Monday, February 22, 2016

Psalm 23 - A Short Study on the Believer's Life

I have done a more in-depth study of Psalm 23 on this blog before, but just recently while thinking on this Psalm again, I began jotting down some things I hadn't thought about then. The 23rd Psalm is so well-loved, I knew I'd have to share it on my blog. This one is only a short study. I pray it blesses you.

The 23rd Psalm is the life story of a believer in Christ. He is our Shepherd, and this Psalm opens with that declaration. The life of a Christian begins with faith in Jesus, and with a confidence that He is not only the Good Shepherd of the flock, but that He is my Shepherd, and actively seeking my personal care.

This Shepherd sees to it that I have both food and drink in green pastures and still waters, while giving me His peace which passes all understanding. By this peace, He restores my soul, for it is upon drinking His Living Water that we shall never thirst. Our souls are renewed by trusting in this Shepherd and following Him, for it is only through Christ we have peace with God.

Behold, however, the hard times come, and it is by our faith and remembrance of His goodness that our souls remain restored and at peace.

Notice we are not spared the valley, we walk through it. Even though the valley is 'of the shadow of death', we fear no evil. Whatever we encounter is not to be feared. Evil cannot harm us while Christ be with us. Why? Why such confidence in the face of evil shadows?

The Lord's discipline is what comforts. His rod smites our evil tendencies while His staff keeps us on the path of righteousness for His name's sake. It is the Lord who keeps us, whose rod is also used to smite the shadows should they wander too close.

Within this valley the Lord prepares a table before us...where? In the presence of our enemies. Not in Heaven with our brothers, not in peace among our friends, but in the presence of our enemies. No matter how they rage and cry and howl and jeer, they cannot stop the feast of God. The evil in this valley cannot lift a finger to keep Almighty God from preparing this table.

Though the darkness presses in, Thou anointest my head with oil. Though the battle rages on, my cup runneth over. I have found both favor with God and have plenty by His hand.

Shadows have no power over the Light. When our God shines forth in glorious splendor, the day breaks...and the shadows flee. And what is the effect of living in the light of the Most High? It is simply this: that goodness and mercy shall follow me, all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

From the declaration of the Lord as my Shepherd to dwelling in the house of the Lord forever, we see the entire arc of the Christian life. It is the Lord who leads, and who restores. The Lord never leaves, but is with us to both correct and protect His sheep. The Lord prepares the table and anoints our heads with oil. We have been so richly blessed, that our cup is not only full, it runneth over. And while we follow our Shepherd, His goodness and mercy shall follow us all the days of our lives.

From start to finish, the believer's life is a work of the Lord. By His power and grace, we fear no evil. He is the one who preserves our faith.

In Him, we have all we need.

Friday, February 12, 2016

The Magnificence of Christ

One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple. ~Psalm 27:4

Christian, there comes a time in your life when you finally see the Lord Jesus Christ high and lifted up, the Holy of all holies, and the resplendent King of Glory. I'm not talking about some lofty "church speak", I'm talking about experience, about wisdom, and about knowledge, not about something parroted throughout various congregations. The Church has seemingly lost a high view of her Bridegroom, and this has resulted in many a believer "ho-humming" through their faith.

Lately, I've come in contact with several people via social media who claim that since we are made righteous in Christ (2 Cor. 5:21), we do not need to live righteously. To claim such is viewed as a "works based" salvation. Repentance=works. Holiness=works. I am surprised these same folks don't claim that faith=works, since we must have faith in order to be saved. But I digress.

Any astute student of Scripture knows that both repentance and holiness are all over the Bible. But even if we push these doctrines aside and say repentance and holiness are not needed, there still remains one little problem: being born again; becoming a new creation; being created in Christ Jesus; the old has gone, the new has come. 

The glaring hole here is simply this: when we believe on Christ, we are made new.

