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The Word became flesh and dwelt among us….

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August 2015

Dealing With Our Wrong ‘Woes’. Isaiah 6:1-8

1 – The Death of the King v1a

One of the first sermons I can recall hearing was an aboriginal pastor from WA was speaking on Isaiah 6. He spoke of remembering the death of King George VI. I don’t recall the message from that point on, only that I thought he must be incredibly old. Old enough that maybe he could remember King Arthur or King David as well.

The death of King Uzziah is more than a chronological point for us. There is much to be said of the death of this particular king in the context of what Isaiah shares with us.

Uzziah came to the throne at 16 and reigned for 52 years. The majority of those years were prosperous, peaceful, and he was godly man. The best king Judah had, besides David. His reign ended in disgrace though, when he ‘grew proud, to his destruction’ ( 2 Chronicles 26:16). He went into the temple and attempted to burn incense, trying to do the duties of a priest. For this, God struck him with leprosy, and spent the remaining time of his life in shame and isolation.

2 – The Vision of the Eternal Sovereign v 1-4

The future was uncertain and Isaiah’s people seemed destined for judgement, and he could do little about it, you could imagine he felt a little overwhelmed. But here, in this context, God commissions him, giving Him a vision of Himself.

He sees The Lord sitting upon a throne. He sees the Eternal Sovereign King of Kings and Lord of Lords in His rightful place, and he is not only reminded that earthly kings will come and go but The Lord will remain forever, but he is also put in a position of awe and trembling in this glorious scene of beauty and majesty.

Here is a King Who not only is allowed in the Temple, He reigns from it.

Isaiah gives us a vivid description of his vision, but on closer examination, we notice we don’t get a full description of The Lord. We get more information about His robe, about the seraphs, about the temple. We are told about His position, His environment, His presence, but little about His appearance.

He sees The Lord and all he can talk about is His robe…

We know God is great, not because of descriptions about His physical features. He is great because He is great. He is great regardless of our comprehension. All we can grasp is the mere hem of His garment, and even this is enough to overwhelm. 

When you are so low in the presence of God that all you can see is glory, majesty, and beauty, you have reached the position you were made for.

“Lowliness is the perfect posture before God. That is the beginning of wisdom.” – Ed Welch

The cry of heaven from the seraphim is that God is “Holy, Holy, Holy and the whole earth is full of His glory”.

The “thrice holiness” of God indicates not only three in One union, but the eternal truth that this God of ours is beyond our description.

The supernatural superlative of a ‘holy, holy, holy’ God is not out of place. It should be the default response of every created being. It’s what we were made to declare, here on earth, as it is in Heaven.

If the whole earth is full of His glory, and being present in His glory compels us to proclaim His holiness, why do we so often only give such minimal attention to both?

We have God Who is high and lifted up. 

It’s about time we got in the right position ourselves. 

3 – The Position of Radical Self-Awareness v 5

In this world we cannot see God and live. This seems ironic then, that the great blessing is that, “God will lift His countenance upon you and give you peace”. ( Numbers 6:24-26).

We so often wish God would turn up so we could see Him. So we could tell Him, face to face what we need.

We say we want to see God, but if we knew the truth of what would happen when we did, I doubt we’d really want it.

Too often we rush into the throne room with our prayers of woe and what we perceive our greatest needs are, without stopping to consider Whom we are approaching. The moment we do so we may well realise our woes are not the woes they should be.

I am very acquainted with my ‘woes’. They are sometimes the first thing that greets me in the morning and a constant companion throughout the day.

‘Another day at work…woe is me’. ‘I wish the traffic was better…woe is me’. ‘If only my boss would honour my work efforts with a  bonus…woe is me.’ ‘If only my spouse would…If my kids could just…If my parents could only…woe is me.’

Far too often our sorrows are not over our sin, but over the loss of our comfort or over the lack of fulfilment of our felt needs.

Our woes and sorrows are very often out of order and out of place.

Isaiah’s woe is as perfectly in place as the seraphs cry.

In the presence of this overwhelming holiness and majesty, he is brought to a place of radical self-awareness. He has seen God, and know truly sees himself for the first time.

He is aware of his own sin before the sins of anyone else.

He is aware he is in need of cleansing. He is lost and broken. In the presence of the infallible, he knows his fallibility. Of the eternal, he knows his mortality.

