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

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

Selfishness, The Holy Spirit, and I’m Not Perfect.

Selfishness, The Holy Spirit, and I'm Not Perfect.

This is somewhat of a difficult post for me to write.

I’m writing this post to clarify a few things, and to apologize to all of you lovely readers.

I have a habit of writing the night before I post something, which is usually okay, but I’ve definitely made a few mistakes when it comes to that. Sometimes, I don’t let God guide my words and I end up saying things that aren’t necessarily inaccurate, but incomplete. And I want to address one of those posts today.

I wrote Fighting Selfishness on August 11th of this year. I don’t regret writing it, but there’s so much that I didn’t say, could’ve said differently, or just shouldn’t have said. For that, I’m sorry. I’d like to address that post and continue with what I was trying to say.

I wrote Fighting Selfishness because I saw in my own life that I had a tendency to be selfish. I like to do my own thing (which is okay in and of itself) but I was perhaps letting it get in the way of what I needed to be doing to help others instead.

That motivated me to write the post, but I missed a key element.

Sure, we should strive for selflessness, because selflessness is a good thing.

HOWEVER, if we are not being led by the Spirit, we will not be able to become more Christlike.

So here is my point.

Selflessness is possible for us because we have the Holy Spirit in us, growing us and leading us to become more like Christ.

There is no “try harder.” There is no “work more at it.”

And just so you don’t think I’m making this up, here’s a verse in Romans 14. This passage is talking about convictions and our freedom in Christ, specifically in regard to food, and I really like it. If you want to check it out, go here.

Romans 14:17

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

We have been given freedom in Christ to live in a way that is pleasing to God. Freedom means we “can” do whatever we want, but not that we “should.” We are no longer bound by the law and the Ten Commandments, because that is not what saves us!

Praise God for that, because we could never keep the law perfectly.

Back to my points on the selfishness article.

I didn’t say anything about the Holy Spirit there because I was so focused on how selfishness isn’t living like a true Christian should.

That’s not the point at all, though.

The point is to grow in an understanding of the amazing grace of God. To live by the Holy Spirit’s leading, and not by a list of do’s and don’t’s, and should’s and shouldn’t’s.

This is what prompts us to live selflessly.

 

I’m so sorry if my tone has ever been a “you have to do ____” instead of an encouragement to live out our faith with joy. I want to inspire us to live lives that are led by the Holy Spirit, and not just some laws. Because that’s not right.

We should live selflessly, yeah. But we shouldn’t be aiming to live more this or more that. Our aim should be to grow in Christ, to please Him, and to become more like Him. Not to follow some rules in order to be better people.

By living a life that is led by the Holy Spirit, our selflessness flows from that. Why? Because ultimately, it’s not about us. If we become selfless because of our own doing, then we’d have something to boast about, which we don’t. If we succeed at something, it will always be God working through us and not us doing it on our own.

That’s basically the point that I want to clarify today. I’m sorry that I didn’t say it before.

Thank you all for being patient with me as I grow in my own faith!

*aj