Created on Tuesday, 20 January 2015 16:29
Written by Jonathan Whitaker
I have a question for all of you teachers out there, if I were to go to your school today, where would I find my permanent grade-school record? The permanent grade-school record is the single most important document in the record of a human's life. We are taught from a young age that if we mess up, step out of line just a bit, the consequences would be a mark on our permanent record. We all know it's out there, serving as an open indictment against each one of us. Worse yet, everyone knows the intimate details of your record. your teachers know it, your parents, your boss, your in-laws. The only escape from your permanent grade school record is death itself…Sweet release!
Hopefully by now we all know that a mark on our record was a farce, an empty threat, used by adults to scare us straight. But, to our core as humans we know that there is a standing record against us. That record, as most of you have already guessed, is sin. We are born with a sin nature; we are selfish right from the womb; sin is inevitable. Sin is the real permanent record... or is it? Well that all depends, is Jesus your Lord?
I offer you the permanent record conundrum because I want you to understand blessing, true blessing from its deepest, most elemental meaning; the blessing that comes from having the biggest burden in your life removed from your shoulders, permanently. Isaiah 43:25 says, "I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins."
When Jesus is Lord of us He removes the greatest burden in our lives: sin. We may not feel it from day to day, but remember that the wages of sin is death and once we are dead, we face judgment (Rom 6:23, Heb 9:27). For believers, the reality is that we no longer have a sin burden, Jesus has removed it from us (but He doesn't stop there). In fact, not only are we free from the consequences that we deserve, but He also burned the record. "I will not remember your sins," that means there is no nagging about what you did ("sure I forgave you, but I will never forget"). Your sin is forgotten, as if it never happened.
What a great deal. The only thing closely comparable to this level of amnesia in my life is when Jennifer asks me to do the dishes. You want to talk about a spiritual level of forgetting something, man that's it.
We no longer have to fear the sin-burden that was killing us. "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters I will be with you...when you walk through the fire you shall not be burned and the flame shall not consume you" (Isaiah 43:1-2). Some of you (you know who you are), will read Isaiah and say, "but he was addressing Israel," and you are right, he was, but take heart! Our Lord is the Lord of a new covenant, and to us he declared, "I will remember their sins and their lawlessness no more" (Heb 10:17).
Christ, the Lord and Creator, was the only sacrifice that could lift the burden of sin. Hebrews 10:14 says, "For by a single offering, He has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified." When you and I trust Jesus as our Lord and believe that God raised Him from the dead, then we are among those who are being sanctified. The natural response to a person who has blessed you is gratitude. So naturally, the same is true for us with respect to Christ, we understand the true meaning of blessing because of the Lordship of Christ.
For the believer, there is only one right response to Christ's blessing: obedience. Christ did not save us for our sake; He saved us for His sake (Is 23:25). We use the terms, "bought us with His blood," and "paid our debts," etc. So when Isaiah 43 says, "you are mine," do you know what it means? We are His
. We literally are His possession (Ex 19:5).
That puts a different spin on it. As a response to grace we should want to obey Jesus, but as His possession He should expect us to obey. My kids belong to me, and yes I love them and am generous with them, but I also expect them to do what I say. Sometimes they surprise me and bless me with obedience because they want to please me, but even if they don't I still expect obedience. As we are His possession, Christ should expect the same of us.
As I conclude I want you to meditate on obedience as a response to grace. Hebrews 10:25-30 says, "For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins”..."The Lord will judge his people”…”It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." The ellipsis (...) in this paragraph should give believers pause.
Remember, as a believer your permanent record is expunged. The days of choosing sin and death are in the past. Just as Jesus was faithful to forgive and forget our sin, He should rightfully expect our obedience. How strange to Jesus that His precious ones, bought with His blood, would choose sin over obedience.
These stern words are not meant to scare you to the straight and narrow, but if they do, great. Just as God knows that we are incapable of saving ourselves, He knows we are incapable of even obeying Him. Like salvation, God has also made possible our obedience.
Join me for one last blog about 'giving up' because I have good news, by faith, Christ has transformed the lives of believers throughout history. Our works are worthless to God. Our faith in His finished work is a precious thing to Him. Here comes the real New Year's resolution: in 2015, I want to yield my life in faith to the Lordship of Christ.
Read Hebrews chapter 11 and you will understand what I mean.
Created on Monday, 12 January 2015 22:18
Written by Jonathan Whitaker
Have you ever felt truly worthy of something? Most of us married guys would look at our wives and say, "I'm lucky to have her." But few of us, if we are being honest, believe we are worthy of such a wonderful creature. It's true: you and I are slobs, and she is an angel sent from heaven (most likely to endure us as some sort of punishment). If you work hard for 40 hours a week and fulfill your obligations to your employer, certainly you are worthy of a paycheck. What about your salvation: are you worthy of that?
When Christ is our Lord, the scripture tells us we are worthy, but not by our own merit. (Col 1:11-14). Christ is worthy to be called Lord, and because He is worthy, we can be made worthy through Him.
