Tag Archives: church

Abide In Him – Or Die


“Redemption is meaningless unless there is cause for it in the actual life we live, and for the last few centuries there has been operating in our culture the secular belief that there is no such cause.”
-Flannery O’Connor, 1957

I want to add something to Ms. O’Connor’s thought. And it is that right now (I can’t speak for the 1950’s), not only is it a secular belief but a widespread religious belief that there is no reason for Redemption in the actual lives we live. And nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus had a word for the Pharisees who believed that: hypocrites. He called them white-washed tombs.

Much of Christianity today acts like once you (the sick, the weary, the poor, the sinful) start following Jesus, He makes you perfect and you never doubt, sin, or get sick again. You are now a righteous person in yourself and so your relationship with God is pretty mutual. You keep doing good stuff for Him and he just keeps blessing you. Nothing is further from the truth! Hell is full of “righteous” people who believed some fact about God, thought they were then perfect, and then went on living trying to earn God’s favor with what they did. That teaching, whether explicit or implicit in any institution is an outright lie. It may seem harmless, but it has real world ramifications.

I recently heard someone tell me that at a church several years ago (not in Little Rock) in Sunday school, the leader asked for everyone to write down a personal need on a card along with your phone number, which he would then read the need out loud, and someone would raise their hand for that need, and get in touch with that person during the week to help. My friend wrote down a personal struggle with sin he was having, and obviously wanted prayer or help from anyone in the class. The Sunday school teacher started reading the requests – somebody needed help with a broken mower, somebody’s dog was sick, somebody needed prayer to sell their car, somebody wanted prayer for their business – etc, etc. My friend’s request was never read to his brothers and sisters in that room. It was thrown away by the leader. He didn’t want to read it. And what was the message that that sent to my friend? Don’t bring up your stuff in church. We keep it artificial here.

Later he was able to be transparent at another church, and found out that most everyone else was like him anyway, on the inside. All it took was him being transparent, and they all started opening up. It’s called community, and every human on the planet needs it. “Here’s who I am & what I’ve done, the very worst and the very best. Tell me about you. Ok, cool. That sounds a lot like me. Now we all see the good and the bad in each other, and yet, we’re strangely OK and happy to know each other. It’s like a little refuge from all the fake people out there. I really love you guys. We know the way to life, and we encourage each other along the way.” This necessarily involves vulnerability, transparency, and intimacy. We are like this because God is like this – Father, Son, and Spirit, who made each of us in their image. You will either find community in the body of Christ or in the body of another. Bars, clubs, anonymous groups, rehab facilities, affairs – all of these offer some form of transparent community that every human needs. It’s just who we are. And some of them (not affairs…) are useful and good for what they are. However, none of them can provide what only the body of Christ can provide.

I’m glad my friend found a group of believers he can be real with. We all need that. I know I do, and am thankful for the people in my life.

Jesus said “Come to me all you who are weary” and he also said “Abide in me…If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away”. To me that sounds like we come to Him and then we stay with Him because we still need Him. The New Testament also tells believers to confess our sins to each other, and also not to say that we do not sin, or else we make God out to be a liar. Practically, I know this is hard, because no one wants to hear somebody be negative all the time. Also, American culture is just generally very positive in nature. But, somewhere along the way the American church started replacing “Come to Me….Abide in Me” with “Come to Me…Ok now you’re good, you won’t sin anymore, therefore you don’t need me. Go do something FOR me. And, if you notice something wretched in you, just don’t tell anyone.”

I think we “abide in Him” by listening to him (his word), talking to Him (prayer), and being with and loving His body, the church. Kind of makes sense, really, since to know someone you need to be with them, talk to them, and listen to them. Also, for people that are married, knowing your spouse I think is a part of how you know God, though I am as yet unqualified to speak in that area! 🙂

And, part of all of those is admitting to yourself, Him, and each other – STILL – that we need Him. If our lives are perfect and we’ve got it all figured out, we just don’t need Him. We don’t.

However, we are far from perfect. And even what we think we know isn’t even a drop in the bucket of all knowledge. The good news, though, is that if you know Him, you know all you need to know. You know the one who has it all figured out, the one who is perfect, the supreme creator and ruler of the universe. If you know Him then He has your back, and He will never let you go.

If you know Him, our confession of sin and brokenness to Him and to each other will not make Him angry, but will bring Him joy, as we abide in Him.

