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Looking For Ourselves or Christ in Scripture?

We live in a narcissistic age when everything is aimed at us.  Commercials are aimed at us.  Even religion is aimed at us.  The seeker movement and the new “vision casting” movement (along with the now dying emergent movement) is all aimed at us.  The church exist for us.  The church exist to please us.  The church is here to help us.  Even God Himself is being cast now as the One who exists to help us.  God wants our lives to be happy, joyful, fun, full of money and stuff.  We are told that if God had a refrigerator, we would be on it with our selfies.  God created the world for us.  God sent His Son for us.  God loves us and has a wonderful plan for our lives (or so we are told).

In the midst of this are preachers who preach to this age.  Like those in 2 Timothy 4:3, these teachers teach what this generation wants to hear: that we are special and unique and all.  The seeker churches now cater not just to the lost (unchurched – sorry about that) but now to the selfies folks as well.  The music is aimed to please.  The sermon will not be theological at all and will be so relevant because it is aimed at you.  The prayers will be short and sweet and to the point with their good friend God listening in.  You won’t hear words such as repentance, forsaking sin, holiness, intercession, seeking God, treasuring Christ, the inerrant and infallible Word of God.  You’ll just hear cool, hip preachers who tell story after story about what they do, what they are like, their stories, their humor.  After all, the preacher (while trying to be real to the folks) must also bear the burden of being part of the selfie generation.  So roll out the Nintendo’s and roll out the movie screens and get ready to watch the vision-casting leader promote themselves while trying to connect to the selfies in the crowd.

But what if Scripture is not about us?  What is Scripture is about Jesus instead?  Me just writing those words probably sends chills through the selfies.  The thought that Jesus should be the focus of God or the Bible is something we simply don’t want to hear.  We want to believe that the promises of God are for us.  We want to believe that the Bible is “God’s love letter to us.”  We want to believe that the Bible is written for us and about us.  So no wonder we have preachers preaching from 1 Samuel 17 and finding parallels between David’s fight with Goliath and our own fights with giants (depression, a move, a marriage, etc.).  We have preachers preaching that the resurrection of Jesus was not just about Jesus rising from the dead but our own resurrections as well such as the death of a dream, the death of relationship, or the death of our businesses.  God wants to raise them too just as He did Jesus!

What if all that is wrong?  What is the story of David and Goliath is about, well David?  What if the resurrection of Jesus is not about us per se but about Jesus rising from the dead to the glory of the Father?

Jesus makes a statement in John 5:39-40 that we don’t want to read but need to.  The text says:

39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.

Notice that Jesus says the Scriptures reveal Him!  One can read the Bible (just as the Pharisees did whom Jesus was address in this text) and miss Jesus!  In this generation, selfie preachers focus on themselves with clever stories about themselves yet they (and their hearers) miss Jesus.  In reality, most seeker preachers these days are not even preaching the Bible anymore but instead are preaching their journey stories.  They are not even trying to pretend to be preaching the gospel.  Gone are the days of the 1990’s when seeker preachers at least mentioned Jesus and perhaps tried to teach a text of Scripture.  Now it just stories about the preacher and props to help the hearers connect with the story.

Yet Jesus said that Scripture is about Himself and not us.

In Luke 24:27 Jesus taught His disciples that Scripture was about Himself.  In Luke 24:44 Jesus even says words that the selfies would not want to hear: that the Scriptures are written about Himself.  John writes that when we read the Scriptures, they are written so that we might believe in Jesus (John 20:31).

So what about the promises?  2 Corinthians 1:20 says that they are about Jesus.  The focus of the Bible is on Jesus.  The focus of the Bible is not on us.

How should this effect our Bible reading?  It should make us focus on Christ and His glory.  When we read the Old Testament: look for Christ.  When we read the New Testament: look for Christ.  Christ is the glorious One.  Christ is the exalted One (Philippians 2:5-11).  Christ is our salvation (1 Corinthians 1:30-31).  Christ is the One who speaks to the Father in our defense (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25; 1 John 2:1).  Christ is our everything!  In Christ is hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:3).

So many go to the Bible looking for themselves or even a theology.  I use to read the Bible looking for Arminianism or even passages against Calvinism.  Now I just want to know Christ and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:1-5).  I don’t want to see this system or that.  I want to know Christ.  I want to love Him more and be closer to Him (Luke 14:25-35).  I want to be like Christ but I know this only comes through knowing Christ.  I do see myself as I draw closer to Christ and I see what selfies would not want to hear: that I am a sinner in need of this Savior (Romans 7:7).  The more I read and study of Jesus the more I see that He came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10) and I am the chief of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15) so I know He came to save a wretch like me.  Oh I see myself as I read but it is not good (Romans 3:23).  Thankfully God is good and I see His goodness in the person and work of Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:15; 2:9-10).  That God loves this flea is amazing to me!  The lower I see myself going, the higher I see the glory of Christ Jesus!

