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I know it’s hard to hear—but Jesus doesn’t trust you—or me. Or anyone. We shouldn’t feel bad. If we stop and think about it, scripturally, why should He trust us? He knew what was in man: “Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man” (John 2:23–25). 1

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The Bible makes it clear that Jesus came to this world to save us earthlings from our sins and destroy the work of the devil. He came to proclaim the truth about a kingdom that was present when He walked the earth but also was yet to come, of which those who believe in Him will be a part. He came to give us joy in full, not just happiness—true joy in Him. Everlasting life, beautiful life indeed as opposed to everlasting punishment, which we deserve. To be His very sons and daughters. To set us free from guilt and shame.

It is that last sentence that I’d like to discuss for a moment.

Men and women who have committed shameful sins, tragic sins, sins that cause grief in the lives of others and in their own, struggle with believing that anyone could ever forgive them. They are overwhelmed with that feeling, which is given ample fuel by the accuser, the adversary, the liar—the devil and his deceitful troops. He is trying to destroy them through the sin they committed and with which he enticed them.

Such an iniquitous system. He tempts people to sin then bashes them over the head with shame and condemnation when they give in.

Then the great, loving Jesus comes along, washes over them with His Spirit and blood, cleanses their souls and minds completely, totally forgives them, and the Father welcomes them into His family.

Yes. The greatest story ever told.

However, even though such a person—let’s call her Kelly—has been forgiven and made clean and righteous by God, she may not receive such a forgiving welcome from others, her family, society, or even the church itself. Regardless of how her church or anybody else responds, however, Kelly must deal with her sins with deep humility and faith, because the accuser will remind her of the awfulness of her sin as often as he is able. Kelly, the forgiven, sinful one, must walk through this lonesome valley, as the old song says, by herself, trusting in the truth of His promise of mercy. Thoughts will come at the most unexpected times, thoughts that may make her cringe.

Each time, she must cry out for help.

Each time, she must confess her faith. “I know you have forgiven me, Father. Deliver me, please, from the evil one.” She may also add, “Bless those, Lord, who were hurt because of my actions. Help them overcome those injuries. Help them to forgive me.”

Scripture is full of promises of forgiveness and mercy, and the truth about righteousness. Here are a couple from both the Old and New Testaments that are short and easy to understand.

“For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:11–12). 1

“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Yes. That’s right. Kelly has been given the righteousness of God Himself. It is in His righteousness she stands and lives, not hers. She is holy, as holy as Jesus Himself, because of what He did.

That’s a great relief.

What follows is one of the most precious truths in Scripture for those whom the accuser and possibly their own thoughts, condemn: “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22–23). The Lord God will love Kelly—forever. The supply of His mercies cannot be exhausted—they never end. His mercies are new—every morning of her life, without fail. She can wake up the next morning, fresh and guiltless before God.

This is the valley Kelly must walk through alone. No one else can walk it for her. Her thoughts will show up at random, either from her own heart or from the helpers of the prince of the power of the air. It doesn’t matter the source. What matters is that she knows that she is a forgiven daughter of God the Father, God Almighty, and the sister of His Son, Jesus, her Savior, sovereign-over-everything King, and constant, comforting Friend.

This is joy, true joy indeed; joy that will make her overflow in thankfulness and praise to her loving God.

No matter what our history is. No matter what dreadful things we have done. And, yes, I’ll agree that they were dreadful. We were in league with the devil. We were selfish. Unkind. Disgusting.

Yes.

Do you know how I know we feel this way? Do have any questions about how I know what to do when the onslaught of negative garbage and vile manure is poured out upon a person?

I think you may already know the answer.

 

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Image courtesy the Smithsonian Art Museum.

 

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Did Peter have a vision for his life? Was his life purpose-driven?

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In response to last week’s article, a friend submitted a passage of Scripture concerning the sovereignty and goodness of God, a message, if preached, he wrote sarcastically, would “fill the pews”:

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In this series of articles, we have attempted to wrestle through the uncomfortable question if it is God’s will that people do horrendous acts, such as the rape and torture of children, or any other unconscionable deed. However, we have also had to consider the biblical truth that, from God’s perspective, without the righteousness that Jesus has freely given, we ourselves are guilty of crimes, just like the individuals who do the things we abhor. It is a difficult truth to swallow, but swallow it we must; otherwise, Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross means nothing. The good news is that if we accept that amazing truth, we are free from our despicability. It’s amazing to comprehend, but Christians are now clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Himself. Perfect. Clean. Without guilt. We possess eternal life. Believers in Jesus actually become God’s sons and daughters and will receive an inheritance, of all things. Jesus was punished, we are not. We are, instead, recipients of grace and forgiveness for—everything.

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In the last two posts, we have talked about two primary issues. The first was, “When terrorists strike, are they doing God’s will?”

The answers provided were “no” and “yes.”

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Last week’s article dealt with one thought-provoking question: When terrorists strike, is it God’s will? In response to this post, a long-time, well-trusted Christian friend enumerated the questions she often encounters as she talks to people about God:

  1. Is it God’s will that babies and children are raped?
  2. Is it God’s will people are killed by drunk drivers?
  3. Is it God’s will that His children are hideously tortured before being
    raped and murdered?
  4. Is it God’s will that women have abortions?
  5. Where does our “free will” begin and God’s will end?

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2004-07-10_1522_fromjoewatson-woman-by-the-water
This week’s blog post begins with a provocative question: When terrorists strike, are they doing God’s will?

Before we come up with an answer off the tops of our heads, let’s think about this for a moment and ask a question concerning the nature of God. “Is there anything the Lord cannot do?” Biblically, the answer to that question is, “No.”

Stay with me.

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If a Christian prays for someone to be healed, and the person isn’t healed, whose faith is it that’s lacking?

D. A. Carson wrote about two Jewish men talking on the night of the first Passover. This is a paraphrase: One man said, “I know that you are trusting completely in what Moses said, that God commanded us to put the blood of a lamb on our doorposts so the destroying angel would pass over our households tonight and spare our first-born sons, but you have several sons. I have only one. I’m afraid.” The other man replied, “God will do as He has said. Do not worry.” Carson asked, “Which father’s son lived that night?” Carson answered, “Both. It was not the quality of their faith that saved them. It was the quality of the sacrifice.”

In a related way, believers often wonder if it’s the poor quality of their faith when people aren’t healed when they pray. True, sometimes, people are healed. Most of the time, however, they are not. This mystifying quandary has led to some strange considerations and supposed solutions. Let’s review a few.

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This may seem like an odd title for a post, I suppose, but I’m endeavoring to add a note of truth to the beautiful account of Jesus’ birth in the stable; a fuller understanding of who this Baby was, in His immense glory. The impotent infant Jesus we read about in those accounts in Matthew and Luke left His home in heaven, more magnificent than we can imagine, possessing more power than we can imagine, to this dark, rebellious planet, so he could…die. He has called all Christians to enter into that self-denying-I-will-die-for-God-and-others life, as well. Please keep this in mind when someone tells you that you should live a purpose-driven life.

But I digress.

This God-in-the-flesh Man is called, among many other things, a Prince of Peace. Why is that?

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