Tag Archives: cross

When Our Testimony Goes Awry

FallingFromGraceEverybody loves sharing their conversion story, also known as their testimony. This is the story about how bad you once were before you became a Christian. Every Christian has their story and I have mine too. These are usually great stories about how people were enslaved in drugs, alcohol, gangs, crimes, or a life filled with endless greed never  quenched. Then there is this “aha” moment were God taps them on their shoulder or hits them square in the face and realize Jesus is the answer to all of these former problems. Then we share how God changed our lives and we are not the people we once were, rather we are changed from the inside out. Our desires change, and we are no longer bound to that sin that held us captive. While these stories are true and encouraging to hear, what happens when we fall back into the sin we were first guilty of?

When it comes to our testimony we love to share how bad we once were, but then we become quiet as a mouse when we fall back into sin, and we usually try to cover it up so no one finds out. It sounds great when people say I used to be hooked on drugs before I gave myself to the Lord. For some reason though if you attend church and are a Christian and get back into drugs it seems shameful and we hide it. For men in the church, there are many who are addicted to pornography that will never admit it because God forbid anyone find out they are not perfect. This is where  hypocrisy creeps into the church when we pretend we are perfect when we are far from it.

We have legalistic tendencies that we continue to nurture. We don’t have a hard time understanding that we are saved by grace and not by works, but once we accept that we think we need to be perfect. We know that we are not able to cleanse ourselves of all of our past mistakes. We therefore come to Christ for forgiveness of our past sins, but then act as though we need to take it from there. We try hard to be a better person, we go to church, read our bibles, pray, and put on our smiley faces saying we have it all under control. Then we fail, we fall back into an addiction, stop reading the bible everyday, miss a couple of Sunday sermons and start drinking a little here a little there. We then feel like failures, like we let God down and we are no longer good Christians. Forgetting that we were never “good” to begin with.

We needed to be saved by grace,because we can’t atone for our own sins and we can’t live a perfect life by our own means. Not only is our past sins forgiven, but  our future ones also. We need to stop pretending that we are perfect, and that we got things under control, because we don’t. We need to bring our sins, past and current to the forefront, in the right situations of course so 1) others know that it is normal not to be perfect even if your saved. 2) To encourage and pray for one another 3) To keep us from being judgmental and hypocritical, and 4) to remind us not to “try to be better” rather to daily crucify the old self and carry our cross.

We need to create environments within the church so that people can open up about struggles they are going through without feeling looked down upon or feel like a lesser Christian. We need to stop feeling like we need to be perfect, rather we need to remember we are sinners that are saved by God’s grace and not our perfectness or good deeds.

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How Much Does It Cost?

count-the-cost

Have you ever made a big purchase in your life that you had to really sit down and do the numbers before buying it? For many of us it was buying a house, but it could also be a car, college tuition, a wedding, or maybe a big vacation. Before you do any one of these things the first thing you need to do is find out how much it costs. It would not be wise to go look for a home, see one you like and say “I’ll take that one” without first asking how much it is. For most of us, before buying a home you sit with a mortgage brokers or a banker who goes over your finances to see how much money you make, how much is going out in bills then what is left over to afford a house. It doesn’t end there though, once they tell you what you can afford then you begin to weigh in other factors. What if  hot water heater goes, or one of us loses a job, or medical bills, or saving for a vacation and emergency reserves. We need to consider all of these factors first, then we come up with an amount that you decide you can afford and go from there. It is the same with all large purchases, we need to make sure we know what we are getting ourselves into before we decide  buy. We need to follow through on our commitment.

How about in your decision in what God you follow? Did you consider what it costs? Did you weigh in all the factors If and when you made a decision to follow Jesus as your Lord, Jesus warns us to consider the cost. I know what your thinking, if you are on the fence on this, this may not be pushing you into accepting Christ as your Lord and Savior. But these are His words, not mine. I feel so many Christians are trying to convince people to believe in Jesus, and they talk a lot about forgiveness of sins and love and the assurance of salvation, but not a lot are saying “hey, you know what, it is not going to be easy”.  Jesus on the other hand was saying this. He says in Luke 14:28  For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?
14:29  Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him,
14:30  saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’
14:31  Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand?
14:32  And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace.
14:33  So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.

