News!

Guess what?! The world we live in with all its problems, brokenness, wrong-doing, craziness, and bad things has a King who is in the process of fixing everything! That King is God, and He is saving the world by rebuilding His Kingdom in His World, and one day it will be the only kingdom left standing. So get on board with this Kingdom now, so you don’t lose big when the other kingdoms fall!

What is this Kingdom like? It’s a kingdom where the only rule is Love one another the same way the King’s Son Jesus has loved us. This means there is justice for all, restoration available to all who humbly ask for it, and forgiveness for any wrong thing. Have you ever done something really awful? You felt guilty for it right? You can be forgiven for it. From stealing a piece of candy from a cookie jar to molesting a child, you can be forgiven for that. But if you’re one of those guys who keeps on doing evil, watch out, cause He’s coming to bring about justice, unless you stop doing it and start doing the right things.

Also, it has the coolest King ever. Not only is he all-powerful, but He is very humble. He is willing to talk with you as His friend, even though he made the world and destroys evil. He is constantly well-managing and growing His kingdom, and no enemy will ever be able to take it from him. He has won the battle to keep it forever, and now people get a chance to rule right alongside him! Seriously, He even gives days off! He’s a great boss! He genuinely cares about you, and is willing to get to the bottom of any thing that is broken in your heart. He will fully utilize everything in your life for the purpose of the glory and goodness of this Kingdom.

What’s the catch? Thankfully, the cost has been completely paid. With all our mess-ups and sin that we keep doing, we don’t deserve this opportunity, but Jesus came and died on the cross to make it possible. What do you have to do to be a part of this kingdom? Simple but not Easy. Swear allegiance to God, obey Him, turn your back on everything that was a part of your life in the kingdom’s of this world, and live as an emissary to others to bring them into this kingdom. You can’t bring anything with you, no possessions, no positions, no prestige, even relationships and family have to be on the table of whether or not they continue. As a citizen of this new Kingdom, God calls the shots, He gives you a new Spirit to live inside you and make you a new person. The old person with his old sinful habits, and mediocre purposelessness is not going to allowed to be in this Kingdom. You go through this thing called “Dying to yourself, and living to God” where you actually learn how to be like the God who made you in his image. This is painful, and whats worse, is that most people are either going to ridicule you, misunderstand you, resist you, oppose you, threaten you, or hurt you, or kill you. There’s rewards for enduring all of that, and there’s a joy that comes from knowing that you’re a part of this Kingdom that never ends, but it’s not an easy life.

Seriously, I hope you will consider this offer. There is a lot of pain and trials in the way of being a citizen of this Kingdom, but it’s so worth it. Humans were designed to serve God, and there is a lot of power available in this Kingdom for the accomplishment of God’s purposes. It’s the side that is the winning side, but it’s going to feel like losing a lot of the time. The reward: eternal life forever with God, as co-rulers with Christ Jesus in a Heaven and Earth where there is absolutely no death, evil, or any bad things. You’ll be a new person who won’t have any of those old things broken inside you or with other people. It’s the most awesome thing ever.

How do you sign up? How do you say I do want to do this? You’ll have to address the King directly in what is called “Prayer” which is just talking to God. He’s very wise and very powerful, and he loves you a lot so be honest. You can let him know that you would like to be His citizen, and leave your old life behind. You can tell him that you need a new heart so that you can be a new person, and that for the rest of your life you will serve and love him with everything you’ve got. He knows your heart already, and He can send His Holy Spirit in to fill you up, so that you can have His presence, His love, and all kinds of amazingness that can’t really be described except “Joy” and then comes some of the harder challenges, which He will show you.

Once you let him know, you’re in! You are going to need some training in what to do with all of this, so find a Christian who is an active part of building this kingdom, especially a group of them called a “church” and get going. Follow them, they’ll show you the ropes. SUPER excited for you!!!