Isaiah’s position is despairing. He sees no way out. He is unclean. Everyone around him is unclean, and he is not worthy of the presence of The Lord of hosts. It’s in his despairing, that The Lord reaches out to Him.

4 – The Touch of Cleansing v 6-7

Isaiah’s confession of guilt and failure before God does not bring him judgement. Neither does it bring condemnation.

God doesn’t disagree with him, but neither does He leave him in that position.

A new heart is necessary for Isaiah to do what God has planned for him, and God cleanses his heart from uncleanness by cleansing his lips.

Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks’, and God had a message for Isaiah to share that would only be effective if it came from a heart that had been transformed by His presence and intervention.

One of the seraphs brings a burning coal and touches Isaiah’s lips to atone for his sin.

The biggest barrier to our effectiveness or fruitfulness in what God has called us to is not our perceived inadequacies or our limited strengths, or our felt needs that we aren’t seeing being met. Our biggest barrier is our own sin. We need an atonement for our sin. We need a cleansing from it, we need our guilt taken away, and only God’s touch can do that.

It will cost us. It may well be painful. Putting things to death usually is for one of the parties involved.

God dealt with Isaiah’s filthy mouth, not to torture him. Not to extract payment, but to cauterise his wounds. To seal, to sanctify, to heal his flesh by marking him as His own.

“Apart from the fire of surrender and the surgery of the Divine, a clean heart will not be possible.” – Alistair Begg

When God touches our lives to remove our sin, it’s painful. It’s searching, it’s searing, but it cleanses so we can hear the voice of God.

5 – The Offering of a Living Sacrifice v 8

When we finally hear the voice of God in Isaiah’s encounter, it comes with a question, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?”.

Isaiah saw and heard the Holy One of Israel and he could not keep silent.

Send me’, he says.

When we offer ourselves up as living sacrifices, saying, “Here am I! Send me”, we won’t know where God will send us or what we might be called to do, but we will know that HE has called us, HE has cleansed us, and HE is on the throne.

Where initially in God’s presence he is simply overwhelmed with his unworthiness, now, after God’s intervention, cleansing, sealing, he is overcome with his duty. He hadn’t been forced. He hadn’t been coerced. He had been cleansed and called, and now knows he’s fully equipped.

Have you seen God?

Have you had that moment of radical self-awareness in His presence where you have realised your predicament and called out to Him?

Have you felt the cleansing touch of being sealed by the Holy power of God?

Does the cry of heaven fill your heart to not only know God in His fulness, but know yourself truly and what He has called you to do? Does His glory and holiness echo in your mind and heart to the point where you would willing give your all to Him?

There is much we can learn from Isaiah.

We know we should never place our faith in earthly kings. Even the best ones will fail us. All will die. We have an eternal Sovereign Who will never compromise.

We also have a King, although He had all the glories of Heaven, didn’t consider it something to hold on to, and for our sake, He humbled Himself. He became an outsider, a leper by choice. Becoming sin and curse for us so we could be free.King Uzziah died in disgrace, and he stayed dead. His final testimony was one of failure. Our King died, but rose again, defeating death, to take His rightful place on the throne again.

We know that as we are, we are unworthy of His presence.

We know that because of Who He is, He welcomes us and shows us Himself, even if only a glimpse, in order for us to be saved and set apart.

We know we should always be more aware of our own sins before the sins of others. Our woe should only ever be over our own sin, and the sins of those around us that grieve a Holy God. Our woes should never be petty feelings of missing out or anxiety of not knowing what the future holds.

We know that guilt is removed only by God’s intervention.

We know we need to hear God’s voice and respond in obedience to what He asks of us.

Where is God seeking to touch your life with a cleansing touch? Where do you need a coal off the altar in your life?

Where will you being willing to go, when you have seen God?

‘Anywhere with Jesus I can safely go.’

“I Can’t Do This!” Dealing with our fear of failure…2 Peter 1:3-12

It could be an exam we feel underprepared for. A deadline in our work that we feel is impossible to meet. A quota we can’t reach. A case beyond our capabilities. An unruly child. A difficult spouse.

There are many times in life we simply feel overwhelmed by it all, and have no idea what the next will be.

