Fulfilled in Jesus

Our pilgrimage with our Beloved in Japan -- Yoko & Ramone on the journey with Jesus!

Friday, April 15, 2005

True Repentance!

Hallelujah! God is wonderful! He is so amazing! So joyful!

Is that what we usually say when we introduce the subject of repentance? Don't we usually have the idea that repentance means trying to feel sorry for your sins and promising God to try to do better? No wonder repentance is no relief to us and is such a heavy subject. Repentance is not about feeling guilty for your wrongs.

I was telling my wife about the latest post I finally completed for my Jesus Otaku blog, which is about a man in Yamaguchi 450 years ago whose heart's eyes were opened to believe in Jesus because he saw a preacher endure being spat upon. He and the other residents of the city had all spoken well of the Christian truths, etc., but no one wanted to give their life to Jesus. The humiliation of the preacher opened the eyes of their hearts. Moral of the story? God's kindness leads us to repentance. We become truly sorry for our sins not by staring at them and trying to feel more sorry for them, but instead we really repent for them when we understand that God has already forgiven us! It is seeing God's grace already given to us that melts our hearts! It is seeing that Christ knew ahead of time that we would sin, but He died for us and forgave us anyway. Praise You, God!

Repentance. As I told my wife about the post on the Jesus Otaku blog, I began talking about real repentance. It's something I learned (thank God!) from this booklet on the Worldwide Church of God's website: "Getting a Grip on Repentance". You should read it! Especially if you were/are like me, often trying to feel guilty and "try harder" after falling or yielding to temptation.

Repentance is not that. Repentance simply put is when you realize that your efforts aren't enough, when you see that trying harder has failed you and will fail you again. It's realizing that you need God because you can't
do it! Hallelujah! It is saying, "God I can't do it, I've tried and I failed, and I'm afraid I'll fail again. I don't know how, but I will depend on You now." It's the same as being saved: you choose to let Him do it instead of your works. Repentance is when you realize you need Him; it's when you see it from His point of view -- how things really are instead of your illusions that you can do it. Hallelujah!

Isn't repentance exciting? He has already forgiven us, and simply waits for us to depend on Him! Yes, we've failed at depending on Him in the past, yes we've fallen and yielded to temptation -- that's what qualifies us for His grace! We are insufficient, but He Himself will be our sufficiency!

Repentance -- God, I need You! It's not me, not about me and me changing, but it's about You! I trust You and believe You can change me, help me believe it's all about You and that You can change me! I trust You now and choose to believe it, Lord!

What Opened Their Eyes - 1551

The sight of European missionaries walking around the city must have been very odd, and it must have been even more strange when these oddly-dressed foreigners stood up and began to speak in a loud voice, as if teaching. Imagine if it happened in your town, and the foreigners began to tell you "the way of life". You might nod your head if they said something you agreed with, but you wouldn't want to join them.

What moves us to do something daring, to embrace something that seems totally foreign at first? What convicts us deep in our hearts that something is right or wrong? Will nodding our heads at impressive arguments be enough to help us step out in blind faith and away from what we've known? It takes a lot of courage and humility to say, "Please teach me the way to life, for I realize that I don't know what to do."

When Xavier came to Japan there was a natural language problem between the Portugese missionaries and the Japanese people. Very little progress would have been made without Brother Juan Fernandez, who immersed himself in the Japanese language so well that even when he lay dying in 1567, he prayed to God in Japanese. In addition to serving as translator for Xavier, Fernandez translated several sermons and books for the missionaries to use, as well outlines of the faith for dignitaries and priests they visited. When preaching in public, Xavier and others would read from books Fernandez translated, but Fernandez could speak freely to the people.

In 1551, in the city of Yamaguchi, Xavier and the missionaries went out twice a day to sit on curbs and preach on street corners. Many people spoke well of the missionaries and said their teaching about Jesus was good, but that was all. No one said, "I want to belong to Him", until a certain incident happened...

Otis Cary writes of the event:

"As Fernandez was speaking to a large company of people, a man edged his way through the crowd and, pretending that he was about to whisper something in the preacher's ear, bent forward and spat upon his cheek. The crowd laughed at this exploit and looked to see how the foreigner would react to such an insult. With admirable self-control, Fernandez, without pausing in his address or even turning to look at his assailant, quietly wiped his face with a handkerchief and went on as calmly as though nothing unusual had occurred."

Impressed, the crowd listened to the rest of his talk with a new sense of respect and awe. After Fernandez finished speaking, one man followed him home and said that Fernandez's words and behavior had shown him that Christianity was true and real. It is said that he was a doctor of great influence in Yamaguchi city, and after he was baptized, many others followed. Xavier wrote that in two months, 500 people accepted Christ and chose to give their lives to Him.

The foreigners taught about the "Son of God" who was able to endure flogging, spitting, and crucifixion, and yet prayed for the forgiveness of those who killed Him. Perhaps it had sounded like good morals or fairy tales of lofty virtue to them before. But after Fernandez was spat upon, eyes and hearts were opened.

