Hybrid

The gospel is not for nice people, but for sinners.

We forget that.

We get disappointed with Christians in the church. We hold them to a higher standard than God does. We expect them to live perfect lives. And when they don’t, we’re crushed. We forget that Christians are sinners too, even as Christians.

Luther said a Christian is both a sinner and a saint.

We’ve been made righteous by an alien righteousness – that is Christ’s – and it had nothing to do with us. It was a gift God gave us in Christ through faith in Him. Even faith is a gift from God.

We bring nothing to the table but our sin. God does everything.

He grabs us out of the world and kills us in Christ on the cross, then buries us in the tomb, and then resurrects us with Christ. See Ephesians 2:1-10.

What part of that process was our contribution? Zero.

But if we’re Christians, then it happened to us. God happened to us. See Ephesians 1.

The gospel is nothing we do.

It’s what God did in Jesus.

Talk to me.

 

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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.

Belief Is All

You’ve heard the word legalism many times as I have. But do you know what it means for your life? It means your standing with God is obtained or maintained in something in you. Something you do or don’t do.

The Pharisees were experts in legalism. They were the ones looking down their noses at Jesus and reprimanding him for not keeping the law. He dared to heal people on the Sabbath. He didn’t fast. He touched the leper and the blind man. He ate dinner with sinners.

Legalism is legalism no matter if it’s Jewish or Gentile, it doesn’t matter. All people are legalists if they don’t know God. Everyone has a set a rules for living. That’s why most people live with guilt because they haven’t lived up to their own or somebody else’s expectations. And for the religious it’s Christ plus a bunch of strict behaviors. That’s why Paul rebuked Peter for pulling away from eating with the Gentiles. See Galatians 2:11-14.IMG_7835

Legalism does not keep you in fellowship with God, just the opposite, it is an offence to God. Why? Because by being legalistic you’re saying Christ is not enough, you have to add something of your own to his perfect righteousness.

And here’s another big one: legalism doesn’t make you holy. Only Christ makes you holy.

Christ obeyed and merited God’s favor and fellowship for you. It’s through him that God accepts and approves you.

Christ’s obedience to the law and his death for your sins is imputed to you by faith alone. As Martin Luther said, it is an alien righteousness, it’s outside of you and it’s not based on any holiness that the Holy Spirit accomplishes in you.

By faith alone, in Christ alone, you are counted as righteous as Jesus Christ himself. There is nothing more for you to do, but thank God for such a wonderful gift. The Holy Spirit’s job is to assist you in living it out. So no matter how weak you are or how often you fail, your sins are not held against you because Jesus paid for them all and you continue being righteous in Him.

You want joy today? Read this post again!

Talk to me.

 

 

 

Getting Down on Yourself

The essential mark of a Christian is love. Love for Christ, church members, neighbors, family, authorities and people who don’t know the Lord yet.

But let’s be honest. We don’t do this very well.

I don’t. You don’t.

Why do  I say this with such confidence?

Because we are lovers of ourselves first. I prefer myself over you, and I suspect the same is true of you.

Unfortunately we deceive ourselves into thinking we love better than we do, and our friends will do everything they can to convince us we’re doing okay.

Try this experiment next time you’re in a group: Say something that lowers yourself in your own eyes, like, “I wasn’t very patient with my mother the other day.” Then wait for people’s responses. Several will try to rescue you from your low-self esteem. Why? Because if they didn’t attempt the rescue operation they would have to face their own lack of love for others.

We settle for half-hearted attempts. Listening with half an ear; putting off calling that pesky friend who talks too much; holding on to revenge because the person who hurt you still hasn’t admitted it. IMG_6921

Our hearts are deceitful and compromised by the world, the flesh and the devil. If one doesn’t cause us to trip, the other will. Maybe all three at the same time.

And the biggest trap we fall into is looking inside our hearts to find those evidences of love, good feelings and caring.

Except that’s the wrong direction.

Nothing good resides there.

Love must come from the outside. Not as a sensational feeling that sweeps us off our feet, but in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ.

We are members of his body and united to him. Love flows down from him to us and then out to our neighbor.

That’s why the apostle Paul exhorts us to put on Christ. Not once or twice but everyday.

What does that look like?

It’s realizing his love is 100% perfect and it’s ours as a gift.

It’s being grateful that he loved perfectly when he was here on earth and his perfect record God has been put into our account.

From God’s perspective, we love perfectly because it’s Christ’s love he sees there.

