What is it about guilt that makes us retreat inward? Everyone who has ever walked this earth has experienced guilt at some point. Whether disobeying a rule set by someone older, or that brief rush of “Oh no…” as you pass by a police officer’s car on the highway driving quite a bit over the speed limit (Mom, if you read this, this has never happened to me…), we all know that feeling of not wanting someone to address the fact that we broke a rule. Because we are taught from a young age that there are certain consequences for our actions, guiltiness makes us retreat inwards. It causes us to want to be secretive and guarded, emotionally constrained some hidden chains. We may continue pursuing whatever it is that we ultimately know is wrong, so long that we don’t get caught. Over time, we may learn how to suppress the truth that the guiltiness expresses in our hearts. There may be some situations where we frankly can’t seem to let go of whatever it is we are holding on to. The guiltiness we experience evidences an understanding of the unfulfillment of some standard, yet we can’t let go, so we suppress what we feel, and cover it with a latch and lock.

But what happens when we are exposed?

There’s a story written in John 7:53-8:11 of a woman who was caught in the act of adultery. Ripped from the room where she had been found, she was dragged by religious leaders before Jesus at the temple. Attempting to put Jesus to the test, they questioned as to whether that woman was to be stoned as the Law of Moses commanded. Now these religious leaders were not so much worried about the woman’s guiltiness. This is shown by their foolish use of the scripture from Leviticus 20:10, and Deuteronomy 22:22. Both scriptures actually command that both the man and woman caught in adultery were to be stoned. Jesus, knowing the selfish intentions of their hearts, began using his finger to write in the sand. The woman, standing before the public eye, is experiencing her worst nightmare, her exposure before her community in the temple. The religious leaders stand, thinking that they will finally cause Jesus to say something that will discredit him in front of the people, elevating themselves over this arising Teacher that the people flock to.

As both the woman, and the religious leaders are standing there waiting for Jesus’ response, the question arises in the mind of all, what is it that he’s writing? In his book Learning Evangelism From Jesus, Jerram Barrs comments that “the passage that most obviously comes to mind is the account of the tablets of the law being inscribed by the finger of God” (pg. 27), a connection that adds to the magnitude of Jesus’ actions. As he finished his writings, he stood up and said “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”

The religious leaders, hearing the words of Jesus, begin to drop their stones and walk away. Confronted with the truth of God’s Word, they can say nothing. Recognizing their guiltiness before the Law of God, they have no right or power to condemn the woman, or counter Jesus’ statement. “We must realize that…” says Barrs, “whatever it is that Jesus is writing — the effect is to cause each man present to remember his own most serious sins, the most morally embarrassing moments of his life. It is as if each one of them is standing half-naked and exposed (just like this poor woman) before the judgement seat of God and crowds of onlookers. There are no excuses, no prevarication — just the clear knowledge of each one’s guilt. The evident meaning of the text is that each man present is confronted with God’s law, and with his own failure to keep the law” (pg. 27).

Once all the religious leaders left, only Jesus and the woman remained. “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more” (John 8:10-11).

This woman experienced a freedom she had never felt before. Finally exposed of her deepest darkest guiltiness, she was met with compassion and love by Jesus, rather than the condemnation and disgust she was met with from the religious leaders. Jesus desired to perfectly imitate the Father, and He did so for this woman. The Father’s love is made evident through His response to the exposure of our guiltiness.

If Jesus was just a teacher, and not God, then His words here are vanity. Anyone can say, “I don’t condemn you.” However, if God Himself is to look at you with eyes of compassion, and tell you that even though He knows your deepest darkest addictions, struggles, and imperfections, He loves you so much that He sent His Son to die on the cross to free you from the chains of guiltiness, that is a truth that will define your life. You will no longer find your identity in your guiltiness, but rather in the freedom God has called you to: to sin no more, to follow Him as the Good Shepherd, to trust in Him as The Provider, to love and serve, and adore Him as King.

Christians: I know I am guilty daily of this, but it is not our duty to condemn believers or non believers. Jesus calls us to consider our own sin, rather than the sin of others. We are called to call our brothers & sisters in Christ to repentance when they are walking in sin, and must do so. But first, we must take a good long look at our own lives, and recall the compassion and mercy God has shown us. As for addressing the lives of non-believers, we Christians, by no means, are called to criticize or condemn non-believers. However, we are called to live out the love of Christ, to imitate the love of the Father, just as Christ imitated the love of the Father. We cannot do this alone. Pray, ask for His help!  It starts with deeply understanding and accepting the gospel! Though we are guilty before the Law of God, our guilt has been removed by the blood of Christ! We are free, unshackled, no longer enslaved to the guiltiness sin brings. It’s when we live out of response to this truth, that we long to share this freedom with others. And believe me, people take notice and will find themselves curious!

Non-Christians: If you’re experiencing guilt, ponder where it comes from. If you don’t believe in God, what’s the purpose of guilt? What standard have you set for which your experience of guilt is derived from? The Bible speaks about God writing his law on the hearts of all (Romans 2:15). This explains why we experience a pull towards ethics and morality. There is an innate understanding that we will be judged by our actions, our own conscience reveals this to us. If you do believe in a god that you have to say certain prayers towards, or meet certain requirements, ponder the truth claim that the Bible makes that you can never satisfy the law by yourself. Doesn’t your conscience agree that you cannot fulfill the law? Isn’t that why you have to continually meet requirements to seek to justify yourself until the next time you fail to meet the law? The Bible makes the truth claim that the law and requirements have been perfectly met by Jesus, and that He stands as Mediator between God and man, covering His followers with His perfection. The Bible clearly states that we don’t have to focus on satisfying the law on our own, Christ did on our behalf!

