Monday, November 27, 2023
Sunday, October 8, 2023
God knows we all make mistakes. God knows we all make bad choices. God knows this about us, and He loves us anyway. God loves us enough that He sent His Son to redeem us from our sins and our past that we may have eternal life. God does this not based on something we have done to earn it, but because of love. Rom 5:8 reads, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Unfortunately, some see this gift of God, His grace, and His mercy as approval of living in sin. Yes, God knows we fail. God knows we sin. But is there grace yet for those that continue in a pattern of sinfulness? This question is just as relevant today as it was in Bible times. Jude wrote, “For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.” (Jude 1:4).
Grace brings change, and where is there no change, is there still grace? Grace is not a license to sin. Instead, we should treat sin as seriously as Jesus does in Matthew 5 when He says it is better to remove our body parts that help lead us to sin than it would be to continue in sinfulness. Jesus taught a transformative grace, a grace that costs a person their sin. People want grace, but they want to keep their sin too. This isn’t saving faith, it’s a perversion of grace.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) was a German Lutheran theologian who resisted the Nazis during their rise to power. Bonhoeffer's most notable works include "The Cost of Discipleship" (1937), in which he explored the concept of costly grace and emphasized the importance of active faith and ethical living in the Christian life. He wrote, “Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”
Some people wanted to embrace the worst about themselves: their hate, their sin, their evil desires but also lie to themselves about their relationship with Jesus. This is not what John taught in Matthew 3:8 when he said, “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.”
Some people thought they could have grace without change. This is not what Jesus taught in Matthew 16:24 when he said, "'Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.'"
In Jesus’s sacrifice, we see the example of self-sacrifice. We must die to our sins if we are expecting to live in the light of Christ. Today’s world thrives on self-indulgence. The world tells you to keep being you and have your grace too, but Jesus says the path to salvation and His grace is found in a belief in Jesus that leads to self-denial, serving others, and loving our Savior.
Saturday, September 23, 2023
We’ve been looking in the last few weeks at different ways we can come to faith. Sometimes it is through the Word of God found in the Holy Scriptures. (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Sometimes we find our faith deepens when we study how the text has been preserved and is supported by history. (Luke 1:1-4). Sometimes our faith is able to grow because we have surrounded ourselves with loving and faithful people that encourage us and care for us. (John 13:35).I believe God is working in all of these ways and more to help bring people back to Him. (John 6:44).
However, in each of these cases, we must remember that faith takes time to grow. (1 Corinthians 3:6-8). We must therefore encourage one another to continue to grow in the faith and these sorts of external evidences concerning the preservation of the text or the witness of history gets us only part of the way there. Faith is a deeper connection to the Spirit of God, God the Father, and God the Son than what the pages of history, broken pottery, clay tablets, and carvings can provide. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1).
Growth brings questions, and these are to be encouraged. Truth has nothing to fear from inquiry. Jesus wasn’t afraid of questions and He was ready to show the truth in His return after His death. We read about this in John 20:24-29. The disciples believed but had doubts. The disciples had faith and also questions. The disciples trusted God, but they didn’t know what was next. They waited for Jesus and they believed. Thomas, sometimes famous for “doubting”, makes one of the most powerful confessions concerning the nature of Jesus: “Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”” (John 20:28).
The disciples were blessed to be able to see and touch and hear for themselves. Jesus says as much of a blessing that was, we have a greater blessing: “Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”” (John 20:29).
Jesus loves you and cares for you. He wants your faith to be real, to be deep, and to be strong enough to withstand the storms of life. Faith grows not only in investigation, but more so in trusting God. Some today struggle to accept the Bible as the word of God, as containing the words of life, as showing us the path for the best way to live, and as revealing His Son to us. Some today struggle because some things don’t quite make sense to them yet. Faith means trusting God with your today, knowing that God will give you a better tomorrow. Faith means working through your questions. Faith means we obey when we don’t yet fully understand but we know enough to trust in our God, that He loves us and He wants what’s best for our lives.