Facing Reality

They just want to look out of the window and believe that everything is alright with the world

This was how a friend described the attitude of someone who had avoided engaging with a difficult situation. Yet she could easily have been describing me, and I felt selfish and hypocritical.

In our world of many instances of deep injustice and suffering, I can find myself trying hard to ignore reality. I want to live my life as though everything is ok. Perhaps if I protect myself, don’t look too deeply into the things going on around me, and  come up with quick rationalisations for painful situations: “it was a freak accident”, “they brought it on themselves”,” that could never happen to me because of x”. . .then I can feel safe and at peace?

And so I harden my heart, restore my equilibrium and move on . . . for a while.pexels-photo-window

A Problem We Can’t Ignore

But it gets more and more difficult to preserve the illusion that everything is ok! And even if things are going well for me, will I preserve my peace at the expense of helping others? No one is immune to suffering,  and more and more I encounter situations that I don’t have words or wisdom for.

I really shouldn’t be surprised. After all, I’m a Christian, and the Bible tells me right from the beginning that everything is not ok! This world is desperately broken and so are we. We are rebels against the God who made us, and our ‘freedom’ from him has cost us dearly. No quick fixes, denials, or sentimental hopes are enough. We need rescue.

So when I refuse to  see the world for what it truly is, I also ignore the reality of the hope and rescue that the gospel provides. It’s not a vague uncertain hope, or wishful thinking. It’s a guarantee, long promised, won in blood and death, and sealed by life and the Spirit!

If I refuse to engage with suffering, I miss out on seeing God’s power at work in the world, and I may be ignoring the command of my Lord to take up my cross and follow him, and to find my life by losing it for his sake. (Matthew 16:24-7)

Courageous Care

Here are some of the biblical passages that are enabling me to boldly engage with compassion:

The whole of Psalm 46 is worth meditating on, it speaks of God, who is the shelter and strength of his people in the midst of suffering: God is our refuge and strength,  an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea . . .The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Lamentations 3 describes what it is like to suffer and even to feel as though you have lost your hope in God, and yet ultimately it speaks of Jesus’ suffering and ends with these powerful words of hope:  Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. . . 25 The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him;

Isaiah 41:10 Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

 Luke 6:47-8 As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like. 48 They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built.

These are just a few of the rich promises that give us the courage to leave our comfort zones and boldly minister to those who suffer.

 Need of a Heart Transplant

And yet we mustn’t resolve to find more inner strength, or to develop a more charitable disposition. We must ask for the work of God to transform fundamentally self-centred and fearful hearts into those that love Jesus and serve him trustingly – hearts that follow the narrow way of the cross. Then we can throw open our windows with their rose-tinted panes and curtains of self-protection and proclaim hope to those who need it, helping to carry their pain, because Christ bore ours.

We serve in situations of suffering with the certainty that the gospel is our only hope, that it is a sufficient hope, and that the redeeming power of God is at work in this world through us, as we wait for Jesus’ return.

I’ll finish with a quote from John Stott:

“The Son of God did not stay in the safe immunity of his heaven. He emptied himself of his glory and humbled himself to serve. . .he entered into our pain, our alienation and temptations. . . he bore our sins in his own innocent person. . . “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” John 20:21″

Loving because Christ first loved me

Nim

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So Much More Than We Know

What is sin?

We tend to talk more in terms of sins – things that we do that break God’s moral standards. And this is biblical and helpful.

Yet we also need to understand and feel that sin goes much deeper than our actions. Behind our behaviours there are attitudes of the mind and heart that are deeply insulting to God. Some of which we’re oblivious to.  It’s also not just about what we do, but about what we withhold.black-and-white-person-woman-girl

Yet I don’t say this to condemn myself, or you, because realising the seriousness of sin makes the forgiveness of Jesus Christ much more beautiful and precious to us!

