If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:8-9
Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Psalm 32:1
Teddy Bear is the unofficial 5thmember of our family. Since the moment my youngest daughter Paige laid eyes on him, the two have been inseparable. This stuffed bear has gone everywhere with Paige – to school, to the dentist, to the grocery store, etc. She has played dress up, hosted tea parties, watched movies, and read books with Teddy. Over the years Teddy has had his arms, ears, and eyes torn off and lost the majority of his stuffing. He has been drooled on, dragged through the mud, been caught in rainstorms and had a near death experience once when our dog got a hold of him.
So, needless to say, Teddy is in pretty sad shape. Yet, this doesn’t matter at all to Paige. To everyone else, this stuffed animal appears worthless, but in Paige’s eyes, Teddy is absolutely priceless. Paige is incapable of sleeping without Teddy by her side so if he does go missing it is a big deal. I’ve actually driven across town in the middle of the night in search for that maingy stuffed animal before. When I was behind the wheel tired and exhausted, I thought this was the craziest thing I’ve ever done as a parent. However, the squeal of delight and tears of joy that came from Paige the moment she was reunited with Teddy was worth it. Something that was lost had been found. Teddy was back where he belonged.
The reality is that many of us look like Teddy. Our shame has shaped our identity and the way we perceive ourselves. Shame always works to define us. Just like that stuffed bear, we feel dirty, unclean, and less than. Sometimes these emotions are due to the wrong things we have done. Other times those feelings of being unlovable come as a result of the shameful things done to us.
In response, we try to numb, control, pretend, and perfect our shame away. By sure will power and self-talk, we attempt to make right the things we know are wrong. So, as a result, we either deal with our shame by saying, “that’s just who I am” or we conceal it by declaring, “you’ll never know who I really am.”
But, no matter what we do, the shame and guilt remain. And since we can’t rid ourselves of these feelings, we experience more feelings of shame and guilt. This leaves us wondering, “what’s wrong with us?”
Our desire to be loved and known collide where shame resides. Shame has us believing the lie that the more we are known the less we are loved. Shame is an assault on our worth. But, for a second ponder this question: Is something loved because it’s worthy of love or does the very act of loving it give it worth?
Because we have value in the eyes of God, we don’t have to hold onto our shame. The Gospel meets us right where we are, in the midst of our mess. God doesn’t love us because of our value. God knows the worst about us and redeemed and loved us anyway. He loves us with a love that creates value.
We are worthy to God because we were made for Him. He fought and died to eradicate shame from the picture. His sacrifice took away our shame. He’s enough, so we’re enough. The only shame we carry is what we choose to carry. Knowing we are loved, we can finally come out of hiding. Being loved and valued by God gives us the freedom and power to deal with our shame.
Freedom is found when we see ourselves through the eyes of the person who loves us. The good news is you can have regrets without having shame. Regrets become markers of God’s grace and His faithfulness to us. As a result, we can stop running from our story and begin to own it. We can have the courage to be vulnerable and share our story with our whole heart.
- Do you believe God has taken away your shame through what took place on the cross? Why or why not? What makes you answer in the way that you do?
- What happens to our shame and guilt when we expose it to the light and speak of it?
God, Your love speaks worth, healing, and wholeness into my heart. May I have the courage to bring to light the shame I carry with me and leave it at the feet of the cross. Help me to understand that it is You, and You alone, who determines my value. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.
So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose…in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain. Hebrews 6:17-19
It was a rather cold, rainy morning for June in New York City almost a decade ago when the concept of revision first inspired me. I mean raw, artistic revision.
The Dave Matthews Band was playing on the Today Show on NBC. There were multiple reasons I remember hating that morning (4 a.m. wake-up call was first). However, when my friends and I had settled into the cramped crowd, I became intrigued by the intense set of run-throughs the band completed before they went live.
What is it about revision that is so alluring? We dive into countless trials of change no matter what lifestyle we operate from currently. There’s something to be admired and deeply appreciated by the prospect of newness coming our way. Whether it is buying a new wardrobe, getting files organized, or getting in shape, it matters not. Even adopting a new attitude can be exciting! We are pleased, if not relieved, to gain palpable change. The freshness of a new routine or also a “new you” just feels right.
Frustrating as it may be, those types of changes are fleeting. If anything, they are paper thin. As humans, we end up having to evolve through things because it is inevitable. Along the way, we end up reaching for what we call prosperity. What God calls prosperity does not always align with our version. In fact, it never does, and we will never fully understand it.
