Friday, March 27, 2009

Ever Increasing Glory

The book of Ezekiel gives us an extraordinary insight into the passion of God in wanting to dwell amongst His people. In Ezekiel Chapter 10 we see God moving throughout the Temple before reluctantly departing altogether. In a bizarre display, He moves from above the Cherubim within the Holy of Holies to the threshold of the Temple, then from the Threshold of the Temple back to above the Cherubim. Then from above the Cherubim again, to the East Gate of the Temple, before departing the Temple for the Mountain outside.

The prophet Ezekiel is at pains to highlight the reluctance of God in departing from amongst His people. God desires to remain amongst his people, but the reality is that the people continue their religious practices, unaware that the Temple is empty. Ezekiel highlights the heartbreaking truth that the people never noticed God when He was in the Temple and now, once again, the Glory of the Lord has departed. A Godless Temple makes a Godless people comfortable.

In chapter 47 the prophet Ezekiel describes in another vision a temple with water streaming out from under the threshold of the Temple and heading in an easterly direction. In the vision he measures the water which appears to get deeper & wider the further from the Temple it goes. When it finally enters the Dead Sea it transforms into a haven for living creatures. This ever increasing River of Life running from the Temple refreshes all that it comes into contact with. It flows deeper & wider the further from the Temple it flows and refreshes all who come into contact with it.

Almost 600 years later during the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles, Jesus stands up and addresses the crowd in Jerusalem saying “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scriptures has said, streams of living water will flow from within him. By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him, were later to receive”.

The Temple the prophet Ezekiel saw in his vision with streams of living water flowing in an ever increasing measure is the New Covenant believer. No longer does God dwell in buildings made of human hands, He dwells within people fashioned from the clay by the hands of God, and out of these people flows an ever increasing glory that brings life & refreshing.

In 2 Corinthians 3 the Apostle Paul describes the Glory of the New Covenant as an ever increasing Glory. There are no limits, it continues on without any bounds. From within the New Covenant believer flows this ever increasing Glory of the New Covenant!

My soul thirsts.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Dying to Sin, Self & the World

In the last few years I have been deeply impacted as I have begun to understand the significance of Christ crucified; Christ resurrected & our union with Him. After nearly 20 years of Church involvement, including Pastoring & Church Planting the Lord brought me to a crisis of Holiness as I begun to understand the Book of Romans.

I recognise that I have polluted every gift/talent/task that God has ever given me. The purity of the gift/talent/task that God gave me has been spoiled because of my ambition and self-importance. I enjoyed 'doing the work of the Lord' and being the person that could be relied on for the 'word of the Lord' because it fed and excited the sinful nature within me - Oh how my heart deceived me. Sin, seized the opportunity to deceive me and I was deceived.

'I am convinced that nothing good lives in me, that is, my sinful nature' & I am convinced that the sinful nature within me deliberately leads me away from God, every opportunity it gets. My dilemma is that it is not only my sinful nature that deceives and entices me away from the Lord; I am also enticed away by sin and the world. I recognise that my sinful nature, sin & the world are all battling against my desire to be holy and live intimately with the Lord.

For many years, I have recognised the terrible effects of my sinful nature, sin & the world upon me, however, I was unable to live free from their entangling effects and as a result I learnt to be satisfied with the cycle of sin-confession-forgiveness-sin-confession-forgiveness-sin-confession-forgiveness-sin......The high & holy standards of the Bible seemed beyond me, and beyond all those I turned too for Godly counsel.

I lived in this state for too long - A slave to sin while trying to be a slave/friend to God. Despite my failures, I continued to preach/teach the high & holy standards of God’s Word because I understood that I had ‘fallen short’ and needed to change, rather than God’s expectations were too high.

I was in a dilemma – I wanted to be holy and live a life free from wilful & deliberate sin but I was unable – my sinful nature, sin & the world kept getting the better of me.

Bible study, revival meetings, prayer meetings, fellowship groups, accountability groups, passion, evangelism, worship and self control all were an active part of my life but they all failed to restrain the sinful nature within me. I was still a slave to sin, despite my active and ongoing involvement in these things.

My ‘falling short’ was now increasingly grieving me.

During this time the Lord turned my attention to the Book of Romans which caused me further grief, particularly chapters 5 through 8.

The understanding of what Christ accomplished on the cross overwhelmed me. I discovered that:

In the same way I was ‘in Adam’ during his rebellion, I was ‘in Christ’ during his obedience that led him to the cross.

I easily recognised the results of being ‘in Adam’ during his rebellion – I was a slave to sin and unable to live free from wilful & deliberate sin. But the Word of God revealed to me that I was also ‘in Christ’ during his obedience that led him to the cross.

The reality of being ‘in Christ’ during his obedience that led him to the cross changes everything for me. When Christ died for my sin at Calvary, I was ‘in Him’ and I died to my sin. That death to sin has now put me out of sins reach and beyond its power. My death ‘in Christ’ has separated me from sin.

