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Longing For A Sweet Spirit

I know several brothers in the Lord who have sweet spirits.  They are delightful to be around.  They glow with love for others, are full of joy, and pour blessings onto others.  I want that.

My own temperament is typically laid back, discerning (though I fear sometimes I am just plain critical), and often opinionated especially about theology.  I am not argumentative contrary to what you might read.  I don’t enjoy fighting.  I would rather just talk.  When I feel threatened, my face gets red (cursedness of being a white man).  My boys have watched me debating someone and they always say that I look mad, that my face is red like fire.

I want a sweet spirit.  I’m not sure how to cultivate that.  I have prayed about this before.  I want to be loving and kind.

When I was in full-time pastoral ministry, I was more or less a jerk.  I admit that now.  In those days I thought I was just being “biblical” and standing my ground for the truth.  It was others who rejected God’s truth but not me!  I heard a brother say once that it is better to be righteous than to be right.  I wish I would have lived those words.  I would use the pulpit to beat others up (not by name but by my teaching).  I was right.  Everyone else was wrong.  I was not loving and kind.  I was mean.  No wonder I was “let go” from my position.

Having been out of “ministry” for over 10 years now, I see my errors.  I am not writing this for sympathy or to beat myself up.  I am done doing that.  I am writing to confess before the Lord my desire to be like Him.  Yes at times the Lord can be angry but His anger is not based on sin or pride.  The Lord’s anger is a pure hatred of sin.

This leads me to the gospel.  I look back at my past 20+ years of being a Christian and I see all the sins I have committed, all the times I have failed the Lord.  I see how I failed him while I was serving in full-time pastoral ministry.  Yet I am so grateful that He never gave up on me.  The Lord Jesus could have cast me aside (as I would have long ago) but He has not.  Jesus has been faithful to me.  He has provided for me and for my family.  Most of all, the Lord Jesus has been my Savior through  all this.  The Lord knows how many times I have prayed Psalm 51:1-2 or 1 John 1:9?  The Lord knows how many times I have failed Him yet He has never failed me (2 Timothy 2:13).

The gospel teaches me that yes I am a sinner.  No doubts there (Romans 3:10-18).  Yet in Christ Jesus I am saved and forgiven and declared righteous before a holy God (Romans 3:22-27).  My salvation is not me saving myself from myself but God saving me from Himself (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).  The gospel teaches me that my temperament can be transformed but only by the work of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).  In my flesh, I cannot please God (Romans 8:8).  No matter how much I try,  I will never be perfect, will never do enough to please God (Isaiah 64:6).  The gospel teaches me that Jesus alone is my salvation (1 Corinthians 1:30-31) and He alone is my mediator before the Father (Hebrews 4:14-16; 7:25).  I am not lost today only because of the grace of God given freely to me in Christ Jesus my Lord (Romans 6:23).

I am so thankful for these small reminders of the faithfulness of God.  I am far from perfect.  Very, very far!  But I trust in the perfect Savior who can save me perfectly (Philippians 1:6).

Thank you Lord Jesus for Your salvation and Your forgiveness!  Where would I be without You?

And That’s Why I Need Jesus

The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.
– 1 Timothy 1:15

I find comfort in reading in the Bible that I am a sinner and that Christ came to die for me and my sins (Galatians 1:4).  I know many people read the Bible looking for “keys” to a deeper life, keys to victory, keys to a happier marriage, keys to a stronger prayer life, etc. but I read the Bible looking for my sins.  I want the mirror of God’s law to show me my ugliness and my sins so that I can repent and be refreshed (Acts 3:19-20; 1 John 1:9).  There is something wonderful about seeing God’s holiness in the light of my sins.  There is something beautiful that comes from confessing my sins.

Psalm 32:15-18 reads:

15 The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous
and his ears toward their cry.

16 The face of the Lord is against those who do evil,
to cut off the memory of them from the earth.

17 When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears
and delivers them out of all their troubles.

18 The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
and saves the crushed in spirit.

When the Spirit of God confronts me about my sins, I love it!  I really do!  It shows me His great love for me, that He would not leave me as I am.  Hebrews 12:7-11 reads:

7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Notice verse 10.  The Lord disciplines us so that we might share in His holiness.  Amazing!