Consider this passage in closing… “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, for the law of the Spirit of life has set you free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1-2).

God deeply loves you, and has something beautiful to speak to you, and He shows us that through the life, death and resurrection of Christ. It’s only in Christ that you can experience the freedom from laboring over perfecting some law or standard you set for yourself. Exposed, and yet deeply loved and set free, in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit! Amen

There’s a lot of talk nowadays about just allowing everyone to do what makes them happy. If partying makes you happy, do it. If sex makes you happy, do it. If same sex marriage makes you happy, then do it. It seems to me that anyone who disagrees with this elevated principle of the pursuit of individual happiness is put down as narrow/close minded and judgmental. Now, I agree that many times a “close-minded” person’s viewpoint can come across as hate or ignorant, and many times it probably is. However this pursuit of relativistic self-happiness is extremely controversial and cannot sustain itself.

Relativism, at its core, seeks to elevate individual’s viewpoints of truth over other viewpoints that make absolute truth claims. Therefore, within a relativistic pursuit of happiness, all things are permissible. So what happens if my pursuit of happiness impinges on your pursuit of happiness. Seems to me we have a clash of interests. Who’s right? Who’s wrong? Relatively speaking there isn’t. But how come when one person succeeds at someone else’s expense does relativism get thrown out the window, and suddenly there’s a moral order that is used as a standard to right and wrong? If all truth is relative then there should be absolutely zero response. It’s simply someone pursuing their own happiness, right?

We do not live this way. Deep inside, we know that relative truth is unsustainable. We have a certain moral understanding written in our hearts. When we see a crooked person prosper at the expense of an undeserving person, we disagree and cry out for justice. When genocide happens, we cringe at the injustice. The crooked person, and the group leading out the genocide are pursuing their own happiness right? We don’t see that relatively, we see a fine line between right and wrong. Relativism takes a back seat to something greater.

For those who say that all truth is relative, that there’s no way to know what is true, isn’t that a truth claim in and of itself? So what if, as rapper Lecrae says, “my truth says your’s is a lie? Is it still true?” For the person who makes the argument that we are all blind people feeling different parts of an elephant and describing it differently… how are you to know? Are you able to see while everyone else is blind? Truth claims are made by everyone, not just religious groups, lefts or rights.

And as same sex marriage, legalization of marijuana, abortion, and many other controversial social policies are being argued over and taken to court, the issue must draw back to our ultimate premise. If no God, and we were created by chance, by a big explosion in which organisms evolved into all we see today, then sure, relativism seems okay because there’s nothing more after life. With no moral order, all things are indeed permissible. With no purpose, or meaning in life, we should just look after whatever makes us most happy… Live for the moment! YOLO right??? But then what? Is that really what life is all about?

But if God created us, then he created us with a purpose, to bear His image on earth. The Bible makes the absolute truth claim that God created man and woman in his image, that man and woman are to leave their parents and to become one flesh. Man and woman, in a covenantal marriage relationship, bear the Triune image of God. Their purpose? To give glory to God in all they do, through their mutual love, service, and child-bearing that follows the design laid out by God in order to bring about human flourishing. God did not design us to go through life not experiencing joy. “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4). If created by God, then God’s design is the path that will lead to the greatest joy in life, leading us to Him!

And this is only made possible by a man bleeding, dying, and rising on your behalf. Sure, you didn’t ask for it, you probably don’t even know much about him. You’ve probably heard some stories, and agreed with some of his teachings on love.

But what you do with the person of Jesus is the most important question you can ever answer in life.

The discussion must start here: God, or no God?

And if God, then who’s Jesus.

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” – Jesus (John 14:6)

That sounds like an absolute truth claim to me.

Truth, get to know the One who laid down his life for you, that you may flourish as you were specifically designed by God, with Him, through Him, to give praise where praise is due:

God

We all have made choices in our lives that we wish we could have taken back. Those choices may have led to someone else being hurt, and potentially publicly shaming or embarrassing ourselves. In those times, we all longed for redemption, a second chance to restore our pride and character in the public’s eye. We have not been perfect in any friendship or relationship however, and I think all will agree that we have made mistakes in life that lead us to realize that we are not perfect people. We could attempt to compare ourselves to someone else to try to help make our case, but it’s so subjective that the resulting boost of self-esteem will only taper off next time you find yourself making a mistake. There has to be something more. There has to be a reason why even public vindication still proves to be unsatisfying and ultimately empty, wearing off just like any other high. Maybe it’s because we are separated from our only source of peace, purpose, and joy for living.

“On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.” – Luke 17:11-19

As Jesus was entering into this village, these ten lepers addressed him from a distance. These ten had been deemed unclean by the priests according to the law at that time, and therefore were the untouchables of society. These lepers understood that by law, they were separated not just from all of society, but also from Jesus. The separation was a result of the uncleanliness from their impurities. And yet they cried out to Jesus, having heard the stories of His love, mercy, and healing power.

They called him Master. Now the question we have to ask is what was their heart’s motivation behind using the term Master. Did they truly desire for Jesus to be Master? Or did they just want to be healed? “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). What was their motivation? What is yours and mine?

