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Posts Tagged ‘Christian’

When it comes to our salvation, one of the most comforting thoughts is that God is “all-in.” Some people imagine (much to their needless worry) that somehow Jesus is convincing a reluctant Father to do a big favor and be nice to sinners; or that the work of the Son and the Spirit are somehow disconnected and perhaps even at cross-purposes; but all such unworthy notions should be put away when we read the testimony of the Scriptures.

Trinity sanctifies

The mystery of the Triune God of the Bible is great – and anyone who claims to have wrapped their head around the depths of the essence of the One-God-Three-Persons of the Christian faith is either a genius of the highest order, or else delusional (I vote for the latter).

But that doesn’t stop us from affirming, as Charles Spurgeon does above, the clear teaching of the New Testament: that God is united in His love, His intentions, and His work. God’s purpose is one – and He is all-in on our salvation.

We are sanctified (progressively purified and made holy) by, in, and through the single purpose and all-in activity of the living God – Father, Son, and Spirit.

AllIn

Today, we may feel spiritually dead. We may have defiled ourselves through some indulgence of sin last night. We may be filled (again) with doubts and anxieties. We may even feel like opting-out.

Has any of this changed God? Not a bit. His eternal purpose remains steadfast; His love is unfailing and unchanging. When God gives a covenant promise, it is not up for negotiation or renewal. His purposes are a cord of three strands, which cannot be broken.

All things are of Him and from Him, and He will bring all of His redemptive work to completion.

Our hope is not in a “part” of a fragmented or fickle God – it is in all of God, who is all-in.

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Emmanuel: God With Us

Emmanuel

For every person who has ever lived, there are truths that surround us like the sky above – God is above all, and in all, and we owe our every moment of life to Him.

“I have created you – carefully designed you from the smallest cell all the way to the color of your eyes.”

Wonder-filled thought, that God Himself knit us together in our mother’s womb.

“I know you – your every thought and desire; your every hope and pain; your every deed and disappointment.”

How often we feel alone and unknown in this life – yet God knows us far more deeply than we know ourselves.

“I care for you every moment of every day, even when you are blind to Me.”

Today’s provision of food and water and a stable earth; the blessings of sun and sleep; the next breath and the next after it – all are from His generous hand.

I am.

The universe is not some cold, meaningless place in which we drift, alone and void of meaning. We are, because God is. We are created by an infinite King with nobility woven into our DNA.

Yet, blinded by the hostility of sin, we refuse to love Him – even acknowledge Him – in the midst of all of His blessings.

But to the Christian, the marvels don’t end there. Even greater riches are poured out upon us through our adoption as sons and daughters in Jesus Christ.

I am your Savior.”

We could not and would not come to Him; but He comes to us as the loving, powerful rescuer. In the very name of Jesus is the meaning, “Deliverer.”

I am your God and Father.”

God as Creator, Lord, and Judge – these are frightful realities for a sin-stained soul. But God as adoptive Father, embracing the wandering sons and daughters of Adam and bringing them home to Himself – this is unspeakable mercy.

I am with you – always.”

Life on a fallen world is scary. With a sovereign God going before us, however, pledged never to leave or forsake us – we can move forward with confident faith.

I am in you.”

Through the outpoured Holy Spirit, God takes up actual, personal residence in our souls, uniting us to Himself for time and eternity. No force inside or outside of us is greater than His presence.

These are the pillars on which we build our lives. Jesus’ coming to earth is not some faraway feel-good narrative; it is the story of God not only overseeing the universe He has created, but reaching down to the very creatures who have despised Him, and pouring out mercy upon mercy. Not just once 2,000 years ago; but today, this moment.

Emmanuel – God is with us. Our denial does not change His reality. He is; and He comes to us today, inviting us to a table overflowing with reconciliation and grace. Let us not be ungrateful rebels and refuse Him entrance into our hearts.

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Because we live (inescapably) in a moral universe, with consciences that testify to right and wrong, we’re never far from the courtroom of law. All around us, and inside us, is the gavel sound of right-wrong judgment.

