Saturday, December 15, 2018

The Return of the Demon

By the time that Jesus told this story, he had found consistant and obstinant resistance against most of the religious leadership, possibly even worse than the prophets that the religious leaders were back in the day when they killed off God’s other spokespeople. This story comes right after the stubborn religious leaders asked Jesus for a sign, like he hadn’t performed several in front of them already.
So here is the story, told in modern language. You can find it in Matthew 12:43-45.

One day a demon went out of a person, and it passed through waterless places seeking rest, but it didn’t find any. So it said, “I will return to my house from which I came.” And when it returned, it found the house empty, swept, and put in order. That excited the demon, so it went and brought with it seven other demons more evil than itself, and they entered and dwelt there, and the last state of that person is worse that he was before. 

And so it was with the evil generation that Jesus lived in.

Here are a couple of thoughts that I have gleaned from this passage:
1. Some believe that demons, evil spirits love water, and the people in Canaan believed that in Jesus’ day. In fact, most still believe this today. They believe that evil dwells in water aka the abyss. Today, Jewish fishermen stay close to shore because of this. Is this true? I know that in this story, Jesus at least consedes or uses this belief in the story. I am not sure if he believed it or not, albeit the pigs in the Gaderenes ran into the abyss.
2. What does a cleaned and ordered house mean? Jesus was speaking against the religious folk who were very legalistic. They thought that by keeping a list of dos and don’ts, they could be in good order and please the Lord. However, although they had all their religious ducks in a row, there was no one dwelling INSIDE, no “strong man” to keep these demons out. Today, being religious or being a “good person”, although no one is good except God, can set you up for brutality. You need someone to dwell INSIDE of you. Someone stronger than you. That person who is stronger is Jesus. Religion without a relationship with Jesus is of no benefit. Moral people can still go to Hell forever. YOU and I need a strong man, the man Jesus. 
3. When someone becomes proud of themself and their religousness, pride sets in, if not something far worse. Have you evern known a legalist to treat people with hate/contempt? Not realizing that they sin too? How healthy is that for society?  We need to realized that we are broken together, and that we all need a strong man to save us. We all need, and can enjoy him dwelling in us, making us actually a temple, in which he dwells. 
4. Yes, do good, live right. But let it begin with a love for Jesus and let His Spirit work with you to transform you to reflect Jesus inside and outside. What a wonderful person Jesus is. If I could pick someone to become like, it would be him. 
5. Am I saying that you should not accept yourself for who YOU are? Yes and no.
A. You should accept that you are made in God’s image, are precious to him, and he longs for a relationship with you.
B. You should also accept that you miss the mark of perfection so often, and that by yourself you will never obtain it. Accept that you are also broken and need saving.

You have to accept the good and the bad. And this bad, needs to bring up you becoming discontent with who you are in the badness. And then wisely realize and admit that you need help.

C. You also need to accept this truth about yourself, that you are seperate from God and will be condemned because a lot of what you do and a lot of who you are is very hurtful and destructive. Oh, you may not be someone who causes great destruction, like an abortion doctor, or a terrorist, but you do cause plenty of pain, or have caused a lot of pain in the past. And, just as those guys need saving, so do YOU and so do I. 
6. If you are in Christ and Christ is in you, you are safe, you are righteous, you have become a child of God, you are forgiven, you are a saint/a holy person, you have a great destiny and future, and you do not need to fear evil. In fact, you can say, “Greater is the one who is in me, than he who is in the world!” Because in Christ, God himself dwells in you. And you are His temple. And in that, you can find rest, and s tey. 

Monday, November 19, 2018

If we are forgiven in Christ, then why is there a Judgment Seat of Christ?

If Our Sins are Forgiven in Christ, Then Why a Judgment Seat?

A friend asked me this question the other day, so I want to dig into this.
I remember back in college age days where I would give an answer quickly, so that I seemed competent. But, as Jesus grows in me a desire to care for people, I take more time with these answers. Wayne Grudem impacted me in how he was so careful to be thoughtful in his answers when I had him as a professor at Trinity Seminary. He would often say, “Let me get back to you.” And then he actually would. So, I have learned to give it thought and prayer, unless the answer is obvious. And even if it is obvious, people are too important not to give them some thought and not to take them to the Lord before answering. So, now you know the background, let’s dig into the study.

Questions I want to answer in this blog:
1. Are our sins (past, present, and future) forgiven in Christ?
2. What is the judgment seat of Christ and what happens there?
3. How now shall we live?

