From the monthly archives: March 2013

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The Résumé: Living in the Light of Justification


When I graduated college, the first thing I did was assemble a list of my achievements and college grades on a résumé. The whole point of a résumé is to put your track record on display, the things about you that are appealing and valuable to a potential employer. By hiring you, the employer approves. You’re validated. The things you’ve accomplished prove you to be worth something. And the harder you work, the more status you get.

Each of us carries a résumé with us throughout life. Everything we’ve ever done, recorded for all time, good and bad. The transcript of some parts of our lives are straight A’s. But we also carry C’s, D’s, and F’s -- shameful and dirty. 

We live in a chaotic time filled with pressures that demand our performance. In today’s world, someone with fewer F’s on their resume is right around the corner waiting for us to screw up, ready to take our job, our status. So we live in a frenzied state, trying not to screw things up, wearily working hard to maintain our résumé.

I don’t think this weariness is limited to just “out there” in the world. I think it has also permeated the church. For a lot of us, our relationship with God feels strained: We look at our track record of sin and assume God is frustrated with us. But in Jesus’ death on the cross that Good Friday, God saw our weary state and offered hope.


For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:7-8)


While we were still sinners, while our resumes were full of F’s, Christ died for us. We had failed and walked away, separated and guilty. God desired people to have an unbreakable relationship with him, one that could never fail – like that of the perfect relationship within the Trinity itself. The Father disconnected his son Jesus from that perfect relationship so that we might have the opportunity to become connected. Jesus willingly stepped into human history and became unholy - our sins laid on him - and he died under the wrath of his Father.

In our achievement-centric culture, even Christians can miss out on hope and rest, because we’re still trying to maintain straight A’s in life. But we often find ourselves overwhelmed with a C average. And then an F. And we wearily pull ourselves back up and work harder.

Here’s what I think we miss. We get that we’ve been forgiven of our sins. The penalty of death has been lifted. But we end up stopping there, with an incomplete identity.

Think of a student in college, starting his electrical engineering degree with good intentions. But the first few weeks of school reveal a character flaw, a lack of discipline, and studying just doesn’t happen. The first F comes on a physics test. And as the weeks go by, playing video games is prioritized over attending classes. Finals week reveals the truth: fifteen credits of failure. A transcript full of F’s.

Out in the real world of fierce competition, our student quickly finds being a college dropout with only F’s on the transcript isn’t appealing for employers. The stigma of failure will stick with him. He’ll forever be fighting the fact that without a good résumé his professional success is vastly limited.

We Christians often live like this F student would live, forever working against our failed track record. We get that we’re forgiven. But it often stops there. We miss something called justification. In contrast with just being let off the hook for our sins (forgiveness), justification basically means we become as if we never sinned at all; all our sins went to Jesus on the cross, and we’ve been given his résumé, his transcript of straight A’s.

"For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Corinthians 5:21).

God made Jesus to be sin. Stop and think about that for a minute. Every bad thing you’ve ever done, put on Jesus. As if Jesus committed that sin. Meaning that on the cross, he became the murderer. The adulterer. He became the disgusting pedophile child molester. Every nasty shameful thing we’ve ever done, he became. And then, as Colossians 2:14 states, God nailed it all with him to the cross. God was pleased to crush his own Son, and with him, to crush our sin forever, there on the cross. Once it was done, we became the righteousness of God.

Jesus is bold. He’s courageous. He’s perfect. Perfectly forgiving. Perfectly kind. He didn’t deserve death and he went there anyway, perfectly sacrificial. The most wonderfully perfect person that ever lived. Straight A’s, a perfect record – and now his righteousness, his résumé, his perfect transcript has become yours.

We often approach Easter Sunday as if the F’s were still on our record, as if Good Friday was great and all, but now we have to work hard to stay in God’s favor. As if we’ve been let out of jail on parole, forgiven the debt, but with an identity of failure to continually work against. And it’s a heavy, helpless load.

In the sight of God the Father, you are as the Son himself, completely righteous. Your struggle for validation and acceptance is over. God has made you acceptable! He has validated you by accomplishing a 4.0 record for you on the cross. The only work you have left to do now is gladly accept this righteousness as a gift from God.

Easter Sunday is around the corner. We, his redeemed, his children, get to celebrate together that the tomb is empty. Jesus is alive. And that we can finally be at rest, because Jesus did all the work for us on the cross. Oh happy day, when Jesus washed all my sins away!

How Jesus Washed My Feet


I think I had done this once before a long time ago. But the idea seemed very new to me and not altogether welcome. A little awkward, to be honest, and I was pretty sure other people would see it the same way. Still, the request had been made, and as a leader it is hard to say no to the idea of foot washing at a small group meeting on the Thursday night before Easter. After all, that was the night Jesus chose. 