1 Comment

Filed under Theology

What is Easter?


Easter weekend is more than just remembering something that happened in the past. It has to do with your own life, death, and redemption. It has to do with who you are, what you feel inside, how you know things aren’t right in yourself, or in the world — but it is a celebration of He who defeated death for us, and in His life lie all the answers to every eternal question, longing, and yearning we feel – we, who are still marred by sin. We, who know the answers and solutions to life can’t come from within us. We’ve tried that before and it always fails. We are excited to look outside ourselves for real satisfaction, joy, and meaning. In His resurrection we get to celebrate in the glory of another – in His glory which he has given to us!

If you are a Christian, don’t let Easter or Christmas be like every other holiday we have – bunnies and Santas are nice but these times of year celebrate the real, personal, eternal truths of who Jesus is, what He’s done, and what it all actually means. These are the most important, impactful things out there that we, our kids, and our world need. If you’re not into holidays period, that is fine. And really every Sunday should be Easter Sunday for us. But as Moses mentioned when instructing the Israelites about the Passover memorial day, “When your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’ You shall say…”, I think we ought to be prepared for questions from kids about our holidays. You know, kids – the ones that ask a million questions?

Christmas is alright, but I absolutely love Easter. To me, it represents hope. It’s a remembrance of that day when the Son of Man, Jesus of Nazareth, defeated death because he just did not deserve it. He had lived in the world we all know and dread where you get what you pay for, where you are held to a standard of 100% perfection. It’s the world where God requires you to be perfect, where Jesus says to be perfect, and if you are not – you die. Jesus lived in this same world but he didn’t do a thing wrong. Every thing he did was righteous. By his life, he broke through Adam’s curse, and death just could not hold him down. He didn’t need to trust in a bloody lamb which would represent the future perfect sacrifice for God’s people – he was the very thing those lambs, Passover meals, prophets, priests, and kings all represented – Himself! His active obedience proved himself righteous before God’s law, which no man had ever done, before or since.

The Easter weekend is also a remembrance of the Son of God who bridged the gap between God and man. God’s only son, sent by God the Father to die in order to reconcile us to the Father. God the Son who took the form of a man knowing he was coming here to suffer and die, all to restore our relationship with the Father. It reminds me of the Greeks and their stories of gods coming down to earth and interacting with humanity. Only, this actually happened.

On that glorious Sunday, heaven and earth collided, and the spiritual met the physical. I say that because, even though physical death is something we see that is rooted in the Fall and our sin problem, it is such a common spiritual reality that we see it as normal when someone dies. It is so common that people get lulled into thinking that physical life and death is all there is. However, when Jesus physically rose from the dead, it was so abnormal that it really proved to people the spiritual realities of what was going on. Maybe he really was blameless? Maybe he really was God? We all feel broken, and we all die, so maybe he who defeated death wasn’t broken and messed up like us? Maybe what he said was true? Maybe there is a kingdom of God?

His resurrection also proved God’s love for us physically. It (He) was something you could touch, and see with your eyes. Even people who wrote Jesus and his followers off as nuts, or as believers in fairy tales couldn’t deny the physical man standing before them. All God’s promises and assurances in the Old Testament were validated physically – in front of real people’s eyes. All those years of hoping and praying, signs and shadows (with many seeing it as hocus pocus, pie in the sky wishful thinking); now it was here, and you couldn’t deny it.

“A man who was dead is now alive, his followers are healing people, and we’re beginning to see how the ancient Scriptures point to Him as the Messiah!” That is how I imagine those early Christians reacting.

Just as people today remember where they were when they heard Elvis was dead, JFK was dead, saw the man on the moon, or saw the events of 9/11, those people near Jerusalem who saw Jesus after he had died forever marked their lives by it, as did their kids and grandkids. Even those who didn’t believe all the meaning behind it still acknowledged what had happened. It was such a big deal that the whole world still marks time by His life today, 2,000 years later.

And it was such a big deal, that Christians still look to Jesus’ death and resurrection to make us right before God. To give us peace with Him. To quench that burning desire in our souls for things to just be right. Jesus’ work is the very grace we need, since our own works just don’t do the job. God knows that – that’s why he gave us His Son! It really is an amazing thing.

“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

“Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (It ain’t there!!!)

Leave a comment

Filed under Theology