Wednesday, April 26, 2017

A New Life

The high goal of the Christian is not “Don’t sin,” but “Live to the fullest.” Remember? It’s all about a new life.

Romans 6:4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

It's All Yours

When writing something down that’s in your heart and head, do you ever try to shout with your words because you’re excited?  I do.  I think the apostle Paul did, too.

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ" (Ephesians 1:3).

Think what that must have meant to Paul, let alone to you and me. Everything he had been working for and sweating over and fretting about concerning his life with God, Paul had been given.  Everything!  All of it.  There wasn’t a moment of work left, not a second of fear remaining over whether or not God was pleased with him enough.  God's entire blessing had been dumped on Paul for an entirely unrelated reason.

God wanted to.  So He did.  That’s worth shouting about, don’t you think?  I’ll bet the believers at Ephesus thought so, because the same “entire blessing” applied to them.

The love of God compelled God, and it still does. I'm so glad!  Oh, I've heard the love of God described as a love that simply decides for the benefit of another, and I know we're all supposed to love like that.  I wonder how many times I have heard someone say, "Love is a decision!"  The implication is always, "So get busy making decisions." The goal is about improving our relationships, and that's not something I want to downplay.  That’s important.  After all, it's just sensible . . . and calculated.

But is that really what motivated God?  Is that why God ". . .blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ"? I know that sometime long ago God planned to send Jesus to the cross and to raise Him again, lavishing us with benefits. But was it only a calculated lavishing?

No way!  That's not the love of God.  He wanted to! It pleased Him.  (See Ephesians 1:1-14)  And it was the “want to” that motivated the plan.  His love is ever flowing toward us, ever convincing us, ever rescuing us from doubt and fear and covetousness and lust and unbelief, and convincing us that He is as good as He says He is.  I’ll bet you’re getting to know that love, too.  It’s the big attraction!  The main event!  (See?  I’m shouting. ☺)

I'll tell you, that’s one of the highest desires of my life—to believe God about Himself.  I want always to live believing that God is who He says He is, that He does what He says He does out of love, and that He did what He says He did—blessed ME in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.

“Really, Father? You really did?  You're not kidding?  I don't have to earn anything?  I have it already in Christ?”

"Yes, son, it is true.  It’s all yours. What do you think of that?"

"For no matter how many promises God has made, they are 'Yes' in Christ. And so through him the 'Amen' is spoken by us to the glory of God." (2 Corinthians 1:20)

Well, then—Amen!  

Friday, April 21, 2017

Toward Recovery

Helping someone toward a revival (a recovery or a refreshing) when he has been down and depressed, does not come by telling him to not give up and try harder—“You can do it”—but by telling him about what God did for him through the cross and resurrection in making him new and free, with a whole new way to live; by faith in Jesus and that—“He did it.”  That’s the gospel, and that’s where the power of God is. 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

This Is Who I Am

I teach grace first—what God did for us and to us in Christ—and works following.  That’s the order.  In my experience, most people do not actually know the first, but have over-dosed upon the second . . . and failed dismally.  We don't obey the commands throughout the New Testament in order to become something, but because they are our new normal—we have already become something, and they are in keeping with our new nature.  In other words, “God’s grace worked in changing me (I believe He did it), so there is a lot for me to do in keeping with who I am now.”  Through one sacrifice one time, God has made believers perfect—flawless.  We’re working from there.  Too many people attempt works as work to become something—“I’m supposed to do this so I can become a good Christian”—rather than works as the natural work of grace and faith—“This is who I am.“

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Phase Out 2

Here are some more phrases to go with yesterday’s post that, in the light of Jesus’ cross and resurrection and our faith in Him, we need to put away.

“Empty yourself and let God fill you.”  Why get rid of what God gave?  Embrace that He HAS filled you—exactly the way He intended.  Besides, how could a self empty itself?  That’s crazy.

“I just need to get out of God’s way.” 
You are not a blockade or a problem.  You’re His perfect vessel, and He lives through you, not AROUND you.

“I’m not perfect—God isn’t finished with me yet.”  Actually, you are perfect in Christ, and you are finished.  You’re simply growing up in faith about that.

“I’m just a sinner saved by grace.”  The grace that saved you changed you.  You are no longer a sinner, but a son…a saint.  Do not diminish God’s grace in order to inaccurately explain behavior.

These are not humble things to say; they are lies that disguise you to yourself, injuring and blinding you to the magnificence of the gospel.  You and I cannot live well in faith about Jesus if we accept that He failed to accomplish what the gospel says He did.  Instead, we will try to become something we already are, or we will try to get rid of something He already has.  Either way, that’s crazy . . . but we’re not crazy.  We are not hybrids—both old and new—we are new creations.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Phase Out

For my old-self-has-been-crucified, new-self-has-arrived, perfect and holy, new creation co-believers (meaning you and I are in agreement), would it be too much to ask that we phase out the phrases, “I am my own worst enemy,” and “I beat myself up all the time,” and “I’ve got to get myself together”?  If, indeed, Jesus was successful in making you new, sharing His nature with you, and uniting you with Himself, then you cannot be your own worst enemy, you’re not the one beating yourself up (that’s the flesh, and not you), and there is nothing for you to get together since you’re as perfectly put together as you’re ever going to be this side of heaven. 

Those phrases become invisible barriers to finding your life and identity in Christ, because you’ve accepted something that isn’t true, which is motivating you to work on something that doesn’t exist. 

Saturday, April 15, 2017

The Greatest Collision in Human History

“What is he doing?” she asked. “Can he not call upon the angels to deliver him?” wondered another. “Why would he take this upon himself, innocent as he is?” a man questioned.

