You are currently browsing the monthly archive for January 2009.

For when you are deeply aware of your sin, and of what an affront it is to God’s holiness, and how impossible it is for Him to respond to this sin with anything other than furious wrath—you can only be overwhelmed with how amazing grace is.  ~C.J. Mahaney 

Some of us just never get it.  We deserve nothing better than Hell.  How different our relationships with one another would be if we were to truly grasp this truth.  We’d demend far less from one another and extend grace all the more.

God loves us not because he has to, he has no obligation to concern himself with such self-centered mortals.  We have broken his holy laws—for coveteouness, lusts, and idolatry have overtaken our hearts in his place.  When worship should have been our response to Jesus Christ we cursed instead.  God loves us because he wants to, we’d prefer he did so because he had to.  We’d be off the hook then.  We could pat ourselves on the back every once in ahwile if that were the case.  But it’s not.  Our rightousness is as pure as a glass of water laced with arsinic.  Our motives are impure.  Our hearts harbor evil.  If God were operating on a merit basis we’d all be looking forward to a future in a lake of fire.  If God were dishing out his love based on even our best behavior our bowls would be dry.  If God were giving us grace due to our Sunday-best behavior we’d be out of luck.

How few of us ever have our eyes opened!  Our one hope, our only hope—is in Christ.  He is all, or he is nothing.  Jesus is our free pass, not some coupon to be combined with our good intent.  That may offend us, but the scriptures declare the offense of the cross, not the niceties of the cross.  We can bet our last dollar that the cross of Christ will be at odds with our pride.

 15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. 16 And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. 17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

 18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. 20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 5:15-21, ESV).

Is your hope in vain?  What are hoping for?  Are hoping for a chance that you’ll have a shot at get getting some consideration for all of the nice things you have done?  Or, are you placing all bets on the exclusive hope offered in Jesus Christ?      

I know men and I tell you that Jesus Christ is no mere man.  Between Him and every other person in the world there is no possible term of comparison.  Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and myself founded empires; but what foundation did we rest the creations of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ founded an empire upon love; and at this hour millions of men would die for Him.  -Napoleon Bonaparte

Rulers have their armies.  Masters have their slaves.  Bosses have their employees.  Kings have their subjects.  Leaders have their followers.  Generals have their soldiers.  Dignitaries have their assistants.  But Jesus Christ the Son of God laid down his life willingly and without regret for ungrateful and undeserving sinners. 

Jesus served when it was the last thing he owed us.  We’d have said, ‘Forget it—I’m not going to some cross for those sorry losers.’ 

45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”   -Mark 10:45

We have our example.  The marks of a Christian can be identified—it isn’t how many serve him, rather, it comes down to whether or not he serves others.

What could happen if we evengelicals were to get down off of our moral political platforms and our religious high horses and started to serve the least of these who Jesus spoke about?

Like the eye which sees everything in front of it and never sees itself, faith is occupied with the Object upon which it rests and pays no attention to itself at all. While we are looking at God, we do not see ourselves—blessed riddance. The man who has struggled to purify himself and has had nothing but repeated failures will experience real relief when he stops tinkering with his soul and looks away to the perfect One.  -A.W. Tozer

Faith in our faith is about as useless as rubber lips on a woodpecker.

Early on during what would eventually become a failed marriage with the wife of my dreams, both her and I together encountered some real serious relationship issues—none of which many young couples don’t end up struggling with.  Problem was, I was a pastor and I am proud.  So, I thought it better to ignore our problems.  Over time, our marriage suffered as both my young bride and I made compromises that the marriage couldn’t afford in the grand total of things.  Eventually, we separated.  And then surprisingly, somehow, we reconciled two months later as both of us made stellar attempts to forgive and leave the past behind.  But even our most ardent and combined efforts proved insufficient and our union of fifteen years completely dissolved not too much later.

