There was a man.

A long time ago, there was a man who lived in the Middle East. People claimed, back then, that he could do miraculous things. He could make sick people better, they said. He could make blind people see, they said. He could even bring people back from the dead, they said.

This man also taught. He used Jewish scripture to tell people about God and God’s Kingdom. Yet there was something different about this teacher, the people claimed. He didn’t just teach; he taught with authority, as if he himself were the author of the text, they said. And some people didn’t like that. It made them angry, especially when he taught in a way that proclaimed that he himself – this man – that he was God. There was something about his words, his phrases, his teachings, something that made the religious leaders of the day declare him to be blaspheming, to be speaking disrespectfully and irreverently against their God. Yet not everyone thought he was blaspheming. They said that some still followed him.

They also said that this man was put to death by the Jewish leaders and the Roman government. They claimed that he hadn’t done anything wrong. They said that he was put to death in the Roman way of that time: like other criminals, nailed to a cross. They said he died, and all the people – his followers, the religious people, and the Roman officials – they all saw that he was, indeed, dead. They said that was the end of him.

And then, three days later, people began to say that the tomb in which he had been laid was empty. They said that they saw this man alive and walking around. They said that he had been resurrected, that death itself couldn’t hold him. They said that they had even walked with him, talked with him, eaten with him. More than five hundred people said they had been with him. They said that after a while with him, they saw him go up into heaven.

They said a lot of things about this man that sound hard to believe, and yet…yet so many people said it. So many people believed that what this man said and did was true. They proclaimed that they had, in fact, seen him alive and well after he had definitely been dead, and they risked their lives to tell others what they believed to be true – even to the point of death.

If what they said is true, if a perfect man really did walk this earth and do things that only God can do and claim to be God Himself, if this perfect man really did die and then come back to life, then this changes everything.

Praise:
Behold Our God by Sovereign Grace Music
King of Kings by Worship Initiative
Easter Song by Jess Ray

Learn More:
Making Sense of God by Timothy Keller
The Reason for God by Timothy Keller
The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel

What is good about this Friday?

Friday, April 3rd, 2015
As I sat down for my devotions this morning, I found myself less-than confident in knowing what Good Friday even was. Is today when Jesus rode in on the donkey? When he was risen? When he was crucified?? If it is when Jesus was crucified, then how is that good?

What is good about this Friday? 

In John 3, Jesus tells the Jewish leader Nicodemus, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life… whoever believes in the Son is not condemned” (John 3:16, 18). World, whoever. This is all-encompassing. Every tribe, every nation, every class, every culture, every religion, every sexual orientation, every race, every age, every generation. God loved his people so much that he gave his Son to take their place and endure the consequence for their sin.

A handful of verses later, in John 4, Jesus is at a well and speaks to someone of completely different social status from Nicodemus. A woman, an adultress filled with shame, fetching water in the heat of the day when no one else would be around. One-on-one with her, Jesus tells her about a different kind of water, a “living” water that is available to her, and she will never be thirsty again.

“Sir, give me this water” (John 4:15) she replies. 

Jesus instead exposes her. “Go, call your husband…” (John 4:16). 

But there was no one to call. She had five prior husbands, and the man she was with now wasn’t even her husband. The secret was out, but for some reason, the woman didn’t leave yet. Jesus continued on to reveal that He was the Messiah. He was the Savior who came to take her place and endure the consequence of her sin, and grant her eternal life. “Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, ‘Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?’” (John 4:28-29).

She left her water jar and went back into the crowd of people she had originally sought to avoid. She believed the man she met was who he claimed to be. The Messiah. The Christ. The One who exposed her, but instead of condemning her, set her free. Forever.

This man Jesus, this God Yahweh, He loves the world. More than we could ever understand. And he loves each one of us. Individually. More than we could ever dare imagine. 

The Good News of Jesus isn’t just that he loves everyone, but that he loves me. You. He can free us from our sin and shame, take away our “guilty” sentence, and give us true life. We don’t have to clean ourselves up, He will take care of that. We don’t have to get it all right, He already did. We have to believe, to receive the gift for “whoever. ” Because when Jesus said “It is finished” (John 19:30), it counted for me, it counted for you. 

That is why this Friday is Good.

