How do we reach the materialistic for Christ? Part 3

“And Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.’ ” John 6:35

The third and final way to reach a materialistic person is to CHALLENGE THEM TO TRUST THE SAVIOR (John 6:35-40). Jesus tells the crowd how to do this using two simple things everyone understands: hunger and thirst. “And Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.’ ” (John 6:35). The materialist hungers and thirsts for power… possessions… and popularity! But the greatest hunger and thirst of all is for immortality. Jesus says to look to Him to satisfy our hunger for immortality. Look to Him to quench our thirst for eternal life. What do you do when you are hungry? You eat. What do you do when you are thirsty? You drink. Jesus says that if we come to Him in faith, we will never hunger for eternal life again. If we believe in Him we will never thirst for eternal life again. One bite of the bread that Jesus’ offers an one drink of the water that Jesus offers, satisfies our spiritual hunger and thirst forever.

What if a person stops believing in Christ? Will he hunger or thirst for eternal life again? No. Because the spiritual need which Jesus meets can never reoccur. Once you receive eternal life, you have it forever. After all, how long is “never”? It is forever, right? If a person could hunger or thirst for eternal life again after believing in Jesus, then Christ just told a lie. Jesus says one bite… one drink satisfies for eternity. The results of believing in Christ are permanent even if we don’t keep on believing.

Jesus said, “But I said to you that you have seen Me and yet do not believe.” (John 6:36).Not all who see will come to Christ. Although they had seen His miraculous power and had heard His claims, this crowd still refused to believe in Jesus alone for eternal life. They were not convinced He could give them eternal life simply by believing in Him. This is hard for the materialist. He has always provided for his own needs, and now he is being challenged to trust someone outside of himself for his most important need.

“All that the Father gives Me will come to Me.” (John 6:37a). The reason these materialists wouldn’t believe in Christ was because the Father had not given them to Jesus. No matter how much we have prayed and planned… no matter how persuasive we are in sharing the gospel… people will not come to Christ unless the Father has given them to His Son. Does this mean that no one can get saved if the Father has not given them to Jesus? Some Calvinists refer to this verse as proof of unconditional election.

But I believe there is a better explanation. Anthony Badger astutely observes that Jesus spoke the words of John 6:37-39 just before speaking of building His church in Matthew 16:18. Because of Israel’s final rejection of Christ (Matthew 12:22ff), Jesus “anticipated an end of the Dispensation of the Law and a transfer into the Dispensation of Grace… Jesus spoke the words of John 6:37-39 at the time of His final rejection by the nation. He certainly knew that Israel was to be judged for their rejection and that the Church age intercalation was at hand. Israel would be temporarily set aside, and the Church would become God’s select, corporate instrument for His service during the Dispensation of His Grace. And it will continue to be so until its translation/rapture prior to the coming Tribulation period (the 70th week of years spoken of in Daniel 9:24-27. At that time God will resume His plan for national Israel). Prior to this transfer of believers from Father to Son in anticipation of the new age, they belonged to the Father by faith. The transfer (the Father giving believers to the Son) merely acknowledged the reality of the coming Church Age.”

“This fits contextually as well. When Jesus began to set His face toward Jerusalem (Mt 16:21) it was evident that a new day was coming. No longer could the old ways be continued. New, fresh, rejuvenating wine cannot be stored in old, outdated, dry, cracked wineskins. A transfer of ownership of Old Testament believers to Christ was necessary. God the Father putting all things into the hands of His Son. This is further supported in Jesus’ discourse with the disciples in John 14-16. Believing Jews who belonged to the Father, having only the promise of the Messiah, were at this point delivered over into the Son’s hands for keeping. Now they belonged to the Messiah. The lack of dispensational understanding of Calvin, the Reformers, and Reformed Theology allows them to misunderstand John 6:37-39.” (Anthony B. Badger, Confronting Calvinism: A Free Grace Refutation and Biblical Resolution of Radical Reformed Soteriology [Anthony Badger, 2013], pp. 185-186).

Jesus than said, “And the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.” (John 6:37b). The phrase “I will by no means cast out” is emphatic in the Greek language (οὐ μὴ ἐκβάλω ἔξω). Literally it means, “I will no not ever cast out” the one who comes to Me. No matter… what your record or what you have done… where you have been or how proud, arrogant and self-sufficient you have been, when you come to Christ you will be welcomed by Him. You will not be cast out. Jesus will never reject you no matter what you do after you come to Him. This is God’s amazing grace. It cannot be earned and it cannot be undone. Once you come to Christ in simple faith, you are God’s child forever.

Some of us come from backgrounds which are filled with rejection. The main reason some of us have a hard time trusting people today is because we have experienced so much rejection while growing up. Perhaps a parent criticized us for everything we did… a teacher humiliated us… a friend betrayed us… a spouse left us… an employer terminated us. Jesus guarantees you will never be rejected by Him. His love and acceptance of you is unconditional. The materialist needs to know this because he has grown up trying to buy or earn people’s love. But now he is challenged to believe in Someone who loves and accepts him regardless.

“For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” (John 6:38). And what is the will of the Father who sent Jesus? “This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day.” (John 6:39). Is staying saved a matter of a Christian doing the Father’s will or of Jesus doing His Father’s will? Jesus doing His Father’s will. If Jesus lost one person who believed in Him, then He would have failed to do the will of His Father. And that presents a moral dilemma. For if Jesus failed to do His Father’s will, then He would have sinned and could no longer be God.

But listen to me. Jesus Christ has never lost one believer and He never will because He is God (John 1:1; Titus 2:13) and He always does the will of His Father. This is the ULTIMATE SECURITY. Something every materialist (and every person) needs. The materialist lives in fear of losing his possessions, power, and popularity. But when he comes to Jesus he is safe forever. We need to get a grip on this. Too many believers are being taught that you cannot know for sure you are going to heaven because they are taught that it is based on your performance instead of Christ’s. This contradicts what Jesus is saying here. Assurance of your salvation is not based on you doing God’s will, but on Jesus doing the Father’s will.

Jesus concludes, “And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:40). Does the word “everyone” mean everyone? Does Jesus include all the homosexuals, drunkards, drug addicts, liars, psychics, terrorists, the wealthy, and the most moral people who see the Son of God and believe in Him? Absolutely! God’s gift is for everyone who will receive it by faith.

