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Fixing our eyes on Jesus

December 27, 2010 1 comment

So, I’ve come to a point of re-dedication, of sorts. I guess this is a normal and natural thing for a Christian to do. That is, it should be natural for us to be constantly reaffirming our commitment to Jesus Christ, and our ongoing desire to be fully His. However, it always comes with a certain degree of conviction; an acknowledgement that I haven’t lived fully for Him; that I have allowed distractions to overtake my singleness and passion for Christ alone. And so here I am, crying out in prayer to be completely and totally and unreservedly sold-out through and through. So I come to a few verses to encourage me:

Hebrews 12:1-3 “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.”

First, we are surrounded by “so great a cloud of witnesses.” They witness to the faithfulness of God. They witness to the inscrutable rewards of serving God faithfully. They show the kind of faith, commitment, endurance and steadfastness which is supremely honored by God, and which ought to inspire us daily to imitate them. Thus, we have “men of like passion” who serve as an ongoing inspiration for us.

Second, I see an imperative to “lay aside” some things. This does not give me the warm-fuzzies that the first part does. To truly run this race, we’ve got to lay some things aside that are weighing us down. Competitive runners today wear special light weight clothing; male swimmers often shave off all their body hair; runners in the first century often ran naked! Why? Because ANY excess weight hinders them from running well. So we are instructed to examine ourselves, to see if we’re carrying around any dead weight. I am wholly convicted at this point. I feel I’m often distracted by certain activities and pastimes (my TV is on way too often). I’m distracted by thoughts and attitudes, etc.

Third, I see a need to clear the path so our feet don’t become “entangled.” And what is it that trips us up in this race? Sin. And it trips us up so easily. We can look at this in two ways: first, that sin in general trips us up easily; or second, that there are certain sins which trip us up over and over. Either way we are instructed to also put these aside. Perhaps easier said than done, but commanded none the less! Sin doesn’t necessarily disqualify us, but it hinders us. If we are constantly tripping over things, we may still reach the finish line, but we will do so with excessive and unnecessary bruises and scrapes.

Next, I see that awful word “endurance.” We need to simply stick it out sometimes. We need to know that it’s going to get difficult, that we’re going to be tired, that we will find any and every reasonable justification to quit, but we mustn’t. We need to keep running. Amen!

Most importantly, we need to “fix our eyes on Jesus.” He is the goal. He is the finish line. He is our prize. It is the full attainment of Christ that motivates us. Paul said, “I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ.” Not that we might gain blessing, or stature or status – but Christ Himself. O God give me such a heart!

Lastly, I notice that the word “endure” appears three times in this passage. Perhaps we are meant to grasp something important here. Perhaps endurance, above all, is the necessary virtue. It certainly fits the race metaphor. If we are running with excess weight, endurance will be more difficult, and unecessarily so. The race is difficult enough without it. Shed yourself of it and keep running! Even if we happen to trip over our sin, we must get up again and keep running.  We must remember our prize, we must fix our eyes on the finish line. We must keep running!! Such is my heart’s cry. I hope it is yours too.

Categories: Life

Putting on the New Self

December 13, 2010 Leave a comment

I’ve been reading my Pastor’s book, “Such a Great Salvation,” and God has really been giving me revelation about my identity in Christ (which was clearly his intention in writing the book). I think most of us on some level get that something profound changed inside us when we gave our lives to Jesus Christ. Most of us, however, including myself, have failed to truly recognize the scope of exactly what God did for us and in us through His Son Jesus. We catch a glimpse of it now and then, but we need a revelation, not just a glimpse! We need the “eyes of our hearts” to be “enlightened, that [we] might know what is the hope to which he has called [us], what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe” (Eph. 1:18-19).  It is through the renewing of our minds that we are transformed, as we behold more and more of his glory, as we are more fully illuminated to see the fullness of who and what He truly is, we are in turn transfigured into that very same image (Rom. 12:1-2, 2 Cor. 3:18).

The simple truth, which is far too grand to comprehend with a carnal mind, is that we are now possessors of the same life which Jesus had. Over and over in scripture we are told that our access to the divine power, to holiness, to God Himself is absolute and unrestricted.

“…who has blessed us in Christ Jesus with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” Eph. 1:3

“”His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and grace.” 2 Pet. 1:3

“…for all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world of life of death or the present or the future–all are yours…” 1 Cor. 3:21-22

Again, the carnal mind is simply unable to comprehend the depth of all of this, “but we have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16). But as Christians we must understand this. It is my firm belief that the low-level Christianity that has plagued the western Church is a direct result of a lack of understanding on these basic principles. And because the Church does not know, they do walk in the fullness of all God has for them.