Thinking back to the Dave show, I dug how they performed three or four consecutive run-throughs (from the top mind you) of So Much to Say. I could tell they were revising on each subsequent performance down to the smallest of tweaks. It seemed like their TV spot would undoubtedly be perfect; it was close. All in all, what I witnessed that day may not have been creative change as much as it was skilled preparation.
Each of us in some way, to some degree, must tear down the work of our hands and build it back new and better. Authors revise writing, architects revise designs, politicians revise positions. It’s pretty much necessary. We all can and should prepare to the best of our abilities (God gave us those). After all, there is an ever-changing world around us. We can strive for a new lifestyle by moving to that ideal town or landing that perfect job. We can make changes and hope for dreams to come true. Sometimes, they do. Sadly, there will always be something to compromise its worth: some variable is thrown into our system, some new standard to which we want to ascribe. Simply put, things are always changing.
Conversely, God is unchanging. A living hope, a lasting, real hope for whatever we need, be it changes, prosperity or fulfillment, is made possible through the cross of Jesus Christ. Because of love, His once-and-for-all offering gives us a sure shot at genuinely living. We can always lean on Him for real hope.
Through Christ, God gives a newness like no other. As early as Jeremiah’s prophecy, he shares that the Lord will make a new covenant. As late as John’s revelation, he reports Christ’s words will be: “Behold, I am making all things new” (Revelation 21:5 ESV).
Aside from the textual backing, consider what evidence you have of lasting newness. How much of it were you able to predict and produce? Depending on your answer, take from that where you have seen meaningful change. Chances are good you encountered some difficulty along the way.
What if we were to decide to be still where we are and place our trust in Christ alone? Remember, He is a living Savior who loves us and offers us real life and freedom only if we set our heart to loving him back. Assuming there is an understanding and belief in God’s promises, one would surely be hard-pressed to conjure up worry for the past, present or future. The cross offers the one true change in which we have infinite hope.
- For you, where is fleeting hope mixing with true hope?
- How can you begin a process of revision directed by God?
Lord, it is in Your promises I find hope. Thank you for being the way, the truth, and the life while offering a forever change to my life. I give praise for the newness You make continually. Forgive me for where I might have distrusted this. Help me walk with the unshaken hope You freely give. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
PC3 writer Adam King wrote today’s devotional.
Trust in the Lord with ALL your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.Proverbs 3:5-8
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12
Oh, how we wish the author, King Solomon, put an out clause when it came to the places of our heart where we’re required to trust.
We want him to say we only have to trust in the Lord with “select parts of your heart” or “trust in the Lord until it gets uncomfortable” or even “trust in the Lord on your terms.”
Instead, Solomon charges us to trust our Creator with A-L-L our heart, including those places of shame that have remained off limits for far too long.
Only you know those situations where you are resistant to address, give up control or hesitate to have faith.
Today, when you ponder those areas, ask yourself: whom do I trust? This is why the truth that God’s Word is living and active, found in Hebrews 4:12 is so important.
You must allow God to do the delicate surgery to separate between joint and marrow, soul and spirit. By giving God access to your heart, you see its current state.
It’s through this encounter where God can finally form and shape your heart.
- As it relates to your shame, does the vulnerability and transparency required of the Bible make it a place of refuge or an area of discomfort for you?
Lord, I ask You to help me. There are several areas where I fail to trust You. The shame I feel makes me want to hide and disappear. Lord, I confess my hesitancy to give up control. I submit my wisdom to You and ask You for direction with ________________. Lord, thank you for being trustworthy and good. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.
Today we are going to reflect on one of the most popular passages in the Bible. If you’ve ever attended a wedding, you’ve heard today’s Scripture recited in some form or fashion. You’d expect to see the words of 1 Corinthians 13 inside a Hallmark card or on a poster with adorable kittens.
We tend to get lost in its flowery language. But, love isn’t all roses and daisies. Love is required in those moments when we find ourselves in the weeds dealing with a difficult person. Love is a challenge when someone is a thorn in our side.
If that “guy” (aka our difficult person) doesn’t act the way we want them to, we get irritated, frustrated, aggravated, and a host of other descriptions not to be mentioned in a devotional. During this moment, do you know what is needed? Quite simply, LOVE. Take a moment and reflect on the tenacity that is required to love others:
Love is patient; love is kind. It does not envy; it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8
When we are at our wit’s end with that individual, we get to love. When we are tempted to be jealous of this person, we get to love. When all they are doing is pushing our buttons, we get to love. When everything in us desires to dredge up the past, we get to love.
