your faiths firm foundation

What do these names have in common? Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra, John F. Kennedy, Abraham Lincoln, Babe Ruth, J.R.R. Tolkien, Beethoven, Mozart, Elizabeth Taylor, and Michael Jackson. The only thing in common among all the names is that they are all dead. Now if I were to add the name “Jesus” to this list would it change your answer? Jesus died, but He didn’t just die—He conquered death. He conquered death through His resurrection.

There are many modern attacks on the truthfulness of Christ’s resurrection. Have you watch documentaries on the Discovery Channel or History Channel that dispute the facts of the resurrection? There are also many books like The God Delusion [Richard Dawkins], God is Not Great [Christopher Hitchens], or the popular book The Da Vinci Code [Dan Brown] that do not buy the idea of the resurrection of Jesus. Some people think Jesus disappeared to Hawaii where Elvis, Hitler and JFK are all hiding out in a bunker playing poker. Others seem to think that Jesus was swooned or asleep; He couldn’t have been dead and then resurrected.

How would you address theses attacks? What difference does it make if Christ had a bodily resurrection? Without a bodily resurrection all of Jesus’ claims would be false and followers of Christ would have no hope of eternal salvation. His resurrection is the foundation of the gospel and your faith. Without the resurrection of Jesus Christ, Christianity and its core truth claims would not hold any weight nor would your faith. Paul faced a similar situation with the church that he planted at Corinth.

You can have complete confidence in the reality of Jesus & His message [1 Corinthians 15:1]

Gospel. What comes to mind when you see that word? Gospel literally means “good news” or “breaking new.” Before discussing the good news, let’s discuss the bad: You deserve death; there’s nothing that you can do to earn salvation because sin condemns you to eternal death and separation from God. But the Good News is the gospel!

What is the gospel? The good news is that God loves His creation so much that He came down from heaven for you [Philippians 2:5–11], lived for you [John 14:19], died for you, and rose from the dead for you [Romans 4:25]. And if you respond through repentance of sin and have faith in Christ, He blesses you with eternal life [John 3:16]. Paul says that you must “take your stand” on the gospel. What does he mean? You must base your life on its truth [cf. 15:58]. By taking a stand for the gospel you are demonstrating confidence in both the Messenger and His message.

You can know the reality of the gospel because you can experience it now [15:2]

When Paul said, “by this gospel you are being saved,” he wasn’t speaking about something just in the past but something present too. The idea that one is “being saved”—while salvation is instantaneous—means you can still experience the power of the gospel on a daily basis. How is your life different since you became a Christian? Today you can experience the gospel in your decisions, your relationships, your school activities, your work, and your life—right now. The gospel not only changes your future destiny, but your present realities.

What do you think Paul meant when he said, “Otherwise, you have believed in vain”? He was emphasizing that true faith endures over time. In Hebrews 3:14 it says, “For we share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.” An enduring commitment to the gospel shows genuine faith in Christ. Real followers of Christ do not give up when life gets hard, or doubts come like a flood, or you just don’t feel like following today.

Your faith has significant evidence for the case of the resurrection [15:3–8]

The detective shows on TV [i.e. NCIS, Monk, Psyche, etc.] solve cases by following evidence and eyewitnesses, and that’s what Paul did too—he followed evidence of the dead and of the living. When Paul referred to the witness of the dead; he read the prophets from long ago who foretold what Jesus would accomplish. Can anyone say with confidence who will be the president of the United States in 20 years? Who will be the hit band or movie star in the year 2145? Prophets foretold in detail Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection hundreds of years beforehand.

Fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies: Genesis 3:15 (the seed of the woman will crush the serpent), Genesis 12:3 (the seed of Abraham will bless all nations), Psalm 2 (the supremacy of God’s Son), Psalm 22 (the description of His death), Isaiah 7:14 (the virgin birth), Isaiah 9:6 (the deity of the Messiah), Isaiah 52:13–53:12 (the specifics of His death, including taking on our sins), Isaiah 53:11 (His resurrection), Micah 5:2 (the place of His birth), and Zechariah 9:9 (His entering Jerusalem on a donkey). These prophecies show us that Jesus is God and Savior.

Paul adds another line of evidence—the evidence of the living. What effect do eyewitness testimonies have on a court case? It usually serves to prove or disprove an event. In 1 Corinthians 15:5–8, we see other eyewitnesses to Jesus resurrection: Peter, the Twelve, more than 500 others, James, the apostles, Paul himself. Why do you think that Paul emphasized the testimony of these eyewitnesses? Eyewitness testimony is always more powerful than secondhand information, and some of these were still alive and could tell their stories [one eyewitness could be duped, but over 500?]. Both the living and the dead come together to build a case for the resurrection of Christ.

You can have the hope of being raised from the dead, just as Jesus was [15:20–24]

Let’s say I had a mystery bag full of food. Without knowing what it was would you be willing to try it? No body wants to be the first one to try it. This is like what Christ did. He tasted death, so you would have to be afraid. His death and resurrection give you hope.

Paul calls Christ the firstfruits. This phrase has its roots in the Old Testament, usually refers to the Jewish practice of offering the first of a crop to the Lord in recognition that the entire harvest belongs to Him [cf. Leviticus 23:9–14; 1 Thessalonians 4:14–17].  During the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the priest waved the firstfruits of the harvest before the Lord, and a perfect lamb was sacrificed [Mark 14:12]. Jesus’ death and resurrection occurred during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Jesus Christ was the perfect Lamb of God who was sacrificed to pay the price for your sins. His resurrection was a sign of the future resurrection of all believers.

Christ’s resurrection marked the beginning of a heavenly harvest of the kingdom of God. When Christ comes again, all who belong to God’s kingdom will be resurrected. How does that truth offer hope? Christ was raised, so you will be too. Death is not final for believers. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” [John 11:25-26]

“Without the belief in the resurrection the Christian faith could not have come into being. The disciples would have remained crushed and defeated men. Even had they continued to remember Jesus as their beloved teacher, His crucifixion would have forever silenced any hope of His being the Messiah. The cross would have remained the sad and shameful end of His career.” William Lane Craig

Jesus’ bodily resurrection is the heart of the gospel. Because God raised Jesus from the dead, the hope that you have in Him is certain. The evidence for Christ’s resurrection is clear. You can be confident in your faith. Make know the reality of His resurrection as you live out the gospel.

Many times in His earthly ministry, Jesus brought hope to hopelessness. Every day, you see people who feel hopeless and need the gospel. Paul wrote a letter to the Corinthian church to remind them of the gospel. Write a letter to someone who needs to hear about the resurrection. Instead of writing what they need to do, tell them what you know about Jesus—and how the gospel has impacted you. Take ownership of what you know; write to encourage others in the gospel.

Noah (Part 3): The Covenant

Doesn’t it feel great to finish a big test? Or come to the end of a long school year? Or arrive at the weekend from a drudging week on the job? Or come to the close of a long hard trial in the family or with friends? You get home sit down with a sign and say, “It’s finally over.” I am sure Noah felt some relief as he saw the waters begin to reside and land began to appear. After all the darkness and drowning of God’s wrath in Genesis 6-8, chapter 9 is a breath of fresh flood-free air.

Noah Worships God [Genesis 8:20-22]

After the flood subsides and God dries the ground, God called Noah and his family to step out of the Ark. What does Noah do after getting off the boat? Does he stretch? Take a shower? Take a nap? Go to MacDonald’s for a burger and shake? No. The first thing he does shows his hearts highest priority. The first thing the father of new humanity does is gathered dirt, sticks and some clean animals to sacrifice [cf. 7:1-3]. He builds an altar to the Lord. The first thing Noah does is worship God.

Genesis 8:20 reads, “Then Noah built an altar to the LORD and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it.” After living through the devastation that God wrought upon the earth Noah is convicted of his own sin knowing that he too should have been killed like everyone else in the flood. Therefore, he offers a burnt offering for the atonement of his sin [cf. Leviticus 1:4; Job 1:5; and ultimately foreshadowed in the death of Jesus for sin]. God was so pleased with the odor of Noah’s repentant worship [cf. Leviticus 1:9,13,17] that He responded by promising to never flood the earth again.

God blesses Noah’s obedience and worship [Genesis 9:1-7]

God blesses Noah’s obedience building and boarding the big boat, and blesses his God-centered worship and confession of sin. “Bless” appears over 80 times in Genesis. If a word appears that much it must be a major theme. When God blesses marriages, families, lives are restored. God is good. He is a giver of good gifts [James 1:17-18].

How does God specifically bless Noah? He gives Noah children that will fill the earth [cf. 9:1,7; cf. 1:28]. Biblically, children are a symbol of God’s blessing. God celebrates new life. God gracious sends His people out into the earth to fill it again. However, the new world is now different.

The peaceful harmony between creatures is broken because animals eat humans. God must make provision and man is able to eat meat of animals. Up to this point in human history everyone was a vegetarian, now you have the privilege of killing and grilling beef, bacon, birds, and fish on your BBQ. As a steward and dominioneer of God’s green earth, man is not to abuse his right to kill beast. Also, man is called to continue to respect the sanctity of human life because man bears God’s image [cf. 1:26-27].

God Keeps His Promise and Gives Noah a Covenant [Genesis 9:8-17]

What is a covenant? Once you turn 18 you are a legal adult. You don’t need your parents to sign a consent form anymore. A covenant is not a consent form or a contract. It is a treaty of guaranteed promise [i.e. marriage, oneness]. It is a binding agreement that brings relationships together. The covenant given to Noah is originated and crafted by God for Noah and all his descendants, which includes you and me.