I tried to think through why I felt uncomfortable about it, why nearly everyone does. Though Jesus commanded us to wash one another's feet because of his example, we don't take that literally in the same way we do communion. There just isn't twice-a-month foot washing in most weekend church schedules. 

As I thought about feet, some things started to come into focus for me. Both the Bible and personal experience would indicate different parts of our bodies express different things. Some parts are very presentable: our smiles, our eyes, our hands. Some are very intimate or sexual, and they are meant to be private. Our feet seem to communicate lowness or humiliation. A conqueror would have a vanquished foe bow at his feet. When the woman washed Jesus’ feet with her hair, she was coming to him in the most self-abasing manner possible. In Jesus’ day, it was the job of slaves to wash feet. If you relate to me through relating to my feet, you are humbling yourself before me.  

So, the thought of having someone I know wash my feet seemed like an out-of-place speed bump in our relationship. I felt like I was having someone connect with me in a part of me that was personal and not meant to be presentable. This was putting them, for a moment, in a role of being less than an equal. It was one of those situations where putting your best foot forward just wasn't going to help. 

Why did the Lord Jesus Christ do that on the night he was betrayed and just before he instituted the Last Supper?

John 13 tells us that on the night he was betrayed, Jesus took off his outer garment and wrapped a towel around him. In Jesus' time, the body was kept almost completely covered. Exposure of the body was quite improper. Whatever Jesus was left wearing was inappropriate in polite company, and he was most likely stripped like a slave. That alone would have been uncomfortable for everyone, but real foot washing was messy business, and to do the job well, clothing had to come off.

Then he took a basin and went from disciple to disciple, washing their dirty feet and wiping them with the towel that was wrapped around him. We correctly understand the awkwardness of this moment for the disciples. When Jesus came to Peter, he exclaimed, "You shall never wash my feet!" With Jesus kneeling before him and relating to him by serving his lowly, un-presentable parts, Peter saw Jesus in a place where Jesus did not belong. Peter understood that he should humble himself before Jesus; he equally understood that nothing would ever make it right and fitting for Jesus to humble himself before him. 

So why did Jesus do that? No doubt that there was more than one reason. Jesus said that it was to show us the humility with which we should serve one another. 

But another reason came to me as I meditated on that event and its place on the eve of Jesus' death. Peter was uncomfortable with Jesus serving him in this way. I feel the same way with a friend I love and respect. Yet Jesus related to Peter – and to me – in a way that touched un-presentable parts in an even more humiliating way that foot washing. Jesus took my sins. On the cross, Jesus experienced more than the pain of the nails. He also experienced the shame of all the ugly, selfish, dirty and dark things I have done. Jesus not only washed Peter's dirty feet, Jesus took Peter's dirty sins. 

And as I thought about the awkwardness of the foot washing, and how I would have felt if Jesus washed my feet, I was struck that I don't connect with how utterly inappropriate it was for him to be smeared with all the things I would never want to tell anyone. All the sins I want to hide, all the parts of my life that are so un-presentable – Jesus gently took from me. He washed them off me and on to Himself. And He bore not only the pain of its punishment, he bore the shame of owning all the things of which I am so ashamed. He carried the things I so desperately want to keep hidden and brought them as his own before the piercing eyes of a holy God. 


But he was pierced for our transgressions;

    he was crushed for our iniquities;

upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,

    and with his wounds we are healed.

All we like sheep have gone astray;

    we have turned—every one—to his own way;

and the Lord has laid on him

    the iniquity of us all.  (Isaiah 53:5-6)


Jesus knelt down and related to me in my most un-presentable, shameful parts. Jesus received my sin. 

When that became just a little bit clear to me, the awkwardness of foot washing became a sweet connection point. O God, how blind I am to what you did for me! Even as a creature that sins every day, I would much rather experience pain than experience shame. How unimaginably more for you – a holy God. It was not your place to stand with all my ugliness on you. I did those things, not you. You should never know such stains, and I am so sorry you had to carry mine. But what a profound, life-changing act of love. 

Jesus washed my feet in the most infinite way: He bore my sins and all of their shame.

What can I say? What can I say?
  
Thank you.

We Are Tiger Woods: Claiming the Only Win that Truly Takes Care of Everything

 

Winning his last two PGA tournaments, Tiger Woods is again the world's No. 1 golfer. This is the first time since Tiger’s marital indiscretions in 2009 that he has claimed golf’s top spot.

The truth is that, in pure athletic ability, Tiger probably always has been the best. It's not unreasonable to assume that the darkness and destruction of his life derailed his game for a few years. But, in the golfing sections, Tiger's DNA contains unique sequences that form the roots of his athletic brilliance. He is a rare talent. It will be his ruin.

