But I’m a Sinner!

Today’s reading is Psalm 25.

Yesterday, we recognized a connection between Psalm 24 and who may ascend the Lord’s hill and Psalm 25, this week’s psalm. But there is another connection. It is almost as if this psalm were written or placed here as a response to the previous one. Or maybe it would be better said that it is placed here to deal with an anticipated objection. According to Psalm 24, the one who has clean hands and a pure heart can climb the Lord’s hill. In Psalm 25, we have the anticipated objection. “But what about me? I’m a sinner.” Psalm 25:7 is the first explicit mention from the psalmist of his own sinfulness (Psalm 6:1 implies it; Psalm 23:3 almost implies it). It is almost as if Psalm 25 is finally expressing the objection we’ve brought up on several occasions as we’ve gone through these psalms. I do lift my soul up to the Lord. I do trust Him. But I haven’t been perfect. I’m a sinner. My hands are befouled. My heart is defiled. I want to be clean. I want to be perfect. But I’ve blown it. What now? The great news is our God is merciful. Our God forgives. Our God loves. Our God is faithful and true to His covenant. Yes, we have failed. But we can lift our soul up to our God, seek mercy and we will go away justified. Honestly, it really defies reason. I mean, I know we’ve been trained up on 2000 years of Christianity and the love and forgiveness of the sacrifice of Jesus. But if you think about it, why would anyone expect the supreme power of the universe to be loving, merciful, and forgiving? We could much more expect Him to be exacting, demanding, and unsparing. And yet, He is not what we expect. He wants us to climb His hill and He will forgive us so we can. Praise the Lord!

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 25.

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The Lord’s Love

Today’s reading is Psalm 6.

What is the basis for God’s grace even when he is angry? His steadfast love. That is how steadfast His love is. Even when He is angry, He still loves. Every time we read about God’s steadfast love, we should remember the proclamation of His name in Exodus 34:5-8. God is slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin. It is really amazing to me how often His “name” comes up in Scripture. The faithful knew the name of God and their faith was anchored in it. God had revealed Himself to Moses and the faithful trust God that He was telling the truth. Not for the sake of my righteousness, not for the sake of my good deeds, not for the sake of my attempts to pay God back, not for the sake of my reputation, but for the sake of His own love, God delivers and forgives. That is, God loves even when He is angry because that is exactly who He is. It is His name. It is His nature. Don’t misunderstand. That doesn’t mean no one will be condemned. He will by no means clear the guilty. Those who linger in sin, keeping God at arm’s length, not seeking the grace and love He has to offer will be judged as they deserve. But why on earth would you want to be that person? Turn to God. Cast your sins and your cares on Him. He loves. He is gracious. He will forgive. He will deliver.

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 6.

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The Lord’s Grace

Today’s reading is Psalm 6.

Yesterday, we hinted at David’s only option in the face of God’s anger. Today, we get to see the option fully. He can beg for God’s grace. Like the tax collector in Jesus’s story, he can, without making excuses, plead for mercy. His soul is troubled, so much so that it is impacting him physically. Or perhaps it is going the other way. Maybe the Lord’s discipline is taking the form of physical sickness that is having its necessary impact spiritually. Either way, he knows the only solution is the grace of God. However, notice one specific question. “How long?” We’ve addressed this question in the psalms before. This time, it is David asking how long until the grace becomes actualized. That is, how long until his situation changes because of God’s grace. Please, grasp this part of it. Some believe that because the response doesn’t come immediately, God has said no or worse, God isn’t even out there. But David didn’t believe either. He knew God is, and He knew God rewards those who seek Him. He knew his only hope was God’s grace. He would ask for it until it happened, and he would believe it was coming the whole time. It is that faith in God’s coming grace that kept him praying. It will keep us praying as well.

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 6.

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Persecuting Jesus

Today’s reading is Acts 26.

