A Righteousness I cannot earn

The Law:

“Righteousness will be ours if we are careful to follow every one of these commands before the LORD our God, as He has commanded us.'” (Deut 6:25 HCSB)

The Jews had 613 laws that they had to follow. Right standing with God was based totally on their desire and/or ability to keep these commandments.

Peter (in Acts 15) called this “a yoke neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear”.

What Jesus did:

Paul consistently throughout his letters preaches about a different righteousness; a new righteousness; a righteousness that is a gift, not earned; a righteousness that is by faith, not by performance; a righteousness that doesn’t look at sin, but believes in Christ:

“Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no-one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.”
(Romans 3:19-22 NIV)

“Sin conscious” is a place I have to admit being stuck in for the vast majority of my Christian life. Instead of looking for Jesus and trying to find “the gold” (Christ) in others, I was looking for sin, and trying to scoop out the dross. The law makes you aware of all the sin that is in you and going on around you, but it also leaves you powerless to do anything about it. All you can do is try a little harder, and obnoxiously point it out in others.

I have to admit that I started to notice that most of our church services are totally void of the mention of Christ. The books on the Christian book shelves are all about how to make myself better. The sermons are mostly about how to live a better life. I started asking myself: “Where’s Jesus in all of this?” I purposefully started tracking the number of times Jesus was mentioned as the source, the goal, the beginning, the end of our Christian walk and life and surprisingly I found that He wasn’t. When Jesus is mentioned – it’s at the end of a sermon on the things you must do – and of course you can’t do it without Him. This “Jesus is my co-pilot” type of message always puts me in control – and leaves Him somewhere in the background. Yet in scripture I found a different focus.

I looked at the songs we were singing – where I was the worship leader. In our file cabinet – songs were filed by the first line of the song (because none of us ever could figure out what the title of a song was). Songs beginning with “J” – maybe 10 or 15. Songs beginning with “I” – hundreds – they took up a whole shelf. We are obsessed with “I” and trying to prove to Him that we love Him – but have forgotten that “He first loved us”. (1 John 4:19)

“What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, discovered in this matter? If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. What does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness. David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: “Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him.””
(Romans 4:1-8 NIV)

As if Romans isn’t enough – the whole book of Galatians is dedicated to the subject. Galatians is the first letter Paul ever wrote. The very first epistle is about one thing: Stop trying to earn your way with God through following all these rules – and believe in Jesus Christ. You see the cross is not just about my sins being buried with Christ – the cross is about “ME” being buried with Christ. The high-performance, self-righteous ME was nailed to the CROSS along with the sinful ME (they are one and the same). I can no longer earn my way by doing the right thing – I must believe that Christ is my only way. My right standing with God is not based on my successfully following one or all of the 613 commandments. My right standing with God is based on my believing in Jesus Christ – and is credited to me apart from the obvious (and totally unknown) shortcomings (sin) in my life. I can come to God through Jesus Christ in whatever state or condition I find myself in – failure or success. Won’t you come too?

 

 

March 6, 2010 at 6:47 am 2 comments

Driven to perform….

Most of my Christian life can be summed up with one word: PERFORM. You need to pray more, read the word more, be at church more, give more to the church, witness more, more obedience, more, more, more. The Christian life became all about ME, ME, ME. This (certain thing) happened to ME because I had failed God here, here, and here. This (certain thing) didn’t happen to ME because I hadn’t kept up my end of the bargain. And so, back to the endless cycle of trying to please a God who demands nothing short of total perfection.

It came to our attention a few years ago, that we (my wife and I) had fallen into a trap. We were trying to earn our way with God. It’s a subtle thing. After all, your heart really wants to do the right thing, and your flesh is oh so willing to take you another direction. So there’s this constant struggle. As much as we all may be able to identify with all of that, the trap is this: My right standing with God has nothing to do with how well I’m doing as a Christian, how well I’m doing morally, how well I’m doing spiritually, or how well I’m doing at anything. If my righteousness is based on my performance – then I have fallen into this trap. When my right standing with God is based on what I do – when I’m good – I’m looking down my nose at others who have not quite attainted to where I am. When I’m not so good – I’m a rich young ruler who hasn’t quite got what it takes to follow Him, so I go away totally crushed. I have to admit that I’ve spent more time in my life discouraged than I have spent with the elite. But I also have to tell you, being among the elite is something I no longer value, but in fact disdain.