Jesus, seeking to find the answer to that question on motivation, commanded them to go show themselves to the priests. He didn’t tell them they would be healed. He simply just said go. And so the 10 people went, and as they went, they were healed. Jesus could have healed them there right? Why did he choose to send them on first? It’s my understanding that He sent them to the priests because the priests were the final earthly authority on whether a person was leprous or not. As they went, they were cleansed and so became fit to be judged by the priests and freed from their public stature of untouchable. Yet in doing so Jesus exposed something about these 10. How? Their response to seeing God’s power.

Only one turned back praising God, falling at the feet of Jesus Christ, giving Him thanks. Jesus asked where the other nine were? Was only one found to turn back to Him and give thanks to the One who cured them in the first place?

We assume that the 9 continued on to be officially cleansed from their leprosy by the priests. Yes, they certainly followed Jesus’ instruction. But in calling Jesus, ‘Master,’ it reveals that they truly didn’t know who He was still. The author of Hebrews 4 says “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:14-15). To the one person, Jesus was the great High Priest! Jesus was heading to Jerusalem where He would bear the sins of mankind on the cross, experiencing the punishment for our sins and separation from God. In doing so, He bridged the gap between God and man, becoming our way to God, the great High Priest who deems all who believe in Him as clean, guiltless from their sin. Jesus paid the price on our behalf!  Therefore when this leper was cleansed, he immediately returned to the High Priest who had cleansed him in the first place. The 9 were so focused on becoming publicly vindicated, free from their social confinement and thinking they could experience joy in life, that they missed out on the MOST ULTIMATE SOURCE OF JOY.

The one who turned back to Jesus truly is an example of worship. He put off the joy of being publicly freed from his social confinement “in order to experience the greater joy of worshipping the one who healed him – Jesus. He cared more about giving praise to Jesus and what he had done for him than he cared about what other people would think about him and the ‘benefits’ he would experience from being cleansed” – Angela Geracci  Like Paul, he counted the benefits and people’s opinions a loss “because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8). John Piper makes a statement that further drives home the above point. “Christ is most glorified in your life and in your death when he is treasured more than all that life can give, and death can take.” http://www.desiringgod.org/sermons/god-is-most-glorified-in-us-when-we-are-most-satisfied-in-him

The one who turned back to Jesus completely humbled himself before God! Christ was more satisfying than the freedom the world had to offer from the freedom of his leprous state. Christ had set him free in his heart! No earthly priest, but Christ! He experienced the greatest joy known to man! When we encounter the love, mercy and power of God, we have two options: Reject it, or worship Him. The 9 lepers called Jesus, ‘Master,’ yet were not completely submitted to Him because they did not worship Him as such. The one man had it right, and the joy He found at the feet of Jesus, praising God, did not leave Him unsatisfied. He found the ultimate joy that cannot be matched by anything this world has to offer. “Rise and go your way;” Jesus tells him, “your faith has made you well.” AKA “your faith has saved you.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” – Ephesians 2:8-9

I don’t know where you are spiritually, or what you are going through. But I’ll leave you with a couple of points.

1) We all live by faith. Whether you believe in the triune God, no God, nihilism, Buddha, Mohammed, that all routes are to God, etc. We all live by faith that what we believe is the absolute truth. Truth, by definition is exclusive. According to the Law of Non-Contradictions, if God is real, then there cannot be no God. If Mohammed preached the total truth, then Jesus was either a liar or a lunatic. We live by faith in the truth claims we believe. “It is not the strength of your faith but the object of your faith that actually saves you,” says Tim Keller in his book, The Reasons for God. You either choose Jesus, the Son of God who died and rose again, or you reject Him and follow something else. There are no other options than these two.

2) Jesus Christ offers a way that is different from any other religion. He says “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me” (John 14:6). Christianity says that being saved by God’s grace through faith in Jesus leads to performance, rather than what the world teaches us that we must perform in order to be saved. It is in understanding, like the leper, that Jesus offers us THE ONLY WAY, THE ONLY TRUTH, THE ONLY LIFE, that we can come to experience the ultimate joy of being in the presence of the One who created us, loves us, and has made a way for us to be reconciled back to Him! Nothing on earth can provide this, but Christ alone, because Jesus Christ is the only way!

Put your faith in Jesus, my friend! You will not be misled.

For anyone who knows my taste in music, hip-hop music that glorifies Jesus has been a huge influence on me of late. When I listen to music, I want to relate. I want to feel it inside, speaking to my heart. What I have found is that hip-hop seems to provide an artistic flavor to life. It paints a poetic picture. Unfortunately, main stream is selling us on the dream that partying, drugs, and women are the means to satisfaction and happiness. My answer is yes. That dream is true, but only temporarily. Hip-hop, at its root, is about life and how rappers view the world around them. And when people idolize the young men and women who glorify sex, drugs, and money, they are being lied to if they think that it will make them fully satisfied. Wanna know why? Cuz they’re chasing the same dream that isn’t fully satisfying them. One day, someone won’t sign them to another label, completely shattering their identity. One day, they will be old news, completely depleting their worth. One day, the drugs and alcohol will wind up decaying their body with addiction. Then what? What’s next? Does what you rapped about still hold true? Is the good life all it was cracked up to be?

Now for those of you who don’t listen to hip-hop, let me paint another picture for you. At some point, whatever job, position, title, role you have will come to an end. Your body is not going to be as healthy like it used to. There will be more younger, attractive people, better athletes, better musicians. You may make a lot of money, storing up wealth for years and years, but what are you going to spend it on that fully satisfies you?

