Christianity is in its nature the Gospel of grace. There is forgiveness in Jesus. There is understanding in Jesus. But we must never do away with standards and expectations. We must never do away with consequences and repercussions for our actions and behaviors. There is a bar. This bar is not one of perfection but it is one of Holiness.
The Gospel of grace understands our fallen nature, but we must never take the grace of God lightly. We are extended grace in Jesus Christ not to be forgiven repeatedly for our sins but to be forgiven once and for all of our debt. To be a Christian there must be a commitment to change. To be a Christian there must be an ongoing revelation of Fruit. Our lives should be a living testimony of the power of Christ to change what seemed impossible to change. It should magnify the glory and beauty of Jesus Christ. It is Christ IN us.
The love of Jesus does not condone sin, and to live in sin is to stand in opposition to the Lord, Jesus. We must have a standard. We must know what that standard is. And when we see that a brother or sister is not living a life worthy of the name of Jesus, we must address it. Not with a heart of judgment or self-righteousness, but with the heart of Christ that never left a soul to believe that they were in no need of what he came to bring them. The Gospel is one of grace, love and understanding. We will never be perfect and we will never be completely free of the sinful flesh until we are with Him and made to be like Him. But a standard still remains. The standard is THE Gospel. If we claim the name of Christ and therefore proclaim unity with the Son, we must bear the fruit of the Son. He is the standard. He is the Way. To represent Him means to reveal Him. If we are not revealing Jesus then we must question if we authentically represent Him in spirit or in name alone.
The standard of the cross is not there to loom over us, casting a long shadow of hopelessness and intimidation. The standard of the cross keeps us moving. It keeps us safe. It keeps us alive. Without the standard and without accountability to hold to the standard, we die.
The end is coming. The end will be sudden. The end will usher in the justice of the Lord. The end will be terrifying for many. The end will usher in the creation of the New Heaven and the New Earth. Regarding the end of all things, there is nothing else to be said of any importance now. The present should be consumed with the following questions: Do you know Jesus? Do you know him personally, intimately, and confidently? Do you have unity and fellowship with him through your obedience to his word and his Gospel? Do you proclaim the truth of Jesus in your daily life by the Fruit of his Spirit?
This is our life as Christians. This life enables us to be focused on the task in front of us and not on the things that are unimportant and distract us from our calling. The end will come suddenly; the life of the Christian should be so filled by the answers to the previous questions that there is no fear of the end and no doubt that eternal unity with God through the inheritance of Jesus Christ will be our portion. Do everything you can NOW to make your election sure. Ask these questions every day. Know the answers and know that they place you assuredly on the side of Christ. This is to be our life’s concern and work. View everything else as a distraction and opposition to the life Christ has called you into. Your daily bread should sustain you and overwhelm you each day that thoughts of things we cannot and should not claim to know fall by the wayside, leaving us ever focused on the true task at hand. “Follow me.” And follow him we shall. Follow him, listen to him, love him and dedicate your daily life to these things.
We are so eager to spread the good news. We love to share our testimony. We enjoy praising the name of Jesus that we are so loved by our heavenly Father. Why are we so fearful of admonishment? Why do we rarely teach? Why do we choose the course of least resistance at the cost of the lives of those we break bread with? Why have we so numbed ourselves to the severity of the Gospel we proclaim that we choose to seek comfort and peace in this life while sending those in our care off into an eternity of pain and unrest? Do we not believe in the promises? Do we not believe in the warnings, the consequences, the costs? The Gospel of Jesus is not there to make us happy. It is there to change us. It is there to transform us. This implies that what we were and what we still are in many ways is not the ideal and is need of transformation and change. Therefore, we need to change. We must change. To reject change and to reject transformation is to reject Jesus and reject the Gospel. Worship songs mean nothing without change. An inspiring message means nothing without change. Any and all Christian activity done in the name of Jesus without change is meaningless. There must be change. We don’t live under the banner of Christ with the understanding that we are fine and all that remains are rejoicing and laughter. The banner of Christ that hides our life in its shadow declares to us on a daily basis that we are sinners, we need to repent and change and we are not finished. As a Christian you are still under the care of the physician. Therefore, admonishment and teaching in the name of Jesus and with wisdom is not only a blessing but it is life-saving. We need correction and admonishment when we stray from the light of Christ. Admonishment in this scenario is true love. Love that desires peace, unity and comfort at the cost of truth, life and unity with Christ is not love at all. This is hate. This has not real concern for the other person. Be wise and careful how you teach and admonish. Pray and pray again before doing so. Have patience and be quick to pray and seek the Lord’s will before you do either. But for Christ’s sake and the sake of those you love, teach, rebuke, admonish and love.