The folks at Nike also possess a unique brilliance. For decades, Nike’s marketers have defined the times by capturing the values that move us with a few stark words and images. They are the "mirror, mirror on the wall."

America, we are Tiger.

Not simply in our lost moral compass. Not only in our vanity. Not merely in our desire for redemption.

But in the story of our redemption. "Winning takes care of everything."

Read the rest of entry »

The Giants of an Unbelieving Heart and How to Slay Them


Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says,


“Today, if you hear his voice,

do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,

    on the day of testing in the wilderness,

where your fathers put me to the test

    and saw my works for forty years.

Therefore I was provoked with that generation,

and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart;

    they have not known my ways.’

As I swore in my wrath,

    ‘They shall not enter my rest.’”


Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. (Hebrews 3:7-12)


Thank you very much, brother Mitch Majeski. God used you on Sunday to remind me once again of a truth that has been very slow to sink down into my heart. I mentioned it briefly the Sunday I shared my thoughts from the men’s conference, but I have been fighting an ongoing battle to replace lies that seem to continually oppose God’s truth. These are lies of inadequacy, that I don’t have anything to offer, that I’m not needed or wanted or even liked. Maybe some of you can relate.  

God is so faithful! He keeps speaking his truth to me. His offers true words of affirmation: I’m his son; he saved me not because of righteous things I have done but because of his mercy. It gave him great pleasure and was exactly what he wanted to do, to make me holy and without fault in his perfect eyes. How cool! And yet I struggle to believe it. God has clearly spoken, but in my mind I find myself arguing with God. He says I’m adequate, but I believe the lie that I am not. He says I’m precious to him, but I feel worthless. In my head, I say nobody wants me around; God says he specifically chose me and that I belong to him through his dear Son.

It’s easy for me to pout and stay in my cycle of self-pity and hope others notice and feel sorry for me. Even as I write this I can imagine people saying, “Oh, that’s too bad for Joel.” You can feel as sorry for me as you do for the 10 spies when you read about them bringing back the bad report to Moses. “Oh, that’s too bad for Israel, they have to wander around in the desert for 40 years.” What was the problem? They were in sin. God had clearly spoken and they had refused to believe him. They had trusted in their own power instead of in God, who had clearly demonstrated his power to take out anyone who stood in the way. They had an evil, unbelieving heart.

The God of the Past Is the God of My Future

That same heart is in me. My situation is no different. I look at flaws and weaknesses in me, flesh patterns that I want rid of so badly but that keep coming up, and I get discouraged and say it’s hopeless. I am inadequate. I’ll never change, never be the man God wants me to be. There are too many giants in the land. I look like grasshoppers to them.

About a month ago I was sharing some of these struggles with a good brother. I was looking for sympathy. Instead I got a rightly and deservedly rebuked with the same verse as above. I had heard God’s voice but had hardened my heart against the truths of who he said I was through Christ. When I think thoughts about myself that are contrary to what God says about me, I call God a liar; I deem his finished work on the cross and his Spirit in me insufficient to accomplish what he began in me by grace. In those moments I am demonstrating an evil, unbelieving heart and I need to repent.

Has God clearly spoken?

“See, the Lord your God has set the land before you. Go up, take possession, as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has told you. Do not fear or be dismayed’” (Deuteronomy 1:21).

But my inadequacies are too great:


“If you say in your heart, ‘These nations are greater than I. How can I dispossess them?’ you shall not be afraid of them but you shall remember what the Lord your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt, the great trials that your eyes saw, the signs, the wonders, the mighty hand, and the outstretched arm, by which the Lord your God brought you out. So will the Lord your God do to all the peoples of whom you are afraid.” (Deuteronomy 7:17-19)


God, help me to remember who you are:

"You shall not be in dread of them, for the Lord your God is in your midst, a great and awesome God" (Deuteronomy 7:21).

God, help me remember your promises:


Know therefore today that he who goes over before you as a consuming fire is the Lord your God. He will destroy them and subdue them before you. So you shall drive them out and make them perish quickly, as the Lord has promised you. (Deuteronomy 9:3)


God has spoken. God has promised. He has demonstrated in the past his power to save to the uttermost. None of us would be where we are today without his gracious hand guiding us. Will we trust him for every step of the future? May it be so.

From Japan with Love: An Update from the Cervenka Family

 

Through last year’s “No Small Thing” missions campaign, we raised the support to send David and Danielle Cervenka to Japan for a year. They’ve been building and coaching small groups, sharing the gospel and helping to pave the way for longer-term presence in Japan. In November, four Summitviewers took a "missional scouting trip" and spent a week with the Cervenkas, doing ministry and encouraging them in their work.

The Cervenkas recorded a short (and hilarious) update of their time in Japan, with details on what God is doing and how the Summitview family – you and me – has helped play a part in spreading the gospel in a country that is lacking in any significant Christian presence.


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