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Posts tagged ‘God’s love’

God’s Love Won’t Let Me Go — Regardless

SOURCE:  Discipleship Journal/Ruth Myers

The Love That Won’t Let Go

God’s passion for His children is unlike any other love we’ll ever experience.

When I was a teenager, God began to deepen my appreciation for His love through “The Love of God,” a song made famous by George Beverly Shea. This song describes God’s love as “greater far than tongue or pen can ever tell.” If the skies were a scroll and the oceans filled with ink, the song goes on to say, and if every stalk on earth were a writing quill, we still could never write in full this love God has for us. The skies could not contain it. The oceans would run dry.

Through the years since then, the Lord has been weaving into my life a richer awareness of how lavishly He loves me (and all of us) and how deeply He longs for each of us to experience His love. My heart has been opened again and again to delightful discoveries that have made me feel more satisfied and at rest in Him, more alive in His love, more liberated, more secure.

In God we find the kind of love we most deeply need. If we want real love, ideal love, perfect love, God’s heart is where to find it. It’s the only love big enough to meet the God-sized needs of your life and mine.

Just Because

Because you are a special treasure to God, He is working to draw you into a deeper love for Him—away from any idols in your life, away from rival interests, away from giving first place to His good gifts instead of to Him.

In Jer. 31:3, the Lord tells His people, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you” (NKJV). Every hour since you first met Him, He has been pursuing you, seeking to draw you closer as a mother draws her child, as a bridegroom his bride. He wants you near.

God loves us “just because.”

His love defies human logic. It doesn’t make sense. And yet there are reasons. I think of at least two:

First, God loves us because He is love. It’s His nature to love.

Second, He loves us because He made us.

Sin has destroyed some of the beauty of His design that He must now work to restore; but He made each of us with great skill, and we have unique value to Him. Because He made us for Himself, in His image, we have the potential of intimate relationship with Him. He prizes us and wants us for Himself. He loves us for what a love relationship with Him can mean to us—and to Him—now, in this life. He also loves us for what He knows we’ll become for all eternity. He eagerly awaits the delights in store for Him and us when we will dwell with Him forever in joyful, unbroken fellowship.

We read in Dt. 7:7 and 10:15 that God set His love upon His people—He “fastened” it upon them, as The Berkeley Version says. I like that. There’s a gentle but unyielding persistence about the love of God, a tenacious tenderness toward each person who has responded to Him. He loves us and holds on and won’t let us go.

From Everlasting to Everlasting

What is God’s love like? The tenacious love of God is both eternal and changeless. These two concepts are wonderfully linked.

“The steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon those who fear him” (Ps. 103:17,RSV). From everlasting to everlasting. Let’s look at this phrase more closely.

From everlasting, before I ever existed, God loved me. Long before I was born, He looked ahead and fastened His affection upon me. His love for me began in His foreknowledge of me. When He decided to love me, I did not yet even exist. His love is not mine because I merit it, for He fastened His love upon me before I ever did one thing, good or bad.

Before we were born, He already knew the worst about us, and nothing that happens now can surprise or disillusion Him. He has never had any illusions about anyone or anything. He doesn’t suddenly discover some truth about one of us and think, Oh, why did I ever choose to love him or her? I like what J. I. Packer says in Knowing God: “God’s love to me is utterly realistic, based at every point on the prior knowledge of the worst about me, so that no discovery now can disillusion Him about me in the way I am so often disillusioned about myself, and quench His determination to bless me.”

Therefore, in the midst of my failures and struggles when I feel so undeserving, I never have to think, Oh dear, does He still love me? His love for each of us is never rooted in our worthiness, but rather in His own nature.

God says to us, “It’s not because you earned it or worked so hard for it that I have loved you. And I don’t continue loving you because you manage to maintain a high enough standard in My eyes. No, I simply made a permanent choice to love you.”

That choice will never change. He loved me from everlasting and will love me to everlasting. His love for me—and for you—will never end. It’s a lifelong, eternity-long relationship, now and forever available to meet our every need as we seek to know Him better.

Even When We Rebel

We see God’s unchanging love in an especially beautiful way in the book of Hosea. There God declared that He still loved His people “though they turn to other gods” (Hos. 3:1). Hosea’s message shows God’s constant love for His people, even when they spurned Him and persisted in rebelling against Him.

God speaks these words to His people in Hos. 11:8: “How can I give you up, Israel? . . . My heart will not let me do it! My love for you is too strong” (Good News Bible). And the New Living Translation puts it this way, “Oh, how can I give you up, Israel? How can I let you go? . . . My heart is torn within me, and my compassion overflows.”

This was His attitude toward them even though they had persistently rebelled against Him. God had patiently sent them warnings over the centuries, but so often they refused to listen. Finally, He had to send severe chastening. They needed it, and He gave it. But even that chastening was evidence of His love, just as it is in our lives. Throughout it all His attitude was still, “How can I let you go?” He cannot give us up. He cannot abandon us. His love for us is too strong.

