Justified by Faith

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it! (Romans 6:1-2)

This verse has been running through my head for the last few days. I’m afraid to say this, but the truth is many “believers” are under the assumption that as long as you believe in God and His son Jesus, that you can go on living life just like the rest of the world and still be saved. But that’s not what God’s word says! The Bible says, “You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe–and tremble! (James 2:19).” (And believe me when I say, the demons are not going to be worshiping with us in heaven.)

As Paul wrote to the church in Rome, our lives become new when we accept Christ into our hearts–the old, sinful man dies–which means our words and actions should be transformed–or made new/alive–into the image of Christ (Romans 6:4). This is not something that occurs overnight, but as we study our Bibles and establish communication with God through prayer and worship, and allow the Holy Spirit to lead and prompt us, change most definitely occurs; and when that change occurs, the whole world can see it!

Obviously, our generation is not the first to struggle with this “I’m a believer but I don’t fellowship with other believers, read my Bible, pray, or worship God” mentality, since Paul was writing to the early church about similar things. But we have something that the early church didn’t: the Bible! I thank God for it every time I read it, because through it, God left us instructions and insight into the workings of His mind–and although, we’ll NEVER fully understand Him (Isaiah 55:8 says, “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ says the Lord.”)–I’ll take every scrap of insight and understanding that I can get!

By now you’re probably saying to yourself, but God’s word says we’re “justified by faith,” and you’re right, we are justified by faith. There’s nothing that we could do on our own to earn salvation; that’s a gift that God offers us freely. However, if we truly believe that Jesus offered His life for us on the cross and took all our sins upon His own perfect shoulders, will we continue living life as we please, regardless of His sacrifice? I tweeted once before, that “calling yourself a Christian and then living in sin, is like calling yourself a husband and then beating on your spouse.” The truth is, we claim to be believers, and claim to love Christ, but with every sinful deed, we spit in Jesus’ face, then beat and curse Him. Our actions and lifestyle are not one of thanksgiving and adoration for the one who saves us from Hell. If we truly love Him, we’ll lift our lives to Him as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1); we’ll pour our love out upon Him, and be obedient to Him, for His word says, “If you love Me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15).

It’s not easy. I used to live the life of the party-goer every Friday and Saturday, and the “repentant Christian” every Sunday. I knew I was living for myself, and I knew it grieved God; but I kept apologizing and making excuses. Have you ever seen an abusive relationship (in real life, or portrayed in the movies)? The man beats the girlfriend/wife, then turns around and apologizes, the wife believes him, and then the cycle repeats. I was the abusive man. Was I truly sorry? Considering the fact that I turned around and repeated my actions, I don’t believe I was. True repentance comes from godly sorrow (2 Corinthians 7:10), and includes recognizing and repenting of our sin, turning away from the things that aren’t pleasing to God, giving everything over to Him, and  following His lead.

I thank God for second chances at life, and I pray that some day soon, you too, will receive the precious gift He offers, with a truly thankful heart.

Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ (Matthew 7:21-23)

Burning One

This week has been very stressful. I’ve wanted to blog the last few days, but decided against it. I was afraid of writing something inappropriate or bombarding people with more politically heated arguments and I didn’t want to do that to my readers. I have been thinking about a lot, though, and I do have much I’d like to write about, but I’ll try to pace myself, so as not to overwhelm you.

Thursday I read John chapter 17, which I’m going to share with you now:

After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.

I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name–the name you gave me–so that they may be one as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.

I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.

My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be as one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.

Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”

What a chapter! Yes, I know it’s a bit longer than what I’d normally post on here, but the entire chapter really spoke to me. First off, as Jesus prays over His disciples in verses 6-19, He asks God to protect them (us). He says, “I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world.” It couldn’t have been made more clear to me this week, that this is most definitely where we stand as believers. The world hates us!

The world believes that because we speak the truth (express God’s commands and laws) and reject what they believe (that morality is relative and based on the beliefs of the individual), that we have/promote hatred for others. Nothing could be further from the truth!

