Christ our Coming King: Part I

pexel chickenThere have been many end of the world predictions over the years.  But possibly the most interesting of all doomsday predictions came from a chicken.  Apparently there was a hen in Leeds, England back in 1806 that became known as the prophet hen of Leeds when she began laying eggs with the words “Christ is coming” written on them.  People traveled from far and wide to visit this prophetic hen.  However the whole thing was uncovered as a hoax when it was found out that the owner of the hen was using corrosive ink to write on the eggs and then reinserting them back into the hen, to be laid later.

Many people are interested in talking about the end times.  There are actually many passages in Scripture that deal with this topic.  Acts 1:6-11 is a very familiar passage that contains Christ’s ascension to Heaven and a challenge to be Christ’s witnesses to the ends of the earth.  However, this well-known passage actually begins with a question about the end times.

In Acts 1:6 the disciples ask Jesus, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6b, ESV)  Typically when we look at this passage we tend to gloss over verse 6, but when we recognize this starting question it takes us deeper into the context of what Jesus is saying.

Remember, the disciples had an unclear idea of what exactly the Messiah had come to do.  They had grown up hearing these prophecies of the coming Messiah and the interpretations that suggested that he would be a conquering hero or a political or military leader who would return the kingdom of Israel to prominence.  They then saw firsthand the miracles he was capable of and they gave up their lives to follow him.  But then he was crucified and died and they were probably pretty confused, until he rose again and displayed authority over death.  When you combine what they had seen of Jesus with what they expected of the Messiah, it is easy to see how they might have expected him to establish his kingdom right away now that he had risen.  But they were still missing pieces to the puzzle.

In verse 7 Jesus basically answers their question by telling them that the timing of his kingdom is really none of their business.  That is not what they were supposed to be focused on.  And that is not what we are supposed to focus on either.  Many times we are in such a hurry to get to verse 8 that we miss this important answer.  But this helps provide good context for verse 8, because while Jesus says the timing is not our business, he does tell us what is supposed to be our business.  In verse 8 Jesus says, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”  (Acts 1:8, ESV)

Our understanding of verses 6 and 7 doesn’t drastically change our understanding of verse 8, but it does add an extra emphasis.  We may not know when the end is going to come, but we do know what we are supposed to be doing in the meantime.  This is a pivotal verse in the Bible.  It is kind of like an outline for the rest of the book of Acts as we see the disciples basically living out these words in the rest of the book as the Gospel spreads to the world.

After saying these things Jesus then ascended to Heaven and the disciples were left standing there watching him go.  Then all of a sudden a couple of messengers showed up and asked the guys why they were just standing there gazing at heaven.  And then they tell them that Christ is coming back.  It’s like they were implying that the disciples should stop standing around and get busy doing what he had told them to do.

It may seem weird to take a passage that focuses on Christ’s ascension into Heaven and use it to talk about Christ our Coming King, but the context is clear.  Christ’s is coming again.  Ever since he left, we have been living with his imminent return.  We don’t know when he will return, but we do know that he is coming.  We see that stated right here in this passage as well as in many other places in Scripture.

Christ did not just come to earth, live a good life, do all those miracles, die for the sins of mankind, rise again and then just ride off into the sunset at the end of the story.  He left with a plan to return.  He is coming again.  The story is not finished yet.  And when he comes he will be ushering in his kingdom.  So Christ is not only our Savior, and our Sanctifier and our Healer, he is also our Coming King.  We can look forward to his return and to spending eternity with him, but talking about his return should not focus us on standing around watching for him to return, or arguing about when the end of the world is going to come, it should spur us on to do what he wants us to do while he is gone.  All of this provides context for verse 8.  So let’s let the fact that Christ is coming again, spur us on to be his witnesses to a world that desperately needs him.

Christ our Healer, part 2

pexel healingMovies like “Fletch Lives” and “Leap of Faith” poked fun at the stereotypical, televangelist, faith-healing frauds, but for many people the images in those movies are what we picture when we hear someone talk about healing.  There have been a lot of abuses and misuses of healing in the church and on television and for that reason many people have abandoned the idea of healing altogether.

In James 5:13-16 we find a very clear outline of what healing is supposed to look like within the Church. “13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” (James 5:13-16, ESV)

There are a lot of different responses we might have when we are suffering.  We might whine, complain, grumble worry or get discouraged, but James is suggesting that when we are suffering we should turn it over to God in prayer.

Then James moves on to good times.  So often we are quick to blame God for the bad things in life and yet very slow to give him credit for the good things.  It is almost like we expect things to always be good and so we only really take notice when something goes wrong.  Making a point to give praise to God for the good things helps us maintain a right focus on him.

After talking about times of suffering and times when we are cheerful, James moves on to talk about what we are to do when we are sick. He tells us that we are to call for the elders to pray for us.  Notice that there is a difference between what we are to do when we are suffering compared to when we are sick.  I don’t believe that James is saying that we are to sit and try and deliberate about what our trouble is so that we can decide whether we are to pray for ourselves or call for the elders.  I believe that James is suggesting a next step that we can take.

The word that James uses here to talk about those who are sick can also mean weak.  Regardless of why we are suffering we should bring our needs before God in prayer.  We also might reach out to our relatives and friends or put something on the prayer chain so the church can be praying for us.  But James seems to be suggesting a next step we can take when those problems continue or we need a special touch.  He tells us to call on the elders.  This is not simply referring to those who are older than us, but to those who have been specifically set aside for a position of authority within the church.  These people are called to be overseers who care for the spiritual needs of those within the church.

In this passage James points out a very specific process for seeking Christ for healing.  He says that we are to call the elders to pray for the person and anoint them with oil.  This is not some kind of magical spell or incantation.  There is not some specific maneuver that needs to be done in the right way to bring healing.  Healing does not come from using the right kind of oil, or saying the right words in the prayer, or having the oil applied in the right way or anything like that.  The healing comes from Christ.

