The Gospel for Cynics, Doubters, and Skeptics

GospelForCynics

The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” – John 1:43-51, NRSV

I’m going to have the privilege of teaching over this passage in Bible Study at my church in a couple of weeks and the more I read this passage, the more I can’t help but think about the different personalities that come into play here.

Philip

In the passage, Philip is mentioned first. Jesus said, “Follow me” and that’s exactly what Philip did. Philip followed him without question or hesitation. Now, what does Philip do? He finds Nathanael, and he tells him that they’ve found the Messiah. We’ll touch on Nathanael’s response in a bit, but notice Philip. He seems enthusiastic about telling people about the Messiah. This same enthusiasm is a common personality trait of his. It’s why he’s able to be an effective witness to the Gospel of Christ.

In Acts 8, he witnesses to and baptizes a eunuch and in Acts 21:8 he is given the title of ‘Evangelist.’   I think it’s fair to deduce from what little the New Testament has to say about Philip that he is someone who is optimistic, and he’s someone that we might refer to as a ‘go getter.’

Personally, I can’t relate.

However, pay attention to what Philip says when Nathanael tries to argue with him – “come and see.” I think modern Christendom can learn a thing or two simply pausing and reflecting on this passage. Philip doesn’t try to argue with Nathanael, he just says, “Come and see.” He’s saying, “Alright, find out for yourself.”

You see ads all the time that have money-back guarantees and they say, “If you’re not completely satisfied with the product then send it back and you’ll get your money back.” Now, we know that’s not entirely true. Before you’re able to get your money back, there’s a lot of bureaucratic red tape that you have to go through, but what Philip says to Nathanael is better than a money-back guarantee. He simply says, “Come and see.”

Honestly, I think that’s the most effective way to evangelize. You not see a boost in church attendance by evangelizing like that, but that’s because we’ve defined success by the numbers, but that’s another blog post for another time.

Nathanael

I can relate to Nathanael. Notice his response to Philip – “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Why would Nathanael say this? I would say that Nathanael is being realistic.

As we’ll see later, Nathanael is a student of Old Testament. There’s not anything mentioned about the Messiah coming from Nazareth. Nazareth was also a poor village and possibly known for its moral corruption. Usually poverty and crime go hand in hand so it wouldn’t be a stretch of the imagination to think of Nazareth as such a town.

Nathanael is having a hard time conceiving the notion that the Messiah that he believed was going to be coming to bring political revolution to the Jews was going to be coming from a place like Nazareth.

When He sees Jesus, Jesus says, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” Before Nathanael fully recognizes Jesus for who He is, he’s probably thinking, “Alright, this guys is trying to sell me something so he asks, “Where did you get to know me?”

He wants to be sure that Jesus is really the Chosen One of God, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting to be sure. Notice what Jesus says – “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” This is where we learn about Nathanael being a student of the Scriptures.

Cultural context is important because things in Scripture aren’t always as they appear on the surface. When we read this without cultural we might, “Oh, Jesus had a vision of Nathanael chilling out under a fig tree.” It’s not that simple.

According to the NIV First Century Study Bible, ‘under the fig tree’ was a euphemism for studying the Hebrew Scriptures. Jesus pointed out that Nathanael was a ‘true Israelite’ because he had been studying the Scriptures. We see this taken a step farther whenever Jesus mentions that they would see “angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” There’s only one other place in Scripture where that phrase is used and it’s in Genesis 28:10-15 where Jacob has a vision of a stairway going into Heaven and angels ascending and descending on the stairway.

In Genesis 28, after Jacob has the vision, God reminds him of the promise to bless his seed. Jesus was communicating to Nathanael the promise to bless his Jacob’s seed has been fulfilled in Himself. He is the stairway to Heaven between God and man.

Jesus

Finally, we come to the personality of Jesus. If I were going to fully talk about how Jesus is, it would take too long so I simply want to look at how He is portrayed in this passage.

