Category: Salvation (Page 1 of 31)

No Solo Missions

Our God is on a mission to save the world. But he has no interest in doing it by himself. God doesn’t do solo missions. He’s not interested in that.

When God decides to tell us how he’s going to restore the world, how he’s going to fix the problem of sin and death, he lets us know clearly that we’re in on it with him. He’s not going to do it alone. He recruits Abraham to join him. “Go to the place I will show you. All the peoples of earth will be blessed through you.”

God calls Moses. “I have come down,” he says, “to rescue my people. But I am sending you to do it.”

God calls Joshua. “I am giving this promised land to the people. But you’re going to lead them and do all the fighting.”

God saves his people Israel out of exile, not for their own sakes, but for the purposes of participating in his global mission:

“It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles (nations), that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.” ~Isaiah 49:6

Then God decides to show us in person exactly what he’s doing and how he wants it done by coming here in the flesh and blood of Jesus, so we can see it and understand it. Jesus says, “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.” Well, what do we see in Jesus? He calls the apostles and recruits the disciples to partner with him in bringing the Kingdom of God to earth. They pray together, “Your Kingdom come; your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” And that’s exactly what happens.

Jesus heals the sick because there’s no disease in heaven. He feeds the poor because there’s no hunger in heaven. Jesus raises the dead because there are no cemeteries in heaven. He turns the other cheek because there is no violence in heaven. He eats and drinks with everybody because there are no divisions between people in heaven. That’s the mission. And our God is not doing it solo. On that last night, Christ Jesus sends his disciples out.

“As the Father sent me, so I am sending you.”

“I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do the same things I’ve been doing. In fact, you’ll do even greater things because I will live inside you.” 

“Remember, you didn’t choose me; I chose you!”

Every one of us is on God’s mission. None of us is exempt. According to Matthew 25, Jesus says on that last day the King is going to judge us according to who was on the mission and who wasn’t. Our God is on a mission to bring the fullness of his eternal Kingdom to this earth. And he refuses to do it by himself.

Peace,

Allan

Big Fat Zero

“Whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.” ~Philippians 3:7-9

 

 

The apostle Paul knows what it’s like to seek his own righteousness by his good works and his right beliefs. He knows firsthand about trusting in his heritage and his holy deeds. He tells the Philippians he has reasons for such confidence. He claims he has more reasons than anybody else to put his faith in his works.

I’ve been circumcised, Paul says. I know what that means. Not only that, my father is from the royal tribe of Benjamin. My dad named me after Israel’s first king. I speak both Hebrew and Aramaic. I’ve memorized the Holy Scriptures. I have diplomas from the highest rated synagogue schools. I studied under Gamaliel – he personally signed my dissertation. And I’m a Pharisee. You can’t find a more devout, more orthodox keeper of the Law than me. You can’t find anyone more enthusiastic, more on fire for our God and his commands and our traditions. I have no tolerance for commandment breakers. You want to talk about keeping every single letter of the Law? You want to compare legalistic righteousness according to doctrine and interpretation and teaching and practice? Buddy, I am it! Perfect! Blameless! Faultless! All the rituals! All the feasts! All the prayers! All the washings! I am righteous!

But Paul realized all that added up to a big fat zero. Nothing. He’s got nothing. All his life’s work, all his commandment-keeping, all it earned Paul was a righteousness of his own, not God’s righteousness. And God’s righteousness is the only righteousness that counts.

Like an auditor, like an accountant, Paul takes all his assets, all the good things, all the good works he’s done, who he is ethnically and nationally, where he lives, how he was raised – he takes all those good things and he transfers them into the liabilities column. The things he always assumed assured him of righteousness, the black ink on the left hand side of the books, he moved over to the right hand side in red. These are losses.

I’ve got a life ledger, too. I know about my good works and my right beliefs.

Raised by godly parents in the godly state of Texas. Third generation member of the Pleasant Grove Church of Christ, where I spent my childhood and formative years. My grandfathers and father, my uncles and cousins – almost all of them are elders and preachers and song leaders and deacons and teachers in God’s Church. Baptized into Christ, by immersion, for the forgiveness of sins, at the age of accountability, in church, on a Sunday morning – “Trust and Obey” was the invitation song. Dallas Christian. Oklahoma Christian University. Austin Graduate School of Theology. Two semesters of Greek! Deacon. Bible class teacher. Men’s ministry. Service projects. Communion to shut-ins. Hospital visits. Feeding the poor. Gospel preacher.

That’s my book. How much holiness does that earn me? How much righteousness do I have because of all that?

None. Nothing. A big fat zero.

Paul realized he had to lose his religion to gain the righteousness of God. And if we can’t do the same thing, we’re in trouble.

Our doctrine. Our traditions. Our practices. Our beliefs. Our good works. Our weekly Lord’s Supper. Our baptism rituals. Our food-packing and missions-giving. Our worship. The name on our sign. None of that makes you or me righteous. They’re all good things, wonderful things. But none of it makes us right with God.

I want to know Christ. This is more than a motto. This is our salvation. Christ Jesus has become for us our holiness, righteousness, and redemption (1 Corinthians 1:30). This is everything.

Now, Paul did not count his heritage or his good works as rubbish. He didn’t stop keeping God’s commands or renounce his schooling. He didn’t seek circumcision reversal surgery. Those things are not worthless. His FAITH in those things is worthless. Confidence in his own law-keeping and ritual following is rubbish. Faith in his heritage and his practices – that’s a loss, not a gain. Paul realized, as we all must, that his own righteousness cannot save him. He can only trust the righteousness that comes from God through faith in Christ. Us, too.

