“Why Do You Seek The Living Among The Dead?”

Why Do You Seek

 

It’s been a few weeks since Easter. Spring has pretty much sprung, and the excitement around Eastertime has mostly faded.

 

But it doesn’t cease to be my favorite holiday.

 

See, while we celebrate the Resurrection of Christ, we also celebrate the Resurrection of ourselves. Let me elaborate.

 

When Jesus died, we died with Him. Our sin was totally, 100% paid in full.  Why? In order that we might be freed from sin’s control over us and the condemnation that comes with it.

 

Romans 6:4-6

“We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.”

 

And because we have died with Christ, He has raised us and given us new life. We are alive and free.

 

We have new life, and therefore, we are to walk in that newness. While I was contemplating this concept, a verse came to mind.

 

On Easter Sunday morning, three days after Jesus died, some women went to His tomb with spices to honor His body. Upon finding it, they were made aware that His body was gone.

The angel outside the tomb met them and said this, as it tells us here in Luke 24:5b. “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” And in verse 24:6 “He is not here, but has risen.”

 

That’s my question for us. Why do we seek the living among the dead?

 

In other words, why do we act as though we are still dead in our sins when we have been raised to life?

 

Why do we walk crippled and in defeat when Jesus has been victorious already?

 

Why do we forget this verse?

 

Galatians 2:20

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

 

Christ lives in us, so not only do we not have to live in defeat, but we can live in victory.

 

We are not dead. We are not enslaved to sin. We are not controlled by the very thing that condemns us.

 

We are alive. We have hope. We have assurance of salvation and victory.

 

1 Corinthians 15:57

“But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

 

So why do we seek the living among the dead? Why do we forget that we are, in fact, alive, and God sees us as sinless?

 

2 Corinthians 5:16-17

“From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

 

God does not regard us according to the flesh, that is, our sin. So why do we do it to ourselves and others?

 

Simply because we see the imperfections in our own lives. But we need not dwell on them. If God sees us as new, why should we treat ourselves as if we’re dead? If God sees us in victory, why should we see ourselves as if we’re failures?

 

We shouldn’t.

 

We are not dead; we are alive with Christ. Let us live in light of that. Let us live constantly in the Word of God, seeing how He sees us. Let us live in the joy of our salvation, rejoicing in what HE has done for us. Let us live with a focus not on ourselves, but on God. When our focus is on Him, it is not on our sin, but on His perfection manifested in us.

 

Romans 6:10

“For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.”

 

To live a life “alive to Christ” is to let go of our old nature, and to embrace the magnificence of how God sees us. We are new, and there is no condemnation for us.

 

Romans 8:1

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

 

*aj

Easter, Repentance, and a Change of Focus

Easter, Repentance, and A Change of Focus

Hey, friends.

 

This post was originally going to be longer than it is now, but the first half of my post disappeared into thin air at midnight. Not sure how, but it did.

 

Anyway, because tomorrow is Easter, I wanted to talk about what it really means, the significance of forgiveness, and how repentance fits into all of it.

 

Easter is my favorite holiday because we celebrate being forgiven. This forgiveness – the forgiveness of sins – gives us eternal life in Christ. I tweeted this yesterday:

 

 

Easter is about life – eternal life, yes, but also our lives now.

 

Furthermore, I wanted to continue the discussion I started on Tuesday about repentance.

 

After reading the post multiple times, and reading the wonderful, thought-provoking comments you all left, I wanted to clarify a few things.

 

I’m not at all against repentance, if that’s what I seemed to imply in Tuesday’s post. For if we deliberately harbor sin in our hearts, we will of course damage our relationship with God. I’m not bashing confession in the sense that I think that we should never come to God about our wrongdoings.

 

In fact, that’s not it at all.

 

I only hope to lead us away from an obsession with repentance, one in which we’re constantly walking on eggshells is the Christian life. I don’t think we should live a life in which we’re so obsessed with trying to do what’s right that we make sure we fess up every single time we think we might have done something wrong.

 

To be totally honest, I don’t believe that’s what God has for us.

 

We are called to freedom and grace, and no longer do we live under a yoke of slavery to sin.

