Tag Archives: god

The Nazareth Manifesto

2017-08

One Sabbath Day, early in Jesus’ ministry, He visited His hometown of Nazareth and stood before the town’s synagogue filled with old friends and neighbors. That day, He read these words:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor, He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord” (Isaiah 61:1-2).

These words, sometimes called “the Nazareth Manifesto,” are Jesus’ announcement to His friends and neighbors—and to us—what His coming and calling are all about.

A manifesto proclaims the aims and policies of a political party or candidate. Often, the manifesto consists of many words, all meant to win favor from the people.

In contrast, the Nazareth Manifesto’s words are few, and Jesus comes, not to stir a mass movement of public favor that sweeps Him into power, but to announce the irresistible will and authority of God to accomplish all He has just read. By this authority, He lays out what will surely come to pass to fulfill a prophecy from hundreds of years before.

He reaches out to four different kinds of people: the poor, captives, the blind and the oppressed. He does not define these terms because they include every manner of poverty, captivity, blindness and oppression that results from separation from God.

The “favorable year of the Lord” refers to the Year of Jubilee when once every 50 years, slaves received their freedom, debts were canceled, ancestral property was returned to the original owners. It is a proclamation of a new order.

The Nazareth Manifesto is a ringing declaration of Jesus’ power and ability to do it all.

Jesus’ Nazareth Manifesto is the model for the salvation we proclaim and practice before the world. We must not water it down but proclaim it in full, and like Jesus, do great works because He told us, “Greater things than I have done, you will do.”

Not everyone will accept Jesus’ Manifesto. His own hometown rejected Him, and for a time, even members of His own earthly family thought He was crazy. He faced great opposition especially from those who did not see themselves as poor, captives, blind or oppressed.

Jesus’ Nazareth Manifesto was not a political message or even a religious message, but a relational one. It required personal trust in Him alone to bring about the results He promised. It roused anger and opposition from the proud and those used to power because it proclaimed a sweeping away of the status quo.

Two thousand years have passed, but His aims have not changed. He still proclaims release to the captives, sight to the blind, freedom for the oppressed. He has delegated to us the task of preaching the gospel to the poor. One day, when He returns, we will see the fullness of the Year of Jubilee. The Nazareth Manifesto continues to arouse opposition from the status quo while it steadily wins new followers of Jesus Christ.

In 2000 years, the Nazareth Manifesto has already seen much accomplishment, but much more is yet to come! Let us make sure that we have made Jesus’ Manifesto our own!

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

God’s Sovereignty, Human Responsibility

creation-of-adamHolistic healing—the harmonious relationship of body, soul and spirit— comes when we learn to live our lives governed by the grace of God. How do we know we are governed by the grace of God? I submit to you a simple test. Ask yourself this question: When were you saved?

Now—what is the very first thing that comes into your mind when you read this question? The answer to this question—the only biblical answer—is, “At the cross, by the eternal plan of God the Father before He created the world.” (Read the details in Romans and Ephesians.)

There is a delicate balance between God’s sovereignty and human responsibility. To the degree we tip that balance to the human side, we err. God takes the initiative. We love Him because He first loved us. Even the process of conviction comes from the Holy Spirit. If we associate the moment of our salvation mainly with the day we knelt at our bedside, walked down an aisle, prayed the sinner’s prayer or any other thing, to that degree we make our salvation a thing of our own doing more than God’s grace.

To the extent we tip that balance, we become less able to hear the Holy Spirit, and we become more vulnerable to the lies of the world, the flesh and the devil. We become more prone to the stress of believing lies rather than truth, of living at a lower level than God intended for us.

If we are honest with ourselves, none of us fully accepts the grace of God in our hearts, even if we believe it in our minds. Our habits of thinking and doing are still deeply rooted in fallen natures which want to do everything in our own strength. We are more ungodly in our thinking than we imagine.

Instead of kicking ourselves for our failures, we must daily remind ourselves that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for the ungodly.” Learning to live by God’s grace is a lifelong process. Knowing God saved us at the cross through His Son should better help us to accept ourselves because HE accepts us and aids us in transforming our awed lives and characters. This is a difficult, but necessary step toward holistic healing.

Psychology tells us that to accept ourselves, we must look into our past to heal ourselves. But God, the Great Physician, accepts us at a deeper level, and He did it before we were born. To experience full healing, we come to know ourselves best when we first learn to know God’s grace. This is when true healing takes place.

Our failure to live by God’s grace explains the poor health of so many churches and our culture. When the church does not live out the full healing power of grace, we cannot live as salt and light, and we cannot change the culture around us. All of this makes the church appear powerless, unable to bring the Great Physician to a hurting world.

Paul preached the finished work of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9). His emphasis upon God’s grace in Jesus Christ helped to spread the gospel across the Roman Empire. Let us pray for an unprecedented Great Awakening to the truth of God’s holiness and God’s grace and see the gospel once again spread like wild fire throughout the unreached world!