Has your thirst for immortality been quenched? Do you know for sure that you have eternal life? If not, why not take Jesus Christ at His word right now? Place your trust solely in Him to save you. Give up confidence in anything else: your prayers, giving, church attendance, baptism, obedience, commitment, or  the reformation of your life, etc. Jesus Christ guarantees eternal life to all who trust in Him as their Savior.

Let us share this message gladly and often. It is glorious news! It is the greatest news! Don’t worry so much about method. Concentrate on the message. Tell people eternal life is a free gift and that the sole condition for receiving it is believing or trusting in Christ alone. Leave the results to God. After all, eternal life is the gift of God. He is the One giving the gift.

Prayer: Father God, thank You for this incredible free gift that lasts forever! Please give me a love for the materialistic people in my life. I need Your Holy Spirit to help me to confront their selfish desires, to correct their misconceptions about salvation, and to challenge them to trust the Savior for eternal life so that they can discover the joy of everlasting security in Jesus Christ. Security that cannot be lost or taken away. Lord, I pray that those of us who know You will seek satisfaction in our relationship with You and not the things of this world. Enable us to live in light of eternity. In Jesus’s name. Amen.

How can we overcome spiritual paralysis? Part 2

“The sick man answered Him, ‘Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me.’” John 5:7

If we are to overcome spiritual paralysis, we must also … REFUSE to BLAME Others (John 5:7). When Jesus asked, “Do you want to get well?” (John 5:6), the lame man replied, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me.” (John 5:7). He was complaining, “Every time the water bubbles up, no one is here to help me into the pool. It’s always the stronger ones who reach the water first. It’s a shame those of us who need it the most get the least amount of help. It’s been that way for thirty-eight years.”

We do the same thing today. How often do we hear people say things like, “I’d stop drinking if my wife would quit nagging me!” “I’d work harder, but no one appreciates my effort.” “I’d stop doing drugs if my friends would stop pressuring me.” “I’d make better grades, but my teacher doesn’t like me.” “I’d come to church, but there are too many hypocrites there.” We have such a difficult time saying, “I’m responsible for my choices.” We blame heredity, environment, circumstances, the past – everything except ourselves. Yet what the Lord wants is for us to accept responsibility for our own behavior.

 When Jesus asks, “do you want to be made well?” what is our response? When Jesus asks, “do you want to be healed from your past hurts?” Do we reply, “you don’t know how badly they hurt me”? When Jesus asks, “Do you want to be freed from the chains of your secret sin?” do we counter, “I just can’t control myself”? When Christ says, “Do you want to be saved?” will you excuse yourself, “I’m not nearly as bad as other people I know.” When Jesus asks, “Do you want to become more effective in reaching the lost?” do we say, “I’m happy with the way things are?” When Jesus asks, “Will you try new ways to minister to the lost?” do we say, “I’m afraid of what could happen?” Jesus said to the cripple “Do you want to be made well?” And he replied, “I don’t have anyone to put me in.”

To receive the healing Jesus has for our lives, we must refuse to blame others and take responsibility for ourselves. Christ is eager to help us, but we must be willing to let Him. Living in denial only makes our spiritual paralysis worse. We must break out of denial and stop blaming someone else for the choices we have made. It is time to face the pain in our lives so we will recognize our need for Jesus. Denial can stop today! Healing can begin today!

Prayer: Ouch! Lord Jesus, Your Word is sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Thank You for loving me enough to expose the denial in my life which is often cloaked by blaming others. Lord God, please forgive me for refusing to take responsibility for my own choices which has caused more pain in my life than anything else. Right now, I am asking You to help me break out of denial and face the pain in my own life. Thank You my Lord and my God for Your healing grace and mercy. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Living life with a clear purpose

“28 The woman then left her waterpot, went her way into the city, and said to the men, 29 ‘Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?’” John 4:28-29

While spending more time at home during COVID-19 restrictions, I have had more time to reflect on what is most important in life. In John 4:27-30, the Lord showed me something this morning that I need to take to heart – LIVE LIFE WITH A CLEAR PURPOSE.

Jesus just finished a conversation with a Samaritan woman while His disciples had gone to the village of Sychar for food. “And at this point His disciples came, and they marveled that He talked with a woman; yet no one said, ‘What do You seek?’ or, ‘Why are You talking with her?’” (John 4:27). Notice that when the disciples return, they focused on the fact that Jesus is speaking to a woman with whom He shouldn’t be speaking. The disciples paid no attention to the spiritual needs of the woman that Jesus was addressing. But Jesus knew His purpose in life and He had gone to this woman to share with her about the gift of eternal life. He told her that if she knew the gift of God and the Giver, she would ask Him and He would give her eternal life. And she responded in faith. She now knew the gift and the Giver.

If our lives are directed by a clear purpose – to share the gospel with all people – we will not let the prejudices of people prevent us from reaching out to others. God wants all churches to be a haven of salvation for ALL people in the community no matter who they are or where they live. If you know a lost person, they are someone that God has put in your life to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with them.

What did the Samaritan woman do after she received the gift of salvation?  “The woman then left her waterpot, went her way into the city, and said to the men,‘Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?’” (John 4:28-29). She wasted no time telling others what Christ had done for her. Jesus knew all about the shameful things she had done, yet He still loved her. No one ever treated her with such dignity! He accepted her as she was, but also showed her need for God’s free gift of eternal life. He showed her the only way to quench her spiritual thirst. When she asks the villagers, “Could this be the Christ?” she was trying to raise their curiosity. In the original Greek language, her question is even more cautious, “This couldn’t be the Christ, could it?” After all, she had such a poor reputation, they would not believe her if she claimed to have found the Messiah. So, she asks a question to motivate them to investigate Christ for themselves. Did it work? “Then they went out of the city and came to Him.” (John 4:30). Perhaps those she spoke to had been partners with her and they would have wondered, “Could this Man know about us, too?”

God wants us to live life with a clear purpose. Like the Samaritan woman, we are to tell others what Christ has done for us. That’s what this new believer did after Jesus gave her the gift of eternal life. This is why it’s so important for churches to have new believers because those new believers are excited about telling others about Christ. They will get others excited about it, too. Also, new believers have many non-Christian family and friends. The tendency of Christians as they grow older in the Lord is to have fewer contacts with unbelievers unless they are intentional about cultivating relationships with the unsaved. Having new Christians in a church can also open the door for more exposure to their unsaved family and friends.

