The Convenient Truth (Romans Pt 4)

Grace sits easily in the chair that sin once occupied.

Our lives are a mess. Your life is messed up, my life is messed up. It’s the reality that results from sin. Sin sits so easily in our lives, sin is so natural for us it would seem we were born with it. We weren’t, we are born totally innocent. It would be immoral for God to count sins against a child who had never sinned, who couldn’t sin. They haven’t learned to sin . . .  yet, but the world will get a hold of them to the point that they will eventually sin and be guilty before God.

And that guilt is why we have all the trouble in the world that we do. Sin effected more than our souls, our spiritual side, it affects our natural world as well. That is why things are going from bad to worse. That is why more diseases are discovered every generation. That is why the earth and nature are in such turmoil. We sinned and the whole world has been effected by it.

Romans chapters 1, 2 & 3 tell how those with different relationships with God are guilty of sin.

  • The Gentile, the non-Jew, those who have no relationship with God at all are guilty of sin because nature itself, our own bodies tell us there is a God but we ignored that fact and lived as if there is no God. Life full of what is immoral according to God’s character, filled with the me-tude. It’s all about me, whatever I want, whatever I feel, I will do and it’s ok. I’m my old god in one sense. I make my own way, my own decisions and live by that (Romans chapter 1).
  • The Jew, who knew better, who had the law of God, who knew to honor God alone, to honor parents, to be faithful to their spouses, to not lie about their neighbor and more, they are guilty of sin because they too have sinned. They found ways around God’s laws, they avoided the relationship they had with God and they are guilty of sin within their system of religion (Romans chapter 2).
  • To sum it up, Paul writes in Romans chapter 3 that every individual is guilty before God. The non-Jew and the Jew alike. The Gentile who didn’t know God and the Jew who did. And even the Jew who did is responsible for their sin individually. God’s promises and protection in the past had to do with dealing with them as a nation for the sake of the world, but they were always individually responsible to God. Everyone is guilty of sin. “All have sinned and come short of God’s glory” Romans 3:23.

What’s the use then. If we are all guilty, what does it matter if I live for God or not. And it’s not as if God is out to get us with lightning bolts or flipping his finger at us and going, “F-U!”

This is actually when grace comes in and shouts, “Here I am!” God’s not out to get us, he wants to have an intimate relationship of love, grace, mercy, and openness with you and with me.

Read Paul’s words from Romans 3:21-31…

21But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets,22even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; 23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; 25whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; 26for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justified of the one who has faith in Jesus.

27Where then is boasting? It is excluded? By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. 28For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law. 29Or is He not the God of the Jews only? Is he not the God of the Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30since indeed God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith is one. 31Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law.

(New American Standard Bible)

This grace, comes through YOUR faith in Jesus. God’s grace overrides sin’s power and effect. It not only sits easily where sin sat, it moves sin out, grace destroys sin. In fact, we are told that when our sins are forgiven, God blots out the record of our sin, as if there is an actual book that each of our sins has been recorded in and God uses “Wite-out” to cover over the record of our sins so that he can forget them and will not hold them against us because of his grace that comes by faith that is propitiated by Christ Jesus’ blood shed on the cross.

And God’s grace rests in our lives with merciful forgiveness so that we are not guilty.

I had a “Mandrake the Magician” game when I was a kid. It was based on the Mandrake comic book. I don’t remember much about the game except that there were these cards that had clues hidden on them. The clues were red and the there were these blue markings all over the card to hide the clue. You had to look through a view finder of some sort in order to see what the clue was. It was red. The red somehow washed the blue out and the clue in red was easily seen.

Christ’s blood given to us by God’s grace applied to our lives reminds me of the hidden clues and the view finder of the Mandrake game. Our sins cover our lives and when God looks at us all he sees is sin. When Christ’s blood covers us, our sins, though they are still a part of our past are not seen because God sees us through Christ’s blood. His blood covers us and gives us God’s grace in our belief.

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X or no X? Holy-day or Holiday?

So what about all the confusion and disruption involved in Christmas. I don’t mean should courthouses be allowed to display nativity scenes, but is is Xmas or Holiday?

