Influences: Walking Into Death, Walking Into Life – Ephesians 2:1-10

Either I was dead or I wasn’t.

Either I was following the course of this world or I wasn’t.

Either I was following Satan or I wasn’t.

Either I was a son of disobedience or I wasn’t.

If I deny to be any of those things or pretend I was not that bad off, then God did not come to save me.

Luke 5:31-32 And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”

What is life? Is it because I breathe air and have blood course through my veins? Animals do that. That cannot be life because our life ends in death. When we are born, we, as mankind, were destined to die.

Why did Jesus come into our world? To conquer sin? Sure, but that wasn’t a real problem to him. To conquer Satan and demons? Okay, but Satan and his demons are creature with finite powers and is subjected to the sovereign Lordship of God Almighty. To conquer hell? No, Jesus is Lord of all—heaven, earth and especially, hell.

Jesus came into our broken universe so that we might have life.

John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

You might say, “But I was already alive.” But is this life? Life that results in death. Life that has pain, confusion, heartbreak, sadness, brokenness, and sin? Can that really be life?

Jesus goes on in the Gospel of John to show exactly what he has come to do for all of us. 1

Jesus’ dear sweet friend Lazarus was dead. Not just any kind of dead, but four-days-in-the-ground dead. The funeral was scheduled. The crying and yelling was on. Hearts were shattered.

Friends trying to dictate what God should have done. They are trying to figure out, “Why didn’t God protect Lazarus? Why didn’t God heal Lazarus? Why did God take away Lazarus?”

In other words, “If God was really here, Lazarus would not have to die!”

Jesus told his peeps before, “I have come so that they may have life and have it abundantly.” Jesus turns to us in all of our ‘God should have’s’, and calmly says, “I have come so that they may have life and have it abundantly. Don’t try to debate Ecclesiology with me right now. Listen to me. I have come so that you might have life right now and have life abundantly right now.”

In other words, “Do you want to see the glory of God?”

Christ’s tear ducts drained from his cries. His beard soaked with sorrow. His face flushed with sadness. His throat raw from anguish. He turns what appears to be facing his long dead friend. In actuality, Christ turns to look into the eyes of Death himself. Christ wipes the tears from his face. He looks over the split of two destinies that loom over his sweet friend: one into death and one into life. He unflinchingly stares down right at Death and gives the command, “Roll away this stone.”

Jesus Christ, Word Incarnate, Majestic Savior, and Triune with the Father and Spirit, cries out with loud voice and calls out, “Lazarus, come out!”

At one time, Lazarus followed the course of this world.

At one time, Lazarus followed Satan.

At one time, Lazarus was a son of disobedience.

At one time, Lazarus was dead.

However, the Sovereign Almighty Lord of Grace, Love, Mercy, Righteousness, Faithfulness, and Holiness would not abide by Death. Instead, He called out to his friend, whom he knew and love before the foundation of the world was in place, and spoke life into him.

We were once dead in our trespasses and sins.

We were once following the course of this world.

We were once following Satan.

We were once sons of disobedience.

However, the Sovereign Almighty Lord of Grace, Love, Mercy, Righteousness, Faithfulness, and Holiness would not abide by Death. Instead, He called out to you, his friend—his friend whom he has known and loved before the foundation of the world was in place, and spoke life into you.

Do you trust Him? Do you believe Him? Do you take God at his word? Then you are God’s and God is yours forever.

Ephesians 2:1-10 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Notes:

  1. see John 11:1-44

Influences: Indeed He Says! Romans 9:22-26

Romans 9:22-26
What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? As indeed he says in Hosea,

“Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’
  and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’”
“And in the very place where it was said to them,
  ‘You are not my people,’

  there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’”

This is the reason why we boldly and audaciously preached the gospel of God!

Paul starts this statement with a huge ‘What if?’. What if God wanted to flex his muscle? What if God endured the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? What if all of that was to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy? What if He has prepared beforehand for glory? What if He has called from the Jews and the Gentiles? What if?

Ah, if that isn’t the biggest ‘what if’ ever?

But that ‘what if’ is not some post-modern aahhhhhhhh rhetorical question designed not to be answered. Because if that is the question—if we are asking ‘what if?’ then how generously, kindly, wonderful, gladly, lovely does God answer the question.

You were not my people.
You were not my Beloved.
Your disobedience, lostness, pride,
transgressions, and sins
have kept you far, far from me.

But I will have you in my family.
I will have you close to me.
I will have you in my heart.
I will enjoy you forever.
I will bridge that gap.
I will close that infinite chasm.
I will do so with my Son’s life.
I will do so with the power of my Holy Spirit.