The song above addresses the lies that success and making a lot of money brings to the table. The song is titled “Sell Out,” by Lecrae, and he talks about a lot of the pressure and lies that come with being a person of financial influence. You may have a lot of money, but you can’t buy true love. You can buy cheap, meaningless, temporarily, infatuation. But you can’t buy true, sacrificial, unselfish love. You can’t buy a true remedy for pain. You can dull pain with drugs, alcohol, or partying up. You can’t get rid of your struggles by hiding from them. You can submerge yourself in your work, your hobby, or spending money on every new item that comes out. But your struggles won’t end if you just put them aside. You have to address them.

Now, I would be lying if I said I haven’t struggled just like the people he addresses in his music. No, I don’t have much money. But I’ve sought after cheap infatuation, and selfish pleasure, and it wasn’t ultimately satisfying. I struggled, as a young college student, with a lot of anger for not being able to meet the standard of perfection I set for myself, and so I dulled the pain with alcohol and partying. I tried to hide from my struggles by consuming my mind and playing baseball. But it left me even more empty and unsatisfied. I tried being a good, religious, moral person. And that left me just as empty trying to find valuation in my religious performance.

I was chasing after the wrong thing. I longed for value, and worth, and identity. I just had been placing it in the wrong person.

For most of my life, I was sold out for myself, and it was empty and fleeting. Then I heard about Jesus, and now I long to sell out and know Him, because He first was a sell out for you and me, by dying on the cross for the forgiveness of sins, and rising again to be Mediator between God and us. His blood cleansed us of our sin, and by His blood we are free from its slavery.

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.” – Romans 8:1-6

What are you selling out for? Christ sold out for you! My plea is for you to sell out to Him with everything! You will not be left unsatisfied.

George Müller lived from 1805 to 1898 and is famous for establishing numerous orphanages and relying on God for help in remarkable ways. Listen to his testimony about how and why to meditate on Scripture.

While I was staying at Nailsworth, it pleased the Lord to teach me a truth, irrespective of human instrumentality, as far as I know, the benefit of which I have not lost, though now, while preparing the eighth edition for the press, more than forty years have since passed away. The point is this: I saw more clearly than ever, that the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was, to have my soul happy in the Lord. The first thing to be concerned about was not, how much I might serve the Lord, how I might glorify the Lord; but how I might get my soul into a happy state, and how my inner man may be nourished. For I might seek to set the truth before the unconverted, I might seek to benefit believers, I might seek to relieve the distressed, I might in other ways seek to behave myself as it becomes a child of God in this world; and yet, not being happy in the Lord, and not being nourished and strengthened in my inner man day by day, all this might not be attended to in a right spirit. Before this time my practice had been, at least for ten years previously, as a habitual thing, to give myself to prayer, after having dressed in the morning.

Now I saw, that the most important thing I had to do was to give myself to the reading of the Word of God and to meditation on it, that thus my heart might be comforted, encouraged, warned, reproved, instructed; and that thus, whilst meditating, my heart might be brought into experimental communion with the Lord. I began, therefore, to meditate on the New Testament from the beginning, early in the morning. The first thing I did, after having asked in a few words the Lord’s blessing upon His precious Word, was to begin to meditate on the Word of God, searching, as it were, into every verse, to get blessing out of it; not for the sake of the public ministry of the Word; not for the sake of preaching on what I had meditated upon, but for the sake of obtaining food for my own soul. The result I have found to be almost invariably this, that after a very few minutes my soul has been led to confession, or to thanksgiving, or to intercession, or to supplication; so that though I did not, as it were, give myself to prayer, but to meditation, yet it turned almost immediately more or less into prayer. When thus I have been for awhile making confession, or intercession, or supplication, or have given thanks, I go on to the next words or verse, turning all, as I go on, into prayer for myself or others, as the Word may lead to it; but still continually keeping before me, that food for my own soul is the object of my meditation. The result of this is, that there is always a good deal of confession, thanksgiving, supplication, and intercession mingled with my meditation, and that my inner man almost invariably is even sensibly nourished and strengthened and that by breakfast time, with rare exceptions, I am in a peaceful if not happy state of heart. Thus also the Lord is pleased to communicate unto me that which, very soon after, I have found to become food for other believers, though it was not for the sake of the public ministry of the Word that I gave myself to meditation, but for the profit of my own inner man.

The difference then between my former practice and my present one is this. Formerly, when I rose, I began to pray as soon as possible, and generally spent all my time till breakfast in prayer, or almost all the time. At all events, I almost invariably began with prayer, except when I felt my soul to be more than usually barren, in which case I read the Word of God for food, or for refreshment, or for revival and renewal of my inner man, before I gave myself to prayer. But what was the result? I often spent a quarter of an hour, or half an hour, or even an hour on my knees, before being conscious to myself of having derived comfort, encouragement, humbling of soul, etc.; and often, after having suffered much from wandering of mind for the first ten minutes, or a quarter of an hour, or even an hour, I only then begin really to pray. I scarcely ever suffer now in this way. For my heart being nourished by the truth, being brought into experimental fellowship with God, I speak to my Father, and to my Friend (vile though I am, and unworthy of it!) about the things that He has brought before me in His precious Word.

