Mercy and Grace

Photo by Eric Ward on Unsplash

Mercy and Grace

By Pat Knight

We’ve all experienced life’s embarrassing, humiliating moments. It is unnerving how easily and frequently mistakes are made or sins committed. We verbalize or enact something affecting another person that turns out all wrong, not at all the way it was intended. Or, perhaps it was a blatantly insensitive, planned maneuver. Either way, the other party is hurt. When our personal involvement is revealed, we may experience white-hot molten guilt surging through our bodies, as despair simultaneously drenches our emotions. We feel crushed on all sides, reminding us of our desperate need of forgiveness.

We have sinned. Our integrity is threatened. The person we offended is often the first one to whom we apologize. Asking God’s forgiveness is frequently an after-thought. King David demonstrated the proper sequence of events once the prophet Nathan confronted him with his adultery with Bathsheba, and the murder of her husband. David immediately poured out his heart to God.

“My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear” (Psalm 38:4). David was physically and emotionally ill from the exposure of his flagrant sin and the expression of his humble remorse. David knew he must admit his sins to God, appealing to his Lord’s forgiveness in order to restore peace in his life. “I confess my iniquity; I am troubled by my sin” (Psalm 38:18). 

David realized that God loathed his sin but he was also aware of God’s mercy and forgiveness, and boldly asked for both. “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin” (Psalm 51:1, 2). Then, David requested purity, a cleansed heart, and reinstatement into God’s fellowship. “Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me” (v. 12).

During David’s lifetime, long before our Savior sacrificed His life for the sins of the world, David offered a perfect animal as a sacrifice, along with his penitent prayer. He was familiar with God’s priorities. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise” (v. 17). What pleases God more than sacrifice is a humble heart that turns to Him, pleading for mercy.

We may wonder the reason David’s legacy remains as “a man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22), in view of his egregious sins of adultery and murder. God is apprised of the heart intent of every person. He viewed David’s deep remorse, humility, request for forgiveness, and submission to the His will. What pleases God is a humility that seeks Him when troubles crush and that penitently plead for mercy and sovereign security. David suffered dire consequences for his sins, but evidence that God forgave him totally is illustrated in God’s future empowerment of David to accomplish His kingdom work.

As soon as the first offense was committed by Adam and Eve, God’s plan was in place to send a Messiah to earth who would save the world from sin. For centuries, the Israelite nation anticipated the promised Savior. God is faithful and always keeps His promises. Jesus was incarnated on earth for one distinct purpose: to redeem sin by ransoming His life for ours. Before He was nailed to the cross, he was physically beaten, spat upon, and humiliated by taunting Roman soldiers. A crown of thorns tore deeply through the skin of his brow. When Jesus was crucified on the cross, His pain escalated for the next six hours until His body could no longer sustain life.

The abuse to which Jesus submitted is inexpressible. If we pale under heavy guilt and shame for one of our sins, envision the incredible burden of emotional torture Christ suffered when He died to atone for the sins of the entire world–past, present, and future. The sinless Savior was willing to die a heinous death to redeem all of the sins for everyone who calls upon His name. “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2b). 

The physical and mental anguish Jesus suffered for our sakes is His love gift to each individual. “He is Jesus Christ … Him who loved us and has freed us from our sins by His blood” (Revelation 1:5). Though God’s very nature is love, He also expresses wrath. Almighty God, holy and pure, hates sin. Animal sacrifice and a repentant heart allowed God’s people in Old Testament times to approach their perfect, sovereign God.  When Jesus hung on the cross, God’s wrath for the sins of the entire world descended upon His Son, extracting from the Perfect Lamb punishment for the sins of the multitudes.

Jesus died for the sinner, including you and me. Our Savior initiated the era of grace when He died and rose again, offering a substitute for our own penalty of death. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). The grace of God showers us with glory we cannot earn, withholding punishment Jesus bore for us that we do deserve. “Everyone who believes in Him {Jesus Christ} receives forgiveness of sins through His name” (Acts 10:43).

Jesus, our intercessor, provided the bridge between sinners and a hallowed God by dying for us. When we act inappropriately, exposing selfish desires, we not only hurt other people and our own credibility, but we sin against God. Thankfully, God knows our propensity for wrong-doing and provides for our salvation, permitting us to approach Him and gain forgiveness. “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 will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9).

