Category Archives: God’s Grace

Sin and the Blood of Jesus

Jesus blood.jpgIf we walk in the light in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin.  But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.  1 John 1:7,9; 2:1-2

If you asked 100 people what they think our biggest problem is, you might get quite a broad range of answers.  Some might say something about politics, others about countries who want to attack, others may talk about the environment.  God tells us in the Bible that our biggest problem is sin.  When Adam fell in the Garden of Eden, we fell, separating us from God and alienating us from Him, ourselves, others and nature.

God sent Jesus as a perfect sin offering to save us from the His wrath and the penalty of sin.  This is the heart of the Gospel, the good news of salvation because of Jesus.  When we repent of our sins, asking God to forgive us and to give us a new heart, we receive the righteousness of Christ.  When God looks at us, He sees Jesus.

But after this glorious transformation, we still sin.  We still need the blood of Jesus to cleanse us of the guilty stain that sin leaves so that we can stand clean before God.  The good news of our verses for today is that God is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness–if we confess our sins.  It doesn’t just happen automatically.  We can’t just do things that are offensive to God and everything to be okay because “it’s all under the blood.”  It is all under Jesus’ blood once you confess that sin and turn from it.

The other error that we might be prone to is to fall apart because of our sin.  It’s like falling down and not getting up again.  The good news is that “as far as the east is from the west, so far does He remove our transgressions from us,” as Psalm 103:12 declares.  He wants us to come and repair our broken relationship with Him, the sooner the better.  There is no sin too dark or too big that God can’t or won’t forgive.

When we sin, we have a defense attorney–Jesus Christ the righteous one.  Picture a courtroom scene.  When the judge asks “How do you plead?”  We say, “Guilty.”  The Judge delivers his sentence and then offers for his Son to pay it for us.  Though that would be preposterous in real life, that is exactly what happens when we confess our sin.  Jesus, our advocate, stands in our place.

This is made possible by the blood of Jesus.  Throughout the Bible, from the very beginning, blood had to be shed.  In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve covered themselves with fig  leaves after they sinned.  God stepped in and covered them with animal skins.  In doing so, blood had to be shed.  All of the way through the Old Testament, the people brought animal sacrifices and their blood spilled out on the altar to show that their sin was covered by blood.  It was a down payment until Jesus came and shed His blood once and for all on the cross.  

There is power in the blood of Jesus.  In Revelation 12:10-11 it says that the accuser of our brothers and sisters has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.  And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony…  Satan accuses us day and night, trying to get us to wallow in guilt and shame.   But if we stand in the blood of the Lamb, bringing those sins that Satan is accusing us of to God and confessing them, then Satan has no dirt to dig up on us.

If Satan is badgering you about certain events and sins of the past, confess them to God out loud, announcing to yourself, to God and to Satan that the debt is paid.  If there is something you need to do to make something right, do it.  Then you can stand free before God and before everyone else.  

Finally, Satan wants to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10).  He will use any open door to torment and to taunt us.  If you have been abused or wounded in spirit, that puts a hole in your heart that Satan can use to mess with you.  Perhaps you have held bitterness against the offender, against yourself or against God.  Bring that incident, or string of incidents, to God in prayer, asking Him to cover those holes by the blood of Jesus.  He will set you free from that bondage and from the torments of Satan.

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our tresspasses, according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished upon us.  Ephesians 1:7-8

*Image from speakthewordonly63.wordpress.com


What’s your superpower?

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As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies–in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.  To Him belong glory and dominion forever and ever.  Amen.  1 Peter 4:10-11

 

This little passage is about spiritual gifting, which is the empowerment by God to do things for the kingdom. There is a difference between doing things that we are naturally good at and doing something by gifting, leading and enabling power of the Holy Spirit.  I have been naturally good at sports and music, and in my younger years would do much of both without much need of the courage and gifting of the Holy Spirit.  But there is a supernatural gifting that comes from God, by His Holy Spirit, that has been called your “spiritual gift.”

