Christ’s Righteousness

Sometimes we say to God, “OK, God, I’ve been forgiven by you in this moment, so you just tell me exactly what to do and how to live from this moment on so I never have to do anything wrong again. That way, I won’t sin again.” This is a problem, not because we don’t want to sin, that’s a good desire, but because we don’t trust in the righteousness of Jesus Christ. We’re saying, if I just do all the correct behaviors, I will not sin again. We’re not to trust our own righteousness, meaning, we’re not to try to maintain our relationship with God through the avoidance of sin. Instead, we’re to trust the righteousness of Jesus Christ, knowing that we are washed clean of sin through Him.

Sometimes, when I’ve been discussing this with people who are more in the first camp than the second, their response is, “So you’re saying it’s OK to sin because Jesus will forgive you?” No, of course not. Nothing about accepting the righteousness of Christ is about making it OK to sin. If your heart is in such a place that hearing that you have been made righteous by Christ makes you want to break all the rules or live selfishly, I want to ask you to question your heart. Why does hearing that make you think it’s ok to do what you want when you want? Perhaps, you think of Christianity/religion as a way to force ethical behaviors. As in, if you don’t’ have a rule or a community that defines certain things as wrong, there’s no possible way that you could live by that rule. This once again points back to a complete lack of faith. We’ve been given the Holy Spirit as a guide and a comforter. If you are so out of tune with the Holy Spirit that you don’t trust any part of yourself to behave if someone isn’t punishing you for bad behavior, you might seriously want to consider a spiritual tune up. Practice listening to Him and accepting His input, not demanding rules and oversight.

The next piece of this response is the confusion of forgiveness with ignorance of problems. God doesn’t forgive you because He overlooks your issues or turns a blind eye to your mistakes. That’s not forgiveness and it certainly isn’t mercy. We often think in terms of discipline for our children. When we overlook mistakes, we often just let things slide. We offer mercy by not completing the justice part of the equation. God never ever does that.

God’s mercy is fully aware of our sin. He can see and knows our sin and darkness and selfishness. He doesn’t just wink at problems. He is in a fix-it mission with the focus being our hearts. God is also a just God. He doesn’t allow sin in His presence, which is why He can’t just close His eyes to it. For us to be in His presence, we must have atoned and dealt with our sin.

Jesus Christ is where God’s mercy and His justice collide. He hasn’t provided a way for God to ignore your sin; He’s provided a way for God to eliminate your sin. It’s gone, thrown away and never seen again. It’s been atoned for by blood sacrifice and removed.

Your forgiveness in Christ is full and complete. What might be incomplete is your acceptance of God’s forgiveness. God offers it fully and completely, but not unconditionally. You must believe on the name of Jesus and let His righteousness define you instead of your own. Repentance is not a 12 step program to help eliminate bad behaviors. It’s not even a process of admitting to God that you have problems (He already knows that). It’s about letting go of your own personal need to be good and letting God’s complete righteousness fill you.

Let the Redeemed Say So - Psalm 107:2

I’m Redeemed

Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom he has redeemed from trouble. – Psalm 107:1-2 ESV

Today’s post will be a little different than my usual style. Instead of going over a theological truth, I felt like I wanted to take a moment to live out Pslam 107:2 “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so…”.

I am fully convinced that I have an eternal soul that was created before the world and will continue to live past this finite existence. I believe that I was created this way by God because He willed it. God put His beautiful creation, people, on to this earth to live and to give them an opportunity to choose Him. Unfortunately, they chose sin. Because of that choice, all people are now under the curse of separation from God. Loving His children and not wanting to remain eternally separated from them, He created a way to bring them back to Him. His Only Son, fully God, came to earth in the form of man, Jesus Christ, to break the curse from the inside out.

These are my beliefs, but now I’d like to share some of my story in experiencing those truths instead of simply understanding them.

I grew up as a conservative Christian in a loving home. I wasn’t a bad kid overall, but I wasn’t very connected with church or God either. When I was getting ready to go to college, my thoughts on church was maybe I’d find something, maybe I’d just enjoy sleeping in on Sunday mornings. Guess which one I chose.