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Do You Truly Know Him?

More than 50 years ago, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones preached, “What this world needs more than anything else is personal knowledge of the true character of God. Our basic problem is a profound ignorance of God’s character.”

If anything, those words are truer today than ever before—a profound ignorance of the character of God. Tragically, this is true even in many churches that call themselves “Christian.”

Too many Christians have bought into the lie that God is a creation of our psychological state, and that we can pick and choose what parts of God we like and leave out whatever makes us feel uncomfortable. Too many Christians have bought into the lie that religion begins and ends with ourselves, that God is about “meeting my needs and the needs of my family.”

The names of God in the Bible do not allow us this fantasy. God’s names in the Bible do not result from philosophical speculation but are the names God gives to Himself. They reveal His true being. They shatter our ignorance. They remind us that He makes us, we don’t make Him.

God reveals who He is through His names because He wants us to experience Him. He wants us to “taste and see that the Lord is good.” God is always greater than what we think of Him. If we are attracted to the God of love and grace, we must also experience the holy and righteous God who hates and judges our sin. We must also experience the God who demands our total submission to Him. In our present culture, these truths cause discomfort even in the church.

When we adapt God to our own desires and dreams, we cannot experience a true relationship with Him. True relationship with anyone is impossible with fantasies about that person, even more so with God. Whenever we leave something out of God’s character, we experience less of Him, not more. We know less of His love and grace. We know less of His power. In the end, He becomes remote and impotent to us, and we trust Him less, not more.

In today’s world, a remote God is the last thing we need. With all its confusion and turmoil, the world looms large, and God appears small and ineffective even to many Christians, unable to help them overcome daily problems of raising families, deal with health issues, find hope in turbulent electoral politics, face the prospect of death.

God is pleased to reveal hundreds of names of Himself in the Bible. The multiplicity of God’s names in scripture reveal how great He really is—and how little we truly know Him. The multiplicity of His names also demonstrate God’s continuing and patient invitation to us to know Him better.

When we allow Him to surround and embrace us with who He really is, and not who we want Him to be, we discover joy in the midst of sorrow, peace in the midst of war, opportunities in the midst of obstacles, accomplishment in the midst of mundane toil.

The multiplicity of God’s names speak of the greatness of God. Let us proclaim this great God to a fragmented world and anticipate His promise of that day when “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.”

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

God Introduces Himself

God introduces Himself . . . This fact makes the Bible and the gospel of Jesus Christ different from any other religion.

In all other religions, a celebrated philosopher, teacher or prophet tries to introduce us to God. But humanity’s ideas about God, no matter how seemingly noble and high-minded, always fall short. We always reduce God to something less than Who He is because that is what sinners always do—they fall short. We are all idolaters.

This is a constant danger for all of us, even if we call ourselves evangelical Christians. We all have this tendency to simplify God, to make Him less offensive, to reduce Him to the most common denominator so as to include as many people as possible within the fold. I constantly must watch this tendency in myself.

As sinners, we tend to become attracted to the spectacular, to the “big show.” The people who witnessed Jesus’ earthly ministry exclaimed at His miracles and followed after Him to see what He would do next. But later, they shouted out, “Crucify Him!” Amazement at Jesus’ miracles does not translate into falling at His feet and crying out, “Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner!”

As sinners, we naturally like an easy-going God of love who forgives us (i.e., winks an eye at sin) and fulfills our every wish and dream. Many false prophets today, who call themselves “Christians,” promise this false god and attract multitudes. This god is tame and controllable, like a domesticated cat. He is also powerless to save anybody.

All of these deadly tendencies are why we desperately need God to tell us who He really is.

We know God best by how God introduces Himself to us in the Bible through such names as I AM WHO I AM and ELOHIM. God reveals Himself in many such names throughout the Bible.

In his book, Experiencing God, Henry Blackaby lists more than 350 ways God introduces Himself to us through His names. These names God gives to Himself reveal His character, not only as a God of love, but as pure and righteous, a hater of sin, with no beginning and end, three-in-one and one-in-three, unchangeable, everlasting, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, King of kings–and utterly holy.

I AM WHO I AM dies a humiliating and unspeakable death, and promises to come back as judge to separate the sheep from the goats. No simple God here, and multitudes don’t want Him. They don’t want this holy God over whom they lose all control because He is in control, not them. Little do they know, He is the only God who can truly help them.

This is the God we are called to proclaim to the world around us. Through Jesus Christ, I AM WHO I AM is the only God who can save us from our small ideas and even smaller power. He is the only God who can redeem and transform our lives, give us a glimpse into the future, and create a New Heaven and a New Earth.

When God introduces Himself to us, we had better accept Him for Who He really is, not the domesticated fantasy He is not. Our eternal destinies (and the world’s) depend upon it.

