The Fatal Flaw in Many Talk Show Hosts’ Reasoning

Over the years I have listened to talk show hosts like Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, and Mark Levine. Lately, however, I’m increasingly less interested in their perspectives on the world. I have noticed a fatal flaw in their reasoning about human beings, which under-girds their thinking on a host of political and moral issues.

While they all speak of it, Glenn Beck is perhaps the most outspoken about the reality of evil in our world. The question is, HOW do they speak of it? How do they view evil, and how does it affect the rest of their worldview?

Speaking of the Western world’s conflict with ISIS, Glenn Beck states, “This is a war against evil.” No doubt.

In his book Deliver Us from Evil, Sean Hannity reacted against the 2001 bombing of the World Trade Center: “Evil exists. It is real, and it means to harm us.” No question.

But how do they understand evil? If people are out to kill us, they are evil. So what should we do about it? Usually, the remedy is to kill the offenders first. But when we kill them we are not evil because we are defending ourselves against evil. In other words, we are the good guys and they are the bad guys.

I also hear these same men claim (fairly often) that they believe “we” are basically good. Really?

There’s a glaring problem in their reasoning, but it’s not easy for us to see. In fact, I’ve heard many church-going folk follow similar lines of logic. How can we be basically good while they are basically evil? How did Western civilization become basically good? How did Islamic nations end up basically evil?

Those who believe they are basically good find it easy to choose a side and then paint all in opposition as the bad guys. The United States has polarized itself using this way of thinking. Democrats think Republicans are basically evil. Republicans think Democrats are basically evil. Libertarians think Dems and Reps are Satan’s spawn. Everyone has decided that his way of thinking is correct and that his heart is good. Those who think differently must be fighting for the other side.

As Christians, we should accept what God tells us about ourselves:

“…the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth” (Genesis 8.21)

 

“God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes.” (Ecclesiastes 7.29)

“Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then also you can do good who are accustomed to do evil.” (Jeremiah 13.23)

“…there is no one who does not sin…” (1 Kings 8.46)

“…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3.23)

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience–among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” (Ephesians 2.1-3)

Let us not draw lines where God hasn’t, and He draws those lines between the saved and unsaved, between believers and unbelievers. Those who commit acts of evil act according to their flesh–and ALL men walk in their flesh unless and until God saves them!

We should not be surprised at the levels of violence, sexual perversion, hate, contempt, in-fighting, power-grabbing, back-stabbing, and abuse in the world. We should be surprised when light shines brightly, when hope is born, when grace is offered–for that is the rarity.

Thank God for His mercy and His Spirit, who enables us to actually commit goodness and kindness. Without God’s grace this world would devolve into cataclysmic chaos, a deluge of darkness.

But with His grace there is hope, not for all men, but for those who submit to His Son and for those whom He changes from the inside out.

As long as we buy the lie that we are basically good they are basically evil, we will continue to walk in our own evil and call it good. We should own our own evil, taking it before God in confession and repentance, and perhaps then we can look at them with more grace and understanding. God’s grace tears down walls because it forces us to identify with other sinners.

So listen closely to your talk show hosts of choice. Listen to your congressmen and women. Listen to your President and Governor. See if they have this fatal misunderstanding of human nature. I hope it provokes you to become more critical in your weighing of their arguments.

The Eternal Consequences of Legalism

The cross was an offense to some false teachers in Galatia, against whom Paul strongly preached. Jews had infiltrated the churches. They claimed to be Christians, but they brought a twisted, corrupted, distorted gospel with them (Gal. 1.6-9) as they attempted to bind the Gentile Christians under a host of Jewish laws which Christ had already eliminated through the cross.

Circumcision is not a sin in itself. Paul was circumcised (Phil. 3.5), and he even had Timothy circumcised for practical reasons (Acts 16.3), so he wasn’t condemning the actual act. He condemned it as a religious ritual as the Jews were teaching; they commanded all Christian men to be circumcised in order to be right with God. They made it a prerequisite to salvation.

In addition to circumcision, they also insisted Christians keep the special Jewish feast days (Gal. 4.10), adding them onto the list of things necessary for salvation. In other words, the Jewish Christians wouldn’t really accept the Gentile Christians as brothers until they measured up to their list of laws and demands.