 

Galatians 5:1

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

 

Instead of living trapped to a life of “try hard>>fail>>confess>>do it all over again,” let us live in grace. Instead of legalism, let us listen to the Holy Spirit.

 

Now, that’s all well and good in talking about it, but how do we actually carry it out?

 

What does it really look like to live under grace?

 

1) Get to know God by reading the Bible.

 

I’ve written a few posts on this topic. Post 1, Post 2, and Post 3 (in reverse chronological order). The Bible is a blessing, not a burden. But it takes more than just hearing people say that for it to become true for us. Read the New Testament for a fresh view on grace, starting in Romans. You’ll see things differently. You’ll see the contrast between God and man, and how Jesus didn’t just “wipe our slates clean,” He gave us whole new slates.

 

2) Submit to the work of the Holy Spirit.

 

You know that nudge you feel when you know God’s calling you to do something? Listen to it. Go talk to that new kid and be their friend. Share your faith with that cousin of yours. Go step out in faith to do something that you feel God wants you to do, even if it seems crazy.

 

Do you feel God calling you to start a YouTube channel or blog about your faith? Do it! Do you feel like you’re being called to vocational ministry? Pursue that. The Holy Spirit speaks in subtle ways, but by following His leading, we are following God’s will.

 

3) Continue to pray for a passion for the Gospel.

 

Pray all the time. Pray that you’d have a desire to live for God. Pray that you’d be used by Him. Pray that He’d show you His plan for your life. Pray that He’d use you in the lives of others. Pray that He would equip you to share your faith – even when it’s absolutely terrifying.

 

Prayer helps us to advance in our relationship with God, and through it, we come to trust Him more and more.

 

We don’t need to overemphasize repentance because as we live in submission to the Holy Spirit and our new nature, the desire to sin will decrease.

We don’t need to overemphasize repentance because Jesus’ death has pardoned our sin and given us a new nature.

We don’t need to overemphasize repentance because God does not see our sin when He looks at us – He sees Jesus’ righteousness.

 

When we’re in the Bible consistently, we see the significance of things like Easter. The Resurrection. Forgiveness that washes away every last one of our sins.

 

When we keep our ears tuned to what we feel God is leading us to do, we live a fruitful life, and not one of destruction.

 

When we keep in communication with God through prayer, and see that He answers our prayers, our relationship with Him grows.

 

Simply, a change of focus is what we need. A focus on the finished work of Christ as opposed to the filthiness of our sins. And so often, that makes a world of difference.

 

Happy Easter, everyone. Instead of getting caught up in simple traditions, let us remember the true meaning of it all – of sacrifice, of forgiveness, and above all, of hope.

 

*aj

Why I Don’t Talk Much About Repentance

Why I Don't Talk Much About Repentance

This week, I’ve really had something on my heart.

 

After reading a blog post on the importance of repentance, and realizing I tend to avoid the topic on my blog, I decided it best for me to explain my reasons behind not talking about it much.

 

I am not anti-repentance. For us to let go of our pride and accept what we know we could not earn – salvation – is a truly powerful thing.

 

However, I believe that we Christians often overemphasize the teaching of repentance where it really does not belong.

 

For starters, Hebrews 6:1 refers to repentance as an elementary doctrine. Elementary means simple. Baseline. Something that’s a building block.

 

“Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God[.]”

 

This verse in Hebrews tells us to leave the elementary doctrine of repentance. I believe this is such an important point, and I’ll elaborate in order to explain what I mean, though it seems confusing at first.

 

When we get saved, we’re usually told to repent of our sins (though I believe it’s more accurate to tell people to acknowledge the fact that they’re sinners, not to repent of every sin they’ve ever committed). We’re told to repent and receive forgiveness. But that’s not all.

 

We’re then told that when we sin, we must confess it to God in order to stay right with Him.

 

But wait a minute. I don’t see how that’s actually accurate.

 

We believe that Jesus died to pay for our sins, right? And we believe that He was the perfect sacrifice, covering every single one of our wrongdoings: past, present, and future, correct?

 

When we put such an emphasis on repenting for every one of our sins, we underscore ourselves. Going with the idea that we must apologize to God for every sin we commit after we’re saved, does that mean that if we die without confessing our last sin, we’ll go to Hell?

