Archives for posts with tag: passion

the passion of the ChristSimply put, we don’t deserve to receive the benefits of Jesus’ passion. The actual events point to this and our experience now reveals it again. As the disciples squabbled among themselves about who would be the greatest, Jesus humbled himself and washed their feet. As the disciples fell asleep, Jesus was agonizing in prayer, sweating drops of blood on their behalf.

As Jesus was facing a mock trial, beaten, and scourged; his disciples at best denied him and at worst hid themselves in fear. As Jesus bore their sins on the cross, they remained silent or hidden. Jesus – alone – faced the judgment of the world and sin.

Romans 5: 6 says, sin had made us all sick and weak. When Christ died, he died for those unable to worship, unable to give honor or devotion to the Lord. “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.”

“But, God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5: 8) When we were without passion, God shows His passion for us. Don’t ever think God (Jesus) dies for your potential good. A passion-less person has no potential to offer, little less be realized.  Neither did Jesus die for the unrecognized good you already possess.

Don’t kid yourself. You’re not all that.  But, Jesus is and more.

Even while the friends closest to him were betraying and denying him, Jesus still moves forward to the cross. Even while the system is rigged against him, Jesus is still resolutely and obediently moving towards Golgotha. Even while, nobody gets it, Jesus makes a new covenant in his own blood and sacrifice.

The promise that drives his passion? “…he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand. After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge (of the Father), my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.” (Isaiah 53: 10 – 11)

gospelofgraceAll of us need a way of confirming and adding strength to the call of God upon our lives. The Apostle Paul in Acts 20 helps us do that. Paul calls for the elders of the church to come and meet him in Miletus as he travels towards Jerusalem hoping he can arrive before the festival of Pentecost. He begins his message to them with a summary of his ministry among them and that’s where I want us to begin today.

I want to use his message as a template for establishing and verifying our ministry. I will list seven questions and give Paul’s answer for each question. I believe if the answers we give to these questions are not similar to the apostle’s we should rethink the kind of ministry we are pursuing.

  1. What’s the one task to which I am called? The Apostle says, ” I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.” (Acts 20: 24) Whether it is highlighting a personal work of God’s deliverance or a particular focus of teaching, our one task should reflect the ‘good news of God’s grace’ in some way.

2. What is the one attitude that I keep in the forefront of all I do to fulfill that task? Our understanding of our calling is blanketed with all humility, Paul says. We are not about self-promotion or profit. We may become well known and blessed but these are never ends in themselves. As Proverbs 3 points out, in all our ways we acknowledge the grace and goodness of the Lord.

3. What is it that one thing that brings me to tears and so grips my soul that I must follow through? What is it that induces such a reaction? The Apostle says it is “being entrusted with the gospel” (1 Thessalonians 1: 9, 2: 4, 19-20) and the results the gospel produces in people.

4. What is the one thing I must do for which I will withstand any and all opposition? What is the one thing I will do regardless of reward or recognition?  The Apostle says, “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom, the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation.” (Galatians 6: 14 – 15)

5. What is the one thing that I repeatedly do that proves the most helpful to others, whether it is shared personally and individually or with a crowd in public? God doesn’t call us to anything that is perpetually fruitless or barren. Who benefits from what we do or teach? There’s got to be somebody for whom God has called us. “You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house.” (Acts 20: 20)

6. Does this one thing I do solemnly affirm and witness to repentance towards God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ? All ministry calls us to an activity, whether direct or indirect. But, all activity is not necessarily ministry. Make sure the activity you undertake allows people the opportunity and grace to live their lives under God. “I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.” (Acts 20: 21)

7. When all is said and done, do I feel compelled by the Spirit to keep on doing this one thing? If I stop doing the ministry, is there any withdrawal? Do I have “fire in my bones” that smolders and looks for air when I’m not actively pursuing what God has asked me to do? The Apostle says “I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.” (Acts 20: 23-24)

Examine your ministry. Use this template and we will pray for each other to have a fruitful and more effective ministry.

too-marvelousToday’s reading is from Genesis 23 and 24 and tells how marvelously God helped Abraham’s servant to find a wife for Isaac. In answer to prayer, God orchestrated everything together for good for the one who loved Abraham and loved the Lord and was called upon to fulfill the purpose of gaining a wife for Isaac.

But, then I see how God orchestrated everything together for you and for me through Jesus Christ and it is almost too marvelous for words. His glory revealed upon the Mount of Transfiguration, in prayer Jesus was metamorphosed and shone with the radiance of his divine nature. Yet, in his glory what is he discussing with Moses and Elijah?

Luke 9: 31 tells us they were talking about his exodus he was about to accomplish in Jerusalem. But, Jesus’ exodus does not provide a means for his escape from death, but ours. His exodus would not mean he would be caught up like Enoch or Elijah, but would mean we could be.

When I think of Jesus’ exodus it was through a sea of suffering that brought deliverance for you and me. He didn’t walk through what was ahead unscathed like Moses had when he crossed the sea but “surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53: 4 – 5)

“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?  As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered’. (Psalm 44: 22) No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8: 31 – 39)

crownofthornsWe describe the passion of Jesus as the short, final period in the life of Jesus covering his entrance into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and the time up until his crucifixion on the cross. Washing his disciples’ feet, sharing his last prayers and last supper with them are all a part of his passion. Agonizing over “the cup” he had to drink and sweating drops of blood in the garden of Gethsemane were all a part of his passion.

Enduring the mocking trial, the beatings, the pulling out of his beard, the scourging, the taunts and derision were all a part of his passion. The weight of the cross, the abandonment of his disciples, the ignominious place of his death were all a part of his passion. The nails driven through his hands and his feet, the crown of thorns upon his head, the piercing of his side, and bearing the curse of sin were all a part of his passion.