And so I want to share some words by John Piper that powerfully capture why sin is so serious, by showing us how we rob God of what is rightly his:

What is sin?
The glory of God not honored.
The holiness of God not reverenced.
The greatness of God not admired.
The power of God not praised.
The truth of God not sought.
The wisdom of God not esteemed.
The beauty of God not treasured.
The goodness of God not savored.
The faithfulness of God not trusted.
The promises of God not relied upon.
The commandments of God not obeyed.
The justice of God not respected.
The wrath of God not feared.
The grace of God not cherished.
The presence of God not prized.
The person of God not loved.
That is sin!
John Piper , from “All Consuming Fire” by Shai Linne.

I hope that these words help you like they are helping me, to humble myself before God again, crying out for his forgiveness and joyfully embracing the grace and help that he freely offers us in Christ.

How merciful he is, when we wrong him so greatly!

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world . . . gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.

Ephesians 2:1-5

[WordPress informs me that this is my 100th post on the blog! Thank you to all my faithful readers and encouragers, and all glory to God for continuing to work in and through me via this blog. Please keep your comments coming if there are ways it could improve!]

Nim

Shipwrecked

A question that I’ve been asked a lot in recent weeks is this:

Why should Christians bother to resist sinning, if they are saved by God’s grace?

When Christians act as though Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross gives us a free pass to sin, we fail to recognise the cost of the sacrifice, the divine identity of the giver, and the depths of the love which motivated Him! Yet we also fail to understand the destructive nature of sin itself. So I love the vivid example that John Owen gives in answer to this question:

“Is it not a madness for a man willingly to suffer the ship wherein he is, to split itself on a rock – to the irrecoverable loss of his merchandise, because he supposes he shall in his own person swim safely to shore on a plank? Is this less in him who will hazard the shipwreck of all his comfort, peace, joy, and so much of the glory of God, and the honour of the gospel as he is entrusted with, merely on supposition that his soul shall yet escape?”

(Overcoming Sin & Temptation, John Owen, pg 184)

drowningIf Owen’s antiquated language is off putting – here is my humble paraphrase:

Continuing in deliberate sin once we are followers of Christ is as stupid as saying that we’d happily endure the pain, terror, and loss of being shipwrecked and losing every possession that we have, because we’re guaranteed not to die in the process!

Any sane person would take precautions not to be shipwrecked in the first place because, given the choice, who would willingly choose the loss of everything but life, when you could arrive safely ashore with great possessions, peace, and comfort, and to great glory and honour?

What a powerful picture to show us the bizarre and foolish risk we embrace when we use salvation as an excuse to sin without punishment, instead of resisting it with Christ’s help, avoiding destruction and enjoying all the blessings of his wisdom, help, and goodness towards us!

Nim

Quiet Time Qualms

Most Christians try to earmark regular time to spend with God, and it’s often referred to as a ‘quiet time’. I’d certainly recommend it, it’s great to have dedicated time each day to read the Bible, pray, and enjoy the close relationship that God invites us to have with him. Yet I know that I often sabotage myself in this area.

I get up in the morning, fetch a cup of coffee, and sit down for some time with God…and then I heave a sigh, and try to psych myself up to approach him!

Surely God has better things to do?

I expect he doesn’t want to see me after those failures yesterday.

I’m so aware of His awesome holiness and power.

I already feel guilty because I went to bed late and snoozed the alarm this morning.

My phone is urging me to check my Facebook feed.

The day’s tasks are calling for me to begin them.

I can nearly persuade myself in that moment to walk away from my Bible, and put off prayer until another time! Can you relate to this?Quiet Time Qualms

Here are some things I think the Bible has to say to me and to others who struggle with feelings like these. If you are a Christian:

God has already saved you and will not let you go now

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God Ephesians 2:8

You don’t have to persuade God to draw near to you

Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty . . . whoever comes to me I will never drive away. John 6:35,37

You don’t have to persuade God to love you

But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

You don’t have to persuade God to be gracious to you

If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Romans 8:31-2

 

We mustn’t forget how much we need God’s presence and work in our hearts and lives. We must prioritise personal, regular time with Him.

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. Romans 8:5

Nevertheless we don’t do this in our own strength, but with the help of God’s Spirit, and in light of God’s great love and mercy towards us!

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. . .

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.  Matthew 5:3, 6

 

Let’s rejoice and take courage from these truths!