There are some important truths to understand about God’s covenant to Noah. First, this covenant is universal, meaning they cover all people for all time. Some covenants, like the New Covenant, are limited. The New Covenant is only for regenerate followers of Christ. Second, this covenant is unconditional, meaning that God will uphold it no matter what man does [9:15; cf. 8:1, remember]. He will promise to keep His covenant no matter what. Some covenants are conditional and dependant upon the obedience of the other party involved in the covenant [cf. 2 Chronicles 7:14, Promise Land]. Be careful not to make all God’s covenants unconditional and universal because they are not.

Third, this covenant came with a signature. God promised that He would never again send a cataclysmic flood and that the seasons would continue by His provision. What sign did God give of His covenant? The sign of the covenant was the rainbow to remind God’s people of His promise [i.e. Abraham’s circumcision, Lord’s Supper, Baptism, rings in a marriage, etc.]. God gives meaning to the rainbow: God kills sinners, but not yet nor through a flood [cf. Isaiah 54:9-10]. Through the covenant God restores His intentions to bless people—even sinful people—because God is good.

Life After the Flood [Genesis 9:18-29]

Man is still tainted by evil [cf. 8:21b]. Noah responded to God’s kindness by growing grapes, getting drunk and passing out naked in his tent, and as pastor Mark Driscoll says, “like a Redneck on vacation. You don’t see this kind of stuff in your kid’s church coloring book. You don’t sing, ‘in the arky-ark, no drunky-drunky.’”

Ham, Noah’s son, walks into tent searching for his dad in the nude and tattles to his brothers. The other two brothers come into the tent backwards out of respect and cover their father’s shame. Whatever happened, no one knows, but one thing is for sure: it is not a good thing when a son walks in on his dad drunk and naked. This is a really bad day recorded about Noah.

What is the point of this sinful situation including Noah? Is sleeping naked sinful? No. Is it that drinking alcohol is sinful? No. Drinking alcohol is not sinful, but drunkenness is. The point of this sinful inclusion is simply that sin remains the human predicament even after the flood.

After Noah’s hangover, he wakes up. He realizes that his sons have dishonored him [cf. Exodus 21:15-17; Deuteronomy 21:18-21; Mark 7:10]. We all have sinful fathers, but they still need to be honored. In Genesis 9:25-27, Noah’s declares cursing and blessing directed toward his sons. Ham’s son, Canaan, is cursed to serve the line of God’s people that would come from Shem. Canaanites are forever labeled unclean perverts. It was also promised that Japheth would prosper for God would dwell in their tents. In Genesis 9:28-29, the genealogy resumes [cf. 5:32] as Noah dies and the human race again begins to grow and still sin.

In conclusion, what do we learn about God from the narrative of Noah? First, God is holy. His love and justice demands that sin be punished [6:5, 11-12]. Second, God is personal. He is sorrowful that He made man [6:6]. Third, God values life, especially human life [9:1-6]. Fourth, God keeps His promises [9:8-17] and remembers His people [8:1]. Fifth, God is Father. Even when you earthly dad is sinful and not a good example, you have a great on in your Heavenly Father. Honor both.

Is Jesus seen in the story of Noah, the ark, the flood, and the covenant? You bet! First, Jesus is a better Noah. Like Noah, Jesus was chosen by God, He was favored by God, He faithfully preached though many rejected and mocked, He was obedience to God, He offered sacrifice to God. Second, Jesus is the ark of salvation to escape the impending flood of God’s wrath by fire [2 Peter 2:5,9]. The ark was the only hope of salvation for Noah and his family. Jesus is the only hope of salvation for you and your family, even Canaanites [cf. Joshua 2:14; 6:17, 22-25; Matthew 1:5; Hebrews 11:31].

Third, Jesus is the author of the New Covenant fulfilled in His death, sealed by His blood, and confirmed by His resurrection. Those who repent and respond to Jesus in faith will be saved. Fourth, Jesus is the perfect sacrifice for man’s sin once and for all. You do not need to sacrifice an animal on the altar. Jesus did that for you with Himself on the cross. Repent of your sin and believe in Him, as your Savior, and you will be saved [2 Corinthians 5:21]. Jesus is the hope promised through Noah.

spreading His fame

All praise to the name of the savior who reigns.
He’s taken our blame, embraced all our shame,
He’s raised from the grave so his fame we proclaim.
Salvation by grace through faith in his name.
Jesus, the beautiful and blessed Son,
Immutable, majestic one
Who was resurrected from the grave
for the depraved.
He paved the path for some
Place faith in His passion, son
Be saved from the wrath to come.
He’s fabulous, His status is immaculate
I’m lacking the vernacular to adequately capture His glory.
Incomparable, unconquerable, all powerful, unstoppable
Absolutely phenomenal.
No obstacle He can’t navigate.
He’s God and so He fascinates.
With Him it’s impossible to exaggerate.
Lord of all continents,
Source of all consciousness,
His compliments are the consequence of His accomplishments
Every sphere of life, He’s the Lord of it
And every other power is either fraudulent or subordinate.
At first we snubbed Him,
Now His vessels of mercy love Him.
Your highest thought is infinitely unworthy of Him.
Beyond vocabulary His actions vary,
His wrath is scary
All His adversaries are imaginary.
He has no competitors.
Ask Nebuchadnezzar, bro
He’ll mess you up, have you eating grass,
You can bet He’s amazing.
He takes in blatant, flagrant vagrants, breaks them, remakes them, and shapes them
to hate sin.
Jesus!
There’s no better name!
That’ll never change and He’ll forever reign while we spread His fame.
All praise to the name of the Savior who reigns
He’s taken our blame
Embraced all our shame
He’s raised from the grave so His fame we proclaim
Salvation by grace through faith in His name!

By Shai Linn

creations need for reconciliation with its Creator

I am the product of the normal dysfunctional American home, which means my parents divorced before I was able to speak, I was in and out of special education classes in school, needed specialized counseling, and struggled with parental authority until after college. I am grateful today for my family situation and how God used it all as a means to mature me into the man I am today. However, when I was younger, I was not so grateful. In fact, I was bitter, jealous, self-centered, and had ungodly expectations of my parents, especially my mother.

It was until the summer after college, I came under conviction for my sinful expectations and need for reconciliation with my mother. After years of church, 4-years of Bible College training for the ministry, and life of ministry awaiting ahead God convicted me through His Word and His Spirit, “Justin, if you are going to be a vehicle of reconciliation into the lives you are ministering and have not reconciled with your own mother, you are living a lie. I have reconciled your relationship with Me. How dare you are slapping Me in the face.” By the end of that summer I sat down with my Father seeking forgiveness, and my mother seeking reconciliation for my hidden expectations. And God reconciled.

First, God promises to conquer sin and remove it from His creation [Genesis 3:15]. In the beginning of the fall of mankind, God gives a glimmer of hope. This verse is known as the protevangelium, or the first proclamation of the gospel. In the seriousness of the situation, Adam’s sin, gives a sobering mention of a seed of salvation. Although centuries of conflict will follow this fall, a day would come when the seed of the women triumphed over sin. Eve’s daughter, Mary, gives birth to the promised seed. “He”, namely Jesus, the promised seed [Galatians 4:4], will one day crush the head of Satan [Galatians 3:16-19]. In a sense, as followers of Christ live under the gospel and become reconciled to God they are destroying the devil and his work [Romans 16:20].

Second, God works throughout history to reveal Himself and reconcile His creation to Himself. From Genesis 3 to Revelation 22, God progressively works out His redemptive plan. In Genesis, we will see His plan worked out through Noah, Abraham, Joseph, and later with Moses, David and the prophets. God is relentless and passionate about His redemptive purposes for the people of this planet. God remedies creations need through the Redeeming Seed. He is the climax of history and the saving activity of God. He conquered sin, death, and Satan.

Third, God uses sacrifice as the means for reconciliation. It is a sacrifice that clothed Adam and Eve [3:21]; a sacrifice where blood was spilt because of sin. God provided this sacrifice. God initiated reconciliation and provided its means. What the Lord Jesus Christ is called in 1 Corinthians 15:45 is the second Adam. That the first Adam failed, and that the second Adam, the Lord Jesus Christ succeeded.[1]

Interesting connection, in the Garden before Jesus’ death, remember who comes to the second Adam? The serpent. The serpent tempts Jesus as He did Adam with food. He also tempts Jesus with pride. He takes Him and shows Him all the kingdoms of the earth, and says, “You can rule and reign over all. You don’t need to go to the cross and suffer. All you need to do is bow down and worship me.”

The first Adam allowed the serpent to speak. Jesus steps in and speaks. The first Adam allowed the Word of God to be misquoted. Satan again, in his temptation of Jesus as Adam, misquotes Scripture and changes its meaning. But Hebrews 4:15 says that every moment that the serpent came to tempt Him, He was tempted in every way as you are, yet without sin. At every moment that the serpent came to Jesus, He emerged sinless, triumphant, and victorious.

And so the serpent devised one final plan. As he had caused the first Adam to kill himself via sin that led to his death, he knew that he could not get Jesus, the second Adam, to kill Himself, so he decided that he would simply kill Him. In Luke 22:3, we are told that Satan entered into Judas Iscariot, one of Jesus’ own 12 disciples. He possessed Judas Iscariot, fulfilling the prophecy of Zachariah in which a friend through a kiss for 30 pieces of silver would betray Jesus. Indeed, Jesus was betrayed. Jesus was handed over. And Jesus was ultimately murdered unjustly.

