Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Security in God

In Sunday School the last several weeks we have been studying a wonderful section of Scripture called the "Psalms of Ascent", Psalms 120-134. This week we are studying Psalms 125 and 126. A big part of the lesson that I've studied so far has been on 125:1-2, "Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever. As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds His people, from this time forth and forevermore." The psalmist describes the security that God is to His people. Just as Jerusalem was secured by the surrounding mountains, so God's people are secure in Him. Our security, spiritually and in all other ways, lies in our close relationship with God. But a problem can occur when we begin to trust more in the blessings of God or in the manifestations of God's presence, than in God Himself.

The writer of the lesson puts it this way:

"We often know enough not to ascribe our security to carnal, worldly things. Our greater, slyer temptation is to place our security in the blessings we readily credit to the Lord.
"Even if our security is in something God has given us -- our gifts, talents, loved ones, church family, consitent victory, passion for His Word -- our seemingly secure mountain ultimately will fall into the sea. We can grow secure in the favor God has shown us, but God's favor and His person are not synonymous. If our trust is in the manifestations of God's favor rather than God Himself, we will crumble like dry clay when He calls us to walk a distance of our journey entirely by faith and not by sight.
"To build on our previous psalm of ascent [124], God is with us and for us even when His face and His favor seem hidden. Mountain-like security only comes from trusting God, not what He's done for us or given us, however glorious and eternal those things may be." (Masterwork, p.45)


Monday, September 20, 2010

A Believing Pharisee???

Last week I attended a leadership conference at NewSpring Church in Anderson, SC with a couple of guys from church. It was a pretty intense one-day event. We heard some of the best preachers in the country: Perry Noble (host pastor), Mark Driscoll, Francis Chan, Jud Wilhite, Judah Smith, Steven Furtick, and Andy Stanley. All of these guys and their messages had a different impact on me. Some of them encouraged me, some challenged me, and all of them taught me. And God used them to help me see some things that I hadn't seen before.

For example, Andy Stanley preached on Acts 15, on "Four Gravitational Pulls Every Church Experiences." It was a great message; very practical, inspiring and helpful. But God also opened my eyes to a verse I had not paid much attention too before. The context of Acts 15 is the controversy over whether Gentiles could be saved by faith alone, or if they had to be circumcised and keep the Jewish laws. The first Christians were Jews and they were having a difficult time accepting that God could save people outside of the Jewish faith.

The verse that really jumped out was Acts 15:5. I've read this verse numerous times, but suddenly it captivated my attention: But some of the sect of the Pharisees who believed rose up, saying, "It is necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses." (NKJV) What? Pharisees who "believed"? I just kept reading those words: "the Pharisees who believed; the Pharisees who believed; the Pharisees who believed." Then the Holy Spirit spoke - "A Pharisee who believes, is still a Pharisee." He believes in Jesus, but he is still holding on to his religious traditions and trying to impose them on others.

To the Pharisees' credit, the things they were holding on to were pretty important. In fact, they had been given to them by God - circumcision as a sign of the covenant, and the Law of Moses as the means of keeping the covenant. It was their "old-time religion" and if it was good enough for Abraham and Moses, it was good enough for them, and it would be good enough for the Gentiles as well!

The problem was, the "Old-Time Religion" wasn't good enough (see Acts 15:10), and so God was doing something new. He had established a new covenant through His Son Jesus. A covenant of faith, not religious ritual. The Pharisees knew of Jesus, and according to the Scriptures, even "believed." But they couldn't let go of the past. And they couldn't let go of their old ways of doing things, like imposing their beliefs on others (i.e., "It is necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.") Consequently, they were causing division in the church.

Here's the point God gave me - "A believing Pharisee, is still a Pharisee, and will always try to make people do/see things his way. But the church can't be held hostage to the ways of the Pharisee. Grace must (and will) always prevail." Believe me, there are still Pharisees in the church today, and they will always try to control the work of God and make it fit into their theological framework, and by imposing their personal beliefs on others. But, as Jesus said, “No one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the old skins would burst from the pressure, spilling the wine and ruining the skins. New wine is stored in new wineskins so that both are preserved.” Matt 9:17 (NLT) The "New Wine" of Christ will not be contained by the old religious traditions held on to by men, and eventually He will break free from them.