Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21 NLT
In my life, I’ve thought of and even asked for things that were so much less than best.
My eyes might see something, or my flesh might crave after something, or my first might long for something, or my pride might have even demanded something — that truly was costly and harmful and not beneficial.
We are prone to wander after the less that is offered right now by this world (or by our own means), rather than trusting God for “infinitely more”.
How often have we surrendered “more” and “best” to the their, rather than trust God for “infinitely more” — and then even let our swelling pride take credit for our “accomplishments”? I know that I’m guilty.
Lord, you are able and wise, and you are at work in your people. Help us to remember this, trust in you, and give you all glory for the infinitely more that you are doing through us for your kingdom and your glory. Not just for us, but for our children, their children, and Gregson after generation Amen.
In my last study notes, I was looking at the various names we see given, received and used for God by various individuals. This was initiated because of the difference in the names Hagar and Abraham had for God in Genesis chapters 16 & 17. But now we come to chapter 18, and we see the tetragammon יְהֹוָה in use to describe God in this chapter.
What is quite interesting about the tetragammon יְהֹוָה is that while modern Christian Bibles will simply translate it as LORD, this particular proper name for God is a bit unique. The original Hebrew for this proper name of God was just consonants — and didn’t even include vowels to help one understand from its being written how it might be properly pronounced.
And some Jewish translations wouldn’t even write or speak the tetragammon יְהֹוָה, for fear of violating the third commandment to not take the Lord’s name in vain. They might use the word HaShem השם instead as a less formal description, which simply means “the Name”. Common substitutions in Hebrew for this proper name are Adonai (“My Lord”) or Elohim (literally “gods” but treated as singular when meaning “God”) in prayer, or HaShem (“The Name”) in everyday speech.
While there is plenty of public disagreement today over whether יְהֹוָה should be pronounced “Yahweh” or “Jehovah” (or many other variations) — the original people given this name were so respectful of it that they hesitated to even consider writing or saying it. This is something that I fear many of us today might overlook or not rightly understand today — that deep awe and reverence towards the proper use and handling of the name of God. (In a world filled with “MF this” and “GD that” commonly tolerated in public, on television, and all over the Internet — it may be best that we don’t hear the tetragammon יְהֹוָה being dropped in pop music just to gain some notoriety and make a little more money.)
We will find all kinds of names in the Bible for God if we keep looking. And if you look to each person and their need, you will see God’s unique and personal name associated with them and their stories. And while it is good to know someone else’s story and get introduced to God through their faith secondhand — I would say that there is a greater value in knowing personally and closely the intimate and personal name that your betrothed would share with you firsthand.
There is no argument that the world is given only one name by which salvation is given, and only one name above all names — Jesus:
Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:9-11 NLT
And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among people by which we must be saved [for God has provided the world no alternative for salvation].” Acts 4:12 AMP
But the world knows my wife by her name Mandee and me by my name Harold — but when we are away from the world and together in private, we have our pet names — we have our close, personal nicknames. Even with our close friends, we have our names for each other that are closer and more personal than our formal names.
When you rest in the Lord, when you spend sweet time in the garden with your teacher and your comforter, what sweet and personal name do you have for the Lord and who He is for you personally?
If you don’t know Him that close and personally yet, you can. Just slow down, step away from the staterooms and temptations of this world to draw close to Him, to seek Him. He is here with you, very close and not far away. May you know Him and He know you — that changes everything. Amen.
This passage in Ephesians is especially encouraging to contemplate after the punch in the teeth of strong conviction that hit me in yesterday’s passage from Job:
Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all, in all, and living through all.
Ephesians 4:1-6 NLT
Be humble and gentle
Be patient with others, making allowance for their faults
Make all efforts to keep ourselves united in Spirit, bound together by peace
I love how this reminds us that boldness to proclaim the gospel is quite different from pride or self-righteousness. A follower in The Way, The Truth, and The Life can be humble and gentle themselves, yet bold about the gospel. We can bring forth into the light those things that we know that we have done ourselves that need to be confessed and repented personally. Even if what the gospel has to say about sin can be offensive to a world still enslaved by and serving that particular sin (conviction) — we can remain humble and gentle by offering the bent knee of our own repentance and open arms of the grace of the gospel!
