The Gospel and Resurrection

Recently, in our apologetics series in Friday night youth group, we went over the importance of the Resurrection. When it comes to apologetics and the resurrection, it’s often a matter of marshaling the textual and historical evidence to support the bodily resurrection of Jesus. As I studied Paul’s writing in 1 Corinthians 15, however, I was struck, not by any evidence that Paul gives, but by the central place that the Resurrection takes in his preaching. For Paul, the Gospel culminates in Christ’s Resurrection, and that has profound implications for present life, here-and-now. Here’s what I mean:

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:1-2 ESV)

Paul promises to sum up the Gospel, the good news in which we are being saved. I think it’s important to pay attention to what he says here, lest we become deceived by all the other “gospels” out there (e.g. prosperity gospel, self-help gospel, etc). Well, let’s see what Paul says:

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.
(1 Corinthians 15:3-5 ESV)

This message should be familiar to evangelical Christians. Jesus Messiah, the perfect, spotless Lamb of God, died for our sins, taking the punishment of death on our behalf. God, however, did not abandon His Son to death, but raised Him on the third day. For many Christians, it’s easy to be too familiar with this message, to take it for granted. So let’s try to pay more attention to what Paul is saying here.

First, a preliminary remark: I know sometimes I tend to think of the death of Christ as the “main event,” so to speak. I mean, that’s where the action happens, right? That’s where my sins get forgiven so I can go to heaven when I die, right? Thus, the resurrection becomes more of an afterthought. It’s the thing that proved that everything worked out in the end…or something like that.Well, of course, the whole thing – Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection – is the Gospel, and it could be foolish for us to try to divide it up. I do think, however, that my way of thinking of the death as the “main event” may be a little misleading, and here’s why. In chapter 15, Paul wants to draw special attention to the Resurrection, and for good reason. Take a look:

Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.
(1 Corinthians 15:6-8 ESV)

Paul continues to emphasize that Jesus appeared to people after his death. In other words, Jesus is alive again, and He still lives. Paul goes on to expand upon this theme in verse 12: Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?

So to recap, here’s the Gospel: Christ is not just proclaimed as dead, but as raised from from the dead! Now, why is this so important to Paul? Why all the emphasis on Christ’s resurrection and appearance?

A bit of context will help us here. As we can see from verse 12, there were some in the Corinthian church who didn’t believe in a bodily resurrection. Instead, they (likely) thought of the resurrection in quasi-spiritual terms. The “resurrection” (if there is one) is some ghostly, disembodied state. The conclusion that they drew from this was that it didn’t matter what you did with your earthly body, since it would be destroyed anyway. As a result you have people in the Corinthian church indulging in all sorts of immorality (i.e., the kind that you find in the earlier chapters of 1 Corinthians). The way that Paul fixes this is by pointing to the reality of resurrection.

First, Paul lays out the negative side. If it’s true that there is no bodily resurrection, then it’s also true that Christ wasn’t raised from the dead (vs 13). And if that is true, then the game’s up. This whole Christianity thing is one huge mistake. Preaching and faith is in vain (vs 14). We’re lying about God (vs 15). We’re still in our sins (vs 17). In fact, says Paul, if there’s no resurrection, then Christians are of all people most to be pitied!

You might think that last statement is an over-exaggeration by Paul. After all, people are wrong about things all the time. But Paul knows his Old Testament. He knows that, since the Fall, God’s plan and purpose has been to save a fallen world. Now, if there’s no resurrection and if Jesus isn’t raised, that means death isn’t destroyed. If that’s the case, then Jesus isn’t Lord. Death is. Death is the final master, the ultimate reality. In other words, the problem of sin, suffering and death has not been solved. Everything that’s wrong about the world is still wrong. It doesn’t matter what we do to try to fix it, because in the end, we will still die. To quote verse 32, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”

Thankfully, it doesn’t end there, for Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead. Paul continues:

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

(1 Corinthians 15:20)

What are firstfruits? Quite simply, they are the first of the fruits gathered at the harvest. In other words, Paul is saying that Christ is the first of the new humanity. In fact, he is the first of the New Creation. God’s plan to restore and save the world has come to its fulfillment, and the firstfruits, the forerunner, is the man Jesus Christ. Furthermore, those who belong to Christ will also be raised like him (vs 22-23). That is, in the same way that Christ was raised, we will be raised too. That’s why the resurrection is so important. If Christ didn’t rise from the dead, then neither will we.

