Tag Archives: forgiveness

His Grace

Grace 101

 

Words mean things.  Mathematicians have numbers.  Physicists and engineers have formulas.  Writers and teachers have words.  If the numbers don’t mean the same thing from one point to the next, the mathematicians have no way to do their work.  The same is true for the formulas and those who depend on them.  But words seem to fluctuate in meaning all the time.  It depends on who’s talking.

So, when I use words like “grace,” I try to be careful.  I try to stick with a simple definition.  Grace, in my vocabulary, means the activity of God on our behalf.  Sometimes I say it is the activity of God’s love, or even more simply, what God does.

But I almost never use the word to mean an act of kindness between people.  The reason for that is twofold:  First, we have no clear examples of that use in Scripture. If I am going to let my use of the word be guided by Scripture, I will use “grace” only in reference to what God gives us.  There is no call that I can find for me to “give grace” to others.  And, second, not being careful to use correct words causes misunderstandings and compromises our communication.

Now I understand that I am going against the flow a little here.  It has become popular to use the word “grace” in human relationships.  We hope that the boss will have grace toward an employee.  We speak of “giving a little grace” when someone wrongs us.  We say that she is a “woman of grace” even though she doesn’t know Jesus.  And we try to be “gracious” toward others.

But there are other words for these uses.  Yes, they might fit with certain inflections of the Hebrew or Greek words usually translated as “grace,” but there are more precise words for us to use.  We actually hope that the employee will find “favor” in the boss’s sight.  We give “mercy” to the one who hurts us.  She may be a lady of “poise” or “charm,” rather than grace.  And we are called to “love” one another.

The unfortunate effect of using minor variants as applications of a word is that the primary meaning becomes forgotten or compromised.  Over the years the idea of “grace” has become diluted by references to human relationship or institutionalized by obscure and complicated doctrinal uses.  But there is an amazing concept taught by Scripture that is breaking into the hearts of God’s people.  We need what we cannot find in ourselves or receive from other people.  We need the grace of God.

Let’s love people and forgive them and show kindness toward them and grant them mercy.  And let’s be compassionate and gentle and considerate and patient.  But let us also understand that grace is a gift from God to us because He loves us.  Grace is the power and activity of God on our behalf.  Grace is a big word because the One who gives it is big.

There’s a passage in Acts that illustrates the size of this simple word:
And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all.   Acts 4:33 (NKJV)

What was this “grace” that was upon them?  Was it love?  Yes!  Was it mercy?  Yes!  Was it patience, or kindness, or forgiveness, or charm, or excitement, or favor, or something else?  Yes, yes, and yes!  God poured out His Holy Spirit upon the people and gave them great grace.  It flowed from Him through them to each other in a variety of ways.  But it came from Him.  His power.  His love.  His grace.

It is always His grace.

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Hyper-love?

 

It is interesting that those who accuse us of a doctrine of “hyper-grace” don’t also accuse us of “hyper-love.”  After all, the whole understanding of the gospel is about the love of God.  Grace is simply the means God uses to act on His love.

But, of course, we are accused of going “over the top” about love, aren’t we?  I was recently in a discussion with someone who wanted me to admit that there are limits to God’s love.  When I wanted him to delineate those limits, he couldn’t.  He just wanted to be sure that I left room for God’s anger, wrath, and hatred.  Those things were important to him and I wasn’t talking about them enough.

Now, let me say at the outset that I see the anger of God in the Bible.  I see His wrath and even hatred.  But it isn’t pointed at individuals.  It is pointed at sin.

There’s a great story in 2 Chronicles 33 and 2 Kings 21about a man named Manasseh.  This man was king in Jerusalem after Hezekiah, his father, died.  He was very bad.  He led the people away from the Lord in ways others had not.  He even sacrificed his own children in the fire.  He shed innocent blood throughout Judah.  Eventually, the Lord sent the Assyrians to capture Manasseh and take him into captivity.

And God said He was angry.  In 2 Kings 21, God says that Manasseh had provoked Him to anger.  The Lord tried to reach out to Manasseh, but he wouldn’t listen.  So, with hooks in his nose, Manasseh went into bondage.

Now, how would it have helped for the prophets of God to come to Manasseh, while he was in bondage, to tell him how much God hated him?  Suppose they had told Manasseh of the wrath of God against him and the anger God felt as He looked at Manasseh.  Would that have helped?  Or would that have driven Manasseh farther away?

