Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Suffering Servant

Last week at the Bible study we talked about suffering on earth in the form of destruction on a global scale or within our daily lives.  We talked about how the cause of such suffering is our sins of forsaking God and turning away from him to dig our own cisterns and find glory in things other than God.  To move in a progressive direction of building upon last week, we switched our focus to the Suffering servant, also known as Jesus Christ.  Within this topic, two sub-topics of His sufferings and then also what his sufferings means for us were discussed.  

To open the message, I'm praying for anyone who might read this and for those physically at the Bible study:  
Father, thank you for allowing us to gather to have the freedom to learn about you and seek you out.  I thank you for the willingness of those here to come and hear of your Word and your Son, Jesus Christ.  I pray that you would give us open eyes to see the gospel in its entirety and truth, gradually transforming our minds and sanctifying our souls to the likeness of Christ.  Father, prepare the hearts of those about to hear or read this to receive your Word and prepare mine to deliver it.  Let us see the truth of Jesus' sufferings, but also the truth of what his sufferings provides for us each and every day.  I love you and praise you forever, in Jesus' name I pray, Amen.
We will be pulling from the scripture of Isaiah chapter 53 to look at the sufferings of Jesus.  If you have your Bible, go ahead and read the entire chapter to get a feel of the context of what is going on and what we're going to be talking about.  The focal point that comes to mind for me when reading through this scripture is verse 3, which says:
"A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief."
ACQUAINTED?!?!  That's it?!?! The man that was crushed, pierced, chastened, scourged, and finally murdered, and all he gets is that he was acquainted with grief?! Why would this word usage be chosen here?  My thought to this was this; The immense suffering and grief that consumed Jesus' life did not define him.  He did not allow the physical bondage of suffering to depress his passion or waver his faith in God the Father that his will is sovereign and his will shall be done.  What defined Jesus Christ was his intentional mission to save sinners from eternal separation from God (death) by way of the ultimate sacrifice; by way of death on a cross.  His secondary reason for coming was to live by example and show us how to LIVE for God.  Not talk about living for God, not "murmuring about our imperfections" as John Piper so eloquently puts it, not just going to church and going home.  Jesus Christ came to this world in order that we may SEE how to LIVE a full life devoted to supremely glorifying the grace of God in a manner that is to our human capacity's fullness.  That is what defined Jesus Christ.

Who knew more suffering than Christ? No, who knew even knew a miniscule amount of the suffering of Christ?  To get a strong sense of imagery on this topic, I would really encourage you to watch the parts of the Passion of the Christ where Jesus is whipped with the sticks and then the cat of nine tails, and also watch the crucifixion.  Watch it now, before you continue reading so that the severity of this message can sincerely  sink in and weigh heavy on your heart.  After watching that, let's continue with exploring the true sense of Jesus' sufferings.  I want to make something as clear as possible here; Jesus' sufferings in the physical manner were among the least painful of his sufferings.  What you just watched him endure in the Passion of the Christ in the physical body was NOTHING compared to the sufferings beyond the physical realm! NOTHING!!! And so we ask, what other suffering could he possibly have went through?!  Jesus suffered on three levels as a man in the flesh; Physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  The physical sorrows have been made painfully clear already; it consists of Jesus' beatings, floggings,  being disfigured, whipped, flesh ripped from his skin, and finally murdered.  Next is the sorrow of the emotional suffering of Christ; this is the realm of the constant rejection by the general population, the mockery, temptation, being hated by the world, and completely misunderstood.  Before I expand on the third type of sorrow, remember that the insane physical and emotional suffering are like NOTHING of Jesus' spiritual suffering.  No contest, not in the same ball park, nowhere near, not at all.  The spiritual suffering of Jesus Christ lies in the fact that he chose to leave the right hand of God on the throne in his perfect kingdom of heaven to come to this world in the flesh and suffer with us, for us, in the place of us to atone for our sins.  He was separated from God.... The apostle Paul tells us in Revelation about the Book of the Life of the Lamb that was Slain; this is a book that existed before creation that has written in it the life of Jesus Christ and all it entails.  Jesus Christ was with God since before creation reigning in the perfection of Heaven and chose to be separated from Heaven and the Father knowing that his life in the flesh would be full of suffering and pain.  These are the deepest wounds that Jesus Christ suffered in his time in the flesh.  Isaiah 53 verse 5 says ".... by his wounds we are healed."  By his scourging we are healed.  By his wounds and by his scourging we are healed.  This introduces us to the second part of the message, being what Jesus Christ's sufferings means for us.  