Tagged , , , , , ,

God is the Owner

“Stewardship is another term for fundraising.”

How many times have you heard or thought that? This common misconception permeates our culture, even in the church, but it is heresy of the worst sort.

“Stewardship” comes from the Greek word, oikenomous, from which we derive our words, “economy” and “economics.” Originally, it referred to someone who managed a household. He did not own the household, but held it in trust for the owner. As Christians, our owner is God. We are to maintain and manage our “household” on His terms, not ours.

Our “household” contains all that makes up who we are and have, and the environment in which He places us, all of which He owns. We are not the owners but the managers of our abilities, gifts, talents, money, time—and our salvation.

Stewardship is another word for ministry, and ministry is another word for service. Both “ministry” and “service” come from the same Hebrew and Greek words. Stewards are servants used by others for their purposes. True Christians are “on call” by God for His purposes, not our own. His purposes always involve us and the redemption of the lost, of renewal and restoration, and re-creation.

Servants obey the orders of their master, but we serve a Master who has already proven His service to us. We do not serve a tyrant but One who has already served us beyond the call of duty. When we were sinners, Christ died for us. He took the form of a bondservant (Philippians 2:7) when He put aside His glory and came from glory as one of us.

As Christians, to become a “steward” is another way of saying, “Have this attitude in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” This servant attitude includes such qualities as encouragement, consolation of love, fellowship of the Spirit, affection and compassion, a spirit of unity, oneness of purpose, humility of spirit, looking out for the interests of others (Philippians 2:1-4).

Paul responded to Jesus’ servanthood by saying, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).

In other words, stewardship means more than just how we use our money (although it includes that). It is a way of life. It involves our whole beings in relationship to Jesus Christ and others in the light of how He has served us, as individuals and as the church. It is using our lives and experiences to serve His purposes for this world and for the New Heaven and New Earth.

Stewardship means learning to see where we are now and where we would have been apart from His foreknowing, predestining, calling, justifying and glorifying us through Christ (Romans 8:28-30). Stewardship is our response to the staggering realization that out of His pure mercy and grace alone, we are part of His royal family.

There are no small people in God’s royal family. If you are part of His family, whatever your gifts and life experiences, you have a strategic place as God’s steward. Someone has said, “[A city] can manage quite well for a long time without a mayor, but we can’t manage many days without garbage collectors.”

Whether you are a mayor, a garbage collector, or something else, others are depending upon your service and ministry right now. Don’t let them—or Him—down.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Work & Witness

2016-01-Work-and-WitnessHow do we make our work into our witness for Christ? Whatever your work, as long as it is honorable, you can make it an act of worship and witness to others even if that work seems unrelated to faith.

Brother Lawrence was a 17th century French layman who worked alongside monks. He was not a monk himself, but he cooked meals and washed dishes for them. In his humble activities, he learned to do more for Christ than most ministers and priests.

What he learned is recorded in a small book known to millions as The Practice of the Presence of God. This tiny and simple book has application to all of us, whatever our callings in life and reveals how we can make our work, no matter how humble and unlikely, into mighty acts of worship before God. What does Brother Lawrence teach us?

Regard your work and your worship as one. All honorable work comes from God. Therefore, we must not regard some kinds of work as holy and others as not. Brother Lawrence said that the most common business (he washed dishes) could become a means of experiencing and acting out the love of God. We do not have to do great things, he said. We need only do them for God. God Himself will give them value and make them speak to others.

“I prostrate myself in worship before Him who has given me grace to work,” he says. “The time of business does not with me differ from the time of prayer.”

Do for God’s sake what you do for your own. “It is enough for me to pick up a straw from the ground for the love of God,” he said. Instead of striving to do a great work, strive to have the proper heart about your work, and that will give your work eternal value. Remember that you are not just working alongside men, you are also working alongside God. Learn to do even the simplest things for the sole purpose of pleasing God.

Develop simple, daily habits to unite your work and faith. Learning to integrate faith and work is not a simple task, Brother Lawrence admitted. It took him years to do this, after many failures. But he learned to adopt simple and daily habits of faith, trust and humility before God.

Every day, he evaluated himself to see if he succeeded. He did not trouble himself over his mistakes but persisted, knowing God would patiently help him.

Let your godly attitudes about daily work change your character. Another person wrote of Brother Lawrence, “His very countenance was edifying, such a sweet and calm devotion appearing in it as could not but affect the beholders…He was never hasting nor loitering, but did everything in its season, with an even, uninterrupted composure and tranquility of spirit.”

Brother Lawrence knew tranquility of spirit because he learned to fully experience God in even the mundane parts of his life. Because he gave his all to God, God spoke through Him of His glory to the world around him. Today, 325 years later, through Brother Lawrence’s faithfulness to God in little things, his work and witness have influenced millions for Christ.

This is the essence of work and witness, and God makes it available to all of us.

Tagged , , ,