Instead, when Manasseh was suffering and broken, when his sins had brought him to the lowest place of his life, he cried out to the Lord.  For some reason, he thought God might hear him and forgive.  And that’s exactly what God did!  He not only forgave Manasseh, but He brought him back to Jerusalem and set him up again as king of Judah.  Amazing Love!

You see, that little story, hidden in the back rooms of Scripture, is not a story of the anger of God, but a story of the love of God.  It was love that moved the heart of God to send Manasseh into captivity.  It was love that moved the heart of God to forgive and restore Manasseh.  This was likely the most cruel and evil king who ever sat on Jerusalem’s throne, yet God loved him.  He abused and killed the people, even his own children, yet God loved him.  The love of God is greater than any sin and reaches out to any sinner.

Is that a love that’s too big?  Should we tone it down a little to make sure there’s room for hate and anger?  I don’t think so.  This is the love of God and it is as big as He is.

Maybe we should accept the term, “hyper-grace.”  If grace is the working out of the love of God for us, then it would have to be over the top, bigger than anything.  If grace proceeds from the love of God, then nothing can even pretend to balance it, counter it, or soften it.

Maybe hyper-grace is the natural result of hyper-love.

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No Sin, No Shame

The other day I attended a seminar where the speaker talked about the value of shame.  He lamented the loss of shame in our culture as a way of guiding people to right behavior.  To be fair, there was a context to his statement, but I still didn’t like it.  It’s like spelling a word wrong for a long time; then, when you finally learn how to spell it correctly, you misspell it once in a while just to remind yourself.  I just don’t see any value in shame in the life of a believer.

I have believed for years that guilt and shame are similar in purpose to pain.  Pain is good, right?  You don’t want to be alerted to the fact that your hand is on the burner by the smell.  Pain tells you instantly that something is wrong.  It would be nice to be able to turn off that message when your brain gets the point, but pain continues as long as something is wrong.  If you do burn yourself, you may have pain until the healing is nearly complete and then have sensitivity after.

Sometimes the pain doesn’t go away when it should.  Phantom pain and chronic pain don’t necessarily signal that something is wrong.  Pain may be the result of something like crossed wiring in the brain.  The cause of the pain is gone, but the brain doesn’t understand that.

Guilt and shame point out to the lost person that something is wrong.  They are given by the Lord of love as a way of moving people to Him.  When we are in pain, it is hard to think of other things until that pain is removed.  When we feel shame, we find ourselves driven to healing.  When Jesus told the “heavily burdened” to come to Him, what burden do you think they were carrying?  They were carrying the shame of their inability to please God and their sins against Him.  We understand that.

But, when they came to Jesus, He took away their burden.  He told them that His burden was light.  In other words, they didn’t need to carry around their shame any longer.  They were forgiven.

When you came to Jesus and He washed away your sins, did He leave the shame?  Why would He do that?  No, the shame washed away as well.  No more sin, no more shame.  If the shame remains, it doesn’t come from the sin.  It comes from wrong thinking.  It comes from a lie that tells you that you are still responsible for the sins that have been washed away.

But, you say, what about the sins we do today?  Shouldn’t we feel shame because of them?  First, I have never seen shame bring a believer to victory, nor do I think it is possible.  Victory comes when we understand who we are in Christ, not when we continually focus on what we have done or are doing.  Truth brings victory.  When I see myself, who I really am, as free from that sin and no longer needing what I think it will provide, then I will have victory.

Also, I like to ask this question a lot: How much sin is on your account right now?  If you are a believer, the answer must be—none!  Jesus has washed it all away.  Even the sins of the present and the future.  Nothing is on your account, holding you back from full communion with the Lord who loves you.  And, remember: no sin, no shame.

Two more thoughts: I have written a couple of posts about 1 John 1:9 and whether we must confess our sins in order for them to be forgiven.  We do not.  I believe that is a statement of simple fact.  When you came to Christ, you confessed and He forgave you.  The need for continued confession seems to be very similar to the feedback loop in the brain that makes you feel pain when you shouldn’t.

Nothing of this minimizes the risk and consequence sin brings.  There is nothing good in sin for the believer and we should avoid doing the things God calls sin.  There are many earthly consequences to sin.  God did take care of the spiritual consequences, but you still hurt yourself and others through sin.

The only reason shame clings to you as a believer is because you don’t let it go.  Take it to Jesus.  Lay it at His feet.  Don’t pick it up again.  Then hear His voice of love and acceptance.

