Your Good Works Offend God!

-Because Jesus Already Did It!

Being a disciple of Jesus does not begin with something we do; but, with something Jesus already did! When Jesus went to the cross, He redeemed our relationship with the Father.  A relationship broken by our sin against Him! By Jesus’ death on the cross, He paid the penalty, for our sin, that we should have paid so that the Father would be just to grant us forgiveness, grace, mercy & love.  By Jesus sacrificial act, He made a way for the Father to actually adopt us into His family when we accept the work of His Son & His payment on our behalf.

-Don’t Disrespect Jesus’ Sacrifice!

But, Jesus’ work, on our behalf, is only effective when we quit trying to work our own way into the Father’s favor! We must accept God’s offer of salvation through Christ alone by grace alone; and, cast aside any hope that our good deeds might impress the Father.  Can you see how offensive it is to God when we try to make ourselves presentable to Him? We trample on His Son’s sacrifice when we try to impress God with our “perceived” good deeds! We spit in His face & tell Him His Son’s work on the cross wasn’t good enough; that, we need to “add” our own. What God requires of us is nothing more than humility & brokenness, along with a confession that we’re not worthy & incapable of ever becoming worthy of the salvation He offers us!

-Are You Heaven’s Citizen?

What we need is a new start; a new beginning; a new birth! “You MUST be born again,” Jesus said. He was referencing a “SPIRITUAL” birth. Your “physical” birth makes you a citizen of this world; but, only your “spiritual” birth can make you a citizen of heaven! That becomes your new identity! You’re no longer a citizen of this world; rather, Scripture calls you a “temporary resident” here! Your citizenship is heaven! And, that’s where we have to begin when we start a conversation about “spiritual growth.”

-An Identity In Christ!

You have to be sure of your identity—in Christ—before you can ever hope to mature as a disciple of Christ. That, in fact, is what Paul said happens at the moment of faith. Here’s how the Amplified Bible expands on the meaning of Paul’s words:  “Therefore if anyone is in Christ [that is, grafted in, joined to Him by faith in Him as Savior], he is a new creature [reborn and renewed by the Holy Spirit]; the old things [the previous moral and spiritual condition] have passed away. Behold, all things have become new [because spiritual awakening brings a new life]” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

-You’re Not The Old You!

If you’re a believer—or, a disciple—of Jesus, you’re no longer that OLD you. You’ve become; and, are becoming the NEW you—the spiritually born again you! And, one day God will finish the work He began in you that day you were converted—that’s the coming day of “glorification”! Until that day, God will be at work, in you, sanctifying you. That’s a big word—SANCTIFICATION—but, break it down to it’s simplest form & it’s the process by which God makes you more like Jesus and less like you! He does that, in part, by revealing to us our sin, convincing us to forsake it, and, empowering us to actually overcome it!

 

Advertisements

More Like Jesus, Less Like Me!

-Measuring Spiritual Progress!

Have you ever tried asking someone, “How are you doing spiritually?” They always say, “Good, Good,” right? Probably not a very good question. It’s not likely to get the real answer you’re looking for! Next time, try this instead: “So, where are you at in your walk with the Lord? And, on what criteria do you base your answer? How are you measuring your walk with Christ?” When we enter into that kind of conversation with someone, we need those “qualifying” or “follow-up” questions too! On what basis can we say we’re doing “good” when someone asks us how we’re doing spiritually?

-Does It Matter What We Do?

Do we measure spiritual progress by the things we DO? Be careful! Don’t quickly dismiss the things we DO & SAY, that, “it’s only what’s in the heart that matters!” If our heart is right with God, it will impact the things we DO, right? Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will KEEP my commandments.” At the same time, we can DO all the RIGHT things for the WRONG reasons, can’t we? We can DO things to be SEEN of men; and, Jesus called that hypocrisy!

-What About “Spiritual Disciplines”?

I received a phone call, some time ago, from a young man who was saved years ago in my youth group in Colorado. He was on the pastoral staff of a church in Oregon; and, he called to ask if he could conduct an interview with me for a seminary class he was taking! The interview was based on how I lived my life according to the “spiritual disciplines.” If that’s a new term to you, suffice it to say that “spiritual disciplines” are practices found, in Scripture, that can promote spiritual growth. They are “habits” of devotion, like prayer, fasting, public & private worship, meditation & making disciples—all activities that we’re commanded to do, right? Jesus practiced them! But, I prefaced my answer, in the interview, with this caution: “We are NOT GODLY just because we practice certain spiritual disciplines!

