Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Is This The Stumbling Stone?

What is the stumbling stone, and what is the rock of offense?

Romans 9:30-33
What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith; but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness. Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone. As it is written:

“Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense,
And whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.”

Here's a question I have asked myself a thousand times before: If I know of my sinful failings, am I righteous just by faith in Jesus Christ?

It may be the biggest selling point for why one would be a follower of Jesus. Talk about incredible freedom we have in Him.

God sees me as righteous; neener neener boo boo

How about you? Do you spend time thinking about this too?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Raise the Banners

Those who looked on at Calvary scratched their heads.

For though He was crucified in weakness, yet He lives by the power of God (2 Cor. 13:4).

This is the gospel that Paul gave his life to defend. He preached "Therefore it is of faith, that it might be according to grace" (Rom 4:16), to both the lost and the saved (Gal. 5:5).

As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving (Col. 2:6-7).

His one bitterness was with brethren who were in Christ but recanted their sufficient faith; a tragic irony (Gal. 5:11-12). But I'm sold out. I want my stake in the earth to look like this.

"The Christological Symbol (Brazen Serpent Sculpture), created by Italian artist, Giovanni Fantoni, stands atop Mount Nebo. It is symbolic of the bronze serpent created by Moses in the wilderness (Numbers 21:4-9) and the cross upon which Jesus was crucified (John 3:14)."

This is a picture of God's invitation to put on the offense of Christ.

It is the stone of stumbling for those wrestling with God's terms of faith alone (Rom. 9:33). It is the most powerful teaching in the world, because it proclaims our reality of life in God; righteousness is ours by faith in His Son and not from ourselves (1 Cor. 1:18). I forget to meditate on what "grace" really implies here and now in His Body. It implies that sinners can, without any merit, be imputed with Christ's righteousness.

If you, LORD, should mark iniquities,
O Lord, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with You,
That You may be feared
(Ps. 130:3-4).

At Calvary, evil was crucified (Heb. 10:14).

If we wave around the offense of Christ like a banner, we know that this world is struggling with believing it, and they quicken our sufferings. Their reproaches reflect a wrestling with God's grace. That's okay with me; if I no longer live, but Christ does, I "fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ" (Col. 1:24). And He told us this would happen (Phil. 1:29).

Monday, June 15, 2009

the gospel and a funeral

Yesterday was the funeral service for my grandma. My friend and pastor volunteered to do the service. I asked him ahead of time about which scriptures he was going to use to share the gospel. He told me that he was going to use John 1:12, with Ps. 23 and the story of David as the shepherd.

I'm caught in passion to share the gospel. But not just the gospel, alone. I also want to share His graciousness. No "baseball bats." This is a funeral, after all. And this is my family, who I know very well. What a prime position God has given me, to use for His glory.... Not only to most readily minister emotionally in this acute moment of distress. That would have been enough, wouldn't it? But I get to talk most appropriately about "religion" at a funeral, and no matter how someone might object to Christ they will accept it in this cultural setting.

"Green light."

I still do not fully grasp the role women can take in speaking in mixed company about the Word of God. But my pastor was there presiding. And, most of what I said of scripture was actually a recount of individual conversations with Grandma. So in a couple of ways I do not think I broke any quasi-feminist ground.

After my pastor finished his gospel, he asked for family to speak, and I was the only one. What you read below is not "written to impress." Exactly the opposite, it is written to sound conversational in speech, and as empty as possible of "Christianese."

Lizzy kneels by great-grandma's grave

Two daughters, two nieces

I don't have a great sense of humor. I wish I did. Grandma was keenly clever; she was always laughing, always cracking jokes. All three of her sons got her funny bone, and I'm waiting to see if I inherited hers, too.

She always loved me and my sister, and I told her that I knew it without a doubt. She said back to me, "Indeed, I do." I started to get to know her when we moved out here and I was 13. I'm still learning about her. There are so many amazing times and circumstances she has gone through. She knew times of great luxury, and she knew times of poverty. She worked hard, at everything she did. She even gave up smoking just because one day she decided to quit and followed through - she was a determined and strong woman.

One of her greatest strengths, in my eyes, was her optimism. A famous consolation of hers was "Well, it's better than nothing!" and I can see her saying it with a smile. I think she earned the right to say such a thing to others.

I don't know how she would have gotten through without her optimism. She beat a lot of odds. Many of the conversations she and I had in the last ten years were on our crucified and risen Lord Jesus. She and I had started going to church regularly about the same time. I don't think she ever grew tired of thinking about what Jesus has done, for all of us. She's known about it all her life. She believed as Hebrews 9:22 says, that without the shedding of blood, there can be no forgiveness for sins, but since Jesus did suffer and His blood was shed, we who know this have already become sealed with the Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of His purchased possession, as Ephesians 1:13 says. That's you and me, if we've believed in Jesus's sufferings for us - even if it's not easy to understand.

Is it just that easy? Would be her question. Yes, eternal life is absolutely free.

Is it just that easy? I like asking the question, too.

One of the last times I spent with her I quoted John 6:47 "Most assuredly I say to you, whoever believes in me has everlasting life." I didn't have to say much to her, she nodded her head in agreement. Then later she was joyful and we talked a lot about family.

My sister and I have this way of differentiating between our two grandmas. Grandma Evelyn is "the cool grandma." She really was cool. I look at her life and realize how great I would have it to be like her. She knew suffering. But she also had learned, perhaps from observing what Jesus did on the cross, that suffering does not last forever. We know this. Suffering is a part of life. But it only lasts for a little while, and then it is done.

