The Roaring and Tossing of the Sea

“There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. (Luke 21:25)

When He utters His voice, there is a tumult of waters in the heavens, And He causes the clouds to ascend from the end of the earth; He makes lightning for the rain, And brings out the wind from His storehouses. (Jeremiah 10:13)

Then they cry out to the LORD in their trouble,
And He brings them out of their distresses.
He calms the storm,
So that its waves are still.
Then they are glad because they are quiet;
So He guides them to their desired haven.
Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness,
And for His wonderful works to the children of men! (Psalms 107:28-31)

Advertisements

Was Jesus a Victim? (And does it matter?)

Having been raised Catholic and having attended Catholic school through the 8th grade, I was very well schooled on how much Christ suffered for me on the cross. In the church that I attended, it was a central point of theology that was much elaborated upon. This was not bad, in itself. But then, as a born again Christian, I was amazed to see the emphasis change to joy and celebration regarding the resurrection of Christ and our new life in Him. At times I almost felt guilty for sharing in this joy, as though it was inappropriate to experience joy or happiness about His resurrection when He had suffered so terribly on the cross for me.

But Jesus was not a victim.

Jesus was always in complete control of everything that happened in His life. Even in his death he was in control, choosing in His infinite love to submit to the will of the Father for us!

John 10:17,18 “Therefore my Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from my Father.”

I knew a person, once upon a time, who would periodically, usually during a corporate time of prayer or worship, launch into mourning and wailing over how much they had made Jesus suffer on the cross. This person would shed many tears and speak with much remorse, telling Jesus they were SO sorry that they had caused Him this horrible pain. This would go on for some time.

At first, perhaps due of my Catholic background, I thought that this might be an admirable display of empathetic remorse. But after a couple of years, it became evident that this person was exhibiting a chronic victim mentality throughout their own life and that it was necessary for them to see Jesus as a victim also in order to justify remaining in this mentality.

But Jesus was not a victim. Jesus was a loving servant who chose to endure the cross for the “joy” set before Him.

Hebrews 12:2 For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Would it be reasonable for me to spend the rest of my life feeling remorse over the birthing pains that my mother endured to bring me life? In fact, it is often said that women are easily able to put that pain behind them for the joy set before them!

Our “born again” Christian life is meant to be a life of joy and celebration about the endless love of God for each one of us. Together with all the Lord’s holy people we are on a wondrous journey to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that we may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

This should, unashamedly, be the source of our daily joy.

The deception of self-righteous humanism

Do not be fooled.

A large part of the moral outrage being projected in our society today is actually an expression of self-righteous indignation originating from a humanistic belief system. Self-righteous humanism has always been the religion of the unbeliever.

hu·man·ism: an outlook or system of thought attaching prime importance to human rather than divine or supernatural matters.

Luke 16:15  And He said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God.

Isaiah 5: 20,21  Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.

Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight.

Proverbs 16:2  All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight, But the LORD weighs the motives.

Love and Dependency

Jesus’ declaration that we are to love the Lord our God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our mind is a statement of both spiritual and practical necessity for every Christian. (Matthew 22:37) The more we love God, the more we will trust Him and be willing to be dependent upon Him from moment to moment in our lives.

Love and dependency in relationship with God is essential to faith-based living. It is through this trust and dependency upon God that we are able to access the life-transforming power necessary for holy living.

Major Ian Thomas refers to this as the “threefold interlock.”  Love for God results in dependency upon God which results in obedience to God.

A lack of connection and commitment to these dynamics of love and dependency in relationship with God will inevitably cause us to return to law-based thinking in different areas of our lives. We will, quite naturally, depend primarily upon rules, regulations and fear of punishment in an attempt to live a holy life before the Lord.

It is love for God that best produces a life of faith.

 

Matthew 22: 37-40 Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.

Only Jesus ever fulfilled this commandment. And because of his perfect love for the Father, he lived a life of selfless obedience for the glory of God.

John 5:30 By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.

Jesus’ attitude of love-based reliance upon God is what faith is all about. It is the same for us. Faith that is most fruitful is best sourced in a love for God that produces continual dependence and reliance upon Him.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

Apart from love for God we will have little motivation for obedience other than a fear of rejection or punishment.

1 John 4:18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

Matt 11:28-30 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

It seems to me that very few Christians have experienced much of the actual dynamic reality of these scriptures. All would agree that the Lord’s invitation to the weary and burdened to find rest for their soul sounds like a wonderful idea! And yet, I have talked to many people over the years that have wondered, “But how do I do that?” in exasperation.

Here are some things that I think I have learned about the “But how?” aspect of this.

There is a necessary prerequisite being conveyed to us in these scriptures in order for us to be both ready and able to enter His rest. We must first be truly weary and burdened from being yoked to the ways of this world. We must truly be weary of being yoked to performance expectations and legalistic gospel interpretations and trying to do it “our way.” And we must truly be weary of the burden of trying to conform to people’s standards of “We’ll accept you if you walk like us and talk like us and act like us.” And finally, we must be just plain weary of being weary.

The scripture then invites us to take His yoke upon us and learn from Him and discover that He is gentle and humble in heart “and you will find rest for your souls.” Gentle humility that is not just worldly or religious performance disguised as humility is rare. In fact, the real thing can only be developed in us by being yoked to Jesus.

It is only when we are truly weary of being weary and burdened from this world that we will be able to “learn” what is meant by being yoked to the gentleness and humility of the heart of Jesus. And only then will we begin to desire this treasure more than any earthly or religious ambition or personal acceptance derived from performing in this world.

And that is how we are able to find rest for our souls. His yoke is “easy” and His burden is “light” simply because the yoke he is asking you to place upon your shoulders is HIS yoke, not yours. The gentleness and humility of the heart of Jesus that we discover when we are yoked to Him is an easy and light load compared to the yoke of this world that we have been carrying on our shoulders all these years.

It is a yoke of unconditional love that is eternal and unchanging. A yoke of complete forgiveness based on the finished work of Jesus. It is the yoke of freedom from self-condemnation and guilt over past sins. And because it is HIS yoke, we are able to enter His rest.

Wandering in the Desert

Many Christians have struggled unsuccessfully for years with a particular sin or emotional issue because they have believed that the primary way to overcome the issue is simply by claiming and proclaiming God’s word. This is sometimes referred to as “positional” declaration. They find that these efforts usually only bring a temporary relief at best. After a while they begin to experience feelings of disappointment and even hopelessness and despair because they are not seeing lasting fruit from these efforts in their lives.

This is because significant inward transformation is rarely brought about by simply speaking a biblical truth over and over again. That is almost always a temporary approach at best. The problem is that there is often a significant resistance to the positional truths being spoken in the heart of the person that is speaking them.

This resistance is always based on something that is believed that does not line up with the Word of God that is being proclaimed. In other words, it’s a lie. Speaking the truth over and over without ever identifying and then repenting of the lie (or lies) leaves us wandering in behavioral circles, like the Israelites in the desert, with no rest.

Our journey out of the desert requires us to invite the Holy Spirit to identify the sources of our resistance to God’s truth and then depend on Him through prayer, to tear down any ungodly beliefs or belief systems that are discovered. This is how “positional” and “relational” Christianity are combined to access the power of God for lasting change!