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What God Gave Up for Lent – Day 47 (Easter)

47. Perspective, Perspective, Perspective

Finish Race

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:1-3)

Perspective, perspective, perspective. Before we understand Christ’s perspective, we must understand ours. Fixing our eyes upon Jesus.

The Greek word for fixing is defined: to look away from other things and look only on one thing. There is an aspect of turning one’s back and to look away as part of the process.

There is a multitude of verses which speak to this exclusivity. It’s not just a simple matter of making Jesus first, with a panoply of other options, interests, needs, wants and preferences crowding in behind Him. Yes, He is in front, but there are all those distractions insinuating themselves behind Him; many seeking to supplant and usurp Him. And since we essentially have no will power, we need to clear the deck, turn away from all else and fix our eyes only on Jesus.

You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. ( James 4:4)

If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. ( John 15:19)

I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. (John 17:14-18)

Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. (1 John 2:15-16)

No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. (Matthew 6:24)

Country Asphalt road in strong flare

The last two verses demand our attention in regard to our perspective. Jesus is not just a choice—not even a first choice. Nor is He our last choice. He is our only choice. He is our only master, our only God. There cannot be another. So when we fix our eyes upon Jesus, there are no distractions, no colorful backdrop, not even a context. There is only Jesus. And when He is all you see, then you will have the appropriate perspective for everything else.

Who for the joy set before Him.

Before we ponder the joy, we should consider what was set before Him, that which was the source of the joy. The Greek word for set before has an interesting application. It could be restated as lie before, which can refer to a dead body laying in state. Now I’m not sensing a whole lot of joy coming out of that particular app, but is speaks accurately to our condition. Without Christ, we are dead in our sins and trespasses. We are a corpse. He saw our condition, knew what was to be done, and did it. Thus He saw the joy for His obedience, and saw the joy for the glory it brought His Father, and He saw the joy in raising us from the dead.

Set before can also apply to an infant, which also speaks to our state after we have been saved by Him: we are—in the words of Peter—newborn babes (1 Pet 2:2;1 Cor 3:1).

There is also an exposed sense to the word; as a prize that is set before all who would see it. We should consider this exposure. When God looks upon us, there is nothing hidden. All our private thoughts, concealed attitudes, secret sins—and what ever else we would seek to disguise—all lay open and  bare to His omniscient gaze. Does that make you feel uncomfortable? It should, unless you have been hidden in Christ, so when God turns His omniscient gaze upon you, all He sees is Christ.

Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them; for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret. But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light. ( Ephesians 5:6-13)

For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God. ( John 3:20-21)

So we’ve seen examples of what may have been set before Him; and since God the Son is omniscient, then surely there were more things which He saw set before Him. The defeat of sin, Satan, death and the grave. Accomplishing the work given to Him by His Father. We must not forget that He saw you and me specifically and individually. The was not a general redemption. He died and rose again for you. All the other things that were set before Him—and they are myriad—should pale in comparison, when you know the Holy Son of God, Jesus the Christ, died for you. You were on His heart and mind. You were set before Him.

There’s the joy. And if Christ could push through, look past all the yuck, there is the key for us to do the same.

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. ( Jas 1:2-4)

James tells us why we are going through trials, and the end result. But Jesus show us how. So we can consider it all joy when we look not to the trials, or the situation. Or even the results. We must look to Jesus. Again, not our first choice, nor our last choice, but our only choice.

Tomorrow a recap of What God Gave Up for Lent

 

What God Gave Up for Lent – Day 40

40. God’s Truth

light reveals1Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” (John 18:37-38)

Say correctly is just one word in the Greek. Most of the time it is translated as some form of say. But this is not speaking for the sake of being heard; rather it is an affirmation and exhortation; and one that is done aloud. It is not just a nodding of the head, nor is it words without a point. It is a declaration of your position. And what Pilate affirmed was that Christ was a king.

Jesus gives the reason why He was born. It is not to be King; rather it is to testify to the Truth. Boy if that isn’t counter-cultural and counter-intuitive, I don’t know what is. See the statement again: “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth.” Even though being the King of kings is His birthright as the Son of God, it was not His purpose as the Son of Man, at least not yet. He is King, He shall be King, but why was he born in a manger in Bethlehem? To testify to the Truth.

For this I have been born. Literally, He became flesh, He was born of Mary. Metaphorically, the word for being born in the Jewish mindset has to do with converting. It also has to do with us becoming His sons through faith in Christ (i.e.—being born again).

