Sunday, November 29, 2009

Resting in Christ - Steve McVey

It is amazing how the default setting in contemporary Christian culture tends to oppose the concept of spiritual rest when that is exactly what Jesus promised to give those who follow Him. (See Matthew 11:28-30) This concept requires a new mind set for most people, especially in western culture. We live in a society where people go on vacation with their Blackberrys and laptops. To rest in Christ, trusting Him to express His life through us sounds lazy and negligent after having lived in the wilderness of rigorous religion for such a long time. Many mistakenly think of rest as some sort of passivity, which it is not. Resting simply means to trust Jesus Christ as our Life-Source, depending upon Him to empower our actions with His strength and direction.

For many years the concept of rest was so foreign to me that I couldn’t comprehend it. I didn’t know rest was a gift from God. I thought it was a sin. I sincerely believed that the only time we would find complete rest was when we died and went to heaven. There was a verse I used to read at funeral services to give comfort to bereaved families. I would share Hebrews 4:10 with them: “For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His.”

When I shared this verse, I would tenderly point out that our beloved friend who had died “has now entered into God’s rest and ceased from his own labors.” I talked about how heaven is a place where there are no more struggles. It is a place where we simply rest in Christ and enjoy Him forever.

Entering into His rest and ceasing from our own works. It sounded like dying and going to heaven to me. Then one day I read the next verse in the passage — Hebrews 4:11 says, “Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall down through following the example of disobedience.” What? Be diligent to enter that rest? Now I was in trouble. I had always taught that rest means dying. Now here I was being confronted with the verse that says to be diligent to enter that rest or else I would be disobedient to God. I knew I had better go back and reexamine that verse again and hope that my interpretation had been wrong or else I was in serious trouble! I didn’t know at the time that I had already died with Christ and was able to cease from my own works.

“I understand that salvation is a gift, but when we become a Christian we do have certain responsibilities in living the Christian life, don’t we?” somebody asked me. “We don’t just sit back and coast to heaven with no obligations in the meantime.” Her concern is common. Her statements reflect a belief that if we don’t take ownership of certain things that we must do for God, we may become passive and lazy.

What is the responsibility of the believer toward God? The disciples once asked Jesus about the works they were to do for God. “They said therefore to Him, ‘What shall we do that we may work the works of God?’ Jesus answered and said to them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent” (John 6:28-29). When asked what we are supposed to do in order to do the work of God, Jesus gave one work. Believe.

If we are to take the words of Jesus at face value, faith is the sole work of the Christian (and even that is a gift from Him — see Ephesians 2:8). That fact doesn’t mean that nothing else will be done, but that nothing else can be done unless it flows from the abiding relationship of faith in Him as our constant Life-Source (See John 15:5). The activity of our lifestyle comes from the overflow of our intimate union with Him. As we trust Him, we will discover the reality of the truth that “Faithful is He that calleth you who will also do it” (1 Thessalonians 5:24, KJV)

Monday, November 23, 2009

An Encounter with Jesus

You might be a professing Christian with several years or decades of experience, a Pastor, a famous preacher, a church leader, a theologian, a theology student, a new believer or a skeptic - but are you sure that you have heard the pure Gospel (Good News) yet? Listen to these messages with an open heart and receive Jesus Christ (not your traditions/principles/works) as your only anchor, for only in the person Jesus (not in a religion that loves to put people in bondage and condemnation), in His perfectly completed works, will you find true literal liberty.

An Encounter with Jesus: Message by Bertie Brits. Translated to Malayalam by George Varghese.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Christian Cataracts - Steve McVey

Sometimes people with failing vision have been known to pretend to see better than they do. They find it hard to admit that they can't see clearly. That’s what a Christian legalist does. In an effort to keep up appearances, those blinded by legalism profess all the more loudly about how clearly they can see. They go through religious motions, but with each passing day their view of the Divine Lover’s face grows dimmer. Those actions which were once animated by His indwelling life and which were motivated by love now become religious routine. They have traded a Person for performance.

