For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23 NLT
I spent my lunch yesterday talking with Calvin, the bartender at the Sushi restaurant across the street from my office. Looking at us from the outside, one might consider us an unlikely pair of friends — he is a young, extremely tall, athletic black man wearing his waiter’s attire, and I am an older, very short, portly, white gentleman wearing dress pants and shirt with a sweater vest from The Masters. But here we were listening to hip hop music, talking about Rap City’s the Bassment “back in the day”, talking about bettering ourselves daily, and how important it is for us both to lead our families through avoiding some of our own mistakes and knowing that one big mistake isn’t “the end”. It is wonderful how much we truly have in common where it really matters!
I mention Calvin in reference to this verse because he is a father who genuinely loves his kids (you can see it in his eyes when he talks about them). And he wants them to not make foolish mistakes that will cost them their best life.
And this is God’s perspective on sin, my friend. Even with sin that is pleasurable to us for a season, He knows that it comes with a higher cost than anything it offers in return. He isn’t “arbitrarily making rules” to enforce upon his subjects so they will “obey Him” — like some harsh slave owner with an eager whip in hand watchful for an opportunity to use it. Choice comes with consequences — that is the very definition of choice — we choose and we get what we choose.
“Sin” is just a fancy, religious word for choosing what is not best — making a foolish decision. So the consequence of a life of “sin” is a “death” of things like opportunity and purpose. People will always argue amongst themselves over the list of “rules” — but “sin” isn’t just a checklist of 7 laws of Noah, or 10 commandments on stone, or 613 Levitical commandments.
And there is a contrast that happens as we begin to understand this free gift of God and as we get to know Jesus Christ (who is quite different from us, yet also like us) as a friend. His friendship, a closeness with Him, accepting His offer of a relationship (which we will do repeatedly not just once) is a free gift that will lead us and guide us away from the foolish decisions and into the wise decisions — away from costly consequences and into beneficial consequences — away from death and into fullest life.
And all that I’ve mentioned up to this point, even an atheist can understand and see the clear benefit upon cultures and societies of the core teachings and example of Jesus Christ, while they note the horrors and atrocities of wars and atrocities committed under the disguise of “religion”. We can see throughout history the wisdom of a community/nation full of people making wise choices versus the cost and foolishness of a community/nation full of people making foolish decisions. It seems easy to hide our individual “sin”, but when foolishness runs rampant, it is clearly a cancer killing us and not a party to just be enjoyed. And this visible truth reveals evidence of something greater and beyond just this physical life that we can see and touch and taste and smell. We are promised a life eternal — something after — something even greater — with all kinds of evidence that these promises are true.
If a man chooses Christ instead of sin — on this side He has chosen benefit and blessing and peace as His consequences. And I’m not talking about guaranteed health wealth and prosperity (those can actually be “sin” if we give up what is best in trade for them). But if a man chooses sin in this life, there will be those consequences and cost in this life.
If you have “sin” in your life that you know is costing you unnecessarily — I’m not here to guilt you into shame over your “wickedness” or being “evil”. As a father myself, that perspective when dealing with my daughter just isn’t particularly useful or helpful if I want her to learn and change her habits. But acknowledging “foolishness” and how the best might be “stolen from her” by poor choices is valuable. God isn’t surprised by your “sin”, you aren’t so especially wicked or evil or foolish — because all of us have fallen short and given up opportunity and purpose at times in this life.
But He offers us a reminder, a hand reached out in love, an example in His life, a guide in His Word, and a teacher in the Holy Spirit — to lead us not just through this life, but to prepare us for our forever home!
Is Christ your friend?
Would you like Him to be, but you aren’t sure how?
He promises that if you genuinely seek Him that you will find Him.
Time in His Word, praising and worshiping Him alongside other believers, and intimate time with Him in prayer are key.
And once you have seen that He is a trustworthy friend and a Good Father, believe Him, accept His promises, confess your belief, and share the reason for your hope through baptism and a life of loving and serving others and sharing what treasure you have found.
Does God and creator of the heavens and earth seem to be an unlikely friend to “someone like me”? I know, right? Nevertheless, He is. Truly, He is.
If you have any questions or would like help, please feel free to comment below or contact me.
As I read the chapters yesterday and today, they helped remind me of the the importance of remembering accurately. It also helps that I’m listening to another book on the subject of accuracy vs misconception on Audible (“Factfulness” by Hans Rosling), that was given high praise on LinkedIn by a co-worker.