There are many varieties of this spiritual gifting, with lists in Ephesians 4:11-12, Romans 12:2-7 and 1 Corinthians 12:4-11.  They are things like teaching, giving, hospitality, wisdom and discernment, preaching, evangelism, administration and showing mercy.   When Jesus comes into your life, He gives you abilities from His Spirit so that you can serve Him and build up the church.  And He expects you to use it for His glory.

No Christian can then say, “I’m not good at anything; I have nothing to offer.”  That is a lie from Satan, or a ploy of your flesh to be a slug.  As sure as you have the Holy Spirit in your life, you surely have a gifting of some sort.  

There are two ways of looking at this gifting:

That every believer has at least one of the listed gifts.  Your task would be to discover what that gifting is.  One way of discovering this is to get out and try things.  And, just like someone who shoots baskets in his driveway was meant to take those skills and be a part of a basketball team, your gifts are meant to be fleshed out in the church.  

 When there are opportunities to serve and you do something, you may find that some things are in your wheelhouse, and others just aren’t.  And, you may do something like help out with Sunday School or take part in the worship team, and people may tell you how that really touched them.  You may feel the working of the Holy Spirit when you tell others about Jesus, and you know those words didn’t come from your own head.  A pattern will soon follow of things you are drawn to doing, and of seeing God work through that.

That the gifting of the Holy Spirit in your life is varied, depending on the need of the moment.  If I am filled by the Spirit and am walking in the Spirit, being led to do something and I do it, the Holy Spirit’s power will work through me.  There are times when God has led me to do something that is totally out of character for me, but I know I must obey and do it, and God works.  

Here is an example of this:  One time I was at a prayer meeting with several other churches in our area.  The pastor leading it urged us to think about someone we could share the love of Jesus with, and to ask God how to do that.  As soon as he said this, a mom from school came to my mind.  As we bowed to pray, I had a flash of an image of me standing at her door with two bags of groceries in my hands.  She had been having some troubles with drugs and getting caught.  It would have been more comfortable to me to have her in my jail Bible study, but to walk up to her door with groceries was not in my comfort zone.

After work the next day, I knew that this was when I should do this.  Her house was right across the street, so it was easy to know if she was home or not.  There were cars in the driveway, so this was the time.  As I stopped at the stop sign, the choice was there: if I turned right I would go home, left to the grocery store.

“Okay God, I’ll just drive to the grocery store…okay God, I’ll go in, but I don’t know what to buy for them.”  I sensed God tell me, “Just buy what you would buy.”  So I went my usual route, but got double of what I would get.  As I got to the check out, I told the clerk, “I need paper bags, and all of this has to fit in two bags.”  That’s what in my  “mini vision.”   So I fit them snugly in and set off for her house.  I prayed that God would give the words to say why I was there.  I didn’t have a script prepared.

When I got to the door with the bags in my arms, she came to the door and said, “What are you doing?”  Her living room had several people in it, so we walked into the kitchen and said, “I just wanted to let you know that God loves you.”  She gave me a hug, I talked with her and the guests for a few minutes and I left.  I am still waiting for the opportunity to tell her more about Jesus, and I have this gut feeling that one day it will come.

This was a one time working like that.  I was obeying  the leading of the Spirit, and trust that God worked through it.  If God is leading you to do something, just do it with the courage and the strength that He provides.  

“We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”  Ephesians 2:10


Rescued from Hopelessness

 

abundant life.jpgKnowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways (the empty way of life)  inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.  1 Peter 1:18-19

In 1978 Kansas released the song “Dust in the Wind.”  It’s kind of a fun sing along song, but yet it reflects the emptiness of life, “Just a drop of water in an endless sea…”  King Solomon kind of said the same thing in the book of Ecclesiastes.  He was the wisest man, had tons of money and wives and stuff, but yet he concluded it was all “a chasing after the wind,” in Ecc. 2:17.  

I was struck by this futility when hearing of an old friend who would go to her dad’s grave every year to pour a can a beer on his grave in remembrance of him.  On her way out from the cemetery, she got into a serious car accident.  It made me think of the futile and empty ways of trying to make life have meaning.   

