The Gospel is for Christian Sinners, Too

Has this question ever crossed your mind? “Even when I’m disobedient, does God love me anyway?”

This question has been on my mind lately. I sin everyday, in word, attitude and deed. I’m basically a selfish person. I don’t put others first, I put me first. I don’t love God with all my mind, heart, soul and strength. I’m a cynic at heart. The glass is always half empty for me. And, horror of horrors, there’s more unbelief in me than trust and faith in my Savior.

So how can God love me anyway?

A lot of Christians, including pastors, would admonish me to get on with disciplining my life so I can be more obedient. They’d give me a book or a class or a set of disciplines to incorporate into my life.

That’s all well and good, but those remedies don’t address what’s at the core in my understanding of the gospel.

Remember, the gospel changes everything.

So how does it change me here?

No believer in Jesus is dead in sin anymore. Why? Because Jesus took his sin on himself and died for it on the cross.

No believer continues in sin in that way anymore. He died to sin (Romans 6) and he has been resurrected in Christ.

Believers continue to sin (Romans 7) but they are no longer dead in sin.

That’s a huge difference!

So the answer to the question, “Does God continue to love me when I sin?” is a resounding YES!

Because God sees his Son having died to those sins.

That truth will set you free to love God more, be more holy, and go out and tell people what a wonderful God you serve.

Without the gospel informing us everyday, we allow the devil to condemn us and make us miserable. Our health of mind and heart is in what Christ did for us in his life and death to make us complete and perfect in God’s sight. That’s who we are.

Talk to me.

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Big Prayers for a Big God

In Ephesians 3:17 Paul prays an extraordinary prayer for the saints there. It’s not about what we usually pray for – physical healing, finances, success at work, and the ever demanding burdens of our relationships. Nor is it a prayer for success in ministry.

Listen to what he asks God: “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” That’s the secret to every Christian, to have Christ settled down in our hearts, a permanent resident, who delights in our company. IMG_2239

With Christ at home like that he becomes our source of everything we need in this life. No longer do we need to look outside to others for the answers to our needs. Everything we need is as close as our next breath. Not only do we need to know this on a personal level, but on a corporate one, too. Our church body needs to take hold of this truth.

Paul goes on to pray that we may know the love of God in Christ, the immensity of it, and to be filled with all the fullness of God. It’s breathtaking!

This type of praying is fit for a big God. These are large petitions. And because they are there for us in the bible, we have the confidence they are God’s will and therefore he will answer them.

I don’t know about you, but I want to pray prayers that God will delight in and answer.

Talk to me.

 

Not Yet

Indwelling sin, and we all have it, is not the chief identity of the Christian. Our union with Christ is.  We belong to him and he belongs to us. And the Holy Spirit keeps us together. It takes his power to keep us united.

It’s the Holy Spirit’s job to keep teaching us about Christ, helping us in our prayers, and empowering us to serve the Lord. He’s got a lot to do. That’s why Paul says not to quench or grieve him. IMG_0985

What’s the key to all this? It’s faith. Faith in Christ our Savior, faith to keep believing he’s paid all our sins, faith that he took us with him in his resurrection, and faith to rely on the fact we have already arrived in heaven. Wherever Christ is, we are. And since he’s in heaven, that’s where we are.

Hard to believe. Especially when life gets in the way with its struggles, hardships and trials. Most days I don’t feel forgiven or resurrected. I live in the trenches with my fellow Christians. Our dreams are shattered. The attacks of the devil get nastier by the year. I know I’m not living up to my potential. And this is not my best life now. Thank God.

The wilderness journey – our life from the day God rescued us to the day to we enter heaven – is not meant to be a cruise vacation. And yet that’s what we expect. We want luxuries, comforts, successes, and ease. Where do we get that idea? Was that Paul’s life? How about Peter’s? How wonderful was the life of Jesus, the designer of the universe? If anyone deserved applause, honor and glory, it was him. Instead, he got rejected, slapped in the face, and crucified.

God knows our longings. He’s not going to shortchange us. It’s just that our timing is off. All our heart’s desires will come true when we live in our resurrected bodies in the new heavens and the new earth.

Until then, we wait, and sing with our Savior.

Talk to me.

 

 

 

Oops! That Burden Just Crashed

I’ve been thinking about some of the things people tell me about themselves, mostly about how angry they are. I’ve learned over the years that anger very often comes from shattered expectations. Boy do I know about those at work and family. A day doesn’t go by when I’m not disappointed by someone.
I thought you might want to do an interesting assignment that has helped me. Most of the time those expectations live in our minds leaking their poison into our hearts. Instead label them and write them down in a list. Get them down on paper even if you fill an entire notebook! Then make a cup of coffee and come back and take a hard look at them. Is there a common theme? Write that down too.  Igor Mitoraj
Then ask yourself, How has Christ given me what I need?

We tend to expect people we care about to live up to their potential (as we see it) and to reciprocate in kind the investment we’ve given them. It’s especially true in a spouse, a parent or a child.