 

I know we don’t mean this, or I surely hope we don’t. What about what Jesus said, in John 10:28?

 

“I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.”

 

No one will snatch them out of my hand. That, my friends, is assurance of salvation. That when we put our trust in Jesus for salvation, we cannot lose that.

 

When we put such an emphasis on ourselves, and on making sure we don’t sin without confessing it, we forget about God’s grace.

 

Do we remember what Galatians 2:20-21 says?

 

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.”

 

Paul points out a few imperative things here.

 

1) Sin’s controlling power does not live any longer, for it is Christ’s righteousness that lives in us.

2) We live by faith, not by ‘trying harder.’

3) Our right-standing with God is not through us obeying the law; it is by grace. For if it were, Christ died pointlessly.

 

What’s the central message of this? Living under grace. God knows we’re not perfect, and that’s why Jesus came! For what other reason would He have come to earth? To be a ‘good moral teacher?’ No!

 

If we put such an emphasis on post-salvation repentance, we disregard God’s grace. We disregard the fact that when we received salvation, the righteousness of JESUS HIMSELF was poured out on us. Our sins have been removed from us completely.

 

See, the Bible even explicitly states it in Psalm 103:12.

 

“As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.”

 

Colossians 2:13-14

“And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.

 

Have you ever forgiven someone for something they’ve done to hurt you, but they still apologize profusely, even after you have assured them that it’s all good? When that happens with me, I just want to say, “Chill out! I forgive you, and we don’t need to keep revisiting what you did. I don’t hold it against you; can we move on?”

 

I think we forget that it’s a bit like that with God.

 

Jesus has forgiven all of our sins. God has pardoned every last one of them. By forcing people to repent of every sin (the ones that Jesus’ blood has already covered), we minimize the power of the cross.

 

We make it about us, instead of making it about Him.

 

And while I definitely have more to say on this, I’ll leave you with this thought in closing:

 

We are forgiven already. Let us move on from stressing repentance, and let’s stress His grace instead and see how important it is to live filled with the Spirit.

 

Come back on Saturday for part 2, where I’ll be digging deeper into what repentance should mean for us, and how to live in grace in a biblical sense.

 

*aj

Dear Reader: You Are Loved No Matter What

Dear Reader- You Are Loved No Matter What

Dear Reader,

 

I want you to know that you are loved.

 

I want you to see that not only are you not your past, but you are not loved because of anything you could ever do.

 

While some see that as depressing, I see that as relieving. That no matter what I do, I cannot “lose” God’s love. Neither can you.

 

We cannot sin so many times to retract God’s love from us. We cannot make so many mistakes or bad decisions, or be such a disappointment that God says, “Sorry kid, I don’t love you anymore.”

 

The reality is that His love has nothing to do with our performance, but everything to do with His mercy and grace.

 

The conditions on which He loves us have nothing do do with who we are but who He is.

 

We make mistakes, and we sin. Our inherent nature is not to be perfect, but to live for ourselves. Yet God is different. God doesn’t say, “I love you because you’re perfect,” He says, “I love you because I am perfect.”

 

“I love you because I created you.”

“I love you because even though you do not deserve it, I choose to love you.”

 

That’s powerful.

 

You are cherished, no matter what your life looks like.

 

I’m not trying to say, “Hey, everyone! Because God loves you regardless of your lifestyle, go live however you want!” My point is to the contrary.

 

In knowing that we are loved in spite of the fact that we’re utterly imperfect, we find freedom. Not to live as slaves to our sinful desires, for when we grasp the love of God, the love of sin won’t seem so lovely anymore.

 

See, the love of God didn’t stop with the simple phrase, “I love you.” It only started there. It was an “I love you; let me prove it to you.”

 

Sending Jesus to die to pay the price of the forgiveness of our sins (whew, that was a mouthful) brought that love from just a word to an action. God didn’t sit back and say to us, “I love you, but you’re gonna have to figure it out on your own, because that whole sin mess you got yourselves into is ugly and tough to deal with, so good luck.”