When we are given instructions on how to do something — as Noah was with his instructions concerning the Ark, as Joshua was with his instructions concerning the town of Ai, and as the Israelites were in receiving their instructions for life through Moses — it is important that we remember accurately those instructions, so that we can follow them accurately. And this is critically important in the short term. Like daily manna, if we rise from our slumber and go out into God’s Word each day to gather our daily bread, and if we meet with Him in the garden for intimate time alone with Him, and on the seashore for time of restoration, and even at the cross for reflection and repentance — we will remember Him more accurately through our day’s plans, tasks, circumstances and surprises.
We also do not want to forget what He has done for us in the past or remember wrongly the history of our lives, of our family’s history, and the history of the world. Relying upon our own memory alone can be tricky — as we have a tendency to forget, to embellish, or to be selective in our long term memories of things. We are not perfect in our memories like God, even though God has favored us so undeservedly as David describes, “What are mere mortals that you should think about them… You made them only a little lower than the heavenly beings”. Humankind not only has our individual memories, but we have our spoken and written and recorded history as well. We have all that we speak amongst our families, friends, neighbors, acquaintances and strangers during our waking lives. And we have all that might be read, listened to, or watched that we have done that might even exceed that short span of our breath- filled lungs.
Since God is of utmost importance in the story of the life of one who “walks in The Way”, shouldn’t He be the ever present salt that flavors our shared remembrance, and the testimony of our trials be the pepper and herbs, and our profession of Christ risen from the dead be our life giving drink? Just as Joshua sat the people down to hear the whole of God’s commands then, shouldn’t we gather together to read and hear the whole of His Word amongst ourselves?
As I am going through this “Old Testament” reading plan ( http://bible.com/r/H ), I don’t look at this example and pat myself on the back for making it 9 days in faithfully — because I remember accurately how many times I have started and never finished such an undertaking. And I’m not ashamed or in despair either about it. Nor am I flippant about my wanting to make it through to the end consistently this time. It reminds me accurately that but for the grace of God, I would be those people drowned outside the Ark, I would be those enemies appointed for judgement, I would be like Achan who stole from the Lord and deserved to be set up as an example of “what not to do”.
But for the grace of God, what would be remembered accurately about our lives?
What history would be left in the wake of our selfish, prideful, foolish, wicked, sinful lives if a better way (even the best and only way) hasn’t been revealed to us?
As I sat down for lunch with a leader yesterday, we talked about how our “default setting” is not that best way and that we both rely on God’s grace and power daily to strengthen us and carry us through. That too often, we make the same foolish mistakes as all the other characters in the Bible, save the one perfect Lamb of God who “got it right”. It is so refreshing and encouraging to sit with friends over a meal and just experience friendship and fellowship together!
As for me and my house, I want us to remember accurately all that the Lord has done for us. I’m not exactly sure what that looks like or how we live it out consistently, day by day — for our own benefit, for the world to see, but most importantly for the glory of God — but I’m eager to see what the Lord has in store, and grateful for the opportunity to be a part of it. Amen.
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.
So, dear brothers and sisters, work hard to prove that you really are among those God has called and chosen. Do these things, and you will never fall away.
2 Peter 1:10 NLT
Life Application Study Bible Peter wanted to rouse the complacent believers who had listened to the false teachers and believed that because salvation is not based on good deeds, they could live any way they wanted. If you truly belong to the Lord, Peter wrote, your hard work will prove it. If you’re not working to develop the qualities listed in 2 Peter 1:5-7, maybe you don’t belong to him. If you are the Lord’s-and your hard work backs up your claim to be chosen by God (“called and chosen”)-you will never be led astray by the lure of false teaching or glamorous sin.
So we should ask ourselves — if I say that I am a Child of God, is my life developing to demonstrate such an extraordinary claim?
In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone.
2 Peter 1:5-7 NLT
What does this look like?
But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.
Galatians 5:22-25 NLT
This isn’t a demonstration of our “worthiness” or our “earning” anything — because no man or woman is worthy in and of themselves, nor can any man earn his own way — all fall short of the glory of God.
For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.
Romans 3:23 NLT
God looks down from heaven on the entire human race; he looks to see if anyone is truly wise, if anyone seeks God. But no, all have turned away; all have become corrupt. No one does good, not a single one!
Psalms 53:2-3 NLT
The things that Peter describes in 2 Peter 1 that we should “Do these things, and shall never fall away” are:
love for everyone.
