Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Name above Every Name

“For the sake of your name do not despise us” (Jeremiah 14:21).

            Glancing through the scriptures, it becomes clear that Jeremiah is not merely appealing to the Lord’s reputation in this verse: “…our redeemer from of old is your name” (Isaiah 63:16; 1 Peter 1:18, 19);  “Help us, O God our savior, for the glory of your name; deliver us and forgive our sins for your name’s sake” (Psalm 79:9; Eph. 2:5);  “…through your name we trample our foes” (Psalm 44:5; Col. 2:15); “Remember how the enemy has mocked you, O LORD, how foolish people have reviled your name” (Psalm 24:18; Matt. 27:39-44).  Speaking of Himself just before the cross, Jesus said, “Father, glorify your name!” (John 12:28).  In doing so, He showed that He was the name of the Lord embodied and drew into Himself all scriptural testimony concerning God’s name.  For “there is no other name given to men under heaven by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
            Scripture also says that God’s people are called by His name (2 Chron. 7:14).  We are no longer known by our old name, Adam, nor by his despicable conduct.  God only knows us by the name which suffered, died, and was buried, the name which rose again on the third day.  He makes no distinctions in his heart between us and Christ.  Therefore, He will not despise us.  Instead, in Christ, God says of us, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17).

Thursday, April 26, 2012

True Fasting II

(Part I is the post immediately before this one)


         As the verses from Isaiah 58 suggest, a sacrificial lifestyle can take many forms.  We may accept a leadership position for which we feel ill-prepared and unqualified.  We may apologize first, even though another person is at fault.  God may give us an opportunity to share Christ in a setting where it isn’t comfortable.  Ministry to the homeless or opening our homes to travelers may be ways we give ourselves.  Regardless of how it looks, if we are being transformed by Christ’s sacrifice, we will respond when God asks us to offer ourselves. 
            Denying self and taking up the cross daily is the difference between vital spirituality and hollow religion: “For, as I have often told you before…many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.  Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame” (Php. 3:18, 19).  The enemies of the cross to which Paul is referring are not those who are godless, immoral, drunks or murderers.  He is talking about people who keep the law, who are moral and worship God, yet refuse the “fasting” of the cross (Php. 3:3-7).  God’s end goal isn’t that we gather in special buildings, sing songs to Him, tithe, and attend potlucks (though we may do all of these).  God’s eternal desire is that we are conformed to Christ’s sacrifice and live as sacrifices ourselves (Rom. 12:1).

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

True Fasting

An excerpt from my notes on the Day of Atonement


            On the day of Atonement, the Israelites were to practice "self-denial" (traditionally understood to mean fasting) (Lev. 23:32).  Isaiah 58:6 and 7 say,

Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?  Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter--when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

These verses show that God values a self-giving lifestyle much more than ritual self-deprivation.  God wants us to live from the heart, not the stomach.  This is why Jesus said, “If anyone wants to come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23).  The Christ lifestyle is one lived unto the cross.  This is true fasting.
            Second Corinthians 5:15 says, “And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.”  For any Israelite who took to heart the full significance of the sin offering on the Day of Atonement, not eating might be a natural response of repentance, besides being commanded by God.  In the same way, we respond to Christ's sin offering by "fasting," by living for Him and not ourselves.  This isn't a rule God imposes on us.  It is the natural response of a heart changed by the love of Christ who gave Himself for us.