My right standing with God is based on one thing and one thing only: Jesus Christ is my righteousness – not what I do.

There are things that I call life lessons. These are situations that you’ve been in that are extremely difficult. I’d have to say a congenital heart defect that wasn’t diagnosed until I was almost 50 is one of those life lessons. You see, I was born with this heart problem, and there wasn’t anything I could do to change it. That’s what I call the human dilemma – a messed up heart that is not fixable. As much as I would like to be something or someone else, it’s not going to happen because of my own effort. It’s not like I can start eating granola and this thing is going to get better. Peter came to the same conclusion at Cornelius’ house when God poured out His Spirit on a bunch of lawless Gentiles:

“God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He made no distinction between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear?” (Ac 15:8-10 NIV)

The issue is this: Are we going to trust in our own efforts on reaching God or are we coming to God exclusively by faith – based TOTALLY on the finished work of Jesus Christ? That Great Surgeon who performed an operation on Adam and extracted Eve from his opened side is the only one that has the ability to take a heart like mine – and turn it into something better. Won’t you turn from your ME centered gospel – and turn to the real gospel that is centered entirely and totally on JESUS CHRIST?

February 6, 2010 at 8:23 am 1 comment

Your Wound is Incurable

“There’s nothing I can do, no drug I can give you, no exercise that will help you, nothing about diet that will make any difference. There is no clinical solution for your problem”.

These are the words spoken to me by the Cardiologist on call (Dr. Polly) in the hospital on Sept 24, 2009, the day after I went into the ER with some intense chest pains and shortness of breath. I had just finished an extensive cardiology workout where Dr. Polly (Saint Polly I affectionately call her) had ordered test after test to determine why I was in so much pain, and why (after an echocardiogram) the right side of my heart was so enlarged. Their conclusion?

Partial Anomalous Pulmonary Venous Return (PAPVR) – or Scimitar Syndrome with Atrial Septal Defect (hole between left and right sides) was the diagnosis. This is a rare (1-3 in 100,000) congenital defect where one of the veins from the lungs is (incorrectly) attached to the right side of the heart – thus feeding the NON-oxygenated side of the heart with a fresh supply of oxygenated blood – and the loop goes on.

I have always considered the following passage of scripture to be my “life scripture”. I received it sometime in 1982 or 1983 – not quite sure when – but the Lord was so all over me at the time that I cried for 4 or 5 hours. I had been reading Jeremiah – and I came across this:

Jeremiah 30:12-19.

“For thus says the LORD, ‘Your wound is incurable And your injury is serious. ‘There is no one to plead your cause; No healing for your sore, No recovery for you. ‘All your lovers have forgotten you, They do not seek you; For I have wounded you with the wound of an enemy, With the punishment of a cruel one, Because your iniquity is great And your sins are numerous. ‘Why do you cry out over your injury? Your pain is incurable. Because your iniquity is great And your sins are numerous, I have done these things to you. ‘Therefore all who devour you will be devoured; And all your adversaries, every one of them, will go into captivity; And those who plunder you will be for plunder, And all who prey upon you I will give for prey. ‘For I will restore you to health And I will heal you of your wounds,’ declares the LORD, ‘Because they have called you an outcast, saying: “It is Zion; no one cares for her.”

 “Thus says the LORD, ‘Behold, I will restore the fortunes of the tents of Jacob And have compassion on his dwelling places; And the city will be rebuilt on its ruin, And the palace will stand on its rightful place. ‘From them will proceed thanksgiving And the voice of those who celebrate; And I will multiply them and they will not be diminished; I will also honor them and they will not be insignificant.
 

When Dr Polly said what she said to me, I have to admit, it blew me away. Since I was in my 20’s – I had had people pray for me over and over and over – I had been to doctor after doctor in that last 20 years – and I had given up completely on the medical community (which was my employer more often than not in the last 20 years) – and no one could find anything wrong with me. My wife thought I was a hypochondriac – always thinking something was wrong when nothing was wrong. I think most people thought that about me. I would literally beat my chest and fall down on my knees begging the Lord to help me. (And you know what – He did – time and time again). I went to the Elders, I went to my friends, I went to some of the most anointed men and women in the Charismatic circle of believers – some of their names are well known. When they asked me what was wrong – I couldn’t tell them. They would pray for me, sometimes I even fell down under the power (of the Holy Spirit), but would get up the same old person. And do you know what – there was no healing, no recovery – just like the verse (and Dr. Polly) said. Now, I was approaching my 50th birthday. I had so spiritualized this verse – but now I was facing the reality that the Lord wasn’t just speaking to me spiritually, He was speaking to me in the natural. Wow – He had told me 25 years ago and I had just not gone deep enough with it to really get it. When the Lord says something to you – He so means it – He’s not flippant or careless with words !!!!!