It’s easier said than done. Our ability to love others lies in our willingness to embrace Christ’s sacrificial love for us. We don’t have the strength to do it on our own. We must lean on Christ.
We tend to think we love when things go our way, but we get to love when they don’t. Love always protects, trusts, hopes, and endures. Love is defined by the way it finishes: love never fails.
- Where are you struggling to display love?
- Where is love needed in your relationships with others?
Lord, help me to love. Right now I need to recognize You love me to have any hope of loving those around me. Help me to realign my view of love with Your definition. I confess my shallow perspective of thinking that love is all about my ways and me when it is all about Yours! In Your name, Jesus. Amen.
The focus for today’s devotion is straightforward: to pause and give thanks. Below you’ll find Scriptures along with a few reflective exercises designed to help you express gratitude for the growth that has occurred in your life.
If you are in the habit of journaling, mark this moment by taking some time to write out your thoughts. I hope that you’ll use this as an opportunity to rejoice in God’s faithfulness to you.
You are my God, and I will praise you; you are my God, and I will exalt you. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever. Psalm 118:28-29
Take a moment and reflect on how God’s love is consistent even in the midst of your inadequacies.
Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living. Thank God! Once you were slaves of sin, but now you wholeheartedly obey this teaching we have given you. Now you are free from your slavery to sin, and you have become slaves to righteous living. Romans 6:16-18
Take a moment and thank God you are no longer a slave to sin.
For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ. So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless. 1 Corinthians 15:56-58
Take a moment and thank God for the victories you’ve seen in your character over the past few months.
Ever since I first heard of your strong faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for God’s people everywhere, I have not stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly, asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God. Ephesians 1:15-17
Take a moment and thank God for the people who have come alongside you in your journey to reflect God’s heart.
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7
Take a moment and reflect on the areas in your life where you are currently struggling to experience peace. Thank God that He is using this event to bring you closer to His side.
And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness. Colossians 2:6-7
Take a moment and thank God for how His heart is beginning to take root in your character.
Lord, today I want to pause and reflect on Your faithfulness. I am so thankful for Your love and mercy. Your grace overwhelms me. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1
During a trip to Maryland to visit my folks a few years ago, my wife and I “managed” to have a day to ourselves (minus the kids) so we could go exploring in the nation’s capital, Washington D.C.
Managed is probably not the right word. Let’s face it – once grandkids come into the picture, you quickly become second fiddle regarding your parent’s attention. I now serve as just a shuttle to transport the children to Spoil City, better known as Granny’s house.
After our sole responsibility was complete, my wife and I took the Metro into the city. Unfortunately, it was morning rush hour so we were packed in like sardines. No vacant seats were to be found. As soon as the doors opened, people scattered trying to get to their destination.
The government workers and businesspeople were pros at maneuvering through the traffic. Me? Not so much. I saw an empty turnstile and thought this was my opportunity towards freedom.
I made a bee-line to it, pushed the metal bar and then: WHAM! Severe pain! The bar slammed into my side and wouldn’t budge, leaving me stuck inside an out of service turnstile. The Metro worker in the booth shook her head in pity and slowly made their way over to release me from my cage. Eventually, I was free and ready to move on.
Unfortunately, when it comes to dealing with shame, many of us are stuck in an out-of-order turnstile where we are going around and around in circles with no hope of escape. Something fuels our words, actions, and thoughts. Often, our present behavior serves as a response to the way we see ourselves. What we fail to realize is how much that picture is influenced by our past or unresolved shame. Past shame sabotages our present and future self.
Before we know it, the excuses begin to creep in. We catch ourselves saying, “too bad, that’s just WHO I AM.” Holding firm to this mindset, change and transformation are impossible. Why? When we are stuck, hope disappears. All we see are our inadequacies and the negative labels we place on ourselves.
In a fit of desperation, we might muster enough courage to push the turnstile, but as soon as we meet the least bit of resistance, we give up and remind ourselves how it was foolish to think things would change.
So, the vicious cycle of hopelessness begins. Because we’ve convinced ourselves we can’t change, we don’t. And due to the lack of change, our feelings of being a failure, worthless and helpless, causes the turnstile to spin around again convincing ourselves we can’t change.
