Tuesday, April 28, 2009
I have seen people cry, then I have seen people mourn. I have cried and I have also mourned. I have made people cry and regretfully I have made people mourn. There is a difference. The word for mourn here is the same used in Mark 16:10 and 2 Cor. 12:21. It carries with it the weight of deep heart broken sorrow. The kind of sorrow we feel when a close family member dies, or when we have committed an act of offense that has broken a deep relationship to render it unrepairable.
This beatitude flows out of the same spirit of poverty we looked at in the previous verse, yet it carries with it an internal depth of regret. Better said, a regret that is so deep that it leads to a soul felt mourning. I have sat with guys who beat up their girl friends, or on the girls they were pimping. Often they have a sense of regret, but not a true sense of mourning. There is a confession of sorts so that they might feel better about themselves, but not a true sense of mourning. Sometimes they even get back into a relationship with the other party but at best it seems to be a very precarious 'reconciliation'. 9 out of 10 times ends it up in hurt and destruction, again.
What would YOU tell someone who has 'confessed' to you their part in such a broken relationship? What did Jesus tell them? "Don't just cry, mourn". But how? The question we are really asking is how does a confessor move to repentance?
I'm afraid that Christianity is full of people who are stuck in habitual confession without true mourning. I sat with a guy who confesses he is looking at porn on the Internet, in fact his wife has caught him, he feels bad about getting caught, and maybe talking to me will make him feel better... but refuses to enter into accountability relationships with godly men or put an accountability program on his laptop. I talk with an addict who has been coming to church and continuing in the cycle of brokenness, crack, confession, brokenness, crack and confession... but refuses to take steps away from, and out of the cycle. I speak with people who are Christians who love to confess the sins of others who have offended them but who are unwilling to enter into a relationship where they might have to bear anothers burden or who refuse to apply the hard truths of the Gospel to their own relationships - What is needed? What does true mourning call us to do? REPENT!
According to Matthew 3:2 repentance has an outworking, a fruit, a result. True repentance is a change of an object of faith. Faith in this sense is a change from how we are gaining our identity (the scary part is when I realize I can no longer trust in hurt, addiction, self righteousness- for my identity). The sorrow and horror of how we were trusting in something else other then what God says about us, is so great that we just want to hold a funeral- a mourning. The outworking of this kind of repentance is
1. Conviction- knowing what you have been trusting in is an offense to God
2. Confession- telling God and others (who love you with a spiritual holy love) how you have been trusting in something else other then God.
3. Definite plans for change- In relationships of accountability making a plan to do differently
4. Renewing your mind with the truth about where you are and the attitudes you have held- God's Word is where this happens!
5. Humbly and faithfully following through with the steps for change
6. Part of this plan must be repaying, and reconciling those you have offended or stolen from.
The last step here might be the hardest- but it has to be completed if you hope to find freedom. If you have been stealing from your spouse by constantly seeking out fantasy- you are in need of great mourning- REPENT! Ask God to give you a renewed mind, make a plan, follow through and find ways to make her/him the standard of your beauty! If you have been in a cycle of addiction that has stolen away from relationships with everyone in your life because you have time, energy and mind only for the addiction- you need to mourn deeply- REPENT! Ask God to give you new desire and love for what He loves. Make a plan and follow through- Go to detox, then rehab, and find those who are spiritual that you can't fool or manipulate and allow them to ask the hard questions of the Gospel in your life. If you are someone who has been just showing up for church on Sunday to complain about how everybody else is, and how the church is not doing anything for you. You need to mourn- REPENT!- You can't walk into the Grooms house and just keep slapping His Bride. You won't do that at my house and you certainly won't get away with it at Jesus'. Ask God to forgive you and make steps to enter into deeper relationships then what you think YOU can get out of it.... you might be surprised!
The first thesis of Martin Luther's 95 that he nailed to the door was:
"When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, "Repent" (Mt 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance. "
Talking about this first line, Mark Driscoll (Mars Hill Seattle) said, "Fish swim, birds fly, pigs oink, Christians repent."
A clear understanding of our need to mourn and the out working of repentance and we shall be comforted.... because we find ourselves in Christ alone!
Thursday, April 9, 2009
"Blessed are the sat upon, the spat upon, the ratted on." -Simon and Garfunkel
Do you know any one who always seems to live on the Fringe? They seem to function continually in the more random places of their imaginations? Within the Christian circles there seem to always be a handful of 'Fringe' in every Church. Fringe, not as in those we might consider being innovative or continually ahead of the curve for trying new things or change for the sake of the Gospel. Fringe, not as in seemingly ready to take any risk, abandon everything, go anywhere to serve others (although there sadly seems as if there is ONLY a handful of this type of Fringe in every church as well). No, Fringe as in those who seem to live their spiritual life and almost their entire spiritual identity in the 'fringe' elements of what it means to be a Christ follower. You begin to have a conversation with them about the Bible, the community, the Church, the weather, or their favorite color - it doesn't matter what the topic is- it all seems to lead to the same place for them...on the fringe. They seem to spend their whole life energy in telling, or arguing with, the world about things like: Did Adam and Eve have a belly button? What was manna really made of? OR about their own spiritual escapades of being 'kicked out' of a church, a bar for obnoxious witnessing, a Bible study for telling everybody the 'truth', or how they stopped attending a denomination because everybody in that place was a bunch of political, manipulative, gossipy, never listen to 'truth', spiritual hypocrites,"and let me tell you about them"!
The FRINGE- is an easy enough place for us to arrive at; just ask someone what they think is wrong with the church, the system, the country, the family, etc. you will soon find your self in the off ramp heading to their fringe-ville! The problem becomes not finding the off ramp but getting back to the narrow way, the place of life. If you try to talk to someone who has been living in the fringe places of spiritual life about the core elements of life in Christ you discover something deeply disturbing; They seem unable to talk about the deeper elements of life in Christ- they keep shifting into one way streets that only lead in and out of their fringe identity.