You are now called ‘my people’!
You are now called ‘my Beloved’!
Even when you have been told, ‘You are not my people’,
I will trump that and sovereignly declared,
‘You are my sons forevermore!’

Influences: What Shall I Pray? 1 Timothy 1:12-17

So in all of this, what shall I pray?

What can I say?

I pray to worship You.

I pray to praise Your holy name forever.

I pray to sing to You.

I pray because I want You.

I pray because I need You near.

I pray because I have no life without You.

I pray because You are my Lord and God.

I pray because You are my Father.

I pray because You are my Savior.

I pray because You are the Spirit inside of me.

And this I know, You have declared Your sweets words to be true (Psalm 119). Your words come from Your very breath (2 Timothy 3:16) and they are sufficient—no, more than sufficient—necessary for life. (Genesis 2:7 cf. John 11:43)

How can I begin to describe the feeling when your sweet words falls upon my ears, eyes, mind and heart?

Psalm 19:7–10
“The law of the LORD is perfect,
reviving the soul;
the testimony of the LORD is sure,
making wise the simple;
the precepts of the LORD are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the LORD is pure,
enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the LORD is clean,
enduring forever;
the rules of the LORD are true,
and righteous altogether.

More to be desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
and drippings of the honeycomb.”

If Your promises hold true—if You say You will make all things right despite our folly and sin (Genesis 3:15); if You say You will bear our iniquities and our trespasses (Isaiah 53) and You will draw near to us just when we think You are so far away (Psalm 22), then my life and my love is all in Your Word. I have nowhere else to go and no one else to turn to.

Who can I trust?
Where I can seek refuge in?
Whom have I in heaven but You?
Is there anyone on earth I desire besides You? (Psalm 73:25)

This much is true: for you are my God. You loved me and you are always mindful of me even before you created time and space.

You have shown the awesome worth of your love by sending and giving Your precious Son to me.

You have shown the infinite might of your power by giving your Spirit to me.

So what then can I say?

So what then can I do?

All I can do is simply thank you.

So from the bottom of my heart,
I thank you for giving me strength.
Thank you my Father God.
Thank you my Christ Jesus.
Thank you my Holy Spirit.

You judged me faithful.
You appointed to Your service.
Despite my dishonoring and blaspheming,
Your holy name,
despite my persecution and hatred,
of those who love you,
despite my perverted and violent opposition,
towards you,

Still
I only received mercy
because I was lost
I was lame
I was deaf
I was blind
I was stupid
I was ignorant
I was evil
I was dead
and I was not looking and could not look for you whatsoever.

But Your beautiful, sweet and tender
love, mercy and grace
overflowed for me
overwhelmingly
undeservingly
ill-deservingly
with your unbroken faithfulness
and your relentless love
that can only be by You,
for You,
through You,
my Christ Jesus my Lord my Savior.

These words
out of my heart
are true
and with all of my hope and dreams
and desires and wishes
that these words would be sweet to your ears.

I know
that you came in this world
to rescue your people
to pull them out of despair
to give your people life
to save them from their sins
to bring them to you
evil sinners
at war with you
All of us
And I lead this group.
I am the foremost
I am their chief
I am their victor
I am their champion of those who would face Your terrifying wrath!

Yet,
in this reason
that Your grace abounds all the more
that Your mercy renews every morning
that Your love never ceases
that You
my Lord and Savior
Jesus Christ
might display

Your perfection, beauty, tenderness, quickness,
Your love, mercy, grace, patience
for all of those who You call Yours
and those would believe upon Your holy name for life forever.

This is why I will sing
to the God of the everlasting to the everlasting
the Triune
the Father
the Son
the Holy Spirit
the immortal
the invisible
the Only One
the Creator
the Sustainer
the Merciful
the Peace
the Grace
the Faith
the Immanuel, God with Us
the Blessed
the Living Word
the Christ
the Son of God
the Fellow Heir
the Second Adam
the Kinsman Redeemer
the Beginning
the Means
the End
the Majesty
the Truth
the Way
the Life
the Wisdom
the Teacher
the Rescuer
the Promise
the Calling
the Fulfillment
the Abundance
the Host
the Governor
the High Priest
the Prophet
the Apostle
the Sufferer
the Messiah
the Servant
the Son of Man
the Glorified
the Power
the Gospel
the Guide
the Elector
the Wonderful Counselor
the All-Sufficient
the Lion of Judah
the Worthy Lamb who was slain
the King of all kings
the Lord of all lords
the Prince of Peace
the Commander of the Lord’s Army
the Ruler above all
the Name above all Names
my Holiness
my Righteousness
my Justice
my Faithfulness
my Mercy
my Grace
my Friend
my Confidence
my Shepherd
my Pastor
my Elder
my Brother
my Assurance
my Redeemer
my Vinedress
my Vine
my Bread
my Water
my Rock
my Salvation
my All in all
my Exalted
my Glorious
my Beloved
my Joy
my Song
my Love
my Mighty God