Shame attempts to fool us into thinking we need to be stuck in the turnstile forever and don’t deserve to be free. Yet, Christ set us free from our past. We’re no longer defined by our yesterdays. He came down from His booth to rescue us from being stuck.
If you are stuck right now, the only movement taking place is you running from your story and your past. Rather than hiding from your story, you need to own it. The only way you can move on from the turnstile of your past is through facing it.
- What situations do you find yourself saying, “that’s just who I am”? Why is this your initial reaction? How does shame fuel your response to this situation?
God, help me to identify the places where I’m stuck in the past. Open my eyes to where I associate myself with past shame and regret. I no longer want to be paralyzed by my yesterday. Instead, I desire to walk into the future full of hope fueled by the promise of Your love for me. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.
Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other. Romans 12:4-5
So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family. Ephesians 2:19
Our house is beginning to show its age and “character.” One thing after another is breaking, in need of repair or demanding our attention. As soon as we fix an issue, something else pops up. At this rate, my wife and I will quickly replace Chip and Joanna Gaines as the kings of the fixer-upper.
Yesterday, we tackled a fickle dryer that would spin, but refused to warm up. So, off we went watching YouTube videos and dismantling our Whirpool piece by piece. The culprit, a heating element on the fritz, a simple, small break in a single coil.
We put everything back together, attempted to turn it on, and nothing. After pulling my hair out and muttering under my breath, I noticed the door was ajar, which sparked this discovery: the plastic door latch had cracked. A piece, costing maybe $1, that at first glance would seem so insignificant, kept the dryer from doing what it was designed to accomplish.
Maybe it’s just me, but it boggles my mind how a massive machine like my Whirpool dryer, and all the parts that make it up, are unable to function correctly if one component fails to stay engaged. Each piece matters. Each piece has a purpose and role.
The same holds true for the body of Christ. But, if I’m honest, at times, I doubt whether my contribution makes much of a difference. Thousands of other people could take my place and fill my role, and probably accomplish more than I ever could.
When I shared these thoughts with a good friend, they assured me I was correct. “Yes, there are tons of people who could fill in and knock it out of the park.” Not quite the encouragement I was looking for, until I realized they paused and continued with, “But, God decided to place you right where you are at, and that’s no accident.”
This is true. For whatever reason, God called me to be a husband to Jenn and a father to two beautiful girls. He made me a son, a brother, an uncle, a son-in-law, friend, a co-worker and a neighbor. Of all the places in the world, God plopped me down in Southeastern NC, made me fall in love with it to the point we call it home. He brought me to PC3 and surrounded me with a community where I can serve and be known. He provided me with gifts and talents to write and communicate. He wired me in a way with a unique personality and mindset. All of those things make me who I am.
Understanding and recognizing the opportunities for me to contribute enable me to trust and know that my part matters. Now, look at your life – because it matters too. Reflect on the ways God has gifted you. Consider your circle of influence, your passions, your interests, and your resources. It might not seem like it, but God placing you where you are at is also no accident.
By engaging in the places where you live, owning the roles you’ve been given and stepping into opportunities, not only do you open yourself up to be used and stretched, but you also help bring fullness to the picture of what the body of Christ is supposed to look like.
Each part matters, including your own.
- Do you believe your part matters to the body of Christ? Why or why not? What makes you answer in the way that you do?
God, thank you for making me the way that You have. Thank you for the opportunity to be part of something much bigger than my needs, my agenda and my wants. Help me to own my contribution – to view it as valuable, worthwhile and significant. Let what I do and who I am bring honor to Christ. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.
My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins. James 5:19-20
The other day my wife needed to run a few errands, so she left me home with our two girls. With my “honey do” list in hand, I got to work while the girls quietly played in their room. If you haven’t figured it out yet, “quietly” is the key word in the last sentence. In fact, they were too quiet. After about thirty minutes, I went to check on them. A sea of chaos created me as soon as I opened the door. As far as the eye could see, there were clothes, makeup, art supplies, puzzle pieces, Legos, and dress-up galore. Everything in me wanted to fly off the handle, go into Drill Sergeant mode and start barking out orders.
If I reacted in anger, I would’ve lost sight of the relationship. Instead, I needed to step into my girls’ world (aka the messy room), help them clean up their mess, even if it meant a little pain, like say a Lego getting stabbed in my foot.
