Tag Archive for Holy Spirit

Breaking Catholic: Part 8–Good Works

So, how good IS “good enough?”

 

Well, the answer is “never,” since. . .

All have sinned and are not good enough to share God’s divine greatness.  They are made right with God by his grace. This is a free gift. They are made right with God by being made free from sin through Jesus Christ. (Romans 3:23-24 ERV)

 

NONE of us can earn sainthood.  The only way we could achieve righteousness, or having a good standing before God, would be by obeying every letter of the law.

 

Here’s the problem with that concept:

 

 Suppose you keep the whole law but trip over just one part of it. Then you are guilty of breaking all of it. (James 2:10 NiRV)

 

Think about it.  Would you drink out of a glass that was chipped on the edge?  No, you’d cut your lip.  It’s just a tiny little chip, but it renders the glass unworthy to be used, so you throw it away.

 

So it is with your soul.  One tiny little chip in your lawkeeping, and all of your good works are like filthy rags.  Break the law one time, and you are officially “not good enough.”

 

For this reason, the Catholic church invented the sacrament (another word for gift or sign) of penance.  When I was growing up, we called it “confession.”  Today, it is known by the more accurate and helpful term of “reconciliation.”

 

The way it works is that you confess your sins to a priest, who then grants you absolution, a breaking down of the barriers of sin, which is supposed to make it possible for you to receive Christ’s forgiveness.

 

As with everything else, the Catholic Church has rules about this sacrament.  Here are a few from the Code of Canon Law, Book IV, Part I, Title IV, Chapter III:

 

Can. 987 In order that the faithful may receive the saving remedy of the sacrament of penance, they must be so disposed that, repudiating the sins they have committed and having the purpose of amending their lives, they turn back to God.

Can. 988 §1 The faithful are bound to confess, in kind and in number, all grave sins committed after baptism, of which after careful examination of conscience they are aware, which have not yet been directly pardoned by the keys of the Church, and which have not been confessed in an individual confession.

 

“Directly pardoned by the keys of the Church” signifies the Catholic church’s official stance that forgiveness can only be achieved if they say so.  They base this authority on Matthew 16:19, where Jesus tells Peter that he is the rock upon which He will build His church (i.e. the first Pope) and says to him:

 

I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. (NRSV)

Only here’s the problem.  Jesus repeats those words just two chapters later, addressing them to ALL his disciples:

 

Yes! I tell you people that whatever you prohibit on earth will be prohibited in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven. To repeat, I tell you that if two of you here on earth agree about anything people ask, it will be for them from my Father in heaven.  For wherever two or three are assembled in my name, I am there with them.” (Matthew 18:18-20 CJB)

In other words, the authority of “binding and loosing” is from Jesus for all believers, not from the Magisterium and for the Magisterium.

 

So if the Catholic leadership has assumed God’s role of deciding who is forgiven and when, then what part is left for God to play?  Here is St. Augustine’s take on the situation:

 

A man who confesses his sins acts already with God.  God accuses you of your sins; if you accuse yourself, then you join yourself with God. . .When you begin to detest that which you have done, it is then that your good works commence, because you accuse these bad deeds. . . You do the truth and you come to the light.  (Commentary on the Gospel of John, 12.13)

 

Back up the truck, Augie.  God ACCUSES?  Isn’t that somebody else’s job?

 

The huge dragon was thrown out—that ancient serpent, named the Devil, or Satan, that deceived the whole world. He was thrown down to earth, and all his angels with him.  Then I heard a loud voice in heaven saying, “Now God’s salvation has come! Now God has shown his power as King! Now his Messiah has shown his authority! For the one who stood before our God and accused believers day and night has been thrown out of heaven.  They won the victory over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the truth which they proclaimed; and they were willing to give up their lives and die. (Revelation 12:9-11 GNT)

Indeed, the name “Satan” literally means “accuser” in Hebrew.  On the other hand:

 

 If, however, any believer does sin, we have a high-powered defense lawyer—Jesus the Anointed, the righteous—arguing on our behalf before the Father. (1 John 2:1b VOICE)

So if we’re going to use courtroom analogies, then God the Father is the Judge, God the Son is our lawyer, and God the Holy Spirit is the witness for the defense.  BY NO MEANS is God the prosecutor.