We’ve noted this before. But, Luke and Paul repeat it. We probably should too. When Paul asked the Voice speaking to him from the bright light who He was, the response was, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.” Of course, Paul wasn’t around when Jesus was beaten, when Jesus was mocked, when Jesus was crucified. Rather, when Paul was persecuting Jesus’s disciples, he was persecuting Jesus. When we are suffering for our discipleship, Satan wants us to believe God is missing it. Satan wants us to believe Jesus has forgotten us. Not at all. Jesus hears every false accusation. Jesus notes every name called. Jesus feels every blow and strike against us. Why? Because when they persecute us, they are persecuting Him. He knows. He sees. He feels. And He will respond. Perhaps not today. Maybe not tomorrow. But in the end, He will respond. Praise the Lord!

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 26.

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A Message that Saves

Today’s reading is Acts 11.

When Peter arrived at Cornelius’s house, he learned an angel of the Lord had told Cornelius to send for Peter:”…he will declare to you a message by which you will be saved, you and all your household.” Do you think the angel meant that? Did Cornelius really need to hear the message in order to be saved? Do we? Absolutely. We cannot be saved apart from Jesus, therefore we cannot be saved without hearing the message of Jesus (see Romans 10:17). Cornelius wasn’t saved because he was a good man or even a religious man. He needed to hear the message. He could not be saved without it. The angel said so. Then notice Peter’s description of the events in Acts 11:15. “As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them.” Wait! When did the Spirit fall on Cornelius? As Peter “began to speak.” Cornelius hadn’t heard the saving message. The angel had said Cornelius needed to hear the message to be saved, but when the Spirit gave His testimony that Gentiles could be saved, Cornelius hadn’t heard the message. He still needed to hear it. Please, don’t put the Holy Spirit in a box, claiming He can only fall on people who are already saved. Please, don’t put the Spirit in a box, claiming He can only work through faithful disciples. He can do what He wants. If He wants to enter someone who hasn’t yet heard the message and performs signs through them, He can do that. That may be the exception, but that is exactly what He did. And once Peter and the Jewish disciples with him had learned from that sign that Gentiles could receive the Word, he completed that saving message. Cornelius responded to the message, being baptized for the remission of his sins, becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ, saved by the blood of Jesus, he and all his household. Praise the Lord!

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 11.

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Baptized in the Name of Jesus Christ

Today’s reading is Acts 10.

Cornelius was a religiously devout man. He feared God and was kind and generous to people. He had received a vision from an angel. He had met an apostle. In fact, the Holy Spirit had come upon him and he had spoken in tongues. But when all of that was said and done, Peter didn’t say, “Oh, look, the sins of these Gentiles have been forgiven.” Instead, he said, “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people?” And then he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. He didn’t suggest to them. He didn’t advise them. He didn’t counsel them. He commanded them. After all of this, they still needed to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Of course, we know from Acts 2:38, that the baptism in Jesus’s name is for the forgiveness of sins. That is, at this point, Cornelius still has his sins. They haven’t been washed away. I’d like to ask you to put everything else on pause in your life as you consider this. Are you in a similar situation? Have you got a lot of things going for you? Are you a good person? Have you been to church? Have you heard? Have you even had wonderful religious experiences? But have you been baptized, that is, immersed, in water for the forgiveness of your sins in the name of Jesus Christ? If not, if Peter were here, you know what he would do, right? He would command you to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Can we help you with that? Let us know in the comments section below.

Next week’s reading is Acts 11.

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Devout, but Lost

Today’s reading is Acts 10.

Consider the kind of man Cornelius was. He was a devout man who feared God. He was a generous man. And he prayed continually. This description sounds like a man who is living by the two greatest commandments: he loves God, and he loves his neighbor. Most folks think we become Christians in order to become a person just like Cornelius. And yet, Cornelius and his entire household still needed something. They still need the gospel. They still need a Savior. Why? Because we aren’t saved by being good enough. We are saved by Jesus Christ. I get it. You are a good person. You’ve done the best you can. You try to always do what is right, to respect God and to love other people. You know a lot of people who are much worse sinners than you. But remember Cornelius. He was a good man. He was even a religious man. But he was a lost man. Please, don’t rest on your devotion. Don’t rest on your praying. Don’t rest on how nice you are to other people. There is only one place to rest: in Jesus Christ. If we can help you learn more about Jesus Christ, let us know in the comments below.

