Where Theology And Experience Meet

“For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God”  (2 Corinthians 5:21)

             Many Christians have sung this verse from the popular contemporary Christian song “Jesus Messiah” by Chris Tomlin.  It is a great worship song containing sound theology.  But let me ask two questions as it relates to 2 Corinthians 5:21.  First, do you understand the truth being taught in this verse?  Secondly, have you embraced that truth?  This is a verse in which I believe theology and experience meet.  Let me explain.  Some say we can have too much theology and what we really need is to only experience God.  Others lean heavily on the theology side and do not seek to truly experience God.  When we apply this verse of Scripture appropriately, it should lead to both.  Scripture teaches that, “…while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).  We find in this section of 2 Corinthians, Paul describing the greatness of God’s love is and an answer to how we are reconciled to Him.  That answer culminates with the most beautiful truth of verse 21.

            “For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God”  It truly was for our sake, because God didn’t need you or me for anything, but He loved us enough that He made “Him”, that would be Jesus “sin”.  Jesus was sinless, and by becoming sin for us, we become, “the righteousness of God”.  Righteousness means to be in a right standing or relationship with God, it is what is right and just.  This is known as the doctrine of justification, a legal term in which one is declared not guilty before God.  The best way that I have ever heard 2 Corinthians 5:21 explained is this, “Though Jesus was not a sinner, on the cross, God treated Him as if He was.  On the other hand, you and I are not righteous, but God treats us as if we are.  So in essence, this means that on the cross, God treated Jesus as if He had lived our life so that He could treat us as if we had lived His.”  This verse also supports the doctrine of atonement, which is the work that Jesus did in His life and death to earn salvation for you and me.  Christ was our substitute, and took on our sin that we might be given His righteousness.    

            So you ask, “What do you mean about theology and experience meeting?”  The point is simply this; we can have an experience and it not be based on right theology.  That never leads to proper worship or God’s glory.  But when you grasp and fully embrace the theological truth of this verse, realizing that because of Jesus Christ, your position before God is perfect, you will experience God and your worship will change.  You will no longer be paralyzed by your past, present and future failures because this verse tells you that they are completely paid for.  What freedom when you realize God loves you this much!  And because He loves you, you love Him and your motivation to serve and to worship Him will be pleasing to Him because it comes, not out of duty, but out of gratitude.  Theology; meet experience. 

 Prayer

Father, I can’t believe you love me that much, but you do.  Thank you.  I know my sin put Jesus on the cross, but He bore it willingly.  As I live today, with my failures before me, help me to grasp that my position before you God is perfect, because my Savior is perfect.  Let that motivate me to live for your glory each day, thankful that Jesus chose to be my substitute.

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Not Just For Daughters

            This morning, I caught an interview on Fox News concerning the story of a young lady named Kylie Bisutti.  It is well worth sharing with your daughter, as I plan to share it with mine.  I’ve included the link below that provides the details.  At 19 years of age, her dream, or so she thought, of becoming a Victoria’s Secret model had come true.  From a career standpoint, she had accomplished her goal.  Then God, as He often does, stepped in.  As Kylie explains it, the more she read God’s Word, the more convicted she became about the type of modeling (lingerie) she was doing, and decided to change course on the type of modeling she would do moving forward.  I believe her story provides some great lessons not only for our daughters but all of us. 

            The first lesson that can be learned is that there is such a thing as being appropriately dressed. Bisutti sighted the value of this as she sought to be a role model to young girls.  I’m not trying to make a moral judgment on lingerie models, but as parents, we all know what I mean when I say “appropriately dressed”.  The second lesson, I believe, is even more important and one in which we can all benefit.  Way too often, our expressions of faith are not accompanied by action, but in the case of Mrs. Bisutti, it was.  She made the decision that lingerie modeling no longer conformed to her Christian values.  It didn’t necessarily mean she had to give up her career, but surely the step she took caused uncertainty.  You never know how others will respond to your convictions, particularly when they result from your Christian faith, but Bisutti decided it was worth it.  As you read the article you will see that her modeling career continues successfully.   

            Hebrews 11:1 says, “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” If God allowed us to see the end result of our obedience to His prompting, it wouldn’t require faith.  And sometimes when God impresses upon us as individuals that a change needs to be made, it comes at a great cost, perhaps a career change, different lifestyle and more financial uncertainty.  For Mrs. Bisutti, it was a risk that could have cost her a career in modeling because it conflicted with the cultural norm.  But at other times, our obedience to the Lord’s prompting is followed by an immediate blessing because you did walk in faith.  It appears Bisutti will be just fine as she continues her modeling career.  Trust God when He speaks to you because He is trustworthy.  He loves you and gave His Son to show you just how much.  To respond to God’s work in our lives always brings a blessing.  That blessing may come immediately, or it may be delayed until eternity.   But God promises, it will come.  Do you believe it?    

http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2012/02/02/kylie-bisutti-left-lingerie-modeling-because-it-didnt-mesh-with-her-christian/

In What Will “My” Beauty Walk?

