Monday, July 27, 2015

The Terror of Darkness

Habakkuk 3:17-18
"Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines,the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food,the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls,yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation."
Usually I try not to give spoilers to upcoming sermons, but all well.

I believe this verse is something that we, as Christians, need to take a long hard look at. The reason I believe we need to consider it (and by consider I mean think about, study and apply to our lives), is the potential it has for radically and fundamentally reshaping our entire outlook on life, especially when the Terror of Darkness comes and destroys our view of the world around us. It can show us how even in fear and destruction we can choose to rejoice in God and give Him our all, even if our all is a pittance (in our eyes) compared to what others our even our past selves have been able to offer.

You see, far too often we fall into a trap that says if what we can bring before God does not measure up to what we have been able to bring in the past, then it must not be a worthy gift.

This is a lie.

I do not recall anywhere in Scripture where God commands that if you are able to offer him 3 full grown bulls when you are 25 years old, that once you hit 35 years old you better be able to offer him 3 full grown bulls or nothing at all. Likewise I do not recall anywhere in Scripture where God commands that if you make it to the high mountains of faith and can offer Him the most amazing worship and devotion at 25, that once you hit 35 you better be able to do the same thing or nothing at all. It is just not there.

And it is a trap to believe we are called to such a thing.

Now at first glance this feels backwards. Paul says to run the race, right? In a race you make progress, right? So therefore we must make progress in our faith in order to be "running the race," right?

Right. Also, wrong.

Right because we are called to run the race to win the prize, wrong because we tend to mistake our concept of progress for faith's concept of progress.

Most humans like to think in linear terms. You go from Point A to Point B and that is progress. But faith isn't like that. Faith is messy and filled with progress going up and down, left and right, backwards and forwards. It is filled with high mountains and low valleys and horrifying enemies and beautiful allies. It is anything but linear.

In other words, it looks a lot like life.

Take Peter's progress for example. He followed Jesus, cast out demons, preached the Gospel, denied Jesus...wait, what?

Yes, denying Jesus was also a part of his progress of faith. Not a fun part, mind you, but it was a part of it. And Jesus Himself called Peter out on it. Ever stop to think what effect that may have had on Peter's outlook on life? He denied the the One of whom he said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." He confessed Jesus to His face, then turned around and denied he ever knew Him.

Think that may have had an impact on his desire to ensure he never did anything like that again? That is progress, but it only became progress because he chose to let it become such. When Jesus told him three times to "Feed My sheep," Peter was saddened, but he still chose to say "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you."

He chose progress after his darkest hour. He chose Jesus, even after he failed his Savior. The other path was taken by Judas.

But back to Habakkuk.

Habakkuk has just been told by God that all of Judah is about to get wrecked by Babylon, an evil, brutal nation. Then when he questions God about it God's answer is basically "Don't worry, the Babylonians will get their's too."


But that is not his response. Instead, He spends the first 15 verses of chapter 3 praising God and recounting the power He has shown the Israelites. He spends it praising God.

Then we see just how terrified he is of what God has told him when he says this in verse 16.
"I hear, and my body trembles; my lips quiver at the sound;rottenness enters into my bones;my legs tremble beneath me.Yet I will quietly wait for the day of troubleto come upon people who invade us."
Habakkuk is terrified. And he admits it. He puts it out there for all to see. It almost looks as though he has given up. That he has thrown in the towel and walked away.

But that's not it at all.

Instead he has given up all his hopes and dreams and plans that were his, and latched onto the hopes and dreams and plans that are God's. He knows there is no hope left for Judah. His friends, his family, his city and his country are going to be destroyed. Judgment is coming and there is nothing he can do about it.

Save for accepting it and turning to God instead of even those things for his happiness and joy.

Hillsong United has a song called "Even When It Hurts." In it they sing,
Even when the fight seems lost, I'll praise You
Even when it hurts like Hell, I'll praise you
Even when it makes no sense to sing, Louder then I'll sing Your praise
This is Habakkuk's answer to his terror. To praise and honor God, to take joy from Him, because there is nothing else he is going to be able to take joy in. It is all going to be wiped out.
"Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines,the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food,the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls,yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation."
Terror and darkness and fear is not the end of the story for the Christian. It may look that way at times, and we may not be able to see beyond it, but we can, even if it is only in the most barely perceptible way, understand that there is something beyond it.

Because there is something beyond everything. This world. This heartache. This blindness. Everything.

There is the King.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

A Life of Confidence

Today I attended a memorial service that was streamed online for one of my teachers at SIBI. His name is Gerald Paden. He was a missionary, teacher, preacher, prankster and many other things.

I say was, because now he is a participant in the Great Celebration that is Heaven.

He was also a man of extreme confidence, and who shared with others what that confidence means and looks like.

For a long time I had doubts about the security of my salvation. I wasn't exactly taught to doubt it, but there also wasn't a huge emphasis on it in class and worship growing up (or maybe there was and I missed it). In any case, I found myself far too often worrying about what would happen if I died suddenly, or if Christ came when I was in the middle of a sin. What would happen if I were to suddenly "die in my sins," so to speak.

I don't think it was until I was in Paden's class on the epistles of John that I finally grasped the shocking, visceral, horrifyingly unreal depth that is salvation in the blood of Messiah.

Understand, brothers and sisters, what it means to be walking in the light and in the blood of Christ. As John writes it, "walking in the light" is a settled practice of choice. It is not our mistakes, but our desire to follow, that define our walk in Christ. My settled practice of walking in the light as He is in the light is the choice I make to follow Him not only in the times it is easy, but to follow Him back out of the mire when I have totally blown it.

This is what is so shocking about it. That not only would God forgive our sins by Jesus' sacrifice, but that He would keep on forgiving us when we utterly fail Him after choosing to follow Him. Further, not only does He keep on forgiving, He continues to allow us to come before Him on His throne to make known what we need of Him. He continues to listen to us, to love us, to cherish us even when we have made a complete and utter disaster of it all because of the saturating nature of the blood of the Lamb.

That is what is so visceral about it all. God not only puts us into His family and His church, but He does so by replacing our blood on the altar with the blood of Christ. In the Old Testament, the worshiper would slay his own sacrifice in agreement with God that his sins deserved death. The animal's blood took the place of the worshiper's on the altar. This is how Christ saved us. It was our blood that should have been spilled on the cross, and in putting our faith in Christ for our salvation, we agree with God to the point we must cry out "Crucify!" with the crowd before Pilate. In doing so, we agree that God's judgment is right, and that Christ is the only one who can atone for what we have done.

All of this is why the depth of salvation is so horrifyingly unreal, and why we can have such confidence. It goes beyond "Jesus saved me," to "Jesus SAVED me." We will not have confidence in our salvation until we realize the depth of what has been done for us on our behalf. Hebrews 7:25 says, 
"Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them."
Consider that.

In the Gospel of John 21:30-31 John writes,
"And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing, you may have life in His name."
Then at the end of I John in 5:13 he writes,
"These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God."
Jesus does not desire us to live in a fearful expectation of judgment. That type of life is reserved for those who do not place their trust in Him. We are those who can live a life of confidence, because His Word has the final, authoritative say in everything we know and see and feel and believe. It is because He is true, because He is just and because He is merciful and loving and great that we can live our lives doing the best we can for His glory. Not so that we will earn our way to His side, but because He has already earned our way to His side for us.

That is what is means to live in confidence.

That is what it means to live in Him.