Friday, May 24, 2013

Set Apart—What Are We Making Common?

Profane: 1. to treat (something sacred) with abuse, irreverence, or contempt
Common: 4.
characterized by a lack of privilege or special status  
(both from

God is holy. In fact, lest we subconsciously think there is an Old Testament God and a New Testament God and that they are different, both the Old and New Testaments give us pictures of the cry, "Holy, holy, holy!" around the throne. It is the attribute of God by which His other attributes are defined. His love, His power, His Name, His justice—they are all holy because He is holy. It has at its core set apart and separated, and we find the concept of it in the Bible in so many places and ways.

Read through the Bible looking for not just the word "holy" but for words and ideas of separate, set apart, consecrated, sanctified, saints, etc., and we find that this concept is woven through, and essential to, the entire Bible. Israel was His set apart nation and people. The ark was in the Holy of Holies, set apart from the people by a veil. The priests and temple artifacts were consecrated and set apart. Jesus is light and in Him is NO darkness—He is completely set apart from darkness. Even the concept of purity, often taught as this series of commands as what not to do or be, takes on a beautiful new freshness when thought of in the terms of holiness—pure, set apart, not mixed.

In contrast to this concept we see the continual theme in the Bible of the people making common or profane God's holy name, and the worship of Him, and that which He calls to be set apart. They Israelites didn't wipe from the land all the remnants of the people and they were tarnished by their influence. The concept of the little leaven corrupting the whole. The worship in high places and not in the way and place God ordained. They did, according to Judges, what was right in their own minds.

Last night at youth group we looked at King David bringing the ark to Jerusalem in 2 Samuel 6 (also 1 Chronicles 13–15). On the surface it all seems good! He wants the ark at the center of his rule and town. He sets out with a mighty honoring group of men. He puts it on a new cart. He worships and celebrates before it. The ox stumble and Uzzah reaches out to steady it. Bam! Uzzah is struck dead by God and the celebration screeches to a halt.

What happened? David had all these good intentions of doing wonderful things for God and God kills one of his people for simply trying to keep the ark from falling! That's harsh . . . if we insist on seeing things through our eyes and viewpoint and framework and not through the eyes and viewpoint and framework and holiness of our Creator.

God is holy. He is set apart, separate. His ways and His words are what matter, not ours. History is riddled with people who have profaned, or made common, God's holiness and tried to do things their own way and assumed God would be OK with that or like it because they are OK with it or like it. Even things done for Him! God had been very specific earlier to Moses about how the ark would be moved and who would be allowed to care for it. David didn't follow it. He got casual with God's holiness. He made profane or common God, assuming God would be OK with what David thought was a good idea (it was for God, after all!).

God was not. God is holy. And to approach God our way and not His, or to try and make God conform to the world or its wisdom instead of conforming everything to Him and His wisdom is to profane or make common His holiness. He is not like us. He is separate. We can't apply us over Him, we must apply Him over us.

David learned his lesson. Sadly, it cost a man his life. After a few months David tries again to bring the ark back. This time he has the priests carrying the ark and performing sacrifices the way God decreed it and the ark comes to Jerusalem and God's presence blesses God's people. How many people out there are (and how many times are we in our own lives?) profaning or making common God's holiness by thinking they can approach God their own way, on their own good works or merit or ideas about Him and who He is? How many are profaning His Holiness by making His Word match "science" and trying to find ways to explain away Genesis or miracles instead of studying science and everything else from His framework and eyes? How many are making common His holiness by making decisions on right and wrong and values and priorities on their own "good" ideas instead of based on His Word?

God is holy. It is His very nature. By His nature He is holy, set apart, separate. He can't be otherwise. But He calls us to be holy. To be set apart. Yes we are set apart by our nature as Christians, His own special people, sealed in His love for eternity, but He also calls us to be holy as well—set apart in our relationships, lifestyles, values, choices, etc. May we not profane His holy name, or His HOLY Spirit, or make common our holy God, by letting the world transform and conform us. May He and His Word be set apart in our hearts as the source of all our wisdom, values, choices, priorities, etc. May the world see us and note we are a people set apart, different, conforming to and being led by something not of this world . . . and may it lead them to see and glorify the One who sets us apart and who we choose to be set apart for.
1 Peter 1:14-16   As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, "You shall be holy, for I am holy." (ESV)

Friday, May 17, 2013

Too Crazy to Grasp!

