On Being Loved

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“The human heart is the most deceitful of all thingsand desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?”

Jeremiah 17:9

For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will. That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God.”

Romans 8:7-8

The reality is that we are in a real fix. The grim news isn’t changed simply because we graduated from a ‘charm school’ or become Eagle Scouts. We are fundamentally flawed, our hearts throughly contaminated. Any good we try to do is a ‘freak of nature,’ and astronomically beyond our ability. The race of men has failed. (Maybe that’s why history keeps repeating itself.) Without the presence of God, we would destroy ourselves. And each other.

The word “hostile” is used. That sort of sums it all up, doesn’t it?

God’s Constant Love for You

8 “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.”

Romans 5:8

Although we’re in active rebellion, “God so loved the world…” His love for us is called ‘agape,’ it is a word used in the New Testament, and it’s a love marked by consistency and selflessness. God loves without any conditions or merit on our part. Agape is love undeserved. The word is full of mercy, a concept very hard for us to grasp.

God’s love for us the way the universe is run. Love is what empowers Him to save us from our sins. It is the Lord’s love that draws us to Himself. Love is like a magnet that pulls us out of darkness into the light. His love for you is infinite.

“In math, if you divide an infinite number by any number, no matter how large, you still have an infinite quotient. So Jesus’ love, being infinite, even though it is divided up for every person on earth, is still infinitely poured out on each one of us!”

  Charles Spurgeon

You can trust the Lord to be fully loving you right this minute. It is a full and constant love— there is scarcely a human parallel. The ‘prophets’ exhaust language seeking a metaphor to explain God’s love to a doubting and disobedient people. I imagine they are frustrated; they can’t explain what they’ve seen. They try, and end up explaining God’s love by type: marriage, and motherhood.

Over and over, these two metaphors are used extensively. And over and over you can see the love of God for people (flesh and blood, like you and I) for us. He loves us like a husband loves his straying wife. He loves us like a father loves his struggling child. We stray and struggle, and we will find no peace apart from His love. After all we are His, and we really can’t ‘work right” apart from His guiding presence.

Look at His heart. See His hands.

They both bear us witness of a supreme love. He loves you right now— wrecked and ravaged by your sin. I don’t know where you are at this very moment, but I do know He loves you intensely. Sin may have destroyed you, but His love never, ever vacillates. God is passionate about you— He won’t let you go. But you must risk being loved.

“See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are! But the people who belong to this world don’t recognize that we are God’s children because they don’t know him.”

1 John 3:1

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Our Salvation Is Quite Sure

My favorite of all the apostles is John, “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” I love his Gospel, and the three epistles that he wrote, and of course,  Revelation.

There are a couple of things I love about John’s writings:

  1. He reminds his readers that he was an eye witness to Jesus life, death, and resurrection.
  2. He clearly sets out the evidence for Jesus’ divinity.
  3. He focuses, particularly in the epistles, on the love of God.
  4. He reveals the power and purpose of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers.
  5. He provides believers with an assurance of salvation.

It is this last point that I want to write about today. Early in the history of the Christian faith, deceivers had come into the church who taught that one had to achieve sinless perfection to be saved. John wrote his first epistle to combat this heresy. The same type of heresy has crept into many legalistic denominations even today. By outwardly following the rules, such people claim to be without sin. But as John writes:

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.

1 John 1:8-10 (NIV).

John here provides assurance that the fact that the believer sometimes sins does not negate their salvation, because Jesus is faithful and forgives our sin. One of the definitions of assurance on Dictionary.com is “full confidence; freedom from doubt; certainty.” Throughout this epistle, John provides further assurance that those who trust in Jesus can be assured of their salvation even though they are not sinless and perfect.

The word “know” appears 42 times in this short epistle because John wants to make sure believers know that God loves them and that they can rely on His promise of salvation. In each of the chapters of the epistle, John includes his assurance:

I am writing to you, dear children,
   because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name.
I am writing to you, fathers,
   because you know him who is from the beginning.
I am writing to you, young men,
   because you have overcome the evil one.

