Monday, May 26, 2014

The Great Write Off

To be honest, I would probably have written Judah off.  After selling his brother Joseph into slavery, Judah took off from his family of promise for an extended period of time to bear three children to a pagan Canaanite woman. Later, he had an incestuous relationship with his daughter-in-law whom he thought was a prostitute, bearing two more children (Genesis 38). Judah’s track record and trajectory was not promising.

But the Lord didn’t write Judah off.

More than twenty years later, we witness Judah’s transformation. As the forth-born son, Judah unexpectedly steps up as a leader and accepts responsibility for his family’s situation (Genesis 43:8-10), demonstrates genuine concern for his father, and offers to be a substitute for his brother’s “crime” (44:30-34). By God’s mercy and redeeming work, Judah wasn’t “too far gone” and the impact eternal.

When Jacob gathered his sons to bless them at the end of his life, Judah, the forth-born son of an unloved wife (Leah) received this blessing:

“Judah, your brothers shall praise you;
your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies;
your father’s sons shall bow down before you.
Judah is a lion’s cub; from the prey, my son, you have gone  up.
He stooped down, he crouched as a lion
and as a lioness; who dares rouse him?
The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples…
Genesis 49:8-10 (emphasis mine)

Judah, the one-time conniving son of Jacob, is the forerunner of King David and ultimately Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:2, 6, 16)!

It is easy to give up and write people off when they stray. I know that I have been guilty of it. Instead of quickly dismissing them when they wander from the Lord, we must remain patient and prayerful while calling them to repentance- trusting that God has a greater plan and remembering that He hasn’t given up on them, just as He didn’t give up on Judah….or us.

And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and the seven seals.”…And they sang a new song, saying,
“Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood your ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom of priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”
Revelation 5:5, 9-10 (emphasis mine)

Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Long Tomorrow

Over the last four months, three people that I’ve known for many years have died; including a childhood friend from middle and high school. Consequently, I’ve been contemplating the brevity of life taught in Scripture, including Psalm 39:4-5:

“O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!
Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely all mankind stands a mere breath!”

Like Moses, my prayer has been for God to teach me to number my days that I may get a heart of wisdom and to live as a Christ-follower with the right priorities in preparation for eternity, the long tomorrow (Psalm 90:12).

Recently, I came across the following video by Francis Chan teaching on earthly priorities in light of eternity.

Chan’s challenge to live for eternity is a noble and biblical challenge (Colossians 3:2). Yet, he falls short about how to do it. Francis and other teachers of “radical Christianity”, such as David Platt*, promote lives of tremendous financial sacrifice, moving to the other side of the world, adopting a “dozen” orphans, and other huge steps. Once again, this is biblical- our salvation is evidenced through our works and actions (James 2:17), but it is not the primary call for Christians. The primary call for Christians to live with an eternity mindset is by striving for holiness, and is linked to our salvation and position in Jesus Christ.      

As a result of these glorious truths concerning our salvation, we are to live holy lives in submission and obedience to Him. This is the root focus of living for eternity, or beyond the “red section” to use Chan’s rope analogy.

Empowered by God, we are to work out our own salvation (Philippians 2:12-13). Scripture is clear concerning our effort which is required for holiness and obedience to the commands of the written Word of God:

Time does not permit me to list all of the instructions that we are to do, but Peter summed it up by stating "As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, 'You shall be holy, for I am holy" (1 Peter 1:14-16).

Theologian Wayne Grudem states that “the New Testament does not suggest any shortcuts by which we can grow in sanctification (holiness), but simply encourages us repeatedly to the old-fashioned, time-honored means of Bible reading and meditation (Psalm 1:2, Matthew 4:4, John 17:17), prayer (Ephesians 6:18, Philippians 4:6), worship (Ephesians 5:18-20), witnessing (Matthew 28:19-20), Christian fellowship (Hebrews 10:24-25), and self-discipline/self-control (Galatians 5:23, Titus 1:8).” (Systematic Theology, p. 755).

There we have it, the primary “how” to live for eternity is to put forth the effort in striving for holiness and putting sin to death. As we grow in obedience to all of Scripture and delighting ourselves in Him, fueled by study of the Word, prayer, worship, and Christian fellowship then our giving will increase, we will answer the call to go- whether it is across the world, across the street, or to a factory time clock for 30 years (a noble calling, but a subject for another day) and will live “radical” lives for Jesus Christ in light of eternity- the long tomorrow.


*I have tremendous respect for both Francis Chan and Dr. David Platt and have benefitted immensely from their writings and speakings.