Notice how James specifically points out praying and anointing in the Name of the Lord and that it is the Lord who will raise him up.  The Lord is the one who does the work.  Healing should focus us on Christ, not on some person and not even on our own ability to believe strongly enough.  Any healing service that takes the focus off of Christ and puts it on some person or some special process is a problem.  Christ is our healer.

Notice also that confessing our sins is mentioned in this passage.  Sometimes our sickness or suffering is a direct result of our sin.  There are very real consequences for our sin and sometimes God might allow bad things to happen to us as discipline or just as a natural consequence of a wrong we have done.  God also may allow sickness into our lives in order to get our attention and to help us see something in our lives that needs to change.  So if we are refusing to acknowledge our sin and are determined to ignore what God wants for us, then there is no way we should expect his healing.  So it is important to take the time and see if there is some sin that needs to be dealt when we seek healing.

However, sometimes sickness is not related specifically to some sin in our life that has not been dealt with.  Notice that James says if he has sinned he will be forgiven.  That word “if” suggests that we can be sick and not have some sin that needs to be forgiven.  Sometimes we just get sick, because we are living in a broken world.  Even when we are healed from a sickness we will eventually get sick again and eventually we will die.  Sickness, pain and death are a natural part of living in this broken world.  That means that sometimes we just get sick.  But when we are sick it is a good time to pause and seek God and to let him reveal to us anything he might want to reveal to us.

This process for healing includes examining our hearts and confessing sin and having the elders pray for us and anoint us with oil.  That is the process, but notice that it begins with a request from the one who is sick.  This, in and of itself is an act of faith, so let’s not take it lightly.  It is not simply a last ditch effort or a whim, it is a specific decision to trust in Christ as our healer.

James gives us a clear process for approaching Christ for healing and it looks very different from what was pictured in the movies I mentioned at the beginning of this blog.  We do not need to abandon healing because of the abuses we have seen, we simply need to get back to the biblical foundation for healing like we see in this passage.  So my challenge for us is to utilize this process that God has laid out for us.  If we are sick, we should call for the elders of the church to pray over us and anoint us with oil in the name of the Lord.

Christ our Sanctifier, Part II: Our Response

sanctifierThis is part 2 of a 2 part blog on Christ our Sanctifier.  If you have not read the first part, you may want to read that first and then come back to this one.  The first part focuses on recognizing that Christ is the one who sanctifies us and this second part focuses on our response.  If Christ really is our Sanctifier then how to we respond to him?  Does he just do this in our lives and we have no part to play?

Paul addresses this in Romans 6.  He begins with an interesting question about whether or not we should sin more so that grace may abound.  In other words, if it is amazing that grace covers a small amount of sin, then grace would be seen as even more amazing if the amount of sin was greater, so why not just keep on sinning.

Paul stands strongly against the idea that justification through Christ gives us a license to sin more.  Christ didn’t die to give us the freedom to sin, but rather freedom from sin.  We still have the capacity to sin, but sin has lost its power against us and we are freed from slavery to sin.

In the I Corinthians 1 passage, that we looked at in part I of this blog, we were reminded of the word redemption.  That word actually carries with it the connotation of being bought out of slavery.  Like slaves who have been freed, we too have been freed from slavery to sin.

But some slaves after they were freed, continued to live as slaves.  Slavery was all they knew for so long and they just didn’t really understand how to live in freedom.  We are the same way.  We too have been set free, but sometimes we still choose to let sin be our master.

Paul challenges us to realize that after dying on the cross Christ rose again in victory over sin and death and we share in that victory.  That is a promise for us for the future as we look forward to Heaven, but it is also a promise for us now.  In Christ, we can have victory over sin.

And that brings us to our response to Christ our Sanctifier.  There are two pieces to that response.  In Romans 6:11 Paul writes, “11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (Rom. 6:11, ESV) 

The word here translated as consider in verse 11 is actually a mathematical term.  It could be translated as count and can also mean something along the lines of reckon or to take into account.  So we are to take into account that we ourselves are dead to sin and alive to God in Christ.  We are to look at our lives that way.

sancifier part 2In part 1 of this blog I introduced this sanctification graph that you saw at this top of the article to try and illustrate sanctification for us.  Here is the next part of that graph.  Let’s pick things up with the crisis moment.

In the Christian and missionary Alliance we talk about a crisis moment.  That simply represents that decisive turning point when we decide that we want Christ to be the Lord of our lives.  We want to be set apart from sin and set apart to Christ or using the words in this verse it is that moment when we choose to reckon ourselves as dead to sin and alive to Christ.

That is part one of our response.  Paul goes on in verses 12 -14 to point out a progressive day by day component that also exists.  “12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.” (Rom. 6:12-14, ESV) 

These verses suggest an ongoing moment by moment and day by day living out of that crisis moment.  It is us time and again choosing to be set apart from sin and set apart to God.  I love the imagery in these verses.  This is a powerful way of viewing sin.  Paul is telling us to stop offering our eyes to pornography, and to stop offering our lips to gossip, and to stop offering our fists to anger, and so on.

This is not about trying harder to stop sinning, it is more along the lines of yielding.  Actually the word used for present in verse 13, is the Greek word that means to yield.  This is us submitting our lives to Christ as Lord and to the work of the Holy Spirit.

Sometimes when we think of Lordship as Christians we look at it as submitting our lives to Christ as master, and we look at the alternative as being free to do whatever we want.  But in reality this is talking about shifting from one master to another.  Rather than being mastered by sin, we are yielding to Christ as our Lord.  There is a decision implied in this concept, but also there is power.  We are not relying upon ourselves, but on the Lord to work in us.

We are still going to have ups and downs.  There will still be times when we are living this out and times when we are not, but there is a power implied that is beyond us as we are relying on Christ to do this work in us.

So let me share with you how this has played out in my life.  I became a Christian at an early age.  I grew up in the Church and was a good Christian boy, but I did not really have a deep walk with Christ.  My relationship with him was very superficial and I was more of a Jesus user than a Jesus follower.  I wasn’t terrible, but I was stuck in some sins like lust and pornography and overall I was struggling with my identity in Christ.

