You are Forgiven

I think it is vital that we understand that as a Christian we are forgiven. So many of us get caught up in moralism and trying to be a good person. This is not the Gospel message. Becoming more Christlike through lifelong sanctification is, but moralism and the pursuit of moral perfection is the lie of every other world religion.

As Christians, we do want to become more Christlike in our daily walk, but we also recognize that we fall short time and time again. I am not perfect and often find myself feeling guilt or shame that I am not as good as I think I should be. But the Apostle John’s words in 1 John 1:8-10 shine light into the darkness we often put ourselves in.

“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” (1 John 1:8-10).

So today I want to look how these 3 verses can dramatically shape the life of a Christian and can hopefully bring the non-Christian to a place of repentance and forgiveness.

“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” ( 1 John 1:8). The first step towards forgiveness is admitting fault. You must realize that you have sin and then admit and confess it to God. Now God already knows what you have done, said or thought, so why the need to confess?

Confession is a humbling act and makes us realize our fragile nature. When we confess that we have done something wrong, (sinned), we are laying down our pride and asking for God’s help. God’s forgiveness can wipe clean any and all evil we have committed. God can forgive our daily moral failures, (the things we shouldn’t do but did and the things we should do but didn’t do).

The problem is most of us “deceive ourselves.” We feel no need to confess wrongdoing to God. We feel that each person is free to make their own moral decisions and that truth is a subjective thing. This attitude only shows that “the truth is not in us.” If you feel you have nothing you need to confess and be forgiven of by God then you sadly do not know the truth. If you are unsure of what you need forgiveness for than pray and ask God that He would show you your sins against Him.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9). Second, we see here that when we do confess our sins that God is faithful to forgive. Notice there is no description of the degree of sin. That’s because in God’s eyes all sin is equally evil. God does not say He will forgive a lie but not murder. He doesn’t say He will forgive arrogance but not selfishness. You see that every sin, whether it is something you did, said or thought, will be forgiven.

This massive truth is important to grasp. When I look back at my past I see so much selfishness, arrogance, worldliness and many other sins. I see things I did, said and thought that are wrong and sinful. I see things I didn’t do, say or think that I should have. I see moral mistake after moral mistake. And then this causes guilt and shame because I realize I am not as good as I think I should be.

But, that is what makes the Gospel and this verse in particular so amazing. God has forgiven each of those sins I have committed. I have no need to feel any guilt or shame for my mistakes and moral failings. Now I don’t want this to take away from the seriousness of our sin. The amazing truth is that I am forgiven and cleansed from such a great evil.

“If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” (1 John 1:10). But again many of us will look back on our lives and not see sin. I often hear people say they don’t regret anything in their past, that each thing that occurred was a new experience and helped their overall growth as a person. What a lie from the devil! I don’t regret hard times or when trial came my way because it did help me grow, but I do regret each and every foolish word or deed I did that dishonored God. How arrogant we must be to try and condone our sin or use it as some platform for moral improvement!

Rather, I hope we can all look back and find things in our lives that we do truly regret. That we know we shouldn’t have done, said or thought. And may we see those things as sin and confess them to God for we know that He will truly forgive us and we can be set free from any guilt or shame we may have.

So Christians, stop acting like you have no sin. Confess your sins to God. And not just the obvious ones. Confess your wrong motives, your selfish ambitions and bad thoughts as well as the more blatant sins you commit. If you don’t know which of the harder to see sins, (jealousy, idolatry, selfishness, pride, doubt, fear), you are struggling with, then ask God to reveal them to you so that you can confess them and be forgiven and cleansed. Daily confess your sins to God and be set free.

Non-Christians, you need to realize that your life is sinful. You are not as good as you pretend to be. Moral truth is not subjective. You have made mistakes and need to be forgiven. Confess your sins to God. Turn to Him who alone can cleanse you and set you free from your sins. Your good deeds will never outweigh your bad. You can never make up for your past wrongs. Rather, you must be forgiven of them and that comes only through the precious blood of Christ. Turn to God, confess and He is faithful to forgive.

May we all realize our need to be forgiven and then go to Jesus, the only place where true forgiveness can be offered. May we stop living with guilt or shame because of our past deeds or because we aren’t as good as we think we should be. May we stop lying to ourselves that we don’t have sin or moral failings. May we stop believing the lie of moral subjectivity and instead believe the truth of Jesus. My hope and prayer is that we would all turn to Jesus and be forgiven.

Bless the Lord

This week has been a bit busy so I haven’t really had time to do much work on a blog post. But I did want to share something I learned this week that I thought may be helpful.

I was doing my devotion this week and came upon Psalm 103:

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless his holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

The Lord works righteousness
and justice for all who are oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses,
his acts to the people of Israel.
The Lord is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always chide,
nor will he keep his anger forever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
For he knows our frame;[a]
he remembers that we are dust.

As for man, his days are like grass;
he flourishes like a flower of the field;
for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
and its place knows it no more.
But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him,
and his righteousness to children’s children,
to those who keep his covenant
and remember to do his commandments.
The Lord has established his throne in the heavens,
and his kingdom rules over all.

Bless the Lord, O you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his word,
obeying the voice of his word!
Bless the Lord, all his hosts,
his ministers, who do his will!
Bless the Lord, all his works,
in all places of his dominion.
Bless the Lord, O my soul!

