Salvation

...now browsing by tag

 
 

April 5

Monday, April 5th, 2021

Let’s play a game. Let’s call it Speculation.  And since it is the day after Resurrection Sunday, let’s speculate about one of the characters of the “cross story.”

Barabbas.

Funny how no one names their child by that name. “Here is my new son. His name is Barabbas.” That is about infamous as Judas. What happened to Barabbas (B) is pure speculation.

B was the insurrectionist who was about to be executed. He was there for his evil deeds. Could it have been the third cross was actually for him? You know, the one Jesus was crucified on. Could it be he was soon to be brought out of his cell and find himself with the other two (who perhaps were cohorts)? Suddenly he hears his name called but instead of being put to death as a criminal, he is set free.

More speculation: did B follow the crowd through the streets and to the hill? Did he stay and hear the words, “Father, forgive them”? Did he hear his partner in crime ask to be forgiven and remembered and given a place in Paradise? And was he so overwhelmed that he also gave himself to the One who took his place? I don’t know. Pure speculation allows for scenarios we won’t know the answer to until another day.

What is not speculation is that Jesus went to the cross for B; for the network of evil which brought about the whole scenario; the criminals on the crosses; the people at the foot of the cross; the people clamoring for His death; for His mother, Mary; for Peter, James and John; and for me.

No speculation, just facts.

“Father, thank you for the cross. Thank you for the fact that Jesus died. It is not speculation. And it was for me.”

March 17

Wednesday, March 17th, 2021

Focusing on the cross as I have over the past month or so has put me on “high alert.” Then after preaching this past week on the shadow of the cross, I sense a hyper-vigilance. Case in point: today’s Scripture reading from Romans 3.

The Familiar. “No one is righteous, not even one.” (3:10). “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” (v.23)

The Refresher. “Yet, God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty of sin. For God presented Christ as the sacrifice for sin.” (24-25a)

The AHA moment. “This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate His righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he declared sinners to be right in his sight when they believe in Jesus.” (25b-26)

It is always good to read the familiar. The go-to verses. It is equally good to read refresher verses- those verses that shore up what you heard or taught but felt good to be reminded of. But those AHA moments! Those are what you live and read and study for. AND LOOK FOR. God took care of the past, the present and the future. He offered His righteousness BECAUSE HE IS FAIR AND JUST, to all who believe. Oh yeah!

Have you had any AHA moments lately? Care to share? How about the one I shared today?

“Father, I thank You that Your Word does not grow old. Your mercies are new every morning. I thank you for the familiar, the refresher and the AHA moment  this morning.”

All Scripture is from the New Living Translation.

March 4

Thursday, March 4th, 2021

Several years ago-around 2006/2007-I read a book which changed my perspective on people. More specifically, on how I saw people and reached out to them.

In retrospect, I have always “prided” myself in accepting people as they were. You know, like the old song says, “Just as I am without one plea…” My thinking was if God could accept me as I am/was then surely I could do the same. And I thought I did. But I was stopped in my tracks and forced to reevaluate my ways and actions.

The book was NO Perfect People Allowed by John Burke, a pastor of a church in Austin, TX. And while I now realize some of it was the attractional church message, some of it was on the money. People can’t be expected to change before accepting the Gospel message.

Jesus never did that. He didn’t tell the woman at the well to get her act together, leave her current live in, before He would talk with her and give her hope. He didn’t tell the woman caught in adultery to “Repent sinner!” before He came to her defense and then sent her away a free and forgiven woman. He went to Zacchaeus’ house to eat without demanding a life change. That came after his encounter with Jesus. The same goes for all He came in contact with (except maybe the arrogant, self-righteous Pharisees).

No, when Jesus exhibited “Come as you are” it was genuine and sincere. Can I do any less? Do I expect people to change first or do I accept and let God change them? The latter is preferable.

“Father, You accepted me as I was and am. Can I do any less? Please teach me and help me to do as You have done for me and countless others.”

March 3

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2021

I never tire of hearing stories of how people were saved. I love sitting and listening or reading as someone tells their salvation story.

I was reminded of that today as I read Acts 8 & 9. I was also reminded how different each person’s story is. Oh sure, you will hear those whose testimony isn’t much different from countless others. “I was raised in a Christian home and accepted Jesus as my Savior at a fairly young age.” Now the story may vary somewhat from there but there is a commonality in them.

Nor is it unusual to hear the “prodigal son” story come out of someone’s mouth. Or the druggie/junkie/addict story. The stories are endless but I, for one, never tire of hearing them and rejoicing in the goodness and grace of God.

Case in point: Acts 8 & 9. Philip heads to Samaria and the power of the Gospel was so strong people came to Jesus, even Simon the Sorcerer (or so we are led to believe early on). But Peter seems to expose Simon’s real motives. Then Philip is whisked away to meet with the Ethiopian eunuch, who has his own conversion story. Then Saul/Paul in Acts 9. Talk about marvelous and powerful and (admittedly) somewhat surprising given the task Saul was performing.