In the same way that I was ‘in Christ’ during his obedience that led him to the cross, I was also ‘in Christ’ when he was resurrected.

Because I was ‘in Christ’ in his death, I am also ‘in Christ’ in his resurrection. ‘In Christ’ I have entered into death and have passed through the grave into a new life’ ‘in Christ’.

This new life is not a resumption of the old. That old life has died ‘in Christ’. But rather it is a new and completely different life, free from the penalty and power of sin. The sinful nature, sin & the world can’t pass through the grave together with me, they ended at the cross.

I passed through the grave ‘in Christ’ and was resurrected into a position of righteousness before the Father (Justification). I died and it is no longer I that lives, but Christ who lives in me.

I am in ‘union with Christ’ to the point where we are inherently within one another.

The Scriptures teach that we are in ‘union with Christ’. It was my ‘union with Christ’ that kept me ‘in Him’ through his death & resurrection and it is that union that comforts, encourages and strengthens me in this new life that he has given me.

If I was ‘in Christ’ through death & resurrection I am confident that I am ‘in Christ’ through every circumstance in this new life. The depth of that union is emphasised in John 14 & 15 where Jesus reveals that He is ‘in the Father’ & the Father is ‘in Him’. In the same way we are ‘in Christ’ and Christ is ‘in us’.

The Father & Christ are inherently within one another – Christ & us are inherently within one another. Therefore, whatever circumstances are before me, I face them with the full knowledge & confidence that Christ who is in me has already overcome all things. I don’t face the circumstances alone, the Creator and Liberator of the Universe is ‘stuck with me’ – wherever I go, he goes, we remain in union – comforting & disturbing.

Because of my union with Christ, he enters into all my circumstances and suffers together with me. His responsibility is to either give me enough grace to pass through the circumstance or miraculously remove the circumstances from me. If he chooses to give me enough grace to pass through the circumstance then he passes through together with me – If I suffer, he suffers with me.

It is this understanding of my participation with Christ in his death & resurrection and the knowledge that we are inherently within one another that has transformed every area of my life.

I once attempted to imitate Christ with miserable results. I now rest in the knowledge that I died ‘in Christ’ to my sinful nature, sin and the world; I was resurrected ‘in Christ’ into a position of righteousness beyond the reach of sin; and I am now inherently in union with Christ.

This knowledge has produced faith within me that has significantly affected the way I live. I now understand what Christ accomplished and that accomplishment affects all my actions. When faced with sin, I recognise its powerlessness because of Calvary and I recognise the power & wisdom of the Son of God, who I am in union with.

In the Book of 1 Corinthians the Apostle Paul corrects wrong behaviour in the Corinthian Church by first correcting wrong theology. It was that wrong theology that allowed the believers to behave in a way that missed God’s intended purpose. Wrong theology together with a lack of theology will always lead to destruction.

The contemporary Church is no different from the errant Corinthians almost 2000 years ago. Our wrong theology & lack of theology has led us to a path that will ultimately end in our destruction.

Coupled with this understanding of what Christ accomplished for me in his death & resurrection, is also the knowledge that I need to embrace the cross daily & die to self. I recognise that each day I face new assaults from the sinful nature, sin & the world and if I don’t continue to die to self, I am in danger of resurrecting all that awfulness (me) that died ‘in Christ’ at Calvary. I will become a terrible contradiction – ‘in Christ’ & ‘In Adam’ – God forbid. I died to sin, how can I go on living in it!

Dying to self requires determinations like that of Jesus when he set his face towards Jerusalem & would not let anything distract him from making it to Calvary. For Jesus, it was a deliberate act. He committed himself to travelling the path that the Father had set before him & we likewise need to trust the Father to bring about His purpose, which is our dying to self on a daily basis.

My reason in writing this is because many within the contemporary Church have missed the basics of the Christian life and have become fascinated with matters that have the appearance of ‘deep spirituality’ but really are deceiving doctrines of demons. They have become deceived because they missed the basics of the Christian life and much of the fault is that of church leaders who failed to secure men & women in the Word of God. The wrong behaviour manifested amongst believers is the result of wrong theology & a lack of theology taught in the pulpits.

These men & women who have become fascinated with matters that have the appearance of ‘deep spirituality’ are undoubtedly slaves to sin. The sinful nature, sin and the world has deceived them and led them away from the Lord into behaviour that is offensive & betrays our Lord.

These men & women need to return to the basics of the faith and let the cross of Christ transform them, their marriages, families, friends, churches, finances, employment and ministry.

The extent to which a man or a woman, who has been redeemed, can have confidence that their thoughts & actions are holy & pure, is the extent to which that person has crucified the sinful nature. The redeemed man or woman who has learned to live together with their sin can never have confidence that their actions are holy & pure. They are a contradiction, living both ‘in Christ’ & ‘in sin’. They are a mixture, spoiling every gift/talent/task that God has given them.