“I can’t do it. I believe that God is real, I know Jesus lived, died and rose again, but I simply can’t live the life of a Christian. It’s too much. I don’t have the strength or power. I’m ineffective. I’m unfruitful. I’ll never progress, I’ll only regress, so there’s no point even starting.” 

If those words ring true, than Peter had people like us in mind when he wrote 2 Peter.

1- The Problem – the forgotten Gospel

When Peter says we’ve escaped the corruption that is in the world ( 1:4b)we say how? How can escape the corruption of the world when the corruption lies in me?

GK Chesterton famously answered the question, ‘What is wrong with the world?’, with the response, ‘I am’.

How can I claim the promises of God or partake in His divine power when I have some so much trouble saying no to sin and I can’t escape suffering? I can’t do it!

We are also prone to giving up when things get hard and follow our own way.

Our default way of doing things is either by way of legalism or by license.Both ways, we make our way along in life and in our attempts of godliness by trusting in our own works.

We tell ourselves this is how it has to be. We listen to false teaching that tells us we are who are meant to be and we can fix any of the problems we have by internal effort and some minor behavioural modification.

False teaching takes away what we need for life and godliness and Peter knew this. He sets out in this epistle to warn against the false teaching (2:1ff)  and to remind the believers of the truth they had first heard, what they had been delivered from and what they had been called to ( 1:10-12).

Therein lies our biggest problem of all.

Our biggest problem as believers seeking godliness and full life in Christ is not a lack of awareness of our sin, though we all have our blindspots, we know we need and have a Saviour, our problem is that we forget.

We are ‘eternity amnesiacs’. We know what was done for us in the past, we know what is coming in the future, but we simply forget to apply the Gospel to the here and now of our life and we trust in our own power and strength to get through.

If you’re God’s child, the Gospel isn’t an aspect of your life, it is your life; that is, it is the window through which you look at everything…when Jesus takes up residence in us, everything in life changes, nothing remains the same…if you don’t this, you celebrate your salvation, but for help with your marriage, parenting, relationships, sex, money, fear, addictions, decisions, and such, you don’t look at the Gospel. You google blogs and articles, read dozens of self-help books that address your topic of concern. You do this because you are functional gospel amnesiac. You’ve forgotten who you are as a child of God. You’ve forgotten the glorious warehouse of spiritual wisdom that you have been given. You think you are poor when really you are rich…You think that there is something you need that you haven’t found, when in fact you have already been given every single thing you need to be what you’re supposed to be to do what you’re supposed to do in the place where the Saviour has positioned you. 

2 – The Resource  – our Gracious and Merciful God

Peter’s reminder to believers everywhere is know that you have been granted, by God’s great grace and faith in Jesus, everything you need for life and godliness.

How? Through Jesus. Jesus is enough. That is the take home message for us from Peter’s opening lines. You have everything you need because you have Jesus.

Not only is Christ enough, but God’s Word is enough. God’s Word is sufficient. We haven’t followed clever myths (1:16). We have a sure Word (1:19).

We know too well the power of sin, the pull of it. The problem of suffering and it’s pain. These are powerful things, and we know we need greater power to combat them and answer them. We know we need power. Not tips. Not strategies for some cognitive behavioural change. That might bring about some new habits, but we aren’t after new habits, we are after new hearts, and that’s going to take fare more power than natural resources can offer.

The power we need belongs to Him. The glory and excellence belongs to Him. The promises are His to give.

We get the power we need through the knowledge of Him (1:3b).

It is all His to give to whomever He wishes, and chooses to give it to His children.

These are the resources we have to call upon when we think everything is too much.

It’s because we have escaped, by His grace, for this reason (1:5) that we make every effort to add to our faith all the qualities that He has called us to. These are qualities that are ours, if we are His (1:8).

His nature compels us to be like Him ( 1 Peter 1:16). Obedience to His Will for our lives in the matter of godliness and holiness is a matter of the heart. If we find ourselves struggling to obey His commands, we need to revisit and remember the resources we have been given.

3 – The Response the great escape 

We cannot leave it at knowledge of the existence of God’s divine power and promises. We must act on what we know. And knowing what we know, we can act very boldly!

We can make every effort to add to our faith the qualities God has said are our’s. (1:5-8).

If you are in Christ, God is not withholding anything from you that you need for this life and to live godly.