How does one go about becoming a lord? It's like the peasant woman from Monty Python said, "How did you become king? I didn't vote for ya!" There are a few ways. First, you can inherit your title by hereditary succession. Second, you can be declared lord by the authority of the one who is in power. A lord can also claim the title by winning a great victory. Christ, interestingly enough, is qualified as Lord on the merit of all three avenues I just described. And no, Aaron, the Lady of the Lake and Excalibur had nothing to do with it.
As Son of the living God, Christ is worthy to be called Lord. He is heir to the majesty on high (Heb 1:2). If God and Jesus were like earthly father and son, Jesus would qualify outright as the first born of many brethren to assume the title of Lord (Matt 3:17, Rom 8:29). Our earthly affairs in no way compare to the already established Lordship of Christ as God the Son. However, Matthew chapter 1 covers all the bases and establishes that by His birthright Jesus should be the political king of Judah. Take a minute to read it. Had the Babylonian Captivity never taken place, Joseph would have been King on the throne of Judah when his adopted Son Jesus was born. Whether by His heavenly or earthly lineage, Jesus is worthy because of his heredity.
Jesus is also qualified to be called Lord because God, the creator of Heaven and Earth and the ultimate authority, bestowed that title upon Him. Philippians 2:6-11 says, " Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."
Because of Christ's obedience to God the Father, God saw fit to impart His Son's lordship by divine decree. Jesus is worthy because God said He is worthy.
If you did your homework from last time, you already know the third reason Jesus is qualified to be called our Lord. As the winner of the great victory over sin and death, Jesus has become our Lord and Savior.
Hebrews chapters eight and nine are a tale of two covenants. The first covenant was made between God and Israel, when God brought them out of slavery in Egypt (Heb 8:9). The history of Israel has been rebellion against this covenant. Before we start feeling high and mighty, we must realize that we have also run roughshod over God's law. The second, more excellent covenant is enacted by Christ and supersedes the old covenant.
Anyone who has ever attempted a study of Leviticus can tell you that the law is vast and complex. In Hebrews eight and nine, Paul reveals that the law (old covenant) was merely a copy or shadow of heavenly things. When God instructed Moses to construct a tent from a pattern, each intricate piece was a brush stroke in a portrait of God's plan of salvation. That portrait was never intended to save men from their sins, but to point to the One who would. In Galatians, we learn that those who rely on the works law are condemned by it (Gal 3:10-11). The work of a man has never saved anyone; on the contrary, Christ's New Covenant is accomplished by Him and has the power to save men (Heb 8:10-12).
Work is clearly not the currency of salvation. Ancient Israel understood this. Under the old covenant, the Priests would make offerings for the sins of the people using the one thing that does satisfy sin debt: blood (Heb 9:22). Temple sacrifice was a bloody affair, necessarily so, because it was merely a picture of a salvation to come, not salvation itself. If the blood of goats and bulls could satisfy sin, then temple sacrifice would be a footnote in the Bible. As it stands, the only blood that would satisfy the eternal condemnation of sin was the blood of God Himself (Heb 9:14).
Because Jesus quenched sin with His own blood once and for all we can be glad. His death ended the bloodshed forever and secured a great victory. With His victory in a battle we could not have won, over a foe against whom our weapons were insufficient, Jesus is worthy and rightfully our Lord…and because He is worthy, all who believe that God raised Him from the dead and call Him Lord are worthy.
Created on Tuesday, 06 January 2015 15:20
Written by Jonathan Whitaker
Ok, ok, ok, I know what you have come here for. You have come to get the Element New Year's resolution blog. It's the week between Christmas and New Year's Eve, and naturally you expect a blog about making a resolution that matters for the Lord. Well that is what you are going to get, but not exactly.
This year, instead of making big plans to change a habit or start a program, I think you should just resolve to give up. Yep, give up. More accurately, I think you should give up your plans, your will, your desires, and submit. Submit to the Lordship of Christ. Don't act so deflated. The day you followed Jesus as your Savior, when you believed that God raised Him from the dead, you agreed to this arrangement. Part of salvation is declaring to the world that Jesus is Lord...of you. (Rom 10:9) Today is the day to follow through on your commitment.
"You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am." (John 13:13) "Lord" is a word that has lost some meaning in the parlance of our times. Our closest modern use of the word is in reference to the English landed gentry, sort of a Lord Grantham, Downton Abbey arrangement with very dramatic maids and butlers. "Lord," in the sense "Jesus is Lord," means the one to whom full and unwavering allegiance is owed. Your Lord is the one to whom you submit your will implicitly, yielding your desires and plans to His care and direction. When you sing, "I want more of You and less of me" on Sunday morning, submission to the Lordship of Christ is what you're singing about.
I have been reflecting on my own submission to Christ as Lord of my life, and I want to encourage you to do the same. Starting next week, I hope to show you some important truths about our Lord Jesus found within Hebrews 8-11. As I study these verses I am continually stretched and challenged, as you will be in your walk with Christ. These chapters make a few things very clear: Jesus is worthy to be called Lord, because He is Lord; we are blessed; and as a Christian there is no other choice besides total submission to the Lordship of Christ. Egad! I know, heavy. I will do my best.