This has amazing results.  Prayer is no longer about me.  Worship is no longer about me.  Evangelism is no longer about me or even the people I witness to.  Church is no longer about me.  Creation itself is no longer about me.  The Bible is not about me!  Everything is focused on One: the Lord Jesus Christ.  All of creation, everything in creation is focused on Christ and His glory!  I want to preach Christ (2 Corinthians 4:5).  I want others to join in and worship the only One who is worthy to be worshiped!  Christ is the highest philosophy.  Christ the greatest study of science.  Christ is the One who is adored in true art.  Christ is the greatest example of a Man.  Christ is God.  Christ is worthy to be praised and adored and worshiped.  I want to know Christ more.  Not me.

Listening to What We Sing

I was not shocked recently when a once popular Christian band came out in favor of same-sex marriage.  I had first heard of this band when secular radio stations begin playing their music so I too bought their tape (remember those?) and begin to listen to them.  I was a young man then and even then I was stuck by how shallow their lyrics were.  Their musical talent was good but their lyrics were very shallow and lacked any theology at all.  I finally had the chance to see them live at a local college bar where I thought they would have a prime opportunity to share the gospel with these lost college students pouring into this bar to hear these guys sing.  They band never shared the gospel and even held up his drink (which could have been just a coke) and dedicated his songs to his drink.  The students in the bar all held up their drinks (which most were not cokes) and yelled like crazy.  Not once did the band preach Christ that night.  Not once.  And I was not shocked.  Their shallow lyrics had already informed me that they probably were a very shallow “Christian” band.

I am convinced that most people fail to listen to what they sing.  They think that a song sounds good but they don’t realize that the lyrics could even be anti-Christ (2 John 7).  Even in many so-called “worship” services, the music is not God-centered nor even biblical.  It may sound good but the words themselves are not even close to sound doctrine.

I fear that we are too often focused on sounds rather than words.  For the disciple of Jesus, we must take the Word of God and examine all things (1 Thessalonians 5:19-21).  The Bible is how we can know truth from error (Hebrews 5:14).  The Bible feeds our hungry souls (Matthew 4:4; 1 Peter 2:2).  Yet we often fail to take the Bible and examine what we are listening to.  Philippians 4:8 is often used for what we watch but we should also use the Word of God for what we hear.  What are we singing?  What are they saying?

1 Timothy 4:16 tells us to watch our lives and doctrine closely.  Titus 2:1 tells us that we are to teach that which accords to sound doctrine.  Does this not apply also to music?  Does this not also apply to what we sing?  Of course it does!  All of my life as a disciple of Jesus is to revolve around what the Bible teaches.  The test for a song must not be “does it sound good” or “is it popular” but is it biblical?  Does the songs that I am singing and listening to exalt Christ?  Do they promote holiness?  Are they focused on Christ and exalting His work among us?  Does this song that we are singing exalt sound doctrine?

Sadly, most modern worship songs seem to promote humans or love or just a therapeutic view of God rather than sound biblical teaching.  We tend to sing 7-11 songs (the same seven words eleven times).  We sing a song because Hillsongs sings it but we never question the theology behind the song.  This has led to pragmatism when it comes to singing praises to God.  It is now not unpopular to have a guy (or gal) standing on a stage full or smoke and rock music and they all are decked out in blue jeans.  They “worship” leader comes out on stage and proceeds to lead the mindless people in a set of songs that never focus on the gospel, never exalt Christ in His truth, never point the singers to the glory of the King, and lack in sound doctrine.  Does the “worship” leader get rebuked?  No!  They get to make an album and we buy it up!  The “worship” leaders I have met often are very shallow theologically and have no true depth in their lives for Christ.  They just know how to sing (a few of them) and know how to play an instrument (either guitar or electric piano).

My point here is not to start a music war.  We all have different tastes and styles.  In reality, a guy with blue jeans on can be more biblically focused than the guy in a suit.  The way one looks is not really my point here.  My point is that we are so biblically illiterate I fear (from poor theology in the churches to shallow, topical preaching) that we never question what we sing.  This should not be.  We must test everything by the Word of God (Acts 17:11) and we must throw out that which does not exalt Christ in His truth.  Ephesians 5:18-21 should be our guide for this.  Ephesians 5:18-21 reads:

18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Notice that Paul the Apostle tells us that our songs should be to the Lord (v.19) and should give thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (v.20).  This is true worship.  This is how we truly exalt Christ in His glory (John 4:23-24).