You see these are character/nature/ being and not a checklist of actions. So this is a demonstration of either Christ alive in us, God making His tabernacle with His people, in them and through them with those He has called and chosen — or the absence of such a personal and life altering relationship with Almighty God.
“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father. “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me. You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name. This is my command: Love each other.
John 15:1-17 NLT
The fruit comes from God and is the trustworthy and true evidence of His indwelling His children. It isn’t how religious someone is, or how much they know “about” God — do you truly know and love God? Does He truly know you and live in and through you?
“Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions. “Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’
Matthew 7:15-23 NLT
If you look at your life today, and you can see your need to be changed, your need to be reborn, to be washed from your sin and changed on the inside to sell after and grow and live in the ways of God, for His glory instead of for your own, I have Good News for you, friend.
If you have never truly repented and believed,
If you have always opposed God or just given Him lip service or Sunday service,
Never truly surrendered your whole life because you believe His way is the only way, the only truth, the only life,
Read this Good News:
Later on, after John was arrested, Jesus went into Galilee, where he preached God’s Good News. “The time promised by God has come at last!” he announced. “The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!”
Mark 1:14-15 NLT
“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him. “There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son. And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants. ”
John 3:16-21 NLT
And this is not a decision to be taken lightly, frivilously, or half heartedly, but with full commitment and surrender:
Dear friends, if we deliberately continue sinning after we have received knowledge of the truth, there is no longer any sacrifice that will cover these sins. There is only the terrible expectation of God’s judgment and the raging fire that will consume his enemies. For anyone who refused to obey the law of Moses was put to death without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Just think how much worse the punishment will be for those who have trampled on the Son of God, and have treated the blood of the covenant, which made us holy, as if it were common and unholy, and have insulted and disdained the Holy Spirit who brings God’s mercy to us. For we know the one who said, “I will take revenge. I will pay them back.” He also said, “The Lord will judge his own people.” It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Think back on those early days when you first learned about Christ. Remember how you remained faithful even though it meant terrible suffering. Sometimes you were exposed to public ridicule and were beaten, and sometimes you helped others who were suffering the same things. You suffered along with those who were thrown into jail, and when all you owned was taken from you, you accepted it with joy. You knew there were better things waiting for you that will last forever. So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you! Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised. “For in just a little while, the Coming One will come and not delay. And my righteous ones will live by faith. But I will take no pleasure in anyone who turns away.” But we are not like those who turn away from God to their own destruction. We are the faithful ones, whose souls will be saved.
Hebrews 10:26-39 NLT
Count the cost and be fully decided today in your heart who it is that you serve.
A large crowd was following Jesus. He turned around and said to them, “If you want to be my disciple, you must, by comparison, hate everyone else—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple. “But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you. They would say, ‘There’s the person who started that building and couldn’t afford to finish it!’ “Or what king would go to war against another king without first sitting down with his counselors to discuss whether his army of 10,000 could defeat the 20,000 soldiers marching against him? And if he can’t, he will send a delegation to discuss terms of peace while the enemy is still far away. So you cannot become my disciple without giving up everything you own. “Salt is good for seasoning. But if it loses its flavor, how do you make it salty again? Flavorless salt is good neither for the soil nor for the manure pile. It is thrown away. Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand!”
Luke 14:25-35 NLT
We are called to repentance and belief, dear brothers and sisters. Hear the call:
So Jesus told them this story: “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders. When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away! “Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Won’t she light a lamp and sweep the entire house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she will call in her friends and neighbors and say, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels when even one sinner repents.”
Luke 15:3-10 NLT
And you, prodigal sons and daughters, who have been in the slop with the odds instead of in your Father’s house and you need to be drawn back in, read this:
To illustrate the point further, Jesus told them this story: “A man had two sons. The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’ So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons. “A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money in wild living. About the time his money ran out, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve. He persuaded a local farmer to hire him, and the man sent him into his fields to feed the pigs. The young man became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. But no one gave him anything. “When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger! I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.”’ “So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. ’ “But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.
Luke 15:11-24 NLT
Lord, grant us today the gift of repentance. Call us ot of sin and into the faithful lives that you have set before us. Come, live in and through us, as we surrender our lives to your way, your will, your purpose, your plan, and your glory. Hallelujah, Amen!
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.
At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, to whom he was engaged, who was now expecting a child.
And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.
Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt.