How that relieves my heart!

Even when I’m letting something else be more important to me than God, God is still loving me. Even when He must discipline me, He says, “I won’t go one bit further than I have to for your good, and I would never cut you off from My love. My heart would never allow it.” He recoils at the very thought of ever withdrawing His love for us.

Psalm 73:26 begins, “My flesh and my heart may fail”—yes, this will happen to us in different ways all through life. Our bodies and souls may grow weak and waste away. And worse than that, we may inwardly and outwardly fail to trust and obey the Lord. But we can come right back to Him, confess how we have failed, and let the Lord love us. Then we can go on to personalize the last part of this verse, saying with the psalmist, “Lord, You are the strength of my heart, the source of my stability; and You are my chosen portion forever.”

Love without Limits

God’s love is incalculably great. His love is abounding, vast, infinite. His love has no limitations, no boundaries. In both duration and extent it is limitless. We’ll never be able to get out of it or away from it or beyond it.

Notice the description of God’s love in Eph. 3:16–19. Paul speaks of how the Spirit within us strengthens us so that we can, in fuller measure, have Christ dwelling within us. He says, “I pray . . . that your life will be strong in love and be built on love” (Eph 3:17, NCV). He goes on to pray that we will know in actual experience the greatness of Christ’s love—that we will understand more fully its boundless dimensions, how long and wide and high and deep it is, though it is far greater than anyone can ever know.

God’s love is limitless. This means there are no bounds to the encouragement and hope and strength it can give us. Once I found myself under unusual pressure while my husband, Warren, was gone for almost a month. Situations arose that were difficult for me to cope with. In those stressful weeks the Lord deeply ministered to me through 2 Thess. 2:16–17: “Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us unending encouragement and unfailing hope by grace, comfort and strengthen your hearts in every good work and word” (paraphrase based on NASB and Phillips).

Here is His personal, loving touch: encouragement and hope that never fail because they are by grace, not based on my deserving. My heart—and yours—may often fail and our resources prove to be inadequate. But the Lord Himself, who loves us, is always ready to inspire us with courage and confidence, as J. B. Phillips puts it.

The Lord does not parcel out little dabs of love—”Well, you’ve been good children today, so I’ll love you a little bit.” No, His love flows freely. It overflows, coming to us in an abounding way. We read in Ro. 5:5 that God’s love has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. “It floods our hearts,” as James Moffatt translates it. It’s a tremendous outpouring of love—not in skimpy measure, but rather in a flood, an inundation.

And He has put right within us the source of this abounding love—the Holy Spirit—so His love can be poured out abundantly throughout our whole being. We don’t have to settle for trivial little insights into His love. We can experience vastly more of it than we do at present, if we truly want to—if we open ourselves to Him and His Word, seeking and yielding and trusting.

The Grace behind His Love

God’s love is linked inseparably with His grace, His attitude of unmerited favor toward us. Grace is the basis on which He first chose us in His love, and His overflowing grace is the basis on which He continues to lavish His love upon us.

We read in Ro. 5:20 in the Wuest translation that where sin abounded, “grace superabounded with more added to that.” There are no words to adequately convey the abundance of God’s grace. So we can just say that it “superabounds—with more added to that”!

God’s love is so great that no sin is too great for Him to forgive. We can always approach His throne of grace and receive forgiveness, whether for a large, even scandalous sin, or for any of the mass of little failures that get us down so that we think, Oh, do I have to confess that again?

The flow of God’s love never stops; it always shines forth undimmed. But our response determines whether it gets through to us. We can pull the blinds—or we can open them. We choose what we’ll let ourselves be filled with, and God respects our choice. He does not force His love on us. But at all times His love flows and shines—perfect, unwavering, available to meet our needs.

We see this unchanging flow of God’s love portrayed in the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15. The father was waiting for the son to turn his back on his rebellion and return home. And when he saw him coming, he didn’t have to think twice about responding with fervent love. The flow of his love had never lessened, though the son had strayed to a far country and into terrible sin.

All of us need this grace. To the person with desperate needs who is willing to admit them, God shows His love. Do you qualify? I know I do. I qualify because I have needs—desperate needs. And He has made me willing to admit them and let Him meet them. When I fail to recognize how needy I am, He graciously works to remind me (at times in painful ways). And He renews my willingness to say, “Lord, I’m so messed up, so needy, so unable to obey You and to handle life in my own strength. So I bring my deep needs to You.”