As sorrowful as we may feel about wrongs we commit, they represent a greater personal affront to our holy God. Showering His extensive love on His creation, God admits, “I am He who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sin no more” (Isaiah 43:25). What a gift! God’s offer isn’t automatic; it requires a reaction from us. “If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will reject you forever” (1 Chronicles 28:9b).

Our Savior is the only one capable of eradicating sin from our lives. Christ died for you! Claim and cherish His passionate gift.

Polka Spotted

Polka Spotted

By Pat Knight

Among our three grandsons visiting Christmas day, the 5-year old suffered a fully developed case of chicken pox. The disease had no regard for person, place, or time; no indication it was interrupting our celebration of the birthday of the King. The chicken pox boy endured long enough to unwrap his Christmas gifts before he collapsed on the couch for the remainder of the day. Occasionally a whimper erupted from his direction as he tried to resist the complete lethargy and generalized soreness that accompanied the disease.

Our grandsons coined the phrase ”polka spots” for the skin lesions populating his body, including his lips, throat, inside his nostrils, and on the soles of his feet. The generalized outbreak of chicken pox, if blended together, had the potential to change his skin color. As I performed a close inspection of the polka spots on his back, it occurred to me that God could devise a method of registering our transgressions; a pox assigned for each sin. Over our lifetime, I wonder if we would have enough room on our bodies to register all of the pox? Thankfully, God does not choose any means of broadcasting to the world the mistakes we make. Sin is a private matter between God and the believer. Never does He make our indiscretions known to others. He has promised, “‘For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more’” (Hebrews 8:12).

If we are wronged by another person, we remember the incident to prevent similar hurt again, applying what we’ve learned, but not for the purpose of retaliation. God assures us, “‘I am he who blots out your transgressions, for my sake, and remembers them no more’” (Isaiah 43:25). Our Lord is not interested in flaunting our sins to the world. Once we repent of our sins and he redeems us, he destroys sins’ memory, never to be retrieved. Our God is patient and long-suffering, identified by justice and loving kindness. “‘I have swept away your sins like a cloud. I have scattered your offenses like the morning mist’” (Isaiah 44:22, NLT).

The Son of God’s death on the cross paid all debts in full to redeem our sins. God is not interesting in brow-beating; His forgiveness is merciful and full of grace. Conversations and dealings with us are held in strictest confidence, never to be revealed. Our Lord is kind and compassionate. “O Lord, you are so good, so ready to forgive, so full of unfailing love for all who ask for your help” (Psalm 86:5, NLT).

In some societies slaves wear collars to identify their status and their owners. As Christians, our uniqueness is displayed by our love of God and our fellow traveler. No physical marks are necessary. We exhibit an outward manifestation of inner peace and joy, secured by hope in an unfailing God. Job, who suffered untold physical and mental anguish, said, “‘Though he slay me, yet will I hope in Him’” (Job 13:15).

 

“He was pierced for our transgressions.
He was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).

Believers in Jesus Christ do not require a distinguishing physical mark. Rather than brand us as His followers, God expects us to minister for Him with our speech and actions. “Just as the body is dead, without breath, so also faith is dead without good works” (James 2:26, NLT). Our external actions reflect our heart’s allegiance.

If we yell from the rooftops our love for God, we would be summarily labeled as wacko. But, if in our daily lives we consistently display the love and peace of God, our positive actions and benevolent outreach will impact many lives, including our own.

People also listen to what we do not say. Non-verbal communication sometimes speaks louder than words. If we refuse to be controlled by anger, resentment, or bitterness, others take notice. Are we active listeners, conveying a sense of importance to others? “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires” (James 1:19).

Our goal is to be a conspicuous Christian, to imitate Jesus and His actions. The slogan so popular with Christian teens years ago, “What Would Jesus Do?” (W.W. J. D.), is still an appropriate question for us to consider prior to decision-making. We are commanded, “Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God” (Eph. 5:1-2, NLT).

Let us evaluate whether we exhibit joy and patience amidst the disappointments and losses in life. Are we able to cling to our faith in Jesus when all hope seems lost? Are we patient and long-suffering when awaiting answers from God? Others observe confidence, joy, and gentleness as correct responses to unpleasant situations, those features that cancel negative behavior in every scenario.