Why did the cross offend these Jews? Paul preached against circumcision for salvation; the gospel eliminated the Law of Moses as necessary under Christ! He preached that Jesus abolished the Old Law and clearly stated that salvation is by faith in Christ apart from works of the law (Gal. 2.15-16). In fact, “if justification were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose” (Gal. 2.21), and “if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law” (Gal. 3.21). But now that faith has come, we are not longer under the guardianship of the law (Gal. 3.25).

Christ has set us free in order that we may experience true freedom (Gal. 5.1). He has freed us from sin and law. The law actually binds us under sin, so Christ had to abolish the law in order that we might actually be free from sin! This is grace.

But grace offends the legalist (who believes he is saved by keeping a law) because grace says we are not saved by our work of keeping law; we are saved by Christ’s work of keeping the law and His awesome, powerful, sufficient sacrifice on the cross on our behalf. Just as the cross offended the Jews because it did away with their law, the cross offends legalists today because it does away with their law.

Who gets to make the list of laws which are necessary for entering into the kingdom of heaven? Only God holds that position. Is there a law Jesus expects us to submit to? Absolutely! If you don’t think so, you probably haven’t read the New Testament recently (you might refresh your memory starting with Matthew 5-7, Romans 6, James, and Galatians 5-6). But Jesus clarifies the place of law–law doesn’t save; He does. We keep His law because we are His children, not in order to make ourselves His children.

The legalist, however, so intent on keeping law, begins to make lists of actions and teachings which will keep a person out of heaven. Many such lists have been made which go far beyond gospel-level issues, and those lists divide good-hearted brethren. The legalist believes that eating (or not eating) certain meats will keep you out of heaven (Rom. 14; 1 Cor. 8). The legalist believes that observing (or not observing) certain special religious days will annul your salvation. The legalist believes you must add this or subtract that from your life in order to be saved. Their additions divide and do violence to the body of Christ! And that’s why Paul so vigorously opposed the mindset of legalism.

Paul could have made a long list to show why he was “qualified” to be saved, but he counted all his so-called qualifications as loss, he said, “for the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I my gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith…” (Phil. 3.2-10).

Let us refrain from binding fellow Christians to our lists of laws! If Christ said to do it, then we shall do it. If Christ said to avoid it, then we shall avoid it. But let’s not add to or subtract from what He has said, and let us not think that we are saved by keeping His laws. We’ve been saved in order that we might keep His laws. There’s a big difference, and that difference has eternal consequences (Gal. 5.4)!

Does God Really Expect Perfection?

Are you good enough for God? Have you ever wondered if you were?

Just how good do you need to be in order for God to accept you? Surely He has given some indication of His standard of measurement so we can know for sure. In fact, God HAS declared a standard of measurement for those who will enter the kingdom of heaven.

Sometimes people think God was really strict in the Old Testament but in the New Testament He relaxes His standards so we can actually achieve salvation. Isn’t that what grace is all about? Doesn’t God give us an easier time today than He gave the Jews?

I don’t deny that we live in a better time and under a better covenant, but Jesus did not come to relax God’s standards! In fact, He clarified God’s moral standards, raising them in the eyes of a people who had been lowering them and stripping them of their power and righteousness. Jesus said, “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5.19).

At the end of Matthew 5, Jesus states, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” How exactly is our heavenly Father perfect? Is He just kind of  perfect? Maybe “perfect” doesn’t actually mean perfect in the way we normally think of it. As people sometimes ask, “What does the Greek say?” The word (τέλειός) is translated through the New Testament as perfect, complete, mature. Oh good. I can see how I can be “mature” and not be totally “perfect,” so maybe I can relax the standard just a bit. Maybe God isn’t seeking full and total perfection (because, ha ha, who can achieve that standard?); maybe He just wants someone who’s “pretty good” (an admittedly fuzzy definition). But…whatever word we want to plug in there, it says to be perfect/mature/complete AS GOD Himself is perfect/mature/complete. That seems fairly unattainable!

Peter wrote in 1 Peter 1.15, “As He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct.” Again, Peter compares us to God Himself–we are to be the same kind of holy as He is! How do we adjust this so we can actually meet the standard?

We are not supposed to adjust anything! What God said, God meant, and we have no business trying to wiggle around until we feel comfortable. We ought to understand that God demands nothing short of complete perfection.

