Change of Address

We tend to forget that Jesus’ mission was to destroy the works of the devil. That’s why he came. See 1 John 3:8

And part of that destruction was the rescue operation of God’s people who lived in darkness and were enslaved by the devil. Jesus came in like a warrior, attacked the enemy, destroyed him, and liberated God’s people.

How did he do it? 

First, by living a perfect life of obedience to God’s laws in our place.

Second, by paying the price for our sins by dying on the cross for us.

Third, by being raised from the dead and taking us with him.

We did not merit any of this.

We are God’s choice. See Ephesians 1 & Romans 9.

It was God the Father who gave us to God the Son before the foundation of the world. It was His choice.

It was God the Son who willingly left heaven and came to earth to be our Substitute.

And it’s God the Holy Spirit who lives in us to unite us to Christ and all his benefits.

We used to live in the world, but God took us out of it and put us in His kingdom. We have a new address. We breathe a new air, live a new life, and love God out of gratitude.

We possess of dual citizenship. Heaven and earth. Blessings now, fulfillment later.

Go out and tell somebody the rescue has happened!

Talk to me.

 

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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.

 

Oh the Shame!

The word shame is mentioned so many times these days it seems there’s no other word in the English vocabulary. It’s talked about so often in sermons, books, lectures and therapy sessions that it has lost its meaning. We’re supposed to believe everyone feels shame and it’s the biggest problem out there that people are grappling with.

That might be true if you’re trying to restore someone’s self-esteem. If it’s meant to describe feelings of embarrassment, then everybody has felt it one time or another. For example, at not being prepared for an interview and you were caught off-guard with a question. Or when you forgot your lines in the school play. Or when you weren’t dressed appropriately at a gathering. These are common experiences that make people feel insecure and unacceptable.

But nowadays shame is being used in a therapeutic sense. It’s the popular word for feeling you’re not enough, you’re wrong as a person, you’re unwanted.

Someone gave you the message and you believed it. And from that moment on you made it your life’s mission to find ways to overcome it.

While this might be true of you, it doesn’t go deep enough. God says real shame is refusing to believe who he is for you. You prefer living in unbelief instead of embracing the God who loves you. You’re holding on to the message your parents or peers gave you from the past.

Everyone has those messages living in their heads. They’re common to the human race because sin is common to the human race. 

You can overcome these messages, but that won’t win the war for your soul. Only by turning to God, the author of your life, and believing his love for you, by giving you Christ to redeem you and bring you back to your true home, will you be right with him and your own soul. 

Christ took your shame (your unbelief) on the cross and it died there. And it was buried in the tomb with him. It’s dead. And when Christ was resurrected he gave you his new life. There is no shame mixed in there. Look all you want. It’s gone. You’re now free from those condemning voices to follow only one voice – the Father’s. And his voice is affirming, loving, and gracious. 

Talk to me.

 

The Gospel is for Christian Sinners, Too

Has this question ever crossed your mind? “Even when I’m disobedient, does God love me anyway?”

This question has been on my mind lately. I sin everyday, in word, attitude and deed. I’m basically a selfish person. I don’t put others first, I put me first. I don’t love God with all my mind, heart, soul and strength. I’m a cynic at heart. The glass is always half empty for me. And, horror of horrors, there’s more unbelief in me than trust and faith in my Savior.

So how can God love me anyway?

A lot of Christians, including pastors, would admonish me to get on with disciplining my life so I can be more obedient. They’d give me a book or a class or a set of disciplines to incorporate into my life.

That’s all well and good, but those remedies don’t address what’s at the core in my understanding of the gospel.

Remember, the gospel changes everything.

So how does it change me here?

No believer in Jesus is dead in sin anymore. Why? Because Jesus took his sin on himself and died for it on the cross.

No believer continues in sin in that way anymore. He died to sin (Romans 6) and he has been resurrected in Christ.

Believers continue to sin (Romans 7) but they are no longer dead in sin.

That’s a huge difference!

So the answer to the question, “Does God continue to love me when I sin?” is a resounding YES!

Because God sees his Son having died to those sins.

That truth will set you free to love God more, be more holy, and go out and tell people what a wonderful God you serve.

Without the gospel informing us everyday, we allow the devil to condemn us and make us miserable. Our health of mind and heart is in what Christ did for us in his life and death to make us complete and perfect in God’s sight. That’s who we are.

Talk to me.

The Horror of Idolatry

I’ve been reading Iain Duguid’s commentary on the book of Ezekiel. As you know, Ezekiel was an Old Testament prophet who was given the unenviable task of indicting the nation of Israel for its sins of idolatry. They preferred every carved image to the God who loved and saved them. And God was furious at them and he wanted them to know that.

“Idolatry is adultery because it makes me unfaithful to God and his truth. It flows from the inordinate desire for a person, plan, or sensation, a desire stronger than my love for God and my desire to obey him,” Duguid says.

That pretty much slays me.

Duguid goes on to say, “Idolatry is the desire for something other than God at the center of my life acting like my guiding star, the source of meaning in my life.”