We speak truth because we love people. We share God’s commands because we want them to go to heaven and see God’s glory. We want them to have eternal life! Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins on the cross is the most precious gift ever given to us and we want to share it with everyone, because we love them.

But the world doesn’t understand our love. They believe that when you love people, it means that you let them live life however they want to live it. They believe that when you love people, it means that you should let them do whatever makes them happy.

However, if you use this line of thinking, it is incorrect. I’ll give you an example…As a mother/father you love your child more than anybody. Does that mean you let your child do whatever they want? Does that mean you let them eat whatever they want? Or go wherever they want? Does that mean you take them wherever they want, whenever they want? Do you buy them whatever they want? Do you let them talk to you however they want? Go to school whenever they want? Do you let them stay up as late as they want? Or watch whatever they want? (I could go on, but I’m sure you get the picture.)

The truth is you don’t let them do whatever they want, whenever they want, because you love them, and want the best for them. Just as Christians love people and want the best for them.

Now, I will be honest and say, there are people out there that claim to be Christians, but are very hateful and have no compassion or mercy for others and I’m going to tell you that  in John 13:35 Jesus himself said that you’ll know a disciple of Christ by the love we have for one another. There are those who pretend to be what they are not and we can see right through them, by their lack of love for others.

Which brings me to my second point (yes, I know my first point was a long one, I told you I got a lot out of this chapter). We are not of this world. We may be here now, but we’re here for a very short time. I tweeted earlier about “How we live in this life will affect where we live in the next.” God left us His word (which I’m thankful for every day!) so that we can read it and study it and follow in Jesus’ footsteps. To be Christians is to be “Christ-like,” and to be sanctified is to be holy and set apart. We are not supposed to look, think, and act like everybody else! We’re not supposed to want the same things others want; our desires should be for Spiritual things! We’re supposed to be different. Our lives should reflect His! When others hate, we should love! When others are angry, we should forgive! When others are disrespectful, we should respect. Is it easy? No! But 1) we don’t rely on our own strength and 2) we’re told ahead of time it’s not going to be easy. Matthew 7:13-14 states that we should “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Only a few ->I think this is so sad; I want to take many with me!)

My last point, has to do with a book that I’ve been reading: Tortured for Christ, by Richard Wurmbrand (which you’ll probably hear more about in future blogs). Wurmbrand wrote something that really struck me hard and I really need to share with you.

One out of every five people in the world live in Communist China, where thousands of lay Christians evangelize without “permission.” Persecution has always produced a better Christian–a witnessing Christian, a soul-winning Christian. Communist persecution has backfired and produced serious, dedicated Christians such as are rarely seen in free lands. These people cannot understand how anyone can be a Christian and not want to win every soul they meet.

“Serious, dedicated Christians such as are rarely seen in free lands“! How this breaks my heart; yet inspires me at the same time. We live in America, where we are free to reach out to the lost, share our faith, go to church, pray, and read our Bibles without persecution, and yet, how often do we take advantage of this gift!? I pray that the church (us!) may be one and that we teach by example; that we lead by example.

This week may have been a stressful week for me, but I tell you, it really made me aware of the spiritual condition of our youth/future (which I have a special place for in my heart); and these past few days have really lit a fire in my chest, that I pray doesn’t get extinguished.

I refuse to conform to this world. I refuse to be deceived by the “you only live once” mentality. I refuse to believe that it’s okay to kill a child in its mother’s womb. I refuse to believe that we should live and let live, when there are so many people on their way to the fiery furnace (Psalm 11:6, 21:9; Malachi 4:1; Matthew 13; Revelations 9:2, 19:20, 21:8).

I entitled this post “Burning One” based on the Jesus Culture song, “Burning Ones” because all day there was a burning in my chest compelling me to write what you see here. I love you and I pray that the Holy Spirit uses this post to change your heart the way He’s been moving in mine.

Take care and God Bless!

I Am Peter

Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.” Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down you life for me? I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!” (John 13:36-38)

I don’t know about you, but when I was younger this was me. “I’ll never do that!” I’d state. I learned over time, that it’s much easier to say that, until your life, future, or image is on the line. It’s so easy to fall, fail, or make a life-changing mistake; it happens in an instant! Often one moment of weakness leads to another, and yet another, until you’ve learned to block out the voice in your head telling you to stop for a moment and think about the consequences of your actions.