 

Confession is where we enter a plea of guilty, but remember what Father Carlos said, “God has already forgiven you.”  In other words, the Judge had already found you Not Guilty before you ever entered the courtroom.

 

There is only one reason that you would receive mercy instead of justice for your sin.

 

It is because Jesus had already adopted the guilty plea on your behalf, and along with it, the death sentence.

 

And because you made the conscious decision to hire Him as your defense attorney.  After all:

 

Those who belong to Christ Jesus are no longer under God’s sentence.  I am now controlled by the law of the Holy Spirit. That law gives me life because of what Christ Jesus has done. It has set me free from the law of sin that brings death. (Romans 8: 1-2 NiRV)

You don’t come to the light by “doing” the truth.  You don’t reach the Father by your good works.  You can’t earn a spot on the team.  The work has already been done— by Jesus on the cross.

 

If you don’t believe that, then you’re basically saying that Jesus and all that He has done isn’t good enough.

 

So why does the Catholic church not teach this?

 

Because if Catholics knew that they didn’t actually have to be “good enough” to make the cut, that their guilt over their sins is unwarranted because Christ has already paid the penalty for their sinful nature, and that their citizenship in the Kingdom of Heaven begins RIGHT NOW if they believe that Jesus is who He said He was and did what the Bible says He did. . .

 

Well,  then the Church would lose control over their lives.

 

After all, if a person is bowing down directly to the King of Kings, then he or she has no use for an earthly kingdom.

 

And that is exactly what the Catholic Church is.  The Pope is the King, the Vatican is his court, and the archbishops, bishops and priests are the royalty.

 

(To find out what I mean by “royalty,” come back for the conclusion: Part 9–Spirit and Truth)

 

Breaking Catholic: Part 3–Holy Spirit

 

 

You may have heard it said of the Bible “The Word is alive,” or some variation thereof.  Scripture says of itself:

 

For the Word that God speaks is alive and full of power—making it active, operative, energizing and effective; it is sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating to the dividing line of the breath of life (soul) and [the immortal] spirit, and of joints and marrow [that is, of the deepest parts of our nature] exposing and sifting and analyzing and judging the very thoughts and purposes of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12 Amplified)
 

However, this is only possible through the illumination of the Holy Spirit, the third person of God.  Scripture is nonsense and babbling to those who attempt to read it without the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

 

Now if you are a non-Christian reading this, let me bring you up to speed on the concept of the Trinity.  God exists as one God in three persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  They are One God, not Three, which is a very difficult mystery to wrap your brain around.  Here are a few illustrations that have helped me.

 

An apple has three parts: the peel, the flesh and the core.  The three parts have different purposes, but they are all still one apple, not three apples. (This illustration is from a book called 3 in 1 (A Picture of God) by Joanne and Benjamin Marxhausen. I found it for my daughter at a rummage sale—at a Catholic household, oddly enough.)

 

Another illustration about the Trinity is H2O.  If you drop an ice cube onto a very hot skillet, it will quickly melt and then evaporate. But for a few seconds, you will have water in all three states: ice, water and steam.  All three are water, and all three exist in the same place at the same time, but each one has unique characteristics and purposes.

 

Finally, the unique purposes of the Trinity have been explained to me by the following illustration.  A father and son are reading quietly in their living room (it could happen!).  They are so into their books, and they have been reading for so long, that it’s starting to get dark.  Dad is comfortable, and he is also Dad, so he says to his son, “Go turn on the lamp.”  The son gets up and turns on the lamp, and they continue reading by the light it gives.

 

The father gives the command, the son carries it out and the power gives light.  In the same way, God the Father gave a command (Let there be light), the Son carried it out (And there was light) and the Holy Spirit brought light to the world.

