Monday Reverb – 01August2022

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

 

This week’s theme is restorative love.

The call to worship Psalm is a psalm of thanksgiving that provides a moving portrait of God’s steadfast love.

  • Psalm 107:1-7,8-9,43   Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His [a]mercy endures forever.  Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, Whom He has redeemed from the hand of the enemy,  And gathered out of the lands, From the east and from the west, From the north and from the south. 

    They wandered in the wilderness in a desolate way; They found no city to dwell in.
    Hungry and thirsty, Their soul fainted in them.
    Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, And He delivered them out of their distresses.  And He led them forth by the right way, That they might go to a city for a dwelling place.  
    Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, And for His wonderful works to the children of men!  For He satisfies the longing soul, And fills the hungry soul with goodness. 

    43 Whoever is wise will observe these things,  And they will understand the lovingkindness of the Lord.

The Old Testament reading from Hosea is one of the most well-known and touching depictions of Yahweh’s unwavering love for a recalcitrant Israel.

  • Hosea 11:1-4,5-11   “When Israel was a [a]child, I loved him,  And out of Egypt I called My son.   [b]As they called them, So they went [c]from them;  They sacrificed to the Baals, And burned incense to carved images.  “I taught Ephraim to walk,  Taking them by [d]their arms;  But they did not know that I healed them.  I drew them with [e]gentle cords,  With bands of love,  And I was to them as those who take the yoke from their [f]neck.  I stooped and fed them.  

    “He shall not return to the land of Egypt; But the Assyrian shall be his king, Because they refused to repent.  And the sword shall slash in his cities, Devour his districts, And consume them, Because of their own counsels.  My people are bent on backsliding from Me.  Though [g]they call [h]to the Most High,  None at all exalt Him.  “How can I give you up, Ephraim?  How can I hand you over, Israel?  How can I make you like Admah?  How can I set you like Zeboiim?  My heart [i]churns within Me;  My sympathy is stirred.  I will not execute the fierceness of My anger;  I will not again destroy Ephraim.  For I am God, and not man,  The Holy One in your midst;  And I will not [j]come with terror.  10 “They shall walk after the LordHe will roar like a lion.  When He roars, Then His sons shall come trembling from the west; 11 They shall come trembling like a bird from Egypt, Like a dove from the land of Assyria.  And I will let them dwell in their houses,” Says the Lord.  

The epistolary text comes from Colossians 3, where Paul sketches a profile of those who live in union with Christ and participate in his compassionate love.

  • Colossians 3:1-7,8-11   If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them.But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, 10 and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, 11 where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all.

The Gospel reading from Luke presents a parable from Jesus aimed to restore fearful and greedy hearts back to their loving God.

  • Luke 12:13-21    …
  • The Parable of the Rich Fool

    13 Then one from the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”

    14 But He said to him, “Man, who made Me a judge or an arbitrator over you?” 15 And He said to them, “Take heed and beware of [c]covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.”

    16 Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. 17 And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ 18 So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.” ’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’

    21 “So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”

    Do Not Worry

    22 Then He said to His disciples, “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; nor about the body, what you will put on. 23 Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing. 24 Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap, which have neither storehouse nor barn; and God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds? 25 And which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? 26 If you then are not able to do the least, why [d]are you anxious for the rest? 27 Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you, even Solomon in all his glory was not [e]arrayed like one of these. 28 If then God so clothes the grass, which today is in the field and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith?

 

SERMON REVERB

Rich Toward God

Luke 12:13-21 (NRSV)

Our text today begins with,

“Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” (Luke 12:13 NRSV)

The crowd referenced here is the crowd that has “gathered by the thousands” found at the beginning of this chapter.  The crowd was so big we are told people are trampling each other.  This is a chaotic scene from which someone is trying to speak to Jesus.  Crowds can be distracting, especially chaotic crowds.  Perhaps we may feel like we are this “someone in the crowd” who has a request for Jesus.  Maybe you are feeling trampled by the “crowds” that are crushing in on you from every side.  Our lives so often place us in “crowds” that make our days and nights chaotic and even threatening.  And being surrounded by thousands in the same crowd, we may also feel insignificant, forgotten, and overlooked.  In these chaotic crowds in which we live, we too may call out to Jesus with our request.  We may think Jesus doesn’t see us and he is unaware of our situation.  Have you been there?  Maybe you are in that crowd today.

