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Saturday, February 20, 2010

On Christian Perfection

Many people think Christians should be perfect. We aren't! And when we aren't, people call us hypocrites when in reality we are simply human. More disturbing, Christians often do this to each other - brother against brother, leader against leader, denomination against denomination.

My view of humanity is simple - you are a Christian or you aren't.

If you are a Christian, your human body shares space with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the perfect part. It's the part that places in us the desire to be like Jesus. It's the part that puts that check in our system when the human side of us does something really stupid.

And the human side of us always does something really stupid.

If it weren't for our tendencies toward humanness, Jesus would not have had to offer himself as the perfect sacrifice to atone for our poor choices. If God had fully infused us with the Holy Spirit, making us wholly perfect, there would have been no need for Jesus. But God did not want perfect zombies wandering the earth loving Him under divine force. He wanted children who would love Him by choice. Through the teachings and actions of Jesus, God sent the perfect Holy Spirit to dwell in our imperfect human hearts.

Through the Holy Spirit, Christians are led, disciplined, inspired, and encouraged. And when our humanness causes us to stumble off the road as we walk, the Holy Spirit is there to gently nudge us back or, at times, give us a good strong kick in the rump to get us back on track.

Does that mean it's okay for a Christian to sin with wild abandon, without conscience, and without any desire to seek forgiveness? No! In fact, if you are sinning and there is no check in your system (that little nudge that says, maybe I shouldn't be doing this), then I implore you to check your heart and determine if the Holy Spirit truly resides there.

When a Christian finds herself gossiping about the unmarried couple who just moved in across the street, the Holy Spirit will jump in and say, "Whoa, child, are you so freely without sin that you can speak so boldy of your neighbor?" The Christian will say "no, I am not!", realize she has stumbled, stabilize herself, invite her neighbors to church, and continue on her walk. Will she continue to make mistakes? Yes, she is human, but she will learn and grow and try to do better with each step.

I visualize two roads. One is the spiritual road, engulfed in light, leading to sanctification and a residence in Heaven. The other is the human road, engulfed in dark, leading to the rewards of the flesh and... well... death, hell, the end.

As the Christian walks along the spiritual road, her eyes occasionally veer toward the temptations of the dark and inviting medians and off-ramps. If her relationship with God is strong, the Christian will turn her eyes back toward Heaven. But in a weak and tired moment, her big toe will cross into the dark, and then her leg, and then her shoulder, and before she knows it, she is walking or sprinting up the dark off-ramp. But the Christian is blessed because when she gets to the top of the off-ramp, the Holy Spirit will grab her ear and drag her across the street, down the on-ramp, and back onto the will-lit road.

Yes, the Christian has sinned, but she has not abandoned the road. And why is this okay? Because God, knowing we are human and sin is inherent, sent Jesus to cover us when stumble.

In contrast, as the non-Christian walks along the human road she has many choices. God tries to make the non-Christian's choice easy. The off-ramp to Heaven is a flashing bright light - easy to spot along the dark road. God gives the non-Christian many opportunities to take the right exit, but all of the temptations in the medians and off-ramps of the spiritual road are abundant and easily accessed as the non-Christian wanders along the dark road. She doesn't even have to venture onto the medians or the off-ramps - the fun is in her immediate path. She doesn't have to think about it as she passes the flashing off-ramp to the light road. She's having too much fun on the dark road - what could be better?

Besides, the spiritual road will just tell her all she's doing wrong, and when she does wrong, she'll just be called a hypocrite like all those "so-called Christians". So why bother, she decides, and eventually she doesn't even notice the flashing off-ramp anymore.

Here's the interesting thing about a Christian. A Christian will also step onto the non-Christians' dark roads so we can flash our bright light a little closer to those who have begun to ignore the well-lit off-ramps. So sometimes Christians haven't stumbled off the spiritual road at all - we've just decided to carry it with us as we search for those who haven't yet discovered it.

So, if you are not a Christian, I, an imperfect and sinning Christian, will continue to flash a light as you journey along your dark road. I pray you follow it to the right exit before your road ends.

Oh, and there is such a thing as Christian perfection. He is called Jesus Christ.

Scripture Reference: 1 John 1:5-10

Monday, February 15, 2010

Snow Is...

Flakes of pearls
dropping gracefully from the heavens
stilling the world for a moment
or a time
determined by its abundance.

Delicate bullets in bulk
with the power to destroy –
a life, a vehicle,
a structure, a livelihood –
in an instant.

White periods
making a statement,
the result of a somber storm,
releasing life’s anxieties
in a soft, final landing.

A giant snow cone
inspiring children to create
weapons, men, igloos, slides –
nature’s extreme
theme park ride.

Tiny flecks of cotton
forming a blanket of calm,
a vast cushioned barrier,
over a harsh,
unforgiving earth.

Frozen rain
falling, clinging,
absorbing, melting,
washing our soiled spirits
revealing a purity thought lost.

An aching absence -
A welcomed relief -
An unexplainable dichotomy
beyond spring’s last thaw.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

One Way

How many ways are there to obtain access to God? Can you list them? Who or what made your list? Muhammed, Buddha, Krishna, Sun Myung Moon, Mother Earth, good works, self divinity, meditation, good karma? Maybe you chose the safe and tolerant approach and said all of the above and everyone else who believes in something, anything, has access to God. Or maybe you chose a gentle, all-inclusive approach saying that none of the above are needed – we all, even those who have denied Him, have direct access and will reside with God. Maybe your response was, “God? What God? We’re born. We die. End of story.”

Perhaps you’ve heard it said – Jesus Christ is the way to God. Jesus is not today’s popular choice. Claiming allegiance to Jesus means leaving the other options behind. Claiming Jesus as the way means checking political correctness, all-inclusiveness, and tolerance at the door and never returning to retrieve them. Claiming Jesus as the way may mean losing some friends; making counter cultural choices; or being perceived as pompous, fanatical, or bigoted. So, why Jesus?

Jesus may not be the easy option, but He’s the only true option. In John 14:6, Jesus said “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father but through Me.” This may be an unpopular choice, but only a choice for Jesus will turn the slow death you are currently experiencing into eternal life. And in Heaven, He will be the only choice that mattered.

Followers of Jesus do not have to be politically correct to be understanding. They do not have to be all-inclusive to be respectful. They do not have to be tolerant to be loving. Believing in Jesus as the one and only true way to God does not separate a person from understanding, respect, and love – it allows one to be all of these things without negating the values and truths Jesus teaches us.

If you want to find the one and only way to God, you need look no further than His Word. Acts 4:12 promises salvation through Jesus only: “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”

Jesus is the only one who drained His blood and washed us in it so we could be presented, clean and pure, to God. Through Jesus’ death, our poor choices, past, present, and future, have already been forgiven. Through Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, we can be assured of our own resurrection and eternal life. Only a belief in Jesus promises us these things.

When Jesus said “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father but through Me," He revealed the only God-approved access to God.

So I ask again – how many ways are there to obtain access to God?

Hillsong United - One Way

"You are the Way the Truth and the Life
We live by faith and not by sight for You
We're living all for You"