Greek Letter chi

Let’s start where it really is. Xmas, though it seems to have been forgotten and overlooked, “Xmas” isn’t a bad thing unless people intend for it to be. If they intend to leave Christ out of Christmas, if they imply X as the “unknown quotient” that it is in math and science, then Xmas is bad.

But, X is the Greek letter for English’s “ch.” In Greek it’s chi (pronounced “key”). This is the first to letters of Christ. in fact, the chi (X) is often an abreviation for Christ. If Xmas means Christ-mas, there is nothing wrong with it.

What about holiday? Is there something missing there? WE say “Happy Holidays,” but do we mean what it means. Holiday comes from the words meaning “Holy” and “day.” Holiday means “Holy day.” Is that what we imply when we wish others a happy holiday? It should be because it is a recognition of one of the holy things that God has done and we honor a day as holy to recognize that fact.

These are two facts that have been missed in recent days. I have been having fun doing this too. But more importantly, I wish you a Merry Xmas and a Happy Holiday.

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“I Believe!”

Yesterday was a very emotional day for me. See, I visited the teens in the residential counseling facility that I work with. I wanted to see them a couple of days before Christmas and share cookies and Christmas wishes with them.

About two thirds of the kids were gone for the holidays. I brought cookies, Christmas wishes and Christmas hugs.

I always go around and say hi to everyone and see how people are doing. Are they struggling? Are they having a great week? That sort of thing. As I was visiting with one young man, he showed me a picture he was working on. He told me he would like to give me the picture when he finishes. I thought that was really nice and told him thank you. He said, “You’re a part of my life and you mean a lot to me. You made me believe in Jesus.”

Now I get soft-hearted now and then, this was one of those times. This troubled young man, struggling with self-worth issues touched me deeply. I am so happy he believes in Jesus. I look forward to helping him move forward in his belief. I know it will bring healing to him.

That is one of the reasons I continue to invest myself in the lives of these teens. To see them change, to help them see God and learn about Jesus.

May God be blessed.

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No Room for Sin (Romans Pt 3)

There wasn’t room for sin in heaven and there still isn’t room. To be truthful, that’s what took place.

Lucifer was an angel of God who wanted the glory that belonged to the Christ. His self-seeking, self-gratifying way was contrary to God and God wouldn’t have anything to do with that rebellion and unseated Lucifer.

One of the beautiful things about the ancient world recorded in the Bible is that names mean something. By this I don’t mean that each name simply has a definition, but that each name’s definition related to the person who had the name. Lucifer means “bringing light” ( http://www.behindthename.com/name/lucifer ).

When we read about a name change in the Bible, there is something significant at work. E.G. Abram who we meet at the end of Genesis 11 and the beginning of Genesis 12, his name means “exalted father,” but God changed his name to Abraham, “father of a multitude” designating the characteristic of the nation of people who would be his descendants, both by family lineage and by faith.

Lucifer is no longer his name, he does not bring light anymore (though he can appear as an angel of light to deceive; 2 Corinthians 11:14; John 8:44). Therefore his name is Devil (deceiver) and Satan (slanderer). Both are opposite to God’s character and ways and so sin was removed from God’s presence. Cast down to the earth where the he works his wiles, deceiving and tricking people in order to keep them from or draw them away from God.

Sin does not have a seat in the presence of God. But sin sits easily in the lives of people. We are easily deceived. We are taken captive by selfish desires. We are held in bondage and slavery because the devil’s temptations are anywhere from just askew to totally opposite from the truth and right.

You are a sinner. I’m sorry to be so blunt, but the truth is hard to swallow. We are all sinners because we have fallen into the devil’s trap and sinned. Whether it was a little white lie or disobeying our parents, embezzlement or lust, or any number of minor or serious wrongs, sin is sin when it comes to guilt.

Read Romans 3 and see  where your standing is with God.

