV.  My point?  Jesus is the only way to God, He is the Christ (Messiah).

The question still remains, what does admission of His role as sole way to the Father have to do with assurance of my salvation?  Read the following from Matthew 16:13-17:
"When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, 'Who do people say the Son of Man is?'  They replied, 'Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.'  'But what about you?' He asked.  'Who do you say I am?'  Simon Peter answered, 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.'  Jesus replied, 'Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by My Father in heaven.'" - NIV, emphasis mine.
The only reason you assent to His role as Messiah is because the Father has revealed it to you!  That's why you can have assurance!  He called you, you didn't "figure out" that He is the Christ.  Jesus says this about Himself, "I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me - just as the Father knows me and I know the Father - and I lay down my life for the sheep.  I have other sheep who are not of this sheep pen.  I must bring them also.  They too will listen to My voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd." - John 10:14-16 NIV.  [Remember our discussion of "know" from the Greek "ginosko"?  This is an intimate knowing, more than a mere sensory observation.  This is the "know" between the Father and Son, one not shared between the Father and those who are not His.]

Conclusion:  Jesus is THE way, THE truth, and THE life; no one is going to the Father except through Him.  You don't "get it" that He is THE way, THE truth, and THE life unless it is revealed to you by the Father through His Holy Spirit.  Because you call on Him as Messiah, Christ, Savior you have the assurance of your salvation.  You didn't call Jesus Savior on your own!  His Holy Spirit within you did and does!  Your assurance is about Him and not you!

Father if I in anyway misrepresented Your word today, please forgive me.  Convict us by Your Spirit of what is true.  Remind us that how we "feel" about our salvation from one day to another is not what matters.  What matters is You, the fact that You don't change, that truth is not subject to emotion, that You called us and secured us in You for all eternity.  I love You, Father.  In Jesus' name, amen.