 

This is how God has worked, and still works, in our world today.  The Father’s greatest work since the creation was to redeem the world and humanity with it.  He gave the order for atoning work to be done to bring us back to Him.  This order was carried out by the Son, who came to the world in the person of Jesus Christ.  And on the night He was betrayed, Jesus explained how the work would be completed in us:

 

And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Comforter (Counselor, Helper, Intercessor, Advocate, Strengthener and Standby) that He may remain with you forever, the Spirit of Truth, Whom the world cannot receive (welcome, take to its heart), because it does not see Him, nor know and recognize Him.  But you know and recognize Him, for He lives with you [constantly] and will be in you. (John 14: 16-17 Amplified) 

 

After Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, He made good on His promise:

 

And when the day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all assembled together in one place, when suddenly there came a sound from heaven like the rushing of a violent tempest blast, and it filled the whole house in which they were sitting.  And there appeared to them tongues resembling fire, which were separated and distributed and that settled on each one of them.  And they were all filled—diffused throughout their souls—with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other (different, foreign) languages, as the Spirit kept giving them clear and loud expression (in each tongue in appropriate words).  Acts 2:1-4 Amplified)

 

Now what does all this have to do with Catholicism?

 

Well, the Catholic church obviously does acknowledge the existence of the Holy Spirit.  Indeed, they acknowledge Him every time they make the Sign of the Cross, in which they silently (or aloud) say in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  (Any Catholics reading this, you just said “Amen” didn’t you?  Admit it!)

 

But as for me, growing up, I didn’t really know anything about the Holy Spirit.  He was whose name I said when I touched my shoulders whilst crossing myself.  That was it.

 

(So how does one solve this problem?  Come back for Part 4–First Hand)

 

Breaking Catholic–Part 2:The Word

 

 

Catholics do, of course, know about Jesus.  They know who He is, how He died, and that He rose again, which are key elements in the Gospel.  But do they know Him?

 

I can only speak for myself here, so I will do that.  I did not know Jesus when I was a Catholic, either as a child, or later as an adult.

 

God the Father is revealed through the Son, the Son is revealed through the Word, and the Word is revealed through the Holy Spirit.

 

The Catholic church does indeed reveal the Father through the Son.  Jesus as the Son of God is taught.  There is no doubt in my mind that any Catholic with a brainwave knows who Jesus is.  Therefore, they know of the Father.

 

But do they know the Father?  The Father is revealed through the Son, who is revealed through the Word.  The only way you can know what is in the Word is to be in the Word yourself.

 

God’s work from His creation to our redemption is recorded in the Bible, which was written by men under the inspiration (literally, “God-breath”) and guidance of the Holy Spirit.  As Paul said:

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17 NIV)

 

So the Bible is God’s book about God’s plan to redeem God’s creation written under God’s inspiration by God’s people of old for God’s people throughout the ages, even unto this present age.  Understanding this, is it any wonder that the Bible cannot be understood without God’s guidance?

 

In my adult Catholic life, I decided that I was going to read the Bible cover to cover, as though it were a novel.  I had received a very nice bound Bible from my aunt at my confirmation nearly 15 years before, which had never been out of the box.

 

So one day I decided that I was going to read it front to back to see what was in it.  It was a King James Version (I’ll pause here to wait for the Baptists to stop laughing at the concept of a Catholic trying to get through Leviticus in the KJV—if you’ve tried that, you know where I’m coming from).

 

No matter what the translation, it’s a good bet that if you’ve ever tried to read the Bible like that, you probably made it about 1/3 of the way through.  If you did manage to get through the Pentatuech (the first five books), then you probably got bogged down somewhere in Chronicles and gave up.

 

Obviously, the Bible wasn’t meant to be read this way.  Even in a modern-day, prose-like paraphrase such as Eugene Peterson’s The Message, you’re still going to struggle with the “thick parts” near the beginning.  Unless you’re an architect, you’re probably not going to find much life application in the pages describing all the dimensions and details of the tabernacle or the temple.