Last week I talked about David and his heart for God. After reading this Psalm you can see just how David’s heart was geared to serve, love and honor God. This Psalm has stuck with me this week and has been a challenge and encouragement. I hope that it will also challenge and encourage all of you amidst the crazy busyness of this season. That we would “remember the reason for the season”, (I know it’s cliche but still very true), and really focus on blessing the Lord with all our heart. May we all take Psalm 103 to heart and Bless our Glorious Creator!

A Man After God’s Own Heart?

If you have studied the Bible and have ventured into the Old Testament you may have heard about a guy named David. He is responsible for writing a bunch of the Psalms and is honored as one of the greatest Kings Israel ever had. He is also the only person referred to in Scripture as a “Man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22 and 1 Samuel 13:14). Think of all of the great people spoken of in the Bible, and only David has ever earned this honored title.

Yet, sometimes it is hard to understand what makes David a man after God’s own heart. Reading through the story of David you start out loving the guy. He seems to do everything right. But after he becomes King he stumbles. Maybe stumbles doesn’t do his sin justice. He falls hard. He makes some of the biggest, most selfish sin mistakes humanly possible.

First, he is checking out some guys wife while she takes a bath, (coveting your neighbor’s wife is a no-no according to the ten commandments (Exodus 20:17)), and then decides to sleep with her, (that breaks his second big commandment in Exodus 20:14). Then she becomes pregnant but her husband is off at war. So David knows he’s in trouble. Instead of fessing up to the already huge mistakes he has made, he decides to have the guy killed to try and cover it up, (and murder makes three of the ten broken in Exodus 20:13). You can read the entire story in 2 Samuel 11.

David broke three of the ten biggest commandments from God in one semester. Yet, God still considered David a “Man after my own heart.” How can this be? How can a man who covets, cheats and murders be a man after God’s own heart? That is what I want to discuss today. I want to look at three reasons why David is a “Man after God’s own heart” and hopefully it will help us as we pursue that same title for our own lives.

First, David is a man after God’s own heart because God choose him. God’s choosing makes us what we are. Romans 9:15-16 says “For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.” This is the ultimate reason why David was a “Man after God’s own heart.” Because God chose Him to be, just like He chooses you and I to be called His “sons and daughters (2 Corinthians 6:18). This is the first and most important thing to remember.

But why is David called a “Man after God’s own heart” while others are not? Yes God chose Him as He chooses us, but there is also something about David that sets him apart. Was it David’s acts? He doesn’t like that great of a guy right?

So secondly, we need to remember that our actions are no better than David’s. It is easy for us to look at this three heinous acts of David, (and they are heinous, evil and sinful), and shake our finger at him in shame. Yet, we neglect that we too have committed those same acts. James 2:10-11 says “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder you have become a transgressor of the law.”

We seem to put extra emphasis on certain sins while we tend to water down others. It is usually the sins we struggle with that we water down while the sins we don’t seem to struggle with tend to be the ones we think are most important to keep. So if I struggle with jealousy I rationalize it as a second tier sin. But because I don’t struggle with drunkenness then that must be first tier and extra serious. God however doesn’t see sin that way. He sees all the sin we have committed in the same light. So while you maybe haven’t killed anyone or committed adultery, your actions are no better than David’s. So if we are just as bad off as David on the outside, what makes the difference between us and David?

That leads to the third, and most important difference between us and David: the heart. David’s faith and trust in God and his heart’s desire to be with God are amazing examples to us. In Psalm 19:7-10 David describes God’s law as “sweeter than honey” and “more to be desired are they than gold.” Now I don’t know about you, but I have read God’s law and don’t often feel quite the same way. Or Psalm 63:1 where David says “my soul thirsts for you” and “my flesh faints for you.”

Or, one of my favorites, when David is returning from retrieving the ark of the covenant and dancing like a madman to praise God, (remember David was supposed to be a highly respected King at this time), his wife chastises him for acting foolish and not “kingly.” This is what David says, “I will make myself even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes.” (2 Samuel 6:22). David didn’t care what his wife or anyone else thought about him. He cared what God thought and sought to honor, praise and glorify Him.

And this is why David is a “Man after God’s own heart.” David’s works are as evil as ours. David did not earn God’s favor by doing something, but rather God freely gave it to him as He freely gives us grace and forgiveness today. But David responded to God’s grace with a heart full of gratitude, praise and love for His Mighty Lord.

So what about you? Where is your heart at? Are you more worried about what others may think of you or about praising your Great God? Does your heart thirst for God more than gold? Do you desire Him and His Word more than water in a dry place? My hope and prayer for us all is that we can become more like David. That we can desire God so strongly that every part of our life is affected by His immense greatness. That we are so deeply in love and passionate about God that we will do anything to bring Him glory. May we all be men and women after God’s own heart.

Majesty

Looking back over the last few weeks I realized that I have been too “us” focused and not enough “God” focused. I think it is often easier to talk about “us” because it has to do specifically with “us”. It’s easier to see, feels more practical and seems to be a great need because it pertains to each and every one of us.

And while talking about us is important, (people need to realize our part in sanctification as well as our sin problem), the things we usually discuss tend to focus on the temporal rather than the eternal. Any subject pertaining to sin, while very important because God hates sin, only relates to this life because there is no sin in eternity. Any area where we are disappointed, angry, upset or tempted only relates to this life because eternal life has no such things.

