Just As He Said…Revisited

Celebrations abound.

We exalt and lift high the sacrifice of our Redeemer and often mix in with it the traditions of spring, much to the delight of children and adults! Taking pleasure in family, friends, and the life we have been given is a joy, and our God created us to receive with thanks all He has given.

But, don’t miss the greater reality!IMG_0317 FOR BLOG.JPG

The King of Kings came in history, in real time. He chose the nails to give us new life!

Don’t miss the whisper that is actually a roar!

The truth remains. The fact is still…

The grave could not hold Him!

The tomb is empty!

He has risen, just as He said! And we delight in that risen Savior!

“It is finished” began in a manger and was complete at Calvary!

Tetelastai! Our debt has been paid!

BUT, though complete, it didn’t end there!

Jesus submitted to the Father, endured the scorn and separation as He died on the cross; but, in His power, He burst forth from the tomb!

As the angel of the Lord sat on the rock that covered the tomb that, after the crucifixion, held Jesus Christ, he did so in triumph as a witness and a proclamation to the women who came to the place of burial…and to us today!

Death could not hold the Son of God; He went willingly to the cross to redeem His own, but “it was impossible for Him to be held by it!” (Acts 2:24)

And that same power that raised Jesus from the dead is the same power that raises us to new life in Him.  He tells us to come as we are, but He doesn’t intend to leave us as we are!  We are forgiven and redeemed for that new life!

New life that does not hold on to the old.

New life that decimates our shame.

New life that is redeemed by the works of our Savior not our own.

New life that is able to see with new eyes and trust even when we can’t.

New life that exalts in His glory and is amazed by His mercy and grace.

And yet…

New life that is wrecked by freedom from our old; so that our desires are increasingly transformed!

New life that humbly allows the Spirit of God to faithfully calm our fears.

New life that humbly lays down our idols and all we cling to for satisfaction, security, self-worth, and identity to find them in the only capable place – the heart of God.

New life to give the forgiveness and grace to others that we have been given in Christ.

New life to love in a way that makes no sense to the world – loving and serving those who may hate us, even harm us. Love that serves yet never compromises the truth of God, even if it rocks self-defined worlds and shatters man-made perceptions of Him.

New life that humbly allows the Spirit of God to break through our hard hearts and convict us of sins we hold too close; that submits and fiercely battles the sins that so easily entangle.

New life that humbly allows the Spirit of God to then empower us to say “no” to that which has long been our “go to” sins, instead saying “yes” to the increasing righteousness of Christ!  Yes, we stand before the Father in Christ’s righteousness from the moment of surrender; but it is how He intends for us to grow, living out our lives in joyful obedience to His commands that are meant for our greatest good and His glory!

New life that seeks to give new life!

Because He has risen just as He said!

And no “power of hell, no scheme of man could ever pluck me from His hand; for I am His and He is mine, this is the power of Christ in me!”  (“In Christ Alone” – Getty)

The earth has quaked, the veil has been torn in two, the stone is rolled away and true freedom comes for those who lay down their lives, accept the free gift of salvation and the lordship of Jesus Christ, and so, live in the power of the resurrection!

And that roar is heard across the ages!

“God thunders wondrously with His voice; He does great things that we cannot comprehend.” Job 37:5

“…You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” I Corinthians 6:19-20

“Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day…he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses.” (Acts 2:29-32)

“The cross is the finished work of Christ, paying the penalty of our sins; the resurrection of Christ is the power and the proof! It’s not the extra point – it is the EXCLAMATION point!”  (Pastor Joseph Wheat)

Finding Freedom Together in Leaving Some Things Behind

Opportunity has never been greater.  Hope and true healing, not just lip service, are needed now as much as, if not more, than ever.  We live as one writer says, “in an alien land.”   Even more so, we, as the Bible says in I Peter 2:11, are urged “as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul.”

The headlines speak of a world giving into and even increasingly embracing ungodliness.  We have the occasion, then, to use it as a springboard for the unbeliever as well as for the believer.

For the one unredeemed by Christ but in unity with the Word of God about the issues of the day, we can point to the fact that “’There is none righteous; no not one” (Romans 3:10) and “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).  We all need the redemptive work of Christ.