How often I live my life, as a Christian, desiring things that God has not given me and believing if I had them I’d be a happier person. The advertising industry thrives on that lie. So does the devil with his poisonous thoughts that suggest that God is stingy, or has overlooked me, or marginalized me in his kingdom.

We are not immune from the siren calls of the world and it’s temptations. If that doesn’t get us, then it’s our flesh that clamors for more attention, and if we can be the center of the universe, all the better. But even if we can withstand the flesh, there’s the devil lurking in the background waiting to bait us with his venom.

Is it any wonder we are messes?  IMG_4730

But there’s hope for messes. Jesus died for messes. He nailed us to his cross so we could be given a clean slate in his new life.

We are the only people on earth who have died and been resurrected! Do you realize that?

It happened at the cross. When Jesus died there, we died with him. When he was buried, we were in the tomb with him. And when he was resurrected on the third day, he took us with him! What a glorious trip!

Do you believe that? You should. See Romans 6.

These truths all flow out of our union with Christ.

And how did we get there?

God put us there. See 1 Corinthians 1:30-31.

So what does that do to our idolatry? First, it’s pretty horrible to be in Christ and still crave lesser gods. Second, we have forgotten our position and privilege as children of God. Third, the only way to deal with idolatry is to run to God and repent. “It’s the ultimate idol-smasher,” Duguid says.

“Lord, forgive me for the sin of lesser loves, and remind me I am not my own but belong body and soul, in life and in death to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.”

Talk to me.

 

 

 

 

Re-Write Your Story

Once upon a time stories were for children. Now they seem to be usurped by almost everybody – big business, airlines, pharmaceutical companies, the automobile industry, everything is fair game even down to the toothpaste yuo use.

The truth is we’re wired for story. Our brains respond to them. And for some of you, you are a slave to your story. It’s the one you play in your head everyday. It can be a traumatic event, an emotional decision, a deep hurt, an unfairness, whatever it was that left a wound in your soul.

Instead of replaying it over and over again, replace it with a better story.

Sounds crazy?

It’s not.

What better story, you ask?  IMG_1415

The one that has you in Christ’s story. It’s the one that starts like this:

Once upon a time God created a perfect world and handed it over to his children, Adam and Eve to take care of it, but then they disobeyed him and plunged themselves and everybody after them into sin. When God saw the mess they had made, he realized only he could fix it. So he sent his perfect Son to earth in the form of a perfect man to live and do what Adam and Eve and the rest of us failed to do. Jesus lived to please God and then died on the cross to pay the price for your sins. His perfect life and record is now yours as a gift from God to you. All you need is faith in Christ to get it. The moment you receive that gift you step into Christ’s story.

What is true of you now?

You have a new Father who loves you. He is unlike any earthly father you’ve ever known.

You have a Savior who fixed your biggest problem – your sin that kept you from God.

You have a new identity – you are a child of God with all its privileges, including an inheritance.

You have a new family – your brothers and sisters in Christ.

You have a new future – living in the new heavens and the new earth for an eternity.

You have new support – the church.

You have a calling – the Holy Spirit has given you spiritual gifts to serve God with.

So what are you waiting for?

Dump the old story today and start telling yourself the new one!

Talk to me.

The Gospel is for the Heart

Psychologists and motivational speakers claim that a person has six basic needs in life. If these aren’t being met, then the person is living a life of misery.

Here are the six:

Security – financial and emotional
SignificanceIMG_4606
Connection/Love
Variety
Growth
Contribution

Let’s see how the gospel speaks to these:

Security – you can’t find any in this fallen world because security is subject to change and decay – remember the dot.com and real estate bust – real security comes from belonging to Christ.

Significance – all of us want to be noticed and recognized and applauded – however, there’s been only One Significant Man worth our attention – Jesus Christ – and if you belong to him then you share in his significance. You can’t get any more significant than that.

Connection/Love – fallen creatures can’t offer the life you crave, they can’t fill you up with love and joy and intimacy, they can only offer self and that fluctuates every minute – only God’s love in Christ for you is the true connection you long for that stays steady forever.

Variety – fallen man seeks entertainment to be stimulated whereas following Christ everyday and doing his will is never boring.

Growth – growing in a skill or talent is temporary, whereas growing in the love that Christ has for you brings you increased joy and happiness.

Contribution – the best man can do is social work for the less fortunate – i.e. Tom’s Shoes – whereas your highest contribution is having faith in God and loving your neighbor out of a grateful heart for what God has done for you.

If all your basic needs are met in Christ, then how should you then live?

1. Stop looking to sinners and the world to fill you up – you are filled already in Christ.

2. Learn to be content with what you have and where you are right now – be thankful to God.

3. Serve others out of a grateful heart for God’s gift of his Son for you.

There’s one more thing. I believe there’s a seventh basic need that trumps all six, and it’s this:

How do you escape the wrath of God? How do your sins get wiped away?

Isn’t it interesting that nobody asks that anymore?

Talk to me.