2nd track on Don Moen’s “Hymnbook” album (2012).
Enjoy and God bless! 🙂
What a mess our world is in. What a mess America is in. What a mess the church is in.
Isaiah 5:20 encapsulates, I believe, the cultural condition of much of the world, most of America and an alarmingly high percentage of those who belong, or at least claim to belong, to the body of Christ. “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.”
Calling evil good. That sums us up.
But, hey, “grace,” right? I mean, you’ve seen the bumper sticker. “Christ’s grace is sufficient,” isn’t it?
Well, yes and no. Christ’s grace is sufficient to give us His strength in our own pathetic weakness and to impute his perfect righteousness to us, despite our own filthy and fallen nature (see 2 Corinthians 12:9).
But strength to do what, exactly? Strength to continue sinning?
Understand that by “hell no,” I don’t mean “hell” in a crass, swear word, kind of way. I mean that to continue sinning in an unrepentant, guilt-free, “evil is good” manner, leads to death. It leads to physical, emotional and spiritual death, whether you call yourself a “Christian” or not.
It leads to hell.
“Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey – whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness” (Romans 6:16-19).
So, in order to be “set free from sin” we must “obey.” To stop sinning is to obey. To continue sinning is to disobey. To disobey leads to death – it makes us “slaves to sin.” To obey, to stop sinning, leads to life. It makes us “slaves to righteousness.”
What does it mean to be “set free from sin”? Well, it means, as Christ admonished, that we are, among other things, to “go and sin no more” (see John 8:11). Sin, with its associated chains of bondage, is over there. We are over here. Sin is behind us. We’ve “put off [our] old self, which belongs to [our] former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires,” and, thusly, are “set free from sin” (see Ephesians 4:22).
Jesus said, “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).
“Hmm,” you might say. “I don’t recall my pastor ever saying anything about ‘turning from my wicked ways’ in order for Jesus to ‘forgive [my] sin and heal [our] wicked land.’ What did Christ mean by ‘turn from their wicked ways?’”
Well, after centuries of robust debate, a debate, mind you, that rages on even today within the body of Christ, an ever-so-slight majority consensus has emerged that maintains the following, rather nuanced and theologically highbrow thesis:
Jesus meant to turn from your wicked ways.
Best-selling Christian author Randy Alcorn once wrote, “Any concept of grace that makes us feel more comfortable sinning is not biblical grace. God’s grace never encourages us to live in sin; on the contrary, it empowers us to say no to sin and yes to truth.”
We can all agree that, when we repent and ask His forgiveness, Jesus forgives us our past sins. Still, there is a deceptive tendency in much of the church – and by “deceptive,” I mean demonic – that suggests Christ came to set us, captives to sin without Him each and every one, free, not from sin, but, rather, from guilt for that sin.
This, of course, is yak manure. Jesus did not come, nor was He tortured to death on a tree, so that, by His grace, He could kill our guilty feelings for ongoing, habitual and unrepented-for sins.
Jesus came to kill sin.
“What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” (Romans 6:1-2).
It is hellacious error to say that, as Christians, we are not supposed to “feel guilty” when we sin. When you sin, you feel guilty because you are guilty. Feeling guilty, otherwise known as “being convicted” in our sin, is a painful symptom of a dying soul. Christ’s grace is not spiritual Percocet intended to numb the pain of guilt. Guilt is the warning sign, sin is the cancer and Christ’s grace, the cure.
There is a deceptive, deadly, and evil brand of false “grace” out there, prevalent within the Christian church. It’s a grace that says yes to sin and no to truth, that calls evil good and good evil. A guilt-free, prideful, “gay”-affirming, gossiping, slothful, “pro-choice,” kids will be kids, always use protection, God will forgive my abortion, nicer than Jesus kind of grace that is leading millions of people who honestly believe they’re saved, born-again Christians, straight to the flaming pits of eternal damnation.
Too much “hellfire and brimstone” for you, my friend? Well, sorry. I care about your soul. I care about your eternity – even if your false-teacher, likely-bound-for-hell-himself pastor, priest or bishop doesn’t.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not self-righteous. To the contrary, under my own power, and in my flesh, I lack a righteous bone in my entire body. I’m the worst sinner of all.
Even so, through the amazing and perfect power of the Holy Spirit, I am able to call sin sin, evil evil and good good. I am able to recognize sin in my own life, sin in the life of our once-great nation, and sin in the life of the church. I can then repent and, with and through the Holy Spirit, “go and sin no more.”
That’s it. That’s what God requires. That’s true grace.
And that kind of grace is sufficient.
You’ve heard the old adage, “Love the sinner hate the sin.” Some complain that it’s found nowhere in the Bible.
True, not word-for-word, anyway. Still, this transcendent truth, this overall concept, is found throughout the Holy Scriptures. We are literally commanded to hate evil.
“Seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the LORD God Almighty will be with you, just as you say he is. Hate evil, love good…” (Amos 5:14-15).
So, there you have it. That’s grace. Love Jesus. Love others. Hate evil. Repent and “go and sin no more.”
Now get moving.
And Christ be with you.
by Matt Barber
When we read about the Prodigal Son, our focus is usually on God’s amazing love, which is demonstrated by the father in the parable. We delight in knowing that the Lord responds to us the same way when we stray from Him. But today, I want to look at our responsibility to love others. No matter how difficult the situation, God has given believers in Christ the capacity to respond with this same kind of love.
Let go. Though he had every right to refuse his second son’s foolish request, this father understood that the young man had already left home in his heart. There may be times in our lives when the most loving thing we can do is also the most difficult—to step back and let a loved one go his or her own way. When you hang on and try to control the outcome, you may actually get in God’s way.
Wait. Once we have let go, we must then wait patiently for the Lord to do His work in that person’s life. Did you notice that the father didn’t go to search for his son? Even though he knew that pain and trouble would follow such a foolish decision, he chose to trust God instead of trying to fix the situation and protect his son from the consequences of his unwise choice.
The only way you can respond like this is to have confidence in the Lord’s good plans for the one you’re concerned about. He loves that person more than you can comprehend and understands the best way to reach a resistant heart. Your job is to watch and pray until God brings the prodigal to his or her senses.
“Then cried they all again, saying, Not this man, but Barabbas. Now Barabbas was a robber.” (John 18:40)
Unfortunately, this is the attitude of every generation toward its Creator and Redeemer. Jesus Christ “was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not” (John 1:10-11).
“Not this man!” they cried, and still cry today. “We will not have this man to reign over us” (Luke 19:14). Even in a nation founded as a Christian nation, the name of Jesus Christ is banished from the schools, ignored in the halls of government, and blasphemed on the streets.
And whom did they choose instead of “this man”? They preferred Barabbas, who was not only a robber, but also a revolutionary and murderer (Luke 23:19). Today, they idolize the atheist Darwin, or the robber Lenin, or the revolutionary Mao, or the murderer Hitler, or any one of a thousand antichrists; but they will not have Christ.
What, then, will they do with Christ? “Away with him, away with him, crucify him” (John 19:15) was the cry even of the religious leaders during His life here on Earth, and it is little different today. “Ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you,” proclaimed Peter (Acts 3:14). “The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ” (Acts 4:26).
The rejection of Christ today is often more subtle, but it is just as real. Rulers, industrialists, scientists, educators, and commentators all say in deed, if not in word, that “[they] will not have this man to reign over [them]” (Luke 19:14). “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” (John 1:12). HMM
He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. —John 14:21
In seeking to know God better we must keep firmly in mind that we need not try to persuade God. He is already persuaded in our favor, not by our prayers but by the generous goodness of His own heart. “It is God’s nature to give Himself to every virtuous
soul,” says Meister Eckhart. “Know then that God is bound to act, to pour Himself out into thee as soon as ever He shall find thee ready.” As nature abhors a vacuum, so the Holy Spirit rushes in to fill the nature that has become empty by separating itself from the world and sin. This is not an unnatural act and need not be an unusual one, for it is in perfect accord with the nature of God. He must act as He does because He is God….
If only we would stop lamenting and look up. God is here. Christ is risen. The Spirit has been poured out from on high. All this we know as theological truth. It remains for us to turn it into joyous spiritual experience. And how is this accomplished? There is no new technique; if it is new it is false. The old, old method still works. Conscious fellowship with Christ is by faith, love and obedience. And the humblest believer need not be without these.
Lord, impart to me a fresh measure of faith, love and obedience, that I might know You as perfectly as possible. Amen.
Seek ye first the kingdom… all these things shall be added unto you. (Matthew 6:33)
How much time have you spent in your Christian life meditating on the plain instruction from our Savior?—”Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”
The God who has revealed Himself to needy men and women wants us to know that when we have Him, we have everything—we have all the rest!
Any of us who have experienced a life and ministry of faith can tell how the Lord has met our needs—even for food and the essentials of life.
Brethren, we ought to learn, and learn it soon, that it is much better to have God first and have God Himself, even if we have only a thin dime, than to have all the riches and all the influence in this world and not have God with it!
Let us go on to know Him and to love Him more dearly; not for His gifts and benefits but for the pure joy of His presence. Thus we will fulfill the purpose for which He created us and redeemed us!
You may think of a doctrine forever, and get no good from it, if you are not already saved; but think of the person of Christ, and that will give you faith. Take him everywhere, wherever you go, and try to meditate on him in your leisure moments, and then he will reveal himself to you, and give you peace. We should all know more, live nearer to God and grow in grace, if we were more alone. Meditation chews the cud and extracts the real nutriment from the mental food gathered elsewhere.
Read the Bible carefully, and then meditate and meditate and meditate.