College was a rough time of learning to adapt from my conservative background to the world of academia. Because I wasn’t connected personally to God, I stepped away from pretty much all beliefs. I never questioned that God existed, but I didn’t know what to do with Jesus. I threw out the Bible as I thought it was a tool of manipulation, not truth.  To be even more honest, I only thought about religion when pressed. I enjoyed a good religious discussion if it came up (from the perspective of not agreeing with it, of course), but I wouldn’t generally start those conversations on my own.

My choices at the time were not the greatest ones and I ended up blaming all of college for the bad few experiences of a bad relationship and not fitting in to my chosen major. I couldn’t wait till graduation and all my focus was on surviving till then.

After graduation, I ended up doing the one thing I really hadn’t wanted to do: move home. My dreams going into college were to become a great opera singer and move to New York. Ha! I realized that music wasn’t the move for me, so I took a year and worked and tried to figure out life. I didn’t want to go back to my conservative friends and upbringing, but I didn’t have a lot of friends in area that weren’t in that group.

I looked around for ways to make new friends and get involved, but I felt lost and adrift. I was also ready for a relationship and was ready to meet a guy who wasn’t a jerk (unlike my last couple choices). I thought about the guys in college that I’d respected and who treated their girlfriends the way I wanted to be treated and they had one thing in common: they were Christians. Not being a dummy, I decided to get myself a Christian boyfriend. However, I couldn’t say that I was a Christian, but I thought that I could get a good guy and then convince him to stop going to church when I got bored with it. Not even kidding.

My plan was to attend a bunch of churches until I found one with a fun group of young people and go from there. I opened the newspaper and found the first non-denomination church on the list, called the number and got the service times and address (this was before I had GPS or even a smart phone!), and showed up Sunday morning.

There was one thing I hadn’t anticipated, however. That was that the church I attended had a real and passionate love for Christ and their worship was wonderful and moving. In those first couple weeks, I felt the power of God like I never had before. God was in their sermons and their songs and their prayers. By the end of that summer, I had accepted Jesus as my Savior and committed my life to serving Him. I didn’t even mind that this church had absolutely zero in the young people activity department! Instead, I soaked up God every Sunday, joined a small group, and started learning to live in Him every day.

That’s the story of how I recognized that I needed to be redeemed and stepped out in faith. This is just the beginning of my story. I used to think that my salvation experience would be the number one important one for me, but I’ve learned it’s simply the romance that started an amazing relationship. Every day since then I’ve learned more about the Lord and experienced Him deeper and more powerfully. That’s the story that I want to say, and I’d say it to the whole world if I could: This relationship is real and worth it! I am redeemed!

Celebrate Salvation - Luke 10:20

Celebrate Salvation

“Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.'” – Luke 17:7-10 ESV


In Luke 17 Jesus gives an example of what it means to have a heart for obeying the Lord. He is addressing the assumption that when we obey the Lord we’ve somehow done something amazing or something worthy of note. Instead Jesus says that when we obey we’re supposed to simply acknowledge that we did what we were supposed to do, not seek reward and attention for it.

The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” – Luke 10:17-20 ESV

Earlier in Luke Jesus is talking to the seventy-two that He sent out ahead of Him to help with the harvest, teaching and healing. When they came back, they were amazed at the miracles they were able to do in Jesus’s name. Jesus’s response? Yeah, it’s cool, but you’re getting excited about the wrong thing.

Jesus reminds them that He saw Satan fall from heaven and that they were given authority over all the power of the enemy. That seems like something to be excited about! Having the ability to thwart the plans of the devil with a word would seem like something to celebrate. Jesus, always wanting our hearts focused on the eternal, stops them. He specifically says don’t rejoice in this. Instead, rejoice because we’ve been saved.

What is your motivation in seeking miracles? Why do want to obey and serve Him? What are you seeking from Him as you walk with Him? Is it a quid pro quo kind of thing? If you’re honest about what’s in your heart, what do you see yourself receiving from God: attention and miracles? Or are you a humble servant who views obedience as nothing but your job and celebrates the salvation of God over the blessings of God?