In many ways this is what had happened on a mass scale in first century Israel. A nation who was living on the fringe of religious rules and regulations. A nation that defined self and others by sect and political alignments. A place that continually identified themselves by the fringe elements of spirituality. This is the place to which Jesus comes preaching "Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!- And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people."- Matt. 4:17,23
In these verses Matthew gives us a snap shot of what Jesus was all about- He came preaching/teaching and displaying the Kingdom- and calling, by these evidence, the nation (and by extension the world) to receive the Kingdom through repentance. If this is the case then it should not surprise us that the first criterion for being considered 'favored' or blessed for the kingdom is being 'poor in spirit'.
Poverty of spirit is more then financial, economic or having serious resource limits. Although Jesus does point to the poor, the drunkard, the prostitute, the socially shunned and ignored, when he talks to the religious and says, "These are closer to the kingdom then you!" Why? Because their socio-economical circumstances tend to cause them to see the depth of their spiritual bankruptcy- with no bail out plan in sight!
What have you and I trusted in for our bail out plan spiritually? It is not until we have a spiritual shift of economics- admit that we are indeed fully bankrupt to make ourselves better- cry out to the King of grace for mercy and help, will we be able to even begin to understand and experience the wealth, hope, wholeness of the Kingdom!
If you call yourself a Christian- it must mean you recognized your hopeless without the King of Grace! You must have cried out in a sense of total bankruptcy- waiting on Him, at the cross to completely bail you out! The foot of the cross is the place of renewal in repentance. Poverty of spirit- "Cheer up your worse off then you figure....." - some Christian song writer
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
PAX began a new focus in the Gospel of Matthew a couple of weeks ago. The idea is to take the Manifesto of Jesus, the sermon on the Mount (or Sermon on the Plain according to Luke) and use it as a telescopic lens to see the rest of the book. So for the next 8 weeks or so we are moving beatitude by beatitude through the life of Christ - who doesn't merely tell us about the kingdom but who is, embodies, the Kingdom!
Matthew being a Jew doesn't use the language used in some of the other Gospels when referring to the Kingdom. Where the others will use the terminology "the Kingdom of God" in order to connect with their intended audience, Matthew prefers to use "the Kingdom of Heaven". The name of God, Yahweh, was held in such high sacredness that it was not repeated lightly among the Jews, which Matthew is and to whom he writes. Elsewhere in scripture we read about "the kingdom of Life". All three of these statements are interchangeable in scripture. If you are part of the Kingdom of God you are a part of the Kingdom of Life, you are part of the Kingdom of Heaven. However you MUST be a part of the Kingdom of Life to be a part of the Kingdom of God- You are not automatically in because you are one of God's creations. Why else does Jesus come preaching the Kingdom? There is a criteria, a standard, an entrance exam! But what is it? That's what Jesus tells us and SO much more!
First though a quick background or if you want to call it the 'Redemptive Historical Set-up'. Matthew has become the proto Gospel- the first among equals if you like, over time in Church History. The Gospel of Mark was most likely written first but the good news of the kingdom, preached by Christ came first to the Jews. For this reason, and many others, the book of Matthew became prominent as the first Gospel in the canon.
One of the greater reasons is also the place that it holds in the history of the redemptive promise of God. Old Testament: God creates out of the pleasure of His Triune person. The Creation, man and woman, choose to turn their back on this good pleasure poured out to them by their Creator and instead choose to follow after the desire, pleasure of self outside of God's will they replace the Imago Dei (image of God) for the Ego Dei (Image of self as god). God, however, pours out grace, forgiveness and love as a response to his love for humanity, even as He acts in justice, and judgment as a response to His holiness. He promises to pursue, woe, and cause humanity to return to this great place of the pleasure of God. He promises (covenants), a redemption (a freedom bought back from rebellion), by His own good hand to a remnant who will turn to Him. This is the essence of the Old Testament, God is sending a Messiah (promise made to Adam and others), a King (promise made to David and others) who will bring in the Kingdom.
This Kingdom will be a place of rich provision, of God's presence, to a group of people called His own. I would argue from this that the Old Testament ends in unfulfilled frustration, and even disappointment. The remnant of the nation is back in Israel, the country is still under disarray. The nation is being ruled by one who is from the line of David, but he holds not a kings position but rules only as a governor. The temple is being rebuilt to the chagrin and disappointment of those who had witnessed the former glory of the former temple, it was notably embarrassing. This is 'the kingdom' that Israel is left with in the Old Testament. They cling to, hope for, long for, pray for and still wait ......the Old Testament ends with a poor excuse for a kingdom with a dissatisfied ending.
Matthew 1:1 "The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham."
Matthew breaks through the disappointment, the waiting, the waiting - Jesus Christ has come as the promised King Messiah!
Look at the rest of Chapter 1 - Matthew clearly states Christ is the Messiah King: The burden of proof is in your Scriptures; The burden of authority is in the Sovereign hand of God and the life of Christ Himself confirms that the King of the kingdom has arrived! Christ comes in fulfillment of the prophets, and in fullness of the Holy Spirit. Christ comes and like Adam is tempted (ch4) unlike Adam without sin. Christ comes through the water and enters the wilderness of temptation like Israel, yet unlike Israel He uses the book of Israel's instruction, Deuteronomy, to defeat the enemy- Jesus is the second Adam the promised Savior. Jesus is the true remnant of Israel who will keep the covenant with God! JESUS is more then an example, more then a teacher, more then a good man - Jesus was and is the Christ (Messiah) saving King!