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The Bible: The Analogy of the Three Testaments

Recently, a friend of mine told me that he believed the church should prioritize Paul’s teachings over Jesus’. Another friend told him that can’t be right. After all, if Paul learned from Jesus, we should prioritize Jesus’ teachings right? I believe this is a wonderful question and I believe the answer can be found by comparing the Old Testament Law and Prophets.

Old Testament

In seminary I learned that the Old Testament has three sections (Torah or Law, Prophets, and Writings) but the last two of those sections are exposition or explanation of the first section. One professor put it this way. “The Old Testament is the Torah and the rest of it is exposition of the Torah.” Another way to say this is that the Torah gives us the definition, the boundaries, the seed of what is to come, and the rest of the writings (The prophets and the writings, or just “the Prophets” for short) just explain how it happened in real life. Example: In Deuteronomy, Moses tells the people, “You are going to go into exile, and God is going to bring you back.” (Deuteronomy 29-31). Read 2 Kings 17. You’ll see why He sent them into exile, and read Nehemiah and you will see what happens when God brings them back. Again, I will say it. The Old Testament = Torah + Exposition of the Torah.

Now if this is the case, which should we prioritize in the Old Testament? My answer is this: The Old Testament is set up in such a way that you need both of them to make sense of it. If you just prioritize the Prophets, chances are you’re not going to have much guidance to understand the plot of what’s happening. Why after all, did Elijah shut up the heavens in 1 Kings 17? (The Prophets) Because in Leviticus 26:18-20, God said he would shut up the Heavens if the people disobeyed. (The Law). If however we just prioritize the Law, then we will get lost in semantics and not know how it is rightly to be applied. Example: Leviticus 25 said you should give your land rest every 7th year. (Law) but we see in the Prophets what happened to the land when the land was NOT given rest every seventh year. (The Prophets) Within the Old Testament God does not leave us in the dark but gives us not only the seed of the tree, but also what the tree looks like when it is full grown. The seed of the Tree is God reaching out to love Israel. The Tree itself is God being faithful, and the people of God being faithless. We need both of these to rightly handle the word of Truth. We also need to use both rightly so we don’t get the cart before the horse.

New Testament

Now, this wonderfully simple pattern of understanding God’s word couldn’t possibly be the pattern for the New Testament could it? What major sections of the New Testament are there? The Gospels and the Writings (History, Epistles, and Prophecy) In essence, we have a repeated pattern of the New Law and Prophets.)

Does it work the same way? Is the New Testament, the Gospels and the rest of the New Testament exposition on the Gospels? Yet again, we find that God’s Word in the New Testament not only gives us the seed, but also the Tree. It shows us the Teachings of Jesus in their powerful demonstration and the proof of their truth, and then we are given in the writings what those teachings applied looked like in historical and instructive ways. Paul applied the teachings of Jesus in Matthew 6 during the sermon on the mount about worry when he wrote tot he Philippians, “Don’t be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” But Jesus’ teachings about how to treat your neighbors would not make as much sense to us who are not Jewish unless Paul and Luke expounded on them for us who are the nations outside of Israel.

So then, which do you prioritize? The teachings that directly apply to the nations (The New Testament Prophets) or Jesus’ words themselves (The New Law)? I see how I would lean personally, but once again, I must keep the whole in perspective. Just as the Torah is expounded in the Prophets, and both are essential for a right understanding of God’s Word, so the Gospels are expounded in the Writings, and both are essential for a right understanding of God’s Word. Both have a relationship that must be rightly kept in humble interpretation of each other.

But still there is one more layer to peel back, which I find rather wonderful and sobering

Our Testament

Now that we have a canon of Scripture, the Church is interpreting the Scriptures to the World in every culture, tribe, tongue, people, and nation. We have, in both Testaments, the pattern of the house, and now we are responsible to enforce, to explain, to bring into reality God’s Word as it is revealed through both Testaments. The question left to us is how is this Scriptural revelation of God going to brought to full expression in the world. Or to put it in another way:

What is the Kingdom of God today? Our blueprints are established, and the writings of the Prophets both old and new have shown God’s way of bringing His word to fruition. It is the power and leading of His Holy Spirit that brings God’s kingdom here on earth among his people. And this Kingdom is going to be the final testament to the nature and character of the God we serve before He comes again.