Should you choose to give up like I have, here is how to prepare for the next installment, first, read Hebrews chapter 8. These verses help establish why Jesus is Lord. As we read, let's pray for understanding of the text and conviction about the state of our submission to our Lord. We will consider submitting to what Jesus commands of us as Lord: to love the Lord our God with all of our soul, strength and mind and to love our neighbors as ourselves (Luke 10:27). Are you and I obeying our Lord's commands with our thoughts, with our finances, with our actions?
John 13 recounts the last supper when Jesus washes His disciples’ feet. When Jesus begins to wash the feet of his disciple Peter, Peter rebukes Jesus saying, “You shall never wash my feet.” Thinking he was being noble, Peter rejected the Lordship of Christ for his own concept of righteousness. Jesus told Peter (and us) that if He did not wash Peter’s feet then he has no share with Him. Jesus shows us that if we submit to Him, He will accomplish the work of making us righteous.
Submission to the Lord is not about righteousness through works, nor is it about beating yourself up. Submission is about obeying God, who loves you and willingly paid your penalty. Submission is the avenue by which our old life passes away and we are made useful to the Kingdom.
The Prophet Samuel told Israel when they asked for a King that they dishonored God. When we place our desires over God's will, we make ourselves king (1 Sam 10:17-27). Submission restores Christ to His rightful place as Lord over our lives and is the foundation of a personal relationship with Him. All of the “work” we have done for the Lord to earn our righteousness is counted as loss, when compared to the awesomeness of knowing Him. Submission is the way we can know our Lord intimately (Phil 3:4-11).
See you next time in Hebrews Ch 8. Now let's all "GIVE UP in 2015".
Created on Thursday, 25 December 2014 11:25
Written by Element Christian Church
We wish you a very Merry Christmas!
Created on Tuesday, 23 December 2014 14:28
Written by Aaron
Last Sunday night I arrived home after spending my entire day at Element, by "my entire day" I mean 16 hours straight. I was glad to get home and was looking forward to being able to grab a snack, pet my dog, and sit down for a few minutes before heading off to bed. One of the greatest things about owning a dog is the joy they show when they haven't seen you for 16 hours (our 16 minutes…or 16 seconds).
We walked in the door, my wife went to get something and I walked into the backyard to bring the dog in (yes, this was one of those rare days when she wasn't with me). I head into the backyard awaiting my joy filled reunion and I was not let down. My dog pranced around the yard, ran past me 5 times holding her ball, and showed her joy by the smile of her facial expression. I went to pet her, placed my hand on her head, and then realized she smelled like a skunk. It was at this moment I realized her joy was not from seeing me again; it was because she was so proud of herself for catching ANOTHER skunk.
This happens every few months because she thinks skunks are cats that have wandered into our yard…and only one cat is allowed in our yard is ours (and even then its iffy). It's also important for you to understand that she doesn't kill the skunks, she plays with them…aggressively. Aggressively will eventually translate into her being sprayed in the face by skunk juice, which translates into me washing her down for the next several hours.
If you were to ask me what I wanted for Christmas on Sunday night when I got home I would have said, "some peace and relaxation." If you had asked me after I was "loved on" by my dog I would have said, "someone else to wash her." If you were to ask me today what I want for Christmas I could list a myriad of things, and none of them would be related to skunks or taking a nap.
Throughout our lives events happen to us and around us that we do not see coming, do not understand, and definitely cannot appreciate with our limited scope of vision. We are told in Romans 8:28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Many people today use this verse to talk about all of life's circumstances being used by God for our good, and while this is true, Paul also takes this statement to directly move us into a deeper understanding of our salvation. All of our life events, no matter what they are, are redefined in light of the great salvation we have received as a gift of grace from Jesus.
Christmas, for us, should be a time of great joy, but also sober reflection. I think it is important to understand that Jesus birth was a joyous occasion in Heaven, while on earth it wasn't seen the same. A dirty stable, cave, or horses stall (depending on your translation), a poor mother and adoptive father, and the only ones witnessing the birth of God into frail human flesh were probably simple farm animals (maybe even one of them sprayed down by a skunk). Yet this moment of Christmas progresses forward to Jesus death, also not seen at a great joy at the time, and into His ultimate resurrection. All so that God could redeem and restore a lost and broken humanity into the glorious freedom of the children of God (Romans 8:19-23).
We are told in Romans 8:18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. Our hope is not in our circumstances, we are not defined by our past, our present is not solely at the twisted whims of others, and the future is not unsure but grounded in the steadfastness of Jesus.
So, what do you want for Christmas? Our 'wants' are all over the place, but God's desire has remained constant and true, His desire is for His children to be free…always has been, always will be. Now if I could only get Him to do my own personal Christmas miracle and get rid of our neighborhood skunk.