But with Jesus, life takes on a new meaning, or He gives meaning and value for the first time.  Things go from black and white to color.  In John 10:10 Jesus declared, “I have come that you might have life, life to the full.”  And in John 14:6 He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”  Jesus came to give us life, meaning to life, abundant life, and a value of life that we can’t know apart from Him.  

Everyone tries to figure out life’s meaning and value, with the questions of ‘where did I come from, why am I here, and where am I going?’  When you begin to embrace the Bible and its world view, you can see that you have been created by God, the events of your life have meaning and value, and coming into a relationship with Jesus gives you eternal life.  

This was made possible by the precious blood of Christ.  Jesus shed His blood on the cross so that we could be redeemed, or ransomed from the futile ways of life that we inherited.  To be ransomed is to have a price paid to get you back from a kidnapper.  Our soul napper is Satan, who took us captive in our sin to do his bidding.  Jesus paid the bounty with His blood to buy us back from Satan and to set us free to enjoy this life that is abundant and joy filled.  Jesus rose again to demonstrate that He is the Son of God,  with power to conquer sin and death.  We must claim this personally, asking God to forgive our sin, crying out in belief that Jesus came from God, died for us and rose again and living a life given over to Him.

Last night I was reminded of the truths of 1 Peter 1:18-19 as I sat with women from our County jail in a Bible study.  Two women cried in despair as they described the troubles of their lives, of the struggles of addiction and of how they didn’t think that life has any purpose to it.  They listened as we talked about the hope that God proclaims that comes from finding life in Him.  

Oh God, may they find their hope in You, and may they be rescued from their empty way of life that has brought such pain.  Thank you that you have saved me from a hopeless life and that You have given me meaning to life, with the glorious hope of eternity with You.  Thank you Jesus, for redeeming me with Your precious blood.

For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.  Colossians 1:13-14


More on God’s Grace (I just can’t get off of it!)

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I had heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You (and I repent).  Job 42:5

I led them with cords of kindness, with the bands of love and I became to them as One who eases the yoke on their jaws, and I bent low to them and fed them.  Hosea 11:4

There is a facet of grace that has been tumbling around in my mind, calling out to me to put words to it.  ‘Chesed’ is the word in Hebrew that speaks of God’s grace in terms of deliverance from enemies, affliction, or adversity.  It denotes enablement, daily guidance, forgiveness and preservation (from allaboutgod.com).  

When God does something in us, or for us, that we couldn’t do for ourselves, that is His grace.  In Titus 3:4-5 it starts with, “When the goodness and kindness of our Savior appeared, He saved us.”  This kindness and goodness doesn’t stop once we become a Christian, it carries us throughout our lives.  It keeps appearing, sometimes in very difficult or unexpected situations.

I was talking with an old friend about how things have been going.  He had told me a few months ago that his son and his brother were both struggling.  His son had only been married less than two years when his wife decided that she didn’t want to be married anymore.  Her father and mother’s relationship hadn’t been good and it ended poorly.  So her conclusion was, why stay in a bad marriage to have it end like that?  He has been waiting at least nine months for this marriage to come back from the dead, waiting with the control really not being with him at all.  As time goes on, the prospect of restoration fades.

My friend’s brother has been a pastor of many years.  Less than a year ago he revealed that he had been having an affair for several years.  Now his wife and children won’t talk to him and have refused his pleas for forgiveness.  He has lost pretty much all he has known for the last thirty years and lives in a crummy apartment back in his small hometown, helping out with their mother who has dementia.  He too waits for God to show up and do something that he can’t do.

Remember the woman who had been bleeding over 30 years?  She pressed through the crowd just so she could touch the hem of Jesus’ robe (Mark 5:25-34). She thought something like, “I will throw myself at His feet, shamelessly asking for help.”  And Jesus helped her, He did not send her away.  When God does appear with His goodness and kindness and speaks to your desperate situation, it is radical.  That’s when Job said, “I’ve heard of You, but how I’ve seen You.”  In other words, “I used to sing ‘Amazing Grace,’ but now I have met amazing grace.  I can sing of it first person.”

I have known others whose lives have been ripped apart and rebuilt into something completely different, who have a testimony of God’s grace that is riveting.  In the process of unwanted interruptions, God brings us to Himself and it deepens our relationship with Him, bringing about pure gold.