So this week I wanted to rectify this mistake, (and hopefully continue to do so ongoing), and get the focus back on God. In order to do that, I wanted to take a quick look at the majesty of God and give three quick reasons that we should daily be in awe of Him. And while there are 10,000 reasons to daily be in awe of God, I felt these big three are often overlooked even though they are so massive and weighty.

The first massive, awe-inspiring fact about God is His eternal existence. Genesis 1:1 starts like this: “In the beginning, God…” That right there should be enough for us to stop, fall on our knees and praise Him. God has existed for all time and will exist for all time. He has no beginning or end. Nothing made Him and nothing can destroy Him. He is not bound by time, but rather, He is the author and perfecter of time.

He also doesn’t change while being eternally present. Malachi 3:6 tells us “For I the Lord do not change.” God doesn’t need to improve, He’s already completely perfect. He doesn’t fade or get worse with time. He doesn’t learn. He doesn’t forget. Any time in the Bible that mentions God “relenting”, “changing” or even “forgetting” only applies to His relational attributes towards us, but not His being or presence. God speaks of forgetting our sins, (Hebrews 8:12) but it is in the context of His great forgiveness that He doesn’t count our sins against us rather than Him actually being unable to recall our sins to His mind. God can’t forget because He cannot change because He is perfection and perfection need not change. We worship a mighty God who eternally exists with no beginning or end and with no need to change.

Secondly, God speaks and it happens. Back to Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Also Genesis 1:3 says “And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.” God created everything we see before us. And it’s not like He had to exert a great effort to do so. God speaks, stuff happens. Just by His spoken word light entered the universe. Man speaks and he can barely get a dog to sit or stay. God creates everything by a spoken word. We typically create through much toil and difficulty.

Just imagine how immensely powerful and awesome our God is! Be in awe of His eternal existence but also of His unimaginable power. He’s not like Harry Potter who can say some spells or use a magic wand. His power is far beyond anything our minds can even imagine. He speaks or even just thinks it and it happens. Nothing can stop His power and decrees nor should we wish them to be stopped because they are always good and perfect. His power should cause our minds to be put to folly and our hearts to be filled with praise.

Which is what makes the third point even more amazing. God is infinitely powerful. God is eternally present. Yet, for some reason beyond our comprehension, He stoops down to live and die for you and me. Isaiah 40:17-18 tells us “All the nations are as nothing before him, they are accounted by him as less than nothing and emptiness. To whom then will you liken God, or what likeness compare with Him?” I would say that God is like a human and we are like ants to Him but that doesn’t even give the comparison justice. All we can say is God is awesomely powerful and great and compared to Him we are nothing. Actually, less than nothing.

Yet, He saves us. He came and died on a cross so that we might know Him. He didn’t just teach us or force us to change our minds, He came down and showed His great love for us. And all the while we treated Him as our enemy. “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by His life.” (Romans 5:10). We were enemies and less than nothing in comparison with Him, but He still came to save. He still desires to be in relationship with us. He loves us even when we love everything but Him. He is faithful when we are faithless.

Wow. That type of majesty should cause each of us to praise and worship Him more. So maybe you have grown cold. Maybe you once sought God with a passion but busyness or the cares of life have choked out your joy. Then remind yourself of who God is and what He did for you. Or maybe you don’t know God. You don’t even think He exists. Then look closer at who He claims to be and see that He truly exists, creates and loves in spite of our weaknesses. May we daily dwell on who God is and what He has done for us. May His amazing greatness and His amazing love fill our hearts with praise. And may we not walk in apathy or feel distant from God any longer, but rather look at his majesty and and worship His Great Name.

Unpopular Decision Making

There are some decisions in life that will be unpopular even if they are right. We often put some much emphasis on making a decision based on utilitarianism, (the greatest good for the greatest number of people), majority or which sounds like it will be the easiest. But oftentimes people in the Bible don’t do that.

Take Paul for example. In Acts 21 we read about Paul’s decision to go to Jerusalem and the reaction of those closest to him.

“While we were staying for many days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. And coming to us, he took Paul’s belt and bound his own feet and hands and said, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘This is how the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’” When we heard this, we and the people there urged him not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” And since he would not be persuaded, we ceased and said, “Let the will of the Lord be done.” (Acts 21:10-14)

How could he make such a decision? Wasn’t it clear to him that he would be imprisoned and ultimately die? Didn’t all of his friends urge him to do something else? Paul made his decision based on the Holy Spirit’s leading, not on what was the obvious or popular choice. He had no idea what would become of him. He only knew that God was leading him to Jerusalem at this time and for him not to go would be sinful.

So my question to start us off this week is: Are there any unpopular decisions you need to make this week? Is there an area where God is pointing you one way but people or circumstances are pointing you another? Can you make that unpopular decision? If these questions seem tough to answer you’re not alone. Making a decision in the face of opposition, (especially from those we love most), is never fun. So I want to give a couple ideas that may help us as we endeavor to follow the Lord’s leading in our lives, even when it seems unpopular to those around us.

First and foremost you need to get your priorities straight. I feel like a broken record cause I say this so often, but you will not be able to follow the Lord’s leading in your life if you are preoccupied trying to please man rather than God. “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10). Or Jesus says it even more strongly in Luke 14:26: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.”

Both of these verses are dealing with the same issue. Are you going to follow, love and serve Jesus first and foremost or are you going to follow, love and serve people and then give Jesus your leftovers or whatever is convenient? When Jesus becomes Lord of your life He will not be satisfied with leftovers. He wants your everything and all. Your first and foremost. Your best. So if you wish to be able to follow the Lord’s calling in your life you must not allow the idol of relationships to hinder you from making the unpopular decisions.

