Sunday, January 31, 2016


"If you love me you will keep my commandments." -Jesus in John 14:15
It is commonly thought that Jesus means by the commandments something like the ten commandments plus many others. If this is the true understanding, then do you keep the commandments? Can you name anyone who does? All the many peoplemostly non-Christiansthat I have asked have told me that it is not good to lower the standards or to compare oneself to other people. Therefore compared to Christ how are you doing keeping the commandments? The only honest answer for any of us is: FAILURE. Does this mean that you and I are not Christians? No, because there is another way to interpret Jesus' words where you do keep the commands compared to Christ.
If you read John's gospel closely looking for Jesus' commands, you will find that there really are just two: believe the gospel and love the brothers. I suggest that these two are identical. Read John 6:27-40 and ask yourself what is the work Jesus commands. [Note: work is the only command in the passage in the Greek text.] Read John 14:21-23 and notice that keeping the commands equals keeping Jesus' words and that if one does this, Jesus and the Father come to dwell with that person. Don't all Christians think that this is fulfilled when one becomes a Christian? It was true for me 37 years ago. Isn't true for you too?

Friday, January 29, 2016


"I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned."-John 15:5-6
Is abiding in Christ about your devotional lifeabout how well you are living the Christian lifeyour prayer, Bible reading, witnessing, generosity, bearing the fruit of the spirit, etc? Or, is it about your identity in Christabout the simple fact that you are a true Christian? Jesus has done all the work to establish our identity and we never waver in the possession our identity. We all do waver in remembering our identity. This text declares that if a person doesn't abide in Christ, he is cut off and burned up. If abiding in Christ is not about your identity, then how low does God have to lower the standard for you to pass the test of abiding? If you are optimistic that you abide and think that abiding is not about identity, then compared to Jesus how well are you doing at obeying God? You are a failure just like I am. Let's be honest and get over ourselves. From beginning to end Christianity is all about seeing the finished work of Christ.

Thursday, January 28, 2016


"He has delivered us from the authority of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins." -Colossians 1:13-14
Paul declares here (and in Ephesian 1) that forgiveness is redemption. But redemption from what? We tend to be self focused and see sin as a wrong moral action on the part of some human. But what if sin is something far greater, like the authority of God's law and goodness being mocked and violated by you? Rape isn't merely a wrong action, it is the mockery and violation of something and someone highly valued by God. See the difference? From God's view each and every sin is the violation and dishonor of His authorityof His goodnessof all of the moral law (James 2:10). Do we usually think that way? No.
God's vision of the death of Jesus is much grander that just providing a way for those He loves to be forgiven and avoid hell. But isn't that what we usually think? Dishonor of the law is evil and that evil must be dealt with for God to reestablish goodness. And He as a good creator was responsible to not leave evil unresolved. A new creation was neededone that honored the law and excluded dishonor of it. God did this in a way that is radical and surprising. He became part of His creation taking on our identity under law. He honored the law in its fullness in life and then took on death in the place of lawbreakers. In short, Jesus died the death of all men to establish the law in its glory and honor. The way God did this is something to celebrate because it is the ultimate revelation of the lavish righteous generosity of a good God"by his knowledge my righteous servant will make many righteous." (Isaiah 53:11) This is the celebration of the lamb and all people are commanded and invited to discard their identity as unrighteous lawbreakers under the old creation and be clothed in the new creation where the finished work of Christ is full completeness. Amen? Are you persuaded?
A Christian cannot sinhe cannot dishonor the law--because Jesus honored the law in its fullness and every Christian is a member of the new creation in Christ where His identity as perfect is our identity and our identity as lawbreakers is gone because He took it away. Do you see this identity as real or merely as a get-out-of-jail-free card? To think this way does not mean that we pretend that Christians don't do what appears to be sinto do things that are a violation of goodness, to do what is a evil: lying, stealing, adultery, coveting, strife, envy, pride, and much much more. Those are all evil for a Christian to do, but they are simply the fruit of forgetting the new creationforgetting that only perfection counts with God. Let's be honest about both the beauty of our identity above the law and the evil of our actions that result from forgetting perfection.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016


Children learn far more from the modeling of parents than from their instructions. Do you want to raise impatient and angry children? Then model it for them. Do you want your children to see that grace is a good way to relate to others? The simple way is to realize that imperfect obedience is disobedience. WHEN you are perceiving this, you will be kept glad and patientno matter how much drama or trauma your children (and others) exhibit. Why is it simple? It is because we all live in hope of something. If your eye is on moral perfection, it is impossible to have any hope in any human obedience or improvement. While seeing perfection, your mind will rejoice that the only legitimate hope is the finished work of Christ. If you don't believe me, simply test it out. The next time you are impatient, irritated, frustrated, or mad at your children (or anyone else) simply ask yourself if you are seeing the other person through the lens of perfection. I predict that you will always find that you have in the moment forgotten God's standards and lowered or cheapened them.