What does Jesus' sufferings mean for sinners like you and me?  His sufferings give us healing; in the most plain sense, he gives us healing.  So the next question that arises is how and by what are we healed?  As sinners, who by the way need healing whether you choose to agree or not is erroneous, we are healed in three ways; We are healed in our hearts, in our minds, and in our souls.  
1) We are healed in our hearts by God's love and grace
  • My thought process, according to the scripture and with God's help through prayer, serves me that God's love is shown in two ways:
  1. Jesus Christ left his Holy throne on high seated at the right hand of God in perfection to suffer, die, and be crushed for OUR iniquities.
  2. His love opens our eyes to the world for what it truly is by bringing us to God.
"Now we understand what it is to be loved, and it is not to be made much of, but to be rescued from the desire to be made much of." -John Piper
God's love is God bringing us to God; in case you didn't notice, everything is taken care of by God; all he requires from you is that you come along for the ride.
  • Now that we've established in the most basic sense, what God's love is, let's establish the most basic sense of God's grace.  His grace is simply upon the fact that he chose to reveal himself to us.  He doesn't owe us anything, he didn't have to provide us with a Bible to live by, or a human sacrifice of his own Son to atone for our sins, or anything.  God didn't have to do ANYTHING!  It is simply by his grace that he chose to reveal himself to us and open our eyes.  
The idea of grace is put plainly in this illustration:  Imagine you took a loan out from a bank for a million dollars, and are, in return, a million dollars in debt.  You lose your job, can't find a new one, have no money, no savings or any way at all to pay back the million dollars.  So you go to the bank and sit down with the manager to see if you can work something out.  Before you even begin to plead your case, the bank manager says, "Don't worry about it, your account is taken care of, you are no longer in debt."  Wow that's great, right?  Yes, but it goes even further, the bank manager continues to not only wipe away your debt, but he gives you a deposit of a million dollars into your account; so you go from being in debt a million dollars to owning a million dollars by the grace of the bank manager.
This idea relates in the grace of God in that we were in immeasurable debt to God since the fall of man due to our iniquities and sins; so God, in his ultimate grace, says it's ok, I'm going to send my son to pay for your debts by way of death on the cross and you don't have to do anything but accept this gift.  Then, he goes even further and says that not only will I forgive you and pay the debt, I'm going to deposit in you the Holy Spirit with which you will live by and be transformed slowly into the likeness of Christ.  That my friends, is grace.  

2) We are healed in our minds by God opening our eyes to see the world for what it is in the truest sense.
  • 2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone and the new has come."
A new creation, in Christ...  When I think of a new creation, I think of something that is completely different and brand new.  A person who becomes a new creation has new tendencies, new desires, a new aura among them, new passions, new ambitions, new purpose.... In effect, it serves to say that we should almost go as far as getting a new name in this world.  A new creation is 100% different.  Before we are made new and transformed, we had this pre-disposition to live in this world, for this world; after we become a new creation, In Christ, however, our eyes are opened and we learn that we are passing through this world for a time until the second coming of Jesus Christ when we will ascend to Heaven.  We learn to live not for this world, but waiting for the day of reckoning, so in the words of Sam Storms, we live with one foot raised ready at any moment to ascend into our final sanctification through Jesus.  

3) We are healed in our  souls by God's peace.

