Thursday, July 21, 2011

Lose the Label!

“I’m a _________, therefore I believe….”

Have you ever heard someone say something like that? Even the best of us can make the mistake of defending our beliefs based on a label. “I’m a protestant therefore I believe we are saved not by our works”, “I’m a Calvinist, so I believe in election”, “I’m a Baptist so I don’t dance”, “I’m a Pentecostal so I believe in speaking in tongues”, etc. etc…. Whatever happened to basing our beliefs on the Word of God? Shouldn’t we rather say, “Based on the Word of God, I believe ___________” and then just leave it at that?

Jesus said to the Father, “Your Word is truth” (John 17:17). Our religion is not based on the teaching of man, but of God. It’s not about a denomination; it’s about what the Word of God says. When we put a label on ourselves, whether it’s a denomination name (like Baptist or Pentecostal) or a man’s name (like Calvinism or Arminianism) I truly believe we diminish the name of Christ.

If you specifically asked me what denomination I am I will probably tell you that I am a Reformed Baptist. In other words, I’m Calvinistic in regards to the “doctrines of grace” as they are called, but I’m not Presbyterian when it comes to baptism, I believe in believer’s baptism not infant baptism. In labeling myself so I am taking what I believe and packaging it in a simple box. We all have labels. Catholic, Protestant, liberal, conservative, Wesleyan, Lutheran… I used to be very proud of the fact that I was a “Calvinist” and I would argue and defend Calvinism and loved it. I found a security and pride in what I believed. But in the last year I’ve realized that my heart behind my love for doctrine was all wrong. I was finding my security in doctrine instead of the Person of the doctrine.


Most people think that idolatry is worshiping something instead of God. While that is true, the meaning actually goes deeper. Idolatry is putting anything before God. Idolatry then can be anything. Marriage can be an idol if you esteem it more than you do God. Children, money, man’s approval… can all be idols in our hearts. But have you ever considered that doctrine can be an idol?

Do you put doctrinal points at the center of your life instead of God Himself? Do you find that you are consumed with studying doctrine instead of studying to become more like Christ? Do you argue about a doctrinal position at the expense of alienating or offending a fellow Christian? (And just so you know, I will admit that I have done these things.)

Lose the label!

I don’t know about you, but the only label I want to bear is Christ – and that’s an awesome enough label as it is! Think about it…. Christian. It literally means “little Christ”. We bear the very name of Jesus Christ, the Son of God; the One who lived and died on our behalf. The Bible says that Christ actually dwells in us… we are His temple, His dwelling place! The question is how well do we bear His presence?

“Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe's household, that there are contentions among you. Now I say this, that each of you says, ‘I am of Paul,’ or ‘I am of Apollos,’ or ‘I am of Cephas,’ or ‘I am of Christ’…. For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect… For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” (1 Cor 1:10-12, 17 & 2:2)

I shall end with a marvelous quote from Spurgeon, with whom I quite agree:

“There is no soul living who holds more firmly to the doctrines of grace than I do, and if any man asks me whether I am ashamed to be called a Calvinist, I answer – I wish to be called nothing but a Christian; but if you ask me, do I hold the doctrinal views which were held by John Calvin, I reply, I do in the main hold them, and rejoice to avow it.”
 – C.H. Spurgeon (from A Defense of Calvinism)

Let us learn to love only the label of Christ Himself, and may the center of our doctrine be Jesus and the Gospel of His kingdom, and the layer around it – sincere love for the brotherhood.  

