Freedom & Life

An old friend of mine spent a couple of years in prison. I didn’t know exactly what happened to him. We lost contact and then it seemed he just disappeared. I knew he had stolen cars and gotten deep in drugs. He struggled with lust. He got involved with gangs. He was one of those old classmates that you wonder what ever happened to them.

Years later, he contacted me because he remembered our conversations about Jesus. Fresh out of jail, he still struggled with his old way of life. He struggled with lust and sexual sin. He knew that if the opportunity presented itself, he may not be strong enough to resist the drugs. We lost contact again as he stopped answering his phone. I’m not sure what happened to him.

I do know that though he was given a new opportunity at life, he remained in bondage to the old. Free from prison, but not really free at all. How true this is of so many Christians who have been freed from the eternal consequences of sin, yet remain in bondage to their old ways of life.

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1

The gospel is more than just a message of eternal salvation. Jesus paid our eternal debt through His death on the cross and set us free from the eternal consequences of sin. But if we accept & believe in His death and resurrection, yet remain in bondage to the old ways of life – to our anger, bitterness, jealousy, lust, pride, anxiety, and the like – then the power and intent of His death is not complete in our lives. He came to save us from our sins and to sanctify us in His truth for His purposes and glory (John 17:17).  

Our struggles with sin don’t end with salvation. But the hope of the gospel is this: He has given us everything we need for life and godliness (2nd Peter 1:3). He has given us the Holy Spirit who transforms us into the likeness of Christ as we yield to His work. Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, there is HOPE for redemption and new life.

“If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you…For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” Romans 8:11-13

In light of this hope, may we deny ourselves and follow Him; take off the old and put on the new; stop walking in the desires of our flesh or the ways of the world and start walking in the Spirit so that the fruit of His Spirit can be produced in our lives and the hope of the gospel evident in our testimonies.

Praise Jesus! There is real power in His death and resurrection! We now stand resurrected by His Spirit – alive by His grace!

Happy Easter, friends. He is Risen!

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Rags to Riches

I am unworthy to glance upon your Glory. I am unworthy to bow before your throne, O Holy God. I come before you as a tainted rag: stained, undignified, and lowly. A guilty sinner unable to wash what’s been stained, and there is no place for filth in your kingdom, for sin in your holy presence.

And yet you beckon me…

You beckon me into the inner courts of your kingdom, to approach your throne of Grace. Not because of who I am but because of who you are. Though I stood as a tainted rag, you washed my filth and you covered me with the righteousness of Jesus. You gave me life when I deserved death. You made me rich with the knowledge of Jesus, my Savior.

And that is the astounding and unparalleled grace of God.

He ate with the lowly. He embraced the lepers. He visited the outcasts. He gave sanity to the demon possessed. He stopped everything to heal a peasant girl without a name. He didn’t condemn the harlot. He forgave the sinner. He called us heirs and gave us life.

He bore our cross, and we wear His robe.

Jesus – I love you because you first loved me. I give you my life because you first gave me yours. I humble myself because you humbled yourself, and you are God. Though what I have to offer is nothing, I give it to you.

Her Sin Was Ugly

This past weekend I heard of and got to meet several women whose lives have been wrecked by sin: Anger. Jealousy. Abortion. Divorce. Addiction. Murder. Adultery. Lies….Sin is ugly.

But they’ve also been redeemed by grace….and Grace is beautiful.

For those of us who know the scriptures, we can be quick to condemn, can’t we? I’ll go first in the sad though honest confession: my heart didn’t condemn them… hesitant whisper…but my mind did. Because in my mind I know that scripture tells me these behaviors are wrong and against His commandments. So what then: Does our knowledge of Truth place us in a position as judge? Does it eradicate the power of Grace?

Religion causes rigidity in our faith. But His loves causes grace.

God totally rocked my faith this weekend as He reminded me of His character. He in His holiness bore our sin upon Himself. He in His love died the cruel and horrific death we deserved. Even in the midst of our sin and rebellion, He proclaimed, I love you!

And we’re supposed to imitate His character.

We can be quick to condemn, to point the finger in accusation, to gossip about the ugliness of another’s sin (even in the guise of prayer!). And the caution in this self-righteous behavior: when we take our eyes off of Jesus and look intently on another’s sin, we step out of His grace in our lives and step into sin. And sin is ugly. But grace is beautiful.

Have we all sinned? A profound yes! Have we all received grace? An even more profound YES!

Well, then…who are we to condemn, to judge, to hate? Since you have received His grace, walk in His grace. Since you have been forgiven, forgive. Since you have experienced His love poured over you when you were still a sinner, love as He has loved you.

Because outside of Christ we are ALL defined by our sin. But in Christ, we are ALL defined by His righteousness. Grace is beautiful.