Monday, January 25, 2016


God urges all Christians to live consistent with the gospel: "with ALL humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love." (Ephesians 4:2) This is ALWAYS God's desire for every Christian in all circumstances. Is it yours? Is it yours for you? In practice, or just in theory? How is it going? What about when you are misunderstood,neglected, or mistreated? If you are honest, you have to admit that you are a failurejust like I am.
The real question is: do you want to grow in humility? If so, C.S. Lewis would suggest that the first small step is to admit that you are prideful. He declared that no progress can happen without itand that actually it is a big step. I suggest the second step is the key oneto compare yourself with Jesus the perfect one, instead of with other people or your own past performance. Paul declares it unwise to do the two latter things (2Cor. 10:12). When we compare ourselves to Jesus we see our failure humblyfree from prideful comparisons to othersfree from the pressure to promise to changefree from self-condemnationfree to thank God for his sin-bearing lovefree to change drawn by a vision of that sin-bearing lovefree to change far more and far quicker than others think possible for us.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

The Mark of a Christian is Love—But is Love a Noun or a Verb?

"By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” -John 13:35
How do you read this verse? Is a person revealed to be a Christian by his loving behavior? Compared to Jesus, I fail at this. How about you? In the Greek text, as in some English translations, the word love is a noun. Therefore every true Christian possesses a thing called love (agape). What is that thing? I would like to suggest that it is something like a new way of thinking or an imprint on the mind or heart. It is an attraction to righteousness as perfection. The scripture might call it the testimony of righteousness.
Every Christian has it and no non-Christian has it. The trick in identifying it is to get past Sunday School answers and sanctification jargon. While you are actively perceiving a person as righteous in Christ without personal works, does your heart sing or scowl? Non-Christians commonly tell me that they have never even had the thought that righteousness didn't require works. Since church people are commonly trained to appeal to sanctification for proof of justification, patience is needed to get below the surface to hear if a person is trusting in Christ alone for their justification with God.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Love: The Wellspring of Mercy and Grace

"But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus" 
-Ephesians 2:4-6

Have you ever wondered how the love, mercy and grace of God fit together? The Christian life should be marked by "joy inexpressible and full of glory" and probably would be if we meditated continually on this question. His love for us is simply His disposition, inclination, habit, desire, and tendency to do good to us. Mercy is a demonstration of love toward one who is an adversary, something we certainly qualified for with God. Scripture declares that God's mercy abounded toward us. One would expect that from a heart full of love. Now self-focused human hearts can be stingy in extending mercy. This looks ugly, somewhat like tolerance of one who is undesirablenot exactly an enemy anymore, but certainly not a friend either. Grace goes beyond mercy because it is favor. While mercy is related to the alleviating in part or in full punishment that is deserved, grace is a change in the relationship to one of favor and blessing. Humans can give grace only in degrees because we are all flawed and weak. But God's glory shines because His heart is wide open toward sinners and His limitless love overflows in perfect righteousness through the sacrifice His dear Son.

John declares that "God is love" (1 John 4:8). He is eager to do good to uscontinually! Because of this, mercy has flowed like a river from His heart. There is absolutely no stinginess with Him. The depths of His love could not be contained in mere mercy. His love filled up the measure of mercy and overflowed into grace (favor and blessing). This favor and blessing is beyond anything we see in human relationships. There is almost always some sense merit or hesitation in human relationships. Look again at Paul's words. Do you notice any hesitation on God's part for intimacy with sinners? We do NOT read that He gave us new life alone at a safe distance from Him so that He could maintain His holiness. Rather we read that His love for us is so great that when we were dead in our sins He made us alive together with Christ, raised us up together, and made us to sit together in Christ in the heavenly places. This is a done deal for all who know Him, or rather are known by Him (Gal 4:9). Do you see His heart of favor for you? There was absolutely no hesitation on His part to reach down into filthiness and lift you up and give you every spiritual blessing in Christ in the heavenlies (1:3).

The question is: do you trust His declaration of His unwavering love, even when trials buffet you, or do you heed the voices of the world that judge God by human desires for comfort or rules of fairness? This is the spiritual battle line. On page two of my Bible the serpent slandered God's favor toward Adam and Eve. They heeded Satan and their souls were thrown into darkness. They hid from God, who had only favored them. But God continued to favor them . . . He sought them out, moved into their darkness and declared what He had already planned, that one day the woman's Son would crush the serpent's head. The rest of the Bible is the unfolding of God's lavish grace (favor and blessing) on rebellious mankind.

Have you tended to rejoice that you are out from under God's wrath by simple faith without any works? Of course that is wonderfully true. But that is really just mercy. Favor is far more than that. God's grace is so lavish that we can doubt it, misunderstand it, and even forget it and it still remains all of our life and hope and glory. He has favored us with a life of intimacy with Himthe one who first loved us. So even if we only see His mercy we still have His grace. This is an amazing grace from the heart of love beyond our understanding.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

How Did Jesus Christ Create Grace and Truth?

"For the law was given through Moses; 
grace and truth came to be through Jesus Christ." 
-John 1:17 (literal translation from the NASB marginal note)
Didn't grace and truth exist before the incarnation? Could it be that they existed in the character of God and that the death and resurrection of Christ was the place where God made them a reality in the moral world? God passed over all sin before Christ so that the cross would be the place of the revelation of His righteousness. -Romans 3:24-26
If the cross is the place where grace and truth were established, then wouldn't it be good for you to always keep that at the front of your mindgoodness as all or nothing and provided by Christwhen others sin against you, hate you, reject you, and cast you out as evil? The cross is the place of celebration. Let's turn up the music.