Tag Archives: grace

Praising the Judge

Psalm 98

For the first 9 1/2 verses the psalmist tells us to sing to the Lord, shout to the Lord, break out in praise to the Lord. Our victorious God has revealed His righteousness to every nation! He remembered His promises to love and be faithful to His people. Praise Him!

Living after the cross, we know God revealed Himself to the world when He became a human, and lived on this earth as a physical man. Jesus won the ultimate victory over death, Satan, and sin when he died on the cross and three days later came alive again. He saved the world.

Make a joyful symphony before the Lord, the King! (Vs 6b)

But here is why the psalmist tells all creation that God is worthy of our praise:

For the Lord is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with justice and the nations with fairness. (Vs 9)

Wait! Praise God for the coming judgment? Aren’t there psalms that tell us to praise Him for His goodness, faithfulness, grace, presence…?

Of course! He is all that and more, and deserves our praise. But these verses tell us to praise Him for the coming judgment as well.

Does standing before a judge in a court of law seem like something to be glad about? I had to stop and consider this for a while.

When I finished my course work in the School Counseling graduate program, I was required to take a comprehensive examination. It was a four or five hour test that would be the deciding factor whether or not I’d receive my graduate degree, and be qualified to be a school counselor. My future depended on my passing that test.

A few of us grad students got together periodically to study, and quiz each other on the different parts of the upcoming exam. We took practice tests, and discussed our answers.

I myself, would spend hours and hours on the Saturdays leading up to the test, pulling out every memorization technique I could think of. I actually started looking forward to the test date.

For one, I knew that I would receive my degree if I passed. That is what I had been working toward for a couple of years. Passing the test would mean no more evening classes to take after teaching school all day, no more papers to write, no more costly graduate fees.

That test marked the end of hard work, and the beginning of enjoying the benefits of the work. I was so ready to have it over.

On the morning of the test I remember standing in the shower and praying that God would help me recall what I had learned. Such a peace came over me I can only explain as from God. In fact, I felt so prepared, I almost dared the test-makers to come up with a question I couldn’t answer. (They actually did come up with one or two. 🙂 )

So I took the test that would judge my preparedness to be a school counselor. After several hours, I turned in my test, and walked away somewhat elated. I was pretty sure I had passed, and I did pass!

So why would God bring that to mind today as I considered the psalmist’s direction to praise God because He will come to earth to judge the world? Here are my thoughts:

The first is that we can know with certainty that God will judge the earth with justice and fairness. The truth is, He has been very upfront with His requirements.

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again. (John 3:3)

Jesus answered, I am the way and the truth and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

So the requirements the Judge will consider are whether or not we have accepted His grace and forgiveness through the blood of His Son Jesus. We all will be judged by the exact same standard. It will have nothing to do with how good or how bad we’ve been. Only whether or not we’ve received what Jesus died to give us. That’s fair.

The second thing I thought is, Jesus did the work. When my classmates and I were studying for our test, some of us put in the work before our sessions, others not so much. So when we actually took the test, we were judged on what we had put into it. As we should have been.

But if God operated on the same scale, none of us would pass the test. The standard for passing His test is:

For it is written “Be holy, because I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:16)

Are you a good person? Not good enough. Do you go to church? Not good enough. Do you abstain from certain sins? Not good enough. It’s not good enough to simply read your Bible, or stay faithful to your spouse. Holy is holy, without sin. And the Bible tells us:

All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)

You have sinned. And that renders you unholy, falling short of God’s standard. And falling short of God’s standard results in:

The wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23)

Now I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t make me want to praise God for the upcoming judgment. Who can stand before a holy God and expect to hear, ”Not guilty,” if all of us are guilty? No one!

That’s why Jesus did the work. That’s why He took on our sin and paid the death sentence we earned by telling a lie, taking something that doesn’t belong to us, thinking bad thoughts, or disobeying our parents. You see, because He paid my debt, I have no fear of standing before a Holy Judge who will judge with justice and fairness.