Tonight I could sit here and write all about my sins.  I don’t need to.  The point is not about me.  The point is about why I need Jesus and you do as well.  If Jesus came to save only the righteous, none of us would be saved (Romans 3:10-18).  I have met people who think they never sin after getting saved but I have found that they were mostly prideful, arrogant, condescending, and full of their own flesh.  They focused so much on themselves “not sinning” that they lost sight of their sins.  I am not advocating living in blatant sin but I am calling us to recognize the truth that Jesus came to save sinners.  Of course there is truth that those whom He saves become saints in Him (1 Corinthians 1:2).  Jesus saves us out of a life of sin (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).  That I know but He is also still saving me out of a life of sin.  Sin is not out of me yet completely nor is it out of you.  Let’s face it, we like sinning.  No, we love sinning.  That is why Jesus had to die for us.  Because we enjoy sin.

And that is why I need Jesus.  I like sinning.  I don’t want to like it.  In fact, I want to hate it.  Yet I find that I enjoy sinning.  I have sinned in many ways.  I have let many people down over the years.  Those who know me best know I am not perfect.  I never confess to be.  Oh there was a time I thought I was all that.  Not anymore.  I see my sins.  I know my sins.  I hate my sins.

It’s funny how people think that we Christians are suppose to be perfect.  I have yet to meet a perfect Christian.  I have met arrogant Christians.  I have met prideful Christians.  I have been those myself.  Yet I have never met a perfect saint.  Every person I have known who truly loved Jesus needed Him.  They knew it.  I knew it.  Jesus knows it.  Even the godliest people I have known, once you get close to them you can just smell the flesh.  They hate it.  I hate it.  Jesus still saves them.

So here I sit writing at nearly 2 AM in the morning.  I can’t sleep.  I am pondering the truth that Jesus loves me and died for my sins.  Yet I still struggle with sin.  I recently had lunch with a godly man and I asked him how about sanctification.  I want to be holy, I told him, but I struggle to be holy.  I see my sins and I see how far I am from being like Jesus.  Yet I still want to be holy (1 Peter 1:15-16).  So how can I be holy?  His reply:  look to Jesus and love Him and obey Him.  He died for you while you were still a sinner (Romans 5:8).  His love hasn’t changed since the day I first believed the gospel and He saved me.

So tonight I issue this call to all who know me: you know I am a sinner.  You know that I sin.  Yet that is why I need Jesus.  I am not perfect.  I am not a perfect father.  I am not a perfect worker.  I am not a perfect saint.  I am not a perfect “deacon” (as a guy at work calls me).  I am a sinner in need of a Savior.  I thank God for sending such a Savior.  I cannot earn His forgiveness (Titus 3:5).  My salvation is based on the Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9) and He alone is my salvation and assurance before a holy and just G0d (1 Corinthians 1:30-31).

The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10).  That is me.

Barabbas Instead of Jesus

I can’t get away from the account in the Gospels about Barabbas.  This story intrigues me because I see in it the beauty of the substitutionary atonement that Jesus provides for our salvation.   This is a pivotal point of Christianity that runs across the board.  Christians have always held that Jesus died for us, that He died for our sins.  Paul the Apostle states it clearly in 1 Corinthians 15:3 that Christ died for our sins.  He repeats this in Galatians 1:4.  Peter writes in 1 Peter 2:24 that Christ bore our sins in His body on the tree.

The Lord Jesus died for our sins.  We can debate the imputation of Christ’s righteousness and His obedience to the Father but we cannot debate that Christ shed His blood for our forgiveness and that He died in our place.  He was condemned so that we might be saved by the grace of God through faith in the Lord Jesus (Ephesians 2:1-9).  Paul states that we redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses (Ephesians 1:7).  Hebrews 9:22 states that without the shedding of blood there can be no forgiveness.  Our salvation is based on the Lord Jesus and what He did on the cross by dying for our sins (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).

In Matthew 27 we see a  beautiful picture of this substitutionary work of Christ.  Here we find Pilate asking the Jews which they want him to release to them: Barabbas (an insurrectionists and murderer) or Jesus the Messiah (Matthew 27:17).  The crowd cries for Barabbas (Matthew 27:20).  Pilate asks them again and they again want Barabbas (Matthew 27:21) to which the crowd asks for Jesus to be crucified (Matthew 27:22-23).  Pilate washes his hands of this murder of Jesus (Matthew 27:24) and the people cry that they want His blood to be upon them (Matthew 27:25) to which Pilate releases Jesus to be crucified (Matthew 27:26).

