Momentary Affliction and a Merciful Savior

But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. …For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal. ” – 2 Corinthians 4:7, 17-18, NRSV

“So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.” – 2 Corinthians 5:17-19, NRSV

Let’s get one thing clear. I suck at being a Christian. I love Jesus with all my heart. He’s my best friend. I call upon Him as Savior everyday and I pray for Him to be my Lord, and I try to submit myself to what He wants for my life, but sometimes I just blow it. If I weren’t a Calvinist, I would say that I’ve lost my salvation two or three times in the last week. The struggle that I have is real and one of the reasons I believe God allows me to have these struggles is so that I can help others who have similar problems.

You see, this whole sanctification thing is from now until we die. We’ll never be perfect until we stand in the full presence of Almighty God in Heaven. Until that moment, God continually draws us to Himself. He beckons us into a beautiful relationship with Him. And this life is full of ups and downs, unexpected turns in the road, and sometimes we lose our way. Sometimes we make bad decisions. The good news though is that Jesus didn’t lay any terms and conditions in a negotiation with the Father before He came. Jesus didn’t look at God and say, “Now Dad, I’m only going to atone for their sins if they never blow it or mess up again from the moment of their conversion.” That conversation never took place. As a matter of fact, I don’t even believe there was any negotiation because Jesus humbly submitted Himself to the Father’s will.

Spurgeon said, “God came here in human form, not bound to be obedient; but “being found in fashion as a man, he became obedient”; obedient to his own law, and fulfilled every jot and tittle of it. He was “obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” And his obedience is ours, if we believe.” So you see, Jesus was perfectly obedient because He knew we wouldn’t be. He knew we were sons of wrath and disobedience when He saved us, and then He made children of the light.

Now, I’m a secure child of God, but there are days when it feels like the darkness will not lift and I have gone too far and Jesus, in all of His love and mercy, reminds me of the atonement that He secured for me over 2,000 years ago on an old rugged cross. My sins, my mess ups, my mistakes, my depression, my habits, and hangups were nailed to the cross and Jesus had already declared His victory over them.

So if you’re reading this and you’re having one of those days, remember He’s not done with you yet. He loves you and He still says to us, “Neither do I condemn you, go, and sin no more!.”

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A Scriptural Response to Charleston

charleston3My heart is broken for the families of the victims of this atrocious massacre, but in light of this horrific incident, the families are practicing what they’ve heard preached their whole lives – forgiveness.

Business Insider reports the following:

“Family members of those killed during a bible study at a historically black church in South Carolina Wednesday night were given the chance to speak to their loved ones’ alleged killer during his bond hearing today.

“Although my grandfather and the other victims died at the hands of hate … they [the victims] lived in love,” Alana Simmons, the granddaughter of Reverend Daniel Simmons, said in court.

“Their legacies will live in love so hate won’t win,” Simmons said.

So, how do we respond? I and many of my readers live in Arkansas. We can’t physically be there for the city of Charleston, and even if we could, what could we possibly do? The damage has already been done. So, today I want to talk what we can do now to show the sincerity of our love for Charleston as the city goes through this time of mourning and loss.

I believe our response should be one of love, prayer, and forgiveness with a full recognition of Jesus Christ as our Prince of Peace.

Love
The Bible clearly teaches that our love should be unconditional. If you don’t believe me read 1st Corinthians 13:1-13 and 1st John 3:10-18. As a matter of fact, read the entirety of Scripture and show me one place where God gives us one excuse for us, as His New Covenant people, not to love freely, unconditionally, and sacrificially. So, whom do we love? We love the people of Charleston. We love the friends and families of the victims, and we love people like Dylann Roof. That’s hard to say and probably hard for you to read, but let’s examine the words of Scripture:

“If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. 35But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. 36Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” – Luke 6:32-36, ESV

Jesus makes no qualms about it. “Love your enemies.” Now, more than ever, the words of our Savior should be ringing our hearts and our minds. We know the victims showed loved and affection for Dylann Roof when he walked through the doors of their church by this report from the article mentioned earlier:

“The mother of the youngest victim, 26-year old Tywanza Sanders, told Roof that “every fiber in my body hurts, I will never be the same.”