As we mature through the years, we see shortcomings and areas of neglect in our lives that we didn’t know were there. So often, when we feel we’re doing well (if we’ve been victorious and had our quiet time every day and learned Bible verses and been nice to our family and our neighbors), then we think, God surely loves me today. Then we drop into those low times—we’re sure there’s no way He could love us now. So at the very point where we need His love most, we don’t even dare come before Him to seek and experience it. We forget that He has always loved us, even when we had absolutely no use for Him at all. And He will always love us—just because.

Sacrificial Love

When it comes to human love, we like to see action as well as words, don’t we?

Words, of course, are important. A wife never tires of hearing her husband tell her again, “I love you.” God gives us plenty of words to tell us He loves us, but He also acts upon that love. His greatest action was sending His Son to suffer humiliation and anguish for us when we still had no use for Him. He was willing to pay the highest price possible so that we could belong to Him, so that He could have a loving relationship with us.

His love for you and me is a costly love. In the Wuest translation of 1 Jn. 4:7 we read that God’s love is “divine and self-sacrificial.” This, again, points us to the cross—the ultimate sacrifice. Such love is foreign to our nature. Humans love like this only when their love comes from God.

In Ro. 5:6–8 we read:

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

And because of this sacrifice, “we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation” (Ro. 5:11).

Jesus says, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (Jn. 15:13). A human love will conceivably die for a friend—though only the greatest of human loves would ever dare to do it. Jesus, however, died for His enemies, so that He could make us His friends, bringing us into intimate relationship with Himself. That’s how much He desires to have us near Him.

Only God is the source of such love. His is truly the greatest love of all.

The Favor of the King

In this, as in all that God gives us, He is immeasurably generous. His love gives and gives and is never depleted, because His power and resources are unlimited. He never has need to give in a grudging way. As Eph. 3:20 says, He’s able to do exceeding abundantly above all we can ask or think—beyond our fondest dreams. He’s a total giver who loves to give, who delights to do good for us, so that we can live truly abundant lives.

Romans 5:17 speaks of what Christ has done for believers and how “by their acceptance of his more than sufficient grace and righteousness” people can now “live their lives victoriously” (Phillips). We have this possibility of living royally because of the abundance of God’s grace. As we have seen, grace means “unmerited favor,” favor that we don’t have to earn, favor that we don’t deserve. In fact, we deserve just the opposite!

And whose favor is it? The favor of the King of kings. Favor that flows out from Him toward us. And as we receive it, realizing we are highly favored by the only truly important person who exists, it does something in our hearts. If we belong to the King of kings, we can be sure of His favor whenever we approach Him.

God loves to honor our requests and bestow His favors upon us. God delights to do the things that delight us, and so He gives to us lavishly. He is not a stingy God. When Jesus came to this earth, His purpose was to share with us His true and eternal treasures. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9).

These riches include everything we need here on earth for a full spiritual life and a satisfying emotional life. “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness” (2 Pet. 1:3).

This is all ours to enjoy as we seek to know Him better.

What Does a Fear of Failure Produce?

SOURCE: Taken from a booklet by June Hunt

Fear of failure manifests itself in various ways in different personalities.

Perhaps you recognize one or more of these characteristics in yourself or in someone you care about.

Paralysis—failing to take any action or make any decisions for fear of being wrong

Purposelessness—moving from one job or profession to another with no real sense of commitment or direction for fear of making a wrong decision

Perfectionism—doing only those things that can be done flawlessly, those that carry little or no risk of failure, for fear of criticism

Pride—refusing to engage in certain activities for fear of being less than the best and feeling inferior to someone else

Paranoia—distrusting the motives of those who ask you to do things for fear of being exposed as being less than adequate

Procrastination—putting off tackling an assignment or performing a task for fear of doing it poorly

When you know the depth and breadth of the love the Father has for you, your fear will dissipate and its power over you will be broken. Failure and success will take on a whole new meaning, and you will no longer be ruled by the fear of negative results. When you act in faith, you can leave the results to God, who never fails.

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”
(1 John 4:18)

——————————————————————————————-
Hunt, J. (2008). Biblical Counseling Keys on Success through Failure: From Stumbling Stones to Stepping Stones (9). Dallas, TX: Hope For The Heart.

Guilt Trip To…Nowhere

SOURCE: Adapted from  Stepping Stones/Karl Benzio/Lighthouse Network

Because I teach people to make decisions based on information, not emotions, I cringe when I hear parents, ministries, or pastors using guilt to “motivate” others. “If you loved me, you would do your chores.” “I worked long and hard on this meal, so you better eat it.” “We’ll have to cancel the event … unless you help us.” “Look at these starving kids in Africa and all the food you throw away. Please send money.” “See the pain Jesus went through for you? You should feel terrible; now accept Him as your savior.”

Guilt is an incredible motivator, but that’s not the correct role for or use of guilt. I am all for pointing out injustices and needs so people can step into their roles to help these situations or make good decisions.

The issue I am trying to separate through these examples is this: we shouldn’t use guilt to motivate people.