 

No, He said, “I love you, and I don’t want to see any of you spend eternity apart from me. Here is my Son, to die and rise from the dead, that in believing in Him you may have life and be my child.”

 

John 20:31

“But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

 

John 1:12-13

“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”

 

So Dear Reader, no matter what you do, you are loved with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3). You are loved by a God who desperately wants to have a relationship with you. You are loved because of who He is and because of His amazing grace, and not because of your performance.

 

Let us not forget that that we are NEVER out of the reach of His mercy and love.

 

*aj

Dear Reader: You Are Not Your Past

Dear Reader- You Are Not Your Past.png

I’m opening a new category on my blog called “Dear Reader.” This will be a lot like “Dear Christian Teens,” but it’ll hopefully have a more expanded demographic than just 13-19. I love to write in letter format rather than lecture. I want to share my heart as I would with a friend, not just tell you all what you should and shouldn’t do.

 

I’d like to do an occasional post where I can look you in the eyes and say “listen. I know you’re not perfect, and I’m definitely not either. Let’s figure out life together.” instead of writing a speech.

 

I want my posts, particularly my “Dear Reader” posts, to be freeing.

 

Without further adieu, let me bring you the first installment of “Dear Reader.”

 

Dear Reader,

 

You are not your past.

 

You are not what you have done or where you have been.

 

You are not the choices you’ve made.

 

You are not your image or accomplishments.

 

You are not defined by all the sins you’ve committed.

 

You are not your addictions.

 

And I mean it.

 

You are covered by grace.

 

You became covered by grace the moment you said “Jesus, I believe you can and will forgive my sins.”

 

You are covered by grace because you are loved by your Creator. Because He said, “I don’t want to see my child eternally separated from me.”

 

Grace is such that we cannot outrun it. We cannot out-sin it. We cannot get to a point where it does not apply to us anymore. We cannot earn it. Why?

 

Grace is a gift.

 

You do not deserve to be forgiven, and neither do I.

 

But Dear Reader, that’s why grace is amazing. We do not deserve grace of any kind, we do not deserve mercy, we do not deserve forgiveness. Grace is undeserved, and it is beautiful.

 

Grace says, “I have seen your sin and yet I love you. Yet I forgive you. I have seen your filth and yet I call you clean.”

 

God sees us as NEW.

 

He does not see our failures; He sees His Son’s perfection in us.

 

He does not call us on our screw-ups, on our deliberate sins, or on our flaws. He says, “I love you, and what you have done cannot change that.”

 

Dear Reader, you are not your past because God has washed it away.

 

You are called holy and blameless.

 

Titus 3:4-7

“But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

 

You are justified by His grace. God sees you the same as if you’d lived the perfect life and never did anything wrong.

 

You are not your past – you are a new creation because you are in Christ.

 

2 Corinthians 5:17

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

 

Instead of beating ourselves up over and over about our sin, why don’t we see at as God sees it? FORGIVEN.

 

Psalm 103:12

“As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.”

 

So Dear Reader,

 

It’s alright that we’re not perfect, it’s alright that we’re messed up, it’s all right that we’re sinners, because grace covers us. We are held in the hands of a loving God, not an angry one.

 

You do not have to let what you’ve done define how you see yourself. See yourself as God sees you, and let JESUS define you.

 

You are new.

 

*aj

Why Rules Can’t Change Hearts

Why Rules Can’t Change Hearts

I stood in the middle of the park, taking in the fresh air and glancing at the bench that was calling for me to take a rest on it. I was tired. I had just been walking around and the sun was beating down on me.

 

And then I saw it.

 

That ugly, menacing, obnoxious sign that warned, “WET PAINT. DO NOT TOUCH BENCH.” What was I, an obedient dog? That sign couldn’t tell me what to do. So I took it as a challenge. “I’ll show it who’s in charge,” I thought to myself. And so, I decided to touch it.

 

Of course I did.

 

I don’t remember whether the paint on the bench had dried or not, but as soon as I touched it, I was immediately made aware of the fact that I had disobeyed the sign. Of course I didn’t commit a criminal offense, but I knew I hadn’t done what the “rule” had ordered me to. And thinking back on that experience has given me a new perspective on some things.