It Will Cost You Everything

Oh so wait a minute, it will cost me everything? I don’t remember the preacher saying that in the alter call?  Hmmm, I am not sure I am willing to give up EVERYTHING. Jesus also says in Matthew 16:24  “Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” I know, crazy right?  What does all this mean? What on earth does take up his cross even mean? Why do I have to give up stuff in order to follow Him?

This is kind of like asking, “why do I have to stop dating other people after I get married?” You had to consider this cost when you got married. Is this the person that I love? is this the person I want to spend the rest of my life with and give up all other women or all other men for. This is what Jesus is asking. He is in effect saying do you love me enough to give up others for me. Do you love me enough to give up other things for? Are you willing to take up your cross, meaning die to self, no longer living for your own desires, rather living for the will of God?  Or are you just buying fire insurance to stay out of hell?

Giving up Everything to Gain Everything

What is the result of this cost, Jesus continues by saying in Matt 16:25  For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. Yes it will cost us everything, we will go through hardships, Jesus even says the world hated me, they are going to hate you too. (paraphrasing) But in the end Jesus says “Whoever loves his life loses it and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life” These are tough words to understand, and even tougher to live out. Who are you living for? If you are living for yourself, for your own gain and your own wants and desires, Jesus is saying this leads to death. But if we relinquish our desires for His desires and follow Him where he leads, this leads to eternal life.

God came to earth as a man and humbled himself as a commoner, a carpenter. He lived a sinless life to give it up as a ransom for many.  Where we deserved death, he took our place on the cross. He died so that we would have eternal life. He calls us to follow him, how do you respond?  Count the cost.

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Man of Sorrows

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Sometimes we are to familiar with a story of the bible that it doesn’t resound with us the way it should. How many times we hear the story of the crucifixion and resurrection, and it still may touch us, but does it move us? Do we really take the time to ponder what was going on? What was Jesus feeling? What was racing through His mind the night before His death. I read a verse the other day that moved me.

Jesus was in the garden of Gethsemane getting ready to pray. Jesus having full knowledge of what was about to happen to Him turns to a couple of His followers and says “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death;” Matt 26:38a esv. I think sometimes we forget that Jesus, being fully God was also fully man. He felt anxiety, pain, he had fear, Jesus fully aware of the verses in Isa 53:3 “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Isa 53:4  Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.
Isa 53:5  But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are  healed.” 

Jesus knew what lay ahead, the lashes to the back, the punches to the face, the mockery, the ridicule, the cross, the wrath of God, all await him. He was sorrowful unto death. Sweat of blood poured down His brow as He pleaded to the Father that there be some other way. Multiple times He begs the Father to have the wrath of our sin be resolved some other way. But there was none. Jesus finally concedes to the Father with, “Not my will, but yours be done”.

He not only had to bear the cross, but the sin of the world was about to be on His shoulders and for the first time ever He and the Father will be separated. And He did it willingly, no one forced Him, He did it out of love for me and for you. en the Roman gaurds came to the garden to arrest Him, He does not fight back but rather walks up to them and offers Himself to them. One of the disciples however is not as willing and lashes out against the Roman guard as Jesus replies to him “Do you thing that I cannot appeal to my Father and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” Matt.26:53-4  Jesus could have stopped the pain, could have taken the easy way out and wiped out all his enemies. Instead He gave Himself up even to death, and death on a cross.

Sometimes we view God afar off, some great mystery in the sky. A God who is powerful and mighty, who sits and judges us. We forget that this God is a personal God, who took on the form of a man who walked among us. Has felt our pains, knows our temptations, understands our griefs. We read in Hebrews 4:15 “For we do not have a high priest (Jesus) who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

If you ever think that God doesn’t understand what you are going through, doesn’t understand your pain, your sadness, your anxiety, your temptations. Just remember Him in the Garden agonizing over His death sweating blood, who was sorrowful even to death and rest assured He knows. He then bids us to come to him in pray and He will give mercy the way only a loving Savior knows how.

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