But here is my point: each story is different. The one who comes to Christ at a young age and follows Him has just as valid a testimony as the eunuch or Saul/Paul. No testimony of God’s work and saving power is invalid or any less important. What IS important is the salvation which occurs and the testimony which follows.

Got something to say about God’s goodness? About His salvation? Say it!

“Father, all salvation experiences are important to you. None more than any other.  May Your saving grace ring out from all lips and testify of your grace and salvation!”

March 2

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2021

When I was just starting out in my faith journey, I was pretty impressionable and was often told I needed to tell someone else about Jesus. You know…the whole share-your-faith thing. I understood that. Someone cared enough about me to tell me about Jesus, I ought to care enough about someone to tell them about Jesus.  But I got to feeling like I was head-hunting at times. You know, get as many as you can as quickly as you can.

But I soon realized that I was devaluing people. I kept getting this ugly feeling that something wasn’t right. Then someone finally put it into words. I’m not sure if I heard or read it: “People don’t want to feel like notches on a belt.” My words: People don’t want to feel like scalps hung on a line. “Yep, another one. And another. And…”

People don’t want to feel like scalps or notches on a belt; they want to feel important. Like they matter. To approach someone for the sole purpose of getting the gospel to them doesn’t take into count that they are humans with feelings.

It goes back to motives. Take a look at Jesus. When He healed someone or fed someone, that’s what He was doing-healing and feeding.  He wasn’t conniving. He wasn’t saying, “If I do this or that they will do this.”  He knew they needed Him but He met their need. He loved them with no strings attached.

Long story short: Let’s love people for who they are. Let’s not see them as notches or scalps or ever as projects to be reclaimed, lives to be flipped. Let’s share Jesus with people simply for the sake of loving people and introducing them to our best Friend.

“Father, when I meet people today, when I see them and strike up a conversation with them, help me to see them as Jesus did.”

February 12

Friday, February 12th, 2021

It’s never too early. They say that, for example, when teaching a child. In fact, the experts tell mom to sing to their baby in the womb. Like I said, it’s never too early. It’s never too early to potty train!! 🙂 What parent, tired of changing wet or smelly, poopy diapers hasn’t wished their child was already potty-trained?  Can you say 6 months?  I joke, of course, but you get the point.

It’s never too early to talk about the cross. I’ve been reading a book called Journey to the Cross by Paul David Tripp. It is designed as a 40-day Lenten devotional.  I know. I know. Lent doesn’t actually start until February 17th but I started reading early to help me in my preparation for a 4 week sermon series on the cross and resurrection. I’m going to include-in its entirety-a paragraph from the book. It is THAT good!

“The cross is a powerful interruption to our ‘easy way out’ thinking. It catches us up short. It confronts our vain wishes. The horrible suffering and death of the perfect Messiah, Jesus, on a criminal’s cross, outside the city on a hill of death, tells us in no uncertain terms that when it comes to humanity’s deepest and inescapable problem, there is no easy way out. None. The cross calls us to quit hoping in , to stop searching for, and to give up on our belief in our ability to manufacture or stumble upon a cure. Sin brought death into the world. Sin separated us from our Creator. Sin turned us all into rebels and fools. Sin’s pathway is destruction, and its endpoint is death. There are no escape routes. We can’t buy our way out. We can’t earn a better destiny. There is nothing we can do. We are being propelled blindly down a roadway of death. We may smile and celebrate and accumulate, but left to ourselves we have no hope. Apart from some miraculous intervention, we are doomed. There is and never has been any easy way out of this terminal disease, the one that infects us all: sin. The cross screams to us, ‘Stop looking elsewhere. This is the only way!’ ” (Journey to the Cross-Day 10-p.62)

It’s never too early to be reminded of the power of the cross over our utter inability to save ourselves. Agree? Allow these words by Tripp to soak in.

“Father, thank You for the power of the cross over my lost state and my inability to solve that sin problem.”

January 28

Thursday, January 28th, 2021

IMHO one of the greatest examples of the power of the gospel is not the cross, although that is most definitely the main one. It is not in the plethora of ministries- of all kinds, shapes, and colors- which have been started in response to the gospel. It is not in the cross-cultural missions all over the world in order to take the gospel to others. All of those are legitimate examples.

But I’d like to suggest another example. I’d like to suggest that one of the greatest example is the power of the transformed life. To see a life changed is beyond belief. To see a junkie, reliant on that next hit, to become satisfied and reliant on Jesus; to see an abusive and philandering husband become a tender and faithful man; to see a discontented and angry wife become a calm and patient wife; to see a violent and rebellious teenager become submissive and a picture of grace; to see a downtrodden, weary and compromising pastor become hopeful, lively and a defender of the truth; all are sights to behold. All of those examples and more are just the tip of the iceberg.

My point again: there is nothing more illustrative of the power of the gospel that seeing someone’s life radically transformed. It is hard to argue with the evidence. “I once was blind but now I see” is so appropriate, not only for those who hear, repent, and surrender to the gospel, but also to those who witness the change.