Colossians 2:13-15 says that though this appears as a victory for Satan and his minions, it was the greatest victory in the history of the world for the Lord Jesus Christ. On the cross, Jesus did something extraordinary. He took sin upon Himself.[2] And Romans 5 says, “We’re either in the first Adam – dead, or in the second Adam – alive.“ Are you dead or alive? Which Adam do you follow? The Second Adam is your only hope of salvation and a forever. Follow Him.


[1] Cf. Daniel 7:13-14; Romans 5:12-19; 1 Corinthians 15:45-49; Hebrews 2:14; Revelation 12.

[2] Struggle, affliction and suffering won the battle over the serpent. Cf. Isaiah 53:12; Luke 24:26, 46-47; Romans 16:20; 2 Corinthians 1:5-7; Colossians 1:24; 1 Peter 1:11.

what is your response to Jesus?

If you were to ask any person on the street, in the office cubicle next to you, or lunch buddy across the table if they know who Jesus is they would probably give you a satisfactory answer. However, if you were to probe around a little deeper and see if they really know Jesus, you might find out that there are many opinions on why Jesus came and how he deals with sin.

Pretenders, Posers, Rationalizers or Overcomer

There are many ways people respond to sin. Sin is deceptive. Sin lies to us, but it never quite follows through with what it promises to give. Therefore, the world is full of pretenders, posers and rationalizers who are still attached to their sin like an impenetrable umbilical cord feeding off its lies. How can I detect if I have been deceived by sin? Have you ever thought recently? “One sin is not going to hurt,” “I can hide my sin and know one will know,” “It is okay since everybody is doing it,” “It’s not my fault,” “It can’t be sin if it feels so right,” or “I’ll just sin, and ask God to forgive me later.”[1]

These are common lies that pretenders, posers and rationalizers sing as their rock-anthems, but they are lies from the pit of hell and they will keep them in hell. How do we stop believing these lives and begin living in truth? What is the right response to sin and the gospel of Jesus Christ? How do I finally get on the road to overcoming nagging addictions, sin/confess cycles, and secret-closet sinfulness?

The 2-Pronged Response: Repent & Believe

Jesus began His ministry by preaching, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” [Mark 1:15] In other words, Jesus is saying, “I am the way. I am from God. I have fulfilled all the ancient prophecies. I am your promised Messiah who has come to forgive your sins. Trust me and turn from your sins.”

Throughout the OT, God and His prophets called people to believe in Him and repent of their sin. In the NT, the apostles called people to turn from their way and follow the way of the cross. Like Paul, “I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus” [Acts 20:21] Repentance and Belief go together like green on grass. They are both distinctive of true followers of Christ.

You Gotta Have Faith, Faith, Faith

Faith is more than a cool 80’s song. Faith is not something you can simply muster up in your inner self through a mystical experience. You cannot buy it from the convenience store or put it on your North Pole wish list. Faith [and repentance] is a gift of God.

Faith is an active dependence upon the promises of God [Romans 4:18-5:1; Hebrews 11:1ff]. Faith is a belief in what you know to be true. People do not normal give themselves to something that they think is untrue. I believe the gospel is true and Jesus is the only Savior for man; therefore, I am all-in and no-holds-bard to following His way. I believe that if Jesus does not save me, I will die. I believe that I have no other hope but in Him. Salvation begins by believing Jesus is who He says He is and did what He said He did, “For what does the Bible say? Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” [Romans 4:3ff]

U-Turn or Burn

Repentance is a turning—from sin to the way of the Savior [Acts 11:18]. Repentance is not, “I will try harder or do better.” Repentance is not feeling really sorry or shedding a few tears over your sin; however, grief and guilt can lead to repentance [2 Corinthians 7:8-13]. Peter preached in his first sermon, “Repent and turn to God so your sins may be wiped out.” [Acts 3:19; cf. 26:20]. Repentance is changing your mind from living your way back to living God’s way. Repentance is a spiritual U-Turn.

What happens if I do not repent? “… Unless you repent you will perish.” [Luke 13:3] Jesus is saying, “Unless you turn from your sin you will go to hell.” [Romans 6:23] The alternative to not turning from sin to God is hell fire and brimstone. The Bible says we are like branches and Jesus is the Vine, “Every branch in Me [Jesus] that does not bear fruit He [the Father] takes away” [John 15:2] and, “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.” [John 15:6]

God is serious as a heart attack about sin. Sin is like the fat that clogs up your arteries, and repentance is the surgery that lets the blood flow again. This is how serious God is about sin, “And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.” [Matthew 5.30] Sin is very serious and must be amputated radically before it kills you [James 1:12-15].

In summary, Repentance and faith go together like white on rice. You cannot have one without the other, or at least for the truly authentic follower of Christ. If you are really sorry about your sin you will do whatever it takes to make it right. The biblical way to make it right is by believing Jesus is the only forgiver and repentance is the means to forgiveness. The Bible is clear that Jesus came not only to save you, but also to change me from the inside you. Repentance is not as an excuse to live as you want, but as you were designed.

Quick Q&A on Repentance:

What should I repent of? [Colossians 3:5-9; Ephesians 4:17-31; Romans 1:28-32] One must repent of sin: pride [position, prestige, power], overindulging pleasures [immoral sex, substance abuse, stuff], and ungodly priorities [others, God, yourself].

How do I know if I have truly repented? According to 2 Corinthians 7, I grieve over sin [9], I am disgusted by sin [11], I am reconciled toward other people [11], I am having revival toward God [11], and I am looking forward not backward [8-9]. Also, I will perform the works in keeping with repentance [Acts 26:20; Luke 6:44; 3:8]. These fruits do not cause our salvation, but can give confirmation to it.

Why isn’t repentance easy? There are many reasons: It is humbling to submit to another authority. We love our sin too much. We do not have faith that God fulfills His promises. We do not like to experience grief [2 Corinthians 7:8-13].

What if I have already repented and I still struggle with sin? Repentance does not necessarily mean an immediate stop to sinning. It means I am taking sides with God not my sin. You chose to do war against sin rather than letting it rule you [1 Corinthians 10:13]. Temptations are still a part of this life, but in Christ we can have power to overcome.

What is your response to Jesus? Repent and Believe or remain dead in your sin [Mark 1:15].


[1] Adapted from the booklet How to Get Right With God. James MacDonald, Walk in the Word. Arlington Heights, IL. 2000, 4.

Jesus redeems man

superbad hero

If you could have any superpower you desired, what power would you have? Maybe you would want the power of invincibility, super strength, supersonic speed, or ninja-like fighting skills. Let’s say you were granted the power to have these super powers, what would you do with them? Would you do good? Or would you cause harm? We would like to think that we would be good superheroes, not reckless villains. It is interested to read into the lives of popular superheroes. Each superhero from Spiderman to Batman had an inner power struggle between doing good or evil. Is there any good super hero? Am I capable of doing any good?

here’s the bad news, but…

The gospel would not be good news if there were not bad news.[1] The bad news is that you are a deliberate sinner separated eternally from God and are without hope of saving yourself, but Jesus came as the eternal hope to deliver you from the punishment of your sinfulness. Now I am overjoyed that there is a “but” in the previous sentence. Have you ever received bad news with a “but”? As Greg Gilbert said,

“But. I think that must be the most powerful word a human being can speak. It’s small, but it has the power to sweep away everything that has gone before it. You have cancer. But it can be treated. Your friend was in a car wreck. But he is fine. [You failed the test. But you can still pass the class. You have sinned. But there is hope; Jesus has come.] Sadly, sometimes the but doesn’t come. Sometimes the sentence stops, and all we get is the bad news. Yet those moments only magnify for us the times when the but does come. And they are glorious.”[2]

He Is Your Hope

I am glad that God brings us hope in the midst of our sinful rebellion. Jesus is our hope. For centuries people have been looking for a hope only to be disappointed by not finding any, but the hope did come. God’s Word describes this hope as a Messiah who will come to redeem His people.

Adam and Eve around 4000 B.C. were promised a future offspring who would crush the head of the serpent [Genesis 3:15; Galatians 4:4]. Abraham in 2000 B.C. was promised a Messiah through his son Isaac [Genesis 12:3; Matthew 1:1-2]. The prophet Micah in 700 B.C. was promised a Messiah born in Bethlehem [Micah 5:2; Luke 2:1-7]. The prophet Isaiah in 700 B.C. was given the promise of a Messiah born of a virgin [Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:18-23], that He would be sinless [53:9; 1 Peter 2:21-22], that He would do miracles [35:5-6; Matthew 11:2-5] and that we would be beaten, hated, rejected killed, buried, and resurrected [50:6; 53:3-12; read the Gospels]. This is just a sampling of the slews of promises with fulfillments given in the Scriptures. For you and me, there is to little doubt, the promised Messiah—Jesus Christ—has come.

The question is not if Jesus came to this earth. The proof of Jesus’ reality is widely accepted even among skeptics. There is little doubt that Jesus was a real life historical figure. But, who is Jesus? What makes millions of people follow Him? Is He really who He says He is? Can He really save people from their sins?

Who is Jesus and what makes Him so special?

Jesus asks a very good question to His followers, “Who do you Say I am?” [Mark 8:29] Is He just some dude, spiritual sage, good religious teacher or prophet? When we take the time to dive into the life of Jesus we see that He is certainly more than a timeless superhero that did good for the people of planet earth. When Jesus came he was not wearing a cape, he didn’t have a catchy logo or cool theme song. He was not a motivational speaker with a message declaring the power of positive thinking. He is not the pasty white religious guru you see characterized on Family Guy, South Park or the musical Jesus Christ Superstar, which take no shame in crossing the line of blasphemy and heresy. This is how the Bible describes Jesus:

Jesus is man. He was born a crying, diaper-filling, thumb sucking, cute-faced baby [Lk.1:34-35]. However, He did not have a normal birth because He was born of a virgin and His daddy was God the Father. He had a miraculous one-of-a-kind birth and sinless life.

