A Stranger at the Throne

If you thought that I had everything together and didn’t struggle like everyone does, this article will surely shatter that image of me. If you realize that I am the same as you – a pilgrim trying to make it through life – perhaps you can understand this. 

_____________________________________________________________________________

Life is a blur sometimes for my family. Shoot, often it is a blur. We are so busy we barely have time to think much less anything else. With all our commitments, responsibilities, and other stuff we barely have time to relate to each other. It seems sometimes we are strangers in our own home. And if my wife and I are having trouble finding time to  speak to each other because of the busy nature of life, how in the world do I relate and speak to God each day. You know, that prayer thing. Have I become a stranger to God’s throne?

Ouch.

Sin is a cruel master. A very cruel master.

Last week I hurt my wife and my marriage (before you speculate, I didn’t have an affair or strike my wife  but hurt her and crossed a line I shouldn’t have). It was inexcusable and indefensible. But it was entirely predictable result of my becoming a stranger to God’s throne because I became too busy with life that I forgot to commune daily with my Life-giving Father in heaven. How did tis happen?

_____________________________________________________________________________

Sixty hours at work per week. One hour commute to work. One hour commute from work. Responsibilities here. Responsibilities there. This ministry. That ministry. An event today, tomorrow, and the next day. Football practice, basketball practice, gymnastics, and dance. A blog article is due. Gotta finish that manuscript outline. Study? Oh yeah, I need to study…and pray. But I’m busy.

Too busy…

_____________________________________________________________________________

I have apologized to my wife, asked her forgiveness, and taken steps to prevent the sin from repeating itself. My wife has forgiven me and we are working to repair the damage I inflicted on her and our marriage.

Now I need to approach God’s throne. I feel like I don’t belong.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30 NASB

Jesus invites us to come to Him with all the burdens and labors we bear. I have no doubt these burdens included the unbiblical rules and regulations that the religious leaders placed on the people of that time. I also believe that these burdens – at least as an application – can include the burdens we often carry from previously forgiven sin. Like the burden I now carry.

Will I listen to His invitation and meet Him in His throne room? Will I shrink back, hide, and cower in shame and disgust at my sin? I wish I could answer those questions. But right now, I just don’t know what I will do.

Satan is having a good time with right now. He is working overtime accusing me of this and that. He is reminding me of my past and my present. He sure is good at making me understand just how sinful I am. He is trying to discourage me. And he is doing a pretty good job of accomplishing that…

Come to me…”

I clearly hear Christ’s call to come to Him. I just don’t want to go right now.

I’m broken.

I feel humiliated.

I’m hurt.

I feel just plain wrong.

How can I approach my holy God – the Holy One seen in Isaiah 6 – with this sin? How can I bear to see Him? How can I allow Him to see me?

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:14 – 16 NASB

I know, I know. All I have to do is repent (done), ask forgiveness (done), and it will be granted to me. After all, that is what the Cross accomplished, right? All my sins were washed away. Yeah, I know ’em all. If I was counseling someone as a Pastor, I would be quoting them left and right. I’d be reassuring the one I’m counseling of God’s forgiveness if he repented.

But this one…this one really hurts. I hurt the one person I never wanted to hurt. I hurt my wife. The woman who has stood by me through thick and thin. She has endured things that I’m sure others know nothing about. And now this. I feel like I need to be beaten more. I feel that I need to do something and not just move on.

Forgiveness of my sin is granted at the Cross. Though I do not feel  forgiven, I am forgiven. You see, there is sometimes a lag between the granting of forgiveness and the realization that forgiveness has already been received. My sin wasn’t just committed by the act (again, not a physical thing). It began to work in me as I drifted from the throne room of God. That was a mistake I hope I never make again.

Come to me…”

“…receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need…”

My burdens have already been lifted. My sin already forgiven. I have received mercy and grace in my time of need. To believe anything less would cheapen the Cross. It would deny the power of Christ’s sacrifice. Now I just need to realize these things are true.

Just realize it.

This is going to be tough.

Thankfully Broken

“When I see the Lord on His throne, I figure I won’t be able to stand, much less be able to chit chat with others about something that is suddenly not so important. I figure when I see God exalted, I will fall down in awe and worship. What will you do?”