 

Nim

The Work under Our Work

Sometimes working for a church scares me.

I will always be inadequate at serving such a large and diverse group of people, there are some things I’m just not good at, opportunities that I miss, and my own sin gets in the way, distorting my desire to do good.

Last week I had a conversation at church with someone I’d not met before, my intention was to confidently welcome them, but I walked away feeling like a failure. I hadn’t said things I should, I didn’t come across as I wanted too, and I felt stupid and discouraged.

But I remembered a quote I’d seen and mentioned to a friend earlier that day, and it gave me the perspective I needed in the moment: “You’ll never take pleasure in your work until you realize that the ‘work under your work’ has all been done by Jesus Christ.” Tim KellerGod-At-Work-

This is something I’ve continued to think about this week, as several of my ‘best laid plans’ have fallen apart, and I’ve grappled with rising stress (and potentially spiritual opposition too). I think that this simple fact is vital for a Christian to remember, whatever kind of work you do, and whether it’s going badly or really well.

The Vital Work Is Done

The important things can’t be threatened because Christ’s salvation work on the cross is complete. Our identity as loved, forgiven, children of God is established. He is at work to bring everything under the Lordship of Jesus Christ forever!

Look at how the Apostle Paul sums things up in the verses below:

 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:4-10

 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20

Paul makes the link for us – we live our lives now in the light of all that has already been done for us, and what God continues to do on our behalf.


His work goes before our work
His work directs our work
His work enables our work.
His work under-girds our work
His work completes our work.

So we rely on God’s work for us because: Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labour in vain. Psalm 127:1    

10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 4:10-11

A Lightened Burden
We all experience failure, disappointment, and times of worry about our work or responsibilities. But because of this knowledge we can go about our work and service with humble confidence, joy, peace, purpose, and resolve.
When things crumble, we don’t have to!

The pressure dissipates when we recall that Jesus has already done all that is needed, he wants us to remain in his presence with a yoke and burden that are easy and light (because he shoulders the weight!): ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”Matthew 11:28-29


When we’re not up to the task we can go on, looking to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.

Praise Him

Nim

P.S If you want to think more about this topic, John Piper writes about why it’s a great thing that God works for us here.

Pleasure Seeker

Sovereign God makes Man

A world of pleasure and perfection in his presence

Created beauty worships and points to the pinnacle

The Beautiful One is God himself

 

A serpentine whisper

The slowly coiling lie

A fruit held out as the way to true life

Intoxicating promises of power and pleasure

 dust in the hands

Two worshippers turned inward

The throne usurped

No dizzying rise to god-like heights

Instead a rotten mouthful

 

A fall

Sin spirals down to death

Perfection sought and pleasures grasped

But all turns to dust in the hand

 

The world’s myriad joys once exalting the maker

Now disconnected pleasures unfulfilling without The First

Death reigns

Yet the hope of a future seed planted

 

The Seed bears fruit

A son of man whose pleasure is in obedience

Mighty God yet suffering servant king

Blood poured out covers sin forever

 

It is finished

Death-deserving actions forgiven by the merciful Judge

Man steps down from his throne of dust

The greater Adam ascends

 

The true focus for the pleasure seeker is not self

Nor happiness as its own end

But where insatiable appetites point

Eternally satisfying worship of the Perfect One

 

 

Nim

Finding the Courage to speak (Part 2)

Two weeks ago I blogged (here) about boldness in sharing the Christian faith. Here is part 2:

What do you do once you’ve finally plucked up the courage and spoken? What if it doesn’t go well? What if it surpasses your expectations?

God answered my blog post the other week, (and its accompanying prayers) by giving me several opportunities to speak to people about my faith. It was a mixture of excitement, good conversation, robust debate, daunting moments, and whispered prayers!

And it got me thinking even more about this issue.

I realised more than ever that it’s scary telling people the gospel! It takes a lot of courage. It takes the willingness to speak in faith and then leave the rest to God.

It requires being well thought through, and prepared to answer questions, engaging with people’s real life responses honestly.

It might mean:

Awkward moments

Risking the shame of being thought stupid, out of touch, or intolerant.