Roughly two thousand years ago, Jesus was born in a dumpy, rural, hick town, not unlike those today where guys change their own oil, think pro-wrestling is real, find women who chew tobacco sexy, and eat a lot of hot pockets with their uncle-daddy. Jesus’ mom was a poor, unwed teenage girl who was mocked for claiming she conceived via the Holy Spirit.[3]

The Bible also tells us that He grew as a wise manly man [Luke 2:52]. Like my stepdad, he swung a hammer and built things with His carpenter’s hands [Mark 6:3]. He hurt [Matthew 26:37], He had humor [Mark 4:21], He cried [John 11:35], He was tired [Matthew 8:24], He got mad [Matthew 21:12], He had compassion [Luke 7:13], He felt betrayed [Matthew 26:47-50], He was tempted to sin [Matthew 4:1-10], He was hungry and thirsty [John 4:7; 19:28], He felt pain, and He died [Luke 23:46]. Jesus was a real man through and through from His blood to His bones to His breathe.

Jesus is God. [John 1:1, 14]. He claimed it [John 8:58-59; 14:6], His miracles claimed it [Mark 4:41; John 10:36-39], others claimed it [Matthew 16:16], and God claim it, “This is my son in whom I am well-pleased.” [Matthew 3:17] Jesus offered people forgiveness of sins [Luke 5:20-21; 7:48], asked people to worship and pray to Him [John 14:13-14; 15:16; 16:24], and lived sinlessly to prove it [John 8:46]. Anyone who claimed to do these things would either be as C.S. Lewis said, “be a liar, lunatic, or Lord”[4]

Jesus is Prophet, Priest and King. He holds all three offices, and He holds them effectively and perfectly. As prophet He tells the truth about your life and future. At least 50 times in the Gospel of John He says, “I tell you the truth…” As prophet He calls us to repent of our sins. As priest He intercedes your prayers, worship, and cry for repentance on behalf of God [Hebrews 4:15-16]. As king He rules over the affairs of man fairly and sovereignly. He says to us, “the kingdom of God is at hand.” [Mark 1:15] When the Bible refers to Jesus as “Lord,” this is short hand for: master and commander-in-chief of my life. Jesus is the King of kings, Lord of lords, and ruler over all creation [cf. John 18:36-37]. His kingdom will always stand. Jesus does not want to be an inspiration role model or martyr; He wants to be the center of your universe and the champion of your soul.

Jesus is the Suffering Servant. He did not come to be served, but to serve [Mark 10:45]. This is different than most popular kings, priests or kings that you read about throughout humanities history. The Bible describes Jesus as the Lamb of God who became the bloody slaughtered sacrifice for the sins of mankind [John 1:29, 36]. His crucifixion was so grotesque and excruciating that He was unrecognizable. He willingly died as the penal substitute for sin taking upon Himself the wrath of God in my place [1 John 2:2; 4:10]. Nobody takes Jesus’ life from Him; He chose to lay down His life.[5] He took your bullet, sat in your electric chair, and bore your condemnation without an ounce of whining or wincing [cf. Isaiah 53].

Jesus has risen, indeed. He died, but He did not stay dead for long. Three days to be exact [1 Corinthians 15:3-4]. Now He is alive. We have recorded after Jesus rose from the grave He was seen by hundreds [cf. 1 Corinthians 15:5ff]. He conquered sin and death [1 Corinthians 15:55-56] ascended to heaven [Acts 1:6-11], and is seated at the right hand of the Father [Colossian 3:1; Hebrews 8:1]. Since Jesus resurrected, you and I have the hope to resurrect into eternal life too [John 11:25]. The impact of Jesus resurrection rippled through His followers who were transformed and went to their own deaths for the sake of getting Jesus’ life-saving earth-shaking message to the masses.

all this to say, “Jesus is Your Redeemer!”

Who do you say Jesus is? Is Jesus your Savior, Deliverer and Redeemer? If this is who you say Jesus is, then can you back that up? If Jesus is your redeemer, do live like you are redeemed? Jesus did not just come to save you, but to change you from the inside out. He saved you from sin and the need to keep on sinning. If someone saved you from falling off a cliff or paid your ten billion dollar bail bond would you treat that person like crap after the fact? Even if Jesus does not have a cool cape, kicker theme song, or super hero status in your book; He is still your one true to life Redeemer. Never will there be another. Never will you have a better time to bow your knee to Him than now,

Mark 1:14 Jesus came, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

Ephesians 1:7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

Philippians 2:5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.


[1] J. Mack Stiles, Marks of the Messenger. IVP Books. Downers Grove, IL. 2010. 27.

[2] Greg Gilbert, What is the Gospel? Crossway, Wheaton, IL. 2010. 59.

[3] Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears, Vintage Jesus. Crossway Books. Wheaton, IL. 2007. 11.

[4] C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity. Macmillan, New York. 1952. 40-41.

[5] Jared C. Wilson, Your Jesus Is Too Safe. Kregel Publications. Grand Rapids, MI. 2009. 201.

man rebels against God

I have been known to drive fast. I am no race car driver, but there are certainly times when I have pretended to be. You would think I’d learn my lesson after a speeding ticket or two. While speeding I usually do not think about violating a well-posted law. I tell myself, “I am in a hurry. I need to get there quickly. I have a lead foot. My car drives better faster. I am not being dangerous.” Pretty soon I am thinking stop signs and slow people are a nuisance.

Last year, I rolled through a stop sign in my neighborhood [only a block away from our church] and got pulled over by a police officer in the church parking lot before a Sunday service. At first, I was annoyed that he had to be in the area, “Now, I am going to be really late! How embarrassing. Everyone is looking at Pastor Justin in the church parking lot.” So I give the police officer a list of excuses to hopefully get off easily and quickly. I pay the fine and don’t feel all that bad about it, just angry with the cop for his insensitivity to my standard of what I think the laws and limits should be.

This is a true story and I share it to illustrate an important point: not honoring the limits or standards given to us is—sin. Like the cop, we do this to God, “God, why do you asked me to obey these impossible standards? You’ve got to be kidding me? I don’t think it’s that bad to stretch the rule just this once.” Then when we get caught we get angry with God like I was towards the police officer, “God you are unfair and unreasonable.” In reality, I have disobeyed a law that was meant to protect me and help me live in a way that pleases God, and He was being good and just.

What is Sin?

Sin by definition is when God says “No,” and I say, “Yes, I will,” or when He says, “Yes,” and I say, “No, I won’t.” Sin is living in unrighteous and deliberate disobedience towards God. When I sin I am rebelling against the authority of God, living like there is no law.

Sin starts in Genesis. Satan, who thought he was better than God got kicked out of heaven, but put on a leash. He roams the earth making it his aim to tempt created man into disobeying God too. He is crafty, sly and very successful. Satan knows how to tempt you through lies that make you think you are smarter than God [cf. Genesis 2-3]. It did not take long for man listen to the other voices and disobey God’s Voice. It was not Satan’s fault man fell into sin, since Adam and Eve were ultimately responsible; they listened and ate the forbidden fruit.

If we back up in Genesis we see that God created man to be His image bearer living under His righteous rule [Genesis 1:26-28]. He created man perfect and “very good.” [Genesis 1:31] In the beginning there was no sin, which means there was no need for police officers, security guards, door locks, burglary alarms, mace, sex offender registries, or judges. It is when man walked out from under the protection of God that the chaos caused by sin entered the world.

We often have a weenie view of sin. We think of sin as a no-no, oopsy-daisy, or boo-boo. The Bible gives us a cringing catalog of synonyms for sin: unrighteousness, godlessness, lawlessness, selfishness, blindness, deafness, rebellion, fallen, treason, transgression, perversion, missing the mark, vomit licking dog, idolatry, spiritual adultery [whore/prostitute], stiff necked, darkened, wicked, unreasonable, hard hearted, prideful, dead, and more.[1] We discover in the Bible that man is totally depraved, in other words, sin has corrupted every part of man. Could this really be me?

Are you a sinful rebel?

Clearly, yes, all have sinned [Romans 3:10-23]. Through Adam’s sin all are born with a bent towards sin [Romans 5:12-21]. Adam and Eve are not to blame for all sin problems because you and I are just as cowardly. Without God you do nothing but sin. You do not take responsibility for your sin, “All we like sheep, have gone astray, each one has turned to his own way.” [Isaiah 53:6] You openly offend God and enjoy rebellion. You are a deplorable rebel to the core and live despicably.

If you can answer “yes” to any of these questions then you have the heart of a sinful rebel [cf. 2 Timothy 3:1-5]: Do you only obey in part not in whole? Do you a blame shifter or excuse maker? Are you a man-pleasers more than a God pleaser? Do you think you are good compared to others? Do you enjoy playing god? Are other rebels attracted to you? Are you jealous of others? Do you crave control? Do you major on minors? Do you kill people with words? Do you ignore the need for permission and do it anyway? Are you not willing to confess you are wrong? Are you suicidal?

Compared to our neighbors, co-workers, friends, or local criminals you might not appear as evil, but when you compare yourselves with God you see that you are quite sinful. Don’t compare yourself with others; compare yourself with God. When you follow the footstep of Jesus in the gospels you see you are a sinner. He is the standard by which you will be judged. You will not be able to stand before heavens gates and say, “Ernie, was worse than me. Come on, let me in.”

