Tuesday, October 18, 2016

You Can't BE "Good Enough"

More from Watchman Nee's The Normal Christian Life:

God's way of deliverance is altogether different from man's way. Man's way is to try to suppress sin by seeking to overcome it; God's way is to remove the sinner. Many Christians mourn over their weakness, thinking that if only they were stronger all would be well. The idea that, because failure to lead a holy life is due to our impotence, something more is therefore demanded of us, leads naturally to this false conception of the way of deliverance. If we are preoccupied with the power of sin and with our inability to meet it, then we naturally conclude that to gain the victory over sin we must have more power. "If only I were stronger," we say, "I could overcome my violent outbursts of temper," and so we plead with the Lord to strengthen us that we may exercise more self-control.

But this is altogether a fallacy; it is not Christianity. God's means of delivering us from sin is not by making us stronger and stronger, but by making us weaker and weaker. That is surely rather a peculiar way of victory, you say; but it is the divine way. God sets us free from the dominion of sin, not by strengthening our old man but by crucifying him.

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Truth is...There's not a thing you can do to gain forgiveness from your sins or deliverance from the power of Sin over you. Trying harder won't do it. Praying harder won't do it. Locking yourself in a tower or stranding yourself on a remote island won't do it. Only when you realize that it's not about what you do...but it's all about what Jesus did...only then will God's forgiveness and grace take its full effect in your soul.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Heavenly Stuff I'm Pretty Sure About

I certainly don't know all there is to know.

[I'll just wait here a little bit while the shock of that statement washes over you.]


There are a couple misconceptions about heaven I've heard recently that I'd like to clear up.

When we die, we do not become angels.
Angels are a separate category of created beings, not the souls of our dearly departed relatives. So...sorry...Uncle Billy is not your guardian angel and the attempt to comfort the grieving by saying "I guess God needed another angel, so He chose Uncle Billy" is just wrong-headed. Right-hearted, but wrong-headed. (In the same breath, I might as well burst the bubbles of those who think we all live in heaven until we are born.)

The main attraction in heaven will not be seeing all our loved ones who died before we did.
The big deal in heaven will be worshiping Jesus; seeing Him face-to-face. Do you really think we'll prefer sitting around talking to Uncle Billy over knowing Jesus fully, just as He fully knows us now? (I Corinthians 13:12)

Truth is...I could have titled this "Stuff We KNOW About Heaven" and left the page blank.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Watch My Knee!

I don't think very many people have the Chinese preacher, teacher, writer, Watchman Nee, on their personal radar. When I first heard about him, in my post-high school years, I didn't even understand his name...thought someone was telling me to be careful around their leg joint.

But he was pretty popular among my small group of radical, let's-create-a-Christian-coffeehouse, Jesus People wannabees. He spent the final 20 years of his life in a Chinese prison, dying at the age of 68 in 1972, but before that, he traveled extensively, telling anyone who would listen about Jesus Christ.

I hadn't heard ANYbody quote him or say anything about him for a long, long time until last week, when I heard him referenced two or three times within a couple days. "That tears it," I thought. "I need to dig out my old copy of The Normal Christian Life and read it again."

The Normal Christian Life is based on sermons and lessons originally given by Mr. Nee during and shortly after a visit to Europe in 1938-39. It was compiled and edited while Nee was in prison and first published in 1957. (I own the third revised edition, published in 1961.)

Even as old as it is...even as foreign as Watchman Nee's culture is to we Westerners...there is profound truth here, starting in Chapter One.

In the first section [of Romans 1-8] it is a question of the sins I have committed before God, which are many and can be enumerated, whereas in the second it is a question of sin as a principle working in me. No matter how many sins I commit, it is always the one sin-principle that leads to them. I need forgiveness for my sins, but I need also deliverance from the power of sin. The former touches my conscience, the latter my life. I may receive forgiveness for all my sins, but because of my sin I have, even then, no abiding peace of mind.

When God's light first shines into my heart my one cry is for forgiveness, for I realize I have committed sins before Him; but when once I have received forgiveness of sins I make a new discovery, namely, the discovery of sin, and I realize not only that I have committed sins before God but that there is something wrong within. I discover that I have the nature of a sinner. There is an inward inclination to sin, a power within that draws to sin. When that power breaks out I commit sins. I may seek and receive forgiveness, but then I sin once more. So life goes on in a vicious circle of sinning and being forgiven and then sinning again. I appreciate the blessed fact of God's forgiveness, but I want something more than that: I want deliverance. I need forgiveness for what I have done, but I need also deliverance from what I am.