1. Are our sins (past, present, and future) forgiven in Christ? Yes.
All of us have sin and fallen short of God’s glorious standard (Rom. 3:9-20, 23), and therefore, because we are not perfect and are guilty of sin (James 2:10), we stand condemned before a holy God (John 3:18, Luke 8:12).

So what do we do about this? Do we all spend eternity in conscious separation and suffering apart from God, like the Bible teaches (Rev. 21:8, Matt. 25:46, Psalm 9:17, 2 Thess. 1:9, Matt. 13:42, 50, Mk. 9:43, Jude 1:7)? Or is there another option?

God has taken the initiative in this. There is something we can do. God has provided a remedy.
Let me lay this out in a story of a guy named Joe. Joe, like all of us, is guilty before a perfect, holy, and righteous God. In fact, internally he knows that God cannot look on evil favorably (Habbakuk 1:13), and that he is still in his sin. However, he also knows that around 33AD God took initiative and sent His Son, Jesus/Yahweh the Savior into the world to pay the price for our sins by dying on a cross (Romans 5:8) and that through this death Christ satisfied God’s wrath through paying the price for the worlds sin (1 Peter 3:18). And that through faith in Christ, trusting in Christ, believing in Christ, looking to Christ for salvation, that gift is ratified to Joe (John 3:16-18) and that if he doesn’t trust Christ, he remains in a condemned state because of disbelief, and blowing off this wonderful sacrifice. So what does Joe do? He is faced with a choice, to look to Jesus and be saved or to blow off Jesus and remained guilty, with no sacrifice for sin being credited to His account. Joe wisely chooses Jesus. And because Joe has chosen Jesus, and embraced him, the promise of Psalm 103:12 and John 1:12 applies to him. Praise God! Furthermore, what Joe doesn’t realize yet is that he is also sealed in that state (Ephesians 1:11-14).

2. What is the Judgment Seat of Christ and what happens there?
So, seeing that our sins are forgiven: past, present, and future (by the way, “sin” is an archery term that means to miss the mark/target/bullseye. It is to fly at 30,000 feet when Jesus flies at 40,000 feet for example.), why do we have to stand before this JSC?
A. Verses that talk about JSC:
Luke 19:11-27, Romans 14:10-12, 1 Cor. 3:10-4:5, 2 Cor. 5:1-10, Jn. 2:28, 1 Cor. 3:8, Php. 1:21,23, Heb. 9:27, Mt. 16:27, Rev. 22:12, Rev. 12:3, 1 Thess. 1:3, 2 Thess. 1:11)
B. The JSC is NOT the Great White Throne Judgment in Revelation 20.
C. It is known as the Behma Seat.
D. So let’s dig into these verses:

Luke 19:11-27- This passage talks about a general response from the business man. He rewarded the faithfulness of some and for one, he condemned. So, those in Christ seem to receive a situation of reward, not nit-pick.

Romans 14:10-12- The Judgment seat of God is a place where all of us will give an account to God. So, here Paul encourages us not to pass judgment on people. This verse doesn’t mean that we aren’t to challenge and confront one another. Rather, we are not to condemn one another.

1 Cor. 3:10-4:5- It is a time to see the quality of the persons works, and a time for commendation IF there is anything to commend.

2 Cor. 5:1-10- There is a day where we must all appear before the JOC to receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. There is a “paycheck” for our labor. Then, the context of verse 11 says, “Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to....God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience.”
Let me extrapolate- We are God’s children, forgiven in Christ. Well....God knows if we are and Paul hopes we know if we are. BUT, if we are, we receive the “Crown of Life” and it is a joyful day. But what if we are people who have Christ and are therefore positionally holy (clean) but practically not perfected? First, none of us have reached practical perfection. I believe it will be a time of great joy as we see Jesus! But why then will Paul mention “evil”? I think there is not payout for deeds done in sin (ie pride, self-promotion, etc). Also, to be in heaven, to dwell with Jesus, we have to be perfect. And therefore, if we are allowed into Heaven, then even our evil deeds are not held against us, otherwise we couldn’t enter.

