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Posts Tagged ‘Ephesians’

There are many today who, if they speak of God at all, refer to him almost like a folklore or something out of their childhood which still brings a bit of comfort and nostalgia, much like visiting a childhood home or finding a childhood doll or stuffed animal.  These materialists are convinced only by what they can see, smell, touch, hear, or taste although I would guess even the materialist would not deny the existence of the wind or gravity.  Although they cannot be seen, their effects are undeniable.

I am not a materialist.

I believe in both the material and the non-material world.  I know them to both be equally real even though the non-material is primarily not experienced through the senses.  Now I believe in more than this, but I do not believe less than this.  If you are unable to believe or are closed to the possibility of a non-material world created by a God we cannot see, then there is nothing that follows that will be life-giving to you.  There is only hollow cheer-leading and vain hope in the power of positive thinking.  To me, that is the best the world can offer and I find it wholly inadequate and incoherent to answer life’s questions of origin, meaning, morality, and destiny.

Apart from Jesus Christ, there is no hope for any who wonder about these deep questions of life in the dark hours of the night.  Man is under a curse from his first breath.  There is no hope for self-salvation from this curse, though many try and many pacify their questions and fears by whistling past the grave yard as it were, attempting to make as happy a life here and now for themselves as they possibly can.  Because I believe in the one true God of the Bible, I believe the Bible’s account of this God.  If this is a bridge too far for you, then what I share will be meaningless at best and trite and silly at worst.

I believe in an eternal, self-existent, three-in-one God (Father, Son, and Spirit) who is the source and sovereign over all creatures and things that are material as well as all creatures and things that are immaterial.  His standard of right living is not a list, but the standard is He, himself.  He is the one by whom He compares all things and there is none like him, all fall short in mercy and graciousness and patience and steadfast love and faithfulness and righteousness and holiness and splendor and glory.  This is the God I know and I would be an aimless wanderer in this big world if I was not convinced beyond a shadow of doubt that this God exists and that he is ruling over all, throughout time and location, bringing all the world to a sure and certain end according to his own plans and purposes.

Growing up in the Catholic faith, I knew that my sin separated me from this holy God.  His standard is himself and it was impossible for me (or anyone) to live up to that standard.  I knew that my sin was a debt that would need to be paid for, but who can pay for such a thing?  I knew that if the debt were not paid by someone, I would pay it myself throughout eternity.  But, I also knew from my upbringing in the church, that God’s great plan was to pay that debt for me through Jesus Christ.  Since He did not carry his own burden of sin, his death was an acceptable payment for the debt of the sins of mankind.  In ancient sacrificial imagery, Jesus was identified as the lamb which takes away the sin of the world.  I just didn’t know how to appropriate his death to my personal sin.

I also didn’t understand at the time the inadequacy of my attempts to help my case before God by trying to “live a good life.”  I didn’t realize how anemic my attempts were (the Bible calls them “filthy rags”).  As if this would ever work in our physical lives – if we owed the bank a large sum of money, but asked them to forgive that debt on the promise that we would do better from here on with any future debts we might incur – ridiculous.  Instead, I came to realize that there was no object or work I could offer this great God that would be useful or needed by him.  He is self-sufficient and needs nothing from the creatures He has made.  I was under condemnation and a curse for my life that runs in rebellion to the nature of this God.  There was no recourse for me but to come to him as a beggar, longing for what He might give me – a solution to the problem of my sin which weighed me down and cut me off from union with this magnificent God.  If He would not help me, I was both lost in this life and for eternity.

This is how I came to him in the break room of Sears so many, many years ago.  I realized I had been trying all my life to do things right so I might be acceptable to God.  That day I realized that my striving was all meaningless and didn’t move me one iota closer to him.  My soul was dead in my sins and no amount of church attendance, confession, or good works could remove that sin and revive my dead soul.  In the break room at Sears that day, I realized as I read verses 8 and 9 of Ephesians 2 for the first time in my life, that it was only by God’s goodness to me, coming to him in simple faith, that I could have my sin debt, which I owed God, wiped clean.  My soul was dead so I could not even produce the faith I needed to come to him.  Even faith to trust and believe had to be gifted to me by God.  This took away all opportunity for me to think well of myself for “meeting God half-way” in my good works.  It had to be all him; He did it all!

I went into the break room that day with my sins on my back, and I left with my sin and its debt completely removed; I went in a dead and condemned person and I left newly awakened, alive, and free.  As promised by God, his Spirit took up residence in my once-hard heart.  Indeed He gave me a new heart to love the things that are of Him.  From that moment on through God’s Word, prayer, and meeting with God’s people as well as through God-ordained trial, He began to shave off things in my life that weren’t of him and to mold and shape me into the image of his son, Jesus.  At times this “shaving” has been very painful, but it has always produced good in my life.

This has now been about a 35-year process and He continues to use these same means (Scripture, prayer, suffering, and fellowship with other believers) to do this in my life to this very day.  I know He will see it through to completion on the day He returns.  On that day, He will establish his new, eternal kingdom with those of us who have run to him for salvation.  That Day is ever before my mind and I await longingly for it when I will actually see God face-to-face; He who is my greatest treasure.

This is all I have to give a lost and hurting world.  All other hope is just a bandaid on cancer.  Perhaps you gave up on my letter many paragraphs ago.  But if I have said anything that rings true for you, I would invite you to see what God has said about himself; see if it doesn’t awaken something in your spirit.  I’d recommend starting with the book of John where Jesus declares over and again that He is God and that He and the Father are one; here, Jesus shows us by his life the type of God He is.  There has never been another who said or did the things that Jesus did.  I would encourage you to beg God in humility on your knees with all your heart and soul, to reveal himself to you.  There is a sure day when all will meet him – either in death or when He comes in final judgment; but for now, God sits on a mercy-seat all year long to give pardon and forgiveness to those who will come to him empty-handed for salvation from their sins.

Here is a prayer from the 1600s which is a good example of what one might pray in their need:

God, be merciful to me a sinner and make me to know and believe in Jesus Christ.  I see that if Christ had not died righteously to remove the sins of the world, including my sin, and if I do not have faith in his death as the only available payment for my debt to you, then I am utterly cast away.  Lord, I have heard that you are a merciful God and you have planned that your son, Jesus, should be the Savior of the world.  Moreover, I have heard that you are willing to bestow Christ upon such a poor sinner as I am (and I am a sinner indeed).  Lord, take therefore this opportunity and enlarge your grace in the salvation of my soul, through your Son Jesus Christ, Amen.

God has said, “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).  Like the beggars that we are, lay hold of Him and do not let go until you receive the blessing you require – the answer to the pray for which you beg – Christ himself.

This is the only true hope that I can offer for this life and the life to come.  If you are not at the point of seeking this yet, I’d invite you to hold your hands open to it.  Consider the lives and hope of those you know who have had their burden of sin removed at the cross.  Do not judge us entirely on our works.  We do not supernaturally become sinless when we place our sins under Jesus’ blood.  We are only forgiven sinners, but by God’s power we are moving toward the likeness of Christ in us, each of us at different stages along this journey.  But evaluate the hope and the joy of those you know who walk in Christ’s righteousness, not their own.  They know beyond doubt that this world is not all there is to what is real.  And they know that they know that they know they are heading to their Father’s house and that they will be admitted into his everlasting kingdom because they wear, not the filthy rags of their good works, but the clean white robes won for them by Jesus, himself.  I’d invite you as the Bible puts it to, “taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the [one] who takes refuge in him” (Psalm 34:8).

With regard and affection.

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