Tag Archives: Identity

The Providence of God

he left Judea and departed again for Galilee. And he had to pass through Samaria. So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph.” (John 4:3–5 ESV)

Seven words form a short sentence that we often read right over in order to get to the “real story.” When we do so, we miss a beautiful truth that will stir our affections for the Almighty.  Jesus did not physically “have” to travel through Samaria.  It was the most direct route between Judea and Galilee, but no respectable Jew would travel that route.  Devout Jews would go around Samaria by crossing the Jordan and going up the east side in order to avoid becoming unclean or defiled by coming in contact with a Samaritan.

The Samaritans were a people that resulted from the intermarrying between Jews and people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva and Hamath that the king of Assyria brought in to settle the region (2 Kings 17:24–31). The Samaritans had their own version of the Pentateuch and worshiped on Mount Gerizim instead of in Jerusalem.  They were half breeds that were despised by both the Jews and the Gentiles.  They didn’t fit in anywhere, they were alone.

Jesus had to pass through Samaria because of the providential call of God.  The Greek word used here (see also John: 3:7, 14, 30; 9:4; 10:16; 12:34; 20:9) means that it was necessary, it was a divine mandate or requirement – it was part of God’s plan.  He had to travel through a land that would make Him unclean, but one of the beautiful realities of the messiah is that He cannot be made unclean by interacting with defiled people.  Quite the opposite, He makes dirty people clean.  Religious Jews would go around this region.  Religion always blinds us and makes us self righteous and avoidant of those we deem to be unworthy – as if we are worthy because of our own doing (1 Corinthians 4:7).

We must ask the question, “why?”  Why did Jesus have to go through Samaria?  Why did God’s providence lead Him there?  Could it be that He is showing us that no one is too unreachable, too unworthy or too unclean?  Could it be that He was demonstrating that the gospel is for all ethnicities, genders, socio economic classes and moral type of people?  Jesus had to go through Samaria because He came to seek and save His lost sheep and apparently there were quite a number of lost sheep in Samaria because many of them believed (John 4:39-43).

The Samaritans asked Him to stay two extra days and He obliged them – I can only imagine what the disciples were thinking!  Many believed in Jesus based upon the woman’s testimony alone.  Jesus stays with a group of outcasts two extra days! Jesus loves those who are unloveable by the world’s standards.  We often times seek to be loveable – that is to bring something of merit before the Almighty – instead of resting in the love that He has for us.

These unclean, outcasts profess Jesus as the Savior of the World.  He is not only the Savior of the Jews, but the Savior of the world.  He saves all people – from every nation, tribe and tongue!  First to the Jews (Nicodemus in John 3:1-15), then to the Samaritans (John 4:1-42) and then to the Gentiles (the official at Capernaum in John 4:46-54). This is the mission of the church.

What does this providential appointment mean to us today?  The Word, Creator, Almighty condescends Himself to a defiled, unclean, unholy place & people in order to redeem.  The Creator serving the created is backwards, but that is what it took to undo the effects of the fall (John 4:30-34, Mark 10:45, Matthew 20:28).  God providentially invades the world of His lost sheep.  God’s redemption means that He makes lost sheep forgiven, acceptable, clean and holy. He makes unclean outcasts clean.  He makes clean people holy.  He makes us family.  In God’s kingdom, the unwanted outcasts are welcomed with open arms.  Jesus’ good words of forgiveness & redemption are only spoken to those who feel unworthy, alone and dirty because  good people see no need for grace.  The grace of God has adopted you and made you His son – perfectly acceptable.  You are no longer on the outside looking in and this was done because He “had to” go through Samaria and He “had to” come to you.  You didn’t seek Him, He sought you.  You were lost and He found you, redeemed you and adopted you according to His plan which He determined before He breathed a star into the heavens.

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Forsaking God and managing behavior

“I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? You observe days and months and seasons and years! I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain.” (Galatians 4:1–11 ESV)

The Jews were like children – heirs to the promises – but too young to have inherited them immediately.  There was a period of waiting.  This Jews had to wait for the true promise of the kingdom.  However, they were enslaved to the elementary teachings of the world.  They were enslaved because rules and laws are powerless to liberate.  If you are only trying to manage behavior then you will never be truly free, and it is for freedom that Christ has set you free (Galatians 5:1)!  

In the fullness of time, God sent Jesus in the flesh, born of a woman, under the law.  God’s timing is always perfect, even in the midst of difficulties and hardships when it doesn’t seem like He is present.  We must learn to believe and rest in the fact that God providentially rules and reigns over all things, and nothing is outside of His authority.  At the right time, God sent Jesus to redeem fallen man and to adopt them into His family.  We are adopted sons.  God redeems AND God adopts.  Our sonship is sealed with the Spirit of Big Brother Jesus – we have been given the Holy Spirit.