 

(For an easier method, come back for Part 3: Holy Spirit)

 

Doubt: Part 11–The Death of Doubt

 

Finally, THIS is the happy ending.

 

God called my bluff, and decided it was time for me to make the move to close the gap between us.  I announced my impending divorce to the church choir and tendered my resignation from the music ministry.

 

That night, as the church emptied, I hit my knees in the back of the church and finally acknowledged my need, my complete and utter dependence on the Daddy who was always there, even when I tried to run away to hide from Him.  He was with me even through the years when I publicly called his children weak-minded fools, when I lashed back at Him in anger for everything I assumed was His fault.

 

He waited, and watched.  When I finally turned around to face Him, he was right there where he had been all along.

 

Doubt died that day, once and for all.

 

There are still days when I doubt myself, but I never doubt my Abba, my Lord and my God.  What I have found is that every time I acknowledge my weakness and my dependence, God asserts His might and power by reminding me what He told Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9a NIV).

 

I have still never seen God, just as I have never seen the wind.  However, just as I have seen the effects of the wind, I have seen the effects of God.  I don’t have to try to wrap my brain around the intricacies of DNA or photosynthesis or the size of the universe to try to logically point to an Intelligent Designer.  I just have to look in the mirror and around at my home and my family.

 

I am married again, and the two of us really are of one mind and spirit.  All of my children respond to God, because they have a spiritual leader in their house that is just as much, if not more, concerned with their spiritual growth as their physical and intellectual growth.  The peace and love of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit reign in our house.  Now to be sure, there are times that are not peaceful, challenging, and even infuriating.  All families have these.

 

However, as a family, we are now in a place where the solid rock and firm foundation we come back to is our personal relationship with the God of the Universe, the salvation made possible by the sacrifice of His Son, and the guidance and comfort of the Holy Spirit.  I see the evidence of this every day.

 

And that is all I need to send doubt packing.

 

Doubt: Part 6–ABBA (Father)

Really?

That’s better.

 

If you intentionally focus on the things in your life that don’t move, the chaos will settle (in your mind at least) and eventually fade into the background along with your doubt.  However, this technique will only be as effective as your knowledge of what it is that doesn’t move.

 

If you are already at a place in your life where you have allowed doubt and skepticism to reign over all of your thinking, then you may have reached the point where you doubt truth itself or maybe even the existence of anything permanent.

 

This brings me back to the concept of spiritual maturity being separate from intellectual maturity.

 

It’s fairly easy to admit that you don’t know something factual and even easier to Google it and find out the answer.  However, growing spiritually is more difficult because it first requires that you admit you are a spiritual infant.  And pride has an issue with that notion.

 

Your level of doubt and skepticism is directly proportionate to your level of pride. The higher your pride level, the less likely you are to admit your vulnerabilities.

 

The reality is that your soul is still crying out like a baby.

 

You need your Daddy, but not the one who came home drunk and beat your mother while you watched, cowering in a corner.  Not the one who yelled and swore at you and told you you’d never amount to anything.  Not the one who was cold and distant and never did anything to make you feel loved or accepted.

 

You need the Daddy you should have had.  You need the one who always has the answers, always knows the right thing to do or say, the one who never fails.  The one you want to be just like when you grow up.  The one who accepts you as you are so that you don’t have to spend the rest of your life trying in vain to prove that he was wrong about you.

 

You need that Daddy.

 

You want that Daddy.

 

No matter how much you’ve tried to make a life for yourself apart from that, you will always have a hole in your soul that no amount of worldly success or knowledge can fill.

 

Only your Daddy can do that.  You were designed this way, to recognize that you can’t meet all of your own needs and to admit your dependence.

 

(Dependence on what? Come back for Part 7 to find out!)

 

Doubt: Part 5–Real/Not Real

“You love me. Real or not real?”
I tell him, “Real.”
Suzanne CollinsMockingjay

 

The key concept that must be grasped for a real relationship with God to be possible is to understand that your spiritual IQ is separate from your intellectual IQ.