Unlike the Nazi practice of tattooing Jewish prisoners in concentration camps or the fanciful idea of a chicken pox for each sin, as followers of Jesus Christ, promises are the only brands we will ever receive from our Lord. His words are believable, His love magnificent, and His gifts generous beyond our imagination. Polka spots represent a hurtful, temporary disease. Give God your sins and He will exchange them for an abundant life on earth and a home in heaven forever and ever!


[Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons]

Key Terms of Salvation in the Bible

Today I’m sharing from The NIV Bible blog.

Key Terms of Salvation
in the Bible

The more one understands the key terms the apostle Paul chose to explain the gospel, the deeper one’s experience will be with the gospel. Paul uses these terms throughout the book of Romans to describe the free gift of salvation and eternal transformation that is available to all who will believe and trust in Jesus for the forgiveness of their sin.

Atonement (Romans 3:25)

“The satisfaction of God’s holy wrath against sin.” The consequence of our sin is the righteous judgment that God will exercise on sinners. By dying in our place and taking our sins on himself, Jesus makes “atonement” for our sin: he satisfies God’s righteous anger against all who believe.

Faith (Romans 1:17)

Meaning “belief” or “trust,” faith is the means by which sinful people come into right standing with God. It is a complete and active trust in Jesus alone for salvation.

Gospel (Romans 1:16)

Literally means “good news” and is the word Paul uses to refer to the message of forgiveness, eternal life and the lordship of Christ.

Grace (Romans 6:14)

“The unmerited favor of God.” This refers to God’s inexplicable and unwarranted giving of good things (especially salvation) to those who could never earn it. There is power for holy living in the grace of God.

Read the rest here.

Is Jesus the Only Way to Heaven?

Sharing today from GotQuestions?

Question: “Is Jesus the only way to Heaven?”

Answer: Yes, Jesus is the only way to heaven. Such an exclusive statement may confuse, surprise, or even offend, but it is true nonetheless. The Bible teaches that there is no other way to salvation than through Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself says in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” He is not a way, as in one of many; He is the way, as in the one and only. No one, regardless of reputation, achievement, special knowledge, or personal holiness, can come to God the Father except through Jesus.

Jesus is the only way to heaven for several reasons. Jesus was “chosen by God” to be the Savior (1 Peter 2:4). Jesus is the only One to have come down from heaven and returned there (John 3:13). He is the only person to have lived a perfect human life (Hebrews 4:15). He is the only sacrifice for sin (1 John 2:2; Hebrews 10:26). He alone fulfilled the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 5:17). He is the only man to have conquered death forever (Hebrews 2:14–15). He is the only Mediator between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5). He is the only man whom God has “exalted . . . to the highest place” (Philippians 2:9).

Read the rest here.

True vs. False Repentance: What’s the Difference?

Today I’m sharing from Core Christianity

True vs. False Repentance:
What’s the Difference?

By Adriel Sanchez

According to the Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Louw & Nida) the word repentance means, to change one’s way of life as the result of a complete change of thought and attitude with regard to sin and righteousness. In repentance, a person is given a true sense of the heinous nature of sin and, hating it, they turn to God through Christ with the desire to part ways with it. It is a gift that God gives to us and true repentance leads to eternal life (2 Tim. 2:25).

The Bible does make it clear that not all repentance is genuine, though. Paul said to the Corinthian church in 2 Corinthians 7:10-11, 

For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point, you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter.

Based on this Scripture and others, here are some of the distinguishing characteristics between true and false repentance:

True repentance does not regret parting ways with sin; false repentance does. 

Because God grants us a clear view of our sins in repentance, we don’t regret the loss of them. False repentance is characterized by a continual longing for the “old life.” Although a person may have made certain external changes in their life, their heart is continually drawn back to the sins they miss. Jesus said, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God”(Lk. 9:62). 

Now, it’s important to note that this doesn’t mean we won’t face old temptations as believers. There’s a constant struggle between the old and the new man (Gal. 5:17), and this conflict is itself an indication that we have been enlightened by God to see our sin as something we must fight against.  We don’t always experience victory on the battlefield though, and often the Christian life can feel like a string of defeats. The good news is when we sin, we have an advocate before the Father pleading our case (1 Jn. 2:1), and as he grants us victory, we rejoice over the death of our sin, rather than mourning its loss. 

