FREE GIFT

Who doesn’t like getting presents?

I mean, really! Someone hands you this beautiful gift; are you just going to set it down and ignore it? I have a nephew who takes his time, gently taking it apart so the paper and ribbon aren’t wrinkled or torn. Not me! I’m one of those people …… I have a hard time not ripping off the paper as soon as I have it in my hands! Whether you are a precise, patient unwrapper like my nephew, or an excited ripper like me, are you going to turn your back on the giver and the gift? You’d think not, but millions of people over the ages have done – and do – exactly that.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – ROMANS 6:23 NASB

Jesus Christ Himself told us “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” – JOHN 3:16 NASB

Jesus, Son of the Father, Creator of the Universe, Almighty GOD, left His place at the Father’s side, to bring us the Gift of Salvation through His death on the cross and His resurrection from the grave. We ignore that gift at our own peril!

“These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the Presence of the LORD and from the Glory of His Power, when He comes to be Glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed – for our testimony to you was believed.” – 2 THESSALONIANS 1:9‭-‬10 NASB

That gift is for you. Doesn’t matter what you’ve done or where you have been; who you are, what you upbringing or social status might be. We all stand on equal ground at the foot of the cross. God alone knows what you’ve been through, and He still wants you. He is still standing with His Hand stretched out for you to grab hold of. What are you waiting for?

Justified

“But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since indeed God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith is one. Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law.” – ROMANS 3:21‭-‬31 NASB

That’s a long passage. For some of us (ADD’ers, unite!), it’s easy to get lost in the words and not realize the simple message in there. I am not a scholar, by any stretch, and I certainly don’t mean to try to change anything or manipulate any words. My goal is simply to help us/myself understand what is being said. In short, I think this sums it up:

1. Everybody is a sinner. We all need of redemption.

2. Nothing we can do or say will redeem us.

3. Jesus was sent by GOD to redeem us.

4. All we have to do is to accept Him, by Faith.

Faith. Not words, not attitude, not works. God, the Almighty, the Father and Creator, tells us there is one way to spend the rest of eternity with Him. One. Way.

“….. if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation…..” – ROMANS 10:8-‬13 NASB

Growing up in the church, I loved to sing,and this hymn, especially the chorus, is one that you can close your eyes and lift your hands and really allow the Holy Spirit to carry the words as an anthem, an offering of thanksgiving to the Lord.

Living, He loved me; dying he saved me;
Buried, he carried my sins far away;
Rising, He justified freely forever:
One day He’s coming–O glorious day!

Listen to this hymn as sung by Casting Crowns; GLORIOUS DAY!

Are you justified? Is it a glorious day for you?

His Mercy

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” – JOHN 15:1‭-‬6‭, ‬12‭-‬13 NASB

“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.” – EPHESIANS 3:14‭-‬21 NASB

Scariest Words

What are the scariest words you have ever heard? You’re fired? You’re hired? Marry me? …… We’re pregnant? Your loved one is dying?

All of those words have definite impact on our lives, but I don’t think they are the scariest you’ll ever hear. Knowing just how flawed and imperfect we are as humans, try these:

“If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, “you shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole Law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all. For He Who said, “do not commit adultery,” also said, “do not commit murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery, but do commit murder, you have become a transgressor of the Law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the Law of Liberty.” – JAMES 2:8‭-‬12 NASB

No matter how good we are, we are guilty of breaking all of God’s laws. ALL of them. Ever told a “white” lie? Took a paperclip that really didn’t belong to you? Shared a bit of “harmless” gossip? “Admired” someone of the opposite sex just a tad too long? Became angry or took offense at some slight? By stumbling on one point of the Law, we become guilty of breaking it all.

Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary: “According to the covenant of works, one breach of any one command brings a man under condemnation, from which no obedience, past, present, or future, can deliver him. This shows us the happiness of those that are in Christ. We may serve him without slavish fear. God’s restraints are not a bondage, but our own corruptions are so. The doom passed upon impenitent sinners at last, will be judgment without mercy. But God deems it his glory and joy, to pardon and bless those who might justly be condemned at his tribunal; and his grace teaches those who partake of his mercy, to copy it in their conduct.” (Emphasis mine)

According to my understanding, the Law of Liberty is the Gospel. Through the Mercy shown to us in and through Jesus Christ, we receive forgiveness…… but we must accept that Mercy, that Gift, in order to receive His forgiveness, and to be freed from the final judgement of the LORD. I don’t want to be seen as a “good” person! I want people to see – and know – that I am forgiven; and how I am forgiven. That’s why we must share the Gospel. “Good” can never be good enough; only forgiveness will suffice in the end.

Are you good, or are you forgiven?

The End Is Coming!