Do you have a sinful view of sin?

Comparing yourself with others is a sinful view of sin. There are many sinful views of sin. Sin is by its nature is deceitful [1 John 1:8]. Here are the top 10 sinful views of sin: [adapted from: Sinful Responses to Sin, Mark Driscoll]

  1. “I’m Sorry! I promise to do better next time. God will understand.” A broken relationship can’t be mended by a simple apology. “I’m Sorry” is cheap; forgiveness is a willingness to change.
  2. “It doesn’t matter how I live because I am forgiven.” Do you presume upon God’s grace? “Do I sin that grace may abound?” Certainly not!” [Romans 6:1-2] Did Jesus die that you should keep sinning? Sin means you hate Jesus. When a person keeps on sinning habitually we can ask, “Are they truly forgiven?”
  3. “Nobody’s perfect!” Minimizing sin doesn’t make it go away. Sometimes we cover up our responsibility in dealing with sin by pulling out the divine trump card, “I am just a human. Everybody sins.” This is lame.
  4. “If I don’t confess every one of my sins I am not forgiven.” We know from the Bible that Jesus died for all of your sins past, present, future [1 Peter 3:18; Colossians 2:13; 1 John 1:9]. We don’t have to sit around and wonder, “Is there any sin I forgot to mention to God?”
  5. “God knows my heart.” Yes, He does. He says, “The heart is deceitful” [Jeremiah 17:9] and “out the heart comes evil.” [Matthew 15:18-20]
  6. “Can’t I have a little fun?” Sin is not fun—for long. It is not fun because when I sin if I have the Spirit I am convicted and feel guilty. [“By Faith Moses refused…fleeting pleasure of sin” Hebrews 11:25] Sin gives a promise that is not true nor will completely satisfy. Sin is hallow—you try more, newer, harder, riskier things to fill the hollowness, but it never fills.
  7. “It is not a sin unless someone gets hurt.” It always hurts. It hurts you and others around you. Pornography and lust hurts your mind and intimate relationships. Gossip and bullying hurt your reputation and other around you. Sin hurts you and everyone involved.
  8. “It is not sin unless you get caught.” God knows [cf. Psalm 139].
  9. “If our culture says it’s okay then it’s not a sin.” Culture or history does not determine what is right or wrong. Only God determines what is sinful. Do not measure your goodness by the way of society, but by the Word of God. God did not give the Israelites an excuse to sin amidst the wicked nations that surrounded them [1 Pt. 2:9].
  10. “Christians say everything is a sin.” Never go to movies, listen to bad music, drink or chew or go with girls that do. The Bible calls this spiritual maturity. The Bible does say that what we put into our mind does affect our heart. If I play with pigs I will get dirty. “Not everything is sin, but not everything is permissible” [1 Corinthians 6:12; 10:23]. We need to discover if it is a matter of conviction, personality, preference, or affecting a younger believer to compromise his faithfulness.

How does God respond to sin?

First, God judges sin. When we sin God does not slap us on the hand and say, “Please, stop that.” Sin has serious consequences—life and death consequences. If He did not He would not be good or just. In God, are combined the perfect legislator, the perfect prosecutor, and the perfect crime victim, which means that God’s wrath and indignation will always be utterly just, because they will be in perfect proportion to the heinousness of sin.[2]

I remember the words of the police officer that pulled me over in the church parking lot. “Rolling through the stop sign might have been harmless today, but let it be a reminder to you that the next time it could be more harmful. It is better to pay a fine now than having to deal with the guilt of killing someone from lack of responsibility.” If the police officer did not pull me over that day he would not be a good or just cop.

Second, God gives grace [James 4:4-10; Ephesians 2:8-10]. He like a loving father in that when He disciples us He shows us his loving grace. Third, in His grace God sends Jesus. God’s grace is seen in Him sending Jesus to save and change sinners. When He came He lived sinlessly even when tempted [Hebrews 4:15]. Therefore, Jesus became the righteous sacrifice to appease the wrath of God upon sin. And finally, in His grace Christ is coming back [John 14:3, 28]. God is sovereign over evil. Jesus is coming back to deal with sin once and for all and restore righteousness in His kingdom.

How must I respond to sin?

I must respond by repenting of my sin and begin living righteously for God’s glory. Let us be like David, “I have sinned against the Lord,” [2 Samuel 12:13] or Isaiah, “I am a man of unclean lips.” [Isaiah 6:5] By repenting, I own up to my sin and inability to do what is right without God’s help. Repentance is a gift and love of God through Christ, “Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” [Mark 1:14-15]

Sin is serious. It is living in unrighteous and deliberate disobedience towards God. Sinful rebellion has serious consequences. God is not messing around when it comes to sin. God is good and just as a judge, therefore, trust and obey. Let us bow our knees to the King and decide to follow Him wholly and completely today. For as Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones said,

“There is in us, in man, this terrible, mighty power called ‘sin’ which alienates us from God and leads us to hate Him, and at the same time debases us and leads us to conduct which can only be described as disgusting. How idle it is to think of these matters and to discuss them theoretically. How criminal to look at life through rose-coloured spectacles. It is only as we face the facts, and realize the true nature of the problem, that we shall come to see that the one power alone is sufficient and adequate to deal with it—the power of God.”[3]


[1]Here is a sampling of the many verses on sin: 1 John 3:4; 5:17; James 4:17; Romans 1:18; 6:23; Galatians 5:19-21; Ephesians 4:18-19; Colossians 3:5-9; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Isaiah 6; 2 Peter 2:2; 1 Samuel 15:23; Psalm 106:39; Acts 17:51

[2] David Clotfelter, Sinners in the Hands of a Good God. Moody Publishers, Chicago. 2004.45-46.

[3] Martin Lloyd-Jones, The Plight of Man and the Power of God. Christians Focus Publishing, Great Britain. 2010. 71-72.

rags to riches reality

Steve Jobs was born to a teenage mother and later adopted by a working-class couple in California. He dropped out of Reed College when he couldn’t afford tuition, but continued auditing classes. In 1976, he started Macintosh in his friend Steve Wozniack’s garage with just 50 computers. He was fired from the company because of a power struggle. He then started Pixar and sold it to Walt Disney. He returned to Apple in 1996, leading the company to a massive expansion in music and media through devices and software including iPod, iTunes and the new iPad. Some love him in a cultish way, whiles others love to hate him for being a rock star CEO. Most remember the scene in Forest Gump when Gump says, “I investment in this fruit company [Apple]. I don’t have to worry about money anymore.” No one can deny Jobs is a true to life rags to riches success now worth over 5.5 billion dollars.

We love to hear stories about people who rose out of poverty into the path of success, like those seen in the Pursuit of Happiness and Cinderella Man. We are inspired by the work ethic and luck of people who climbed out of the hole. The Bible tells us the greatest rags to riches story of all time—you—a follower of Christ.

The Bible describes people without Christ like filthy rags [cf. Isaiah 64:6]. You might look like you have it together on the outside, having acquired the “good life” by the worlds standard, or believing you don’t need any help to make something of ourselves, but we are still viewed as wicked inside out if we do not have Christ. Without Christ you are a dead men walking.

Dying Penniless in your Filthy Rotten Rags [Ephesians 2:1-3]

Sin literally a deadly poison. Sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay. Sin might be cute in a baby, but the older you get the more ugly your sin appears. Before Christ my biblical rap sheet does not look hopeful. I was a gutter dweller, saturated with a thirst for sin. We are reminded that this is what, “You were…”

…dead in the trespasses and sins 2 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— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. [Ephesians 2:1-3]

It is hard to believe the Bible characterizes us like this. I certainly did not think of myself as that bad. Now my mother would probably disagree, since I was no angel. But was I as bad as the verses above describe me to be? These verses seem to be describing a vile murder or rapist, not an innocent young boy who grew up in the suburbs of Milwaukee. Is anyone innocent of sin? It is clear from these verses we are born into a world that is sinful, by nature we are inclined towards sin, and there are supernatural powers influencing us to sin. The odds are triple stacked against me—I am a sinner [vs.2-3], living in a sinful world [v.2], powered by sinful opponents [v.2]. Is there any hope?

The truth is we need to be reminded of how sinful we are in order to be grateful to savor the sweetness of God’s grace in Jesus Christ. Remember all the ways God has blessed us in Christ? [cf. Ephesians 1:3-14] Without Christ I am a pile of filthy rags that are good for absolutely nothing.

Becoming Rich without Deserving a Dime [Ephesians 2:4-7]

There are two words that bring us hope in a sinful world, “but God…” These two words contrast all that we are before Christ [vs.1-3], but who we can be in Christ [vs.4-7]. Even though I am sinful and sold out to sin, God comes through with His mercy when I ultimately deserve His wrath. “But God,” are two wonderful mysterious words of salvation.

Why is God so merciful to His followers? Paul shows that the origins of Gods saving initiative are found in His mercy [v.4; cf. Ex.34:6; Ps.103:8], His great love [v.4; cf. Rom.5:5-8; 8:39], His rich grace [vs. 5, 7-8] and his kindness to us in Christ Jesus [v.7]. Our salvation is totally undeserved, but again that is the character of God.

The benefits of Gods mercy are both present and future. In Christ, I am saved for eternity, but now have power over sin through my present day relationship with Christ. We see three present future realities of God’s mercy for His followers in verses 5-6. First, I am “made alive with Christ.” Without Christ I was dead in my sin [v.1], but through Christ I am made alive. I am alive because my sins have been forgiven in Christ forever [cf. Colossians 2:13].