First, Jesus is humble. Although His humility is not directly alluded to in the passage, I think it’s something that we can still deduce when we consider Jesus coming from a town like Nazareth. I already mentioned that the town itself was probably a ghetto filled with poverty and moral corruption.

It would’ve been enough for Jesus to put on human flesh and live on earth, but it wasn’t enough for Him. He knew the kind of life He was getting into. He chose to be born to Joseph and Mary. He knew they would live in Nazareth – that little podunk village that nothing good can come from. He chose that life. Jesus is of more value and worth than we could ever attribute to Him and yet, He chooses to live among the meek, the lowly, the humble, and the outcast so that those meek, lowly, humble, and outcast could see that He relates to them.

Second, Jesus is understanding. When Nathanael asks Him how He got to know him, Jesus doesn’t have to give Nathanael an answer. Jesus doesn’t him anything, and yet he understands Nathanael’s desire for an explanation.

Jesus seeks us out as we are, not as we’re going to be. He looks into our souls and He sees us – the real us, not the mask we put on for the others, but the real, broken, insecure us that has a an existential crisis at least three times a week at the most inconvenient times.

Jesus understands us, and that is why the writer of Hebrews says, “We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15-16, NRSV)

What Breaking Lent Taught Me

BreakingLent

Over the last several years, God has developed in me an appreciation for the liturgical calendar and some of the more “high church” traditions of the body of Christ, two of those traditions being Ash Wednesday and Lent.

This is the first year that I’ve decided to celebrate Lent and so I thought I would give up carbonated beverages since I usually have one of those with me at all times. It was hard for the few days, but it got easier – especially when I learned that the Sundays don’t actually count in Lent, but then it got harder again when I started having caffeine withdrawals. So, I became weak and I broke my commitment. As we speak, I’m sipping on a berry flavored Rip It that I bought at a local convenience store before work. Now that I’ve failed, where do I go from here? Do I just give up and try again next year? Someone might do that, but not me. After I finish this tall can of faux sugar, carbon water, and caffeine, I’m going to get back on the wagon and ride again, and with God’s help, I’ll ride it all the way to Easter this time. This experience was not for naught though. I’ve learned (or been reminded rather) of two very important truths.

1. I’m weak

Never be rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be quick to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven, and you upon earth; therefore let your words be few… When you make a vow to God, do not delay fulfilling it; for he has no pleasure in fools. Fulfill what you vow. It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not fulfill it.”
– Ecclesiastes 5:2, 4-5, NRSV 

I get so mad at myself when I try to do something for God and fail. I tell God that I’m going to do something productive or important for Him and then I end up falling on my face.  Sometimes I get so frustrated I just hang my head and ask, “Why am I such a screw up?” And then after I’ve had my pity party and bemoaned my existence for a while, I realize that God often uses our weaknesses to keep us humble.

If there was anyone who had any right to brag, it was the Apostle Paul. He was educated at the feet of Gamaliel, who was a high-ranking and extremely official for the Sanhedrin. He was personally selected by Jesus to carry the message of the Gospel. He planted several churches, survived beatings and shipwrecks, preached before kings and other dignitaries, debated with the most intellectual of pagans on Mars Hill, and he wrote 2/3 of the New Testament. Yet, out of everything, he still had a “thorn in the flesh.” He had a weakness of some kind that kept him humble.

 If I wanted to boast, I would be no fool in doing so, because I would be telling the truth. But I won’t do it, because I don’t want anyone to give me credit beyond what they can see in my life or hear in my message, even though I have received such wonderful revelations from God. So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud.”
– 2 Corinthians 12:6-7, NLT

Whenever we fail at keeping our commitments to God, He isn’t surprised or taken aback at us, but rather He looks on us with compassion because His only begotten son, Jesus Christ, took on weak and frail flesh to show us that He identifies with our weakness, and in our weakness, God is shown to be strong.