 

No amount of life experience or number of college diplomas can get you any closer to God.  If anything, all that worldly knowledge gets you farther away from God, because the more stuff you’ve crammed into your own head, the more independent you feel.  You have moved WAY beyond your childhood belief that Mommy and Daddy are invincible.  You are making your own way, building your own life, and you don’t need anybody, not even God, to tell you what to do or how to live.

 

Except that you do.

 

Not all the time, but there are days and seasons where you reach the end of yourself and run out of answers, because your knowledge is incomplete.  When your spouse rejects you for another and you didn’t see it coming.  When you or a loved one get that diagnosis that only happens to “other people.”  When you lose your job.  When you get that phone call that no parent wants to get.  When the storms come leaving all your worldly possessions a pile of rubble.

 

The question is, what do you do then?

 

One of two things will happen.  Either you will become even more hardened and spiral downward from even the low place in which you have found yourself, or you will recognize that you are at rock bottom and look up.

 

Doubt happens.  Doubt is normal.

 

Doubt enters your mind the first time you encounter a fact that doesn’t coincide with your belief.  Doubt happens the first time you see your father cry.  It happens when you hear your parents fight.  It happens the first time you encounter someone who isn’t really all that concerned about your self-esteem.  It happens the first time you really watch the news.

 

Basically, there comes a day when the world doesn’t make as much sense as it did the day before.  And you start to wonder, “What else isn’t real?”

 

Now at this point, you have two choices.  You can make a list of what isn’t real or you can make a list of what is.

 

Most of us do a combination of the two, but I think our natural inclination is to lean toward the negative.  The problem is that going that way could be dangerous, because then our emotions kick in and overwhelm our logic.  Before long depression and apathy crash the party, and you just start not believing in anything.  This is frequently where God gets thrown out with the dishwater.

 

On the other hand, what would happen if you focused on what is real?  The positive things?  The things that don’t move?

 

This is the essence of being a Truthseeker, and the entire impetus behind my writing in the first place.

 

(What happens when you focus on the things that don’t move? Come back for Part 6–Abba (Father))

Us and Them: Part 5–Nineveh

God displays his heart for the people he created very explicitly in the book of Jonah, my personal favorite in the entire Bible.

 

Most people know about Jonah being swallowed by the whale/big fish, but that’s not really the point of the story.

 

Jonah was on that ship in the first place, because he was (futilely) trying to flee from God.  He was fleeing, because God had told him to go and preach in Nineveh, the Assyrian capital.  In that time, the Ninevites were the ultimate “them” to the Israelites.

 

So after his aquatic incident, God gives Jonah a second chance to preach to Nineveh.  He gives the shortest sermon in history, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned (Jonah 3:4 NIV).”

 

But then, a curious thing happens.  The Ninevites listen!  And REPENT!

 

So Jonah goes up to a high place where he will have a most excellent view of God destroying “them” down in Nineveh.  Except it doesn’t happen, because God has heard their prayers and is giving “them” a second chance.  Jonah, being one of “us” (that is, Israel), has issues with this.  But listen to God’s response:

 

“. . .  Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well.  Should I not be concerned about that great city?”  (Jonah 4:11 NIV)

 

Jonah is the only book in the Bible to end with a question.  So what’s the answer?

 

Did you notice the theme in the book of Jonah?  Both Jonah AND the Ninevites get second chances.  God does not show favoritism.  Because he made all of us, to Him, there is only “us.”

 

But here’s the catch.  We have to affirm that Truth.  God is willing to include anyone as “us,” but WE have to accept the invitation.

 

We become part of “us” by laying down our pride, which is the mother of all sin, and the creator of “them.”  We become part of “us” by trusting God with our hearts, our fears, our anxieties, even our bodies.  By submitting our will to His, he responds by meeting all of our needs.

 

Now at this point, we still have a multitude of bad habits to break (Lord knows I do), but we have an example to follow in Jesus.  His perfect love drives out fear, the constant presence of His holy spirit keeps us safe from harm (if we let Him), and if we follow Him faithfully, the hope for our future will play out in front of our eyes, day by day.