Second, I am “raised up with Him.” There is a clear connection here between Christ’s resurrection and mine [cf. Colossians 2:12; 3:1]. Without Christ rising from the grave I would not have hope of raising either. My salvation secures my resurrection. Third, I am “seated with Him in the heavenly places.”  In others, I no longer have to live under the authority of the ruler of the kingdom of the air [v.2]. In Christ, I have been transferred from the old kingdom to the new reign of Christ.

Followers are given these realities so that “in the coming ages He might show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus.” [v.7] Grace is basis of the whole work of salvation [cf. 1:6; Rom.3:21-25; 5:15]. God’s grace is like a physician bringing back-to-life a person whose heart has been flat-lined in a coma for years, raising Him from the artificial life-support, and setting him loose into the world to live freely. God has taken us from below the spiritual poverty level, raised us to new life, and given us an eternal inheritance.

We think we deserve God’s grace. I hear people say often, “God is love and would not send anyone to hell. I am certainly good enough to get into heaven.” Grace would not be grace if we deserved it. We don’t deserve it. Instead we impose upon God that we do deserve it. Grace is not cheap. It came at the cost of Christ’s death upon the cross. Grace is priceless.

Becoming Rich without Doing any Work [Ephesians 2:8-10]

When God pours out His grace He does not hold back, “For by grace you have been saved.” [v.8] This is the heart of the gospel message [vs.8-10]. I am not good enough, smart enough, strong enough, or rich enough to get salvation by my own merit. God has to come through with His grace.

There are comments on either extreme of grace, “I am too bad for God to forgive me,” or “I don’t need grace, I’m okay.” To this David Powlison writes, “Left to ourselves, we think we are either too good to need grace or too bad to receive it. Are you too good to need a major redemption?”[1] This is echoed in the Bible,

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. [Ephesians 2:8-10]

Salvation is humbling. It is humbling because I cannot do anything to get it on my own. Salvation is the work of grace is supremely and solely through the work of Christ. Any good work that I do produce is a gift from God and picture of His grace. Even faith in God’s is a gift from God. As one commentator states, “If Gods grace is the ground of salvation, then faith is the means by which it is appropriated. And faith itself cannot be a meritorious work; it is the response which receives what has already been done for us in Christ.”[2]

I was once a poor man living in the squanders of sin, now I have been given the riches of the kingdom in Christ. God’s grace has picked up my horrific tab and canceled my spiritual indebtedness. Salvation through Christ is the world’s greatest rags to riches reality. When I think about the grace of God I sing with Paul, “to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has blessed us in the Beloved [Christ].” [1:6] God’s grace is not only a source of comfort, but counsel to work out my salvation as I “walk in” His grace in a manner that is worthy of His glory [v.10].


[1] David Powlison. Seeing with New Eyes, Phillipsburg, NJ. P&R Publishing, 2003. 49]

2 Peter Thomas O’Brien, The Letter to the Ephesians, The Pillar New Testament commentary (Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1999), 174.

breaking news

Have you ever received any breaking news? The kind of news that startles you for a moment and your life is never the same. Maybe you received news that your lover has just broken off the relationship, your father passed away suddenly, you failed the test, you are pregnant, you lost your job, or you watch a tragedy unfold on the breaking news today.

This is not the kind of news we want to hear, but inevitably we will all here some bad breaking news. How do you normal respond to bad news? Brace yourself; I have some more bad news for you. Ready? You are going to die. 100% of people who are born into this world will one day die. Do you know where will you go when you die? The answer to this question might be even worse news to you. The thought of death and the perplexity of an afterlife cause many to be fearful or anxious.

Not all breaking news is bad news. I have some wonderful breaking news for you: the gospel. What is the gospel, you ask? The gospel is good news. It is earth shattering, life-altering breaking news. When I am confronted with the gospel I see myself for who I really am and the way I respond to the gospel can have eternal ramifications.

The Gospel is the center of Christianity. Without a right understanding and application of the gospel you do not have a true picture of Christianity. The gospel is what makes Christianity distinct and exclusive from other faith-based systems. The gospel to Christianity is like a wrench to a mechanic or a flower to a florist. The mechanic does not sit around and ponder, “What is this wrench used for?” Nor does a florist wonder, “What is a bouquet of roses?” Without the gospel one does not understand the core of Christianity.

How good a grip do you have on the gospel? What is the good news that Christians blaa-blaa-blaa about? What is so good about good news anyway? We do know what the gospel is not, or at least what the gospel is not alone.

  • The gospel is not Jesus alone.
  • The gospel is not Jesus death, burial and resurrection alone.
  • The gospel is not a belief in Jesus alone.
  • The gospel is not being forgiven of my sins alone.
  • The gospel is not God loves you alone.
  • The gospel is not God has a special plan for you alone.
  • The gospel is not changing my life to be a better [loving] person alone.

The gospel is a belief that the Bible is absolutely true: God is a loving creator, and man has sinfully disobeyed God, therefore Jesus graciously and sacrificially died for man that they might respond to Christ’s forgiven and have a means to become right before God. The gospel is not only something I believe in for a moment that will change my life eternally, but its also the means for me to live righteously all throughout my life.

How do I know this is the gospel? How do I know this gospel is true? How do I know this gospel is for me? Could it be as simple as Bible tells me so? YES. It comes down to whether I believe God wrote a book and that this book is Truth.

How can I know that the Bible is absolute truth and authoritative? Is the Bible reliable? Other than the Bible we have three sources of so-called reliable truth. The first source of truth we have is tradition. Tradition tells us what has be true passed down from generation to generation. Some say tradition is not reliable because traditions change or generations might distort the truth to another generation. A second source of truth is reason. Reason uses mans thinking to proven or make understandable what is true. Does everybody agree on what is true? Reason often leads to skepticism and more questions rather than understanding truth. A third source of truth is experience. Some measure truth by what I can seems or feels right. What we know from experience is the experience is not a good measurement for truth. Tradition, reason, and experiences fail us more often then not. What is your standard of authority? Is it reliable? Are you sure?

So where can we find truth? I believe that God authored His Word and spoke these words to called men who recorded them in what we know as the Bible. I also believe since God is perfect and holy, the Bible is infallible and authoritative [2 Timothy 3:16; Psalm 18:30]. Therefore, the overall plan of salvation for sinful men that God lays out through His Word is absolutely true.

In the letter to the Romans the apostle Paul writes about the Gospel. He gives a concise and clear explanation of God’s purposes in Christ. He writes this letter to people who would consider themselves Christians, but Paul wants to make sure they really do understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” [Romans 1:16]

If Paul were alive today he would share the gospel with his mailman, garbage man, X-Box buddies, bowling league, and bullies at work or school. We know this because he was unashamed of the gospel in his time when Christians were killed for their faith. He was beaten, bullied and put into jail, but this did not stop him from sharing the gospel with the prison guards. The gospel was life to Paul.

What is the Gospel according to the Bible?

First, I am responsible to God. I am responsible to God because He is my Creator and Sustainer. Without God I would not be breathing. Since He is Creator He has say so over His creation. He did not just create you and leave you alone. He created you for fellowship with Him. You cannot have fellowship with a God who is far off playing Parcheesi in another planetary system. The God of the Bible says He is with us and He has made His presence know quite plainly.

ROMANS 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

God is visible through His creation. When I look at Mount Everest, the Grand Canyon, the vastness of the Pacific Ocean, and the myriads of stars in the summer sky I am left to ponder: Could not have been created by mere chance? Could there be a greater power behind this? God says we are without excuse. It is as if He has written in the clouds, “Look around you, I am with you.” Since God is your Creator, He owns you. On that basis alone you are obligated to obey Him. Yet that is not always what happens, which brings us to the next point.

Second, I have rebelled against God. Rather than obeying our Creator and thanking Him we spit in His face and in a sense tell Him by our words and actions we do not think He is doing a good job running this world. Therefore we sin against God.

ROMANS 1:21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.  22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. 24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

Have you ever blamed you messes on someone else? That is exactly what we do to God. We say to God, “If you really loved me and if you were really good, my life would not be like this!” Thus we pretend to be God and create our own truth system that makes us feel good. When we replace God we think we are wise, but God says this is foolish. You cannot play pretend god for long because God is jealous and wants to be our King and True Vine. Those who do not praise God will be rejected from His kingdom and cut off as dead branches.

Since, God is Creator, He has the right to judge His creation [cf. Romans 2:1-5]. My sin condemns me to death and eternal separation from my God. This is bad news. Do you see how bad your sin really is? Sin is life altering. Yet in the shadow of this bad news there is breaking news that shines as a beacon of light to our rescue.

Third, I can be redeemed by the blood of God’s Son who died and resurrected for the sins of humanity. What is God’s solution to our sin problem? God took action. Since God is a good and loving Creator He made a way for His creation to be forgiven—by faith in the work of Jesus Christ.

ROMANS 3:21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.

God sends Christ to earth as visible a message: “My creation, you are not okay. You are not as good as you think you are. In fact, you are wicked. You need Me. You need My help. I have come to the rescue. Repent of your sin and follow Christ.” Now this is good news!

Fourth, I must respond to the gospel. My response is to turn from my sin and believe Christ. It’s an all-in-Jesus-is-my-King choice. There is no turning back. When we give our life over to God we are saying to God I no longer want to be enslaved to sin, but now I want to be a slave of righteousness [cf .Romans 6-8]. God draws me to the message of the gospel in His grace and I must respond in faith. Salvation is not based on how good I am, can be, or wish to be, but solely on the work of Christ. “Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness [Romans 4:4-5].