If so, this story invites you to hear Jesus speaking to you personally.  He sees you and he is more aware of your situation than even you are.  Let’s face it, when we are being trampled and crushed by crowds, surrounded by chaos, and jostled about, we are probably not seeing our situation as clearly as we think.  Fear has a way of clouding our thoughts, over-accentuating some things we should ignore while ignoring other things that are important.  But Jesus is not distracted or thrown off by crowds.  He remains focused on his purpose and plan for you, and he doesn’t change what he is saying.  He’s steady, consistent, and he sees clearly through the crowds.  As we go through this story, I encourage you to picture the chaotic crowd surrounding Jesus.  At the same time, picture Jesus looking at you in the crowd.  Notice he is not worried.  He is not afraid of the crowd, and there is no panic or concern in his voice.  This is how he addresses us even today in our chaotic and crowded lives.  It seems he knows something we don’t.  He is not worried.  He is full of peace and not triggered or thrown off by our concerns.  He’s not just another random frantic and frenzied citizen in the crowd.  He is the one we can listen to.  He sees much further than we do, and his words to you today invite you to share his peace and assurance in your time of chaos.

Have you ever been in a classroom or maybe a conference where someone has been talking on a subject for a while and then someone raises their hand and makes a comment or asks a question that has absolutely nothing to do with what was being said?  It’s one of those eye-rolling moments when you want to say, “Where have you been for the past hour?  Have you not heard anything that’s been said?”  That’s pretty much what the “Someone in the crowd” does when he says, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.”

If you go back to the beginning of this chapter, you will see that Jesus has been speaking to the crowd about some pretty heavy issues.  He is talking about how to respond in the face of death.  He has dropped weighty words about not fearing those who want to kill you, but rather to fear God who cares for you.  He talks about the consequences of denying the Lord and of blasphemy.  He talks about what to do when you are asked to defend yourself against rulers and authorities – pretty heavy and hard-hitting topics.  And through it all, he has one consistent and resounding pointDo not fear and do not worryGod has not forgotten you, and he cares for you.  Then out of nowhere, you get this one person in the crowd who says, “Hey Jesus, can you get my brother to give me what’s mine?”  You can imagine the eyerolls from those who had actually been listening to Jesus.  Where did that come from?

Now, a good public speaker at this point would probably just ignore the comment and stay on topic.  But Jesus does far more.  He engages the person and still stays on topic.  Let’s look at how he does this.

“But he said to him, “Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?” (Luke 12:1 NRSV)

First, he addresses him as “friend.”  Have you ever had someone address you as friend, and you know that means that they are about to tell you something that may sound unfriendly?  That’s about the size of it.  Jesus is not being inauthentic here; he is simply trying to soften the blow.  He wants the man to know that what he is about to say to him is coming from a place of friendship.  Meaning, you can trust that what is being said is for your good.  Jesus is not positioning himself against this person, even though the individual has attempted to hijack the moment for his own personal gain.  This is important for us to remember when we hear Jesus speaking to usHe comes to us as our friend and the best friend we could possibly imagine.  He never intends us harm.  So, even when he tells us something we don’t want to hear, we know where it’s coming from.  He can be trusted.

Second, Jesus asks an interesting question: “Who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?”  How often does Jesus ask this question of us when we come to him?  The “Who” question.  We see all through the Gospel stories Jesus asking this question directly of those who come to him.  “Who do you say that I am?”  When we come to Jesus with our questions and our requests, it is important to know who he is.  Otherwise, we may not be in a position to receive anything from him.  I f I happened upon Jerry Jones, the owner of the Dallas Cowboys, and asked him to help me find my seat in his stadium, and he offers me to sit with him, I may miss out on enjoying the game in a luxury suite if I had mistaken him for an usher.  Knowing who Jerry Jones is would be really important in that situation.  That crude analogy may only work for Cowboy fans, but I hope you get the point.  Knowing who Jesus is will have a big effect on what we are able to receive from him.  He may be offering us far more than what we are asking.

This particular man is asking Jesus to settle what appears to be a dispute between him and his brother over dividing their inheritance.  It was not inappropriate for someone to ask a rabbi to arbitrate over such dealings.  But to ask Jesus in the middle of his message is not only to miss what Jesus had been talking about the whole time, but it is to miss knowing who this particular rabbi is.  He has confused the Son of God with another run-of-the-mill lawyer.