What I find amazing about this account is that the crowd asks for Barabbas instead of Jesus.  They even want His blood to be upon them and their children.  They were speaking prophetically.  They were simply asking for what the Jews had asked for when they offered up the Passover lamb (Exodus 12:21-27).  Paul the Apostle wrote in 1 Corinthians 5:7 that Christ is our Passover Lamb.  Jesus is the Lamb of God (John 1:29) who is without blemish or spot (1 Peter 1:19).  Jesus is the perfect sacrifice for our sins because He was perfect and He died in our place, condemned for our sins but bore our sins on the cross.  The guilty sinner (Romans 3:23) can now look to the Lamb of God to be saved (Isaiah 45:22).

This salvation is based not on our works but upon the work of Christ alone (Titus 3:5-7).  What could be do to appease the wrath of God?  What works could be possibly do to merit eternal life?  Can we keep the law of God perfectly?  Can we live our entire lives free from sin, completely obedient to the will of a holy and perfect God?  If someone says they can they are lying.  None can (Proverbs 20:9).

I have met people before who claim to never sin.  They will even tell me the date the last time they sinned and claim that they have not sinned since in word, thought, or deed.  I find that alarming.  I confess my weaknesses.  I am not perfect by far.  Ask my wife and she could name hundreds of my sins.  No I don’t wake up going out looking to sin or looking to disobey the Lord but I confess that I have not walked perfectly with the Lord.  I have fallen short many times.  I have not loved God perfectly nor have I obeyed Him perfectly.

This makes me so thankful for the crowd asking for Barabbas instead of Jesus.  I am Barabbas.  My heart has been wicked before God.  I have not been perfect as He requires (Matthew 5:48).  I have sinned (Romans 3:10-18).  But thanks be to God for the gift of His Son (John 3:16).  Jesus died for my sins.  Barabbas could not save for he was guilty of great sins.  Yet the Lord in His sovereignty allowed the hardened Jews to choose Barabbas (who is me) instead of Christ.  Jesus thus died in my place and in the place of Barabbas.  Jesus bore the sins of Barabbas as well as the sins of sins of the world (1 John 2:1-2).

My heart now longs to please God.  Not out of legalism.  Not out of bondage.  But my heart longs now to worship and please the Lord because of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Because of what Jesus did for me by dying in my place and taking my condemnation, I now rejoice in this great salvation, this great grace!  I pray because I am so thankful for what Jesus has done.  I long to see others saved because of what Jesus has done.  I long to praise my God because of what Jesus has done.  This salvation is all of Jesus and my boasting is only in the Lord Jesus who died for my sins (1 Corinthians 1:30-31).

I often have read the story of Barabbas and wonder what happened to him.  Church tradition is that Barabbas did get saved and became a great preacher of the gospel.  How could he not?  He watched with his own eyes as the people chose him (and he knew he was guilty) for the Lord Jesus who had never sinned.  I am sure Barabbas had heard of Jesus maybe even heard Him preach.  I tend to believe tradition at this point and believe that Barabbas became a great preacher of the gospel.  His testimony would have been powerful as he told how Jesus took His place and was crucified on the cross where he should have died.

The story use to make me weep at the crowds choosing Barabbas.  I would talk to my Bible and say, “No, let Jesus go free.”  Yet I know that without the cross, I have no salvation (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).  The gospel rises and falls on Jesus taking our place.  Jesus fulfilled the words of Isaiah the prophet in Isaiah 53 and He suffered in our place.

Thanks be to God!

With Thanksgiving

I am thankful for Thanksgiving.  I rejoice in the goodness of God as He has blessed me to be able to celebrate this Thanksgiving and acknowledge that everything I have comes from His grace and mercy (James 1:17).  I pray that I would pray with thanksgiving as He has commanded (Philippians 4:6).  I pray that I would worship Him with thanksgiving (Psalm 95:2).

I pray that the Lord would truly be exalted for His blessings this Thanksgiving and happy Thanksgiving to all!

Written by The Seeking Disciple

11/26/2015 at 12:00 PM

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving!  I urge you to read these verses and meditate upon them as you bless the Lord for His faithfulness and goodness toward us.  We are all undeserving of His grace and mercy!

Deuteronomy 8:10

Psalm 100:4

Psalm 107:22

Colossians 1:12

Colossians 2:7

Colossians 3:15

1 Thessalonians 5:18

Our God is good!

Written by The Seeking Disciple

11/28/2013 at 10:00 AM

Posted in Thankfulness

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Happy Thanksgiving!