For this I have come into the world. Come has to do with making an appearance; to be public. But it also has to do with arriving, and Jesus’ arrival was truly from heaven to earth. This is huge.

For those among us who are more driven and intentional, we can say that we were born for this or that. You were born to lead. You were born to be a musician. You were born to be a doctor. You were born to be a missionary. And on you could go. But, none of us can say for this we have come into the world. Our existence has solely been in this world. When we were conceived we were in this world. One day, for those who love Jesus, we will no longer be in this world. Indeed we can say this world is not our home; we are citizens of heaven. But now, today, we have known nothing other than this world.

But Jesus has come outside this world. He came from Heaven to earth. He came from the perfect to the fallen. He stepped from eternity into time and space. He moved from creator to created; from Son of God to Son of Man; from ever-present and all-powerful to finite flesh and bones.

To testify to the truth. Testify could just as easily be translated as witness. And it is where we get our word martyr. We must not miss this. Christ died for the proclaiming this inconvenient (and absolute) truth.

The history behind the word truth is revealing (pun intended). In the Greek is has the prefix a- (which is negative, as it is in English) and the root word is lanthano which means to be hidden or escape notice. So with the negative prefix it then means not to be hidden and not to escape notice. Christ has come to reveal the hidden, and to ensure that it does not escape notice. Also more attributes are exposed in its use: it speaks to its objectivity, its certitude, and its universal application. Certainly a far cry from what truth has become in our culture.

That’s the danger of religion. It buries the truth in tradition and dilutes it so that it is no longer relevant, submerging it in ritual.

But it’s also the danger of the unregenerate life. Truth is merely a personal tool, to be used when convenient, but then to cast off for another, when what’s new fits one’s current worldview better. The world needs to have truth hidden and to escape its notice, because only then can personally manufactured truth stand.

How important is truth to God?

Christ has just spent the whole night in a mockery of a trial, where there was no truth offered, none was heard; and when they finally and only heard the Truth from Christ’s own lips, they called it blasphemy. And that’s how they were able to protect their turf—turning the Truth into blasphemy. Truth obviously wasn’t important to the Jews. But it was at one point, for being a false witness and providing false testimony was a big deal to God.

The judges shall investigate thoroughly, and if the witness is a false witness and he has accused his brother falsely, then you shall do to him just as he had intended to do to his brother. Thus you shall purge the evil from among you. The rest will hear and be afraid, and will never again do such an evil thing among you. Thus you shall not show pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot. ( Deuteronomy 19:18-21)

A false witness will perish, but the man who listens to the truth will speak forever. ( Proverbs 21:28)

The Greek word for blasphemy is from two root words: blapto, and pheme. The former is to hurt, to harm, to injure, to stop, make lame and cripple. The latter is news, or fame, or a report. Isn’t our very misuse of truth by definition blasphemy? We may not be able to completely annihilate it, but we certainly can cripple and injure it. We can make it so disfigured that few will find any appeal in it.

And let us not forget this is why Christ  was born, why He had come into the world: to testify to the truth. If this was Christ’s purpose, than it was God the Father’s purpose as well.

This is one of the greatest battles we are in—the battle for Truth. Without truth, there is no commonality, there can be no consensus, nor is there a point of reference. Is there any doubt why we are so fractured, isolated, and defensive. If all we have is our own personal point of view, our own manufactured truth, then a great deal of our time is spent defending and reconstructing. So what happens when we avoid the truth?

For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. ( Romans 1:25)

Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming; that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness. ( 2 Thessalonians 2:8-12)

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. ( 2 Timothy 4:3-4)

Father, may your Truth break through in my life. Amen.

What God Gave Up for Lent – Day 10

10. Root & Shoot  

Young sapling

Like a tender shoot and like a root out of parched ground. (Isaiah 53:2a)

From the first moments of Jesus’ incarnation, we see Him taking on attributes which were foreign to Him. For the first time in eternity (which is an interesting statement in itself), He, Who stretches from everlasting to everlasting, is new. Tender shoot means young plant or sapling. And indeed, that’s what He was at the incarnation—a new baby.

The word for root has meanings which I did not at first associate with it’s context here. There is within its definitions permanence, firmness, and being at the root, the bottom, the lowest stratum. And as one of the Three Persons of the Trinity, that’s Who He was. So in His divine and human natures, we see a tender shoot that is attached to an ageless root.