Notice that Paul is speaking of a bodily, physical resurrection. As evangelicals, many times what we look forward to after death is “going to heaven,” where by heaven, we mean some disembodied, spiritual existence with God. However, when we look in the Bible, the New Testament writers are consistently looking forward to the bodily Resurrection. The real goal, the real focus is the resurrection – not just a spiritual resurrection, but a resurrection in which we receive glorified and immortal bodies.

Here’s where the rubber meets the road: what we do in this life matters. Because Jesus is alive, because he has conquered death, our lives are going to be radically different. So says Paul, “Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning” (15:34). The life we live now is lived in anticipation of the resurrection. Or even better yet: in the present, here and now, our calling is to learn to live the kind of life that will “characterize God’s new creation” (to quote NT Wright). That’s why we do the things we do as Christians. It’s not just an arbitrary system of rules. Being a Christian is nothing less than getting a head start on the New Life. You don’t have to wait until after death to start living eternal life. Being a Christian means you’ve died with Christ, but you’re also been raised with him. Eternal life starts now.

So again, let us listen to Paul’s exhortation to wake up. Let put away those petty sins that we think will satisfy us. Stop messing around with drunkenness, lust, pride, envy, and malice. Let us put away the things that the world values – status, wealth, comfort – and start pursuing love, justice, mercy. That’s why the fact of the resurrection is so important to us as Christians. It’s not just about getting it right or wrong. If Christ really rose from the dead, then those of us who belong to him get to share in the same resurrected life now. If Jesus didn’t rise, then we’re not just making an intellectual mistake; rather, we’ve lost the basis for the entire Christian life.

Be a Part of the Solution rather than the Problem

Chick-Fil-A

“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” – Mother Teresa

With the controversy of Chik-Fil-A and the boycotting, and many other circumstances that have come about as a result, I was most saddened and hurt by the outright harshness and bitterness that has come from within the Christian community regarding this whole situation.  Some of these statements are directed at the Church, and in many places de-value the Word of God to a place under the cultural perspectives that are prevalent and popular today.  Just in case you don’t realize, the Church is being persecuted and oppressed for the values it extols and loses out often because those that profess to be Christian have not adequately defended or lived out the Gospel truths in their own lives.  The simple truth is this, the people within this Church will never be able to live up to this high calling due to inherent fallen-ness of man and our sin.  So I mourn, because in one way Christians are called hypocrites for our poor living of God’s truth, and the other way is we are unable to speak our views because we are then considered ignorant/old-fashioned/hateful when we simply stand for the truths that we believe in.  The reality is we are in a dark time and if one side is unable to speak its views without an immediate angry reaction, then is this true healthy dialogue that is happening?  In many ways, I feel like folks are seeing the Church as this:

Church is like a toilet

Unfortunately, this is often how many view the Church today.

I want to make a point to state this: if you want to discuss my personal beliefs and views on this, then  please feel free to meet with me in person to talk more about the subject.  I am here to make this statement instead: Be a Part of the Solution rather than the Problem.

Recently, a sibling came to me complaining that our faith community does not pray enough.  She shared how she didn’t see us praying enough and was frustrated and disappointed at our community.  In the moment, I asked her this simple question: did you go to prayer meeting?  What essentially she was saying was that she had not seen our faithfulness to pray as a body.  Granted, she was right in some sense… our church struggles in praying together, but I knew that it was a bit unfair for her to make this assessment because I had never seen her at our meetings.  Her response that followed my question was one of acknowledging that she had not attended.  I replied then that perhaps her role then is to start praying for others and to start attending.  In doing so, one speaks with more credibility and sets an example for others, and you start to be a part of the solution rather than the problem.

