Holiness is not the way to Jesus; Jesus is the way to holiness. That can be an easy thing to forget. I think it’s humans natural tendency to try and earn our way into God’s good graces. Just look at every religion that has ever existed, with the exception of one. The Christian faith is unique in many ways. But most importantly, there is the aspect of grace. At the center of it all is a loving God who desires the redemption of a fallen humanity and goes to the greatest lengths to make that possible. In every other religion exists the constant struggle to be “good enough” or to “earn” our way. The truth is, none of us are good enough and never will be. God is holy, which means set apart. There is no one like Him. The only way any of us can ever hope to be in His presence is if He, not us, make that possible.
The freedom we get in Jesus is astounding. Not only do we get washed clean of our past sins, we also get released from the power of sin. And not just those hideous and dark sins, but also the ugly sin of self righteousness. You can’t earn God’s love. He already loves you. Just look at the cross. If that’s not proof, then nothing is. Amazing grace is a gift, not a loan. Just soak in His love and let that soften your heart and mold you and before you know it, that same love will be pouring out of you.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
Send Your light and Your truth; let them lead me. Let them bring me to Your holy mountain, to Your dwelling place.
Psalm 43:3 HCSB
As believers in Jesus, we pray a lot for wisdom and for guidance. Hopefully we realize that it will always lead us towards God. The direction He wants us to take in life is the place of light and truth that He possess. It’s holy ground. God is both with us and waiting in the place He wants us to go. In whatever guidance we’re looking for we must always seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33). Many of our questions can be answered by starting there. Seeking a new career? Wanting to know whether or not to ask someone to marry you? Contemplating moving and starting over somewhere new? Should I buy that? Should I give to that? Ask yourself, which of your options will lead you in the pursuit of righteousness? And, could lead others towards righteousness. God’s light will always guide you to the greatest service, to the deepest love, to the purest living, and to highest character.
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord.
Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name: bring an offering, and come into his courts.
Psalm 96:8 KJV
This seems like a tall order. First, how do we give glory unto the Lord? Second, how could we possibly hope to give Him all He deserves? Isn’t this the purpose of our very existence? We are made in His image, to bear His name, and to honor Him by the manner of our lives. But how does that look? I think the Bible answers that for us.
O Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you; I will praise your name, for you have done wonderful things, plans formed of old, faithful and sure.
Isaiah 25:1 ESV
Whatever we do, one thing that is paramount is worship. Our praise for God should intertwine the activities we do throughout the day, from the redundant, to the exciting and new. His children should elevate God above and beyond in within all things they do. Praise should be a constant, both privately and publicly. We cannot hesitate to shout His goodness from the mountaintops and tell the world of the great things He’s done for us for others.
In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
Matthew 5:16 ESV
God deserves our service. He deserves our energies and our resources. Not only should our lips shout the glories of God, but our actions should display them. In our love, we show God. In our character, we show God. In the way we lay our lives down for our neighbors, we show God.
Truth is, God deserves far more than we could ever give. But that should never stop us from devoting each waking moment to sing His praises and to put His love on display. Have a blessed day brothers and sister!
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Matthew 5:7 ESV
Recent events in my family’s experiences have reminded me of the immense value of mercy. No one is perfect, therefore everyone messes up. We are all in need of mercy, from one another, and from God. There is no one who doesn’t need forgiveness. When people we know are going astray, don’t abandoned them. For when they return, they will need your open arms to further their healing and recovery.
God makes no room for an unforgiving spirit. That only comes from arrogance and a distorted view of our own “goodness”. It’s easy to look at the choices of others and drift towards judgement. But what God commissions us to is an attitude of compassion and prayer. We need to stop wasting our time with anger and frustration and spend more time pouring out our hearts in prayer for those who are not living the way they should. I have witnessed, time and time again, people’s lives being redirected through God’s goodness. No one is too far gone. Let’s all stop the gossip chains. Let’s stop wasting our voices bashing others. From our lips should come love and truth seasoned with grace and hope. Condemning others never lead to their salvation.
There will come a time when you and me will need mercy to be extended to us. I need it fairly often. I needed it in a big way just a few months ago. I am extremely grateful for those who have shown me grace, and that gratitude should punctuate and attitude of mercy in my own heart. A good thing to remember is that no one could ever hurt us as much as we’ve hurt God. Our sin rendered us underserving. It’s Christ’s sacrifice that opens the door for each of us to find mercy. Our sin gave Him lashes and drove the nails through His wrists and feet every bit as much as those who have hurt us. We too have broken the heart of God, and have received His mercy. If that doesn’t propel us to show grace then nothing will, and we will then be the most pitiable of all.