 

Rules don’t change hearts.

 

Mom says don’t eat the cookie, and what do I do? Eat the cookie.

 

So-and-so says don’t go here, do this, say that, and what do I do? I go there. I do that. I say whatever it is I’m not supposed to say. Because you know what? Having a list of do’s and don’ts doesn’t change my heart, it makes whatever I’m not supposed to do seem so much more appealing.

 

Now, this may seem messed up. And it is. We’re obviously not supposed to sin, it’s wrong and all that, but it just-so-happens to be in our nature.

 

Romans 5:12-13

“Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law.”

 

Adam sinned and passed that sinful nature onto us. From the day we’re born, we’re doomed to have the instinct to do that thing, the selfish thing, the disobedient thing, the thing that puts us first, that thing that elevates us to think we can conquer life on our own.

 

And even if we feel that pang of guilt when we do what we know isn’t right or good, we tend to ignore it and do it anyway. Even the “good people” do, because it’s not something we can control by ourselves.

 

We are dead in our sins on our own.

 

Ephesians 2:1-8

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

 

I know that’s a very long and dense passage, but it’s so important.

 

We were dead in our sins, chained to a life of immorality and evil. But because of God’s grace for us, He gave us life.

 

The difference between death and life isn’t just the difference between going to either Heaven or Hell someday. As much as that’s definitely part of it, it’s not all.

 

The difference between death and life is the difference between being controlled by the sin nature or being controlled by the Holy Spirit.

 

People have a misconception that when you’re a Christian, you try to live a decent life, be a good person, and be kind to everyone. That it’s all about trying harder. That if we mess up it’s because we did something really wrong, so we just brush ourselves off and try “harder” next time.

 

But that can be just as futile as is trying to live a perfect life while we’re still entrenched in sin. Trying to impose rules does one thing: shows us that we cannot be perfect.

 

Look at this verse.

 

Romans 3:20

For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.”

 

The Ten Commandments were given to us to show us that we needed a Savior, not to force us to be moral people in order to earn salvation. We’ve already established in Ephesians 2 that grace is a gift, and has nothing to do with our trying to earn it.

 

In our recognizing our need for a Savior, in accepting that amazing and undeserved grace of God that FORGIVES US and removes our sin for us, we are made blameless in His sight. We are given the Holy Spirit inside of us to overcome our sinful nature and make us new.

 

2 Corinthians 5:17

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

 

Romans 5:17

“For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.”

 

The law showed us our sin and revealed to us that we needed someone to keep the law for us – namely, Jesus. He didn’t just keep it, but He gave up His life as a sacrifice.

 

Hebrews 9:22

“Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.”

 

I’m not advocating disobedience to the law here. I’m really not. I’m not saying we can do whatever we want and it doesn’t matter because we’re forgiven.

 

Galatians 5:1

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”

 

We’re free, and by knowing this, we should not want to waltz back into what we’ve been saved from. We don’t need to “just work harder” at being a “good person,” we need to submit to the Holy Spirit working in our lives. In this way, we throw away slavery and embrace our amazing freedom.

 

Making rules doesn’t change hearts. The Holy Spirit does. Live in your freedom!

 

*aj

“Is That a Sin?” How to Live in Freedom

 

Is That a Sin

Being a Christian, I’ve stumbled across oh-so-many blog posts, websites, questions, etc. asking, “Is such-and-such a sin?” or “Is it okay for Christians to __?” and “Should I do xyz?”

 

And honestly, I’ve wondered quite a few of these questions myself.

 

But I’m not here to tell you what’s right and wrong. I want to address what we’re really asking.

 

When we ask, “Is consuming secular media wrong for a Christian?” we are focusing on the bondage of legalism, not freedom.

 

When we try to contemplate, “Is depression a sin?” we focus on our own struggles as opposed to what’s already been done for us.

 

When we tell people, “You’re a Christian, you shouldn’t get tattoos,” we bind people to a law that they do not have to follow anymore.

 

And that’s not right.

 

I’ve heard arguments for all sides of controversial topics. And I’ve come to this conclusion:

 

We have freedom in Christ.