Jesus does not become offended.  He wants to help this man – and us today – to receive from him what he has for us.  We don’t know the situation between the brothers, but clearly, this man wants what belongs to him and he wants it now.  He is focused on himself, and he sees an opportunity to enlist Jesus to his cause.  And that is a mistake of a very high order.  May we take seriously the correction Jesus intends in his question.  Jesus was not sent by the Father as just another person we can use to get what we want.   Jesus will not be manipulated and used as a means to our own ends.  He is Lord and King and the Author of life.  He is not the means to the life we have been trying to build for ourselves.  He is our Life!  (See Colossians 3:1-3)

Now Jesus has this to say to the man and to all of us in the crowd:

And he said to them, “Take care!  Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” (Luke 12:15 NRSV)

Jesus is getting to the root of the issue here.  This is probably not what the man wanted to hear, but it is what Jesus had been trying to say all alongLife is not about possessions.   If we think it is, we will continue to live in fear.  He does not go off topic. He uses the man’s off-topic request as an opportunity to further make his point.  Jesus warns about “all kinds of greed.”  Greed is not just wanting more money; it’s just wanting more.  Can you see how fear will feed greed?

When possessions and anything of this world are seen to be the essence of life, then we will fear losing those things.  In fear, we will try to accumulate more and more in hopes of securing our own life.  There will never be enough even when we have plenty.

But the opposite is true when we know who Jesus is.  Even when we don’t have enough, we will have more than plenty.  Our cups will overflow.  And there is no fear in Jesus.  No one can take him away.  He is the gift from the Father that will never be taken back.  We can rest in him and stop striving to secure our own lives.  Our lives are secure in Jesus.  And in case the man still doesn’t get it, Jesus chooses to add a parable to his teaching.

Then he told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly.” (Luke 12:16 NRSV)

Notice how Jesus begins the parable.  It is the land that is doing the producing, not the rich man.    That seems to be a subtle hint with where Jesus is going.  The rich man is rich by grace, not by the works of his own hands.

And he thought to himself, “What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?” (Luke 12:17 NRSV)

The sentence, “And he thought to himself” is literally, “debated within himself.”  The rich man is in self-dialog.  He is not seeking anything from anyone outside of himself, which means he is in no position to receive from another.  And what is he concerned about?  Storing his crops.  Fear is developing into greed.  The land has provided for him abundantly, but he is fearful that he will run out of food.  So, instead of trusting the land to produce next year, he will take matters into his own hands.

Then he said, “I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.” (Luke 12:18 NRSV)

Notice the orientation of the rich man.  It’s all about him.  He’s thinking for himself, he’s talking to himself, and whatever he does, he will do it himself.  This is a self-reliant person who doesn’t seem to have any room for others in his life.   And how sad that instead of enjoying what he has, he launches into a demanding work project to secure his future.  His plan involves tearing down the things he built in the past and replacing it with something larger.  Are you scratching your head at why the rich man would want to tear down his existing barns instead of just adding more to them?  That seems a bit odd, does it not?  Perhaps it indicates an underlying problem of greed.

The rich man seems incapable of being satisfied with what he has.  Not only does he want bigger barns, but he also won’t be satisfied until what he has is destroyed.  Fear and greed certainly hinder being rational in our plans and decisions.

And one more observation may be worth mentioning.  Notice what never entered the rich man’s plans.  He never entertains another option for the overflow of grain and goods, namely that of sharing it with others.  No thought of giving it to the hungry and poor.  No thought of using it to be a blessing to others.  He only wants it for his own enjoyment.  But, ironically, instead of resting and enjoying what he has, the rich man is working himself to death out of fear of not having more in the future.

And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” (Luke 12:19 NRSV)

This is the rich man’s hope.  He wants to reach a point that he is completely self-sufficient.  In a sense, you could say he wants to one day be able to say to himself, “Well done me, now enter into your own joy.”  And that joy is articulated as “relax, eat, drink, be merry,” which is the proverbial expression of living life for one’s self in the present with no expectation of any future life or judgment.  The rich man is not held up as a godly man, but rather as a man deep in hedonism, unaccountable to anyone.

