Friday, July 27, 2018

Embracing Our Guilt

“Though they know God's righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.”
(Romans 1:32 ESV)

We live in a time when sin is not only accepted, but celebrated. We’re encouraged to embrace our own sinful desires and live in them. And, in the same way, we’re expected to endorse the sinful decisions and activities of others.

As we look to Scripture, we find that these are things we must not do. We must not embrace our own sinful desires. We must not seek to live in them.  And, in the same way, we must not give approval to the sinful activity of those around us.

We must not do this because, as we see above, sin leads to death. Physical, as well as eternal death, is the consequence of sin. And I think it’s safe to say that we don’t desire our own death nor that of others.

This, then, creates a tension when it comes to our interaction with one another. It does so because we’re called to reach out to mankind with the gospel message. And, if people feel condemned by us, if they feel we’re looking down upon them, they have little desire to listen to us.

How do we bridge that gap? How do we reach out to others and, at the same time, reject sin? The key, I believe, is to avoid the “us” versus “them” mentality.

Our tendency is to focus on the sin of others while ignoring our own. Our tendency is to count our own sin as insignificant while, at the same time, we count the sin of others to be major. And we must recognize, first and foremost, that we’re just as sinful as everyone else. We must recognize that our sin condemns us to death and eternal judgment.

We must openly live a life of confession and faith. We must willingly acknowledge to ourselves and others our guilt and our need for a Savior. We must embrace Jesus personally and publicly because he atoned for the penalty of our sin.

As we reject the sin of others, we must ensure that we’re just as vocally rejecting our own. As we condemn the sin of others, we must ensure that we’re just as vocally condemning our own. We must make it clear that we are not better than anyone else. We must make it clear that we are not less sinful or more deserving of God’s blessing. We must make it clear that, apart from Jesus’ sacrifice, and apart from faith in him, we are equally lost.

Like the apostle Paul, we must count ourselves to be the chief of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15-16). We must see and understand the miracle of his salvation in our own life. And we must communicate this as we reach out to those around us.  We must communicate the gospel in this way: If Jesus can save a sinner like me, then he can certainly save a sinner like you.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Living in God’s Grace

“For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
‭2 Peter‬ ‭1:5-8‬ ‭ESV‬‬

In America, we often complain about those who fail to enjoy or make use of the freedoms and opportunities available to them. We see so many who lazily neglect these great blessings. And we become frustrated as they squander them away.

They have the chance to receive a great education. They have the chance to work and to gradually increase their income. They have the chance to advance as new and better opportunities come their way.

They’re able to make use of the tremendous medical care available in this nation. They’re able to live and raise a family in relative peace. They are able to provide for their children more opportunities than even they have enjoyed.

They have all of this and so much more, yet they remain idle. Perhaps they try to attain the things they desire through corrupt means. And, for this reason, they are completely ineffective.

Even though this frustrates us, so many of us do the same thing spiritually. We fail to receive the blessings God has made available to us, or we try to attain them by corrupt means. And, in this way, we become ineffective and unfruitful.

So many of us in the church profess faith in Christ, and we talk about our hope of salvation, yet all evidence of it is absent from our life. We are not living in the grace of God. In fact, our life looks no different than that of the unbelievers who surround us on a daily basis.

God’s grace has been provided to us, yet we fail to receive it. We reject it in favor of worldly desires. Even if we do so without recognizing it, we squander these blessings he’s graciously provided to us.

As we saw in our look at the prior verses of this chapter, God’s power has given us everything we need for life and godliness. None of this is attained on our own. It’s the gift of God, received by faith.

For this reason, as we see above, we’re called to live in this grace. We’re called to supplement our faith with virtue, virtue with knowledge, knowledge with self-control, self-control with steadfastness, steadfastness with godliness, godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.

This doesn’t suggest that we gain these qualities or grow in them by our own effort. Again, it’s God’s power that supplies all we need for life and godliness. However, we are receptive of these gifts that God has graciously made available to us, and we walk in them.

If these qualities are ours, Peter says, and if they’re growing, they will keep us from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of Christ. Our faith will not only receive the blessings God has provided to us, but will enable us to be a blessing to others. It will enable us to point others to Christ and to the blessings found in him.