With Christmas 3 days away, God came into this world because of sin. The relationship that we should have with God was injured and severed because sin has no welcome in God’s house (IE, heaven, where God is). Two things always touch my heart about the Christmas account. That Jesus’s birth was so he could save people from their sins and the God entered the world, God is with us, one of Jesus’ other names, “Emmanuel, God with us,” Matthew 1:21-22.

The pure for the impure. The righteous for the unrighteous. The holy for the unholy. The just for the unjust. The Truth instead of the lie. Life to replace death for sin. Jesus came that sin would be conquered, overcome and destroyed in our lives so that we could sit in God’s presence.

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Christmas is Coming Soon

It’s Friday, one week before Christmas day as I write this. I’m sitting in Panera Bread with a cup of coffee and a gingerbread man cookie. I’m taking the cookie home.

There is Christmas music playing from the ceiling. Blue Christmas, Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, and others.

Everyone is in a festive mood. Life seems good even when it isn’t.

So, what are you doing with Christmas this year. Has your focus been on Christ? Will it remain on Christ? The thing is, Christmas is where Christ is.

Without Christ, there is no “Christ”-mas. I know you’re seeing and hearing that all over the place, but that is the reality of it. Without Christ, there is no Christmas.

Over the next week, we’ll take a test (sort of) and see how well we know the account about the birth of Jesus Christ.

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Let’s Take on Faith, Reason, and Nonsense

These discussions are hard, not because they’re rational but because they’re emotional.  It’s hard not to let hurt, disgust, anger, fear, and a number of other possible emotions get involved in the discussion.  It injures me deep in my soul when people attack what I have found and believe to be true.  They feel the same when I say Jesus is the only way.

Well, let’s go back in time 35 or 40 years.  I grew up in central Indiana, in a conservative environment.   A mostly working class community with about 60,000 people, several GM plants, a steel mill, a Dodge transmission factory and the like.   Two large high schools with 1500-2000 students each and a hand full of county high schools of a few hundred each.

I was born into a family of believers.  My parents were part of a church whose fellowship primarily was with  Restoration Churches (http://www.therestorationmovement.com/ and http://www.gotquestions.org/Restoration-movement.html, should help explain the movement).  We were taught the Bible, not a form of theology and doctrine, just what the Bible presents as a whole, you know, Biblio-theology.

I attended Ozark Bible College (now Ozark Christian College, http://www.occ.edu/) a conservative Bible-believing and teaching college and have read and studied over the years what I first believed beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Jesus is the only way to God, salvation, and heaven.  I learned it from those I respected and they shared it with me from the Bible and through reason.  People like Paul Jordan, PT Butler, Knofel Staten, Harvey Bacus, Don Dewelt, Seth Wilson, Wilbur Fields and more and they referred to many apologists such as CS Lewis in Mere Christianity, Josh McDowell with Evidence that Demands a Verdict, and others documenting facts and truth about Jesus.

So . . . for me, it’s pretty simple, Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, my Lord and God (I thank Peter, Mark 8:29 and Thomas, John 20:28 for faithfully confessing these truths for me to learn, believe and confess).  Jesus said “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father but through me” John 14:6 & 9 (cf., Acts 4:12 & 1 Timothy 2:5).  In doing so, I also believe that there is only one way to God and salvation and that is through Jesus.

The problem now lies not in whether I believe it or not, I do, the problem lies in that many don’t or they don’t like that God chose to be so exclusive about access to him.  And when we begin discussing these things, though reason may be present, often emotions are stronger than reason and people go all bongo about what they feel.

Let us look at the identity of Jesus Christ, of who God is and what they have said taking into consideration the claims of many other religions because as one theologian I recently heard on the video The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel (bought it at Wal-Mart for $7.50 last week), all religions could be wrong, but not all of them can be right.

I had (maybe I still do) a lesson book for teens called Don’t Check Your Brains at the Door, let me borrow from and alter the title for use here.  We will use our brains because Christianity is a thinking religion that is filled with faith, hope, and feeling, but as we find the way to salvation, let’s Check Our Emotions at the Door.

What is right and what is true?  Let’s find that out and then put our heart and soul into it.

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PS: Check Lee Strobel’s books The Case for Faith and the The Case for Christ for detailed information about this.