The Lord Delights in You - Isaiah 62:2-4

Delighted and Determined

For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be quiet, until her righteousness goes forth as brightness, and her salvation as a burning torch. The nations shall see your righteousness, and all the kings your glory, and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will give. You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God. You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate, but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her, and your land Married; for the LORD delights in you, and your land shall be married. For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your sons marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you. – Isaiah 62:1-5 ESV

Isaiah 62:1-5 is a beautiful promise of hope and celebration. I love the idea of renewal fresh from God in, “you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will give” (v. 2). I love the focus on belonging in, “your land shall no more be termed Desolate, but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her.” (v. 4). I love the imagery of happiness and joyful relationships in, “as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.” (v. 5).

There are so many beautiful promises in this passage, but those aren’t what jumped out to me at first. The first sentence is, “For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be quiet, until her righteousness goes forth as brightness, and her salvation as a burning torch.” The emotion behind this is determination. God, through Isaiah, is telling us how determined He is to bring His righteousness to life through us. He doesn’t sit with His fingers crossed and hope that we figure it out. He isn’t silently waiting for us to remember or think things through. He is determined to bring bright shining salvation to His children, and He will be as loud as He need to be to do it.

As we learn about His salvation, grace, love and hope, we will then be able to the promised blessings in our life and our culture. Once we accept that Jesus is the hope for eternal life, we will be given a new name, a name given by God as we are adopted into His house (Ephesians 1:5). As the world see us being righteous by His power, they will learn to see righteousness as beautiful, not constricting or cruel (John 16:8). As we learn to trust in Him and walk closely with Him, He will pour out blessings beyond what we could have imagined for ourselves, even sometime material blessings (Ephesians 3:20).

The Lord is continually calling to us and desiring us. What is the Lord speaking into your life? What promise is He giving you that you can hold onto? Remember, He will never give up on you.

An Open Heart and Mind - Part 3 - Proverbs 1:33

An Open Heart and Mind – Part 3

Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the LORD, would have none of my counsel and despised all my reproof, therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way, and have their fill of their own devices. For the simple are killed by their turning away, and the complacency of fools destroys them; but whoever listens to me will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.” – Proverbs 1:29-33 ESV

Yesterday, we talked  not choosing the fear of the Lord, and the day before that we talked about hating knowledge. Today, we continue on through Proverbs 1:30

[They] Would Have None of My Counsel

Perhaps you’ve heard the saying, advice is worth what you pay for it. The implication is that free advice is worth nothing and probably shouldn’t be followed. God’s advice, however, is always free and always worth it. Sometimes, however, we don’t choose to seek it out. The foolish people in this passage seem to be actively pushing it away.

The counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations. – Psalm 33:11 ESV

The Lord’s advice isn’t trivial. What He is offering to us is life forever. In Acts, Apostle Paul is talking with the elders at Ephesus and he says, “for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.” (Acts 20: 27 ESV). Paul isn’t saying that he knows everything that God knows. A few verses back Paul says this, “ how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Acts 20:20-21 ESV). Paul is saying that the whole counsel of the Lord is the plan for salvation.

God wants us to return to Him through the blood of His son, Jesus Christ. He has planned this from the beginning (John 1:1, 14) to bring us back into His presence. This is his counsel, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12 ESV)

Receive him, believe him and you can become children of God. Romans says that we’re join-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17). How amazing! Jesus, who was from the beginning and will be forever, came into the flesh to live as a blessing for the people and died to be salvation for all. We can be join-heirs in the blessings of heaven with Jesus himself, not because of who we are or what we’ve accomplished but because we believe in salvation through Jesus.

This is the counsel that the foolish reject. This is what they are pushing away and running from. Perhaps they’re highly intelligent and can’t handle the faith aspect. Perhaps they are driven by ambition and independence and can’t let go of the need to be righteous themselves. Perhaps they just chose sin over salvation.

Whatever the case for their rejection, let’s not join them. Accept the counsel of God and let him lead you to a deeper awareness of the relationship we can have with Him through salvation. God’s counsel is forever and His salvation is to all generations.

Fearing God the World Around - Isaiah 59:19

The Heart of God For Us

Isaiah 59 is a beautiful section of scripture that shows us that the heart of God is justice and love and the blessings through the grace of Jesus that He wants to shower on us.

