The Universal Church: Christ’s People Never Abandoned

The Book of Philippians is a good illustration of what the Church is; of what Christian unity and fellowship is. The Apostle Paul writes that it is right for him to feel great affection and love for the Philippian believers, since he has them all in his heart, for in his imprisonment and all his other circumstances, they are with him servants of Christ Jesus and partakers of the grace of God. He writes about being of one mind with the bond of love in the unity of the Spirit. He writes of living for their progress in joy in the Gospel, and of having joy in hearing of their conduct in Christ, whether he comes to see them or only hears of them in his absence. Again, he writes that, even if he is poured out like a drink offering on the service of their faith, he is rejoices with all of them, and they too should share his joy.

There is One Church: the Universal (that’s what the word ‘Catholic’ means) Church. The Church is all believers, all who are in Jesus Christ. As it says, over and over again, our unity is Jesus Christ. Our bond of love is the Spirit. We are all children of one Father, and therefore brothers and sisters. We are all members of the body of Christ, and therefore joined to one another. We are members of one another, because we all partake of the one loaf that is Christ. Continue reading “The Universal Church: Christ’s People Never Abandoned”

The Reward of Christ and the Glory in His Saints

“He is coming, and His reward is with Him and His recompense accompanies Him.”

Whenever I read or remember these words I see two pictures in my mind, that mean the same thing: I see Jesus, coming, with all His holy ones, redeemed by His blood, around Him, the reward of His suffering, the recompense of His blood. I see Jesus, coming, to give Himself in fullness of glory to all His own. For, we read also, “We do not yet know what we shall be, but we know that we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is,” and, “Righteous Father, I want those You have given Me to be with Me, where I am, so that they may see My glory, the glory which You have given Me because You loved Me before the world was.” In Revelations, we read that they sing, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain… for You purchased for God a people with Your blood, out of every nation, language, and tribe, and they shall be a kingdom and priests to our God.”

I believe there is only One who will be praised, honored, and rewarded for His deeds: Jesus Christ. Continue reading “The Reward of Christ and the Glory in His Saints”

The Crucifixion and the Meaning of Compromise

“Let us go, therefore, to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach.”

“Woe to those who go down to Egypt, who trust in horses, who rely on chariots because there are many of them, and on horses because of their strength. YHWH also is wise and can bring disaster; He will not retract His word and will destroy them. Now, their horses are flesh and not spirit. They will stumble and there will be no one to help. They will fall, and there will be no one to raise them up.”

“The wisdom of the wise I will confound.”

“I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I came in weakness and trembling. My words and message were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power… We do teach a wisdom, but it is not the wisdom of this age or the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away, but the secret wisdom of God… None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory.”

“I rejoice… in insults.”

I am clueless, as to why the sentiment these verses express is so much missing in American so-called Christianity. As Christians, we follow the crucified Lord of Glory. We are identified with Him – is His name not ours? The world crucified Him; it is ours to rejoice when it excludes us! “It is enough that the servant should be like His Master, and the disciple like His teacher. If they have called the Master of the House Beelzebul, how much more the members of His household!” I always thought that verse must have a tone of encouragement and joy in it! It is, plain out flat, an honor to be treated like your King. Continue reading “The Crucifixion and the Meaning of Compromise”

Asking God “Why?” and Declaring His Goodness

Some people think that one should never ask God “Why?” about anything. Others seem to be very interested in asking God “Why?” about all kinds of things.

Asking God “Why?” is not necessarily doubting His goodness or His love. It depends on why you are asking “Why?” and on what you are asking. Sometimes, asking God “Why?” is actually declaring that you believe that God has a good reason for what He is doing: that He is in control, that He is wise, that He is loving. Sometimes, you may ask God, “Why do you allow me to sin?” – because you hate your sin and want to be delivered from it, you know this desire comes from God, and you know He has a reason – which you would like to know. When you ask God this, or why He allows others to defile the reputation of His Name, either by their blasphemous words or by their blasphemous actions, you are not doubting that God is good, that He is holy, that He is in control, or that He has a reason for all that He does – and all that He does not do. Continue reading “Asking God “Why?” and Declaring His Goodness”

One Body, Many Members or Together and Alone

This article is probably not what you might expect from the title.

There is a very real sense in which all Christians understand all other Christians. Most truly and most importantly, we live the same life, which is Christ. We were baptized with one baptism into one body. We are indwelt by one Holy Spirit, children of one Father, God, with one Lord, Jesus Christ, and one faith. We, who are many, are one body, because we partake of one loaf, which is the Lord Jesus, and one cup, which is His blood. This is truth, and it evidences itself.

Each of us is alone before God. We stand naked before Him, not merely as a member of a group but as one person, and some day we will realize our nakedness before Him: hopefully, we realize it more and more as our lives go on. We are in His presence as we can never be in the presence of any other.

Both these truths are evident in the Christian life. You will read the writings of some other Christian, and often enough you may think to yourself, “Oh! I know I don’t understand all he meant. I also know that I understood more of what he meant than even he could put into words!” Continue reading “One Body, Many Members or Together and Alone”

The Gift of God: The Worthiness of Christ to Eat His Flesh and Drink His Blood

“The Lord Jesus, on the night He was betrayed, took bread, and when He had blessed it, broke it, saying, ‘This is My body.’ In the same manner, after supper, He took the cup and said, ‘This is My blood of the new covenant; do this as often as you drink it.’ For whenever you eat this bread or drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. For this reason, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup in an unworthy manner shall be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. But whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup should examine himself, and in so doing he is to partake of the body and blood of the Lord… If we judged ourselves, we would not be judged by the Lord, for when we are judged by the Lord we are disciplined by Him, so that we will not be condemned along with the world.”