 

The key word there was “faithfully.”  We do have a part to play in this transaction.  If we allow ourselves to be polluted by the world (James 1:27), and look to the things and people of this world to meet the needs that only God can, then we will become the “them” that we had despised.

 

The Bible calls “them” sinners.  Here’s the clincher—if you look at other people and see a “them,” you are one of “them.”

 

However, if you look at other people, no matter how different they are from you, and still see an “us,” or at least a potential “us,” then that is a sign that the Holy Spirit is within you, transforming you into the likeness of the Jesus, who being one with the Father, created us to be “us.”

 

Empty Glass: Part 6–Water of Life

 

For the past five posts, I’ve beaten this glass/pitcher/pouring metaphor to death (not to mention the trees and busted faces).  So what am I REALLY talking about here?

 

The world is like a desert, and life makes you thirsty.  We all need refreshment on a regular basis. 

 

What we really need, instead of a pitcher, is something more like a faucet, or perhaps a spring.  Something that can give us water whenever our glass runs empty so that we don’t have to wander in the desert, drinking out of whatever pitcher we find.

 

Fortunately, we do have one of those available to us.  As Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well:

 Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst.  Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life. (John 4:13-14 NIV) 

 

What is this water of life?  Later, when Jesus was alone with His disciples at the Last Supper, He explained in more detail:

 

If you love me, you will obey what I command.  And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another counselor to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth.  The world cannot accept Him, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him.  But you know Him, for he lives with you and is in you.  (John 14:15-17 NIV)

 

I have written all of this to tell you that, by the grace of God, I have found this spring of living water, the Holy Spirit that Jesus promised to be with us, and in us, until Jesus returns.

 

But the only way that this was possible was for me to take off my lid.  It wasn’t easy.  I have found that the longer the lid stays on, the harder it is to pry off.

 

I was only seven years old when I put the lid on my empty glass.  When I had questioned God’s omnipotence in Sunday school, I was condemned for doubting.

 

So the lid went on.  And on it stayed, through high school, college, and into marriage and fatherhood. 

 

In my mid-20’s, I met some people with pitchers full of living water, and I had a taste, but quickly slapped the lid back on, because by then, it was my habit. 

 

It wasn’t until the age of 33 that I finally had to admit my glass was empty.  My arrogance had destroyed my marriage and shattered my family. 

 

Alone in a church, on my knees, I finally threw my lid away once and for all, and asked God for His living water, the Holy Spirit.  And my life has never been the same. 

 

God has given me a brand new mission.  It is the same one he gives everyone who believes that Jesus was His Son, that he died on the cross as payment for our sins of pride and arrogance and was raised to life again by the power of the very same Holy Spirit that He sends to be a wellspring of life inside of every believer.

 

We are called to educate the ignorant, love the arrogant, and tolerate the stupid (leaving room for God’s wrath, of course).  We have been given the Holy Spirit, the water of life, not to keep Him to ourselves, but to pour out for the whole world.  It is not by accident that Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward.” (Mark 9:41 NIV)

 

 

If you’ve stayed with me this far, your lid is definitely off.  Not only that, but you’ve got yourself a brand new pitcher.  Why not try giving it a pour?

 

 

But watch out for those lids!

           

Deliverance

 

 

No, not THAT kind of Deliverance!
 

 

 

(Yeah, that’s more like it.)

 

Have you ever found yourself in a situation that seemed hopeless?  Did you pray to God for deliverance?  I have found myself in that place on numerous occasions.

 

God always answers prayers for deliverance, but sometimes it’s not the answer we were expecting.  We have a tendency to treat God like an ATM—swipe our prayer card, and out come the blessings.

 

But sometimes the answer is “no.”  And sometimes it’s “not yet.”  And sometimes, it’s “Yes, but not the way you’re thinking.”

 

God wants us to live life to the full; however, He is always more interested in our holiness than our happiness.  We would love for our deliverance from trials and tribulations to be as quick and painless as possible.