In my late 20’s I was sitting at a railroad track, waiting for a long train to come by.  I was feeling overwhelmed and discouraged in my relationship with Christ.  I called out to Christ at those railroad tracks that I wanted him to be the Lord of my life and that I needed his help, because I couldn’t do it on my own.

That was my crisis moment.  Then I needed to live that decision out moment by moment and day by day.  I started to get serious about not offering my eyes to pornography and my mind to lust and I started yielding my life more and more to Christ’s work and his will for my life. And I started to grow.

I still had my ups and downs, but the trajectory of my sanctification changed that day.  There is a definite upward trend that is there now that was not really there before that moment.  Sometimes it is hard for me to see the progress in the midst of the moments of life, but I can look back and see growth over time.

God has helped me to see victory over sins that used to enslave me.  He has helped me grow in Christ likeness and the fruit of the Spirit.  You can ask my wife and she will tell you that I am a very different man than I was when we got married.  I still am not perfect, but I am on a deeper walk with Christ than I was before that moment on those railroad tracks.  And Christ is doing a work in me that I could have never done on my own.  Christ is my sanctifier.

 

Christ our Sanctifier, Part I

pexel bible1Did you know that Western Union originally rejected the telephone, saying in an internal memo in 1876, “The device is inherently of no value to us.”  In 1903, the president of Michigan Savings Bank advised Henry Ford’s lawyer not to invest in the Ford Motor Company, saying “The horse is here to stay but the automobile is only a novelty, a fad.”  In response to David Sarnoff’s urgings for investment in the radio in the 1920s, his associates said, “The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular?”

Sometimes really smart people make poor decisions simply because they think some really great idea is foolish.  In I Corinthians 1:17-31 Paul talks about how the gospel seems like foolishness to those who have rejected it, but to those who are being saved it is the power of God.

From an earthly perspective the message of the cross makes no sense.  How could a man who was put to death on a cross be of benefit to anyone?  Why should someone stop going their own way and follow this Christ who had been put to death?  But the message of the cross is not just some instruction about how to live, it is about accepting the sacrifice of someone who died, to bring us abundant life.

Actually the way this is written in the Greek suggests that those who are perishing are destroying themselves, while those who are being saved are saved not by what they do, but by what is being done for them.  The message of the cross is not instruction for how to live, but life-giving power for those who believe.

Paul talks about how the Jews were looking for signs and yet when Christ came they missed him because he was not the kind of Messiah they were expecting.  So to the Jews, Jesus was a stumbling block.  They thought there was no way he could be the Messiah.  So they killed him.  Meanwhile, the Greeks were seeking wisdom.  They had the great philosophers of the day desiring to know answers to the great questions of life and the universe.  These great philosophers studied the world and applied their wisdom to life. To them the idea of Jesus was folly.

Man is very arrogant.  We naturally think we know everything and can handle anything.  We are taught from an early age to be independent.  But God turned things upside down when he sent Christ.  Through the work of Jesus Christ our sins can be forgiven and we can receive eternal life and this is a free gift that we simply receive by faith. To those who are willing respond to this seemingly foolish message and to proclaim their need for a Savior, God gives abundant life.

And notice what Paul says in verses 30-31, “30 And because of him[e] you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” I Cor. 1:30-31, ESV)

So Paul is writing to a Christian group.  He is addressing the church.  And he reminds them of what has happened in their lives through Christ.  He speaks of Jesus Christ becoming wisdom from God to us.  This contrasts with the wisdom of the world.  The wisdom of the world does not have the power to save us, but Christ does, and therein lies true wisdom.

Then Paul talks about what happens in us through Christ by using three words: righteousness, sanctification and redemption. The word righteousness basically means to be put in right standing with God.  We are declared righteous by God, because of the sacrifice of Christ.  The word redemption refers to being bought back.  It suggests a ransom and that a price was paid for us.  It has ties to the concept of slavery and being bought out of that.  The word sanctification means to be separate or set apart.  Specifically in this context it would be set apart from sin and set apart to God.  It refers to our holiness or the process of holiness in our lives.

I want to dig into this word a little more.  So let me try and illustrate it visually for us.

sanctifier

 

 

Imagine if this graph represented our sanctification, as if we could quantify it.  The top is 100% fully sanctified and down at the bottom is 0, representing someone who is going their own way, doing their own thing, not set apart for God at all.  That doesn’t mean that they are a bad or good person, but specifically whether or not they are set apart from sin and to God.

At the point of conversion, when we receive Christ into our lives, there are some things that happen to us immediately.  One of those things is that we are declared righteous, justified, or sanctified in God’s eyes because of the work of Christ.

In other words, when God looks at us, he sees us as clothed in Christ’s righteousness rather than covered in our sin.  So at that moment we are placed in the position of sanctified based on Christ’s work in our lives.  One day when we get to Heaven, we will be given new resurrected bodies and things will be like God intended, completely perfect and we will be glorified.

But between now and then, if we are honest with ourselves, while we may realize that God sees us right now positionally as sanctified, that is not the actual condition of our lives.   We know that we are not perfect.  We still sin, we still mess up, we are still not fully set apart from sin and set apart for God all the time.  If we looked at the actual condition of our lives, and how much we are living like Christ, it would probably be more along the lines of a rocky up and down kind of following of God.

The question is, do we want more than that?  I think in the church today we almost treat Christianity as if it is about praying a prayer so that when we die we will go to Heaven rather than Hell, but it does not really make that much difference in our day to day lives.  So we are okay with an up and down following of Christ.  However, if we are truly disciples of Christ, then that means that we are supposed to be in the process of becoming like the one we are following.  That is what Christ has called us toward.

And we are not just looking ahead to eternal life in Heaven, God has promised us abundant life right now.  He wants us to be victorious as we walk through this life, experiencing victory over sin, receiving his blessing and best for us today.  He wants us to be walking in a newness of life that he has for us that I think many times we fail to grasp as Christians.  And the only way for us to walk in that newness of life is by relying on the work of Christ who sanctifies us.  Sanctification is not about cleaning up our lives and doing a better job of being a good Christian it is about relying upon the work of Christ in us.  He is our sanctifier.