my Everlasting Father, my Dad, my Abba, my heart
my Jesus Christ, King, Lord, Savior and Messiah
my Holy Spirit, my comfort, my peace, my gift, my breath.

So I will be so very careful to
worship,
sing,
praise,
glorify,
exalt,
proclaim,
honor,
dedicate,
and love
You alone.

I pray this desperately and joyfully,
in the beautiful,
sweet,
precious,
most tender,
loveliest,
most worthy,
dearest name of
Your Son.

His name is
the Lord Jesus Christ.

Amen.

 

Influences: But Who Am I? 1 Chronicles 29:10-18

This was the very first passage I memorized. I picked this passage because I heard this particular verse mentioned in a long list of other verses:

1 Chronicles 29:14 “But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able thus to offer willingly? For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you.

When I looked up the verse and read it in context, I was blown away from David’s commencement. Since then, I hear this passage being used to explain the economics of God (while precariously dancing close to the edge of the Prosperity unGospel). At first glance, I can see that. But dig deeper and it is far richer that what we give it credit for.

Here is the reason why I love it so:

This passage reminds me to bless the people when you speak to the people:
“Therefore David blessed the LORD in the presence of all the assembly. And David said

It reminds me of  who God explicitly is:
“Blessed are you, O LORD, the God of Israel our father, forever and ever. Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and you are exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name.

It reminds me of who am I, apart from God:
“But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able thus to offer willingly? For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you. For we are strangers before you and sojourners, as all our fathers were. Our days on the earth are like a shadow, and there is no abiding.

It reminds me of what God has done in us and for us:
O LORD our God, all this abundance that we have provided for building you a house for your holy name comes from your hand and is all your own. I know, my God, that you test the heart and have pleasure in uprightness.

It reminds me of what my response is now because of God:
In the uprightness of my heart I have freely offered all these things, and now I have seen your people, who are present here, offering freely and joyously to you.

It always reminds of what my desperately prayers for God to keep on doing:
O LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, our fathers, keep forever such purposes and thoughts in the hearts of your people, and direct their hearts toward you.

Influences: Where Theology and Expectation Meet

Romans 15:17-21 In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to be proud of my work for God. For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience—by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God—so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ; and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation, but as it is written, “Those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand.”

Lets play the ‘What if’ game.

What if his word sent out will not return void? (Isaiah 55:11)

What if the gospel is the power of God in salvation for those who believe? (Romans 1:16)

My theology and doctrine says that word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God, God can bring the Gentiles to obedience to God.

My theology is real quick to proclaim that word, deed, signs, and wonders, all by the power of the Holy Spirit, brings about salvation. (Notice that the work of the Holy Spirit must happen before we can obey God.)

Now what are my expectations?

I challenge you just like my friend Alan Smith challenged me.

1. Either your expectations must be raised up to match your theology.

-or-

2. You will have to lower your theology in order to have it synced with your expectations.

Call it pride. Call it stubbornness. Call it what you will but I have no desire to ever lower my theology in order to match anything that I could offer.

I have chosen the former.

Influences: I Know Nothing But Him

I know one thing, that I know nothing.

– Socrates

If I have set the direction of my theology based on the thread of Hebrews 6:1-3, 1 Corinthians 3:21-23, and 1 Corinthians 2:12-13, then I would have to say this would be the basis for all of my reading, studying, writing, lecturing, preaching, and teaching:

1 Corinthians 2:2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.

Am I going to slip up and give my feeble opinion when I should be pointing to Christ?

Am I going to run off at the mouth instead of trying to best describe the glories of Christ?

Am I going to present dog poop from the world instead of the vast riches of Christ?

Yep. I can guarantee that is going to happen.

Still, I have nothing to give to God. He alone has made my mind the way it is. He has constructed my personality for his glory (that is still weird to me). He has physically put me together in such a way that my voice booms.

And all that He has done results in me giving glory back to Him.

That brings Him joy. That brings me joy.

