Forgiveness

It’s Time for Fall Cleaning!

fall trees beside body of water during daytime

Well, autumn is here in all of its beauty. Many people are doing their annual “fall cleaning.” All of us with deciduous trees are getting their rakes out, or “should” in my case. In my state, kids are back in school, on a limited basis. Much of what we think of as autumn is unfolding before us as if nature didn’t even notice the pandemic.

For those of us that experience seasons, one of autumn’s aspects is the undercurrent of urgency. We know that winter will soon be here, and we can’t stop it – many are saying, “Come on! Show what you’ve got! I can take it.” I’m not one of those people, but I admire them.

Fall Cleaning

As part of my fall cleaning, I pull our Scriptures that may have been lying around for the past six months, maybe even a year! A Christian missionary that I dearly miss taught me Matthew 13:52:

And he said to them,Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.

So, briefly, I need to bring out one of my most loved Scriptures. I have it memorized in KJV, but I’ll write it here using the English Standard Version:

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. – 2 Peter 3:9 (emphasis added)

To Will, Intend, Desire, Wish

I find great comfort in this message from God. And, buried within this verse is a beautiful gem. That word, “wishing,” in the above verse is from the Greek word βουλόμενός and is translated in Young’s Literal Translation as “wanting.” Strong’s Greek Concordance 1014 tells us it means: To will, intend, desire, wish.

I have to say that the King James Version seems to do the best translation of this passage of Scripture. The KJV renders βουλόμενός this way: “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

What we learn here is that God’s will is that no one should perish. His desire is for everyone to come to repentance. So, everyone goes to heaven? No. You may rightly say, “God’s will is always accomplished.” Yes, it is, but God is telling us that His intent is for everyone to come to repentance, but true repentance is an act of faith. God doesn’t make anyone accept Him.

Cannot Repent Without Jesus

We are incapable of true repentance. We possess no ability to turn away from our rebellion against God. Only through the act of salvation and the Holy Spirit coming to live in us can we fulfill the confession of repentance we make when we are saved. 

At its core, Christianity is not a religion. Christianity is redemption, regeneration, reconciliation, relationship, and someday, resurrection. God desires that we receive Jesus; that’s why God is patient towards us. 

Cleaning out the Dust

While it’s still autumn, let’s reaffirm our standing with our Lord. Let’s clean out the dust and grime that may have been tracked into our souls. We need to feel the urgency.

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Missing the Boat

cruise ship heading into the sunset

Missing the Boat

There are few more painful emotions than to arrive late to an opportunity, to God’s calling. I have arrived moments too late to board the plane or train upon which I’d built my entire schedule, only to see it disintegrate just by one missed opportunity.

Perhaps you also have missed the purchase of the house of your dreams or the class you need to graduate or the job you desperately wanted or the person the Holy Spirit told you to witness to because you showed up moments too late.

As our hopes are left behind as our ship carries away our purpose, our calling, our future, having its ropes cast off, and with its engines roiling the sea, it pushes out into the deep while we stand on the dock, helpless, pleading with my Lord for one more chance.

God is not the God of Infinite Chances

God is the God of second chances. The Psalmist wrote, “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” (Psalms 103:8) However, God’s Word also says, “But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” (Hebrews 3:13) God’s Word also states, “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent,” (Acts 17:30) And in Isaiah we find, “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” (Isaiah 55:6)

God is the God of second chances, but not the God of infinite opportunities. Act now, while it is still called “today.” “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.” (Proverbs 28:13)

God’s Good News for Us

Before you leave, feeling beat up, let me share two of my all-time favorite verses with you. “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9) And Romans 8:31, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

Photo by Alonso Reyes on Unsplash

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That was harsh

man yelling

Have you ever known anyone that used the phrase, “Just kidding” to misdirect a harsh statement they made about you or someone within earshot? “How do you reach the monkey bars when you’re so short? Just kidding.”

To me, this taunting is more insulting than if they just spoke what they thought. An English friend once said to me, “My friend said that you don’t have the brain of a gnat. But I defended you and said you did!” Now that’s harsh, but he was kidding, or was he?

Thankfully, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is not a harsh taskmaster. I know this because the Spirit of God inspired the Psalmist to write, “He does not punish us for all our sins; he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve. (Psalms 103:10) “

How wonderful it is that our Heavenly Father does not seek, to the nth degree, everything He can find to punish us. Instead, He loves us and shows us how to walk in the path of righteousness, desiring a change in us in place of punishment. He does not harshly treat His own.

Photo by Dmitry Vechorko on Unsplash

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Make No Provision For Sin

party

Today is the second day of Lent. I won’t be writing devotionals specifically related to Lent since I’m sure your church has provided you with literature to guide your church through Lent 2020. However, today, I do want to touch on an aspect of Lent.

Lent gives us a specific time to set aside the noise of life and to meditate upon what our Lord did for us on the Cross. Of course, the purpose of Lent is not to have us live in sadness and despair. Rather, Lent realigns us to the powerful work of our Savior, Jesus, and our hope in Him, and of our resurrection, and that day when every tear will be dried (Rev. 21:3).

