Friday, August 24, 2012

Masquerade

Reposting something from a couple years ago.  Taken from my notes on 1 Samuel.

***

            Human religion is God’s greatest enemy and satan’s greatest instrument in his assault on God & God’s people.  Human religion is not just non-Christian faiths or certain denominations.  It is found in varying degrees in every church just as Christ is.  The sons of the evil one are sown amongst the sons of the kingdom (Matt. 13:37-39).  It is also within each of us: “For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature.  They are in conflict with each other….” (Gal. 5:17).  We think of the desires of the sinful nature being addictions, greed, lust, and the like.  Certainly these things do arise from the sinful nature, and Paul lists them in the same passage.  But the greater context of the passage is about the Galatians mixing law with grace.  Paul is warning them that their religion not only empowers sinful desires but is itself contrary to God.  One aspect of the sinful nature, then, is its attempt to establish its own righteousness.  Christ must be the end of this or we will travel land and sea to win converts whom we will turn into twice the children of hell we are (Rom. 10:3, 4; Matt. 23:15).
Since human religion puts itself in God’s place, it cannot tolerate when God or His true representatives show themselves.  The exposure of its charade, its counterfeiting, and its hypocrisy cannot be countenanced or it will lose all the control, self-worship, and parasitic preservation secured by its ruse.  So called “clergy” are certainly to blame as perpetrators of the power structure of human religion, the fa├žade which keeps people from entering the kingdom because it poses as the gate (Matt. 23:13).  But human religion can’t exist without a laity which can be appealed to by leaders who justify the rule of self, the religion of the stomach, and their enmity with the cross of Christ (Php. 3:18, 19).  To these and to all Jesus says, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it” (Luke 9:23, 24). 
            We cannot serve Christ and human religion.  We must choose.  While Christ and human religion coexist (not only in churches but in ourselves) they will be drawn inexorably into conflict, and we will be on one side or the other—laying our lives down in Christ’s image or thinking we offer service to God even as we attack those who are His flesh and blood (1 John 3:11-16; John 16:2). 

“[F]or Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.  It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness” (2 Cor. 11:14, 15). 

            The first murder was religiously motivated.  Cain offered God the best fruit his talents and effort could produce.  God rejected his offering but accepted Abel’s—an animal from his flock.  John tells us Cain murdered Abel because “his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous” (1 John 3:12).  The counterfeiter couldn’t tolerate the existence of the real.  Cain and Abel demonstrate one of the basic differences between human religion and Christ.  Cain’s “gospel” is that of human religion: work hard for God and give Him your best.  Abel had nothing of himself to offer.  Instead, he offered another life from his flock, which God accepted.  Cain says it’s about being good enough.  Abel says someone else must die for us.  Human religion heaps burdens on men which it won’t lift a finger to carry itself (Matt. 23:4).  Christ, who lays down His life for us, says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28).

Thursday, August 16, 2012

God Is in Control

Below is an excerpt from a new booklet I'm working on....

***  

            “God is in control.”  Christians repeat this phrase to each other often.  But what do we mean when we say this?  God being in control is another way of talking about God’s will or what God wants.  Does God get what He wants?  If He does, how?  If He doesn’t, why?  Such questions immediately re-frame the whole discussion about God being in control.  Often, when Christians talk of God being in control, it is in reference to what we want or hope for.  Anytime we are in the midst of change or crisis, there are certain outcomes we would prefer and others we would rather avoid.  At such times, we comfort ourselves and others by saying, “God is in control,” because we assume God shares our desires and is working to conform circumstances to our expectations.  It is hard for us to question whether what we hope for is actually what God wants.  This is because it is ingrained in us that what God wants, God gets.  We are afraid to think that He might want something different from us because, chances are, going down that road won’t lead to the place we expect. 
            This assumption—that what we view as good is also godly—breeds untold confusion and heartache.  We pray for something we want or for a situation to turn out a certain way.  We don’t get what we ask for or things go a way that is completely against our liking.  What do we conclude?  Not that God has something else in mind.  Not that we should find out what He wants instead of asking for what we want.  Instead, when God chooses something other than what we expect, we doubt He exists.  We doubt His goodness.  We doubt He loves us.  We rub salt in our wounds.  Disappointment is hard enough without believing we are disappointed because God ignores us, doesn’t care about us, or simply isn’t there.  We could spare ourselves some additional pain by questioning ourselves instead of God.  But at bottom, we are so convinced that we know best it is almost incomprehensible to question ourselves.  Doubting God is much easier than doubting ourselves.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Standing on a New Frontier--Post by Frank Viola

One of the blogs I follow is by Frank Viola, co-author (with Leonard Sweet) of Jesus Manifesto.  Today, I read a post of his that hit me right between the eyes, so to speak.  Below is an excerpt of the post with a link to the full post.

***

"Today we stand on the edge of a new frontier--one of exploration, not fortification.  One of discovery, not contentment.  In this new frontier, we will navigate the uncharted waters of Jesus Christ, our all-sufficient Lord.

There is so much more of Christ to sail than we could ever imagine.  But if the truth be told, we have been handed a shrink-wrapped Jesus.

Christ has become our once-a-week Mascot.  We rally around Him on Sunday mornings, selfishly reaching for all we can get from Him--goodies and gifts, all for us.  Then we push Him off to the sidelines the rest of the week.

But the game has never been about us; it's always been about Him.

The gospel that's so often preached today lacks a revelation of Jesus Christ.  The contemporary gospel boils down to a fire-insurance policy, a Santa Claus God, or a performance-based religion.  As long as we stay on that plane, we'll never see or comprehend the staggering enormity of our Lord."

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Featured Blog: Inspired Sketch

Patrick Murphy is a friend of mine who loves the Lord & who creates art that I really value.  I'd like to invite you to check out his blog, Inspired Sketch: http://inspiredsketch.blogspot.com/.  On the blog, you'll find thoughtful, spiritual reflections accompanied by drawings, paintings, photos, & videos.  Below are a few of my personal favorites: