We Must Be a Broken People

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Our Church has been finishing up a five-part series. The last of which was on the

 

“perseverance of the saints”. This biblical idea basically means that though our salvation is secure, we as Christians will persevere in our faith until the end. We won’t throw our love for Christ aside, we won’t give Him up. Ultimately though, we recognize that God is the one at work within us, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.

Contemplating this concept is difficult for me. God clearly calls us to turn from our sins and always be repenting and turning back to Christ. This being the fruit and proof of salvation. And then there’s the other side: it’s ultimately God who’s doing the perseverance in and through us. It’s crazy to think about!

However mind-boggling God’s sovereignty is, He is teaching us much through our Wednesday night home-groups through our church. We talk in a group of 12-18 and

 

discuss the sermon from Sunday. We read through selected scriptures and open the floor for discussion. We eventually got on the topic of “how to recognize those who are persevering and those who are not”. Because, what sets good-works-salvation-bob apart from by-grace-through-faith-alone-Nolan? We externally do the same things, don’t we?

God led me back to a verse in Luke 18:10-14.

 

“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.”

This account is always a humbling reminder of what a broken heart before God looks like. It’s not flashy, it’s not proud or arrogant. It’s not perfect, It’s just broken.

We look at the pharisee and think he looks pretty good, by cultural standards. And the tax collector is pretty much the scum of the earth. At face value we could make a judgement call and say the Pharisee is “persevering”, but is he?

Jesus is getting deep here. The pharisee is pompous and arrogant before God, flaunting his spiritual “goodness” (aka filthy rags). He thanks God he’s not like other people. He thanks God He’s not like “those” people. He’s literally placing his good works on a false scale. This made up scale places the Pharisee as creator, the “other people” as the measured standard, and rigs it to go in his favor. He tries to “trick” God into thinking he’s good.

The contrast is this lowly tax collector. By societal standards, a thief, a swindler. The scum of the earth. But his prayer sounds much different. “be merciful to me, a sinner!” He recognized his sinfulness before God. He realized that he deserved nothing other than condemnation. And he physically expressed it by beating his chest is anguish over his separation from God. Naturally from the outside you’d think “this guys screwed up!” and he certainly was. But there’s a difference between these two screw-ups.

One was broken. One was not.

We have this idea in the Church that if we show our brokenness we will be shunned. And this should never be the case. This ‘scum of the earth’ Jesus was referring to was not scum to Him. But rather this man was the one who was saved in the end. Not the one who “looked good”.

“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” – Psalm 51:17

An arrogant, thinks-they’re-put-together-person is not persevering in Christ. They are persevering by themselves.

A broken, contrite heart recognizes their own flaws. They turn to Christ for forgiveness and reveal themselves to be the truly persevering. And what does the latter example have that the former doesn’t? The Holy Spirit himself.

As a Church we must be a broken people. We must. Without brokenness and vulnerability what do we have? White-washed tombs and people not getting the spiritual nourishment they desperately need. We must be broken before we can be healed.

Subduing My Little Piece of Ground

This past Monday (my day off) was spent by myself for the first half of the day. My wife was at work so I decided to finally mow my front yard and clean up some of the landscaping.

As someone who tries to see the spiritual aspects of all of life (something that Adventures in Odyssey taught me!) working to make my yard and flower beds look nice kind of reminded me of God’s command to subdue the earth in Genesis.

I think this is where many people (both men and women) get their drive to build, create, restore and rebuild. We have it wired into our very beings. Ultimately we will never restore our little piece of dirt to it’s former pre-sin glory, but we desire to try to subdue it as best we can.

And that was what I did last Monday.

Pictured, I have some before and after photos.

There was something immensely gratifying about getting my hands dirty while listening to great music. It really is such a beautiful metaphor of God’s work in us.Daily Re-dedication.jpg

The Holy Spirit’s work in us isn’t a one time thing. We can’t just mow the lawn of our souls once. It’s a constant trimming back, revitalizing, and convicting of our hearts. And it takes work.

Grass starts looking like weeds when it sits stagnant for a time. Flower beds get overrun, leaves pile up. The sin in our lives is the same way. When you’re not fighting it, it’s growing back.

Fighting sin is messy. Your hands will get dirty and your soul will grow tired, but we must go back to God’s word and to prayer to reconnect with our Lord to regain our strength again every morning.

And it’s not an easy task. God calls us to die to ourselves. Take up our crosses. Go make disciples of all nations. The only way we can do this is by the simple daily act of committing ourselves to God’s will as shown in the Bible. And though cutting grass and putting down brown bedding may be trivial in of itself, God can still use something simple to show us a small glimpse into one way He works in our lives.

Because, just like up-keeping a home, cutting grass, and washing dishes, keeping our souls requires daily re-dedication. Daily reviving. Daily dying.

 

Theology Thursday #10 – The Justice And Wrath Of God

“My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?”
— C.S. Lewis

Many have issue with this doctrine. If you start reading and you’re like, “uh-oh, don’t like this, let’s move on”. Well, I’m not asking you to like it, I’m asking you to hear what God himself has to say for himself.
We’ve established in the past that His word is true and flawless, (which I’m sure I’ll talk about more in the future) so we need to trust him.