1 John 2:12-13 (NIV).

 

“Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.”

1 John 3:21-24 (NIV).

 

“If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.”

1 John 4:15-16 (NIV).

 

“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.”

1 John 5:13-14 (NIV).

 

None of us is perfect and completely sinless. If we were, we would not need a Savior. But we do need Him, and we thrive best knowing that He is faithful in His promise of salvation for those who believe.

John does not advocate living a life in which we sin ‘willy-nilly’ simply because we know we can be forgiven.

Now don’t get me wrong. Those who truly believe in Jesus, and trust in Him for salvation, will desire to keep God’s commands. His Spirit living in our hearts will help us to overcome the temptations of the world and to love as He has commanded.

You may be struggling today with worries that you are not good enough, or that God will give up on you and you will lose your salvation. But remember – God is faithful in His promises and He has promised eternal life to all who believe in Jesus and allow His love to live in them. He has not hidden the truth from us, but has made Himself known through His Son and the witness of the apostles so that we can be assured of our place in His Kingdom. Your salvation is sure.

aasignLinda

 

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Putting It Simply

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“But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

Luke 10:41-42, ESV

I tend to over-think things a lot. Everything gets so darn complicated. Often there is ‘a paralysis of analysis’ that gels into something stagnant and murky. I am definitely not the decisive person I admire from a distance. My illness is such that I can easily become “immobilized” in making simple decisions.

But I am aware of my desperate need of Christ Himself. My many issues demand a ‘heavy duty’ Savior, one who is capable of handling them. I guess I have tried many ‘gods’ and I haven’t found any of them who can take the load like Jesus can.

All that He has done in the Gospels, and all that He does presently declares to me his trustworthiness and power. My admiration for Christ as my Savior and Deliverer is written on the pages of the Bible. His present day ministry to me (and many others) is consistent with what I read about him in the Word.

And it is amazingly simple, when you think it through. He lived, died, and rose again for those ‘rebels’ who deserve death. The simplicity is profound. I do not have to be a Nobel Prize winner to understand. Without cheapening ‘redemption’ He has reduced things to a straightforward idea. He dies in my place, and now gives me his life to live.

I want to listen to Him. I want to come so close that I can hear the very inflection of his voice when he does speak to me. You see, we are built as communicators, and that is the part that ‘small gods’ can’t provide. They’re merely ‘dead idols.’

I so want to please him, even if he corrects me.

I want to learn at his feet, just as Mary did at her home in Bethany. Often I feel like I will probably be ‘the least of all the disciples’, but I’m okay with that. After all, it’s all about Him.

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“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.”

Revelation 3:20

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Karma, Grace and Bono

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Bono/U2 360 Tour 2011

Bono, on God’s grace:

“At the center of all religions is the idea of karma. You know, what you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth… It’s clear to me that karma is at the very heart of the universe. I’m absolutely sure of it. And yet, along comes this idea called grace to upend all that “As you reap so you will sow” stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good indeed, because I’ve done a lot of stupid stuff.”

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I think ‘fallen men’  automatically try to convert God’s grace to a thing more palatable. We gravitate to making it work; we feel that He expects us to do this, at least. Grace is not logical, and that makes it hard to explain. The fact that we have received a gift of grace grates at our very core.

But we can only enter His kingdom by grace alone.

We deserve nothing, but are made sons and daughters anyway. Karma is what we want. We understand it; It makes logical sense. We have settled on this in our minds. We have the hardest time accepting this grace. For the most part, we believe we are saved by grace through faith, but we often think we must work things out ourselves. He saves us, and we ‘reason out’ we now have got to crank out something acceptable with the ‘rest of our lives.’