I did what He told me to do. I asked Jesus to forgive me, I repented of the sin that sent Him to the cross. I have been born again, not of flesh but of spirit. I wear His righteousness, His holiness, because I have none of my own.

The rest of Romans 6:23 is:

but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

So yes. I can look forward to judgment day. It marks the end of all the struggles and hardships living in this world affords. It marks the beginning of an eternity, reaping the benefits of having Jesus pass the test on my behalf.

So, dear one, continue to praise God for all His benefits, His blessings, your health, your comfort, your family and friends, and on and on and on. Praise the One who deserves your praise.

And praise Him for the fact that when He judges the world, when He judges you on that day, there will be no surprises. One person won’t be judged more easily or more harshly for the same sin you’ve committed. You won’t fall short because you only did 9,999 good deeds, and someone else will get a free pass because he did 10,000 good deeds. No one will barely make it into heaven while someone else almost makes it there.

God is fair. God is just. God will judge each of us by the standard He has laid out so clearly in His Word. I look forward to judgement day. I hope you can say the same. I hope that because we both have been born again, cleansed and made holy by Jesus, we can praise the Judge together now and for eternity!

Mistaking Grace

Leviticus

Sometimes I think we mistake grace for an eraser. We think it negates the requirements of acceptability to God, or that God’s grace just wipes away our sins…”Just As If I’d Never Sinned.”

What we read in Leviticus are the rules for addressing all kinds of impurity. It’s not a fun read. In fact, it’s tempting to just skip over the whole thing, thinking it doesn’t apply to us in 2022. But did God change the rules? Or are the requirements spelled out in Leviticus still a thing?

God’s law has not changed. The difference is after the cross the fulfillment of those requirements were transferred to Jesus. So, yes, the blood of bulls is still required. Jesus provided His own blood. The doves, the lambs, even the scapegoat are still required. Jesus became all of that to fulfill each requirement.

Now don’t go out and kill some unsuspecting farmer’s livestock. Jesus already did what was required once and for all. That debt has been paid in full by His own precious blood.

But just because the fulfillment of the Law was complete in Jesus, don’t skip over these chapters in Leviticus. I know they don’t apply to you in the material sense. But they do apply to you. It gives you such detail about what Jesus did for you. It’s a lot!

I challenge you to read these chapters carefully and let God reveal Himself to you as you do. There is much more to Jesus’ death on the cross than you might think.

We can, because of grace, stand before God “Just As If We’d Never Sinned.” But the fact is we did sin. And God’s grace cost Jesus a great deal. A great deal. He didn’t simply erase our sin. He painfully fulfilled all the requirements needed for the forgiveness of our sin .

Grace is not an eraser. It’s a gift that cost more than you or I may realize.

Don’t Be Ridiculous

Genesis 44

The other day I was having lunch with a friend, and she picked up the tab. I wasn’t expecting that. I argued for a minute, but she held the bill. I thanked her, and she paid for lunch.

It looked like Benjamin would have to be a slave as punishment for stealing a silver cup. Knowing how devastated their father would be at the loss of his youngest son, all ten brothers volunteered to give up their freedom and become slaves, too.

Joseph the governor of Egypt (whom they didn’t realize was actually their long lost brother), insisted that because Benjamin was “guilty,” Benjamin would have to serve his own punishment.

Then Judah, one of the brothers responsible for selling Joseph into slavery, offered himself. The punishment had to be paid, and Judah wanted to take on that punishment for Benjamin.

It’s a picture of grace, isn’t it? Unlike Benjamin who was actually innocent of stealing that cup, you and I are guilty. We are sinners. We have disobeyed and dishonored God more times than we could count. The wages, or the just punishment of sin is death.

We deserve to die an eternal, painful, unrelenting death for the sins we have committed. But Jesus stepped in, picked up the bill, went to the cross where He died, and paid our death sentence.

Now, wouldn’t it have been ridiculous for me to go to the cashier at the restaurant the other day and pay my portion of the bill after my friend had already paid it? No one in their right mind would do such a thing.

