If Jesus died for everyone, what right do we have to dismiss anyone?
In Romans Chapter 6, Paul gives us a detailed explanation of the freedom we have as believers in Christ Jesus. As I read through this chapter, it reminded me of what life was like before I surrendered to Jesus. I was in control, and nothing seemed to be going right. When I surrendered to Jesus, I gave him control. It was very freeing. I realized that, though I thought I was in control, I had been under the control of my sinful nature.
The challenge of living in this freedom is founded in who’s in control. When I am truly surrendered to Jesus, I’m free to humbly respond to daily life with love and forgiveness. When I take back control, I’m living in my sinful nature. The lie is that when I’m in control, I can make things right; but no, sin takes over. The mess I create leaves me in pain, stressed out, and filled with regret.
Jesus has set me free from sins control. Only in Jesus can I live freely.
In the first chapter of Romans Paul writes about the state of humans without God. It is a scathing account of what we are like when we turn our backs on God. The frightening part of reading his words is that I see the potential for these evils in myself.
I have just finished the intense season of my job as a driving instructor. When the high schoolers are out for the summer, we’re on the road for many hours. If I had any doubts about Paul’s discourse on the state of humans, all those hours in traffic have been a visual clarification of his accuracy.
As I watched humans aggress upon their fellow man, and continually endanger the lives of others, I was appalled. Then I remembered. Almost every self-centered uncaring act was something that I had done. Yes, even as a Christian.
What did I learn from this? I desperately need God. Every moment of every day I need God. Only in him can I be loving, compassionate, and forgiving. These are the traits I need in every situation, especially in traffic.
One of the difficulties followers of Jesus face in our current society is avoiding the consumer mentality. “Let’s go shopping” is the call. We get to buy things and spend money. There is never an end to what we can buy, but unfortunately there is an end to the money we have to spend. Running out of money is a definite downer. We are then driven to figure out how we can get more money. Living the consumer life never brings us satisfaction.
I have been reading through Matthew chapters 5-7, and as I read it occurred to me that Jesus is redirecting his disciples’ way of thinking. Jesus taught his disciples to think differently. He wanted them to put aside self-concerns and focus on the Kingdom of God. Paul restates Jesus’ teaching in Romans 12:1-2,
So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life – your sleeping, eating, going to work, and walking around life – and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you (The Message).
If we allow him, Jesus will change our way of thinking. He will transform our minds. Let me recap what Paul is saying. We should take everything about our lives and place it before God as an offering. Then we should humbly accept what he has done for us. Our way of thinking is not about what we can do for him, but what he has done for us. So with a heart of gratitude, we fix our attention on him, and receive the new way of thinking that he works into us. This allows us to do what he sets before us without distraction. The result, “God brings the best out of us, develops well-formed maturity in us.”
Repost from 6/2018
Throughout my diverse teaching career the subject I most commonly taught was U.S. History. Having spent my early years on the east coast, much of what I taught was set in places that were familiar to me. The inscriptions that I often read in those places were filled with Christian words and ideals. It was obvious to me that our country had a Christian foundation. Aren’t those inscriptions still there? Aren’t our founding documents full of Biblical references?
What would be the purpose of denying this foundational connection to the Christian Religion? Perhaps there are those who would go another way, to change the foundation. Can you change the foundation without destroying the building? If the foundation is faulty, don’t you have to build a new building? What would be the foundation for this new building? Whatever it is, if it’s not Jesus, it will crumble.
I will close with this excerpt from George Washington’s Farewell Address from 1796:
Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked: Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.
[This is a repost from last August 2016. I thought it worth revisiting in light of the current political circus.]
Today, I will go about my day doing what God has set before me. Perhaps, I will touch someone else’s life in an important way. Maybe, they will be encouraged in the Lord. Maybe, they will find a greater measure of the life that Jesus brings. Whatever happens in this day, it will be a minuscule part of what will happen on the earth. Across the globe, billions of Christians will also be going about doing what God has set before them. We are part of a great Army advancing the Kingdom of God.
Over the weekend, I put together a 500 piece puzzle. Each piece was just a small part of the whole, but the picture would be incomplete if one piece was missing. So, I recognize that what I do today may seem insignificant, but it is not insignificant. It is a little part of God’s big picture.
1 Samuel 12:20 “Do not be afraid,” Samuel replied. “You have done all this evil; yet do not turn away from the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart.”
Pastor Eric used this scripture several weeks ago in his sermon. I have thought about Samuel’s words ever since. Our natural tendency is to hide from the Lord when we’ve done wrong. After the very first sin, Adam and Eve hid themselves from the Lord. But Samuel is telling the Israelites to stay with the Lord. Face the Lord with what you have done. It is a brave and humbling thing to face God, but without God there is no life.
I was riding along in my driver’s training car when this thought came to me; Jesus told us what happens when we come to God with the guilt of our sins. In the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) Jesus tells us what to expect from our heavenly father when we turn to him. The prodigal son came to his senses and realized that in his father’s house there was life. He hoped for a lowly position. What he received was welcoming arms and celebration.
God loves us; we are his children. In God, we find forgiveness and grace. Stay with God, for there is no other place where we find life.