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.

 

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

 

 

Does God Like Social Media?

Face-to-face is the original social media.

Conversations that used to take place over a meal or drinks after work is now happening on Facebook, Skype and Tweets.  tweet2

Whatever the delivery system, online gurus say it has to have at least these 4 components to be meaningful:

  1. relevant
  2. practical value
  3. emotion
  4. stories

But even if all these components are there, I’ve noticed something – people are hungry for human interaction, not just cyber chats. They want face-to-face. They need to feel connected to others they can see, hear, touch and laugh with.

And no online delivery system can deliver what a personal encounter can.

And God knew that.

God, with all his supernatural abilities, could have designed a mechanism whereby he could communicate with us without leaving heaven to do it.

He could have sent angel messengers.

He could have boomed his voice from heaven.

He could have scared the life out of us with flashes of lightning and peals of thunder.

Instead, he sent his own flesh and blood Son to live among us, suffer alongside us, and then die a horrible death.

Where’s the value in that?

God knew the kind of mess we were in – we were dead in our sins and unable to rescue ourselves. So he fixed the problem by sending his Son Jesus to live a life of perfect obedience to the law of God for us, and then die in our place in order to pay the price for our sins.

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” – Ephesians 2: 4-7 ESV

So how is that relevant to me?

If Jesus hadn’t done that, you would have no hope of measuring up to God’s standards and being loved by him.

“For one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person one would dare to die – but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5: 7-8 ESV

Only Jesus measured up and secured your relationship with God, so when you place your faith in his finished work for you, God fully accepts you as his cherished child.

By taking that step, for the first time in your life you have face-to-face communication with God through Jesus.

Now that beats anything you can have online!

Want to plug into the best conversation today?

“Dear Jesus,

Thank you for living a perfect life for me, and for dying to pay the price for my sins on the cross. I receive you as my Lord and Savior. Fill me with your love and let me live from now on for you. Amen.”

If you’ve prayed this today, would you let me know?

United You Stand

Have you had days or maybe weeks of yelling at your kids over the littlest things, or experienced intense jealousy over your best friend’s gorgeous new house or wanted to curse God because you just got laid off from your job again?

I have. More than once. heart cloud

That’s when you ask yourself, “Am I really saved or is this all make believe?”

If you look at your Christian performance, you’re in big trouble. If you’re honest, you’ll have to admit it’s sketchy at best. Hardly the stuff God is looking for in your life.

So where do you look for reassurance that you belong to God when you are experiencing your worst moments?

No further than the gospel.

Let me explain.

Jesus not only paid the price for your redemption with his perfect life of obedience and then his death on the cross for your sins, but he also secured your perseverance and heavenly inheritance.

You were united to Christ (Romans 6) at the moment of your coming to faith, and once united you cannot be un-united.

You will never, ever, be separated from Him no matter what befalls you.

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?” – Romans 8:35

What about weakness, failure, deliberate sins, sins of neglect, unbelief, ungratefulness, or a cold heart?

Jesus died for all those, too.

Is it possible for any member of Christ’s body to perish?

Unthinkable!

God guarantees that you will persevere in this life. That’s why he has given you his Holy Spirit to be your guide, teacher, and encourager.

Not one of his children will be lost.

And that includes you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hope for the Heart

Do you have a guilty conscience?

Do you look back on your past and cringe?

What if you really committed some hideous things and you continue to live with remorse and shame?

On top of that, the enemy never forgets and delights in reminding you that you’re no good, God never loved you, and everything you believe in is a lie.

How do you respond to these accusations?

Do you get busier than ever at work? photo (15)

Or do you drink more, do more drugs, and entertain your life away hoping this will numb you from the guilt you feel?

Perhaps you’ve doubled up in church attendance, bible studies, and doing good works hoping that these will outweigh your rotten record.

The truth is none of these things is the solution.

There’s only one fix and you know it.

It’s blood of Jesus Christ that blots out all your sin.

Past. Present. Future.

“…let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” – Hebrew 10:22 ESV

If you’re in Christ, all your sins are washed away in his blood.

Your rotten record is now a clean record. It’s Jesus’ record and you own it.

Tell the devil that. Out loud.

Now tell yourself.

And then go out and live like the new person God has made you to be.