The fault is never on His side in matters of life and godliness. He’s done His share. His salvation is perfect.

If you think you’ve exhausted all the avenues to full life and way to godliness, and you still haven’t pondered the power of God, claimed the promises of God or surrendered to His Will in being holy because He is holy, all you will have left is excuses.

Addiction says, “I can’t say no”. God says “I’ve given you everything you need to live a life free of enslavement to the flesh”.

Bitterness says, “I can’t forgive.” God says, “I’ve forgiven you everything so you can everything you need to forgive others”.

Pride says, “I can’t say sorry”. God says, “I’ve humbled Myself so you can have all you need to be humble”.

Fear says, “I can’t face this”. God says, “Don’t worry about tomorrow. I’ve given you everything you need for today ”.

If you only have excuses for your sin rather than an attitude of a heart that breaks for things you no longer want to do but keep on doing, you might be in danger of having never escaped the corruption at all.Are these qualities your’s? (1:9,12) Do you even want them?

If you think you have the power to worry or will yourself out of a difficult life situation, remind yourself that God’s divine power is far greater than your limited knowledge. That His promise of never leaving or forsaking you is a great and precious gift that belongs to you as His child.

God commands of us a full life lived to His glory in godliness. But He also provides what He commands.

When you see a huge task (life and godliness) and a little person ( yourself, with a heart prone towards sin and body that breaks down) our only hope is to look to a great help ( God’s divine power and greatly precious promises).

If God has given you everything you need, why would you look elsewhere?

He’ll give you enough for today. Tomorrow, there will be new mercies, enough daily bread to sustain any child who asks their Heavenly Father for it.

Will you responses this week be shaped more by fear in your own inability, or by celebration of the sufficiency of Christ?

“You have two ways of looking at life. You can look at all your internal and external challenges from the perspective of your track record and present catalog of abilities, or you can look at them from the vantage point of the sufficiency of the work of Jesus on your behalf. The bible was not given to radically alter your identity and potential, but to radically alter the way you think about and interpret life. You are not left to your own resources. Because you are in Christ, your potential is greater than the sum of your parts. You are never in any situation or location all by yourself.”  – Paul  Tripp 

As a church, we must remind each other of the sufficiency of God’s power and promises.

Have you prayed for the person sitting next to you or in front of you to see God as being sufficient for everything they need?

Will you trust in your own power to change yourself, or will you trust God?

We have knowledge of God because God He has revealed Himself to us.

We participate in His divine nature because He took on our nature.

We receive His promises because God is gracious.

“Young, Deformed & Restless: Letters from a church misfit” Chapter 2 “Comparisonists”

So how did we get here?

History can, in some ways, define where we came from, but defining where we are is a very hard thing to do.

History is easy to define. We have a perspective that can be, for the most part, objective.

Here and now, as we lack that perspective of gathered histories, can be a confusing place to find a clear definition of an identity.

Being ‘tagless’ certainly has it’s appeal, for me anyway. But it also has it’s drawbacks, as people will tag you anyway. Most times unhelpfully, other times ignorantly, at all times, subjectively based on their own preconceived ideas of who you are based on associations, etc.

We examined the possibility of “new” / “neo” thinking which is always old thinking for a new age. There is, after all, nothing new under the sun. It’s not so much ‘all is vanity’ and ‘chasing after the wind’, but there is an awful lot of hot air and narcissism all the same in trying to define yourself without seeking to see how God defines you ( especially if you are in Christ ).

Being the ‘new’ wave of old thinking for the current time in theology, philosophy or anything can get old pretty quickly. In a modern era where yesterday’s trending news is today’s newsfeed memory, it seems compelling to be ‘original’, while never saying anything new. That balanced with a media that likes shock over substance and statements over facts, you can have a ‘new’ way of looking at an issue that can quickly be outdated, out-trended, and re-defined before you can update your status or finalise a witty tweet. The goal posts are constantly being shifted, and we want to keep updated and relevant while keep our feet grounded, and this proves next to impossible.

Correctly defining yourself is a hard thing to do in the here and now business of social media and consumerism of our western culture, but it’s demanded at the same time.

It’s all about whatever you want, except for where that clashes with what I want, then it’s a matter of who can humiliate and degrade the other into submission or silence in the name of tolerance and equality.