So listen to what you sing and pay attention to words.  They matter.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

05/01/2014 at 8:30 PM

All of Creation Is To Praise God

I was reading from Psalm 148 today and one can easily read this portion of Scripture and see that all of creation is to praise God.  Everything that God has created is to praise Him.  This is why He created.  Everything is to the glory of God (Romans 11:33-36).

Psalm 148 reads in the New King James Version:

1   Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord from the heavens;
Praise Him in the heights!
2   Praise Him, all His angels;
Praise Him, all His hosts!
3   Praise Him, sun and moon;
Praise Him, all you stars of light!
4   Praise Him, you heavens of heavens,
And you waters above the heavens!
5   Let them praise the name of the Lord,
For He commanded and they were created.
6   He also established them forever and ever;
He made a decree which shall not pass away.
7   Praise the Lord from the earth,
You great sea creatures and all the depths;
8   Fire and hail, snow and clouds;
Stormy wind, fulfilling His word;
9   Mountains and all hills;
Fruitful trees and all cedars;
10   Beasts and all cattle;
Creeping things and flying fowl;
11   Kings of the earth and all peoples;
Princes and all judges of the earth;
12   Both young men and maidens;
Old men and children.
13   Let them praise the name of the Lord,
For His name alone is exalted;
His glory is above the earth and heaven.
14   And He has exalted the horn of His people,
The praise of all His saints—
Of the children of Israel,
A people near to Him.

Praise the Lord!

I pray we join in with all of God’s creation and praise His holy name!

Written by The Seeking Disciple

06/09/2013 at 10:57 AM

Posted in Worship

Tagged with , ,

Praising God In Trials

True praise doesn’t flow just when everything is going the way we think it should go.  Often we are all guilty of praising God when times are good but do you praise God even when times are hard?  Do you praise God when life seems to be coming against you from every side?  True praise flows at all times and not just when we feel like praising God.

James 1:2-4 reminds me of that fact.  Trials come (v.2) but God allows trails to come to test our faith and to produce steadfastness (v.3).  Steadfastness in turn leads to us being perfect and complete, lacking in nothing (v.4).  How can this be?  Because praise breaks us into the presence of God and we realize that He is faithful and He is sufficient no matter what we face.  We choose to see God in our trials and we learn to praise Him in the midst of them and this leads us to see the sovereignty of God and trust completely in Him.  Verse 4 is not speaking about money or about sinlessness.  That is not even James’ point here.  He is speaking about a trust in God that does not waver in the midst of trials (v.6).  A trust in God that leads to us standing firm in our faith in the wisdom of God and the power of God (v.5).

Trails are not fun.  They often hurt.  But God is faithful and we can praise Him in the midst of the storms of life.  Praise has a way of focusing on what really matters and that is God Himself (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).  God is our delight.  God is our reward.  To be with Jesus is our aim (Philippians 1:20-21).  Praise has a way of showing us that this world and its pains are insignificant to the reality and glory of heaven (Revelation 21:1-4).  Come what may: cancer, debt, loss of freedoms, corruption of our bodies and decay, etc. – we can trust God and praise Him.  He is good.  He is faithful.  He is sovereign.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

09/30/2012 at 8:16 PM

The Riches of HIs Glorious Inheritance

In Ephesians 1:16 Paul the Apostle states that he prays for the Ephesians and he states that he prays for four things specifically for them:

1.  The Father would give them a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him.
2.  Their eyes would be enlightened to know the hope to which they were called.
3.  What are the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints.
4.  The immeasurable greatness of His power toward us who believe that He demonstrated in Christ.

I want to focus specifically upon number 3.  I believe that all four of these things that Paul prayed flow directly from knowing God.  The deeper we go in a our understanding of the Word of God, the more we will know God.  The heart of the disciple of Jesus is not to just knowledge about God or facts about Christianity but to actually know God.  Bear in mind that Jesus said that He will cast away those who never knew Him in Matthew 7:21-23.  Only those who know God will seek to obey God.  Obedience flows from knowing and loving God (John 14:15) and not blind submission to His laws.

