God’s Forgiveness

I sin. Every Day. Sometimes my sins are by commission. Sometimes they are by omission. But they are still sins. Some of them I’m aware of. Some of them I never recognize. Some are accidental. Some are intentional.

But I do not have to ask God for forgiveness. All my sins – every one of them – were forgiven when I became a Christian seventy years ago.  This included sins past, sins present and sins future.

This calls not for a  request of “Please forgive” but an affirmation of “Thank you, Father.”  My attitude toward his action is eternal, massive gratitude and devotion.

That forgiveness guarantees me a place in heaven where I will spend eternity praising Him. It also permits me to have an earthly relationship with Him that includes peace, protection and power.

This is a total gift. His grace precludes any action on my part.  And that, my friend, is GOOD NEWS.

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Jesus told the parable of the man who was forgiven a big debt by his master but would not forgive a friend of a small debt. Basically the man would not pass on something he had been given…forgiveness.

Is it a misapplication of that story for me to apply this to myself and the salvation I have been given? If I do not help others find the salvation I received as a gift am I displeasing my Master the way the ungrateful servant did his?

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So What

It is Sunday afternoon. I attended church and Bible study (Sunday School) this morning. A question lingers in my mind. Am I any different now than I was when I got up this morning?  Will I be any different tomorrow morning than I was this morning? And since the answer is “No,” I must ask “Why not?”

Today was like most Sundays for me. Except for the value of some social contacts I see little reason to go back next week. I think this is true for many Christians. Something needs to change in me and my Sunday morning trips to church so time there will have spiritual significance.

I have very limited ability to change what my church leaders do. Most of the people who share pew space with me seem satisfied with the status quo. So any worthwhile change will have to be within me.

Next Sunday I think I will make myself get out of bed fifteen minutes earlier and have some private prayer time with the Lord before the “Hurry up or we’ll be late” routine begins. And maybe I need to stop being so critical of the way our worship leader handles our music program. Cultivating a sincere desire to grow as a Christian would probably help.

Surely if I ask, the Holy Spirit will take these three things and help my Sunday mornings become more about Jesus and less about me.

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No one is so good he can enter heaven because of his good actions.

No one is so bad that he can not enter because of his bad actions.

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When I acknowledge my helplessness to God I should feel hopeful. This is the lesson of the first beatitude…”Blessed are the poor in spirit.”

 

 

 

Actions Display Identity

From prison, John the Baptist sent men to ask Jesus “Are you the one we should be looking for?” (Luke 7:20) Jesus’ answer basically told them that his actions provided a better answer than words. He seemed to be saying “I can show you better than I can tell you.”

Pilate asked basically the same question when he said “Are you the king of the Jews?” (Mark 15:2) Again Jesus did not give a direct answer. He knew that any words he used to respond would not convince the Roman ruler of his identity. He was fully aware of what was going to happen in the next few hours. Once again his answer emphasized doing over talking.

If someone should ask us “Are you a follower of Jesus?” could we say “Just watch me for a couple of days and decide for yourself?” Or would we respond with a theological discussion, a denominational history and a six-part video series titled The Secrets of Salvation? 

Watch-me-and-decide-for-yourself Christianity must start with personal purity that not only refuses to sin, but goes beyond that to intentional acts of service. When John’s followers questioned Jesus, he was healing the sick, raising the dead and preaching the good news to the poor. (Luke 7:22)

James 1:27 and Matthew 25:34-45 emphasize that behavior always indicates our loyalty. Do our actions identify us as disciples of the Galilean?

Jesus and Me

My having a close, personal, intimate relationship with Jesus is like hearing and responding to music that no one else can hear.

I smile and others don’t know why. I move in rhythms and steps that others do not understand. Together Jesus and I dance for joy when others haven’t even been aware there was a reason for celebration.

Others may find my behavior a little strange, but Jesus and I don’t really care.

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Jesus left the ultimate comfort zone (heaven) to make the ultimate sacrifice (the cross) for the ultimate “they don’t deserve it” people (me.)  If this was all He ever did for me I would still owe Him my ultimate gratitude and praise.

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Among non-Christians we have the reputation of emphasizing God’s punishment more than His love. They think we teach that God wants to punish them rather than bless them. They believe we get pleasure from seeing God punish bad people. Where do they get such ideas? How can we help change the way they think?