Over the years I have observed some churches who think it is best not to let new believers share the gospel until they have matured in their faith for a few years. But this is not supported by Scriptures. New Christians are some of the most effective evangelists on the planet. They are excited about their new relationship with Jesus, so they are highly motivated to talk to others about Christ. And they also have many non-Christian family and friends. These two factors alone make them very effective in sharing the gospel with the unsaved.

Are you living life with a clear purpose? Are you telling others what Jesus Christ has done for you? Are you learning to see lost people the way Jesus sees them – as someone He loves and wants to save? The more we see the unsaved as Jesus does, the more willing we will be to cross over the barriers of culture and prejudice to talk to them about the gift of God and it’s Giver.

Prayer: Lord of the Harvest, forgive me for losing sight of Your purpose for my life. You saved me from my sins so I may live for You now and not myself. You do not want me to keep the gospel message to myself, but to share it with everyone who will listen. I remember the day I met You, Lord Jesus. You knew all the shameful things I had ever thought, said, and done, and You still loved me and wanted a relationship with me. I felt so loved and accepted by You. No one had ever treated me with such dignity. And my life has never been the same. Thank You, for Your gift of everlasting life. Please open the doors for Your gospel message to spread around the world so others who are enslaved to fear and shame may discover the freedom that only You can give them through Your grace and truth. Truth that tells them of their need for You and Grace that cleanses them of all their sin and shame the moment they believe in You. Thank You my Lord and my God. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Jesus cares about the little things in our lives

“When the master of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom. And he said to him, ‘Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk, then the inferior. You have kept the good wine until now!’ ” John 2:9-10

We have learned from Chapter 2 of John so far, that our joy (represented by wine) can be restored when we release our problems to Jesus (John 2:1-4) and when we respond to Jesus with total obedience (John 2:5-7). Another way to restore our joy is to realize that Jesus cares about the little things in our lives (John 2:8-10).

After the servants at the wedding banquet filled each stone pot to the brim, Jesus said to them, “Draw some out now, and take it to the master of the feast.” (John 2:8a). John tells us, “And they took it.” (John 2:8b). As far as we know, Jesus had not told the servants about the miracle that He was going to perform. To them, they were carrying a cup full of water not wine. But when the master of ceremonies tasted what was brought to him, he got a mouthful of wine that was better than anything he had ever tasted before.

“When the master of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom. And he said to him, ‘Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk, then the inferior. You have kept the good wine until now!’ ” (John 2:9-10). The master of the feast observed that it is a universal custom to serve “the good wine” first and then the “inferior” wine “when the guests have well drunk”   and their sense of taste has become less discerning. John is not suggesting that Jesus created more wine for drunken guests. He is simply emphasizing the supreme quality of wine that Jesus created out of water. 

Some Bible teachers have insisted that the wine Jesus created was no more than grape juice. But the word for “wine” (oinos) here is the word for fermented juice of the grape. Paul uses this same word when he writes, “Do not be drunk with wine [oinos]” (Ephesians 5:18). The same Bible that condemns drunkenness (Ephesians 5:18) and cautions against a misuse of alcoholic beverages (Proverbs 23:29-35; I Timothy 3:3, 8) recognizes wine as one of God’s gifts (Psalm 104:15: Ecclesiastes 9:7). God created the grape from which the wine is made. But God is not to be blamed for peoples’ misuse of His gifts. Each human being is responsible for their own sobriety.

The words of the master of the feast demonstrate that a transformation miracle has taken place whereby Jesus created out of plain water a superior wine to any previously served. We will discover in John 3 another type of transformation miracle when Jesus gives His gift of eternal life to a sinner who believes.  

When the servants obeyed Jesus, this tells us that it is our job to fill the water pots, but it is Jesus’ job to change the water into wine. For example, in your marriage, it is your responsibility to love and serve your spouse, but it is Christ’s responsibility to change him or her. Don’t try to do something that only Jesus can do. He alone can change the personality and habits of your spouse. Trust Him to do what you cannot. It is our responsibility to share the gospel with people, but it is Jesus’ job to transform them. Simply share the truth with those without Christ and let the Holy Spirit convict them of their need for Him.

A miracle happened on that day in Cana of Galilee. This is such a beautiful picture of grace here. Initially, it appeared that Jesus was going to refuse to replenish the wine. But as He listened to His mother and looked into the faces of the wedding party, He reconsidered. People are more important to Jesus than schedules. Jesus changed His plans to meet the needs of some friends at a wedding feast. His first miracle was motivated not by famine or terrorism, but by concern for friends who were in a bind.

Christ not only cares about the major difficulties in our lives like death, disease, and disaster, but He also cares about the smaller things in life like running out of wine at a wedding reception, having a flat tire, a toothache, or even losing an ear plug when you desperately need to sleep.

If we are to experience Jesus’ transforming grace and the joy that results from this, we must realize that Jesus Christ cares as much about the little things in our lives as He does about the big things.So, go to Him with what concerns you. Make your relationship with Him your top priority, and He will fill your hearts to overflowing with His peace and power so that you may have a joy-filled life.

This miracle of changing water into wine could not have happened without the request of Mary as she admitted the problem. It couldn’t have happened without the presence of Jesus for them to bring the problem to Him. It couldn’t have happened without the willingness of the servants to work hard to do whatever Jesus commanded them to do. And it couldn’t have happened without Jesus’ concern for the little things in life.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, Your grace transforms lives, even when it comes to the little things in our lives that no one else thinks is important. You are a kind and caring Lord Who not only sees the little things in our lives, but You also do something about them. Knowing this, motivates me to come to You in prayer. My prayers never fall on deaf ears. You hear and You answer. And my life is filled full of joy! Thank You my Lord and my God. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Who is Jesus Christ? Part 4

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14

In the first five verses of John we saw that the Word, Jesus Christ, is eternal, relational, and our Creator God (John 1:1-3). Jesus is the only source of eternal life and hope (John 1:4-5). So when we look at Jesus, we are looking at our Creator God in human flesh. Jesus Christ made you and me to have a relationship with Him. So what is God like?

In John 1:14, we are going to see that God became a man in order to show us what He is like (John 1:18). The apostle John writes, “And the Word became flesh…” (John 1:14a). The most amazing fact of history is that the Word, God Himself, became a human being without ceasing to be God. Religions seek to know how we as humans can get to God. Yet the Bible tells us that God came to us. The Word, Jesus Christ, became a human being.