Peter thought he’d never disown Jesus; he’d lay his life down for Him! He loved Him! But in a moment of weakness–and fear–Peter denied the one he loved and slunk off into the shadows, ashamed, and full of bitter sorrow. Just as Peter wept over his shame and weakness, I’ve found myself in the same sorrowful predicament. I may never have outwardly spoken my disowning, but my actions certainly never showed that God reigned supreme over my life, or that I was His follower.

And yet, just a few chapters later, in the book of Acts, Peter preaches to a crowd of strangers that Jesus is the Messiah; a powerful, Holy Spirit-filled message of truth, love, and repentance! Peter becomes the leader of the early Christian church!

It is so easy to fall. It’s so easy to feel like it’s the end of the world and that God can’t use us because of our failures. But time and time again, He’s shown in His deed and word that He can use us! That His plans for us are solid and good and purposeful!

My experiences have taught me mercy and grace and compassion for my fellow man. They’ve taught me that when you make a mistake you have to fall upon your face before God admitting them. And they’ve taught me that sin is sin. I can’t sugarcoat what I’ve done, I can’t say that it’s okay for some people, but not for others; because it shouldn’t have been done, period. It’s wrong and it will always be wrong. I was wrong!

I am Peter. I may have fallen, but God has picked me up. What He’s got planned for me, I have no idea. What He’s taught me, is immeasurable. But every day I ask Him for another chance. Another chance to show Him that I love Him; another chance to show Him that I can be and do what He’s created me for; and another chance to accept any present and/or future responsibilities that He chooses to bless me with.

The Samaritan Woman

Tonight I read John 4, which includes Jesus talking to the Samaritan woman at the well and noticed a couple new things as I read. We’ve covered this story quite a few times over the past few weeks in various Bible studies at church, so there’s much to be said about this encounter.

First, let’s point out that Jesus was a Jew and the woman was a Samaritan. Jews and Samaritans had nothing to do with each other; in fact, in the footnotes of my NIV Bible, it states that the Jews wouldn’t even eat out of the same dishes that the Samaritans used! So, immediately, this woman of intrigued by the fact that Jesus is even talking to her.

Second, Jesus offers her living water (which, of course she doesn’t understand). One of the young ladies in my young adult’s Bible study described the woman’s situation this way: “This is a woman who has been doing everything she can to make it on her own. In a land where women held no power, authority, or property, she’s married multiple times in order to be taken care of and have her needs met. And here, Jesus is offering to meet all those needs!” I love this, because that’s exactly what Jesus was doing when He offered her living water! He was offering to satisfy every need and longing of her heart, if she’d just turn to Him–the Messiah.

Third, when Jesus disciples return to Him, after buying food in another town, Jesus tells them to stop worrying about food for the moment and take a look at what’s going on around them. He says, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. Do you not say, ‘Four months more and then the harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and looks at the fields! They are ripe for harvest” (John 4:34-35).

Lastly, the woman went back to her town and testified on His behalf! The book of John says, “many of the Samaritans from that town believed in Him because of the woman’s testimony” (John 4:39).

What have I learned from this encounter? I’ve learned that God offers many opportunities for us to reach the lost. Most often, they’re right in front of us: the lonely student, the despised boss, the struggling single mom, the stripper, or drug addict. As His followers, we’ve already been offered and have accepted that living water; our duty is to pour it into the lives of others. But how often we get distracted by our daily tasks–or worry about what others will think of us because we’re associating ourselves with someone of “unsavory” or questionable character–that we miss out on what God is doing around us and what He wants from us! Jesus reached out to this woman, whom the disciples most likely would have overlooked, because 1) she was a woman and 2) because she was a despised Samaritan, but obviously, God had much more in store for her. And finally, we ought to be doing just what this woman did upon hearing about Christ’s goodness, sharing it with the world; so that others, in turn, will do the same.