Category: How We Grow

Jesus Is Enough

jesus is enough

Keep my decrees and laws, for the person who obeys them will live by them. I am the Lord. (Leviticus 18:5)

This Leviticus verse is a typical Old Testament command.  Very direct. But doable? Unfortunately, throughout the Old Testament, people’s obedience was too poor to be able to live up to this directive. They would try and fail. Try and fail. Over and over.

But there is one great Old Testament character, Abraham, who shows us a different and better way :

 So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”  So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. (Galatians 3:6,9)

This truth started with Abraham 4,000 years ago. Then 2,000 years later, Paul showed how we can get that same credit. We get it through faith in Jesus Christ—if I believe God through Christ, that gives me a turbocharged deposit of righteousness credited to my own account.

That free deposit is the exact opposite of the default mode that I work in: a voice inside me asks whether I am doing “enough” good deeds. How easy it is to drift into the bogus view that being a Christian means that we must do more and more and more and more—- rather than having simple faith. When I get caught up in the “more and more” mentality, sometimes it is so exhausting that I am tempted to say, “Why bother?”

Paul knew how impossible it is to keep the commands on our own. We must die to our futile attempts at law keeping.

 “For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God (Galatians 2:19)

If “do more and more and more” Christianity is my law, I must die to that law so that Christ may live in me.

Then, I can discern what it means to live by faith in exactly the body, time, and environment that I have been placed into. I can then walk in the freedom of being set free to do good things because of the faith Christ has given to me and the power of Christ working in me.

What a delightful difference – – – instead of struggling to do “enough” good deeds as a slave to the law, I can now cheerfully do just the good that Christ tells me to.

Living by grace instead of law is a wonderful way to live! Today, dwell on this beautiful paradox: we are simultaneously personally bankrupt and fully empowered to have an abundant life through Christ.

Judge Not?? [Part 2]

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The Apostle Paul issues a rebuke because a guy is sleeping with his stepmother. He says:

I have already passed judgment in the name of our Lord Jesus on the one who has been doing this. (1 Corinthians 5:3b)

And then we read what Paul says in Colossians 3:5:

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.

We might say “What gives Paul the right to judge like this? Is he on a holier-than-thou high horse, superior to everyone?”

Well, first off, he is aware that he, too, is a sinner:
Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus 
came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. (1 Timothy 1:15)

Taking being a sinner seriously would surely act as a constraint on Paul being self-righteous. Since Paul knows he is the chief of sinners, he is not quick to judge, but…. he does judge.

How does Paul judge?

Look at this verse from the Amplified version which captures Paul’s heart 
well:
Brethren, if any person is overtaken in misconduct or sin of any sort, you 
who are spiritual [who are responsive to and controlled by the Spirit] 
should set him right and restore and reinstate him, without any sense of 
superiority and with all gentleness, keeping an attentive eye on yourself, 
lest you should be tempted also. (Galatians 6: 1)

Why does Paul judge?

Paul desires anyone who falls into sin to turn and grow to be more like Jesus. See the result:

so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge-that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:17-19)

Takeaway for us:

  • Before we rebuke we need to examine our own heart
  • We rebuke in order to see someone increasingly filled with the love of Christ.

Looking Towards 2018

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News of this reached the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch.  When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.  He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord. (Acts 11:22-24)

You know when you take a walk on a familiar path and you give a double take and say “Oh, I never noticed that before?” That can happen while reading the Bible, too. Recently I saw something new in a very familiar passage.

In today’s passage we read about Barnabas and about people becoming believers. What’s new is to see there is a connection between us being filled with the Holy Spirit and faith, and people being brought to the Lord.

It’s easy to view coming to belief in Christ as believing the right facts and assenting to some propositions. When people assent to these propositions, perhaps by praying the sinners’ prayer or coming forward in an altar call, they are “in”. But doesn’t Jesus affect the grand totality of who we are? The facts of the gospel should not be detached from the overall change in us that Jesus does. He grabs our mind, heart, will, and emotions.

Barnabas lived as if the gospel were the most beautiful thing in the world. He must have been a joy to be around, as they called him the Encourager. When people who met him would ask him what was behind his attitude, he could reply with the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus.  So, Barnabas united the facts of the gospel and the life of the gospel.

Unfortunately for us, though, there can be a gap between the facts of the gospel and the gospel as we live it out. Sometimes the gospel is not the most beautiful thing in the world for us.

Here is quote from Jesus:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind (Luke 10:27a)

When we ask Jesus to build that kind of love into us, knowing that we sure can’t build it on our own, the gospel in our lives becomes increasingly beautiful.  The gap between the facts of the gospel and the gospel as we live it starts to disappear.

May we invite our King to live more fully in us in 2018!

 

Dare to Be a Daniel?

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I recently spent 2 weeks reading the book of Daniel in my personal devotions.

Daniel seems to be an unblemished Bible hero, meaning that none of his specific sins or character weaknesses are ever mentioned. At first, I thought this made the character of Daniel seem rather unreal to me. I mean, I like how the Old Testament has so many guys who are portrayed as real, warts and all. Think of David with his adultery, Jacob with his trickery, Abraham with his lying, etc.

And since Daniel is regarded as the opposite of those flawed heroes, this leads to a heroic hymn like “Dare to Be A Daniel”:

Hold the Gospel banner high!
On to vict’ry grand!
Satan and his hosts defy,
And shout for Daniel’s band. 