Now, I know what you are thinking: How does this story about a kid’s messy bedroom relate to faith, relationships, and community? Think for a moment about the problematic individuals in your life. Just like my girls didn’t maliciously destroy their room, none of us intends to be difficult, including the person you struggle to love.
How did my girl’s room get destroyed? They played with a toy, had their fun and then moved on to something else. It wasn’t until they looked up and saw me standing in the doorway until they realized the mess they had created. The same principle holds true for your difficult person. No one develops destructive sin patterns overnight. People don’t fall away from God. It begins one small step at a time. Suddenly, that slow drift takes your difficult person to places they never intended to be, and when they finally look in the mirror they identify themselves according to their struggles.
If I left my girls upstairs to fend for themselves cleaning wise, there is a good chance they would sit there powerless. This wouldn’t be an act of defiance on their part, but rather a show of being completely and utterly overwhelmed. For your challenging person, in many ways, their destructive behaviors have become part of who they are. Many of them have lost hope that change is even possible.While stuck in their struggles, they look at the mess they have created relationally, and reason they are a lost cause.
When we see someone struggling with destructive behaviors, we often sit idly by. Leaving someone in destructive patterns in the name of keeping the peace is not loving. Remaining silent keeps people stuck in their struggles and destroys relationships. You must be bold enough to speak up. But, you have to consider your tone and your motive.
You can’t just lob condemnation grenades in your difficult person’s direction and think that will solve the problem. You are called to love others as yourself. If you’re just looking to fix their problem so it will stop being a problem for you, then you have the wrong motives. Instead, you are to carry each other’s burdens so you can feel the weight of what that person is feeling.
Fixing people focuses on the problem while helping people is intent on the relationship. But, let’s be honest: who has time for that? Relationships take time. Transformation doesn’t occur with a snap of a finger. Messes take a while to clean up. You must be willing to take the time to move into someone’s world. If you are not willing to invest in the relationship you are not qualified to address the problem.
Entering someone’s world is the road less traveled. It’s the long way. It’s the one that can be rocky at times and seem impassible. Sometimes it gets worse before it gets better. The road begins with self-awareness and getting the log out of your eye. It involves being willing to let others speak into your own life. Getting the log out is not so you can be perfect, but instead so you can see clearly. It is about becoming less condemning or perhaps, non-condemning.
You become less condemning by becoming more familiar with God’s grace. The more you know His grace, the more you know how desperately you need it as well as the difficult people in your life do. As a church body, we are called to help others. Our mission is not to reach people and convince them we are right; it is about assisting individuals to experience the love of Christ and have their heart molded into His own.
- Who are you finding it most challenging to love? What would it look like to enter their world? What are your motives for taking action?
God, help me to take the road less traveled in my relationships. May I be bold and filled with love and hope. Allow me to reflect Your heart to those I encounter. May I be a person who helps rather than fixes. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.
God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. Ephesians 1:5
Family unites people like no other organization, association, or relationship ever could. There is something so special, so unique, and so uniting about family. It is no wonder that when we read the Bible, we encounter countless stories and imageries of family. We see over and over in Scripture the idea of God being our father. In his letter to the churches in Ephesus, the apostle Paul uses the picture of a family to help us understand one of the most profound and powerful truths: God adopted us into His own family.
From the very beginning of creation, God created us to live in an intimate relationship with Him. But, our sin broke this intimacy and the perfect connection we were created to experience. Our sin separated us from God to the point it left us fatherless, alone and in need of rescue. We were orphans.
Yet, because of His great love for us, God decided to pay the price required to bring us back to Himself, back into His family. The sacrifice was displayed on the cross. Through Jesus, we were reconciled and reunited with God. Salvation is a gift of God, extend by the hand of God, by the grace God, and received simply by faith.
The Gospel message at its core is an adoption story. God went to great lengths to make us part of His family and call us His sons and daughters. Because we were adopted by God, we belong to God. We now have a place to call home and a place where we belong. But there is a second implication of this amazing truth that God has adopted us into His family and its found throughout the New Testament. Because we belong to God, we belong to each other. Because we belong to the family of God, because we belong to the body of Christ, we then belong to each other. We are family.
None of us are perfect so we make life in the family of God awful messy at times. The only thing perfect about the family of God is God. Even though we may not be perfect, we have a purpose. Each one of us has a unique function, a part to play and brings something to the table.