It often now astonishes me that I did not sooner see this. In no book did I ever read about it. No public ministry ever brought the matter before me. No private intercourse with a brother stirred me up to this matter. And yet now, since God has taught me this point, it is as plain to me as anything, that the first thing the child of God has to do morning by morning is to obtain food for his inner man. As the outward man is not fit for work for any length of time, except we take food, and as this is one of the first things we do in the morning, so it should be with the inner man. We should take food for that, as every one must allow. Now what is the food for the inner man? Not prayer, but the Word of God; and here again not the simple reading of the Word of God, so that it only passes through our minds, just as water runs through a pipe, but considering what we read, pondering over it, and applying it to our hearts.

I dwell so particularly on this point because of the immense spiritual profit and refreshment I am conscious of having derived from it myself and I affectionately and solemnly beseech all my fellow-believers to ponder this matter. By the blessing of God I ascribe to this mode the help and strength which I have had from God to pass in peace through deeper trials in various ways than I had ever had before; and after having now above forty years tried this way, I can most fully in the fear of God, commend it. How different when the soul is refreshed and made happy early in the morning, from what it is when, without spiritual preparation, the service, the trials, and the temptations of the day come upon one!

Father I Adore You from coffey on GodTube.

 

He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’” – Matthew 13:24-30.

Jesus loved parables, and they would have been easily comprehended by the audience to which he spoke, if they would have been able to truly hear them at the time. Through the parables, Jesus was able to describe the kingdom of God to his disciples, in order to help them understand what was to happen to himself. This specific parable is one that I can’t recall hearing anyone preach on, so I thought it would be nice to unpack some of the insight that Jesus gives us into the plan of God.

In the parable, we see the owner of a field who sent his men to sow good wheat seed. The purpose of sowing these seeds was to build them up into a fruitful wheat crop. After having sowed the seed, however, the enemy came by night and began to sow weeds into the same ground as the wheat seed. In Greek, the word for weed used is ‘zizanion’ which is defined as a kind of darnel, a bastard wheat. These two different seeds look very much alike until the ear appears. As the plants began to grow and begin to bear their grain, the weeds were made visible to the men who worked the field. They went to the owner of the field and asked him how that could happen, to which he responded that the enemy had come and done so. The servants then asked if they should go and gather the weeds. This next part is where we get a glimpse into the compassion and mercy of God…

The master responds for them to wait, because if they gathered the weeds, they would inevitably gather the good wheat as well. He then commands his servants to let both grow until the harvest time, in which the reapers will then remove the weeds, bind them into bundles, and throw them into the fire. The wheat, however, will be gathered in the barn of the master.

Here’s my two cents: God, being the Master of the field, plants crops in His field. He wants to see His crops flourish, grow, that he may bring them into His house. However, the evil one comes and plants seeds of his own, seeds of destruction. In realizing so, God has two options:

1) He could do away, and completely remove all the good wheat, and bad wheat, and throw it into the fire. Meaning that God has every right to give us the verdict of guilty because of the sin that is in our hearts. Because we are broken beings, we, by nature, choose worshiping ourselves rather than the God we were created to worship. Maybe I shouldn’t speak for everyone, but I have found this to be true in my life and in the lives of many others who I have spoken with. Deep within, is this longing for our own glorification. We have no grounds to rebuttal His verdict. We have no righteousness of our own (Isaiah 64:6) and we cannot boast in anything of ourselves. He would remain a just, holy God in doing away with us. He is the Master.

2) He could wait, and allow the good wheat to grow and separate itself from the weeds. He knows that His wheat will grow to glorify Him, as the Master of the field, and so He chooses to show His compassion and mercy by waiting. When the harvest time comes, He will send His reapers to separate the good from the bad. How will they know? The good wheat, when ripe, will be brown. The bad wheat, when ripe, is black. “You will recognize them by their fruits… (Matthew 7:16)”  God not only remains a just, and holy God in doing away with the bad, but He also reveals His compassion and mercy in allowing the good to survive and flourish into their God-designed purpose.

But there’s more to the story. In order to allow the good crop to continue growing, a price had to be paid. Part of option 2 was that the wheat seeds had to separate themselves from the weeds. In arises the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In Christ these seeds are made to begin growing. Jesus is the living water that can nourish the field, “but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14). Because all people were created in the image of God, we are each given the freedom to choose whom we will serve. The wheat that is God’s will choose to accept the water that comes from Jesus, aka, they will “confess with their mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in their hearts that God raised Him from the dead” (Romans 10:9). By evidence of their grain, aka, their fruit, the reapers will know which is the good grain! The weeds, however, will not accept this water and so they will not be able to flourish. By evidence of their grain, they are black with death, and will endure the future that is due them, because they did not accept the free gift of living water in Jesus Christ.

“Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities” (Isaiah 55:10-11). Christ died, was put to grief, as the only atoning offering for the iniquity of all people. A price had to be paid because of our sin. God loves us all so much that He made a way for us to flourish and to grow; He sent Himself, the ultimate act of love, to bear our punishment that we rightfully deserve. After the death and resurrection of Jesus, He sees His offspring, the good wheat that has grown because of the living water that He has offered and filled us with, and He is satisfied. In Him, we are accounted righteous, and may be brought into the barn of the Master forever and ever.

