Saturday, June 30, 2007

The Holiness of God

God has been revealing to me, in little tiny pieces, that His holiness is the essence of who He is, and that in my finite mind I cannot begin to comprehend what His holiness looks like. A.W. Tozer wrote, "We cannot grasp the true meaning of the divine holiness by thinking of someone or something very pure and then raising it to the highest degree we are capable of. God's holiness is not simply the best we know infinitely bettered. We know nothing of the divine holiness. It stands apart, unique,unapproachable, incomprehensible and unattainable. The natural man is blind to it. He may fear God's power and admire His wisdom, but His holiness he cannot even imagine."

So why is it that we cannot understand the holiness of God? It's quite simply because we have absolutely nothing with which to compare it - it is totally beyond our grasp. But God's holiness is the one attribute that the angels cry out. In Hebrew literature words are repeated for emphasis. We can see this with the teachings of Jesus when He would say "verily, verily" or "truly, truly I say to you." Note that we do not see anywhere in the Bible where the angels say "Love, Love, Love is the Lord of Hosts" nor do we see anywhere them saying "Omniscient, Omniscient, Omniscient, is the Lord of Hosts" - and He is both of these - but we do read that the angels call out to one another:

"Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of Hosts; His glory fills the whole earth." (Isaiah 6:3)

The passage that this verse comes from shows us the reaction of a man when he encounters the holiness of God. In Isaiah chapter six we read that in the year that king Uzziah died, Isaiah had a vision, an encounter with God, and in this encounter he saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne, with his robe filling the temple. Seraphim were standing above Him, and they called out to each other "Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of Hosts; His glory fills the whole earth."

Isaiah wrote that when he saw this the foundations of the doorway shook and the temple was filled with smoke. Then he said, "Woe is me, for I am ruined, because I am a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips, and because my eyes have see the King, the Lord of Hosts." In other words, Isaiah, when he was confronted with Gods holiness, pronounced a curse upon himself and thought he was going to die.

Isaiah's reaction to being in the presence of God's was quite different than the stories we hear today about people who say they have encountered God. We talk so flippantly about being in the presence of God, like He was just like one of us; we forget that He is not like us, He is Holy. And when we truly do have an encounter with Him, we will, just like Isaiah, be so confronted by our own sinfulness that we will not stand, we will not be flippant, and we will not be irreverent. We will fall before Him, we will pronounce a curse upon ourselves, and we will cry our for mercy.

Let me try to explain; in this passage from Isaiah it says that there are Seraphim that are standing above the throne of God. What are Seraphim? We are not exactly sure, but we do know that they are some kind of angelic being. The description that we are given here in Isaiah 6:2 tells us that they have six wings, and that they use two of these wings to cover their face, two to cover their feet, and they use two to fly. We also know that the Seraphim are the most holy creatures that God ever made. How do we know this? We know this because of all the creatures that God has created it is the Seraphim who are in the closest proximity to Him and His throne. And what is it that they are doing in this passage? They are covering their faces, and they are covering their feet, and they are crying out to one another "Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of Hosts." Why do they do this? Because they understand what we do not - the absolute and total Holiness of God.

The act of covering their faces shows that they do not feel worthy to look upon the holiness of God. Albert Barnes writes, " [The Seraphim] covered his face so that he could not see. To cover the face in this manner is the natural expression of reverence." In addition, they also cover their feet which is acknowledging their lowliness and humility before the one sitting on the throne. Albert Barnes continues, "if the pure and holy seraphim evinced such reverence in the presence of [God], with what profound awe and veneration should we, polluted and sinful creatures, presume to draw near to him! Assuredly their position should reprove our presumption when we rush thoughtlessly and irreverently into his presence, and should teach us to bow with lowly veneration and deep humility."

While it is true that we are told that because of Jesus we can now approach His throne of grace with boldness (Hebrews 4:16) we need to remember that the God we serve is a Holy God, He is not like us, and even though we call Him Father we still need to approach Him with reverence and fear. Spend some time alone with God today and ask Him to reveal Himself to you. Once you get just a little glimpse of who He really is, you will never be the same.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Share All Good Things

Galatians 6:6 says, "The one who is taught the word is to share all good things with the one who teaches him."

In this verse we are told that we are to share all good things with the one who is teaching us, but what does this mean? Every commentary that I looked at said this was referring to financially supporting those who minister the Word to us, and while I do agree that we are to support financially those teachers that God has placed in a position of authority over us I do not agree that that is all that this verse is saying.

The Greek word translated as "share" in this verse is koinōnéō, which means "to communicate." This word is a derivative of the word koinōnía, which means "communion" or "fellowship." So what we are being told here is that we are to communicate back to our teachers all of the "good things" that we are experiencing as we put what they are teaching us into practice. And this communication should be growing out of the mutual fellowship of the word of God as you are building into each others lives.