Reflecting on this lionhearted song, I want to first give a warning and then an encouragement. My warning is of this danger: thinking that Daniel is just a good moral example for us; we should be brave like Daniel; we should copy him. We can triumphantly be just like him; indeed, something is very wrong with us if we are not this kind of shining example.

That’s sure hard to live up to, isn’t it!

But let’s move on to the encouragement: Daniel did have sin. And he confessed it.

While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel and making my request to the Lord my God for his holy hill— (Daniel 9:20)

Now, the rare and special strength of Daniel is that he confessed his sins quickly, before they got a chance to mess him up badly. In other words, what if David had quickly confessed the sin of lusting after Bathsheba, long before drifting into adultery with her and then murder to get rid of her husband?

So, Daniel shows us that if we do get entangled in a sin, there is repentance and forgiveness for it. And as Christians we understand the source of our forgiveness and power to live well is Jesus Christ. His forgiveness is there for us even if, like David, we have messed up big time.

Daring to be a Daniel includes knowing the ways we are weak and blow it, and having a repentant heart. With a humble, Spirit-filled perspective as a starting point, we avoid simply telling ourselves and others that we need to try harder to behave better.

Amazingly, by seeing how weak we are, we can begin to draw on the power and example, not just of Daniel, but of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Tear up that Contract!

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 “But he [the landowner] answered one of them [the hired workers], ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius?  Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you.  Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’  (Matt 20:13-15)

Every so often you will hear about an athlete under contract who wants his contract ripped up due to jealousy over a new player getting more money. “If you don’t tear up that contract and give me a better one”, he tells the team owner, “I refuse to play. After all, I am a star who deserves to be the highest-paid player on the team.”

Does the team owner have the right to pay the new player what he wishes and to say, “I can do what I want with my own money”?

 Does Jesus have the right to bless any other believer more than I?

In today’s parable, “The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard”, the later-hired workers get told by the owner “I will pay you whatever is right.”  So they went to work. They were glad to get any work, they didn’t even ask what they would be paid. The guys who worked all day got paid the same amount as the guys who worked fewer hours. But the first-hired don’t regard the owner as being generous to the new hires, but rather as being stingy to themselves!

Do I rejoice in others’ blessing, or does it tick me off a little bit?

How much of a feeling of entitlement do I have?

Notice how the Parable concludes:
“So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” Matt 20:16
What a contrast between the thankful-for-grace person and the entitled person!

I can grow to be more and more thankful for any grace that is given to me, and less and less concerned about what someone else gets —- except to be rejoicing when they do receive more grace. 

May our thankfulness for Jesus’ grace working in our own lives life and others’ lives increase!

 

 

 

Wash Each Other’s Feet

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“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”
Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”
 “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands 
and my head as well!” Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only
 to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean….  (John13:8-10a)

Jesus washing the disciples’ feet is a familiar New Testament story.  You may even have foot-washing ceremonies in your church. But today, let’s dig in and look at two symbols in John’s foot-washing story.

First, “had a bath” refers to what happens when we are baptized.  Baptism is a one-time event, and symbolizes how, once and for all, we believed that Jesus was crucified for our sins and resurrected, giving us eternal life and salvation.

But, does our believing mean we never ever sin again? No, we do sin in some manner every day.  And the foot-washing in today’s verses symbolizes repentance from our daily sins. Just as sandaled feet get dust on them every day and need to be washed, so we need a daily cleansing from sin.

Are we on our own in our daily fight against sin?   See what Jesus says in verses 14-15:

 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.  I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.

These verses show how we should lovingly serve one another. But I think they also show how we can help one other in our fight against sin, instead of each of us wrestling with it on our own.  My own natural inclination is to try to work things out as an iron-butted loner. But I think the Lord is telling all of us to encourage one another as we grow to make progress in the battle against sin.

It’s important to conclude by noting that the fight against sin isn’t an end in itself —no, we press on to remove any obstacles that hinder us in our quest for growth. Our end goal is to help each other to “trust and obey” — to give out more of Jesus’ love in an increasingly mature walk with him.

 

Why Did I Yell on the Phone?

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A few years ago, I yelled at someone on the phone and really let them have it because they had totally mishandled a medical bill.

That was not the first time I yelled like that, but it was the last time I yelled.

Why the change? I learned that a couple of key questions lurked behind my yelling.

First:  how do I behave in a confrontation when no one knows I am a Christian?

In other words, I must admit that if it were someone from my church who messed up the bill I would never have yelled at them.

Second is an even deeper question I faced:

Is my Christianity only a performance? Or is it a deep heartfelt conviction that wells from the inside out, and drives how I react to situations—-even when the person I am confronting really is wrong and no one else is watching how I am handling it?

Basically, the kind of crummy attitudes behind my yelling needed correction and change. My natural inclination, though, is to not welcome correction.

Look at this verse in Proverbs :

Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.  (19:20)

I need to give a note of caution in quoting this or any Bible verse.  Because if someone overheard me yelling and simply quoted this verse to me, nothing would have changed. This way of firing a verse at someone can backfire.  Oh, someone might use it to shame and guilt me into not yelling for a while, but that does not lead to genuine repentance and heart change.

It’s vitally important to consider the real source of wisdom behind the book of Proverbs. This true wisdom is personified in Jesus Christ.  And thanks be to God we have union with Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Only by calling on God’s grace and being in union with Christ can we begin to override our unwillingness to accept correction.  And of course, it is a process. We don’t suddenly and instantly welcome correction in every area of our lives. But with the help of the Spirit and people we can trust, we do start to develop a teachable and correctable heart.