Faith alone

Romans 3:28  For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.

There was, even in the time of the first century church, controversy surrounding the subject of whether one is justified through faith alone or whether that is not sufficient on its own.  Many Christians of Jewish heritage believed that one must first become a Jew (come under the Jewish laws) before becoming a legitimate Christian.  Today we have similar sects within the church that believe justification comes though a combination of faith and works.

There is no biblical support for this view.  To the contrary, the Bible tells us that Jesus died once and for all (Romans 6:10).  To add requirements for salvation is to cheapen the cross.  James’ argument in the New Testament (James 2:14-26) is not that works are a requirement for salvation but rather that salvation through faith in Christ results in good works.

The bad news is that there is nothing you or I can do to get into a right relationship with God.  The good news is that because of Christ Jesus we don’t have to earn our way into God’s favor.  Justification is found through faith in Christ alone.  This is a wondrous, glorious truth.  God loves us so much that He sent His Son because He knew that otherwise we could never be good enough (Romans 5:8). We just need to put our faith in Him.  What an awesome God we serve!

 

Give your best, first

Malachi 3:10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.

Giving is not always included in material about spiritual disciplines for Christian life, but it is important not to neglect this discipline.  Nowhere else in Scripture does God tell His people to test Him.  When we are told to give as a test of the Lord’s goodness, we can believe that He will live up to His promises.

Take note:  giving is not about money.  The Sovereign Creator of the universe does not need your dollars and cents.  He wants your devotion, your obedience, your love.  He wants your life to be about Him and that means not holding on to earthly things.  He wants to be first in your life.  By giving the first of your finances, the first of your time, the best of your affections, you are showing God that He is first in your life.  And that doesn’t just have to be the “tithe”.

Tithing is not about the numbers.  Some bicker about how much one is to tithe (10% of gross income vs 10% of net income, etc).  Ideally, we would all give much more than just 10% of our income.  It’s not about the numbers, it’s about the heart (2 Corinthians 9:7, Mark 12:41-44).  There is no set number on how much to give, but there certainly is a command to give (Malachi 3, Numbers 18).

The principle to remember in this discipline is that “whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously” (2 Corinthians 9:6).  We must give God our best, first.

Peace with God

Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

What do you think of when you think of justification through Christ? Do you think of how your sins have been forgiven? They have (Colossians 1:14). Do you think of how you are now lead by Jesus who is your Lord? You are (John 10:27). Do you think of how you’ve now put off your old self and put on an entirely new self? You have (Colossians 3:9). You’re a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). One thing many of us fail to think about, however, is that we have peace with God through Jesus. Oh, I’m not talking about how we’re a little more settled and a little less high strung now. Those things are true too. But, we were once the enemies of God (James 4:4) and now we are at peace with Him.

This word, “peace”, it carries with it so many thoughts, so many feelings, so much nuance. We use it in so many contexts to mean so many things. But this word, this εἰρήνην in the original language, it does not simply mean that we have an absence of anxiety. It means we have an absence of war. Jesus ushered in the treaty when He died on that cross and rose again. He allowed us to walk up to the table with God and sign the agreement, if we so choose, to be at peace. To be God’s ally. It’s then that we find rest and “peace” with all those other connotations.

As followers of Christ, we’ve now been adopted into the very family of God (John 1:12). We’re no longer strangers who battle against our Creator, but children who can communicate with our daddy. We’re not enemy combatants, constantly worried about fighting the adversary that can’t be defeated. Now, we’re on God’s side and He’s on ours. It’s because of Jesus. Because He justified us with His blood, we are given this opportunity. Because of Him, we can lay down our arms and cross over to the other side. And there we find peace.

God Helps Those…

overcastJohn 15:5 I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

One of the most often quoted theological statements is “God helps those who help themselves”. The troubling thing about basing one’s view of God on this idea is that it’s just not biblical (The statement itself is most often attributed to Benjamin Franklin). One of the main themes of the Bible is that man is incapable of helping himself. Apart from God we are depraved, unable to life ourselves out of the pit that sin has led us to. We cannot help ourselves.

But God, in His sovereignty, chooses to help us anyway. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). In other words, He helped us though we were not helping ourselves. Even if we tried to gain some ground without God, our best efforts are useless (Isaiah 64:6). Our Lord knew we would be helpless. His plan is to be our refuge, our shelter (Isaiah 25:4), our comforter (John 14:16), our advocate (1 John 2:1). The list goes on. Why would God have such descriptive names of one who defends and provides for the helpless if we were able to doing anything for ourselves?

Secular theology may find it reasonable to accept that we must do something to earn God’s favor, but to the Christian it’s irreconcilable with The Word. God helps those who cannot help themselves. Find rest in that. Live with that hope.

He will heal your broken heart

despairPsalm 147:3-5 He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names.Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.

If you’re like me, you’ve probably gone through some things that made you doubt that even God could bring you up from the mess you were in. Some pain is so bad it seems like there’s no way out, some problems are so heavy they feel like they’ll never end. But God is good, all the time.

There’s no problem too big for Him to deal with on your behalf, but you’ve heard that before. Let’s not focus on that part. It’s a truth that we can know in our heads and ignore in our hearts when we’re in the midst of dark times. Let’s not focus on how He’s able. Let’s focus on how He’s willing. He cares. The Creator of all things WANTS to heal your broken heart. He WANTS to rescue you out of the abyss. It’s not just that He can, but that He will.