Think about the context of this passage.  Paul has been pointing out throughout the preceding verses, the folly of man’s wisdom compared to the power of God.  Just as we could never save ourselves we also cannot transform our lives into Christ-likeness.  We need Christ to do that in us.  Christ is not done with us at the point of conversion.  He doesn’t stop with salvation, but continues on in our lives.  He is our Sanctifier.

That flies in the face of earthly wisdom.  This world would say that it’s up to you.  You need to work hard.  You need to get it done.  You need to try harder.  It is foolishness in the world’s eyes to rely upon Christ as Savior or Sanctifier, but that is exactly what we need to do.

So what is our response?  If Christ is our Sanctifier, how do we respond to him?  That’s a great question.  Check out the next blog to find out more.

Father Abraham

pexel faithAbraham is one of the most famous fathers mentioned in the Bible.  According to my best calculations, Abraham or Abram as he is first called is mentioned 287 times in the Bible, including about 73 times in the New Testament alone.  He is all over the place.  Typically when talking about him we might turn to the book of Genesis which chronicles his life, his early calling from God and the way he followed God toward the promised land.  Or we might check out the book of Hebrews where he is talked about in several verses in chapter 11, which is considered the faith hall of fame.  But I want to look instead at a letter from Paul to the church in Galatia where Paul mentions Abraham a few times as he talks about faith.

Apparently the Galatian church had run into a problem.  Some Jewish teachers had infiltrated the church with some bad theology.  They were encouraging the people that in order to be Christians, they not only had to accept Christ as Savior, but also had to conform to the Mosaic law.  It is like they were combining salvation by Grace with salvation by works.  But in Galatians 3 Paul is challenging them to not go back to trying to be justified by the law after having been justified by faith.

Paul actually calls them foolish.  He is not saying that they were mentally challenged or that their IQ was not high enough.  That would actually be a different Greek word.  The word he chooses to use suggests that they had the capacity to understand, but were choosing to act in a way that didn’t make sense.  They were being irrational.  He even asked who bewitched them.  As if they must have been hypnotized or someone cast a spell on them for them to believe something so confounding.

Paul was fighting a battle in the early days of Christianity.  The church was struggling to define their theology of salvation.  When the Gospel was being spread solely among the Jews it was a different kind of battle.  They were already in the tradition of following the Mosaic law and they recognized that the law could not save them, but that Christ could.  So they responded to the Gospel.  But then when the Gospel started to be taken to the Gentiles and they began to believe, some of the Jews were taken aback by the way that the Gentiles lived.  The Jews wanted the Gentiles to change their behaviors in order to be saved.

So what is so bad about that?  Is it wrong to expect that when someone becomes a Christian that they should be living differently?  The problem is that the church in Galatia was in danger of moving in the direction of a doctrine that combined grace and works.  But if we can work hard enough to earn salvation, then it is no longer grace.  Grace is receiving something that we didn’t or couldn’t earn.

We need to recognize the importance of sound doctrine.  As Christians we do not all need to go to seminary or become theologians, but we all need to know what we believe.  There are plenty of theological points that we can ponder and debate, but there are some, like our doctrine on salvation, that form the foundation of what we believe.  We need to protect those foundational points because others might seek to tear them down by adding or taking away from what we believe.   For the church in Galatia it was legalism, for us it might be universalism. We need to hold on to the Gospel and not waiver from sound doctrine.

Paul is setting the Galatians straight and he uses Abraham as an example.  Take a look at verses 6-9:  “6 just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness” 7 Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. 8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify[c] the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” 9 So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.” (Galatians 3:6-9)

Notice that the verse says counted to him as righteousness.  That word doesn’t mean earned, but more like credited.  Paul is saying that Abraham wasn’t declared righteous because of circumcision or following the law.  Abraham didn’t even have the Mosaic law yet.  That law wouldn’t come for hundreds of years.  Abraham was declared righteous because of faith, not because of what he did or didn’t do.

And the same is true of us.  Look at how Paul says that those of faith are sons of Abraham.  Have you ever thought of yourself as a son or daughter of Abraham?  When I was growing up I sang the song, “Father Abraham” at camp.  I knew the song, but nobody ever explained it to me.  It didn’t make any sense.  As far as I know I am not even part Jewish, so how am I a son of Abraham?

Notice that in verse 8 Paul uses the phrase, “preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham.”  This is a very important verse for the Biblical Foundation of the Gospel.  I teach on this verse in day three of my Biblical Evangelism class at Crown College.   This verse references a passage that is a well-known point in Abraham’s life.  It is referencing Genesis 12:1-3 where God calls Abram to follow him and gives him some promises.

One of the promises that God makes is that he will bless all the families of the earth through Abram.  So from early on God set aside Abraham and his descendants to use them to declare himself to the world.  And in Galatians 3:8 Paul refers to that and calls it the Gospel.  Down through the ages one of Abraham’s descendants would be the messiah, Jesus.  And through him salvation would be offered to the whole world.

So often we treat the Old Testament and New Testament as if they are not part of the same story.  But God has one story throughout Scripture.  This passage shows us that even way back in Genesis 12 God had a plan for saving all of mankind through the work of Christ, a descendant of Abraham.

And as Paul points out in Galatians 3:9, if we have faith in Christ and are followers of his, then we have this connection with Abraham.  He is our father too.  He is the father of all those who would one day, eventually believe in Christ.  That is how we are sons and daughters of Abraham.

And as sons of Abraham, we too should carry on that role of being a blessing to all nations. We are God’s people and he wants to use us to declare himself to this world.

And like Abraham, we are declared righteous because of our faith not because of what we do.  Abraham is an amazing example of obedience.  But he was declared righteous because of his faith and the same is true of us.

That is why Christianity stands out so much from all of the other religions in the world.  Everyone else is expected to earn their salvation, but we are expected to receive our salvation by grace recognizing that we could never earn it.