 

I often wonder how I am doing with my thoughts about who God is. I wonder if I am really in awe of Him or if I’m just going through the motions. One of the best ways I think to figure this out is realizing how much sin I have committed, how much of my sin He has forgiven, and How holy He is. I really don’t have to contemplate this too much though. We have a wonderful encounter with God’s holiness and the brokenness of a sinner recorded in Scripture. We find this passage in Isaiah

In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another and said, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory.” And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke. Then I said, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal in his hand, which he had taken from the altar with tongs. He touched my mouth with it and said, “Behold, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away and your sin is forgiven.” – Isaiah 6:1-7 NASB

The first thing we experience here is that Isaiah sees something.

“…I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another and said, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory.” And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke.”

This whole scene unfolds in a difficult time for Isaiah. Their earthly King – Uzziah –  had just died. I have little doubt that Isaiah was feeling a bit depressed and discouraged at this time. But in the midst of his discouragement, God gives Isaiah a vision of the Throne Room. Let’s read through the images Isaiah conveys to us.

First, Isaiah sees the Lord lofty and exalted.  What a beautiful description of God. Then Isaiah sees the train His royal robe filling the Temple. Now this probably refers to the entire Temple Mount. That is a lot of area to fill with the train of a robe.

Next Isaiah sees Seraphim – angels – who were attending the Throne of God and worshipping God by stating Holy, Holy Holy, is the Lord of Hosts. The whole earth is full of His glory. Imagine being there and experiencing this sight. This is followed by the foundations of the thresholds trembling at the voice of Him who called out while the temple was filling with smokeSo we have a vision of the Lord Himself, His holiness, demonstrated by the length of the train of His robe, angelic hosts worshipping God and an earthquake at the sound of his voice. Umm, wow. Wow.

The next thing I want to emphasize if that Isaiah realizes something.

Then I said, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.”

Isaiah realizes who he is in light of the holy God who is before him. Look at what Isaiah says…

woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, 

Isaiah realizes that he is in bad shape because, as a sinner, he cannot be in the presence of the absolute holy God of Israel. But Isaiah’s realization doesn’t end there…

And I live among a people of unclean lips; 

Not only does Isaiah recognize his own sinful situation, but he also realizes that he lives with an absolutely sinful people. This poses a major problem for Isaiah and the nation. No unclean thing or person could stand in the presence of God and survive. Isaiah, is broken over this. Not that he is in pickle. No, I think he is broken over the holiness of God and his sinful nature.

Isaiah recognizes his sinfulness in light of the holiness of God. Think about how you would react. Would you or I react the same way? I wonder.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

When I hear Christians talk about eternity in trite terms, I cringe. I hear some Christians who say “When I get to heaven, I’m gonna give Adam a piece of my mind…” or they say how they want to speak to Paul or something along those lines. I’ve realized as I have grown older in the Lord that those things – while they may be neat to think about – probably won’t happen.

imagesWhen I see the Lord on His throne, I figure I won’t be able to stand, much less be able to chit chat with others about something that is suddenly not so important. I figure when I see God exalted, I will fall down in awe and worship. What will you do?

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Finally Isaiah experienced something.

Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal in his hand, which he had taken from the altar with tongs. He touched my mouth with it and said, “Behold, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away and your sin is forgiven.”

In short, Isaiah experiences the forgiveness of God. His sins are immediately cleansed. As a result, Isaiah volunteers (in the verses that follow these) to go on a mission that will not bear much fruit. But Isaiah goes on this mission quite enthusiastically.

Isaiah has seen the glory of God. He has seen God’s holiness. He has heard the angels, he has seen heavenly worship. And the result of all this?

Isaiah realizes his utter sinfulness. And he is broken over that. In that brokenness, God forgives him and cleanses him.

How are we doing?

____________________________________________________________________________________________

When we meet God – either at salvation or during prayer – do we realize what Isaiah realized? Do we realize that God’s holiness is so awesome that our puny mind cannot fully comprehend it? When we see that holiness and remember the forgiveness and cleansing God has performed on us, are we thankful? Are we broken?