“My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.” – Proverbs 3:11-12

 

In my own experience, it is so difficult to believe this when we begin enduring a hardship. Thoughts can arise, such as, “God, why me?” Or others like, “I cannot wait for this struggle to be over with…” These responses almost seem to be immediate when we feel like the weight of the trial is too much. Yet, I notice that these thoughts all center on one thing… “ME.” It’s a response that denotes a lack of trust in God, a cry that our plan reigns above God’s. I say this because I am so guilty of allowing my perspective on a situation to overshadow the truth that God lays out in His Word about the purpose of discipline and trials. The idea of enduring trials with joy that James lays out in his letter, is a completely foreign concept when we are self-focused. True joy cannot be experienced when we trust our plans over God’s, and real joy cannot come from simply seeing the end of the struggle come to pass. It comes from recognizing that the brokenness and evil in this world will be done away with; that the world will be restored to the perfect, complete cosmos that it was originally created to be in. We will not get paid back for enduring the pain and rejection that this world brings us, such as other religions believe in. No, the future restoration of life will be far greater! As Tim Keller says, the restoration of all things “means that every horrible thing that ever happened will not only be undone and repaired but will in some way make the eventual glory and joy even greater” (TK, Reasons for God, pg. 32).

Therefore, when we face trials and moments of adversity, we should seek to endure with patience and joy, trusting that God is working for our good (Romans 8:28). This is why Paul prayed for the church in Colossae “to be strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light” (Colossians 1:11-12). We cannot endure trials with joy and giving thanks to the Father while we are trusting our will over God’s. This is why we need the strength of His glorious might to build us up in those difficult moments. God disciplines those he loves, because He wants to sanctify us, make us more like Christ who was no stranger to pain, suffering, and struggles.

Christ was “pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). This didn’t happen by chance or poor circumstances, “it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief…” (Isaiah 53:10a). God disciplines those He loves for a much greater purpose than we can wrap our minds around. “With time and perspective most of us can see good reasons for at least some of the tragedy and pain that occurs in life. Why couldn’t it be possible that, from God’s vantage point, there are good reasons for all of them?” (TK, Reasons for God, pg. 25). 

Much like God has a purpose for each struggle we endure, God had a purpose for Christ enduring the brutality of the cross. After the Adam and Eve’s sought their own will before God’s and by choice lost their innocence, it sent the rest of humanity into a state of brokenness. This led to mankind being, by nature, selfish and prideful, seeking to bring glory to ourselves rather than to God. This separation from God, called “sin,” is a cancerous disease that is passed to all people through the seed of man. Now, God is holy and demands perfection, which mankind can never experience on their own. I’ve tried to be perfect, I’ve tried to let my good deeds outweigh my bad, but I’m reminded daily that it cannot be done. Because our sin is an act of rebellion against God, we earn punishment that must be paid. Scripture lays out that Hell is a real place where mankind pays eternally for their rebellion against God by enduring His wrath. However, The Bible also says that God came down as man through Jesus Christ and lived the perfect life that we cant live. This Jesus then died on the cross and bore the entire wrath of God. He then was buried, where he laid dead for three days. However, on the third day, He rose again, so that He could bridge the gap between unholy man and the holy God. Because of His sacrifice, He offers us a relationship with God through Himself. This is a great gift!!! We receive this free gift by believing in our hearts that Jesus was who the Bible says He was, and confessing that Jesus is God. Now, confession is not simply saying some prayer. Confession is literally the stance of heart when we realize that in no way can we ever earn our way to God. Confession is recognizing that only through Jesus can we be restored and made right. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. No one can come to the Father except through Him.

God created us for a purpose, yet I do not have it in me to live out that purpose. So God sent Jesus to live the perfect life that we cannot live out. Jesus, died on the cross so we as followers of Christ can endure pain and suffering with joy, because we know that Christ endured the wrath of God on our behalf. We have access to God through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. He is our mediator who covered us in His righteousness! He stands before God and intercedes on our behalf! Whatever it is that we struggle with, we have a Savior and King not only endured the eternal wrath of God, but who walks through life with us. We cannot make it through any of this without Him.

So now, we can endure struggles and hardships with joy. Use those difficult times to draw closer to God. God does not promise us good health, happiness and an easy life for following Him. We are actually promised that suffering and persecution will happen. Narrow and difficult is the path that leads to life. But it is a path that we do not walk alone. For God is with us, we are not alone. Thanks be to God!

The Wounded Spirit – Tim Keller

Hope everyone reading this is doing well! I came across this sermon by Tim Keller. This semester has been up and down in so many ways. There has been so much going on in my heart and around me, my heart is worn down. Came across this sermon, and it really struck a chord deep in my heart, so instead of writing about it, I wanted to share it with yall! Enjoy, and may God continue to light the way before you! Remember to focus on Him always!

Link  —  Posted: May 9, 2014 in Jesus Christ
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Wow… I haven’t posted since January… It’s been such a crazy semester. God’s been teaching me a lot this year. Through the busyness of school, baseball, and preparing for whatever the future holds, it’s been a challenge to spend solitary time with the Lord. However, through the ups and downs, God has taught me one major thing: Live with the ultimate hope in mind. Paul encouraged the church in Colossia when he said “set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” Colossians 3:2-4. When I live with the ultimate hope in mind, I begin to think of myself less. It’s a battle to wake up each morning and seek to deny myself. My ego yearns for praise, glory, and attention.  Yet as we see in the above verse, this life is not about us. Christ is my life, my life is hidden with Him in God. School, baseball, it’s all about Him being glorified. And, this ultimate hope also involves a promise to appear with Him in glory. Our hope is not tied up within this world, it’s placed in what’s eternal, in God. Therefore pain, suffering cannot take this hope away. Christian, find rest in this promise. Non-believer, keep reading.