I am not qualify for whatever tasks that he has set out for me. But He called me and He will see it to the end.

I know nothing. However God made me and whatever He gave me is what I do have. I have God. That is way more than I can possibly dream.

Influences: The Thread of Logic

I believe, trust, understand, love, and think by this principle: my entire grasp, knowledge, relationship, salvation, and love to God, for God, by God, from God, and through God is according to these three Scriptures:

Hebrews 6:1-3 Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits.

1 Corinthians 3:21-23 So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.

1 Corinthians 2:12-13 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.

Here is the thread of logic I see here:

  1. Knowing God is by the will of God (Hebrews 6:3)
  2. All truth comes from God and since we belong to Christ, all truth is ours (1 Corinthians 3:21-23)
  3. For us to understand anything given to us by God, including and especially the free gift of salvation, it is by the power of the Holy Spirit. (1 Corinthians 2:12-13)

This thought is neatly summed up by the theologian John Calvin:

“finitum non capax infinitum”

In other words, “The finite mind cannot comprehend the infinite.”

In his Introduction to his Systematic Theology, Louis Berkhof compared and contrasted the two realms of knowledge: Science and Theology. Science comes about because we can, in certain ways, control the subject of which we want to know more about. We can dig deep into the subject. We can prod it. We can expose it. We can cut it in two. What Berkhof contends is that what is true for Science is not true for God and hence, why we have true and proper Theology. In Theology, it is actually the Subject that controls, reveals, and enlightens how much we know about the Subject.

Could you imagine an ant determining how much or how little we know about the ant? That is a preposterous thought. But that is precisely how God reveals Himself to us: by His will through His Son by the almighty power of the Holy Spirit.  The root question now for our hearts and minds is whether we dismiss any theology and war against that very notion or do we humbly approach the throne of grace.

You might be thinking, “If this is true, how can we know God at all?

Can we know God at all or are you wanting to know all of God? The latter is not possible. Think about your spouse, your best friend, or your kids. You feel as you know them well but can you say you know all of your spouse or your best friend? God reveal Himself to us, in as we might not know all of Him, we can take full confidence that we can truly know Him because we are His people saved by Him, for Him, from Him, to Him and through Him forever and ever.

In 1 Corinthians 8:1, Paul gives a small warning about this sort of knowledge—the knowledge of God and knowing God in order to love and care for one another. It is by this wonderful knowledge of God that can easily puff up our chests and create the wrongful desire that all people would come to you as the foremost expert on all things God as though you are some sort of priest and mediator between them and God. We can never be that because we have One Great High Priest and the Perfect Mediator in His Son, Jesus Christ.

But in order to rightfully guard against that sort of deceit and pride, we do not bring about that protection by increasing our ignorance of God. For God has said:

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge;
     because you have rejected knowledge,
     I reject you from being a priest to me.
And since you have forgotten the law of your God,
     I also will forget your children.
Hosea 4:6

Whatever can we do?

Always know that God passionately desires you to know him truly and deeply—more true than you closest best friend a more deeply than the richest diamond mines of all the earth. In that, His heart’s desire, is that you would come to truly know His beautiful love for you and the untold riches of His grace so that your desire and love for Him would swell your heart and satisfy your soul.

I say all of this not because it has been perfected in my life. When God shown himself to me, I was grateful and in love. When He started to pour knowledge of Him in me, I became haughty and arrogant. Can we say that was from God? I would think not except the fact that I know one other part of His will for me: my sanctification. That is, He that began the good work in me will bring to completion on the faithful day I get to hold my lovely Savior’s face in my hands and get to kiss him ten thousand kisses.

That day has not arrived yet. But it will. Until then, I can do nothing else but trust in Him, love Him, and love others the best way that I can. So help me God.

Influences: How Did I Get Here?

Answer: God.

Well, that was easy.

In all seriousness, I got a tweet from a friend of mine:

Which, in turn, made me think: How did I get here? Why do I think the way that I do? Who has God used to shape my faith in Him, my knowledge of Him and my love of Him?

So, being a mere Kindergarten pupil in God’s kingdom, I thought I would take some time and write up what and whom influences me and shapes my worldview, philosophy, theology, doctrine, and love. In no real order, I am going to go through and list out the Biblical verses, books of the Bible, other books, people (dead and alive), blogs, ministries, and relationships that have been used by God to make me what I am now. I do this to help me step back from myself, see if I can see where I am going and more importantly, ask God if that is where He wants me to go.

This is me just externally processing but I am eager to see what all of this will look like.