Wednesday, February 23, 2011

It's grace... not grace plus

Romans 4:24-25 But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; Who was delivered for our offenses and was raised again for our justification.

Why is this important? Jesus was delivered for our offenses. He was on the cross for them, because we know the wages of sin are death. That means that because of our sin, we should be delivered to death. Jesus did that for us. The part that we need to recognize however is not the death, but the raising again. How could Jesus be raised again if he is made guilty of our sin? Because our sin is forgiven! You see he was raised again for our justification, because by raising Jesus from the dead God showed us that our sins that he died for, are now forgiven! Are we required to then do this, and that, and this and that to receive it? No! We are imputed (that is we are now given) the righteousness of Christ! Not because we do this or that, but because we believe!

Now some will use this as an opportunity to say that we are teaching free grace, that we are saying that you can do whatever you want and get to heaven. God forbid! We are saying that you are forgiven simply for your belief! Yet because of your belief, you will stop sinning! Once you receive the gift of the Holy Spirit sin will no longer have a hold of us! We are free from it! We will no longer sin, not because it gets us to Heaven, we are already on our way! We will no longer sin because we love God and want to make Him happy! Do not let anyone tell you that you can't do this or must do that, because God has already paid that price for us! Anything you chose to do or not to do, make sure it is for God!

Past, Present, Future?

Romans 1:16 - For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also the Greek.

Why is the word salvation such an important one? Because it is an all inclusive word that covers the past, the present and the future. Salvation did not only occur at the cross, but it is occuring now and will occur in the future. You see Salvation means that we have been saved from guilt of our actions and penalty of our sin (all in the past, when Jesus died on the cross.) You are currently being saved from sinful habits and dominion of sin in your life. (present) Faith frees you from sins control and grasp. And finally, you will be saved by complete conformity to Christ, saved from Judgment. (future).

Please take a moment to let all of that sink in, realizing that you no longer have to be guilty for what you did in the past. Realizing that when sin confronts you today you are not under it's thumb, instead you can turn from it and walk with Christ. That when the judgment day comes you will not be condemned, but will be welcomed with open arms into the place he has prepared for us.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Pizza Hutt, here we come!

I was going to write about another topic, one that I think is very important. This one however is really pressing on my conscience. I want to tell a story about something I did in the past, that hurt someone I love very deeply.

I once placed 1st in a science fair for a project I had done on iterated function systems. I didn't deserve the win, at least not in hindsight, but that's for another day. After winning several awards I was feeling very important and not really considering other people.

My friends all wanted to go celebrate with me. I thought that was an excellent idea, and as a young student who just got his license I wanted to go where everyone goes for a fancy celebration dinner, Pizza Hutt! I got in my car (my parents car) and all of my friends poured in and there wasn't room for my brother. Mom and dad said go straight to the restaurant and they would drop my brother off. So I took off with my buddies, all excited.

As we pulled through the Pizza Hutt parking lot, we noticed it was completely full. I'm not sure which of us mentioned it, or who decided, but before I thought about it we were heading to another pizza place on the other side of town. I don't even remember the name. I don't remember what I ate, or what I had to drink. Yet there was something about this situation that I will never forget. As we finished and paid, my parents walked in and they were red in the face. I knew that look. I had done something wrong.

My brother had waited for over an hour at Pizza Hutt, in a booth by himself with no money. I had all the cash to pay for the meal. I had simply forgotten him. To this day I have trouble thinking about it, because someone so special in my life had been waiting for me, and I simply forgot him. If you are reading this Danny, and I know I've said it before, but I am sorry. There is no excuse for it, I simply forgot you.

It illustrates something we should all consider. There is a brother in our life, a brother who has done the most powerful thing in the world for us. A brother who died in our place. You see the bible says (I find I write you see a lot in my blog) that we are the adopted as children of God.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.

Ephesians 1:3-8

As a man who has adopted brothers, I find it especially powerful. I know that an adopted brother can mean so much to you that you forget that they were adopted. You start treating them the same as you do your real brother. In my case, I pray that I never treat anyone the way I have my brother in the past. You start loving them as if they have always been there. You do things for them just because!

Yet Jesus who died for us, our own brother, we often forget. We agree to meet him somewhere, then we don't show up. He does. He is expecting us. He sits there waiting patiently. Then in a show of love, just like my brother, he forgives us for forgetting him. It's as if we never did. My brother forgave me. He never brings it up. I don't remember him EVER bringing it up. I remember that everyday after that he treated me just like he did, before I forgot him. Jesus is the same. I am sure he is grieved, when we fall away from Him. I am sure just like it hurts me when someone forgets me, it aches inside. But he forgives them, just as you and I should, just as my brother did.

I pray that all of us will begin to thirst for God in such a way that we never forget to meet him somewhere. That when we think of something to do, we think is God in this? Am I going to go where God is? Or am I going to forget him and end up somewhere else, where he isn't? He doesn't change. He will always be there, waiting. How can I make this decision in a way that will not only take me where he is, but keep me always walking in that direction.

In Christ,

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Do we reflect Christ?