So let’s stop trying so hard to earn it.  I know so many Christians who are worn out and tired and who feel like failures.  I want to remind us today, that we don’t earn a thing.  Christ is our Savior.  He is the one who did the work, and he is the one who is still at work transforming our lives.  We can stop striving so hard to be good Christians.  We can stop judging ourselves so harshly and comparing ourselves with those around us.  We are saved by Grace that is received through faith, not by works.  Christ is our Savior!

 

 

 

Discerning God’s Will

pexel one wayI was recently asked a question about discerning God’s will.  How do we know what God wants us to do?  I believe that Romans 12:1-2 is a great passage to help us answer that question.  In Romans 12:1-2 Paul writes: I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world,[c] but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Paul uses the word therefore in verse 1.  That is important because we need to pause and connect what he is about to say with what has been said.  Now the word therefore in this case actually marks a transition not just from chapter 11 to chapter 12, but from Paul’s overall direction up until this point to what he is going to talk about through the rest of this letter.  In the first 11 chapters of this book Paul has been focused on doctrine and now he is challenging them to put that into practice in the way that they live for Christ.

He also uses the word appeal.  That word can also be translated as urge or exhort.  He is challenging them with a bit of authority.  It is stronger than just asking.  So considering all of this great stuff about God that they have learned in the first 11 chapters, Paul now challenges them on how they are to live.

He begins by telling them to present their bodies as living sacrifices.  Let’s break that down a little bit.  A sacrifice is basically offering, giving up or dedicating something.  Like in the OT when the people would bring a lamb to be sacrificed on the altar.  But Paul here is talking about a living sacrifice.  That means that it is still something that is given or dedicated, but it is not killed like the OT sacrifices were.  The living sacrifice he is referring to here is our bodies.  So putting all of this together, Paul is talking about our lives being given or dedicated to God.

Notice also that Paul tells them to present their bodies as living sacrifices.  That might seem like they are to work really hard to be a good Christian, but that word present can also be seen as offer or yield.  I would suggest that yield is a great way for us to understand what Paul is talking about here.

The word yield means to give way or submit.  So yielding our lives to the Lord as living sacrifices would be like submitting ourselves to him and his plans for us rather than our plans for ourselves.

Paul then goes on to talk about not being conformed to this world.  The word there carries the idea of us being squeezed into a mold.  We are constantly being bombarded by messages from this world about what we are supposed to look like, want, desire, believe, feel or think about things.  And much of what the world suggests is contrary to God’s will.

But Paul is saying, don’t let that stuff corrupt our thinking.  Don’t let the world dictate what we believe or think.  God has something better for us.  God is calling us away from this world and toward him.  Rather than being conformed by this world, he is calling us to a transformation.

You know the word for transformed there is the word from which we get our word metamorphosis.  The way this is written suggests a continual renewing of the mind.  He will give us a new way of thinking that may not make sense to this world, but God’s knows what is best for us and he will show us a better way.  This continual renewing of our mind then will lead us into God’s will.  The more we yield to his plans for us, then the more we will be able to understand what God really wants for us.

So let’s get back to the original question.  I know this is the big picture answer.  It is kind of a long term approach to answering this question, but this is how we know God’s will.  It is through choosing moment by moment and day by day to yield our lives to God that we get to know his will.

The problem is typically when we ask this question, it is that we want to know God’s will right now about a particular situation.  Paul is describing much more of a long term process.  He is pointing out to us that we need to grow in this area and it will take time of gradually, more and more being able to discern his will.  If we are not yielding to God moment, by moment and day by day, then it is going to be hard to know his will for a one time event.  So the first thing that I want to impress upon us is to start with these basics.  Let’s begin yielding our lives to God as living sacrifices, choosing his way instead of our own and over time we will be growing in our discernment of God’s will.

But I am not totally sure that that answers the intent of this question and I think there is also something here for the times when we want to know the will of God as we make decisions in our lives.  Notice this idea of not being conformed to this world, but being transformed by the renewing of our minds.

Too often when we are faced with a decision, the main things we consider are the things of this world.  Most of the time we make decisions based on the same way the world makes decisions.  We tend to weigh the pros and cons like finances, happiness, future possibilities and things like that.

We need to stop letting worldly priorities dictate our choices and instead earnestly seek Gods will.  You know there are plenty of things that we know to be God’s will that we choose to ignore when we are trying to make a decision. Sometimes I am faced with a choice that makes all the sense in the world, but it kind of steps on some of the things that I already know to be true about God’s will. Many times we choose to ignore those things or compromise them just a little bit, so that we can grab hold of a bigger paycheck or some measure of enjoyment that we so desperately want for ourselves.  When we do that, we are letting ourselves be conformed by this world, rather than being transformed by the renewing of our minds.

I believe that if we lessen the voice of this world and stop listening so much to what this world says is best, and if we focus on the stuff we already know to be true about God’s will,  then while that may not give us a definite answer it is going to narrow things down quite a bit and help us be able to see things more clearly as we try to discern God’s will.

 

 

Rahab’s Example

pexel window2Rahab was a prostitute in the city of Jericho when the people of Israel showed up with the command from God to go in and take the promised land.  The Israelites sent in spies to check things out and they wound up at the home of Rahab in Jericho and she went out of her way to hide and protect them when they were in danger.  Even though she was not an Israelite she believed in the stories she had heard of their God and chose to align herself with him rather than with her own people.  And she and her family were spared when God destroyed the city.  You can read more about the story of Rahab in Joshua 2.

Later on Rahab is mentioned in Matthew 1:5 as part of the genealogy of Jesus.  She was David’s great, great grandmother.  She is also mentioned in Hebrews 11 as part of the faith hall of fame.  And she is given as an example of faith showing itself in works in James 2.

In that passage James poses a very interesting question in verse 14: 14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?

This is a strong challenge.  He is questioning people’s salvation.  But notice that James is not comparing those who have faith to those who have works.  That is not really the point.  He is comparing those who say they have faith, but it doesn’t show in the way they live their life, compared to those who are visibly demonstrating their faith by how they live.