THE FIX: Open heart surgery, reroute (actually extend) the errant vein into the left side of the heart and seal the hole between the two sides. This was accomplished on Dec 3, 2009 in Cincinnati using the daVinci robot as so capably operated by surgeon Dr. J. Michael – yes, also a saint, and also a worker of miracles (and that without a daily TV show).

I have to say my brief stays at St Francis Hospital in Indianapolis and Good Samaritan Hospital in Cincinnati was like being in the arms of Jesus. I dearly loved both nursing staffs (and all of the diagnostic people at St Francis). They took very good care of me.

11 days later – after open heart surgery – I went back to work and worked a 10 hour day. (which was a big mistake). Right now – I’m taking it a bit easier and going a day at a time. I have to admit, as I’m sitting there in the morning at my desk – I’ll lean back a little and take a deep breath and be amazed at what I’ve been missing for so long – maybe always in my life. In fact, there have been some moments in the last week or so that I can say, “I really feel GOOD”. I can’t remember feeling really GOOD in my whole life.

 

This is the start, this is your heart, this is the day you were born.

This is the sun, these are your lungs, this is the day you were born.

And I am always, always, always yours.

 

These are your scars, deep in your heart, this is the place you were born.

And this is the hole where most of your soul comes ripping out

From the places you’ve been torn

 

Hallelujah, I’m caving in. Hallelujah, I’m in love again.

Hallelujah, I’m a wretched man. Hallelujah, every breath is a second chance.

 

(Always – Switchfoot – Release date 11/10/2009 –

I heard this the first time two days after I got home from surgery)

 

In the next few posts, I’d like to share out of all of this some of the revelations that have come to me. I have to say that the Lord has been with me in a way that I can even feel His presence, and at times I’ve even been able to hear Him speak quite clearly.

 

 

 


January 5, 2010 at 6:10 am Leave a comment

Acts 15 – Edict or Consensus?

Who was at the Meeting?

The question at hand is who was in the meeting of Acts 15?

We know that Apostles and Elders were there (Acts 15:6).

We know that Peter addressed “Men and brethren” (Acts 15:7) Possibly two phrases for the same group, or maybe even believers and unbelievers were present?

We know that Barnabas and Paul were there (Acts 15:12).

We know a MULTITUDE kept silence and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul. (Acts 15:12) “Multitude” is translated a “great number” in all of the other instances where it is used in scripture. Could it be that the entire group of believers and possibly even some unbelievers were present at this meeting? Is it possible that meetings were always open door meetings and that anyone and everyone was allowed to participate?

We know it pleased the apostles, elders, and the whole assembly (Ekklesia) to send men to Antioch (Acts 15:22)
And here’s what was written: It seemed good unto us BEING ASSEMBLED in one accord (Acts 15:25). Was the Ekklesia (the whole church) in this meeting – or did they just send a letter saying they were part of the assembly? Obviously – the whole church was in the meeting. 

Could Acts 15 then be a picture of the Ekklesia being gathered in order to make a governmental decision?

In my opinion, this was a legal assembly (see Acts 19:39) – the very heart of the word “church” (Ekklesia)

How did they come to a decision?

 There was much disputing – open discussion – back and forth – many people coming forth with their arguments. (Acts 15:7)

Peter gave a testimony of what God did at Cornelius’ house – and gave his opinion that the law was a yoke on the Gentile’s necks that they could not follow. (Acts 15:7)

Barnabas and Paul gave testimony to what God had done among the Gentiles thru their ministry. (Acts 15:12)  Notably, Paul is a complete outsider to the Jerusalem church – and he is one of the main players in this meeting.