 

There is no commandment in the Bible that says, “Thou shalt not listen to pop music.” There is no verse that says, “You are unforgivable if you are ever depressed.” There is no passage that warns us, “Marking up your body with permanent ink-art will make you forfeit your salvation.”

 

Because you know what? We’re free from the bondage of the law. We’re free from condemnation. We have a new nature inside of us. Asking questions about the specifics of what sin is or is not really do not profit us.

 

Our sins have been totally, 100% forgiven. There is no way that we can will ourselves out of sinning enough to attain perfection. Heck no. Salvation is forgiveness by believing, and then an internal transformation – our desires change, our attitudes change, and our actions will change.

 

No longer will we want to know how much we can get away with (though I know that does creep up on us at times), but we will ask the question, “how much can we live for God?” And I don’t mean out of compulsion, I mean out of joy.

 

We shouldn’t spend hours puzzling over what is a sin and what’s okay to do. If it’s not a sin, cool. But if it is, well, it’s forgiven. That might seem like a terrible way to put it, but read these verses.

 

Galatians 5:1 says this:

 

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”

 

So the point isn’t for us to say, “Hey! We’re free! We can do whatever we want!” but to live according to our new nature.

 

Romans 8:1-4

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”

 

Our sin nature doesn’t have to control us anymore. This is what it’s saying. We were slaves to sin, but now we are free from falling into those traps of condemnation. Now we can live life fully – not go back to that slavery of sinful patterns that we were rescued from, but living lives pleasing to God.

 

Galatians 5:13 says later,

 

“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”

 

We have been called to freedom. This means that God does not punish us for our deeds that we do now. We’re all going to struggle with something here on earth, because we’re undeniably human. But we can’t let our struggles take advantage of us, because God is greater than those struggles.

 

Going back to the string of questions we all ask, every Christian wants to know what’s okay to do and what’s not okay. I totally understand that, because the Bible’s not totally clear on those gray areas. But that’s why they are called gray areas.

 

We can’t focus on the what’s-a-sin-am-I-doing-this-wrong aspect of the Christian life. Like my Dad says, “If you’re looking for dirt in the ground, just dig deep and you will definitely find it.” If you’re trying to convict yourself of sin and you look hard enough, you will find it. And dirt ain’t pretty.

 

So you know what we do? We don’t abide by a list of “Christian Rules” in order to try to be perfect. Jesus is our holiness. And so we pursue the understanding of His incredible grace, and out of that flows grateful love and a life pleasing to God.

 

I’m not saying we can’t use common sense to try to figure out what we should and should not do for our own benefit. I’m not saying we shouldn’t look to the Bible for wisdom. But what I am saying is that we shouldn’t stress so much over trying not to sin, because we are free in Christ. And if we seek God in our freedom, wanting to live out His will for us, He will reveal it to us and empower us to carry it out.

 

*aj

Are You Numb to Jesus?

Are You Numb to Jesus?

I read half a book on Sunday afternoon. I started reading The Pastor’s Kid by Barnabas Piper, because, um, I’m a PK and I had it sitting next to my bed just begging to be read. I gave in, needless to say.

It’s not a book on theology or anything like that, but more of a book helping people get a grasp on what being a PK is like and how to respond to that.

I cannot say that I relate to all of it, but something particularly stuck out to me. The concept of being numb to Jesus.

This can happen to anyone who’s been drowned in church, the Bible, and surrounded by Christianity. We can become numb to Jesus. Here’s a snippet of the book that I found spot-on.

“Being around Jesus-related teaching, literature, and events all the time makes Jesus rote in the minds and hearts of PKs. Rote is mundane. When Jesus becomes mundane, He ceases being life-changing and life-giving. In the case of many PKs, He never was either of these; by their estimation, He was just a character in an overtold story. Instead of Savior and Lord, He becomes any number of other things, most of which take on the character of those who represent Him in the church.” – Barnabas Piper, The Pastor’s Kid, page 73.

I remember feeling this way!