Many unbelievers and believers alike justify their own sin as “not as bad as…” because so many, even in the church, are engaged in the same instead of, as Jerry Bridges says, “confronting the sins we tolerate.”   For the redeemed believer, we have the opportunity to speak the truth in love and call them to repentance, to a victory in Christ over sin that a person has long resigned themselves to as being insurmountable and unbeatable.  We don’t sell just ourselves short; we sell our Savior short when we believe we either can’t be free of it or we can’t be forgiven for it.

But truly, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”  (Galatians 5:1)  Not a slavery to the world’s perspective on God’s truth, to a false view of salvation, or to the sin from which we now have the power of God to say “no” for a greater “yes!”

Sometimes, we simply love sin too much; we grasp it with white knuckles because we don’t know how we ever could or we don’t want to live without it.  We are afraid to be “aliens and strangers,” to be “set apart” as God calls us to be – not legalistically and in an attempt to earn salvation, but because God calls us to be in the world not of it, to be “transformed by the renewing of our mind” through the Word of God, not “conformed to the patterns of this world.”

God, who created us,  knows us better than we know ourselves, and thus knows how life is best lived.  He also knows that to live otherwise is to set ourselves up for a battle against our soul and a longing that is never satisfied.

Among some, we are glad to be courageous and to be different.  On certain issues, we will boldly declare “This is what God’s Word says; live it” or “This is right and good, do it.”  On matters of little significance, we will be resolute.  But on some issues and among those we want to please, those whose approval and love we seek, we are often silent.

Trying to wait for the right moment and words so they don’t come across offensive, our words remain unspoken.  Where there is need for accountability and speaking the truth in love, we back down for fear of alienating or being rejected.  But that is the enemy’s lie.  Yes, we need to consider our words and the timing, but more specifically we need to ask ourselves whether we are seeking God for the right time to say the hard things or whether we wait because we don’t want to face the possibility of being rebuffed.

None of us like rejection, but God’s Word tells us that when we do “speak the truth in love” (and that includes motive and literal words), “we (will) grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ.” (Ephesians 4:13)  It’s not a matter of do we want to; it’s a matter of will we do what we are called to do?

Do we love someone enough to gently but firmly point them to the truth so their lives can be changed by the redemptive as well as the transforming work of grace in their life?  Do we then love enough to walk with them through their wrestling and restoring process?  Will we ask the hard questions as we humbly acknowledge our own sin and struggle, laying ourselves bare for the sake of another who has chosen to be wounded by sin, not once but on an ongoing basis?

The Bible says when we do, we will grow in Him, through Him, and by Him as individuals and together; His Spirit, not us, does the miraculous work of restoration when we are faithful.

Maybe we have rejected someone in the past because they dared to speak the truth to us and so we fear that what we did to another will be done to us?  It may be time to lay that burden before the Lord as well and seek the forgiveness of the person to whom we refused to listen.

Perhaps we will be rejected for a time.  God says that may happen, but if we obediently do what we are told to do, not rashly or harshly but prayerfully and out of a deep love for the other person, how rich the reward if the other responds in repentance and, by grace, is drawn more deeply first to the Savior and then to us.

Our prayer must first be for the Holy Spirit to cover the conversation, that the other person’s heart will be soft, for our words to be full of love and acceptance yet seasoned with salt which may sting for the moment but also bring healing, and for the redemption and/or freedom of the other from a slavery to a sin held tightly for so long.

The tentacles of that sin may have become so entangling, it may be hard to break free, and it may be frightening to consider what breaking free will mean for a time; the wounds that have come from them may have left scars so deep.  Yet, no entanglement and no scars are too great for the Savior to heal and we all need to hear that and be reminded of that truth!

Will we believe the promise of God’s grace for them and, perhaps, for ourselves?

For it is possible, as we face the sin of another that the enemy wants to remind us of our own failings, our own ensnaring sins either in the past or that we still battle and have yet to fully lay down.  Or maybe we still allow the enemy to condemn us and we do not think we can speak to an issue where we have failed.  “But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!”  (I Corinthians 15:57)

What a blessing to let God redeem our past failures, not to condone another’s sin but to bring His healing for them in the present.  When we are in open rebellion, choosing “what seems right to us,” and refusing to confess it and leave it at the cross, the conviction of the Holy Spirit is meant to bring us to repentance and the liberty found in that.  But when we have turned from sin and have been redeemed from it through the work of Christ on the cross, not continuing in a pattern of picking it up and playing with it,  the enemy of our souls wants to rob us of the peace of Christ and remind us of our failures in an attempt to take our eyes off the finished work of Jesus and His daily transforming power in our lives.

