Thursday, August 23, 2012

New Website for Fight for Joy!

I am no longer posting to this blog. All blog articles have been moved and all updates are now being posted on my new website and blog Fight for Joy! at www.fightforjoy.net.

Friday, May 25, 2012

A Glimpse into Glory--Well, Maybe...


“For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it” (Romans 8:19, 24-25). My theological conviction has always been one that avoided any type of ecstatic spiritual experience. The reason for such avoidance has been primarily the temptation faced by many to consider such experiences as authoritative even when such experiences clearly contradict the Word of God. This has been especially true in matters related to so called near-death experiences. The Bible gives us an account of one man who “was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak” (2 Cor. 12:4). Yet today we have people claiming to have died and ascended to heaven only to return and write books and travel the world over telling about their heavenly experiences. I even heard a preacher at a funeral onetime use one of these extra-biblical “accounts” to prove to the grieving family heaven did indeed exist. I can remember walking away from that funeral thinking the Bible says heaven is a real place. Isn’t that enough? I guess my point is true Christian conviction and spirituality is anchored in God’s Word, not emotional or otherwise ecstatic spiritual experiences. Our authority is Jesus and His Word. With this in mind I want to share about a recent experience I had—to delve into matters I’ve always considered best to be avoided— with the hope it will help me to process the experience itself. Just keep in mind my experience is not authoritative in the least. The Bible is—so if I share anything that is remotely unbiblical, go with the Bible!

Earlier this week I was undergoing a routine treatment for a recently diagnosed condition. This would be my fourth treatment. I had not been feeling well in the few days preceding the treatment, so much so, that I considered canceling and rescheduling. But, against my better judgment I went ahead with the appointment. When I arrived in the treatment room I immediately noticed how warm it was. I even commented to the two techs that it felt hot. One responded she thought it was cold, the other that it was comfortable. I guess the patient’s comfort was irrelevant. Everything was pretty much routine except for my unusually high blood pressure. About five minutes into the procedure I told the tech nearest me that the room was starting to spin. I followed that up with an “I’m outta here” and immediately everything went black. But I was still fully aware. In fact, I was more aware than I was before blacking out. I don’t recall seeing anything but I could hear the most beautiful music and singing I have ever heard. I had no recollection of the treatment room, the two techs or having just blacked out. I was just standing there trying to listen to the music and figure out where it was coming from. Just then someone shouted, “Breathe!” Immediately I was surrounded by brightness. Everything was enveloped in this brightness. Whether it was light or something else I do not know. In retrospect, I’m thinking I was back the treatment room only I couldn’t see anyone or anything in the room other than myself. I couldn’t even see the chair I was reclined on but I could see me—my body, sort of at an angle. Again, someone shouted, “Captain, we need you to breathe!” Immediately I was back in my body (assuming that I was actually out) and the person shouting—one of the techs—came slowly into focus followed by everything and everyone else—now about 20 people— in the room, all working on me. When I came to I was completely disoriented. I didn’t know where I was or what was going on. I remember looking at the tech and saying something to the effect of, “I think I was dreaming.” I followed that with a request for the trashcan. As the reason for my visit slowly returned I began asking anyone who would listen about the music. But they all seemed more interested in making sure I was alright.

I still don’t know what to make of all of this. Maybe I got a glimpse into glory or maybe not. I know I blacked out. I know I stopped breathing. I know my heart did not stop beating so I guess I can’t say I was dead—although the tech later told me they had gotten the defibrillator just in case. But I was definitely somewhere else long enough to hear music and singing and then come back to where my body was waiting and apparently get back in it. The Bible says, “Eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and it has not entered the heart of man all that God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Cor. 2:9). The Bible also says “to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). But there was no gain for me that day. Apparently, “to remain on in the flesh is more necessary” (Phil. 1:24) for the sake of others, namely Susanne and Christian. But this much I do know—The Bible is true and I am with perseverance waiting eagerly “for the revealing of the sons of God” (Rom. 8:19)—that day when I see Jesus. And I’d be willing to suggest on that day there will be no coming back, no matter how many times someone shouts, “Breathe!” 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Faith Credited As Righteousness

“For what does the Scripture say? ‘ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS CREDITED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS.’ Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited to him as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness” (Romans 4:3-5). Paul’s letter to the Romans has been rightly called The Constitution of Christianity. Indeed, it is the greatest of all the letters of Paul. Its theology is, on the one hand, profound beyond comprehension. But on the other hand, the Holy Spirit gladly guides the believer into the truth that is Romans. The entire letter can be summed up with the phrase, “Righteousness from Heaven.” Paul meticulously demonstrates the utter sinfulness of mankind concluding beyond any doubt, “THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE” (Rom. 3:10). Such a universal condition results in the need for divine righteousness. In other words, if I want to see God I must have the righteousness of Christ credited to my account. Such is only possible through faith.

“Abraham believed God, and it was credited to Him as righteousness” (Rom. 4:3). Romans 4 is a pivotal chapter in establishing righteousness through faith alone in Christ alone. There is a mystery here. This should not be taken as something unusual, as elsewhere Paul describes the entire body of revealed doctrine as, “the mystery of faith” (1 Tim. 3:9). Paul is not saying that our faith is recognized to be righteous. If that were the case one would have reason to boast before God. Righteousness credited to us happens outside of us. The phrase, “it was credited to him,” is in the passive voice meaning God does the work, not me. In other words, this righteousness is imputed not imparted. Remember, imputed means to set to one’s account. God has imputed, or set to my account, the righteousness of God. There is no works-righteousness here, as it is totally the work of God brought about through faith in Christ alone. This is the method for obtaining this righteousness—believe God! Otherwise, we receive what is due: “For the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23a). But if we come through faith, we receive “the free gift of God” (Rom. 6:23b), which is the righteousness of Christ. This is the miracle of faith that results in certain blessings bestowed on the one who believes. First of all, our sins are forgiven—they are sent away. Secondly, they are covered. In fact, they are covered so completely there’s no chance of their ever being uncovered. Finally, miracle of miracle of miracles, the righteousness of Christ is credited to the account of the one believing the Gospel.

So, this raises an important question. Do you possess, by way of imputation, the righteousness of Christ? Your answer to this question is crucial as it concerns matters of eternity—where you will spend it. The Bible says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). It doesn’t matter how good one might be or think they are as the Bible also teaches even the good things we do are marred by sin. Isaiah wrote, “All our righteous acts are like filthy rags” (Is. 64:6). Remember, Paul has already demonstrated the utter sinfulness of all mankind—you included. This is why we need righteousness from heaven. And the amazing thing is this: although it cost God everything to make this possible, for you and me, it is free! This is what Christ came to do—to fulfill a righteousness and die a death that would remove all your sins and my sins and become for us a perfect righteousness. He offers you this righteousness today as a free gift. It is yours for the asking—simply believe the Gospel. “BLESSED IS THE MAN WHOSE SIN THE LORD WILL NOT TAKE INTO ACCOUNT” (Rom. 4:8).