But I’m not perfect.

I’m betting you’re not, either.

What are we do do?!

Some theorize that we can become so mature in Christ that we can go for hours, days, perhaps even weeks without sinning. Really? And what do those theoretical pockets of perfection buy for you? Are you hoping Christ returns during one of your perfect hours? That sounds tenuous at best, and most of us haven’t yet come close to that theoretical perfection. I say “theoretical” because what these folks actually do is decided on a level of comfort they call “perfection,” and they lie to themselves thinking they have gone without sinning, when, in fact, God has said, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1.8).

God tells us not to sin; then He says if we say we have no sin we are liars. It’s a no-win situation. We might as well give up, throw in the towel, go home and cry. Not! This is the GOSPEL message! God wants us to understand this–come to the end of ourselves–feel totally powerless and vulnerable, because only then will we give up on ourselves and cling fully and completely to Jesus Christ.

Jesus walked perfectly without sin (Heb. 4.15). He endured the cross for our sake (2 Cor. 5.14-15), and through Him God reconciles us back to Himself (2 Cor. 5.18)! How did He bring us back into relationship with Himself? He made Christ to be sin on our behalf so that we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5.21)! He no longer counts our sins against us (2 Cor. 5.19), because He laid all our sins on the back of His Son, Jesus. Jesus swapped places with us–the righteous for the sinner–so God now looks at men and women who are in Christ as being righteous, holy, perfect.

But I’m not perfect. That’s right! Christ is. And God counts the perfect righteousness of Christ to my account and imputes all my sin to Christ’s account. Glory be to God! He didn’t have to do it, but He did, freely. And so I am completely saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

Praise God today if you are in Christ because He has taken all your sins and counts you now as holy!

If you’re not in Christ, it’s of utmost importance that you come to Him! I pray He draws you and shows you the path to true reconciliation and freedom. Please let me know if I can help you on your journey.

Can You Really Control Yourself?

With God, all things are possible.

Can you control yourself? God commanded self-control, and what God commands He also enables His children to accomplish. If you are a Christian, walking with Christ, walking according to the Spirit, God has already given you the power to overcome the flesh!

Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin. (Rom. 6.4-7)

Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace. (Rom. 6.12-14)

We can excuse ourselves: “I just cannot conquer this sin.” We allow it to fester and hang around in our lives without challenge.

Notice God did not say, “Let me control you,” but “Control yourself.” We reign over our own bodies, hearts, and minds. He certainly helps and empowers us in our self-control, as we see from the the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

To Titus Paul wrote that older men should be “temperate,” that older women should not be “enslaved to much wine,” that younger women be “subject to their own husbands,” and that Titus himself should “be an example of good deeds.” All of those traits have self-control in their base. Paul uses another term with the older men, younger women, and younger women: they should be “sensible.” Many translations express this word as “self-controlled.” Thus, God expects self-control at all stages of a Christian’s life from the aged down to the youth.

Remember teenage Joseph, handsome in form and appearance, solidly refused Potiphar’s wife’s advances, saying, “How can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” (Gen. 39.9). She pressed him hard, one day grabbing him and trying to drag him into her bed, but “he left his garment in her hand and fled and got out of the house” (Gen. 39.12). What a courageous young man, who saw sin so clearly, and who refused to cross a line God had drawn!

With God’s help we can all have this kind of self-control!

I do not say that a worldly-minded, fleshly-thinking person can have this control–for he allows his flesh to control him. But God bestows great grace upon us, His children, that we might flee youthful lusts and get out of the house!

Let us bring our children up in the Lord in such a way that they might know Him and the freedom from sin He grants through Jesus Christ. And let us also take hold of His grace, knowing that God’s grace brings salvation for all people and trains us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions. God’s grace empowers us to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age (Titus 2.11-12).

Walk in the light, dear brothers and sisters!

Does Bible Study Make You Feel Guilty?

The preacher hammers the importance of daily Bible study, and most of the church sits feeling condemned, inadequate, and guilty, because we sure messed that up last week!

Does Bible study make you feel guilty?

It’s actually not the study itself, but our failures along the way. We make commitments (or at least have a vague idea of what we ought to do) and end up not fulfilling them. We don’t hit our targets, don’t actualize our vision, don’t work the plan perfectly. And our hearts condemn us.