Be a part of the solution rather than the problem, beloved brothers and sisters.  Just like you, I hate that there are many in the Church that make those in the LGBT community feel unloved, unwanted, and less-than.  But let me clarify one thing… not every Christian is like this.  There are a large group of Christians that are daily trying to take up their cross and to honor Christ in all that they do and how they live.  They are loving others and praying for others.  They are actively serving the LGBT community and dialoging with others and serving the less fortunate and preaching the truth about God… the amazing Gospel of Jesus Christ to others.  In attacking the “Church”, you are also unintentionally attacking your very beloved brothers and sisters that have been a part of your Christian life and all those Saints that have come before you.  By attacking the “Church”, I think we also reveal a poor understanding of what the Church is here for too.

So let me define Church in a very short brief explanation (off the top of my head)… the Church is a supernatural entity and gathering of God’s people for His purpose and plan from our time into eternity that will come to fruition and are linked by the life, death, resurrection, and promise of Jesus Christ.  God’s people whether local or universal (“Catholic”), is the Church, and are given gifts to be used to bring about His glory and purpose.  My Professor in Seminary, Dr. Tuck said that the church is: “the people of God, people of the light, the heavenly community and congregation.”  We are the body that serves to bring about God’s plan and purpose, we are the body of CHRIST!  Realize that the body of Christ needs grace just as much as the world does.

The funny thing is this, the Church, the people of God are NOT saved and being used because they are the Dream Team of good people; if anything it is because we really suck!  It is exactly because of their inherent brokenness and flawed-ness that the Church is called to be Jesus’ hands and feet and voice to this world that is lost.  It is taking the weak and the foolish and shaming the strong and the wise.  God does not need us to do His work, but by His grace allows Christians to participate despite our inherent and apparent imperfection and hypocrisy.  The irony is God can use the worst situations to bring about His greatest achievements; it is in doing so that humanity gets no credit and He gets all the glory.  If the Church consisted of holy perfect people, then we would not be about Christ but ourselves.  It is in this constant dependency and need that we constantly are seeking after God and crying out to Him for help.

Be a part of the solution rather than the problem, beloved brothers and sisters.  Jesus did hang out with society’s rejects and losers.  He also hung out with the popular and even super-religious folks.  Do you have a Jesus’ words in red letter Bible?  If so, then what you notice is this: Jesus in the words He spoke was filled with truth that was so beautiful and perfect and incredibly impossible to live up to apart from God; it had such holiness, power, and was without error.  Yet if you look at Jesus’ life in the black letters (normal print), what you see is a Savior that was incredibly gracious and loving.  He was patient with those that needed patience, and strong and firm to those that were self-righteous.  The truth is: “Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17b).  Jesus was a perfection of both grace and truth lived out; He exemplified that paradox of being able to accomplish both.

The unfortunate reality is: we all desire to be both grace and truth and like all humanity we tend to swing like a pendulum overcompensating or undercompensating in our lives.  We can be incredibly gracious and yet truth-less, and we can also be incredibility truthful and yet be grace-less.  Either way is NOT Jesus because they are inherently flawed and may actually hinder others.  Being gracious and loving without truth brings about nothing that Jesus did; He extolled the Scriptures… He did not come to abolish the Law that was given, but to fulfill them.  Our righteousness needs to exceed even those of the religious people!  Being truthful and Word-centered without grace brings about nothing that Jesus did either.  Jesus perfectly loved His enemies and prayed for them as He died there on the cross at Calvary… He was perfect in His love as well.

You can’t have one without the other. Grace and Truth… and yet we each desire to find that balance. This is the Christian life inspired, guided, strengthened, reinforced and lived out daily until we are called home.  If you profess to know Jesus Christ and show very little grace; you have missed the point.  God is love, and in Jesus’ very act of submission and sacrifice… His life/death/resurrection exemplifies God’s love!  If you profess to know Jesus Christ and show very little concern for God’s Word, His truth; you have missed the point.  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He is truth and He has brought about the Word to teach and show His Story!