You now have come face to face with the breaking news of the gospel. The gospel is indeed life-altering and earth shaking. Your response to the gospel is a matter of life and death eternally. In review the gospel is: God is a loving creator, and man has sinfully disobeyed God, therefore Jesus graciously and sacrificially died for man that they might respond to Christ’s forgiven and have a means to become right before God.

getting the “goods” on the gospel

Do you get the gospel? Do those in your church got a good grasp on the gospel? Getting the gospel right is a matter of life or death. There is no other way to be right with God than having a right understanding of the gospel. So what are the goods on the gospel?

The Gospel is a forethought. The death of Jesus was not a cosmic accident or a divine way to cover up for mankind’s mistakes. The gospel was planned by God before God created man and before the fall of man.

The Gospel is history. In 30AD, Christ died on a cross and rose from the grave three days later. This is the Gospel and it was documented as a historical moment. It was documented by main reliable scribes inside and outside the church [cf. 1 Corinthians 15]. The Gospel is not a theory hypothesized by gray-bearded men in hideout caves dreaming and scheming up the meaning of life, nor was it a philosophy of Christian thinkers, nor is it a feel good story drafted by a novelist. The Gospel is an actual and factual event in history.

The Gospel is of God. Through the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ my sins have been forgiven. No longer does the wrath of God hang over those who repent of their sins and believe on the name of Jesus Christ. He wipes the record of my wickedness and removes the guilt os sin as if it had been deleted completely from the divine hard drive never to be recovered. This is the great and gracious mystery of the Gospel: God is the source, means and end of the gospel [Romans 11:33-36]. The gospel is for His glory.

The Gospel is free. The gospel is a free offer, but it came at a cost to the Son of Man–Jesus Christ [Romans 5:15ff]. The Gospel is yours through faith in Christ, not of works. Even the faith you have to believe in the Gospel is given to you from God. You cannot work enough to earn the Gospel, you cannot keep the 10 Commandments for it, you cannot inherit the Gospel from your family or friends, you cannot clock the timecard in at church for Gospel, you cannot get baptized or sit in the confessional booth for Gospel. The Gospel is absolutely positively free for all eternity.

The Gospel is good. Literally the Gospel is “Good News.” In order for it to be good there has to be something bad. The bad news is that our sin separates us from God. Without the Gospel man would not have an opportunity to be in right standing with God. The Gospel is Good News because Jesus’ righteous sacrifice paves a way for me to stand righteously before God–not on my behalf, but the on behalf of the blood of my Savior Jesus Christ. Bad News still hangs over those do not repent and believe, but it can be Good News if only they turn from their sin and embrace the Son of God.

These are the goods on the gospel. Without these goods we have a false Gospel.

get off your pedestal

This weekend I graduated from Faith Bible Seminary with a Master of Divinity. Sounds important, eh? No, I am not more divine! It was quiet the accomplishment 6-years in the making. I started taking classes in 2004 at BBS and finish the last 3 years at FSB. I am grateful for the spiritual growth from digging deep into God’s Word. However, the more that I study God’s Word the more I have come to realize and appreciate that there is a whole lot more to know about God and His Word. I have just touched the base of the mountain of God’s glory in His Word. I cannot wait to spend the rest of my life unpacking and applying His Truth to my life.

Now it could be really easy to sit on top of my puny pedestal boasting and bragging about my brains, brawn and bucks. Sure I might have expanded my brain since pre-school with books, papers, and higher education, but that doesn’t give me the right to flex those intellectual muscles [personally, I think they are quite flabby].

What does it mean to brag and boast? To think you are above others in attitude and action. Sure you may have Bucks, Brains or Braun, but compared to whom? Where is the ultimate source of all things? What about boasting in God?

This is a reason why most rap music drives me bananas. Some rap artists would say boasting about yourself is built into rap. It’s common for a rap artist to talk up his skills, his money, or his sexual conquests. Even some Christian rappers jump on the boasting bandwagon. However, there is some radical rap that rocks the name of Christ:

What is a boaster and bragger to do? Turn boasting about your own greatness into boasting about God’s greatness: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord” [2 Corinthians 10:17]. Paul even went as far as to boast in how weak he was, because he knew God’s strength could fill in for his own failure [2 Corinthians 12:5].

I can’t claim bragging rights about everything I’ve done, am doing, or will do in my life [cf. Philippians 3:1-11]. Any accomplishment I claim must give glory to the God who is the source. Compared to God I see my imperfection and His perfection. Compared to God I see His holiness and my need for forgiveness. Compared to God I can only claim bragging rights about God. As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 1:29-31: “It is because of [God] that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written [in Jeremiah 9:24]: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”

We see in these three short verses that God’s source of any significant spiritual change. “It is because of [God] that you are in Christ Jesus.” God Himself is the means and motivation for our salvation. He has claimed me, He called me, He comforted me, and by the faith “in Christ” He has given me salvation.

Now the Corinthians Paul was writing to were know for their boasting in wisdom. The Corinthians were consumed with wisdom, which they seemed to have equated with their salvation. However, Paul poo-poo’s their pride party by repeatedly emphasizing that Jesus Christ is God’s wisdom. If you love wisdom, you will love Jesus. Why? Because in Christ, God gives us “righteousness, holiness and redemption.”

In those three words [righteousness, holiness, and redemption], God has given us in Christ a reason to boast. First, righteousness is a legal metaphor meaning in Christ believers have been declared innocent of sin. Second, holiness is a religious metaphor meaning that in Christ believers are been set apart like God. Third, redemption is a marketplace metaphor meaning that in Christ He has purchased my freedom from the power of sin.

When I look at all that God has done for me in Christ I am awed. And so should our response be, “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.” I have nothing to boast about before God, except what God has done for us in Christ. He is the source of all my bucks, brains and brawn. Only God is the omnipotent and omniscient Creator. He is the means, source and end of all things [cf. Romans 11:36].

“Let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the Lord.” – Jeremiah 9:24

Why is Easter so significant?

So what? Why is Easter so significant? The simple answer is: God conquers sin and gives you a means to eternal life.

We tend to get lost in the bigness of life and we question what one person can do. We hear about the billions of people who roam this planet and it boggles our minds. There are nearly 7,000,000,000 people on this earth. That is a lot of zeros. How could anything significant or generationally impacting can from one man’s work? Oh, but without that One Man there would be no billions of people.

One man plunged mankind into sin.
One Man brought salvation to humanity.
By one man death come upon all.
Through One Man came grace to eternal life.

The resurrection of Jesus from the grave is eternally significant. It is the central theme and climax of the gospel [Matthew 28:1-10]. Without Jesus’ resurrection I have no hope of resurrection to life either. In order for Jesus to rise He had to die [1 Corinthians 15:1-4]. This is the message and truth of the gospel.

If there is no resurrection all that I am telling you is a lie [1 Cor. 15:14]
If there is no resurrection your faith is a farse [1 Cor.15:14]
If there is no resurrection your life is pointless [1 Cor.15:15]
If there is no resurrection you are not forgiven [1 Cor.15:17]
If there is no resurrection when you are dead you remain dead [1 Cor.15:18]
If there is no resurrection there is no hope of life [1 Cor.15:19]
If there is no resurrection future victory is uncertain [1 Cor.15:26]
If there is no resurrection you have no hope of lasting and permanent change [1 Cor.15:14]

I would therefore conclude that the resurrection of Jesus Christ, which we celebrate each Easter is eternally significant. Do you know Him?

gospel gumbo

This week Louisiana celebrated Mardi Gras. When I think of New Orleans and Bourbon Street I can almost smell Gumbo. Mmm. Just thinking of it makes my mouth water and forehead sweat. There are myriads of recipes for make a good gumbo. Some add unique ingredients because they like it spicy, others like it soupy, while others like it meaty. The gospel on the other hand has only one recipe. It is important to get the recipe for the gospel right. There are essential ingredients that make up the gospel and without them there is no gospel. Here are good questions to ask to make sure you have the right gospel:

Am I sure of the seriousness of my sin?
[Romans 3:21-23] The doctrine of sin is serious stuff. Life and death hang in the balance depending on how you deal with this doctrine. We often have a low view of sin, though we sin it so often we struggle to accept that we are sinners. We become so familiar with sin that we come to accept it.

The Bible is realistic about my condition: I am rebellious to the core. Just ask my wife. I am selfish. I am gravitated toward sin more than obedience to God. My heart is utterly wicked. God does not want to just change my behavior, He wants to change me from the inside out. Lasting and permanent change comes from the heart, the hub and control center of the human soul [Proverbs 4:23].

Am I awestruck by the substitutionary atonement of Christ?
[Romans 3:24-25] There is so much wrapped up this theological statement. The substitutionary atonement of Christ is the biblical truth that Jesus made the only sufficient sacrifice for sin to appease my sinful state. Jesus Christ and His work are the essence of hope. This hope is not in my theological knowledge or experience, but it is in the awesome bloodshed of my Savior [Galatians 2:20]. It is He that desires to rule in my heart this moment and forever [Ephesians 2:22-23].

Am I really aware of my need to repent of my sin? And am I aware of my need to follow through with real faith in Christ? [Romans 3:26; cf. Acts 26:20; Galatians 3:11] I put repentance and faith together because they really do go together. With all that God has done for me I cannot simply be passive. The gospel calls me to action. A gift so great doesn’t deserve just a “thank you,” it desires, “I can never repay you God, but I will do whatever you ask from now on and forever more.” The gospel not only affects the moment I commit my life to Christ, but also my walk with Him thereafter. The struggle of sin never ceases until I leave this sod, so I need His grace daily [Titus 2:11-13].