But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” And he rose and took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel.
– Matthew 2:13-14, 19-21 ESV
#Awake #Arisen #On Mission
Have you received the call to rise and go?
Have you dreams or the answers to your prayers pressed you on towards a new and unknown destination?
What will be your answer to the call today?
We can’t change yesterday, nor can we let guilt or pride over our past influence our actions to “rise and go” today.
Lord, help us to be attentive to your call, to listen for your instruction, to be prepared to go, and to rise and go when called into action. And if we are to wait, if this is our time to rest in your grace and prepare for the knock at our hearts, let us meditate upon your word, renewing our minds, preparing ourselves for the journey ahead by consuming your Word, loving and serving, and looking to you without ceasing. Amen.
”She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel”
(which means, God with us). – Matthew 1:21-23 ESV
Jesus, Ἰησοῦς (Iēsous), a rendition of the Hebrew Yeshua (ישוע) “God Saves”.
Immanuel (Hebrew: עִמָּנוּאֵל) meaning, “God with us”.
Yes, God is for us and not against us, believer, child of God. I’m thankful for this when I realize how much of my life I was against myself, and I was against others – not that I was overly cruel or so wicked that I would gather a crowd who hated me and were ready to kill me for my great treachery and lawlessness, but I definitely wasn’t much help to anyone whether we are talking physical needs or spiritual needs. But even then He was for me.
But He did have people that were ready to kill Him and scourge Him and put Him on that cross, not because He was wicked to them, but because the light of His love some so brightly against their darkness that they would rather remain hidden than be brought into the light. And He died so that I might live. In fact, more importantly, so that He might live in me and through me.
A love poured out. We know the end of the story, and we are quick to hurry along to it, but we might miss the beautiful rose. We might overlook this precious Prince of Peace come into the world as a babe to teach us things like the faith of a child.
It reminds me of that little one’s prayer, “Lord, please make the bad people good. And the good people nice.”
Teach me that you are close, Lord, and that you are for even those who (like me) can be hard to love. Teach me to pour out the rains of love onto both “the good and the evil” – those groups in which I might foolishly classify those you call your own, those you came for and have called, those you long to see not stumbled by my hypocrisy and my falling short of your perfection and glory. Don’t let me be wise like a teacher, but humble like a studious servant, Lord. Remind me of that childlike love and faith that you desire, Lord. Amen.
From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
Matthew 16:21-23 ESV http://bible.com/59/mat.16.21-23.ESV
Peter had a heartfelt response to the fearful, impending circumstances that lay ahead of him. He didn’t want to believe that it was true. His reaction was fed by emotion, and he cries out to the Lord with his concern, his fear, his complaint, and even with his own suggestions. He was focused on “my way” and “right now” – on the things and circumstances of this world. He was not yet fully trusting in “God’s will and purpose” for our “eternity“.
How often do we find ourselves questioning, “There is no way this can be God’s will. How is this even possible? ” When a parent loses a child, when disease takes hold of loving and godly people, when people overseas are being brutally tortured and murdered because they will not deny the name of Christ – how often do we find ourselves foolishly bold enough to question, to take the Lord aside and tell Him how it should be?
Or how often are my prayers more about telling God what I want Him to do for me, telling God my will and trying to convince Him of it so that I can get my wayright now – as opposed to seeking understanding and strength in order to follow His way?
How prideful is it for me to stand, telling God my way, and expecting Him to react like a genie to my wishes as opposed to kneeling humbly before Him, asking Him to make His way evident to me, seeking revelation for how I can best follow His will and purpose.
Where are we setting our minds, on His way, or on our own?
I’m so glad that the Bible teaches us about a great number of imperfect people in need and a perfect God who is sufficient to meet that need. I’m glad that it demonstrates to us a perfect, blameless God come in the flesh as Jesus Christ to walk amongst all of the blame worthy and broken people in need of hope.
Praise the Lord, His grace and mercy and forgiveness is sufficient. The Blood of the Lamb completely covers the sin of His children. I’m so glad that he brings hope to us in our imperfection and doesn’t leave us there. I’m so glad that the work didn’t stop at the cross, that it didn’t stop at the tomb, that it didn’t stop when He ascended to heaven. I’m so glad that His work doesn’t stop at our recognizing our need for our repentance, that it doesn’t stop at us confessing Him as Savior and Lord, that it doesn’t leave us where we are.