It’s as ridiculous for anyone to pay their own death sentence, too, because Jesus has already paid it in full! I had to accept my friend’s generosity at the restaurant. And because I did, I was able to walk out of there without it costing me anything.

If you haven’t accepted what Jesus has already paid, I urge you to do that today. It would be ridiculous not to.

(Mark 11-13) Final Thoughts

No, I’m not hanging up my blog right now. I’d like to talk about Jesus’ final thoughts shared with us by Mark concerning the Savior’s last week on Earth.

It must have been a busy week for Jesus. And I have to believe His parting words came from a heart fervently wanting His people to understand. These summed up His three years of ministry. So, what were some of the last lessons He taught?

  1. Bearing fruit is not an option for His children.
  2. Faith can move mountains of trouble when we pray from cleansed hearts.
  3. God’s kingdom is no longer Jewish.
  4. Christians ought to be good citizens of our governments, and of God’s Kingdom as well.
  5. Loving God is the most important decision we can make. Loving others flows from that love.
  6. Our world will get increasingly dangerous for believers. But Jesus will return to take us to be with Him.

And over it all is the reality that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God. And there is no power greater, no love purer, no grace sweeter than His.

(Isaiah 1-3) I Feel Sorry For Him

God is always speaking to His children. He’s either revealing Himself through His Word, or through His creation, or sometimes in circumstances of life – both good and bad – and sometimes He speaks through the words of a friend.

God spoke to me through the words of a dear friend this week, and then reinforced what He wanted me to understand through the vision Isaiah wrote about in these chapters I read this morning. The other day my friend, who is reading in Genesis, said she realized how much sin breaks God heart; how He created a perfect world for Adam and Eve whose sin destroyed the perfection; how He started over with Noah and his family whose sin once again destroyed what could have been the perfect relationship with God.

My friend said she felt sorry for God because we just keep failing Him. I agreed with her, knowing I’m guilty of failing Him, too.

So when I read Isaiah this morning I read what God thinks about sin, and about His judgment. I heard anger and frustration in God’s voice. But then I read what Warren Wiersbe said on page 453 in “With the Word” (Thomas Nelson Publishers; 1991):

“Sin breaks God’s heart, cheapens a nation or an individual, and invites the judgment of God. God graciously offers His forgiveness if we will repent. (1:18-20)”

So I re-read what Isaiah shared in chapter one, and I heard God’s heart breaking. Instead of reading anger, I read a Father’s pleading with His children to come to Him, to obey and be blessed by Him rather than having to be punished by Him. And then to know that He Himself took on the punishment my sins deserve. I am overcome.

Sin breaks God’s heart. My sin. Your sin. The sin of a nation. Are you ok with that? Am I? We might think our sin is no big deal. Maybe we need to look at our sin through God’s eyes. Shame on us if we don’t. Shame on us if we allow our choices to break His heart.

(Psalm 32) There Is Joy

Have you experienced the joy of sins forgiven? There is nothing like it, is there? Guilt gone, replaced by peace. Shame replaced with joy. Lies replaced with Truth.

Yet sometimes sin creeps in and begins to steal our peace and joy. We put smiles on our faces and lie to ourselves and others that we’re fine. But the truth is not in us.

Day and night God’s heavy hand of conviction is upon us, our strength, our resolve to follow God is drained. It isn’t until we confess our sins and receive the grace of God’s forgiveness that we can once again know the joy that comes from being absolutely clean.

Therefore, let everyone who is faithful pray immediately. (vs 6)

We must not let sin gain a foothold. The moment God brings a sin to our awareness, we must pray immediately. The longer we wait, the easier it is to wait, and the harder our hearts become the harder it is to repent.

Look to God who says, “I will instruct you and show you the way to go; with my eye on you, I will give counsel.” (vs 8)

Then, with David we can “be glad in the Lord and rejoice.”

There is joy for us who have been made clean by the precious blood of Jesus. I pray that you will know that joy today.