The word “dwelt” (skēnóō) means “to tabernacle” (John 1:14). Just as God’s presence dwelt among the Israelites in the tabernacle (cf. Exodus 25:8-9; 33:7, 11), so He lived among people in the Person of Jesus Christ. King Solomon thought it incredible that God would dwell on the earth (1 Kings 8:27), but that is precisely what He did in Jesus.

Why did God become a man? So, we could approach Him and trust Him. For example, a construction company was once building a road through some mountainous country, using dynamite to build a roadbed. Steve, who worked for the company, was placing the dynamite charges. One day as he was getting ready to detonate a charge, he noticed that several little chipmunks had come out of the underbrush, playing around the hole where he had installed the explosives. Steve, being a tenderhearted guy, didn’t want to see those little chipmunks blown to bits, so he began trying to drive the chipmunks away. Each time however, they just came right back to the location. His supervisor, Charlie, came out to see what was holding up the blasting. Steve, exasperated, explained that those chipmunks would not get out of the danger area. Charlie chuckled, and then used the incident to talk about Jesus Christ.

He explained to Steve that the only way one of them could communicate with those chipmunks, was if one of them became a chipmunk, and yet at the same time, kept all the characteristics of a man. Chipmunks are afraid of humans because we are twenty times their size. But if you become a chipmunk, they would be able to trust you and relate to you, because you would be able communicate the great danger caused by the dynamite (from Eight Vital Relationships for the Growing Christian (Dallas: EvanTell, Inc., 1982), Chapter 2, p. 6). 

This is exactly what God had to do – He became a man in order to communicate with the human race what God is really like and to warn them of the incredible danger facing them if they rejected Christ (Matthew 23:14; 25:41, 46a; Mark 9:42-47; 12:40; Luke 20:47; John 1:1, 14-18; 3:18, 36; Revelation 20:15). If God came to us in the fullness of His glory, we would be too frightened of Him to trust Him (cf. Exodus 33:20; Ezekiel 1:28; Revelation 1:17) just like a chipmunk would be too scared to trust us.

The reason John could say he and the other disciples “beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father” (John 1:14b) without overwhelming fear was because Jesus’ humanity veiled (Philippians 2:5-8; Hebrews 10:20) the fullness of the glory He possesses in heaven (cf. Revelation 1:12-18).

Jesus became a human being so that you and I could relate to Him and Him to us. Therefore, we are to trust Him at all times because He understands us. Hebrews 4:15-16 says of Jesus, “Since we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are yet without sin; Therefore, let us boldly come to the throne of grace.” He voluntarily became one of us so that you and I would believe that our Savior knows how we feel.

Perhaps you have viewed God as some distant impersonal force who does not care about you or your circumstances. You may say to yourself, “How could God let COVID-19 happen? I have lost my income, my health, and my friends! What kind of God is this?” Please understand that the God of the Bible is not some distant dictator who delights in punishing people.

Listen to what Christian author Max Lucado says, “From the funeral to the factory to the frustration of a demanding schedule, Jesus Christ understands [bold lettering is mine]. When you tell God that you’ve reached your limit, He knows what you mean. When you shake your head at impossible deadlines, He shakes his, too. When your plans are interrupted by people who have other plans, He nods in empathy. He has been there. He knows how you feel. … Rejection? He felt it. Temptation? He knew it. Loneliness? He experienced it. Death? He tasted it. And stress? He could write a best-selling book about it. Why did He do it? One reason. So that when you hurt, you will go to Him… and let Him heal you” (Max Lucado, In the Eye of the Storm: A Day in the Life of Jesus, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1991), pp. 16-18).

The glory of Jesus that the disciples beheld was “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14c). Christ maintained a perfect balance between these two attributes. Of all the phrases that God could have used to describe Jesus Christ, He chose “grace and truth.” “Grace” refers to the unmerited kindness of God or getting what we do not deserve. We do not deserve eternal life, forgiveness, or salvation from hell, but Jesus Christ can freely offer this to us apart from any of our works because of His “grace” (John 4:10-14; Romans 3:24; 4:4-5; 6:23b; 11:6; Ephesians 2:8-9).

“Truth” refers to the perfect standard of God’s holiness. Truth says there is a right way, a best way. In life, some things are true which makes other things false. We do reap what we sow. There are consequences to our actions. Truth is true. It is unbendable and unbreakable and unyielding. Jesus came full of truth. Every word that He spoke was truth. Christ never told a lie. Every action and every thought were true. When Satan came against Jesus tempting Him by perverting the Word of God just a little (Matthew 4:1-11), how did Jesus respond? “It is written in God’s Word. Here’s the truth.” He always countered falsehood with truth. Near the end of His life before Pilate, Jesus said, “Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice” (John 18:37). Pilate said to Him, “What is truth” (John 18:37-38)? Then Pilate walked away. That was a big mistake, because the One who is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6) was right in front of him. The One who is and knows all truth is there. So, truth must be included in grace or grace is merely tolerance.

Truth without grace is just as destructive as grace without truth. Truth without grace is unbearable. Only the arrogant, proud hypocrite thinks all he needs is truth, because he thinks he has it all together. In the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7, Jesus outlines the perfect life. In the middle of that sermon Jesus says, “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).  Jesus means what He says here. When I read the expectations of God on my life and I hear His call to be perfect, I say, “Lord I can’t do it. Have mercy on me a sinner, because I fall way too short. The bar is too high.” That’s the demand of truth all by itself and it overwhelms us. God says, “I didn’t just come in truth, I came in grace.”

Why is grace and truth so important? As humans, we tend to err on one side or the other of grace and truth. Grace without truth is wishy washy. It is a farce. It is called tolerance. There are no absolutes… no right or wrong… no consequences for our actions. Anything goes, resulting in lives without direction. There is nothing we can know for sure which is tolerance. For grace to be real, it must be based on truth.

For example, grace without truth is like taking your car to the body shop to get rid of the rust. You get the car back and it looks great. But a year later the rust appears again. The mechanic didn’t remove the rust, he just covered it up to make it look good. Eventually, the rust keeps coming back. That’s how it is when you try to ignore truth. You can ignore truth for a while, but it keeps coming back. I can ignore the law of gravity and step off a cliff – and the law of gravity still applies to me. It doesn’t matter what you believe in that case. If you ignore it, it bites you.

