No Condemnation, Period.

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“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”  

Romans 8:1, NIV

Those of us who examine scripture, are quickly confronted with this very direct concept of absolutely no condemnation for everyone who believes in Jesus Christ.  God’s own Son has died to bring us home. We are under no condemnation, our lives have been brought under His direction.  His grace has done all of this, for us.

“What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? 32 Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? 33 Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself.” 

Romans 8:31-33, NLT

There is absolutely nothing that can touch us.  There is no condemnation that comes up against us.  Our acceptance is total and complete in Christ. A vital faith in His Word has secured our salvation. But men still live in guilt and remorse, unable to break free of sin.

We have been counted ‘just’,  and this is not a clerical mistake!

He has made us right with Him.  He is now in direct intervention of the total immensity of my sin.  And He is waiting for me to respond.

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Romans 5:1, NIV

Our faith has the capacity to make us right.  As we seek this out, He makes us righteous.  This is in spite of our darkness.  He intervenes in our darkness to bring us into the light. We stand clean before our Lord.

Anything that could be smeared on us, has been carried by Jesus as the sin we gave Him. 

He carries us on His frame, with all of our darkness and twistedness.  He has become evil so that we might be made good.  He absorbs sin, drawing in all my evil and taking it as His own.  Maybe this is strange, but I believe Jesus Christ is “God’s sponge.”

Justification, by our faith, is His gift to us.

“He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

2 Corinthians 5:21, NASB

What in the world is there to say?  What words can really communicate what has just happened?  Let’s just stop, and think a moment. By faith “it is just as I’ve never sinned.” That is markedly good news.

 

Scorched, But Deeply Loved

“Then Jesus said to Peter, “Go away from me, Satan! You are not helping me! You don’t care about the things of God, but only about the things people think are important.”

Matt. 16:23, NCV

Principles of the Kingdom will often will sound like a simple conversation to an outsider.  Things are often established or nullified with a ‘face-to-face.’  In this chapter of Matthew, we hear Peter extolling the divinity of Jesus (vv. 15-17).  Peter exceeds the norm with his analysis of what is real.

It is as perceptive as it is supernatural.  “You are the Christ,” Peter proclaims, “the Son of the Living God,”  Jesus responds to this and He praises Peter for this amazing insight.

One of my personal problems is that I am way too spontaneous.  It gets me in trouble. I have become a fool more times than I bother to count.  I will do something that is outrageously amazing– and in a short time, I am flirting with apostasy.  Often this is indicative of bipolar disorder, a mental illness of some significance.

I’m not sure why Peter does what he does. 

But just a short time after he makes his astonishing pronouncement, he is taken apart by Jesus, being solidly rebuked face-to-face.  In one clear moment, he expresses an awesome and wonderful faith, and suddenly his personal stock suddenly and precipitously crashes.  He is now a pariah that needs to be avoided.

I think that every disciple will eventually be scorched. But intensely loved.

This is always quite bitter. It seems that in the light of this chapter (which actually seems like a bright glare), Peter is quite devastated.  In three years of discipleship, it seems that all he merits is a brutal ‘dressing-down.’

The rebuke is bitter.  Peter is being compared to Satan!

In a blur of just a few minutes, he moves from “hero-to-goat.”  I suspect that Peter was ashamed.  He most likely wished he had a rewind button.  His Savior, Jesus– has given him a new label.  And it hurts.  Many times, we would become resentful, maybe a bit bitter.  It could cause some to walk away, developing a fit of anger that solidifies into something very scary. Thank God, Peter doesn’t do anything that stupid.

 The correction in the rebuke gives him life and hope.

But who’s to say we would be as correctable?  One thing to add, earlier we mentioned the ‘conversational approach’ of discipleship.  Peter was rebuked in the presence of the other disciples.  The publicity was embarrassing.  Too many people were watching and listening. Peter will survive this, but he has learned something valuable.

Our daily commitment to Jesus hinges on our willingness to be “undone.” 

His heart and plan pretty much preclude any “secret or hidden” agenda.  Jesus pretty much rakes us over the coals.  He will insist on uncompromising obedience to His faithfulness.  Every true disciple will be scorched— but loved.

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Being Very, Very Sick

Potter shaping a ceramic plate on a pottery wheel
Potter shaping a ceramic plate on a pottery wheel
“Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death, so that we would not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead.”

2 Corinthians 1:9

To be chronically ill often means awful frustration. We can’t do what we want, we are ‘trapped’ by a disease we never asked for, and we’re held hostage by our minds and bodies. We once had a job– a career… and our time was occupied by that.

We were accustomed to something, anything more than being very sick.

I once was a pastor of a small church. I also taught Gospels for several years in a local Bible Institute. I loved ministry very much. They defined my identity and gave me purpose. I enjoyed helping people and teaching the Word. I endeavored to be faithful in the ministry. I hope I did.