(2 Samuel 9) Dinner’s On

Mephibosheth ate at King David’s table, was given land and protection, not because of anything he’d done, but because of whose son he was. Mephibosheth did not earn the right to be in the king’s presence by doing good deeds. The king extended grace because he loved Mephibosheth’s father.

Do you see a parallel? I am ushered into the Presence of the King through grace, not of myself, it is a gift of God. I can’t earn a place at the table, but I am blessed because God loves His Son, and I belong to His Son. God extends grace to me because He loves Jesus.

I realize Mephibosheth wasn’t healed. He remained a cripple. And God doesn’t always take away my problems, either. God’s grace doesn’t guarantee a trouble-free life. But I never want my problems to overshadow the blessings of God’s Presence and protection, or the fellowship He extends to me. Mephibosheth was blessed, and so am I.

I love living in God’s Presence. I hear Him say to me, “Pull up a chair, Connie. Dinner’s on.”

And I do.

Does Hell Exist? (Luke 12-13)

I don’t believe Jesus ever wasted a word. I think everything he said was carefully chosen because He knew His time on earth was short, and He had a lot to say. So, when Jesus spoke about hell, I am pretty sure he was serious.

But I will show you whom you should fear; Fear him who, after killing the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him. (Luke 12:5)

What does “throw you into hell” mean except “throw you into hell.” Yes, I know Jesus often spoke in parables. This was not one of them.

People who want to believe no such place exists would be wrong to believe that. No, it’s not some underground cave with a hot furnace burning, people chained to a wall and suffering from scorched skin. Hell is much worse than that.

Jesus in verse 13:28 tells us:

There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out.

Hell is not only the absence of God, it is the presence of agony, regret, hopelessness, aloneness, a burning desire that will never be met, despair, darkness more complete than you have ever known.

Think of the worst day of your life. What were you feeling? How badly did your heart hurt? How consuming was your grief? How heavy was your burden? How long did you weep uncontrollably before you were able to dry your eyes?

If you had to live that day over again every day for eternity, that would be bad enough. Add the absence of God to that. Add the realization that things will never get better, you will never get through this, that there is no light at the end of any tunnel, that you will never be able to stop weeping from the depths of your soul. Add to that the realization that God had revealed Himself to you over and over in this lifetime, that He died for you, that He created you to be with Him instead of in hell, but you rejected Him. You rejected Him, not the other way around. Add to your agony the fact that you did this to yourself, you chose this, and now it’s too late. There is no way out. Ever.

Hell is real. You might not like that idea. But Jesus said there is a place where people who reject God are thrown. If I were you I’d take His advice: fear the One who has the power to condemn you to an eternity in that very real, very awful place Jesus called hell. Fear Him, and accept this grace and mercy while you have the ability to choose. As real as hell is, Jesus went to the cross so no one has to go there. But you must choose the narrow door (13:22-28).

For those of you who understand this truth and have accepted God’s forgiveness, you are assured that your eternity will be the feast Jesus talks about in this passage. As awful as hell is, heaven will be the total opposite. But don’t be satisfied with the fact that you are home free because you are a Christian. Look around. There are people headed straight to hell. What are you doing about that?

Because hell is real.

Blameless and Innocent (Psalm 19)

My mom wrote, “for 1991” in the margin of her Bible, next to these verses she’d underlined:

…Forgive my hidden faults. Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me… May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. (Psalm 19:12-14)

Mom lived these verses about as well as anyone I’ve ever known. But it wasn’t so much the verses she’d underlined that stood out to me. I’ve sat here for a while considering the words she chose not to underline in verse 13. Those words are what speak to me today:

Then will I be blameless, innocent of great transgression.

I do not claim to know why my mother didn’t underline this phrase, so I won’t pretend to speak for her. I knew Mom as a humble, less-than-confident servant of the Lord she loved. Did she feel unworthy to even suggest that she could be blameless or innocent, even if God had declared she was that and more through the blood of His Son? I don’t know. I only know she didn’t underline that phrase in 1991.