In John 15:9 Jesus tells His disciples, "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love." (ESV)

God is perfect and complete. The Son and the Father and the Holy Spirit are all God, unique but One. Their love is perfect and complete for one another. Because God is perfect and complete (not wanting in some area) it means He didn't need us. No, He wanted us! And when we realize that He didn't need us, but made us completely because He wanted us, it makes His love for us even more incredible. It magnifies grace because it magnifies that it is completely one way—everything God did for us, including the most amazing part of giving Himself to us, He did from desire and love, not from any obligation or need. Wow!

Because God is perfect and complete, and has been since before time itself, it means His love within Himself, Father for Son, etc., is perfect and complete. A love that is perfect, free of our fleshly pulls, not self-seeking, not keeping a record of wrongs, never failing, without any shame or condemnation, holy and righteous—this is God's perfect love, expressed within Himself before we were ever created. And now we read that in the same way the Father loved the Son, the Son loves us!!! In reality, since the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are One, we can say that in the same way God loves Himself (and that is perfect love!) God loves us! This is absolutely stunning for a believer to meditate on, and Mary Ann and I have been doing that in our conversations lately as we process a lot of hard things in the lives of many people around us. Reflecting on this reality that God loves us in the same way He loves within Himself does multiple things for me when I reflect on it:

1. It leaves me in awe, and very secure, in the vast height and depth and width of God's love for me. It is so incredible it is something I could meditate on for the rest of my life and never fully grasp. It is so important for us to understand that as shame and guilt and self-attacking are so easy to fall into. God loves us and presents us to Himself as holy and righteous from His good pleasure and with a complete love that is so perfect it is how He the Father loves the Son!

2. It is, I realize, even one more thing that God calls us to do (to love others as we love ourselves) that He first did for us. How amazing, and incredible, that God would do so much for us before ever asking us to do it ourself! It is no wonder the incredible news of God giving Himself to His creation was so amazing and so unthinkable that even the prophets and angels sought to understand the mystery of God He had prepared before the ages but that He only revealed in Christ. God was going to give Himself to His created people! God was going to love them with a love reserved for within the Trinity!

3. This is a self-giving, perfect love from God, to me,that the world can not touch, take away, or alter. It is an anchor not of this world in a world that has so much pain and brokenness.

Who could ever imagine that God would give us Himself? Who could ever even guess that God would love us with the love He Himself loves Himself, His Son? I have to think spending much time dwelling on that would break many a stronghold of the enemy in our heart, and put a fire into our worship! It has been doing great things in Mary Ann and my heart recently and I hope it blesses and encourages you as well.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Making Things Too Hard

God is so vast and His mysteries so deep that we will probably never fully fathom Him or His holiness or His wisdom and ways. But sometimes we can make too hard or too deep that which we would be better served receiving as a child. Sometimes the simplest explanation and realization is the best.

Recently I was praying with someone about the multitude of potentially overwhelming things we were facing—things that seemed to be humanely impossible. It was too much to handle and do all of them, and the way it would work out seemed impossible to perceive. Many of them seemed like we had no equipping to handle them, and the insecurity and fear and anxiety and apprehension was strong.

But, as I was praying, I found myself spontaneously asking God to prevent us from taking any path or taking on any chore that He was not leading us on, and suddenly I had the childlike revelation of what it means to be a sheep surrendered to following a shepherd. If we are following a good shepherd, as Jesus says He is, then we only have one care and that is to follow Him. We do not need to worry about His heart or any of the things He is responsible for. He will lead us to still waters and green pastures. He will protect us. He will look out for us and provide for us and He will not lead us on any path that He knows we can't take.

It became so simply clear—as the sheep of a Good Shepherd all I need to worry about is following Him. If I stray off the path He is leading me on then I become responsible for my own provision and protection and I am completely dependent on my own resources and ability, and I am alone and vulnerable in the dark woods and deep thickets of life. But, if as a good sheep I simply follow my Good Shepherd, then I can do so knowing that while I may not know where He is leading, or the path it will take, He will never lead me where He won't provide for me—and all of the needs I have, including words I need to speak, and things I need to do and face, will be taken care of by Him as long as I follow Him.

So, my responsibility becomes very simple. To follow. To make sure I am only doing and taking on what He gives me to do and take on, and that I am only going where He is leading. We would never call a shepherd "good" if they led their sheep on paths along cliffs that the sheep were sure to fall off of, or to pastures that were without food, or water that was brackish and poison, or if he abandoned them to the wolves. We would never call a shepherd "good" if they expected of their sheep what only a lion or an elephant or a fish could do. But Jesus is our Good Shepherd, and we are His sheep, and as such the only thing we must be guarded against is not following Him. If we are, no matter what is in front, we can trust Him to lead and provide what we need for it.


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