Do you remember the woman in John 8? The religious leaders were ready to stone her because the law (the truth) said you should (cf. Leviticus 20:10). She was caught in the act of adultery and they came to Jesus saying, “The law says she should die. What do you say, Jesus?” For a few moments, Jesus wrote on the ground, while they pestered Jesus. Then Jesus stood up and looked them in the eye and said, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first” (John 8:7).One by one, starting with the oldest, they all walked away. Jesus kept writing on the ground.

After a while there was no one left except Jesus and the woman. Jesus looked up at her and said, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” (John 8:10). She said, “No one, Lord” (John 8:11a). Here’s the thing. On that day, there was somebody there who could condemn her…who could have thrown the first stone… there was someone who was sinless – Jesus (cf. John 18:38b; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; I Peter 3:18). He could have done it. Instead Christ said to her, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more” (John 8:11b). That is grace and truth.

Truth expresses God’s righteous character and demands punishment for all of our sins (Romans 3:9-23). Jesus Christ was a perfect display of God’s truth. He is “the truth” (John 14:6). He was perfect and sinless (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; I Peter 3:18). Even the political leaders could “find no fault in Him at all” (John 18:38; cf. Luke 23:4, 14-15, 22; John 19:4, 6). God’s judgment of sin fell on Jesus instead of us when He died on the cross in our place  (Isaiah 53:5-6; Matthew 27:45-56; Romans 5:8; I Corinthians 15:3; 2 Corinthians 5:21; I Peter 3:18). That is truth.

But grace is seen while Jesus was hanging on the cross. After His enemies physically and verbally abused Him, and nailed Him to a cross, Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34). Did they deserve Christ’s forgiveness. No, none of us do. But grace offers forgiveness freely. Jesus also said to the thief hanging next to Him, “Today you will be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43). Without grace, the thief on that cross dies in his sin and goes to hell.

Christ is full of grace and truth. He has the perfect ability to tell us the awful truth about ourselves, while holding us up by His grace. Because He is full of truth He was the perfect sacrifice to pay the penalty for our sin (2 Corinthians 5:21; I Peter 3:18). Because He is full of grace, you can come to Him just as you are, without having to clean up your life first. And because He is full of truth, you can come in complete confidence knowing that He will keep His promise to forgive you and grant you eternal life the moment you believe in Him. Jesus promised, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life” (John 6:47).

That’s grace and that’s truth. Jesus was full of both. Therefore, we are to seek to be gracious and truthful with one another (Ephesians 4:15). We are called to forgive others as Christ has forgiven us (Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13). Is there someone in your life that needs not just truth, but grace? Something has come between you and your relationship? They need to hear from you that the past is gone. It’s been wiped out. That’s the power of grace.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, You are totally amazing! You are the perfect balance of grace and truth. Thank You for telling me the truth about myself. I have sinned against You with my thoughts, words, and actions which makes me deserving of eternal separation from You in the lake of fire. But Your grace led You to take my punishment when You died in my place on the cross and rose from the dead. Because You are the truth without any sin, Your perfect sacrifice for my sins satisfied God’s holy demand to punish all my sins. Your grace invites me to come to You just as I am to freely receive Your forgiveness and everlasting life by believing in You. I can know with confidence that I have everlasting life the moment I believe in You because as the truth, You can never lie. You always keep Your promises. Please, my Lord and my God, change me so I can show grace and truth to others as You have shown to me. Lead me to those who not only need Your truth, but also need Your grace. They need to know that their past is gone. It has been erased because of Your grace. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

When the Lord is my Shepherd I shall not want for restoration

“He restores my soul.” Psalm 23:3a

Sheep have a habit of wandering away from the flock. They become interested in one clump of grass, and then another and another – until they discover that they have strayed far away from the shepherd and the other sheep. When night comes, the lost sheep is in great danger. It could became a meal for wolves, a mountain lion, or even fall over a cliff.

When the shepherd comes back to the fold, he counts his sheep and discovers that one is missing. The shepherd then leaves his servant to guard the flock so he can go out and find his lost sheep and bring it back to the fold.

Some sheep will develop the habit of going astray. Night after night, the shepherd finds the same sheep missing. Eventually, the shepherd will break its leg. Back in the fold, the shepherd makes a splint for the shattered leg and during the days hat follow, he carries that crippled sheep close to his heart. As the leg mends, the shepherd sets the sheep down by his side. The sheep must still depend on the shepherd to cross streams and rocky knolls.

After the leg has healed, the sheep has learned a valuable lesson – stay close to the shepherd’s side. You may think this is cruel or hardhearted until you understand the heart of the shepherd. The shepherd knows the sheep must remain close to him if it is to be protected from danger. So he breaks his leg, not to hurt it, but to restore it.

Have you ever wandered away from God, forcing Him to move in and break your leg? I don’t mean He literally breaks your leg, although He could. Maybe you felt God’s discipline was too severe and harsh. But when you know God’s heart, you realize that these afflictions came in to your life because He wants His sheep to depend constantly on Him. He longs for us to stay close to His heart.

King David understood this when he wrote Psalm 23. David had committed adultery with Bathsheba and tried to cover it up by murdering her husband, Uriah (2 Samuel 11). David lived with the guilty memory of his sin for nine months before God sent his prophet, Nathan, to restore his servant (2 Samuel 12:1-15). David’s unbearable anxiety and guilt were removed the moment he confessed his sin to God and experienced His forgiveness (Psalm 32:1-5; 51:1-4). He was restored back to fellowship with the Lord the moment he came clean with Him.

Please understand that our Good Shepherd is the One who “restores” us, just as the shepherd is the one who restores his wandering sheep. Sheep do not restore themselves. The shepherd does. Likewise, we cannot restore ourselves when we have wandered from God. Nor can our spouse, pastor, church, or close friends restore us. This is God’s responsibility.

Have you gone astray from the Lord and sunk deep into the darkness of sin and shame? Do you believe that your sin is greater than God’s grace? Are you convinced that God could never forgive you and restore you back to closeness with Him in light of what you have done?

Listen to the heart of our Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ. He said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep” (John 10:11). Jesus has the best interest of the sheep in mind. He laid down His life so that those who believe in Him may have eternal life (John 3:14-15). The word “for” in this verse refers to the substitutionary death of Christ. Christ died “for” us or “instead” of us. He died in our place.

