Who is Jesus to You? (Hebrews Bible Study: Week 2)

Who is Jesus to You (Hebrews Bible Study Week 2).png

Happy Hebrews Bible Study Tuesday, friends!

 

Thanks for joining me again for week 2 of our Bible Study in Hebrews. If you’re new, it’s not too late to start! You can hop in for the ride now, or go back to the beginning.

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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

There is Always Hope + Giveaway!

hope

 

There is always hope.

 

Living in this world, we see so many people every day. Actors, musicians, models, friends, family, enemies, you name it. And towards all of them, we all tend to have the same preconceived notions.

 

They have their life together, and I don’t.

 

They are happy and fulfilled, and I’m not.

 

They have great relationships with others, and I don’t.

 

They don’t have problems like I do, and they don’t know how I feel.

 

Everyone loves them, but nobody cares about me.

 

Have you ever thought that way? It’s easy to look at Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook, and say, “Wow. That person has no idea what my life’s like.” Well, you know what? It’s not true.

 

Everyone faces difficulty. We live in a broken world. We’re are all real people with real problems.

 

And as tough as it is to accept, becoming a Christian doesn’t mean that our problems go away. No matter who we may be, accepting Jesus doesn’t mean we’re happy all the time or life is easy. But what it does mean is that we don’t have to face difficulty alone.

 

There is always hope for us. And the Cross is proof of this.

 

Let me explain.

 

Jesus died for our sins and was raised from the dead (1 Corinthians 15). This was all because of His grace, and none of us deserved it. I love the first part of 1 Corinthians 15:10.

 

“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain.”

 

Because of His grace (and His grace alone), we have been brought to a point of renewal. We no longer are condemned by our sins, but we are counted righteous in His sight.

And when we consider how much He loves us – enough to send His Only Son to die for us – how much more will He help us in our daily lives?

 

When we consider the power He possesses – enough to raise His Son from the dead – how much more will He then take on our small problems as His own?

 

Philippians 4:13

“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

 

When we have difficulties, and we make it, it is God’s power working in us. His strength. His grace.

 

1 Peter 5:7

“casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you”

 

We do not have to carry our burdens, for God will carry them. He cares for us more than we realize, and all we have to do is cry out to Him.

 

We are never without hope. We can never brush off Jesus’ sacrifice for us, or God’s love. His peace, and joy, and renewal are free for the asking. Hope has come to us, and we must never forget that. God wants us to accept the hope that He gives us, of the saving of our souls and of the taking of our burdens.

 

Now as a reminder of these things, I’m giving away some downloadable wallpapers. I’ve been trying my hand at graphic-making. The first one is a desktop wallpaper, and the second one is a phone wallpaper. Enjoy! Feel free to share on social media with your friends.

To download the desktop wallpaper, click here and you’ll be taken to Google Drive. Click on the download icon at the top of the page, and the image will be saved to your computer.

There is Always

NEVER LOSE HOPE

*aj

5 Lessons I Learned in 2015

5 Lessons I Learned in 2015

Hello, everyone! Happy New Year!

 

Wow, I can’t tell you how good it feels to be back to blogging again. It’s only been two weeks, but man, I really missed it!

 

A quick shout-out to all my readers. If it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t be writing. It fills me with such joy to have such amazing feedback day after day and week after week. Thank you for making 2015 – my first calendar year blogging – a huge success.

 

Currently, we’ve hit over 100 posts, over 1,000 comments, over 10,000 page views, and over 160 subscribers. That’s pretty fantastic, in my mind. Keep sharing my posts with your friends!

 

2015 was a very interesting year for me. My faith grew tremendously, and I say that if it wasn’t for this blog, I wouldn’t have grown as much as I have. Here are five lessons I learned in 2015, through the ups and downs.

 

Number One: Life Isn’t Always Easy or Predictable.

 

In my life, things tend to happen without my prior planning or consent. Things just happen, and I have learned to roll with it all. This past year, I’ve learned that though life isn’t predictable, and accidents really do happen, God is unchanging. He doesn’t change like shifting shadows, as it says in the book of James. That’s such a relief for me when everything around me is going crazy!

 

Number Two: God Helps Us Through Everything.

 

I experienced some quite challenging things this year, but looking back, I realize how blessed I am. Not blessed because everything was a breeze, but because God helped me through. Time and time again, God has shown me how faithful He is, even when I am not. Every trial in my life has helped me to put my trust in Him more than I had before. In that way, I am so blessed.

 

Number Three: God Loves to Give Us Good Things.

 

I’ve been blessed with getting to know some online Christian friends very well. I consider this such an amazing gift from God. Just because you haven’t met someone in person, doesn’t mean that they don’t exist! I’ve gotten to Skype, use Google Hangouts, and FaceTime with some absolutely wonderful people this year who have encouraged me in my life and faith. If you are one of these awesome girls, please know that you are so appreciated. Hugs all around.