Any person who has left their home country to go abroad and proclaim the Gospel can identify with this. Usually there is someone, (family, friends, coworkers, etc…), who urges them not to go. They may have good reasons, (finances, distance from loved ones, difficulty or danger in new country, inconvenience, etc..), but none of these reasons could ever truly outweigh the cost of going to the nations with the Gospel.

In the 19th century a man named John G. Paton decided he would travel to an island known for cannibalism. In fact, two people from the same ministry had been eaten only 19 years ago. So when Paton decided to go it was a very unpopular decision. Here is the exchange between Paton and another man from his ministry:

A Mr. Dickson exploded, “The cannibals! You will be eaten by cannibals!” The memory of Williams and Harris on Erromanga was only 19 years old.

But to this Paton responded:
“Mr. Dickson, you are advanced in years now, and your own prospect is soon to be laid in the grave, there to be eaten by worms; I confess to you, that if I can but live and die serving and honoring the Lord Jesus, it will make no difference to me whether I am eaten by Cannibals or by worms; and in the Great Day my Resurrection body will rise as fair as yours in the likeness of our risen Redeemer.”

This is the kind of faith we need to make unpopular decisions as we follow the Lord’s will. Secondly, we must be willing to do what’s right no matter the cost. Paul could have stayed away from Jerusalem. Jesus didn’t have to go to the cross. The Bible is full of men who did the right thing even if suffering was before them. This is why Jesus commands us: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” (Luke 9:23-24).

We so often aren’t willing to follow our Lord’s leading because some fear prevents us. Jesus, Paul and John Paton all knew that death was not the worst thing that could happen to a person. They were all willing to follow God in the face of suffering and loss. If we are to make unpopular decisions that glorify God then we too must be willing to walk wherever the Holy Spirit would take us, even if that leads into some kind of suffering.

So I hope we can all take away some things that will help us make those unpopular decisions to follow God first. May we stop worrying and trying to please the majority but rather listen and carefully seek which direction God is pointing. May we move forward when the Lord signals rather than being hindered by fear. My challenge to you all is to make that unpopular decision this week.

Don’t allow unpopularity amongst your loved ones to hinder you from following God. Don’t allow potential suffering to keep you from following Jesus. “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matthew 6:33-34)

Kids Wearing Daddies Clothes

I think at some point every kid does it. They sneak into Mom and Dad’s room and try on all of their clothes. Then they run out to show their parents how amazing they look. Mom and Dad take some pictures, post it on Facebook and everyone comments how cute they look. And when a 4-year-old does it it is cute.

Not so cute when someone much older does it. In fact it’s not cute at all, it’s just sad. The truth is, there are many old people playing this game right now. They are wearing “grown-up” clothes but the truth is they are still children. You see, it is not age, marital status, a good job, money or having children that makes you an adult. It’s maturity. I know people younger than I who are definitely grown-up and I know people older than I that are still just big children.

The problem is our culture dictates what we consider to be grown up. So you are 18 or 21 and now, according to the law, you are an adult. Yet, most 18-21-year-old’s don’t really act mature like an adult. Sadly, many of these same kids continue to be kids in their 30’s, 40’s and 50’s because they have decided that lifestyle is somehow mature. Beer commercials do a great job of trying to get us to buy into the drink their beer and act like an idiot and you will be a mature, accepted and cool adult.

Again, this is not what maturity is. Maturity is rather a heart condition. It has to do with your relationship to God, not to the world or it’s possessions. And that is why I want to look at three verses today that describe maturity to us so that we can leave behind foolish worldly maturity and seek after true maturity.

“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.” (1 Corinthians 13:11). Now this doesn’t mean you can’t be an adult and still have fun. That is what some cultures do and it is wreaking havoc, (many Asian cultures try to convince people that adults must be serious all the time and the result is very extreme and dangerous ways of expressing themselves through various sinful activities). You can be mature and still fun. Rather, it means giving up immature and foolish sins because you have grown-up.

For example, many high school student’s think it is cool to curse. Saying bad words is the cool thing to do at that age. But that is childish. It is sad when you hear a 40-year-old drop five F-bombs in a sentence and try to sound like he is 15 again. Many high school student’s just want to hook up and find as many girls or boys as they can. Again, this is childish immaturity, but we sadly see many so-called adults who do the same. These people still speak, think and reason like children even though their age has grown.

Rather, we must repent of these follies and leave them behind. We need to grow to desire our Lord more than childish, fleeting pleasures. We must reject what the world tells us to do for acceptance and instead seek after Him who accepts us as we are. So my first challenge is that we would all repent of any childish behavior we are currently doing and instead seek to live a mature life that represents our true growth in Christ.

“I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not ready” (1 Corinthians 3:2). Many kids pretending to be mature have this issue. They don’t take time to study, learn and grow. People graduate from college and are glad they never have to study again. The problem with this attitude is that it stunt’s your growth and you remain a big, immature kid rather than moving on to maturity.

Rather, if we are to mature as Christians but even just as people, we need to feed ourselves with solid food rather than milk. Instead of wasting our times watching TV why don’t we dive into the Bible? Instead of always talking with our friends about money, work and football why don’t we try to speak and discuss about the more weighty, heavenly things?