God could have permitted us to take our own punishment. But instead, 2,000 years ago, God’s perfect Son took our place on the cross and died as our Substitute. The Bible tells us, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

A California newspaper reported that a man fired a gun into a pedestrian-filled sidewalk. To shield a three-year-old boy from the hail of bullets, a twenty-nine-year-old apartment manager grabbed him and ran back into the building. Carrying the boy, he ran up a flight of stairs before collapsing from two bullet wounds in his chest. A policeman observed, “He brought the boy out of the line of fire and died because of it.”  

As our Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ took what caused our death, our sin, and died for us before coming back to life three days later. By dying in our place, Jesus satisfied God’s holy demand to punish our sins. There is no need for us to punish ourselves. Christ took our punishment so we can enjoy fellowship with Him after we receive His gift of everlasting life (John 3:16; I John 1:3-4). No amount of our sin is greater than God’s love and grace (Romans 8:38-39; Ephesians 2:8-9).

Jesus also said, “I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own” (John 10:14). It was important for a shepherd to know his sheep. He must know their needs, weaknesses, and their problems. Without this kind of knowledge, he would not be able to adequately provide for the needs of his sheep.

Christ is the Good Shepherd not only because He lays down His life for us,but because He has an intimate knowledge of us. He knows everything about us – the good, the bad, and the ugly – and He still loves us. It is also important that the sheep know their shepherd. They must know his voice so they can respond when he calls them. They must learn to trust their shepherd so he can provide for their needs.

The more we understand how intimately our Good Shepherd knows us and loves us, the more we will believe that no amount of our sin disqualifies us from approaching Him. He wants to restore His wayward sheep. He wants to hold us close to His heart. Will you permit Him to do this in your life? If you will, you can know as David did that when the Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want for restoration.

Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, my gracious and good Shepherd, thank You for Your unlimited love and grace towards me. Thank You for laying down Your life for me so I may have Your life forever the moment I believe in You. Even though I am prone to wander from You, this does not diminish Your love for me. You still seek me out to restore me back to fellowship with You. Thank You for the pain I have felt when I have wandered far away from You. That pain teaches me to come back to You and to stay close to Your heart. Help me to show the same restoring grace to others who have wandered from You as You have shown to me. In Jesus’ name. Amen.  

The Father’s love toward His self-righteous son

“And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours.’ ” Luke 15:31

In Luke 15:11-24, we saw Father God’s love expressed in a relationship between a father and his wayward son. God is like a father who is generous to His children (15:12); He allows His children to make their own decisions and live with the consequences (15:12-16); He longs for His wayward children to return to Him (15:20a); He unconditionally loves and accepts His wayward children (15:20-21); He restores His repentant children to the privileges of sonship (15:22); He celebrates whenever His wayward children return home to Him (15:23-24).

Today we will look at how God the Father responds to an angry and self-righteous child of His. In this parable, the younger wayward son returned home to his father and his father responded with love and forgiveness to him, and restored him to the privileges of sonship (Luke 15:18-22). The father even had a parting celebrating his son’s return (15:23-24).

But while this restoration and celebration was taking place, the “older son” had been working “in the field” (15:25a). And as he drew near to his father’s house and “heard music and dancing,” he asked one of the servants what was  going on (15:25b-26). When the servant told the older brother that his younger brother had come home and his father was celebrating his return, the son became “angry and would not go in” to join the celebration of his younger brother’s return (15:27-28a). But notice what the father does. “Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him” (15:28b). The father did not ignore his son and leave him in his self-righteous pity party. No, the father pursued his angry son.

Instead of rejoicing in his father’s love and forgiveness towards his repentant brother, the older son was angry with his father’s response. This son had worked hard “serving” his father much like the Jewish religious leaders worked hard to try to earn God’s love and forgiveness (15:29). The older brother viewed himself more as a servant than as a son of his father. Actually, he views himself as a “perfect” servant. He arrogantly boasted to his father, “I never transgressed your commandment at any time” (15:29a). Really!?! He never once disobeyed his father!?!

Then he angrily blames his father for not giving him what he deserved. “And yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends” (15:29b). Like the religious leaders, this older son’s self-righteousness led him to feel that he was not being treated as much as he deserved. He preoccupied himself with his work instead of focusing on his relationship with his loving father who accepted and loved him apart from his work. He was hurt because his father never celebrated all that he had done for him, but now his father was throwing a party for his “less than” brother (15:29-30).

The older son refuses to acknowledge his brother as his brother. He calls him his father’s son (“this son of yours”), implying that his father shared his younger brother’s guilt (15:30a). This older son was elevating himself above both his father and his younger brother. His self-righteous attitude may have been his way of compensating for a deep sense of inadequacy and insecurity in his heart. This prevented him from experiencing any joy over his brother’s restoration. Amazingly, everyone in this parable experienced joy except this older brother. Instead of staying home to enjoy the love of his father, this older brother was working hard in the field so he could get what he wanted from his father.

Have you ever felt this way towards God? Do you have resentment towards God when He restores a believer whom you think should be punished? When you compare yourself to that wayward believer, do you feel superior to him or her? He or she is like a second-class Christian compared to you? When we compare our righteousness with the righteousness of other broken sinners, pride can easily fill our hearts. It would be better to compare our righteousness with that of God’s. When we do that, we will realize that our righteousness is like “filthy rags” before our perfect and holy Father in heaven (Isaiah 64:6; Romans 3:23). When we forget how much grace and forgiveness God has extended to us when we sin, we can be very unforgiving toward others when they sin (cf. Matthew 18:21-33).

Perhaps, you have worked hard for God as a Christian trying to win His approval and love. And when you see God restore a wayward brother in Christ, you feel resentment towards God’s love and forgiveness. “After all, you have done so much for the Lord. Why doesn’t He celebrate what you have done?” You have lost sight of the heart of your heavenly Father. You have focused more on working FOR the Father rather than being WITH Him. Instead of enjoying God’s grace and love towards you, you demand justice for your brother who has been restored by God.

How does the father respond to his angry and self-righteous son? He responds with the same love and tenderness that he showed toward his youngest son. “He said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours’ ” (15:31). His obedient son had constant access to fellowship with his father along with enjoyment of all he possesses. But instead of enjoying his relationship with his father and all of his father’s possessions, the older son chose to focus on his works and what he thought he deserved. This produced a haughtiness in him that caused him to look down on his father and his younger brother.