Sometimes we preach the virtues, morals and truths of Christianity and seem to hope that people will accept Christ because it's "right". So we often try to convince people by preaching about sin, righteousness ("right-ness"), and judgment. But when Jesus spoke of the Holy Spirit's work of convicting us of sin, righteousness and judgment, He didn't talk about standards, right laws and morals. Instead, He said that we would learn each of these things by looking at Him and what He has done for us on the cross:

"Sin - because they do not believe in Me"
"Righteousness - because I go to the Father"
"Judgment - because the ruler of this world is judged."

(John 16:9-11)

Judgment - Satan is condemned by the cross of God's love.
Righteousness - Jesus alone is righteous. He alone is right.
Sin - God sent Him to carry our sins and become sin for us...

...so that we could be freed from sin and slavery. So that we could accept His free gift of salvation, being credited with His righteousness, not because of what we've done, but because of who He is and what He has done for us. Because He has loved us.

Most of us will nod our heads at what is "right" but will not lay down our lives for it. That is why Paul said that rarely would anyone die for a righteous man. But while we were still sinners, Jesus died for us. Because He died for us, because He suffered for us and was spat upon for us, we love Him and serve Him. It was not "right-ness" that led us to Him. God's kindness led us to repentance. And God's kindness spoke to the heart of the doctor in Yamaguchi, so many years ago, when one of His children chose to endure being spit upon because he was filled with Jesus' love for the Japanese -- even for the man who spat on him.

As we seek to share Jesus with our beloved friends & family in Japan, remember how eyes were opened in Yamaguchi. Remember that while we have virtues & morals, our message is not these but, "Christ and Him crucified." His love for us melted our hearts, and His love for them melts theirs, too.

"As His appearance was so marred,
beyond human semblance,
and His form beyond that of the sons of men--
so shall He startle many nations [even Japan];
...for that which has not been told them they shall see,
and that which they have not heard they shall understand."

(Isaiah 52:14-15)

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Ark of the New Covenant

"In those days..." declares the Lord, "men will no longer say,
'The ark of the covenant of the Lord.' It will never enter their
minds or be remembered; it will not be missed, nor will
another one be made.

At that time they will call Jerusalem 'The Throne of the Lord',
and all nations will gather in Jerusalem to honor the name of
the Lord." (Jeremiah 3:16-17)

"Ark of the New Covenant" - by Gwen Meharg

Gwen's comments (from her site) about this picture:

"Painted the Sunday before Christmas 2002. This is the Ark of the NEW
Covenant. I have been painting this in my mind since the summer of 2001
at the Christian Dance Fellowship USA convention. I started the drawing
but only got a few lines on the paper. With Christmas this year and my
personal quiet time in Hebrews and discussion of the New Covenant, the
time was right. This time the salvation was not in keeping the commands
on a stone tablet, but in the live and living Christ. The cherubim are not
sitting guard over a gold box, but a humble manger filled with golden
straw. The Ark of the Covenant could not be touched by human hands.
The Ark of the New Covenant was filled with a human who is fully God.
I love this image and will work more with it in the future."

The New Covenant is very dear to my heart and to the hearts of many
who have left systems that were founded on the Old Covenant (Ten
Commandments). Many of us learned the rules of the old law before we
learned that God is love. The focus had been on the Ten instead of the
One -- the Son of God, Jesus Christ.

But Jesus called us and set us free from those things, pointing us to
Himself - the New Covenant. Father called Him to become our new covenant:

"I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand.
I will keep you and make you to be a covenant for the people and a light
for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison,
and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness...

"I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people, to restore the land and to reassign its desolate inheritances, to say to the captives, 'Come out,' and to those in darkness, 'Be free!' They will feed beside the roads and find pasture on every barren hill. They will neither hunger nor thirst, nor will the desert heat or the sun beat upon them. He who has compassion on them will guide them and will lead them beside springs of water." (Isaiah 42:6-7, 49:8-10)

He really has set us free! No longer must we stay at a distance, trying to earn favor enough to approach Him. Now He is Immanuel -- God with us, and by His Spirit He is now "God within us"! He knows that we often still live by the old covenant, by the law, by the ten, and we fear coming closer to Him or think it's impossible. But His heart still cries out to us, trying to clarify things for us in our hearts so that we know we may approach Him and find rest:

"You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no futher words be spoken to them, because they could not bear what was commanded...

"But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn... You have come to God... to Jesus, the mediator of a New Covenant" (Hebrews 12:18-20, 22-24)

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Drawing Near to God (HeArt!)

I have to recommend a website: http://www.drawneartogod.com

It's art. Art from God's heart. Drawings near to His heart, from His heart, prophetic art! God is so awesome! I'd love to be filled with His heart and be able to let it out on paper like this! He's wonderful!

"The Exchange" - By Gwen Meharg. Read what she says about it here.

God's heart inspires me. I'm praying about getting back into art more... just need to set down, wait in His love and just do it. I got a new pad for charcol and did one today, obviously influenced by Gwen's art, but it also came quickly from His heart. He's cool.