It’s as if we feel that God accepts us on the basis of whether or not we hit our targets for the day.

I have this feeling that God wants me to spend some time in the word today (a minimum of 15 or 20 minutes?), and I never got around to it. And I missed yesterday, too. The days pile fast and guilt grows. I’m failing God, myself, my family, my church. I can’t let the church know I’m a failure at this because this is what being a Christian is all about, right? If I’m not in the Bible every day, they might think I’m not really a Christian–or at least not a serious one. I’ll tell everyone else they should be reading the Bible every day, I’ll put on a face like I’m getting it done, and I’ll continue to feel bad every week when I don’t make it.

Have you ever felt this way?

Trade Law for Grace!

We feel like this when we still place ourselves under law. When we don’t understand why Jesus died for us in the first place, we can get the idea that God is pleased with us when we have our act together and displeased when we don’t get the works in we feel we should. As if our works keep us holy and in His grace.

Get this, Brothers and Sisters: as many of you as have been baptized have put on Christ, you are one in Christ Jesus, and you are sons of God through faith (Galatians 3.26-4.7). Because you are sons, you are heirs alongside THE Son, Jesus. You inherit eternal fellowship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit! God adopted you into His family while you were spiritually immature and broken–and He continues to cover you by the blood of His Son while you grow in Christ. You have freedom in God’s house even while you are not perfect! God does not accept you on the basis of what you do for Him, but on the basis of what Jesus Christ has already done on the cross. Nothing you do for God now will make you more holy, more righteous, more acceptable to Him–you are totally accepted right now in Christ Jesus!

So don’t feel condemned and guilty when you don’t get the works perfect. Keep loving God; keep loving your neighbor; keep loving your family. Keep striving to know and understand more, but don’t feel like you have fallen out of God’s favor when you fail.

In God’s grace is an amazing freedom–including the freedom to fail and keep right on going. There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8.1).

Being under a heartless law system stifles growth and kills the spirit. But being under the grace of a kind and loving God provides and promotes an attitude of steady joy in the face of all our failures. I hope you and I forever revel in that joy!

Interestingly, those with the perspective of grace find their Bible study becomes even more frequent and fruitful!

Why Did God Choose You, Dear Christian?

Picking CherriesWhy did God choose Israel? Was it because they were smarter than other nations? Were they better looking? Were they a nation of mighty warriors, stronger than others? Did they exhibit a stronger faith in the One True God? Was it something inside them, a strength of character or virtue?

God obviously chose the nation of Israel above other nations of the world to be in a special relationship with Him. Does that sound unfair? I would agree. Notice what God says in Isaiah:

But now, thus says the LORD, your Creator, O Jacob,
And He who formed you, O Israel,
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name; you are Mine! (Isaiah 43.1)

“Do not fear, for I am with you;
I will bring your offspring from the east,
And gather you from the west.
I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’
And to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’
Bring My sons from afar
And My daughters from the ends of the earth,
Everyone who is called by My name,
         And whom I have created for My glory,
Whom I have formed, even whom I have made.” (Isaiah 43.5-7)

“You are My witnesses,” declares the LORD,
“And My servant whom I have chosen,
So that you may know and believe Me
And understand that I am He.
Before Me there was no God formed,
And there will be none after Me.” (Isaiah 43.10)

“The beasts of the field will glorify Me,
The jackals and the ostriches,
Because I have given waters in the wilderness
And rivers in the desert,
To give drink to My chosen people.
The people whom I formed for Myself
Will declare My praise.” (Isaiah 43.20-21)

“But now listen, O Jacob, My servant,
And Israel, whom I have chosen:
Thus says the LORD who made you
And formed you from the womb, who will help you,
‘Do not fear, O Jacob My servant;
And you Jeshurun whom I have chosen. (Isaiah 44.1-2)

“Remember these things, O Jacob,
And Israel, for you are My servant;
   I have formed you, you are My servant,
O Israel, you will not be forgotten by Me.
I have wiped out your transgressions like a thick cloud
And your sins like a heavy mist.
Return to Me, for I have redeemed you.” (Isaiah 44.21-22)