For the sake of this discussion, I’m dividing up these two chapters into these sections:

  • 59:1-2 – The problem
  • 59:3-8 – The sins
  • 59:10-15 – The consequences
  • 59:16-20 – The response

The Problem

The passage opens in 59:1-2 with a clear statement of the issue. God doesn’t mince words or make us wonder what the issue is; He spells it out clearly and tells us exactly where the struggle is from: sin. He says our sins is what have separated us from God and kept Him from responding to us. God is just and He must deal with our sin. There is no way around it. He can’t ignore it or minimize it or excuse it. He must deal with it.

Because this is the root of the trouble, we must be willing to deal with sin. We have to be able to admit that we’re in trouble (separated from God) and that we are unable to come back into His presence on our own (Romans 3:23). Later on in this passage, we will see what it takes to deal with sin, or more accurately, who will take it.

The Sins

The next few verses (59:3-8) go more in detail about what sins are being committed. Often in our lives a simple, “I’m a sinner” admission won’t help us understand the depth and the seriousness of our actions. We need to be able to talk about what the trouble is, specifically. The more specific, the more aware we are of the separation and the more thoroughly the grace of God can come in and clean out are hearts and mind.

This passage is showing here the depth of the sin that Isaiah was seeing. God is about to promise some amazing things and we need to know that these promises weren’t born out of amazing obedience or the goodness of His followers. These promises came from the darkest of moments when sin was more prominent than not.

The Consequences

God doesn’t sugar coat and try to make us feel better about making wrong choices. He knows that His way is life and all others ways are death. He makes that clear in the next section (59:10-15). Every choice has consequences and we need to understand that our sin brings harm to others around us and our obedience blesses them (Job 35:8).

Reminding us of the depth of the consequences is also setting the stage for us to see the beauty of the height that He will lift us. Sin is a compounding mess of struggles and troubles, sometimes for us, sometimes for the people we’re hurting. Either way, when God lifts us up, He lifts completely out of it and grants us blessing outside of anything we could earn.

The Response

The next section shows us what happens when it’s time for God to deal with the trouble (59:16-20). He’s seen the innocent suffering from the disobedient, He’s heard the overly pious giving lip service, and the list of sins is only growing. How He responds show us deep truths about God’s nature.

In verse 16, God saw that there was no one to intercede for the sinning and the suffering. Did He yell at them and tell them to get their act together? Did He say, “Too bad for you! Should have listened to me!” No! He saw them lacking and He stepped in Himself to save them. In verse 17, we see God as a passionate protector and defender. He didn’t just do this out of obligation and because He didn’t have anything more interesting on His schedule. He puts on righteousness and salvation as armor and zeal and vengeance are wrapped around Him like a cloak. In verse 18, those who sinned and caused suffering will be repaid, God will deal with those who have fought against His name.

Why is He doing this? Because we must be taught a lesson? No, He isn’t that kind of petty god. He is doing this for one reason: so that the world will see His glory (v. 19).

As if justice and salvation aren’t enough, God takes it even one step further: He promises a future of salvation and a covenant of remembrance. Right here, in the midst of the sin and the troubles and the problem, what God gives as a gift is that He will send a Redeemer (Jesus!) and His words and His spirit will not leave the people.

Mind. Blown.

What a great and loving God to not just throw out all the troublesome people and just leave this place to the bears, kangaroos, and elephants. He renews His promise that the children of Israel will be His people for always, and does it right when He has no reason to do so.

This is our message of hope: God saved us by the blood of Jesus Christ because of who He is and for that reason alone. We have done nothing to earn our salvation, and we never will be able to. God offers salvation to us freely and completely and the word of this news will never leave us forevermore. To Him and Him alone be all the glory and praise.

Jesus Brings Life - John 6:35

Facing His Words

John chapter 6 shows us an example of what happens when God calls us into a deeper relationship with him. Some will respond and come closer to him, but some will leave because of the very truth that’s calling them. In this passage, we see the reason that many Christians get stuck in their walk with the Lord and we see the only way that we can climb out and walk in new paths with Him.