In this crisis of identity of race, sexuality, marriage, family, and what tolerance and truth really are or if they ‘are’ at all, we try and identify ourselves as believers in Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

There was a time in generations past that we could rely on some public acknowledgement or understanding of the Christian faith. People knew what “Christian” meant. They had something of an understanding of the faith and the practice of the faith in various expressions ( denominations).

Today, here and now, we no longer have this luxury of public awareness of faith and it’s varying expressions.

In the last generation or two, there has been a culture shift ( in western culture at least) away from Christian traditions and heritage, to a ‘post-Christian’ society where it is not at all socially acceptable to be one, let alone share your Christian views on anything in broader society.

There are many causes for this shift that others can better speak to, but there are few things I’d like to make note of from a church perspective.

I’m not old enough or studied enough for a proper thought out study on this matter, and this is  in no way an attempt at such a study into generational successes or failures. This is a letter, in part, to the previous generations, and just asking them to help us still, as we seek to correctly define ourselves in a world that has been rapidly changing for some time. It’s also a letter to others of us who have been so long in ‘the way’, we might well be getting in The Lord’s way as He tries to do His work in our world and community. It’s a letter to the traditionalists among us. Old and young. Both here and there, for the here and now.

It’s mostly a letter to the comparisonists among us, of whom I am chief.

Firstly, let us take a little look at “generational comparisonism”.

It time we acknowledged it’s not all a negative thing, living here and now. It’s not all we were meant for by any means – glory awaits, but beauty and grace do surround us if we stop to take note rather rush to compare. Especially in broad, sweeping, general statements that condemn one generation over another purely out of a personal experience frame of mind that only the select few can identify with.

We might say we are ‘less’ Christian now then we used to be. Studies would show that’s not so much the case. The ‘faith’ of the broader community in previous times is proven, with hindsight and biblical knowledge of the human condition, to be nominal for the most part. Marking ‘Christian’ on the census doesn’t make one a believer in Jesus anymore than one knowing where the moon is makes them an astronaut.

People today, whether we like it or not, for all the identity crisis that goes on, are being more honest when they mark their census.

Also, another contributing factor, there is no such thing as an inherited faith. There is a heritage of faith, but that is vastly different. It is a wonderful thing to have, but it should not be confused with having the real thing.

Many in some church circles today bemoan the ‘fact’ that this is the worst generation since Adam…or Noah…or some other such biblical hero of the faith. I’ve read books, blogs and articles and listened to sermons by some who are old enough maybe to know some of these bible heroes personally, so maybe I should abandon my critique and bow to their multi-millennial life experience…I mean no harm when I jest like this, but a young person ( we will go with 35 and under for argument’s sake) who hears their generation is the most evil ever is left scratching their head as to what this means exactly.

We know enough of modern history to know our parent’s generation wasn’t exactly the exemplary definition of perfection in world history for peace, purity and prosperity.

We know our grandparents and great-grandparents witnessed and were involved in terrible World Wars.

We know history well enough to see the depravity of mankind seems to have played out to it’s most evil end in every single generation since Adam.

We also know our parents ( and grandparents) now, and as saintly as some of them are and were, they are far from perfect. They are and were sinners. We didn’t learn all our sins off them, but we did inherit our sinful nature from them.

Don’t tell us we’re the worst sinners, that would be to deny that all of the hearts of all the human beings that have ever existed weren’t as evil or ‘desperately wicked’ as Scripture so clearly tells us that all mankind’s are.

We know our society is flagrant in it’s sin. We know sin is somewhat more easily accessible through technology.

We do need reminding that we are all sinners and fall short of God’s glory if we are outside of Jesus, but don’t say we are ‘worse’. It grates a little on ears that are already confused in a cacophony of noise, minds that are already full of misinformation, and hearts that lean towards feelings of darkness and hopelessness in a world that already defines us inaccurately.

We need the help from those in the previous generations. We need the wisdom, the love, the experience, the testimony of those who have lived in this world and can testify to the goodness of God in the land of the living ( Psalm 27:13) . We need to hear your stories of being lights in dark places and finding hope in broken situations. We need the ‘splendour of grey hair’ ( Proverbs 20:29) that is gained by a righteous life ( Proverbs 16:31). But please, spare us comparison.