 

 

 

Spirit Examination

In 2 Corinthians 13:5 Paul suggested I examine myself. (I would much rather examine you.) Unless that self-examination is conducted under the guidance of the Holy Spirit it is likely to produce inaccurate results. In fact, I should think of it as a Holy Spirit exam rather than a self exam.

Then I am expected to live my life on the basis of the results of that examination. Any other behavior would be the sin of not being obedient to God’s directions.

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For some reason many Christians want to please God by obeying the rules He gave rather than by establishing a relationship with the son He sent.

The Pharisees of Jesus’ day were rule followers who never “walked up the down staircase.” But in their blind efforts to be obedient, they missed the thrill of knowing Jesus as friend and brother.

May I never stop enjoying my relationship with my Savior.

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In every church there are those who are contagious in their joy and those who are cranky in the boredom. I need to be careful which group I spend time with and allow to influence me.

 

 

 

 

Progress Toward Perfection

     When I consider my current position in God’s eternal kingdom and my qualification for entering heaven in the future, I realize I am already perfect. The Creator and Sustainer of the entire universe has already promised me a place there.

     I am born again. I am a new creation. I am a bought-and-paid-for valued possession of the Almighty God. I am an heir in his kingdom. I am a once-lost coin and a have-been-found lamb. I am the returned, accepted prodigal son. My name is already written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. 

     The blood of Jesus makes me one hundred percent qualified to enter heaven and spend eternity there. God says I don’t need anything else. Nothing needs to be added, subtracted or changed. The transaction is complete. Christ’s blood changed my eternal address from lake of fire to pearly gates.

      In things eternal I am perfect.

     But when I consider my position and condition in God’s now kingdom I realize I am very imperfect. I am selfish, lazy, inconsiderate, intolerant, thoughtless and nasty. I miss and ignore opportunities to serve others. My times of ingratitude to God and others remain legion. God has provided the Holy Spirit to teach and sanctify me, but much of the time I ignore his teaching.

     I thank him every day that He considers me a work in progress, rather than a lost cause. I am not as Christlike as I should be or will be, but I am better than I was. I need to hang a sign around my neck that says “Have patience. Holy Spirit at work.”

     My place in heaven does not depend on such improvement, but my joy and peace in this life surely do. My chance of hearing “well done” from the Father is contingent on my allowing the Holy Spirit to do his work in me.

Disciples Who Went Back

“…many of His disciples went back…” John 6:66 (KJV)

These were disciples. They were not just hangers-on or wannabes or potential disciples. They had cast their lot with him, and then changed their minds.

When they “went back,” where did they go back to? Physically, they went back to their homes, business and friends. They returned to their previous vocations and community identities. They reverted to their pre-Jesus life style.

Spiritually, they went back to the Judaism of their childhood. They retreated into the security of previous worship styles and religious forms. They stopped looking to Jesus for guidance and once again embraced the sacrifices and rituals of Judaism.

Why they went back is an even more important issue. Why, after making a commitment to follow Jesus and taking a public stand that likely had caused them public condemnation, would they “walk with Him no more?” The explanation lies in the fact that Jesus was asking them to become even more intimately involved with him. He was calling for a wider break from the world. He was asking for a closer walk, greater obedience and additional service. He was asking for more than they were willing to give, so they “went back.”

Today, the Holy Spirit deals with us in much the same way. He calls us to increasingly set ourselves apart from the world. He asks us to rely more on him and commit to even greater acts of faith and obedience.

When we become aware of what he is asking, it is almost as if we are wading in a stream with Jesus. He begins crossing to the other side and the water starts getting deeper. We begin to hang back. He urges us to continue with him. He reaches out his hand and says “Come on across with me.”

We stop and say, “This is about as deep as I want to go. I don’t know what’s in that deeper water. This is far enough for me.”

Then we retreat back to the safety of the shore where we started. Sometimes this retreat is all the way back into childhood. We go back to past spiritual experiences and devotional levels where we were close to him and felt his approval. We insist on taking comfort in past rituals and worship patterns. But we can never again be totally at peace with God because we know that Jesus called us to more and we refused to obey.