“For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength…  God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God.”
– 1 Corinthians 1:25, 28-29, NRSV

In 1st Corinthians 1, Paul addresses the congregation at Corinth and reminds them that they look weak to the world, and their Gospel message of the resurrection of Jesus Christ seemed foolish, but God uses what seems foolish and weak to show His wisdom and His power. His wisdom is Christ Himself, and His power is the message that Jesus came to save sinners. In our weakness, God is glorified because it reminds us that we must always depend on Him and not our own effort.

2. God’s grace is sufficient.

“Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
– 2 Corinthians 12:8-10, NLT

We should learn to be friends with the fact that we’re weak. Notice that I didn’t say that we should make friends with our weaknesses. Paul prayed for his “thorn in the flesh” to be taken away and so I think we should pray for ours to be taken away too, but if it doesn’t get taken away we should remember why it’s there in the first place.

God shows us His grace and His strength in the places in our lives where see weakness and frailty. We are insufficient to fulfill all the vows that we make to Him, but He is more than sufficient with a supply of grace to equip us for the tasks to which He has called us. To Him be glory, power, and dominion. Forever and ever. Amen.

Reflections on the Valley of Vision: Sincerity, Part 1: Some Thoughts on Authenticity

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“You desire truth in the inward being;
Therefore teach me wisdom in my secret being.”
– Psalm 51:6, NRSV

(Full prayer may be read here)

In this post, I mostly want to share some introductory thoughts going into the prayer, and in the next post, I’ll give some personal thoughts and commentary over the prayer.

I don’t know about you, but I have doubts about my salvation. Sometimes the thought plagues my mind that I could be one of those to whom  Jesus says, “I never knew you. Get away from me, you who practice evil!” (Matthew 7:23, ISV)

When this happens, I often pray from the Valley of Vision because there are times when I know what I want to pray, but I can’t seem to find the words, and usually when I read the prayers I think, “This is exactly how I’m feeling and this is exactly what I want to say to God.” I had one of those moments this past Sunday as I was flipping through the Valley of Vision and came across the prayer for sincerity. It was so fitting because I believe that God’s people just aren’t authentic enough in their faith.

Not all Christians feel this way. Some people think, I suppose, that we should drink lemon juice for communion so we look holier. Bill Muehlenberg wrote, what I would describe as, an almost scathing article against the idea of “authentic” Christianity. He made statements like, “Forget this foolishness of avoiding hypocrisy by embracing and settling for carnality and second-rate Christianity….Forget this lousy talk about “authenticity” and start talking about biblical holiness.” Now, all that talk of ‘biblical holiness’ sounds nice to the red tie-wearing, conservative, church goer that arrives to worship 15 minutes early every Sunday, makes sure they always have the same spot in the sanctuary, but reality is that biblical holiness is not something we can accomplish in and of ourselves. Holiness is given to us in Christ. That’s the only way one can reconcile Ephesians 2:8 (“by grace you are saved and not of works”) and Hebrews 12:14 (“without holiness no man shall see the Lord) without believing that you can lose your salvation or that you have to finish the work of salvation.

We’re not perfect. We struggle. We fall. We sin. And we have a tendency to hide behind a mask and we may (intentionally or unintentionally) lead people to think that we’re better than what we are. Dr. Steve Brown said “Christians are masters at hidden agendas and masks” and I couldn’t agree more. We all have a mask that we like hiding behind because it’s comfortable so that’s when I read the prayer for Sincerity in the Valley of Vision, I feel convicted of my sin and yet at the same time I’m comforted because I access to the Father by His grace so I don’t have to wear a mask in front of Him. He knows how bad I am and He loves me anyway.

There’s no reason to have a mask on before the throne of grace. Jesus has seen all the ugly parts and He’s not going anywhere. In Hebrews 13, the writer reminds his audience in verse 5 that Jesus has promised that He will never leave us nor forsake us, and then in verse 8 the writer says boldly that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Life is unstable and the challenges that we face in life can cause us to become unstable, but Jesus is a friend that sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24). Jesus is stable foundation you can build your life on. Trust Him.

Resources:

The Valley of Vision

Agendas and Masks by Steve Brown

Hidden Agendas with Steve Brown

And if you thought the Muehlenberg article was bad, check out “Has ‘Authenticity’ Trumped Holiness?” by Brett McCracken on The Gospel Coalition.