Thursday, July 14, 2011

You Can Walk on Water

You Can Walk on Water.
“No I can’t”, you may protest. “That’s impossible! OK, so Jesus walked on water… and Peter did when Jesus called him to, but we can’t.” But we are called to live an impossible life. Jesus said, “You shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matt 5:48). Are you perfect? “Of course not”, you reply. “No one is.” Well, what are we to do then? The modern church will just pat you on the back and say, “It’s ok, God will still accept you the way you are.” But is that true? Habakkuk 1:13 says of God, “You are of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on wickedness”. We cannot come to God in our sin. “Well, yes,” you will agree, “But God’s grace covers all our sin”. Does it? Grace is not just God coming along side of us and accepting us, Grace is found in Jesus.  “Yes, in Christ we are forgiven” you respond. Indeed. It was while we were “yet sinner”s that Christ died for us (Rom. 5:8) but does coming to Christ mean only forgiveness? Are we just to accept that and sit back in the boat when we could be walking on water? “Christ walked on water so we didn’t have to” you may argue. But if that’s true than once we’re “saved” we can go back living the way we were before. “No… um… well...” you say while shifting uncomfortably, “of course there’s supposed to be a change, but there’s only so much we can do”. Much more so, without Christ we can do nothing. “So if it’s impossible,” you sigh, “then what are we arguing about?” Because, “if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God” (Romans 8:13-14). If we are indeed sons of God then we are called to live accordingly. We are called to live a life in accordance to the Spirit of God. “But how are we supposed to walk on water if it’s impossible?” you cry. The secret of imitation is impartation. We only have the power to imitate Christ by the fact that Christ lives in us. Paul said in Galatians 2, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). We are crucified to the flesh. While we still live and breathe, Christ is the one who is living through us. “But it doesn’t seem like Christ is living through me” you protest. Romans 6 says, “knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin” (Romans 6:6-7). “I know that that’s what the Bible says,” you cry, “but it doesn’t seem like I’m free”. That’s because knowing this is not enough; verse 11 says to “reckon yourself” as dead to sin. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new”. This is truth and you must reckon it as such in your life. Jesus said, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing” (John 6:63). It is only through the Spirit of God that we can have new life and victory over sin. “But if I’m saved don’t I already have the Spirit of God?” is the next question you ask. Yes, you do and He is changing you, but you do not have His power working in your life do you? “Well,” you say uneasily, “I have… I mean… isn’t the Christian life supposed to be struggling against sin? That’s what Romans 7 talks about.” Well, then, what about Romans 6? That comes first you know. And besides, at the end of chapter 7 when he cries out for deliverance he says, “I thank God – through Jesus Christ our Lord (Rom. 7:25). And that goes right into Romans 8 that is all about walking after the Spirit. Are you walking after the Spirit? “No,” you reply miserably, “I feel like I’m stuck in chapter 7.” It is the realization that Christ lives in you that will set you free. Ephesians 2 says, “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph 2:4-6). Not only are we made alive and raised up to new life, but we are seated together IN Christ. Paul talks about the mystery of God that now revealed which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col 1:27). In this light, “if Christ is in you, [than] the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness” (Romans 8:10). You need to realize your position in Christ. God’s grace is not just forgiveness; it is the enabling power of God working in and through us. It is the grace of God that is teaching us that, “denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works” (Titus 2:11-14).
Now we can say with Paul, that although we were once slaves to sin “thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:57)! 
And to that, I pray you will say, “Amen”.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Jesus I am Resting....

I recently discovered a music artist named Matthew Smith. He has a song called “Jesus, I am Resting”, that I’ve come to love, so I will share the lyrics with you:

Jesus I am resting, resting, in the joy of what Thou art,
I am finding out the greatness of Thy loving heart.
Thou hast bid me gaze upon Thee as Thy beauty fills my soul,
For by Thy life-transforming power, Thou has made me whole.

Jesus I am resting, resting, in the joy of what Thou art,
I am finding out the greatness of Thy loving heart.

O how great Thy loving kindness, vaster, broader than the sea!
O how marvelous Thy goodness, lavished all on me.
Yes I rest in Thee beloved, know what wealth of grace is Thine
Know Thy certainty of promise and I’ve made it mine.

Jesus I am resting, resting, in the joy of what Thou art,
I am finding out the greatness of Thy loving heart.

Simply trusting Thee Lord Jesus, I behold Thee as Thou art.
And Thy love so pure so changeless, satisfies my heart!
Satisfies its deepest longings, meets, supplies its every need.
‘Compasth me round with blessing, Thine is love indeed!

Jesus I am resting, resting, in the joy of what Thou art,
I am finding out the greatness of Thy loving heart.

Ever lift Thy face upon me, as I work and wait for Thee,
Resting ‘neath Thy smile O Jesus, earth’s dark shadows flee.
Brightness of my Father’s glory, sunshine of my Father’s face,
Keep me ever trusting, resting, fill me with Thy grace!

Jesus I am resting, resting, in the joy of what Thou art,
I am finding out the greatness of Thy loving heart.

Listen HERE: