Tag: Salvation

An important reminder…

It’s the Gospel plus nothing equals salvation & sanctification.

There is nothing you can do to earn a relationship with God. There is nothing you can do to earn more love from God. God already proved He loves you unconditionally. In Christ, He sees you white as snow. Ok, by now the “Yeah, but…” is starting to creep in. So, let me remind you once more…

It’s the Gospel plus nothing…

True Christian religion is about selfless service for others and not religious attainment of God’s favor. God focused on us and sent Jesus. Jesus focused and served us giving us a relationship with God. Because it’s the Gospel plus nothing we’re free to focus on others and not ourselves. The statement “religion is do, Christianity is done” is false because the focus is on self. If you’re in Christ and Christ is in you, it’s not about you. It’s about being a blessing to others. In Christ, that’s how we roll. Ok, another reminder…

It’s the Gospel plus nothing…

Christ is more interested with who you are that what you do. Right now the “yeah, but…” is starting to creep in. Let’s just admit that we don’t like having to humbly admit we can’t do something ourselves. We need to be in control and that’s why we’re quick to ask what should we do? Humbly thank God for doing what you could not. Let Him be God instead of you trying to be in control. Why? Ok, one more time…

It’s the Gospel plus nothing…

25 years ago I imagined…

…Doing what I’m doing today. 25 years ago I knew I needed Jesus. That is the essential element to Christianity. Jesus did what we could not do, and He gave us what we did not deserve. That’s grace. That’s mercy.

When I accepted Jesus I knew I wanted to teach the Bible. Fitting that this coming Sunday I’ll be talking about the Gospel, what it is and what it isn’t. People struggle with the simplicity of the Gospel. That its free, that it’s by faith. To often we want to add hoops, dress codes, music limits, etc. That’s not Gospel. I’m enjoying the study of Galatians. It develops a picture of a mask vs grace, a prison vs freedom.

When we add rules, regulations, “standards” to the Gospel what we have is a masquerade, not freedom. Jesus came to set us free, not to put us into another prison. For 25 years I’ve had the joy of walking with Jesus. No regrets, definitely some bruises and tons of joy. This last year what stood out the most to me is the need to keep the Gospel first and the Gospel central.

So, I’m in my home office studying for my first sermon in Galatians. I imagined 25 years ago teaching the Bible and loving it. By God’s grace, that’s what I’m doing. It’s a God thing more than anything, but I’m grateful He let me imagine that 25 years ago. It makes today all that more special.

Psalm 100 ESV
1 Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth! 2 Serve the LORD with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! 3 Know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. 4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! 5 For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.

Torn & Mended

This past Sunday was the most amazing life group. A small group, like many things becomes routine. It is part of weekly life. But the benefit of consistent involvement is that one amazing moment you will remember for a long time. This past Sunday stood as a reason of why small groups are important. We discussed the significance of a torn curtain and the mending that it provided.

Rescue not just judgment
In the Gospel we have the convergence of pain and suffering along with beauty and peace. People forget the Gospel is larger than a judicial matter, it’s a rescue form a massacre. Creation is fundamentally flawed. Jesus, by offering himself, resolves more than just the sin issue, He brings promise of all things new. Problems with human depravity and the brokenness of creation will one day end.

Present not removed
As sin alienates us from God, God is present and at work in His silence. God protected Israel while they wandered in the desert. While a curtain separated man from the holy of holies, God the Son was teaching in the courts of the temple. While people made themselves clean for worship, God the Son washed his disciples’ feet. As lambs were made ready for slaughter, Christ died on the cross and the curtain tore. Suffering brought peace.

Theology is practical
It is not proper to share what we discussed. But, the sharing of the Gospel has practical ramifications. It offers perspective, attitude, guidance, wisdom, hope and most importantly; it allows us to see God. Sometimes the most pragmatic thing needed isn’t practical at all. In life’s challenges what we need isn’t always a solution. We need the Gospel. The Gospel discusses our most significant need, the presence of God.

The bottom line:
We are mended through what was torn. And the separation that occurred brings people together. And this community celebrates what can no longer be separated as we look to all things being new.

Why not Wednesday? Own depravity

We try to push the idea human depravity away. We hide it, talk it away, claim that it’s a negative outlook, etc. The last we want to do is own it. Some overplay the depravity hand claiming because we are depraved we are therefore worthless. This too doesn’t own depravity. We need to own it.

Conflict resolution
This idea did not go over well as I was training camp counselors in conflict resolution.

“People are naturally good, not depraved,” said a counselor.
“People who say people are naturally good have never worked with children,” I replied.