Sure, I always loved Jesus. But so many times growing up (not to say that I’m completely grown up now, but anyway), church was boring. I was tired of my Bible, because I just finished reading through it, and now I’m supposed to read it again? Jesus died for sinners. Does that include me? Grandma calls me an angel, even though I did throw a book across the room when I was mad last week…

Can anyone relate? I remember in 7th grade, things really started to click. I was baptized going into 7th grade and attended a winter weekend camp with my youth group.

It was somewhere around that time where I was like, “OH! JESUS IS AWESOME! HOW DID I NOT GET THIS BEFORE?!”

Maybe you’re a Pastor’s Kid, or a Missionary Kid, or you’re just so used to Christianity that you’re numb to Jesus. Jesus is a history figure, not a Savior. Maybe you had no “Damascus Road” conversion, just a prayer with Mom and Dad in preschool, kindergarten, or grade school.

And after being excited that “Jesus lives in my heart!” for a while, maybe even a few years, Jesus stopped being life changing. At least, it seemed that way for me.

I memorized all the verses, could rock Bible Baseball in Sunday School, could explain the book of Romans in detail, but my salvation didn’t seem life-giving. When I became a Christian in preschool, my life didn’t drastically change. Of course, John 3:16 was a good verse. Jesus died to save us from our sins. Great! We can go to heaven when we die.

I was so immersed into the Gospel that grace didn’t seem all that great, because I never felt like I experienced it. My conversion felt like a “press this button for eternal life and forgiveness” and so I pressed it.

I’m sure others feel or have felt like this too. Do you want to know what helped me find Amazing Grace for myself?

I finally understood the weight of sin.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying we should dwell on our sin too much. But listen up. If we don’t understand that we are sinners in the first place, controlled naturally by a sinful nature, we won’t see our need for a Savior. If a fireman came to your house and told you he was there to save you, but there was no evidence of any danger, would you appreciate him? No way. When I realized that without being under the control of the Holy Spirit that I was doomed to a life consisting of ball-and-chain slavery to sin, I understood why grace was so important.

Salvation isn’t saying some prayer and trying to be good for the rest of our lives. It’s being given a new nature, our sin is forgotten about and erased, and we are clean. It has nothing to do with “being good,” which, a lot of church kids are extremely good at. I was pretty good at it. I was legitimately accused of both having the entire Bible memorized and being a perfect angel. But that was me trying to be good, not letting myself be under the control of the Holy Spirit.

When I realized that I was, in fact, a true sinner, I could accept God’s wonderful grace to pay for my sin. It was only amazing, though, because I knew I didn’t deserve it and could not earn it.

I saw a relationship with God through Jesus as a privilege.

I always got the God/Jesus/Holy Spirit distinction mixed up. I’m not going to bother trying to explain the Trinity, because even I can’t full wrap my head around that. What I will say is this. Sin separates us from God (His holiness and our sinfulness cannot coexist). Jesus is our mediator, the one whom God the Father sent as a mediator between us and God. He willingly died to pay for our sin, and now we can believe in Jesus’ sacrifice to pay for our sin, have a relationship with God, and live by the power of the Holy Spirit (we aren’t controlled by sin now that it is washed away).

By taking my relationship with God for granted instead of seeing it as a miracle, I missed out on the blessing of enjoying my salvation. I became apathetic about being saved instead of rejoicing in it. However, when I realized the drag of sin and lift of salvation, I could see that I am blessed. Grace is amazing, and that’s so easy to forget when we’re so used to it.

Some other things occurred that year too, things that I don’t even remember, but the “AHA!” came when I was done taking Jesus for granted. I quit it with the cynical eye and read the Bible for myself. Because I wanted to, not because I was supposed to.

Friends, we can’t be numb to Jesus. Salvation is much too precious!

If you find yourself becoming bored with your faith, especially as teenagers, step back and examine. Who am I? Am I defined by what I’ve done, or by the cross? Why do I believe what I do? Is it because Mom and Dad said it was true, or because I have faith for myself?

I get it. I’ve experienced so much of it. The doubts. The questions and the answers. And you know what? I know that God is faithful. He’s not one to leave when we have doubts, but to prove Himself true.

Whether you’re a PK, a church kid, or anyone really, don’t let yourself be numb to Jesus. He is more than we deserve.

1 John 5:20

“And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.”

*aj