Comparison only ever crushes. We cannot meet the expectation of being a generation that fails so miserably in this world that we will be the reason Jesus has to return to sort out the world. Don’t put that on us.

Maybe you don’t intend to mean this when you say such things, but you need to know that’s how it comes across, and the older we all get, on both sides of the generational divide, the older it gets…

I don’t want my generation to be like previous ones. I want this generation of believers and followers of Jesus to be like Jesus.

I love my Dad, and I aspire to mirror him in many ways, but the parts of my Dad I like the best are the parts where he is like Jesus. My parents would be the first to admit they have made mistakes, they’re aren’t perfect, and the sooner we acknowledge ‘the good old days’ were full of people that were just as sinful as these ‘here and now’ days, the more effective all generations can be in reaching a lost world.

We need the earnest prayers of our elders. We need their wisdom. We need their insight. We need to learn from their mistakes. We need to learn from their humility. We need them.

This generation ( and the one soon to come) will face some challenges that are unprecedented. It doesn’t mean we’re lost and without hope. It does mean we need to be called back to the right foundational truths of the Christian faith to stand, and having done all, to stand. Just as so many before have. Including the Ephesians ( Ephesians 6:10-20).

Secondly, the tradtionalist comparisonism.

We need to also acknowledge the ‘way we used to do things’ doesn’t have to be the way we always do things.

We’ve already stated how we used to be able to assume on some public awareness of Christian faith and practice, as well as some biblical knowledge. Not only is that not true anymore, it is increasingly alienating to those outside the church when we keep assuming they still have this knowledge, or that they even care about the things of God’s Word at all.

We can no longer define ourselves as a church by comparison to other churches. We simply don’t have that option. The world couldn’t care less about matters of practice differing between churches.

Here’s a social experiment for you, which is purely rhetorical and somewhat hypothetical.

Ask a few people on the street these questions:

How important is the doctrine of Divine Sovereignty and human free will to you as you pick a church to visit?

When was the last time you wondered about full immersion as being important to your next church home? 

How important are spiritual gifts to you?

Which bible translation do you prefer? 

If you were to come and visit our church, would you be bothered if we only sang hymns?

You get the idea.

These questions may have meant something some time ago, but now only mean something to those already firmly established with their denominational affiliation.

We can no longer define ourselves based on how we are different from other churches. The only ‘thing’ we should be different from is the world.

When we find an identity in a specific expression of faith, we are in danger of becoming sectarian and exclusive.

The point must be made that specific expression is necessary and make up the body of Christ. This isn’t  about compromising convictions on certain doctrines to accommodate others. Unique expressions of the Christian faith are necessary to the furtherance of the Kingdom, but no one denomination has a right to claim originality.

Pure orthodoxy in perfect practice isn’t possible this side of eternity.That doesn’t mean we can’t strive for it, but it does mean we shouldn’t claim exclusive access to God through a special doctrinal position or ministry expression.

We enjoy hearing testimonies of how the Spirit moved in certain ways in times past and the local and sister churches experienced great numerical and spiritual growth and fruit that can still be seen if you pick through the root system carefully enough. A lot of different denominations would have similar stores of revival and renewal.

The danger is that we assume it will happen the same way again, that we can replicate the exact context for God to work.

The Holy Spirit hardly ever does the same thing the same way twice. The Spirit of God is not bound up in traditions of men or practices of certain churches. If He is like the wind ( John 3:8) then we are only left to prayer, dedication to God and seeking after His will, which is to be conforming to the image of His Son, and the rest will be in His very capable hands.

Again, a side note must be made that we don’t go throwing the baby out with bathwater, or the hymn books out with the pews. It’s not a free-for-all on everything matter of faith and practice.

There are specific ministry expressions that can be timeless. Others are just plain old.

The way we’ve always done it will apply in continuation to many things.

Praise of God.

Public worship and praise.

Public preaching.

Public and private study.

There are some things that we can safely discard without fear of losing our unique identity as a Christian church or even a specific denominational church.

Set worship times ( no one ever arrives on time anyway).

Certain songs we do or do not sing – ( why does a songwriter have to be dead for 100 years before you can sing their songs?)