With the sudden onset of a brain tumor, followed up by a diagnosis of bipolar disorder (BP), my life more or less exploded. I had extensive memory loss. I knew I had to step out of the ministry. I simply could not function. It was a hard thing to leave it behind. (I still miss it).

My depression grew even more profound with the stillborn death of our third child just 3 days before her delivery, Things suddenly ground to a standstill as my wife and I tried to process all of this. I guess I just couldn’t understand and more or less just shut down. I was angry at God. I spent months in bed, unable to function.

A profound sadness settled on me.

Some people were true jewels. Others were mean and uncaring. (I had to learn to take the good with the bad.) I suppose I should have understood, but things were so tangled up inside me that I couldn’t verbalize a thing. But God knew all about me.

The post-op recovery following the tumor was an ordeal, as I had to learn many things all over again. A few years later I ended up on disability; I was unable to work, and my symptoms were so unpredictable. I dealt with profound depression and a solid dose of paranoia and fear.

I learned that meds can help, but they can’t fix the problem.

The isolation of being ill seems worse than the pain. We wonder why this is happening to us, and we hear lies about our worthiness or God’s goodness. Our value to others seems to be scuttled by our illness. We can feel cursed, forgotten, crippled by God, or even worse. (Maybe even irrevocably lost.)

Satan craves our spiritual destruction, and he snares unsteady souls.

I admit I have been slow to learn this– but God brings good things out of the dark. I’m embarrassed by my personal lack of acquiring all of this. Now I’m starting to learn finally, and I want His words to reflect these truths.

“We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.”

2 Corinthians 4:7

This light will shine. The treasure is found in clay vessels. Brokenness only means the treasure is now seen clearly. It’s important to note–treasure loses none of its value by being surrounded by broken clay. Our weaknesses are being turned into goodness, understanding, and love for our brothers and sisters.

Troubles of many different varieties will visit us. Count on it.

No matter what their nature, God holds his people in place while everything else is falling apart. But for the broken believer, there is another dimension; we will indeed triumph. The tragedies we’ve had to endure only supplement our faith. We will stand– because He makes us stand.

We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed.”

2 Corinthians 4:8-9

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Comprehensive Protection

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The Book of Daniel contains the acts and welfare of the Jewish people in Babylon. They are captives and so many of the stories shared here are accounts of spirituality under duress. King Nebuchadnezzar, in an attempt to unify his kingdom, proclaims himself to be a god. He commissions a 90-foot statue to be erected; he orders that, on a prearranged moment, all would fall down and worship.

Thgold statueere are three Jewish men: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego who are brought to the king with the charge of ‘failure to worship.’ They refused to bow at the statue at the signal. They were observed standing when everyone else was kneeling. Non-compliance to the king meant the death penalty, but that doesn’t deter the three.

Their faith will not allow them to sin in this way.

They are resolute. The first, second, and third commandments clearly forbid the worship of all idols. There were no other options. Perhaps they valued their souls more than they valued their lives. In some things, there can be no accommodation– no compromise. Standing before the king and threatened with death, they declare their allegiance to the living God.

Dan. 3:16-18:

 “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

The king is enraged.

Few have ever spoken and defied him like this (and lived). He orders the furnace to be heated up like never before.  Here the king is making a statement. He will not tolerate this kind of ‘rebellion’ in his kingdom. All of his governing leaders will witness what he does to ‘traitors.’ These Hebrews must be made an example.

Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” 25 He answered and said, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods”

(v.v. 24-25)

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are thrown into the fire. The men who escorted them are killed by the heat. Ironically, Nebuchadnezzer can’t protect his own men from death while the three Jews are not touched, not even a little.

They are joined by a fourth man and they walk around in the midst of the flames.

Suddenly, Nebuchadnezzer realizes that the God of Israel is not only a real God, but a force to be reckoned with. The men’s faith has saved them. (And his men are dead.)

The complete story is quite compelling. The king orders all that the real God be worshipped. Henceforth, no one shall ever speak against this God. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are promoted in the kingdom.

The lessons for today are many,

  1. God’s Word is to be obeyed no matter what it costs.

  2. When confronted, we must never hedge over our beliefs.

  3. God is present with us in our furnace, we’re never alone.

  4. In the fire, our faith will ultimately triumph. One way or another.

We may be standing in similar times. Faith will be tested. The Word must be believed and trusted. It is ‘comprehensive protection’ for our lives. Obedience to God will lead us into difficult places, but faith will triumph.

“When you have no helpers, see your helpers in God. When you have many helpers, see God in all your helpers. When you have nothing but God, see all in God. When you have everything, see God in everything. Under all conditions, stay thy heart only on the Lord.”

    Charles Spurgeon

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