He gives an example in verses 15 and 16: 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?

In this specific example James is not talking about a stranger, but about a brother or sister in Christ.  He is talking about someone within the body of Christ who is in obvious need.  This implies that the person who says they have faith knows the person in need, knows their need, and rather than helping them out, simply says “go in peace, be warm and well fed.”  This almost seems sarcastic, because the words they say are in direct correlation to the specific needs of the person.  But rather than help them, they just say some words.  This is the exact issue that James has with their so-called faith.  It is nothing more than words.

James calls that kind of faith dead in verse 17: 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

James is calling for our faith to be alive.  Our faith should be evident in our lives.  People should be able to see Christ in us.  Our testimony cannot just be a testimony of words, it needs to be a testimony of life.

In verses 20-23 James points to the example of Abraham and how his faith showed up in what he did and then he shares a controversial statement in verse 24: 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.

In this verse it seems like James is kind of contradicting the belief that we are saved by grace through faith, rather than works.  But we need to understand verse 24 in light of the rest of what James is saying.  He is not comparing faith to works, he is not even saying it is faith plus works, he is saying that true faith is shown in works.  If we really have faith, then it should be evident in our lives.

And then James points to the example of Rahab and ends with a strong challenge in verses 25 and 26: 25 And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.

So like the example of Abraham, Rahab is commended here for her actions or works.  That does not mean that she was saved by her works, but rather that her works were a response of faith.  The work that James is referring to is that she harbored the spies and hid them and went out of her way to help them.  Why do you think she did that?

In Joshua 2:8 – 13 Rahab actually answers that question for us.  She tells the spies about how word of the Lord had spread and fear of him had fallen on the land and then she testifies to what she believes at the end of verse 11: for the Lord your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath.

The reason she helped the spies is because she believed in their God.  She believed that he was who he said he was and that he would do what he said he would do.  That is faith.  She had faith and so she did what she did.  Her works were her response of faith.

I believe the example of Rahab is very poignant.  Notice that James refers to her not just as Rahab, but as Rahab the prostitute or Rahab the harlot.  Her life was so defined by prostitution that that is how she is known.  And yet James refers to her being justified by her works.  He is not talking about her work as a prostitute, but by what she did when she took care of the spies.  So even though she is known as Rahab the prostitute, with that stigma attached to her for her whole life, she is described here and in the book of Hebrews as a woman of faith.  She could have let her past define her and continued along that path, but she stepped out in faith and followed God.

I think that is a powerful reminder to us.  We may often look back at our lives with feelings of failure and discouragement.  We may even feel defined by things that are not flattering.  But while we can’t change the past, we don’t have to let it define how we are going to move forward.  I am not calling on us to focus on the work we haven’t done, or the things we have messed up or done wrong.  I am calling us forward from this point on, that our faith would be alive and that we would step out in faith and follow God.

 

 

Good, Good Father

pexel fatherIn Matthew 7:7-8 we read:  “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.

So in this passage Jesus is speaking on prayer.  Asking, seeking, and knocking are all basically forms of prayer.  They are speaking of us going to God with requests.

I don’t believe this passage is saying that we can ask for whatever we want, regardless of God’s will and we will get it just because we ask.  I don’t believe that is what it means to be a good father.  I don’t give my kids everything they ask for and it is not because I am being mean, it’s because I love them and I am trying to do what is best for them.

Sometimes we go to God with things that seem good and we can’t see any reason why it would not be good for us to receive what we are asking for.  And yet still God does not give us what we want.  Those times are tough.

I have a good friend who is a pastor and his wife has cancer.  I don’t know why God has not just stepped in and miraculously healed her.  There is no reason that I can see for that not to happen.  I can only imagine what it must be like to cry out to God again and again and not receive that healing.

Sometimes when we cry out to God again and again, and don’t receive what we are asking for, our souls hurt and we can begin to forget who God really is and who we are in him.

This passage is teaching us something very important about God.  Overall this passage is about prayer, but Jesus is also pointing out that God is a good father.  Look at the example Jesus gives in verse 9-11: 9 Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

A good earthly father may not always give his son what he asked for, but he is not going to ignore him or taunt him or give him something harmful instead.  And Jesus says that if that is true of an early father how much more true is it of God.

This is known as an “a fortiori argument” or an argument from the lesser to the greater.  If a good early father would respond like this, then think about how much more we can expect from God.  God is better than even the best image we could have of what a good earthly father is like.

I think I am a decent father and I believe that my children know that I love them and want the best for them.  But I know I am far from perfect.  I have had to apologize to my children many times for losing my cool, or accusing them of things they didn’t do or lack of patience or other things.  I am far from perfect.

But I know how much I love my children.   They mean more to me than I could possibly express.  Recently I was singing the song “Good, Good Father,” by Chris Tomlin.  As I was singing I was drawn into the image of how I see my kids.   I was trying to put myself in their shoes and if only they could see themselves through the way I see myself looking at them.  If they could only recognize how much I love them, not because of how good they are at pleasing me, but simply because they are my children.  And then I was thinking, do I see God that way?  Do I really see him loving me with the kind of love that I have for my kids, only infinitely greater?

I sometimes get a very warped idea of who I am in God’s sight.  I can be very performance based in my thinking like I have to please God or always be on my best behavior rather than just recognizing that he is my dad and I am loved by him.  And his love for me is not based on how well I am doing, but because I am his child.

So as I was singing this song I felt like I was crying out for my soul to get this.  I want to know, down deep in my soul, that God is a good Father and I am loved by him.  That doesn’t change.  It is who he is and it is who I am in him.

This passage is about prayer, but it is also a reminder that God is a good father.  A few chapters earlier when Jesus was teaching his disciples to pray he used the word Abba, which is a very intimate expression of father.  Imagine thinking of God like our daddy.

I may not know why God doesn’t answer some of our prayers the way we think he should and I don’t know why some of us are going through the things we are going through.  But if I know that my Father God is a good father, and that he loves me and wants what is best for me, then I can rest in him and trust that he will take care of me.