But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God. (Luke 12:20-21 NRSV)

This conclusion sets this parable as one of a kind.  It is the only parable in the Gospels where God appears as one of the characters and speaks.   And this distinction marks the only place in the parable where another voice appears, disrupting the rich man’s inner self-focused monologue.  Maybe Jesus knew we needed a jarring parable that breaks through our illusory belief that our life is only what we make it.  It shows that the rich man has been foolish in thinking and living as if he is the only one in the room.  He has forgotten to listen to God, much like the man wanting Jesus to settle a dispute wasn’t listening, either.  What about us?  Are we listening now?

The sin Jesus is locating is not that the man had lots of money or how he gained his riches.   Following a common theme Luke brings out in his Gospel account, the sin is simply that the rich man is hoarding his riches instead of living generously with it.  Underneath this sin is a fear manifested by greed.  The rich man is unable to trust his future to anyone but himself.  In this way, he is unable to be rich toward God.  Another way to say it is he refuses to live by grace and opts instead to live in an attempt at self-sufficiency.  In this way, he is unable to receive what God richly provides, and therefore is not “rich toward God.”

With this parable, Jesus has put his finger on what is really needed for the person in the crowd who wants Jesus to intervene in his inheritance dispute. This person, like you and me, needed to see Jesus as our rich provision.  He is God’s grace to us, and we live by his word, not by our own words of self-counsel.  The person in the crowd was not receiving what Jesus was giving him in that moment.  Jesus’ parable was a way to redirect the person’s focus from himself and onto Jesus.

I pray this parable helps us today as well, to redirect our attention to one who is our life.   In Christ, we have nothing to fear.  We can receive what he has for us, and in doing so, escape the trap of greed and be generous with all the Lord gives us.   Only those who truly receive from the Lord, by trusting him fully to be their life, are free to truly give generously, for there is no fear that their generosity will deplete the eternal storehouses of God’s care and provision.


  • The Parable of the Rich Fool

    13 Then one from the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”

    14 But He said to him“Man, who made Me a judge or an arbitrator over you?” 15 And He said to them, “Take heed and beware of [c]covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.”

    16 Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. 17 And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ 18 So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.” ’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’

    21 “So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”

    Do Not Worry

    22 Then He said to His disciples“Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; nor about the body, what you will put on. 23 Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing. 24 Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap, which have neither storehouse nor barn; and God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds? 25 And which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? 26 If you then are not able to do the least, why [d]are you anxious for the rest? 27 Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you, even Solomon in all his glory was not [e]arrayed like one of these. 28 If then God so clothes the grass, which today is in the field and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith?

    29 “And do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind. 30 For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things. 31 But seek [f]the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you.

    32 “Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell what you have and give alms; provide yourselves money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.


 

IRRELIGIOUS HARDTALK

 

Here are some GCI articles on the topic of THE GOSPEL:

 

BELIEVING THE GOSPEL

Many Christians are afraid of the gospel.  We are afraid of the gospel because it is too good.  Many of us are more comfortable with religion than we are with the gospel.  We prefer to read the Bible as a divine rulebook that guards the entrance to the kingdom than to read it as God’s witness to his redemption of the whole cosmos through his Son.

We prefer to think that when God breathed the life of his Word into the Bible, he was merely creating a religion — a divine formula to show humans what things to do and not to do in order to get on God’s good side and stay there.  

But the gospel is not a new and improved religion.  The gospel is an affront to religion.  It is the end of religion, the end of all systems of works designed to make us acceptable to God.  The gospel, by contrast, tells us that God himself has already, through Jesus Christ, made us acceptable.  The gospel is good news; religion is bad news; and the gospel wins.  Christ is victorious.  Sin is vanquished.

We are overcomers only in Christ, not in our overcoming anything.  We are sinners, always have been and will continue to be to the day we die.  Whatever we may have overcome is like removing a spoonful of sand from the beach.  Unless and until we are found in Christ, we remain dead in our sins.  And we are found in Christ only by trusting him to be for us who he says he is and to do for us what he says he does.  Only when we trust him will we accept his gift of mercy and life, and only when we wake up to our sinfulness will we trust him.