We are no longer enslaved to the elementary principles of this world because of our relationship with God – not so much that we know God, but that we are known by God!  Powerful!  We are known by the God of the universe, we have been declared clean and free by the sovereign ruler of the cosmos!  Amazing!  After this amazing grace laden adoption, why in the world would we return to the “elementary principles” of this world?   Why would we want to exchange our sonship for slavery?  We tend to return because it is natural for us, but it irritates the apostle because there is no power there – quite the opposite, there is nothing but bondage and oppression there.  These elementary principles are “weak and worthless.”  They say, “observe this,” “do that,” “act like this.”  When we return to our performance as the means by which we grow, we exchange our sonship for slavery.  The real power for transformation is believing at a deep level that the God of the universe, due to nothing good in you, called you to Himself and He not only saved you, but adopted you as a son.   You are not just forgiven, you are adopted as a son.  The judge took off the robe after declaring you “not guilty,” and then went outside and threw the football with you.

These elementary principles (see also Colossians 2:8, 20) are the elements, principles or requirements of a religious system that dictate what must be done in order to be acceptable to God; they are rooted in our performance.  There is something in us that longs to return to these rules and systems because they put the power to change under our control.  When we return to our performance, we are forsaking the streams of living water offered in our relationship with God and digging our own broken cisterns that hold nothing but muddy sediment (Jeremiah 2:13).

We want a list, a system or some tip to change the uncomfortable consequences of sin in our lives.  The problem is that lists, systems and tips are powerless to produce true and lasting transformation in us.  You know what you should do, but find yourself powerless to do it and yet you insanely keep returning to the same things thinking that they will change you (Proverbs 26:11).  Insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” (Albert Einstein).

The real problem is that there is not an utter distaste for sin, but rather the consequences that sin is wreaking on our lives.  We don’t see sin as an offense against God and utterly repulsive, instead we see sin as uncomfortable and we don’t like the dysfunction and consequences that it is causing in our lives.  When we, like David did in Psalm 51, develop an utter repulsion of sin itself then, and only then, are we in a position to be freed from its grasp.  The consequences of sin are gracious because they point us to the sin itself, but just wanting to be free of sins consequences without wanting to be free from the root of sin is a fools errand.  

Freedom is NEVER FOUND IN A LIST, SYSTEM OR SET OF TODO’S to be performed.  Freedom is only found in a Person.  And more than just a Person, but our association with and relationship to that Person.  Freedom is found in marveling in the unbelievable fact that the eternally holy Creator would forgive you and adopt you – that He would make you His child and write you into His eternal will with all of the rights of a natural born son.  Stare at that truth until it resonates deep in your soul.

Our inheritance hinges on His promises, not our faithfulness

“Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” (2 Peter 3:11–13 ESV)

The apostle returns to a theme from his first letter as he reminds His readers that this world will come to an end and Jesus will make all things new.  He wants to remind them that our inheritance is secure and is coming – this truth is a major key to living a godly life. This is a gospel promise – because Jesus will return and everything here will be remade, let us strive to live godly lives in Christ Jesus.  There is a world, an existence, a country, a territory in which God will reign and no sin will exist.  The perfect paradise in the presence of God that is marked by a rhythm & rest for the soul will return.  Is this not part of the reason that God permits or causes difficulties, hardships or persecutions?  Is it not to wake up our dead hearts and eyes to the fact that this world is indeed transient and that we need to set our eyes on the world that is to come? Yes!

The implications of this truth are profound! Are you struggling with the approval of others, a difficult interpersonal relationship or bumping up against the falleness of the world?  This world is not all that there is and because of that you can endure, engage and invest – knowing that in some mysterious way God is using it to redeem this world.  You don’t have to be accepted, comfortable, respected or loved because you are all of these things (and so much more) as God’s adopted child.  Because of Christ’s sacrifice for us, we will experience them in true satiating fullness in the world to come; you are able to walk in joy without receiving acceptance, comfort, respect or love in this world. There are no 10 tips to a happier life – this is the truth for living a godly life.  Peter says that our efforts towards holiness have some mysterious effect on the coming of the Lord. This sounds like a practical outflow of the Lord’s prayer (your kingdom come, your will be done).  But thank God that all of this hinges on His promises, not on our faithfulness.  We aren’t faithful, but He was so we can walk in a confidence that is not rooted in our performance but in His perfect performance that He imputed to us.