Undeserved Grace

“I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus,” – 1 Corinthians 1:4, NRSV

The purpose of First Corinthians was for Paul to correct some problems in the church. They had allowed the world to corrupt their morals and they were compromising their character by conforming to the secular society around them. I grew up in an old-fashioned Pentecostal culture where there were red-faced and loud-mouthed preachers griping and complaining about how much of the ‘world’ we’ve gotten in our churches when the reality of the situation is that they never saw the church at Corinth. They had no idea what a worldly church looked like.

And I personally think if they had seen the church at Corinth they would have joined right in with the church’s debauchery, and who knows? Maybe I would have too. I don’t believe any of us are as good as we say or even think we are. Charles Spurgeon said, “If any man thinks ill of you, do not be angry with him, for you are worse than he thinks you to be.” You might read that and think, “That’s horrible. That’s not encouraging at all.” But let me tell you that it should be.

As you go through 1st Corinthians and read all their immoral and sinful behavior go back and read chapter one, verse four. Through all their messy sinfulness, Paul still thanks God that he pours His grace out on them through Christ Jesus. As you and I continue to allow the Holy Spirit of God to work on us, mold us, and make us, we’re going to encounter some sinful, messy things about ourselves that we don’t like, but O Child of God, be encouraged for He pours His grace out on you through Christ Jesus.

In the words of Steve Brown, “Now, you think about that.” Amen.

“I Will Heal Their Apostasy”

“Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God, for you have stumbled because of your iniquity. Take with you words  and return to the Lord; say to him, “Take away all iniquity; accept what is good, and we will pay with bulls the vows of our lips. Assyria shall not save us; we will not ride on horses; and we will say no more, ‘Our God,’ to the work of our hands. In you the orphan finds mercy.” I will heal their apostasy; I will love them freely, for my anger has turned from them.” – Hosea 14:1-4, ESV

“Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God, for your sins have brought you down. Bring your confessions, and return to the Lord. Say to him,“Forgive all our sins and graciously receive us, so that we may offer you our praises. Assyria cannot save us, nor can our warhorses. Never again will we say to the idols we have made, ‘You are our gods.’ No, in you alone do the orphans find mercy.” The Lord says, “Then I will heal you of your faithlessness; my love will know no bounds, for my anger will be gone forever.” – Hosea 14:1-4, NLT

All of my life I heard, “If something is too good to be true, then it probably is.” But what about when it comes to the love of God? What happens when I ask myself, “Is there any hope for me?” and then I come to this passage see those five words “I will heal their apostasy.” Is that really a promise of hope for my soul or this too good to be true?

I would like to argue that this is a true promise of God that is relevant for us today. We all have a sin nature that longs to pull us away from God. The issues of life often trouble us and distract us from His grace, but let it be known that even though we are prone to wonder, prone to leave the God we love (as one hymn writer puts it), we are never too far that God cannot heal backsliding. David Guzik says, “The word is compassionate: I will heal their backsliding. This shows God looks on our backsliding more like a disease than a crime. He does not say, I will pardon their backsliding.It is as though he said, My poor people, I do remember that they are but dust; they are liable to a thousand temptations through the fall, and they soon go astray; but I will not treat them as though they were rebels, I will look upon them as patients, and they shall look upon me as a physician.”

What a thought! When we understand that our backsliding isn’t held against us and we can run into his forgiveness and receive grace in our time of need. This doesn’t mean our sin isn’t serious. It means that our sin has already been dealt with at the cross. One of my former pastors once said that Jesus is never neutral towards sin, He either forgives it or condemns it. Let it be understood that if you are trusting Jesus for your salvation then He has already forgiven your sin.

In one blog post, Pastor Steve Brown drives this point home: “All sin is serious, but God’s forgiveness is forever. That is what the cross was all about! The Bible teaches in Romans 8:1 that “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Christians are covered by the blood of Christ. In his death, Christ has already paid the price for our judgment.