So what is the bottom line here? Should we be financially supporting our preachers? Absolutely! But just giving them a paycheck does not let you off the hook - this verse tells us that we are to also let them know when God is blessing us through their teaching. So take a minute today and let your minister or teacher know the "good things" that are taking place in your life because of what they are doing.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Wait Upon The Lord

This morning I was reading in the Psalms and I came across the following verses:

Make Your ways known to me, Lord;
teach me Your paths.
Guide me in Your truth and teach me,
for You are the God of my salvation;
I will wait for You all day long.
Remember, Lord, Your compassion
and Your faithful love,
for they have existed from antiquity.
Do not remember the sins of my youth
or my acts of rebellion;
in keeping with Your faithful love,
remember me
because of Your goodness, Lord.
Psalm 25:4-7

There is a lot said in these four short verses; we would do well to meditate on what we are taught here, and to make this our prayer today. Let's look at this passage piece by piece and see what treasure we can mine from its depths.

David begins by saying "Make your ways known to me, Lord; teach me Your paths." Compare this with what Moses wrote in Exodus 33:13 when he prayed, "Now if I have indeed found favor in Your sight, please teach me Your ways, and I will know You, and will find favor in Your sight." This almost seems like there is something out of order here, but Moses' prayer, just like that of David, is that God would teach him His ways, and then by following them he would find favor with God who would then reveal more of Himself, which he would follow....and so the process continues on and on. And since God is infinite this cycle will just continue into eternity.

But David didn't stop there; he continues, "Guide me in You truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation..." Jesus, while praying for us, said in John 17:17, "Sanctify them by the truth; Your word is truth." Sanctify is just a fancy word that means to be set apart - Jesus is praying that the Father would, through the truth of His word, set us apart from the world to be His own. David realized this, and his prayer was that God would guide him and teach him as he studied the Scriptures. Look at what David wrote in another Psalm:

How can a young man keep his way pure?
By keeping Your word.
Psalm 119:9

David saw the importance of meditating on God's word; he saw that the only way to be pure, or set apart, was by keeping God's word. So he prayed that God would guide him and teach him. We would do well today to follow this example set by David - apart from the guidance of the Holy Spirit we cannot grasp or understand what God is saying in His word.

Next notice that David recognizes that it was God alone who is the source his salvation and so he said that he would wait for Him all day long. How many times do we, as 21st century Christians, rush into God's presence and rush through a time of prayer and Bible reading without ever getting anything out of it? The reason for that is found right here - we are not willing to wait all day for God. God has given us a promise - that we will find Him when we search for Him with our whole heart (Jeremiah 39:13). When we hurriedly approach God, and then rush on to something else, we are missing out on the blessing of actually finding Him. David however, was willing to wait for God all day if that is what it took.

Lastly David recognizes who God is, and that it is only because of His compassion and faithful love that he had any chance of finding and knowing Him. And it is based solely on that compassion and love then that David then asks God to not remember the sins of his youth, or his acts of rebellion. Notice that David asks God to forget two things here: the sins of his youth, and his acts of rebellion. What David is doing here is confessing that not only had he sinned unintentionally (the sins his of youth) but also deliberately (acts of rebellion) and he is acknowledging that both are an affront to a holy God, and both require His forgiveness.

David then makes his appeal, based again not on anything he had done, but upon the faithful love and compassion of his God.

Spend some time today praying through this passage, and wait for God to speak to you - you will be blessed. And remember, it is God who has promises that we will find Him, but only when we have searched for Him with all our heart. So today, wait upon the Lord