James brought a passage of scripture testifying that God was going to move on the Gentiles – and then gave his opinion on laying down some guidelines about eating that would make it a whole lot easier for the Jews to not be completely offended by what the Gentiles were eating – thus opening up the real possibility that Jews and Gentiles could eat together. (Acts 15:14-21).

Decision by consensus or decision by the “HEAD” of the church at Jerusalem?

If you look at James as the head of the church at Jerusalem – and see that he talked last – then you will probably conclude that the decision was a unilateral decision made by James and dictated to the rest of the group. But…… let me present to you another alternative….

A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. (Deut 19:15)

But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.‘ (Matt 18:16) Jesus

This will be my third visit to you. “Every matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses”. (2 Cor 13:1) Paul.

The law taught, Jesus taught, and Paul taught that every matter must be established by two or three witnesses.

In John 5:31-47 Jesus outlines what a true “witness” is.

  1. NOT your own testimony about yourself (not even Jesus could do that)
  2. The prophetic word (given to John the Baptist) was a “human witness” , subject to caution but a witness. (prophecy can be manipulated)
  3. The signs and wonders (works) that Jesus did was a “God witness”.
  4. The voice from heaven that the disciples heard was a “God witness”.
  5. The scriptures (that the teachers of the law mishandled) was a “God witness” (not man’s interpretation of the scriptures).

In Acts 15 – we have two “God witnesses” – signs and wonders thru Peter, Barnabas and Paul, and we have a third “God witness” – the scripture given thru James.

Now the whole group had been taught about “Witnesses” (by the law, by Jesus, and by Paul) and could say a hardy amen when the third witness (James) came forward. James kind of put the icing on the cake – and with a stroke of Godly wisdom to bring the Gentiles and Jews together – not divide them!

Once the group caught sight of the third witness – the meeting was over.  The testimony of scripture sealed the deal.  If this passage says anything – it says that scripture has the final say – not James.  But even Scripture, when misused, or misapplied is not a valid witness.   (see John 5:39)

James was not the “head” in this meeting – Jesus was and the testimony of what Jesus was doing ruled the day and trumped the opinions of the circumcision party.

Which is right to follow – the witness of God – or the authority of man? It’s easy when they are the same – but what if James would have sided with the circumcision party?

My opinion is that – the witness of God ruled the day in the early church – not the authority of man. In fact, they knew no such thing as a man in authority over them dictating to them what he thought God was saying. The leaders were well respected and actually led the people – but the governmental decision was a consensus on the evidence at hand – not an edict from the “head man”.

The vast majority of time that a “sola pastora” rules over an assembly or even a meeting, the context of two or three witnesses is totally destroyed. This slaps the command of God in the face. The scriptures never said – put a pastor in charge and let him establish every matter. No, no, no, indeed. Let every matter be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Do you want to know what God is doing in your midst right now? Ask the person next to you. You might be surprised what a group will come up with – and how it all fits so wonderfully together. Instead – we ignore (or assign to some other time or setting) whole passages of scripture (Romans 12; 1 Corinthians 12, 13, and 14; Acts 15; John 5, etc) – and instead replace these practices with stuff that’s nowhere to be found even in a single scripture. (Senior pastor, Assistant Pastor, the authority of the pastor, Senior Elder, covering, Marketplace Apostle, Foundational Apostle, Sunday Service, pulpits, A non-participatory meeting, etc). Is it any wonder that moves of God are so rare in the traditional western setting?

“The prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority, and my people love it this way. But what will you do in the end?” (Jer 5:31 NIV)

The question at hand is this: even if you think everything I’ve written here is total error – and that the church is a hierarchy led by a single pastor and advised by a group of elders – then how does the concept of two or three witnesses come into play – in a meeting – in governmental decisions – in EVERY MATTER?

December 24, 2009 at 5:32 am Leave a comment

Super Apostles or The Church?

Jesus made a bold proclamation to Peter – You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my church (Ekklesia) and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. (Matt 16:18)

Why did Jesus use the word “Ekklesia” and what’s so special about that word?

Why didn’t Jesus set his apostles in place in territories and proclaim – the gates of hell will not prevail against my apostles? Isn’t that the way western apostolic networks think? In fact most western apostolic literature turns the church into the one conquered (by church leaders), and not the ones doing the conquering.

