Tag Archives: Holy Spirit

Death is Still Dead.

Death is still dead..png

I love Easter Sunday. Every Easter, I attend church with my family and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. There’s no shortage of singing or dancing (although there may be more or less of the latter depending on the denomination you may or may not associate with… Alright, bad joke). The point is: there’s hope. And there should be. Jesus defeated death, and we’re stoked about it. The resurrection is a fact of epic historical proportions that carries epic present and future implications. It’s the turning point of human history. Death has died. We are free.

But why did death come back to life after Easter dinner?

Many of us don’t actually feel free. We celebrate on Easter with our arms held high, our hearts captivated with the joy of the fact that Jesus ripped apart the chains of death and gave us true eternal freedom. But we soon recede back into the chains that bound us: chains created by sin, depression, and failure. Chains created by success, self-righteousness and earthly treasures. We drag them around in routine fashion as we re-trod back into the grave.

“Easter will come back next year,” we think.

Jesus has risen, and we know it. We sang about it on Easter Sunday. However, many of us quickly descend back into the everyday struggle of trying to earn salvation, a struggle that knows no success.  We try to make life better. We try again. We try harder and harder. The chains still bind us.

Maybe you’re one of us. I’ve been one of us. Sometimes I still am. Somewhere along the line, somebody told you the Gospel. It saturated your heart and mind, and you felt FREE. You had never known a joy like the one Jesus created in the entirety of your being. The Gospel had changed both you and your eternal destination. But somewhere in the more recent past, the Gospel became more like good advice than the Good News it is. You knew the facts, but they didn’t always seem real, or didn’t carry much weight anymore. The big, almost-exploding balloon of joy that you used to carry around had deflated. The resurrected life became a good idea rather than a reality. You longed to sense the real Gospel again, to feel real and pure freedom again.

You waited for next Easter. Next Resurrection Day.

I’ve got good news for you and for me. Good News, actually.

Every day is resurrection day. Jesus never went back into the tomb. He’s still risen. He’s risen on Easter and the day after. He’s risen next Sunday when church feels mundane and you’re feeling more fulfilled by the restaurant lunch you ate after church than the sermon you heard during it. He’s risen when death is all too real. He’s risen when depression chases your joy away. He’s risen when you accomplish something great, only to come crashing down from the temporary high success brings. He’s risen. It’s just a freaking fact.

So why do we forget it? Why is “He is risen” just an Instagram hashtag people use on Easter? Or even worse, just a bumper sticker? Why is the pure joy of Easter reserved for 1/365th of the year?

For me and many others, it’s because we simply have a hard time believing that the Gospel is unshakable truth. As we slip away from the understanding of our forgiveness, we begin to believe that God’s love is based on our successes and failures. In doing so, we shun the very Gospel that caused our Easter dancing. Our actions and feelings say it’s too far-fetched. We’re really forgiven? We’re really loved? Our sin taunts us, begging us to answer no to such questions and turn away from God rather than turn toward Him and repent.

On Easter Sunday my pastor quoted Brennan Manning, who once said “I am now utterly convinced that on judgment day, the Lord Jesus is going to ask each of us one question, and only one question: Did you believe that I loved you?”

It’s a painful question to ask, but it reveals why many of us confine Easter’s truths to one 24-hour holiday. We simply have a hard time believing that the resurrection means we are truly free, free indeed. We simply struggle with accepting the truth of the Gospel.

What, then, should we do?

In John 6:27, Jesus says “The work of God is this: to believe in him whom he has sent.”

We should return to the Gospel. The Gospel is the answer to our failure to understand the Gospel. Sounds foolish, but doesn’t the Bible say the Gospel is foolishness? Foolishness of the absolute best kind. Life-saving, eternity-altering foolishness.

We must let the Gospel saturate our minds and hearts by the minute. How do we do that? By repeating it to ourselves relentlessly. By constantly informing others of its life-altering truths… even those who could produce a list of 10 literary differences between Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Even to those who have chapters and books of the Bible memorized. Even those who outwardly appear to be poster children for good Christianity, seemingly epitomizing holiness. Those people struggle to believe the Gospel, too. They’re in dire need of the Gospel every single day. They’re just like you. In fact, we’re all in the same boat. Each one of us desperately needs the redemption of Jesus Christ on a perpetual basis.

We just can’t believe the Gospel on our own. We’re simply helpless to do this without those around us. So I have a challenge to you. The next time you meet with a Christian friend, look them straight in the eye and tell them “God loves you so much that no matter how bad you’ve messed up, time and time again, you’re still forgiven. He will never fail you. He is so proud of you. He lavishes His grace on you. You are a child of God. You are infinitely cared for and worth it. You are seen. You are heard. Your sins are dead. You are free.”

