Tag Archives: Posture

I will wait for the Lord, I will hope in Him

“For the LORD spoke thus to me with his strong hand upon me, and warned me not to walk in the way of this people, saying: “Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. But the LORD of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. And he will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And many shall stumble on it. They shall fall and be broken; they shall be snared and taken.” (Isaiah 8:11–15 ESV)

The people of Judah are afraid of surface level threats because they have no fear of God.  They have such a low view of the majestic grandeur of the Creator that they are easily shaken by what is going on around them.  We should not fear what others fear, nor dread what others dread for our eyes are fixed on the transcendent majesty of the King of all the earth.  He is our strength, protection, hope, salvation and strength.  God promises to preserve a remnant of faithful, loyal disciples while the remainder of the people remain stiff-necked and complain against God while they are taken in to exile.  A patient trust in God characterizes those whom are part of the remnant.  Is our faith really in God, or is it in other things – surface level things that distract us from full devotion?  “I will wait for the LORD, who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob, and I will hope in him.” (Isaiah 8:17 ESV)


Manipulating God

When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood.” (Isaiah 1:15 ESV).

Isaiah 1:10-20 highlights the hypocrisy of the Hebrews.  God had setup the sacrificial system and all of its facets to produce repentance and tender hearts toward God and ultimately flowing out to others.  It was intended to produce dependance and piety in the people.  The people no longer pursued God, but rather went through the motions in an effort to manipulate God and place him in their debt.  God utterly rejected their worship because their hearts are far from Him.  Though they went through all of the religious motions, God ignored them because their hearts were far from Him.

“Why will you still be struck down? Why will you continue to rebel? The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint.” (Isaiah 1:5 ESV)

Not even the most difficult circumstances will bring them to repentance.  Depravity reigns.  Even the decimation of their land and being overthrown by foreign invaders has moved them to repentance (7-8).

“If the LORD of hosts had not left us a few survivors, we should have been like Sodom, and become like Gomorrah.” (Isaiah 1:9 ESV)

It is only by God’s power and grace is a remnant left in Israel.

God Centered Perspective Overview

This is the third post in this series.  The last post is here.

God centered theology sounds like an oxymoron!  Someone might interject and say, “of course we are God centered, we’re a church!”  Unfortunately, God is often the most assumed topic in our churches and we talk very little about Him.  Sometimes, we begin to view the bible as a self help guide designed to fix us rather than it being the revelation of God about who He is and His plans for His glory in His world.  We migrate to the bible being a field guide for how to make our lives “work,” which ultimately breaks down when life does not “work” according to our plan – which it never does1.  There is a big difference between these two points of view:  one puts us on center stage, the other places God on center stage2.  It is risky business when we make ourselves the focus because we rob God of glory and take that which is not ours to own; we become glory thieves.  Being at cross purposes with the God of the universe should strike a chord of fear in us because God says “my glory I will not give to another.”3  We need to be constantly asking ourselves, “who gets the glory?”
We must intentionally focus more on God and far less on us and what we must do for God (as if He needs anything from us4).  We need to be persistently reminded of the sovereign majesty of our Creator because we easily forget; this seems to be the pattern of humanity’s response to God in the scriptures.5  When this happens, we make moralism and the practical application of scripture our primary pursuits, brushing over the deep truths of scripture that provide the fuel for applying them to our lives.  Practical application is good and necessary, but when we spend the majority of our time on how to apply the scriptures and very little time on the God of the scriptures, we rob our people of the very Fuel that it takes to apply the scriptures to their lives!  The irony in this is that the more emphasis that we place on what people should be doing, the less people actually do the very things that they are being told to do!  Their lives aren’t truly transformed by the gospel of grace, they don’t live missionally, their souls are dry with no affection for God nor do they have any significant influence on the world around them.  This is because they are depending upon themselves to see their lives changed and obey God.  Instead, we need to be captivated with God’s goodness, love, grace, mercy and the wrath that He has rescued us from – these are the things that produce true spiritual transformation.  In a God centered culture, it is understood that proximity to Christ6 is what changes us, not our own efforts.  As we focus more on God’s character and nature we move from external behavior modification to heart level transformation and see spiritual sustainability established in the lives of Christians.
Everyone has a theology – a believe about God – it is just that the theology held by many Christians is not biblical, historically accurate nor orthodox.  For many, they are far more influenced by pop culture than by orthodox doctrine or theology.  We must have a steady diet of Christ centered, God exalting, biblical, orthodox teaching that forms an accurate worldview through which we view God, others, the world, pain & suffering and our place in this world.  Most Christians know what they should do – how they should act & feel – but fail to consistently pursue these things because their theology is man centered.  Our theological framework provides the foundation for everything that we believe, think, feel and ultimately do in life.  A strong God saturated theological framework answers the question of “why we live our lives the way the bible tells us to,” and provides us with the fuel to live our lives that way.   We need to develop a taste for doctrine, theology and biblical Christianity so that we are able to face many of life’s greatest challenges.  Theology and doctrine are not primarily academic or intellectual pursuits, but are the vehicle for us to know God more deeply and passionately pursue Him more fully.  We need good, solid God honoring doctrine woven in to the fabric of the culture of our churches in order to foster authentic pursuit of Christ.  This must be intentional or it will naturally devolve into man centeredness.  There are many ways to accomplish this, but whatever the method, it must be infused in the culture of the church by being intentional about what is taught and how it is taught.