“Father, change my heart. But also, please help me never to stop rejoicing at a life changed by Your gospel, Your truth.”

December 14

Monday, December 14th, 2020

It seems like a subject that should not be one discussed during the Christmas season. “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing/handling (ESV) the word of truth. But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness. And their message will spread like cancer/ gangrene (ESV).” (NKJV execept where noted)

Not much of that discernment goes on these days. Progressive or “woke” Christianity is a “gospel” of false doctrine with a big dose of self-reliance. One hears it in the modern TV guys- the “Your best life is now” being one of them, for example. We hear it in the self-help books (Hollis and Hatmaker are two). We hear it in the false gospel that spills out of Bethel, Hillsong and Jesus Culture. But the gospel of self-reliance is nothing new. That lie was told in the Garden and still continues today. We even have pagans and non-pagans telling us we are and can be gods and little gods.

Here’s something to think about: if I was so cock-sure of myself; if I had the ability to pull myself up by my own bootstraps; if I was so self-reliant that I needed no one else- why did Jesus come? Why did Jesus die?

Exactly! I can’t. It is an effort in futility. And THAT is exactly the reason why Jesus had to come. Because I couldn’t. Self-reliance is a lie. Self-help is a lie. Self-improvement (on a salvation scale) is impossible. Enter Jesus.

“Father, you saw my helplessness, even my self-deception. I am nothing without Jesus. I have nothing without Him. I am incapable of bettering myself to make myself acceptable. It is all about Jesus and what He has done.”

November 10

Tuesday, November 10th, 2020

When I have my Quiet Time in the morning I like to supplement it with devotional material. Some of it is pretty light but some of it really makes me think. For two years in a row I did New Morning Mercies (NMM) by Paul David Tripp. WOW!  What a goldmine it was.  I can’t even begin to tell you how many copies of that book I gave away to friends and colleagues.  One of my biggest joys is sharing books or providing books to others to read and think about and grow. NMM was one of them. I even had about 5 guys daily emailing their thoughts on their reading of NMM.  I brought it to an end because I realized that although they enjoyed reading the devotions it was hard with their daily schedules to write about it. It was beginning to bog them down so rather than sour them on NMM and having a Quiet Time, I called a halt.

Well…just last week I started a new devotional by Tripp. It is called 40 Days of Faith and I found out after buying it that it takes its cue from NMM and its material is gleaned from it. That’s okay though. My memory is not such that I could remember what I read a couple years ago anyway! 🙂

I recently read this and shared it with the folks during this past Sunday’s communion thought: 

Jesus paid it all! There are no bills due for your sin! You are now free to simply trust and obey.  Stop trying to earn something from God. Stop trying to gain more of his acceptance. Stop trying to earn his favor. Stop trying to win his allegiance. Stop trying to do something that would pay for his blessing. Stop trying to morally buy your way out of his anger. Stop trying to reach a level where you will know lasting peace with him. Just stop trying. Just stop.  (p.16)

Paul tells us that “no one is justified before God by the law.” (Gal.3:11)  I think that is talking about more than the OT Law. I believe Paul is also talking about the crazy notions we get that we can barter our way; buy our way; earn our way; “righteous” our way; and do enough good to get a “Get Out of Jail Free” card and make it into heaven. Just the opposite is true. We can’t do any of that. Salvation is not for sale in any way, shape or form.

Salvation is a free gift. Jesus is there, not just to welcome us, but also to sustain us.

“Father, thank you for your free gift of salvation. I am still blown away by that gift even after all these years of being with You. Help me to lead others to your freedom.”

November 4

Wednesday, November 4th, 2020

I originally posted this yesterday, November 3rd, the day of our election on my other blog. I include it here a day later still not knowing the outcome of the election.

At the risk of being taken as political, I’m going to make a statement that I firmly believe: God does not care about a person’s race; a person’s skin color; a person’s nationality; a person’s social status; a person’s religious upbringing; a person’s education; a person’s job; a person’s political persuasion; a person’s state of residence; a person’s 401K, or any other distinction man may make. In our world today it seems like unless you state publicly, “BLM,” you are a racist or some other ugly moniker. I personally believe ALM- All Lives Matter- and refuse to say any one race is more important than another.

I believe God would say the same thing. How do I know that? The Bible says so. Here, check out Romans 10: “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be save.” (v.9). Then notice the words in verse 11: “For the Scripture says, ‘Everyone who…'” See that word? E.V.E.R.Y.O.N.E. Oh, but I love verse 12: “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing His riches on ALL who call on Him. For E.V.E.R.Y.O.N.E. who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” There’s that word again!! Twice everyone is used; once all is used. That shows God is not black or white; rich or poor; slave or free; American or Hispanic (take your pick); or interested in class, color, or creed. God is for EVERYONE, especially when it comes to salvation. Jesus died for all.

“Father, thank you that I’m included, along with all others who come to you and claim the Name of Jesus for salvation.”