Are You Participating in God’s Forgiveness?

How do you think of God’s forgiveness? So you see it as a finite resource; something that He gives you once but if you mess-up too badly that’s it? Do you see it as something He gives continually so that no matter what you do He’ll cover it up for you?

We tend to error in one of those two directions when we think of forgiveness. We might see our sins as too big for God to forgive, or ourselves as worth to little for Him to bother. Or we might think that since He forgives and loves us, He’ll keep ignoring our sins no matter how bad they might be even if we don’t bother to repent again. Neither one is true.

What if we instead saw forgiveness as an incredible gift that’s freely given and always available, yet is also a gift with certain conditions attached?

Most of us don’t like the idea of conditional gifts, especially if we’re coming from a Western cultural mindset. We might even resent the idea that something freely given might come with an expectation that we’ll respond in a certain way. However, the Bible does speak of things we must do if we want to be forgiven. Let’s take a look at them.

Repent and Commit

The first thing to do if you want forgiveness is ask. We receive forgiveness after we repent of our past sins and come to Jesus. Forgiveness is not initiated by us — it is an act of rich grace available because of the death of Jesus (Eph. 1:3-7; Col. 1:14; 2:13). There is a participation aspect, though.

John the baptist came “preaching the baptism of repentance for forgiveness of sins” (Mark 1:4). Peter reaffirms this process in Acts 2:38, saying we must “repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins.” God doesn’t impose forgiveness on people who don’t want it. He gives it to those who turn to Him and ask. Read more

Put on the Light: Choosing to Walk with God Instead of Darkness

One phrase I frequently pray is, “Thank you for bringing us from darkness into light.” It’s an incredible blessing that each believer partakes of. Without God the Father drawing us to His Son, the Light of the world, we wouldn’t even know the world around us is in darkness.

Do we really understand and value this light, though? And, equally important, do we live in the light now that we’ve been called to follow the Light?

It’s not a popular thing in today’s society to make distinctions between right and wrong, holy and profane, light and darkness. But that’s something we must do because it is something God does. We have to know the difference between light and darkness so that we can choose the light and live in relationship with God.

Confusing Light and Dark Hurts God

When we read the phrase “woe to those who ___” it seems like a scary, sobering pronouncement. It means great sorrow or distress, which is what comes on those who forsake God. Hebrew carries another shade of meaning as well. “Woe” is hoy (H1945), which is an exclamation like ah! alas! ha! O! In the sort of context we’re looking at today, we can read this word as a cry of grief and despair from God at seeing the evil His people are doing that’s leading them away from the light.

Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight! (Is. 5:20-21, WEB)

God has good reason to exclaim hoy! over these people, for He knows what happens to those who “have rejected the law of Yahweh of Armies, and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel” (Is. 5:24). Spoilers: it’s not pretty. Read more

Who Are You? How to Take off Your Masks and Live with Integrity in Your Godly Identity

How many versions of you are there? Are you a different person behind the wheel of your car than you are when speaking to your grandmother? Do you play one part at work and another part with friends on the weekend? Do you hide parts of yourself or change the way you present yourself based on circumstances?

We all do this. To a certain extent, it’s useful to make your behavior fit the context. You don’t want to wear the same clothes, for example, to grub out a stump in the backyard as to attend a wedding. But when the change is more extreme — polite to a date but angry and vindictive when driving in traffic — it can be a problem.

Integrity comes form the Latin word integer, meaning something whole and complete in itself. If you are a person with integrity then there is only one version of you (“The True Meaning of Integrity” by So-Young Kang). You act with honesty and live by strong moral principles whether or not someone is watching. People with integrity apologize when they are wrong or cause inconvenience, they refuse to act viciously even when fighting, and they give others the benefit of the doubt (“7 Signs of People With Integrity” by Seth Meyers).

It’s very difficult to live with complete wholeness and consistency. And it’s well-nigh impossible to do so if you don’t know who you are and what you believe. As the Biblical writer James said, “he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven by the wind and tossed” (James 1:6, WEB). We need an anchor for our identity if we’re to live with integrity. Read more

Putting God in a Clay Pot: How Much Does the Lord Understand You?