1 Cor. 3:8- There seems to be a reception of wages for the work in evangelism and discipleship.

Heb. 9:27-28- We all will face judgment, however, when Christ comes he will save those who eagerly wait for him. What if someone professes Christ, is even baptized, but does not eagerly wait for Him?
Here are my thoughts: 1) this person is distracted by the weeds of life, and has lost the light of hope, being weighed down, 2) this person does not have a depth of understanding and needs discipleship, or 3) this person is really unconverted, and does not hope in Christ.
I know that for me, personally, I know I am imperfect, and that most likely half of what I do has selfish motives BUT I am so excited about Jesus to return or for me to be with Him, that this excitement overwhelms any fear. And, if I notice a sin, I confess, repent, and adjust my life to live right.

Mt. 16:27- I take that generally as a judgment depending on what they did with Jesus.

Rev. 22:12- Echos Matthew 16:27

3. How now shall we live?
So, for the believer, is the JSC a time for fear? Nope. I think it is a time of joy.
We already know that we are not at the Great White Throne, and that our sins have been removed from us, otherwise, we would stand condemned. We do not stand condemned, and that is great news. In fact, we will receive various rewards depending on if our works in the Lord were pure.

I was a manager. Annually I would do an employee review. However, I loved my employees and unless there was a dramatic problem (which I would have talked to them about many times), they were secure in their employment. In fact, I felt that an annual review was actually a review, in part, of my leadership of my employees. When an employee sat in front of me, I would praise them for the good work they had done, and I would also challenge them to develop in any area they were deficient.

In part, the JSC is similar. We are His children, our sin has been paid for, Christ’s precious blood applied to our account. We will receive praise and reward for work, we will not receive reward for sin. And my example falls short, because I am not as good of a person and as loving a person and not nearly as healthy as the Lord. He is good, and holy, and loving, and healthy. So how much more can we trust him and look forward to seeing Him and becoming more like Him for all eternity!

Friday, March 2, 2018

Stubborn Habits: Maya & the Tree

We have a dog named Maya. She can't resist barking and biting our tree.
Here is her story.

One thing Maya loves to do is bark up the tree & bite the bark. We don't like her biting the bark. We don't like her barking a lot either.
So, we've put fences around the tree, we've attempted to train her, we've given her correction. Currently, we have both a fence and a bark collar. However, these measures occasionally (3x a day) still doesn't stop her. She can't resist the tree.
The only thing that seems to work is to go outside and yell at her when she heads toward that tree.
I have thought about getting rid of her so she doesn't kill the tree, because we like that tree. But we love Maya, so we wouldn't do that over a tree.

This got me thinking about myself, and other people who are striving to obey Jesus.
1. We know that we are loved, and that we are in the family because of Jesus work (Ephesians 2:8-10, John 3:16-18).  Kind of like Maya, our rescued dog. It wasn't because of Maya's behavior that we adopted her. Out of gracious mercy and generosity we adopted her into our family. She doesn't earn her keep, rather, she has our keep. She is a part of our "pack" not because of anything she has done, but because of loving grace. So, she doesn't have to do certain things to remain in the pack (and this is where the illustration falls short) unless she hurts or attacks one of the people in our "pack". She is safe, she is loved.
2. Do you have any trees, that the Lord has told you not to "bite the bark" on? Are there any stubborn habits that you keep going back to, but know the Lord doesn't want you to? I have those.
3. I have put up fences (Proverbs 7:24-27), have read the commands and desires of my Father, have been corrected by others, and I have even used "bark collars" to help me create a good boundary away from the trees. Now I will say that I have less trees than I use to. As I grew up in Christ, I lost interest in some of these, because my desire to enjoy close fellowship with Jesus became greater. But I still have a few trees. Some I know about, and others the Lord probably has not pointed out yet. I am like the homeowner and Maya in this story.
4. When I am mindful of the Lord's voice, I stay away from the trees. But it takes focus and it takes perspective. My default is to bite the trees, but there is also a part of me that doesn't want to bite them.
5. So what did Jesus teach about things that cause you to bite trees? He taught us to radically amputate. So we either move to a yard with no trees, put up an impeccable barrier around the tree, or cut down the tree (Matthew 5:27-30). To be honest, part of me still likes to bite the trees (I call it the flesh) and part of me never wants to bite a tree again (I call that the spirit) (ie Romans 7).

What will you do to quit biting the trees the Lord told you not to?

6. Maya apparently cannot learn this behavior on her own. She needs us, the tree needs us, to help her. So, we cannot desire or successfully stay away from things without the help of our Master. I am glad he is engaged and helps. 
Feel free to comment below.