The Ultimate Sufferer will put our frustration & futility to an end

“Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit” (1 Peter 3:13–18 ESV)

Peter zooms out to give us a big picture vantage point on life.  He is not saying that we won’t suffer – his reader’s already were suffering.  But, ultimately all things will work for their good (Romans 8:28-31).  Peter reminds them of the Lord’s words:  ““Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:10 ESV).  Peter urges them to dwell on Ultimate realities, on the bigger picture.  When we suffer, we can either be driven to God and His bigger eternal work or inwardly and bemoan our own personal hardships.  Peter calls us to run to God and see that He is work in the arc of eternity.

Peter argues here to be able to give a winsome response to people when they ask about our hope.  Hope is interesting here because the real pivoting point is where is our hope really found?  Is our hope really in Jesus or some other idol?  If our hope is really in the Lord, then people will notice the poise and ballast in our lives when they are squeezed and pressed by hardship and suffering.  Only grace soaked people will be able to endure with hope – for they know this is not all that there is.  Hope is the expectation of good as the Christian is confident & joyful that he has an inheritance that is certain & secure.  Some of the time, Christians will suffer for doing good – even though the claims against them be baseless.

Peter links the power to suffer well to our identity in Christ – He suffered on our behalf so that one day we wouldn’t have to.  This is a major verse on the atonement – Christ, the Righteous, suffered for us, the unrighteous, so that we may be brought to God.  He died in the flesh so that we could be made alive in spirit.  So regardless of where you find yourself today and regardless of the suffering that you face – financial, relational, emotional, physical or familial – set your eyes firmly upon Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith.  He was the Ultimate Sufferer so that one day our suffering would end.  Remember your inheritance as a child of God; there is coming a day when He will make all things new.  Our lives will be truly lived as they were designed to – no more frustration and futility.  We will live in perfect paradise in the presence of our glorious Father.

Being like Jesus involves believing like Jesus

“Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.
Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” (1 Peter 2:13–25 ESV)

If the gospel has transformed us internally then it will necessarily transform our social interactions.  We are to submit to governmental authorities which promote order & justice.  It is interesting that Peter is telling a group of dispersed (and likely persecuted) people this.  For as we submit (in attitude in action), God is glorified and the accusations of others become increasingly baseless.  We are free people and should live that way – not as a license to sin, but rather as an expression of good for God’s glory.  We don’t have the need to make ourselves into something in this world because God has already made us His chosen children; therefore, we are free to trust in God’s goodness and sovereignty.  The fuel for living free is tied back to our identity as sojourners in this world.

We are to honor, revere, glorify and respect everyone, even those who persecute us.  This honor is to be extended even by slaves to their masters – whether good or harsh.    It is a gracious thing to endure suffering while being mindful of God.  Enduring harsh treatment is viewed as a credit to the account – a credit that will be redeemed in the life that is to come.  God’s grace (which includes His favor and blessing) are what enables & empowers us to suffer graciously.  Jesus is the greatest example of suffering – unjust suffering at that!  We normally don’t suffer unjustly because we often times bring on our suffering by our own sinfulness.  Regardless of the cause of our suffering, Jesus is our example.  Jesus endured to redeem us, so too should we endure.  When Jesus was reviled & suffered, He did not retaliate.  Instead He entrusted that God was a just Judge, who is able to bring about ultimate justice.

With Jesus as our example of how to suffer graciously, it seems that our ability to suffer graciously is not tied to our own steady resolve or strong willed effort.  It seems that it is directly connected to what we believe about God.  Our endurance is connected to whether we really believe that God is capitol “S” sovereign and capitol “G” good.  Is He able to bring sense to our suffering, Is He able to deliver?  Only those who say “absolutely”, with no hesitation, will find true endurance to suffer well.  We should be like Jesus, but the way to be like Jesus is to believe like Jesus.

God will justly judge all sinfulness so let us leave vengeance to Him.  All people will have to give an account for what they have said and done.  All sin will be paid for – either at the cross of Jesus Christ or by the sinner himself.  Justice will be served.  This enables the saint to persevere when he suffers injustices.  Jesus takes our sins and gives us His righteousness.  It is by His wounds that we are healed.  We die to sin and live to righteousness.  We were straying sheep and now we have returned to the Shepherd & Overseer of our souls.  Let us rest in our identity in Christ and our inheritance in glory.  This life is brief and glory is forever.

