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Reality, Utopia, and Christ

Well, in my last post I mentioned an email that a friend of mine sent out to several people mentioning an article he came across on the movie “Avatar” actually resulting in depression for several viewers.  He asked some good questions: What strikes your mind as you read it? What does it say to you about Christianity (the religion) as we know it, the current level of Kingdom influence in our world, and about what we should be doing?

Well, I have given everyone who comes by to visit my site a few days to respond, and since neither of you did, I’ll go ahead and post my own response to these questions my friend asked…

I have not seen the movie, but I think it is a sad indictment that culturally we have moved so far away from the REALITY of God’s Word that a movie about a virtual world and the possibilities within *that* place, stir us to greater heights and depths of emotion than what is taking place not just here in the *real* world, but also in the heavenly realm which is our real home.  We were not made to be permanent residents of this world, but rather we are warned not to fall in love with this world, not to be dragged away by passions that can only be satisfied by it, and to live here as aliens… as *sojourners*.  This brings us into a conflict that affects all of us–believers and unbelievers alike.  We cannot find our satisfaction here.

I think it is important, though, to remember who we ARE as a result of the Fall.  In the book of Romans, Paul lays it out pretty clearly and we can see this image of man reflected back through everything we see on television and in the movies.  Collectively speaking, this is who we are:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. (Romans 1:18-32)

It is little wonder that someone who is confronting this *reality* (whether it is a result of seeing a movie, reading their Bible, or dealing with the recognition of their own depravity) would become depressed.  It is depressing news.  Any time we begin to really see the impact of man’s fallen nature and the effects of our sin on God’s creation (whether it is our own personal corruption or the collective corruption of mankind), it is overwhelmingly depressing.

For the believer, though, we have a blessed hope.  We are the “called-out” ones.  But paradoxically, we are not called *out* of this world when we hear His voice.  We are called *into* it.  We are given a savage mission: to live IN this world as aliens and strangers, to *suffer*, and to work as unto the Lord.  And He has given us a task: to glorify Him, to be a witness for Him to the ends of the earth.  He has promised us joy in this, but He has also promised us suffering on His behalf.  We will toil, we will suffer, but we will not lose heart.  We have a blessed hope, a Rock, a Refuge, and an eternal home.

For the one without hope in Christ and who wants even a temporary escape, nothing provides like technology.  In fact, I think it is this desire to “escape reality” that has driven most of the major advances in technology over the last hundred or so years, and truth be told it isn’t just unbelievers who are guilty of falling victim to it.  It throws an appealing lure, and it is natural for us to take the bait.

“Real life” is hard.  It demands sacrifice and serving others.  “Real life” does not always work out the way we would like it to.  We are not in control of it.  It includes wayward children, strained marriages, death and disease, addictions and abuse.  It places demands on us we do not always want to meet, requires more from us than we often want to give, and also tends to grant us far less than we would like to have.  It can be painful, difficult, and full of trial.  No wonder, people want to check out and look for some way—ANY way—of escape.  If you look with eyes that can see, most of the way people use technology in their daily life is “escape”… a way of staying distracted (i.e. “entertained”) so that they can forget about “real life” for a while.

Some find their escape in sports, others in movies… or some other visual form of entertainment (TV, game systems, computer games, pornography, etc.). For some, it is cell phones, texting, Facebook, shopping, collecting, or whatever else brings some pleasure for a time.  But it is always and only for a time.  That’s because for the believer and unbeliever alike, there is no real and lasting satisfaction to be had in this world.  The grass withers, and the flower falls… moth and rust destroy… thieves break in and steal.  We were not created to be satisfied in a fallen world tainted by the corruption of sin and death.  For the one who has no real, eternal hope in Christ, they find their “best life now”–finding some small joy in trinkets and distractions, though only for a little while.  BUT GOD

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.  But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:1-10)

Don’t run past that last sentence too quickly.  We are HIS workmanship, created in Christ Jesus (we are a NEW creation in Him) for good works.  We are not saved by good works, but for them.  Now, if this is true, then as I said earlier we are not saved OUT of this world, but INTO it.  We are called to be salt and light, and instruments for His glory.  We are not our own, but have been bought with a price and are to glorify God in our bodies (1 Corinthians 6:19b-20).

And we can find our encouragement and our greatest example in Christ, who did not look for any way of escape, and who would not be distracted from His eternal purpose, but for the JOY set before Him endured the suffering…

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,  looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)

BE OF GOOD COURAGE! Listen one more time to the words of the Apostle Paul.  Do not be depressed or discouraged—be it by a movie or by a man.  The Apostle who suffered countless beatings, shipwrecks, imprisonment, and death itself for His love of Christ could experience all those things with JOY because His eyes were right.  He wrote to encourage the church in Corinth:

For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. (2 Corinthians 5:1-10)

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Thoughts on the Rapture

The more I think about “the Rapture”, the more convinced I am that it has already happened.