What a tremendous privilege and responsibility!

To show it visibly, I came up with this Analogy of the Testaments. Can you solve the analogy?

What is the answer?

The rule of humor is you give two similar things one after the other, and then the third, you bend slightly to get a laugh. May the church not make God’s Kingdom the biggest cosmic joke that will make those watching to mock our God! Instead, may we be led and empowered by the Spirit to make of the church what the Spirit seeks to make of the Kingdom of God.

The King and the Seven Realms

Once upon a time there was a powerful King over a vast kingdom, and the Kingdom was beautiful in his eyes. He appointed rulers over the kingdom, but the representatives rebelled and turned the whole kingdom against the King. The Castle was the only place left where the light still shined and where people served the King. All the rest of the lands around were enshrouded in darkness.

But the King loved his people even though they had rebelled. He divided his realm into Five realms which competed with each other, until they could rejoin him. Though this slowed his people’s rebellion down, things kept getting worse and worse.

He selected a man from his people and called him to leave the Five dark realms to be the King’s representative. He wanted the man to show the rest of the realms how they could rejoin the King whom they hated so much. The man wasn’t perfect, but he trusted in his king. The King took this one man and his wife and protected and provided for them until they became a huge family, which became a people. The King set them up in a space that became the sixth realm in the middle of the Five dark realms.

Still, even this family of people which the King had set apart didn’t show the other people how to rejoin the King. They started to take over the other realms claiming they were serving the King. But everyone else despised them. The Sixth realm had become even darker than the other Five realms.

But the King loved the family, and he sent his new-born son, the Prince, to grow up in this family. He hoped that his son would show all six realms a way back to serving the King. But when the Prince was full grown, he looked just like his father, and the whole sixth realm came together against him, and the Five other dark realms came together in agreement that they wanted nothing to do with the Prince or his King, so they had him killed!

Now the tables had turned. All the people were shown for what they truly were: selfish rebels against a good King.  And the Prince who had become one with his people, did not stay dead, but the King  brought him back to the castle where he was brought back to life again! The King was shown to have the power of life over death!

The people from all the realms around, the five and the Sixth, heard the news that the Prince had come back to life. Some would never serve the King again, but others resubmitted to the King’s Rule, and they established little pockets of what was now the Seventh realm: The King’s Kingdom. Light started shining in the dark realms again.

Once all was arranged for the King’s reclamation, the King and his Son went out with a huge army to cast out the rebels who refused to rejoin the King and destroyed their lands. All that was left, he gave to those who had returned again to serve him as their King. He made the Seven realms into One realm again: The King’s Kingdom was fully renewed.

The Prince took for himself a Bride from among the people whom he loved so much and he became the new King. He appointed new rulers: faithful ones who would not betray the King who fought for them, and the new King who gave his life for them. They all lived happily ever after.

The Mountain

A young mountain grew taller and taller. The rocks grew stronger and stronger. The mountain took its shape, and started oozing with lava out the sides. One part of the rock split from the pressure, and the weakness of the stone. Another part of the rock split with a burst of flame and lava, and so another rock sculpture was being formed. The wind and rain beat against the rocks, and lightning struck from stormy clouds, and some rocks broke from the mountain. Some rocks refused to bend and be consumed, and they were covered over by the new waves of the same lava which formed the whole mountain. The shape of the mountain now was becoming a monstrous mass of various peaks and crags, but no single mountainous shape.

Then, all of a sudden, up the original central shaft, a burst of fire exploded from the top of the mountain. It spewed such a mighty and rapturous noise of New Earth, that the sidelong peaks crumbled and fell inwards toward the center, and the lava from the top filled in the crags and shapes with its blessing, until at last, it stood: a mountain reaching the heavens, filling the whole earth.

Math Myth

At lunch today I told this story to some 5th grade kids.

Once there was a division between the Sum and the multiplication. There was also a guy named Minus, who wasn’t very good at doing things. He wanted to remove the division between the Sum and the multiplication.