We should not expect others to be perfect or consider ourselves better or worse than others, but we should consider ourselves equal at the foot of the cross. When we proclaim the gospel and it convicts our own heart towards repentance, we shouldn’t be surprised that it would convict others towards repentance. We shouldn’t be surprised that others’ rugs have dirt swept under them because we know that ours has the same. So we should be bold in the truth yet generous with forgiveness — both towards ourselves and towards others.
This sword of the Word of God is meant to be sharp and precise — but that is most true when we reveal what the Word has to say about sin and about grace, when we point that sword at ourselves, and when we allow others to hear and see the surgery that it can do upon a heart and a life.
If we are seeking to draw close to God, offense can try to work its way between us to divide us. So when a message hits me square in the teeth like Job hit me yesterday, I need to pay special attention — there is surgery that needs to be done.
Or when a preacher’s message hits that uncomfortable and protected area of my life — my carnal man wants to initially react in a way that protects my ego, that defends the sun, that justifies my continued rebellion, and that gaslights my own brain into shooting the messenger instead of heading the warning — but the Holy Spirit will whisper to me and offer me grace, peace, and life.
I remind myself, “Do not be offensive ourselves, but do not be afraid of speaking the offense of the gospel!”
If I complain and oppose the gospel — a fool would think he is just opposing just the preacher and the religion — while a wise man would see he is actually opposing the Living God, and would repent.
Lord, forgive me for so many times that I have been afraid to speak the offense of the gospel — even while I have been bold and proud in myself and all of my glorifying talk about the things of the world. Lord, you are strong enough to flip this on its head and by the power of your Holy Spirit turn hellbound fools into saints seated in heavenly places. In our weaknesses, we trust in you to do your work and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.
People like the thief on the cross (who did NOTHING BUT BELIEVE but was promised paradise), and Samson (who COMMITTED SUICIDE yet is listed in the Hebrews Hall of Faith) blast holes in many folks’ theology and religious dogma. Or at least all of the “imperfect people” in scripture makes them have to dance hilariously to try and make it fit into the rulebooks they have chosen as idols (in trade for their laying down the grace of God and trampling upon the precious Blood of the Lamb).
So it seems important that we understand and avoid those same mistakes ourselves!
I saw the following “copy pasta” on social media this morning (anonymous social media postings are ALWAYS SUSPECT but many times are worthy of contemplation):
“How does the thief on the cross fit into your theology? No baptism, no communion, no confirmation, no speaking in tongues, no mission trip, no volunteerism, and no church clothes. He couldn’t even bend his knees to pray. He didn’t say the sinner’s prayer and among other things, he was a thief. Jesus didn’t take away his pain, heal his body, or smite the scoffers. Yet it was a thief who walked into heaven the same hour as Jesus simply by believing. He had nothing more to offer other than his belief that Jesus was who he said he was. No spin from brilliant theologians. No ego or arrogance. No Shiny lights, skinny jeans, or crafty words. No haze machine, donuts, or coffee in the entrance. Just a naked dying man on a cross unable to even fold his hands to pray.” For God so loved the world he gave his only begotten son so that whosoever believed in him would not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16 I read this today and was reminded of the simplicity of the Gospel. Copied from a Friend.
It reminds me of a recent conversation that I had with my aunt about Jesus, about salvation, about judgement, and about faith. No matter how I tried to introduce her to the concept of grace, she refused to accept it and would ask another, “Well if I do _____ is that going to be good enough to get into heaven?”
Ephesians chapter 2 is a great scripture for tearing down people’s religious theology that has God constantly “changing the rules” on what they “must do to prove themselves a Christian”. I suggest you correct anyone who places the requirements for your salvation on anything more than God’s grace to draw you and give you the gift of faith.