The symbolism here is much the way our God operates. There is so much He does which is unseen, and has been put into place for untold ages and is now being seen.

“I declared the former things long ago and they went forth from My mouth, and I proclaimed them. Suddenly I acted, and they came to pass. Because I know that you are obstinate, and your neck is an iron sinew and your forehead bronze, therefore I declared them to you long ago, before they took place I proclaimed them to you, so that you would not say, ‘My idol has done them, and my graven image and my molten image have commanded them.’ You have heard; look at all this. and you, will you not declare it? I proclaim to you new things from this time, even hidden things which you have not known. They are created now and not long ago; and before today you have not heard them, so that you will not say, ‘Behold, I knew them.’ You have not heard, you have not known. Even from long ago your ear has not been open, because I knew that you would deal very treacherously; and you have been called a rebel from birth.” ( Isaiah 48:3-8)

Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past, but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith; to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever. Amen. (Romans 6:25-27)

Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; but just as it is written, “Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him.” (1 Corinthians 2:7-9)

That is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:26-7)

So… now that God’s plan has been revealed to you, what are you going to do?

Singing with the King (50) – No Secret

Those who live at the ends of the earth stand in awe of your wonders. From where the sun rises to where it sets, you inspire shouts of joy. (Ps 65:8)

MLK1I love this verse because it brings hope to an entire world.

But we have assigned His wonders to random acts of nature or unintentional human nature. And once His wonders have been explained away or “de-miracle-ized”, why would we be inspired to offer shouts of joy?

I think part of the problem is that we have so “personalized” our faith, that those around us rarely get to see what God has done within us. But salvation is neither secret nor hidden. Note these following verses:

The LORD has bared His holy arm in the sight of all the nations, that all the ends of the earth may see the salvation of our God. ( Isa 52:10)

I do not whisper obscurities in some dark corner. I would not have told the people of Israel to seek me if I could not be found. I, the Lord, speak only what is true and declare only what is right. (Isaiah 45:19)

For there is no other God but me, a righteous God and Savior. There is none but me. Let all the world look to me for salvation! For I am God; there is no other. (Isaiah 45:21-22)

So now the question arises: Is salvation still noticeable? Is it still obvious and in plain sight, or have we become too cold or uncaring, or afraid? Has tolerance transformed the Gospel of offense to a mere suggestion of possible change (well, maybe, sort of, but only if you need to change)? That is not the way the LORD designed and ordained salvation. And that is not the way we are to live:

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. (Romans 1:16)

But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. (1 Peter 3:14-16)

Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love.  (1 Corinthians 16:13-14)

Singing with the King (36) – Vulnerable

He makes me lie down in green pastures… Psalm 23:2aLying in a field1

When you look up the Hebrew word for lie down, it has a sense of comfort attached to it; it means to stretch out. Now that position although comfortable, is also very vulnerable. Are you willing to be that vulnerable before the Lord?

Vulnerability is the appropriate condition for us to be in; He is after all omniscient—nothing escapes His gaze. Thus, whether we choose to be vulnerable or not, is a moot point, since He sees all. So thinking you can escape His all-seeing gaze is delusional, a waste of time, futile, and perilous.

Now why would I say perilous? Consider the following verses:

They say, “How does God know? And is their knowledge with the Most High?” (Psalm 73:11)

He says to himself, “God has forgotten; He has hidden His face; He will never see it.” (Psalm 10:11)

They have said, “The LORD does not see, nor does the God of Jacob pay heed.” (Psalm 94:7)

“You say, ‘What does God know? Can he judge through the thick darkness?’” (Job 22:13)

Even the darkness is not dark to You, and the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are like to You. (Psalm 139:11)

And they do not consider in their hearts that I remember all their wickedness. Now their deeds are all around them; they are before My face. (Hosea 7:2)

Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them.  It is shameful even to talk about the things that ungodly people do in secret.  But their evil intentions will be exposed when the light shines on them,  for the light makes everything visible. (Ephesians 5:11-14)

And actually is not just a matter of omniscience, it’s also a matter of omnipresence. There is no place you can go that He is not. Now, you can try to hide from Him, deny his existence, or outright reject Him, and curse His existence. But that changes nothing. You are being foolish, and you will die without Him. And that’s why it’s perilous.

Finally, don’t forget the context. The LORD is your shepherd. Why not accept Him as such? You are vulnerable to Him whether you admit it or not; so why not be vulnerable because of your relationship to Him as your shepherd, rather than as your judge.