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The Father Himself

 

Grace 101

“Jesus loves me, this I know, but the Father wants to destroy me because of my sin.”  That’s what many people have been taught.  Somehow Jesus intervenes between us and the wrath God wants to pour out on us.  It’s a good thing we have Jesus to protect us from God.  That’s what they think.

But how sad is that?  And how wrong?  There is an anger, a passion, that builds in the heart of God because of sin.  He hates sin, there is no question about that.  But that’s why the Father sent the Son.  To destroy the power of sin over us and release us from sin’s influence.  In Jesus, the Father destroys sin.

Think about that for a moment.  Who initiated the whole salvation plan?  Who loved us from the beginning?  God has been on our side all along.

We commit theological error if we believe the Son does anything contrary to the Father’s will or even to the character of the Father.  Jesus said that He and the Father are One.  From eternity, Father-Son-Spirit have been One.  One mind, one heart, one motivation toward us.

The Christian gospel is not about the Son doing battle with the Father to protect us from the Father’s wrath.  The gospel is not about us narrowly escaping eternal punishment by hiding from God behind Jesus.  The gospel is about how much God loves us.  He loved us so much that He sent His Son to save us.

I think Jesus understood that the legalists of His and our day would get this mixed up.  So in John 16:27 He makes it very clear:

“The Father Himself loves you!”

But what about God’s wrath?  I know that if that topic were taken away a lot of preachers wouldn’t have anything to say on Sunday morning.  But God’s wrath is not against you and me.  God’s wrath is against sin.

Let me use a silly illustration.  Suppose you are holding some kind of homing transmitter that leads a missile to its target.  The missile is in the air, headed to the transmitter, ready to blow up everything in its target range.  Now, as long as you hold that transmitter, you are in trouble.  That missile is headed toward you.  All you have to do is drop the transmitter and get out of range.  But if you insist on holding it, the missile will get you.

Okay, God’s wrath is against sin.  He sent Jesus to separate you from sin, both your personal sin and the corporate sin of humanity.  If you refuse Jesus, then the wrath of God is headed your way—not to get you but to get sin.  If you want to be safe from the wrath of God, come to Jesus.

But listen: those who have come to Jesus are free from sin and have no reason to fear the wrath of God.  In fact, the wrath of God has nothing to do with believers.

And this was the Father’s idea from the beginning . . . because He loves you!

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What I know about you . . .

. . . you are guiltless!

 

Sometimes you have to say things more than one way in order for people to hear and understand.  It is one thing to say that someone is justified and another to say that someone is righteous, even though they mean the same thing.  For some people it doesn’t make sense to hear that our sins are no longer counted against us.

There is a transition in our thinking from legalism to grace.  Sometimes it takes a long time to work through that transition and, in some respects, it isn’t really complete in this world.  We accept the fact that God loves us and does everything we need to be saved.  We accept the fact that we belong to Jesus and can never be taken away from Him.  But we struggle with the idea of our sin.  For so long we were taught that our sin was the center point of our lives, that everything revolved around our sin. It is very difficult for us to accept the freedom and victory Jesus has given.

I recently heard a young man pray that no one would go to hell because of his neglect.  He was burdened with the idea that he was responsible to tell everyone he met, or everyone he could, about the gospel.  Now, this young man believes that God loves him.  He just thinks God is disappointed with his performance.

There are several things I could say about this.  First, please understand that no one goes to hell because you neglected to tell them about Jesus.  People who suffer eternal damnation do so because of their own sin, not yours.  Those who seek the Lord will find Him, with or without you.  Those who are not interested in the things of the Lord won’t be interested in what you say either.  The point is that no one is saved by your testimony and no one is condemned by your lack of testimony.  It simply doesn’t work that way.

But it is also important to understand that God expects your failure.  That’s why you needed a Savior.  The whole point of the law side of the gospel message is that you cannot please God with your performance.  God does not hold you guilty because you tried and failed.

And even more: God doesn’t even hold you guilty for not trying.  Paul is very clear.

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:1

No condemnation!  Why?  Because you are guiltless!  There is no sin on your account.  Jesus has washed it away.  It is gone and you are free.  All your disobedience is forgotten by His love.

Of course, I know that someone will say, “Sure, that’s for those who ‘do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.’ That isn’t for those who disobey.  There is still guilt for those who walk according to the flesh.”