In the one ear, we hear the shoutings and whisperings of the prosecution. In the other, we await the pronouncements of the judge. Meanwhile, we seek to put up our own feeble little defenses, mainly by comparing ourselves to others who seem worse than us.

In an ultimate irony, we judge others in order to try to avoid judgment of ourselves.

Once I accept the fact that I, in fact, am in the docket, the prospects of acquittal can seem awfully dim. Our best efforts are shot through with selfish motives; and, truth be told, we rarely care to give out our best efforts toward righteous behavior anyway (unless someone is watching and our reputation can be enhanced). Mostly, when we are accused by the prosecuting counsel of Conscience, we have little defense to offer. And that right-wrong voice is very difficult to escape, even after several shots of bourbon.

Conscience. Such a downer…

In this moral universe, accountability to a holy God and His righteous law is an absolutely worst-case scenario. Conscience, however, does serve a vital purpose. It’s our preview. Our nagging reminder to stop denying reality.

Recently, I once again had my day in court, where (to my chagrin, as always) my life was laid bare before the judge. The nasty, horned prosecutor never misses a trick, and he came (as always) loaded for bear.

Here is the transcript:

PROSECUTION: Your honor, we have an open-and-shut case here. I have 44 witnesses and incontrovertible video evidence. If there’s a commandment, he’s violated it – in deed or at least in spirit. Plus this pathetic lawbreaker has even confessed to his wrongdoing. Look at him, even now – guilt all over his face.

JUDGE: Of what is he accused this time?

PROSECUTION: Better to ask of what he is not accused. See that swelling pride over his work success, instead of humble gratitude? And consider this exchange with his son, where he totally lost patience and spoke harsh, hurtful words. And consider this litany of impure thoughts last Thursday, which he decided to indulge even while knowing that you’d disapprove. Plus, he uses a pretty lame screen-saver.

JUDGE: Bad stuff. I also see that you have entered into evidence 1,357 exhibits (since last Monday) showing immoral, ungrateful, half-hearted, self-centered, and/or dumb behavior. I’ve reviewed them. You actually left out quite a few that were at the secret level of impure intentions.

PROSECUTOR: Sorry about that, Judge – it’s hard to catch everything. And, even though the defense has brought forth a few paltry items that appear to be sincere behavior, even the defendant admits that they are stained with selfishness. He not only doesn’t meet the standards, he doesn’t even come close to the sub-standard.

JUDGE: Ouch. Defendant, how do you plead?

DEFENDANT: It’s all true, Your Honor. I did all that, I am all that, and I’m afraid – no, I’m sure – that I’ll keep messing up.

JUDGE: Also, you jumped bail last time and tried to run away, didn’t you? Conscience had to drag you back.

DEFENDANT: I was hoping you’d forget about that. I know, I know….you never forget. A guy can wish, though, can’t he?

ADVOCATE FOR THE DEFENSE: Your Honor, I move that this case be dismissed.

PROSECUTOR: Objection!

JUDGE: Grounds for your objection?

PROSECUTOR: The evidence! Look at all this! You’ve seen it, and you’ve heard the testimony. The defendant even admits it. What more do we need? He’s guilty. Guilty! GUILTY!! Put him away for life!

JUDGE: All true. Advocate, grounds for dismissal? This better be good…

ADVOCATE FOR THE DEFENSE: It is unjust to punish twice for the same sin. The defendant must go free. His crimes have been paid for.

PROSECUTOR: Whaaaat??? Objection! He hasn’t even begun to be punished, the lawbreaker!

ADVOCATE FOR THE DEFENSE: According to this signed and sealed certificate, the sentence has been pronounced, and the punishment endured, by another in his stead. According to our laws, a willing and worthy substitute may stand in the place of the guilty and absorb all legal liability. Also, such a worthy substitute may transfer a permanent righteous standing before our most just laws to said defendant.

PROSECUTOR: Blasphemy! Who can forgive sins, and make righteous, but God alone? Law and conscience condemn this man! I demand that justice be satisfied!

