Jesus is Faithful

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“He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.”

(1 Thessalonians 5: 24 ESV)

I truly believe the highest response, the absolute and ultimate primary response Christ so desires in all His followers is their undying faithfulness.  We read in Christ’s ministry how He commends those for their faith, even those who were considered scandalous, sinful, and/or unclean.  The Centurion who desperately wanted his servant healed and thought himself unworthy of Christ’s visit was told, “…Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith.” (Matt 8: 10 ESV)  The sinful woman who risked everything to walk into the home of a mighty and “righteous” Pharisee just to be near Christ is told, “…Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (Luke 7: 50 ESV)  The two blind men who referred to Christ as Son of David…and begged for His Mercy, and Jesus intently asked them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” (Matt 9: 28 ESV)  It was according to their faith that their eyes were opened, when gently touched by the One, their eyes were opened wide and they were able to see. 

Then we can examine His disciples.  Christ’s disciples were weak and ordinary men.  Peter denied Him, Thomas doubted Him, and almost all fled Him in fear when the authorities drew near, but almost all were tortured and killed for their undying faith.  The great apostle Paul mentions in Scripture, “For I do not understand my own actions.  For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” (Romans 7: 15 ESV)  Anticipating debate here, let me clearly state Paul was just another ordinary and sinful man, for no one walked sinless on this Earth except Christ.  Yet Paul mentions to Timothy late in his life the one and only valuable possession he held tightly and securely to throughout his life, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have kept the faith.” (2 Tim 4: 7 ESV) 

        Christ also desires obedience, humility, love, worship, submission, and service in His followers, but I have failed miserably at many times and at various stages of my life in one or all of these other “godly” attributes.  I am fallen and sinful. I still at times, flee and rebel.  I am weak and ordinary.  I stand as nothing before Him, yet through His blood which was spilled and painfully… brutally covered the stained crimson red Cross of Calvary, I am given a free gift!   “For by grace you have been saved through faith.  And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” (Eph 2: 8 ESV)  It is absolutely nothing that I do, but ONLY what CHRIST has done for me, and all He asks of me in return is simply, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?”  In my many seasons of darkness and despair, in my continual sinfulness and doubt, in my discouragement and sometimes overwhelming grief…I can honestly say… I still believe!  “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”  (Hebrews 11:1ESV)   I will openly admit I have failed Him miserably throughout my life, and throughout my many long and suffering days, yet I still believe when my life is complete and as I struggle to draw my very last breath here on Earth, I will quickly awaken in His gentle and warm embrace and I will at once, simply fall to His feet and shout, “Jesus, I always believed you could do this…. And now you have… and I am finally…finally with You… always and forevermore!”

JUST AS HE PROMISED!

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A Transformation of the Heart

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“They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.”

(Matthew 23:4 NIV)

I am just a mediocre and ordinary person but with an extraordinary but all too common human condition…an untimely by- product of what was once a godly upbringing but quickly fell into a deep and dark abyss which therefore shattered into an ungodly situation and only grew worse with time.   Striving with all my might and persistence to seek God, and to find Him there… waiting patiently for me…then quickly running and hiding from Him in a never-ending, perpetual cycle of isolation and shame…truly a hide–and-seek game which quite frankly sometimes continues even today….and this unfortunate game continually rehearsed by a fallen humanity only leaves me spiritually drained and feeling like a monumental failure….

I find myself wondering many times where this “transformation” promised in the Gospels… this “transformation” when placing trust in Christ as your Savior…..the type of wondrous “transformation” witnessed and recorded in first century Palestine and promised for all future generations to come who truly believe… exactly where it has gone…or if I even experienced it…when I find myself running….and hiding…..in this fallen human play of shame and isolation….and seemingly turning my back on Christ…by playing this hide-and-seek from the only One who truly loved me enough to give His very own life for me…so that I may one day live with Him eternally….

But this glorious “transformation”…. which is promised in the Gospels is not an easy transformation… nor is it expeditious… but requires a rather slow and methodical “transformation of the heart.” ALL Christians…whether they admit it or not…. (And many will not admit their own spiritual failures)….. at some point in their spiritual walk… will experience disappointment and wonder if this “true transformation” has really taken place…but this expected disappointment is universal and only indicates a deeper longing of the human heart… the actual grieving of the human heart missing out on the life in which it was originally designed for…the originally designed perfect life and never-ending communion with God as it was before the Fall…..

The body of Christ is filled with followers who do not exhibit this “true transformation of the heart” and thereby not living the image of Christ on Earth….There is a danger lurking within the Christian community….a danger known as “pseudo-transformation” where the Christian community places boundaries within…to persuade outsiders from joining their Christian clubs…but true Christianity is only found within the pages of Scriptures and there we see Christ rebuking the religious sub-cultures of His day and speaking of a “new creation transformation”… one where there is a “transformation of the heart”….and having a life of “true transformation” requires less trying to achieve it and more in the slow and tedious training of the heart to reach its full potential…

“Woe to you. Teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces.  You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.”

(Matthew 23: 13 NIV)

We are ALL imperfect and fallen people and it is perhaps this “pseudo-transformation” mindset….the internal boundaries and the unrealistic expectations we place on others and including each other as Christians…. which is most damaging to those seeking Christ.  The true discipline of suffering is difficult for a society to grasp which is now deeply infiltrated with prosperity preachers proclaiming a life of good health and generous wealth for those who truly believe…But in Christian Scripture, we find a story of hardship and struggle among the people of God, and within that very hardship and struggle of life…..the all too common human condition … and the fallen hide-and-seek game in which we all find ourselves playing…. from time to time…..it is only there… where we find a game which produces a certain and lasting type of perseverance and strength…

Perhaps the real reason why Christianity stands apart from all other world religions and falsehoods is in Christianity… there is found a Living God who understands what it is like to walk in darkness….

We are all hopeless and helpless in our current fallen state, yet we should ALL rejoice with pure joy knowing Christ looks at the heart, the transformation of the heart…. which is the very center of our core. He does not look outwardly or at the internal boundary markers of the current culture or even the internal boundary markers of the Christian community … for if our God looked outwardly….we would all be doomed for destruction….

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Are you allowing your heart to be slowly and tediously transformed into the image of Christ…

Or do you become quickly discouraged and turn away?

Is your unexpected suffering producing perseverance and strength?

Do not give up HOPE in your time of suffering!

“In Jesus’ day, lepers and prostitutes and tax collectors were especially careful to steer clear of the rabbis’, who were considered especially close to God.  The rabbis’ had the mistaken notion that their spirituality required them to distance themselves from people.  The irony is that the only rabbi the outcasts could touch turned out to be God himself.”

–John Ortberg