For it is by grace [God’s remarkable compassion and favor drawing you to Christ] that you have been saved [actually delivered from judgment and given eternal life] through faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [not through your own effort], but it is the [undeserved, gracious] gift of God; Ephesians 2:8 AMP
God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:8-10 NLT
Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing. But don’t take any of this for granted. It was only yesterday that you outsiders to God’s ways had no idea of any of this, didn’t know the first thing about the way God works, hadn’t the faintest idea of Christ. You knew nothing of that rich history of God’s covenants and promises in Israel, hadn’t a clue about what God was doing in the world at large. Now because of Christ—dying that death, shedding that blood—you who were once out of it altogether are in on everything. Ephesians 2:7-13 MSG
The account of the thief is here in the book of Luke:
Two others, both criminals, were led out to be executed with him. When they came to a place called The Skull, they nailed him to the cross. And the criminals were also crucified—one on his right and one on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” And the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice. The crowd watched and the leaders scoffed. “He saved others,” they said, “let him save himself if he is really God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.” The soldiers mocked him, too, by offering him a drink of sour wine. They called out to him, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” A sign was fastened above him with these words: “This is the King of the Jews.” One of the criminals hanging beside him scoffed, “So you’re the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself—and us, too, while you’re at it!” But the other criminal protested, “Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die? We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:32-43 NLT
If your theology rests upon the precious Blood of the Lamb, upon Christ alone as the justification — and the gift of grace through faith as the salvation — you have nothing but a response of gratitude to lead you along this narrow path holding His hand as He leads you. This is the gospel.
If your theology REQUIRES OF YOU (checking off a list of requirements/rules) — instead of TESTIFIES OF GOD’S GRACE — it probably has left the narrow path. Let what He has done be what PRODUCES INSIDE YOU the good work. That isn’t the same as doing good works trying to prove or earn something.
What a convicting message for me to consider. But when I start looking at what the scriptures, I see that it isn’t just “what I’m loudest about” but that language like “don’t let any” and “only such speech” are the kinds of words used to describe how we are to live and speak and behave as vessels of the holy spirit of God.
Do not let unwholesome [foul, profane, worthless, vulgar] words ever come out of your mouth, but only such speech as is good for building up others, according to the need and the occasion, so that it will be a blessing to those who hear [you speak]. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God [but seek to please Him], by whom you were sealed and marked [branded as God’s own] for the day of redemption [the final deliverance from the consequences of sin]. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor [perpetual animosity, resentment, strife, fault-finding] and slander be put away from you, along with every kind of malice [all spitefulness, verbal abuse, malevolence]. Be kind and helpful to one another, tender-hearted [compassionate, understanding], forgiving one another [readily and freely], just as God in Christ also forgave you. Ephesians 4:29-32 AMP
Lord, help us.
You know what, friend? We have an opportunity to repent in this area of our lives. We have an opportunity to be quick to listen, slow to anger, and show to speak — like Almighty God is with us.
As we’ve heard before, the first step towards recovery is admitting we have a problem.
Instead of getting offended at “such a preposterous accusation” when we read such a convicting question — what if we realize as a Christian that we got mad or dismissed a question where the bar was set much lower than the Word of God calls us to live. And for those quick to throw out any commands as “old law”, that’s Paul in the new testament, friends. That isn’t law — that’s whether we are walking with God as vessels of His holy spirit or not.
I believe it will be profitable to contemplate the following on this subject.
