Pastor's Blog

March 2017

Live in the Light

I think that as believers in Jesus Christ, you and I face the same dilemma every day: I want to live as a child of the light, but I keep going back to the darkness of sin. I read God’s Word, I come to worship, I confess my sins. And I mean it, I really do mean to make my life better. But things get out of control—I lose control. And I sin.

And when we read our Bibles, or hear Jesus say things like, “For judgment I have come into the world,” we know how serious God is about living a Christian life.

Of course, this is nothing new for believers. Abraham dealt with this, Jacob and his family did, King David did. Peter and the Apostle Paul did, too. And throughout the ages, Christians like you and me have been coming before the altar of God beating their chests and saying, “Have mercy on me Lord, a sinner.”

And that’s the key to unlocking this mystery, of solving this dilemma in your life: is there still a struggle going on in your heart? Is that new person within you struggling and waging war against the impulses of sin in your life? Do you cry out to God, “I want to live as a child of the light”? 

So God teaches us to pray, “Lord, help me remember who I am and help me avoid and expose sin.” Walking as a child of the light recognizes that we are new people in Christ, and as those new people we live differently. We live in the light.

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Goodbye Guilt

Therefore, there is no no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemened sin in sinful man. Romans 8:1-3          

When Paul sat down to write Romans, he was writing to Christians he had never met. He reviewed with them the basic teachings of God’s Word: that sin was judged by God and God had given them a righteousness through Jesus Christ. And because of that their their lives were different.

Paul wanted these earnest Christians to live a God-pleasing life that was free of guilt. That was really important because Paul had just finished talking about the struggle Christians have in living holy lives (see Romans 7:7-25). So it was important to talk about being free of guilt because with as many ups and downs as a believer would have, they would also surely struggle with guilt feelings.

So Paul reminded them that there was no longer condemnation for sin. God’s Law tried to get people to live holy lives. It said, “Love God first and love your neighbor as yourself, and you will have eternal life.” But the Law couldn’t do it because of how sinful mankind was. Paul said the Law was powerless because it was weakened by the sinful nature.

So what the Law couldn’t do, God did. He sent Jesus Christ, his one and only Son, to die for sins. Jesus took the punishment the Law imposed on every law breaker. He died. That’s the significance of Christ on the cross, that’s what he meant when he said, “…just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Christ’s specific mission was to be sentenced to the punishment the Law required in mankind’s place.

The result is no condemnation. For those who are in Christ Jesus, there is no guilty verdict. The Law holds no threat; it cannot harm those who place their hope in Christ because Christ intervened on their behalf and rescued them from that condemnation. Therefore there is no punishment for sin. Nothing hanging over the head of the person who trusts in Christ. No worry that God will change his mind and condemn him to hell. No! None of that, Paul says. Christ took it all away. So if there is no condemnation, then there is no guilt.

And if God says there is no guilt - then there is no guilt, even for you!

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What have you been looking for?

We’ve all had moments where the answer was right in front of you. You set your car keys down two inches from their normal spot and wind up tearing the living room apart looking for them when they were there all along. Or you forget your glasses on top of your head and start asking your family where you put them. If your family is a bunch of comedians, they’ll let you look around for a while before they tell you they’re on top of your head.

So what are you looking for in your life? Success? A job? Happiness? Satisfaction? Sometimes we chase after all these things but forget the spiritual reality of our existence. What did Jesus say? “What good does it do a man if he gains the whole world but forfeits his soul?” The answer to what you’ve been looking for has been right in front of you the whole time, it’s Jesus. He’s the savior you’ve been looking for.

Life is what we’re all after. We’re seeking real life. And the Savior you’ve been looking for, in spite of all the spiritual problems we all face, is the Savior who offers you eternal life. One reason why the problems in this life seem so difficult is that the solutions the world offers never fully satisfy our soul. That’s the thirst of the soul this world can never satisfy. But Jesus wants to satisfy your soul and your life by giving you eternal life. He does this by taking your fear away. When our lives stand open before God, this is a horrifying thought. But what Jesus does is he stands in your place. He accepts that you are not perfect, that you are sinful and rebellious. He takes your life into his life. He becomes your sin and faces God’s terrible judgment in your place. He died so that you wouldn’t. And because he died, God’s anger against your sin has been removed forever.

Sometimes I think we forget that God isn’t angry with us anymore—that he has the most pleasant, happy and peaceful thoughts toward you because of Christ. He has given you peace because Christ earned it for you. Your soul and your life are safe with Christ. And when you are safe, then you don’t need to be afraid anymore. And when fear no longer grips you, you can stop running away from the troubles you have. You don’t need to go to this world for answers and you can get rid of the empty things of this life that don’t satisfy the soul. Jesus is the Savior you’ve been looking for and he fills your soul to eternal life.

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One Little Word

Out in the wilderness for 40 days - and the devil never stood a chance. He tried to tempt Jesus. He tried to trick Jesus. But the devil never stood a chance, not against the almighty Son of God.

