Saturday, November 20, 2010

A Place to be Real

Yesterday at Edgewood Gables I had my chance to preach on the parts of the Bible that many of you will hear preached about on Sunday--Luke 23:32-43.

The scene is a placed called "The Skull," where a condemned criminal yells at Jesus--Jesus is also condemned--they're both being executed.  The first criminal yells at Jesus--"Aren't you the savior?  Why don't you save yourself and us?"  The story goes on to tell about a third man who defends Jesus and asks Jesus to remember him--and Jesus says: "Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise."  Soon thereafter, Jesus dies.  Praise God he doesn't stay dead--after Jesus is buried he rises from the dead.  From there we have the promise of our own resurrection when we trust our Lord.

I'd like to think I'd be like the second criminal--the one who defends Jesus and humbly asks to be remembered, but, honestly, I think I'm sometimes screaming at the Lord:
DO something! 
Make things better!  Enough already! 
Are you just going to leave me hanging? 
Aren't you my SAVIOR?
Am I always pious and polite?  No.  Sometimes I'm pretty raw.  Sometimes the Law of God comes down on me in the words of the second criminal: "Don't you fear God?  You are being punished as you deserve."

Deep down inside, I am a sinful man who thinks he has some sort of "rights" before God.  But what rights does a criminal have other than to be punished?  My sinful attitudes, words and actions "entitle" me only to be rejected by God!  Instead of screaming insults at the Lord; instead of thinking about how unfair God is--I should be grateful for every smallest little tiny blessing that I've ever enjoyed.  Praise God for his mercy--even if this present time is full of pain.

When I come to the cross in total honesty, that's what I learn.  That's what I learn when I'm honest and real before God.  And I need a place that will let me be real.  I need a place where I can be confronted with the evil that lurks within me.  I need a place to be knocked to my knees.

But in order for this to work, in order for me to allow God's Word to hit me hard, I need to know that the messengers of God's Word are not "all that."  Pharisees make poor preachers.  Self-righteous leaders leave me cold and hard.  And I need Christian friends too, Christian friends who "walk with a limp," people who have wrestled with God and who have, in the end, been humbled by him.

I need to hear God's Word alongside other human sinners--not with people who seem to have it all together.  I need a place where people won't talk down to me as if they are better than me.  I need a community of saints who know they are sinners, a community of people who have experienced the wrath of the God who takes all of our sins on himself.  I need a place where people won't excuse my bad attitudes and bad behavior and evil words, but will deal with me as one sinner to another.

Through Christian family and friends like that--and through a church like that--I can hear God's Word.  I need to hear this message: You're not okay and neither am I--BUT there is someone almighty powerful who is okay with that.  His name is Jesus Christ, and he died to forgive you, you greedy, self centered, unsatisfied, unfaithful sinner!  He has taken my burden of sin, and he will take yours too as we come to him.  Over and over again.

That's what I hope church can be.  A Place to Be Real.  That's what I'm waiting for.  I am confident that God will give us this.  In his time.


  1. Hi brother,
    This seems like a fitting time to share this link with you. The words are very fitting. Have a great Thanksgiving and God bless you!!

    In Christ,
    Mike L

  2. Thanks Mike. Good to hear from you! That song does fit this post. I'm so thankful for the process of burning that's been going on for quite some time, because it's true, we do grow deeper in relationship with our Father when we are stripped down. Having a COMMUNITY of people who are willing to be vulnerable and broken in the Lord's hands is so important because without the community we can get caught up in our own heads and hearts too much. The Body of Christ is there to provide guidance and correction.

    I've been talking with one of my kids about the sense of "call" on our lives and this fits this sense of "brokenness" before God. We do have the "inner" "personal" sense but then there is also the assent and confirmation we get of that when we bring it out to other to "check it out," because sometimes the call, or the brokenness, can come from something that is not of God. There are times when it's important not to just follow the feelings that are so powerful.

    That's why "a PLACE to be real" is so important. It doesn't leave us alone.

  3. I agree it's important to admit that we are broken without Him and that we need a Savior. We are not like the unbelievers, so the difference is that we DO have a savior and He does not view us as broken (anymore) if we are in Him. He sees what Jesus has done on the cross and our faith in that.
    He actually carries a picture of you in His wallet!! You are His child, He loves you and He will never leave you or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5). Have a great Thanksgiving and safe travels!

    God bless,