—–

“The soldier would use a whip of braided leather thongs with metal balls woven into them. When the whip would strike the flesh, these balls would cause deep bruises or contusions, which would break open with further blows. And the whip had pieces of sharp bone as well, which would cut the flesh severely. The back would be so shredded that part of the spine was sometimes exposed by the deep, deep cuts. The whipping would have gone all the way from the shoulders down to the back, the buttocks, and the back of the legs… One physician who has studied Roman beatings said, ‘As the flogging continued, the lacerations would tear into the underlying skeletal muscles and produce quivering ribbons of bleeding flesh.’” – The Case for Easter, Lee Strobel

—–

Read: John 3:16-21
What do you learn about belief? Condemnation? Light?
Additional reference: Romans 8:1
Contrast the kingdoms of darkness and light. What things fall into each category? Is there any overlap?

Read: John 4:1-26
What does this text tell you about Jesus?

Read: John 7:38-39
What is the living water?

Read: John 19:30
On the cross, what does Jesus give up?

Respond: Spend time in prayer, praising Jesus for who He is and his ability and generosity to transfer us from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light, and for giving us living water despite what it cost him.

And if you’ve never received the living water, you can pray something like this:

Jesus, would you welcome me into your kingdom? I believe that you are the Messiah, the Savior, not just for the whole world but for me. I’m sorry for my sins, and I want to follow you. I want your living water. Amen

There is nothing magic in the words, but there is absolutely something supernatural in the repentance of heart and surrender to the Savior, the lover of our souls.


Sing: King of Kings
Living Hope
Reckless Love

Spiritual Routines

As a mom of three young kids, I have been struck recently by the value of creating rhythms and routines in our household. This is not anything new, especially to any veteran parent or grandparent out there. In fact, I’m sure it’s something people have told me at least a hundred times. But I’m apparently hard of hearing, and I often need to discover the value of these things on my own by trial and error.

From the time a child is born, every parenting book, website, and blog tells you to get that child on a routine, and they’ll sleep better, eat better, play better, grow better, learn better, just be better overall. As they get older, they learn the routines we teach them for themselves. We start our day with breakfast. We brush our teeth after that. We get dressed. We make our beds. (At least, I hear that’s what happens in other households. Mine…not so much!) Just those simple morning routines set the tone for the rest of the day.

I understand and appreciate the value of these routines, and (besides the making-the-bed part of the morning) my young kids have already learned (or at least, have mostly learned) what to do after they eat, and then what comes next after they brush their teeth. Different households may have different routines, some more rigid and others more relaxed, but they’re there. And familiar patterns, once created, tend to continue for a long time.

But for some reason, when it comes to training my kids in the spiritual disciplines, this appreciation for routines that I claim to have flies out the window. We read the Bible and pray together, but I find myself getting frustrated when they can’t sit still, when they don’t appear to even be listening, when they’re unresponsive as I ask follow-up questions, and when they pray the same “thank you for the food” prayer every single time. And it’s very tempting to think, “It’s not working. They’re too young. I’ll put it aside and try again in another year or two, when they can understand better.”

And if I’m perfectly honest, I see this in myself, too. Some days I wake up, eager to open my Bible and learn as much as I can in the thirty minutes before the kids find me downstairs. But other days – more often than I care to admit – I struggle to focus. My mind wanders, and I don’t feel like I’m learning anything, and I just don’t get it, whatever “it” is that day. “It’s not working,” I’m tempted to tell myself, “Today’s just not my day. I’ll put it aside and try again tomorrow, when I can focus better.”

But what about the value of that familiar routine? What about perseverance, and creating expectations within my children’s – and my own – hearts? Just because I feel a lag in my own learning, or I see a lag in my children’s own enthusiasm, doesn’t give me an excuse to set it aside and try again another time, when I feel better about it. Repeating the routine, even on the “off” days, helps them – and helps me – grow. 

But I don’t do it out of duty, or out of a sense of earning a good standing before God. There’s no law that says I must read my Bible daily or else I’m a bad Christian (or worse, that I’m no Christian at all). But even when I don’t feel like doing it, I keep the routine going because it teaches my heart to trust that God is working in me even when I can’t feel it. I keep the routine because I know my emotions are fickle, and they will convince me that I don’t need to spend time with God if I don’t feel like it, and if I keep falling for that lie, I know I will one day wake up to discover how far I have drifted. I keep the routine for myself because I believe God is what I need, more than anything else that day, even when I feel like I can handle whatever comes my way on my own. I keep the routine for my kids because I know prioritizing time with God is the most important part of their day, and they need to learn that through repeated practice. I’m not scoring any bonus points with God by opening my Bible every day or by teaching my kids to pray; I’m being faithful to what He has called me to do. And thankfully, even when I fail, Jesus has already been perfectly faithful for me, and He has exchanged His righteousness for my sin and failure. By continuing to go to God day after day, I am asking Him to change my attitude and desires, to shape me to become more like Him, to remind me of the abundant joy that is found in His presence.