Several subliminal, distorted, and false messages can unwontedly occur when people act out of guilt.   Here are some examples:

1. I am responsible for and can control someone else’s feelings through what I do.

2. The other person won’t feel better unless I act the way he wants.

3. When you want a friend to do something for you, it is OK to lay a guilt trip on her.

4. Decisions should be based on self-needs and emotions, not God’s truth, facts, and reasoning. This is probably the worst message of all.

Unfortunately, these distorted messages subtly seep into our everyday functioning, and dramatically interfere with Godly decision-making.

Many pastors and priests try to whip their congregations into Christian action by delivering guilt-inducing sermons. Whether it’s guilting someone to say the sinner’s prayer, to give money, to volunteer, or to stop a certain behavior, the end does not justify the means. I have personally experienced these guilt-evoking messages. And unfortunately, they undermine the very foundation of grace and love that God wants to instill in a believer’s heart.

Today, take notice if you are feeling guilty about something, or if you are inducing guilt in someone else. Stop and examine why guilt is present. Guilt is important if you have done something wrong. So let the guilt warn you that a problem exists. But don’t let it be your decision-maker. Let reason and the Bible direct your heart and actions. Confess, repent, apologize, and ask for forgiveness. You are responsible for your feelings and happiness; the other person is responsible for his own. Above all else, be mindful that God does not measure and judge you by the amount of good works you do. Rather He looks into your heart. It’s your decision to allow God or guilt to motivate you, so choose well.

Prayer
Dear Father God, I do not want to be stressed out about not “doing enough” as good Christian. I know that You want me to relax in the assurance of Your perfect love. Today help me remember that You delight in me more than I can ever imagine, that You see me cloaked in Your light and presence … and that there is no condemnation for those cloaked in You. Help me daily, Lord, to come closer to having the Mind of Christ. Help me make decisions based on Your word, not my feelings. Help me feel convicted and guilty about my wrongs, and then look to You for forgiveness, and to Your word for guidance in doing right. I pray in the name of the One who knew no guilt ‘til He bore all mine, Jesus Christ;   AMEN!

The Truth
I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest.  Isaiah 61:10

Therefore, there is now 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 and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.  Romans 8:1-2

Help, I’m Not Perfect!

SOURCE:  Living Free

“As the Scriptures say, ‘No one is righteous-not even one.'” Romans 3:10 NLT

Does God require perfectionism?

Absolutely!

Can we be perfect?

No way.

We serve a holy God. Because he is holy, only the perfect can be in his presence. He requires perfectionism (sometimes called righteousness) for us to be in relationship with him. This presents a problem because the Bible makes it clear no one is perfect. And we don’t have to look far to know that is true. We can simply look in a mirror.

But God has provided a solution to the problem.

Why?

Because he loves us and wants to have a relationship with us. He wants us to spend eternity with him.

His solution?

He sent his only son, Jesus, who was perfect, to pay the penalty for our lack of perfection, our sin. Through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we can be made perfect – not by what we do, but by what he did.

We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty  for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. (Romans 3:22-25 NLT)

Consider this … 

Christ died for me . . .

  • Because I cannot be perfect
  • So I need not be perfect

Are you still struggling to do life on your own? Always trying to do the right thing but so often coming up short? Only Jesus can help you. If you’ve never done so, consider turning to him. Do you believe he is the perfect Son of God who died and rose again? Are you ready to give him all the failures and sins and begin depending on him instead of yourself? Then tell him. He loves you unconditionally and wants to forgive you and help you through life.

When you have invited Jesus into your life, he covers you with his righteousness. When our heavenly Father looks at you, he sees only that righteousness. Not because of anything you did or didn’t do – but because of Jesus.

I am overwhelmed with joy in the LORD my God! For he has dressed me with the clothing of salvation and draped me in a robe of righteousness. (Isaiah 61:10 NLT)

Prayer
God, I know I have sinned. I believe Jesus, your perfect son, died on the cross for my sins. I accept the forgiveness, the gift of righteousness, he offers me. Please forgive me. I want to follow Jesus. In his name . . .


These thoughts were drawn from …

Seeing Yourself in God’s Image: Overcoming Anorexia and Bulimia by Martha Homme, MA, LPC.

Why Does God Allow Failure?

SOURCE:  Dr. Charles Stanley/In Touch Ministries

For the believer, every failure can be a stepping stone to success.

Failure is an ugly word. No one likes it. Everyone is subject to its attacks. There are no ideal situations in which failure cannot become a reality. The first man and woman God created were placed in an environment perfectly suited for them. And yet they failed miserably. Throughout the Scriptures, many of God’s servants suffered failures. The most successful men and women in history have experienced failure. Why do some who fail at first go on to succeed while others do not? Those who eventually succeed are the ones who understand the difference between temporary defeat and failure. They look beyond life’s occasional setbacks and refuse to be completely undone by the obstacles that confront them.