1“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” (Romans 8:18–25 ESV)
2When we say God centered versus man centered, what is meant is who do we focus on primarily in our study, teaching and practice.  In a God centered culture, the bulk of time and teaching is spent expounding on who God is and what He has done for His people.  In a man centered culture, the bulk of time and teaching is spent on who we are and what we should be doing for God.  This may sound subtle, but its implications are profound; one places God as the central cause of transformation and the other places transformation on our shoulders to pull off on our self disciplined efforts.
3“I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.” (Isaiah 42:8 ESV); “For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.” (Isaiah 48:11 ESV)
4“nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.” (Acts 17:25 ESV)
5The Old Testament is filled with narratives of God’s people regularly forgetting God and pursuing their own way, they are shifting from God centered to man centered and the consequences are always catastrophic.  The pattern we see repeated in the New Testament, especially by Paul in the epistles, is a systematic approach to reminding the churches that are being addressed of their inability, depravity, and place in the universe and God’s greatness.  There is a constant rebuilding of who God is and who they are before any application is mentioned.  We see this especially in Romans when Paul spends the first eleven chapters discussing the richest and deepest truths of our faith before he ever begins to address what our response is in chapter twelve.  The first three chapters of Ephesians is a systematic unpacking of the gospel and God’s grace towards those who believe before any application is mentioned in chapter four.  Philippians and Colossians both intertwine the gospel and the grace of God with how to live out the gospel in practical ways.  The entire letter of Galatians is about shifting from man centered faith (law) to God centered faith (grace).  Apparently, we need to be reminded on where our strength and affections lie.
6“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:4–5 ESV); Jesus’ proclamation, regarding believers being the salt of the earth and the light of the world in Matthew 5:13-16 is a direct result of a person coming before God as being spiritually bankrupt (Matthew 5:3); “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13 NIV)

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The Gospel Propels Us to Live Missionally

“When God’s grace is working on us and in us, it will also work itself out through us.  The internal renewal of our minds and hearts creates an external propulsion that moves us out in love and service to others.”  page 67

“It is also the answer to your failure to love others, engage the culture, and live missionally.  If the gospel is renewing you internally, it will also be propelling you externally.” page 68

“But that sense of ‘should’ has no motivational power.  It was law, not gospel.  It could show me what I ought to be doing, but it could not change my heart so that I actually wanted to do it.” page 68-69

“Was joyless, mechanical obedience really honoring to Jesus?  Did God intend his commands to feel like drudgery?  When faced with this dilemma, most people settle for either legalism (obey even though you don’t feel like it) or license (don’t obey at all).  But neither of these is gospel!  The gospel of God’s grace is the fuel for mission, and when we run low on that fuel, our love and service to others grinds to a halt”  page 69

“It means that mission is not duty (something we ‘should do’) but a natural overflow of the gospel’s work inside of us.  If you aren’t motivated to love, serve and speak the gospel to people, the answer isn’t ‘just do it,’ the answer is to examine your heart, repent of sin, and discern where your unbelief is short-circuiting the natural outward movement of the gospel.  As the gospel renews your heart, it will also renew your desire to move out in faith into relationships and opportunities God places in your path.” page 69

-From The Gospel-Centered Life by World Harvest Mission.  Download a free sample of chapter 1 here

The Gospel Grid

“The apostle Peter teaches that a lack of ongoing transformation in our lives comes from forgetting what God has done for us in the gospel (2 Peter 1:3-9). If we are to grow into maturity in Christ, we must deepen and enlarge our understanding of the gospel as God’s appointed means for personal and communal transformation.”

[The gospel] “is not just the means of our salvation, but the means of our transformation.  It is not simply deliverance from sin’s penalty, but release from sins power.  The gospel is what makes us right with God (justification) and it is also what frees us to delight in God (sanctification).  The gospel changes everything!”

“The more I grow in my Christian life, the more I grow in my awareness of God’s holiness and of my flesh and sinfulness.” … “But my awareness of both is growing.  I am increasingly seeing God as he actually is (Isaiah 55:8-9) and myself as I actually am (Jeremiah 7:9-10).” … “As my understanding of my sin and of God’s holiness grows, something else grows:  my appreciation and love for Jesus.” … “The cross looms larger and more central in my life as I rejoice in the Savior who died upon it.”