Minus had one problem. He didn’t have a heart big enough.

So he drank a lot of milk to make himself stronger.
But his heart didn’t grow any bigger.

He went to school and learned everything he could about the division between the Sum and the multiplication.
But his heart didn’t grow any bigger.

After school he gathered as many numbers around him as he could: all kinds of possessions.
But his heart didn’t grow any bigger.

Finally, he prayed and asked God to give him a bigger heart.
And God gave him a bigger heart.

After this, Minus found Sum and multiplication still divided.
And because his heart was bigger now,
He applied himself to the division between the Sum and the multiplication
And Viola! He “subtracted” the division from between the Sum and the multiplication.

The Sum and the multiplication had a party and celebrated with cupcakes.

Then they all made an equation to remember how a Minus is always able to remove the division between the Sum and the multiplication.

That is why there is a minus sign used in the Division symbol.

I’ve Glimpsed Him. (Scoffer’s Response)

If you have seen Him, please tell me about Him.

You already know about Him. You have already heard much about Him. You do not need me to tell you about Him. What you need is to see Him for yourself. I can describe the effect of seeing Him, on my heart what’s left of it. I can point to the scars on my body where I have been branded for the Lord’s service. I can point out to you the truths and glimpses of Him that you can see if only you had the heart, but as it stands now, your heart is like heavy lidded eyes. And you would not see Him, even if He stood before you. It is not those who see who have the heart, it is those who have the heart who see.

Fine, so describe him.

Holy.
Related, dissimilar.
More familiar than anyone or anything.
Utterly overpoweringly enormous.
In his presence, all life within me surges to my breaking point.
I die, and come back only if He brings me, but remolded in fire.
Words are like clumsy children.
Trying to grasp with hands what’s too big.
He is good and kind.
Terrifying.

Is that all?

It is an honest and true drop from the ocean for you.

How about another “drop”?

There will be not even one drop for the tongue to cool you where you are going.

Come now, if this God should wish to reveal Himself to me, He should come and show Himself. 

Your judgments are like the reasoning of a small child telling his parent why he should get a bigger allowance. What have you done with the little of what God has given you? You do not value one drop, why should you be given more? You aim only to cast off and ridicule your Maker and your King because your proud heart has not submitted to His rule.

You claim to know a lot about me. Did “God” tell you this, or are you just speculating?

The fool has said in his heart “There is no God.” I do address you, as I address myself, because I too in my folly wish to say there is no God. I do not claim power or understanding, only acquaintance with the One who is more worthy than I to wield the power.

You’re stalling. I want you to show me God right now.

Do you not see?

No, I don’t see Him.

*silence*

Well?

*silence*

See? You can’t show me God. You claim to have seen God, but you can’t even prove that he’s real.

For whose judgment?

What do you mean?

You want me to show God so that God can be subject to your scrutiny. God does not submit to human scrutiny when the heart is proud. He is the one sitting in the judgment seat. You are being warned by one who has seen Him. HE is judge. He is going to condemn all sinners, except those who turn back to serve Him.

You are claiming a reality that has no basis in our reality. All you say is conjecture.

You can judge whatever you wish, but your judgment will be confined to a temporary life and a limited consciousness. There is a Judge who rules over all, and will repay everyone according to their deeds.

Thanks for the warning. I’ll believe it when I see it.

The sight of God will do one of two things to people: It will either utterly consume them so that they perish if there is only wickedness in their heart, or it will shatter them and all that will remain is what belongs to Him.

Interesting thoughts. I don’t care to live my life any differently.

By your own judgment, you either approve or condemn your own life. I could resort to the ways of the world to show you have fallacious your judgment is, but that will only point out the error in your logic, and the fruitlessness of your reasoning. Remember then this final thing, “God stands against the proud, but he shows favor to the humble.” May God save you from your own pride, or there will be no one to save you when He comes to requisition you.