“…for the LORD will be your confidence and your foot will not stumble” (Proverbs 3:26) 

            I spent last evening at the Alabama Theater watching Hoover High School’s 2012 Beauty Walk.  It was only the second time I’ve ever been there.  On both occasions, it was a result of my daughter Kristin’s involvement in an activity.  The first time, she was participating in a dance recital as a first grader.  Last night, as a high school senior, she was a contestant in the Beauty Walk.  As I watched, I couldn’t help but reflect on the two occasions of my being in this venue.  The first time, I remember hoping she would just move when it was her groups turn to dance.  Last night, as she glided across the stage, she was no longer a little girl, but a beautiful young woman.  These years have really gone quickly.  Probably like many parents, times like these make me think about all the activities we put our children in, wondering of their value.  I know for Kristin to get exposure to things such as this event does help build her confidence as she prepares for her future.  But my hope for Kristin, as her father, is that she will draw her confidence from a greater source. 

            “…for the LORD will be your confidence and your foot will not stumble” A primary theme of the book of Proverbs is wisdom, challenging the reader to seek God’s wisdom.  Proverbs 3:26 in particular advises that we put our trust in the LORD to see us through life’s challenges.  In this world, there will be many.  As such, we should seek God’s wisdom first.  In some ways, I’ve spent much of these 17 years afraid of Kristin, and for that matter, Logan as well.  Afraid that in an attempt to balance the right amount of “push” in order to help them to a better future; I might be hurting their confidence along the way.  This is a difficult task as a parent; you love them so much, in many cases you have been where they are, and all you want is for them to avoid your mistakes.  Yet all the while, you know they are young and fragile, and you’re trying your best not to do something wrong.  The truth is; you can’t avoid doing something wrong, particularly when using your own wisdom and not God’s.  Human wisdom is always distinct from God’s wisdom.  We can, however, take great comfort because there is an answer to this dilemma we face as parents.  That answer is to seek God’s wisdom and to teach our children that true confidence is only to be found in Him.  It is for you, as a parent, to demonstrate your confidence in Him and thereby give testimony to its truth.   All of these other ways of building our children’s confidence, though perhaps useful, are secondary.  Kristin didn’t win Beauty Walk, but it really wouldn’t have mattered if she had if she lacks confidence in the LORD.  He is the only one who is faithful and true.  He is also the one who loves her the most.  That will always be enough.  It is in having confidence in these truths, that I hope Kristin, “my” beauty, walks. 

Prayer

Father God, thank you for the gift of children.  Thank you for your forgiveness when we parent them apart from your wisdom.  Help us as parents to seek your guidance more each day in order to serve our role in preparing our children for what lies ahead.  But more than that, let us be an example to our children that you are our confidence and that they can trust you to be theirs as well.  No one loves like the Heavenly Father loves.  Thank you for showing us and our children that love.  Amen!   

Same-Sex Marriage: Letting God’s Word Speak

            As I read the Reuters article and saw the picture of Governor Christine Gregorie of Washington and those around her as she signed a law recognizing same-sex marriage, I couldn’t help but notice the smiles on their faces.   As people applauded, she said, “This is a proud moment…I’m proud of who and what we are as a state.”  She then suggested that all Washingtonians look into their hearts concerning the issue of same-sex marriage and treat each other equally.  Well, I must say I’m not shocked.  She is not the first and certainly won’t be the last of our political leaders to elevate themselves above God.  As she and those around her smiled at their accomplishment, I wonder what God was thinking?   

            From the beginning of the human race, God created marriage as a union between one man and one woman with Adam and Eve as our pattern to follow (Genesis 1-2).  Scripture makes this abundantly clear.  Jesus recognized this fact in answering a question concerning divorce in Matthew 19:3-6.  If God has made His moral standards regarding marriage plain, as He has, other types of relationships, such as homosexual relationships cannot be accepted as valid.  Unfortunately, in our pride, we have attempted to elevate our thinking above God’s in order to change what He has said so our sin can be seemingly more tolerable and therefore, more compassionate.  That’s what our postmodern world does; it denies God’s absolute truth in the name of tolerance on the false grounds of compassion.  Our problem is really due to the lack of our acknowledging the Divine authority of Scripture.  The unbiblical view of the marriage union is but one example of this.  But God has spoken clearly on this issue and the most important words to hear are His:   

–          “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.” (Leviticus 18:22)

–          “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be       put to death; they have committed perversion; their blood is upon them. (Leviticus 20:13)

These moral standards are not changed in the New Testament: 

–          “For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions.  For their women exchanged natural relations for         those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.” (Romans 1:26-27)

–          “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?  Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.  And such were some of you.  But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”           (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)

–          “Understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and their mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine.” (1 Timothy 1:9-10)    