Do you believe that? It’s not that comforting to just have a head knowledge that God is powerful. It’s tremendously comforting, though, to remember that He’s caring and that He loves you. Though He knows every star and gives them each their own unique name, He is willing and able to take care of you, no matter how big or small the problem. No corner is too dark for Him to come into. No cavern is too deep. He’s here, He’s with you, and He’ll never leave you.

If God is for us, why be afraid?

Romans 8:31  What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

 

Have you ever been so afraid of something that it paralyzed you?  I mean like so scared that you couldn’t even do your normal daily activities because you feared something about the future. Has that ever been you? Maybe it has, maybe it hasn’t, but the fact is we’ve all looked forward to the future with fear at times. The unknown is one of the primary things people are afraid of.

But what if I told you that there’s never a good reason to be afraid? The same God who created all things and holds all things together is in your corner. If He’s the most powerful, and He is, if He’s good and has our best interests in mind, and He does, then what should scare us? Simply put, nothing. Nothing is bigger than our God, nothing is more powerful than Him, and there not one other person that’s completely holy and without sin or flaw. I’d say with Him on our side, we’re guaranteed victory over anything. The Apostle Paul would agree (Romans 8:37-39).

So the next time you’re worried, say these words, “If God is for me, who can be against me?” Live as though the Creator cares for you and the Savior died for you. Never doubt that the Lord has got your back.

He spares no gift

Romans 8:32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

Are you in need of convincing that God is on our side?  The One who was before all creation cared so much about you and me that He didn’t spare His own Son.  He could have.  God could have chosen to keep Jesus in heaven.  Who could have questioned Him?  He’s God!  But He sent His real Son in order to give us a chance to become sons through His sacrifice.  Does that sound like someone who isn’t going to take care of His people?

In my experience, the richness of the gospel really became real to me when I began to better understand how God adopts us as His children once we’re saved. The inheritance we receive as sons and daughters of the great I AM are innumerable and indescribable.

If He would give us the greatest gift possible to give, why would He not also give us all things through Him?  Why would He not meet our needs, not answer our prayers or not stand by us in times of trouble?  Our loving God is faithful and stands by His people.  He leads us and guides us, provides for us, prepares us and equips us.

Blessed for His glory

Ephesians 1:8-10 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

God loves to bless His people.  We don’t have to do anything to earn His blessings, they’re a free gift – and that includes the gift of His Son.  Now lest you get the wrong impression that this is a prosperity gospel message, let’s point out that God loves to bless us for the purpose of His glory, not merely for our enjoyment.

He lavished His riches on us in His Son in wisdom – with insight.  He chose to reveal Himself to us in the form of Christ Jesus, making known the mystery of His will.  He planned this from eternity – it’s always been the plan. This revelation brings Him glory and fulfills His will.

It’s in Jesus that all things are united.  He’s the key.  He’s the deal.  In Him all things in heaven and on earth come together.  God’s plan in showering His blessings on us is to bring glory to Himself and to make Christ known to all. He gives us what we have that He might use us to shine His light.

Be a good friend

lightstock_160956_medium_user_3963721Proverbs 17:17 A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.

 

 

 

 

 

Having the right friends can be a great benefit in life. They can challenge you mentally, support you emotionally, strengthen you spiritually, and otherwise just be there for you when you need them. It’s also important, though, to be a good friend as well.

We’re blessed through the friendship of others, but we’re sanctified by our friendship to them. Being on the giving end isn’t always the easy part of a relationship, but it’s the godly part. By showing interest in other people, we become more humble by thinking of ourselves less. By being a good listener we grow in wisdom. And by forgiving, we learn more about grace and the amazing gift God has given us in Christ.

We’ve all been given a unique opportunity to share Christ with others through our relationships with them. I can think of several friends I’ve had in my lifetime where I received little to nothing from them, but gave all I had. Those times could be tough, I’ll be honest. I did end up ending most of those friendships out of necessity, but I can’t say I didn’t benefit from those times I spent giving of myself, even when I knew I wouldn’t get anything in return. I didn’t know it back then, but I was learning to walk in the footsteps of Jesus. May I continue to grow spiritually through my relationships, and may you also.

Choose your friends wisely

IS4078RF-00005075-001Proverbs 12:26 One who is righteous is a guide to his neighbor,
but the way of the wicked leads them astray.

 

When you think about keeping yourself healthy, you might not think about your friendships as part of the mix, but the Bible warns us about who we choose as friends and the effects of choosing poorly.

There are certain kinds of people that we should never surround ourselves with, and then there are kinds of people that we should absolutely spend time with. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t love everyone and care for all people, but the closest of friends should be chosen wisely. Will they build you up and strengthen your faith, or will they make it harder for you to live the life God has called you to?

I’ve had times in my life when I hung out with very negative people, with very immoral people, or with very unbelieving people, and as much as I wanted to be a positive influence in their lives, they made it incredibly difficult for me to grow spiritually. By distancing myself from those friends, while still maintaining contact, I was able to get around people with whom I could have a mutually encouraging relationship.

Love all people, seek out others to care for, but choose your close friends with discernment. They’ll affect your own health.

Equipping believers to follow Christ and make Him known


Get Widget