How to Avoid Failure

Matthew 7:24-27 shows us a vivid picture of both success and failure. Two men built a house, one on a foundation of rock, the other on sand. When the inevitable storms unleashed their fury, one house stood and the other fell. In this simple parable we find two principles that can protect us from lasting failure in our personal, family, business, and spiritual lives.

First, always build upon the strong, immovable foundation of truth. Any aspect of life that violates truth is doomed to failure. It may stand for a season, but eventually it will collapse. The truth of Scripture should be our guide in business, as well as in family life. Detours around truth and honesty lead to disappointing and, often, surprising failure.

Second, build for the storms. They are inevitable. What you build will be tested. The consequences of shoddy work, laziness, dishonesty, though well hidden, will unavoidably bring failure tomorrow. You cannot escape the eternal principle: “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that will he also reap” (Galatians 6:7).

Why Does God Allow Us to Fail?
The causes of some failures are not quite as clear as others. When we have given our best, why does God allow us to experience failure?

God is not the cause of our failure though He does allow it. Even though we are His children and want what is best, why do we still experience failure? We do not always know what is best. Then, sometimes, we allow ourselves to become sidetracked. Our priorities get out of order; our motivation becomes selfish; Christ is no longer the center of our lives. Failure is God’s way of getting our attention, humbling us, disciplining us, and bringing us back to Himself. Sometimes God uses a painful failure to express His fatherly love toward us.

Remember, there is a difference between failing and being a failure. It is never God’s intention to make us become failures. However, He sometimes allows us to fail today in order to bring us success tomorrow. God has planted in your every defeat the seeds of your future success. Successful people are those who apply God’s remedy for failure: humbling themselves before Him in repentance, surrendering to His will and His goals for their lives. For the believer, every failure can be a stepping stone to success.

Totally Ungodly BUT Totally Justified AND Secure

SOURCE:  Taken from an article by John Piper/Desiring God

God Justified the Ungodly

Let’s look at four things that justification means for those who receive the gift through trust in Jesus.

1. Forgiven for All Our Sins

First, being justified means being forgiven for all our sins.

All Sin—Past, Present, and Future

Look at Romans 4:5–8 where Paul is unpacking the truth of justification by quoting the Old Testament.

5) To one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness. 6) So also David pronounces a blessing upon the man to whom God reckons righteousness apart from works: 7) “Blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; 8] blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not reckon his sin.”

This is right at the heart of justification. Cherish these three great phrases from verses 7–8: “iniquities are forgiven,” “sins are covered,” “the Lord does not reckon sin against us.”

Notice that Paul does not limit forgiveness to the sins we did before we believed—as though your past sins are forgiven but your future is up for grabs. There is no limitation like that mentioned. The blessing of justification is that iniquities are forgiven and sins are covered and “the Lord will not reckon sin against us.” It is stated in a very absolute and unqualified way.

Because Christ Bore Our Sin and Guilt

How can he do that? Romans 3:24 says that we are justified “through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” That word “redemption” means freeing or releasing or loosing from some bondage or imprisonment. So the point is that when Jesus died for us, he freed us from the imprisonment of our sins. He broke the bonds of guilt that put us under condemnation.

Paul says in Galatians 3:13 that “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law having become a curse for us.” Peter says (in 1 Peter 2:24), “Christ bore our sins in his body on the tree.” Isaiah said, “The Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (53:6).

So justification—the forgiveness of sins—comes to us because Christ bore our sin, bore our curse, bore our guilt, and so released us from condemnation. This is what it means that we are justified “through the redemption in Christ Jesus.” We are released from their punishment because he bore their punishment.

Christ Only Suffered Once

And mark this: he only suffered once. He is not sacrificed again and again in the Lord’s Supper or the Mass as though his first sacrifice were insufficient. Hebrews 9:26 says that “Christ appeared once for all at the end of the age to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (cf. Hebrews 7:27). And again it says in 9:12, “He entered once for all into the Holy Place, taking not the blood of goats and calves but his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.” This is utterly crucial in order to grasp the glory of what God did for us at the cross.

Do you see the connection between the once for all death of Christ and the totality of your sins and the sins of all God’s people? It isn’t some sins, or certain kinds of sins, or past sins only, but sins and sin absolutely that Christ put away for all his people.

So the forgiveness of justification is the forgiveness of all our sins past, present, and future. That’s what happened when Christ died.

2. Reckoned Righteous with an Alien Righteousness

Being justified means being reckoned righteous with God’s righteousness imputed to us, or counted as ours.

We are not merely forgiven and left with no standing before God. God not only sets aside our sin, but he also counts us as righteous and puts us in a right standing with himself. He gives us his own righteousness.