Exiles with an Inheritance

“Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” (1 Peter 2:11–12 ESV)

Remember that this is not your home – we are sojourners & exiles – therefore abstain from the passions of your flesh.  The way to beat fleshly passions is to know (remember and believe) that we have an inheritance coming.  An inheritance that is far greater than anything the world has ever seen.  When we foster fleshly passions, they do harm to our souls.  We cannot foster fleshliness and holiness simultaneously.  We tend to think that we can have both, but we cannot.  You will be growing in one and the other will be loosing strength in your heart.  They are divergent paths.  What are you fostering?

Peter views believers as the new Israel and views non believers as Gentiles.  We have indeed been grafted in by the Vinedresser.  Live uprightly so when they accuse you of wrong doing, they will have no evidence to support their charge.  They will see your good deeds and glorify God for them.  This sounds like Matthew 5:16.  Though, not all will glorify God, some will come to repentance.  The way to walk in obedience is to dwell upon the goodness, mercy and grace of God – Who has adopted us.  We must remember our identity in Christ – a chosen people, adopted children, objects of His affections, co heirs with Christ.

Remember

“So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe,

“The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,”

and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.”

They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1 Peter 2:7–10 ESV)

Glory & honor is for those who are built upon the Cornerstone; it is not for those who reject the Cornerstone.  Jesus is a stumbling stone and a rock of offense to unbelievers & especially to the Jews:  “And he will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.” (Isaiah 8:14 ESV).  But, God is an obstacle that people cannot overcome!  They stumble because they disobey – as they were destined to do.  Unless God regenerates the heart, we all walk in disobedience and blindness.  Peter sounds like Paul here in Ephesians 1:11 (“In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,”).  God works all things according to the counsel of His will.  The disobedience of unbelievers is due to their own disbelief & it is their responsibility.  This is not intended to foster fatalism, but to encourage the heart of true believers. Nothing catches God off guard; God has never said, “I didn’t see that one coming, what should I do now.”  So those who were persecuting Peter’s readers and pressing against them unjustly – those who were the source of their suffering will one day see ultimate justice.  One day, all sin will be justly paid for – either by the blood of Christ or by the sinner himself; justice will be served.

We don’t stumble about like blind men; we see the Cornerstone for who He is.  We are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of God’s own possession.  This is not because we chose God, but because He chose us.  He called us out of darkness and into His glorious light.  He’s the One that calls; He’s the One that saves, not us!  And why does He redeem us?  He saves us to glorify Him (proclaiming the excellency of Him who has called us).  We were nobody’s and now we are somebody because we are His children.  We had no mercy, now we have profound mercy.  Praise God!  Hosea speaks this way regarding Israel (Hosea 1:6, 9, 10; 2:23), but the church is the fulfillment of these prophecies – we are now a people – according to His sovereign grace.

Regardless of the situation that is currently staring you in the face, regardless of the persecution and injustice that you are facing, there is cause for rejoicing.  Don’t ignore the difficulty and pain and pretend that it does not exist; Christianity is not about producing cold, emotionless Stoics!  But remember that this is not your true home – you are a sojourner, an exile.  Remember that you have an inheritance that is far greater than anything that the world has ever seen.  Remember that you are a beloved, chosen child.  Remember that this life is short and momentary.  Remember that God’s approval and affection for you has nothing to do with how faithful that you are, but rather how Faithful Jesus was.  Remember…

Faithfulness’s Fuel

“Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.” (1 Peter 1:13–21 ESV)

This section starts with “therefore” which causes us to first reflect on Peter’s previous train of thought which was because God has saved you & is ensuring an inheritance that is spectacular – let us set our hope FULLY on the grace of Jesus Christ!  We are to do this by dwelling on, mulling over & meditating upon true & transcendent things – things which we easily forget.  We have to get outside of ourselves and our worlds and the difficulties that we face and think on ultimate realities.  Realities like this world is transient and is coming to an end, a perfect and never ending kingdom is coming in which we will dwell as sons of God.  God’s undeserved approval has been showered upon us, not because of what we have done or can do, but solely upon His sovereign goodness & grace.

Peter calls us not to be conformed to the “passions of our former ignorance.”  Passions are our inner drives and desires, deep down things, not merely behavioral things.  Peter’s exhortation to his readers is to be like Dad.  Our holiness & sanctification is tied to our identity as His children.  If you read this as a list of what you must do and how you must behave without marrying it to your identity in Jesus Christ then you have departed from the gospel of grace and have embraced a works based righteousness theological system.  The entire book of Galatians is a treatise on how they had departed from the gospel and embraced works based righteousness.  Paul deploys strong words in his epistle to the Galatians like bewitched (3:1), emasculate (5:12) and accursed (1:8) to communicate the danger of departing from grace and embracing works based righteousness.  Gospel oriented sanctification, or grace driven effort, is rooted in what God has done for us and our identity as His children.  It seeks to root out idols of the heart by identifying the false beliefs that drive our external behaviors.  It is root focuses, not fruit focused.  Works based righteousness places the responsibility for change primarily upon our shoulders – it is up to us to manage our sin.  It is primarily focused on our behavior and never asks the deeper question of what is driving our sinful behavior.  It is fruit focused, not root focused.