That was my thought about the son and brother who have professed knowing Jesus most of their lives.  They have heard about grace, but when God’s kindness and mercy show up and fix their unfixable situations, they can say, ‘now grace lives with me.’  And their Christian lives will explode into directions they never could have plotted out.  Just when God will do that, I don’t know.  But because of His ‘chesed,’ I know He will.

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God leads us with cords of kindness and bands of love, bending low to ease the yoke on our jaws.  Jesus appears with His goodness and kindness and saves us from our troubles, or at least gives us a ‘new normal’ with the strength that comes from Him to handle whatever yoke that is on our jaws.

 


What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger

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Count it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.  James 1:2-4

I didn’t have a very good week.  The  first day of my much awaited month off  started with an extreme gallbladder attack, though I didn’t know what it was for a day.  Day two involved having it removed.  Day 5, I hit a deer, smashing our car and causing the airbags to go off.   Our deductible from our health insurance will cost up to $8000 out of pocket.  

Different versions use the words perseverance, endurance and patience instead of steadfastness.   So, be joyful when troubles come your way, and be steady, persevering, patient, and not crumbling like a cheap card table.  Somehow our trials and troubles, given their full effect, will make us mature, perfect, complete and lacking nothing.

In 2 Corinthians 1:8-9, Paul said that they thought they were going to die and didn’t think they could endure.  But then he said it happened so that they would not rely on themselves, but on God who raises the dead.  Paul was saying there was a purpose in his suffering, which was so that he wouldn’t rely on himself, but on God.  I’ve been saving extra money away, dreaming of retiring from my job which has gotten more grueling for several reasons, including me getting older.  And in a snap that money goes toward something  else.  Perhaps God wants me to rely on Him and not my own resources.  

God also wants to produce in us  a wholehearted faith.   He values that so much that He may, in His love, take away all the other things that we might be tempted to rely on.  In my case, maybe it was money.  God’s aim is that we grow deeper and stronger in our confidence of Him, knowing that He’s all we need.

Finally, God wants our faith to be strong.  Being joyful when troubles come is a reaction that is counter our own emotional response.  Being steady and unwavering because God is our refuge in times of trouble can be a showcase for those around us to see His life at work in us.  Satan stood before God saying that Job’s faith was really because he was so rich and prosperous.  God responded by making a wager that if all of the stuff was gone, Job would still worship Him.  Job proved that his faith wasn’t built on all of the stuff, but that he worshiped God because God is worth it.   

Job’s faith was strong because God planted it in him, just like He did in Moses and the other Hall of Famers, and just like He does in us.  He will grow and build our faith, even protect it.  Jesus told Peter that in Luke 22:31-32: “Simon, Simon, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.”  

So take heart in your trials, making them a source of your joy.  God will use those troubles to cause us to rely on Him, and to show us that He’s all we need.  When we let God do His work in us through our struggles, He grows us.  God protects our faith even when we are sifted like wheat by Satan.  And in the end, it is “He who keeps us from falling and will present us blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy.”


Be Strengthened by Grace

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Do not be led astray by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace…  Hebrews 13:9

My last devotion was about not missing the grace of God because a root of bitterness springs up in you or someone around you.  This root can pull you away with a stubborn and cold heart and produces poisonous and bitter fruit, as Deuteronomy 29:18 warns.

But today, let’s think about how to experience the grace of God and have it actually strengthen us.  There are three things I can think of today that can pull someone away from grace.  I’m sure there are dozens, but let’s start with three.

  1. Thinking that how I’m doing as a Christian is about my performance and measuring up.  Christians my parents’ age seem to have been caught up in what looks good, whether it had meaning or not.  You had to do the right thing, go to every event there was because it wouldn’t ‘look good’ if you didn’t. The Christian life was one of duty and striving to measure up.  It ends up with a ‘see me’ mentality, because if I’m going to wear myself doing these things, I better get the credit for it somewhere.
  2. Strange and diverse teachings of today.  There are so many rabbit trails out there that you can go down that might seem exciting or where it’s at, but don’t really bring you closer to Jesus and what He has for you.  Some might be into the fulness of the Holy Spirit, others into end times, yet others into finding our Jewish roots, and on it goes.
  3. Getting defeated by sin, causing the Christian life to be an impossible roller coaster of some success, but more failure.  The result here is guilt, shame, not even trying to measure up and then going back to your old life.