I may not see the change right away, but I think sometimes God is playing the long game. He’s concerned with our spiritual growth and development. This deep change He produces in me cannot come from my own strength, but from Him alone. He is slowly shaping our hearts to desire a deeper relationship with Him, and that relationship is a joy He graciously allows us to grow in daily, even if our felt experience of it fluctuates.

My kids may not understand the full, scientific importance of why they need to brush their teeth, or exactly why it’s better for our brains and bodies to eat a solid breakfast when they wake up, or even the psychological reasons for making our beds every day (we’ll get to that sometime, I promise!), but creating those expectations are healthy and beneficial and good for them. Someday, I trust, they will know not just the routine, but the importance of each action for themselves. In the same way, they may not fully understand why we open our Bibles every day, or why we spend time talking to Someone we can’t see with our eyes, and I may not understand the value of opening my Bible even when I don’t remember anything I read five minutes later. But those routines, those rhythms, are creating something inside each of us, something healthy and beneficial and good for us. They’re creating a deep reliance on God, even when we don’t feel it. I want my kids to learn – and I want to feel this for myself – that something is missing when that part of the routine gets skipped, something important and essential.

So I encourage you, as I remind myself, to create those rhythms in your household, for yourself and your kids. God does not waste time; we can trust that He will use those routines for His glory in some way, even if it’s a long way down the road.

Sing: Come Thou Fount (Above All Else) by Shane and Shane
“Let Thy goodness, like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to Thee…Above all else, tune my heart to sing Your praise.”

Identity – A Personal Response

When I know all the “right things”, and have all the Bible verses on hand, and have listened to sermons, and have read books and still can’t seem to get it together… I’m finding that my overwhelm is generally rooted in an embarrassingly low view of God’s love for me. I believe it for everyone else, 150 million percent. But I can’t get my heart to believe it for me. Because it just doesn’t make any sense. How could all these things that he declares be true of me when I am still such a mess and still such a wretched sinner?

And further – how could I possibly believe God’s fierce limitless love for me if I don’t even love myself? 

But this is who he is.

The deepest, most natural, most reflexive piece of his character. He loves his people. He loves to love his people and loves to pour out his mercy and loves to come in and embrace.

God loves us. Collectively, yes. But individually – as if we were the only one.

As I read “Gentle and Lowly”, by Dane Ortlund, I realized, I will never be able to overestimate God’s love for me. I will never stand before him in Heaven and regress, “I guess you didn’t love me as much as I thought you did.” It will be so wildly the opposite. Where we will stand before God, entirely undone by his goodness and beauty, and be completely exasperated by the uncapped measure of his love. 

And that is precisely what I mean when I say that “nothing has given me more confidence in my position in Christ than learning more and more about who He is”. Because the more I learn about how good and generous and merciful he is, the more I realize he just might mean it when he says he loves me. He chose me. He makes me holy. And the more I can’t help but declare his praises with all my might.

—–

Sing it: Reckless Love, Cory Asbury – It’s so worth the 11 minutes, but he shares his story behind the song at minute 7. “His love bankrupted Heaven for you, for me.”

Scripture: Luke 15:1-7

To those who are hurting, to those who are doubting: spend time with Jesus. Pour out your heart to him – tell him everything you’re believing about who he is and how he sees you. And listen. Open up his word, use scripture included in these posts, linger over Psalms, or turn to any story that the Spirit reminds you of. And then, stay there, with Him. Stay with Jesus for as long as it takes to start believing the things he has said. And continue by his side, trusting as he leads you along.

—–

We couldn’t have cared less. We were weak. Sinners. Enemies.
It was only after the fact, only once the Holy Spirit came flooding into our hearts, that the realization swept over us: (Jesus) walked through
my death. And he didn’t simply die. He was condemned. He didn’t simply leave heaven for me; he endured hell for me. He, not deserving to be condemned, absorbed it in my place – I, who alone deserved it. That is his heart. And into our empty souls, like a glass of cold water to a thirsty mouth, God poured his Holy Spirit to internalize the actual experience of God’s love…God’s love is as expansive as God himself. – Dane Ortlund, Gentle and Lowly

Identity.