Almighty God, Heavenly Father, your ways are higher than ours, and we understand so little of your eternal purpose and plan. But you reveal Yourself to us when we seek you humbly, Lord. We know that you are our only hope, and that when we rely on our own emotional reactions, when we fall into fear and anxiety, that we can quickly make a mess of things on our own. Help us to trust in you Lord. Remind us that you are the way, the truth, and the life and that no one comes to the Father but through you. Remind us that you are the narrow gate through which we must enter to begin our walk. You are our companion and guide as we race along this narrow path, with you as both Savior and Lord of our lives, with you as both the driving power and the instructing navigator. You are our advocate and our deliverer when we find ourselves in the ditches of life, you repair us and set us back on the path, so that we might learn from our mistakes, grow, and stay ever closer and closer to toy path, your way, your purpose for our life. Thank you for bringing hope, for bringing love, for bringing life and redemption to us, and for correcting us when we prove ourselves to be like foolish little children. Come, live in us and through us Christ Jesus – come bring revival to our lives. Breathe your Holy Spirit into our lives, awaken us, quicken us, prepare us, and equip us for your holy use. Amen.
This was not the end of Peter’s story. In fact, much challenge and testing lay ahead for Peter to see God’s will played out in front of Him. And God’s way was beyond anything he ever could have imagined. It led him into a place where God proved to him that Peter’s confidence in his own abilities and strength would fail him. A test was coming that Peter could not pass on His own.
A test was coming when Peter would again stand boldly and say, no Lord, I will not deny you. Still with his mind set upon the things of this world. And the result of this test was that he denied Christ three times, and the result was just as the roster crowed upon his third denial his eyes met the eyes of his Savior and he knew the weight of the guilt that his own strength had not been sufficient.
Then Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” Peter answered him, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” Peter said to him, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” And all the disciples said the same.
Matthew 26:31-35 ESV http://bible.com/59/mat.26.31-35.ESV
Like Peter, we want to stand proudly and boldly so that we can take credit, so that we can boast about what we have done. Some of us don’t even want to stand proudly and boldly in front of others, we’re so prideful that we’re content with our own praise – commending ourselves for being “humble enough to not care about boasting to others”. We lift ourselves up on the throne of our own fake humility, practiced religion, thinking that we’ve done something – thinking to ourselves “I’ll never forsake you, Lord!”
Liars, every one of us. We all fall short. Even though we try, even though we strive, even though we deceive ourselves so many times, again and again until He has proven to us that it is only through Him that we will find Stent and victory and redemption – only in our humble and genuine love for Him, for His way. It is only when we have been tested to the point that we have set our hearts and minds on the things eternal, and truly realized that He is our Hope and Strength, that we are humbled before Him, ready to be used.
These trials, they are not to break us – but to change us, to refine us, to remodel us to be more and more like Him. These temporary trials are actually the vehicles by which He delivers our eternal blessings.
Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest’s house, and Peter was following at a distance. And when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat down among them. Then a servant girl, seeing him as he sat in the light and looking closely at him, said, “This man also was with him.” But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.” And a little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not.” And after an interval of about an hour still another insisted, saying, “Certainly this man also was with him, for he too is a Galilean.” But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.
Luke 22:54-62 ESV http://bible.com/59/luk.22.54-62.ESV
How many times have we denied the truth of Jesus’ words – by our actions, by our words, by our lack of faith, by our pride, by the many and varied ways that we fall short of the glory of God.
However, I have Good News – this denial was not the end of Peter’s story. Your shortcomings are not the end of your story, child of God. He knows the plans that He has for you, for good and for eternity and for life abundantly bearing the fruit of His Holy Spirit, bringing light into this world of darkness. Your blessings are just up ahead, dear child, through the trials.
Peter’s love for Jesus up to this point was strong, was bold, but it is lacking in the humility of accepting Jesus’ word as undeniable truth. Up to this point, it had still been an imperfect love because of that fact. But Jesus want finished with Peter yet.
Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off. When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead. When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”
John 21:2-19 ESV http://bible.com/59/jhn.21.2-19.ESV
Lord, you know everything. You know that we love you. Search our hearts, Lord. Search our thoughts, Lord. And if there is anything getting in the way of us following in your footsteps, Lord, lead us in your way. Set our minds on those things eternal and true and righteous and holy. Set our minds on loving and serving our fellow man. Teach us to feed your sheep. Teach us to love with your perfect love. Here we are, Lord. Send us and we will go. Amen.