My challenge is that we could humble ourselves and to become students as we become teachers. That we would redeem our free time with solid food and more life-giving subjects rather than the milk of movies and TV that our culture uses to keep us numb and immature. That we would grow instead of what happened to these people: “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child.” (Hebrews 5:12-13).

“So that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,” (Ephesians 4:14-15). We need to be more solidly grounded in God. Grounded in God, not yourself! The lie culture tells us about maturity is that we need to become self-sufficient, completely able to take care of and deal with all of our problems ourselves.

The problem is we cannot possibly do what culture demands of us. We can’t take care of ourselves, we can’t be the lone ranger and we most certainly cannot save ourselves from our sin. If we could overcome our sin problems ourselves we wouldn’t need Jesus. But you and I can’t. I guarantee there is at least one sin that no matter how hard you try, it keeps coming back (If you claim there isn’t then I already know which sin it is that you struggle with). You can’t deal with this yourself. You can’t overcome. Not something the media would ever try to make a movie out of. But it is true. Only God can do it.

When we are not standing firm on Jesus or building our life upon Him, (Matthew 7:24-27), we tend to be thrown into confusion, doubt and anxiety a lot easier. We are tricked into believing whatever new doctrine comes out as long as the speaker is able to present it charismatically. Remember there will be many wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:15), and thus we need to be mature in our faith so we will not be “tossed to and fro.”

My final challenge to us is that we would put our trust in God, not ourselves. That we would stand firm on Jesus as our Lord and that we would not be so easily deceived by new doctrine that is only lies of culture, (“The Secret” is a great example of lies that can sway those not growing with Christ).

So I hope that we can all grow up. We can stop pretending that we are mature and humble ourselves before God, repent and allow Him to truly help us mature. May we stop living in childish habits but instead grow into a mature life. May we stop living off of the food of infants and grow into mature people who need solid food. And may we not be tricked into the deceptions our culture proclaims to us daily, but instead be solidly founded in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Unknowable Mysteries

We live in a day and age when almost everything that is can be known or found out. For example, if you are curious who won the Super Bowl in 1976, how many countries there are in the world or the distance between earth and mars a quick trip to Google will provide you thousands of answers. We love to be informed.

But we also love to figure out and discover. Many of us love when we get the chance to solve some difficult problem that stumps others. This is also why many of us love the mystery genre of movies these days. I particularly love movies that keep you guessing the entire time. I sit in my seat and continually attempt to analyze and discover who did it and what will happen next. I don’t love the mystery, but rather I love solving the mystery.

The problem is when we take our desire for mystery solving to God. While God does reveal much about Himself to us, (“You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13), He still leaves much about Himself shrouded in mystery. He gives us glimpses, (like when he lets Moses see His back but not His face in Exodus 33:20-23), but often doesn’t give us the whole picture.

And while many of us who love to know and be informed cringe at the idea of an unknowable mystery, I believe that this stance by God is good and is overall in the best interests of Him and His creation. So I wanted to share a couple points with you all today about why we should appreciate the mystery surrounding God and why, in some instances, rather than seeking to solve the mystery we need to just appreciate it.

First, because it shows the distinction between us and God. We are all born with a God-complex. We desire to be the god of our own universe. So we seek information and knowledge to have more control over our situation. That way we can pretend like we are actually in control of our life. The Greek mythologies were all about humans overcoming the gods. This was what happened to Job as well. He had some terrible things happen and he decided that he was entitled to some answers. He felt that God owed him an answer because it was his life that God had disrupted.

God answers in Job 38-41, but not how we would like Him to. He doesn’t provide all the answers to the mysteries that have been plaguing Job. Rather, He calls Job out for questioning God. He shows Job that there is a giant chasm between us and God and for us to call into question what He does is complete and utter folly. God is so beyond our comprehension that for us to question Him is basically like a pot questioning the person making it, (Romans 9:20-24). There are some things that remain mystery because God is God and we are not.

Second, mystery is good because it humbles us. We are such prideful and arrogant people. Go to a party and watch how everyone attempts to one up everyone else by showing their knowledge about something. We are constantly learning, (which is a good thing), but then taking our knowledge and instead of using it to bring glory to our King we use it to glorify ourselves. This is why Paul writes that “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up” (1 Corinthians 8:1).

When we don’t have the answer or can’t explain every situation something happens in our hearts. It causes us to realize that no matter how smart we are we can’t ever possibly know it all. It makes us realize there is and always will be someone smarter and even that smarter person can’t possibly know it all. It forces us to trust in God more because we can’t just trust in ourselves for every answer to the universe and that in turn brings us to praise God and to humble ourselves. Mystery keeps us trusting in Him who alone has all answers rather than in ourselves who only can see a tiny speck of the big picture.

Third, mystery helps us because we couldn’t possibly comprehend if we understood everything. Let me explain that a bit. I talk to many people who say they would believe God if He just showed Himself to them or if He just answered all their questions about every life mystery right now. The problem with that is that our feeble, sinful and finite minds cannot fathom this knowledge. We are so arrogant as to think that God could speak with us and that we would actually debate, argue or question Him in the process. The truth is we would either literally die from just gazing upon Him, (again see Exodus 33:20-23), or we would be so lost in His perfectness we would fall on our knees to shield our eyes, (Isaiah 6:5).