Christ didn’t lower/eliminate/destroy the law:
“Do not think that I came to do away with or undo the Law [of Moses] or the [writings of the] Prophets; I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For I assure you and most solemnly say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke [of the pen] will pass from the Law until all things [which it foreshadows] are accomplished. So whoever breaks one of the least [important] of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least [important] in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever practices and teaches them, he will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. “For I say to you that unless your righteousness (uprightness, moral essence) is more than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:17-20 AMP
The purpose of the Law is to increase and expand awareness of what sin is (falling short of genuine holiness), and make clear our inability to meet the true requirements of true holiness, and our need for grace as a free gift of salvation from God (and not of ourselves):
But the Law came to increase and expand [the awareness of] the trespass [by defining and unmasking sin]. But where sin increased, [God’s remarkable, gracious gift of] grace [His unmerited favor] has surpassed it and increased all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, so also grace would reign through righteousness which brings eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 5:20-21 AMP
But God, being [so very] rich in mercy, because of His great and wonderful love with which He loved us, even when we were [spiritually] dead and separated from Him because of our sins, He made us [spiritually] alive together with Christ (for by His grace—His undeserved favor and mercy—you have been saved from God’s judgment). And He raised us up together with Him [when we believed], and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, [because we are] in Christ Jesus, [and He did this] so that in the ages to come He might [clearly] show the immeasurable and unsurpassed riches of His grace in [His] kindness toward us in Christ Jesus [by providing for our redemption]. For it is by grace [God’s remarkable compassion and favor drawing you to Christ] that you have been saved [actually delivered from judgment and given eternal life] through faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [not through your own effort], but it is the [undeserved, gracious] gift of God; not as a result of [your] works [nor your attempts to keep the Law], so that no one will [be able to] boast or take credit in any way [for his salvation]. For we are His workmanship [His own master work, a work of art], created in Christ Jesus [reborn from above—spiritually transformed, renewed, ready to be used] for good works, which God prepared [for us] beforehand [taking paths which He set], so that we would walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us]. Ephesians 2:4-10 AMP
The purpose of this grace is not a license to sin, but this call to freedom ands eternal life is a baptism into the death of Christ to be raised to newness and life:
What shall we say [to all this]? Should we continue in sin and practice sin as a habit so that [God’s gift of] grace may increase and overflow? Certainly not! How can we, the very ones who died to sin, continue to live in it any longer? Or are you ignorant of the fact that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We have therefore been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory and power of the Father, we too might walk habitually in newness of life [abandoning our old ways]. For if we have become one with Him [permanently united] in the likeness of His death, we will also certainly be [one with Him and share fully] in the likeness of His resurrection. We know that our old self [our human nature without the Holy Spirit] was nailed to the cross with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin. For the person who has died [with Christ] has been freed from [the power of] sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live [together] with Him, because we know [the self-evident truth] that Christ, having been raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has power over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin [ending its power and paying the sinner’s debt] once and for all; and the life that He lives, He lives to [glorify] God [in unbroken fellowship with Him]. Even so, consider yourselves to be dead to sin [and your relationship to it broken], but alive to God [in unbroken fellowship with Him] in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts and passions. Do not go on offering members of your body to sin as instruments of wickedness. But offer yourselves to God [in a decisive act] as those alive [raised] from the dead [to a new life], and your members [all of your abilities—sanctified, set apart] as instruments of righteousness [yielded] to God. For sin will no longer be a master over you, since you are not under Law [as slaves], but under [unmerited] grace [as recipients of God’s favor and mercy]. What then [are we to conclude]? Shall we sin because we are not under Law, but under [God’s] grace? Certainly not! Do you not know that when you continually offer yourselves to someone to do his will, you are the slaves of the one whom you obey, either [slaves] of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness (right standing with God)? But thank God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient with all your heart to the standard of teaching in which you were instructed and to which you were committed. And having been set free from sin, you have become