The Great Exchange

I’ve been giving some thought to the traits that truly inspire me in people, the qualities I admire and enjoy most in them. Here are some that rise to the top: integrity, objectivity, courage, perseverance, common sense … there are others. What about you? What characteristics do you especially honor in others to the point that you are drawn to them?

Composing Psalm 15, David listed some of the virtues God highly esteems in people: blamelessness, truth, justice, honor, dependability, generosity … there are others. These are the traits of those He invites into His presence. There’s just one little glitch (I’ll speak for myself): I don’t measure up. While I value all of these qualities and want to see them displayed in myself and others, I’ve too often proved myself capable of exchanging virtue for vice if it serves the purposes of my own convenience, comfort, or gain. And truth be told, “All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt …”1 wrote David. When it comes to blamelessness, we are, in mathematicians’ terms, a “null set,” and we share a problem that, if left to ourselves, is unsolvable.

But God does not leave us to ourselves, and what is insurmountable to us is doable to Him whose love for us is as infinite as His wisdom and whose justice is as perfect as His power to execute it. Is it any surprise, then, that this amazing God who does not tolerate sin in His presence took it upon Himself to make a way for us, the imperfect ones, to live with Him forever? How did He resolve our dilemma without compromising Himself? The apostle Paul answers as simply as it can be stated: “God made [Christ] who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him, we might become the righteousness of God.2” Martin Luther called this the great exchange—Jesus who knew no sin took our sin upon Himself, and in exchange, He offered His righteousness to us who knew no righteousness. What an exchange! In Christ, we are ushered into the presence of God.

Then we rest secure in Jesus even as we flourish in Him, for our life is now “hidden with Christ in God.”3 So, when God looks at us, He sees the righteousness of Christ who has united us with Himself. And as we live safely tucked away in Him, the Spirit of God transforms us steadily into His image, a lifelong process of molding, shaping, refining, beautifying. This is the promise of our promise-keeping God. What a relief.

Father, it is almost incomprehensible that you would take away my sin and give me, in exchange, the privilege of your presence. Thank you for sending your Son to accomplish this and for securing my life in Him forever. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Christ in me is righteousness.

Click here to read today’s Scripture, Psalm 15.

1 Psalm 14:3
2 2 Corinthians 5:21
3 Colossians 3:3

No Time To Go Wobbly

She was aptly nicknamed, “the Iron Lady.” Known for her conviction, decisiveness and candor, former United Kingdom Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was a staunch ally with the United States and a strong force for freedom in the world. It was only true to character then that, as President George H.W. Bush prepared to rescue the tiny nation of Kuwait from invading armies from the North, she had a piece of advice for him, delivered in her own inimitable way, “Remember, George, this is no time to go wobbly.” He didn’t, of course, and Kuwait was delivered.

Some of us are visionaries and strategists by nature, imagining the possible and mapping out the best way to achieve it. Others among us are doers: just give us a vision and a plan, and we’re off to make it happen. Regardless of our natural inclinations and talents, however, it is easy to become discouraged and doubtful along the way and, ultimately, derailed from our plan. So, how do we stay the course?

It is encouraging to know our God is a relational God; He has plans for us, both as a people and as individuals. His proactive love for us finds voice through Jeremiah, the prophet: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”1 It is God’s nature to engage us with the promise of purpose and plans that matter. What more could we ask? Why wouldn’t we seek them?

It is in this certainty, then, that we align ourselves with God’s will by following life-changing advice from the apostle Paul, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”2 And as we see His plans unfold before our opened eyes—whether in the few momentous occasions in life or myriad every-day encounters—we proceed confidently in the wisdom of Solomon, trusting in the Lord with all our heart3, committing our work to the Lord4, not deviating from our plan5, knowing it is the Lord who establishes our steps6. In the will of God and by His power, there is for us “no time to go wobbly.”

Father, thank you for having plans for me, for loving and valuing me that much. Inspire me to trade my agenda for yours. Grace me with the patience to wait for your wisdom and the courage to go forth obediently and in your strength. In the name of Jesus and the power of your Spirit I pray. Amen.

Christ in Me is strength.

1 Jeremiah 29:1
2 Romans 12:
3 Proverbs 3:5,
4 Proverbs 16:3
5 Proverbs 4:2
6 Proverbs 19:9

When It’s Our Time To Speak

The customer service line at the big-box hardware store had slowed to a halt that afternoon as the lone attendant awaited a price-check. As seconds amassed into minutes, the eyes bearing down upon her increased both in number and in intensity, and then the grumbling began. “Can you believe this?!?” a man fumed to my wife. Now, Peggy is among the more tactful people on the planet, and so she replied, “Yes, I know. Can you image how frustrating it must be for her right now, all alone and with no one to help her?” There was a pause. “I never thought of it that way,” the man said, more softly now, more introspectively. After another pause, he asked Peggy, “What do you do for a living?”

The world in which we live and breathe is far from perfect; indeed, we all contribute to its imperfection. Intentionally or not, we aggravate others and they irritate us; moreover, we sometimes find ourselves having to speak to others about their wrongdoings, not in judgment or self-righteousness, but because we care. Addressing someone’s moral shortcoming, however, is dicey at best, and at worst downright treacherous. So, what do we do? Perhaps Peggy should be the one writing this post, but I have observed this: it helps to accompany someone to a place where we can humbly behold together the good and right ways of God. The man waiting in line, for instance, was kindly shown a perspective from which a newfound compassion for another eclipsed momentary inconvenience for himself. Nothing more needed to be said in the moment, for the moment had said enough.

King David had his own big-box store encounter: despite all his power and wealth, he took from a common soldier the one thing that mattered most to him—his wife. This time it was Nathan standing with him in line, arousing in David a godly passion for honor and justice before confronting him with his own acts of contempt for them. Convicted in the contrast, David confessed his sin, the first step toward forgiveness, reconciliation, and peace.

Be it in a palace or a hardware store, whether we are a prophet or an income tax preparer, there will be times when we are called to speak up. When those times come, may we be found faithful in the moment—carefully and prayerfully speaking truth in love.

Father, send me your Spirit of wisdom and discernment today that I might proceed lovingly when I must speak and refrain humbly when I must be silent. Strengthen me to trust you in all things. In the name of Christ and by the power of your Spirit, I pray. Amen.

Christ in me is wisdom.

Click here to see how tactfully Nathan confronted David in 2 Samuel 12:1-12.
Click here to read Psalm 51, David’s response to God after hearing Nathan’s message.