The Law Has No Life

We were designed to live by the law before we fell in Adam. Had he kept it God would have given us eternal life. There would have been no sin and misery, only grace and approval.

After Adam’s fall we still want to keep the law, it’s the natural man’s default position, but now we can’t because of sin.

There is no way to be saved by the law. It has no life. It can only point the finger and denounce us for our sins.

It’s meant to do us in and draw us to Christ, who was the only man who kept the law after Adam. FullSizeRender (62)

He obeyed it perfectly.

He fulfilled it perfectly.

He earned salvation for us, in our place, because we couldn’t do it.

So it’s true we’re still saved by the law, but it’s Jesus’s obedience to it that saves us.

Now that is the best news you’ll ever receive. Today and forever.

You want freedom? Here it is.

Talk to me.

 

Not So Quick

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.  FullSizeRender (4)

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.

 

 

 

 

How Not to Climb the Corporate Ladder

You know the bible is real when you read verses 35-37 in Mark 10.

Jesus has just finished telling his disciples the horrible death that awaits him in Jerusalem, but instead of sympathy or concern, James and John ask for a promotion. They want the power seats in heaven. When the others find out what they’re up to, they become indignant because they didn’t think of it first most likely. Bible4

The focus is ripped away from Jesus’ death and lands on human ambition. It affords Jesus an opportunity to teach his disciples what it takes to live in his kingdom.

To be a bully, to seek your own status, and to be only interested in your own agenda is the world’s way.

As a disciple you seek to be nothing, a servant ready to help others. Just like Jesus. Why was he on his way to Jerusalem? So he could die in our place on the cross for our sins. The sins of James and John. The sins of all his people.

I’m amazed at Jesus’ patience with his own.

Thank God because I’m just like James and John.

I’m committed to me. My goals. My honor.

Every once in a while I catch myself serving others.

I wish it was the reverse.

That’s why I need a Savior.

And that’s why he’s given me his perfect record.

Because I need it!

Talk to me.

 

 

The Bondage of Being Free

Freedom is not an end in itself like everyone seems to think.

Think it through with me for a minute.

Let’s say you are free to commit adultery.

It might feel good for a while, but then something begins to change.

You discover your freedom consists in lying about the affair.

You’re now covering your tracks.   Guilty

You’re having difficulty remembering what you said to whom and keeping the lies straight so you don’t contradict yourself.

There’s the fear of being caught.

There’s the unknown reaction of your spouse if he or she finds out.

Before you know it you’re living like a criminal.

You thought you’d feel alive and young again. Instead you’re walking around with the burden of your guilty conscience and it’s a heavy weight.

Where’s the freedom in that?

In truth, freedom from God’s law means bondage.

We all live guilty lives. We were born guilty, did you know that?

That sweet little baby, all wrapped up in his mother’s arms, has a label on him.

Guilty!

That’s why we need a Savior.

Christ came and died on the cross in our place, bearing our punishment, absorbing the fullness of divine justice for us.

He died so he could free us, not to indulge the flesh,  but to delight in serving God.

God has no slaves, only grateful sons.

Now that’s a life of true freedom.

Talk to me.

 

 

 

 

 

The Rights of Being Wrong

How many times have you valued being right, having the last word, being firm and in control?

If you’re like me, many times.

Has anyone told you that sounds an awful lot like self-love?

We are born legalists. We love law. We delight in being right.

“That’s not fair!” shouts a crying child when another yanks her toy away.

How does a 2-year old know what’s fair? Who taught her? child

Our legal hearts demand what is right and fair. And where does that come from? From God’s law. We’re all born with an innate sense of right and wrong. That’s because God stamped his image on us, and even though we are sinners and live with a distorted view of God, remnants of it are still there like a shattered mirror.

Satan takes full advantage of our dilemma and, as a cunning rascal, pronounces us guilty every chance he gets and demands payment for our sins. And if we’re not watchful, we’ll fall into the trap and believe it’s up to us to fix ourselves.

This can happen a million times a day.