“The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer. Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaint. As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” – 1 PETER 4:7‭-‬11 NASB

How many times has the end of the world been predicted? Hundreds, thousands, hundreds of thousands? Over the centuries, many leaders have convinced their followers that Jesus is returning at a certain time and a certain date. The Jehovah Witnesses have predicted at least 5 different dates, and we are still here. Nostradamus predicted 1999 (Still here). Google “end-of-the-world predictions” – it’s interesting to me that so many people seem to want the world to simply go away. Matthew, Luke, and John all recorded Jesus saying that no one would know when He was to return.

“Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming. …. For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will.” – MATTHEW 24:42‭, ‬44 NASB

Peter wrote 1 Peter 4 as a guide of how to live in the end times; to live in the knowledge that our Lord is coming to see us at some point, and to take care of His people as if we expect Him now. In the Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, by C.S. Lewis, as Aslan prepares to leave Lucy he tells her he will return soon. I love her reply, because it is what we all want to ask: “What do you call “soon”?”

Are we living our lives like Jesus will return “soon”? Like there is no tomorrow? It is especially important as Christians to keep sound judgement and a clear head – don’t succumb to the panic of the end times. (Remember Y2K?) One way to avoid the panic is through a dedicated prayer life – sustained and energized, aware of the immenence of Christ. We have the only Love that can be stretched and strained to the max, but will never reach a breaking point, because it is a unique Love that comes only from the Father.

We need to be more fervent in our love of others, and let our love cover their sins…. not condoning the sins, but not broadcasting or highlighting and exposing them. We can be gracious putting up with other’s weaknesses – because we have so many weaknesses ourselves! Less isolation of ourselves, because hospitality is sharing the message that “you matter to me.” Finally, using our spiritual gifts shouldn’t be hard for us, because it will be natural act and will serve other people.

The end is coming. Just don’t get too excited about putting a time or date on it. Only the Father knows when it will be.

The Love of Christ

“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.” – EPHESIANS 3:14‭-‬19 NASB

What is the breadth and length and height and depth of the love of Christ? It surpasses knowledge. It completely wraps us up and covers us. It is deeper than the deepest oceans, higher than the farthest stars; more all-encompassing than the entire universe. It is warmer than the thickest fur coat, and more soothing than the softest silk or flannel on our skin. His Love covers every person, every situation, and there’s still enough left over to fill our world.

Why is it so difficult to believe?

Our own flaws keep us from the Love He offers, as we try to compare the incomparable to the imperfect, and we view Him through our distorted lense of life. If our human fathers were capable of displaying God’s qualities of impartiality and unconditional love, we would understand God! Our earthly fathers are bound by the same sinful spirits as we are, subject to that stinkin’ thinkin’ the Enemy introduced into the Garden; our free will prevents us from ever being perfect. However, we have been given an amazing example in Jesus Christ, and despite their flaws, many earthly fathers strive to provide an example of the love and forgiveness of our Father. I was blessed to have a father who loved God and who strove to be a godly man, in spite of his imperfect human nature.

This Father’s Day, maybe we can focus on the qualities that we see in our dad’s that perhaps reflect some of that love from the Lord. As humans, we can’t even comprehend the breadth and length and height and depth ….. which surpasses knowledge, the Love of Jesus Christ, but we can express our human love as appropriately and completely as we do understand it. May all of the fathers be strengthened with that power through Christ’s Spirit in their inner man, so that Christ may dwell in their hearts through faith.

“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.” – EPHESIANS 3:20-‬21 NASB

So-called Brother

As followers of Jesus, we need to be aware in our relationships and in our actions/activities with friends who have not yet accepted Christ as their Saviour. It’s easy to be drawn into things that don’t honor our Lord. While this knowlege is important, we also need to hear this warning letter that was written to the Church in Corinth. I don’t think we consider this as much as we should.

“I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler-not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.” – 1 CORINTHIANS 5:9‭-‬13 NASB

Not just in our association with non-Christians, but with other Christians, we have to watch ourselves. Are we cautious in our relationships? Do we take care in our business dealings? We all know of businesses that have the Christian ‘fish’ or the symbol of a cross in their advertising. I’ve read advertisements where they claim to be a ‘Christian’ business. I think we need to be extremely careful doing this!

Instead of advertising our Christianity, I believe we should let our actions and our ethics speak of our love of the Lord. Just because there’s a fish or a cross on the sign doesn’t make that business Christian – but it does set a precedent, especially if/when there is a problem. There are hundreds, no, thousands, of examples of a so-called Christian business person who has taken advantage of or treated their customer unethically. I imagine we’ve all seen it or experienced it.

Actions speak louder than words….. but words are still important! Today, may we all make a conscious effort to let our every action reflect the Light of our Lord. Just like the moon, which doesn’t have any light generating capacity itself, yet shines so brightly when reflecting the light of the sun, there is no light in us alone; it all comes from the Saviour, the Son.