The Righteousness of God Through Faith in Jesus

Look at verses 21–22. Paul just said in verse 20 that no human could ever be justified by works of the law. You can never have a right standing with God on the basis of legalistic strivings. Then he says (to show how justification is attained), “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from law, although the law and the prophets bear witness to it, 22) the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.”

So even though no one can be justified by works of the law, there is a righteousness of God that you can have through faith in Jesus Christ. This is what I mean when I say being justified means being reckoned righteous. God’s righteousness is counted as ours through faith.

When Jesus dies to demonstrate the righteousness of God, as we saw last week from verses 25–26, he makes that righteousness available as a gift for sinners. Had Christ not died to demonstrate that God is righteous in passing over sins, the only way the righteousness of God would have shown itself is by condemning us. But Christ did die. And so the righteousness of God is now not a condemnation but a gift of life to all who believe.

2 Corinthians 5:21

2 Corinthians 5:21 is one of the most breathtaking passages about this great gift of imputed righteousness. “For our sake he [God] made him [Christ] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

Christ knew no sin. He was a perfect man. He never sinned. He lived perfectly for the glory of God all his life and in his death. He was righteous. We, on the other hand have all sinned. We have belittled the glory of God. We are unrighteous.

But God, who chose us in Christ Jesus before the foundation of the world, ordained that there would be a magnificent exchange: He would make Christ to be sin—not a sinner, but sin—our sin, our guilt, our punishment, our alienation from God, our unrighteousness. And he would take the righteousness of God, that Christ had so awesomely vindicated, and make us bear it and wear it and own it the way Christ did our sin.

The point here is not that Christ becomes morally a sinner and we become morally righteous. The point is that Christ bears an alien sin and suffers for it, and we bear an alien righteousness and live by it.

Justification Precedes Sanctification

Be sure that you see the objective reality of this outside ourselves. This is not yet the reality of sanctification—the actual process of becoming morally righteous in the way we think and feel and live. That too is a gift . But it is based on this one. Before any of us can make true gospel progress in being righteous partially, we must believe that we are reckoned righteous totally. Or to put it another way, the only sin that you can overcome practically in the power of God is a forgiven sin. The great gift of justification precedes and enables the process of sanctification.

3. Loved by God and Treated with Grace

Being justified means being loved by God and treated with grace.

Christ Proves the Measure of God’s Love for Us

If God did not love you, there would have been no problem to solve by the death of his Son. It was his love for you that made him pass over your sin and that made him look unrighteous. If he did not love you, he would have solved the sin problem simply by condemning us all to destruction. That would have vindicated his righteousness. But he didn’t do that. And the reason is because he loves you.

This is most beautifully pictured in Romans 5:6–8.

While we were yet weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Why one will hardly die for a righteous man—though perhaps for a good man one will dare even to die. But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.

What God is proving in the death of his Son is not only the truth of his righteousness, but also the measure of his love.

The Free Gift of God

In Romans 3:24 Paul says that we are justified “by his grace as a gift.” The love of God for sinners overflows in gifts of grace—that is, gifts that come from God’s bountiful kindness and not from our works or our worth.

The forgiveness of sins and the righteousness of God are free gifts. That means they cost us nothing because they cost Christ everything. They cannot be earned with works or inherited through parents or absorbed through sacraments. They are free, to be received by faith.

Romans 5:17 says it like this:

If, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

The forgiveness of sins and the righteousness of God are free gifts of grace that flow from the love of God.

Being justified means being forgiven, being reckoned righteous, and being loved by God.

4. Secured by God Forever

Finally, being justified means being secured by God forever.

This is the crowning blessing. Paul proclaims it in Romans 8:30. “Those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.”

If you are justified, you will be glorified. You will reach the glory of the age to come and live forever with God in joy and holiness. Why is this so sure?

It is sure because the effect of the death of God’s Son is objective and real and definite and invincible for God’s people. What it achieves it achieves forever. The effect of the blood of Christ is not fickle—Now saving and now losing and now saving and now losing.

This is the point of verse 32, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with him?”—that is, will he not also glorify us! Yes! The same sacrifice that secures our justification secures our glorification.

If you stand justified this morning, you are beyond indictment and condemnation. Verse 33: “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.” Do you see the point: if God has justified you through the death of his Son, no one—not in heaven or on earth or under the earth—no one can make a charge stick against you. You will be glorified.

Why? Because you are sinless? No. Because you are justified by the blood of Christ.

The Foundation of Unwavering Faith

 SOURCE:  Charles Stanley/In Touch Ministry

Hebrews 13:1-8

When life’s storms arise, what is your typical response? Some people find themselves easily blown off course. Others become fragmented in their thinking, as doubt and fear plague their minds. They begin to wonder whether the Lord actually cares for them. But Scripture tells us unequivocally that He does.

