Radical Christianity

It’s so comical that religionist Christians insist that other people join them in “helping God across the road like a little old lady.”

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bible.cod: Numbers

Walking with Your Holy God

“For all the people have seen my glory and my signs that I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and yet have tempted me now these ten times, and have not obeyed me, they will by no means see the land that I swore to their fathers, nor will any of them who despised me see it” (Numbers 14:22-23). 

Numbers contains the records of two generations, two censuses (numberings, chapters 1-4; 26), and two sets of instructions for enjoying the “rest” of experiencing God’s blessing in the land of promise. The book opens with Israel’s 11-day march from Sinai to Kadesh (Numbers 1:1) and ends almost 40 years later (Deuteronomy 1:3). Only a year has passed since the exodus of Egypt. In spite of God’s merciful and bountiful provision, the dissatisfied people murmur and complain (11:1). This attitude undermines their faith in the goodness of their God and leads to disbelief and disobedience (14:22-23). The descendants of Jacob had learned that they were God’s special people (Genesis); they had experienced the delivering power of their redeeming God (Exodus), and they had learned that He is a holy God (Leviticus).

Now, in a dramatic test within sight of the Promised Land, they will fail to trust Him enough to do what He says. Numbers, the book of missed opportunity due to disobedience, contrasts the faithfulness of God with the fickleness of His people. God will discipline the Exodus generation to purge their unbelief from His people (1-25). Then, He will return the new generation to their place of testing—poised once again at the doorstep of the Promised Land (26-36).  The account is selective according to Moses’ purposeto compel obedience to Yahweh by member of the new community by reminding them of the wrath of God on their parents because of their breach of the covenant; to encourage them to trust in the ongoing promises of their lord as they follow him into their heritage in Canaan; and to provoke them to worship of God and to the enjoyment of their salvation.” (Ronald B. Allen, “Numbers,” in Genesis-Numbers, vol 2. of The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, p. 662)

Numbers is the book of wanderings. Two generations receive instructions on how to enjoy intimacy with God in the land He promised them. One mistrusts Him, disobeys, and does not enter the “rest” of the blessing of obedience. The next is told to learn from the 40-year object lesson of the discipline of their parents. The theme of Numbers is the correlated truths of grace and devotion: God makes covenants of grace with His people, but to experience the full blessings of His grace demands wholehearted devotion. The object lessons for God’s redeemed people of the church age are clear: The pattern of Israel’s frequent failures to trust and obey God is set at Kadesh. During times of trial and testing they complained and disobeyed—focusing on their circumstances rather than their God. Consequently God postponed the blessing. Most generations of Israel will never enjoy the benefits and blessing of God’s promises to His people:

Numbers: Walk by faith toward your destiny or wander in circles in this world!

Numbers is a map for God’s people of every generation to follow during the wilderness experiences of life.

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On Solomon’s best day he couldn’t do what we can do every day.

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SeriesThis entry is part 16 of 81 in the series All the Bible, Every Book

God’s not asking us to take care of our sin. He’s already done that.

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This Just Isn’t Working

When Christians get caught up in a system of works righteousness, failure is their only ultimate option. It all feels good and holy and even smug at the beginning.

“We’re the Christians who don’t do this, or this, or this, or this. We’re the ones with self-discipline. We’re the most committed, the least sinful, the truly spiritual.

If they were totally honest, they would admit that it begins to unravel the moment they begin trying to restrain their sin. Even as they are following all the formulas and attending all the meetings, they can’t hide their dirty little secrets from themselves:

A mother convinced membership in her new church would control her runaway spending, turns into the mall “just to look.” She buys stuff she doesn’t even want and once again wonders how she’s going to hide this from her husband. As she drives out of the mall parking lot she tells God, “I’ll get even more involved at church next week.”

The Bible School teacher has been practicing his spiritual disciplines with more dedication since his wife caught him looking at pornography online. He came home for lunch and was surprised that she wasn’t home. He was also surprised that he ate his sandwich at the computer cruising past the same vile sites he told her he would never look at again. He confesses his sin on the way back to work and promises God that he’s going to fast more.

At a recent men’s retreat he had joined an accountability group and told the other guys about his anger. It felt good to finally get it off his chest. He knew that if he didn’t do something about his rage his wife would leave him. But this morning she wouldn’t quit asking him questions about their money problems and he lost it. He punched her in the usual places so nobody at church would notice. What would he say to the men tomorrow at breakfast? He decided not to tell them about this “little slip.” What would they think of him? They wouldn’t understand. And besides, with the new insights he had learned at the retreat, he probably wouldn’t do it again anyway.

These are the kinds of Christians who eventually find their way into my office, sit dejectedly across the table from me, and with eyes dead of hope tell me, “I’ve had it with Christianity, this just isn’t working.”

My answer is always the same. “I agree with you that what you are doing isn’t working. But I do not agree with you that Christianity doesn’t work. What you’ve been doing isn’t Christianity.”

Friend, Christianity isn’t about suppressing the old nature; it’s about releasing the new.

It’s not about our promises, formulas, meetings, disciplines, and accountability groups; it’s about Christ’s power in us.
These things only benefit us in the context of releasing our new nature to form Christ in us, the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:27) Paul said that “these things are of no value against the flesh” in and of themselves. (Colossians 2:23) But if we walk in the Spirit we will not fulfill the lust of the flesh. (Galatians 5:16)

Is your dirty little secret that all of your religious activity just isn’t working? Don’t blame that on Christ, He never intended for you to become a self-help project. He died for your sin and sent you a Helper that never fails.

The day you stop trying to suppress your old nature through religious activity and start learning to release your new nature by walking in His Spirit is the day you will begin to be delivered from your dirty little secret.

“Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is…–be filled with the Spirit.” (Ephesians 5:17-18)

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March 14, 2012 — Leave a comment

bible.cod: Exodus

SeriesThis entry is part 15 of 81 in the series All the Bible, Every Book

Exodus: God redeems those who trust in Him, and relates intimately to those who trust and obey Him.

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You and I will never know the joy of intimacy with Christ and others until we find the courage to risk receiving love. Or better yet, until we ask the Lord Jesus for the courage to trust Him and others more.

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SeriesThis entry is part 14 of 81 in the series All the Bible, Every Book

Trying to get an unredeemed person to live for God is like trying to get a generation of slaves to build a Tabernacle in Egypt.

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Run to Jesus. Run to His the throne of grace and scream in your heart or at the top of your lungs, “Jesus, I need you!”

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SeriesThis entry is part 12 of 81 in the series All the Bible, Every Book

So, why didn’t God just go out and start over with a new family?

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