Month: February 2018

How’s Your Walk with Jesus?

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If you’ve been around the Church for any length of time you’ve most certainly heard or been asked the question…the dreaded question, the one we secretly hope no one will take the time to ask.

“How’s your walk with Jesus?”

When asked, we typically stammer and stutter our way through some balancing act of not wanting to sound like we have it all together while not admitting we’re actually pooping our spiritual pants on a regular basis. So we just talk about how “good” God is while throwing in a few innocuous sins. If the truth be told, our “walk with Jesus” sucks, at least if we’re defining it by how well we’re living and behaving.

Oh but there’s good news! That’s not how we define our walk with Jesus. The quality of our walk with Jesus is not predicated on anything we do, for the only thing we bring to our salvation is the sin that makes it necessary. This truth never changes for who we are in and of ourselves (our flesh or our old man) is 100% a sinner and no amount of Christian activity will change that. The only thing that changes is the presence of Christ. The one who puts our old man to death and gifts his perfect life to us. He comes into our life as Savior and friend; the One who walks with us despite how we look (terrible), how we smell (like death) and how much we ruin his reputation.

“How’s your walk with Jesus?” It’s actually fantastic, you’re walking with Jesus! We fall, he picks us up. We run off, he chases us down. We take him to places he should never have to go but he never leaves us alone. We’re company that he shouldn’t be seen with, but he proudly walks with us and never acts embarrassed of us in front of his other friends.

Our walk with Jesus isn’t dependent upon us, because in every way we fall, get sidetracked, roll around in the mud, head into dirty seedy places Jesus has already walked in perfection with us, and for us.

“And he walks with me and he talks with me
And he tells me I am his own
And the joy we share as we tarry there
None other has ever known” — Merle Haggard

 

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Sanctified by Faith

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As sinful humans we are adept at taking what God gives as gift and making it into a work. Nowhere is this made more evident than in the universally misunderstood doctrine of sanctification.

Scripture teaches that faith is not something we do but something that is created within us as the promise of Christ is heard, “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17). “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph. 2:8-9). Furthermore we know that faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Heb. 11:1). Herein, the things of faith are those things that we cannot wrap our minds around or place our hands upon. Things we cannot see. Our old Adam (the flesh) is never content with this truth, we want the very opposite, things we can see and control.

We understand the importance of this when it comes to justification…we are justified by faith not by any of our own works. However, when it comes to sanctification we quickly take it out of the realm of faith into the realm of works. This stems from a wrong theology around sanctification, a theology that believes sanctification is something we do in partnership with God instead of seeing it (like justification) as a work of Christ alone. The preponderance of biblical texts around sanctification give evidence that sanctification is not a subjective activity that we progress into, but an objective declaration that we receive by faith.

And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1 Cor. 1:30). 

A full explanation of this truth is not the purpose of this post. My point here is to build off this idea. If we agree that sanctification (a way to describe salvation not move away from it) is by faith then sanctification by its very definition is not something we should be able to “see” but something that we believe in, hope in Christ for, and place outside of the realm of the tangible. This, I believe, has tremendous implications when it comes to the Christian life. For instead of looking to earn or work our way into sanctification we are free to simply rest in its already finished work. This does not mean that there is no use for fruit or good works, for we know that the Christian is indeed known by their fruit (Matt. 7:15-20). However, this fruit is not the result of human effort but the natural byproduct of an ontological reorientation — a bad tree being transformed into a good tree. Herein good trees quite naturally bear good fruit.

Sanctification is not a work of the law it is the result of God’s promise to us in Christ, the gospel. Regarding sanctification as an activity we partner with God on, is at its root a failure to understand law and gospel. It relegates law to a manageable list of “to dos” instead of what it is, God’s word of condemnation that puts us to death. For God alone knows how to handle the law, it’s his word and is never meant to be wielded by humans as they see fit. The law, which serves to magnify our sin (Rom. 3:20) does not aid us in our sanctification, it simply reveals our need for it. Here we must rest in the reality that the gospel alone can sanctify us, anything less pushes us away from Christ into ourselves; the very opposite of what it means to be holy.

 

Billy Graham — Good and Faithful Servant

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The great evangelist and Christian leader Billy Graham passed from this life today. I don’t need to recount the tremendous things Rev. Graham and his ministry have accomplished for the Kingdom of Christ. He was a man for whom I greatly admire and respect.

Unfortunately some are using this time as an opportunity to take apart his theology or question his methods around evangelism. That is not my desire. In fact I think that is altogether inappropriate on the day of his death. However I would like to say something about a common reaction I’m reading and encountering around his death.  My Facebook feed and the Internet in general are abuzz with all things Billy. A common thread I’m observing is that when Mr. Graham died he was met by Jesus hearing “Well done my good and faithful servant” (Matt. 25:23).

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2018/02/21/well-done-good-and-faithful-servant-people-remember-billy-graham-dies-99/358211002/

Now, I don’t question that Jesus met Billy Graham with these words. I believe this. But what about those who have screwed their life up? What of those who are convinced they will never hear such a wonderful welcome from God?

I don’t believe this message is reserved for such obvious servants of the Church, as Billy Graham. I think it’s also the greeting that the drunk, the adulterer, and the morally bankrupt will hear. Because that’s all there is in the Church. The Church by its very nature is a group of people who have been called away from trusting in their own righteousness and have put all their chips on Jesus…his sacrificial death, his perfect life. We are “good and faithful” by faith…by trusting in the imputed goodness and faithfulness of Christ. We are good and faithful servants because Jesus was those things for us and gifts them to those who don’t deserve it but gladly receive it by faith.

Let’s keep celebrating the life and legacy of William Franklin Graham Jr. But may we not lose sight of the message he spent his life preaching. A message that declares that the kingdom of Christ is for losers, for those who have given up on themselves, for those who have failed miserably and recognize that there is no one righteous, no one good, and no one who is worthy to hear “well done” (Rom. 3:10). May this be the message we preach to others and the one we believe for ourselves.