“Because of the indwelling sin that remains in me, I have an ongoing tendency to minimize the gospel or ‘shrink the cross.’ This happens when I either (a) minimize God’s perfect holiness, thinking of him as something less than his Word declares him to be, or (b) elevate my own righteousness, thinking of myself as better than I actually am.  The cross becomes smaller and Christ’s importance in my life is diminished.

We need to identify, admit, and feel the depth of our brokenness and sinfulness.

“Our hope is not in our own goodness, nor in the vain expectation that God will compromise his standards and ‘grade on a curve.’  Rather, we rest in Jesus as our perfect Redeemer – the One who is ‘our righteousness, holiness and redemption’ (1 Corinthians 1:30).”

-Exerted from The Gospel-Centered Life by World Harvest Mission, pages 8-10.  Download a sample of chapter 1 here

Men need Majesty

Yesterday, I briefly posted a quote from John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion which said “men are never duly touched and impressed with a conviction of their insignificance, until they have contrasted themselves with the majesty of God.”  Calvin wrote this after reflecting upon the godly men in scriptures:  “Hence that dread and amazement with which as Scripture uniformly relates, holy men were struck and overwhelmed whenever they beheld the presence of God.”  Let us look at a few passages that show the response of men when they are duly confronted with the presence of the Almighty:

  • Isaiah was likely the most holy man of his day, and he was reduced to speechlessness when he was in the presence of the Lord:  ““Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”” (Isaiah 6:5 ESV).
  • Job “was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil” (Job 1:1 ESV).  He was convinced that if he could gain an audience with God he would be able to “argue with him, and [I] would be acquitted forever by my judge.” (Job 23:7 ESV).  God ultimately answers Job’s plea in chapter 38 as He begins to unfold for Job (and us) his might, sovereignty and infinite-ness for the next 5 chapters.  Job attempts to stop God in chapter 40 by saying, ““behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth. I have spoken once, and I will not answer; twice, but I will proceed no further”” (Job 40:4–5 ESV), but God continues unpacking His sovereign infinite-ness.  Once Job had experienced being the presence of God, he rightly reckons himself to be finite, limited in perspective and insignificant:  “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”” (Job 42:5–6 ESV).
  • Even the Israelites, who had experienced first hand the miraculous delivery at the hand of God from Egyptian slavery, were fearful of being in the presence of God. “Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.”” (Exodus 20:18–19 ESV)

It is unfortunate that much of what we are taught and consume in the modern evangelical church is man centered and attempts to build us up; it is Christianized self esteem.  This is not the historical understanding that holy men from the past had, nor is it the picture that we see in the scriptures.  What we need most is to be racked with the infinite might and majesty of the eternal, sovereign Creator so as to be put in our place.  He is sovereign, infinite and eternal, we are limited, finite and tiny.  When we are confronted with the majesty of God, we are rendered speechless and understand our right position in the universe.  And when we understand that the universe and scriptures are not about us, but God, there is great joy and freedom.  And ultimately profound worship emerges as we marinate on the fact that the eternal, mighty, holy God would be mindful of us, insignificant worms.  Instead of digesting a steady stream of how to texts (be a better husband, be a better father, break free from pornography, etc), try spending time mining out the majesty of God and many of your struggles will begin to loose influence in your life.

Whose righteousness do you trust in – His or yours?

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted. (Luke 18:9–14 ESV)

When we are proud of our moral cleanness, disciplined efforts and good works, we show that we are at odds with the Gospel.  Those who are proud of their ability to manage their behavior treat others with contempt.  The Gospel beckons those who recognize their complete inadequacy and long to lean upon Another.  As Christians, we should view ourselves as nothing more than beggars showing other beggars where to find bread.

What Motivates Your Pursuit?

“All too often, religious people view their acts of piety or moral efforts as a means of gaining acceptance with God. Check yourself now. Even if you’ve been a Christian for a long time, don’t you sometimes feel like God is more pleased with you on days when you’ve been faithful in daily devotions than those rushed days when you neglected time in the Word and prayer? Do you tend to view your relationship with God as a long list of “do’s and don’ts”? Is your obedience to God motivated by love and characterized by joy—or guilt and fear? Is it easy for you to admit your failures and take ownership of your sins? Or does the possibility of being exposed feel threatening to your sense of well-being?

Like Luther, our relationship with God can easily become based on our own performance, rather than the performance of Christ. Even good spiritual disciplines, such as Bible-reading, prayer, and worship, become in our minds, like rungs on the ladder to heaven. We may not express it this way. In fact, we might even deny it. But functionally, and practically, we live as if approval from God depended upon our obedience, instead of Christ’s obedience for us.

Christ Formed in You by Brian Hedges