Grace is NOT Permission to Sin

Today’s reading is 1 John 3.

Whenever someone starts explaining that we are saved by the grace of God through our Advocate, Jesus Christ the righteous and not through our own good works, someone else begins to fear that we are giving permission to pursue sin. Not at all. In fact, John’s first letter is a great demonstration of that. We read yesterday that if we sin, we have an Advocate with the Father in Jesus Christ. We don’t have to fear that if we sin, we are lost. However, in today’s reading, John explains that if we take that as permission to sin and pursue sin and continue in the ongoing practice of sin, we are not the elect, saved of God, but are children of the devil. The grace and advocacy of Jesus is the power and strength to pursue righteousness despite our failures, it is not the permission to pursue sin despite God’s will. God’s grace offers nothing to those looking to get away with sin. It offers everything to those longing to overcome it. What are you longing for today?

Tomorrow’s reading is 1 John 4.

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Nothing on My Own

Today’s reading is John 5.

Wasn’t Jesus God in the flesh? Wasn’t He the one who created the universe and everything in it? Absolutely. Remember John 1? But He says, “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge.” He says, even He didn’t do anything by His own authority. He came in the Father’s name. That is, He did what He did, He taught what He taught based on the authority of the Father. If Jesus Himself, God the Son, God Incarnate only acted from the authority of the Father, shouldn’t I? Shouldn’t we? Doing something because I searched deep within myself is not seeking the Father’s authority. That is just seeking my own authority. God is the authority. I need to listen to Him through His Word and simply do what He has authorized. That is how Jesus lived. That is how we need to live today.

Monday’s reading is John 6.

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Confess & Conform

Today’s reading is Titus 1.

I almost hate to use the word “conform” because there are so many negative connotations to “conformity” in today’s thinking. However, whether we will admit it or not, we all conform to something. We all fill some mold, whether we conform to Christ or to sin, we conform to something. And Paul warns us. There are plenty who confess Jesus, but refuse to conform to Him. They know the right words to say, but they deny those words by their actions. These, Paul declares, are “detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.” In other words, even what seemingly “good” things they do are not actually good. Their “good” works are defiled by their conformity to sin. We must not only talk the talk, we must walk our talk. Certainly, we will all fail. We will all stumble and fall as we walk. But our confession of Christ is supposed to change our lives to conform to Christ. If our confession doesn’t produce greater conformity, our confession is useless. Confess today, certainly. But let your confession lead to Christlike conformity.

Tomorrow’s reading is Titus 2

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The Impartiality of God

Today’s reading is James 2.

Have you ever noticed that while God through James encourages impartiality among His people, He actually demonstrates it Himself? Don’t give preferential treatment to the rich, James instructs. Then, while explaining a faith that works, he highlights how God justified both Abraham and Rahab. He justified them in the exact same way, through a saving faith that works. Abraham was a man; Rahab a woman. Abraham was the father of the Hebrew nation; Rahab was a gentile. Abraham was the father of the faithful; Rahab was a prostitute. Of course, I don’t know Rahab’s financial situation, though I have no doubt she lost pretty much everything in the destruction of Jericho; Abraham was very rich. These two were very different in many ways, but they were similar in the one way that matters. They were both guilty sinners in need of justification. And God justified them both in exactly the same way. Abraham didn’t get preferential treatment because he was a rich, Hebrew, man. Rahab didn’t get preferential treatment because she was a poor, Gentile, woman. In like manner, don’t expect preferential treatment from God. He won’t justify us because of the color of our skin, the size of our bank account, the purity of our lineage, the makeup of our gender. No matter who we are, a faith that works is the only faith that works. If we want to be justified, we need a saving faith that works. That is the impartiality of God.

Tomorrow’s reading is James 3.

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Comfort and Caution

Today’s reading is Hebrews 10.

Because Jesus’s one sacrifice for sin actually works, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin. Praise the Lord! What comfort. I don’t “go to church” as a sacrifice to get my sins forgiven. I don’t pray, read my Bible, give up some sin, teach people the gospel, or any other activity as a sacrifice to get my sins forgiven. I don’t have to chase forgiveness by my sacrifices. Rather, because Jesus’s sacrifice works, I live in His forgiveness and act based upon it. But, that means there is no longer any sacrifice for sin. What caution. If I decide to ditch the sacrifice of Jesus and live by the pleasures of my eyes and flesh and by my pride of life, pursuing sin impenitently, flippantly, carelessly, rebelliously, there is nothing I can do to make up for that. There is nothing else coming down the pike to take care of that. Jesus’s sacrifice is the one that works, and it is the only one that is coming. God has no plan B. My choices are either to ignore the one sacrifice that works and lose all hope, or take comfort in the one sacrifice that works by surrendering to it and living my life based upon it. Which option will you choose today?

Tomorrow’s reading is Hebrews 11. Continue reading “Comfort and Caution”

Obedience through Suffering

Today’s reading is Hebrews 5.

Did you read how Jesus learned obedience? Through what He suffered. That’s amazing to me. Usually when I suffer is when I most want to abandon obedience. That is usually when I want to start making excuses and get mad at God for not being there for me. Yet, Jesus suffered. He suffered tremendously. And, frankly, He did that because I haven’t been there for Him. He did that because I have abandoned Him again and again. Yet, despite His suffering, He learned obedience. And through His death He has become the source of eternal salvation for me. Perhaps I need to rethink the role and purpose of the minimal suffering I’ve gone through and where it should lead me. Instead of away from Jesus, it should lead me to Him. Because, when I’m suffering, He is clearly not abandoning me. He has joined me in suffering. I want to join Him in obedience. How about you?

Tomorrow’s reading is Hebrews 6.

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Lips and Heart

Today’s reading is Matthew 15.

I’m reading a book right now on what the author has labeled “Cultural Christianity.” It’s all about people who claim to be Christian, but its not because of real conviction. It’s because of culture. Today’s reading couldn’t hit on that topic any better. Isn’t that what is happening when people honor God with their lips, but their hearts are far away? Of course, Jesus was talking to Jews, but the same problem can happen among “Christians.” It’s easy to have Jesus on the lips. It is an entirely different matter to have Jesus in the heart. It’s easy to know how to answer the questions with a Bible verse. It is an entirely different matter to apply the Bible verse answers to daily life. A culture of Christianity includes church attendance, it includes prayers in Jesus’s name, it includes Bible verse plaques on the wall, it includes marking “Christian” on the latest census. A conviction of Christianity includes Jesus in the heart, it includes Jesus in every decision, it includes doing the next thing to get closer to Jesus, it includes a life completely changed because God has made Jesus whom we crucified to be Savior, Lord, and King. If Jesus is in our hearts, He will be on our lips. If we are convicted, we will also have the culture. But just because we have the culture and just because He is on our lips, doesn’t mean we are near to God. Let’s keep the cart behind the horse. Let’s get near to God. The rest will take care of itself.

Monday’s reading is Matthew 16.

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