Wrong!  The Lord does not define “those who are in Christ Jesus” by their performance.  He defines them by their relationship with Jesus.  The second half of the sentence is not a condition that must be met if you are to be free of condemnation.  It is an explanation of the life of the believer.  Those who are in Christ Jesus do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.  That’s what the verse says.  And there is no condemnation for them because they are guiltless.

No sin on your account.  You are free from what you have done.  God does not hold it against you.  You will not have to give account for the sins He has forgotten.  Obviously, sin is not a good idea.  There are still serious consequences.

But the Lord holds you guiltless.

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What I know about you . . .

… you are completely forgiven!

 

When was the prodigal son forgiven?  Some people say that he was forgiven before he returned home, as evidenced by the father watching for his return.  Some say that he wasn’t forgiven until he came home.  Believe it or not, this is a current topic of theological discussion.

But does it matter?  What matters is that the father’s heart toward his son was not focused on the son’s sin.  He loved his son and wanted him home.  What he had done made no real difference.  Remember that, in the story, the father never sent the son away.  The son’s heart was pulled away from his father by the lures of the world and the son followed the bait.  The sin was never the issue.  The father was focused on the relationship.

It is true that Jesus went to the cross to wash away our sins.  But that was a consequence of His real mission.  He gave His life for ours—an exchange, if you will—so that we, who were dead, could live in and through Him.  He came to save us.  The heart of the Father was full of forgiveness toward us.  He desired a restored relationship between us and Him.  That’s why Jesus came.

The Christian life and the gospel message do not focus on sin.  Sin is what the wandering heart does.  It is the normal activity of the heart and mind apart from the Lord.  Just because some people cannot look past sin does not mean that God cannot look past it.  In fact, He simply washes it away.  His focus is on relationship.

If you belong to Jesus, you are completely forgiven.  There is nothing more for you to do.  You don’t have to be more sorry or do more penance or pray for more forgiveness.  The work of Jesus on the cross is complete and is yours because of Him.

Yes, I understand that some of your sins are big ones and that some might still be hidden.  But listen: nothing is too big for Him and He knows every single one.  He has already welcomed you into relationship with Himself.  Even if you have earthly accounts to settle, the account with Him is clear.  There is no sin on your account with God . . . because of Jesus!

But what if you don’t belong to Jesus?  What if you have not come to Him to receive His love and have no relationship with Him?  You can!  He is watching for you, desiring that you would come.  He is not focused on your sins, but on your heart.  He loves you and He calls to you.

And when you come, you will find that your sins are forgiven.  Jesus gave His life for you, too.  You will be welcome and nothing will be on your account against you.

This is love that keeps no record of wrongs.  Jesus just wants you with Him.

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Life in the Present

Instant replay.  Some say it is the downfall of football.  Giving the fans the opportunity to review, over and over, a play and judge the calls of the officials has certainly changed some of the flavor of the game.  What was an attempt by broadcasters to energize and involve the fans was the beginning of a whole new way of life for those fortunate enough to live in such advanced times.  Today we can replay many of the events of our lives, sometimes events we would love to forget.  The criminal thought he had committed the perfect crime until he saw himself on the television news in the act.  The actions of teens that would have simply been remembered by the ones who were there are now immortalized in the minds of a world through Facebook and YouTube.  We can’t seem to escape our past.

Of course some of us don’t need videos to remind us of the stupid or sinful things we have done.  We remember plenty.  We remember too much.  In fact, because we remember, we find it hard to think of those things as separate from us in any way.  We allow those dumb things to define us.  We say things like: “I am a —,” based on what we have done.  Or: “I always —,” because we remember doing something foolish.

Now, most of us have been taught that we should not let our failures define us.  We know that our sins are forgiven.  But we still look back on those things with regret and fear and shame.  Because we can remember what we did, we find it hard to think of ourselves as separate from what we did.  So what if I could show you that the things of your past have been redeemed in your relationship with Jesus?

Because you have eternal life, you live forever in the present—in relationship with Jesus.  That means that the mistakes and sins of your past have been more than wiped away.  They have been incorporated into the wonder and joy of your present.

Now, so that you don’t think I have gone too far off the deep end, here’s what I mean.  Those evil things you and I did in our past are no longer on our accounts as sins held against us.  We know that.  But, beyond that, those evil things have themselves been used in your life, and apparently in the lives of others, to accomplish the purpose of God.  Nothing you did was a surprise to Him.  When you came to Him, those things were in the package you brought.  Not only did He wash you clean from guilt and shame, He also used those things as part of the building process of your life.