The enemy’s goal is to make us ineffective and afraid to use that victory in Him to more and more often say “no” to sin ourselves and to lead others out of the same.  “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” (2 Corinthians 7:10)

Oh the joy of leaving our past at the cross and our present failings at the feet of Jesus; how good and precious is it to do that with another believer rather than to bury it without true healing offered by the grace of God that forgives, frees, and transforms us and them.

“’Cause when we say ‘no’  to the things of the world, we open our hearts
to the love of the Lord and
 it’s hard to imagine the freedom we find from the things we leave behind.”  (Michael Card)

For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.  For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.  Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” I John 5:3-5

“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be the glory…”  Ephesians 3:20-21

Being an “Attractive Nuisance” – It’s All About Grace

TP2007-32When my children were small, they wanted a trampoline.  The problem was that my husband was in the insurance claims business and had seen numerous cases of suits against homeowners when uninvited children in the neighborhood came to play on them and were injured; they were called “attractive nuisances.”  They were so appealing that they drew children to them regardless of the boundaries of “private property.”

I want to be an “attractive nuisance” for Christ.  I want the flavor of my life, the way I treat others, the way I respond to situations, the way I love even my enemies to make people stop and say, “I want what you have.”

Unfortunately, there are many times that none of those well reflect my Savior and many times I cringe to think how I have been a “nuisance,” but not a particularly attractive one.  Yet, I pray that each of these will increasingly become more evident in my life and more and more I will have opportunity “to give reason for the hope I have” (I Peter 3:15); that being Christ in me, the hope of glory  (Colossians 1:27).

Even in the midst of conversations that are difficult; in the midst of issues where I will conflict with another as I stand on the Word of God, I pray that my words, while unwavering from the life and freedom giving truth, will be seasoned with salt, with grace, with the love of Christ so others will be drawn to the Savior.

I want others, who are convinced that “doing what is right in their own eyes” is freeing, to take pause and see in me the joy that comes from true freedom; not a freedom that is contrary to a holy God, but the humble desire to grow more in love with that God and more eager to become ever more like my Savior.

Many times I hear grace and striving to be holy and wholly His in opposition to one another.  The Bible does not teach that.  Without a doubt I am redeemed, saved by grace through faith in the work of Christ on the cross and this not of myself so there is no opportunity for me to boast (Ephesians 2:9).  But God calls me and each of us to perfect our holiness out of reverence for and a fear of God (2 Corinthians 7:1). And, though it is His charge to me as a believer – to seek out and work out holiness in my life, to run the race to which He has called me and to pursue that holiness, that “becoming more and more into the likeness of His Son” – that is not of myself either.

I cannot boast about any good thing I do or even obedience to His Word; for without a doubt, it is by God’s grace  that I am even able to exercise self control, that I have hunger to cultivate being more like Christ, that I have an increasing hatred of sin in my own life as well as in the lives of others not in a legalistic manner but because I have experienced, seen, and continue to see the defiance of God and the destructiveness and pain that follows.

But it is also by grace I am able and free to love those who are caught in its web, to pray for my enemies, to seek and pursue peace but not to, in the process, deny truth.  And, at the end of the day, when I am overwhelmed by my own weaknesses,  I can say “Father, forgive me” and not worry about whether or not He will, in spite of my failures and limitations, which will be mine until I am in His presence!

I am free to live, but my life is not my own; I have been bought with a price so I must glorify God with my body, my actions, my words, my thoughts.  I do not feel bound or constrained by any man made rules, but I am joyfully and gratefully bound by Christ who did not abolish the Law but rather fulfilled its demands while expanding its meaning; by Christ who calls us to live in such a manner that we accomplish it more fully so that we are able to love others more deeply and more like He loves us.

It is my prayer that I am increasingly an “attractive nuisance,” drawing people to Christ in spite of their aversion to the rules they find binding but which, in Him, are anything but!

“Grace is not simply leniency when we have sinned. Grace is the enabling gift of God not to sin. Grace is power, not just pardon.” — John Piper, The Pleasures of God

“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age” (Titus 2:11-12).