2 Kings 5, we have the story of Naaman. Naaman is a commander in the Syrian army. He’s described as a “great man,” a “mighty man of valor.” However, he also suffers from a form of leprosy. During one of the Syrian raids on the land of Israel, they had carried off a young Israelite girl, who became the servant to Naaman’s wife. Talking to the wife, the servant girl said “would that my lord (Naaman) were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy” 2 Kings 5:3. Upon hearing this, Naaman went to the king of Syria, who gave him permission to travel to Israel in search of this prophet who can heal him from his disease. Loaded up with silver and gold, Naaman and some of his servants take off for Israel. About the time Naaman had arrived, the prophet Elisha heard that Naaman was in town. So he sends for him. When Naaman arrives at Elisha’s front door, he’s expecting Elisha to come out, pray over him, and cure the leprosy. But that’s not what happens. Elisha said, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean” 2 Kings 5:10. Naaman, enraged, turns to leave. His servants came near to him and encouraged him to follow the instructions. So he does, “he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God, and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean” 2 Kings 5:14.

What a beautiful story of the gospel. Let’s run it back to the beginning…

A non-believer holds a prominent position in society. He’s got money, power, and a wife, everything a man could need right? But he’s got this disease. I assume, because of his occupation and money situation, that he’s probably done whatever he could possibly do to try and get rid of this disease. Yet nothing has worked. He’s finding that nothing he could possibly try can heal this problem. So a servant of his, a believer, begins sharing about this man she knows who can heal the disease. The non-believer, tired of the failure of what the world has to offer him, goes and tries to find this man, desperate for healing. He arrives in Israel, and the man of God sends for him to come to him. When he finally arrives at the door step of this man of God, I’d imagine he’s so ready to be healed. He expects an easy process: the man of God is supposed to come out to him, say a prayer and cure his disease. But the man of God had a different plan. Rather, he instructs him to make another journey. At this, the non-believer becomes enraged, his own expectation of healing has failed, and so he turns to leave. But, with the encouragement of his servants, he ends up following the instructions of the man of God. And so he goes, and finds restoration and cleansing.

Still not ringing a bell?

I got recruited to go play baseball in college. I was so excited and honored to have the opportunity to continue playing the game I have always loved. Growing up, all I knew was baseball, school, and going to church. Baseball functioned as my everything, school was my way to continue playing ball, and going to church helped me keep a “good boy” image even though inside I was an emotional roller coaster. Freshman year, I had everything an 18 year old college athlete wants. I had baseball, partying, and girls. Yet, throughout the year, I began noticing that these things may have been fun for the moment, but they were not satisfying my deep desires. I was realizing that I was longing for a thirst that couldn’t be quenched by any great baseball performance, by any drop of alcohol, and by any night with a girl. Nothing could fill this hole I had in my heart. So I met a guy that started sharing with me about Jesus. I knew some of the stories about Jesus from the Bible, and I thought that if my good outweighed my bad, then Jesus would love me. But this guy began explaining to me that there was an answer to this hole in my heart; a relationship with Jesus. I personally thought he was kind of radical about this whole Jesus thing, but part of me was very intrigued. He talked about Jesus in a way I had never heard before. This guy told me to dive in to the Bible to see who Jesus was and what Christ has to say about life. So I did, and my life has not been the same ever since. I have found the only thing that can ever fill the hole in my heart, Jesus. You see, I tried much of what this world had to offer, and nothing compares to a relationship with Jesus. I am no longer defined by my successes or failures in baseball, or my good or bad grades in school. I no longer receive identity from what I do. I am defined by what Christ declares true about me.

What’d I learn?

You see, I was born with this disease. This disease is called sin. The Bible says that “sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned…” Romans 5:12. This verse says that because of Adam’s sin, his seed was infected with this disease. Therefore, all who have been born and will be born are infected with this same disease of sin. This verse also states that this disease leads to death. Romans 6:23, “for the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” What I earn because of my sin is death, an eternal separation from God, for God is holy, perfect, and without blemish. The good news is that: the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Christ came, was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He was not infected with the disease of sin because He is God and is from God (John 1:1-14), yet he was born in flesh as a man. This Jesus experienced all the temptations we face, He was offered everything that a person could want, and yet He refused to give in and sin. For God had a much greater plan in store. Christ lived the perfect life we couldn’t live, and then He died and rose for us. He died, so that his spilled blood would pour out over our sin. He became our ransom.  “But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed” Isaiah 53:5. Christ died, and He rose again. He defeated the evil cling of death, and resurrected, appearing to over 500 people. After instructing His followers one last time, He arose to be at the right hand of the Father, where He now sits as the mediator between God and man. The free gift mentioned above has been offered to you. Christ offers life, a life much different than anything you could ever give yourself. Like Naaman found out, the road to healing and restoration will be much different than what we expect, but it’s worth the struggle.

I have this eternal hope that nothing on this earth can shake. Christ Jesus has promised to cleanse my heart, and make me more like Him. What does your hope reside in? Choose what can’t be taken away.

 

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Acts 16:29-31 (NIV)… “The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”  They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved — you and your household.”

“Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved…” This is a common call throughout scripture. “If you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). I’d like to take a look at what “Believe”  meant in the context of the Bible, and what it means today…

We see earlier in Acts 16, as Paul and Silas make their way through this Macedonian town, they heal a slave girl who had an evil spirit that allowed her to predict the future. She made money for her masters by doing so. As Paul and Silas were walking, this girl followed them, revealing to all that they were servants of the Most High God, and have the message of salvation. Paul got upset, and commanded the demon out of the girl. Why? Because Paul didn’t want to be linked with any demon activity, he didn’t want the truth about Christ to mix with evil.When the slave’s owners found out about this, they went into an uproar and they dragged Paul and Silas into the marketplace to stand before the authorities to demand some justice. “These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice” (Acts 16:20). The leaders ordered the people to strip and beat them. Afterwards, they were thrown in jail, in the inner most cell and fastened their feet in the stocks. In the night, while Paul and Silas were praying and singing songs to God as the inmates listened, an earthquake shook the building. All the doors opened and everyone’s chains fell loose. They were free! The jailer woke up, saw what was going on, and was about to kill himself. He was the man in charge of all these inmates, and he thought that they were gone. So rather than be held accountable for their escape, he was going to take his life into his own hands and kill himself. But Paul called out for the jailer to not harm himself, because everyone is still there. As we see in the preliminary scripture, he was overwhelmed with joy and curiosity as to who the God of Paul and Silas was. He then brings Paul and Silas into his home to hear more about Jesus Christ, and he and his family believe.

To be a follower of Christ in the time period of the Bible, to believe in the Lord Jesus as Lord and Savior, was counter cultural. In this occurrence, we see the grievance from the owners, that it is unlawful for Romans to accept or practice the teachings about Christ. So what happens? Paul and Silas are beaten, flogged, and thrown in jail. What did it mean for them to believe? It meant going all in for the truth of Jesus Christ. It meant trusting in Him even through the persecution and jail time. It meant life change. For a Jew or Roman to believe in Jesus, it meant leaving the faith of their ancestors, their friends, and their community. It meant probable beatings, potential jailing. It meant being seen as a law breaker, who is defying the logical way of life. It meant potential death. But for someone to “believe” in Christ as Lord and Savior, meant life change, immediate life change. And what do we see from Acts 16, when you behold the mighty acts of God, you tell everyone. The jailer, soon after hearing the word of God spoken to him, brought Paul and Silas home to his house, so that his family could hear. “He was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God — he and his whole family” (Acts 16:34). To the jailer, it was worth giving up his former way of life to follow Christ, and he wanted his family to know about it!!

To be a “Christian” nowadays, to believe, what does this mean? Well I can tell you from personal experience, it means nothing. Just because my facebook/twitter says I’m a Christian, that doesn’t make me a follower of Christ. Just because I said “yes, I do” as a 6th grader, does not mean I’m a believer in Christ. Growing up, I knew the stories and the idea that Christ died because He loved me. I knew that He would take care of me, and bless me, and give me what I thought I needed. There was zero cost to saying I was a Christian, there was actually probably social gain. It was the “cool thing” to be a Christian, to go to church, to be a part of the youth group, it all was good for my reputation. But for me, there was no life change. In fact, it became more apparent as I transitioned from high school into college, that the “Christian” cover-up was just a fake. For most of my life, I had sought to use this “good-Christian boy” cover up as my way of getting with the ladies. It was my way of hearing my name praised by others. It was my way of making myself feel like I was good enough. It was my way of trying to earn my salvation. And it was empty. There was no life change, and it ended up eating me away inside as I began to realize that this “Christian” thing I had always done, was something I never even really knew… just a ideology that I had construed to try and make me feel better.

Then something radically changed. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). This verse shattered everything I had ever heard of before. What I earn because of my sin is death. What I have earned because of my waking up each morning and living is eternal separation from God. I am by nature an enemy of God (Romans 5:10). All of the good things I try to do are like filthy rags before God (Isaiah 64:6). For the first time, I realized that I deserve hell and was headed there. And it scared the living daylights out of me… But there is more to the story here… The free gift of God is eternal life. This gift is free and therefore I don’t owe anything back. I can’t work off this debt, and I can’t place it on my credit card and deal with it later. No, it’s a free gift that I could either accept or reject. And this free gift is the perfect life, and death, and resurrection of Jesus who paid the price for my sin, covered the debt of my sin and the sins of all who shall call on the name of the Lord. This perfect Jesus came and took my place, he bore the wrath and punishment I deserve, not just mine but all who will call upon the name of the Lord. He justifies (declares not guilty) all who confess that Jesus is Lord… All who no longer desire to be the King/Queen of their own life, who recognize that with them behind the wheel, they are headed to destruction. All who no longer desire to be the center of their own universe, who realize that this world can never satisfy them nor anything that this world can offer will ever satisfy them. So they come to Jesus. AND THEIR LIFE IS COMPLETELY CHANGED. THEY ARE NO LONGER LIVING FOR THEMSELVES BUT ARE LIVING FOR A PURPOSE AND POWER MUCH GREATER THAN THEMSELVES.

Believe, such a soft word nowadays in America. If your faith doesn’t cost you something, if your believing has not brought life change. Check yourself against the Word. Christianity is not about reading your Bible, going to church, doing good Christian things and keeping your nose clean. It’s about falling in love with Jesus, the One who died in your place. It’s about allowing Him to become your EVERYTHING, your deepest pleasure, your one true love, your greatest prize, your richest treasure. Don’t just say you believe, live it out and share it with those who don’t know it.