I think we should be thankfully broken about our sin and our new life in Christ. We should never become arrogant – thinking we deserve this life. We should always remember whence we came. We should always remember the cost of our forgiveness. We should hit our knees in thankfulness. And brokenness. Like Isaiah, we should be broken.

Thankfully. Broken.

 

 

 

 

 

The Need

godsradicalgrace copy

In my previous articles I have presented grace as a necessary attribute of God and an action of God towards us. In order to fully grasp grace – at least as fully grasp it as we can – we must first understand that we are sinners in dire need of grace.

Now what do I mean by “We are sinners”? Well, we are a rebellious people who desire their own way rather than God’s way. We are bent toward evil, not good. Every perception we have, every inclination, every thought is tainted and influenced, and, if we are honest, driven by the will to do our own evil bidding rather than what is right.

God, through the Apostle Paul, states that

There is none righteous, not even oneThere is none who understandsThere is none who seeks for GodAll have turned aside, together they have become uselessThere is none who does goodThere is not even oneTheir throat is an open graveWith their tongues they keep deceivingThe poison of asps is under their lipsWhose mouth is full of cursing and bitternessTheir feet are swift to shed bloodDestruction and misery are in their pathsAnd the path of peace they have not knownThere is no fear of God before their eyes. – Romans 3:10-18 NASB

Seems pretty clear to me. We are not righteous, we don’t understand, we don’t seek after God. We have turned from God and His ways, we steal, murder, curse and we don’t know peace, This is a pretty ugly picture of mankind, isn’t it! There is no room for pop psychology or warm fuzzy feelings for felt needs in Paul’s letter to the Romans. He paints a bleak picture of humanity. But wait, there’s more!

Just in case you were trying to figure a way of reading the previous passage without using the word sin, Paul takes care of that in just a few verses:

 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God – Romans 3:23 NASB

The word All means you and me. It means every Jew and gentile. If you are human, you are included in this. Oh boy, now I’ve done it. We are actually equal. We are equally corrupt, equally sinful (though the expression may be different), equally under judgment, and equally worthy of hell for eternity.

ALL of us humans are equally under the condemnation of God.

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 6:23 NASB

Payday is coming, folks. Each of us will receive what is due. In Romans six Paul clearly and unequivocally states that death is the result of sin. The term death does not imply or mean cessation of existence. No, it simply means separation. Physical death is when the material and immaterial parts of a human are separated . When that occurs, the body ceases to function and the spirit or soul leaves.

Spiritual death occurs when we stand before God and are judged. Not one of our works – regardless of how good it may seem – is going to do anything to keep us from being separated from God for eternity. Once our soul leaves our body we cannot ever be reconciled to God, unless we experienced that reconciliation prior to that moment. We are most definitely in a pickle. All of us.

This is where grace enters into our lives. God offers His salvation by His grace. We must appropriate His grace through faith. Salvation – the freedom from sin and its consequences – is granted by God by His grace through faith

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and ]that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8 NASB

God’s grace changes our trajectory in eternity.

Though we were destined for eternal separation from God because of our sin, when God invades our lives and grants His salvation by His grace through our faith, our destiny is changed., Forever.

No longer are we destined for eternal separation from God. No, we are now destined to an eternity in the very presence of God. God’s grace does that. God’s grace is THAT powerful.

Deflated Footballs, Inflated Egos, and Repentence

Changing our mind toward our sin is key if we ever hope to be more Christ-like.

The current “scandal” involving a American football team – the New England Patriots – has enthralled Americans and taken over the endless news cycle. There has been many discussion with some becoming quite heated concerning whether the Patriots did indeed cheat in a football game. The evidence (at least that which has been released) seems to indicate that the Patriots cheated by using under-inflated footballs for when their team was trying to score points. An under-inflated football is easier to grip when the weather is nasty – and the weather was nasty for this game. The “they cheated” crowd is yelling about the principle of sportsmanship and fair play while the “they didn’t cheat” crowd makes a point that every team cheats in one way or another so, hey, what’s the big deal?