“I will give you the treasures of darkness
And hidden wealth of secret places,
So that you may know that it is I,
The LORD, the God of Israel, who calls you by your name.
For the sake of Jacob My servant,
And Israel My chosen one,
I have also called you by your name;
I have given you a title of honor
Though you have not known Me.” (Isaiah 45.3-4)

I ask again, based on the above Scriptures, “Why did God choose Israel?” What a swelling of pride the Israelites must have had when they heard Isaiah preach those words. Or would they have? The wild thing is, Israel had departed from following God as their only God; Yahweh was no longer “the Holy One of Israel” as Isaiah reiterates. In most of these last chapters of Isaiah, God declares “I am Yahweh; there is no one like Me.” He defends Himself this way because His chosen people had departed from Him to serve idols–or at least include idols alongside Him. But God will share the stage with no one, for the greatest of all commandments is this: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind. No room remains for other gods, other loves, or other desires.

Notice the last verse listed above (Isaiah 45.4) ends with “though you have not known Me.” What a slap in Israel’s face! God had lavished grace upon them, but they still didn’t know Him.

Why did God choose them? He chose them NOT because of who they were but in order to show His grace, His love, His redemptive power in them! He chose them despite who they were. He chose them, as Isaiah 43.10 says, “that you may know and believe Me and understand that I am He.”

God stated similar sentiments concerning Abraham in Genesis 18.19:

“For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of Yahweh by doing righteousness and justice, so that Yahweh may bring Abraham what he has promised him.”

He didn’t choose Abraham because he commanded his children in righteousness but that he would command his children in righteousness. Do you see the difference? God chooses NOT because of who the we are but in order to change and bless us despite who we are. He hammers this point home in Deuteronomy:

“For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but because the LORD loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers, the LORD brought you out by a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 7.6-8)

Do not say in your heart when the LORD your God has driven them out before you, ‘Because of my righteousness the LORD has brought me in to possess this land,’ but it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD is dispossessing them before you. It is not for your righteousness or for the uprightness of your heart that you are going to possess their land, but it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD your God is driving them out before you, in order to confirm the oath which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Know, then, it is not because of your righteousness that the LORD your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stubborn people.” (Deuteronomy 9.4-6)

Why, then, dear Christian, did God choose you? What can we say about God’s chosen today (“But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION” — 2 Peter 2.9)? Have you been chosen because you are good or despite the fact that you are a sinner? Have you been chosen because you somehow deserve it or because God wishes to show His glory in and through you? We often define grace as “unmerited favor,” but do we really believe that definition? Nothing in me deserves God’s blessing–nothing at all! Yet He has seen fit to save me through the blood of His Son Jesus the Christ. He showed me the gospel and drew me to Himself, despite who I am.

All I can do is praise and glory in the wonderful work of God!

How Dead Were You?

Walking Dead

How dead were you?

When “you were dead in your trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2.1), just how dead was that? Dear Christian, do you recall being dead? Oh, you functioned well enough, as you “walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2.2). Remember when we “formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind” (Eph. 2.3)? We were just like the rest of the world, which walks in the darkness even until now. Just how dead were we?

We were dead to God, dead in spirit. We were not sensitive to spiritual matters and couldn’t tell right from wrong. We may have understood there was a right and a wrong, but we couldn’t explain what it was, and we surely weren’t walking in truth. We directed our own path, guided our own steps, called our own shots–totally and completely divorced from the one relationship which matters most.

TombsDead people are incapable of living. That may strike you as funny, but isn’t it true? Paul used this language of spiritual death on purpose because he wanted us to realize the absolute powerlessness and tragedy of stumbling around dead in our sins–spiritual zombies. We couldn’t make ourselves alive. Dead people can’t reverse the process.

We didn’t even know we were dead–that is, not until God told us through the gospel. I can preach the gospel to my dead neighbors, but it might not wake them up. Many (most?) simply laugh because it seems so ludicrous to them. “You think I’m dead? But look at the life I’ve made for myself!” But God can wake the dead, and He does! Every Christian can attest to this fact–God does, indeed raise the dead. Praise God!

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus…” (Eph. 2.4-6)

In some mysterious, deep, and supernatural way, God breathed into our immortal souls and granted us…LIFE! It’s a life alongside Christ Jesus our Lord, as we sit with Him in the heavenly realms.