Our God is our Father and Judge.  We will be called to account for how we stewarded our lives in this world which should strike sobriety in our souls.  We should have a reverent fear and awe of God as we live our lives.  God is still a consuming fire Who is too glorious for man to see; He’s not our buddy, He’s the Almighty Creator who breathes galaxies into place.  Because of our identity as His children, we should walk in ways that are in keeping with our identity – this is not by focusing upon external behavior modification.  The external things that we do that are sinful should be ferociously attacked on the surface to hold them at bay, but the deeper question of what is driving them needs to be answered.  When their source is identified, God can remove the roots that are causing the sin.  We should walk in holy, reverent awe of God as our time as exiles in this world knowing that a perfect place in the presence of God is our future inheritance (a new Eden).

We are to walk in reverent awe (fear) because we were rescued at great cost – the cost was the blood of God Himself.  God died for our sins.  What sacrifice?  He tasted death, wrath & separation; the God who was never created and is perfectly holy was dipped in the disgust of sin, was separated from all goodness and bore His own wrath for me.  I was indeed bought with a price.  We were delivered from a life of meaningless futility where we are constantly chasing after the wind to one of profound significance; He breaks our bondage to generational sins and frees us.

The cross was the plan before time began.  It is not plan “B” because plan “A” did not work out.  Before anything was formed or put into motion, Jesus knew He would die to atone for the sins of His chosen people.  But, this complete revelation was not made known until recently (2000 years ago) for our sake.  Jesus was raised so our hope is firmly planted on the One that death could not hold.  What profound encouragement & glory.  Understanding and embracing that God has bought us with a profound price and that our inheritance is glorious provides fuel for us to walk faithfully.

Heart of the Matter Review

““This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”” (John 6:29 ESV)

What is the work that we need to be doing?  That is the same question that was asked of Jesus in John 6:29.  His answer?  Be disciplined, work hard, feed the poor, love the unloveable, memorize the scriptures?  No.  All of these are good things, but they are secondary things.  The work we need to be doing in our faith is belief:  “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”  The real battle for us is to remember and rely upon the seemingly unbelievable good news of the Gospel – that a good and all powerful God has made a way for rebellious creatures to return and be reconciled with Him.  We don’t forget this in our minds, but the glory of God & His gospel readily creeps out of our hearts.

Heart of the Matter: Daily Reflections for Changing Hearts and Lives by Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation helps us to remember the staggering promises of the gospel by providing short, gospel saturated daily devotions that are aimed at penetrating the reader’s heart.  Paul Tripp, Ed Welch, Timothy S. Lane, William Smith, Michael Emlet, David Powlison and others share profoundly practical & impactful truths on subjects that include fear & anxiety, anger, contentment, faith, relationships, stress, suffering, identity and trials & suffering.  If you find yourself in the battle for belief, then Heart of the Matter: Daily Reflections for Changing Hearts and Lives is an excellent resource to help you on your journey.  It is available from New Growth Press at their online store, Amazon or WTS Books.  You can sign up to win a free copy here.

Free to Love

“Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling.” (1 John 2:10 ESV)

You are free to love the people in your life when you love God more than anything. Because their love and acceptance is not your ultimate goal, you won’t be enslaved by your expectations for them and the disappointments that inevitably follow. Jesus is calling you to turn from love of self to love for him. Think about how Jesus has loved you—he lived the perfect life you should have lived, and he died the death you deserved.

When you wake up every morning and interact personally with the one who has done all this for you, your family’s slights and insults won’t plague you in the same way. This won’t be automatic or easy. Jesus said that each of us must take up our cross every day (Luke 9:23).

You must daily die to your self-centeredness by finding your identity in what Jesus has done for you in his life, death, and resurrection. As you do this every day, you will turn from making anything else in creation more important to you than the God who has rescued you from your self-centeredness. Growing as a disciple is gradual, in the same way that the crucifixion was slow and agonizing. As we die to self and embrace our new identity in Christ, God is slowly and patiently bringing us to the end of ourselves, so that he might fill us with the life of Christ.”

by Timothy S. Lane, August 28, p 241.  From Heart of the Matter: Daily Reflections for Changing Hearts and Lives by Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation. Copyright © 2012 by Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation. Used by permission of New Growth Press.