            Our agreement with any of the above passages has no impact on their being true.  These are God’s Words, therefore, they are true.  We cannot, as a nation or as individuals continue to presume upon God’s grace and expect His blessings.  What did the apostle Paul say, “What shall we say then?  Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?  By no means!  How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Romans 6:1-2)  Some that Paul encountered in ministry believed that the gospel of grace gave them a license to sin.  Some believe the same thing today, but that is not what the Bible teaches.  There is a difference in knowing we are sinners who do sin, and having a willful desire to live in it.  Grace truly received creates a heart that aims to please God.  As a country, we bow our heads and pray for God’s blessing, our national leaders end their speeches with “God bless America” and all the while, we disregard His will concerning, not just the issue of marriage, but many issues in which He has spoken. Worst of all, we do it willfully.  That is sin and willful sin impacts our relationship with God and our seeking Him through prayer:   

–          “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.” (Proverbs 14:34)

–          “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.” (Psalm 66:18)

–          “The LORD is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous.” (Proverbs 15:29)

–          “The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayer.  But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” (1 Peter 3:12)

            We don’t have to be perfect for God to answer prayer, if we did He wouldn’t answer anyone’s, but God knows the motive of all our hearts.  So maybe before the governor asks others to search their hearts, perhaps she should search her own.  God is not indifferent to our sin and no amount of disagreement with His Word on the issue of marriage makes it untrue.  For He has spoken.  That leaves us with a choice, either we agree with those words or we deny them.  God’s truth, no matter how much it conflicts with societies view is not “hate speech” nor is it unloving.  Expressed the right way, I would contend that it is love.  The greatest expression of love, however, came at the cross.  That is where, in spite of our sin, God provided a means for forgiveness.  That forgiveness comes only through Jesus Christ.  That’s the good news.  God’s power is greater than our sin, and out of His love, He gave us His Son who lived a perfect life, died and rose again.  The same power that brought Jesus from the grave is the same power that can save and keep you.  And if His power can do that, it can certainly conform your thinking to what He says regarding the issue of marriage.

What makes a Christian marriage different?

            Below is a link a friend shared entitled, “What should make Christian marriages distinctive?”  What a great night for you and your spouse to give it a read.  God never promised the Christian life would be easy and sometimes, because you are, life becomes even more challenging.  Marriage is especially difficult and under constant attack from a secular world.  As designed by God, it is to be a reflection of Christ’s relationship to the church (Ephesians 5:22-33).  Because you are a Christian does not make you immune from these challenges in marriage. Your best effort and your morality alone will not be enough to keep problems away because we all sin.  But just as sin indwells you, so does the Holy Spirit.  That’s the difference.  By His grace, God has given us what we need to know His will.  Will you hear from Him?

 http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Ft.co%2Fr9TOW39h&h=tAQErB1DLAQExULrUR0NzdA0rajUD1QLyWV0A5dhZoOK-ww

The Perfect Father

“You therefore must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48) 

            I’ve been thinking a lot about my dad this week.  In just a few days he will turn 81 years old and I imagine his upcoming birthday and his age are causes for my reflection.  As I think back over the years, I remember the various stages of what I thought about my dad.  They’re probably not much different than the thoughts you had regarding your own father.  When I was little, I looked at him with such reverence.  I felt as if he could do nothing wrong and I took in every word he said.  Then as I grew and became more independent in my teenage and early adulthood years, though I loved and respected him, I wasn’t quite so eager for the advice he had to offer.  As I’ve aged, now having teenagers of my own, though we sometimes differ on the means of achieving an outcome, I realize how wise he has always been.   

            “You therefore must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” The central theme of this passage in Matthew is not on how to be a good father, but on emphasizing that the Heavenly Father is perfect.  The Greek translation for the word perfect means to mature.  In the Sermon on the Mount (chapters 5-7), Jesus taught about the high standard in which Christians are to live, and though unattainable in this life, how we are to pursue that perfection.  God’s standard is His own perfect character.  Well, my father can’t meet that perfect standard, nor can I or any other father.  We never will.  Our Christian walk as fathers, or anyone’s Christian walk for that matter, should desire perfection.  Though we know it’s not possible, our heart should desire that it be.  At best, earthly fathers are but a dim reflection of our Heavenly Father. 

            I have always known that I have a great dad who loves me very much, and I truly appreciate all he has done for me throughout my life.  The mistakes he made along the way, he made loving me.  He is an imperfect dad because all earthly dads are.  That is another thing God’s Word teaches us; in our pursuit of Him, we will always fall short.  The value in knowing that, on our own, we fall short is that it points us to the One who never does.  He is the perfect Father who gave His perfect Son to be the perfect sacrifice for our sin.  God the Father is to be our role model.  And as the Heavenly Father has dealt so graciously with you, honor Him and extend that same grace to your imperfect earthly father.  Thank him for what he has done for you, but also forgive him for what he has failed to do.  That will bring glory to the Father who loves you the most, the Father who awaits you in heaven.  

 Prayer

 Heavenly Father, thank you so much for my earthly father.  Thank you for the wisdom you gave him in raising me.  Though imperfect, he loves me.  Father, in the ways that he may have failed, I forgive him.  We all have failed.  You are the one perfect Father and we adore you.  Thank you for your Son, Jesus Christ.  Help me to show the grace you have shown me, and by the power of your Holy Spirit, give me a desire to be perfect before you.  Amen!