What amazes me about our Father in heaven, is that He loves His wayward children and His self-righteous angry children with the same tenderness. He pursues them even when they do not deserve it. The bottom line is both sons needed forgiveness and restoration. And their father granted it to them freely.

I believe this is a powerful message for the church today. I wonder how many wayward Christians receive the same love and tenderness from their church as they did from God when they returned home to the Lord? Or do they receive the anger that was displayed by the self-righteous older son, causing them to feel like a second-class Christian? Instead of embracing the repentant sinner, they shun him because in their minds he deserves justice not grace. Oh they would never say that out loud. But their actions speak much louder than their words. What the self-righteous Christian fails to understand is all of us deserve justice, including him or her (Romans 3:23; 6:23a). But God’s grace is for the underserving – a condition of all of humanity. God’s grace restores the repentant sinner not because they deserve it, but because God is a God of second chance.

As I have processed this parable the past few days, I am reminded of how the self-righteous Jewish leaders responded to Jesus’ grace towards repentant sinners. They hated Jesus and His grace which was captivating the hearts of the people, and eventually these leaders murdered Him on a cross (Matthew 9:11; 11:19; 12:9-21; Mark 2:13-16; 3:1-6; Luke 5:30; 15:2; 19:7; John 5:16; 7:1; 11:45-53). But when Jesus died on that cross He paid the penalty for the sins of the repentant sinner and the self-righteous sinner. That makes them equals before the cross. There is no more hierarchy of the “haves” and “have nots” in God’s family. Praise Jesus for our total acceptance and worth before Him!

If you have been given justice instead of grace by Christians, please understand that this is not Jesus’ way. Jesus is not uptight about your sin and shame. Christ said, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:17). Christ did not come to condemn you, but to cleanse you. He did not come to rub in your sins, but to rub them out. If you do not have Jesus in your life, He invites you to come to Him now just as you are.

Jesus said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). He is not asking you to come to church or to a pastor, a priest, an imam, or a monk. He is asking you to come to Him. Notice He does not say, “Come to Me and I will give you guilt … shame … stress.” No He says, “Come to Me … and I will give you rest.” Christ is saying that when we come to Him just as we are, He will give you spiritual rest. The rest Jesus offers refers to a state of mind that exists when a non-Christian realizes he or she does not have to earn or work for their salvation. This refers to the positional rest of eternal life that is based on trusting in Christ’s accomplishment on the cross.

When I was a nineteen year-old college student athlete, I came to Christ in faith and received the “rest” of His forgiving grace. This took place in a cornfield driveway as a song by Chuck Girard entitled “Lay Your Burden Down,” was playing in my parent’s car. As I listened to this song, my heart was flooded with the forgiveness of Jesus Christ. He took away the burden of my sin and shame. I would like to share some of those lyrics before we pray:

You’ve been tryin’ hard to make it all alone
Tryin’ hard to make it on your own

And the strength you once were feelin’, isn’t there no more
And you think the wrong you’ve done, is just too much to be forgiven
But you know that isn’t true
Just lay your burden down, …He has Forgiven you

Lay your burden down, lay your burden down
Take your burden to the cross, and lay it down
Lay your burden down, lay your burden d
own Take you worries to the cross and lay them down

Prayer: Father God, please forgive me for judging others as unworthy of Your love and restoration. When I feel deeply inadequate and insecure, it is easy for me to lift myself up by tearing others down. I am no different than the older brother when I focus on the sins of others to avoid looking at my own sins. Oh, how quickly I can forget the burden of my sin and shame You lifted off of me forty-one years ago when I believed in Jesus. How prone I am to resent Your love and forgiveness toward repentant sinners because I think they deserve justice instead of grace. Please cleanse me of these arrogant and self-righteous thoughts that seek to elevate me above You and others. Lord God, I invite You into the dark recesses of my soul to shine Your unspeakable love which restores the broken hearted and crushed in spirit. Please make my heart whole again so I may love and restore other broken sinners with the love and grace You have abundantly lavished upon me. Thank You, my precious Lord. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

I am totally forgiven in Christ

“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.” Ephesians 1:7

When I believed in Christ, I received “the forgiveness of sins” (cf. Acts 10:43). I want you to think about this for a moment. When Christ died for our sins, how many of them were still future? (Pause). All of them! When Jesus died for us nearly 2,000 years ago, we were not even born yet. So all of our sins in His mind were still future. At the cross, God took every sin that you or I would ever commit and placed them all on Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus paid the penalty for all of our sins so we could be totally forgiven the moment we believed in Christ (Colossians 2:13). Forgiveness means God has removed the barrier of all our sins so we can now enjoy closeness with God.

On what basis did God forgive all our sins? The Bible says, His forgiveness was “according to the riches of His grace.” God’s “grace” refers to His undeserved kindness. The word “riches” (ploutos) refers to an abundance or wealth of grace. We can never exhaust God supply of grace towards us. None of us deserve to be forgiven by God. God did this on the basis of His grace towards us, not our goodness or religious efforts. Since His forgiveness is based on His grace, we can stop punishing ourselves or trying to earn His forgiveness when we do sin.

I can remember when I was a young Christian really struggling with guilt and shame after I sinned. I would try to pray more and read my Bible more, thinking I could some how earn God’s forgiveness. But this kind of response is insulting to God. It’s like I was saying to Jesus, “Your death on the cross was not enough to pay the full penalty for my sins. I need to help You pay for all of my sins.” As I grew in my knowledge and application of God’s Word, I began to realize that Jesus paid it all for me! There was nothing more for me to do but accept or believe His full payment for all my sins.

What this means is that we can never lose our relationship with our heavenly Father. Just as we are born into our earthly families and can never cease to be our parents’ child no matter what we do, so too, when we are born into God’s family, we can never cease to be His child no matter how we live. We can sin as God’s child without ever ceasing to be His child. But our sin will break that closeness with God just as disobeying our parents breaks our closeness with them. Thanks be to Jesus Christ that that closeness to God can be restored on the basis of our own confession of sin (I John 1:9) and the realization that Christ has paid in full the penalty for that sin which otherwise would condemn us (John 19:30).