I once heard Tim Keller say that at the root of every sin is an identity issue.

I haven’t found an exception.

When I get upset and defensive toward my husband for not liking the less-than-average dinner I serve – it’s because I feel like a “bad wife”. When I become so worried about the health and safety of my children – it’s because I don’t believe I am a “good mom” if I let something bad happen.  When I don’t do the good I know I should do (James 4:17) – it’s because I’m believing that I’m above it, or maybe I’m too worried about what others will think of me. 

I’m constantly looking to defend myself. To prove myself. To validate myself.

Which reveals my true object of worship: me.

While certain seasons of life were stressful, sad or exhausting by nature, the hardest, most difficult seasons have been when I was least secure in my identity. When my identity was shattered – by someone’s perception of me or by a fault of my own, perhaps both. 

Why? Because when my identity was shattered, my object of worship was shattered.

Identity matters. For everyone. Every season, every age. I think all of us want a purpose and a unique space to display our talents and passions. And maybe that’s why it can be so hard, even as believers, to find security and life in our position within Christ. What if I’m not really known?

Although, ironically, I’ve never actually felt more secure in my identity by working harder. My efforts have never sustained me. But I suppose that’s because it’s how I was created. That’s how we were all created – to know and be known by our Father, the Lord God, maker of Heaven and earth. 

As I’ve grown in understanding my position in Christ, nothing has given me more confidence than learning more and more about who He is. Somehow, when my eyes are on him, the more I see him, and the more I see him seeing me. And the more convinced I am that I am known. 

When we lean into Christ, and only when we lean into Christ, we begin to experience who we really are. Because Jesus doesn’t just give us an identity, he becomes our identity. Everything that is true of the Son becomes true of us when we become a believer. We are robed in his righteousness, clothed with his holiness. Not because of our good deeds or Bible knowledge, but because of his character.

Yet, if we are tied up in self glorification, how do we change our object of worship?
We don’t. 

Despite all our amazing efforts, we could never do it on our own. We could never produce truly pure worship to the One whom worship is due, the One who is truly pure. We need someone to come get us. We need someone to change us. 

Jesus. 

He gets us and makes us new. With new desires. And a new heart. 

For I will take you out of the nations… I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws… you will be my people, and I will be your God. – Ezekiel 36:24-28

And it’s exactly what he did. After Jesus’s resurrection, on the day of Pentecost, “They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak…” (Acts 2:3-4). And what did they speak about? Themselves? No. “We hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” (Acts 2:11).

When our Father gives us a new identity it isn’t about us anymore – it is about him, it is within him. We reflect who He is and bring glory to his name through our worship of Him. It continues to be a process this side of Heaven, but while we grow in sanctification or holiness, we also stand sanctified, holy and right before God because of Christ. 

For me, at the heart of wanting to be known, I really just want to matter. I want my life to count. And in Christ, those things are satisfied and beyond. I matter because I am loved more than I will ever understand. And my life counts because now it has eternal value. 

If all my sin is rooted in identity and a love of myself over a love of God, then what really floors me is the whole idea that the one I’m sinning against is also the one who takes my punishment. The one who credits me with honor. And the one who declares, “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God.” And then he assigns a new purpose. Instead of spending our lives defending, proving and validating ourselves, now our worship and allegiance have been redeemed, rightfully restored where they belong in Christ. That now, as the verse continues, we “may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9).

—–

Consider: What is it for you? What are some of the things you do against God, and how do those things correlate to your identity?

Read: John 1:12, 3:16
Romans 8:1-11
1 Cor 1:30
2 Cor 5:17
Ephesians 1:1-14, 2:4-10, 2:19-22
Colossians 1:14, 22
1 Peter 2:9
1 John 1:9, 3:1

Make a list – what are some of the things that God says is true of you in Christ? How does this affect your relationship with God? 

—–

Podcast: Freedom in Christ

Book: Gentle and Lowly, Dane Ortland

Related: In Christ and In Airplanes
Conversations With God
Believe Me

A Prayer to Remember

God, throughout the Bible, You are constantly telling me who You are and what You have done. You tell me right away that You are the good, Creator King. You tell me that You are merciful and gracious. You tell me that You are love. You tell me that You have called me from death into life, from the kingdom of darkness into Your Kingdom of Your Son. You tell me that You sent your Son to live a perfect life and to die in my place, that I might be united to Him and be adopted into Your family. You tell me that because of His obedience, You purify me of all my sins and set me free from slavery to them.

