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Super Savior

Super SaviorIf you’re focused on Christian dogma, Christian rituals, Christian practices, or even Christian examples (good or bad), you’re missing the point.

All of those things are important, of course. But they are the spokes. Our focus – in our own hearts, in our church life, and in our dialogue with the world – needs to be on the hub.

Christ is a super savior.

No, He’s not wearing a cape and jumping over tall buildings. But just look at the language of Colossians 1:15-20, and note the incredible pile-up of superlatives used to describe Him:

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

These are outrageously out-there claims. This person, Jesus Christ, is God in the flesh; and He is before all, above all, in all, ruling over all and reconciling all. The entire created order is His.

In other words, He is superior, and everything else (including you and me) is subordinate. Our fictional superheroes don’t hold a candle to His sun.

Let this sink in for a minute. That immense, beautiful, and complex universe that surrounds us? It is His. It did not just appear out of thin vacuum. He made it, He upholds it, He rules over it – we are not the pawns of chance and random forces, but we are fearfully and wonderfully made by the supreme and only God, who rules over every force, visible and invisible.

The Scripture proclaims Christ as the superlative, supreme reality. He is not one of many gods. He is God. Audacious, yes?

One of the deepest works of sin is this: we want to imagine that we are in charge; or, that nothing is in charge. Sin is all about denial of reality. We’ll believe just about anything, as long as it doesn’t involve a King to rule over us. That’s why unbelief is, ultimately, a moral choice. It is the personal rejection of your Creator/King. It is the ant telling the earth to get lost.

If you give anything your attention, let it be the super Savior. Everything else, by definition, is a lesser consideration.

The Great Escape

The essence of the Christian faith can be found in this amazing sentence:

“For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:13-14)

Genuine Christianity includes belief in Christ, joined to a personal and ongoing experience of Christ’s deliverance of us. It’s not an abstract set of dogmas. It’s an unfolding story of escape.

Escape Gospel

I wrote about the in whom we have aspect in this prior post. But let’s back up and look at what this passage tells us about rescue.

1. First of all, note that deliverance/rescue/salvation is not a mere bullet point in a list of orthodox dogmas. “We believe in a; and in b; and in c; oh, and by the way, we believe in rescue; and in this; and that; and the other…” While the Christian faith, like any and every other belief system and worldview (including atheism), includes a series of beliefs, the biblical gospel involves far more that a mental framework. It is founded on an individual and corporate experience of escape – a rescuing from moral and spiritual darkness – performed by the hand of God Himself through Jesus Christ. This is an audacious claim. We don’t adhere to dead truths from a mythical God; we believe in a living and active God who does miracles in people. Darkness-defeating deliverances. Today.

2. Also, the Scripture is very plain about the reality of darkness. It is moral. It is spiritual. It is universal. And it is powerful – such that every single human being is in its grip, and we cannot escape without rescue from a much more powerful God of light and love. The first step in God’s rescuing work is making us realize how hopelessly we are enchained in darkness. We’re not good. We’re not neutral. We’re not filled with enlightened intelligence. And, enslaved in our chains of moral folly, we cannot free ourselves. The gospel is for the hopeless leper; to the self-sufficient soul still in the grip of darkness, it simply sounds like foolishness.

3. We’re not independent operators, as much as we’d like to imagine ourselves to be. We belong to a kingdom, and this is a binary (zero or one) reality. The kingdom of darkness. The kingdom of Jesus. No middle ground, no other choices. Until and unless we are delivered by Jesus, we remain enslaved in darkness. This, by the way, is why people so violently oppose the gospel. It undercuts our arrogance and imagined self-determination right to the taproot. The gospel is astonishingly inclusive – any and all are welcome – but also terrifyingly exclusive. One way to God. Only Jesus can deliver the darkness-shrouded soul. We need a specific cure, not a random medicine chest, for our deadly disease.