We need to think of each other as family. Our call is to go against the grain of our individualistic culture and care for something much bigger than ourselves. We take time to reflect and ask ourselves: how can I help? What do I have to offer to the rest of the family? How can I get more connected into this local expression of God’s family here at Port City or where I call home?
As a family, we must learn to live life together as a family. And there is one thing true about every loving family: they show up for each other. When one member of our family is in need of help, we go and help. When someone in our family experiences a victory, we go and celebrate with them. When our brother or sister is hurting, we go hurt with them. When they mourn, we mourn. When they rejoice, we rejoice. Quite simply, family shows up for family.
- What would it look like for you to show up for your family here at Port City Community Church or where you call home?
God, thank you for rescuing me and bringing me into Your family. When I doubt I am unlovable, remind me that I matter to You. Yet, when I think the world revolves around me, remind me that I’m part of something much bigger than myself. Since I belong to You, I belong to a larger family. Help me to love and serve my brothers and sisters in Christ. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.
This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 1 John 4:9-10
However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness. Romans 4:5
Gift giving is tricky business. The thought the giver puts behind a gift shows how much he or she values the intended receiver. The response to the gift is critically important as well. If the receiver keeps describing what the gift is over and over again then there is a good chance they are less than thrilled with what the box contains. The next morning they’ll be waiting in line with receipt in hand to exchange their gift for cash. This way they can do whatever they want with the return.
God’s gift of grace seen in the life of Christ shows how we are valued in God’s eyes and the depths He would go to fulfill His covenant with us. Through Jesus, we have been made clean, set apart, and our sins are no longer held against us. This gift of grace, forgiveness, and reconciliation is waiting to be received and unwrapped.
The choice is ours on how we respond and what we ultimately do with this gift. Will we tear into it and put it on? Will we tire of it after a few days? Will we tuck in a closet so no one else can see it or play with it? Will we bring it out only when we need it? Will we exchange the gift for something we deem more valuable? Will the gift overwhelm us to the point where we whip out our wallet and try to pay it back? Or will we stare at the box prideful and wonder why we even need this gift in the first place?
Most of have a hard time receiving gifts. Some of us even have safety gifts lying around the house on the off chance that someone surprises us with a gift. Think about it for a moment. When you are given a gift, what is the first question that pops into your mind? Chances are good it is ‘what do I have to give in return,’ ‘what’s the catch’ or ‘where’s the fine print?’ Since we love systems that provide a sense of control, we apply this same line of thinking to the Gospel.
We are sinners because of our fallen nature not because of what we’ve done. Sin is refusing to trust before it is failing to obey. It’s a relational, not a behavioral issue. Death is not the result of a broken rule, but a broken relationship. There is no system of rules that would ever allow us to be right with God.
When we try to justify what we’ve done or we ignore the fact that we’ve been made righteous through Christ we are robbing the cross of its’ true power. Grace that is earned ceases to be grace. We are attempting to put conditions on a free gift. Most importantly, and most tragically, we are creating a religion and not pursuing a relationship. Religion is a system we create and use to get to God. Instead of behaving better, we must start to believe and trust in the good news of the Gospel.
Romans 5:19 (ESV) says, “For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.” We are righteous because of Jesus and not because of anything we do. Life is not the result of a broken rule obeyed, but a relationship restored. Our righteousness comes solely through Christ’s righteousness rather than our good deeds. Our righteousness is established through our trust in Christ and the acceptance of God’s grace. Our perception of the goodness of God’s grace is proportionate to the perception of the devastation of our sin. This doesn’t mean big sin equals big grace. It’s realizing that we all have fallen short of God’s glory. A debt has been paid and Christ now justifies us.
It all comes down to a matter of trust. Relationships always require trust. We are loved without condition to the point we trust without condition. Unconditional love is the only thing that allows unconditional trust. Stop looking for the fine print and instead just trust in the goodness of God.
- Many have fallen victim to believing the misconception that grace saves, but hard work sustains faith. How have you struggled with this mindset? In what ways does this distort the original intent of God’s gift?
- We have a propensity to justify ourselves through our behavior. Why does this tend to be our reaction to the Gospel message?
God, too often, I look for the fine print in Your offer of grace. Foolishly, I try to earn my standing with You through my behavior. Instead, may I trust Your free gift with open arms. In order to have a relationship, trust must be the foundation. Today, I will trust I am loved without condition. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.