 

Material and non-material things have a way of brightening up our lives, and God knows this. He loves to give us good gifts because He loves us so much.

 

Number Four: The Gospel is Incredible.

 

Growing up in church, I never saw the Gospel as more than something cool and “I’m glad I get to go to Heaven now.” This past year, in dissecting chunks of the Bible, I’ve learned not to take it for granted. I see it now as such a miracle – the miracle that it is – that Jesus chose to came to earth to save us, when we did not deserve any grace or mercy. We were rebellious and sinful, and He yet offers us forgiveness. Honestly, how can we take that for granted?

 

Number Five: Joy is Not Circumstantial.

 

Joy comes from knowing the love of Jesus, and not from circumstances. We all have things that go on in our daily lives that we can let crush us. Should we become downcast because of unfortunate circumstances? No way. Joy is more than an emotion. Joy is a choice to accept God’s amazing love for us and find peace in all circumstances. Despite whatever may go on, we can have joy. That is amazing.

 

I plan on posting a survey about Scattered Journal Pages soon. I’d like to hear your honest feedback on how I can make my blog better.

 

Now it’s your turn. What have you learned this year? I love reading comments, and whether you’ve been here for two minutes or two months, I can assure you that I read and respond to all comments you leave. I love hearing about your lives! Thanks for letting me share my life with you, and thanks for opening up your lives to me!

 

Happy New Year, everyone. God bless you all.

 

*aj

How Simple is The Gospel?

How Simple is The Gospel?.jpg

 

The older I get, the more I realize how complicated the world is. In areas of worldviews, politics, education, and religion, there is such a diverse spectrum.

 

A few nights ago, while watching the news, I was informed of a religion that holds the view that spaghetti created the universe and therefore spaghetti is the center. A lady’s driver’s license picture was taken with a strainer on her head, because apparently, if she was prohibited from doing so, it would be considered discrimination. All due respect to these people, but that’s slightly crazy.

 

Anyway, that’s not really my point here. My point is that the world is complicated. Things are diverse. And we tend to listen to the craziness at times.

 

What I’m trying to do here is to direct our attention to all the different sects of Christianity, and those that complicate the Gospel.

 

A lot of people claim that all “true Christians” look alike – we all can perform miracles, be excellent leaders, be really good people, and so on. Therefore, it is concluded that if you can’t or don’t do any of these things, you’re not really a Christian.

 

While I do believe that some can do these things and show themselves to be good people, salvation can’t come from these things. Rather, these things are examples of what can pour out of a Christian’s life.

 

This is where simplicity comes in.

 

The Gospel is beautiful because it isn’t dependent on us. Because we are sinful, we do not deserve heaven or any kind of forgiveness. Nevertheless, salvation is a free gift to all who would accept it.

 

I heard a story a few weeks ago that really made me think. Oftentimes, skeptics ask the question, “If God truly is good, why does He allow bad things to happen to good people?” But the speaker came back with the question, “If we truly are sinful, why does God allow good things to happen to [us] bad people?”

 

Implied in this story is what we all know deep inside – we aren’t perfect. As much as we can strive to be good people, we can never measure up to God’s standard of perfection. (Romans 3:23.) God knows this, and that is why He made the Gospel so simple.

 

John 3:16

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

 

Eternal life is life to the full now and life for eternity in heaven. But how do we get it? Believing in Jesus.

 

John 14:6

“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’”

 

By believing, we accept that our goodness can never measure up to God’s standard, but that Jesus’ can and did. That He is the only way to Heaven, the only atonement for our sins, and by accepting Him and Him alone will we find eternal life.

 

Romans 10:9-10

“Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”

 

Salvation is so easy. We believe and we confess to that belief. Even though we do not deserve it whatsoever, it is freely given to us.

 

Acts 4:12

“And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

 

I know that people claim that Christianity is intolerant because we say that Jesus is the ONLY way to God. I’m not intolerant of others at all. In fact, I respect all people because they were all made and are loved by God. But I can not go against what I believe to say that there is more than one way to be saved, for that would be contradicting what I believe. And if you’re tolerant of what I believe, why are you intolerant to my so-called intolerance? Wouldn’t that be discriminating against me?

 

I know, it sounds ridiculous if I argue it that way. Simply put, though, there is no other way to Heaven but by Jesus. If you want to argue…don’t argue with me, but the One who wants to save your soul.

 

Or maybe…just accept it.

 

I’m not trying to step on toes here. I know that Christianity can seem complicated, just like so much of the world is. What I’m here to say is that it’s not that complicated. God loves everyone and wants to save every one of us; if He didn’t, why would Jesus have come?

 

Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved (Acts 16:31, paraphrased).

 

*aj

Four Life Lessons from SoulFest 2015

SoulFest 2015

Good morning, my friends.

Just as a heads up, this post is going to be shorter than usual, for it is already 1:30am on Friday night as I’m starting to write this and I’m exhausted and about to pass out. That delicious chocolate hazelnut coffee I had at 9pm has stopped working, so I’m on the verge of collapsing.