The group wasn’t buying it. To move forward and be optimistic you first need to understand and see reality. Understand the reality of things and you can move things towards the best. They still didn’t buy in. I told them to give it a week… it only took a couple of hours.

“Trouble makers”
A church that had a large group of unchurched kids asked my advice on dealing with them. Apparently my answer did not have an appreciation for the situation. The rebuttal given was “but they don’t behave!” Aha, there is the problem. My advice was you need to love them first. We polarize discipline and love- they are truly one. If we love we deal with the reality of the situation and work towards the best. Love includes discipline, it’s not exclusive. Good behavior doesn’t come first and then we love. Despite our depravity, Christ acted on our behalf! Jesus loved, saved and then begins to perfect us.

Easier said then done
My kids pour on the love talk when they are in trouble. It KILLS me. They’re cute. They’re adorable, and I LOATH to see them hurt or cry. I knew this moment would come. I knew it would be hard. But love does what is best for the person. It doesn’t act with a cold heart, but it does compassionately deal with reality. This too is the Gospel. As God saves us He also lovingly shapes us. As hard as it is to discipline my boyz, hugging them afterward and showing forgiveness is a powerful moment. It communicates that even when they mess up, they’re still loved.

The bottom line:
We must own depravity. It means doing something that is counter-culture these days: taking responsibility. Bringing it back to the Cross, God knew we could not be perfect. That is why He gave us Christ. Owning our depravity isn’t seeing everyone as evil and worthless- it’s seeing people as being imperfect and need of redemption. Yes we are depraved, but that doesn’t have to be the end of the story. Yes people are depraved, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t love them and get involved in people’s lives. That is precisely what Jesus did, and one day we’ll be made perfect because of it.

The Gospel first, The Gospel central

What if everything was fine
Imagine no issues between couples, the husbands loving wives and wives honoring their husbands. No children being disobedient, growing in wisdom, stature and favor with men. In laws knew their place and no outlaws in disgrace.

Imagine every gun silenced. No wars, rumors of wars and espionage. No government clandestine plots to overcome. No pollution, perfect climate and people knew what the left lane was for.

Imagine every belly full, every person with a warm bed and not a job a person dreads. No poverty, no debt not even a single regret. No trash on the street thrown or cancer in your body grown. No aids, colds and malaria. No suicide, depression or hysteria.

Imagine if we could bring about a world such as this. We’d still have a problem. We’d still be empty. The church would still be needed.

The Gospel first
The Gospel is of first importance. If all is well and good. No problems, secure job, everything kosher, you still need God. In fact Adam and Even in the garden had a perfect life and the issue was the same, they needed God. Ironic that in an Earth of perfection mankind chose rejection but in an Earth of depravity man must accept the message of the Gospel. The issue is the same. We need God. We don’t evangelize in heaven, for at that point it is too late.

The Gospel central
Our need of God makes the Gospel central. I am sure each of us can think of organizations that were about the Gospel but today are no longer. If we hold to pet doctrines and make them our mainstay, what we do is in vain. If Christ did not raise from the dead, it does not matter our view on things like creation, end times and other deep theological questions that should be discussed. Without the Gospel, we address societies ills in vain by meeting needs without hope.

Is God enough
If we move off the Gospel as saving us, of the Gospel making all things new, we dive deep into despair. The key question regardless of our circumstances or station in life is this: Is God enough? That is the central question to life and history. Even if we were to bring about a perfect world that question would still be there. For Adam and Eve, a relationship with God was not enough. Today we see the effects of running from God, to numerous to count.

The bottom line
The Gospel first, The Gospel central understands that Christ is truly the cornerstone of the church as well as a stumbling block. You cannot get around that without causing the church to fizzle out. With the Gospel being first and central it gives clarity to why we study and pursue the Scriptures; not as religion, but in relationally knowing God. It motivates to serve and love everyone. It understands the that problems of the world are far deeper than politics; they are issues of the soul needing God.

There is much more to knowing God than just the Gospel. But the Gospel is the doorway. The Gospel is not the only thing, but it must be first and central to the church. For in the Gospel the central question is answered: Yes, God is enough, and that changes everything.

Why not Wednesday? No turning back…

25 years ago on January 5th, 1986 I asked Jesus to save me. It is the day that changed everything. I remember sitting in my bed dreading going back to school and reflecting on all I heard at church. I knew one thing clearly: I needed to trust in Jesus.

No regrets
I have no regrets over the best 25 years. This doesn’t mean I made no mistakes. It doesn’t mean there aren’t times I could have made better decisions. It means this: The cross covers all sin. Ponder that for a moment. The moment we trust in Christ He erases all your sin, past, present and future. Instead of regrets I embrace the hope of the Gospel.

Back to being
I once heard a story where a person asked a pastor what was the difference between Christianity and religion. “Religion is do, Christianity is done.” I’ve learned it is very easy to get caught up in ‘doing’ instead of what Christ is most concerned about: ‘being.’ Our favor with God is completely based on the Gospel. A sharp focus on being will result in a more sustainable doing of good things. Busyness hinders our walk. Resting and waiting on God renews it.

Church is the hero
I believe the Church is the greatest institution for hope on Earth. For sure the Church has problems, but those problems, like regrets, the cross covers. To be a part of the church only takes two things: brokenness and the Gospel. There is no other place where brokenness is embraced with a future hope of Christ making all things new. Even though there are churches who may not get this or churches who ignore sin altogether, God is in control. He will make the Church right.

God is enough
The heart and breadth of the Gospel and existence is this: God is enough. Adam & Eve did not think so. Their actions led us to live in a world that does not make sense apart from God and His Word. God did not leave us to ourselves. He did not force us into some extreme contest to earn His favor. God provided the perfect and completely sufficient way to have favor in His sight: Jesus (Jn 14:6).

We often get confused in the craziness in life. We think what is good is from God and what is bad is from the Devil. I find God in both the good and the bad times. For in both the central question being asked is this: Is God enough? All of life is shaping us for His good purpose, and in the end we will understand fully this question. Without God, we have and are nothing. With Him, we have what is most important in life.

The bottom line:
It is so sweet to trust in Jesus. He will make all things new. He will one day perfect those who are His. But, the greatest isn’t the restoration He provides. The greatest part of the Gospel is I can call Him my friend.

Name it & claim it!

The Sunday sermon talked about the cows of bashan from Amos 4. (Ok, you can insert corn fed, I mean lame jokes here: The sermon was moo-ving, A1 sermon, nothing like milk of the Word, etc.) I suppose there is just no way to discuss that passage elegantly as the cows referred to women. The juxtaposition of brokenness to hiding it was striking.

Pondering the sermon
Those who hammer holiness in their sermons need to take a serious look at key women in the Bible. It’s messy. Then, take a look at key men in the Bible. It’s even more messy. The problem with depravity is the constant thought that we don’t measure up; that we are lacking. This leads us to a choice: to listen to the fool or the wise. To listen to fallen voices of depravity or the grace of the Gospel. Pastor Jon did a good job pointing to these two choices: truth or error.

Name it & claim it
There is truth to the name it and claim it phrase. It’s not centered on our wants, but grace. 1 John 1:9 is a name it and claim it principle. If we confess our sin (name it) He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins AND cleanse us from all unrighteousness (claim it). Name it and claim it should be about grace, not possessions. When we embrace our brokenness God offers not just forgiveness, He cleans us up!

The Bottom Line:
We have a choice. What will we pursue? Truth or error? Grace or tyranny of our fallenness? If being perfect consumes us, we will never get dirty. Serving and helping people is messy. We want to hide our depravity, but Jesus bring it into the light. We view it as a stain, Jesus views it as dirt to be washed away. His scars prove that. We view it as hopeless, Jesus forged the Gospel in hope. Name your sin, claim its forgiveness, and as a bonus Jesus makes you clean. The Gospel is a powerful thing.

God not so angry in the OT: The Law

Jesus summed up the Torah in two statements: Love God, Love people… I took the time to read Leviticus and Deuteronomy back to back… The theme? Love God, Love people.

Thinking on Jesus fulfilling the law
One aspect of Jesus fulfilling the law the law we often miss is Love God, Love people. Seriously. Jesus made it his mission to point people to God the Father, not himself. Jesus paid the ultimate sacrifice so we might, through him, have a relationship with God and better relationships with each other. Love God, Love people. The law is more that the 600+ commands. It boils down to the big 2….

Write your own law
Write or think through your own law… What are the non-negotiables? What are the annoyances? What are the paths of reconciliation? What are the deal-breakers? How do you show and actively help the dis-advantaged? How do you show hospitality? While we may gawk and the huge 600+ some odd commands, the number doesn’t seem so huge when you start adding up your own decrees. Now that you have your own law written down, who does it serve: you or others?

Absolute perfection and absolute holiness
The law points to the necessity of Christ and the reality of what God being holy means. For example: I have an eye defect at birth. Based on this one defect, if I were a Levite, I would not be permitted to sacrifice. My youngest son has eczema, he would not be able to sacrifice either. God did not want any imperfection in His presence. With that in view, how significant is Jesus touching and healing the lame, blind, lepers, and prostitutes? Jesus fulfilled the absolutes and provided for the imperfects like you and I!