We are not meant to know every mystery because we cannot even began to comprehend the mysteries of God. It is an amazing miracle that He does communicate with us through the Bible, but that doesn’t mean that we can fully understand God. God reveals as much about Himself as we can handle. If you feel God has only revealed a little to you then that is you problem, not a God problem.

Now just because mystery is a good thing doesn’t mean we should not pursue wisdom. God commends Solomon for asking God for wisdom in 1 Kings 3. We are to spend our lives growing and learning so as to better understand God. But, this knowledge will never be complete. We cannot attempt to answer every question because it will always lead to complacency. Complacency because you figure you can’t fully know God so why even try to know Him a little or complacency because you feel you know enough and don’t need to learn anything else about Him.

So I hope that we can all learn to appreciate the mysteries of God and the universe He created more. Yes seek to grow and learn but also understand that there will always be some things you cannot possibly understand. And may that drive you to worship and praise our great God who is so far above and beyond us. May we thank Him for what He has revealed and that we can know Him personally, but may we also appreciate that we don’t worship a God who can be completely understood by us.

Introduction to Moralistic Deism

Moralistic Deism: a term many of us have never heard before. I first heard this term listening to a sermon by Matt Chandler where he introduced it to explain how many professing Christians may actually not be Christians. He uses the term quite frequently and rightly so. And while many of us maybe haven’t seen this term before, it does accurately describe many of our belief system. While many of us claim to be Christian, we are merely Moralistic Deists. So today I thought I would introduce this term to those who have never seen it before.

So what exactly is Moralistic Deism? Well by taking it apart we see that it is focused on morality, (Moralistic), and also focused on the belief in a God, (Deism). So in it’s most base form, Moralistic Deism is a belief in God and the accompanying good words or good morality that follows such a belief. If you are good and you believe in God, this may be you. Sounds a lot like Christianity right?

And this is the extreme danger found in Moralistic Deism. It sounds so close to Christianity that many fall for the false promises it makes. I mean, when we hear about a cult or some other false belief we can easily brush it aside. But Moralistic Deism’s danger lies in its subtle differences. And that is what I want to warn us all about today. Just because you believe in Jesus and are a good person does not make you a Christian. It does make you a Moralistic Deist, but that is not Biblical nor able to save you from sin. There are three primary ways Christianity and Moralistic Deism differ.

But before we look at those, please don’t assume you are Christian and that this Moralistic Deism is talking about your friends or those other people. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 13:5 “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” Notice he doesn’t say test your neighbor or the other people at Church but rather “test yourselves.” So as we walk through these three differences, I encourage us all to test yourselves.

The first and primary difference between Christianity and Moralistic Deism is Jesus. Moralistic Deism loves Jesus and wants Him to forgive us, but doesn’t really rely or depend on Him for their lives. Being a Christian is not just about knowing facts. James tells us in James 2:19 “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe- and shudder!” Believing that Jesus actually died and rose again is only half the answer. The problem is that this knowledge is often where Moralistic Deists stop.

The second part of having a knowledge about who Jesus is is applying it to your life. The demons know Jesus is God, but do they want to serve, love, honor, glorify and praise Him? Do they call Him Lord? A number of verses, (Romans 10:9-10, 1 Corinthians 12:3, Philippians 2:11, etc..), emphasize confessing Jesus as “Lord.” I once heard a British Pastor talk about how Americans have really lost this idea of Lord because we don’t have anything like a Lord in our culture.

But basically Lord means ruler or king. So when we follow Jesus we not only know that He died and rose but we also confess that He is Lord of the universe and of our own personal lives. Moralistic Deists treat Jesus like a Genie rather than Lord of their lives. Is Jesus Lord of your life? Do you want Him to be in control and be the reason you live? Or do you just want Him to help you in those areas you can’t seem to help yourself?

This leads to the second difference between Christianity and Moralistic Deism and it’s one that has been a struggle for Christians ever since Jesus left the earth. It is this idea of grace vs. works. Paul spends most of the New Testament preaching against works based salvation, yet we still want to save ourselves. I’ll pick one verse, (there are many), where Paul tries to show grace through faith is what it means to be a Christian, not works based salvation. Galatians 2:16 says, “yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.”

Christians and Moralistic Deists both strive to be good people. Christians are motivated by love and do good in reaction to the good already done them by Jesus. They do good works naturally out of the goodness of their transformed heart, (Luke 6:43-45), and when they make fleshly errors they run TO Jesus in confession and repentance. Moralistic Deists are motivated our of fear and do good to try and earn God’s favor. They claim to have been forgiven by Jesus but seem to neglect Him by trying to earn what HE has already done for them. When Moralistic Deists make fleshly sins they tend to run FROM or hide from Jesus. They feel ashamed and instead of going to Him who alone can forgive and heal they run and try to fix it or deal with the problem themselves.

Do you do good works because you know Jesus and want to bring glory to His name? Or do you want to earn some kind of cosmic reward? When you mess up do you fall on your knees before Jesus and ask Him to restore and heal you? Or do you stay away from Jesus until you can fix yourself and can come back to Him looking good?

The third difference is where we put our focus and hope. Christians are Christ focused while Moralistic Deists tend to be self-focused. Christians realize Jesus is Lord and that He alone can save us from ourselves. Moralistic Deists like Jesus and find Him useful, but ultimately depend on themselves to save.