Looking back, I realize now that neither of us had the kind of faith in God (instead of in ourselves) that it would take to repair a broken marriage.  Both of us placed a lot of confidence within ourselves and eachother to do what was going to be painfully necessary to see a marriage so torn apart get the healing it so desperately needed.  An indicator that stood out like a sore thumb that I should have easily recognized  was how quick I was to pat myself on the back for the small gains I’d made on the long road back to what we had hoped would be an even stronger and more transparent intimacy.

7-8 A holy man showed up and said, “No, O King—don’t let those northern Israelite soldiers into your army; God is not on their side, nor with any of the Ephraimites. Instead, you go by yourself and be strong. God and God only has the power to help or hurt your cause.”   -2 Chronicles 25:7-8, The Message Bible

There are things in our lives that we need to learn to trust God for, namely—everything.  And when we don’t, we learn the hard way.  It’s better to go some places alone if that is what it takes to trust God instead of our faith.  

I feel, when I have sinned, an immediate reluctance to go to Christ. I am ashamed to go. I feel as if it would do no good to go, as if it were making Christ a minister of sin, to go straight from the swine-trough to the best robe, and a thousand other excuses; but I am persuaded they are all lies, direct from hell. John argues the opposite way: ‘If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father.’ I am sure there is neither peace nor safety from deeper sin, but in going directly to the Lord Jesus Christ. This is God’s way of peace and holiness. It is folly to the world and the beclouded heart, but it is the way.   -Robert Murray M’Cheyne 

Let me pay for my sins Lord.  You know I don’t very much like anyone doing anything for me that I can’t pay them back for.  Who did you consult with before you just went ahead and sent Jesus to suffer and die in my place?  And then, if that wasn’t enough, you went ahead and gave me the faith necessary to believe in him since I didn’t possess it within myself.  Can you see where I am going with this Lord?   

We both know I don’t deserve forgiveness.  I couldn’t deserve it less.  What should be mine is judgement, death, wrath, torment, and eternal horror—this business about being treated like royalty when I have played the traitor like a seasoned pro is just so incredibly uncomfortable.  Could you make an exception here?  All this free stuff you give me with no strings attached isn’t doing much in building up my self-image.  I mean, it makes you look really good, and it makes me look, well—silly and so undeserving.  And you aren’t doing a very impressive job when it comes to living up to the descriptions about you in some of the more popular ‘Christian’ books—they make you out to be so much more like us than you really are.    

So, at least let me pay for something.  You won’t have to share much of the credit.  Just this one time, please. Your grace is just so offensive!  Could you tone it down a bit?  Everything within my carnal man cringes when faced with sheer grace.  You love me when I am just so—unlovable.  Let’s make a deal: I won’t take any of the credit.  Let me help though.  I want to do my part to make it right—offer my contribution.  It’s tough watching you do all the heavy lifting while I enjoy the spoils. 

But you just won’t accept it.  My works of righteousness and efforts at making peace are repudiated.  You condemn my sincerest attempts to live after Christ in my own strength.  Couldn’t you have set this thing up differently?  Why does the blood of Jesus have to be enough?  Level the playing field a little.  As it is, I give you dirty linens (my sin), and you give me a clean slate.  I give you soiled rags (my good works), and you give me a reward.  I grieve your Spirit and I want to somehow undo what I have done, but you have none of it.  My condolences don’t suffice.  Penance isn’t necessary.  You won’t even let me do time in purgatory.  If I could pay some kind of fee to cover even the least of my wrongdoings it’d be so much easier, I could throw a few dollars in the coffer and feed the poor and hold open doors for old ladies—and we’d be square.

It’s not fair and I want to feel better about me. 

 16 For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.   (Psalm 51:16-17, ESV)

Come to think of it, maybe instead of letting me help you, you could help kill my pride some more and make me humble while you are at it.

a blog about radical discipleship, the gospel of grace, a theology of the cross, Christian spirituality, the mission of the church in this world and whatever else on the same wave length that may be running around the brain of a hopeful Protestant.

follow me on twitter

My Blogs Elsewhere

Photo Credit

...just to be safe and ethical—there is a Creative Commons liscence on the photo. Here's the link to give credit where credit is due—thank you. http://www.flickr.com/photos/ shoebappa/1080642528/