And there’s the rub. It is not that we serve a weak God, or that His provision for us is somehow lacking. The lack is in our response. This is where the title of this post begins to make sense. “Putting on the new self” is the process of appropriating, in all its fullness, the things which God has prepared for us who believe. When we live beneath the dignity of our inheritance in Christ, when we sin, when we are entangled in the affairs of this life and distracted from the affairs of the Kingdom, it is because we have failed to be truly clothed with the new life which has been given to us. Thus Paul exhorts in Colossians 3:

“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set you minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”

I honestly feel I could preach a year’s worth of sermons on those four verses. If just a handful of Christians in my church actually lived out these verses fully, we would turn this city upside down for Jesus!

So, this morning in prayer, I began preaching this to myself. “I have been raised with Christ!” Just sit on that one for awhile! You were dead in trespasses and sins, but now you have been raised to newness of life in Christ (Eph. 2:1, Rom. 6:4). This is not an anecdote, or a metaphor. This is a spiritual reality! You are truly alive, in such a way that a non-Christian cannot comprehend. As a friend recently said, “It’s like trying to explain what sound is to a deaf person.”

“I am raised with Christ, I need to seek the things above.” That is, all the stuff that the world runs after is beneath me now – literally! I am seated in heavenly places in Christ, my desires, my interests, my whole life should be caught up in the affairs of heaven, where Christ is seated at God’s right hand. What use do I have for all the trappings and distractions of this life. I have an eternal destiny! This little blip of a life on earth will soon be over, and what will I have done? Spent hours upon hours playing video games? Watching TV? Or will I have a legacy of serving the King, and advancing His Kingdom?

So brothers and sisters, I encourage you, first, to read through the rest of Colossians 3 which talks about “putting on the new man” and “putting off the old man.” But this should give you a good start! Focus on Him and refuse to be distracted. He is worth it, and I can guarantee that you will never regret a moment you spend in His presence, nor the time and effort you place in serving Him. Put on the new man!

Blessings.

Categories: Bible, Life

Help in Time of Need

December 2, 2010 1 comment

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
Hebrews 4:15-16

I read this passage this morning in a new light. These two verses are both very popular, and widely known. However, I think they are known separately, distinct from one another. Verse 15 is an oft cited verse for obvious reasons. The encouragement this scripture brings to the believer is not able to be measured. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the one Who is “the heir of all things, thorough whom also [God] created the worlds.” The One who is “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.” The very same man who is upheld in this very discourse as the Author and Finisher of our Faith, the Creator and Inheritor of all things, the very Son of God – this One to Whom belongs all worship and praise, so much that even the angels are commanded to worship Him – this is the One whom we are told is able to sympathize with our weaknesses, having been tempted in every way that we ourselves are tempted. Wow.

This Jesus, having experienced the full gamut of human experience, is not unsympathetic to our plight. Not only does He understand suffering, sorrow and pain – He can sympathize with us even in our temptations!! Think about that, my beloved brothers and sisters. When you are walking through a dark place, and your baser impulses are rising up within you, when evil thoughts and wrong attitudes creep in, your Savior does not look down upon You with disgust and disappointment, but sympathy! He gets it! He understands! He’s been there! We should never feel ashamed when we are walking through the valley of temptation, for Jesus has been through it also, and more importantly, He navigated successfully. Still, we should never feel that God is looking down upon us hatefully when we experience a strong impulse to sin, rather it is in those moments when we must fly to Him! And here is where verse 16 must be understood in the context of verse 15…

“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne…” Based upon the reality that Christ sympathizes with us in our weaknesses, we may go before His throne with utter confidence, even in the moment of our temptation, in that moment when we are about to falter, then we must go before the throne. We may go knowing that we will be met only with love, acceptance and sympathy – not condemnation and fear. Our confidence is in the fact that our Eldest Brother has walked the path and understands our plight, and so He “ever lives to make intercession for us.”

And in our going to the throne of grace, we will “receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” You see, probably our greatest time of need is in that moment of temptation. When we feel the awful gravity of sin, we have every confidence to go before Christ to ask for help, knowing not only that He will hear us, but will hear us gladly, having compassion and pity, and He will surely grant our request for aid.

Brothers and sisters, whatever struggle you are facing, whatever dark enemy appears to knock you down or lead you astray from the path, know that our Champion has walked the very same path, and faced the very same enemies, and He has defeated them all. Though we may feel weak and powerless against them, we can know that His strength is more than sufficient.

Categories: Life