When we begin to understand our God, the greatness of His salvation, the depth of His love for us (1 John 4:10), the greatness of the cross in light of our utter sinfulness (Ephesians 2:6) – we begin to see the glorious inheritance we have in Christ.  We see just what it is that He did in securing our eternal salvation.  All the glory, all the honor, all the praise goes to Jesus alone when we begin to see the biblical teaching about our God.  We recognize that we don’t deserve this salvation.  We recognize that we didn’t earn this salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5-7).  We recognize that what we deserve is His just wrath against our sins (Romans 1:18-32; 3:10-18).  We see that we deserve to be cast into hell (Matthew 25:46).  We did not love God.  We did not seek God.  He came seeking us (John 10:14-17).  Jesus came to bear our sins and die in our place (Isaiah 53:4-6).  We see that Jesus doesn’t deserve our punishment for He was perfect in word, thought, and deed (1 Peter 2:22) yet He took our place (1 Peter 2:24).

All of this, this understanding of our sins, the wrath of God against sin, the depth of Christ’s love on the cross – all of this leads us to worshiping this great and mighty God!  We see how wonderful He is.  We see how great is His love for us (Romans 5:8-9). We see His mercy (James 2:13).  We see His grace (Romans 3:22-25).  We see His power given to us in His Son (John 1:12-13). We see the fact that the reason for rejoicing is because our names are written in the Lamb’s book of life (Luke 10:19-20).  We rejoice that the wrath of God is complete in His Son (John 19:30).

What a glorious inheritance we have in Christ!  What joy comes when we see that our sins are forgiven because of the work of Christ (Ephesians 1:7; 1 John 1:7)!  To know that Christ is our salvation, our sanctification, our glorification (1 Corinthians 1:30).  To know that He came to die for us (John 3:16)!  This all leads to worship of this great God.  How can it not?  Let us bow down and give Him the highest praise!

Written by The Seeking Disciple

09/10/2012 at 9:40 AM

The Focus of the Gospel is God

I have a passion to see souls saved.  I admit this.  This comes from my understanding of the Great Commission that Jesus gave His Church in Matthew 28:19-20, to go and make disciples of all the nations.   My desire and prayer to God is that this would be fulfilled, that people would repent of their sins and come to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Yet I can be guilty of making the gospel sound all about our sins forgiven without realizing that the gospel is not just about our sins being forgiven through the precious blood of Christ shed on the cross (Matthew 26:28) but the gospel, at its center, is about God.  “That is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, entrusting to us the message of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:19).

Through the gospel we get to know God.  I was praying just this morning and was praying for the reality of the priesthood of the saints to be preached among the people of God (1 Peter 2:5).  As I pondered this thought about the priesthood, the thought occurred to me about how much we don’t appreciate the work of Christ in regard to Him making us priests unto God.  Through Christ, I can come into the presence of God Almighty and worship and adore Him and communicate with Him as Adam and Eve did before the Fall (Hebrews 4:14-16).  Because of Christ, I have no fear of judgment as I come before the Father in worship and praise and prayer (Romans 5:8-9; 1 Thessalonians 1:10).  Because of Christ, I have a high priest before the throne of God who protects me from the lies of Satan and who delivers me from the penalty and power of sin (Hebrews 9:14, 24).  Because of Christ, I have fellowship with all who are born again (Ephesians 2:18-19).  Because of Christ, my salvation is secure (Romans 8:38-39; Philippians 1:6).  Because of Christ, I no longer fear condemnation (Romans 8:1-4).

All of this is from God who gave us His Son (John 3:16; 1 John 4:10).  Forgiveness is ours in Christ (Ephesians 1:7).  We even can confess our sins directly to Christ and not through a man on earth (1 John 1:9).  Through Christ, I do not earn God’s salvation nor His forgiveness because they are all mine in His Son (Ephesians 2:8-9; cf. Acts 13:38-39).  We are saved by grace through Christ alone (Acts 15:9).

What blessings then we have in Christ.  The gospel is focused completely on Christ.  He is the focus of the gospel.  Because Jesus is God (John 1:1; Philippians 2:6) and Jesus is the main focus of gospel, God is the very center of the gospel.  In fact, all three members of the Triune God are involved in our salvation from the Father who gave His Son to the Son accomplishing the work of the Father to the Spirit executing the work of Christ for our salvation.  All of this, this salvation, this reconciliation, is from God alone.  God is the focus.  God is our delight.  God is our salvation.

Let us then worship and adore our God!  Let us praise Him for His great salvation!  Let us rejoice in Him who washed all our sins away through the blood of the Lamb (John 1:29).  Let us come boldly into His presence knowing that He longs for us and He alone is worthy to be praised.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

09/08/2012 at 10:00 AM

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