This is not about you. Unity with Christ means that the spirit of extreme selflessness has taken up residence in your life and in your spirit. This is the frontline in the battle between your sinful nature and the spirit of the living God. We would rather talk about the things we want to talk about. We would rather engage in the activities that we are most interested in. We would rather eat the food that most pleases our palate. We would rather put our self first–all the time, every time.
But this is not about you. Counting the cost of becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ means that you have signed your name on the spiritual dotted line of the New Covenant that agrees and declares this is no longer about you.
The blessings of Jesus follow after complete submission to the name of Jesus. How can we think that we can receive the blessings of Jesus while living completely in contradiction of the spirit of the very same Jesus? Delusional. Deceived. This is not about you.
Jesus did not come as a conquering King to rescue you. He came low and disgraced so that he could pay the debt of your sin to forgive you. Jesus is the living embodiment of selflessness and submission. This is Jesus and this is his Gospel. This is not about you.
HE forgave you. HE dwells in you. It is all about him. He is the Christ. He is the Lamb. He is Jesus. Jesus is now your meaning of life. Jesus is now your passion. Jesus is now your prize. Jesus is now the center of your everything. This is not about you.
Beware of the spirit in you that attempts to credit, glorify or promote the self. This is not of God and this is not worthy of Jesus. There is nothing about the Christian life that elevates the self. He must become greater and we must become less. Anything different is not the Gospel and must be revealed and rebuked for what it is. A lie. Your life is now hidden in Christ, the light of the world. Hidden. Unseen. Unnoticed. This is not about you.
The body of Christ is ONE body. There is no other. Standing side-by-side and shoulder-to-shoulder with your sister and brother in Christ, you are united as ONE body. This is no easy task, but with God all things are possible. Our sin desires to be independent. Our sin desires to be one notch above the rest, one step further than the whole. Sin deceives us into thinking that certain parts of the one body hold special significance and priority over other parts. Sin will deceive us into thinking that our gift or position is of more importance to the body than the rest. This spirit of division is the antithesis to the Gospel. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is humility, unity and love. The Spirit of Christ in us seeks unity in spite of our own comfort, desires and pride.
The Christian is called to a life of unending and comprehensive sacrifice. Nothing about sacrifice is easy. Why should we think that our union and fellowship with other believers would be any different? It’s not. Our relationships with each other in the body of Christ are often the things used by God to refine us the most. Without the tension and challenge of seeking unity in the Church there would be no growth, no transformation and thus no life. We need each other. We need this tension. We need the sacrifice. The sin in us will turn from the challenge and seek to find any available opportunity to blame-shift, judge, criticize and reject those around us in the Church. Seek unity. Seek Jesus. By the blood of the Lamb we were saved from eternal condemnation and that same blood is the only chance we have to finding unity in the body of Christ. Allow our Lord to sharpen you. Allow him to reveal what is in you. Allow him to teach you. Find your place at the foot of the Cross and welcome your brother and sister to join you there and only there. This is not friendship. This is fellowship, and fellowship of the deepest kind, bought at the highest price. We have all been saved. We have all been forgiven. We are all beloved by our heavenly Father. These are the ligaments that bind us together and nothing else. Unity is not an option, it is the result of living in Christ, for Christ and with Christ.