I tried this recently. I tried this with a friend who is a model of Christian leadership and moral behavior. I mean, this dude has it put together…

But wait. He doesn’t. He needed to hear the Gospel in that very moment. And just as badly, I needed to hear myself preach it to Him. It refreshed both of our souls and we walked away feeling free of works-based righteousness, free of good advice, free of prescriptive behavioral fixing (should I get that term copyrighted?), free of what Matt Chandler calls “moralistic therapeutic deism,” or more simply, a lifestyle of upstanding moral behavior that we stamp God’s name on, but that ultimately serves to make us feel better about our sorry selves.

So have a Gospel conversation with yourself: “Jesus loves me. I am free. I can never be separated from His love, no matter what I do.” Then, do it again tomorrow. Repeat it to someone else. Before you try to fix somebody, look them in the eyes and tell them God loves them abundantly and infinitely and eternally. Heck, why shouldn’t every conversation be a Gospel conversation? We are ALWAYS in need of people to refresh our souls with the truths of the Resurrection.

Every day is Resurrection Day. The freedom brought into this broken world by the resurrection of Jesus is available to you now (and tomorrow, and on November 24, 2023). You are forgiven. You are free. God is too good and too loving for you to live in shame today. The Gospel is too freeing (and too REAL) for you to live in bondage today. Your life has been resurrected from the grave. If you believe in Jesus, you’ve been taken care of.

You, believer, are free. Yes, you. YOU. ARE. FREE.

 

Death is still dead. There’s a reason I titled this post “Death is Still Dead.” and included the period after ‘Dead.’ The period represents completion. The end of something. The end of a sentence… in this case, the death sentence of sin.

Death is still dead. He is still risen. Time to celebrate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Hey Christian, I’m Talking to You Now

To my fellow Christians:

In response to the presence of Pharisaical hate in the form of ‘preachers’ in the plaza of the Colorado State campus last week, I did something I do a lot.

I posted on Facebook.

I did what I’m sure many people are tired of me doing… I unleashed a multi-paragraph statement on social media containing my analysis of the situation. It took the form of an apology on behalf of CSU’s Christian community, and, to my surprise, it spread like wildfire. I re-formatted it, sent it to CSU’s newspaper, The Rocky Mountain Collegian, and it was published both online and in the paper.

I never thought it would reach so many people, and praise God that it did. I say none of these things for my own glory – all I want is the Good News of Jesus Christ to spread to the entire Colorado State campus, to Fort Collins, to Colorado, across the nation, and beyond.

That’s why I’m writing again. This time I’m writing to my family, the family I don’t deserve to belong to but the family that God has so graciously allowed me to lean on daily. I’m writing to my brothers and sisters in Christ.

I come to you with the simple message that God can use you and wants to use you for huge things. You all have a voice. Some of you speak with your actions, using words when necessary. I’m thankful for people like you, because I never shut up. Others of you are like me… you can’t seem to shut up.

Well, don’t start shutting up now. Whether your actions speak first or you have a way with words, speak loudly. There are so many people – at CSU and beyond – who are so hungry for something real, for something more. There are so many people who know the world will never satisfy them. There are so many people who want to hear what you have to say; and whether you feel like it’s true or not, there are so many people who are willing to listen.

You have everything they need, and deep down inside, everything they want. Their hunger begs for your voice to feed them with the love of Christ. You know the Truth, and the Truth has set you free (John 8:32). Why else would you be a Christian? Your heart is filled with a hope and a peace that transcends even your own understanding because the King of Kings sits on its throne.

I challenge you to speak from that heart. Sure, thousands have people have now read a letter telling them that the one true God is not a God who hates and condemns, and that anyone who does those things is not truly representing Christ. Now, they’re looking for someone to prove it. They can be told that God is a loving God, and that He wants to meet them where they’re at, but why would they believe those things unless somebody personally manifests that radical love out of their own belief in Jesus?

So love radically. Be unusual. Do extraordinary things. Don’t blend in and let regularity consume you. Regularity will become complacency, and complacency will become mediocrity. The ultimate example of radical love literally makes His home inside you. Let that love infiltrate every fiber of your being. It will not only satisfy you, but it will satisfy others. You’ll get the questions we all desire to hear… “What is it about you that’s so different? Why are you always happy? What do you have that I don’t?”

If you want to hear those questions, I challenge you to step out and step up.

I firmly believe that everyone is seeking the Truth, whether they realize it or not. Everyone needs people to walk with them down the road of life, and the people that walk with them will likely determine where the road leads. You know the destination of your road. Invite other people to walk on it with you. You might be surprised at how many people will gladly accept the invitation.

Hey Christian, you carry the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead. That Spirit has placed world-changing capability at your fingertips.

To quote a song we’ve all heard…

I dare you to move.