Yet I am prone to forget. I am prone to doubt. I am prone to believe lies instead of the truth, to follow what I think is best instead of what You say is best. I am prone to question Your goodness.

Be merciful to me, God, when I doubt. Help me to remember what You declared about Yourself to Moses, that You are “the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Exodus 34:6). Help me to remember that “the steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23). Help me to remember all the times You showed this faithfulness to those who came before me. Help me to remember the oath You made with Abram in the wilderness, guaranteeing by Yourself that You would give Him descendants and a land (Genesis 15). Help me to remember how You brought those descendants out of slavery in Egypt and into that Promised Land. Help me to remember Your patience with the Your people as they rebelled against You again and again. Help me to remember Your Son, the Promised One, God With Us. Help me to remember His blood spilled on my behalf, my earned curse and death that He took upon Himself, and how now, I have been granted access to You. Help me to remember that You have sealed me with the promised Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13-14).

Guide me to cling to the truth You have given me in Your Word, knowing that You are not a man that You should change Your mind, that You fulfill what You speak (Numbers 23:19). You do not change (Malachi 3:6), and that is very good news for those who put their faith in Your Son.

Amen.

Read: Psalm 105 and Psalm 106
Listen: Promises by The Worship Initiative

Our Eternally Faithful God

Abraham is a familiar biblical figure for many of us. We may know him as Father Abraham, the father of the nation of Israel, and think of him as the old man staring up at the stars in the pictures of our children’s Bibles. Fourteen chapters in the book of Genesis tell us about his life and death, and many more in both the Old Testament and the New Testament reference him, either in passing or in detail. We are familiar with him for good reason, as understanding Abraham and his life helps us greatly in understanding the story of the Bible, the gospel message, and our 21st century lives.

Our introduction to Abraham begins in earnest in Genesis 12, back when he was called Abram, and right away, we see God making promises to bless him with many descendants and to give a place to those descendants, despite the fact that in his very old age, he had neither a son nor a piece of land to call his own. Yet Abram “believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness” (Genesis 15:6). God made these promises many more times throughout Abram’s life, reassuring Abram as the years went by.

In Genesis 15, God did more than just give Abram verbal assurances that he will one day have this land; He ratified these promises with a covenant. In this ceremony, Abram gathered the animals that God told him to gather, sacrificed them by cutting them in half, and laid the pieces out across from each other (Genesis 15:7-11). This sounds strange to us, but back in Abram’s day, it was a common ceremony. What was meant to happen was that the two parties would walk through the pieces, as if to say, “If I do not fulfill my promises, then may what has been done to these animals be done to me.” Only this time, in this covenant with God, Abram is not invited to participate. God Himself, and God alone, in the form of a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch, walked through the pieces, and by doing so, promised to take the entire curse of the covenant on Himself if it didn’t come to pass. God promised it, and God would do it.

The incredible thing about this is that this covenant is based solely on God’s character. If we look back at the text, we realize that after Abram prepared the sacrifice, he fell asleep. Abram did not walk through the sacrifice. It is God’s faithfulness that is on the line, and His faithfulness is what He shows to His people time and time again. And a few hundred years after this covenant was made, when God brought hundreds of thousands of Abram’s descendants out of slavery in Egypt and into the Promised Land, the Israelites saw, and we see, that our God is a promise-keeping God.

This God who made and kept the promises to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their many descendants is the same God who continues to fulfill His promises to us today.

Time and time again in His Word, He makes promises to His people. He promised to bring us out of the domain of darkness and into the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins (Colossians 1:13-14). He promised to bring us out of sin and to righteousness (Romans 6:18). He promised that one day, in the New Jerusalem, He will be our God, and we will be His people (Jeremiah 31:33-34), and in that New Jerusalem, He will wipe away every tear from our eyes, and there will be no more death nor mourning nor crying nor pain anymore (Revelation 21:2-4).

