Thursday, February 28, 2013

Name Recognition

I have been reading the book Embracing Obscurity off and on for a couple of months. It is written anonymously, and it has caused me to think deeply about the heart of the Christian life.

Tour ancient ruins and you will find decapitated statues. Ancient murals meant to immortalize the successes of kings and pharaohs are defaced, their names chiseled off. Why? The next ruler, king, or pharaoh obliterated their identity to promote his own. It is the age-old marketing principle of name recognition. And, it also plays a huge part in the original sin of pride.

Satan was originally called Lucifer. His Hebrew name, heylel, means "shining one" and is similar to the Hebrew word for praise, halel. We say it each time we praise God with the word "hallelujah."  Lucifer was not satisifed with shining for God. He wanted a little limelight for himself, a little of his own name recogntion. He said to himself, "I will ascend to the heavens; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of Mount Zaphon. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High." (Isa. 14)  Be careful what you say to yourself.

Now, there is nothing wrong with having a name. There is just something wrong when we are more concerned with our name recognition than with God's. We are not here to be known, but to make Him known. Even when Christians and churches are known, the purpose is that men will see our good works and glorify our Father in Heaven (Matt. 5:16).

Even with our monuments of granite and marble, few people really remember us more than a few decades after our deaths. His name, however, will endure forever. It is the only name by which men may be saved. It is the only name by which our prayers are answered. His name will endure forever, not because it is etched in granite, but because He was and is and forever will be. 

Every day God gives us the choice to make our name great, or His. When we take pride in our own accomplishments, those of our families, our children and grandchildren, our education, our careers, our accomplishments and even our churches, we will make some name great. Will it be His?

God does not call us to deface ourselves, our families, or our accomplishments. He does not expect us to walk around saying "I am worthless" all day long. That's just self-pity, and the focus of self-pity is still self. He gives us the choice to make His name great or our name great. Will you give Him all the credit, or keep a little for yourself? 

The blessed life is the life that makes much of Jesus. He has given us the opportunity to be immortalized.  But, that immortalization is not in our names or accomplishments. We are immortalized in Christ. "The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God,a nd if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may be glorified with Him." (Rom. 8:16-17)

Our privelege now is to live so that Jesus gets recognized, so that He gets all the credit. When we suffer obscurity, we glory in Christ, and we will enjoy His glory forever because we are now hidden in Christ. His name is the name by which we are and will be saved. Our job is not to deface ourselves, but to be living, breathing monuments that call attention to His name. Our joy is to make sure that His name gets recognized - that His name is great.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Idols vs. God

"God says in verse 11 (Isaiah 43), "Besides me there is no saviour." Every idol, if you don't toe the line, demands its pound of flesh. If you're serving the idol of career, for example, and you don't sacrifice to that idol as it demands, your career is over. If your idol is political utopianism, and you don't sacrifice to that idol as it demands, your hoped-for world is shattered. If your idol is a perfect body, and you don't sacrifice to that idol as it demands, your self-image is devastated. But when we have defied the one true God, what does he do?  He saves us. Why? To make us witnesses that he is not just good; he is the only goodness anyone will ever experience."

Raymond C. Ortlund, Jr., "Isaiah: God saves sinners." p. 283

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Finally Home

Jeremiah 22:1-8

We long for home, but the home we live in today will be occupied by another tomorrow. The "old homeplace" will eventually deteriorate. Sin and the fallenness of our world make a permanent home on this earth improbable if not impossible. Families divide like God's people divided. Leaders fail like the kings of Israel and Judah. Churches fall into disuse as did the temple of God. Friends and family are led away into the captivity of sin.  Most of us even want to die in our homes, but we have never really been home. But, "The days are coming' - this is the LORD's declaration - when I will raise up a righteous Branch of David." (Jer. 23:5)  He, Jesus, will be the faithful father, the righteous leader. He is the one who gathers all the children of God, from all their failings, sins, and captivities - all the places their sin has taken them and "They will dwell once more in their own land." (Jer. 23:8) That longing for home can only be fulfilled by One - Jesus, the righteous Branch of David.

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Great Blessing

Genesis 12:1-9

God promised Abram that He would make him a great legacy, a great reputation, make him a blessing to others, and protect him when others cursed him. All he had to do was leave his relatives, his father's house and his own land and go where God would lead him. Think about the things that we count on. We count on our families being there, our parents, those people who love us and are familiar to us. We find peace and safety in the familiar. God's great promise required Abram to stop trusting in the familiar, and trust only in God. True trust always results in a step of faith. Abram took that step. God tells us "So those who have faith are blessed with Abraham, who had faith." (Gal.3:9) When we trust in Christ, we share in the blessing of Abraham, the blessing of faith, "so that we could receive the promise of the Spirit through faith." (Gal. 3:14) Take the step of faith into the great blessing of faith. Trust in Christ alone.