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Christ died so we could be justified. We have all our sins forgiven. He has made us new creatures in our union with Christ, and now God sees us like we had never sinned or had a sin nature. This change allows us to come home to the Father, where we stay forever. God never kicks us out.
Now, as wonderful as this is, I still had a nagging question: Why couldn’t I trust these truths about me? Why couldn’t I settle into God’s love and stay there? What happens to me when I sin again, which I do all the time? Does God stop loving me? Is he disappointed in me? Does he pull out my picture from his wallet and tear it up?
I asked the Lord these questions recently, and this is what the Holy Spirit brought to mind:
If God held even one of my sins against me, he’d be declaring the blood of his Son to be insufficient to cover and blot out that sin. God can never go back on his Word because then he’d be saying his Son’s sacrifice was not good enough, that there was something lacking that I would have to make up for. And he cannot do that. It cost the Father everything to send Jesus to the cross where all of God’s wrath for sin and sinners was poured out on him. The Father crushed Jesus for me. Everything I deserved from God’s hands was put on Jesus. How then could God hold any sin against me?
Not believing this with my whole heart is the greatest sin. It reeks of unbelief. My flesh wants to participate in self-salvation strategies. It wants to contribute to my salvation. It wants me to despair, fear and struggle. It delights in doubt.
But faith says otherwise. The greatest act of faith is to believe God and the Son he has sent! He is the solution to our estrangement from God. He is the answer to our love problems. The longing of our heart is fulfilled in accepting what the Father says of us – we are his beloved children.
Talk to me.
Have you ever asked yourself, like I have, what was lacking in the rich young ruler’s life that turned him away from following Jesus? Something nagged at him to ask Jesus what he needed to do to inherit eternal life. He said he kept the commandments and Jesus didn’t fault him in that. What was missing?
He may have been thinking that there was something he needed to add to the rule list. “Just tell me and I’ll be on it.”
Or he may have been thinking that he was doing alright and wanted Jesus to confirm him in his performance.
But that wasn’t it.
Just like this blog is fond of repeating that acceptance with God is by Christ alone, by faith alone, by grace alone, this young ruler had everything, including wealth and possessions, but lacked the one thing that could give him eternal life.
Without faith in Jesus he had nothing.
He was a rebel in God’s world. He was spiritually dead. Notice in today’s culture, he would be described as a seeker, someone who was close to God, and whom God was pleased with. But in truth his heart was of stone. His sins were not forgiven. He was under God’s wrath.
So what does Jesus tell him?
To sell his possessions and give his wealth to the poor.
Why would Jesus say that instead of telling him he needed to have faith in him?
No doubt Jesus saw that he trusted in his considerable wealth and put his finger on it to expose it. The young ruler heard that and walked away sorrowful. He was willing to do anything, but part with his riches. He loved them more than God. While being rich he was poor. He failed to realize that eternal life was more wonderful than all the riches in the world.
We see time and time again that those who feel secure in their performance, Jesus refers them to the law, but to those who are a mess, like the woman caught in adultery, he consoles with the gospel.
If you’re keeping the rules without a corresponding love for God inside, you of all people are not keeping any rule. You must be poor and needy inside, a beggar of God’s love and life and then he will grant it to you.
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faith in Jesus, the one person who could give him what he needed.
And notice how Jesus answered him.
As we read the gospels we soon run into the parables of Jesus. Why did he teach that way? Even the disciples wondered about that.
Jesus said that parables were meant to hide the truth from those who didn’t want to hear it, but revealed to those who belong to God.
The most famous of the parables is the one about the seed and the four soils. It’s message is relevant for every generation.
Was Jesus really talking about soil that gets under your fingernails and green shoots poking out of the ground? No, these were pictures of spiritual truths. The seed was the gospel, the Good News about Jesus taking our place for us in order to bring us to God.
The sower was Jesus, the Son of Man, a king who shared in the humanity of his people and who carried the image of God.
Jesus with a bag of seeds.
What were those seeds producing? Wheat, lettuce, figs? Or some intellectual understanding or religious insight?
No, they were producing believers.
Of course the enemy was right there working his evil in people as they listened. But notice Jesus didn’t interrupt him. He let him be. Only the fourth soil produced good fruit. The other three soils were left in enemy hands.
Jesus knew the harvest would be gathered in in spite of the enemy’s tactics, that’s why we, like him, can go about spreading the Good News of Jesus knowing with confidence God will be at work producing believers.
Makes being a sower a joy, doesn’t it? And you’ll always be surprised at God’s work in people. It’s the best assignment on earth!
Talk to me.
Have you ever wondered what the purpose of the church is? Is it a place to get your needs met? A place to hang out with like-minded friends? A place to get a shot in the arm for the week ahead?
Nowadays more and more churches are like that.