In John 6, Jesus does two major miracles and preaches an intense sermon. The first miracle if the feeding of 5,000 people with 5 barley loaves and two fish (vs. 1-13). Then, after escaping the crowd that wanted to king Him, He walks on water to the boat His twelve disciples are in and transports it instantly to the far shore (vs. 16-21). After the crowd finally finds Him, He preaches them an intense sermon promising them eternal life if they believe.

The response to this intense time is summed up in verse 66, “After this many disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.” There it is. They left Him. He turned fives loaves and two fishes into a meal for 5,000 people, walked on water, instantly transported a boat with people on it, and gave a powerful sermon. As a result, he loses the devotion of many of His followers. What about what he said that drove many away? Why did they so quickly vanish when Jesus had just demonstrated his power over nature, food and sea alike?

There are three things combined in this passage that we need to understand the impact of in order to be able to better understand the struggle and to apply this truth to our lives.

  1. Our motivation

First we see the people’s motivation. In verse 15, they were all ready to take Jesus and make Him be their king. But less than a day or so later, they not only have backed down from that, they have given up following Him as well. What changed is this: they realized that Jesus wasn’t going to be a hand-out all the time kind of leader. They had just had their bellies filled with no work and with a miracle! I’d love to have that kind of blessing all the time, too. However, Jesus wasn’t coming to fulfill our selfish desires.

We want God to give us what we want when we want it. When we feel like God is pouring out blessings on us, we are in a great mood! We feel “close” to Him and feel holier and more loved. Then, the blessing stops. Does our devotion stop as well? Does taking away the blessings show ugly spiritual selfishness?

The people in Jesus’s time were motivated by the wrong things. We must know our motivation for having a relationship with God. Do you love remember what God will give you or do for you? Do you focus on what you’re going to be getting out of this relationship? Do you feel anxious when you can’t see the end of a struggle or don’t get a result you want? Be careful, you might be treading in the land of selfish spirituality.

God loves to bless his children and He knows how to give good gifts. But receiving those gifts shouldn’t be the motivating factor for why you are in this relationship. You should be in this relationship because you know the one true God and are willing to serve Him and nothing else.

This is a position that we grow into. When I first committed my everyday life to the Lord, I did so because He was pouring out His love for me. Like a newborn baby that required everything to be done for it, my spirituality was very needy, requiring help from both God and from the people around me. But, if a thirty year old, fully-capable adult demands to be treated like a newborn, we consider them delusional.

Spiritual growth is very similar. It’s alright to be needy and seek blessings when we are first learning to walk with the Lord. But, please, don’t stay there. Grow and learn and try to accept that God is a great and powerful leader who knows what’s best for all people, not just you. Let go of your need for blessing and step into the grown up spirituality of accepting God’s work in you, no matter how it may look or feel.

  1. Our knowledge

Some in this crowd knew Jesus, or at least knew His earthly family, and they doubted because they couldn’t accept the incarnate, divine truth of Jesus. We do the same thing many times when God is calling us to go deeper in Him. We take His call and we apply our personal experience and knowledge to the situation and try to understand it. We are finite and small and have only one small perspective on everything. We very often don’t have the knowledge we need to accept and walk in all the truth that God calls us to, at least at first.

We often have to step outside of what we are comfortable with and can easily define and learn to believe in a deeper way. After we’ve experienced it, we can articulate it and understand it. It’s only when we are inexperienced in an area that we feel uncomfortable with it.

Walking with God is a path and we are traveling down it daily. We have to be willing to keep moving forward and trusting Him as our guide. Second guessing your navigator when you’re deep in the woods and you don’t know how to get out is not a wise decision. This doesn’t mean you accept anything that contradicts the Word, of course, but don’t let your belief in your own experiences trump your belief in God’s guidance and call.

  1. Our limitations

By spelling out Himself, His work and the cost of following Him (eating His body and drinking His blood, v. 56), Jesus found out the limitations of His followers beliefs. Often in life we have intentions of what we’ll believe. We say, “I’ll follow Him forever!” but then the road gets rough and we want to sit down by the side of the road and nap, not follow Him forever. We say, “I believe every word of the Bible” but when it contradicts our friends, we fudge it and ignore the bits we don’t like.