-The Error Of The Pharisees!

That was the great error of the Pharisees! They believed they were godly BECAUSE they did certain things! You can’t separate what you’re DOING on the OUTSIDE by who you ARE on the INSIDE! WHAT you do matters! But, WHO you are matters even more! Here’s the point—spiritual growth happens as you become more like Jesus; and, less like you!

-Become Like Your Teacher!

It is our goal, as a local church, that our community of believers would become mature disciples of Christ in their personal spiritual development. That’s a core value! That we’d all grow in spiritual maturity! As disciples of Christ, that we’d all become more like Him! That’s what a disciple does! He becomes like his Teacher! And, it is our belief that individual spiritual development occurs BEST in the context of a local church! Faith grows best where it is challenged, not isolated! And, crucial to that is the realization that being a disciple of Christ does not begin with something we DO; but, with something that Christ already DID! He redeemed our broken relationship with the Father by His death on the cross! He took my sin! And, He paid the penalty that I should have paid so that I might receive forgiveness! That’s the Gospel!

God Is Great! God Is Good!

-God Is Also Very Personal!

I still remember our prayer, before meals, growing up—“God is great! God is good! Let us thank Him for our food! Amen!” Nothing wrong with those words! They acknowledge God! But, they’re repetitious words that just aren’t very “personal.” And, God is personal! The Psalmist wrote these words:  “One thing God has spoken, two things have I heard:  that you, O God, are strong, and that you, O Lord, are loving. Surely you will reward each person according to what he has done” Psalm 62:11-12.

-God Reveals Himself Through Scripture!

God uses the Scriptures to reveal Himself to us; and, Jesus—God’s “Word” incarnate—revealed, to us, what God looked like in the flesh. He loves us! He’s actively involved in our justification, our sanctification; and, ultimately, our glorification! We are “His workmanship”—He continues to image us into the likeness of His Son. So, what is the biggest hindrance to His work in us? We are! We get in the way of our own spiritual growth.

-Get Out Of The Way & Let God!

But, God is great; and, God is good! He is strong enough to change us when we quit being controlling! The Psalmist said He is “strong”—in fact, He is “omnipotent”; or, ALL POWERFUL! You can’t manipulate Him! So, why do you try? Why would you want to? He is a benevolent God! All of His intentions, toward us, are kind & good! He is also strong enough to change us when we quit fearing man! One major reason, for our sinful behavior, is our craving for man’s approval! We fear the rejection of some person; but, “The fear of man lays a snare. Whoever trusts in the LORD, however, is safe” Prov 29:25.  When you live for the approval & acceptance of others you succumb to a form of “idolatry.” You’ve placed created beings on the throne of your life instead of your Creator! God is great; and, God is good! And, He loves us enough to change us when we quit looking for love in all the wrong places! It’s the goodness of God, Scripture says, that leads us to repentance. He calls us to find, in Him, the only thing that truly satisfies! Whatever the stuff of this world offers you, God offers you more! He isn’t just better than that stuff; He’s the BEST!

-Quit Trying To Prove Yourself!

That’s the heart of the Gospel message—because God is love, He will change us when we quit trying to prove we can do it ourselves! Salvation is not about what we do for God; rather, it’s about what God has already done for us! Like the Father, in the story of the Prodigal Son, God always welcomes us! He will rescue us from ourselves when we confess we’ve messed it all up! If you’ve had the tendency, like I have, to think God’s going to rub your nose in your sin for a little while before He forgives you, you’re mistaken! That’s not God! The Psalmist said: “…you, O LORD, are LOVING…” He comes running when we confess to Him! He embraces us & changes us when we stop trying to prove, to Him, our worthiness!

 

Quit Trying So Hard!

-Is Change Even Possible?