Without a submission of your spirit to the Scripture behind these questions, there is no gospel. The gospel is different than gumbo. The gospel is not just a mishmash of facts or a buffet of manufactured ideas, rather it is the life-transforming truth of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection that will forever change you. That is good news!

I have adapted this post from Is It Soup Yet?

renovations

renovation site

Have you ever been involved with renovations before? I remember after my house flood a few years ago I had to renovation about 75% of my home. Renovations usually take longer than they tell you it is going to take (3-4 months), cost more than they tell you (way more), are messy and inconvenient, and you wonder why you started the renovation process in the first place.

When we are convicted we need to change sinful habits in our lives they often feel like renovations. Now when the renovations are complete we love the results. Here are are a few truths about renovating types of change:

Change comes with pain. Change hurts at times. When were uncover secretive sinful areas and live in the light the process can be painful. It can be painful because we fail at times trying to change. We don’t like the change and like a magnet we are drawn back to our old ways. As the saying goes, “Old habits are hard to break.” Yet if you continue in your sinful habits you will continue to reap a sinful lifestyle:

Galatians 6:7-8 says, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.”

sunflower-seeds-stripedI live in Indiana, so this farming analogy God uses in the Bible makes sense. I understand that if you sow corn you will reap corn. If you sow soybeans you will reap soybeans. Now if you sow a sinful lifestyle you will reap destruction, but if you sow the Spirit you will reap life. It is that simple. If you think you are superman or superwoman and that your sin will never affect you it is time you drop your cape. You cannot cover in your sin for long, nor can you break sinful habits without the supernatural power of God. If you think you have super powers of your own: Hosea 8:7 say, “They will sow the wind and reap the whirlwind” Prov.22:8 “He who sows wickedness reaps trouble.” Reaping sin is like reaping up the villain and giving him strength rather than killing it.

spin cycleChange comes with cycles. Like a washing machine goes through spin cycles before the clothes get clean, so we go through cycles before we grow in the process of change. The usual cycle goes something like this: Change > Conflict > Growth. There comes a point in the change process that is a battle. The conflict is tough. The desire to give up is there. God encourages us to fight our way through the crowd of conflict because the result will be glorious.

Change comes with a cost. Change can’t be bought at the dollar store. Change isn’t cheap. Our change cost a life. It took the bloodshed of God and the death of Christ to make the payment for your sinfulness. Jesus doesn’t want to just save you; He wants to change you.

Change comes with radical rewards. Our normal response to change is resistance. We resist because of the conflict. Most do not like to deal with conflict, but if they do not fight through it with God’s help they miss out on the reward. The reward is not removal of the mind, but a renewal the mind. We will use more of our minds for Christ.

Remember Prov. 28:13? “He who conceals his sin does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.” God will shower you in His mercy. You cannot handle the amount of mercy and grace He gives. I have had this David Crowder song stuck in my head the past few weeks. There is a line in the song that goes like this:

He is jealous for me, Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree, Bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy.
When all of a sudden, I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory, And I realize just how beautiful You are,
And how great Your affections are for me.

We are His portion and He is our prize, Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes,
If grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking. And Heaven meets earth like an unforeseen kiss, And my heart turns violently inside of my chest, I don’t have time to maintain these regrets, When I think about, the way…He loves us.

We are under construction and the renovation of change in our life comes with pain, cycles, cost, but has radical rewards.

plan G

plan G

A man once asked me the question of all questions, “If you were to die today where would you go?” I didn’t have a smart answer. I was curious, but though to myself, “Could anybody really know the answer to that question?”

How do I get to heaven? Many have tried to answer this question in many different ways:

  • You got to do a bunch of good deeds [hope to make the Cosmic curve for the class].
  • Do as you please [aka: heaven on earth]. This is the only life you got.
  • God is a God of love and wouldn’t send anybody to hell.
  • You got to have faith.
  • You got to follow the teachings of Buddha, Muhammad, Joseph Smith, or Jesus.

Yet these many ways do not answer the question. They just lead to more questions: How good is good enough? If this is heaven on earth, why is there so much suffering, sin and temptation? Why wouldn’t a loving God judge sin? Faith in what? How do we know which guy? What is your plan get to heaven?

PLAN A: By Being Sinlessly Perfect

If our eternity rested on our perfect performance we would all be doomed. We have all committed errors and made foul plays. This is called sin. You are not perfect. You cannot bat 1.000. Sorry to burst your bubble but you are not good enough [Rom.3:23 “all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory].

God is perfect. Our sin causes us to miss the mark of His glorious perfection.

The problem is that you and I are born sinners. You are born needy. You cry for attention. Ask any baby who desires the attention. You did not have to take sin lessons. We are educated as selfish little sinsner straight from the womb. And I have been sinning habitually ever since.

When people say that they are a “good person” or share their list of “good deeds” [i.e. help the poor, generosity] or compare themselves with “bad people” [i.e. Hitler or Bin Laden]…they are just sugar coating  the reality of their sinfulness [Prov.14:12 “There is a way that seems right to man, but in the end it leads to death.”]. PLAN A: I CANNOT CHECK

PLAN B: By Paying the Price for our Sin

Trying to be a good boy or girl only ends in disappointment and frustration because we can never quite match up. It ends in death [Rom.6:23 “For the wages of our sin is death…”]. This is more than physical death, but also eternal separation from God. Notice this spectrum of goodness [Evil being murders, rapists, and abusers / God being absolute perfection]:

EVIl and GOD Spectrum graphic

First on the spectrum is Mother Teresa [MT]. She is known for her compassion for orphans in Calcutta. Under “Christian” in the dictionary would be her picture. Some would say she is the best of all Christians, yet in her biographies she admits struggling with many sins. Second, Billy Graham [BG], the long known evangelist who was used by God to bring many into God’s kingdom. He preached to more people than anybody in history. Yet he publicly admits his fall into sin. Then there is me [JT]. I cant even be in the same category with MT & BG. Just ask my mom or wife and they will let you know what kind of sin I am!! Where would you put your initials?

Mother Teresa, Billy Graham and I are in serious trouble. We cannot match up to God’s standard. We fall way short. This applies not only us, but you too. It doesn’t matter if your parents are Christians, if your grandma prays, if you go to Africa to help AIDS children, if you go to church every time the doors are open, you will still fall short.

There is a giant chasm that separates you and me from God [cf. Bridge to Life]. It is like trying to throw a stone from where you are to the North Pole. Some might throw farther than you, but we all still fall way short. Our sin creates a separation [Is.59:2 “It’s your sins that have cut you off from God. Because of your sins, He has turned away and will not listen anymore.”]. We cannot pay the debt load for our sin. It cost too much. PLAN B: I CANNOT CHECK

PLAN G: By Trusting in the One who did

Since Plans A & B fail what other option do we have? How about Plan G? Plan G = God’s Grace. Grace us unmerited favor or a gift from God that you do not deserve. I do not deserve God’s grace even on my best day. No one deserves it. This is why it is called grace [Rom.6:23b “…but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”].

What does God’s grace look like? Because of His love He sent His Son to die on the cross for your sin [all your junk, funk errors, strike outs and foul plays]. His grace can at a gruesome cost; execution on a cross. Jesus did the work of Plan A & B before He went to the cross. He did what we could not do. He did it for you. The work is done. The cross bridges the separation. It is a homerun game willing deal.

Religion = DO. Do this and don’t do that. It doesn’t work.

Relationship with Christ = DONE. It is finished on the cross. [Jn.19:30]

From the moment we receive God’s grace there are many things we receive: Forgiveness, Christ’s Righteousness, acceptance into His family, reconciliation, redemption, and so much more.

How do I get God’s grace?

Admit. Admit that you have fail with Plan A & B. That you do not measure up to God’s standard. That your sin separates you from Him. See yourself as God sees you. Recognize the chasm between you and him.

Believe. Believe that God sent Jesus to die on the cross for your sin. It is not about understanding everything. It is about trust.

Receive. Let Jesus come in. Open the lid of your heart and let Him come in. Let Him change you from the inside out.

PLAN G: I CAN CHECK, DONE

camp potawatomi

We just finished our first ever week of Potawatomi Bible Camp. We had 51 campers!! What an answer to prayer to see the vision we [Dan Nave, Scott Tiede, and me] prayed about over a year ago come to fruition.

We were able to see God do some amazing things this week. Uncle Charlie of Children’s Bible Hour was our speaker. It was a joy to watch this aged man related to the kids. We had 3 campers begin a relationship with Jesus Christ as their Savior!! It made the week so worth it.

We had to end camp a day early because of the an issue with bats inside the cabins. We were told that the bats would not be a problem when we arrived earlier in the week. Sunday afternoon we had a larger work crew help clean the cabins and chase any varmints out of the cabins with great success. Campers arrived later on Monday afternoon. Monday night we had a few cases of bats in the cabins. Tuesday we plugged holes, but that night we again had more bats. In fact, there were more that 20+ bats in one of the cabins. We had a DNR naturalist come that afternoon that shared with us bats are harmless and are not the rabies-infested-beasts we claim them to be. Out of protection for the kids we decided it would best to let the kids go home early. No more guano!!

Lesson: It doesn’t take a week to see God work nor do bats and bugs distract His Spirit from impacting lives!! Praise the LORD for a great week of Camp!