And that it is happening right now.

And that it will continue to happen.

It happened when the Holy Spirit visited the believers in Jerusalem.  And it has been happening ever since.  The “rapture” is the calling out of the believers from the world.  That is what it is and what it means.  It’s what occurs to the “called-out” ones.  It’s not people floating up toward heaven in their earthly bodies, but it is the spiritual ascent of a once earthbound nature ascending meet the Lord in glory.  Even now, the Lord Jesus Christ is breaking forth from the clouds on the white horse, wielding the Sword of the Spirit and claiming His own out of the world.  Even now, judgment is being pronounced and some are being called out.

What happens in the Rapture?  The world loses its hold.  It loses its appeal… loses its grip on some poor sinner’s soul.

The rapture happened to the early church, and has continued to happen since its formation as the Spirit has continued through history to call men out of darkness for His good pleasure.  It is happening right now.  And it will continue to happen.

But not only is this true for the church, it is true as well for the individual. . .

What happened to me?

I was raptured.

I was a vile and worthless sinner who justified himself.  I didn’t believe in sin. . . the worst that I would confess was maybe a couple of bad habits.  Because I saw no sin in me or in the rest of the world (I was totally in denial of this doctrine) I saw no need of a Savior.  I didn’t imagine myself needing to be saved by anyone from anything for any reason.  I was depraved and liked the way I was.  I liked the the alcohol and the cigarettes and the other indulgences I partook of.  I saw nothing wrong with any of that.  I was totally content to live for my own self and for my own self-pleasure.  Though I had gone from an atheist to someone that thought they knew much about God, and loved Him, the truth is I hated Him.  I would not read His word.  I hated Christianity with a passion.  I fancied myself enlightened and thought Christians narrow-minded and ignorant.  I mocked them and rejected Jesus as “the Savior” and the “only way”.  But then one day because of His great mercy, God opened my eyes.  He gave me a new heart.  He convicted me of sin and showed me how great my need for a Savior really was.  And it began that day.  I was raptured.  I was called out of this world.

What is happening to me?

I am being raptured.

I find that since that day, there has been a lot of change taking place.  Some things happened quickly, almost instantaneously.  Some things have taken some time.  But over time, I have found that I don’t want to listen to certain kinds of music that want to glory in the world and the flesh, that boast in man and all the sin that dwells in the domain of darkness.  I do not want to watch scary movies I once enjoyed.  I do not even want to go to video stores for all the grotesque or lewd movie cases.  I really don’t care to watch tv shows or movies that are blatantly opposed to Scripture.  I have a hard time with so many movies because they are all about willfully desecrating the commandments (you shall not kill and you shall not commit adultery takes out about 95 percent of Hollywood’s options right there).  I am not interested in “the news”, or politics, or political discussion.  I don’t spend several hours during the week or on the weekend watching sports.  I don’t want to go play pool and hang out at a bar.  I don’t want to drink or smoke cigarettes (or anything else).  I don’t want “a buzz”.  I don’t want to go to concerts or spend hours talking about sports and other meaningless stuff.  I don’t even enjoy riding in a car with coworkers on the way to a restaurant when they are listening to God-abominating music or engaging in crude conversations.

I want to talk about God!  Nothing makes me happier than spending time with my brothers and sisters in the faith, sharing with them, meeting needs, talking about the things of God, glorifying Him in word and deed, studying the Scriptures, and praying and giving thanks to God for everything I can see Him doing, sharing with my wife and my children the glory of God.  “What is wrong with me?” the world would ask. I’m being raptured!  I’m being called out of this world.

And the more I ask “What is right with this world!?” the more it asks, “What is wrong with him!?”

What is going to happen?

I will be raptured!

I am not getting any younger.  The days of my youth are behind me and the grass is already beginning to wither, the flower beginning to fade.  Where once there was a proud (or shall I say vain) crown of locks, there is only skin.  The whiskers of my beard grow whiter by the month.  The aches and pains in my body increase, and I know that at some point I will probably get sick and die, unless the Lord sees fit to call me out suddenly.  But one way or the other, one day I will no longer be in this body or this world. . . but I will dwell with the Lord in glory forever.  The thoughts of this world will fade away, and the thought of me in this world will fade just as quickly.  Here I am but a vapor.  But on that Day I will be with Christ forever.  I will be raptured!  I will be forever called out!

Oh, take me, Lord.  Rapture my soul.  But before you take me out of this world completely, take this world out of me and let me shine as a light for your glory.  Just for a little while.  May it please You, my King, to glorify Yourself through me.

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