This passage is a beautiful promise, very much like other passages, such as, “Whatever you ask in My Name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son,” and, “Until now, you have not asked for anything in My Name. Ask, and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.” When we partake of the bread that is His body and the wine that is His blood, we are pledging ourselves to Him: we are acting our desire and request to be made one with Him and in Him, as He prayed for us in John chapter 17. We are proclaiming the death of the Lord – that Christ died, and that we live by His death, and that all our hope is in the return in glory of this same Living Lord, of which we have no doubt. So, when it says, “When we are judged by the Lord we are disciplined by Him, so that we will not be condemned along with the world,” it is saying that when we seek this union with His Son, when we accept the union Jesus prayed for us, God will fulfill His promise, He will unite us with Christ, He will fulfill the desire of our hearts. Continue reading “The Gift of God: The Worthiness of Christ to Eat His Flesh and Drink His Blood”

Grace and Truth: Perfection and Joy in Jesus and His Finished Work

“Be perfect, therefore, as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

“What shall I render to YHWH for all His benefits to me? I shall take up the cup of salvation and go into the House of YHWH.”

“The blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin.”

“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.”

“God made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

“If we confess our sin, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

“Rejoice in the Lord. I will say it again, rejoice.”

“Your righteousness must exceed that of the scribes and the pharisees.”

“I press forward to the prize of the upward calling of God in Christ Jesus.”

“All things are lawful, but not all things are edifying.”

“For them I sanctify Myself, that they too may be sanctified in Truth.”

As Christians, we are not content with anything less than spotless holiness. What we want is to be like Jesus Christ, our Master and Redeemer. The Holy Spirit lives in us, and we hate sin – we hate sin to the death, literally. We would crucify the flesh and its passions. Indeed, we want to be perfect for our God: anything less than absolute, pure perfection is abominable to us, as it is to Him. It is for this reason that I hate the term ‘Christian morals.’ There is no such thing. Christianity is not about morality. Even the strictest code of morality is minimalistic from our perspective; we do not want to be moral, but holy. We are not content with rules we can pass; it is our desire to be spotless, perfect and righteous throughout our entire being, in our thoughts, in our attitudes, in our words, in our actions, in all things. The absolute holiness of Jesus Christ Himself is our standard and our desire. Continue reading “Grace and Truth: Perfection and Joy in Jesus and His Finished Work”

All Things Are Yours: Knowing and Praising God in Pleasure and Pain

One of the beautiful truths about the Christian life, is that God always gives us His absolute best – which, of course, points us to His Son, because it is for us in His Son that He gives us His absolute best, which is Jesus Christ Himself, in Jesus the Son. All things He makes, in our lives, to be very good. Not a single hair of our heads will perish. That is, nothing will be lost. Nothing will turn out to the worse. Nothing will be less than the absolute best and perfect. The statement that not a hair of our heads will perish was made in the context of being persecuted, hated, and killed, and it holds for all of life. “What, then, shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son for us, but freely gave Him over for us all, how will He not, with Him, graciously give us all things?” writes St. Paul, and in another place, “For all things are yours, whether Paul, or Cephas, or Apollos, or the world, or the present, or the future, or life or death – all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” Everything was made for us. Pleasure is made for us. Suffering is made for us. Life is for us. Death is for us. Continue reading “All Things Are Yours: Knowing and Praising God in Pleasure and Pain”

Love’s Wounds in Beauty Glorified: The Christian’s Comfort in the Scars of Christ

“And in the midst of the throne, there stood a Lamb, standing as if slain.”

“Put your fingers here in my hands and your hand in my side.”

“Since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, let us hold firm our confession of faith. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weakness, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we ourselves, yet without sin.”

“It was fitting for the Messiah to suffer these things, and so to enter His glory.”

“He who descended to the depths is He who ascended to the heights, in order that He might fill all in all.”

Enthroned in heaven, His humanity glorified with the glory of God, Jesus bears the scars of His crucifixion. God is everywhere, and all of God is everywhere. “All things were made through Him, and apart from Him was made nothing that was made.” Again, it is spoken of the Word, “Who upholds all things by the word of His power.” Again, it is written, “In Him all things hold together.” In a beautiful psalm, we read, “If I make my bed in Sheol, You are there. Behold, if I take the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there Your hand will uphold me.” Continue reading “Love’s Wounds in Beauty Glorified: The Christian’s Comfort in the Scars of Christ”

What’s Amazing is What God Does: The Place Where Courage Is Impossible

“If we live, we live to the Lord and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or we die, we belong to the Lord, for to this end Christ both died and lives again, that He might be the Lord both of the dead and of the living.”

“You will be betrayed even by friends and family, and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all men because of Me, and not a hair of your heads will perish.”

I’m writing this right now because I read a line about how someone was an amazing hero of the faith one too many times. People talk so much about how amazing some martyr was; how heroic some missionary was. They talk about being inspired by the courage of the “heroes of the faith,” and other such things. They talk about how, unlike how the world thinks, meekness isn’t cowardice, but strength under control, a form of courage. I remember once, years ago, when I said that I enjoyed reading about the lives of other Christians and God’s work through them to a lady who had been telling me about someone who was preaching the Gospels to thousands at once in one of the many countries where this is often rewarded with persecution, torture, and death. She said to me, “Yes, it’s amazing what these people are willing to do.” I almost stepped backwards. “No, actually,” I said. “What’s amazing is what God can do.” Continue reading “What’s Amazing is What God Does: The Place Where Courage Is Impossible”