Oswald Chambers once wrote that, “When becoming Christ’s my individuality remains, but my primary motivation for living and the nature that rules me are radically changed. I have the same human body, but the old satanic right to myself has been destroyed.”
Far earlier the Apostle Paul wrote, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
And finally, the great pastor Charles Spurgeon is noted saying, “Christ first, me last, nothing but love in between.”
Devotion in the Christian’s life certainly plays out in different ways, but one common element should be evident in us all: that we are His, wholeheartedly, and our lives should show it. The Lord promised to make us springs of living water that overflow to those around us. He said the world would know us by our love. He said we are the light of the world. Lord Jesus, turn up the light in us. Give us undivided hearts and undivided lives. Be alive in us like never before.
Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.
Ephesians 5:15-16 (NIV)
We do not have a choice whether or not we leave an imprint. Just by existing in the day to day, we will impact those around us. We do have a choice, however, in how we want to use our life and the affect we have on others. We can use it to either make a positive imprint or a negative one. The wise person will take every opportunity to be intentional about affecting change, love, truth, peace, and hope where they live and beyond.
Surely I have taught you statutes and judgments, just as the Lord my God commanded me, that you should act according to them in the land which you go to possess. Therefore be careful to observe them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes, and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.
Deuteronomy 4:5-6 (NKJV)
God selected for Himself a nation that He saved from their bondage, trained through the desert, and empowered to conquer the sinful nations occupying the Promised Land. Through Moses, God proclaimed time and time again to be careful to follow His commands so that they would prosper; so that they would leave a positive imprint. If God didn’t have a plan for the redemption of mankind He probably wouldn’t have bothered with the nation of Israel, teaching them, and preserving them. The plan He had for Israel was about far more than just Israel itself. The same goes for you and me. He did not just redeem us for our sakes alone but so that we may now be careful to walk in the light and expel the darkness around us, not partake in it.
When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
John 8:12 (NIV)
This world offers many counterfeits, some of which disguise themselves as being for God, yet contains ungodly practices that go back thousands of years. In Proverbs 23:17 we’re told not to envy sinners (or what they do) but to be zealous for God. We’re told in Romans Chapter 12 to not be conformed to this world yet many still blend right in. Each of us needs to decide whether we are going to water down our Christian walk to be nothing more than a label or if we’re going to love to the fullest, walk in holiness, and observe God’s commands. We need to decide if we’re going to pick and choose what works best for us in scripture and stumble our way through this life or take the Bible as the literal Word of God and live out the powerful force of a Holy Spirit filled life.
Our life is our ministry and our ministry is our life. We must choose whether to let this world dictate our theology or let the infallible Word of God dictate the world around us. What better imprint to leave than a godly one? Encourage the weak, love the unlovable, bring peace to the unrest. Speak truth into a confused world, but speak it in grace. Show compassion for the downtrodden, and empathy for the hurting. Be that beacon of hope and let your joy be contagious. Wherever the believers treads, thereto the Savior has walked.
And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.
2 Corinthians 9:8 (NKJV)
It seems like it can be so easy to get offended by what others say or do to us. Sometimes we feel justified to feel a certain way and that we have a right to not forgive someone. However, Christ was pretty straight forward with us…we are to forgive as He has forgiven us. We really don’t have any choice in the matter if we claimed allegiance to Christ. By not forgiving we place ourselves in the judgment seat that is already occupied. When we don’t forgive, we attempt to usurp God’s throne. It may not seem like that in our minds. We are hurt and upset and we don’t feel like forgiving. Simple right? In those moments it’s important to think about all the ways we hurt or insult God by our actions, thoughts, or words. If we’re honest with ourselves in those moments, we will quickly realize that to not forgive the offenses done to us is beyond hypocrisy.
God does not tell us to forget or to not feel the hurt from time to time, but He does tell us to forgive. To forgive is to release them from a debt. A debt that you perceive that they owe to you. It is our fallen human nature, a product of this broken world, that we think people should get what they deserve. At the same time, we are so grateful that we don’t get what we deserve. The word grace means underserving kindness, favor, or forgiveness. Just think of all the things that God is constantly forgiving us for and how we don’t deserve it. Obviously we are not Jesus but once again, God is calling us to be like Jesus. God has given us an abundance of grace, which we can use in those moments when we feel wronged or mistreated.
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.
Colossians 3:12-13 (ESV)
Almost every day presents opportunities to be offended. But with that, we have opportunities to grow in grace every day. My guess is, while reading this, you have someone or some event in mind. Have you forgiven them? Have you moved forward in grace? The one who pays the largest price for unforgiveness is the one who refuses to forgive. Choose love. Chose peace. Choose to show the world a love that is beyond human nature.