Discernment is Wisdom

Today’s society is living within a perpetual flow of information. There is no shortage of media to satisfy our senses, and everyone knows that high intake of media can become overwhelming – whether it be social media, television, music, books, magazines, or anything else. We often allow so much information into our brains that our own ideas, thoughts, and moral codes become lost. Sometimes, we become loose collections of the ideas of other people with little to no uniformity.

This phenomenon includes the modern Christian generation. More than ever, churches, musicians, and other Christian organizations are taking to social media to launch awareness about their being and to project their thoughts, ideas, and opinions for other people to examine. The stream of information ingested by today’s young Christian is at times overwhelming. Christian leaders publicize their interpretations of the Bible tweet by tweet as young people feast on their nuggets of wisdom. 

Mark Driscoll, John Piper, Francis Chan, and Tim Keller are just a few examples of extremely popular preachers whose sermons have become staples in the spiritual diet of young Christians. They certainly have different styles, and each, as well as other popular Christian leaders (for example, Lecrae, Jefferson Bethke, etc.) has developed an expansive following on social media and through books and the internet. Every name I have mentioned is someone who I have seen (whether it be through social media, a book, or some other way) preach the gospel in an effective manner. Each of them has great things to say, and I look up to them all for spiritual wisdom.

But they aren’t my King. Jesus is.

I have witnessed friends and young people devote themselves to following some of these pastors with an unmatched passion. While the wisdom from these leaders definitely encourages spiritual growth, I have seen an extremely unhealthy mentality develop among people – one without discernment. Discernment equates to a positively critical outlook on the intake of information. I have been blessed with an earthly father who certainly has the gift of discernment. Any time he reads a new book, listens to new music, or takes in any information, he is critical about its truth, its relevance, and its accuracy. This is not negative criticism. My dad seeks discernment from the Holy Spirit about these things. He looks to the Bible for wisdom first and foremost, and thus, he is not a loose collection of somebody else’s ideas.

I am making a call to discernment. John Piper (for example) is an anointed, Kingdom-minded, unbelievably intelligent person who helps many people, including myself, grow spiritually. But he is human; he isn’t right 100% of the time. I can guarantee that he and other church leaders would appreciate and encourage a greater level of discernment from the Lord and not take his words for ultimate truth, but take the Bible for ultimate truth. That is what he and other church leaders are trying to do, anyway – encourage others in their relationships with the Lord and support their growth in understanding His Word. 

Some people are loose collections of the ideas of others. Other people seemingly model themselves as closely as absolutely possible to the theology, ideas, opinions, and life paths of another man. The same thing is missing in both types of people – a solid, discerning core that hears the voice of the Lord first and foremost. With this discernment, a person consults the Bible on his own and asks the Lord to help him find meaning through his study. 

Say somebody is researching speaking in tongues, and usually consults wisdom from Tim Keller on other tough Bible issues. Should this person start with a Tim Keller book or video on the topic (this is only an example, I don’t even know if Tim Keller has released any media on the subject), or should this person see what the Bible has to say about the matter (1st Corinthians 14, in this case), pray about it, and then supplement his growth with words of wisdom from church leaders? I’d like to believe that a discerning individual would first seek the Word, pray about its meaning, ask the Lord for wisdom, and then make an appeal to a church leader for more wisdom on the subject.

What I’m not saying is that it’s detrimental to listen to our church leaders. They’re our leaders for a reason. They know what they’re talking about. They have good things to say, and we should listen to them. However, we should listen to our own convictions and to the voice of the Lord above all. If something comes out of Mark Driscoll’s mouth and it seems funky for some reason, we shouldn’t assume truth just because Mark Driscoll said it. This is not a lack of trust, this is spiritual discernment. 

A discerning individual isn’t an exact copy of someone else. A discerning individual hears the voice of the Holy Spirit and draws from the lessons of a wide-ranging group of people while maintaining a unique core that exists between himself, the Word, and the Lord. A discerning heart handles lessons from others with care, seeks out truth and wisdom from those lessons, but doesn’t automatically take every passing word to be true. In Ephesians 4:14, Paul describes the hopeful image of a group of mature, discerning believers:

“So that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.”

In his second letter to Timothy, Paul again encourages a discerning heart, warning people of a time when people attempt to twist the truth to suit themselves:

“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” (2 Timothy 4:3-4)

Maybe Neo-Calvinists can draw some wisdom from charismatics. Maybe a Mike Bickle fan has something to learn from John Piper. With open ears and an open heart, people can simultaneously draw wisdom from these different people or groups and thus be spiritually encouraged as a whole. However, individual time with the Lord and wisdom from God himself is most important.

Jesus is King and His Word is ultimate Truth. He is The Way, The Truth, and The Life. Seek Him first.