I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving.
– Psalm 69:30

We have so much to be thankful on this Thanksgiving Day.  I praise God for His faithfulness this past year.  He has blessed me with so much.  I have a wonderful wife, three boys that I adore, a good job, a free country where I can still worship without fear of the government, the precious inerrant Word of God, and so much more.  I praise Him for saving me from sin, for writing my name in the Lamb’s book of life.  I praise Him that He hears my cries (John 14:13-14).  I praise Him for eternal life (John 5:24). I praise Him for His love (Romans 5:8-9).

I lost my mother this past year and my heart breaks still to this day for her.  I long to see her, to talk to her.  I know that she is with the Lord in glory and soon I will see her again but for now, my heart breaks.  Yet God remains ever good and loving.  He remains my hope, my shield, my refuge, my delight, my passion, my righteousness, my boasting.  All that I have is given to me by His grace.  I deserve nothing but He gives me all these blessings because of His love.  What a wonderful God I serve!

Happy Thanksgiving and may God bless us with His presence as we seek His face.

 

Written by The Seeking Disciple

11/22/2012 at 8:00 AM

Posted in Thankfulness

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Praying From A Thankful Heart

Our human nature is not to see the good but the bad.  It is far easier to be critical and ungrateful for the blessings and liberties we have then to praise God with a thankful heart.  How often in prayer do we get on our knees before the Lord and begin to just thank Him for all that He has done for us?  Our we thankful that no matter what may come our way that He has said that He would never leave us nor forsake us (Romans 8:38-39; Hebrews 13:5)?  Are we thankful to God in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18)?  Do we have a thankful heart?

In Romans 1:21 Paul says that one of the reasons that God has given humanity over to our sinfulness lies in our lack of thanks.  Our lack of thankfulness is rebellion against our creator God.  When we fail to thank God for all His blessings even to the smallest parts of creation, we are failing to acknowledge Him as God.  Our foolish hearts fail to see that all that we have whether the air we breath, the clothes on our bodies, our health, etc. all come from God.  They are all gifts undeserved.  What we deserve is death (Genesis 2:16-17; Romans 5:12).  Instead, we receive God’s mercy and His grace extended to us abundantly in Christ Jesus (Romans 5:18-21).  And yet are we thankful to the Lord for this?  Do we praise Him for His great mercy toward us who rejected His love and His kindness given to us in His Son?

Prayer is humbling for that reason and more.  Prayer forces you to recognize that 1) you are not God, and 2) only God can be our answer.  Our hope doesn’t lie in the flesh or our ingenuity.  Our hope must come from God alone (Psalm 62:5).  Our salvation, our delight, our joy, our satisfaction, our eternal life is all found in Jesus.  He is our reason for living.  He is our passion.  He is our gospel.  He is our advocate, our Savior, our faithful high priest (Hebrews 7:25).  He is the one in whom we long for and the one in whom we have sat our affections.  Prayer brings us to see that we are so weak and frail in comparison to His majesty.  We are so full of sin in comparison to His perfection.  We are so ignorant in comparison to His great wisdom.  We are worthless in comparison to the sweet Son of God who is God’s precious Lamb (John 1:29).  Prayer forces us to see that all that we are, all that we have, and all that we will ever be comes from God’s sovereign hand and not by our own strength.

Therefore, I resolve that we pray with thankful hearts.  Let us pray with hearts full of praise to our God for His salvation.  Let us praise Him for His Church.  Let us praise Him for our freedom not just in the United States but through His Son (John 8:36).  Let us praise Him for His mercy.  Let us praise Him for His grace.  Let us be thankful that He alone is God and that He alone controls all things and upholds them by His word (Hebrews 1:3).  Let us praise Him that all things are under His control and that He can move mountains by His great power (Mark 11:22-24).  Let us resolve to be thankful people who praise God from grateful hearts that have been overwhelmed by His love (Romans 5:1-11; 1 John 3:1-3).

But most of all, let us be thankful for Jesus Christ who bore our sins on the cross (2 Corinthians 5:21).  How great is His sacrifice.  How great was His love for us that took Him to the cross.  Jesus is our salvation.  Not a theory.  Not a doctrinal system.  Jesus is our Savior and Redeemer.  Jesus is our high priest who intercedes for us.  How can we fail?  How can we deny Him when we see His love and His salvation?  Let us fall on our faces and praise God for the wonderful gift of His Son (John 3:16)!

We have so much to be thankful to God for.  Let us not waste our time in self-pity but in praise for all His blessings that are not unearned and are completely undeserved.  What an awesome God!

Written by The Seeking Disciple

02/06/2012 at 5:44 PM

Posted in Prayer, Thankfulness

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