Don’t get me wrong.  Those things were sins and they were evil.  But notice Joseph’s understanding:

 

But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive. Genesis 50:20

 

And God tells Isaiah that the sins, though stained as deeply by evil as possible, will be washed and purified.

 

 “Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the LORD, “Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool. Isaiah 1:18

 

And here is the promise for you and me:

 

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28

All things?  Even those awful things I have done, those things I regret so deeply?  Yes, even those things!  All things have been brought into your present, washed and made useable for your good.  Under the blood, in your relationship with Jesus, even those things have worked good for you.

Now, I realize this may be a difficult teaching to swallow.  We have been taught to hate our sins and think of them as the reason Jesus went to the cross.  We have been made to feel terrible whenever we think about what we did, no matter how long ago.  But the truth is that we are not to live in the past.  We live in the present and, if we are truthful, those evil things that weighed on our hearts contributed to our need for a Savior.

A wise friend reminded me one day that people who fail need a Savior, so I should never be ashamed of the fact that I failed.  In the same way, people who sinned needed a Savior and—Praise the Lord!—a Savior was sent for us.

I never want to do those things again, but I also no longer will live there.  My life is in the eternity of Jesus, full and free because of His love.

Your thoughts?

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Forgive us like we forgive?

Really?  Are we only forgiven in the way or to the extent in which we forgive others?  That sounds a little depressing to me.

Not that I don’t want to forgive others.  I know that forgiveness is release for me, more than it is for them.  I understand the value of forgiveness in my life.  But sometimes I am a little slow to forgive.  Sometimes the hurt lasts a while and so does the anger.

I know that my forgiveness doesn’t make a lot of difference in the lives of other people.  Most of them go blissfully on their way after they do their thing and they don’t really worry about my forgiveness.  The ones who come to me in humility to ask forgiveness are easy to forgive.  Many times the issue is settled in my heart long before they come back.  I want to forgive because I want to let things go.

But when I read that the Lord’s forgiveness is contingent on my forgiving others, I am concerned.  To be honest, that scares me.  I don’t know my own heart well enough to be sure that my forgiveness is as complete as I need the Lord’s forgiveness to be.  What if I meet someone and find that the old feelings come back?  Does that mean that the Lord hasn’t really forgiven me?

Frankly, if you believe that “forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors” means that God’s forgiveness is limited to your forgiveness, you should be afraid.  That would negate any hope for assurance and call into question your eternal future.  In fact, it would be coming back under the law.

NO!  Our forgiveness is based on the love of God!  Our forgiveness has come through the act of Jesus on the cross.  Nothing of us was involved.  Nothing of ours can stand against it except unbelief.  He forgave us because He loved us—and He forgave us all the way.  I do not earn my forgiveness by being forgiving toward others; nor do I lose my forgiveness when I find it hard to forgive others.

I know that Jesus went on, after giving the Lord’s Prayer, to say this:

 “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Matthew 6:14-15

It seems very plain, but it cannot mean what you and I have been taught.  If our forgiveness is based on our actions, then we are—and always will be—under the law.  There is no grace in earning our forgiveness.

So what does Jesus mean?  Well, that is hard.  If you read the comments on this blog, you will know that some say Jesus said this to people under the law as a statement of the futility of life under the law.  You will also know that I think there may be something even more here.  But the point is that it cannot mean that forgiveness is based on human action.

How do we know that?  We know that salvation comes by grace through faith.  We know that salvation is a gift from the Lord, that no human works could ever earn it.  We know that this amazing gift was given freely.  These are all easily found in the Scriptures.  And we know that forgiveness is part of what we have received in Christ through salvation.

I had reason again to discuss this with friends.  There may be great mystery in the application of what Jesus said.  There is certainly truth, but truth that is deeper than what we usually encounter.  We may not fully understand the ramifications of what He says in this passage . . . but we know that we do not earn or deserve our salvation.  That we know.

So, yes, you should forgive others.  Of course.  In fact, your enjoyment of your forgiveness will not be complete until you are willing to forgive others.  As long as you keep them under the law, you will feel like you are under the law.  But you will still be forgiven—and you will forgive them.

You will.

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What’s Done is Done!