How dead were we? We were totally, completely, irreversibly dead, without hope in this world. But for the grace of God, we’d still be dead.

Humility, Grace, and Restoration: Job 42

Why?After saturating ourselves in the book of Job for four wonderful weeks, our church enjoyed a final study last Wednesday. However, we failed to finish the last chapter, where some of the juicy “so-what” information lies. In the last chapter we see Job’s humility, God’s grace, and God’s heart to restore back to Job what had been taken.

Humility

Job’s final response (Job 42.1-6) is a picture of extreme humility. Many recoil at the thought of God allowing Satan to commit those terrible atrocities against Job (see chapters 1 & 2), and they cannot fathom remaining silent. But Job laid a hand on his mouth, realizing he held no authority before God. He had no answer to God’s questions in chapters 38-41, and he had no right to demand an explanation from God.

HumiltyCan you and I be so over-awed by God’s power, majesty, and authority that we humbly accept every insult, every pain, every trouble which comes our way without complaint? Extreme humility engenders extreme contentment. If I can realize, “I don’t deserve anything,” I will also say, “Thank You, God, for what I have.” If I can realize, “God doesn’t owe me anything, yet He has blessed me,” I can also say, “Naked I came into this world, and naked I shall return; the Lord has given and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1.21).

Grace

Besides the grace towards Job (God chastened His child into beautiful, humble submission and also blessed him again after the test), God also extended grace to Job’s three friends. In anger, God insisted, “You have not spoken of Me what is right, as my servant Job has” (Job 42.7-8).

Apparently, to not speak correctly about God greatly offends Him. This should give us great pause and make us extremely careful (and perhaps uncomfortable) with how we speak concerning the awesome Creator and Sustainer of heaven and earth. Let us speak only what He has revealed to us–no more and no less.

RebuildDespite their grave sin, however, God commissioned Job to offer a burnt offering of seven bulls and seven rams, “and the LORD accepted Job’s prayer” (Job 42.9). God forgave those three friends who had spoken rashly and incorrectly about Him! That’s grace.

Restoration

Though God does not owe us anything, He delights in restoring to His servants what we lose. This is wonderful! What a blessing to have a Father who so loves us that He will help rebuild after the storm does its damage. God loves restoration.

“The threshing floors shall be full of grain;
the vats shall overflow with wine and oil.
I will restore to you the years
that the swarming locust has eaten…” (Joel 2.24-25)

Have you wrestled with the deep things Job wrestled with? Have you wondered how a loving God can allow His servant to be treated so ruthlessly and aggressively? Perhaps you’re walking through a fire right now. Job is an extreme case, but we all endure periods of trying, testing, and tempering. Don’t become angry with God, though He did allow your situation to happen! Yes, He controls it; but, no, you don’t have a right to accuse Him of evil. God sometimes allows great pressure in order to shape His clay into something useful. Sometimes He allows fire in order to burn off the dross and leave pure gold. God loves us enough to humble us, He extends grace to us, and He delights to restore to us what is lost!

Is Our Best Good Enough for God?

working hardJesus instructed, “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Peter quoted from the Old Testament, “…as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.'”

“But God just wants us to do our best!”
someone blurts from the back of the room (without even raising her hand). “That’s all He can expect us to do.”

Why is that all He can expect us to do? Is our best actually good enough for Him?

When have we actually done our best? Think back to yesterday. Did you do your best? Did you pray at the end of the day, “Lord, I did my best today; I gave it my best shot. I hope You’re happy with me”?

Hard at WorkI confess, I can almost always think of a way in which I could have done something better, spoken more nicely, exhibited more patience, spoken up more, shut up more, desired God more.

What exactly is my best, anyway?

More importantly, is it biblical to insist “God just wants me to do my best”? I read things like…

Walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Eph. 4.1-3)

Be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Eph. 5.1-2)

Walk as children of light…” (Eph. 5.8)

“Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ…” (Phil. 1.27)

“But God would never command us to do something we can’t do!” returns the lady, now standing red-faced beside her chair.

CamelJesus said it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Literally impossible. For man. But not impossible for God (see Matt. 19.23-26). Did Jesus command that rich young ruler to do something he couldn’t do?

