Friday, June 17, 2011

22,479 Days and Still, NO PROGRESS!

Today marked the 22,479th day in a row that I had nothing to offer the Father but my filthiness, my sin and my utter need for His mercy in Jesus Christ.

 "6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:6-8

Even more humbling is the realization that God knew that for 22,479 consecutive days I would have nothing good to offer him - NO PROGRESS!  Now there is something to look forward to. Why doesn't He get sick of me? After 5479 days I turned 15 and still had nothing good to offer God. After 7919 days He graciously gave me my beautiful wife to try and curb my inner barbarian. On the 10,449th day, my second daughter was born and my need for God's mercy was deeper still.  Today, on the 22,479th day, married to the same remarkable lady for 14,560 days - I have 9 challenging children, countless friends and the depth of my iniquity and need for a savior is infinite. It's not that I'm better or worse than anyone else, it's that we have ALL sinned against an infinitely Holy Creator.  I'm not maladapted, in need of therapy - I didn't have a moral lapse, a mistake in judgment and sorry to those whom I might have offended - I have sinned against the Holy One.  It's not even the depth of our sins. God is perfect and we owe Him our perfection and so the seemingly least of sins is enough to earn us His eternal wrath.

I have nothing good to offer Him BUT I have a great savior.  God is not a great savior because He saw in me the potential to be a good man, a good husband, a good dad, and he chose me to help me develop my potential, NO!!!! God is a great savior because he saw in me NO GOOD THING, He saw in me that I hated Him, He saw in me the object worthy of His wrath, He saw in me selfish pride, lust, anger and the potential to commit the most heinous sins and YET, He sent His son into the world to die in payment for those sins.  I have a great savior.

"18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 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." Romans 5:18-21

So on this 22,479th day, I have nothing good to offer God but my filthiness, my sin and my GRATITUDE for saving a wretch like me.  He has done so much for me of which I am unworthy, the least I can do is worship Him and tell YOU of His great love.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Of Radioactive Power Plants and the Holiness of God

Wow, I can't get over how greatly people fear radiation.  In Japan we will learn that over 20,000 people have died as a result of the tsunami.  Whole towns were wiped away with every soul in them.  The news has reported very little on this massive loss of life, instead we keep hearing that there might be radioactivity in the water and the spinach.  The focus is all on the Nuclear Power plants and the potential loss of life (no one has actually died of radiation in Japan) and say very little of the 20,000 who HAVE died.

Here in the US people are buying up Potassium Iodide tablets for fear that the radioactive cloud or wind will make it around the world.  Yes, these concerns are within the realm of possibility but probability says we are over reacting and that we are TERRIBLY frightened of radiation.

I want to take advantage of this powerful fear to speak about something that very few people fear - the Holiness of God.

The word 'holy' means 'separate'.  Whatever God calls holy is separated for a holy use or purpose.  It becomes holy because God says so.  It can be an article (the ark, a candle stand, a wash basin), it can be a day (the Sabbath).  Anything associated with God is holy but only God is HOLY.  The divine attribute of holiness means that God is the most unique entity in the universe.  There is nothing to which you can compare Him, no created thing is like Him, no power or idea is like Him. God is wholly OTHER, totally separate from creation. Holiness is the umbrella attribute that describes ALL of God's attributes. What is the effect of God's Holiness upon us?

Our progress in sanctification (being transformed for a godly purpose) is tempered by this idea - that God's holiness is radioactive to us. I say it this way because very few fear God's holiness but everyone fears radiation. Look to Isaiah 6:5. Isaiah had a vision of God in the temple and he saw His Holiness and he pronounced a very shocking curse upon himself, he said, "Woe is me, I am undone." The words literally mean "I am disintegrated". God's holiness rips us apart at a cellular level. There is nothing good in us, not one cell and when we come in contact with God's holiness we realize the horrible danger we are in. The seraph flew to Isaiah and touched his lips with a cleansing hot coal. Of course the cleansing is the application of the Gospel. Because of the blood of Christ, the Gospel, we may stand in the presence of God's holiness, we come together enough to stand.

But what happens if we hunger to know God more? We read the Word, we hear it preached, we hide it in our hearts and we begin to draw closer to God, we apprehend more of the knowledge of God but in doing so we come closer to his holiness and once again we begin to disintegrate. We turn again to the Gospel for cleansing and the power to stand in His presence and draw closer still.

This is sanctification, the constant tension of the Gospel enabling us to move closer to the Holy One to be stopped by our sinfulness and knocked back, to rely on the Gospel to enable us and it continues in this cycle until we stand before His throne. The unsaved man understands neither the Holiness of God nor the utter destructiveness of sin and the inability for the two to be reconciled. God is revolted by sin and man is the most revolting thing in creation. But the one in Christ is in a constant state of transforming as we learn to rely on the Gospel to allow us to withstand more of the Holiness of God.

This is Law and Gospel, the Holiness of God is revealed in the Law and legalism only clarifies the fact that God is holy and we are not. It's like putting on a hat made of cesium to protect us from uranium. The Gospel is our protection that allows us to move closer - in Him we live and move and have our being.

Friday, January 07, 2011

If God is so powerful then why does he need to be praised and glorified?

"If God is so powerful then why does he need to be praised and glorified?"  I hear this question a lot, mostly from skeptics but also from believers.  God does NOT need to be praised or glorified because God doesn't NEED anything.  God didn't even need to create but he did and here we are.

Every week Christians go to church to ascribe to God his supreme worth for he alone is supremely worthy. We don't worship God because he needs to be worshiped but so that we might enjoy fellowship with the Creator and his children. Here's an illustration: Not to brag but I have a brick of 15 year old cheddar, it sells for about $50 a pound and it was a Christmas gift from my daughter. It has great value to me. I recognize it's value by bragging about it, smelling it, eating it slowly, holding it in my mouth, pairing it with a fine libation; I even SHARE it (sparingly) and other rituals that acknowledge the value of this amazing Wisconsin delicacy.

Worshiping God is pretty much the same thing. We acknowledge his supreme worth and value in our lives, we hear his Word preached, we boast of his majesty, we sing of his attributes and works and we receive the pleasure of knowing he is pleased to reconcile sinners back to himself.  Worship and praise are parts of a homecoming feast. (In the next article I will discuss the worship service as a homecoming feast.)

Glory, comes from the ancient Hebrew word for 'weight' or 'heaviness'. This made more sense back in the 70s when we spoke of a topic or subject as being 'heavy' - some concepts carry a great cognitive weightiness.

When we glorify God we are acknowledging his perfections and attributes. God is uniquely 'other' from his creation, there is nothing to compare him to. He displays his love, his mercy, justice, wrath, sovereignty, supremacy, power, providence and all encompassed with holiness. Our attributes are mere reflections of his and carry the distortions of the fall, we are capricious, selfish, proud and rebellious. We get a distorted view of God when we project our own weaknesses onto God.

So to glorify God is not to give him something he needs, but to acknowledge the glory that is his already and thereby finding assurance in that acknowlegement. Jonathan Edwards, America's greatest philosopher said it like this,
"God is glorified not only by His glory's being seen, but by its being rejoiced in. When those that see it delight in it, God is more glorified than if they only see it.... He that testifies his idea of God's glory [does not] glorify God so much as he testifies also his approbation of it and his delight in it."
In other words, the creature can find no greater pleasure than in acknowledging the perfections of God.
The opposite of glorifying is blaspheming and that brings the creature no comfort at all. Speaking as one who has blasphemed and praised God, praise is better, MUCH BETTER.
Soli Deo Gloria.