That’s a lot of very big promises from a very good and faithful God. But in our busy daily lives, we forget history, and we doubt the faithfulness of our God. And like Abram back in Genesis, we might be tempted to ask for a sign, for a guarantee that God will do what He has promised to do. Thankfully, God has already given us this guarantee, in His Son:

“And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant of my blood.’” (Luke 22:19-20)

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, allowed humans to do to Him what instead should have been done to us. He allowed His body to be broken and His blood to be spilled by sinful, unfaithful humans. By putting to death the One who perfectly fulfilled the Law, the crowds that day unintentionally offered the perfect sacrifice that was necessary for our forgiveness and freedom. While we were still dead in our sins, unable to help ourselves, Jesus took our curse upon Himself in order to forgive us of our sins, to bring us out of slavery to sin and into our new, Spirit-filled life in Him forever, to extend to us the blessings of Abraham, the blessings of spiritual descendants and a new home in a new Promised Land.

Once again, God’s faithfulness to His people has been proven to us. We are an unfaithful people who have rebelled against the King who loves us. I don’t deserve a single ounce of blessing that He extends to me. And even when I want to try to earn my way into the blessing, I find myself like Abram, asleep next to the sacrifice, unable to contribute anything, unable to earn it, unable to prove myself worthy of it.

Yet, praise God, His faithfulness does not depend on me. “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself” (2 Timothy 2:13). Our God is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Exodus 34:6). Because of His great love for His people, the faithful God of the universe reached down and committed Himself to us, and He will not, He cannot, abandon His people. Because of the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of His Son, we have hope – sure and certain expectation – that God keeps His promises, that even now we can begin new life in His Kingdom, free from the penalty of sin, and one day we will live in God’s perfect presence forever. We can believe, as Abram believed, the LORD.

Sing:
“Great Is Thy Faithfulness/How He Loves” by Celtic Worship
“He’s Always Been Faithful” by Worship Initiative

Salvation.

It’s the Gospel, the Good News that we can have life in Christ. Not because we loved him enough or had enough faith or did enough good things. But rather because He is sufficient. He loved us, so he came down. 

Whether the circumstances of life are good or bad, I think we can all get so distracted with ourselves, to the point that we value our performance and obedience to God over God himself. If I have enough faith, then XYZ will or will not happen… But that’s not the Gospel. The promise of salvation and the gift of a Savior is that Jesus did it. He paid our debt, and he completed the good work from the Father. This is great news. 

And it’s a tremendous blow to our pride. Because when things go well, we can’t puff up our chest and assume extra righteousness by our own brilliance and morality. And when things fail or someone points out our faults, we can’t battle it indefinitely to prove ourselves or sit and wallow in self-pity, because our reputation no longer defines us. 

When we surrender our judgment to Jesus, we surrender our glory to him, too. 

I think one of the reasons the concept of the Gospel is so difficult to grasp is because we want to contribute. It’s as if to say, “ok Jesus, you wipe away my sins, and I’ll fill up the resume with my good works.” But Jesus does both. He wipes the slate clean by paying our debt on the cross, and he submits the perfect resume of performance by living a guiltless life. 

Which means, salvation is never beyond us. We are never too good to not need the saving grace of Jesus. And equally, we are never too bad to be disqualified. Because either way, salvation was never ours to obtain. We were never meant to save ourselves.

For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love, he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will. – Ephesians 1:4-5

Before the creation of the world… The plan was always Jesus.

We are invited into a relationship with the Lord God, with this Savior Jesus Christ, through this Savior Jesus Christ. We are invited into his family, his kingdom, and into a part of his story. But God is not dependent on us. He is not let down when we fail, and he is not lifted up when we succeed. He is who He Is. He stands alone. And yet he saw us. And He loved us. So he sent his son to do for us what we could never do for ourselves. Jesus stood in our place. He sufficed as the sacrifice and made right what we had made wrong. And he achieved salvation for all people.

When we accept his invitation, we receive everything he has promised. And we never risk losing it, because we weren’t the ones who earned it. 

The work is finished. And the work is secure. We can have life in Christ, not because of anything we have done, but because of everything he did.


When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. – John 19:30

Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved. – Acts 4:12

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. – Ephesians 2:8-9

But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. – Titus 3:4

I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals. – Revelation 5:5

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Additional Scripture: Isaiah 59:16; Romans 3:23-24, 8:23; Galatians 2:20-21; 2 Corinthians 5:21

Process: Take time with these verses. Journal, jot notes, write a favorite verse on your mirror with a dry-erase marker. Let God’s truth seep in and override anything contrary to what the world teaches. And spend some time in prayer – Repent over the ways you attempt to glorify your own name, and worship God for who he is and what he’s done. 