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 10.

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Listen to the Lord

Today’s reading is Acts 7.

We’ve been swimming in the deep end of Stephen’s sermon throughout the week. Let’s rise up, get some fresh air, and get down to the final point. Throughout history God had worked through various men and in various places. What made it all successful was the hand of the Lord, not the people He used or the places He met them. The faith of the people should not be in holy men or holy place, but in the God who made them holy. But Israel had made a mistake over and over and over again. They were stiff-necked and uncircumcised of heart and ears. Just as the brothers had rejected Joseph, just as the Israelites rejected Moses, just as the Israelites rejected God at Mt. Sinai, they were now rejecting Jesus–the one God had chosen to be their redeemer and ruler. They persecuted all the prophets (think especially Elijah, Elisha, Jeremiah). They killed those who announced the coming Messiah. It is, therefore, not surprising that they killed the Messiah Himself. And sadly, though these Jews had received the Law as if it were delivered to them as if from angels, they were about to do with this man, who had the appearance of an angel (see Acts 6:15), what they had done with the prophets and the Messiah. They were going to stubbornly reject his words, turn on him, and kill him. So now we have a choice. We will either listen to the Lord or we won’t. We will either soften our hearts and surrender to the Prophet. Or we won’t. I hope you get the message. The only viable option is this: Listen to the Lord. He is King. He is Priest. He is Prophet. He is Redeemer. He is Ruler. Hear Him.

Next week’s reading is Acts 8.

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Repent and Be Baptized

Today’s reading is Acts 2.

Here it is, the first proclamation of the post-resurrection gospel. Jesus was raised from the dead and is King. He is the Messiah, the Christ, the Lord, the King. “But what are we to do,” the crowds cry out. This is not polite plea for more information. This is no quiet request to know how to get saved. This is a desperate cry. “We killed the King, what are we to do?” Do you think they expected Peter to have a response? Don’t you know they expected to hear, “Well, nothing. I mean, what could you do? You killed the Messiah. You’re toast.” That, however, is not what they heard. Peter responded by saying, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Here is the very first time people responded to the gospel message that Jesus was the resurrected Lord and King. What was the response? Repent and be baptized for the remission of their sins. Every other story we read in Acts about forgiveness, salvation, submission to King Jesus is predicated on this very first explanation of the gateway into the kingdom. It’s odd to me. Many people today will turn to all kinds of passages to explain to people what they should do when they want to surrender to Jesus as king. But they won’t turn to this, the very first time it ever happened for anyone. Why? Because this one doesn’t say what they want it to say. It doesn’t say, “You don’t have to do anything. If you’re chosen, God will do it.” It doesn’t say, “All you have to do is believe.” It doesn’t say, “Repeat this prayer after me.” It says, “Repent and be baptized for the remission of your sins.” May I ask you a very simple question. Have you repented and been baptized for the remission of your sins? That is, have you decided to let Jesus be your King and then been immersed in water in order to let Jesus forgive you? If not, why not surrender to King Jesus the same way the very first kingdom citizens did? Why would you try to accomplish that any other way? There is no way to enter the kingdom but God’s way. Can we help you enter today?

Next week’s reading is Acts 3.

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Don’t Just Accept, Proclaim

Today’s reading is Luke 24.

“Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”

Jesus didn’t die merely so we could accept Him and receive forgiveness. He died so we could proclaim repentance and forgiveness. The world is happy with us to keep our “little religious convictions” inside our church buildings or isolated to our private lives. However, when you have a message that leads to forgiveness and salvation, how can we keep it contained? Of course, Luke is setting the stage for what we will see in his sequel: The Acts of the Apostles. But the story of this proclamation continues all the way to our day. Jesus rose from the dead and that means something. It means we need to be telling people. Jesus is risen. He is risen indeed!

Next week’s reading is Acts 1.

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