They read the Bible, but it doesn’t read them. They say prayers, but don’t pray. They watch and listen, but no longer see and hear. They are more than willing to tell everybody around them how to walk, but don’t have the vision to know where they are going themselves. They are “blind leaders of the blind.” (Matthew 15:14)

The source of legalists’ behavior is not love for Jesus Christ, but dead, religious duty. They believe they can gain God’s favor because of what they do. The miss the point altogether that it isn’t a certain behavior that brings God pleasure. God is pleased only by faith. (Hebrews 11:6)

Those blinded by legalism typically get hung up on the technicalities of the religious rules they deem obligatory, but have lost sight completely of the things that are really important. They argue over incidentals that have no eternal value. They are missing Jesus!

Jesus spoke to them in Matthew 23, telling them the way it is. Eugene Peterson paraphrases the scene in The Message, when Jesus said to them,

You’re hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You keep meticulous account books, tithing on every nickel and dime you get, but on the meat of God’s Law, things like fairness and compassion and commitment- the absolute basics! – you carelessly take it or leave it. Careful bookkeeping is commendable, but the basics are required. Do you have any idea how silly you look, writing a life story that’s wrong from start to finish, nitpicking over commas and semicolons?

Much of Matthew 23 is filled with the renouncement of Jesus against the legalism of the Pharisees. Their obsession with rules above relationships was the definitive evidence of their blindness. They were missing the whole point, says Jesus.
Have you become blinded by legalism? Some might argue that a Christian can’t be a legalist. They understand the word to refer only to those who hope to become a Christian by their works. While that certainly is one expression of legalism, it isn’t the only way a person can act as a legalist.

The Apostle Paul wrote his epistle to the Galatians because of the threat of legalism in their church. False teachers had come into the fellowship there, teaching these young Christians that, along with Christ, they needed to embrace the law. Paul wrote to them to say, “No! Your life isn’t built around the law! Your life is in Jesus Christ!” He asked them, “Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?” (Galatians 3:2)

Paul wasn’t writing to them because he was concerned that they might misunderstand salvation. He knew they had believed the gospel and received God’s Spirit. How could they become confused about what it takes to become a Christian? They had already become Christians! His concern for them was that, as Christians, they might become ensnared in legalism.

The Pharisees were not believers in Christ. The Galatians were. It’s possible to be a legalist whether a person is a believer or non-believer. Do you want to clearly see the spiritual reality of Christ? Then allow the Great Physician to remove your cataracts of relgious rules and regiment. When you do, you'll find yourself singing with new understanding, "Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see!"

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Abiding in Christ

John 15:4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.
John 15:5 I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing

Sin separated mankind from God. Jesus Christ came and removed this barrier called sin, by taking the sins of the whole humanity and the punishment for it, upon Himself. This is GOOD NEWS (gospel), but only HALF the news.

Escaping hell by the removal of the sin barrier is only one aspect of being born again. Sadly, this is the carrot (escape from hell and ticket to heaven), being offered to people to get saved. So once a person has the assurance that his sins have been forgiven and is on the way to heaven, then they may go and live as they please. For such people, there is nothing more to Christianity after they are born again.

How can this error be corrected? By preaching the WHOLE GOOD NEWS, which is, “he that believes in Him should not perish, BUT HAVE EVERLASTING LIFE”. (John 3:16). Everlasting life is the part of the gospel that is either misunderstood or not given enough importance.

In the gospels, Jesus said several times that He has come to give LIFE (zoe - Greek-the very life of God) and that He HIMSELF IS THIS LIFE. In John 17:3, He says, “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” Eternal life is not something that you attain somewhere in the future, but rather, it is having Jesus Christ Himself or His zoe life in you, RIGHT NOW! Not only that, it is to KNOW God and Jesus Christ (have an experiential knowledge). Jesus came to restore the connection with God that Adam lost, by giving us His very life in us. Adam, by his disobedience, experienced death or lost that spiritual connection with God. Jesus, through His obedience, came to restore what man lost in the Garden of Eden, chiefly among them, a relationship and fellowship with God.