I’ve Glimpsed Him. (Poem)

It takes faith to believe that God is.
Once you have this, you can see him.
I do not promise that you will
Because He must decide to reveal Himself.
It takes a pure heart, with no guile.
Some believe that this is impossible,
But all things are possible with God.
How will you recognize him?
You won’t be able to ignore.
No more than a stick can ignore an all consuming flame.

How did I see Him?
I waited.
He spoke.
I looked.
He stood.
I bowed.
He is.

Music purged my heart of unexpressed filth.
Writing arranged my thoughts according to biblical specification.
Love set my heart on fire for another.
Joy surged in my creative freedom and pleasure of wisdom.
Peace quieted me in His approval.
Translation laid sticks of explosive dynamite end to end.
The Holy Spirit’s voice was the match.
The prizing and valuing of His own personal being.
And Jesus the Living one of all my life came.

T. Austin-Sparks~ “God’s answer to strengthen His people for Suffering.”
Is a new unveiling of the glory of the person of Jesus Christ.”

“What is the answer?
A new grasp of His greatness
That’s all.
And then if we are suffering
If we are knowing adversity, trial
And the clouds seem to be gathering, Accumulating, increasing.
How will we get through?
Only thus: by this:
Getting away
And asking
And seeking
And pursuing
In prayer
A new heart revelation–unveiling
of Jesus Christ.
And I am sure that will do it.
God give it to you.”
~T. Austin Sparks

 

God’s Servant, It’s Time to Love God F.O.L.K.S.

To be God’s Servant, you must give up what most people think of as living ordinarily: You do what you want and serve yourself and serve whoever you want to and enjoy life wile you have it. Such a life is utterly sinful and warrants the total death of the fruitless tree. You are a fruitless tree.

So how shall God’s servant represent His God? It is in this Acronym. It is first by Fearing Him, Obeying Him, Loving Him, Knowing Him, and Seeking Him.

Love
Obey          Know
Fear                               Seek

In brief, this is what each word entails as you go up the mountain to the pinacle: Love.

 Fear— Depart from Evil (Prov. 16:6)
        Obey— Do Good (Ps 34:14)
                 Love–With all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. (Deut. 6:5)
        Know–Intimately share (Phil 3:10)
Seek–Turn toward, look to learn (Jer. 29:13)

Starting with the bottom of the mountain:

  • Fearing God means you recognize Him as Holy, Just, and Powerful. He is good, and that is a terrible thing for us, because we are not good. We fall so terribly short and lack so severely the glory of His Image with which we were first endowed, that we deserve nothing at all but the tormenting fires of hell, reserved for everything the bears the Evil One’s resemblance: corruption, weakness, selfishness, and sloth. Therefore, depart from evil, which receives from God the just recompense on anything unworthy and oppressive to what is good.
  • Obeying God means serving Him as your Ruler, your master, your Captain, your boss. In obeying him, you recognize your responsibility of being His image bearer on earth. He is the one you represent, therefore do as He does! He is the Sovereign lord of creation, and he has made you sovereign lord over the earth as His representative, so serve as He serves, work the ground to bring forth life the way He does. Do good to your neighbor as He does. Outwardly and temporally and definitely show the world who God is by doing the good that he commands you to do.

From the other direction:

  • Seeking God is more than just looking for Him. It is trying to find him. Seeking recognizes that God is infinite and you are finite, and so you are like a cup constantly dipping into the ocean of His eternity, but simply for the reason you want to Know Him. Seeking the Lord means turning your face upward to behold him, it means looking for Him trusting that He will reward the one who diligently seeks him. (Heb. 11:6)
  •  Knowing God means intimately sharing with God all that you are, and allowing Him to share all that He is with you. It recognizes that you are related with Him, and He wishes you to know Him, just as you wish to be known. (1 Cor 13:12) To know Him, is to be familiar with Him in relationship as a friend, as a confidant like the disciples were to Jesus while He walked among us on the earth.