If you disregard what the Word is teaching and saying, and sacrifice it all for “love” then you are NOT proclaiming the truth.  You cannot have grace without the truth; and you cannot have truth without grace.  When it is one or the other in extreme what you have is anti-nomianism, or legalism; it is an unhealthy imbalance.  Either way is not what Jesus teaches and NOT how he lived!  If you are not concerned with the inherent sin found in our world today that has been shown and addressed by God, then you are not seeing this world as God sees this world.  It is the very case that God loves this world so much that He has sent Jesus to address this sin of this world.  If one disregards this sin, then what was the point of Jesus’ life/death/resurrection?

Be a part of the solution rather than the problem, beloved brothers and sisters.  The world does not need any more people hating on those that follow Jesus.  The Bible already pointed out that there are folks that will do that and even kill Jesus’ followers, there is no need for more because if anything it reveals one’s own bitterness and hatred rather than truly helping the circumstances.  Be a part of the solution… have you ever thought that perhaps your insight into God’s truth and how to love the LGBT community is an opportunity to educate rather than to accuse?  Rather than pointing one’s finger, which is the problem, let’s be a part the solution by educating and setting an example for others.  Prayerfully and by teaching and gaining the trust of those we love and desire to encourage, we patiently point out how to love and to dialogue with those that may be ignorant within our Churches.

Here’s the thing too… for those outside the Church, we have an opportunity to be part of the solution as well. We don’t walk into conversations and start fights with the truth, but as God is the Creator, let us be creative in how we display, share and interact with grace and truth to those in this world.  In the same way, it is building relationships and trust and sharing with love and grace and showing them how a Christian is to be holy as He is holy; it is also sharing and telling others of the truths found in Scripture and sharing the Gospel (remember all Scripture is profitable for teaching/reproof/correction/training in righteousness).  It is showing our less-than perfectness and showing that only Christ has brought about perfection and it is not our actions and works that result in this, but His grace alone.  Let us not fight the world by the world’s ways, but through God’s way which is through love that is shown by both grace and truth.  Let us always remember this.

Lastly, you will be persecuted for your position.  You will demand truth and grace, but the world and even the church will perhaps only see one or the other.  Be persecuted, but keep running the good race.  Your life needs to continue to reflect His truth and grace, and your focus must be on Christ only.  Your first and only allegiance needs to be the Lord.  For others, you are called to love them and see God’s heart for them. It is through this then you are to manifest truth and grace.  Remember, the Church consists of sinners, and yet, this is the community which Jesus Christ sacrificed His life for!  God is somehow using this rag-tag bunch of folks to do His good work, and He loves them as well.  Let us be a part of the solution rather than the problem; let us not condemn those in the body, but let us teach and encourage them to love and pray for others, and to value the word of God.  Let us practice a balance of grace and truth.   Grace and peace to you.

I don’t trust that guy

Hebrews 12:2

Something I have been trying to practice more is to question my initial reaction. This may range from a thought that comes to my mind or a response to something that is said. In the end I am reminded time and time again of the conflict between the sinful nature and the spirit. A conflict that every believer encounters. Paul did not ignore the existence of that conflict within himself. In Romans 7:19-20 he said:

For the good that I want to do, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.

Paul is describing the struggle that someone who has already placed their faith in Christ deals with. Before we deal with this struggle, it is worthwhile to remember the fundamental problem of sin that we all face.

Earlier in his letter to the Romans, Paul states that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). Furthermore, in chapter 6 of the very same letter we read that the wages of sin are death (Rom. 6:23), or eternal separation from God. Had it ended there, we would all be headed for eternal separation from God. But Romans 6:23 doesn’t end by simply showing us our trajectory without Christ. Rather we are told of the free gift of eternal life that comes from God, that is promised to those who are in Christ. And what does it mean to be “in Christ”? Those who are in Christ are those who have “listened to the message of truth, the gospel…having also believed” (Eph. 1:13).