Preaching that is purely for believers – ( it should be for equipping of the believer and evangelism of the unbeliever at the same time. if we start to think the church isn’t for sinners, we’re in trouble…)

Public and private study that ignores accountability, openness and community. ( if you need is God and His Word to tell you how to live, you may have the truth, but you won’t have love)

These are a few, there are many, many more.

Defining what is timeless will go a long way towards correctly defining our identities as individual local churches and as individuals within those churches.

Timelessness doesn’t have to mean old. It does, by definition mean that certain ways of doing things will be endlessly relevant to world that is constantly changing while always being made up of sinners.

Timelessness would never be compromise. It would mean acquiescing to my brethren on certain issues so the greater glory of God can be shown.

It would never be alignment with trends. Timelessness is endlessly trendy. It’s what was trending before relevance was trendy.

Defining our identity doesn’t come from striving for relevance, it comes from a correct understanding and faith in the person and work of Christ and who we are in Him. Bought with a price, we are not our own ( 1 Corinthians 6:19,20).

That means that in the here and now, although we may have arrived here by various uncertain and unrepeatable ways, comparing ourselves to one another never works as incentive to give God glory and certainly will never further His kingdom, it will only stagnant it as we all become increasingly introspective.

We need a reliance on the Spirit to guide us to His next revival work, that will ultimately always start in our hearts before any other.

Prayer will be the only act that we can be sure will have results, again in our hearts before anyone else’s.

There isn’t a trending hashtag in your timeline or newsfeed today that won’t be forgotten in eternity.

There isn’t a new relevant way of thinking that won’t be old and tired by the time another generation comes around.

Comparing is easy. Conforming to Christ is hard. Go after what’s the hard, because when we’re at our weakest, God will do His best, and that is a source of great comfort to me, because when it comes to comparing oneself to others, I am the chief of sinners.

I do not measure up to the standard others have set that I think I need to reach.

I have made the error of adjusting the way I prepare sermons or deliver God’s Word in order to not offend one or two people.

I have sinned in thinking I need to be like someone else in order to be fruitful in ministry.

In many areas I have been more fearful of men than I am of God, and that doesn’t ever lead to fruitfulness. It leads to anxiety, stress, burn out and discouragement.

Being a comparisonist is exhausting, it’s another cause for weariness. A burden that none of us should bear.

Putting off generational, traditional and personal comparisonism would go a long way to a correct understanding of not only how we got here, but who we now are expected to be, and who we are expected to be is inclusive of all we gain when we compare wisely and biblically. History gives much richness, treasures are found in the way we do ( some) things, and those of a purely ‘revisionist’ mindset will soon find themselves with little left to stand on if we are to dismiss collective Christian history for pragmatism. ’Revisionism’ is not something to be lauded in all contexts, but that topic can be taken up in our letters at a future time.

We are here because God has been long-suffering. A simple look at certain generational and traditional biases will conclude that quite easily. He is so incredibly long-suffering with us.

While we dither about who we are and how much previous generations have either failed or succeeded in leaving us a faithful legacy and timeless traditions, or stressing over where we are and how we got here, God’s instructions to those who would follow His Son have never changed.

Christianity isn’t found in how our parents or grandparents did things and whether or not that has left a bad taste in our mouths that we need to recover from before we can get on with the business of His Kingdom. It’s found in following after Him, because any who follow Him must deny themselves, take up their cross and follow Him.

We are where we are meant to be. God makes no mistakes, and His will had lead us here.

We are being made who we are meant to be, more and more like Jesus.

He is the goal. That’s what we aim for. No turning to back or to the side. It’s steadfastness towards Christ that will see God’s glory accomplished in us and through us.

It will take a long obedience in the same direction, and definitions of identity aside, one of the most challenging calls for believers is not to follow traditions or examples of men, but to simply ‘be holy because our God is holy’.

Holiness might just be summary of how we know who we should compare ourselves to as we seek our true identity and direction in this life because only God is Holy, and He should be the only One we hope to please.

Defining our true identity by comparison to others never works. At it’s base is pride and self-righteousness. You will always be better or worse than another based on your own works.

With Jesus, it’s not about being better or worse.

It’s about weakness and redemption.

That God buys a broken people for Himself and uses them for His glory reminds us it’s not about our works, but His.

We have nothing to boast in but Jesus. The peace and certainty that truth brings is beyond comparison to anything we’ve ever aimed for in our own effort.

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