Read Galatians 4
“It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good, and to be so always, not just when I am with you.” (Galatians 4:18)
Christian, what is your passion? What drives the work of your hands? What motivates you to work tirelessly, sacrificially, painfully and at times unceremoniously? What are you zealous for? Is it for your glory or His? Is it for the name of Jesus, the beloved son, or yours? Is your zeal for the Lord dependent on the circumstance or social setting? Is your zeal for the Lord present when no one else is? Does your zeal for the Lord need anything other than the Gospel for it to manifest in your life? Christian, do you know where you were before Christ? Do you know that you were lost but that by the stripes and wounds of Jesus Christ you have since been found? Do you know what you were saved from? Without Jesus you were destined to never know love, to never know joy, to never know peace and rest. You were slaves before Christ, choosing to obey and serve your sinful nature, but in the name of Jesus you are now free! You are free in Christ never to experience slavery and bondage ever again. Is that enough for you to be zealous? Is that the Gospel to you? Upon knowing this Gospel, why would you ever want to go back? What does that former life have to offer you? Have you forgotten the bondage? Have you forgotten the hopelessness before Christ? As a Christian, Jesus must become your everything because before him you had nothing. There was nothing of any enduring worth or value before Jesus. In Jesus, your Savior, you are now truly alive. Don’t go back without an honest reflection of your life before Jesus. Don’t move forward without an honest reflection of your motivation and purpose for serving in the name of Jesus. The Gospel declares that you are alive because of Jesus and therefore everything you do is so that his name, the only name, can become greater while yours continually becomes less. There is no other way. This is the way.
Read 2 Corinthians 8:1-15
A reborn spirit is a giving spirit. The spirit of Jesus gave everything he had to the point of death. Therefore, with the spirit of Jesus living in us as a new creation, we are aligned with and we manifest his sacrificial love in our own lives. Christian giving can be reduced to doctrine and it is indeed a requirement for a Christian to give. However, the giving heart and the Christian life need more than doctrine.
Just as the law was merely an instrument used to teach Paul that he was a sinner because he could never follow the commandments, so is the doctrine of the gospel to us. Rebuke the religious spirit that reduces the life, death and resurrection of Jesus to simple dos and don’ts. Jesus shows us the way but only by the power of the Holy Spirit in us can we ever manage to follow the way laid out for us. Christian, you give because God gave everything to you. He gave his son, for you. Christian, you give because in Jesus you have an eye for need. You seek out need and you desire to see a need fulfilled. You have been abundantly blessed and you rejoice in the blessing of others. Christian, you give because what you own or possess is not your own. No matter how hard you have worked for it. Ultimately, your possessions are investments. They are anointed and Holy loans. God has given you what you have so that you can reinvest in the kingdom of God. Not the kingdom of you. Christian, you give what you have with confidence that God knows your heart. He knows how much and how little you have. He knows how much is easy and how much hurts. He knows how much you promised to give and how much you are recalculating and reassessing not to give. Christian, remember that you are working with God. Not against him. You are working toward a beautiful investment and profit for you and the eternal kingdom of our living God and to the name of Jesus. Remember that when you pray in confidence that the sovereignty of God over your unpredictable future is good, so is His sovereign goodness over your finite and often limited amount of money and things.
“Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated?” (1 Cor.6:7-8)
What do you think you deserve? What do you think you’re entitled to? What do you think people, society or the world owes you? In knowing our sinfulness by claiming unity with Christ, how dare we Christians assume such self-importance. Jesus warns us to count the cost of becoming a disciple and a Christian and part of that cost includes being wronged, cheated, persecuted and killed. This is our lot. This is our portion.