He did it for love. Jesus’ death upon the cross was the ultimate evidence of God’s love for us. In a single, terrible act, God put us into harmony with himself. Call it “The Greatest Collision In Human History,” where the perfect demands of the impossible old covenant met the perfect gift of the new covenant, and where the disease of sin met the cure of love and grace. From the beginning, it was no contest. 

On the third day, He rose from the tomb and, having made atonement for the sins of the people, achieved the Father’s desire of taking us out of the dominion of darkness by putting us into the kingdom of the Son—loved, safe, new and secure forever and ever. 

Now that “It is finished,” ours is to believe and enjoy the love and great benefits of God with us, perfectly and triumphantly displayed by Jesus at the cross and resurrection. “I will take it all,” said The Great Sin Thief, “so they may be perfectly healthy with me,” said The Great Physician, “so they may have everything I have for them,” said The Great Benefactor. 

That’s how it was and that’s how it is at Easter—the greatest collision in human history. 

“In Him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us.” Ephesians 1:7-8

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Antidote for Temptation

Pop Quiz: Where is God? While this probably isn’t very difficult for you, here’s a hint: Where has He made for Himself a perfect place to live? Where is He most happy to be right now? 

He is in you. That’s His big thrill! When you believed the gospel about Him, He actually came in—Surprise!—fully capable, ready to show Himself perfect with you and in you. How cool is that?

So it’s an amazing act of faith to offer yourself to God, who is now inside, to appeal to Him and call to Him in the beginning or middle or even at the end of temptation. God is excellent with you during temptation. After all, He’s famously familiar with it, right?

Hebrews 2:18 Because He himself suffered when He was tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted.

That would be me! Isn’t it you, too?

So please don’t be shy with God during temptation. There’s no need to draw away from Him in presumed shame—it’s not from Him. He is great to know during temptation! He’s your very best friend, and the one who’ll keep all your secrets—you’re entirely safe with Him. He is perfectly patient with you. He knows the great truth about you—what a fantastic new creation you are—and He always serves you lovingly with the truth. 

By the way, why do we believe that the phrase, “The truth hurts,” is accurate with God? It isn’t! Not with Him. Not when He knows what He has done for you through the cross and resurrection, bringing you into Himself, and making you new and clean and holy and forever secure. The truth helps! It saves us! You were made for it, and He’s just the one to give it to you. That’s important to know when you’re suffering temptation, isn't it?

Jesus knows what it is to be tempted by a pile of money, a naked woman, a bottle of alcohol, the opportunity to cheat in order to get ahead in the task at hand, or by the suggestion of a lie that might seemingly make a relationship go better. He knows what all that stuff is like, how it weighs heavily upon us, sometimes conquering us. Jesus remains loving and perfect with you and me during it all. He is the antidote for all of that struggle. Remember? He was successful! He didn’t fall to it. And, if we need it, He is the recovery we seek.

Whatever is tempting you, whether fear, lust, covetousness, envy, pride—whatever—how excellent it is to offer yourself to God, now inside. You’ve got to know that the angels rejoice whenever they see us doing that, not only because they know that recovery is beginning and that we believe Christ is inside of us (we’re living by faith), but they also know that our friendship with God is getting better and deeper. I think they love that.

So instead of making pledges that we’ll be strong when fear or lust or disappointment rage against us, that’s especially when we move toward Him. When covetousness (for example) begins hammering away at us, we don’t make promises of obedient avoidance; we stay tight with our Friend. He frees us from that ugly, ungodly, uncharacteristic thing, and our friendship is deepened.

“Savior! I know you’re in me, so I look to you for your ability and grace, and for the way that you are. You’re what I need.” Lo and behold, He who now calls us His home takes care of what’s going on inside of the house. What a concept. Imagine Jesus one day long ago saying, “Hey! Here’s an idea. I’ll live in them and be Myself!” In my mind, that’s about how it went.

He who finds no fault with us—none—recognizes the assault going on inside of us, and He takes the blows and turns the fight. Afterward? We’re left with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. That’s how He is, and that’s what He is like inside you and me. It’s God Himself showing off in you and me. And we’re the happy audience.

So when temptation strikes at you, don’t go it alone. Go to Him—on the inside—and He’ll see to you.

Romans 6:11-14 says: In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. 14 For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace. (Italics mine.)

And so you are.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Satisfaction

Temptation is the lie that you are empty, and that you should look elsewhere for satisfaction.

Colossians 2:9 For in Christ all the fullness of the deity lives in bodily form, 10 and in Christ you have been brought to fullness.

We are--all of us--satisfaction junkies, and it is ever and always found in Jesus.  That's the set up.  That's the deal.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Noggin Knockers

I'm about 4/5 of the way to completing my next book.  How cool is that?  Sometimes when I'm writing as intensively as I am, I get all knotted-up in my noggin.  I'm glad for little scenes like this in my front yard this morning.  I guess that makes these my knotted-up noggin knockers.  (By the way, THANK YOU to those supporting me.  I could not and cannot do this without you.)

Perfect Containers

The flesh, which desires what is in conflict with the Spirit (work for your righteousness versus accept it as a gift), covers over the truth that we aren't here to become someone, but to contain Someone -- and to enjoy that Someone more and more as the days go by.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Look Up

Why is your opinion of yourself so important? To the degree it is inaccurate is the extent you’ll be living a lie, and no one does that well. However, when a person gets the idea that God’s opinion can be known and that it is both excellent and accurate, his wrestling with himself and with this world diminishes because he no longer needs it to find himself. What a good thing that is. Rest and love and ease around other people are found. So if you’ve got some inner wrestling going on today, consider where you’re looking: in the mirrors of this world, or at Jesus, who gives you . . . well, He gives you you.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Grace Teaching

John 17:3 And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.