the slaves of righteousness [of conformity to God’s will and purpose]. I am speaking in [familiar] human terms because of your natural limitations [your spiritual immaturity]. For just as you presented your bodily members as slaves to impurity and to [moral] lawlessness, leading to further lawlessness, so now offer your members [your abilities, your talents] as slaves to righteousness, leading to sanctification [that is, being set apart for God’s purpose]. When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness [you had no desire to conform to God’s will]. So what benefit did you get at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? [None!] For the outcome of those things is death! But now since you have been set free from sin and have become [willing] slaves to God, you have your benefit, resulting in sanctification [being made holy and set apart for God’s purpose], and the outcome [of this] is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God [that is, His remarkable, overwhelming gift of grace to believers] is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:1-23 AMP
The written law can act as a baby sitter of sorts to the spiritually immature who do not understand what sin truly is (sin is not a checklist that some live up to and some do not — all have fallen short of true holiness and require the grace of God through Christ Jesus):
Now what I mean [when I talk about children and their guardians] is this: as long as the heir is a child, he does not differ at all from a slave even though he is the [future owner and] master of all [the estate]; but he is under [the authority of] guardians and household administrators or managers until the date set by his father [when he is of legal age]. So also we [whether Jews or Gentiles], when we were children (spiritually immature), were kept like slaves under the elementary [man-made religious or philosophical] teachings of the world. But when [in God’s plan] the proper time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the [regulations of the] Law, so that He might redeem and liberate those who were under the Law, that we [who believe] might be adopted as sons [as God’s children with all rights as fully grown members of a family]. And because you [really] are [His] sons, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying out, “Abba! Father!” Therefore you are no longer a slave (bond-servant), but a son; and if a son, then also an heir through [the gracious act of] God [through Christ]. But at that time, when you did not know [the true] God and were unacquainted with Him, you [Gentiles] were slaves to those [pagan] things which by [their very] nature were not and could not be gods at all. Now, however, since you have come to know [the true] God [through personal experience], or rather to be known by God, how is it that you are turning back again to the weak and worthless elemental principles [of religions and philosophies], to which you want to be enslaved all over again? [For example,] you observe [particular] days and months and seasons and years. I fear for you, that perhaps I have labored [to the point of exhaustion] over you in vain. Believers, I beg of you, become as I am [free from the bondage of Jewish ritualism and ordinances], for I have become as you are [a Gentile]. You did me no wrong [when I first came to you; do not do it now]. On the contrary, you know that it was because of a physical illness that I [remained and] preached the gospel to you the first time; and even though my physical condition was a trial to you, you did not regard it with contempt, or scorn and reject me; but you received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus Himself. What then has become of that sense of blessing and the joy that you once had [from your salvation and your relationship with Christ]? For I testify of you that, if possible, you would have torn out your own eyes and given them to me [ to replace mine]. So have I become your enemy by telling you the truth? These men [the Judaizers] eagerly seek you [to entrap you with honeyed words and attention, to win you over to their philosophy], not honorably [for their purpose is not honorable or worthy of consideration]. They want to isolate you [from us who oppose them] so that you will seek them. Galatians 4:1-17 AMP
It was for this freedom that Christ set us free [completely liberating us]; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery [which you once removed]. Notice, it is I, Paul, who tells you that if you receive circumcision [as a supposed requirement of salvation], Christ will be of no benefit to you [for you will lack the faith in Christ that is necessary for salvation]. Once more I solemnly affirm to every man who receives circumcision [as a supposed requirement of salvation], that he is under obligation and required to keep the whole Law. You have been severed from Christ, if you seek to be justified [that is, declared free of the guilt of sin and its penalty, and placed in right standing with God] through the Law; you have fallen from grace [for you have lost your grasp on God’s unmerited favor and blessing]. For we [not relying on the Law but] through the [strength and power of the Holy] Spirit, by faith, are waiting [confidently] for the hope of righteousness [the completion of our salvation]. For [if we are] in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but only faith activated and expressed and working through love. This [deceptive] persuasion is not from Him who called you [to freedom in Christ]. A little leaven [a slight inclination to error, or a few false teachers] leavens the whole batch [it perverts the concept of faith and misleads the church]. I have confidence