I remember one year in high school, I had placed in the regional science fair. As a reward

not only did I get a chance to go to the Nations Capital for the national competition, but I also was offered a trip to a well known Christian college in a nearby state. I was so very excited, as I had been going to Church and had given my heart over in an alter call four or five years earlier.

I was sort of confused, as many teens are. I thought Christianity was simply saying you believed in Christ, and then doing whatever you wanted. After all we were free from the Law, and 'everything was permissible.' I kept forgetting the next part of that statement, Everything is permissible, but not everything profitable.

As a few of us loaded up in a fifteen passenger van, there were two girls that just seemed really fun. I introduced myself as did the fellow riding with us, and we all sort of hit it off. Never mind the fact that I had a girlfriend, and to be honest I had no intention of flirting, but I found myself doing it anyway. Throughout the trip I had many conflicts of my spirit versus my flesh. At one point the girls were making fun of our driver and host, who was a science professor at the college. They were making fun because he did the 'sign of the cross' over himself before he prayed for his meal. I don't know if he was Catholic, Lutheran? I to this day don't know.

Yet when they made fun of him for showing his faith, I was offended! I told them so as well. For the rest of the trip to the college, no one spoke to me. They treated me as if I was leprous because I didn't think it was right to make fun of someone. Especially make fun of someone over God!! Once we arrived at the school though, everything changed. They started talking to me again about how excited they were and how great it was to get a chance to see this Christian school in action.

After all the touring was done and we were assigned our room, the girls wanted to walk around and see the compass. Sure, I thought, just a couple friends walking around a college campus at night. We walked through the different dorms and I was in shock! One room would have a girl in her underwear dancing to sultry, secular music. The next would have a guy in his boxers flexing in front of a mirror and holding a 40. Then we'd find rooms were people were making out with abandon. These 'Christians' knew how to party!

Later in the night we were walking these two girls back to their temporary dorm rooms, and the couple ahead of us were holding hands. Then they stopped and moved off the path into the trees and started kissing and making out. The girl that was walking with me, winked and tried to grab my hand. I backed up and said Woah, I have a girlfriend back home!. Boom I was leprous again. The other girl in the trees making out, heard me tell her friend that I had a girl back home.. and they both tore into me. How dare you walk around with us and flirt with us, and pretend the whole time you were interested without telling us you were in a serious relationship! (Not in such friendly concise words.)

They stormed back to their room, and my room mate left me standing there in the dark dumbfounded. I was so troubled by all the things I had seen. Here I was on a tour of a Christian school with other students who wanted to attend a Christian school, yet there seemed to be nothing Christian about it! People were angry at me for keeping true to my promise to a girl back home, and others were mad at me because I didn't think it was right to make fun of a man for showing his faith, and yet more were making out doing who knows what else in those rooms upstairs.

I laid awake for many hours after that, thinking about how much better a Christian I was than them. How I was really here because I loved Christ, but them! They were sinners!!!


How wrong could I have been? I got upset when they made fun of the man, not because of God, but because I felt I should. I didn't have any righteous indignation, it was simply me making them feel bad for something they did, even though in a similar situation I might have done the same.. according to who was around. They had no reason to think I was a Christian. I had spent the entire ride talking to them about nothing but the world. I then proceeded to walk with them through very worldly circumstances, not saying a word about them. I wasn't the slightest bit uncomfortable, I even thought it was the coolest school I had been too!

You see I was a fair weather Christian. When I was at youth league or Sunday school, God came first. The moment I went out of that church building I was back to being just a normal teenager. You see I wasn't even offended for God when the girl tried to hold my hand, after all I hadn't told her I had a girlfriend... I hadn't acted like I had a girlfriend... Yet when she tried to hold my hand, I was more offended that she impugned my Christianity, than I was that I could have led her into a false situation.

What is the point of my story? All things are permissible, yet not profitable. We as Christians need to be careful of our actions because they speak of where our heart is. If we have entire schools claiming to be Christian schools, yet permitting complete secular nights, then we have a problem. “Oh but we can't tell them what they can and can't do with their lives.” No you can't. Yet you are a Christian school. You CAN tell them that when you are on our campus, you are to follow the rules of Christianity. If you can't, then you need to leave.

Is that harsh? Maybe. Yet how many young men and women walk onto a Christian campus and see Christ? I am not saying all schools are this way, I've only been on the campus of a few Christian colleges. I can say without blinking, that those colleges I have visited, were no more Christian than the secular college I myself attended. We need to show Christ in our every action, whether it's going to school, simply riding in a van with some friends, or eating lunch at Wendy's. We need to be worried about how they perceive us. It shouldn't have taken eating a meal and seeing another person show their faith, for them to find out I was a Christian! They should have known by my words, my actions, the way I talked on the way down that I was a Christian. Instead they thought I was just like them, and that's because I was! To be honest, most of us are! We are still just like the world, because we only put on our Christian suit when we go to church, or someone else brings up Christ.

So let's put our Christian suits on and never take them off. Let's be the first to bring up Christ in a conversation. If they aren't interested, fine. Yet they should know within a few minutes of talking to us that we are different, we aren't like the rest of the world, we aren't supposed to be. We have a different kingdom, one of Love, one of God... let us put it all on the table, and not hide anything from anyone.

In Christ,