A brother (and brother-in-law) of mine, Edwin Crozier, recently made these observations:

  1. When God commanded Moses to bring the people of Israel out of Egypt, He commanded Moses to what he could not in order to drive him to rely on God’s power (Exodus 3:10)
  2. When God commanded Israel to take possession of the Promised Land, He commanded them to do what they could not in order to drive them to rely on God’s grace (Deuteronomy 9:23, et al).
  3. When God commanded Gideon to deliver Israel from Midian, He commanded Gideon to do what he could not in order to drive him to rely on God’s grace (Judges 7).
  4. When God commanded Joshua and Zerubbabel to rebuild the temple, He commanded them to do what they could not in order to drive them to rely on God’s grace and Spirit (Zechariah 4:6).
  5. When Jesus commanded Peter to walk on the water, He commanded Peter to do what he could not in order to drive him to rely on Jesus’s grace, power, and strength (Matthew 14:28-33).
  6. When Peter commanded the lame man to walk, he commanded the lame man to do what he could not in order to drive him to rely on the name and grace of Jesus Christ (Acts 3:6-7).
  7. When God commands us to walk in a manner worthy of our calling, He commands us to do what we cannot in order to drive us to His mercy, grace, strength, and power (Ephesians 3:14-4:1).

I whole-heartedly agree with his observations.

Christians do the impossible every day because they rely on the power and grace of God! God has commanded what we are not able to really accomplish, but that’s okay because He can accomplish all these things in us! In fact, Jesus has already accomplished it all for us.

Our best is not good enough for God. But Jesus‘ best is perfect.

Thank You, God, for power and grace to live righteously before You today in Jesus.

Galatians: Praise Jesus, Our Blessed Redeemer!

John17_LawVsGraceTruth_smPaul began defending his proposition that “a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ” (Gal. 2.16) by asking the Galatian brethren when had they received the Holy Spirit–by works of law or by hearing with faith? Of course, they received Him by hearing and believing the gospel, not by hearing and obeying a body of laws. The Jews, as a matter of fact, had lived their entire lives attempting to follow that body of laws yet, despite all their efforts, had not received justification.

Next, Paul demonstrates in Galatians 3.10-12 that those who seek to be under law remain under a curse.

10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.” 11 But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for “the just shall live by faith.” 12 Yet the law is not of faith, but “the man who does them shall live by them.”

What curse? All Jews familiar with their scriptures know the blessings and curses God built into their covenant. When the Israelites entered the Promised Land, they quickly came to two mountains–Mt. Gerizim and Mt. Ebal. From Gerizim they pronounced the great BLESSINGS God would give them if they remained faithful (Deut. 28.1-14), and from Ebal they intoned the litany of CURSES God would bring upon them when they wandered away into unfaithfulness (Deut. 27.15-26; 28.15-68).

Ten CommandmentsPaul gets pretty legalistic here. You might recall a few moments in Israelite history when Israel seemed to be doing okay and God was blessing them because of their faithfulness. But, in reality, the law actually demands a full, total, and perfect faithfulness to all aspects of the law in order to be considered righteous! And who has done that? Only one.

Even in the Old Testament God justified individuals the same way He does now–by faith. Paul pulls from Habakkuk 2.4, “the just shall live by faith,” to show that God justified even the Israelites by faith and not because of their keeping of the Law (praise God)!

We are not justified by law but by faith. We do not live by keeping law but by faith. These ideas of being justified and living go hand-in-hand, for the one on whom God shows His favor has passed out of death and into life (John 5.24); the one God justifies now lives, as once he had been dead in his sins (Eph. 2.1) and under the curse (wrath of God). Law brings curse and judgment; faith brings life and justification.

How can this be? Continue in Galatians 3.13-14…

13 Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”), 14 that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

The CrossGive us the gospel again, Paul! Hammer it into us and make us full and rich, glowing in the light of God’s truth in Jesus Christ! That’s right–Jesus became cursed in our place. God provided a substitute for us who really deserve the curse, the beating, the mocking, the nails. He hung on that tree until dead, until He had erased our eternal pain and the condemnation of the law. He bore our sin and carried our sorrow so all the people of the earth could have access to the blessing of Abraham and receive that Holy Spirit unto salvation.

And God confirmed these promises by raising Jesus from the dead.

I don’t know about you, but I’m in total awe of what God has done. Praise Him, praise Him, Jesus our blessed Redeemer!