Monday, July 20, 2009

How Do You Argue With That?

I had previously mentioned that I had never read the entire Bible. I think I have anyway, if not, I haven't. Currently, I'm like half way through. I'm not following any regiment, just reading kind of scattered. Right now I am reading through the Psalms (which I just love - even the laments, they are so applicable sometimes), Isaiah, and Matthew.

Isaiah is one of the books that I have never read. I knew that Isaiah prophesied a lot about the coming of Christ. And I know that Jesus referred often to Isaiah's prophecies. What I didn't know was how very specific those prophecies were. Today I read the what is called The Lord's Suffering Servant. It goes from Isaiah 52:13 to 53:12. It is, of course, about Jesus and talks about how He would suffer for our sins. The thing that got me was the exactness of it (which I guess is probably a good indication that the prophecy is actually God inspired...regardless, there can be ABSOLUTELY no doubt this one is).

If you've never read it, it is a must read. Here is just a sampling of some of the stuff Isaiah prophesied about:

53:5b - He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed.

53:8a - Unjustly condemned, he was led away. No one cared that he died without descendants, that his life was cut short in midstream.

53:9b - But he was buried like a criminal; he was put in a rich man’s grave.

That's just five prophecies and Jesus fulfilled them all. I had heard it before (and I know Jeff has said it before), but the odds of one person to fulfill just 8 of the Old Testament prophecies is something like 1 x 10 to the 28th power. That is a one in 10 with 28 zeros behind chance of 1 person fulfilling just 8. Jesus Christ fulfilled all of them (and don't quote me as exact but I think there were something like 39).

I knew all that before, but until I read Isaiah 53 for myself, I didn't get how exact it was. After reading it I was in awe. I literally did not know how to respond or what to think. I needed to see what else was said about it and how else it was said, anywhere I could. I was reading an New Living Translation bible, so I got my New International Version bible and yep same thing. Then I looked up the New King James Version on my blackberry bible and it was the same thing (only fancier).

Then I grabbed my Halley's Handbook (thanks for introducing me to Halley Thomas). Here is what Dr. Henry Halley said, "So vivid in detail that one would almost think of Isaiah as standing at the foot of the cross...It cannot possibly fit any person in history other than Christ." Perfect, smart guy (that's why he has a bible handbook and I don't). How do you argue with that? In the very least, serious consideration must be taken as to who Jesus of Nazareth was and is. But regardless of whether you're on the fence or not (don't know how you could be after reading that), I know who He savior, my redeemer, my God.

Oh yeah, here's the best part of the whole chapter (in my estimation anyway):

Isaiah 53:11
When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish, he will be satisfied. And because of his experience, my righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous, for he will bear all their sins.

Because of Jesus and what He did, I can be counted as righteous. You can too. How amazing is that?

In awe,

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Holiness is What You Want From Me

"Holiness, holiness is what I long for. Holiness is what I need. Holiness, holiness is what You want from me."
Holiness - Sonicflood

Lately, God has been singing that song a lot to me. Not that I don't think that I am not living Holy. Well, not blatantly living unholy anyway (I still struggle and God is still working to change a lot in me), but God has really been bringing this up a lot. I think it has come up so much lately just as a reminder as to how so important Holiness is.

Holiness isn't just a collection of actions that you do and then are all of a sudden holy. Holiness involves so much more than just what you do, it also concerns the condition and focus of your heart and soul. I've heard people say that there is no way to achieve holiness, I've done too much. This is true to an extent. Apart from God, there is absolutely no way to achieve holy living. Because God is a holy he commands us to be holy. Just because I decide to say that in a blog, really means nothing. I can tell you stuff all day, but I'm just Bruce and little of what I come up with on my own is ever really deep or right for that matter. Anything that I ever say that is even close to thought provoking comes from God.

Fortunately you don't have to take my word for it. God commands this in Leviticus 19:2 by saying "Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy." Notice God did not simply command us to be holy. He also gave the reason. He is holy, so we must be.

The bible is packed with holiness (no pun intended). I did a search for the words holy and holiness using BibleGateway (King James Version) and came up with 621 times that either of those words are used. I think God may have intended it to be important.

So if it's that important and by our very nature it is impossible for us to live holy, how can God command us to "Be Holy"? Because of Jesus. God came to Earth as a man to show us how to live holy. God will never command the unattainable. Remember He said be holy because I am holy. If the focus of our heart and soul is to imitate Jesus, then holiness is attainable. That is not to say that we won't ever sin again, we're human (you're gonna sin), but the intent of our heart and our actions can reflect the holiness that is Christ Jesus.