The bottom line:
I think we misunderstand God in the Old Testament. In looking at the 600+ commands, it made provision for the disadvantage, for mistakes, and for evil. It deals much with human conflict and depravity. Perhaps it is not so much that God is vindictive as it is people are depraved and do not want to repent. Take a look at your own “law.” Who does it serve, yourself, or focus on others? God rooted the Law in His nature  and the service of others. Love God, Love people.

Faith is not the absence of doubt

At BBC there is the all holy seminary reading room. It’s a humorous title, it’s just the seminary room. One day we were brought into this room. I do not remember which professor it was, but I do remember the warning:

“Many of the books in this room were written by men who knew more about the Bible then some of you ever will, but they missed the point.”

It perplexed me that many of the Bible study tools we have today were built on the work of those ho actually doubted the Bible or doubted inspiration and inerrancy. How can doubt produce coldness to God in once sense, and bring others closer? I don’t know, and hence I’m perplexed.

I do not think scholarship, reason or doubt is the enemy. I do not think giving up these things in the name of faith, pragmatism or focusing on what is most important is biblical. Let me give an analogy for each:

Faith: We sit in many chairs without seeing them first verifying they will hold us up. I say that as I sat in my kitchen chair one day and it collapsed underneath me.

Pragmatism: There is nothing pragmatic about romance. ‘Nuff said.

The biggest thing: Coffee brings me great joy in life, but it’s not the meaning of life. (Though, enjoying it does help ponder the larger things in life.)

Often in churches we get very nervous when someone questions or doubts. We get more nervous when someone declares their doubts. In our quest for Christ likeness, do we forget Thomas- one of the foundation stones to the church. Saul was a doubter. The Roman centurion was not. Is one better than the other? I think not.

The Bible has stories of doubters. I do not think doubt is the enemy of faith, but squelching doubt is. The trial by fire for each human is different. For some it will be life circumstance, others pride, addictions to some and some it will be doubt. People will succeed or fail in these challenges.

Truth is truth. If the Bible is fully truth, as I believe and I am convinced of, then in the end truth will prevail. And if we fear those who doubt, or worse question whether they are really saved in the first place, then we poison the situation. The Bible makes it very clear that salvation is solely a work of God and kept by God. The Bible makes very clear that humans will doubt.

Is our faith in God or in people who don’t doubt? Do we believe salvation is by faith or in people who do not sin? How we approach issues can prevent the ability to help or open the door to greater depths of our faith. Which is more important to us and God? Yes, God gets frustrated by doubt. God also gives them an answer in due time. The bigger issue is pursuing God.

The Bottom line:
Squelching doubt is an odd form of denying the power of God. Like any other challenge in life, we should treat doubters with love, patience and respect. Not from  superiority and they are wrong, but a human understanding that each person has their own trial by fire… Let’s be honest, we all at times have doubts. God knows that.

“If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.” 2 Timothy 2:13

Book Review: Crazy Love by Francis Chan

Crazy Love goes on my must read list! The book draws out things that we easily forget, like the transforming reality of God in our life. The interplay between church, theology, and living is hard to navigate. Crazy Love brings these elements together,

What if…
‘What if’ jumps out of this book. The question Francis Chan asked that has my mind spinning is this: What if churches were more known for giving and not taking? This question, and others like it, call for a radical approach to how we live for Christ. One chapter of the book just gives story after story of people living based on God’s crazy love for them. It really is not a fluff book.

Guilt by love
Crazy Love challenges you on the love front. Many people cringe at hell, fire and brimstone (HFB) sermons, saying they’re tired of feeling guilty all the time. Others criticize for ignoring the gruesome aspect of eternity. Crazy Love has the potential to produce more guilt or conviction then any HFB sermon I ever heard. It is the book equivalent of a loving mother looking you in the eye and saying: “I love you, but I’m disappointed.

Francis Chan writes with the art of a surgeon. He is very careful to say clearly what needs to say, while also attempting to hold back negative emotions that can get one sidetracked. Chan’s book refreshes you in how he specifically speaks against church bashing. He is right in asserting that what we truly love and are convicted about produces the most solid change. His tone focuses on process not perfection, pursuit, not purity. Perfection and purity will come because of what Christ did. The tone of this books would be one many writes should absorb.

Bottom line:
This review is brief for one reason: I don’t want to give anything away, you need to listen and engage yourself! The book will challenge your faith. Some may feel guilty at first from reading it, but it gives you a clear and balanced approach of how God’s love should impact us. For others, this book will reignite you passion to go all out for God.