Related: The Sufficiency of Insufficiency
The Bible Isn’t About Me

Sing It: The Rock Won’t Move

Who Jesus Is.

I mentioned in my last post that “The majority of people thought they were entirely good enough (for heaven) on their own.” 

This has been the most difficult thing about evangelism – apathy towards Jesus. Not a lot of people care. 

Hence, we have a problem – We live in a society that is so casual about Jesus but so committed to themselves. 

And it’s a problem because there exists a God who reigns. He holds all power and all authority, and he created us. He knows us and wants us to know him. And he has revealed himself. 

God revealed himself to us through his word, and that Word appeared in flesh and lived among men. His name is Jesus. 

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. – John 1:1, 14

The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. – Hebrews 1:3 

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created… – Colossians 1:15-16a

Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. – 1 John 2:1b-2

He declares:

  • I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. – John 6:35
  • I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. – John 8:12
  • I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. – John 10:9
  • I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me – John 10:11
  • I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies – John 11:25 
  • I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. – John 14:6 
  • I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. – John 15:5

Of course there is significantly more to Jesus than would ever fit into a short blog post. The entire Bible is about him, and that’s why it’s so important for us to be reading the whole thing.

But I’ve heard from a lot of people lately, this idea that God is who they want to believe him to be. Except our understanding of him has no actual bearing on who his character really is. “I Am who I am” God told Moses in the wilderness (Exodus 3:14). 

We can know the truth of who this God actually is, because he told us. And he offers us a response – to come to him. To believe in him, follow him, enter through him, and remain in him. (John 6:35, 8:12, 10:9, 11:25, 14:6, 15:5)

I also realize it isn’t always so simple. God is complex, holy, supernatural. We will never be able to fully grasp the supremacy of who he is. But I was so convicted myself by a sermon recently that our primary issue isn’t knowledge or resource. Our issue is our treasure. We simply do not value Jesus as much as we value ourselves. 

Yet if these last two posts are a highlight reel, illuminating our sinful condition against a God of endless glory, then we should see a tremendous gap. And if that gap reflected the whole story, then I’m not sure our response would matter much. We may as well stay casual about Jesus and committed to ourselves, because we’d never be able to reach him anyways.

Except he reached us. He loved his people so much that he chose to come down, chose to take the consequence of our sin and chose to credit us with his righteousness. 

Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – John 1:12

And that changes everything. 

We will never begin to see Jesus for the beauty and majesty that he is until we first respond to his invitation. Come. Believe. Follow. Enter through. Remain. He is the one worth our commitment to.

When we put our faith in Christ, he lifts us out of death and darkness and brings us into an eternity of life and light in himself. He brings us into his family. And he brings us into his kingdom, where he will reign forever and ever. 

And that – that is not something for us to be casual about.

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“A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” – C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity 


Jesus is:

  • Immanuel (Matthew 1:23)
  • Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6)
  • The Son of God (Luke 1:35)
  • Teacher (John 1:38)
  • The Cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20)
  • Brother (Hebrews 2:11)
  • Friend (John 15:14)
  • Messiah/Christ (John 1:41)
  • Servant (Isaiah 42:1)
  • Savior (Titus 1:4)
  • Lord (Romans 6:23)
  • God (John 1:1)
  • King (John 18:37, Hebrews 1:8, Revelation 17:14)
  • The Sacrifice (John 1:29, Hebrews 10:10, 1 John 1:2)
  • Mediator (1 Timothy 2:5)
  • Priest (Hebrews 4:14, 7:24)

Read: John – The whole book. It details who Jesus is and his seven “I Am” statements. Specifically John 1:1-18, 1:29-34, 18:36-37, 19:11 also point to who he is.

Philippians 2:9-11, Hebrews 1, 4:14-16, 1 John 1:1-4

Process: There is a lot of scripture included in this post! Take some time with it. 

And be honest. Make a quick list of maybe 10 things that come to mind when you think of who Jesus is. Then, go through some scripture and write down 10 things about who Jesus says he is. How do the lists compare? Spend some time in prayer, asking God to continually correct your view of him, to help you overcome any unbelief. 


