Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Resolutions

A lot of us like to make New Year's Resolutions. We look over our last year, get discouraged because of our failures and weaknesses, and resolve to CHANGE: I'm gonna stop looking at porn. I'm gonna do better in my grades. I'm gonna get to bed on time. I'm gonna lose 15 pounds. I'm gonna get 30 min in the word every day. I'm gonna be more patient with my kids.

These are great desires! But real change doesn't come from making resolutions and exercising MORE willpower. Come on, did that work for 2011?

Our only hope for 2012 is the same hope that we had for 2011: the gospel. We CAN'T do it, but Jesus DID. He came on a rescue mission to save sinners. He died the death that we deserved, and He lived the life that we had failed to live. He gets our sin, and we get His righteousness (2 Cor 5:21). Good news!

So here's the challenge for 2012: Believe the gospel. Remember that you can't do ANYTHING in your own strength, and that in the midst of your weakness Christ has done EVERYTHING. Our salvation is by GRACE, not our own works at all. Meditate on this amazing truth from Romans 4:4-5, "Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness" (ESV)

For 2012, let's believe the gospel in a deeper way. Let's cultivate a greater love for Jesus, our Savior. Let's grow in our dependence and trust in the death and resurrection of Christ on our behalf. In the midst of failure, temptation, and struggle through 2012, let it ALL drive you to the Cross in humble, faith-filled desperation. And if along the way you get pumped and wanna lay down a few punches against your sin? Go for it.

Remembering the gospel,
The Relentless Fight

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Wartime Mentality

You are in danger. Right now.

You have enemies: vindictive Satan, your sinful flesh, the godless world. These enemies LONG to see your destruction. As you read this blog post, there are a thousand temptations vying for your affections. Porn is screaming, selfishness if rearing its ugly head, laziness is creeping, anger is brewing. Sin is out there, and it is attacking. It's ready to kill you and eat your eyeballs. Satan is hunting you (1 Peter 5:8).

And we tend to forget this battle. We think we're doin' pretty good (1 Corinthians 10:12). We are prone to get soft on sin, to let down our guard, get careless, and that's when we get wrecked. 

The only way to ensure our victory over these constant dangers is through constant violence. Like God said to Cain in Genesis 4, sin's desire is for you... but you must master it.  Every moment of every day we must be vigilant, sober, alert, making war against our sin. A great example of this kind of wartime mentality is Colonel Quaritch from the movie Avatar. Consider his speech:
"You are not in Kansas anymore. You are on Pandora, ladies and gentlemen. Respect that fact every second of every day. If there is a Hell, you might wanna go there for some R & R after a tour on Pandora. Out there beyond that fence every living thing that crawls, flies, or squats in the mud wants to kill you and eat your eyes for jujubes. We have an indigenous population of humanoids called the Na'vi. They're fond of arrows dipped in a neurotoxin that will stop your heart in one minute - and they have bones reinforced with naturally occurring carbon fiber. They are very hard to kill. As head of security, it is my job to keep you alive. I will not succeed. Not with all of you. If you wish to survive, you need to cultivate a strong, mental aptitude. You got to obey the rules: Pandora rules. Rule number one..." 
In the fight against sin, we must cultivate a wartime mentality. Get pumped! Get focused! Put your game face on and get serious about the fight! As John Owen says, "Always be killing sin, or it will be killing you." The price of victory is constant violence.

Stay frosty,
The Relentless Fight

Thursday, December 22, 2011

What's the Lie?

He feeds on ashes; a deluded heart has led him astray, and he cannot deliver himself or say, “Is there not a lie in my right hand?” (Isaiah 44:20 ESV)

In Isaiah 44 God is mocking those who worship idols. He describes a man who cuts down a tree: half of it he burns and gets warmed up from the fire, the other half he uses to create a god and bows down to it. Dumb, right?

The problem is, that's us. Totally. How are we any different when we go to food, porn, grades, video games, golf as our god and bow down in worship? We tend to distance ourselves from those "dumb pagans" in the Old Testament who worshipped literal carved wooden idols. But if we look intently at the Scripture, to our dismay we see ourselves.

Consider the heart of the man in this passage. God summarizes in verse 20 what the core problem is: he is believing a LIE. The problem area, the root of all this idolatry and wrong worship is the HEART. But this pagan lumberjack doesn't even know it. And so let's focus on "What's the lie?"

If you pick apart a temptation and a fall into sin, you can trace it back to a specific set of lies that you were believing as the temptation grew. There was some point at which you BELIEVED the lie, and that's when you made the choice. The battlefield then becomes the heart: what will you believe? God's Word confronts those lies with TRUTH, and it is a constant fight of faith to believe the truths of God instead of the lies of our idols.

