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Archive for September, 2014

Debt-Free

During a well-crafted “State of the Church” sermon this past Sunday at Christ Community Church in Franklin, Pastor David Cassidy mentioned the encouraging fact that the assembly is debt-free – its facility and land are all paid for.

Of course, it is a biblical principle that we seek to owe no man anything, and being debt-free gives the church much greater flexibility in making forward-looking investments.

DebtFree crossWe recently sold our house in New Jersey and moved to a rental here in Tennessee, and for the first time in a long-time, we have no mortgage. And you know what? When we got that final signed paperwork, it felt pretty wonderful!

But that feeling of freedom is only a tiny window into the complete liberation of the church of God. The wonderful fact is, the assembly of saints in Jesus Christ is debt-free in an unspeakably glorious dimension.

Every sin paid for; past, present, and future. All spiritual debts discharged. Debt-free through the free and gracious gift of the God to whom we owed perfect allegiance – but before whom we morally defaulted – living instead for the futile pleasures of sin.

Through the atoning death of Christ, He paid off the debt we could never repay. And that payoff, signed with blood, gives us the liberty to be the freed sons and daughters of God.

Every time I step onto that campus, I want to think about what it truly means to be debt-free. Not owing people or banks any money is a liberating thought. Not owing the God of all creation, despite all of my moral corruption?

Priceless.

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Entering into Rest

There is undoubted value in entering into regular periods of physical rest. We sleep for a reason. We take vacations for a reason. And, if the book of Genesis (and common sense) are any guide, a weekly day of detachment from labor is a very good thing.

Sunset restWe are not machines.

Rest, however, is not only outward. That part is relatively easy – pull the sheets over your head; schedule a trip to some quiet lake; tell the demands of work to take a hike on weekends.

Where I’ve always failed miserably is inward rest. I have a striving heart, often driven more by fear than confidence. Figure it out – now. Implement it – now. Oh, and by the way…perfectionism.

Uptight much? Real warm and fuzzy right there. Relaxed.

This season of life in Tennessee is, in part, a hopeful adventure into a new realm of inward rest. Bringing up kids, building a career, living in the northeast, and dealing with internal emotional-psychological-spiritual short circuits all along the way has been exhausting.

Yet, God never fails. He is taking me aside and teaching me. He is reaching into long-broken areas of my heart and healing. He is helping me to simply see and believe Him, Who is the ultimate fountain of all rest.

True rest is not merely a practice. It’s a relationship.

Figuring it all out, and implementing perfectly?? Not happening – now or ever. Seeing, and beginning to quietly rest? That plant is growing afresh.

Thanks be to God for His marvelous, patient, lovingkindness!

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Hope-full Purification

Trying to be holy without standing on a base of hope is like….well, it’s like running through a dark wilderness with a broken compass, wearing worn-out moccasins while carrying an angry and sharp-beaked octopus on your back. During an ice storm.

OK, the analogy is imperfect, but you get the point. If you seek holiness without a firm anchor in hope, you simply become a guilt-ridden Pharisee.

Trust me – I know from experience.

We see the God-honoring way of becoming holy in I John 3:1-3:

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appearswe shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.

First, we embrace God in a love relationship. We become, and then ARE, His children (a fact, a fixed identity. Done deal.)

Then, we embrace the fact that our ultimate destiny – our future identity, secured by an all-powerful God – is total conformity to Christ. We WILL be holy. A done deal that is getting done now.

Finally, we then are able to take on whatever efforts to actively purify ourselves. Practical holiness becomes practical only when we embrace our identity, our beloved-ness, our destiny.

Holiness is hope-fueled. Guilt, fear, and moral pride only lead to an external straitjacket of attempted behavior-modification. Orthodoxy and effort without humble and grace-filled hope only lead to defeat.

The Christian has to unlearn Pharisee-righteousness by resting in faith first. THAT will lead to sincere striving for sanctification. Fueled by strong hope.

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Saying and Doing

I’m very glad that chapter 2 of the book of 1 John begins with an affirmation that the righteous sacrifice of Jesus Christ covers all sin. Because John is about to discuss the most common sin around.

Hypocrisy. Saying one thing, and doing its opposite.

Find me someone guiltless of hypocrisy, and I guarantee you they’re on the pages of a comic book. No such person. Certainly not me. In my best moments, my heart is an alloy of moral black, white, and grey.

But there’s a certain kind of hypocrite that is not merely imperfect. This is the kind that deliberately puts on a mask of deception – a false front of words – while their heart is far afield. That brand of self-deceived deceiver is what the apostle is going after here.

Affirming God-things on the outside, while treasuring sin and self on the inside. A walking contradiction. A living lie.

“The one who says, ‘I have come to know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” (v. 4)

“The one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.” (v. 6) (the hypocrite only engages in enough outward actions to keep up appearances).

“The one who says he is in the Light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now.” (v. 9)

By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments (v. 2). Doing, from the heart, not merely saying. Not obeying perfectly, but sincerely. Not unalloyed, but with the power of God stirring within. Not externally, to impress the eyes of men, but from the heart, to please God.

You want to see a miracle? A heart growing in humility and sincerity, a heart of love for God – that’s a miracle. Not 100% holy behavior, but growing liberation from our native hypocrisy.

All hypocrites need the gracious forgiveness of Christ. The stumbling and far-from-perfect child of God needs cleansing each day, and that blood of cleansing is offered freely. But it is offered freely to the entire world – even the most awful hypocrites can be humbled, can turn from their pride, and can be made clean in Christ – so that they, too, become doers of the word, and not mere poseurs. Such is the power and love of God – turning hypocrites into disciples.

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