Sing: Worthy of your name
What a beautiful name

Resources: Kid’s Devotional, I Am – 40 Reasons to Trust God

Sermon, Joby Martin – The Word Became Flesh (also available on Podcast)
Sermon, Tim Keller – The Word Made Flesh
Sermon, Cam Triggs – The Model Prayer

Related: A Challenge to Dig Deeper
Why We Should Know God

Did Jesus Really Exist?
Who Is Jesus

Who We Are.

Especially as we enter a new year, a lot of people are filled with hope for a fresh start. We want to better ourselves, to become the “best version” of us, to lean into our purpose and to find fulfillment. And I think one of the most practical ways for us to begin any of that is to have a right view of ourselves. 

I did a mission trip one summer and spent day after day talking with people on the boardwalk about life and spirituality. And the most common theme that I heard was a belief that people would go to heaven if they hadn’t killed anyone. That was it. The majority of people thought they were entirely good enough on their own.

We all want to be good enough. We all want to be accepted. I think we were made for that. I also think that at some point, when we try to do life our own way, it stops working. We become exhausted, we’re filled with shame and regret we didn’t expect, we sense a conviction for something different… somehow we find disappointment. And we face a choice. We can keep pressing and continue striving, or we can sink into the truth of God.

But what does that mean? Where is an anchor? In a world that is overflowing with ideas and individual truths, how do we navigate?

We can look to the one who made us, who made all things. We can look to the Word of God, the Word who became flesh and lived among us. Jesus. We look at the things He has said.

What does the Bible say? Who are we? 

  • For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. – Romans 3:23
  • Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. – Colossians 1:21
  • Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. – 1 Corinthians 6:9-11
  • As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air… we were by nature objects of wrath. – Ephesians 2:1-3
  • Remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. – Ephesians 2:12
  • At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. – Titus 3:3
  • For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. – James 2:10

Stay with me – Because, I know, these are the verses that no one highlights, the ones I don’t ever see on coffee mugs or t-shirts. And still, these are exactly the kind of verses and foundation that we need to start with to understand the magnitude of beauty and compassion of our God. 

In America, the culture is that we feed this over-inflated view of ourselves: we are all good people who have within us what it takes to be great. 

But it’s completely opposite to the Bible that categorizes us all as sinners and declares an outcome of death and wrath.

Part of the reason I write is to remind us that Satan is a liar. Sin and self amplification seem great a lot of the time. A lot of sin is fun and feels good and seems to be rewarding. But if the Bible is true, then in the end, anything apart from God leads to death. 

But I also write because an accurate view of ourselves and our sin amplifies our view of God by exposing the depth of his love and sacrifice for us. We are all wicked, hopeless sinners. And we all need a savior. We need someone to take away the bad for us. And we need someone to fill up the good works for us. And that someone is Jesus. He takes our place and erases all the bad things so those verses can now describe the old us. And He, in his goodness and generosity – makes us new.

Upcoming posts will describe in greater detail the character and salvation of Jesus, the eternal identity we find in Him, and the purpose and confidence that gives us as believers. There is hope, and there is real encouragement. There is life available, for all people, for all eternity.

But for now – I challenge you to lean into these verses. Whether they are new or familiar, take some time to read over them, to consider the reality of our original position before the Almighty God, to repent of our sins, and to praise Him for his greatness and for still choosing us. 

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Process: What are some initial thoughts or feelings that came up when you read through the verses? Write a few things down. How does your view of life and morality compare to what the Bible says? What is difficult to digest or understand? Talk with someone this week about it.

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Read: Exodus 20
Matthew 5:17-37, part of Jesus’ famous “Sermon on the Mount”

What comes to mind when you read some of the law and commands of Jesus? What do you think about the height of the bar that is set?

How does it affect your view of bettering yourself?

What are your thoughts around being “made new”?

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Ironically, I think most people could all agree that Moses, King David, Paul who had been Saul and wrote most of the New Testament… that these people are all in Heaven. Except they were all murderers. 

All lives are created equal by the same God and of the same insurmountable value. But the point is that the greatness of God far surpasses the greatness of our sin. We are never outside his reach.

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There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death. – Proverbs 14:12

“The gospel says that you are more sinful and flawed than you ever dared believe, but more accepted and loved than you ever dared hoped.” – Tim Keller

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Sing: King of Kings – Hands down, this is the most played song in my home and car. And running. With my eyes closed and arms raised. Yep. It’s just such a powerful presentation of the Gospel and the authority of Jesus.

Related: Sinners, The Gospel, and a Charge for the Church