But, his passion was not for the sake of an idea; it was for an individual multiplied a billion times. It was for you and for me. It was for whosoever would call on the name of the Lord. It was to draw as many as would to come from being far away and draw them near.

You see, we were meant to share in his passion. This is a call to share in his sufferings but even more to share in the salvation his suffering bought for us.  I pray you will allow his passion to capture your heart and enliven your mind. I pray you will allow his passion to restore your soul and raise you to newness of life.

After all, passion makes life possible!

crosstunnelThis past Sunday, we discussed four basic steps to recognizing and revealing that our core confidence and competence arises from God and not from ourselves. Our focus verse was 2nd Corinthians 3: 5 but we preached from both chapters 3 and 4 to share the points of our message. What are the four steps we pointed out?

1. If we are going to recognize and reveal God as the supplier of sufficient grace and power for our lives we have to remember something. We have to remember that we are called to something greater than ourselves, something that is higher and more glorious. There is an eternal weight of glory that marks our living, one we cannot accumulate for ourselves but is the gift of God in Jesus Christ for us who believe and rely upon God.

2. But, all of us would be most miserable if it depended on us to reach this high and holy prize set before us. Thankfully, 2nd Corinthians 4: 1 says we can receive something that makes all the difference in the world. “Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart.” Yes, the one thing we need to receive is God’s mercy and thankfully, it is available to us through Jesus Christ. Avail yourself of its power to transform our lives from one of limitation and restriction into one marked by grace and abundance.

3. As God is our sufficiency, we renounce some things, things that would occupy our mind and rob us of grace if we maintained our devotion to them or our discussion about them. It is important to remember our minds cannot focus on everything at once. Why? The seat of our passions, the root place for addiction, and the throne for worship all occupy the same place in our brains. Our desire for pleasure, our craving for what has been withdrawn from us, and the thirst for God’s presence can’t occupy the same place at the same time so to recognize and reveal God’s sufficiency in our lives we have to renounce some things.

4. Finally, we reflect something. We reflect the presence of the Holy Spirit. We reflect the truth of Jesus’ passion and preparation for us. Whether we are present or absent from the body we long to be clothed with the life of God in Jesus Christ. Our sufficiency is of God.

GethsemaneThe Bible says, “Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near.” (Isaiah 55: 6) If you are thirsty, come. If you are weary, come. If you are full of yourself, turn around quickly and come. Call upon the Lord. Experience the transforming presence and power of the Holy Spirit and know that God overwhelmingly and unrelentingly loves you. This is the essential reality.

God has shared his passion with you through Jesus Christ and God still desires to love you passionately in the power of the Holy Spirit. Can we experience this power? Yes, we can. But, our expectation of this happening must be matched by the longing and desperation of our seeking prayer. We are called to come but we will only do so when our thirst moves toward the greatness of God’s promised living waters. We are called to come but we will only do so appropriately when our weariness is desperate for the strength and rest of the Lord.

Are you seeking the Lord with a passion to match His? Or, have you reconciled yourself to an experience of something less than the essential reality of God’s breathtaking passion and love for you in Jesus Christ? You’re thirsty, but not that thirsty so you never repent of your busy-ness or relinquish any of the other commitments you hold to much more clearly than your commitment to Christ. I’m tired but I’m not so tired that I will not keep on trying to do most things myself. I want a greater experience of God but not so much that I change any part of my schedule or routine, not so much that I turn to God with weeping, and fasting, and mourning, not so much that I pray with unrelenting desire to experience the essential reality of grace and love in Jesus Christ.

Let us repent together today and let us “seek the LORD while he may be found, and call ye upon him while he is near.”

P. S. Yesterday, we visited Yanghwajin Missioary Cemetery and the 100th Anniversary Memorial Church. It was a very sobering and deeply moving time as we learned of the zeal and sacrifice of the first missionaries to Korea. I hope at some point in the future I can show many of you the video we received as a precious gift yesterday. The lives of our ancestors still speak and their testimony of sharing the gospel is still bearing fruit today.

crown of thornsTo realize the full effect of Jesus’ passion on the cross into our lives, the Apostle Paul lays out a precise and complete process for us to follow in Ephesians, chapter 5. I want to summarize that path in three movements of grace.

The first movement is the move to become a full Partaker of God’s love. “Be imitators of God, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

The second movement is faithfully Pruning those practices and pursuits that block the free and faithful flow of God’s passion displayed on the cross in us. “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure, or greedy person – such a person is an idolater – has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore, do not be partners with them.”

The third movement is then to be living Proof of what is acceptable to God. “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness, and truth).”

The Apostle goes on to say it is shameful even to mention little less practice the things ‘by grace through faith’ we have pruned or are pruning from our lives. But, above all I want to caution you about trying to work this process out backwards. What do I mean? Don’t start with trying to prove your way of living is right or how your style of life is already acceptable to God. The truth is not a single life is acceptable to God apart from the “offering and sacrifice” Jesus makes of himself on the cross. Do not persist in trying to minimize your own or another person’s need for mercy or repentance. The end result will be a minimizing of the effect God’s love can have on you and them.

Reverse this process and we will not prune out practices and persistent points of our personality that stand in conflict to the grace of God; we will instead seek to justify them. Reverse this process and we will end up seeking to make God an imitator of us instead of us imitating God, as dearly loved children are called to do.

This reversal already has a deep and wide following in our culture. How else could you take a day that is meant to honor a saint of the church and turn it into a day of liquor and license? How could we have come to the place where we suspend our support for an event because it doesn’t include enough immorality? How could we diminish the sufferings of Christ to say it need only apply to a few?

“But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said: ‘Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.’ Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise, but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk with wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”