If your thoughts are negative, accusatory, pointing out other people’s faults, blaming others, devaluing the people in your life, dishonoring them, and demanding your rights and your way, you’re listening to the devil.

Resentment and bitterness produce a heavy heart and a broody attitude, all of which indicate you’ve moved away from the gospel – Christ’s righteousness for you.

Remember, Christ showers you with grace and mercy every moment of every day because he’s paid for your sins.

We’re happy and grateful to accept that truth for us, but what’s shocking is he also gives that same grace and mercy to the people around us that are hard to live with!

So instead of resentment and bitterness, let’s give forgiveness and peace; instead of rehearsing our wounds, let’s release them to the Lord at the cross, and walk away; instead of blaming others, let’s talk about our faults first and see what happens. Since the judge of the universe has declared us righteous in Christ, we can be vulnerable with others and not be afraid of their response.

Make these your Christmas presents this month!

Talk to me.

messychristians@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

In the Thick of It

If you’re like me, when I get sick I pray. When there’s an accident in the family, I pray. When someone is discouraged, I pray.

But when I sin badly, I don’t pray.

Why do I do that? I think it’s because my conscience tells me God is angry with me and I better not go near him. Just like Adam and Eve did in the garden when they sinned and then ran into the bushes. 

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As an aside, if you stop and think about it, that’s pretty funny because God is near to you and me all the time. He sees everything, hears every thought, knows every feeling.

And he doesn’t disengage and retreat! Just like he didn’t flee from Adam and Eve. In fact, the text tells us, he went looking for them. See Genesis 3:8-9.

So why don’t I run to God when I sin badly? Because at that moment I don’t believe the gospel. Instead I believe in the law, and the law tells me I’ve blown it, God is going to punish me, and I better get out of town.

But what does Paul say about the law? It’s meant to drive us to Christ! It takes us by the hand and turns us in the direction of our Savior, who bled and died precisely for those sins I committed. See Romans 7:4.

God hasn’t moved.

Are you ready to come back?

How To Thrive After Being Crushed by the Church – Part 1

Are you someone who has grown up in church where performance defined who you were?

Where most days you were a miserable failure?

And love and acceptance were foreign concepts?

I have good news for you.

You didn’t grow up with the gospel.

You grew up with moralism (law).

The law is harsh. It beats you up. It tells you what you must do in order to please God (and others), but has no power to help you get there.

So you looked at your life and said, “I can’t do this,” and got depressed.

Or you admitted your failure, got furious, and walked away.

Here’s what happened to you.

You came into the church by faith in Jesus. He loved you so much he died for you. And you accepted his gift of salvation with gladness.

Then week after week you listened to preaching about moral behavior and living, and in a flash you plunged into despair because you didn’t measure up.

Your joy in Jesus went up in a puff of smoke. You even went so far to say that this Christian thing doesn’t work.

If you can relate to this, then here’s a question to ask yourself:

Is the cross and blood of Jesus sufficient to save you even while you are still sinful? Even while you continue to fail at living the Christian life?

You know what?

Heaven is filled with Christian failures! There aren’t any other kind of people there!

Jesus’ death on the cross and his shed blood for you is all you need.

Jesus himself will welcome and embrace you!

How’s that possible? It’s because God has given you the gift of the righteousness of Jesus. You had it the moment you came to faith.

It’s the only performance that counts!

Grab a hold of it and never let it go!

How To Pray Really Badly

The Lord has heard my supplication; The Lord will receive my prayer. – Psalm 6:9

The experience here recorded is mine. I can set to my seal that God is true. In very wonderful ways He has answered the prayers of His servant many and many a time. Yes, and He is hearing my present supplication, and He is not turning away His ear from me. Blessed be His holy name!

What then? Why, for certain the promise which lies sleeping in the psalmist’s believing confidence is also mine. Let me grasp it by the hand of faith: “The Lord will receive my prayer.” He will accept it, think of it, and grant it in the way and time which His loving wisdom judges to be best. I bring my poor prayer in my hand to the great King, and He gives me audience and graciously receives my petition. My enemies will not listen to me, but my Lord will. They ridicule my tearful prayers, but my Lord does not; He receives my prayer into His ear and His heart.