I’ve been at SoulFest in New Hampshire since Thursday, and Friday night I was at an amazing show until midnight. Hehehehe.

So as a tribute to this amazing annual Christian music festival…I’ve gathered up a few life lessons to take home with me and share with you.

  1. The Gospel is NOT something to be ashamed of.

Over and over again, artists and speakers alike are sharing their faith in front of thousands of people. You know why? Because the Gospel changes lives from the inside out. It’s not a cult…it’s a relationship with the Creator of the universe; a relationship that we were made to crave. It’s so amazing, and so inspiring when someone shares their story, because it is so true that we will never be satisfied in life until we know the love of God.

  1. God sees us as beautiful, and there are no mistakes.

We all have a story being written. There are no mistakes written by the pen of God, only beautiful purpose. And beauty comes from broken things, like us. We’re all sinners, saved by the amazing grace of God. We are seen as flawless in the eyes of our Creator, for our being saved has absolutely nothing to do with what we’ve done. His perfection is given to us, for He is the picture of love.

  1. God isn’t finished.

Just because life is dark, it doesn’t mean the night will last forever. The sun hasn’t died. His love for us is as sure as the sun, as is His purpose.

He never will leave or forsake us, and He can see it all. Like a song I heard live today says, “To You, my future is a memory.” (Already There by Casting Crowns)

He isn’t finished. Just keep trusting!

  1. God can use anyone.

Our life purpose doesn’t necessarily have to be singing on a stage in front of thousands of people, or it might be. Our ultimate life purpose is to bring glory to God and others to know Him, so whether that’s singing every day for a living, being a light in your school, raising kids as a stay-at-home-mom, or whatever it may be, God will use all of us. Are we willing?

When I come to full consciousness, I will have more to say. But for now, I do not, and I’m just going to ponder these four truths in my mind for a while (*cough cough* as I sleep).

Enjoy your lovely Saturday. I’m praying for all of you!

*aj

Lessons From 1 Timothy

Stairs

You can’t write about the Bible if you don’t understand it. And you can’t understand the Bible if you don’t read it. Am I right?

That’s what I’ve been discovering lately, through studying the book of 1 Timothy.

First of all, I really really really love this book. Probably one of my favorites in the Bible. It’s so clear and helpful for real life. Because, let’s face it, this world is full of lies. Even in the church, there’s so much false teaching! And it is so prevalent, and ever so misleading. So here are a few extremely important points that I’ve discovered this week.

  • People teach falsely. Some on purpose, some by accident. But false teaching is a real thing. Just because someone claims to be a Christian, it doesn’t mean that we can listen to them ignorantly because of their title. We need to test everything.

So, how do we avoid listening to false teaching? First and foremost, the Bible is the only source of ultimate truth. How do you know if someone is giving you solid and true doctrine on the Bible? Well, check the Bible itself. And don’t base your life on one out-of-context verse. For example, here’s what not to do. John 11:35 says, “Jesus wept.” Going with this as my life verse, and knowing to live a life following after Jesus, I am going to constantly weep. After all, that’s exactly what Jesus did, right?

Okay, yes. That is ridiculous. But the point is, we must check all things with the Bible itself! We cannot add to it, or take away from it. This Book is the Holy and Inspired Word of God. Let’s not get it wrong.

1 Timothy 6:3-5

“If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.”

  • Without understanding the Gospel correctly, we cannot understand life itself.

1 Timothy 1:15-16 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.

 

If we mess up any of this, we will not be able to understand anything else. Without the Good News that Christ has come to save all, there is absolutely no meaning to life. Remember, my friends, if we do not understand that we are inherently sinners, saved alone by the amazing grace of God – and not ourselves –  there is no point in Jesus’ death. If we are saved by our works, why did He come? (That’s a trick question.)

  • We must understand who Jesus really is. Not some “good teacher,” not some passive, apathetic, random guy. No, Jesus is the Son of God, possessing ALL power, and He is ALIVE.

1 Timothy 3:16b

He was manifested in the flesh,

    vindicated [means proven true] by the Spirit,

        seen by angels,

proclaimed among the nations,

 believed on in the world,

        taken up in glory.

 

  • No matter how old we are, we can set an example for our brothers and sisters in Christ. Spiritual maturity has little to do with age, and we can lead others in Truth, regardless of being young.

1 Timothy 4:12 “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.”

We are ambassadors for Christ, even as kids and teens (and adults, later). If we understand Truth, we must share it with others!

I hope you’ll take these truths to heart, and study the Bible for yourself. Really, it is such an encouraging Book, and the guide for our lives. It’s so important to understand the Bible correctly. It’s not just a book. It’s the Holy, Inspired, God-Breathed, Word of the Creator Himself. The source of Truth, amongst the lies. And it’s right here, to teach us to walk in godliness!

*aj