But in the end, this is not about you. This is never about you. This is about him and his name is Jesus. You weren’t wronged, you were convicted and by the grace of God, forgiven. He was wronged. The only perfect man of all creation, the beloved son of the living God was wronged. Your suffering is real and Jesus never taught that living in this world would be easy. However, your suffering is not like his suffering. It will never be like his suffering. To know Jesus is to first identify with his death as payment of the debt and death you deserved and deserve. He saved you. Not because you were owed it or deserved it. You are justifiably pronounced guilty and deserving of death without the blood of Jesus. You are not owed anything except the just penalty for your daily sins. However, thanks be to God for Jesus Christ. It is because he was wronged, cheated, persecuted and murdered so that you never have to live as a slave to such things.
You will experience all that Jesus did but never to the extent he did. Being wronged and cheated is not fun, easy or something that will ever lose its sting. But in Jesus the sting will no longer feel like death. In Jesus the sting of death has been overcome forever. Have you been wronged? Have you been cheated? Look unto the Christ. Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look unto his suffering and be united with him in the suffering that he took upon himself for you. You have Jesus. Nothing in this world is of any more worth than him and you can never lose him. He is eternally yours and therefore in your time of suffering ask our Father to give you the faith that proudly proclaims that you will choose to lose ALL things in this world for the name of Jesus.
A new creation is not the same thing as a new chance. A new life is not an enhanced or slightly modified version of your old life. New is completely new. To be a new creation is to carry within you the spirit of Jesus Christ. His nature confronts and aggressively opposes the sinful nature of your old self. A new creation does not seek justification for sin nor does it seek to provide refuge for it. The new creation hates sin! Do you hate sin? Are you ready and willing to fight the recurring temptations of the sinful nature of your old self? Or, are you apathetic and quick to celebrate the benefits of Christ’s grace and forgiveness for you before lifting a finger to oppose what you naturally should, if indeed you are a new creation? The new creation is not subtle. The new creation is of Jesus Christ and his Holy Spirit and therefore is one of power. Do you feel the power of the Holy Spirit warring with your old self? Do you feel the power of the Holy Spirit lifting your weak and feeble spiritual arms in order for the battle to carry on, allowing victory to be proclaimed for you and for Christ? Is there power in your faith? A new creation cannot be without it. The lack of power in your walk with Jesus Christ begs the question, “Do you know that your savior liveth?” To know that Jesus has saved is to know that your sinful nature has been uncovered and pronounced guilty, but by the grace of God has fallen on the head of the savior, Jesus Christ. To know that Jesus lives is to know that the nature of your old self has no more power over you. You no longer serve the flesh but Jesus. You are no longer mastered by sinful desires, for your Master has liberated you from the oppression of the old self, inaugurating the way of righteousness, truth and holiness in the name of Jesus Christ. Cry out to God for newness!
A relationship with Jesus is one of ongoing inquiry and curiosity. We are repeatedly confronted with questions concerning his sacrifice, his teaching, his person. Yet, it seems that for as many questions with comfortable solutions, more questions arise, and our search to know more continues.
The Christian’s pursuit of knowing does not arise out of a desire to arrive at a singular conclusion, thus completing our search. Our pursuit is a result of looking upon something that we cannot look away from. The glory of pursuing the living God is unlike anything we’ve ever known. It surpasses what we know to be beautiful and forces us to redefine the word beautiful itself. Love is redefined. Peace is redefined. Hope is redefined. Victory is redefined. You think you know, and you think you know, but then you realize that you will never fully know until you are with him, made like him in a place where there is nothing but him.
Protect and defend this childlike nature that persistently asks why and how. We were designed to learn, but we were ultimately designed to learn about all things in order to increase our love for our creator. To learn with any other motive or objective leaves us with information that we cannot take with us when we part from this world. Any knowledge but this will, over time, wither and fade just as the grass and the flowers of the fields. Knowledge is of this world, but truth is eternal. Open up the scriptures seeking to behold the glory of the Son. Seek to know truth and the truth will set free: not because it is moral, virtuous or logical, but because truth itself is embodied in the physical manifestation of the living God in Jesus Christ himself.