A simple application I draw from all of this is that I have to constantly remind myself that I don’t have it all together. I am not perfect. And for that reason, when I look at myself from the outside I would have to say, “I don’t trust that guy”. Instead, I place my entire trust in Christ. I place my faith in Christ. I am thankful for this struggle because reminds me of my need for Christ.

There is so much that is written/blogged/YouTubed (if that’s even a word now) about simply “loving” everyone. My love is not perfect. But God’s love is. And it is because He first loved us, that we can love others (1 John 1:19). It is this love that I have experienced that drives me to want to share the good news with others. The good news that God loved us and sent His son to die for us while we were still sinners, so that through faith in Christ our sins may be forgiven. God’s love is the greatest gift that anyone can receive. The constant struggle between sin and the spirit will continue inside of me until the day Christ returns. The answer to hate in the world (which we trace back to sin) does not lie in what you or I can do. It lies in what Christ did on the cross. We are all in desperate need a savior. Jesus Christ came to rescue us.

So I will question my thoughts, my motives, and my actions. When sinfulness is revealed, I will repent and praise God that I have a hope that is found in my faith in Christ Jesus alone. On the contrary, if I find that my thoughts, my motives, or my actions are pure then again I will praise God because of the work He is doing in my life, for His glory. I will praise him because He sent His son to die for me, while I was a sinner (Rom. 5:8) I will praise Him because I know that those truly pure motives are not from myself. I will praise him because of the promise that, “He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus”(Phil. 1:9).

As we remember Christ’s crucifixion on Good Friday and then celebrate His resurrection this Sunday, be reminded that Jesus came for a reason. Jesus came to die.

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. -Heb. 12:2

The greatest lesson we can learn from the Linsanity

Jeremy Lin

I didn’t plan to write a blog post about Jeremy Lin, but I felt it was necessary in light of the Forbes’ article that was posted recently, and  my concerns that such an article could mess with the thinking of many of my close friends.  This is a response to that post because I think it portrays everything that is wrong and why our perspective of Jeremy Lin’s story can be a trap that will only lead us into unhealthy places of our lives and faith.

As of the writing of this post (2/13/2012), Jeremy Lin has captured the hearts of millions of fans especially those that are Asian American.  Why?  For the uninformed, Jeremy has been the ultimate feel good story for all Asian kids that want to play NBA basketball.  Always counted out since high school (Palo Alto) through college (Harvard)  to the NBA (Warriors/Rockets), Jeremy Lin started 4 games ago and his team, the New York Knicks, has won the past 5 games with both their main stars (‘Melo & ‘Mare) out.  The Jeremy Lin show or the Linsanity/All he can do is Lin!/ Linspiration/Shao-Lin/Linderella, and so many ridiculous nicknames… has captured the minds and the hearts of many folks recently. What makes it even better? He loves Jesus Christ and does not hesitate to give God the glory for it all!  If anything, we as his brothers and sisters in Christ need to be praying for him because it is getting dangerous for him.

But why do we love this story?  We love this story because it is the ultimate underdog story!  As Michael Wilbon of ESPN best put it, we love this because it is about a person “going from a nobody to a somebody.”  Kobe Bryant after his team’s loss to the Knicks made this statement too: “a great story…it’s a testament to perseverance and hard work.”  Forbes magazine listed 10 things we can learn from Jeremy Lin’s story as these qualities:

1) Believe in yourself when no one else does.

2) Seize the opportunity when it comes up.

3) Your family will always be there for you, so be there for them.

4) Find the system that works for your style.

5) Don’t overlook talent that might exist around you today on your team.

6) People will love you for being an original, not trying to be someone else.

7) Stay humble.

8) When you make others around you look good, they will love you forever.

9) Never forget about the importance of luck or fate in life.

10) Work your butt off

Now I think both of these men & the Forbes article captures the essence of our culture and our mindset because what it reveals is really how we all think we are to live our lives.