Do you ever feel like God doesn’t really know what you’re going through? That He doesn’t get how hard it is to be human or that He expects too much of us?

I think this is an easy thought pattern to fall into. My problem is something different (we think). Other people don’t understand, and maybe God doesn’t either. Sure Jesus was human but that was 2,000 years ago. Things have changed.

Truth is, though, things haven’t changed that much. “There is no new thing under the sun” because human nature stays the same (Ecc. 1:9). And even if things have changed so much that being human is fundamentally different than it once was, God has still taken steps to make sure He understands us. Evidently connecting with us is very important to Him, because He’s done some pretty incredible things in order to get inside our perspectives and also to share His mind with us. Firstly, He made us. Secondly, He experienced human life by Jesus living as a human. Finally, He indwells His people today through His spirit.

Made

If you make something you understand it. You know all the ingredients in the cookies, you know the hours put into shaping clay into an urn, you know the measurements and materials required to machine that part. God understands us even better than that, for He created all the materials we’re formed from and then fashioned us in His own image. Read more

Lessons From Job: How to Interact with Hurting People

“They don’t need to say anything. Just be there.”

Those words, or a variation, come up again and again when I talk with people about what they need when they’re hurting. You’ll also find this advice in books, articles, and interviews talking about how to interact with grieving people. Don’t try to compare your pain to theirs, or explain it away, or slap verbal band aids on the wound. Just be there for them.

Whenever we think about suffering in the Bible, Job is one of the first stories that comes to mind. This man lost seven sons and three daughters all in one day, along with all his wealth. Shortly after that, Satan struck him “with painful sores from the soul of his foot to his head” (Job 1:13-22; 2:7-8, all quotes from WEB). Family, wealth, and health all gone in a moment. Job was about as low as you can humanly get. And so his three best friends came to comfort him and to teach us important lessons about how to interact with hurting people.

Comfort, Sympathy, and Silence

Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this evil that had come on him, they each came from his own place: Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite; and they made an appointment together to come to sympathize with him and to comfort him. When they lifted up their eyes from a distance, and didn’t recognize him, they raised their voices, and wept; and they each tore his robe, and sprinkled dust on their heads toward the sky. So they sat down with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his grief was very great. (Job 2:11-13)

Things started out well. 1) they cared about Job enough to keep track of what was going on with him and know he needed support. 2) they came to him for the purpose of comfort and sympathy. 3) they shared in his grief, weeping with him. 4) they didn’t talk; they just sat with him and waited to see what he’d need. Read more

Putting the Law in Its Spiritual Context: What Did Paul and Jesus Teach about the Law of God?

During His ministry on earth, Jesus said He was not here to destroy the law. Yet we also have record of the Jews saying He “broke the Sabbath” (Matt. 5:17; John 5:18). Do those two statements contradict?

Similarly, Paul said his own writings “establish the law,” but he also asked his readers why they would be “subject to ordinances” now that they live by faith (Rom. 3:31; Col. 2:20). Aren’t those statements contradictory as well?

These statements actually don’t contradict each other, but to understand why you have to know something about the Jewish world at the time. On one hand, you have God’s law that He delivered to His people through Moses (the Torah). On the other hand, you have additional rules, regulations, and traditions that were put in place by human beings.

So if we look more closely, we see Christ was not here to destroy God’s law, but He did loose the Sabbath from restrictions added by human teachers. Similarly, in Romans Paul is talking about establishing the law of God, but in Colossians he is talking about walking away from “the commandments and doctrines of men” (Col. 2:20-23).

So what does all this have to do with modern Christians? We’ll take a close look at this question in today’s post, and I think we’ll find that these statement that at first appear contradictory actually teach us about how we are supposed to relate to God’s law. They also teach us how to respond when other people (including teachers and leaders) start to change or add to God’s word. Read more