The doctrine of the cross is that we have died with Christ (Galatians 2:20, Colossians 3:3). The life we now live is by faith in the Son of God. Therefore, our worldliness was put to death and nailed to the cross. If our sins died with Jesus, so, too, did our desire to commit them. Herein lies the point of the whole matter. When one's heart is renewed by the Holy Spirit, He grants repentance (2 Timothy 2:25). This is NOT a work of the believer, this is a work of the Spirit. Scripture calls it opening our eyes (Luke 24:45-47) to understand the depths of our sins. The Spirit's job is to create in us a clean heart and renew a right spirit within us. This results in hating the things we once loved (sin) and loving the things we once hated (righteousness).

We have become citizens of Heaven. How should we who have died to sin live in it any longer? (Romans 6:1-2) That is not to say we don't stumble in sin. We are still in our fallen flesh. Until we are glorified and fly away, we shall always be stepping in it, for lack of a better term. But the point here is that we cease from deliberately sinning.

Now here is the point I'm trying to make. The Spirit of God is molding us into the likeness of Christ (Romans 8:29). This is called sanctification. Our Christian walk should be a steady growth in godliness throughout the course of our lives.

Now, even if I've lost you, even if you don't agree with me with regards to repentance and holiness as works of the Spirit rather than works of our flesh, there's another thing to consider: our love for Christ.

When the Holy Spirit truly renews one's heart to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, an all-consuming love for Him takes root in their heart, growing ever larger and larger until their love for God eclipses and overshadows the love they have for anything else in their lives. Not many believers make it to this point in their faith, because in order to love God to this magnitude, one must seek Him and strive after Him, and long to know Him and pray and study. Longing for Christ Himself might seem foreign to some believers, but consider Mary of Bethany, who poured out her expensive perfume on His feet in unparalleled adoration. She did not come to Him for a blessing or a request. She came to Him for His own sake, and worshipped the Lord on a deep, personal level not matched by His own disciples (John 12:1-8).

Something clicks within a believer when they make Jesus Christ their Treasure. Their hearts are with Him (Luke 12:34). They gladly sell all they have to obtain that field (Matt. 13:44). They want to become like Him, and therefore, they begin to obey to His Word (John 14:23). They think on things that are good and pure (Philippians 4:8). They set their affections on things that are above (Colossians 3:2). This world and its pleasures become vanity and chasing after the wind (Ecclesiastes 1:14), and they count it all as dung that they may gain Christ (Philippians 3:7-8).

The natural by-product of renewing your mind in this way (Romans 12:2) is that one turns from their sins (repentance) and walks as Jesus walked (holiness). These are not works by which we are saved, rather, they are the fruits of our salvation. It is the work of the Spirit in the heart of man. People who do not wish to live holy lives sold out to God are either grieving the Holy Spirit or false converts altogether. Regardless if Christ's righteousness now covers us, this is not a free license to sin. This also does not mean we can no longer sin. While it's true that our sins are covered by His sacrifice, what blood-bought believer of the Lord Jesus Christ would want to partake of activities that sent our Beloved King and magnificent GOD to the cross?

Christian, my dear brother or sister in Christ, please consider these words. Growth in Christ includes forsaking sin and increasing in holiness. Search the Scriptures to see if what I say is true. Be a Berean. Do not believe any preacher, teacher, or blogger over the Word of God. Their words blow away like chaff on the wind, but God's Word endures forever.

It is my prayer that the Spirit of God will open the eyes of all who read my blog to a new and living relationship with the Lord of Heaven and Earth. Yeshua, give us all new eyes to see You seated at the right hand of God. Allow us to see a glimpse of Your glory while we yet remain on earth, so that we might redeem the time we've been given and live for You. Let us not be content to hold You captive in the dark closet our hearts, rather, I pray You break free from the superficiality that grieves You and remind us of who You are - the Lord of Hosts, the King of Kings, and God, Most High. Likewise, remind us of who we are, no longer bound by sin, but saints of God, partakers of the divine nature, and a people of Your own possession. People You have called out of darkness, and into Your marvelous light.

Help us to give you the glory due to Your Name, and remind us that holiness is an act of worship, and it is beautiful (Psalm 29:2).

In Jesus' name.