So what does our culture and world look for about these things that’s so attractive to us?  We are so into these stories because it shows how the virtues of hard work, getting stronger, and getting more powerful can change your circumstances.  Let me first caveat everything by saying that the pursuit of working hard, becoming stronger, or desiring to overcome circumstances is NOT a bad thing.  My concern is that these qualities begin to become the dominating or ultimate motivating force in our lives and we allow these pursuits then to define us and to elevate them into a place of how they give our lives meaning.  The problem with this is that this in many ways becomes a theology or belief that strength /power/effort are the only ways for a person to live their life!  This is the reality of our lives and if anything, we seek to fight and overcome power with power, and what I want to share with you today is this… God has a different way to live your life; he shows this to Paul and it changes Paul’s entire perspective of faith.  God’s way is not one of power versus power, it is through a completely different level of “power” that one can learn an incredible lesson about what true strength and how it affects our lives.

Take a look at 2 Corinthians 12:7-10:

“So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

So what’s going on… how does this text possibly connect with us?  Especially those as Christians? As the 2nd letter to the Corinthians, Paul is writing to a church that is located in a busy port-city that was major trade route between Italy on the western side of Greece to the rest of the Asian Mediterranean on the eastern side (Turkey/Israel/Syria); Essentially Corinth was one the safest paths that connected the Ionian & the Aegean sea.  As a result of this popularity and traffic, Corinth was a very culturally diverse city exposed to many philosophies/cultures/people and was of thinking.  If anything, we can compare Corinth much to the US today because the internet and our diversity as a country makes us so exposed to much thinking… and the problem was that over time the wealthier Corinthians would invite folks to guest teach/speak at the local Corinthian church. They would house them, and as a result because of their skills both in oration and in amazing things happen  such as signs and healing… these super apostles… would start to draw the attention of the Corinthian folks and Christians!

Compared to these “super apostles”, Paul was not spectacular.  If anything, he was probably flawed whether in his physical ailments (blindness/epilepsy/speech impediment), to his physical appearance (he was scarred from his many experiences as a missionary)… Paul was nothing like these “super-apostles”.  As a result, folks started to get drawn to these characters and started to question/disobey/disrespect Paul and what he was teaching or talking about.  So Paul shared these comments in 2 Corinthians because he was in many ways having to deal with this drama… fighting power versus power… Paul being the underdog… was tempted I’m sure to counter these ridiculous statements with those of his own.

You see, he had been given some crazy visions & revelations from God (beginning of 2 Cor. 12),  which could have elevated him in his status… and yet  God took this time to teach Paul a great lesson on his perspective on power and how He didn’t want Paul to have to fight in this.  Rather than fighting strength with strength, God gave Paul a thorn (verse 7).  This thorn in Greek, skolops, not only means thorn, but was often used as a word for things thrown on the ground to hinder an enemy army in their advance.  Anyways, this thorn was bugging Paul and driving him nuts!  After praying 3 times for God to take it away, the Lord explains to Paul that “my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  We miss so much of the detail from the original language, but what Paul realizes is that ultimately this is God’s perfect plan for Paul.

God’s grace is sufficient for Paul because God’s power is made perfect in Paul’s thorn weakness.  God’s tying together His grace to His power… and ultimately, Paul starts to see that this has only been possible through the ultimate example of weakness… that is Jesus Christ!  God did not use the strong or the powerful means to prove and save humanity.  He chose the least likely, most humbling way through His son being born to a teenage mom (seemingly out of wedlock)… lived a humble life… home-less, and then Jesus was subjected to an unfair trial which led to his humiliating death on the cross!  This is the way that God chose to show His power, through Jesus’ humble/”weak” death on the cross, but what we forget was it was only through this way that true power via Jesus’ resurrection is revealed!