As long as we think we are “doing OK,” or that we “aren’t all that bad” or that we are “making progress” or even that we will never be “good enough,” we will not trust him.  All such thinking is trusting not him, but ourselves.  It is thinking that his acceptance of us is based on how well we behave.  It is thinking that if we do better, then he will accept us, or conversely, that he accepts us because we have been overcoming.

God accepts us because he wants to accept us, and not because we have measured up.  God dealt with our sin by the blood of Christ, not by giving us a new and improved law code.  We are justified because God justified us himself, personally, through his Son.  God did for us in Christ what we could not do for ourselves, and he calls on us to trust Him to be our righteousness (1 Corinthians 1:30).

That means we do not have righteousness.  It is not just a matter that we “have got some problems.”  It is not just a matter that we have “a few things to overcome.”  It is not even a matter of “putting sin out of our lives.”  It is a matter of understanding that we are hopeless losers, sinners through and through, and that even our “good” deeds are thoroughly laced with selfish impurity.  Until we see that, until we see ourselves for what we really are, we will not trust him who alone saves sinners.

Fear of the gospel

Many Christians are afraid of the gospel because it puts everybody on the same level — ”All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).  That means we, being sinners ourselves, have no ground to feel spiritually superior to people who do things that disgust and offend us.  Others are afraid of the gospel because the gospel requires them to believe that God will save them in spite of their sins.  We have a hard time trusting God to do exactly what he promised to do — forgive us our sins.

We want to prove to him we can “do it.”  We want to show him we’ll be faithful, that we will be obedient, that we will be “good Christians.”  But the truth is, we won’t be.  We will sin, and we will sin again, and again.  And until we believe the gospel, instead of some fairy tale about having to please God before he will accept us, we will not enter God’s rest.  God saves us; changes in our behavior do not.

We can live in misery, struggling to be found worthy by perfect obedience and constantly failing and fearing that God is waiting to squash us like flies, or we can trust his Word. (Or even worse, we can live in appalling arrogance, actually believing that we are worthily obeying God and trusting him to accept us for our “holy deeds.”)

God is our salvation; our improved behavior is not.  To repent is to turn to God and away from ourselves.  It is to concede that we are sinners and that we need God’s mercy.  It is to trust God to be faithful to his word of grace spoken in his Son before the world began.  It is to remove our little homemade crown and hand it over to our Maker, the author of eternal salvation.

God is our righteousness; our illusion of good behavior is not.  When we come to see our righteousness as filthy rags, as indeed it is, then we can begin to see our need for God’s grace and mercy.  When we believe his word of salvation in his Son, then we can begin to trust him to forgive all our sins and save us.

Trusting God

Why is it so hard to trust God to forgive us and to make us his perfectly righteous children in Christ?  Perhaps one reason is because we can’t stand to think of ourselves as, or to think that others might think of us as, bald-faced sinners.  We prefer the façade of pretending to be good, decent folks.  But we are not good, decent folks.  Nobody is good, decent folks.  At best, we are less destructive and wicked than we could be if we let ourselves go entirely.

Have you ever noticed that if you behave decently for a day or two, you begin to feel like you are a pretty good person after all?  And conversely, if your natural self gets loose for few minutes and you behave like the ratbag you are, then you feel depressed, disappointed and frustrated that you are not as grand as you had been imagining?

But what is there to be disappointed about?  Why, given what you are, were you expecting not to behave accordingly from time to time?  Our disappointment ought to be in our failure to honor the God of our salvation, not in our failure to look impeccable to ourselves and others.  If it were, then we would be free to see more clearly that in spite of our sin, we can rest in the atonement of Christ, for our sins are forgiven in him.  The reason we need a Savior is because we need saving.  The gospel declares that God has indeed saved us through Christ.  In fact, Christ died for us ungodly people while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8).

Now please don’t tell me that we “were” sinners, but now we are not to be sinners anymore. P lease drop the rhetoric.  We are sinners.  We do still sin after conversion.  Every Christian who ever lived continues to sin after conversion.  That doesn’t make sin OK.  It doesn’t condone sin.  It is simply a fact, and one we would all do much better to just admit and quit pretending that if we try hard enough we will become sinless.

There is one way, of course, in which we are not sinners.  As believers we are in Christ, and as such we are not sinners in the sense that God does not count our sins against us (Romans 4:8).  In other words, when we do not pretend that we are not sinners, but instead put our trust in Jesus Christ who saves sinners, God does not count our sins against us (compare 1 Timothy 1:15).