Watching Jesus manhandle the devil here is like watching a professional wrestler pin someone to the ground—he makes it look so easy! Jesus just quotes a little Scripture and the temptation is over. It’s not so easy for us. The devil comes at us with all sorts of tricks and lies to get us to sin. We think it’ll be fun, it’s not going to hurt anyone else, I’m not breaking the law, I deserve this, or the most damaging temptation of them all, I can always say I’m sorry later. The devil throws it all at us. And we might put up a fight for a while, we might valiantly resist, but he just keeps coming.

 And the temptations that are the worst are the ones directed at our particular weaknesses. The problem we have is that there is this part of us that wants to sin, there is an inborn sinful nature that has its own selfish triggers and the devil knows what that trigger is, and he knows just how to get us to pull it. These are those pet sins we repeat over and over again, the ones that go away for awhile and come back. These are the sins we don’t tell other people, the ones we hardly admit to God, because we’re ashamed that we keep doing it, all the time. And sin is deadly, because left unchecked it will choke out faith. When we let the devil win, faith can’t survive.

Does it make you feel like you’ve been defeated? You stand toe-to-toe with the devil and he knocks you down every time. You perhaps feel isolated, ashamed and scared. You don’t know what to do and it seems like you’re wandering around in the desert desperately searching for help and there’s no one around. Well look again. There is someone else in this desert—this wilderness—who struggles with you. He’s been here for forty long days and he has one word for the devil and his temptations: begone!

After two unsuccessful attempts the devil struck with one more. The devil takes Jesus to a high mountain and shows him all the kingdoms of the world. He tells Jesus he will get all of these if he only bows down and worships him. Maybe the devil forgot something here, but this is the son of God, this is the King of kings, the Lord of lords. He may not look like it here on earth, but this man already rules the world. But the devil had another thing in mind; he was giving Jesus the easy way out. Jesus knew what was in store for him and it wasn’t a pleasant thought. And the devil was giving him another option: he could gain the whole world simply by worshipping the devil, that’s a lot easier than dying on a cross and being forsaken by God. But it couldn’t be that way. It was a lie, because when the devil speaks he speaks lies. And Jesus had had enough, this was the last straw, he would show the devil how wrong he was, “Away from me Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only!” And he was right, because even the devil has to obey the word of God and when Jesus gave him a command he had to obey it. And just like that, the devil was gone.

 One word. The phrase Jesus used is one word. We don’t use it very much anymore, but it’s been around in English since about the 1300s, “begone.” When Martin Luther penned his famous hymn A Mighty Fortress, he wrote in stanza three, “Though devils all the world should fill, All eager to devour us, We tremble not, we fear no ill; They shall not overpow’r us. This world’s prince may still Scowl fierce as he will, He can harm us none. He’s judged; the deed is done! One little word can fell him.”

One little word, one simple phrase knocks the devil down. It is the Word of God, it is the power of Christ, it is Christ. When Christ spoke that one word, he blew the devil away. It was the knockout blow, showing the devil that he had lost, there would be no victory party for Satan because Christ won the victory.

And that one little word is yours - use it!

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Climb Up to See the Glory

Our American ancestors traveled westward with great enthusiasm. They loaded up their families, they got into caravans and they hit the Oregon Trail with the hope of finding a permanent home. But as they went west, the dark side of the Oregon Trail soon overshadowed them: violence, disease, starvation. And if you made it through all of that, what was the next challenge? It was the mountains. Mountains that reached to the heavens, mountains that gave you two choices: cross at your own peril, or end your journey now. It was as if God himself had come down and said to you, “Just what were you thinking? Why did you ever leave home in the first place?” And whatever beauty those mountains inspired was immediately sucked away by the feeling of isolation, and the fear of having to cross over them or end your journey short of its goal.

To this day, mountains still have that same effect on people, though granted, it’s not as dramatic. Air travel certainly makes crossing mountains a cinch. But if you’ve ever stood at the base of a mountain and looked upwards to what seems an impossible height, then you’ve felt the strange sensation that this mountain is big and impossible.

So what’s it like to stand before the Mountain of God? How did the Israelites describe Mt. Sinai? A consuming fire! And Peter, James and John standing on a different mountain would see the glory of Jesus as he was transfigured before them. They would hear the voice of God. And they were afraid. Yet at the same time, when it would seem like too much for them to handle, Jesus reaches out to them to take away their fear and give them faith.

When you and I are afraid because we have sinned against God, God reveals his glory that we might know his power to undo the wrongs we have committed. He is mighty to save. His glory on top of the Mount of Transfiguration points us to another mountain where sin and guilt were atoned for by the blood of his son Jesus Christ. There we see the glory of God in a much different way: the bitter sufferings and death of his son. There is power when Jesus says, “It is finished.” Your sin and mine are swallowed up in that powerful act of self sacrifice. And when Jesus was buried he descended into hell to declare his victory over Satan. And later Jesus rose from the dead to prove beyond any doubt that not only has sin been defeated but so has death. This is the powerful God who reveals his glory to you. Climb up and see him that you might know his power. Climb up the Mount of Transfiguration that you might echo the words of the great Advent Psalm,

Lift up you heads, O you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle…Who is he, this King of glory? The LORD Almighty—he is the king of glory!

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For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son. ~ JOHN 3:16