I hate to say it but we’re not allowed to re-purpose the church to our liking or to meet the needs of the culture. God didn’t give us pastors to be inspirational speakers, or comedians, or storytellers. And he certainly didn’t give us pastors to be our life coaches either. For that you have movies, TV shows, and TED Talks.
So what’s the purpose of the church anyway if they’re not clubs for the cool, support networks for tech families, or places for therapy?
According to the bible, God has given the church three mandates:
- The worship of God
- The maturing of believers
- Bringing sinners to faith
If our churches aren’t doing this, then we need to ask if it’s a true church.
What tools is the church to use for the worship of God, maturing the saints, and bringing sinners to faith?
The teaching and preaching must be the gospel. It’s the only tool God promises to use that is powerful and accomplishes its purpose.
The gospel is not inside of us by nature. That’s why we need to hear it from the outside. The church is where this is done in song, in prayer, and in preaching.
It’s not only the pastor’s responsibility, it’s all of ours. We need to be specialists in the gospel so we’re able to share it, counsel it, and tell it to others.
As private Christians we have many assignments in life, but the church has only one: the preaching of the gospel.
And we need to be reminded of the gospel every week, no matter how old we are in the Lord.
The gospel is not only for sinners but for Christians as well.
Talk to me.
“The hardest thing in the world is to take Christ alone for salvation and then to return to Christ alone every day of the Christian life.” – Tony Reinke
Our human nature wants to manipulate our salvation. It goes something like this: Christ did the hard part (dying on the cross) so now we’ll take it from here.
Everyone of us desires glory. We were build for it, and one day we’ll experience it, but not here. And yet, every time we use self-salvation strategies to keep God liking us and thinking we’re terrific, we end up in self-worship and self-glory.
We long to be something apart from him.
Have you noticed how burdened we feel most days with the many pressures and layers of life?
We’re addicted to living that way. We don’t understand any other kind of life.
But what would happen if we truly knew ourselves from God’s vantage point and realized we are nothing? And then be glad that Jesus is all we ever need or want?
What would our lives look like with that mindset?
“When our self-evaluation is emptied, Christ’s glory weighs heavier in our lives.” – John Newton
We need to be people like those who go to AA meetings. We need to say to ourselves in the mirror every morning, “My name is Bub, and I’m a sinner addicted to myself.”
I think we need to confess that everyday to the Lord.
He might even say to us, “Now you’re getting it. I’m here to help.”
What do you think?
Are you addicted to love?
Not the paper-thin kind in a Hollywood movie, but the love found in God’s people, the flesh and bone kind.
Are we devoted to one another? Do we share a common life with others in the church or do we walk past them as vapors?
God is addicted to us. He pours out his love to us in Christ every day. Instead of loving others in the same way, if we’re honest, we’re more addicted to our own dreams and ambitions.
I’m guilty. I lose myself in my reading and my writing. Even this blog. I can go for days without leaving the house or talking to a neighbor. And when I go to church, very often I go home afterwards and return to my interests.
If we build our lives in him, it’s going to hurt. It will interrupt our habits. It will undermine our selfishness. It will change us.
God went to incredible lengths to have fellowship with us. He sent Christ because of it.
If we choose to live private, closed lives we’re living life lopsided.
Being a Christian and a member of God’s church means a level of transparency.
Jesus was put out of the camp so we could be brought in, not to live self-absorbed lives, but to be a blessing to others.
We come to church to be fed Christ in the sermon and at the communion table, and as a result we are built up in the faith, but not for our sake only, but for our neighbor sitting in the chair next to us.
How’s it going for you?
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Was the Exodus a splashy demonstration of God’s power?
Who else could have mobilized millions of people with their animals and belongings across a body of water like that?
Not even Disney World.
But why did God do that?
Because God had set his love on these people and they were being abused by Pharaoh.
“Time to get up and leave!” God said to them one night.
But was that all there was to it – to usher out a body of people into a new location?
God wanted to free Israel from slavery so they could serve him and sing his praises.
That’s what Israel was made to do, and that’s our purpose, too.
God is worthy of our praise and we need to give it to him.
We express our highest purpose when we celebrate his glory, and honor, and power.
The God who parted the Red Sea is not old and feeble. He’s still in the exodus business.
Every time a person comes to faith in Christ, he experiences his own exodus from sin and hell.
In the Exodus Israel was as guilty as Egypt. Israel deserved death as much as the Egyptians. They were all sinners.
But the waters parted for Israel while it drowned the Egyptians.
God’s people obeyed by putting the blood of the lamb on the doorposts. A picture of Christ’s blood for the remission of sins.
It wasn’t because the Israelites were a better race of people. They weren’t. It was because they had the blood of the lamb on their houses which protected them from death.
And that’s exactly what Jesus has done for you. If you believe in him by faith alone, then you have experienced your own exodus in Christ’s death, burial and resurrection.
You are now free to serve God and sing his praises.
Are you doing that?
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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.
Talk to me.