If you want to take a territory – you just bring in the super apostle – he says a few words to the skies – and leaves town proclaiming the territories have been taken (never mind they’ve not taken any territory yet – the church has actually shrunk in the west).

Okay – let’s look at Ekklesia. Jesus didn’t use the word for “gathering” (episunagoge) – he used the word Ekklesia – a word all of the disciples knew.

 Acts 19:39 gives us the clue:

“You have brought these men here, though they have neither robbed temples nor blasphemed our goddess. If, then, Demetrius and his fellow craftsmen have a grievance against anybody, the courts are open and there are proconsuls. They can press charges. If there is anything further you want to bring up, it must be settled in a legal assembly.” (Ac 19:37-39 NIV)

 “Legal assembly” in Acts 19:39 is the word Ekklesia. Ekklesia by definition is the “Called out ones” – in Greek society – they were called out of their homes into a public place to make governmental decisions. The government of God rests squarely in the Ekklesia – not in the hands of a select few leaders. Leaders are there to help mature and care for the saints, not to be their government or Lords. The leaders greatly influence the Ekklesia, but they cannot usurp the Ekklesia’s governmental authority given by God.

In the end, if territory is to be taken – it is taken thru the Ekklesia – with her leaders building her up and ultimately her members building one another up to accomplish the task.

“His intent was that now, through the church (Ekklesia), the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Eph 3:10-11 NIV)

I have to admit, I don’t know much about Ekklesia – I have very limited experience.  I’ve seen her there, tied to a chair with someone shouting to her how ugly she is – and I really can’t handle much more of that!  Even on a good day – she’s been tied to that chair with someone declaring prophetic destinies over her.  Those prophecies made me cry – but she’s still just sitting there (in the west).   I don’t really know how she is built, how she functions, how she governs.  I know she’s the most stunningly beautiful thing the world has ever seen – more stunning to Jesus than Eve was to Adam.  I know she’s the most powerful force this earth has ever known – the exact representation of Jesus Himself – and yet I know so very little of her.  This is my mission right now – find out about Ekklesia.  Can anyone help me?

December 21, 2009 at 6:17 am Leave a comment

James, Ordained or Reputed?

I have to say I’ve struggled a lot lately with the leadership structure of the traditional church and the teachings thereof. I’ve always been told that Acts 15 proves that James was the leader of the church in Jerusalem, yet I’m having a difficult time coming to that conclusion.

If James were the leader – why didn’t Paul just address him as such in Galatians 2:9? Wouldn’t Paul have just said: I am not at all inferior to James the Pastor of Jerusalem? Doesn’t this scripture in Galatians really say that leadership in the church is earned by your reputation – that is how much people trust you – and not by ordination (being appointed to an office by some person that is holier than you)?

Or how about the argument that Jesus appeared to James, and so that made James the Pastor of Jerusalem? (1 Corinthians 15:1-7) This says Jesus appeared to Peter, and then to the twelve, and then to five-hundred plus others – and then finally to James. So if you’re the 515th person to walk thru that door – then you become the pastor? I mean what’s up with that argument? I can’t find any scripture anywhere that references a pastor. Sure there are pastors (plural) in Ephesians 4 – but no one in scripture is called a pastor. What’s up with that?

Or how about the argument that certain men came FROM JAMES? (Galatians 2:12). This is seemingly refuted in Acts 15:24 – where James himself said – they went out from us – but we didn’t put that message in their mouths.

And then the tough questions – why would Jesus tell the apostles the church was not to be like a Roman authority structure – and then put James over a structure where he is making authoritative decisions and lording over others? (Matt 20:25; Mark 10:42; Luke 22:25).

And the argument that God has a primary vision carrier (the pastor) in each local congregation. I couldn’t find one scripture anywhere where James had any vision. Peter had vision – Paul had vision – John had plenty of vision – but James had nothing. If James was the leader – why did God give all this stuff to his subordinates? No, most of this James argument stuff doesn’t hold any water at all.

No I think it was just like Paul said it in Galatians 2:9 – James was reputed to be one of the leaders in Jerusalem (not the Pope or Pastor or Lead Elder) – just one of the guys who had earned a great reputation from the brothers – and so they listened to him.

December 20, 2009 at 9:43 am 3 comments


June 2017
S M T W T F S
« Mar    
 123
45678910
11121314151617
18192021222324
252627282930  

Categories