Every time we are called by God to walk deeper, He puts us in a place where we have to live what our words said. We have committed our lives to Him in word and in intention, but He calls us to commit in action. Being loyal is easy when things are good. The team is winning, so you’re a fan. The team hasn’t won in a decade, and you wouldn’t admit to even owning a t-shirt, let alone attend a game.

Loyalty happens no matter whether things are good or bad, but loyalty is strengthened when you choose to stay true when it would be easier to quit. This is what Jesus’s words showed in His followers. They intended to be loyal, but the first challenge broke their intention and they found an easier route.

The Ones Who Stayed

Jesus’s twelve disciples didn’t fall away when Jesus’s words became difficult to understand or accept. The difference in their response is this, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” They had known and experienced the truth of who Jesus was. Their loyalty to God came from a place of experiencing the truth of Jesus and choosing it no matter what. They weren’t swayed by the mass exodus of the other followers, because their loyalty was based on the experience of the truth of Jesus, not their hope for personal comfort.

Fill My House - Luke 14:23

The Invitation Alone is Useless

When one of those who reclined at table with him heard these things, he said to him, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” But he said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’ … And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.'” – Luke 14:15-18, 23-24 ESV

In Luke chapter 15, Jesus tells a parable about a great banquet. In it, he tells us about the wonderful feast that God has prepared for those who come to Him. He also warns us about things that might keep us from being able to attend. Actually, there’s only one thing that can keep us from attending: our own choice. Jesus wants us to choose God over all the concerns of life. In this parable, Jesus shows us the heart of God regarding those who come to Him. Let this story remind you of your value to God and God’s closeness to you.

This story of a banquet was told at a banquet, cleverly enough. Jesus had been invited to eat at a Pharisee’s house one Sabbath (v. 1) and He was not being the most polite of guests. In fact, this was the second parable, the first one insulted their habit of vying for the best seat in the house (vs. 7-14).

This second parable is said about something another guest said. In response to Jesus’s first parable, a man says, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” Sounds pretty nice, right? I can say that I agree with that sentiment, on the surface at least. Jesus, however, sees deeper than that and knew what the man really meant. So, in His usual round-about way, Jesus responds with a parable.

The story opens with a man sending out servants to invite lots of people to come and eat with him. Instead of jumping at the chance for an amazing feast, they one by one turn the invitation down with excuse after excuse. So, the man sends out his servants to find the poor, crippled, blind, and lame. Then, as he still had seats left, he sends the servants out again, farther out, to find every person who is willing to come. He also adds at the end, “For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.”

How do you think that guest felt with that kind of response? It probably felt like the shutdown it was. Jesus was responding to the cultural ideal that you were invited based on your status or your value. At this very party, the Pharisees were trying to raise their own importance by fighting over where to sit. Yes, those who get to eat at the banquet of the Lord will truly be blessed (and happy and full!). However, we need to make sure we know why we’re being invited.

We are invited to God’s feast because He wants a full house of guests. He isn’t going to check credentials at the door. In fact, if you’re worried about not only your credentials but the credentials of the people you’ll be rubbing elbows with, you will be sorely disappointed. You may end up kicked out of the feast.

God accepts everyone who shows up to the party. He doesn’t like being turned down (really, who does?) and he will reach out to everyone. Don’t say you aren’t good enough, don’t say you should have lived a different life. Wherever you are when you hear God’s invitation, take it! Take it right then and know that you are just as much an honored guest as anyone else at the party. God doesn’t play favorites, because it’s not about us; it’s about Him.

Jesus was warning the Pharisees to get their heads on straight about what the point of religion was. It’s not about theological knowledge or position within the church. It’s absolutely not about gaining importance within the eyes of any person in this world. It’s solely about showing up when God invites you to do so.

The first (and possibly most important) invitation God offers you is the invitation to be saved through His grace. We need to acknowledge we are sinners and choose to make Him the Lord of our life. Everything else in life falls second to this choice.