True repentance hates sin; false repentance hates the consequences of sin. 

True repentance is often characterized by a godly anger about the terrible nature of sin. This zealous indignation is concerned with God’s glory and the flourishing of the image of God in humanity. False repentance is less concerned about the glory of God and more concerned with getting caught. This type of concern is what Paul calls “worldly grief.” True repentance often takes the initiative in bringing sin into the light (through confession) since it hates the sin itself, not just its consequences. Jesus said, “For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God” (Jn. 3:20-21).

Read the rest here.

Let’s Talk About Your Worry

Shared from Unlocking the Bible.

Let’s Talk About Your Worry

by Eden Parker

Yep, we’re gonna talk about worry. You’ve heard the command:

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life… (v. 25)

But a good friend of mine told me to always ask, “What’s the therefore there for?” What was said before this to birth Matthew’s imperative? Earlier in the chapter, we read, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (6:21) and, “No one can serve two masters” (6:24). God in his Word has reminded us that he is our Father and Master, and out of this reality we find the command to live free of anxiety.

When we labor for the Lord, it’s not a part-time employment—he’s the Master. When we fight for the Lord, it’s not a temporary deployment (2 Timothy 2:4)—he’s the King. But one of the ways Christians side-step service to the King and dishonor his Lordship is by worrying.

We know this deadly enemy by our fret and sweat, the jitters, the “oh-no!”s about tomorrow, the thoughts surrounding events that make our palms sweat and elevate our heart rates. But really, worry is our heart’s response to a deeply rooted belief that we are our own master; a deeply felt responsibility that we are our own king; and a deep craving to meet our own needs.

I read Matthew 6, and I write now to admonish my own failure. There are four things, among many more, we can learn about the root of worry—what’s really going on in our heart—from this passage. As we consider God’s Word, I pray he works in us both to put to death this sin in our heart.

Four Things That Happen When You Worry

1. You have disordered priorities.

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? (v. 25, emphasis added)

Life is more than the sum of solutions to the things we worry about. What things does God warn us not to worry over? Food, drink, clothes, our body. These are real needs, but they’re not worth one minute of faithless fretting.

Read the rest here.

The Healing Power of Forgiven Sin

Sharing from Desiring God today.

The Healing Power of Forgiven Sin

Article by Greg Morse 
Content strategist, 
desiringGod.org

His body didn’t work.

How long had he been known as “the paralytic”? How long had his legs not obeyed? How long would he be held a prisoner in his own bed?

But the word on the street was that the Messiah was coming. When the paralytic heard of it, he couldn’t help the impulse to do what he had been scared to do for some time: hope.

Story after story testified that Jesus could heal him. He could raise a cripple from his bed, he could resurrect fallen limbs — but would he? These legs? Forsaking caution, the paralytic enlisted his friends to carry him to his only hope.

The house was full. They couldn’t get through the door — but going home was not an option. They climbed to the roof, bore through the ceiling, and his friends lowered him down through the roof. Though many pressed in on the miracle-worker, Jesus, delighting in their faith, called out to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son . . . ”

As the Messiah began to speak, rain began to fall upon the desert; the sun was cresting the horizon; hope, his estranged friend, drew near again. Unknown to even his closest of friends, the years had worn on him. His spirit lay nearly as limp as his legs. But Jesus commanded him to take heart. He knew. In the crowded room, the Messiah himself called him “my son.” Certainly, the healing was about to come.

“Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven” (Matthew 9:2). Then came the pause that felt like an eternity to a man with no use of his legs.

Imagine yourself standing there. You just made a way through a roof for your paralyzed friend to get to Jesus. As the Pharisees balk about his authority to forgive sins, you might wonder, “Does he not see him lying here on the bed? Does he not know our purpose for coming all of this way? Is he unable to heal? Would our friend not ‘take heart’ and feel more like ‘his son’ if Jesus healed his broken body as well as forgave his sins? What’s forgiveness when your legs don’t work?”

How often, in our own pain, have we been tempted to wonder the same thing?

Read the rest here.

Seven Symptoms of a Prideful Heart

This is another excellent article from UnlockingTheBible.org.

Seven Symptoms of a Prideful Heart

Pride is universal—something we all deal with, as ancient as Adam and as relevant as the morning news. Yet we don’t always see our own pride, which weaves like weeds around our lives.