At last the Summit:

  • Loving God is the final goal: It means to live for Him, where He is your everything, and everything in your inner and outer life is completely devoted to Him. Love means, you wouldn’t do anything that would be against Him. Love means that everything you do is for Him. Love means you are actively engaged in seeking Him out and pursuing Him. Love means you treasure the intimacy He shares with you with a tender and faithful heart.

All five of these dimensions are indispensable to fully representing God.
Fear acknowledges, “I am sinful.”
Obey acknowledges, “I am purposed to do good.”
Love acknowledges all these things and says, “I am Yours, You are my God.”
Know acknowledges, “I am related with Him.”
Seek acknowledges, “I am finite.”

You cannot say you love God without fearing and obeying Him. You cannot say you love God without seeking Him and knowing Him. Most of us will rise up the slope to the summit of love from one direction, but without the Moral and the Relational, without the Internal and the External, without the mind and the heart, without the soul and the strength, our love will be only one-dimensional or two-dimensional. Never will we represent our God fully as His Image bearer on earth as Jesus did.

My call is to you–you who wish to be one of God’s servants as described in Isaiah 42. Grow in the fear of the Lord, and seek Him while He may be found. Obey Him to share His work, and know Him to share His heart. Above all let it be love which crowns you with the seal of His image.

The Cross and Discipleship

THE CROSS

                At last! Through the muddiness of modern Church teachings, and the simple complexity of everyday life as a human, the Spirit has guided me to a galvanized understanding of perhaps the most fundamental tenet of Christianity. Now I can not only distinguish Christianity from all its counterfeits, but I can package it clearly for other people to understand. This won’t make me wealthy. It will make me poor. It will not make me famous. It will make me a criminal. It won’t make me live large. It will bring me down to the scum at the bottom of stagnant ponds: like Jonah in the belly of the whale. “Salvation comes from the Lord.”

Without further ado I will share this glistening gospel gem with you, dear reader. I don’t think it will take long. Let’s start with Paul’s first letter to Corinth. In response to a report that the church in Corinth was divided, he said, “I’m glad I didn’t baptize any of you, so that you would think that I had saved you.” But he goes on to say,

17 For Christ didn’t send me to baptize, but to preach the Good News—and not with clever speech, for fear that the cross of Christ would lose its power. 18 The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God. 19 As the Scriptures say,

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise
and discard the intelligence of the intelligent.” (Isaiah 29:14)

20 So where does this leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world’s brilliant debaters? God has made the wisdom of this world look foolish. 21 Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe. 22 It is foolish to the Jews, who ask for signs from heaven. And it is foolish to the Greeks, who seek human wisdom. 23 So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense.

24 But to those called by God to salvation, both Jews and Gentiles, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 This foolish plan of God is wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God’s weakness is stronger than the greatest of human strength. [1]

What is this “message of the cross” that invalidates all the wisdom and strength of humanity? It became clear to me when I recently saw a post by a friend of mine on Facebook. A certain elected national leader had a hammer in his hand and was captioned to say, “I don’t like losers.” And in the background you could see Jesus hanging on a cross. This picture, as you may guess, was controversial, but what really struck me was not the controversy of the religious leader’s respectability, but the cloudy misunderstanding surrounding Jesus’ death on the cross. This post by my friend helped me galvanize a scriptural principle that I believe gets to the heart of the message of the cross.

Jesus said, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.[2]

Here, Jesus points out that the cross will cost the most fundamentally important relationships a human can hold: family. As he ended in this passage, the first principle can be stated The Cross requires everything even something as precious as family. The message of the cross indicates that there is only one doorway to salvation. It is the door Jesus made by hanging on the cross: total surrender and death to one’s old life, to one’s old self out of humble submission to the Righteous Judge.

This part of the teaching is not as offensive. Some people would say, “I have heard this before, and have even implemented this principle in my life.” What I think most people fail to acknowledge is what this level of surrender, death, and submission will actually cost them. The principle I discovered was this.

Jesus’ time on earth shows that there are two kinds of people in this world: those nailing Jesus to the cross, and those who are being nailed right up there with him.