In the days I struggle, it helps to read through the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant found in Matthew 18. To see the enormous level of grace shown to the servant, who then turns around and refuses to extend grace to others, is a bitter pill to swallow when I see myself in that story doing the same. We’ve hurt God far more than anyone has and ever will hurt us in this lifetime. And He’s gone above and beyond to show us forgiveness. How can we do any different? How can we possibly refuse to give what has been given to us. How can we be so blind? While the hurt is real, the only real cure is love, which is far more powerful.
An incredible song by Hillsong Worship called Thank you Jesusopens with the lines, “Grace that flows like a river, washing over me. Fount of Heaven, love of Christ, overflow in me.” Lord let that be true in all of your children. Let’s overflow in love and grace!
And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live…But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it.
Deuteronomy 30:6, 14 (NKJV)
As the body of Christ, being among God’s people, we have His law written on our hearts and in our minds. This means we have His love written on our hearts and in our minds so that we may walk in it. Jesus told us that loving our God with all our heart, mind, and soul and loving our neighbor as our own fulfills the law. We are far less likely to break God’s eternal law when we are living from a place of love and constantly focused on Jesus. We are far more likely to make the impact we’re called to make when we love Jesus from the depth of who we are. When it’s genuine, the love of Christ’s church can change to world. He is our God and we are His people. He calls us the light of the world. How brightly are we shining right now? We need more love and more truth from our mouths and from the expression of our lives. The world doesn’t need discord and discouragement. The world doesn’t need legislation or new leadership. The world needs the gospel. It needs Jesus. They will know we belong to him by our love.
“But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the LORD, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.
Jeremiah 31:33 (NASB)
Peace in Christ brothers and sisters. Shine brightly.
“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1 (ESV)
Freedom is defined in several ways…First, it is the exemption from external control, interference, regulation, etc. In a spiritual sense, that would be the pressures of the world. It is also the power to determine action without restraint. Beyond the physical, that which restrains us is known as the opposer or the satan. Lastly, it is defined as personal liberty, as opposed to bondage or slavery. The Bible would identify that as being free from sin.
“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36 (ESV)
I think at times we forget exactly what it means to be free in Christ. We are free to serve Him without fear of condemnation. We are free from our sins that once held us in bondage. We are free from the judgment of this world. We are free to be filled with love in our hearts rather than anger, malice, discontent, or bitterness. We are free from worry and anxiety because we know we have a God who cares deeply for us, in Whom we may trust with our whole hearts (Phil 4:6). We are free from any of our inabilities because we can do all things for Him and through Him (Phil 4:13). We are free from weariness because we have a God who is an endless source of strength (Isaiah 40:31). We are free from discouragement because we have a God who grants an eternal hope that does not fade (1 Pet 1:4).
Are you walking in that kind of freedom? Anything less is a cheap exchange for what is promised. That kind of freedom requires a choice on our part. A choice to receive it. A choice to let all of the baggage of life go. A choice to belong to Him. A choice to allow Someone greater to be the master of our destinies. Let’s stop settling for the counterfeit and actually walk in this freedom. Then, and only then, will we experience the peace and joy that comes with being a follower of Christ.
“Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.” 1 Peter 2:16 (ESV)
A wise man’s heart guides his mouth, and his lips promote instruction. Proverbs 16:23 NKJV
We really have to be wise about what we say. If the words that come from our lips aren’t showing Christ’s love then we shouldn’t be saying it. In everything we do Christ is supposed to be magnified. We all know people who choose to curse, complain, and grumble, but the effects of those things can be tragic for those around us. Ungodly speech can spoil a persons day or completely change their attitude. Harsh and careless words can even ruin a life. But the heart that is constantly in a state of thanksgiving, brings cheer and praise wherever they are and no matter the situation.
Even though it’s no longer thanksgiving it’s important to still ask ourselves what what we are thankful for. No matter what, we can all be thankful for Jesus’ death on the cross, for our military putting their lives on the line to protect ours, for people God has put in our lives, and for the ability to share Gods love with whomever we come in contact with. We can all be thankful for the millions of do-overs God gives us, for the grace shown us by others, the simplicity of basic necessities. We all need to take some time to thank God for every situation we have gone through, good and bad this last year and know that God was with us through them all. Hopefully we can see and learn what he was doing in us, through us, and through those around us.
In 2021 we can be a voice of truth and grace and love. We can speak life into our family and friends. We can use our words to encourage and refresh those in our lives. Let’s leave the complaining behind us and shout a song of praise instead.