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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.
Talk to me.
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?