This isn’t the only invitation though. We have offers from Him daily to be close to Him and walk near Him. He wants to get to know us. After all, he’s our friend. Please, don’t let the busyness of life or the feelings of inferiority interfere with accepting God’s invitation to be together each and every day. He’s very, very real and wants to spend time with you. Let each day be a banquet in His presence and choose to response to His loving call. How does God want to be with you today?

Living Sacrifice - Romans 12:1

What’s a Living Sacrifice?

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. – Romans 12:1 ESV

Romans chapter 1 opens with Apostle Paul’s request to us that we offer ourselves as sacrifices to God. He says this is our spiritual worship. This is abstract, though, and can be difficult to wrap our minds around. What does that mean to our daily lives? How do we offer ourselves as a sacrifice?

The word sacrifice often brings to mind visions of loss. As Merriam-Webster defines sacrifice, it is “the act of giving up something that you want to keep especially in order to get or do something else or to help someone.” But what is Paul referring to us losing? Looking at Jesus’s words on worship in John 4:23, we see that “true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth.” That’s an important clue. Paul isn’t necessarily referring to a physical act, but instead it’s a spiritual one of understanding.

In the next verse of John, Jesus says, “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” Ok, so we’re now onto the next piece of the puzzle: God has called us to join in Him by being like Him, not by doing anything of our own accord.

Now that we know that this is a spiritual sacrifice, what does the next piece, the truth part, tell us? We can see this part more clearly by going to the next verse of Romans 12:

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. – Romans 12:2 ESV

As we are being this sacrifice, we need to be transformed, not of the body (although I wouldn’t mind a good make-over!), but of the mind. Jesus said that this worshipping was in truth. Therefore, this worship process must be that I’m transformed by truth.

I believe this is true on any level, the more truth in your life, the freer and stronger you will be. However, Paul isn’t just talking about gaining understanding. He’s referring to one particular truth. Let’s back up into Romans 11:32, “For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.” This verse is summing up the salvation process for all. We have all sinned and fallen short of God’s glory, but God has provided a way back, if we are willing.

The more we dwell on this truth and sacrifice our own self and our old way of thinking, our minds will be renewed in the knowledge of Christ. In Romans 12:2 Paul says this understanding is vital for finding the will of God for us. We can’t have His full insight into our lives unless we are willing to sacrifice fully in spirit and in truth.

Sins Shall Be White As Snow - Isaiah 1:18

Cleaning up the Bodies

The whole valley of the dead bodies and the ashes, and all the fields as far as the brook Kidron, to the corner of the Horse Gate toward the east, shall be sacred to the LORD. It shall not be plucked up or overthrown anymore forever.” – Jeremiah 31:40 ESV

In the Jewish culture there were many things that were unclean, dead bodies being on the list. In Jeremiah 31, we see the promise of the Lord to renew the nation, even the most unclean parts of it. This promise is a part of the new covenant promise that the Lord is promising Israel. We can lean on this promise to remind us that there is no part of us that cannot be renewed and restored by the Lord.

In Jeremiah 31, Jeremiah is prophesying about what the Lord will do for His people. In verse 31, the Lord begins telling about the new covenant (the one New Testament believers accept through the blood of Jesus). He says, “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” Jeremiah 31:33 (ESV). The Lord also promises later in the chapter that the land of Israel will be restored including “The whole valley of the dead bodies and the ashes” (v.40).

What part of your heart feels like it’s been unclean, full of dead bodies? Is there a part of your heart that feels like a battlefield and the rotting remnants of the war is left behind? Did the enemy try to burn you out, leaving ashes covering the ground? Or did you try to burn out the enemy leaving nothing but empty land in your heart?

The good news? No matter how messy, how damaged or how unholy those pieces of your heart feel, God can rebuild them into fertile ground that produces a rich spiritual harvest for Him. He delights in blessing His children (Psalm 149:4) and wants to be near you. No battle, no matter who started, you or the other guy, can keep Him out. He want to bring peace to you and return you to Him (Colossians 1:20).

Don’t let an unclean place in your heart keep you from coming to the Lord. No matter how long it’s been there or how many times you’ve tried to clean it up, don’t let fear or shame keep you in the dirt. He will make you white as snow, though you are dyed in the deepest of dyes.

“Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. – Isaiah 1:18 ESV