It isn't "just that easy" to know this, but by faith I know that she is present with her Savior now, and those of us who have been forgiven of our wrongdoings will also be present with her one day too. I'm an optimist as she was. I need more than optimism, however, and I think I have it. I don't want to ever grow tired of hearing it either. I praise God believing how He holds us through all the circumstances of our life on this earth, and into eternity as well.

She really had suffered, dying from cancer and not having proper pain management. Everybody was just not well, thinking about how needless it was. Her suffering is something God and I really talked a lot about. And when I couldn't tell Grandma a scripture about suffering for glory, I did tell her exactly what I said above.

I said to her, "Grandma I know that you're frustrated."

She raised an eyebrow and said, "Oh; I am??"

"I think so," I replied. "You're frustrated because you don't know how to help yourself feel better lately."


"Well, if you're suffering, just recall that it doesn't last forever. It only lasts for a little while, and then it's gone. And I think you're doing a great job. I love you. If you need anything, you just ask me. And I will get it for you, okay? You just ask."

She spent many moments thinking about what I said, and then replied saying how much she knew that I loved her. But I had already told her before that God loved her so I didn't feel the need to restate this for her.

I'm so thankful for Christ and His saints that the family received the words at the funeral yesterday with satisfaction and gratitude.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

"The Very Works"

Are the scriptures saying that the works of Jesus prove His deity and the Trinity, without explicit words and concepts and doctrines? I found these:

Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves.

john 14:11

What does this passage mean? I tried a measly dose of study and came up with no leads. Is Jesus saying, "Okay, you don't have to believe in the Trinity idea just yet, but at least believe in Me, because the works themselves which I do - the works which are the works of YHWH God alone - if you know your Hebrew scriptures well, you'd know that."

But I have a greater witness than John’s; for the works which the Father has given Me to finish—the very works that I do—bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me.

john 5:36

(One of my most favorite passages of the GoJ's (Gospel of John's) deity chapters (5,13-17))

Why "the very works I do"? Because only YHWH had eternal life, only YHWH could forgive sin, and, YHWH had all judgment entrusted to Himself. These works-characteristics of YHWH identify, set Him apart, and distinguish Him from all false gods.

The question I am trying to ask is this: are "the very works" when believed, essentially a transaction of believing in the deity of Jesus? Also, a transaction therefore of believing in the Father?

John 14:11 (above) comes at the tail end of Jesus talking with Philip who asks, "Lord, show us the Father and that is sufficient for us" to which Jesus replies, "Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip?" If you have One you have The Other as well - that's a theme from the deity-chapters of the GoJ.

In John chapter 5, the context from which I'm pulling the phrase "the very works" is on bearing witness. Jesus says,

If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true.

john 5:31

As far as I comprehend things, there is an interconnectedness in bearing witness. The Father bears witness of the Son and the Son also bears witness of the Father - and the Holy Spirit might be meant instead in those passages in John 5? But John the Baptist is a forth witness in this passage who God foretold in the OT. John the Baptist was also a witness to Jesus.

If "the very works" bear witness, then essentially we've got the Godhood of Christ, and the Trinity, being believed upon, on that level alone. It's kind of like "pay it forward" - believing on the light you have received, even the "voice of one crying in the wilderness" in the transitory-covenant period, is essentially proving our honoring of the entire Trinity?

Of course, I find this interesting because when I was coming to Christ, I could tell while watching Jesus as an atheist that He had authority on some level, and His works and miracles persuaded me to acknowledge and revere Him. To review an old post I additionally wrote on my testimony of salvation, you might read this...

Who was Jesus when I was Saved?

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Fundamentalism and Faith-Righteousness

I've been thinking lately about assurance.

There is only one safe place to play the role of fundamentalist, and it concerns God's righteousness, which is by faith. Everything else may move and shift as we learn and grow and listen to one another. I notice the teaching of the gospel of justification is illuminated within God's framework of faith-righteousness. It is within the framework of faith-righteousness that Paul describes and proves the New Testament revelations concerning Christ, in Romans 4 (below). Faith-righteousness has been the only source of approval and acceptance with God, for sanctification or justification, since the beginning of time.

What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt.

But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works:

“Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
And whose sins are covered;
Blessed is the man to whom the LORD shall not impute sin.”

Does this blessedness then come upon the circumcised only, or upon the uncircumcised also? For we say that faith was accounted to Abraham for righteousness. How then was it accounted? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised. And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised, that righteousness might be imputed to them also, and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also walk in the steps of the faith which our father Abraham had while still uncircumcised.

For the promise that he would be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. For if those who are of the law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise made of no effect, because the law brings about wrath; for where there is no law there is no transgression.
Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all (as it is written, “I have made you a father of many nations”) in the presence of Him whom he believed—God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did; who, contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according to what was spoken, “So shall your descendants be.” And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb. He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. And therefore “it was accounted to him for righteousness.”
Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him, but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.

Our doctrines are open to correction and adjustment as we try to build our theology, our understanding of God and man, out of the Bible to a comprehensive answer for our hope. But there is one thing that will never change - the gospel of grace through faith in Him. And the second part to that is the gospel will never change for our sanctification: "The just shall live by faith."

The truth of faith-righteousness was the grounds on which Paul separated from, and got bitter with, the agitators.

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