Overcomers

What must we do about sin?  We must trust God to forgive our sins.  We must trust him!  He is our only hope.  We are sinners, and unless God forgives our sins, we come under the condemnation all sinners deserve.  We are not going to stop being sinners.  I’m sure you have tried, like I have, and discovered that despite occasional bouts of improvement, sin is still alive and well in your life. But God says that if we trust him he will take care of our sins and he will count us righteous in Christ who, for our sakes, became the perfect human.

The Bible is not a rulebook for new and improved religion.  It is the Word of God, God’s chosen revelation of himself to us, declaring to us that in Jesus Christ he has dealt with the sins of the world so that whoever trusts him will be saved.   That is good news.  It is the gospel.  It is not religion.  Don’t be afraid of it.

I know.  You’re still waiting for me to say something about the importance of behaving right.  But I’m not going to.  At least not in the way you are probably used to.  We are overcomers in Christ alone; when it comes to godly overcoming, there is no other way to be an overcomer.

When you trust Christ to be your righteousness, your behavior will be set by the Holy Spirit on the road to improvement, regardless of whether you constantly set “overcoming goals” for yourself.  But if you try to improve your behavior without trusting Christ to be your only righteousness, you may or may not be successful, and whether or not you are won’t make a hill of beans of difference in terms of your standing with God.

In other words, salvation is not based on what you do; it is based on what God has already done.  When you trust God, you are in Christ, and when you are in Christ, God does not count your sins against you.  If you do not trust God, you are still in your sins, because you are not in Christ.

Priorities

Here’s a gospel tip: don’t make behaving better your main goal in life.  If you do, you’ll always be frustrated, disappointed in yourself and miserable, not to mention a judgmental and obnoxious prig.  You’re welcome to it if you want it, of course. B ut will-powering yourself into a better you is a no-win life goal.  Will-power goodness is the root of religion; it has no place in the gospel.

Instead, make your main goal in life knowing and trusting in the Lord your God for absolutely everything, including your behaviorWhen you do that, your preoccupation with yourself and how good you are will fade, and your eyes will begin to open to the righteousness of God and the joy and peace of his kingdom.  The Holy Spirit will reorder your priorities, and the pain your sins naturally cause in your life will more readily drive you to God for mercy and help to overcome.

Let me say it another way: Work on yourself and make every effort to change for the betterbut not because you think it will make you less a sinner and get you in good with God.  Take overcoming seriously.  Do it because God wants you to, because Jesus Christ gave you a new life, because it is right, because everybody who loves you wants you to, and because it will make your life much more blessed, rewarding, peaceful and pleasant.  But don’t do it because you think that’s how you will get into the kingdom of GodIt isn’t.

Regardless of how much you improve (and you need a lot of improvement —I know you; you’re just like me), you are still a sinner, and the only hope of salvation you’ve got is the mercy of God along with his word that in Christ he extends it to you.  Trust him, not your good life, when it comes to salvation.  When it comes to salvation, trust the word of God that in Christ it is a fait accompli; when it comes to behavior, trust yourself to the supervision of the Holy Spirit and put your heart into overcoming.

Don’t think that good behavior results in salvation; but know that salvation results in good behavior.  But don’t let that make you think that poor behavior equals unsaved and good behavior equals saved.   It simply does not work that way; don’t forget that we all still sin.  Sin involves not merely acts but attitudes, and God knows even the deepest secrets of our hearts.

Rest in this: God loves you; he’s proven it in Christ, and he will make you into what he wants you to be.  You can trust him to do it.  Get to know him.  Spend time with him.  Put your confidence in himMake him the priority in your life, and you will begin to find his love influencing the way you live in the world and the way you interact with others.

Whether we experience hardship or ease, prosperity or poverty, bad times or good times (and Christians experience them all), our ability to cope with what comes our way will depend on our trust in God.  But all the while, because we are in Christ, our salvation is not in question.  We are saved by God’s grace through faith, and even our faith is God’s gracious gift to us.

Remember, the gospel is good news. It is “the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). Therefore, as Hebrews 10:23 encourages us, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.”

Author: J. Michael Feazell

 

 

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Scroll to Top