An example of this is in prayer. A Christian prays “your kingdom come your will be done” and “not as I will but as You will.” (Matthew 6:10 and 26:39). The heart of a Christian’s prayer is centered on God and His glory. Yes we still ask for “our daily bread” and other needs, but our ultimate focus is on His will. A Moralistic Deist tends to pray only for needs that they can’t do themselves. Miracles, healings or anything else they can’t fix themselves. But if they know the answer or how to solve the problem they rarely go to God, (Numbers 14:39-45).

Do you pray and rely on Jesus to save and forgive? Or are you self-focused and pray only for that which you cannot do for yourself? Do you see your life as a means to bring glory and honor to God? Or do you see your life as a means to bring glory and honor to yourself?

I pray that each of us would examine ourselves this week. I pray we would ask these questions and seek to find whether or not we can truly call ourselves Christians. Many use the word but some use it wrongly. May we not be those who thought we were Christians yet our Lord says He never knew us, (Matthew 25: 31-46). May we not just be Moralistic Deists who do good and believe in Jesus but rather be Christians who do good because they know Jesus is the universe’s and their personal Lord and Savior. May Jesus be our all-in-all and the reason we breathe.

Rest Assured

I tend to write about the harsh truths of the Bible more than anything else. I do this because I think our “modern” culture has tried to water down the true Gospel time and time again. I feel like we Christians need to speak out against these false Gospels of prosperity and comfort promised in Churches around the world. We need to share the true Gospel of Christ. This Gospel calls mankind evil, (Matthew 7:11), promises suffering, (John 15:20), says the way is narrow and thus difficult, (Matthew 7:13-14), and encourages us to “take up” an instrument of death and torture in order to follow our Lord, (Luke 9:23).

And it is important to understand our sinful nature and the earthly suffering that comes from following Christ, but sometimes I forget to mention just how amazing a thing it truly is to follow Christ. And I could talk about being forgiven of millions of sins, (1 John 1:9), being allowed into the presence of God in heaven, (John 3:16), or the fact that I didn’t even have to save myself! (Ephesians 2:8-9). But what I want to focus on today is the amazing assurance we have when we trust in Christ and the resulting peace that comes from it.

Lately my life has been insanely busy. Without boring you with all the details, let’s just say that every single part of my life has needed a lot of attention lately. Usually just a few things demand my time, but lately it truly has been everything. I often lay awake at night thinking about some problem that needs fixing, tomorrow’s workload or even my own sin and my unworthiness to proclaim the Gospel of Christ. And so today I want to share with you four promises from the Bible that have helped me get through the busy and stressful times.

I’ll start with Romans 8:38-39 because not only is it an amazing promise to help us deal with anxiety or stress, but I believe it is one of the most amazing promises ever offered in all of the history of mankind. Let the words sink in. “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height not depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Wow. Paul is basically saying there is nothing, NOTHING, that can separate us from God. But there is a catch. This only occurs through “Christ Jesus our Lord.”

This brings peace and rest in stressful times because often our own sin and inability is what causes us grief. We get frustrated that we should be a better person than we really are. So we either go into “woe is me” mode where we question our salvation and walk around feeling sad or into “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” mode and we try to fix it, overcome it and solve our sin problem ourselves. I’ll help you all out and tell you neither of those work because they completely neglect “in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

If you know Jesus you can rest assured that no matter how far you stray, no matter how much you neglect your relationship with God, Jesus will keep working and changing you and pulling you back to Himself. This isn’t a license to sin, (Romans 6), but rather an amazing assurance that brings us rest and bring praise and glory to God.

Which leads to the second thing to do when stressed. Just like we must depend on Christ for our assurance of salvation, we must depend on Christ by crying out to Him with our stresses and needs. In Matthew 7:7-11 Jesus teaches us that when we pray to Him He does answer. Yes the answer isn’t always what we want to hear, but He does answer.

The problem is that we rarely cry out to Jesus. When a problem arises we may ask a few people to pray for us and we ourselves may pray a couple times about it but that’s usually it. Then we figure it’s time we handle the problem ourselves. Very American but not very Christian. We spend too much time facing our problems head on when we should be facing them on our knees in desperation before God. Rather than trying to be your own savior, why not rely on Him who is truly Savior? “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:18).

Third, we need to rely on the Body of Christ. Again, our culture tells us not to bother others with our problems and so we independently fight battles and deal with stresses we were never meant to. Yes we need to handle small problems ourselves otherwise we may become overdependent and act like a child. But if you are dealing with something big, why not go to your Brothers and Sisters for help? I love the description of the early Church in Acts 2:42-47. Christians were made to take care of each other.

So maybe this week I have a problem I don’t know how to solve but my Christian brother does. So he helps me so my load is lightened. Then next week he has a problem and he can come to me with. This way we all share each others burdens. We tend to either be a constant burden giver, (always asking for help but never offering it), or a constant burden receiver, (always offering help but never asking for it). Both are unhealthy so may we learn to mutually give and receive each others burdens.

Last, remember that whatever stress you have it is temporary. Sometimes we see our stress as never-ending so we just dread because we can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 teaches us an important lesson. We find ourselves in different seasons all the time. Maybe this is the “work is kicking my butt” season. Or the “have to study every free second” season. Or even the “why did we have kids” season. Regardless of where you are, realize that it is temporary and that you will enter a different season later.

This is also a good reminder for those in a more comfortable season of life right now. That will change. So don’t fall in love with your new found comfort and ease but realize it is a season, praise God for it, and prepare for the next one. Also, realize that whatever season you are in, Jesus has you there for a purpose. Look for the purpose in the season you are in to better understand what Jesus is trying to teach you.