It occurs to me that it’s fairly easy to recognize someone struggling with pride. They tend to brag, they draw attention to themselves, they are critical of others in order to show themselves superior.

It’s not as easy to recognize someone struggling with guilt, regret, or feeling undeserving of God’s grace. They tend to serve God quietly, maybe self-sacrificially, and avoid recognition or praise But they struggle in the depths of their souls, often with a smile on their faces.

Let me share two things God has laid on my heart concerning this. 1) If you feel unworthy of God’s grace, you are right. You don’t deserve it. You are a sinner and what you deserve is hell. That is true for all of us. In fact, grace wouldn’t be grace if we deserved it.

But do not misunderstand, Jesus died for you and me while we were sinners. You do not deserve His forgiveness, but He deserves for you to accept it anyway. He willingly paid what you couldn’t pay. And being blameless and innocent is His gift for you if you would just receive it. We need to stop trying to feel worthy, and instead rejoice in the reality of God’s grace to we who are anything but worthy.

2) Because if we don’t, if we continue allowing ourselves to feel shame or guilt, or if we allow our unworthiness define us, we run the risk of having a works-based faith. We want to feel like we deserve God’s grace so we teach Sunday School, we visit people in hospitals, we fix food for shut-ins, we read our Bibles every day, we don’t drink or smoke or gossip. And we think that somehow living like that will make God love us more, or forgive us more, or maybe it’ll just help us feel good about ourselves.

We need to keep reminding ourselves that nothing – nothing- we do can make God love us more. He died once for you. It is finished, He said. You can’t earn what has already been bought.

Again, I don’t know why Mom didn’t underline this part of verse 13. But if you are struggling with guilt for sins already forgiven, or if you find it hard to accept what Jesus freely offers, understand those thoughts and feelings don’t come from God. They are the arrows of the enemy.

My prayer is that you will rejoice in the cross today, allow God to cover those sins He died for, accept His grace without hesitation. And with boldness, live your life as one who has been declared blameless and innocent.

Because through Jesus’ blood that is exactly what you are.

 

Read All About It (I Samuel 27)

Do you know what I love about reading the Bible? God didn’t sugar-coat anything when He whispered into the ears of the men who penned His Words. We don’t just read about the victories and the blessings. We also read about the epic failures and the devastating consequences for sin. God never paints His children as perfect. I like that.

Take David for instance. Here we read about the future king who will be described as a man after God’s own heart, murdering whole towns of people and lying about it. He’s living with the enemy and doing what he needed to do to survive there.

I Samuel 27:1 holds the key to this very dark time in David’s life:

But David thought to himself… the best thing I can do is…

There is no mention that David was obeying God. In fact, there’s no mention that David consulted God at all during this time with the Philistines.

Now some people will say it was God’s will, that it was all part of God’s plan for David. And to be honest, I can get a little angry when people brush sin off like that. I wonder if people who believe that really know God at all. Our holy God does not cause His children to sin. There is no evil in Him. But there is evil in each of us, and God is very honest to tell us that that is something we need to address, because the consequences are serious.

We read that David went on his own and sinned. He thought to himself. He came up with that plan on his own. And we will find there will be consequences he’ll face for his sins.

But David will also be forgiven. And that’s why I love reading the good, the bad, the ugly, and the grace we find when we open God’s Word. God not only tells us what happens when we choose sin, He tells us how we can be forgiven. He not only describes a heart hardened by disobedience, He describes a heart cleansed by the blood of His Son.

If you want to read the Bible in order to feel good about yourself, don’t bother. This book will break your heart. It will sit heavy on your shoulders as your sins are revealed. It will tell you you are a sinner, then it will tell you that again and again.

No, this book won’t make you feel good about yourself. But it will make you feel good about your Savior. While you were a sinner, not a cleaned up version of yourself, while you were still a sinner Jesus died for you. You, my friend, don’t deserve what Jesus did for you there. But He did it anyway.

Because He loves you that much. You can read all about it in the pages of the Bible.