 

But more often than not, God’s plan is to deliver us through the trial, rather than from it.  And painless isn’t always part of the plan.  In fact, sometimes the pain is the plan.

 

The trials we undergo may seem like the end of the world while they’re happening, and yet, we always come out the other side, maybe not totally unscathed, but still standing nonetheless.  We may have some scar tissue, but we also frequently have a sense of liberation.  We got THROUGH this!  And it didn’t kill us!

 

Here’s the thing about deliverance though.  The process of being delivered through a trial is supposed to be a lesson about reliance on God’s strength when our own is failing.

 

After all, why did we cry out to Him in the first place?  Because we knew that we were at the end of ourselves and it was only His strength that could deliver us.

 

So naturally, what do we do first when the next trial comes along?  That’s right, we try to fix our own problems and rely on our own strength.  Again.  Although we know we should never take God’s deliverance for granted, we do it anyway, because it is in our nature to forget things like that.

 

Fortunately God, who knows us better than we know ourselves, anticipates this, and is always there to pick up the pieces AGAIN (and again, and again).  What a great thing it is to know that we can always fall back on His patience and mercy!

 

Still, I think we ought to make more of an intentional effort to remember why God delivers us in the first place—because He is with us, and He is for us.  If He was in our corner the last time we had a problem, and we know that He doesn’t change, then it makes sense that He will go to bat for us again the next time we have a problem. 

  

So instead of having a high-speed come-apart the next time life beats us down or backs us up against the wall, we should approach our trial with confidence, knowing that we will be delivered, and that we won’t have to rely on our own strength to get it done.

 

Intolerance: Part 4–Our God is a Jealous God

To appreciate fully Jesus’ righteous intolerance of sin, we must remember that He is one with God the Father, who describes Himself repeatedly as a “jealous God” (Exodus 20:5, 34:14; Deuteronomy 4:24, 5:9, 6:15; 32:16, 21; Joshua 24:19, Nahum 1:2, Zechariah 1:14).   

 

Unfortunately, many have taken offense to the word “jealous,” due to a misapprehension of its true meaning.

 

To be jealous is simply to advance one’s rights to the exclusion of the rights of others, or to put it another way, to be intolerant of any rivalry or unfaithfulness.

 

For example, a husband has exclusive rights to his wife.  If another man tries to encroach upon the husband’s marital rights, then the husband is jealous, not of his wife, but for his marriage. 

 

In the same way, but to an infinitely greater degree, God is jealous for His church. For God to be jealous signifies the advancement of His glory over anything that we would substitute for it.  This would include not only literal idols and false gods, but also the figurative idolatry shown by our elevating anything that is not God above God. 

 

He has made us, and we are His.  As such, it is His everlasting right to have our unending devotion, worship and praise.  Nothing else, and no one else, has a right to these. 

 

As Christians, we acknowledge God as God, and accordingly, we recognize Jesus as Lord.  Because of our submission to Jesus as the Lord of our lives, we also share in His righteous intolerance of sin. 

 

This presents a problem, though, since those who accuse the Church of being intolerant are those who have NOT recognized God as God or Jesus as Lord. 

 

If they recognize neither God’s authority nor Jesus’ divinity, then consequently, they will not recognize the church’s intolerance as being righteous.  A person whose gods are “logic and reason” will not concede that Jesus was anything but a great teacher at best. 

 

Fortunately, C. S. Lewis has already cleared this matter up for us:

 

A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher.  He would either be a lunatic—on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell.  You must make your choice.  Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse.  You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God.  But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher.  He has not left that open to us.  He did not intend to.  (Lewis, C. S. Mere Christianity. New York: MacMillan Publishing Co., Inc., 1952.)

 

As Lewis makes plain, true logic and reason will lead only to one conclusion for a Christian.  That is the same conclusion that their hearts have already led them to—Jesus’ lordship.

 

(OK, so now what?  Come back for the conclusion: Part 5–The Narrow Path)