Sometimes in our lives we forget that image of God.  And in those times it is easy for us to give up and lose hope.  But when times are bad, that doesn’t mean that God is not a good father or that we are not loved.

In this passage where Jesus uses the words ask, seek and knock, those verbs are all in the present tense.  They could be looked at more along the lines of keep on asking, keep on seeking and keep on knocking.  I understand what it is like to be tired of asking, seeking and knocking.  But I want to remind us today that our God is a good father.  Let’s hold on to that image of him, even if we need to cry out to our own soul to remember that.  And let’s continue to bring our prayers before him, trusting that he hears us, that he knows what is going on in our lives, and that he loves us very much.

 

 

Resurrection not just Reanimation

pexel zombieSo Zombies are kind of a big deal lately.  There are many TV shows and movies related to zombies.  There was even a youtube video that went viral recently about a couple of brothers who pranked their younger sister on the way home from having wisdom teeth surgery.  They got her to believe that a zombie apocalypse was beginning.  Last I saw it had almost 14million hits.  According to Wikipedia “A zombie is a fictional undead being created through the reanimation of a human corpse.”

Today zombies are potentially more popular than they have ever been.  If you go online you will find all kinds of information on zombies, including many sites that focus on the best way to survive a zombie apocalypse.  I even came across articles on this subject on the websites for The Center for Disease Control, US News and World Report, and The Washington Post.

Recently I was asked by someone in my church, “What does the Church mean by bodily resurrection?”  This person referred to the apostle’s creed which refers to the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.  They were wondering if this means that when we go to Heaven we will have a body like we have now?  In other words, will we be resurrected back into the body we had before we died?  And if so, then at what stage?  Does a person just end up with the body they had right before they died, or is it from like when they were in their prime?  And what about someone who was missing a limb or had some major problem with their body, is that fixed?  And what if you were cremated?  Does that mean you can’t be resurrected?  The person who was asking these questions didn’t specifically connect this to zombies, but they are trying to figure out what to make of the idea of bodily resurrection.

Well, first of all let me point out that we are not talking about reanimation we are talking about resurrection.  That is a significant difference.  Scripture may not give us a definitive picture of what these resurrected bodies will look like, but in I Corinthians 15 Paul gives us enough of an image to recognize we are talking about something a whole lot better than zombies.

Paul begins that chapter with a very succinct outline of the Gospel.  In a few verses he reminds us that Christ died for the sins of the world, that he was buried and that he rose again and appeared to many people.  It is kind of like the Gospel in Cliff Notes fashion.

These first six verses provide an important foundation and then Paul moves on to connect Christ’s resurrection with our own. It is important for us to realize that Jesus did not just die as a sacrifice for our sins, he rose again in victory over death and sin and paved the way for our resurrection.

There were apparently some in Corinth who were suggesting that there was no resurrection for the dead.  In these verses Paul lays out a very logical argument that reminds them of the completeness of the Gospel.

Paul then moves on to talk a little bit about what this will be like.  Paul doesn’t give us an exact picture of what to expect, but he gives us a few images to think about to help us consider the idea of a resurrection body.

The first analogy is of a seed in verses 36-37. A seed that is planted in good soil germinates.  Basically the seed itself disintegrates or dies, but out of that seed grows new life in the form of a plant.  And what comes up out of the ground is not the same thing that went into the ground, but something new and different.

So we can understand the analogy to the seed.  A person dies, they are even planted in the ground, and a new body comes up out of the ground at the time of resurrection.  We should not expect it to be the same as it was when it went into the ground, but rather something new.

Paul moves on to the analogy of different kinds of animals in verse 39.  We know and understand the difference between a human being, an animal, a bird and a fish.  Their bodies are designed for very different purposes that are right for the environment where they will exist.  Our resurrection bodies will be different than our earthly bodies and will fit the needs of the new environment awaiting us.

And then Paul moves on to compare earthly and heavenly bodies in verses 40-41.  Right now we live in earthly bodies.  They are fine and work for here on earth, but God has something different in store for us in Heaven.  These bodies were not meant for Heaven.

Paul then goes on to make some comparisons in verses 42-44.  First he talks about how our bodies will be imperishable compared to perishable.  That means that our resurrected bodies are not going to fade away or be temporary.  It is a body that will be built to last.

He then talks about how when we die, that is the low point for our earthly bodies.  They finally run out of strength and fail completely.  And when they do our bodies are at their weakest and most dishonorable.  But out of that weakness and dishonor of death our new bodies will rise in glory and power.  I don’t know exactly what that looks like, but it sounds pretty good.

The last comparison Paul points out is that our resurrected bodies will not be natural, they will be spiritual.  This is an important distinction.  I don’t know exactly what that will mean, but I would image that a lot of the limitations we know now, will not be limitations then.

Then in verses 45-49 Paul talks about how we will be born in the image of the man of heaven.  We started life with earthly bodies.  Adam was made out of the dust of this earth and so were we.  Our earthly bodies reflected Adam.  But our new bodies will be more reflective of Christ and that doesn’t mean we will look like he looked while he was on this earth, but more in the image of who he is in Heaven.   We will all finally have heavenly bodies.

Then Paul ends the chapter by telling us of the victory that is coming.  For those of us who believe in Christ, death is not the end.  Death is a result of the fall.  It Is because of sin.  In Christ we are set free from that curse of sin and have victory over death.  For most of the world death is seen as the biggest defeat of our lives.  But Paul is turning things upside down and saying that it is not defeat.  Death has been defeated and victory is ours in Christ as we are raised to new life with imperishable, glorious new spiritual bodies.

We may not be able to picture exactly what that means or looks like, but the specifics don’t matter.  Paul gives us enough information here to recognize that we have a lot to celebrate.

Paul’s final verse ends with a good note of encouragement for us in light of the resurrection.  He writes: Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

There is a confidence in this resurrection that allows us to get on with our daily lives.  We can be steadfast, immovable, abounding in the work of the Lord, because we know that our future is secure.  In Christ, we know that one day we will rise again to spend eternity with him, and that understanding of our future allows us to have confidence here and now for whatever we are facing today.