At the root we are demanding they give us life, fill us up, and satisfy us. But the people in our lives are just sheep, just like we are, and they aren’t beasts of burden. Our expectations load them down for failure because they can’t deliver what we want, and we end up disappointed because we stay empty. God is the only agent of change, and our job is to ask him and leave him to it.
At the core we have a worship-disorder. We have been created to be faith-in-God beings, but we are drawn away by our flesh to become faith-in-anything-but God-beings. Our core identity is as a beloved child of God. Since we belong to him, he has already given us everything our hearts long for, but we find it in Christ.

“Christ in you, the hope of glory.” – Colossians 1:27

Talk to me.

Pain is a Gift

According to John Newton, legalism is weariness. Justification is joy. We are forgiven and accepted through the work of Another. It’s done. Our job is to rejoice in that truth and serve God out of gratitude.

I think he was onto something. Paul expressed the same sentiments.

Even though we may know this, we don’t live this way. Instead we live in the mirage of self-sufficiency. It’s our default position. We really do believe there’s something we can do without God’s help. A lot of things. Broken

It starts in childhood. Babies learning to walk shove their parents away and tumble. Toddlers running into furniture when they think they have a clear path for wandering. High-schoolers who think they have the future mapped out only to make huge course corrections when they get to college.

Never mind the daunting tasks of choosing a spouse, the right job, buying a home.

Do we consult God?

No, we’ve been told it’s up to us to hit these milestones.

Some people succeed but many don’t. How many people do you know who are doing everything they want in life? Who are the happy ones in their work, with their children, and their body image?

Maybe you’re one of the unhappy ones. Have you settled in a job because of the security it gives you more than anything else, but now it’s strangling the life out of you? Are you in a loveless marriage with no way out? Or maybe you’re struggling with your health? As a friend told me recently, “I want my old life back.”

Life rarely turns out the way we envisioned it.

Thank God for that.

It’s God’s gift to us. If life turned out just as we wanted it to, we wouldn’t turn to him for anything. It’s a mercy that we struggle and suffer. It’s God’s language reminding us we were made to turn everything over to him because he cares for us. It’s his way of saying that what we long for is not here, but in the new heavens and the new earth, when Jesus comes back.

In the meantime, even as forgiven sinners, we suffer with our fellow human beings, knowing that Jesus himself also suffered for us so we could share in his glory one day.

Talk to me.

 

 

 

 

 

The Solution to Our Need

The bible teaches us everywhere that we are sinners and that we owe God our devotion. The truth is, not one of us has made good on our obligation. The main thing we owe God is to love him with all our hearts, souls and minds. This is our baseline responsibility. How are we doing with this? If you’re like me, not so good. In fact, most days my heart, soul and mind is riveted on me. My feelings. My expectations. My wants. Even at my best, which doesn’t exist, I have never loved the Lord this way. I break the first commandment  every hour of every day. FullSizeRender (42)

What can be done for this kind of life? Never mind the really bad things we’ve done, but even the good things we’ve done, which aren’t really good enough. Our warmest and most heartfelt moment with the Lord falls short of the standard of perfection that God requires.

If we can’t even live up to our new year’s resolutions – in my case I don’t make them anymore because of past failures – what hope do we have to do better in the sight of God? Self-improvement won’t get us nearer to God. Despair isn’t the answer either.

The only solution is to run to Jesus who purchased our acceptance with God through his perfect life of obedience lived for us, and his death on the cross in payment for all our sins. Both have been credited to our account in God’s eyes.

Even if we can’t live up to our best intentions, Jesus has for us. He’s all we need!

Talk to me.

The Pain of More Fruit

Being a pilgrim and a stranger in this world is totally biblical. As Christians we are resident aliens. We are out of step with the world. We will never fit in so we should quit trying. If we feel homeless, that’s okay. We are strangers in a strange land. The world tells us to place our hope here, but we can’t because our hope lies elsewhere. This world is not our home and we will always feel like outsiders. We need to get used to it.

Hope is not a positive disposition towards life. It’s not Disney or Hollywood or your latest music video. If that were the case, very few could say they feel happy. Most people are fighting their demons. A lot of people are struggling and suffering. Even those who look on the outside as having everything. Even they are miserable.

Our hope as Christians is wrapped up in the blood of Christ, which transforms us and makes us new people. Our hope comes from the resurrection of Jesus. It draws us to heaven. There is where our true inheritance lies, never to be stolen or damaged or taken away. God himself guards it. Image result for vineyard

Our daily trials become bearable because we have this hope waiting for us. We will suffer here and may not know the reason why, like Job, but we know this, that no suffering occurs without purpose. There is no senseless suffering for the Christian. It is God ordained. It connects us to Jesus. We might feel God is against us in our suffering, but that’s not true. Our trials expose our faith – is it false or is it genuine? Do we cling to God or walk away? Are we real or a faker?

Suffering produces growth. God is removing everything false and superficial. He’s pruning us like branches in a vineyard. It’s not meant to kill us, although it feels that way. On the contrary, it’s meant to produce more fruit. And when he’s done, we will be amazed. We will live with stronger faith and hope in what awaits us.

Talk to me.