There is no third option. That means you, dear reader, are either one nailing Jesus to the cross as His judge, or the one being nailed right up there with him under God’s righteous judgement.

What? Really? That sounds harsh. Yup. Now I’m going to go through what I believe to be four kinds of people who may read this and find it unacceptable:

  1. You may say, “I am not getting hung on a cross, but there’s no way I would do that to a fellow human being!” No? Imagine a great political leader told you that there was a man who was bewitching the population, and determined that he had to be exterminated. Also imagine that this political power said, if you follow him or are associated with him, you too will be exterminated. Chances are you would not stand up for the guy even if you thought his teachings were alright. In not siding with him though, it is like the bully beating up the kid on the playground while you watch. Your inaction is a choice to act in favor of the bully.
  2. You may say, “I identify with Jesus, so if the time came I would be willing to be crucified with him.” Really? What if that meant leaving your family behind with no one to care for them? What if that meant being villainized and falsely accused of being a socially morally unacceptable thing like a pedophile? Would you still identify with him then? The question is not about “if the time came” The question is about right now. It is foolish and naïve to believe that you would die for Christ, if you do not truly exclusively live for him now. This is the message of the cross. You who identify with Christ, do you share the burden of His sufferings even leading up to the same way He died?
  3. You may say, “God wants me to be happy. Jesus already died on the cross for me so I wouldn’t have to.” You are partially incorrect. God wants you to be happy in eternal things. If your happiness is in anything that money or time on earth can afford you, then you have missed the point. Furthermore, Jesus death on the cross wasn’t to “take your place,” like many churches espouse in their sermons assuring forgiveness for sins, which of course is there. Jesus’ death on the cross was to “make your place.” Persecution, self-denial, suffering wrongfully as a doer of righteousness—these are the inheritance, function, and purpose of the believer in this life. Power, wealth, fame are temporary substitutes for what brings lasting joy. If they are given in any fashion to the believer, they are a means to the ends of Him who “though He was rich, for your sakes became poor.” This is the oneof whom you are becoming a mini-version, by becoming a “little-Christ.” You may say, “If my sins are forgiven why do I still need to get on the cross?” Because Jesus did, and you are not more righteous than He are you?
  4. You may say, “I have enough smarts and heart to know that letting anything like that happen to anybody would be tantamount to unthinkable.” That line of thought is patterning after a character sketch of “a captain of his own ship trying to find his way in the world with his conscience in tact.” What such a man would have to appreciate is that the message of the cross requires the denial of one’s right or ability to be Judge. Even if you judge righteously, you still are the one in need of being judged. Salvation is only to be found in the submission to the Judgment of God, who is not only the True Judge, but He is also a righteous judge. You may not understand or believe in His justice, but if you live in the world long enough you will be faced with a choice to recognize how irreversibly broken the world is. The only doorway to life is through the cross, where everything is submitted to God’s lordship, and whatever is of God will survive.

The reason there is no third option, I can articulate better after talking with my fiancé about it. She heard my bolded principle above, and shared, “Or perhaps the third option is, you are both.” That is indeed what I am saying. Every one of us have been a crucifier of Jesus. You are either the one Crucifying Christ, or the Crucifier of Christ who has surrendered to the death you are worthy of. And this is no cheapening the value of one’s life to ending it frivolously wrongfully like in suicide. This is the re-valuing someone’s life as in itself being worth nothing, but in right humble standing before God worth giving up for salvation of ourselves and others.

A Story, I hope will illustrate this principle better. A soldier had been nailing criminals to the cross his entire career, until one day He had to crucify a righteous man. The man looked and saw that the righteous man did not deserve to die, but saw that he himself deserved it. He cast aside his armor, and ordered his men to nail him to the cross right next to the man. All who passed by mocked him, but some of his men wondered: what solidarity could a man claim with a righteous man wrongfully condemned to death?