Let's consider a practical example:
It's late at night after a LONG day. You really were feeling sad most of they day, it was dreary outside, work was lame, and your roommate kinda blew you off when you got home (which hurt, because you would have appreciated talking through your junk). And now it's 9pm and you hear a voice inside your head, "A bowl of ice cream would be FANTASTIC right now." You think, "No, I really don't need it, I had a piece of cake for dessert after dinner, and I don't need to eat ice cream." "But it's Double Chocolate Fudge Swirl!! It will taste delicious." And within a few minutes of this battle in the mind, you go for the fridge. 20 minutes later you're wrecked by those same familiar feelings of guilt and shame... 
Okay, STOP: let's rewind the tape and try to find the lie. When you got home, what were you feeling? Sad, tired, ignored. What were you desiring? Rest, refuge, comfort, satisfaction. You wanted comfort and joy because of the sad feelings you had during the day. You wanted excitement because of the boredom at work. You wanted relational refuge and closeness but your roommate hurt you. And it is into this cauldron of desires that a lie was spoken: "Ice cream will give you rest. Food will give you comfort. Chocolate will give you excitement." And once you began to BELIEVE these lies, you acted on them. But in the end your idol betrayed you! It did not deliver what it had so confidently promised! You've been made out to be a fool, trusting in something that has completely let you down. You feel ashamed and defeated...

Here's where the gospel becomes so precious and powerful. Yes, you failed. Yes, you are guilty of idolatry. Yes you betrayed God and worshiped His creation rather than Him. But here is good news friends: God sent Jesus to DIE for idolaters. Jesus Christ, on the cross, BECAME the sinner who struggles with food, so that in Him you might become the righteousness of God (that's a paraphrase of 2 Corinthians 5:21). He took your guilt, He took your shame, He took your slavery upon Himself, to give you forgiveness, cleansing, and freedom. Amazing!

Now with the HOPE of the Gospel, let's get back into the fray of "Where's the Lie?" At the point that ice cream spoke those promises to you, what TRUTH of Scripture could have counteracted those lies? Perhaps Jesus' words in Matthew 11:28, "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you REST." (ESV) Woah! Jesus will give me rest? Not ice cream? "Come to Jesus." What might that look like? Maybe spending some time in prayer, maybe getting some quality time in the Word so that you can see again the beauty of Jesus and His great salvation. And it's not just rest that Jesus promises. He gives refuge (Psalm 18:2), comfort (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17), and satisfaction (Psalm 90:14).

And brothers and sisters: the promises of Jesus are TRUSTWORTHY. He has already proved His love and faithfulness by taking our sins to the cross. And the rest and comfort that He brings? WAY better than food, porn, golf, video games, or anything else you can imagine. Satan likes to take a big helping of guilt, shame, condemnation, and emptiness and wrap it up "all pretty like" and sell it to you. But with Jesus? With HIM is eternal joy and ever-increasing pleasure and satisfaction (Psalm 16:11). Praise God!

So to summarize in 5 steps (for those who like methods):

  1. What were you thinking and feeling?
  2. What was the lie that you believed?
  3. How does the GOSPEL empower and encourage you?
  4. What truth of Jesus counteracts the lie that you had believed?
  5. What might it have looked like to believe Jesus?

Fighting for a superior joy in Jesus Christ,
The Relentless Fight

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Purpose of This Blog

The purpose of this blog is threefold: Encourage, Empower, and Equip.

Encourage: As we live the Christian life, inevitably we get discouraged from the constant onslaught of temptation, failure, suffering, and brokenness in this fallen world. The Scriptures direct us to "encourage one another" (Heb 10:25, 1 Thess 5:11), knowing that we are prone to discouragement. And when we're discouraged, we give up the fight. What we need is encouragement. We need the exhortations and cheering of other brothers and sisters in Christ. We need to know we're not alone. We need a hug, a phone call, an "I'm here for you", and maybe a kind rebuke. I pray that through the content of this blog God might encourage you. 

Empower: In the midst of our discouragement, we lack the strength to continue fighting. We are weakened by sin, despairing because of our failure, and beaten up by our Enemy. Paul boldly declares in Romans 1:16, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes..." What we need is power. We need the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ crucified for sinners. We need mercy, grace, and forgiveness. We need liberation and redemption and rescue. We need God Himself to descend from heaven wielding a battle ax, and come to our aid. I pray that through the content of this blog God might empower you.

Equip: Though encouraged and empowered, there still is a battle to be fought. And sadly there is little training devoted to this great fight. We lack the tools, we lack the skills, we lack the strategy to defeat the sins that so often defeat us. Again Paul in 2 Cor 10:24 states, "For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds." What we need are weapons. We need tactics and insight, accountability and counter-attacks. We need to get back in the fight with a plan, and with the skills to defeat our sin. We need to figure out where the enemy is coming from, and destroy the home fortress. I pray that through the content of this blog God might equip you.

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more content. 
Remember the Gospel. Keep Fighting.