Today’s passage provides the foundation for security during difficult times. In verse 8, we are assured that Jesus never changes. His being, works, and words remain the same forever. To understand the importance of this constancy, imagine a friend who has seemed loyal but without warning gossips or betrays you in some other way. Such unreliable devotion and violation of trust cause painful wounds.

All people will at some time, in some way disappoint us. The Lord is the only one who loves us perfectly and consistently. So take heart: God never changes. Regardless of what we’re facing today, our heavenly Father is still the One whose hand poured blessings upon us in happy times. And He is the One who strengthens, guides, and upholds us during difficult days. Each passage in the Bible reveals another facet of His flawless character, and we can know that we’re loved with the same devotion that Christ displayed by dying for us at Calvary.

Think about life’s peaks and valleys. When situations bring happiness, how do you picture God? As difficulties arise, does your view change? Thankfully, in the ebb and flow of circumstances, we can hold fast to Jesus as our anchor. Cling to our unchanging, eternal, loving Lord at all times.

Is God Angry With Me?

Assuming the goodness of God

SOURCE:  Joel J. Miller

A friend recently told me about an acquaintance who’s convinced that God is angry with her. She’s in a rough patch right now and believes that he’s punishing her.

I’m not equipped to plumb the mind of God, but I wonder about that. Some people seem quick to assume the anger of God. Perhaps there are personal reasons they feel distance from him, and that distance feels like God’s displeasure toward them. If you read the Psalms, you’re familiar with the dynamic. But I don’t think that God is far away from David; I think it’s more like David has drawn away from God.

God is there, ready to forgive, ready to make peace. That’s the assumption of Psalm 51. “A broken and a contrite heart—these, O God, You will not despise.” The psalmist assumes the goodness and graciousness of God. I wonder why we don’t do that more often, more readily.

In John 14, Jesus says that there are many mansions in the Father’s house, and that he’s preparing one for us. But notice what he also says: “If it were not so, I would have told you.” What I love in the statement is something not actually said because it’s too obvious to warrant saying: that we should assume the beneficence, provision, and love of God. “If it were not so,” after all, “I would have told you.”

But of course it is so. It’s a given. It’s assumed.

Do we assume it? Or do we assume that God is holding out on us, that he resists and resents us, that he’s less than beneficent and loving?

Both Psalms 103 and 145 say that God is slow to anger and abounding in mercy. They are picking up on a theme that appears elsewhere in the Scripture. Quoting, for instance, the second chapter of Joel: “[R]end your heart, and not your garments; return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness; and He relents from doing harm.”

I’m not debating whether God disciplines his children. Scripture says that he does. But the passages that say so assume his love as well. “[W]hom the Lord loves He chastens,” as Paul says in Hebrews, quoting from Proverbs, which adds the hopeful line, “Just as a father the son in whom he delights.” Delights, not detests!

We all have sins that can cause us to feel separated at times, maybe much of the time. If that’s the case, there’s all the more reason to get this right. Assuming the worst of God is only bad for us. We should instead assume the best and be encouraged: If your heart is broken by your sins, God will not squash it. He will bind it up like the Samaritan meeting us on the roadside. If we return home, he will rush out to greet us like the father of the prodigal.

How Can I Truly Know God — Now and Forever?

SOURCE:   Blue Letter Bible

Did you know that you were created to have a loving relationship with God?

He is patiently and lovingly waiting for you to respond to His invitation to salvation.

Yes, you can receive forgiveness for your sins and assurance of eternal life through faith in His only Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:16-17). “Now this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3).

You may be asking yourself: “How can I know God?” Man is able to know the true and living God through His Word (that is, the Bible). The Bible reveals God’s character and His plan for mankind. It is through reading His Word that we come to a knowledge of the righteousness of God and that which He requires of us.

What is it that prevents us from personally knowing God? Our sin has separated us from God — our corruption is to such a degree that we cannot know Him personally and cannot experience His love. God’s Word says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Man was created to have fellowship with God, but because of his sin (i.e., anything that is against the righteousness revealed in God’s Law) he is prevented from that fellowship. This includes anything less than perfect obedience to God’s commands.

“The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23a). The ultimate result of this death is an eternity in Hell. This spiritual death forces a separation from God. Man is sinful and God is holy. This creates a gulf unbridgeable by man making that intended fellowship impossible. The only solution is a divine bridge — that bridge is Christ.

God created a way by sending His Son to pay the price for our sin. “God demonstrated His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). He died in our place; He who knew no sin became sin for us. This removed our burden of sin and allows us to enter into that desired fellowship if we follow His way.

He is the only way. Jesus said “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).

It is not just enough that you know these truths. We must individually place our trust in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. It is by repenting of our sins and believing on Christ that we can know God personally and experience His love.

“But as many as receive Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name” (John 1:12).

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:8-10).

“Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).

You can receive Jesus Christ right now by faith. “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart, one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made to salvation” (Romans 10:9-10).