So I hope all of us can find rest in these amazing Biblical promises. May we understand that nothing can separate us from God when we are in Christ. May we realize that Jesus does answer prayer and that we need to rely on Him more. May we rely on the Body of Christ and also help others carry their burdens. And may we realize that all stress is seasonal. I hope we can all find rest this week no matter how stressful our lives seem to be.

Using Our Time for the Eternal Rather than the Earthly

The fact that you are even reading this blog is a miracle. Depending on your reading level, you can probably finish this off in 5-10 minutes. That’s assuming you actually read the whole thing, (I know many won’t even make it to the end before there is something else that snatches their attention away). But even those 5-10 minutes are considered precious in our lives of packed schedules and overcommitments.

And so I thought today I would look at something I think we all struggle with: making time to spend with God. This includes prayer, study, meditation and reflection as well as Church and Bible studies. Many of us assume Church on Sunday is enough spiritual activity for one week. This statement is as foolish as saying we only need food or water once a week.

So first the problem. We are all busy. But honestly, we aren’t as busy as we think we are. How many of us have 10-12 hour work days like those living in third world countries? How many of us are farming from sunup to sundown like our ancestors? And think about all the modern conveniences we have. Things like cars, the internet, microwaves and cell phones make life in the 21st century the fastest it has ever been.

Seems like we should have more time, but for some reason we still don’t. And while I understand our busyness is a partial issue, I don’t think it explains why we struggle to have time for prayer and reflection but work less and live more convenient lives than ever before.

No I think the real problem is our priorities. While Christians profess Jesus is the most important thing in our lives, we rarely act that way. How many of us can speak like David talking about God’s law in Psalm 19:10: “More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.” Maybe if we looked at our Bible this way we would open it a little more often.

But our priorities have become totally out of whack. And I see this problem presenting itself mainly in two ways. First, we over commit. We have some free time in our daily schedule and we pack it with another activity. And while these activities might be good, (outreach, fellowship, etc..), they often force us to lose time with God because we find our lives are too busy.

Second, we prioritize entertainment, fun and relaxation over time with God. Many of us rush about and try to check everything off our daily to-do lists so we can sit down around 7 or 8 PM for what? The sitcom we can’t miss? A drink with our friends? Checking fantasy football stats online? Once we finally have a free second we spend it on fleeting, earthly passions rather than eternal, heavenly joys.

And so maybe this is you. Maybe you find yourself far from God or drifting away. Maybe you just can’t seem to find time with God. Maybe you wish you could pray or meditate more on His Word, yet the daily pressures of life prevent you. You know I am not just about presenting a problem but also practical solutions! So hopefully these four ideas can help you make time for what truly matters.

First, make it THE top priority. How can we as Christians claim Jesus is Lord of our lives when we only throw Him our leftovers? Where you spend your time and money is where your heart is really focused. I challenge you all to consider this. You have time to eat and sleep each day right? Well why not sacrifice one meal, (we already eat too much anyways so giving up one meal wouldn’t be the worst thing), or give up an hour of sleep to spend time with God in His Word and in prayer? Jesus says in Matthew 4:4 “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

Second, make a schedule. You plan when you will go to the gym, so why not plan your quiet time with God? We seem to think it’s nonspiritual to have a planned time with God, but this is far from the truth. If you find that your daily schedule is packed already, then mark out an hour or so each day that is just for you and the Lord. If you don’t plan it there’s a good chance you’ll rationalize why you didn’t have time to pray or study today.

Third, understand that saying no is acceptable and good. Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:37 “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything else more than this comes from evil.” Notice Jesus didn’t say your no needed to be yes. It is good to say no sometimes. One reason we lack time with God is because we value time with others more than our Heavenly Father. Rather, be willing to say no to someone so that you have time to spend with God each day.

Finally, make sure your quiet time is actually quiet. Many people try to do their prayer or study while they are doing something else. Your commute to work is a great time for prayer, but shouldn’t be the only time you pray. Reading the Bible in a noisy cafeteria is a great way to spend lunch, but it shouldn’t be the only time you open the Bible. Psalm 46:10 says “Be still, and know that I am God.” Notice the command to be still first. Also, Jesus would frequently go to “desolate places to pray.” (Mark 1:35, 6:31, Luke 6:12-13). And in Matthew 6:6 we are told to “go into your room and shut the door,” when we pray.

God knows we get distracted easily so He commands us to seek Him in a quiet place. Also, I think this a great time for us to meditate and reflect on God. I know the word meditation has some bad connotations because of other religions, but it is a good word. When is the last time you just dwelt on the eternal nature of the trinity? Or that God spoke and creation happened? Or even consider the amazing grace a perfect God would extend to sinful humans through his Son? (2 Corinthians 5:21). Spend time in prayer, study and meditation this week, but make it a quiet place.

Hopefully these are words of encouragement for those who seem overburdened with life and seem to have no time for God. I hope we can all learn what is really most important and that our actions will reflect that this week. May we see that the problem lies with us, not our busyness. May we make God and time with Him our top priority. May we be willing to schedule time with God and say no to others in order to keep our appointment with Him. And may we pray, study and meditate daily in a quiet place so that we can completely focus on Jesus. Let us reclaim our schedule’s and our lives for the glory of God!