“As we said in the Bible study, we enjoyed you,” she said. “But may God have mercy on you.”

I watched the coverage on Fox Business of Roof’s bond hearing, and I heard only a portion of the hurt in Sander’s voice as she spoke these words, and the friends and families of the victims say that the congregation completely welcomed Roof as soon as he walked in. They had no idea who he was. They just wanted to love him as they had been loved by God, and that’s what we need to do, love.

Prayer
We need to pray for peace for Charleston, we need to pray for comfort for the families, we need to pray for racial reconciliation, and we must pray for our enemies. Again let’s turn to the words of Jesus:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” – Matthew 5:43-48, ESV

Let’s think about this just for a second. Why do we have enemies? Why do we have people like Dylann Roof who hate and express that hate through violence and bigotry? Why did Adolf Hitler persecute the Jews? Because Satan hates what God loves, and sin stands directly against anything that God ordained as good and holy. So,if God loves racial harmony and racial unity (and we know that He does), then sin causes people to hate God and everything that He loves including racial harmony and racial unity. We know that God loves these things because He sent His son to die for people of all races, creeds, and nationalities. If you don’t believe me, then let’s look at the book at the Book of Revelation:

“And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. 7And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. 8And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, 10and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” – Revelation 5:6-10, ESV

This passage points us to a time when racism, sexism, and all of the other “isms” are no more, and it points to people that were redeemed by the shed blood of Jesus. All peoples of every tribe, nation, and tongue are singing to the sovereign Lord of the Universe. This is real racial harmony because this is when all earthly races become one race, God’s chosen race, His redeemed people.

So, when we go back to Jesus telling us to pray for our enemies, He tells us how to pray in Matthew 6:5-13, and finally He gives us the confidence to pray this way in Mark 11:23-24 when He says that “whatever you ask in prayer, believe… and it will be yours.” So, what should we pray? We pray for the salvation of Dylann Roof and those like Him, but we pray ultimately that God will have His way with him.

One of two things will happen by the end of Roof’s life, He will either stand before God justified by grace, through faith in Jesus Christ, or He will stand condemned, under the kindled hot wrath of Almighty God as servant of sin. And either way, God will have had His way with him. What he did was horrible beyond description, but when he stands before the judgement bar, only God can judge him and we must come to terms with that.

Forgiveness
“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” – Matthew 6:14-15, ESV

I want you to notice something in this passage. Jesus doesn’t put any conditions on forgiveness. He doesn’t say, “Wait until the offending party asks for forgiveness.” He simply commands us to forgive others their trespasses regardless of the act, regardless of whether they ask for it, and especially regardless of whether or not they deserve it. Our whole motivation for forgiveness to see how much God has forgiven us in Christ (Ephesians 4:31-32).

The families of the victims have shared the Gospel and extended forgiveness to Dylan Roof, and I truly believe that the Bible commands us to do the same. The Christian Post stated that a gospel musician by the name of Marcus Stanley left a message on Roof’s Facebook before it was taken down for security reasons, and in a portion of the message Stanley gave an invitation to accept Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.

“If you’re still out there… Give your heart to Jesus and confess your sins with a heart of forgiveness. He is the only one that can save your soul and forgive you for this terrible act that you have done.” Stanley then added, “I love you Dylann … even in the midst of the darkness and pain you’ve caused. But more importantly, He loves you.”

A Need For the Prince of Peace
The prophet Isaiah proclaims that Jesus will come as the Prince of Peace. Paul tells us in Ephesians 2:14 says that Jesus is our peace because He breaks down racial, cultural, and national barriers and brings near the throne of His grace by His blood.

We live in a broken world. What happened at Charleston is proof of that (as if we needed more proof). Only Jesus can bring peace to all the futile racial wars that fallen man fights. His redemption by His destroyed all walls and beckons us to a life of love and Christian unity.

“Not color but faith in Christ is the mark of the kingdom. But it is a mighty long journey. And the price is high. Jesus was on the Calvary road every step of the way. He knew what it woud finally cost Him. It would cost Him His life. But His heart was in it. To the end.” – John Piper, Bloodlines

Charleston needs Jesus. Dylan Roof needs Jesus. I need Jesus. You need Jesus. This world needs Jesus.