Feelings of inadequacy or shame.

The chance of salvation, and the good news of Jesus being grasped and accepted by another person!

Facing Shame

I have to be honest that this time around I felt shame. I felt so stupid and weak in my presentation of the gospel, their arguments seemed so logical and firm. Sharing something precious makes you vulnerable when it’s despised. I left feeling certain of my convictions, but foolish in their eyes.

Yet the very next day I read the following exchange in Pilgrims Progress, (a brilliant book you’ve probably heard of that allegorises the Christian life.) It dealt with the very feelings I’d been struggling with and gave me Biblical reminders to strengthen me too:

[Part of a conversation between characters ‘Christian’ and ‘Faithful’, after the latter has a troubling encounter with a traveller called ‘Shame’.]

Faithful: “I did not know what to say at first. He pressed me so much that I became red in the face from embarrassment. This Shame tried to make me feel shame and attempted to beat me up with

it. But, at last, I began to consider, that ‘that which is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God’ (Luke 16: 15). ‘And I thought again about the fact that this Shame tells me what men are, but tells me nothing about God or His Word.

I also thought that on the last day, we will not be doomed to death or life according to the wicked spirits in the world, but according to the wisdom and law of the Highest. Therefore, I thought, what God says is best, is best indeed, even though all the men in the world are against it.

…seeing that those who make themselves fools for the kingdom of heaven are the wisest; and that the poor man who loves Christ is richer than the greatest man in the world that hates him – Shame, depart! You are an enemy to my salvation! – Shall I entertain you against the wishes of my sovereign Lord? How, then, can I look Him in the face when He comes again? If I am now ashamed of His ways and His servants, how can I expect His blessing? (Mark 8:38).’

Indeed, this Shame was a bold villain – I could hardly get rid of him! He haunted me and continually whispered in my ear about the failings of religion. But, at last, I told him it was useless to attempt anything further, for the things that he despised, I saw in them the most glory.

Chapter 10, Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan (Modernised by J. Musselman)

When we face rejection and mockery for our proclamation of Jesus we should not be surprised, but neither should we give in to shame!

‘Faithful’ is wise in his response: He remembers that the Bible warns him that God’s wisdom is not the wisdom of the world, that it is God who will by his wisdom judge one day, and that “the poor man who loves Christ is richer than the greatest man in the world that hates him”.

Shame is an enemy of our salvation, and we should be wise to notice its advance, and expose it with gospel truth, before it silences us!

The Wisdom of God

1 Corinthians 1-2 has been hugely helpful in encouraging me, and guiding my thinking on this – here are a few excerpts:

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God…

20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God….

26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong… so that no one may boast before him.

And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.[e] For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power,so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power…

 14 The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.

As a follower of Jesus I need to remember that my time of vindication is not now. Although I do my best to be clear and coherent, I may often feel weak, foolish, and vulnerable as I proclaim Christ in a world that thinks him irrelevant. The Apostle Paul warns us that the message of the cross will be rejected as foolish by some. But for others it will be the power of God for their salvation!

I don’t have to allow worldly wisdom – in its appearance of sophistication and knowledge – to make me lose my gospel confidence. God uses the weak to shame the strong, and his wisdom comes with his power to save those who believe!

Nim

Finding the Courage to Speak

NB: Sorry that I haven’t posted in a while, a combination of work and holiday time! It’s good to be back!

***

My day to day work as a Pastoral Assistant in a church naturally involves speaking about Jesus to a whole variety of people. And yet sometimes my courage fails me completely!

Its hard to be constantly transgressing one of the cardinal rules of Britishness. The one that states that polite people don’t talk of personal political or religious views in everyday conversations. Religion is a taboo subject these days, or at least one to be kept private.I clam up with my non Christian friends. I falter when someone suggests I might be wrong, or stupid. I change the subject when a new acquaintance raises an eyebrow at my career choice.

I’m a (fairly) normal person. I’m aware of social norms. And like most people I want others to like me.

How do I reconcile all of this with Jesus’ command in the Bible to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19) – to actively tell people about Jesus so that they might begin to follow him too!

How do I find the courage to speak?

