Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Duty and Delight

...For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin. (Romans 14:23)

I live a pretty routine life. I generally wake at the same time each morning and get about my usual morning routine. From week to week, my daily routine does not vary much. I guess you could say, I am a creature of habit. Over the years, the Lord has built up some pretty good habits in me to replace the bad ones, like regular bible reading, fellowship, and prayer times. He's also cut things out of my life and fine-tuned others. On the surface, my daily life could look pretty impressive, spiritually speaking.

Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart.
...whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.

Verses like that should provoke us to ask the question: "How much of my routine proceeds from faith? How much of it is compelled by the desire to be obedient and pleasing to the Lord and how much is just sort of reflex OR, worse, some sort of attempt to control my circumstances/God by my behavior?"

I don't have to look far or long to see evidence of routine for the sake of routine or obedience in hopes of a desired outcome. But the harsh reality is, that both of these motives are sin because they do not proceed from faith. No matter how stellar our routine may be, if we are not also praying for God to use our devotion and obedience to change us and glorify Himself - we are stuck in dead works that will profit neither us nor the Kingdom. If our works do not proceed from faith - from a fear of God based on the character of God and rooted firmly in a hope in God to work all things together for good, including our sin and faithless purposes - then it is sin. We tend to want one without the other - works without faith or faith without works - but they are meant to go hand in hand...they cannot and will not exist independant of each other.

The Westminster Catechism says, "the chief end of man is to know God and enjoy Him forever." Forever includes here and now...today. To know and enjoy involves work and faith...duty and delight. There is a standard. There are responsibilities. God has commanded that the life of a Christian to look a certain way. There is no escaping that, but we can never, not even by our best efforts manufacture a truly godly and faithful life. No amount of planning and habit can do what is necessary for even our best works to glorify the Lord. But add faith to works, delight to duty, and others will see our good works and glorify our Father in Heaven.

Every good and perfect gift comes from above, chief among these good and perfect gifts is faith. From the beginning of time, God has intervened into the lives of men and imparted faith...He still does this today. The faith we need to bring glory to our routine, delight to our duty, is a gift from God. If we find our routines to be lacking in faith, we need only ask. God will meet us there, and meet our need if we simply turn to Him. Like salvation, we must be made aware of our need before we turn and ask...and also like salvation, He is faithful to answer.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Word Became Flesh

"It is here, in the thing that happened at the first Christmas, that the profoundest and most unfathomable depths of the Christian revelation lie. 'The Word became flesh' (Jn. 1:14); God became man; the divine Son became a Jew; the Almighty appeared on earth as a helpless human baby, unable to do more than lie and stare and wriggle and make noises, needing to be fed and changed and taught to talk like any other child. And there was no illusion or deception in this: the babyhood of the Son of God was a reality. The more you think about it, the more staggering it gets. Nothing in fiction is so fantastic as is this truth of the Incarnation….The Christmas message is that there is hope for a ruined humanity--hope of pardon, hope of peace with God, hope of glory--because at the Father's will Jesus Christ became poor and was born in a stable so that thirty years later he might hang on a cross. It is the most wonderful message that the world has ever heard, or will hear” (Knowing God p. 53, 63) - J.I. Packer

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Refuge in Death

...the righteous finds refuge in his death. (Proverbs 14:32)

It is good to know that even in death, we have a refuge...that if we are truly God's, bought with the price of Christ's life, set apart as His bride, that even death will not separate us from Him. Even death is not to be feared.

I think most people do fear death to an extent. For most, there is the uncertainty of exactly what happens when we die, for other's the mode of death is more fearful. Both are legitimate concerns for mere mortals. But God's promise is that, no matter what happens to the body, if we trust in Him, we will be with Him, our bodies will become glorified, and our tears will be wiped away. In Heaven there will be no wounds, no pain, no fears for we will be one with God as He intended it, as we were created to be.

But, I think the promise of this verse is speaking of more than physical death. We are called to "die daily"...to die to the cravings of our flesh...to die to self. In this death, like physical death, we are promised a refuge. Choosing Christ over what our heart, our mind, our emotions, our physical body, our families, our bosses, our friends are all demanding, every day, is no easy thing. I believe God know's this, but He also promises that when we make the choice, take the step in faith, His grace will meet us there and it will be sufficient to keep us standing in His truth and on His promises. Every time we choose His way over our own, we die a little. And every time we have a refuge, a very present help, a strongtower to run into and be safe, be cared for, and be strengthened. And in so doing, we become more like Christ.

Help us, Lord, to chose you always, to be willing to die that you might live in us and through us more and more. For your glory and your name's sake...amen!