What I have been trying to do over the past several posts is show that our flesh, formed and supported by the old way, continues to influence our thinking.  We are supposed to resist the errors and lies the flesh presents, but they seem so familiar and others believe them.  We get confused when we try to integrate the old thinking with the new.  Law and grace do not mix.  Trusting in your performance and trusting in Jesus do not mix.  The way of the flesh must be rejected.

Understanding what Jesus has done for us and trusting in His work allow us to move past the old self-condemnation and the fear it brings.  When I look at myself and see failure or compromise, then label myself with that failure or compromise, I do not speak truth.  Even though I still do wrong things, those things do not define me.  I am no longer identified by my sin.

There is an interesting word from Jesus in response to Peter’s exclamation at the foot-washing.  You remember the story.  When Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, Peter refused.  He didn’t think it was proper for Jesus to wash his feet.  But Jesus said that if He didn’t wash Peter, Peter would have no part in Him.  Of course, Peter was shocked and asked Jesus to wash more than his feet, offering his head and hands as well.  But then Jesus said,

 … “He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean…”  John 13:10

This whole scene is rich with spiritual meaning.  Here Jesus tells Peter that he had to let Jesus clean him if he wanted to receive eternal life, the life of Jesus.  In other words, Peter needed to be saved.  The old way would not be enough.  But when Peter wanted to be cleaned again by Jesus, He told Peter that the new way is enough.

In other words, you must come to Jesus for cleansing.  He will wash away your sin, break your connection with sin, and take away the guilt you had because of your sin.  But once you are cleaned by Him, you don’t need to be cleaned again.  What Jesus did for you is good forever.

The flesh has learned to see sin according to the old way.  Sin was sneaky; you didn’t always know when you were doing it.  Sin was dirty and stained you with its filth.  Sin was inevitable; you couldn’t stop if you tried.  Sin was fatal; one sin broke your relationship with God and condemned you to hell.  And, listen: the flesh still sees sin that way.

But the Spirit knows the truth about sin.  The Spirit sees sin as a defeated foe, the broken remnant of the old life.  The Spirit sees sin as conquered in victory; it no longer stains us, no longer defines us, no longer condemns us.  The Spirit sees sin as a vanishing and desperate force that calls to us with a weakening voice.  Yes, it gets us to respond once in a while, but its power over us is gone and its allurement is fading.  Eventually it will be gone from us forever.

You are clean because Jesus has made you clean.  He says it again in the parable of the vine:

You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. John 15:3

But one passage that brings joy to my heart whenever I think of it is from the Lamentations of Jeremiah the prophet.  No matter what he was going through, and he went through a lot, Jeremiah knew the truth:

This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. Through the LORD’S mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.

Lamentations 3:21-23

Every day with Jesus is a new day and a good day.  Walking with Him brings us joy and peace, not shame or fear.  Every day we rise clean and free and blessed!

 

Comments?

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What Were You?

What were you?  As you remember the sins from before you were a believer, how would those sins label you?  So what are you now if you do some of the same things?

These are hard questions for most believers.  Because our identity was so tied to what we did, we applied these titles to ourselves.  Someone who stole was a thief.  Someone who lied was a liar.  Someone who cheated on a spouse was an adulterer.  We simply learned to take the verb and make a noun out of it.  Like Hester Prin, we wore the scarlet letter of our sin to show who we were.

When we came to Christ and He became our life, our identity was no longer found in the things we did.  Our identity is in Him.  We are now saints, holy ones, because that’s what He says we are.  We are Christians, those who belong to Christ.

But it is hard for most of us to remember that.  We still think according to the flesh, the old way of life that used to make so much sense.  We still find it very easy to condemn ourselves as being whatever we were.

So that’s why I really appreciate this passage from Paul:

9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites,10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

This is what they were.  They are not that any longer.  Is it because they have stopped doing those things?  No!  In the verses just before this section Paul chastises his readers for doing wrong against their brethren.  Then he says, That’s not who you are anymore!

And look at this list!  Fornication, adultery, homosexuality, theft, extortion.  Wow!  Some of those are pretty bad even in our world.  And I don’t think we are to take this as a complete list, do you?

So let’s get this straight: If you committed adultery, that sin and the label of adultery has been washed away from you.  It no longer belongs to you because your label now is that of one who belongs to Jesus.  If you were a homosexual, that sin and label no longer belong to you.  On and on through whatever list of sins you might produce.  They are all gone.  They have been washed away by the blood of Jesus.

You have been washed.  You have been sanctified.  You have been justified.

So let the past be past!

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