We find peace in knowing that Jesus Christ's work on the Cross made us able to enjoy God's grace, love, and mercy.  It is "by his wounds we are healed."  This shows us that ONLY by the wounds and scourging of Jesus Christ are we healed.  Not by Jesus coming in the flesh and speaking into our lives and living among us.  Note this part very carefully and soak it up friends:  JESUS CHRIST HAD TO DIE ON THE CROSS IN ORDER FOR OUR SINS TO BE PAID FOR.  The price of our sins wasn't just wiped away for no reason with no payment at all;  Jesus Christ became the price, he became our healing.  And so, once our hearts and minds are healed, we find peace in knowing that Jesus Christ is not only our Price, but also our Pearl.  He not only paid the price for our sins, but is the pearl of the beauty of God's grace that we hold dearest in our souls.  

Isaiah 53:10:
"Yet it was the Lord's will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord made  his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.

In case you didn't notice.... IT'S ALL ABOUT HIM!!!! IT'S ALL ABOUT JESUS CHRIST!!! So if it's all about Jesus, then we need to follow his example and live as he did.  This is most clearly portrayed in Philippians 2:5-8 in which Jesus shows us to count ourselves as nothing and serve others.  
"Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:  Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross!

In closing, I just want to leave you with this last quote from John Piper out of his book Don't Waste Your Life, "If you live gladly to make others glad in God, your life will be hard, your risks will be high, and your joy will be full."  As you go throughout this week, ask yourself if you recognize that you need healing.  Ask yourself if you have been healed and made a new creation, and if you haven't, will you allow God to heal you by his wounds.  The price has been paid, and your deposit is waiting.... 

Monday, September 14, 2009

1 Peter 5:6-7

1 Peter 5:6-7

"Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's might hand, that he may lift you
up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for

Humble.... where to start... Quite possibly one of the most impactful words in the entire Bible. When I looked at this word 6 months ago I thought being humble was not flaunting a win on the basketball court, or swallowing my pride in an argument for the sake of getting the argument over. Christ shows us, however, that the word humble digs so much deeper than that. The Greek word for humble is tapeinoĊ and has multiple definitions. The most applicable to the Bible and the point being made here I think comes from part C of the Blue Letter Bible's website < strongs="G5013&t="KJV">. It defines humble as:

  • To lower: of one's soul to bring down one's pride; to have a modest opinion of oneself; to behave in an unassuming manner; devoid of all haughtiness.

You see, being humble is not about the surface ideas that this world portrays being humble as; true humbleness was best portrayed by Christ. Guys check this out, the CREATOR of all things came to this world in the flesh as Jesus Christ and, get this, came not to be served but to do the serving. Matthew 20:28 says, "just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." Think of it like this; the President of United States walks into your house and you begin to get him something to drink, make something to eat for him and serve him; he comes into the kitchen and tells you to stop and go sit down and relax because he is here to serve you. He continues to not only serve you dinner, but clean your house, cut your lawn and serve you. This is the King of Kings that came to this world to serve us. It's funny how in today's world I see so many "Christians" trying to humble others instead of humbling themselves. We see so many people judging others, telling them how they need to do this and do that, breaking people down and making them feel 2 feet tall. Guys, instead of worrying about other's humility, serve by humbling yourselves first. We must count ourselves as nothing and realize that life is not about our bank account, our success, our social status; life is about being humble enough to set aside our busy schedules sometimes and just go serve the homeless, share your faith with people, cut some old people's lawn.... This world has become so selfish and centered around building up our own lives. What happened to the sense of community and loving your neighbor? Who cares if you know the name of someone or not, just love people, serve people; making others more important than yourself.

I don't want to be lengthy on this part because it's pretty simple; "cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." This scripture doesn't say cast some of your problems and worries on the Lord or cast one big problem on him. It says ALL.... give it all to him guys, everything. If you think he can't handle it, you're sorely mistaken. If you think he won't take care of it, you're sorely mistaken. If you think he's not going to show up, you're sorely mistaken. He can handle it, he will take care of it, and he will show up. God is faithful to us and loves us beyond measure, so although he might not take the pain of the struggle away, he'll be there through it all to give you the strength to persevere through all things. Worrying about things in this world is nothing more than being sinful, therefore, God says don't worry; give it all to me, let me handle it, and just glorify me in everything you do.