4. In the midst of all these hard and uncomfortable truths, love is the answer. Not some wispy ’60′s view of hippie mush-love, but the all-powerful love of the Father for His Son, and His love for us expressed through His Son’s sacrifice for sins. We need redemption and forgiveness first and foremost; and that is exactly what God extends to those in darkness. Cleansing where once was only impurity. Restoration where there was hostility. Healing in the midst of brokenness. Sight where once spiritual blindness ruled. Love is not smooth words afraid to offend. Love breaks chains and makes rescues.

5. The conclusion we draw from this – and it is reinforced over and over throughout the Scriptures – is that mere human moral effort is inadequate. Just adopting orthodox beliefs is insufficient. Taking on Jesus’ name with the lips while retaining a heart in love with the practice of sin is a lie. Real, living Christianity is seen where thankful, delivered, spiritually-awakened people worship the God who loves them, and love other imperfect people within the body of Christ and outside of it.

Do you want to witness the reality of God’s work on earth? Don’t crave signs and wonders in the sky. Look for the people of the great escape. That is the hand of God – and He invites you to come to Him for deliverance. Weak, wounded, broken, scarred, blind, enslaved, addicted, impure, dying – Jesus, the great physician, calls the sick to Himself for healing.

 

Having It All

People write often about the mythical goal of “having it all” in this life.

Not. Going. To. Happen.

But if we take the Scriptures seriously, there is a powerfully comforting truth about “having it all.” While we’ll never have 100% of everything in day-to-day earthly experience, we are given ALL in Christ.

I was strolling around the house reading these verses aloud to myself this morning:

For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sin. (Colossians 1:13-14)

In whom we have.

Redemption and forgiveness are given to us. All spiritual blessings are given to us. Christ Himself is given to us. We have it all.

Now we might not experience the fulness of these riches yet – the outworking is progressive, the infilling is a daily experience, the sanctification of each saint involves a long process of growth.

But what God has given, we now possess. Pardon. Adoption into His family. Enduring grace. Heaven. Himself.

It’s not a matter of God considering the possibility of embracing us. The Lord Jesus is not giving some thought to the idea of redeeming you and me. The Holy Spirit is not present one day, absent the next, undecided about dwelling with us and within us. The idea that a Christian has the blessing of God as long as he/she has his/her act together that day is a mockery of the gospel.

He has given. We have received. He possesses us and all that we are. We possess Him and all that He is.

The loving, adoptive parent makes a total and legal commitment – and wholehearted embrace – of the orphan child. Whether that son or daughter is 6 months old or 60 years old, he or she has the family name, love, and inheritance. In time, the realization all of those things will progressively come to fruition.

In fact, we can have it all. No — we DO have it all! And whatever we possess in seed form, will come to full flower under God’s loving and omnipotent care.

The Best Gift

It’s October 18th; just another day for most, but for me, always a good day to pause and reflect.

I was given life-outside-the-womb on this day, 56 years ago. It seems more like the blink of an eye. Yet here I am in middle Tennessee, with 5 wonderful kids, a loyal and loving wife, a warm extended family, a God who has “rescued me from the domain of darkness, and transferred me to the kingdom of His beloved Son,” a fulfilling career, a great network of cool and creative people, and I’m feeling something that has been an elusive experience for most of my life.

I have never been happier.

Not just because of the circumstances, but because, in all my sin and folly, I’m drawing a little bit closer to God day by day.

Life, and new life – that is the best gift of all.

It’s one thing to hear, or see, something beautiful to the senses. And, it’s a qualitatively more wonderful experience to meet someone who is fascinating.

But the real beauty is in going deep. Time spent in contemplation, reflection, and communion. Making new connections of mind and soul that take a few scattered gold coins and turn them into a fortune.

That’s what meditation is for. It’s gaining insight. It’s self-aware application. It’s soul-digestion.

It is expansion.

Meditation is not the emptying of yourself. It is knowing your emptiness, pulling up to the pump, and re-filling.