If you now believe on God and place your faith in His Son, congratulations — and welcome to His family. We, all being His children, share in a heavenly inheritance! We are heirs to heaven and are promised the eternal pleasure of glorifying God. As our life here on earth progresses, God will continue to work in our hearts. We are daily being conformed to the image of Christ, Himself. We will begin to live lives of righteousness. Obedience to God will not be a burden to us, but rather a joy.

You may wonder, now that you are a Christian, “What now?”

Our greatest recommendation for believers, new and old, is fourfold:

1) find a church so you might hear the preaching of the Word and rejoice in the fellowship of other Christians,

2) study the Bible for that is where we learn of God and His plans,

3) pray to Him to strengthen your faith and increase your love toward Him, and

4) enjoy the blessings given by God in the heavenly ordained sacraments: baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

All of these will work to encourage and build upon your faith.

Ever tried manipulative praying? I have…

Adpated from an article at Counseling Solutions

A true story: once upon a time God allowed me the privilege of entering into what I called the “dark night of the soul.” What really happened is that my loving and merciful Heavenly Father escorted me into the crucible of suffering.

It was a time in my life that lasted over nine years.

Though it’s a hokey cliche, I must say, “It was the best of times and it was the worst of times.”

What I mean is that there has never been a time in my life where I felt more in tune to God and there has never been a time in my life where I wanted the unrelenting pain to go away more than then.

I was hurting, angry, bitter, and hopeless, but I knew the Lord was mercifully and incrementally helping me to die to myself.

You see the juxtaposition of the fear/faith tension in John Donne’s Holy Sonnet, where he pleaded with the Father this way:

Batter my heart, three person’d God; for, you As yet but knocke, breathe, shine, and seeke to mend;
That I may rise, and stand, o’erthrow mee,’and bend
Your force, to breake, blow, burn and make me new.

Has God ever “battered your heart?” What began as knocking, breathing, and shining soon turned into breaking, blowing, and burning?

The beginning of woes for me was 1988. That was 23-years ago. I can look back on it now with more clarity and understanding.

The day God began battering my heart

One of [my] favorite Broadway plays is Les Miserables. One of the characters in the play is Fantine, who lives a mostly miserable life and ends up dying too soon. Her “song” in the play is called “I Dreamed a Dream.” Here is a portion:

I had a dream my life would be So different from this hell I’m living,
So different now from what it seemed…
Now life has killed the dream I dreamed…

I understand. During the season of my crucible I was extremely bitter about where my life was and where it seemed to be going. My desire and God’s desire were colliding and I was not one bit happy about the story He was writing for me.

The first four years of my dark night of the soul was spent studying the Book of Job. During that time I read, meditated, prayed, and cried through Job’s struggle. I’ll never forget the day when I arrived at chapter 23 and read these words:

But he is unchangeable, and who can turn him back? What he desires, that he does. For he will complete what he appoints for me, and many such things are in his mind. Therefore I am terrified at his presence; when I consider, I am in dread of him. – Job 23:13-15 (ESV)

The words above stunned me. God is changeless, even when suffering is appointed for me! Are you kidding? Are you saying I cannot turn Him back from the course He has me on? Correct. Are you really serious that He is thinking about a few other things for me too? Yes. Then what else is in His mind?

I wonder if I can fake God out?

As I meditated on these thoughts that were really more than I could process, it occurred to me that God released Job from the crucible of suffering and wonderfully blessed him in due time. (Job 42:10) At that point I began to think that He would release me too.

I concluded that all I needed to do was let God know that I had learned the life lessons He was teaching me and that I was not bitter or angry anymore. He needed to know that I was ready to move on to the blessing He had prepared for me. This is how I prayed:

Thank you Father for the privilege of suffering. You have taught me many things and I am grateful for the life lessons. You are merciful. Your work in me has accomplished many things and I am now ready to go to the next thing. I’m ready to be released from this suffering and look forward to much fruitful ministry that I know will grow because of this season you have spent in my life. Amen!

I knew in my heart of hearts this was “manipulative praying.” I was desperate and hurting. I was the one deciding when enough was enough and was unwittingly (okay, wittingly) trying to manipulate God with the hope that the suffering would end. Then I read this verse again:

But he is unchangeable, and who can turn him back? What he desires, that he does. – Job 23:13 (ESV)

At some level of my heart I knew what I hoped through this kind of praying would not happen. I also knew He was not through with me yet. God sees in the dark and He most certainly knew what I needed then and now. In fact, He knows  more of what I need than I do. The real issue for me was whether I would trust Him as He did surgery on my soul, regardless of how long the surgery would take.

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. –Hebrews 4:12-13 (ESV)

It took nine years for that operation…and, thankfully, He is still relentless in His pursuit of me.

What he desires, that he does. – Job 23:13 (ESV)

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