in you in the Lord that you will adopt no other view [contrary to mine on the matter]; but the one who is disturbing you, whoever he is, will have to bear the penalty. But as for me, brothers, if I am still preaching circumcision [as I had done before I met Christ; and as some accuse me of doing now, as necessary for salvation], why am I still being persecuted [by Jews]? In that case the stumbling block of the cross [to unbelieving Jews] has been abolished. I wish that those who are troubling you [by teaching that circumcision is necessary for salvation] would even [go all the way and] castrate themselves! For you, my brothers, were called to freedom; only do not let your freedom become an opportunity for the sinful nature (worldliness, selfishness), but through love serve and seek the best for one another. For the whole Law [concerning human relationships] is fulfilled in one precept, “Y ou shall love your neighbor as yourself [that is, you shall have an unselfish concern for others and do things for their benefit].” But if you bite and devour one another [in bickering and strife], watch out that you [along with your entire fellowship] are not consumed by one another. But I say, walk habitually in the [Holy] Spirit [seek Him and be responsive to His guidance], and then you will certainly not carry out the desire of the sinful nature [which responds impulsively without regard for God and His precepts]. For the sinful nature has its desire which is opposed to the Spirit, and the [desire of the] Spirit opposes the sinful nature; for these [two, the sinful nature and the Spirit] are in direct opposition to each other [continually in conflict], so that you [as believers] do not [always] do whatever [good things] you want to do. But if you are guided and led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the Law. Now the practices of the sinful nature are clearly evident: they are sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality (total irresponsibility, lack of self-control), idolatry, sorcery, hostility, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions [that promote heresies], envy, drunkenness, riotous behavior, and other things like these. I warn you beforehand, just as I did previously, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit [the result of His presence within us] is love [unselfish concern for others], joy, [inner] peace, patience [not the ability to wait, but how we act while waiting], kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature together with its passions and appetites. If we [claim to] live by the [Holy] Spirit, we must also walk by the Spirit [with personal integrity, godly character, and moral courage—our conduct empowered by the Holy Spirit]. We must not become conceited, challenging or provoking one another, envying one another. Galatians 5:1-6, 8-26 AMP
And we see that God’s law has been faith not self-righteousness even from the beginning with Abraham:
What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather humanly speaking, has found? [Has he obtained a favored standing?] For if Abraham was justified [that is, acquitted from the guilt of his sins] by works [those things he did that were good], he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed in (trusted, relied on) God , and it was credited to his account as righteousness (right living, right standing with God).” Now to a laborer, his wages are not credited as a favor or a gift, but as an obligation [something owed to him]. But to the one who does not work [that is, the one who does not try to earn his salvation by doing good], but believes and completely trusts in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited to him as righteousness (right standing with God). And in this same way David speaks of the blessing on the one to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: “Blessed and happy and favored are those whose lawless acts have been forgiven , A nd whose sins have been covered up and completely buried . Blessed and happy and favored is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account nor charge against him .” Romans 4:1-8 AMP
And Christianity tells us it is the opposite — that our best is filthy rags — that we are incapable of true selfless love apart from the Lord — that anything pure and true in a believer comes from the Holy Spirit of God and not from self. Yet, we seem surprised and offended by people’s weaknesses, hurts, and struggles — and expectant and demanding of others’ perfect outward appearance to meet our standards.
The Kingdom of God definitely turns the ways of the religious on its head.
Most of us wouldn’t want someone to have to change our diaper. And yes, most of us right now don’t have to wear diapers anyways — but you did — and you may again some day.
I use this example to illustrate the point of John 13:1-18 in a more relatable context given today’s culture. In Jesus’ day, their feet were filthy and nasty. They didn’t wear a new pair of freshly scented and fabric softened socks everyday, safely covered by shoes, and they didn’t live and work in environmentally controlled and meticulously cleaned buildings, and they didn’t travel in vehicles. They were outside, in open sandals, walking where the animals walked and defecated, working in the open environment. Feet were nasty, like a dirty diaper would be today.
Instead of talking as a family about washing feet (which is really not a big deal in our society today because of how relatively clean feet are these days) — we talked about the fact that some adults have to wear diapers — and that changing someone’s dirty diaper would be more in line with what Jesus did when He washed the disciples’ feet.