From our perspective, we live a life of transparency before the Lord, where no secrets are tolerated. We no longer give ourselves permission to sin. We throw out old grudges and hatred and forgive the other person, a hundred times if we have to.

Sounds impossible?

It is!

It reveals how much we need Christ, which is exactly where we need to be. It’s confessing our sins and admitting our inadequacy. “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

And what does God think of this display of lowliness?

Take a look.

“For thus says the One who is high and lifted up,
who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy:
‘I dwell in the high and holy place,
and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit,
to revive the spirit of the lowly,
and to revive the heart of the contrite'”. – Isaiah 57:15 ESV

Talk to me.

 

 

 

 

Shout!

If you think the bible is about good people doing wonderful things for God, you ought to read it sometime!

The fact is, the bible is about a wonderful God doing good things for bad people.

The only good guys in the bible are God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

Everybody else is bad.

That includes you and me.

There is none righteous, no not one.” – Romans 3:10

The truth is not a single soul can stand before God and say, “I’ve done my best.”

We haven’t done our best, not even on our good days.

If God is going to save us and use us and make something of us, He’s going to have to do it in spite of ourselves. Not because we read the bible every day; not because we give thanks before every meal; not because we never miss church; and not because we try to be good parents, friends and neighbors.

We are promise breakers, we’re not people of integrity, and we don’t measure up to our own standards let alone God’s.

We need a God for failures.

And that’s exactly what we have.

Jesus Christ joined the human race so he could become our substitute.

He lived the life we should have lived, obeying every one of God’s commands from the heart.

That means he won God’s favor and secured a place in heaven for us.

His righteousness was charged to our accounts, so that we with all our sins and failures are declared righteous.

What happened to our sin?

God charged it to Jesus’s account, he absorbed the penalty, and died in our place on the cross.

It’s all paid for.

We stand forgiven and accepted because of the work of our Savior.

HappyNow if that’s doesn’t put a smile on your face, sit down right now and read your bible!

Talk to me.

messychristians@gmail.com

 

 

Does God Love You When You Sin?

How often are you disgusted with your life of faith?

If you’re like me, very often.

I seem to live in unbelief more than in faith.

Even as a Christian I live my life as if God didn’t exist.

I don’t take him at his Word.

I’m impatient waiting for the fulfillment of his promises.

I’m so far away from rejoicing in his goodness and faithfulness it’s disgusting.

The stunning fact is that while God hates sin and grieves over the suffering we endure in our lives, he is not angry at us!

He doesn’t hold grudges, he doesn’t bring up the past, and he certainly doesn’t abandon us to figure things out on our own when we’re at our worst.

How can I say this?

Because of the gospel, of course.

Think theologically with me for a moment.

Does God have any negative emotions towards Jesus? Does he get fed up, exasperated and lose patience with him? Does he get angry and walk away?

Absolutely not. God has nothing but delight and love for his Son. He adores him.

And God delights and adores you and me, even when we sin!

Read that again. It’s true. dance

Jesus paid for those sins. God doesn’t see them anymore. He has wrapped us in the glowing white robes of his Son’s perfection. We are united to him in all that he is, and Jesus’s perfect record of faith and patience and obedience is now ours.

God’s scandalous love in Jesus makes us dance and sing, even in our weakness and failure and sin!

Soak your heart in this truth today.

Talk to me.

messychristians@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You’re Perfect

If you are in Christ, you are loved, washed and cleaned up.

You walk around in the perfection of Jesus.

Since he never sinned, neither have you!

Not only that, God sees you as never having had a sin nature!

Meditate on that for a while.  photo (90)

Even in your worst moments when your life is in chaos, and all you know is failure and weakness, you are still in Christ and perfect!

Where you fail, he has obeyed perfectly for you.

Where you sin, he has paid for it on the cross.

When you are embarrassed and feeling ashamed, he has succeeded for you.

Barbara Duguid writes in her book, Extravagant Grace, “That means you are free to struggle and fail; you are free to grow slowly; you are free at times not to grow at all; you are free to cast yourself on the mercy of God for a lifetime.”

While obedience makes God happy, loving and delighting in Jesus, who has given you his perfect record even in the middle of your messy life, makes him happier.

Duguid goes on to say, “Repeated failure does not mean you are unsaved or that God is tired of you and disappointed. It does mean he has called you to a difficult struggle and that he will hold on to you in all your standing and falling and bring you safely home.”

Wow!

That’s breathtaking.

Take that with you this weekend.

And the rest of your life.

Talk to me.

messychristians@gmail.com