After I reflected on a discussion I participated in where the “everybody cheats” excuse was brought up I discovered why I find this whole event so disconcerting. And you know what? It has nothing to do with the apparent cheating. It also has nothing to do with the fact that cheating is prevalent in society. No, my reason for being so upset had to do with something much deeper and, in my opinion, more important that the cheating itself.

FIrst some facts…

We all sin and cheat

I am not using this as an excuse for anyone else cheating and thus saying their cheating does not matter. No I am observing a simple fact. All of us – you, me, everyone alive on this planet right now – have cheated and sinned.

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God  – Romans 3:23 NASB

We are all in the same boat. We all do things that are wrong. We all try to game the system. In the parlance of this scandal, we all use under-inflate footballs to gain a competitive advantage. Yes even those reading this that think yourselves as good, moral people. So get over yourself – and myself – already. We are imperfect cheaters who want to win at just about any cost.

We are all helpless to change on our own

I don’t care how much you try to change, you will remain stained with sin as long as you try to change. “Turn over a new leaf” those around you may say. “Take some behavior modification classes” others may offer. Regardless of what you try to do, you will never be able to stop sinning on your own accord. Why? Because we are all as a dead person when it comes to sinning. What can a dead person do to change his condition? Yeah, thats right, nothing.

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.  – Ephesians 2:1-2 NASB

So what’s the rub here?

So if we are all sinners and cheaters and we can do nothing to change that fact, why then should we get so upset about the Patriots apparently cheating their way to the Super Bowl? If everyone does, what’s the big deal? It’s just humans being human, right?

It is about their attitude

The Patriots have come out and said they didn’t cheat. They have given implausible (my opinion) explanations about how a football will lose pressure. Their denials actually create more troubling questions for me. Their attitude seems to be of indifference to what they have done. They seem to be trying to dismiss this from everyone’s memory. I don’t think that will work.

So what is the Secret Sauce here?

What would help them get over this scandal and move forward? Simply put, they need to ‘fess up and repent of this mess and then they can move forward. Without that, this will follow them throughout the rest of their history as a team and franchise. And that is a good thing. But what does it mean to “repent”?

Repentance

The Greek verb for repent is metanoeo (meta-no-e-o). It means simply “to have a new mind”. The idea of this word is to have a new mind regarding Christ (for issues of eternal salvation) or a new mind regarding the issues of one’s sin (temporal salvation). Though both aspects are important, I’m mainly concerned with the latter point.

How often do we feel bad or sorry about what we have done that is wrong? Whether what we have done is run a red light, take more than allowed, taken something not ours, or some other act, do we feel a sorrow for having done that thing?

 I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. 2 Corinthians 7:9 NASB

The passage above is referring to Paul’s scathing letter to the Church in Corinth that roundly condemned their hedonistic practices and perversion of the Lord’s Supper. If you want a good dressing down about sin, read through 1 Corinthians sometime. read it all at once. I dare you to stay the same after that. But in the selected passage here, Paul refers to the the sorrow that produced repentance. The Corinthians evidently repented of their wrongs when confronted about it. And here in 2 Corinthians Paul is commending them for it and even rejoicing that they did repent.

So what does all this have to do with me or you?

Well, simply put it has EVERYTHING to do with me and you. We have issues confront us every day where we must make a decision to sin or not sin. Every. Single. Day. What we do with that decision indicates where we are in our process of sanctification. If (when) we make the wrong decision and choose to sin or cheat, we suffer loss. Hopefully our conscience confronts us. When our conscience confronts us (as well as anyone else who confronts us) we have choice to either deny it and try to prove that everyone does it or we can choose to change our mind about our sin, agree we were wrong, ‘fess up and move on.

This is much more important than a football game where cheating happened. This has to do with your walk with Christ. Far too often we try to cover up our sin or even deny we did anything wrong. This is a huge mistake. Changing our mind toward our sin is key if we ever hope to be more Christ-like.  HIding behind excuses does nothing but enrage those around us and create further hindrances to our own spiritual growth.

So the next time you cheat, sin, or deflate footballs in order to win a game in bad weather and then get caught at it, don’t deny, obfuscate, or offer other excuses. Change your mind about your sin. Admit what you did, ask forgiveness, and then move on after being a changed person.