And we talked about how sin is like a dirty, stinky, filthy diaper spiritually — and
1) how sinfulness in our own lives will influence and stink up the spiritual lives of those around us if not repented, confessed and forgiven
2) how we need to come to Jesus to be washed clean from our sin
3) how we need to be like Peter after he was told the purpose having our stinky mess uncovered and revealed in front of others (public, verbal confession of our sin, struggles, shortcomings)
4) how we need to be imitators of Jesus that we would help meet the physical needs of others as a servant (even as far as lovingly changing their diapers as a caregiver if it comes to that) and more importantly, willing to hear others’ struggles and be willing to forgive them, remind them that they are washed clean by the Blood of the Lamb, and to intercede with prayer for them, encourage them, and serve them spiritually as well
Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God. Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you. Such sins have no place among God’s people. Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes—these are not for you. Instead, let there be thankfulness to God. You can be sure that no immoral, impure, or greedy person will inherit the Kingdom of Christ and of God. For a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world. Don’t be fooled by those who try to excuse these sins, for the anger of God will fall on all who disobey him. Don’t participate in the things these people do. For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true. Carefully determine what pleases the Lord. Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them. It is shameful even to talk about the things that ungodly people do in secret. But their evil intentions will be exposed when the light shines on them, for the light makes everything visible. This is why it is said, “Awake, O sleeper, rise up from the dead, and Christ will give you light.” So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 5:1-20 NLT
As we become caregivers for our elderly , and as we are already spiritual caregivers for those we counsel, shepherd, sharpen, encourage, and equip for the ministry — let’s not forget that our example is to get our hands dirty doing the real work of the ministry that is dealing with things most of us would buy nature rather be left hidden and not dealt with — but if we are only superficially religious, we are walking around with untended, stinky diapers spiritually, that need to be washed clean.
So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 NLT
Are we ready for the mess?
Are we willing to have our mess, our weakness, be surrendered publicly in front of others so that God can get the glory for washing us clean?
Are we afraid of letting others “know our business” and possibly “gossip about us” if we were to confess to others — can we be honest with ourselves and with them about our lack of trust?
Are we willing and ready to forgive, to wash clean, to do the “work” of an imitator of Christ and get in the mess with someone else?
Lord, it is only by the power of your Holy Spirit, by the power of Christ who lives in the heart of the believer, that we can do these things that will be hard, challenging, and will stretch us beyond our being comfortable. But you bid us step out of the boat and into the water, even in the midst of the waves — you bid us to take up our cross and bear it — you bid us come and die to self and be imitators of you. Reveal yourself to us, through us, and in us. Amen.
Let the praises of God be in their mouths, and a sharp sword in their hands— to execute vengeance on the nations and punishment on the peoples, to bind their kings with shackles and their leaders with iron chains, to execute the judgment written against them. This is the glorious privilege of his faithful ones. Praise the Lord ! Psalms 149:6-9 NLT
A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere. Ephesians 6:10-18 NLT
Help us Lord, to praise you even at the gutsy opening of our eyes, even with those groanings of our waking moments that are unintelligible but that prepare us for the day ahead. Like a great roar of a lion, may our loud yoaning and groaning, be like a battle cry that this worshipping warrior is risen to see victory manifest in the will of God brought forth on earth as it is in heaven. May we rise and put on the full armor of God, remembering those things that equip us and send us forth are not pour own striving, but are the vey spirit and power of Christ in us going forth. And may our prayers not be so much about the changing of circumstances, but of the revealing of you, the revealing of hearts, the repentance and reconciliation of your people to your kingdom purpose and calling. May we cry out for the lost and the hurrying and the dead and the dying to find hope, faith, love and life in you. May we both pray for and remind our family, friends, nation, leaders of the whole Word of God, and may it be rightly divided to both bind their consciences to resist ungodly temptations and loosen your spirit to bring life and victory. May our prayers and the spoken Word of God rise powerfully in the name of Jesus, to see demons bound to depart and be replaced by your presence so they might never never return, and to loose your warring angels to execute the judgements written against those who oppose you. Remind us to stand firm and fully prepared. You are not only the light to our path, but the peace that we have found in you establishes pour footsteps. Guard ours hearts, our minds, our words, and our actions against whatever might muddy our testimony, stumble our brother, or hinder our prayers. Make straight what was once crooked, oh Lord, and overflow into our lives so that territories may be expanded, lost may be found, needy may find help, hopeless may know hope, the hurt may know healing, and the proud may know the valley. Thank you, Lord. You are faithful and true and may we sing your praises with our lives today. Amen.
Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does. – James 1:21-25 NKJV
If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that. All unrighteousness is sin, and there is sin not leading to death. We know that whoever is born of God does not sin; but he who has been born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him. We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one. And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life. Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen. – I John 5:16-21 NKJV
Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints? Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life? If then you have judgments concerning things pertaining to this life, do you appoint those who are least esteemed by the church to judge? I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you, not even one, who will be able to judge between his brethren? But brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers! Now therefore, it is already an utter failure for you that you go to law against one another. Why do you not rather accept wrong? Why do you not rather let yourselves be cheated? No, you yourselves do wrong and cheat, and you do these things to your brethren! Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. – I Corinthians 6:1-11 NKJV
Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie. – Revelation 22:14-15 NKJV
Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. – Galatians 5:19-21 NKJV
Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them. – Ephesians 5:1-7 NKJV
But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully, knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust. And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. – I Timothy 1:8-17 NKJV
Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed. Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled; lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright. For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears. – Hebrews 12:12-17 NKJV
For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. And again, “The Lord will judge His people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. – Hebrews 10:26-31 NKJV
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Ephesians 4:1-3 ESV
I would ask, are we living as a prisoner for the Lord?
Are we seeking to honor Him or are we seeking to honor men?
Are we urging one another to walk in a manner worthy of our calling?
Are we standing against wickedness while being gentle and patient with each other, or have we chosen one or the other?
Are we eager to make war against our brothers and sisters – or are we maintaining a false peace because we have become lukewarm and complacent towards sin, worldliness, and wickedness?
I rest in a tension between the two sides that seems to me to be the narrow path that is rarely chosen. It is a path where we genuinely care enough about someone that we want to see them delivered from a life of sin, not just accept their life of sin. So we love them whether or not they are sinning, but we do not delight in their sins or make light of them.
Much of the world wants to justify their sin, even rejoice in it. I daily see people laughing and rejoicing together over their being law breakers. Laughing about putting others’ lives in danger with their careless attitude of entitlement to be able to consider the law as only a “suggestion”. And instead of joining in their public celebration and delight over their being lawbreakers, I am humbled, realizing that I set some of that example when I do things like ignore the speed limit myself. But I cannot join in their celebration or honor them for their wickedness, even if I too have been guilty myself. Instead, I ask the Lord to help me so that I might live a better example.
It would be easier to join in the laughter. It would be easier to honor those people’s rejoicing – but it would not be honoring to God, and that is more important. Aren’t we supposed to urge one another to walk in a manner worthy of our calling – not just be advocates of sin?
Also, it would be easier to point my finger at them and say, “Look how you celebrate wickedness, you are of your father the devil!” Than to examine myself and identify how I need to change to be a better example myself. Only after I’ve committed to change my own example can I speak on the subject from a place that is not ripe with hypocrisy. But I’m not meant to remain unchanged and I’m not meant to join in their celebration – I’m meant to repent, and to urge others towards a righteous life while maintaining peace and unity.
It is easy to maintain peace and unity if you are bringing a sugary sweet message that wickedness can be celebrated, because you will not have opposition from the carnal and the worldly. It is easy to maintain peace and unity if you bring a biting and condemning message that points a finger from a position of pride, because you will not have opposition from the religious and the self righteous. But to speak from the position that convicts both of these groups individually, this is how Christ brought Truth in Love.
Lord, you always teach us first with your message, if we are willing to listen and to change. Don’t let our hearts be hardened to either openly rebellious or self righteous ways. Set our feet on that path that makes both those groups uncomfortable that while we don’t walk in either of their camps, that we do not walk as their enemy, because we walk with their deliverer.