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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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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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Last week, the question was asked, “Does everybody need a king, even one that some might consider oppressive?

The answer I offered: Yes, and no.

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Everybody needs a king.

Why would I say such a thing? Kings have been largely disasters throughout human history. In fact, their pervasive and often evil existence is one of the reasons representative democracy sprang into flower. You might have a good king once in a while, but then the sons and daughters who follow may be wicked and vile. The same can surely be said of most dictators, rulers and despots. As Lord Acton said, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

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Does the Bible tell Christians that their physical bodies are actually God’s temple?

It’s an amazing thing, but, yes, it does. By His Spirit, God lives in the bodies of believers in Jesus. To be truthful, most Christians really are not sure what that means—at least I don’t. But we believe it by faith.

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We had a great Bible study at our little Christian gathering last Sunday. We were looking at the interesting way the apostle Paul talked to the unbelieving Gentile governor, Felix. Paul had been arrested and brought before this man, who had a “rather accurate knowledge of the Way” (Acts 24:22). Paul had given the defense of his innocence a few days earlier and summed it up, saying, “‘It is with respect to the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial before you this day’” (Acts 24:21b). 1

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In this series of articles, we have been looking at this question: How does a Christian pray for the Church, when the Bible is clear that it will become apostate before Jesus returns?

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In this series, we are taking a brief look at Jesus’ letters to the churches in the Book of Revelation. The letter we’ll be looking at today is to the church in Thyatira. One issue Jesus addresses in this letter seems easily solved and another is not.

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The Book of Revelation is a gigantic mystery to me, at least in its details. Yes, I’m familiar with the popular church meme that we’ve read the last chapter and the Church wins in the end. However, there is some serious trouble for believers between chapter one and twenty-two, and we should take a careful look at it—especially if we want to be among those who count themselves victorious in the Day of the Lord. Therefore, we are going to look at the seven letters Jesus wrote to the churches. I don’t intend to dig deeply into these letters, but some of the things I read here disturb me—again, concerning the Church.

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I’ve thought in the last few years that the revealing of the man of lawlessness would bring anarchic chaos in the days before the Lord returns.

However, now I think that my understanding and focus of this difficult yet glorious time to come has been wrong.

Here’s why. Read the rest of this entry »

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