We want to prove we are worthy, by our good deeds. But God’s grace is radical, and we are saved by grace– being saved, and we will be saved by grace alone. We will start and finish by His mercy and grace, “not of works, lest anyone should boast.”

8 “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.”

Ephesians 2:8-9, NLT

We can only enter His kingdom by grace alone.

I desperately want grace, and not karma. To a massive degree, I have this atrociously bad habit of sinning. I can find no comfort in sanctification by my effort. I’m not consistent enough, strong enough, or good enough to enter in on my own merits. I must have God’s grace or I’ll be lost. What can I offer the Lord for all he has done for me?”

Psalm 116:12

The person who has been serving the Lord for 70 years still must come into the Kingdom by grace and mercy. All of their accumulated good deeds, and saintly demeanor cannot purchase their salvation. God’s grace through faith is the ‘narrow way’ to life. Just give me Jesus.

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Sin Boldly, But Believe in God More Boldly Still

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“If you are a preacher of mercy, do not preach an imaginary but the true mercy. If the mercy is true, you must therefore bear the true, not an imaginary sin. God does not save those who are only imaginary sinners. Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong, but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world. We will commit sins while we are here, for this life is not a place where justice resides.”

Martin Luther, From the Melanchthon Letter no. 99, 1 August 1521

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Luther is essentially communicating the things that are real to us.  He takes it down to bare wood.  We are given an understanding of this World, an a sense of what we can expect from the hearts of all those who surround us.  Sin is the issue, and we need to accept that from our brothers and sisters.  We should not be surprised when someone we love intentionally blindsides us with their disobedience to God.

Dramatic words, ‘sin boldly’.  We instantly see this as a way to sin, without restraint.  And let’s face it, sinning is fun.  At times perhaps, even a whole lot more pleasure than walking out godliness.  Luther recognized the inevitably of sin.  As fallen people we should accept that fallenness.  We sin, it’s what we do, and we do that very well. And the Lord knows that.

“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”

1 John 1:8

Our ‘religious’ hearts often go into this ‘deception mode.’  We endeavor not give in to the viciousness of sin.  “We will overcome!” And yet we are so infected with sin, and rebellion that we try to minimize the problem.  If the truth be known, we are sick, infested and condemned.  There are no ‘quick fixes’ for us.  Evil runs rampant.  It is the ultimate epidemic.

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Looking at our salvation

“Let your trust in Christ be more boldly still.’  The Lord Jesus has decisively interrupted our lives.  He has wholesale entered into our darkness and sin.  In a way it’s like a ‘roadside’ bomb, and needs a direct intervention of a specialist to disarm it.  As people who are completely saturated with sin, we need a third party to step-in and to save us from all the embedded darkness.

Often there is a sense of boldness when we completely understand our depravity.  We ‘know’ our sin.  For the most part can grasp its deadliness, and its infectiousness.  The Holy Spirit’s ministry is to bring us to this transparent moment when we can see the darkness and harm we’ve caused.  The fact is, that we are to accept this, it’s all true.  We have been this evil and awful to those around us. Most believers would curiously admit that ‘they have sinned more as a believer’ than before they were first saved.

Luther declares a significant point when he tells us ‘to believe in Christ more boldly still’. Simply, our ‘sin’ awareness must never exceed our Christ awareness.  We must have a stronger sense of Jesus’ victory then our sinfulness.  Our confidence, which has taken a hit on our sinfulness, now shouts ‘hallelujah’ at His victory.

“If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts.”

1 John 1:8-10, NLT

“You need not fear because sin still plagues you – instead rejoice that by God’s grace you are on a journey toward eternal life and sin will finally fade into the distant past.”

Luther

“May it be the real me, that seeks and finds the real You.”

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Further info, and source:  http://www.scrollpublishing.com/store/Luther-Sin-Boldly.html

http://www.lectionarysermons.com/june_30_02.htm

http://www.internetmonk.com/archive/a-luther-quote-to-wake-up-the-sleepers