Many take this doctrine and throw it out the window with many excuses saying “Well God wouldn’t do that” or, “He’s not like that to me”. Now, I can honestly say that those answers irk me. Mostly because of a lack of understanding of the full counsel of God (reading the whole Bible for what it is), and just plain ignorance to what it says.

“The cross is proof of both the immense love of God and the profound wickedness of sin.”
~John MacArthur

I would like to say it’s fairly natural for our sinful nature to want to paint God in a way that makes us “feel” better, but really all we’re doing is deluding ourselves into believing something that ultimately has no basis in reality. God cares about sin. He makes that crystal clear in scripture. Sin is such a rebellion against Him that He does something so profound and incredible, He sends His very own Son to pay for us. The death we should’ve died.

So the real question is, who does God say He is? We can only have a clear understanding of Him when we hear (biblically) directly from Him. So we’ll be looking at a few key verses topically, and then you can read for yourself Romans (Start in chapter 3, but you can read anywhere if you want!) expositorily that spells things out pretty well in my opinion. The first verse we’ll be looking at is found in Revelation 15:4 which states:

“Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name?
For you alone are holy. All nations will come
and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.”

We see from here that God alone is holy. Meaning no one or nothing else in of themselves are holy. We see this play out in Romans 3:23 which says:

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”

The reason we aren’t holy is that we’re sinners. We all (yes, even you) fall short of God’s glory. We can’t earn “favor” from God by works (Eph 2:8-9), or anything else you may try to think of to bribe God to let you off the hook. We see this play out in many world religions, people trying to appease “god’s” (lowercase) anger by doing good things, sometimes doing very horrible things, or even just looking to yourself to find the good that makes god happy.

It makes no sense to me.

A biblical way of understanding our state before God (sinners in need of grace) is to look back in Genesis 1-3 when man sins and they suffer the consequences for it. If you’re unfamiliar with it, take a quick read and really study to understand it. Our state before God is self-inflicted, and God’s standard is perfection (Matt 5:48), and we’ve fallen desperately short of that mark.

So this brings us to the key doctrine here. God is just.
We learn in many places of God’s complete holiness, no one surpasses him. And He is good, completely good. So he can’t tolerate those who aren’t. So, predestining redemption history even before the fall, God had a plan to satisfy his wrath on those who inevitably fall short. But we’ll talk about atonement in some other post. We’re dealing with the consequence of sin.

So we’ve established the basics:
-God is Holy. (Rev 15:4, Exodus 15:11)
-We Aren’t. (Rom 3:23)
-God must deal with Sin. (Rom 6:23, 5:12)

We aren’t going to talk about redemption in detail in this post, seeing as we’re focusing on the doctrine of God’s perfect justice, so we’re looking at how and why God deals with sin. If you check out Romans 6:23, we see that the wages of sin is death.
“Wages”, meaning what you get in return for what you did. You work hard, you get a paycheck, you sin hard (as an un-saved individual) and you earn God’s wrath. Plain and simple. God has a standard, and you chose what you want, so God gives it to you. But not without the consequences.

So what are the consequences? We see in normal, everyday life that practically, sin leads to death. It’s not the best for us, despite hoe we feel about it. God’s plan for life far superior, so sin practically leads to bodily death (normal degenerating age), and to practical death (Drug O.D.’s, Broken homes, STD’s, to name a few). Though there are many smaller “deaths” in our life (pain, sorrow, empty pleasure) that God ordains to happen as a part of His wrath if He doesn’t save that individual. (Psa 9:17)

But there a more consequences. Most don’t understand this, but there are eternal consequences for those who aren’t covered in Christ’s atoning blood. The reason being that we have willingly chose sin (Rom 3:23), and when God’s righteous wrath isn’t satisfied (when he doesn’t save someone), He must do the just and right thing, because if He didn’t, then He wouldn’t God. He wouldn’t be holy. God must deal with evil.

So how does He deal with it? Well, sinning against an eternally good God reaps eternally bad consequences. We read very clearly in Matthew 25 from Jesus Himself that He is just, and that the unrighteous will not go unpunished.

“And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

You can find in Matthew 10 where Jesus is talking more of eternal damnation. It’s not a pretty subject, and I’m sure this won’t be a very popular post, but it’s clear from what i’ve read from scripture that damnation is eternal, and it won’t be fun. But ultimately Justice is something we all want. We’re so determined to catch the thief, the serial killer, the liar, and even our little brother who stole those cookies, that in all those things all we want is justice. Same as God. His standard is the perfect one, so who are we to say any differently? (Rom 9:20)

Each of us has to wrestle through this doctrine ourselves, knowing the truth of it, being convinced of it, and applying it (however those look in your life). But I plead with you to read the bible for what it says and look into some good resources on the subject if you’re conflicted about it, as many are.

Also, here’s a great resource from a couple of my favorite ministries:
Grace To You, The Wrath Of God (John MacArthur)
Desiring God, The Wrath Of God (John Piper)

Both are incredible Bible teachers, I encourage you to download those sermons and have a listen!
Thanks for reading!