Some days I wake up and feel like a huge fraud in my job and my life as a Christian. Shouldn’t God have chosen someone braver and bolder, more articulate, better educated, with superior reasoning skills? (I tend to tangle my logic).

Don’t get me wrong – I am 100% convinced of what I believe, and that it’s the best news I can offer.

I know from my own experience, that knowing God personally is a wonderful, humbling, mind- expanding, peace-giving thing!

But some days I feel tongue tied.

I know that telling people that God requires their worship will be unpopular news! I know that many of my friends will reject this for a whole number of reasons. And I could have an easier life if I keep silent. But the stakes are too high. My private faith must be public, because God demands a personal response from every one of us, and we don’t know when he will return. The clock is ticking.

Jesus himself taught that many would reject him and his gospel as too hard, too easy, too unexpected, too explosive, or too challenging. In the Bible book of 1 Peter, we are told in chapter 2 that Jesus will be a “precious cornerstone” (like the key foundation stone of a building) and “whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” But in the same passage we’re also shown a second, opposite reaction. For some, Jesus will be “a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They will
dislike or disbelieve his message, and ultimately reject him.

Christians, we need to be clear on this. We can’t be silent and we can’t shape and sanitise the gospel into a message that is palatable and inoffensive to all in our time and culture. The message of Jesus Christ stands above all times, cultures and peoples as unchanging truth for all.

Finding My Voice

So what will give me the courage to speak? A couple of things:

When I think through what I believe and as I read the Bible, I am convinced afresh that it’s really good news! News I want to share.

Secondly, when Jesus left first left his disciples to continue his work he promised “Surely I am with you always” a promise that stands for Christians today, and this should give us courage. Christianity may seem passé in Britain today, but Jesus Christ is eternal, and his truth is timeless.

Thirdly, changing hearts and lives is ultimately God’s job. I speak confidently and sensitively of what I know and have experienced, and I entrust the rest to him.

This is what the Apostle Paul said on this subject “You know how badly we had been treated at Philippi just before we came to you and how much we suffered there. Yet our God gave us the courage to declare his Good News to you boldly, in spite of great opposition. 3 So you can see we were not preaching with any deceit or impure motives or trickery.

4 For we speak as messengers approved by God to be entrusted with the Good News. Our purpose is to please God, not people. He alone examines the motives of our hearts. 5 Never once did we try to win you with flattery, as you well know. And God is our witness that we were not pretending to be your friends just to get your money! 6 As for human praise, we have never sought it from you or anyone else.”

There’s a lot we can learn from this short passage. But notice in particular how Paul’s trust in God and the truth of ‘good news’ that he teaches, frees him from people-pleasing and cowardice, and the need for deceit and trickery. He speaks plainly and boldly, and trusts God for the rest.

I care about my friends, I don’t want them to face God’s anger, and I want them to experience his incredible love and forgiveness. And I want to honour God by speaking about him well, and leading others to esteem him.

I’m praying that God will help me to love him more than I love popularity or people-pleasing, so that I will be willing to be mocked and disliked, or worse, to ensure people hear about Jesus. When eternity is at stake even great suffering for the gospel pales in significance.

Do you have any comments? What helps you to speak about Jesus?

If you’ve found yourself reading this and you’re not a Christian, why not put me to the test and ask me all about it?

Nim

A Personal Promise

Some days the gospel can feel very distant. Our failures loom large, and the forgiveness and rescue that we are given in Christ seem somehow obscured in the daily grind.

However, the Bible is a treasure trove of passages that describe the incredible rescue Jesus has worked for us, for days when we need reminding!

This week I’ve been reading and re-reading a short passage in Colossians 2. The Apostle Paul is encouraging the Colossian church, reminding them of who Jesus is, and all that they receive in following him, so that they will not grow discouraged or move away from what they believe.