ADVOCATE FOR THE DEFENSE: Your Honor, as you can see from these nailprints on my hands, justice has been carried out. A thousand accusations of lawbreaking, all true, cannot change the sentence of pardon, and cannot affect the standing of righteousness, permanently granted to my client. He is free, and his sins forgotten.

JUDGE: True. Case dismissed.

PROSECUTOR: I’ll be damned!

JUDGE: True.

Crazy, right? Read: John 3:16-21

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Recently on Steve’s Free: Outrageous Compassion

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The New Dividing Line

When it comes to religion, we all have a compulsion to draw lines: Who’s in? Who’s out?

Who are God’s chosen people?

(Assumed) membership in the club of the divinely favored has divided us through the ages. Patting ourselves on the back for being in the club – wearing a diviner label, as it were – brings out the ugliest in human pride.

Jesus totally ruins that self-congratulatory party. He’s so disruptive that way…

In Matthew 8:1-13, Jesus does marvelous works of healing grace for members of two very disfavored groups: a leper, and a Gentile. In the Jewish economy, the pure, the chosen, the favored ones, were the physical descendants of Abraham. The unclean (like lepers and foreign races) were excluded from nearness to God.

Except they weren’t, once the new age of promiscuous grace dawned on the world. Have you ever put together the ideas of “God” and “promiscuous”? It’s a startling and wonderful thought. Someone who is promiscuous shares his or her favors around freely. Grace is like that. Dwelling inside the walls of a special club isn’t.

For a time, the Jewish nation was commanded to be separate from the world, and elaborate rules were put in place (by God Himself) to teach the human race about holiness, impurity, and sacrificial cleansing.

“Be separate,” said the Lord. And there were very good reasons to stay at arm’s-length from the pagan practices of the surrounding nations. There was much wickedness out there. There still is.

But the point is often lost – there is just as much wickedness in here. In my heart and yours. No matter what club we grew up in, or joined.

Then came the gospel of grace. And the new dividing line was humble, needy faith coming to a willing, forgiving, all-powerful Savior. The dividing line is not bloodlines. Not geography. Not diviner labels. Heart-devotion.

The children of Abraham were not merely to be his physical descendants. They would be all those with the faith of Abraham – even the unclean, the foreign, the defective, the broken, the polluted, the guilty – any and all who come to Jesus with their spiritual leprosy AND faith were now welcome into the very presence of God.

Tasting His goodness, and loving God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength, has always been the main point – even from the earliest days of the Jewish nation.

The dividing line is now a matter of the heart. It’s a matter of gracious pardon humbly received, not bloodlines inherited or doctrinal systems embraced.

Our dividing lines can allow us a sense of superiority, while at the same time keeping us from a genuine relationship with God (and other people). If your distinguishing mark is, “I’m a good (Baptist/Jew/Muslim/Catholic/Buddhist/Pagan),” then you may, in fact, be hiding from God behind your barrier of external righteousness.

Your diviner label, which you think makes you better, is nothing more than (as the Scripture so bluntly puts it) “filthy rags.”

Jesus reserved His harshest words for those who hid behind their bloodlines, their external works of righteousness, their religious posture. But He welcomed sinners who believed in Him.

Here is what godliness looks like: “(the) leper came to Him and bowed down before Him, and said, ‘Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.’ Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, ‘I am willing, be cleansed.’ And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.” (Matthew 8:2-3)

There is still a dividing line between the holy and the unclean, the righteous and the wicked, the people of God and the people who love the world. But you won’t find that line in religious club membership with the right name and list of qualifications.

Spiritual lepers who have been humbled, cleansed, and who love their Savior are the people of God. And they come in all shapes and sizes and genders and races and backgrounds. They’re not better than anyone else – in fact, their track record is often far worse. Which led them to grace instead of preening self-righteousness.

They’re only “in” because God showed them how “out” they were – and welcomed them home to Himself.

As He is perfectly ready to do with you and me. When we are ready to admit that our club uniform is, in fact, filthy rags (not holy vestments); and that, as hopeless spiritual lepers, we need a healing Savior.

“Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

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