Make No Provision For Sin

Today’s Scripture contains an important reminder and a little truth, which we will zero in on. Romans 13:11-14: Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

Notice at the end of this passage, we find “make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” Think about how your past sins entrapped you. Let’s pick lasciviousness.

An Example

Lasciviousness means: inclined to lustfulness; wanton; lewd behavior. This manner of expression is evidenced in many college parties and university clubs. However, lustfulness is hardly limited to young people, for we find this condition of the heart spilling out in nearly all social occasions from people trapped by this deadly sin.

There is an aspect of this sin from which we all can learn and bolster our righteousness. Notice that Paul wrote, “make no provision.” Now I am going to step on some people’s toes. Sorry, but this truth is essential.

How do we make provisions for lasciviousness? Well, men and women buying condoms before attending a social gathering is a way to prepare. Men are infamous for bringing a “wingman” to parties with the intent of corralling a woman with the purpose of taking her to bed. There’s an article about this in GQ.

There have been several scientific studies that show women dress more provocatively just before their period. One such article is from the American Psychological Association, and another article on this subject is in Live Science.

The above examples are clear preparations for sin. Of course, nearly all sin is first prepared for in our thought-life, usually through “baby steps.” Each step should warn us that we are approaching our entrapment in sin. Don’t do it! Put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for sin.

The enemy of God is always looking for ways to trip up Christians to destroy their testimonies. Be on your guard.

Photo credit: william couch on Visualhunt / CC BY-NC-ND

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A Returned Man

Occasionally, I stray into other aspects of Christianity, however, my heart’s desire is to focus on Jesus. To glorify our Savior, to help the lost find Him, and the saved to walk closer to Him. The mission statement for this site is “Finding Christ in Christianity.” For no matter what the topic is, it’s all about Jesus.

So, today, let’s take a moment and consider Jesus healing a leper. This account is found in three of the Gospels: Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Here’s the passage from Matthew 8:2-3:

And behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.

Leprosy Was An Example Of Sin

Leprosy was a “type” for sin: it was loathsome, spreading, incurable, and the Israelites were to avoid lepers – just like sin. Yet Jesus, seeing the leper’s faith, reached into his condition, into “sin”, and touched the man; saved that man. Jesus made the leper clean.

The leper was a Jew. We can be confident of this because God’s Word points out explicitly the few times Jesus healed people outside of Jacob’s progeny. So from this account of the leper, we know that Jesus is willing to touch those that have been grafted into the vine of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Jesus will reach into a Christian’s life, touch them, and cleanse them of their leprosy, their sin.

You may have memorized 1 John 1:9: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. So now think of this healed leper when you pray, asking Jesus to reach in and touch sin, the sin that’s in you. Your desire is not only to be delivered from your sin but to be cleansed from all your unrighteousness. And Jesus will do this, if you are willing to change your life.

Jesus Returned The Man

You see, Jesus didn’t just remove that man’s leprosy, He returned that leper back to his fellow Israelites. The cleansed man could once again worship, celebrate, and fully participate with his Jewish brothers and sisters. This is what Jesus expects of us when He forgives our sin. We are to return to our brothers and sisters in Christ, to our local church, to submit to the leadership Christ has provided us.

Rest in Jesus. Don’t sin, but if you do sin, remember Jesus is our advocate. You can take comfort in these words of Jesus in John 6:39, And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.

Photo by Kristina Paparo on Unsplash

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Which is better?

birthday party

Which is better, to be the first to recognize Jesus or the first to run to Christ for forgiveness? That’s a question that entered my mind as I read the following:

It is the Lord!

John 21:6-7 ESV, He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some. So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved [John] therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea.

A niece’s birthday party, purchasing a box of nails at the local hardware store, or ice fishing, we are rightly focused on the task at hand. And then Jesus shows up. 

Surely it is excellent to recognize Jesus within any situation, especially where we were not expecting Him. And we are more likely to recognize Jesus when we are in close communion with Jesus. Still, it was Jesus that said, “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it?“, Luke 15:4 (ESV)

After Christ’s resurrection, it was He that sought out Peter, the Apostle that estranged from Him. And it was Peter when shown where Jesus was, that dove into the sea to run back to Jesus.

Maybe Both

It seems to me that my question shouldn’t be either/or, because I think the answer is, “Both.”

Christians in close communion with Jesus will spot Him, even when there’s no expectation that Christ will manifest His presence. And it is those Christians who nudge others and say, “Hey, Jesus is here!” That’s when people that have a burning in their hearts to get right with Jesus will run to Him.

We all need to walk with Jesus, but there are times when some wander off. Jesus will not lose His own. He goes after them, and maybe it’s you that will play the role of the Apostle John and say, “Hey, I see Jesus!”

Photo by Misael Moreno on Unsplash

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