P.S.-- If you guys want to hear some more clear and concise talk on being humble and having humility, download any one of Mark Driscoll's podcasts about humility. He's an expert on it and is an amazing speaker.

Friday, September 11, 2009

1 Peter 4:13 and 1 Peter 4:19

1 Peter 4:13
"But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed."

1 Peter 4:19
"So then, those who suffer according to God's will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good."

Rejoice in sufferings?..... hmmmm.... you have got to be kidding me right? We always hear this when we go to church or small groups or wherever and they talk about suffering... But do we really understand it? Have we truly ever grasped the deepest feeling and thoughts of rejoicing in our suffering? I think if we are all honest with ourselves and with God, which it doesn't matter if you are or not because he's omniscient, every last one of us, most likely, does not rejoice when we suffer, myself included. I know when I suffer, the first thing I do on instinct is think, "what can I do to get myself out of this situation," and then continue to think about how tired I am of suffering. So let's talk about that rejoice word then; the word rejoice is defined as to delight in or gladden, to become overly joyous. The antonym, or the word that represents the opposite, would be sad; funny how that works, because all of our natural initial reactions to suffering are the opposite of what God tells us to feel... We feel sad... or angry, or depressed, or apathetic, or annoyed. Where along the way did we develop these feelings? I think in the beginning we all feel like God owes us something, like we have earned something, or deserve God's blessing. WRONG!!! ha I used to have that mindset all my life until I woke up and realized, God owes me nothing! If anything I owe him! So the next question here is, how do we rejoice? You don't have to wear the biggest smile and dance around and be all merry to rejoice, although we probably should. No, rejoicing can be as simple as going into prayer and talking to God saying, "Lord, I'm suffering right now and struggling and I don't think what's happening is fair and it sucks. But Father, I also know that you're beside me and you love me and you forgive me, and you have loved me, and you always will love me. Father I also know that with my eyes on the Cross, I see that you came down in the flesh and suffered for me to save my soul, but also so you could experience the worldly struggles we deal with. Father I'm struggling, but I rejoice in the fact that I have you and your grace is sufficient for me. I know you can't take the hurt and immediate struggles away Lord, but I know that you'll be with me always and that with you and your strength, I can overcome any struggle."

The word participate indicates that there is already something occuring or something that's been going on; it's not beginning with you, but being carried on or you are just jumping on the bandwagon. I think it seems like such a miniscule word in passing just reading through the scripture, but the word participate was used extremely carefully here, just as every word of the Bible is, to show us something when actually studying the Word. This one word reminds us that when we suffer, we arn't the only ones that have done it or are doing it. This word reminds us that Christ was misunderstood, spat on, hated, whipped, flogged, bloodied, beaten, nails driven through his hands and feet, 3 inch long thorns stuck into his skull and crucified.... all before we were even thought of.

When we tell people who are suffering to keep their eyes on the cross, I want this to come to mind as a mental image every single time.... no amount of suffering we could go through would ever come near what this man suffered. The man in this picture, Jesus Christ, is God of all creation who allowed himself to suffer in such a way, when at any time he could have stopped it, but loved us so much he allowed himself to be crucified as a sacrifice for our sins and sins to come that we may have a relationship with God and enter the kingdom of heaven. Wow.... So we are not alone, but participating....

"His glory," a.k.a. God's glory... Don't get selfish here people.... the world does not revolve around you, the existence of all of mankind does not depend on me and whether I do this or that. I want to make you and myself feel small, as we are, so instead of typing a 5000 page response to this word that could go on forever, i'm going to give you a link to follow. It's called Indescribable by Louie Gigglio. There are 5 parts, so watch them all.

