When More Is Less

It was those darn Pharisees again, some of them now believers in Christ (yea!) but pushing some alloyed brand of righteousness: “grace-plus,” we might dub it—believe in Jesus as the Messiah, yes, but still earn God’s favor by keeping the law. It was a straddling of the fence, trusting God but not all the way, compromise when compromise was the worst possible option. Protecting liberty against oppression—and with all the boldness required to do so—Peter spoke up, “Why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yolk that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved.”1 Thank you, Peter, it needed to be said.

How many times does God have to remind us of the emptiness of our own goodness? “All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one,”2 lamented David in a psalm intoned by God’s people for centuries. Echoed Isaiah, “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and our righteous acts are like filthy rags.”3 So, do we now with “filthy rags” augment Jesus’ sacrificial atonement for our sin as though it were insufficient? Do we load again onto the backs of His people the law, a burden Christ so painfully, lovingly and completely removed at great cost? Peter, redux: “No!” What righteousness could we or anyone else possibly contribute to that which God himself has given to us in Christ Jesus? “Grace-plus” is grace-less!

We can do nothing more than what Christ has already done for us, for there is nothing more to be done. Paul explains: “For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.”4 This is the truth in which we rest, the promise in which we stand, and the strength in which we go. We are forever forgiven and free. Praise His name!

Father, thank you for sending your Son to do what we could not do—live a perfect life, die a perfect sacrifice, and rise to present us perfectly to you. Grace us to live as free people, blessing you and serving others in great confidence, peace and joy. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Christ in me is freedom.

1 Acts 15:10, 11
2 Psalm 14:3
3 Isaiah 64:6
4 Romans 8:3, 4

Smash! Crash!

In our growing-up years, my friend Duane’s family owned an auto salvage yard in our home town. Junk cars were their expertise, harvesting parts for resale and reuse, while selling off unusable metal to scrap dealers. It came as no surprise, then, that when August came around—and the county fair with it—Duane entered the Demolition Derby. Now, he had acres of inventory from which to choose his ride, but I can promise you this—Duane’s Corvette was never a consideration for the annual melee in the mud. We pamper dream cars, and they return the favor.

Writing to the church in Corinth, Paul instructed them in the care with which we must treat God’s most prized possession—a redeemed us. “Flee from sexual immorality,” he wrote, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?”1 These believers were no longer the total wrecks of a broken-down world, but newly restored people of God, to be steered now by the Holy Spirit and to bring glory to the Father. Why should they even consider returning to their former ways of destruction and, in the process, dishonoring themselves and the One who purchased us at great price for Himself?

We don’t need to be reminded that sin, in whatever form it takes, is corrosive to our soul and damaging to those around us. Life is a great teacher, and it has taught us this lesson well, too often the hard way. Instead, let’s take time to remember Whose we are, the ultimate price He paid to make us His own, and the image—His image—to which He is steadily transforming us. We are no longer clunkers destined for demolition, we belong to God now, and we care for that which is His—namely ourselves.

“You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your body.”
(1 Corinthians 6:19b, 20)

Father, you’ve redeemed me from destruction and destined me for your glory. I cannot fathom your love, but I gratefully accept it. May your truth and love guide me today, so that this life would glorify you. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

Christ in me is redemption.

1 Corinthians 6:18, 19a

 

His Purposes and Our Priorities

What goes through your mind in the morning before your feet hit the floor? Is it a mental listing of all that awaits you this day? Is it a lingering rehash of the today that ended as you fell asleep last night? Perhaps it is a stir-pot of emotions, whether they synergize into empowering optimism, conspire toward debilitating fear, or blend in some measure of both. Personally, a fresh to-do list and an urgency to conquer its demands greet me anew each morning as the alarm falls silent. Eager to accomplish, it is easy to bound out of bed and beeline toward first-things-first, pursuing my passions in my strength. Some such days end with the satisfaction of completion, while others draw to a close with too few checkmarks on the checklist, yet in all self-directed days, these two most vital things I carelessly and regrettably leave behind—God’s purposes and His power.

To a people stirred to faith by the fresh news of the gospel and imploring, “What shall we do?” Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”1 This Holy Spirit, this gift from God, elevates our perspectives and straightens our priorities. He guides us in all truth, for instance, making known to us the words and ways of Christ,2 so we can live our days effectively in newfound wisdom. When we open ourselves to the Spirit, He puts God’s desires in our heart3 and in our mind4, then His purposes become our purposes, and our life has meaning. He blesses each one of us individually with Spiritual gifts5—wisdom, knowledge, faith, discernment and others—and we go forth collectively in His power.6 Through the Spirit, God pours out his love into our soul7, and throughout a lifetime of todays He steadily transforms us into the likeness of Christ8 with ever-increasing glory9. Our days change, for we ourselves are changed, and our lives bear fruit that lasts for eternity10. In the Spirit, God’s purposes become our purposes, and before our feet hit the floor, our days become His.

Father, slow me down today and redirect me, that your purposes would supersede my purposes and my plans be subjected to yours. Grace me to see your Spirit at work all around me and deep within me, that I would join Him and bring you glory. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Christ in me is wisdom.

1 Acts 2:37, 38
2 John 16:13-15
3 Ezekiel 36:26, 27
4 Romans 8:5
5 1 Corinthians 12:1-11
6 Acts 1:8
7 Romans 5:5
8 2 Thessalonians 2:13
9 2 Corinthians 3:18
10 John 15:16