It is this solidarity with Christ that the cross represents. Jesus bore the sins of the whole world on that cross. We carry around in our body the dying of Jesus, just as Paul wrote about his apostleship:

For, I think, God has exhibited us apostles last of all, as men condemned to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are prudent in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are distinguished, but we are without honor. To this present hour we are both hungry and thirsty, and are poorly clothed, and are roughly treated, and are homeless; and we toil, working with our own hands; when we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure; when we are slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become as the scum of the world, the dregs of all things, even until now. I do not write these things to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For if you were to have countless tutors in Christ, yet you would not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. Therefore I exhort you, be imitators of me.[3]

The message of the cross is offensive: You’re either embracing Jesus’ death yourself, or you’re the one swinging the hammer.

DISCIPLESHIP

Allow me then to share this pattern for discipleship, based upon the life of Jesus which leads to this proper understanding and manifestation of the cross in a person’s life.

SCRIPTURE: First there is a catechesis stage, where the student (disciple) is familiarized with the basic teachings of the Gospel in the Old and New Testament. This is the stage for listening, asking questions and increasing in wisdom, stature, and favor with God and man.

CONVERSION: Second, there is a baptism wherein the Spiritual journey begins with the Lord sending His spirit upon and into an individual. This is the point I would call Conversion.

SPIRITUAL POWER: Third, there is a time for the Holy Spirit’s leading to temper all fleshly, proud, and sinful passions in the heart and body. This is where the disciple learns how to pray, how to hear His voice, to face his own sin, and to grow in Spiritual strength and power and prepares the disciple for the end purpose of his life: The cross.

COMMUNITY: Fourth, there is the accountability to a local church body, in which after these things have occurred, the disciple reveals to them what God had shown him to be true, and what is that mission into which he will be walking. This is where the disciple learns his proper place in the Church as a part of a body of believers, and applies the giftings and power of the Holy Spirit.

SERVICE: Fifth, this disciple will begin implementing the mission and investment of the Holy Spirit in him to serve the body of Christ, and the world and the poor in the community around him.

WARFARE: Sixth, is the standing up for the poor by going against those who abuse them. This is where the social activism will doubtlessly make enemies in the established religion and the government.

PERSECUTION: Seventh, is the point when the disciple fully comes to display Christ: The Cross. When the Believer is not able to dissuaded from his aggressively loving opposition of the enemies of freedom and peace, there will be no choice but to kill him. This is the end of a disciple’s walk here on this earth. While it does not always end in death at the hands of enemies, “He who endures to the end shall be saved.” “And this is the victory that has overcome the world: our faith.”

The result: He who has walked all seven of these stages is a Christ-ian indeed, because he has denied himself, taken up his cross, and done as Jesus did. And unless you are walking according to this principle, and the cross is where you are headed, then you are simply striking the hammer deeper into the flesh of the son of God, who loves you and gives himself for you still today, along with all who bear His name.

For those carrying the cross now, one parting word of encouragement from Peter.

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.

[1] 1 Co 1:17–25. NLT

[2] NASB Mt 10:34–39.

[3] 1 Co 4:9–16.

[4] 1 Pe 4:12–14.

The Disciple and the Tree

In response to those in the church who say the primary purpose of any disciple is to make more disciples, I have this to say:

Jesus called the church to make disciples.
Jesus did not call the church to make disciplers.

Being a discipler is totally part of being a disciple,
But there is more to a tree than the seed which bears it;
Or the seed in the fruit on the branch which stretches out
With the leaves that take in carbon dioxide and give off oxygen
Shading the bark shielding the hart and the sap drawn up from the ground
Through the roots which stand the tree upright toward the heavens.

In the same way there is more to a disciple than the new convert;
Or drawing people to the gospel by the love of Christ
Which comes from humble submission to God in working as He does
Offering strength and rest to those in need, preserving the value of life in truth
Being grounded in a world from which we are inseparable, being dust
Standing upright before God for the good of all men.

There is more to being a disciple than being a discipler
Just as there is more to being a tree than a bearer of seeds.

The church must remember the tree out of which is made the cross they are called to carry.
The church must remember what it means to be fully human.
Only then will she ever properly represent the fully human Jesus Christ.

Who is the Second Adam.