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No Sin Too Great

The prisoner’s body language told his story as no words could convey—his shoulders hunched as if perpetually bearing the weight of guilt and his face indelibly etched in constant grief. The solitary lockdown of “Jason’s” soul seemed far more isolating than his confinement behind rolled-steel bars and razor wire fences. The only reason Jason did not take his own life, he would say later, was that he needed to suffer for his offense. Yet when Jason entered the room on the fourth and final day of our Kairos Prison Ministry weekend, his face glowed—his eyes sparkled and a broad smile of relief radiated peace and joy from within. We were stunned.

We all regret our wrongs; we should. They’re real, and they are serious before a just and holy God. The fact that our sins have not landed us in jail make them no less egregious than if they had. It was Paul, that great apostle to the Gentiles, who confessed, “I am the worst [sinner] of them all.”1 His were not gratuitous words of false humility, for this self-proclaimed “wretched man”2 knew the depth of his sin. Yet he knew also the mercy of God and the power of the gospel: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”3

Saturdays on a Kairos weekend focus on forgiving self, forgiving others, and receiving forgiveness from God. We consider His promises, such as this from Isaiah, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow …”4 and again from John, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”5 No wrong we have committed can exceed the height of God’s love for us; no offense runs deeper than His grace. And as Saturday drew to a close, Jason received this forgiveness. “This morning when I looked in the mirror,” he told us the next day, “for the first time in nineteen years I liked what I saw.” For he saw what God saw: a forgiven man made new—his sins gone, and his burden lifted. I’ve seen Jason many times over the ensuing years, and his face still glows as a testimony to the freedom of forgiveness over the captivity of sin.

If God forgave “the worst sinner of them all,” He will forgive you, too. Dare to trust Him; dare to believe. Then let your story shine.

“As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:12).

Father, thank You for sending Jesus to take my sins upon Himself. I am eternally grateful. Grace me to shine as one rescued from death unto life. Be glorified in me. In Christ I pray. Amen.

1 1 Timothy 1:15 NLT
2 Romans 7:24
3 Romans 8:1
4 Isaiah 1:18
5 1 John 1:19

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The Plunge

During his college years, my brother Eric worked summers as a lifeguard and swim instructor at our city beach on Lake Huron. Swim lessons had their predictable pattern—young children overcoming their fear of the water and gradually learning to float and then, finally, to swim. Except for Bert. As his classmates grew in confidence, Bert held back in fear. On the last day of the class, Eric said, “Bert, you’re going to learn to swim today, whether you like it or not, and you’re not getting out of the water until you like it.” Bert tried hurriedly to wade away, but Eric picked up his reluctant student and heaved him into deeper water. Bert thrashed around a bit and then, putting together everything he’d heretofore learned but not trusted, he made his way to safety. Bert learned to swim that day. And he liked it.

For some of us, the thought of entrusting our life to Jesus’ atoning work on the cross can be frightening. I speak from experience, for there was a time when I saw many of my friends and acquaintances come to faith in Christ and rejoicing in new life in Him. Though I wanted for myself the kind of peace, joy, and confidence burgeoning from within them, and though I deeply desired a close relationship with God, I was too terrified to trust in His plan of salvation. What if Jesus wasn’t who He said He was and my faith were to be misplaced? What judgement would await me? Every new objection, challenge and doubt sent me scurrying in fear, not to any plausible alternative, but to the “safety” of indecision and noncommitment. Over time, I found myself sinking while believers were swimming. Their lives bore witness to the life of Christ in them, and if anything, I was drifting in the wrong direction. By God’s grace, His Spirit stirred in me again, and this time I said “yes” to Christ Jesus. I learned to trust that day. And I liked it.

Forty-something years later, we still chuckle at the story of Bert. And I have to wonder, did Bert’s sink-or-swim encounter that one day ever serve to save his life? Mine did. The same is true for all who take the plunge—all who, in faith, entrust their life to Christ.

The Holy Spirit says: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” (Hebrews 3:7-8)

Father, thank You for Your gift of salvation through Christ Jesus. Your prophets foretold Him, His disciples suffered for Him, and Your Spirit still bears witness to Him in and through Your people. Strengthen me to entrust my life entirely to Him today. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

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A Sixth Love Language

You’ve heard of the five love languages; I believe there is a sixth. Since first publishing his enduring work, The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts, author Gary Chapman has raised our awareness to the various ways in which people most deeply and openly receive love. Some of us embrace words of affirmation, while others cherish quality time. There are those among us who experience love through receiving gifts, and still others are moved through acts of service, an intangible kind of gift. And some people feel most loved through physical touch. (Mine are quality time and words of affirmation. No doubt, you have yours, too.) Yet I mentioned a sixth love language, one that I believe belongs to God alone—faith.

Have you ever noticed faith warms God to the core and stirs Him to action? How are we saved from eternal separation from God and united with Him forever? Simply by entrusting our lives to the loving and atoning work of His Son.1 When the daughter of Jairus died, what did Jesus say to this grieving synagogue ruler? “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”2 Who makes up the “great cloud of witnesses”3 that surrounds us, but those who have gone on before us, all of them united by one common trait: faith. With no faith at all it is impossible to please God4, yet even faith the size of a mustard seed is enough to move the God of all creation to respond to us in great power.5

Why does God treasure and esteem faith so highly? We would have to know His mind to understand completely, but we can be certain of this: faith aligns us with what is true—that God is good, that He is worthy of our trust, and that at great cost and in great love He has made us His own. Faith confesses both the unfathomable darkness of the sin from which God saved us and the unblemished purity of God’s holiness to which He has raised us; these together drop us to our knees in humility and praise. In short, faith squares us with reality. So then why is faith such a challenge for us? Why is faith so hard? We’ll be returning to the topic of faith over the weeks and months to come, exploring what faith is, exposing some challenges we encounter along the way, and considering the life lived by faith. For now, though, we rest in this: whether God proclaims His love for us in five languages or a thousand, we return His blessings in a tongue He loves to hear—the love language of faith.

Father, thank You for Your gift of faith. Fill us with Your Spirit and find us to be good stewards of this gift, that it would grow in us and flow from us, bearing much fruit for Your Kingdom. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

1 John 3:16
2 Luke 8:50
3 Hebrews 12:1
4 Hebrews 11:6
5 Matthew 17:20