God forgives all of our sin, regardless of how “big” or “small” that sin may be . . . because of his great and enduring love. What that means, from God’s perspective, is that he has forgotten our sins and is not holding us accountable for them. They have already been paid for. God has already forgiven our sin—past, present and future—in the shedding of blood and sacrifice of his Son, Jesus Christ. When we ask for forgiveness it is for our benefit. In other words, asking for forgiveness acknowledges our sin and rebellion against God and allows us to turn towards him in an attitude of repentance. It is an act of love.

It is important to remember that Christians aren’t perfect, only forgiven. There are two kinds of people in the world, not the good and the bad; but, rather, the bad who know it and the bad who don’t. As Christians, we need to be honest about who we are and about who God is.

There is absolutely nothing you can do to get God to love you one iota more than he already does and there is absolutely nothing you can do to get God to love you one iota less.”

The word of God makes it clear that God preserves us and forgives us as His children. The following are some passages that emphasize the love of God and assurance of salvation: Psalm 51:2,7; Psalm 32:1-2; 2 Corinthians 5:19; 1 John 1:9; Romans 4:7; Hebrews 8:12; Psalm 103:12; Isaiah 38:17; John 8:36; Isaiah 43:25; Matthew 6:14-15; Luke 23:34; Micah 7:7; Romans 8:1-39; Jeremiah 32:40; Isaiah 54:7-10, and there are many others, but these are a few.

Today, know that God loves you with an everlasting love and that He is for you.

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.

John’s Love Letter’s, Part 6: Little Children

“My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” – [1 John 2:1-6 ESV] 

Okay, so I’m not going to lie, in our last installment of the ‘John’s Love Letters’ I guess I was feeling angry at Cessationists decided that it would be a good chance to bash them (which it was) and we ended up getting off track a little, so we’re going to go over the passage again and get down to business about what John is trying to tell us.

In verse 1, he calls us “Little Children.” This isn’t to smack us around about our spiritual immaturity, this is just John’s style. He’s an old man. That’s what old people do. They call us, “Kid,” “Sport,” “Son,” and in John’s case, “Little children.” It is said that as John was dying his final words were, “Little Children, love one another.” To know everything that I know about John and then to read his letters, I think if we listen hard enough we can still hear him call us, “Little Children” and we should feel honored that such a saint refers to us as his children. It means he loves us because the Father has loved us, and for that reason he wants to lead us closer to the Father.

Next, he tells that he’s writing to us so that we may not sin, “Little Children, I am writing these things that you may not sin.” I read that and I thought, “umm… I hate to tell you this, but it’s a little late John.” I’ve messed up big time. I’ve blown it. I’m not talking about once or twice since I got saved, but I’m talking about today. But John didn’t finish there, and I’m glad he didn’t, “But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” The word, “advocate” is legal term that says basically means that Jesus is our defense attorney. The Book of Revelation tells us that Satan is the accuser of the brethren. What that means is that Satan tries to stand before God and tell Him everything wrong we’ve done and try to give Him every reason in the book why we shouldn’t be redeemed.

That in mind, I can see Satan telling God, “Logan’s blown it! He really dropped the ball today!” And God in a condescending manner, looks at with sarcastically raised eyebrow and asks, “Well, what did he do?” Satan replies, “He lost his temper and flipped off an old lady in traffic.” God, already knowing the answer to the question, looks to Jesus, His son and my defense attorney, and asks, “Well, did he do it?” Jesus replies, “Nope.” Satan says, “But I saw him do it!” Jesus says, “I didn’t. All I saw was my perfect work accomplished, and my blood poured out over all his sins.” God dismisses the case, and that’s the end of the story. One day, Satan and his angels will be thrown into the lake of fire, and they’ll pay for all the harm that they’ve caused God’s children all the way down through history, and most of all, they’ll pay for offending Almighty God Himself.

I’ll deal with verses 3-6 again from a different angle in the next post. I’m tired. I’m going to get Chinese food, go home, and watch the first season of House. Good night, God bless, and thanks for reading.