The Bible says, he that is joined to the Lord is ONE SPIRIT. When we are born of God, He makes us a brand new creation (one which never existed before). This new creation or creature has the very life of God in it. It is no longer I who lives, but Christ lives in me, said Paul. It is His life that we are living by, as a new creation. Our old self died by co-crucifixion with Christ.
Not only does God take up literal residence in our bodies, but we are placed into the body of Christ by the Holy Spirit (I Cor 1:30, Rom 6:3). So, we, the branches, are connected to the true vine Jesus Christ, by His work of regeneration. The branches do not struggle to produce fruit, but the life from the vine flows through the branches to produce fruit. As the true vine, our Lord is the source of life and strength and fruit. There is a relationship of complete dependence between the branch and the vine. The vine supplies life-giving nourishment to the branches. Apart from it, the branches have neither life nor fruit

So, does this life flow automatically through us producing the fruit? We saw that we are connected to Him by His work. Why then, do we not sometimes see fruit in our life? Jesus said that the key to seeing fruit in your life is not by you struggling, but by simply abiding in him. What does abiding in Him mean? Abiding in Him is, going beyond our positional placement in Christ. It is a life of having an experiential fellowship and intimacy with Him. We, as the branches are the physical and visible manifestation of the life of Christ inside us. It is our choice and responsibility to let this life flow through us by have a relationship and intimacy with Him. This experience of abiding in Him is, trusting Him and allowing Him to flow through us and not trusting in our self efforts to produce fruit. We can choose to let Him live through us or trust in our ability, holiness and good works to produce the fruit.

Is there a labor involved in abiding? Yes! The bible says that we have to labor to enter into His rest (Heb 11:4) To rest means to rest from our labors, trust and rest in His finished work and His life in us to produce the visible manifestation of fruits. His work is perfect and there is nothing left for us to do, but enter into this rest. This is done by knowing the truth, believing the truth, renewing our minds to the truth. – the truth that Christ took away all our sins (not some, but all), He gave us His very life(eternal life) and is living right now inside us, we have a new nature (His nature), He has made us holy, righteous and blessed us with EVERY blessing in Christ Jesus. HAVING THE RIGHT KNOWLEDGE IS VERY IMPORTANT! Knowing this truth makes it easier in our labor to experience the rest. Knowing this truth makes it easier to have a constant fellowship and intimacy with Him. Does this happen overnight? Absolutely not! In this modern day and age there are so many things to distract us and occupy our time. Even in the midst of our business, we need to make a conscious effort of being aware of Him. He is with us all the time - when we drive, at school, at work, when doing our chores etc. He NEVER leaves us, even when we do something wrong. He is with us. We need to cultivate His presence and talk to Him all the time.(this is “pray without ceasing”).

Abiding is our obligation; fruitfulness is God’s concern. The True Vine is the Author, the Source and the Finisher of our faith. We should be seeking His fellowship, and leaving the fruit to Him. Holiness is one of the fruits which will happen as a natural byproduct of us fellowshipping with Him. Sometimes we may find ourselves, straying away from His presence and not communicating with Him. At such times, do not let guilt, condemnation and frustration take over you. But rather, simply start communicating and fellowshipping with Him again. This is the labor, that is involved on our part and we may find ourselves straying away quite often at the beginning. But as we go along in our spiritual journey, by His grace, these straying moments will become less and less and more and more His life will manifest through us.

THE NAKED GOSPEL - Andrew Farley

Please download this book for FREE by clicking here. You can also buy a copy for yourself by clicking here. It is a MUST read for every Christian! As Andrew puts it, it is "Jesus plus nothing. 100% natural. No additives.It's the truth you may never hear in church. The Naked Gospel is a chapter-by-chapter assault on the churchy jargon and double talk of our day. It puts forth a message that is simple but life-changing. With a fresh take on Scripture and unapologetic style, The Naked Gospel will challenge you to re-examine everything you thought you already knew."