Saturday, June 23, 2007

A Tribute to a Friend

As I write this it is about 6:30 in the evening on June 23, 2007 and I have just returned from the funeral of one of my closest friends, Dahl Irvin. Dahl was born March 13, 1953 and passed away unexpectedly on June 17, 2007.
I don't remember exactly when we met, but as near as I can figure it was about twenty years ago. I was volunteering as a leader for the local chapter of Youth for Christ, and the area director arranged for all of the volunteers to attend a seminar on prayer that was being conducted by one of the local pastors in our area. The leader of the seminar turned out to be Dahl.
At this point in time I had also been playing guitar in a Christian Heavy Metal band and my wife and son and I had been attending a church that the rest of band members were attending. We were unhappy at this church and felt like we were not growing spiritually. As we talked about what we should do I remembered the seminar that I had attended and all that I had learned so we decided that we would check out the church where Dahl pastored.
We began attending a Sunday evening Bible study that Dahl was leading at the church with about 8-10 other people and before long we had completely left our other church and moved our membership over there. As we continued to attend this church Dahl and I began a friendship that lasted twenty years and the news of his passing earlier this week came as a great and unexpected shock.
As we made the six hour trip home today after the funeral I had plenty of time to reflect and to pray and to cry (and I am sure I am not done yet), and I stated to make a list in my head of all the things that Dahl taught me over the years:
He taught me that Christianity is not a religion - it is a relationship.
He taught me that prayer doesn't have to be pretty, but it does have to be passionate.
He taught me that legalism doesn't help anyone, grace does, and then he taught me the meaning of grace by the way that he lived his life.
He taught me to love the Bible, and to be a student of the Word.
He taught me to love the writings of A.W. Tozer.
He taught me to love Anne Rice, the Blues, Barbeque, and Jimmy Buffett.
He taught me that 300 miles was not enough distance to extiguish a friendship.
And today he taught me that I have something other than Jesus to look forward to in Heaven.
Augustine wrote, "We have not lost our dear ones who have departed from this life, but have merely sent them ahead of us, so we also shall depart and shall come to that life where they will be more than ever dear as they will be better known to us, and where we shall love them without fear of parting."
So as I remember my friend I think about good times, the bad times, the hours that we spent together over the years, and I miss him more than I ever thought I would. But he is happy now; he is with his Savior, and he is looking forward to the day, just as I am, when we will be reunited.
I love you. Until we meet again...

Friday, June 22, 2007

The Purpose of Temptation

Matthew 4:1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil.

Does this seem like a strange verse to you? It does to me. Why would the Spirit lead Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted, and if He led Jesus to be tempted does that mean that He also leads us to be tempted? There are a few different things that we need to look at here; a few different questions that we need to find answers for.

The first is this, why would God allow us to be tempted? The Bible is clear that God is not tempted by evil and that He does not tempt anyone; we are tempted to sin by our own evil desires (James 1:13-14). So one reason that God allows us to be tempted is to reveal to us what is in our hearts. We will never deal with the sin in our lives if we don't acknowledge that it is there.

The next question we need to ask then is this; if our temptation reveals the sin that is present in our hearts does that mean that we are helpless to overcome it? Not at all! God expects us to turn to Him for strength in our time of temptation and He will provide a way of escape (1 Corinthians 10:13). Remember, God is holy and He hates sin; the purpose of allowing temptation is never to allow us to sin (if we choose to submit to the temptation instead of submitting to God we are showing ourselves to be the sinners that we are) but to make us realize how dependent we must be on Him to overcome the sin in our lives. It is only through His power that we can overcome the power of sin.

And lastly, if Jesus is God (and He is) why would He need to be tempted? To answer that question we need to look at the letter to the Hebrews. Hebrews 2:18 says, "For since He Himself was tested and has suffered, He is able to help those who are tested." and Hebrews 4:15 says, "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tested in every way as we are, yet without sin." The reason that Jesus faced temptation was so that He could sympathize with us, and understand what we face in our daily lives.

As you go throughout your day today rejoice in the fact that God is faithful, that He enables us to overcome the temptations we face as we rely on His power, and that we have Jesus, who understands what we are going through as our high priest.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Fruit Consistent With Repentance

Matthew 3:8 Therefore produce fruit consistent with repentance.

The Pharisee's had come to the place that John the Baptist was baptizing, and they are confronted by him. He asks them who had warned them to flee the coming wrath, and he told them that they should not assume that just because they were physical descendents of Abraham that they were OK with God. He told them that they needed to produce fruit that was consistent with repentance.

This is not an unusual statement in the Bible; many times we are told that our life needs to be consistent with what we profess to believe. Jesus said in Matthew 7:15-16 that we are to beware of false prophets and that false prophets are recognizable by their fruit. The apostle Paul tells us in Galatians that the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal 5:22-23). James tells us that genuine faith will be clearly seen by the works that accompany it (James2:14-18). He is not teaching us that we are saved by our works; he is showing us that genuine faith will produce fruit that is consistent with repentance.

John MacArthur says, "Repentance itself is not a work, but works are its inevitable fruit." True repentance, as J. R. Miller wrote, “amounts to nothing whatever if it produces only a few tears, a spasm of regret, a little fright. We must leave the sins we repent of and walk in the new, clean ways of holiness.”

Does this mean that as a follower of Christ we will never sin? Not at all! But it does mean that when we do sin we will confess that sin, turn from it, and move back into fellowship with God. 1 John 1:8-9 says, "If we say 'we have no sin,' we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

As you go about your day today I challenge you to take some time to get alone with God and examine your life and make sure that you are producing fruit that is consistent with repentance.