What a reception this is for a poor sinner! We receive Jesus, and then the Lord receives us and our prayers for His Son’s sake. Blessed be that dear name which franks our prayers so that they freely pass even within the golden gates. Lord, teach me to pray, since Thou hearest my prayers.

– From Faith’s Checkbook by C.H. Spurgeon

When I read this I was reminded of my sin of unbelief. I know God hears my prayers. I understand that much. But where I lose it is when he doesn’t answer them in the way I want him to. And when that happens, I immediately conclude he’s not listening to me, or worse, caring about me.

That’s utterly sinful because it maligns the character and promises of God. 

Truth is I want my prayers answered now and according to my will, not his.

Upon further reflection, I realized, too, that God is answering my prayers all around me, as well as in the lives of the people I pray for, but I don’t have eyes to see that because I insist on having the answers my way.

Just today a friend told me he had sold his last painting, the one that nobody wanted.

“You prayed for that, remember?” he said.

I hadn’t remembered.

That was another indictment. I  had prayed without expectation. My expectations of God were little, if they existed at all.

I was seeing things about my prayer life that were not pretty.

But instead of flogging myself and telling myself to do better next time, which I know I will fail at, I reminded myself of the gospel.

Jesus prayed perfect prayers, full of hope and faith and belief in God.

And God has put his perfect praying record to my account.

That’s my only hope. His prayers, not mine.

I can rest in that and keep praying!

 

 

 

 

 

How Three Little Words Can Change Your Life

All world religions, no matter which one, have three words in common:

Get to work.

That is very bad news.

It means the responsibility is entirely on you to appease the god, to win his approval, to satisfy his demands.

And the worst news of all is:

You never know if you’re doing enough.

You have no confidence, no peace, no rest in your own work because you know it’s not perfect.

And the deity doesn’t help you either.

In fact, he’s silent.

In contrast, the gospel is utterly unique.

Christ’s three words are:

It is finished.

What is finished?

Everything you need in order to be reconciled to God the Father.

That is Good News!

1) Christ paid for all your sins so you could be forgiven. All your sins – the ones yesterday, the ones today, and the ones you’ll do tomorrow.

2) Christ appeased God’s wrath by becoming the sacrifice to atone for your sins.

3) Christ closed the enormous gap between you and God so now you have a Heavenly Father.

4) Christ, with his own life, paid for all your disobedience, transgressions, deliberate and unintentional sins, unbelief, and willful denial of God.

5) Christ satisfied God’s law by dying a death you should have died.

6) Christ paid the debt you owed God. You are now free from it.

Christ is the only true solution for your sin problem.

He did it all.

The job is done.

Why would you ever want to settle for anything else?

 

Better Than Botox

You’re fixed.

You probably didn’t even know it.

That’s because you spend your life checking your spiritual pulse to see how you’re doing.

I do it. We all do it.

It goes like this:

Morning devotions? Check.

Prayed for family, friends and colleagues? Check.

Finished your bible study for the week? Check.

Attended church and helped usher? Check.

And when you fail, what happens? You feel guilty. Check.

You get the point.

You even do it with your personal stuff.

Did you go to the gym today? Check…er…no.

Did you eat your fruits and veggies for the day? Check. Well, maybe not. I hate spinach.

Did you drink eight glasses of water today? No, but I did have two caramel frapuccinos.

The truth is God loves you with or without a gym schedule.

Your biggest problem is not your weight, your hair color, or that bagel and cream cheese you just gobbled down behind closed doors.

It’s your sin, which separates you from God.

That’s your biggest problem and he fixed it for you.

And you didn’t even ask.

God sent his Son, Jesus Christ, into the world, to live a perfect life of obedience  in accordance to the Law, not for his own sake because he was already perfect, but in your place. And then, he died on the cross in your place to pay the price for your sins to satisfy the justice and the righteousness of God.

God forgives you because of Jesus.

You are a new person in Christ.

Isn’t that the best make-over you’ve ever heard of?