Paul is able to finally say, “For when I am weak, then I am strong,” because he understands that it’s only in our weakness that we are most close to our suffering Savior!  Why? When we are at the weakest, we are the most helpless. When we are helpless, we are utterly vulnerable, and when we are utterly vulnerable, it is then that we realize our complete need for God.  There is no other time that we are as true about our sin and our brokenness!  Our vision is most clear; nothing obstructs our sight of God… and we realize that we can rely on nothing else, but God!  This is when we all truly begin to tap the infinite power of God through Jesus Christ.  What Paul realizes from that point on is that there is nothing he can do that will ever come close to being as effective or as powerful as his complete dependence on the Lord because when he is weak, his closeness and connection to God is most reliant upon God and His power.

Paul learned that the theology of power that our world teaches… this false gospel is nothing like the theology of weakness which leads to the truest power found only in God.  It changed his life and the way he viewed himself.  No longer was there an elevated image of his own ability, but there was a humbling and an understanding that the truest power is only found in Christ and that it is the only way to live then.  The world lauds the theology of self-power and if you consider the Forbes article… what you notice is that almost all the ten qualities listed point to a self-reliance on self-power and says very little about what God has done.  But as we have seen, and I’m sure Jeremy Lin would agree, the truest credit and power that can help us to live our lives well is NOT founded or based on our own strength/power, but it is founded in our weakness.  It is in our weakness, we are the most true and real about our need for God and therefore it is in our weakness that we are the most close to our Lord, Jesus Christ… and it is then that our reliance and realization of our need for Jesus Christ is most clear; it is the way God chose to show His power to this world through weakness!

After writing this post, Jeremy Lin released an exclusive interview with the SJ Mercury News… check out what he says at the end:

“There is so much temptation to hold on to my career even more now…to try to micromanage and dictate every little aspect. But that’s not how I want to do things anymore. I’m thinking about how can I trust God more. How can I surrender more? How can I bring him more glory? It’s a fight. But it’s one I’m going to keep fighting.”

Jeremy Lin gets what Paul is saying.  This is the way we are to live lives with the truest and most pure power, and it is only then that we can say like Paul “for when I am weak, then I am strong.” 

1:1 With God

A guest post by a good friend – originally posted on the CCCTO Semi-Pro fellowship blog

What does it mean to worship God and work on your relationship with Him, outside the couple of hours you’ve marked in your week as “God time”?  What is left of your faith, when you strip away everything that is warm, fuzzy, familiar, and habitual?

This past weekend has definitely been an eye-opening experience for me, as this was my first time going home since telling my parents that I had made the decision to become Christian.  Coming home to a non-Christian environment really took away everything that I’ve become comfortable with in the past several months, like going to church on Sundays and praying with a group before meals.  Being sick this past week made the experience even more contrasting, since I couldn’t even make it to discipleship or Bible study. Basically, this past week has been void of any of the normal “God time” that I’ve become accustomed to having.

What this made me realize is that I’ve become a little too comfortable with my spiritual walk in the past few months.  It’s been easy going to church and Bible study each week.  What’s not to love about seeing friends that you love and who share the same love for God as you?  No one likes eating more than me, and I get to eat all the time with these wonderful people, either after church, during Semi Pro, or whenever a couple of us can get together to hang out on the weekends.  I’m not going to lie- it’s been a lot of fun and way too easy for me to get caught up in the happiness that is found in human relationships.

But having time away from everybody and everything that I’ve associated with my faith has helped me refocus on the most important relationship of all:  my personal relationship with God.  It’s shown me what is left of my faith, when its just me and God.

My relationship with God is something I haven’t really spent time on in awhile, actually.  It’s crazy to think that I call myself a Christian when the most important relationship in my life is something I haven’t put in time or energy into.  I make all this time to maintain old friendships and foster budding friendships, but I can’t put time aside for me and God.  I set aside time during the week to go to church, Bible study, and discipleship in order to grow my relationship with God, but is there even a relationship to grow?  What is the point in me spending all this time talking to other people about my relationship with God when I don’t directly talk to Him about it first?