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Truth is...While it is accurate to say that I sin and therefore, I am a sinner, it is far more accurate to say that because I am a sinner, I commit sins. And...the greatest truth of all...Jesus both saves from sins and delivers from sin.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Can't See the Savior for the Saved

Sporting events and concerts aren't the only time crowds can become an issue.

Mark 2:1-4 (NIV)
A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. (To read the rest of the story, click here.)

From my journal, November 21, 2000
Today, what strikes me about this story are the crowds of people who wanted to see Jesus, who wanted to hear Jesus  -  people who, for the most part, really thought Jesus was special  -  it is this crowd of people who are blamed by Mark as being the reason the crippled man's friends couldn't get the guy to Jesus.

Lord, are there times when we exclude...when the church is so intent on peripherals...that we actually make it harder for people to come to know You?


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Truth is...and it's a sad truth...whether it's a concentration on showmanship during "worship" or selfishness during the week, sometimes the biggest hindrances to seekers becoming believers are the people who already believe. Or, as C. S. Lewis put it: "When we Christians behave badly, or fail to behave well, we are making Christianity unbelievable to the outside world."

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Dancing in the Streets of Innocence

An earlier post that included the Margaret Becker song, Who Am I, reminded me of another work of hers that the whole world needs to rediscover.

Innocence, innocence
In innocence, in innocence

Tonight I'll sleep like a baby
On the bed of no regrets
Well listen, you, you can have your money
Now you, you can keep your pride
I don't need nothing
'Cause I'll be living rich tonight
In innocence, in innocence

Tonight I will count my blessings
Contemplate the treasure of the meek
Like the peace that passes understanding
The joy that keeps my soul
Well I, I am planning
On taking home the holy gold of
Innocence, of innocence

Resistance, resistance
I turn the other cheek
Well, there's no freedom like the freedom 
Dancing in the streets of

Resistance, resistance
I turn the other cheek, well
Freedom, freedom you will find me
Dancing in the streets of
Innocence, of innocence

Truth is...because Jesus has wiped out everything that stood between me and my maker, I have every reason in the world to sleep well, consider myself wealthy beyond belief, forgive others......and dance with joy like no one's watching.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Take My Mother-in-Law...Please

Jesus never had a mother-in-law of his own, yet he still had to deal with one...Peter's (Simon's).

Mark 1:29-31 (NIV):
As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they immediately told Jesus about her. So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them.

From my journal, November 17, 2000:
The first response of Peter's mother-in-law when Jesus healed her: service. She fixed dinner for them. In the same way, may I daily renew my sense of wonder at the love God expresses to me, and live out of a grateful heart.

Truth is...we don't do good things so Jesus will love us, but out of gratitude because He loves us.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Old MacDonald Spoke of Forgiveness

...E, I, E, I, O...

But seriously, George MacDonald (1824-1905) was not only a literary inspiration for the likes of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkein, but a Scottish preacher who also published three volumes of Unspoken Sermons...from which comes the following words about one of my favorite topics, forgiveness.

I do not know that it is of much use to go back to the Greek or the English word -- It will be enough if we look at the feelings associated with the exercise of what is called forgiveness.

A man will say: "I forgive, but I cannot forget. Let the fellow never come in my sight again." To what does such a forgiveness reach? To the remission or sending away of the penalties which the wronged believes he can claim from the wrong-doer.

But there is no sending away of the wrong itself from between them.

Again, a man will say: "He has done a very mean action, but he has the worst of it himself in that he is capable of doing so. I despise him too much to desire revenge. I will take no notice of it. I forgive him. I don't care."

Here, again, there is no sending away of the wrong from between them-- no remission of the sin.

A third will say: "I suppose I must forgive him; for if I do not forgive him, God will not forgive me."

This man is a little nearer the truth, inasmuch as a ground of sympathy, though only that of common sin, is recognized as between the offender and himself.

One more will say: "He has wronged me grievously. It is a dreadful thing to me, and more dreadful still to him, that he should have done it. He has hurt me, but he has nearly killed himself. He shall have no more injury from it that I can save him. I cannot feel the same towards him yet; but I will try to make him acknowledge the wrong he has done me, and so put it away from him. Then, perhaps, I shall be able to feel towards him as I used to feel. For this end I will show him all the kindness I can, not forcing it upon him, but seizing every fit opportunity; not, I hope, from a wish to make myself great through bounty to him, but because I love him so much that I want to love him more in reconciling him to his true self. I would destroy this evil deed that has come between us. I send it away. And I would have him destroy it from between us too, by abjuring it utterly."

Which comes nearest to the divine idea of forgiveness?

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Truth is...we all know the answer to that question. May we love people enough to truly forgive them; restoring the relationship between us and the people who wrong us, and between the people who wrong us and God.