I won’t want to linger here, because I want to get to ways for your heart to be strengthened by grace.  I’ll stick with three again.

  1. Get off of the performance leash.  Don’t let others control you.  Learn to play to the audience of One: Jesus.  Learn to hear His voice and find confidence in letting what He’s directing you dictate what you get involved in, and where you go.  What others think of you doesn’t matter really, it is what God thinks of you.  If you are living in honest obedience to Him, then cut the leash.
  2. Just get hooked on Jesus.  Take getaways with just your Bible and a notebook, maybe even no food so it doesn’t distract you.  Don’t let up until you’ve gotten through all of the distractions to just be with the lover of your soul.  In John 13:25 we see that John leaned against Jesus’ bosom.  Get that close to Him that you can feel what He feels and you see yourself and others through His eyes.
  3. Understand that your salvation is by grace alone.  It is a gift of God, meaning that you didn’t earn this salvation, God gave it to you.  He took the scales off of your eyes.  When you bring your sins to Him, He throws them as far away as the east is from the west.  You can live in freedom and hold your head high.  You don’t have to listen to the voice of the enemy that either speaks to your mind or through others’ lips.  They are words like, “You’re no good,” “remember all of the rotten things you’ve done,” and “it’s all your fault.”  You are loved, you are free, God has good plans for you and He is well pleased with you.  He is doing a work in you that will sand off the rough edges, so let Him and it will be good.

Let your heart be strengthened today by God’s grace.  Revel in what He has done for you, rest in His presence and lean up against Jesus’ bosom whenever you can.  Grace to you!

 


Don’t Miss Grace

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See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.  Hebrews 12:15

Hebrews 12 begins by talking about setting aside sin and fixing our eyes on Jesus.  In 12:4 it says, “In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.”  It continues by explaining that if we are disciplined by the Lord, it means we are His children.  Verse 11 declares that if we submit to God’s discipline we will “yield the peaceful fruit of righteousness, for those who have been trained by it.”

If we don’t  set aside our sins and weights, resisting to the point of great pain, and if we don’t submit to God’s warning lights, a few things could result.  One is that we continue to run, but we are so weighed down that the Christian life is a burden and a chore.  Another is that we experience God’s spankings over and over until we learn our lesson.  God will discipline His children until they are trained by it.  A third option is that we fail to obtain the grace of God, which sounds awful.

“Failing to obtain the grace of God” could mean that those who never submit to the commands and path to holiness that God gives us really are not believers.  They could be called “professing Christians,” who think they are secure because they go to church or because of some past spiritual experience or good work.  Hebrews is written to those people, urging them to not be presumptuous about their standing with God.

“The root of bitterness” really isn’t about not taking care of resentment and festering bitterness in your heart, though that’s a good thing to do.  It is a reference to Deuteronomy 29:18 that states: “Beware lest there be among you a man…whose heart turns away from this day from the Lord our God to go and serve the gods of those nations; lest there be among you a root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit.”

How can this root of bitterness and unbelief spring up in a body of believers and defile many?  Deut. 29:10 answers this by describing “one who, when he hears the words of this sworn covenant, blesses himself in his heart, saying, ‘I shall be safe, though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart.’”

You could be pressing into God, yearning to be set free from the ugly consequences of sin that has wreaked havoc in your life, coming to church with an attitude of worship and desperacy.  And then you sit by a person who is rarely moved to sing or worship, that never really has read the Bible, doesn’t bear fruit in keeping with repentance, and who kind of communicates to you to ‘knock it off.’

Don’t let their stubborn and unbelieving heart deter or defile you.  Grab a hold of the grace of God by setting aside your sins and weights, resisting sin to the point of great personal pain and loss, and submitting to God’s hand of discipline.  Pursue holiness so that you may enjoy God’s grace, yielding a peaceful fruit of righteousness.

*Image from Mick Holt