Oh, we see it in the obvious ways, but we can be blind to its deceptive, subversive way in our hearts. We know the disease, but we don’t recognize the symptoms. And that’s why we need the insight of our spiritual Great Physician to reveal symptoms of pride and rescue us from it.

Seven Symptoms of a Prideful Heart

Here are seven symptoms of pride I’ve been seeing in God’s Word as his Spirit works in my own life:

1. Fear

Pride is at the root of fear and anxiety, when we refuse to humbly rest in God’s sovereign care. Fear simultaneously reveals our lack of trust and our poisonous self-reliance. We fear because we don’t have faith in the Lord, we are enormously preoccupied with ourselves, and we don’t have control.

When Peter stepped out on the stormy sea to come to Jesus, he was walking in humble faith. But when his gaze shifted to his circumstances and self-preservation, he trusted in himself, became afraid, and began to sink. It was Jesus who saved him, while admonishing him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:31).

2. Entitlement

Self-sacrifice stems from a humble heart. Entitlement is rooted in a prideful heart. The core of the gospel is that we are not entitled to anything, except just punishment for our sins (Romans 3:23; 6:23). Yet we deceive ourselves into thinking we’re better than we are, so we deserve better than we have. We think we deserve God’s mercy. We think we deserve people’s praise. We think we deserve love, success, comfort, accolades. We certainly don’t think we deserve suffering, heartbreak, or discipline.

But when we do experience these things, we grow bitter, frustrated, and disturbed because we believe we’re entitled to more. We forget that apart from Jesus Christ we are sinners who deserve condemnation.

The disciples wrestled with entitlement many times. On one occasion, they were arguing about who was the greatest. They selfishly thought they deserved honor and glory. But Jesus’ response to them was a rebuke: “Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves” (Luke 22:26).

Read the rest here.

The Light Shines in the Darkness

This is a truly pertinent article from the January 2018 issue of Decision Magazine.

The Light Shines in the Darkness

By 

The darkness is spreading—rapidly.

Every day, it seems like yet another menacing cloud has spread its dark shadow across the land.

The relentless reporting of widespread sexual harassment has dominated the news cycle for months. Television hosts, congressmen, Hollywood elites, journalists and businessmen have all confessed to grievous acts of sexual harassment. The repercussions have been enormous, as women across the country have accused employers and co-workers of inappropriate behavior.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Online pornography use is at an all-time high. Gay and transgender characters are now a common sight on television, even in programs for small children. Atheists are hell-bent on eradicating any mention of God in town halls, schools and sporting events. Drug addiction, especially to new opioid painkillers, is an epidemic in many parts of the country, particularly in rural areas with high joblessness.

Mass shootings are no longer a rare occurrence, and they happen in once-sacred places like churches and historically safe spaces like schools and public venues. The weapons of terrorists are no longer just homemade bombs but also cars and trucks, which can run down citizens in broad daylight on busy city thoroughfares.

Abroad, the darkness is just as widespread.

Christians across the Middle East suffer intense persecution from Islamic terrorists and oppressive governments. In so many parts of the world, it’s never been a more dangerous time to be a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Read the rest here.

Are All Our Sins Forgiven?

Shared from GraceThruFaith.

Are All Our Sins Forgiven?

A Bible Study by Jack Kelley

I’ve received a number of questions about a recent series of online articles disputing the idea that Jesus died for all our sins, past, present, and future on the cross. The articles make the claim that the Bible teaches no such thing. So let’s find out. Does the Bible teach that all the sins of our life were forgiven at the cross or doesn’t it?

Colossians 2:13-14 reads as follows, When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.

The Greek word translated all in this passage is pas. It means each, every, any, all, the whole, all things, everything. This would seem to support the claim that all sins past present and future were forgiven at the cross. It also supports Paul’s statement that at the moment of belief the Holy Spirit was sealed within us as a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance.

And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory (Ephes. 1:13-14).

Taken literally, this means the Holy spirit is the down payment that guarantees the redemption of the acquired possession (us). This guarantee went into effect when we first believed. (By the way, for those of you who only speak King James-ese, all translation interpretations on this site are from the Greek text that brought forth the King James Version.)

Read the rest here.