In verse 6 Paul urges them:

 So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

Yet he doesn’t just expect the Colossian Christians to conjure up perseverance, faith, and thankfulness from nowhere. In verse 13 Paul gives them (and us!) a spectacular reminder of the gospel, the good news that saves us and joyfully sustains us:

13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having cancelled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

  • “When you were dead” God saved us and gave us new life when we were spiritually dead – unable to save ourselves, or earn his favour in any way – The God who was willing to save us at our worst will not leave us now!
  • “He forgave us all our sins” All our sins – forgiven, once and for all!
  • “having cancelled the charge of our legal indebtedness..” Our huge debt of sin, the one that we daily add to, is cancelled having been paid in full at the cross of Christ. It no longer has the power to condemn us! Jesus has borne our just condemnation and punishment himself.

What powerful, life-saving truths! And yet I can find them hard to really accept personally, when I look at the multitude of ways I have failed God even today.

Maybe you absorbed it all on first reading, but in order to help myself to really trust and rejoice in these words I’ve made a few changes, personalising the pronouns!

13 When I was dead in my sins and in the uncircumcision of my flesh, God made me alive with Christ. He forgave me all my sins, 14 having cancelled the charge of my legal indebtedness, which stood against me and condemned me; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

When it sinks in that these things are true about me, today, forever, because of Christ, I can’t help but be humbled, encouraged and truly joyful- I’m grinning as I write this!

What a wonderful saviour Jesus Christ is!

Enjoy your day!

Nim


Flighty, Fickle, and…First!

Recently I’ve been enjoying the benefits of reading through a Christian book with a friend. We take turns reading to each other, and commenting as we go along.

I find I take more in when I’m listening and making notes, and it helps me in my thinking to discuss things with someone else.

Having finished one book, we’ve just started to read through Living the Cross-centred Life by C.J. Mahaney. It’s been recommended to me by several people for its helpful, practical encouragement, and challenge to live according to the good news that we believe.

Here are some of the thoughts that hit me this week, as C.J talks about how our feelings can affect our Christian life:

He says that as Christians we often “let our feelings tell us what’s true, instead of letting the truth transform our feelings”. But he goes on to explain that are feelings are fickle, flighty, and easily dominated by a whole range of things!

When it comes to the gospel this is so dangerous!

When we are feeling good – woke up on time, had a great quiet time, spoke to a colleague about Christ, ate a good sandwich at lunch… – we feel joyful about the gospel, close to Christ, good about life!

When we feel bad – overslept, stressed about deadlines, worked late, boring church meeting, haven’t prayed today… – we can feel far from God, guilty, and bad about life.

(Ok, a little simplistic, but you get the point!)

Yet in reality nothing has changed about the gospel. If you’re a Christian, you are still saved, still clothed in Christ’s robes, with his perfect record of righteousness attributed to you. Still loved deeply and eternally by God. Good news to rejoice in whatever our circumstances!

Yet we can act as though our feelings are the source of gospel truth.

I know I do this all the time!

When I’m in church, and I feel a bit down and not very worshipful, I let my feelings tell me a gospel of works, where God will only love me if I’m praising him as I should. Instead of reminding myself of the gospel of grace, and God’s steadfast love (hopefully through the words of the songs we’re singing!)

When I’m preparing to give a Bible study on Pride, and I’ve just caught myself inwardly reviewing my achievements, (not to mention the boastful content of the last conversation I had) I mentally berate myself, saying that “I should just quit gospel ministry, as I’m obviously a hypocrite, I’m sure God could find someone better…” Instead of thanking God again for my salvation, humbled anew by my inability to keep his laws apart from his spirit; and rejoicing that he is at work in me to make me more like Christ!

Feelings are God-given, but they mustn’t be the first thing we listen to. The gospel remains completely unaffected by our shifting situations, emotions, and deeds. So listening to our feelings is not a wise place to start!

We must begin with the promises of scripture which stand firm. And as C.J says we must “let the truth transform our feelings.”

As we spend time with God, worship, serve him, pray, our first question should not be “How do I feel?” but “What is true?”

D. Martyn Lloyd Jones reminds us that “What we have in the Bible is Truth; it is not an emotional stimulus…and it is as we apprehend and submit ourselves to the truth that the feelings follow.”

What we want is reliable feelings that are “anchored in truth”.

Thank God for the unchanging good news of the gospel, however we feel!