Meditation

We humans have been given an extraordinary gift – the capacity to contemplate. We rob ourselves when we settle for digital distraction, which only serves to occupy the bare surface of the mind and heart before the next sensation comes along.

That’s junk food. Meditation is how we create a nutritious, 3-course meal.

A couple of days ago, I read this passage from the (always excellent) devotional volume by Charles Spurgeon, Morning and Evening:

Revolve in your mind that wondrous word, “faultless!” We are far off from it now; but as our Lord never stops short of perfection in his work of love, we shall reach it one day. The Saviour who will keep his people to the end, will also present them at last to himself, as “a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing, but holy and without blemish.” All the jewels in the Saviour’s crown are of the first water and without a single flaw. All the maids of honour who attend the Lamb’s wife are pure virgins without spot or stain. But how will Jesus make us faultless? He will wash us from our sins in his own blood until we are white and fair as God’s purest angel; and we shall be clothed in his righteousness, that righteousness which makes the saint who wears it positively faultless; yea, perfect in the sight of God. We shall be unblameable and unreproveable even in his eyes. His law will not only have no charge against us, but it will be magnified in us. Moreover, the work of the Holy Spirit within us will be altogether complete. He will make us so perfectly holy, that we shall have no lingering tendency to sin. Judgment, memory, will-every power and passion shall be emancipated from the thraldom of evil. We shall be holy even as God is holy, and in his presence we shall dwell for ever. Saints will not be out of place in heaven, their beauty will be as great as that of the place prepared for them.

…and the thought struck me – how often do I ponder the work of salvation as positive – absolutely re-creating me – as opposed to just the removal of sin?

God, and His law, will be magnified in me?? Can that be??

Therefore, it isn’t my destiny to “barely make it” through this life of fallenness – no, God is infusing my life, and will infuse my life for all eternity, with Himself. And He won’t stop and cannot be stopped. This led to very liberating contemplation which I am even now enjoying as I re-read the words.

Yet how often have I read and heard such words with dull ears and a sleepy heart, so that the benefit never takes root?

A new perspective is often the key to unlocking deep levels of freedom and change. It’s not enough to just take in words, images, and other “content”. We need to gain clearer vision, continually. Daily. There’s no short-cut to practical acuity and wisdom - it comes through contemplation.

Scratching the surface of information or relationships may give us a form of breadth. But we don’t need more roots; we need deeper ones. We don’t need more snacks – we need to digest and assimilate. Meditation is the pathway to greater insights and life-giving understanding.

 

Doors Unlocked

So far on this brief vacation in the Finger Lakes with my brothers, I’ve noted at least 3 occasions when we’ve left doors unlocked.

Front door. Patio door. Car door.

At least we’ve practiced equal opportunity negligence. Thus far, happily, without consequence.

One reasonable excuse is that we’re in unfamiliar/rental surroundings, so these things happen. But negligence can lead to consequences, whether in familiar or unfamiliar territory.

DoorsWhile walking in a state park yesterday, I spotted a broken-down building with these broken-down doors. I immediately thought of how the Scripture talks about doors and windows into the soul – and the need to guard our hearts.

The fact is, if we leave the doors of our soul unlocked to temptation, sooner or later, sin will both break out and break in.

How we need grace to guard our hearts, lest we end up being ransacked like this.

What sins are you toying with right now that threaten to kick down your doors? Let us turn the lock of repentance, and believe what we are told that if we play with fire, we will eventually get burned.

Driving through upstate NY State with my brothers yesterday, we noted how many properties had fallen into disuse and disrepair.

Once-thriving communities built on farming are no longer prospering.

Collapsed barns. Leaning silos. Boarded-up houses. Fallow fields.

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And then, in the midst of the decay, we spotted one brand-new, freshly-reconstructed barn. Someone believed, hoped, and invested.

Decomposition is not sovereign.

I look into my heart, and I see collapse and decay.

Yet Jesus sees a place for investment, a place to show forth His renovating power. He renews. He pours in life.

He lovingly cultivates.

Fields of weeds will bear fruit.

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