We are looking forward to a glorious life in Heaven and while we are here on this earth we can stand in that victory even though we have yet to experience it.  I know life is not always easy here on this earth, but understanding this chapter can give us strength to stand immovable, knowing what is to come.

 

Why Blood?

pexel crucifixion stained glassHave you ever asked yourself why there is so much of a focus on blood in the Bible?  Between the animal sacrifices in the Old Testament and Jesus’ death in the New Testament there is a lot of blood.  In church we read about the blood, we talk about the blood and we even sing about the blood.  Some people probably question why the Church seems so infatuated with blood.

In chapter 9 of the book of Hebrews the author spends a lot of time talking about blood and does a good job of connecting the blood we read about with Old Testament sacrifices to the blood we read about with the story of Jesus on the cross.

First, he reminds his readers of the Mosaic covenant that existed in the Old Testament.  This was a covenant God had with Israel that they would be his people and he would be their God.  It consisted of a system of rules like the 10 commandments and others that taught them how to live and what it looks like to follow God.  This covenant also included animal sacrifices for them to offer when they messed up.

The system was not bad, but it was temporary, pointing forward to what would be completed in Christ.  And that is what the author is focusing on throughout the chapter.

He talks about the tabernacle, which was set aside as the place for God to dwell with his people.  And that tabernacle included the Most Holy Place, which was located behind a curtain that separated it from the rest of the tabernacle.  In this Most Holy Place was the Ark of the Covenant which represented the very presence of God.  Nobody went behind that curtain except the high priest and he went back there only once a year on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.  On that day he would make atonement for his sins and the sins of the community by way of animal sacrifices and sprinkling the blood on the cover of the ark.

In Hebrews 9:9 we find out that this was symbolic.  The word used for symbol is a word that means comparison, from which we get our word parable.  And then verse 10 ends with the phrase, “until the time of reformation.”  That is not referring to the reformation time period in history, the word means to set or make right.

So the old covenant was like a symbol of what was to come.  It was a system that God put in place that signified repentance and God accepted it as a way of purification.  It was a system that was temporary and incomplete but pointed the way to the time things would be set right and become perfect in Christ.

The author of Hebrews then moves on to connect Jesus to that old system of sacrifices.  He points out how Jesus became the perfect sacrifice.  In the old covenant the sacrifice of animals symbolized cleansing from sin, but in Christ those sins are truly atoned for and there is no further sacrifice necessary.

In verse 15 the author calls Jesus a mediator.  Our sin separates us from God, but Jesus came between us and God and made it possible for us to be reconciled.  And not just us but everyone, including those who made those sacrifices in the Old Testament.

Notice in verse 16 the word covenant is used and in verse 17 the word will is used.  In the original Greek that is actually the same word.  The old covenant looked ahead to the death of Jesus, the promise of what was yet to come.   Hebrews 9:15 says, “since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.”  Jesus completed or perfected what was begun with the first covenant.

The animal sacrifices that were offered in the OT had to be offered again and again.  It was not enough for them to just be done once.  It was over and over again.  But Christ’s sacrifice was complete.  What he did on the cross was perfect and atoned for the sins of all people, past, present and future, once for all.

And the author points out at the end of the chapter that Christ is coming again.  This same Jesus who died for the sins of the world and rose again is coming back and when he comes he is going to raise all those who believe in him to a new eternal life.  That is what we are looking forward to and the way we have access to that new life is through the blood of Jesus Christ.

So that gets us back to the original question, why blood?  My answer is, I don’t really know.  We can trace animal sacrifice back to the sacrifices of Cain and Abel in the book of Genesis and how the animal sacrifice of Abel was accepted while the fruit and vegetable sacrifice of Cain was not accepted.  And some even trace it back to the Garden of Eden when God clothed Adam and Even with animal skins after they sinned and realized they were naked.

But the closest answer I can find is in Leviticus 17:11 where we read: “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life.”

So while that is not an exact answer for why the blood, it does point out the importance of blood.  Blood represents life.  We need our blood to survive.  With the blood sacrifices in the Old Testament it is not like they just took blood from the animals and then set them free.  They killed the animals.  Using their blood cost them their life.

And the word for atonement means to cover or appease.  In the Old Testament the people would sacrifice animals to atone for their sins.  They would take one of their animals, that they had raised, or one they had bought with their own money.  An animal who had done nothing wrong, and they would sacrifice it to atone for their sin.

It wasn’t literally the blood of the animal that saved them or washed them.  Romans 6:23 tells us that the penalty or wages for sin is death, the life of the animal was sacrificed in place of the life of the person.  And the life was represented in the blood.

It might seem cruel today, but I think it is important for us to recognize that dealing with sin costs something.  We too easily blow off sin today, and it is good for us to recognize that there has always been a cost.  Back in the OT they saw that cost.  They recognized that an animal would be sacrificed for what they had done.

But we don’t live under the Old Covenant anymore.  God made a new covenant with his people when he sent his Son Jesus to this world.  Jesus became the perfect completion of the Old Covenant.  He died on the cross as a perfect, sinless sacrifice for the sins of the world.  His blood covers our sins.  And it is important for us to recognize the cost.

Now that we don’t regularly offer an animal as a sacrifice it is easy for us to forget the cost of sin.  We take sin lightly and therefore we take grace lightly. We forget how great a price was paid for our sin.  We tritely pray “forgive me for this or that mistake that I have made today” as if it is really no big deal.

I may not know exactly why blood, but I do know that it is good for us to remember that sin costs.  There is a price that was paid.  When we ask for forgiveness for our sins it is not like God says “oh it’s ok, don’t worry about it, it’s no big deal.”  When we ask for forgiveness, God says, “it is a big deal, it separates me from you, but I sent my son as a sacrifice for your sin, because I love you and I don’t treat you as your sins deserve, I choose to show you grace and mercy, you are forgiven.”

Let’s not ever take sin or grace lightly.  Let’s always remember that sin costs and be thankful for what Christ paid for us.

 

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