But I digress, as I write this God is steering me back towards the idea that someone can not achieve holiness because of what they've done in the past. That is ludicrous to say the least. What we have done in our past, once confessed to God and repented of, has no impact on the person that God is molding us to. If it does, that is only because WE allow it to. God fully intends us to be so much more than what we were before and he isn't going to stop at "good enough". When you think that you are finally "good enough" for God, He isn't even close to finished with you. I love how C.S. Lewis puts it in Mere Christianity. He said, "You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: But He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself." That is how you achieve holiness, by letting God live in you. It doesn't matter what you did. Listen to what Peter says in 1 Peter 1:14-16,

"14 So you must live as God's obedient children. Don't slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn't know any better then. 15 But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. 16 For the Scriptures say, 'You must be holy because I am holy.'"

Two things that stick out to me: 1. You didn't know any better then. That tells me that after you accept Christ, you do know better. That says to me that you are no longer the same person. That is exactly where God wants you. 2. He chose you. He chose you to be His children and holy. If God chose you to be holy, then it must be something that He has made capable of attaining. With that said there is no secret formula. Being holy is being obedient. The life style we chose to live is part of that holiness. Our purity (which by the can still chose to be pure - and yes, I'm talking about sexual sin, all of it premarital sex, the way we talk, our thoughts, our eyes, all of it - even if you've done any of that prior to coming to Christ), the way we talk, the way we treat others, and so much more. But all of that needs to be grounded in a relationship with God, in which you allow Him to enter your heart and form it to look like His, take your mind and transform it to think like Him and take your will and conform it to His (which won't always be what you want).

Bottom line is this: God has called us to "Be Holy", not become holy. He has already provided the example (Jesus), the instructions (His word - the Bible), and the desire (that longing we all have for "something more" - BTW that longing can only be filled by a relationship with Christ). But he also gave us free will, so the decision to "Be Holy" is fully ours. Keep in mind though, there's really not much of a choice there. Either we chose God and holiness and we get to experience the most intense, deep and meaningful love that you can't even imagine or we chose the world and our desires and we get to experience the intense pain and devastation of Hell and eternal separation from our God and His love.

I hope this all flowed the way God intended it to. I read it like 10 times before I posted it. If it doesn't make sense, I am sorry. I am but a man and some times I get in the way of what God is trying to say or do (not intentionally, but it's our nature).

Trying to Be Holy,

Monday, July 6, 2009

Live Alive!

While I was visiting my parents I had the opportunity to attend service at their church (Prairie Avenue Christian Center) on July 5th. Their head pastor was away on business, so that gave his son an opportunity to preach.

The topic of the morning dealt with living Holy. He said we are dead to our sinful nature and alive in Christ. People that are alive do stuff. God expects us to take an active part in our sanctification. It goes back to the spirit following the flesh. The state of our heart is not automatically good because we believe in God. We do not do good because we are good. Through our faith in Christ, we have a desire to be holy and do what is good and right, that is what causes us to take action and following His example. Through that, our heart is turned toward holiness. Dave (the pastor's son) went on to say, "God commands us to BE holy, not become holy." God has already done the work for us. He has already given us what we need to BE holy." It isn't enough to say, "I am going to be holy." You actually have to BE holy and that takes action. Dave gave a list of 10 things that should cause us to want to be active in our faith, so that we can BE holy before God. I'm not going to go though all of them (you can get the podcast at the above link if interested), but here are the few that really stuck out to me:

1. Our desire to please God (1 John 5:3-5)

I've blogged on this before: obedience. The best way that we can show God love is through obedience. This is pleasing to God. Obedience takes action. You have to decide to be obedient, then actually be obedient. Obedience is being active in you faith.

2. Our need to keep a clear conscience before God (1 Tim 1:5-7)

This is important because a clouded conscience creates a clouded view of what God expects from us. A clear conscience allows God's Spirit to work though us and direct us. This is where other stuff comes into play. A clouded conscience prevents a whole host of things: obedience, love, kindness, etc. Confession before God is an essential part of active faith. That act of taking responsibility before God is an act of submission. Submission is being active in your faith.

3. Our desire for a deeper walk with God (John 14:21)

This is (as far as I'm concerned and can tell) the most important reason to be active in our faith. Without a deep rooted relationship with our God there is NOTHING else. No ministry, no lost saved, no family, no community/fellowship, nothing. You can NEVER grow a deeper relationship with anyone without being active. James 4:8 says "Come close to God, and He will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world." God is always there, but will never force Himself on you. You have to draw near to Him (action). The second part of that is that you have to focus on one thing: either God or the world. We have to be active in our relationship with God. When we are active in our relationship with God and that is our only focus, everything else will be right. Intentionally drawing near to God is being active in your faith.

Bottom line is: with out being active in our faith we are not living as we are alive in Christ. God has already given us the tools to live alive and be holy. God desires us to be Christ like. That is the ONLY example there is for being holy. If you're not actively pursuing Christ, you can't be holy. C.S. Lewis said it perfectly in Mere Christianity when he said, "God looks at you as if you were a little Christ: Christ stands beside you to turn you into one."

Living Alive,