I am so blessed because God has really used this past week to remind me of His amazing love and of how much I MISS HIM.  It’s kind of like when you have a really awesome one-on-one conversation with an old friend that you’ve gotten used to seeing in group settings so much, except on a much grander scale.  The basis of the conversation in a 1:1 is so different and it immediately reminds you that it is the personal aspect of the relationship that makes this friendship real. How blessed am I that God would draw me back to Him each time I wander?  I miss Him so much that my heart aches when I think about how in love I used to be with Him.  Yet, He is SO gracious to welcome me back with open arms every single time.

Do you know what its like to have everything you’ve relied on spiritually for the past several months taken away completely?  No church, no Bible study, no discipleship?  Not even the normal worship songs that you’ve gotten accustomed to hearing every day?  It’s liberating.  This isn’t because I don’t love those things and this isn’t because those things haven’t helped me tremendously in many ways (in fact, they are wonderful and have been crucial to my growth as a new Christian).  But, it has been liberating because it’s taken away every excuse that I’ve given myself (“I am spending time with God. I’m going to church, aren’t I?” or “Well, I’m fellowshipping with people right now.  God wants that, right?”) and has forced me to rely on God. Just God. Our wonderful, holy, and loving God.

When you rely directly on God as your source of growth for once, He kinda takes you on a wild ride.  He had me hear sermons that I had always meant to get to “eventually” but never made the time for because I already felt like church and Bible study provided enough “God time” for the week.  The messages turned out to be messages that struck me where it hurt the most but were messages that I needed to hear the most.  God and I read through parts of the Bible with a focus that I don’t usually have and with time that I don’t usually spend to carefully read and fully absorb the words in front of me.  Funny enough, they were all passages that I’ve read before in the past.  These passages took on a whole deeper meaning when read whole-heartedly the second time around, when it wasn’t just my eyes, but my heart and soul drinking in God’s Word.

God even surrounded me with a bunch of worship music I had never heard before.  Did He know that I’ve grown so used to mouthing the words to a bunch of worship songs, that I can listen to a whole CD of worship music without so much of even feeling a tug or slight ache of the heart at the thought of MY SAVIOR DYING AND SUFFERING ON THE CROSS FOR SOMEONE SO UNGRATEFUL, SO SELFISH AS MYSELF?  You know, there was a time in my life I used to feel like crying at almost every worship song I heard because the cost of my salvation, Christ’s blood, was so real to me.  It is sad at how easy it has been for me to grow numb to Christ’s love and cling to everything but the cross.

Yet, God is so, so gracious each time I forget.  This weekend, I had a lot of time to drive in the car by myself, so I switched on some K-LOVE.  It just seemed right to spend that time listening to worship music, instead of calling up people on my phone (which is what I normally do to pass time on longer car rides) for once.  It was crazy actually listening to the lyrics of these worship songs that I wasn’t familiar with and thinking about what they meant to me.  There was one song that really struck a chord with me, as I was driving home tonight:

You Are My King (Amazing Love)

I’m forgiven because You were forsaken
I’m accepted, You were condemned
I’m alive and well, Your Spirit is within me
Because You died and rose again

Amazing love, how can it be
That You, my King, should die for me?
Amazing love, I know it’s true
It’s my joy to honor You
In all I do, To honor You

You are my King
You are my King
Jesus, You are my King
You are my King

Amazing love, how can it be
That You, my King, should die for me?
Amazing love, I know it’s true
It’s my joy to honor You
In all I do, To honor You

In all I do, To honor You,
In all I do, To honor You,
In all I do, Let me honor You.

Every good thing I have in this world is because of what Christ has done for me on the cross.  I have an amazing Bible study and church, not because of anything one person has done, but because we are bonded together by our love for our King.  If you take away everything good in my life, I am still the most loved I have ever been; nothing can change the fact that God has given me His endless, amazing love through Christ’s blood on the cross.

Christ is the center and source of everything I am, and without Him, I am nothing.   My relationship with God cannot and should not be founded in anything else but Him alone.

“I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”  – John 15:5