Peace,

Allan

Honor and Glory

“Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus… Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.” ~1 Timothy 1:13-16

God saved Paul. This blasphemer, the personal persecutor of the Lord and his Church, this violent man who is deserving of death, this self-proclaimed worst sinner in the world – God saved him. Not just as an act of love and mercy, as amazing and wonderful as that is. Paul is a showcase for God’s unlimited patience. Paul says, “I’m the display, I’m the model. I’m the picture of all hostile sinful rebels against God, whom God tolerates while patiently working for and waiting for their salvation.”

And it’s so amazing and so wonderful, God’s patience is so awesome, that Paul just breaks out into praise! He can’t help it!

“To the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever! Amen!” ~1 Timothy 1:17

Paul is saying, “Look at me. Look at my sins. Look at my rebellion. It doesn’t get any worse than me. But God was patient with me. Patient. And look what’s happened. Only God! Honor and glory!”

There was a time in my life when all I thought about was me. All I cared about was my career. I stepped on a lot of people and I hurt many others just to get a controversial quote or the inside scoop on what I thought was a big story. I only associated with people I thought could get me more access, more control, more power. I surrendered my integrity and my values to get better ratings for my shows. I paid more attention to the women at work than I did to my wife. I neglected my children. I was not good.

But God was so patient with me. God has been slow to anger and so very patient with me. And look what’s happened. And what’s happening. Only God! Honor and glory!

What about you? You’ve got a story, too. God has shown you his unlimited patience. God has been slow to anger with you for the sole purpose of saving you. You are where you are right now only by God’s great patience. Only God! Honor and glory!

Peace,

Allan

Deciding to Die

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” ~Galatians 2:20

We all want to be raised with Christ. We want to claim God’s will for our lives that we be raised with our Lord to walk in newness of life. We want to experience the divine promise that we will be raised with Christ and seated with him in the heavenly realms.

But, first, you have to die.

The apostle Paul goes beyond saying Jesus was crucified in his place. Paul says he’s been crucified with Christ. He died with Jesus.

Of course, resurrection life and power is available to you. It’s available to you right now. But you have to die first. You can’t be raised until you first die – that’s just common sense.

Look at our Lord. Jesus did not resurrect himself. The Father raised him. What part did Jesus play in his raising? He died. He submitted to the will of God and he died.

Resurrection life and resurrection power is what God does in you when you decide to die to yourself and die to the world and die to your sins; when you die with Christ, when you’re buried with Christ, when you die, then God resurrects. It’s your call.

And it’s not really about your feelings. It’s about your will. It’s about what you decide to do.

When a guy gets married, the preacher doesn’t ask him to take out the ring and then talk about how he feels. Before you take this woman, tell us how you feel. “Man, I feel like I’m about to throw up. My hands are shaking, my knees are weak, and I’m sweating like a cow. I feel terrible.”

No, we don’t ask that. The question is: Will you take this woman? “Will I? Yes. I will do this. I will make the decision now to take this woman and commit to her as my wife.”

It’s a choice. It’s a decision of the will.

If you’ve never been baptized…

…will you? Will you die with Christ this Sunday in the waters of baptism in order to share in the resurrection?

I don’t care if you’re twelve-years-old or in your 30s or 50s. I don’t care if you were born and raised in the Church and, for whatever reason, you’ve never been baptized. I don’t care if you’ve never been inside a church building before.

Will you be buried with Jesus and be raised to walk in the life and power of his resurrection? Will you make the choice? Will you decide to die with Christ?

Peace,

Allan

He Did Everything

Palm Sunday begins with so much glory and promise. At last, God’s anointed has come! There’s shouting and singing and celebration and anticipation. Jesus has come to save us! He’s come to defeat the evil oppressors and to destroy the enemy! We’re in those swelling crowds around Jesus, following Jesus, praising Jesus, putting all our hopes for salvation in Jesus. And Jesus rides that donkey right into Jerusalem, through the Eastern gates, into the holy city, right into the heart of the temple precinct, and he does…

…nothing.

Nothing. Jesus doesn’t do anything.

“Jesus entered Jerusalem and went to the temple. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.” ~Mark 11:11

Jesus doesn’t do anything. He doesn’t lead the crowd against the Roman garrison, he doesn’t physically confront the powers and authorities that are oppressing the people, he doesn’t even take the temple steps to make a stirring speech. He looks around for a little bit and then goes back to Bethany for dinner.

What a disappointment. What a letdown. What kind of Messiah is this? What sort of Savior?

I know sometimes it can feel like Jesus is doing nothing. And somebody has to do something! Jesus can’t just look around at everything, he can’t just look at my life and my struggles and my problems and just shrug his shoulders and go back to Bethany. He has to do something!

Jesus did do something. Jesus did something to finally and completely and ultimately destroy the effects of sin and death in your life and throughout the whole world forever. Jesus resolutely set his face toward Golgotha and walked to the cross. He died. On a cross. On purpose.

He allowed himself to be beaten and tortured. He allowed them to nail his hands and feet to the blood-soaked wood of that cross. He died willingly. He sacrificed himself. He could have called ten thousand angels. But he died alone. For you. For me. That’s what Jesus did. The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

This is how he saves you. This is how he loves you, to the point of absurdity. He loves you all the way to the cross. Purposefully, willfully, stubbornly even, dying on a cross.

Peace,

Allan

 

The Loser Wins

“God plays a game with the soul called ‘The Loser Wins;’ a game in which the one who holds the poorest cards does best. The Pharisee’s consciousness that he had such an excellent hand really prevented him from taking a single trick.”

~ from The Spiritual Life, by Evelyn Underhill

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