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You so much for paying the full price for all of my sins when You died in my place on the cross so I can enjoy complete and total forgiveness for all of my sins! Because my forgiveness in Christ is complete, I no longer need to work to earn Your forgiveness. I can now rest in Your finished work on the cross to have peace with God forever! This truth is life changing for me! I now want to live for You as a way of saying, “Thank You for my total forgiveness!” In Jesus’ name. Amen.

I am redeemed in Christ

“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.” Ephesians 1:7

When I believed in Christ, He “redeemed” or “purchased” me “through His blood.” This word for “redeemed” (apolutrōsis) is very important. At the time of the writing of the New Testament, it meant to go to the market place and buy a slave who is in trouble and then set the slave free. This is what Jesus did for us when He shed “His blood” on the cross.  He came to the market place where we have been slaves to sin.  And He paid the price or ransom for all our sins with “His blood” and set us free.

Before I placed my faith in Christ alone for salvation, I was enslaved to my sin. But the moment I believed in Jesus, I was taken off the slave market of sin so that I am now free to obey the Lord and not be enslaved to sin. The Holy Spirit, Who lives inside me, can empower me to say “no” to sin and “yes” to Christ (Romans 8:11-13). But if I do sin, the Holy Spirit will convict me so I can confess my sin to God and be restored to closeness with Him (I John 1:9).

Have you ever lost hope trying to overcome a sinful habit? You have tried and tried to break this habit, and you may be successful for a few weeks or months, but then you relapse? What God is telling us is that Christ has broken sin’s power in our lives by paying the full penalty for all our sins. Sin is no longer our master. Jesus Christ is now our Master and He wants to come alongside of us to enable us to get victory over sin.

One of the main reasons we may continue to sin in a particular area is because we believe the lie that says, “You cannot change because you are still a sinner who always sins.” But listen to the voice of truth. God says, “You can change through My Son, Jesus Christ, Who redeemed or purchased you off the slave market of sin so you are no longer enslaved to sin. You are now free to obey Me and live for Me.” Sin is no longer our master after we believe in Christ alone for salvation. Jesus is now our Master and He not only gives us the command to live holy lives, He also gives us the power to do so.

Let me illustrate the meaning of redemption. I read a story today about a father and son who worked for months to build a toy sailboat. Every night when he came home from work, the man and his boy would disappear into the garage for hours. When the boat was finished they stood back to admire the results. The wooden hull was painted bright red and it was trimmed with gleaming white sails. When it was finished the boy went to a nearby river for the boat’s trial run. The father had tied a string to its stern to keep it from sailing too far. The boat performed beautifully, but the string broke and the sailboat drifted out of sight. Attempts to find it were fruitless.

A few weeks later, as the boy was walking home from school he passed a store and was amazed to see his sailboat in the window. He ran inside to claim the boat, telling the owner he lost the boat. The store owner said, “You may have it back — for $50.” The boy was stunned at how much it would cost him to regain his boat, but since it was so precious to him he quickly set about earning the money to buy it back. Later he joyfully walked into the toy store and handed the owner $50 in exchange for his sailboat. It was the happiest day of his life. As he left the store he held the boat up to the sunlight. Its colors gleamed as though newly painted. “I made you, but I lost you,” he said. “Now I’ve bought you back.

God made you and me, but He lost us through our sin which separates us from Him. But God came to earth and bought us back by shedding His own blood on the cross. We now belong to the Lord Jesus and He is our Master. Let’s thank Him by living for Him!

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for paying the full price for my sins with Your shed blood so I am now released from enslavement to sin. Because of my redemption in You, You are now my Master and I am Your slave. You not only give me the command not to sin, but You also can give me the power to obey it. Please use the Holy Spirit to apply this truth to my heart and mind so that obedience to Your Word becomes normal and natural to my Christian life. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

I am totally accepted by God


“To the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.” Ephesians 1:6

When I was a teenager, I did some pretty crazy and daring things to try to gain the acceptance of my peers. Even though their acceptance may have been gained for a time, it was only temporary. It would soon fade and I would be back where I started. Does this sound familiar to you?

Let’s face it, human acceptance is often conditional and temporary. We accept those who accept us or are like us. But it is difficult to accept those who are different from us or who may reject us.

God’s acceptance of us is neither conditional or temporary. We learn in Ephesians 1:6 that God totally “accepted” us because we are placed or baptized “in the Beloved” Son of God, Jesus Christ, the moment we believe in Him (Galatians 3:26-27). And because Christ has received us and He is fully accepted by God the Father, we are fully accepted by God, too. Hence, when God looks at us it is as if He is looking at His Son.

My acceptance before God was bestowed upon me by God’s “grace” or undeserved favor through Jesus Christ. The Greek word for “grace” (charis) can have the meaning of “leaning toward someone to share benefits with him.” God pursued me with His grace through Jesus Christ Who paid the full penalty for my sins when He died in my place on the cross (John 19:30) so God the Father can now fully accept me, having no grounds to condemn me (Romans 8:31-34).  I do not need to change a thing about myself for God to accept me. My acceptance by God is not based on what I do, but on being in the Beloved as a result of trusting in Him as my Savior.

Think about the implications of this truth for a moment. When I believe in Christ alone for everlasting life, I am accepted by God in the Beloved. No matter what I have done or not done, I am accepted in the Beloved. Although I may commit a terrible sin, I am still accepted in Christ. If I spend more time in jail than I spend in church, I remain accepted in the Beloved. If I fall away from the Lord and die out of fellowship with Him, I continue to be accepted in Christ.

Since I am totally accepted by God through Jesus Christ apart from any merit of my own, I no longer need to try to earn the acceptance of others. I am free to be the person God made me to be by His grace. Being accepted in Christ does not motivate me to live like the devil, it motivates me to live for the One who provided my acceptance through His death on the cross.

Prayer: I praise You Lord God for leaning towards me to extend Your grace to me through the Lord Jesus Christ so that I am now totally accepted by You as a result of trusting in Jesus. Your acceptance of me gives me security that no human being can take away from me. I can now come to You with my deepest darkest secrets knowing that You will still accept me in the Beloved. I can share my greatest fears with You, being confident that You will not turn away from me. No matter what I have done or will do I am fully received by You, God, because You fully received Jesus’ finished work on the cross as sufficient payment for all my sins. I honor You, Lord, for granting me this great privilege. In Jesus’ name. Amen.