Commit: Let's think of the ultimate commitment here, it's gonna be a little extreme, but God is extreme, the Bible is extreme, so we are gonna be extreme. In marriage, commitment is vital and one of the building blocks of the foundation. "commit themselves to their faithful Creator;" so if we consider the word commit in this scripture as a marriage, or ultimate commitment, to our Creator, God, then we get a sense of how our relationship with him should really be. Yea your husband or wife is your significant other, your better half, your lover, your hubby, your shnookums (whatever pet names ya'll call each other brandon and danielle! ha), but the Lord is our CREATOR!!! Genesis 2:7 says:

"the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his
nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

So we marry ourselves to the very one who breathed life into us. We belong to the Lord God and that's where our emptiness inside comes from until we fill it with Christ. God calls us to completely sell out for him, to commit. He doesn't just want part of our lives or some of our relationships or for us to smoke once a week or drink twice a week as opposed to every day.... God wants EVERYTHING!! He is jealous for us and wants all of you. When you marry, do you only give half of your heart to your spouse? No you give it all... So give it all and more to the one who "breathed into your nostril the breath of life."

Are you rejoicing? Do you participate in suffering or think of yourself? Is the glory focused on you or the Creator? Are you committed and married to the Lord? I'll leave you with this scripture that's simple to follow, no excuses, just do it.

Matthew 6:33 "Seek first His kingdom, and all these things will be give to you."

Thursday, September 10, 2009

1 Peter 4:7-10

"Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms."

Prayer is essential to a Christian's spirituality; it is our avenue of communication with God. The Bible says ask not and get not, but ask and you shall receive. How can we ask God for anything without prayer? Not only that but prayer is a way to glorify God and give him praise, it's a way to get in touch with the Lord and feel the Holy Spirit aligned with our hearts as one without any distractions of the world. Prayer is often taken light-heartedly by "Christians" in today's world, but the power of prayer is utterly amazing. God is faithful and he answers prayers, so we must be faithful in our prayers, daily. I think one important thing to remember about prayers, however, is that God doesn't answer all prayers in what we would see as a favorable way. If he did, if we always got what we wanted, we would feel no need for God or sense of dependency upon him. Furthermore, the Lord is soveriegn in his power and plan for our lives, so if our prayers arn't in accordance with his will for our life, he isn't going to answer them. Some people will say, well how can God allow us to suffer and that be part of his perfect plan? As Christians, we are called to suffer, just as Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, came to earth and was beaten, mamed, disfigured and crucified. We are called to suffer and when we do, look at the cross and remember that our God came and suffered for us and experienced far worse than we ever will so that he can say, "I know what you're going through, because I went through it also."

Love is defined as......
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does
not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is
not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil
but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes,
always perseveres."
Love is not sexual encounters or deep talks over coffee or any of that stuff.... Guys love is something that is SHOWN through ACTION.... Love is getting out there and being there for people, experiencing life with them, giving to the needy, devoting your time where it is needed, sacrificing in your own life and suffering in your own life so that others might live a little less impoverished, AND who knows, maybe even find Christ along the way. Love is the most impactful thing on the earth today and it seems like it is the least used action these days. This world is in such a dark and dismal place right now where people don't care for others and everyone is worried about the economy and all these superficial issues; but isn't the heart of the matter the lack of love? Would the state of the economy really matter if the people who had, gave, and if the people who didn't have gave their time.... the only way things are going to change in these days is through personal relationships and showing love. Whether it be to a complete stranger or to your best friend, showing Christ's love would do wonders. Take the story of Jericho Road for example (Luke 10:30-37):
In reply Jesus said: "A man was going down from
Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They
stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half
dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw
the man, he passsed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came
to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as
he travelled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on
him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and
wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took
care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to
the innkeeper. 'Look after him,' he said, 'and when I return I will
reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.' Which of these three do
you think was a neighbor to the man who fell in the hands of robbers?" The
expert in the law replied, "the one who had mercy on him." Jesus told him,
"Go and do likewise."
And thus the Mercy Ministry was born. Love is the answer people, and it's written all over the Bible, which if you're a Christian is our double-edged sword to live by.