More Grace?

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 6

In the past couple of chapters, we looked at how we are justified by faith, and being saved while we are sinners.  So, the natural question is whether it matters if we sin.  I love the way Paul answers this question after he asks it.

“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?”

In my head I hear this with a lot of passion in it.  Then Paul says basically the same thing in verse 15:

15 “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be!”

Again, I hear so much passion in this statement.  This is obviously an important point, and something that needed to be talked about when Paul wrote this letter.  It is something that needs talked about and understood now too.  I am confident that Paul spent this much time on this topic because it is so easy to think that “this” sin will be okay.  I’ll be forgiven, and then I won’t do it again.  Then, the next time it is again easy to think that doing it one more time won’t hurt.  I’ll be forgiven again.

That is an extremely dangerous place to be.  It is easy to cross the line into sin, and can be very difficult to cross back.  We need to stay as far away from that as possible.

16 “Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?”

We are either slaves to sin or to obedience resulting in righteousness.  We each must make that choice.  We are justified by faith, and then that faith should lead to obedience.  It is all really summed up in the last verse of chapter 6:

23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

– Andrew Hamilton

So Much to Consider

Hebrews 10_24
Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Hebrews 10:22‭-‬25 NIV
In this day and age, it’s not always easy to be real.  The influence of social media has pressured most of us into unrealistic expectations.  The constant “everything is the greatest ever” post, or the crazy filters that make us all look like models.  But reality is different, and you know what?  That’s just fine for God.  He wants our best no doubt, but he also wants us exactly how we are right now. That’s why we should draw near to him with a sincere heart, God knows us intimately already, so there’s no reason to try and fake anything with Him.
Knowing that we’re accepted just as we are, should put us at ease. With that we also know we are forgiven, we were bought with the price Jesus paid.  This means we don’t have to carry the baggage that sometimes comes with the regret of decisions made.  This can be really freeing for some.  So if we’re able to be real, and we know we’re forgiven, what’s next?
This scripture says to let us consider how to spur one another on to love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, and encouraging each other.  This implies that we should take time to think of ways to help and encourage our brothers and sister in the church.  Can you imagine how great church could be if we all made it a priority to be there as much as possible, and continually thought of more ways to encourage one another?  What if we made it a priority to spend time together outside of the four walls?  We could change the world. Maybe that’s a bit optimistic, but I do know we would at least change ourselves.
-Jerry Briggs

United in Hope

john 3 17

I remember learning in a college psychology class that the two emotions most commonly selected by people meeting the criteria for clinical depression are guilt and shame. I saw the list that was given out in the assessment, and it included lots of others that I thought might have topped the list. Ones like grief, anger, fear, sadness, despondence, loneliness, rejection, etc. But, the two that were the most common consistently were guilt and shame. At the time I was a little surprised by that just because there were so many choices and they all seemed so “depressing”, but as the years go by, I am more surprised that I was surprised.

That is because guilt and shame are crippling and powerful negative emotions that we all experience. In definition, guilt and shame are a bit separated in the sense that guilt refers to the feeling associated with our behavior while shame is associated with a negative feeling of ourselves. Sin causes both. Because we all sin, we all experience the devastation of both emotions. And in a world where we find ourselves with divisions of race, socioeconomic class, culture, language,  and background. . . let it be known. . .we all experience guilt and shame because we are all guilty and shameful. If there is one thing uniting us all, it is that we are all intrinsically unworthy desperately in need of a savior. There aren’t those who are “really guilty” and those who are a “little guilty”. And even if that were the case, I think I’d want to be the former because in human reasoning, that is where the “man after God’s own heart” falls, and I believe those who recognize their unworthiness also recognize their need for God more. The human race is made up of innately sinful people completely unrighteous and unworthy constantly falling short of our perfect sovereign God.

“As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one” (Romans 3:10, NIV)

“The LORD looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. All have turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one. (Psalm 14:2-3)

But, long before our existence God knew this and had an eternal plan. A plan to send a savior, His begotten son, Jesus.  So, while we experience that guilt and shame, we are also able to experience mercy, forgiveness, and hope. His desire is not to condemn us because of our guilt, but to save us from it. We feel shame because we don’t deserve that love and favor, but despite how we feel about it, it is there for the taking. Always. Again and again.

“For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved”  (John 3:17, NIV)

“For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21, NIV)

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:9, NIV)

Just as we are united in the sense that we all sin and experience guilt and shame, we are also able to share forgiveness and hope together. We all have the opportunity to be forgiven by God, but not so we can “feel better”. . . so we can glorify Him. One of the most beautiful ways to do that is to forgive others. Who doesn’t love the story of the Prodigal Son? So, may we seek to live with the mercy of the father and not with the bitterness and pride of the brother. The inheritance that matters is our shared one. And part of loving our giver is sharing the gift with others.  It is worth returning for. It is worth staying for. It is worth learning about. And it alone is the lasting source of hope.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” (Revelation 21: 1-4, NASV)

 

–Jennifer Hall

Forgiven to Forgive

Matt 18 33

Matthew 18

In Matthew 18:21-35, Jesus gives his disciples a parable that is related to forgiveness. In the parable, a man is presented before a king to pay back the debt that he owes. Unfortunately for the man, the debt that he owes is extremely high and impossible to pay back. The king is shown to be compassionate, and forgives the man for the debt. The story then takes a turn for the worst; the man does not forgive a slave for the debt that he owes, even though the debt owed to him was absurdly smaller than the debt he owed to the king. He faced great punishment when the king found out.

The principle of this parable is this; forgiveness is crucial to being accepted by God. We have been forgiven our debt of sin before God, thanks to Jesus’ sacrifice, which is a debt that can never be repaid. We need to have an attitude of forgiveness because of this fact. Nothing that anyone else has done to us can even compare to what Jesus had to go through for us, so we need to be ready to forgive, just as we were forgiven.

Have you forgiven others this week for wronging you? Is there something that you need to let go of? Do you have an attitude of forgiveness today?

-Talon Paul