Have your “New Year Resolutions” already hit the skids! Perhaps you’re at a place in your life where you think it’s impossible to change! What you’ve confirmed is the weakness of your flesh. The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Church of Colosse, points out that human “regulations”—like “New Year Resolutions”—are powerless to change our fallen flesh:  “If you died with the Messiah to the elemental forces of this world, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world? Why do you submit to regulations:  ‘Don’t handle, don’t taste, don’t touch?’ All these regulations…are commands and doctrines of men.  Although these have a reputation of wisdom by promoting ascetic practices, humility, and severe treatment of the body, they are not of any value in curbing self-indulgence” Colossians 2:20-23.  That’s a sample of the world’s system for “behavior modification.” In our flesh, we wanna prove we can discipline ourselves to a “better behavior.” That gives us bragging rights to judge all the other wicked sinners by—but; that’s “legalism.”

-Legalism Is Simply Self-Effort

Legalism is our attempt to reach holiness through our own self-effort; or, “regulations” as Paul calls them here! Let me be clear—Paul is NOT referring to God’s law! You’re not a legalist for keeping His law! Sexual promiscuity, lying, stealing & murder are ALWAYS sin! It’s all the other stuff they ADD to God’s law that makes them a legalist!  I used to be a legalist—I wouldn’t play cards; or, go to the movie theatre! I wouldn’t think of going to church unless I was wearing a suit! I would never consider being part of a church where there were drums & guitars; or, anything other than a King James version of the Bible used in the pulpit! You may find that bizarre; but, be careful! Legalism is rather chameleon in nature—your “list” might be different; but, you’re “extra biblical” rules to perform by & force on others is just as legalistic!

-To Be “In Christ”

If you’re “in Christ” you’ve “…died to the elemental forces of this world,” Paul says, “Why do you live as if you still belonged to the world?” Jesus Christ is the great liberator! He set us FREE from “performance-driven faith”! If you’re “in Christ” remove the masks! Stop pretending you’re a super saint! Quit trying so hard to make yourself acceptable to the Father! He’s already accepted you “in Christ.”

-Declared Righteous!

If your faith is in Christ’s work on the cross, you’ve been “declared righteous.” That is your forever standing before God! There is NOTHING you can do that will ever make you more acceptable to God; and, there is NOTHING you’ve done that makes you less acceptable to Him! Jesus bore ALL YOUR SIN—past, present & future; and, His righteousness was placed in your account when you trusted His work by faith! Then, God’s Holy Spirit moved in; and, told your spirit that He’s ready to go to work in you! But, it will be HIS WORK! He doesn’t need you to get in the way & put on that “HOLIER than thou mask” by keeping a bunch of man-made, human-inspired rules! It’s in your “weakness” that He is strong! God rejects all human effort!

 

What Good News Can Do For You!

-The Gospel Is An “Announcement”

The word “Gospel” literally means “good news.” In the original Greek language it’s often translated “Herald” or “Evangelist.” When a Greek king won a battle, he would send a “Gospel Herald” all over the kingdom to announce the “good news” of his victory! So, in it’s purest sense, the Gospel is an “announcement”—the Biblical writers used the word “Gospel” to announce that Jesus has won the battle for our salvation by His atoning death on the cross! The Gospel is the good news, about God’s forgiveness, by Christ’s substitutionary work in our place— “…He became sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” 2 Cor. 5:21.

-We’re Saved From Good Works

Once we’ve heard & accepted the good news—about Jesus’ payment for sin—we’re commissioned, by Him, to announce the good news everywhere & to make disciples of Christ from all nations! When we get Jesus’ Gospel right, it’s a message that saves us from our “good works”—“For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift—not from works, so that no one can boast” Eph 2:8,9.  From my earliest recollections of myself, as a young boy, I remember trying to impress God with my good deeds. But, Scripture clearly says here that salvation “…is NOT from YOURSELVES…”; it’s “…NOT from works…” We can never change enough to sway God! We can never justify ourselves before Him! We’re DEAD in our SIN! That’s why Jesus went to the cross—to pay the price we should have paid! It’s the “good news” of the Gospel that saves us from thinking that our good deeds can save us.

-We’re Saved From Guilt

When we get Jesus’ Gospel right, it’s a message that saves us from our “guilt”—“And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins” God says in Hebrews 8:12.  The Psalmist wrote, “…then I confessed my sins to you and didn’t hide my guilt. I said, ‘I will confess my sins to the Lord,’ and You forgave my guilt.” Psalm 32:1-5.  The same Gospel that saves us from our good works, saves us from our guilt—when guilt is our motivator, we can never do enough! That’s the unbearable burden of a “performance-driven faith”—when have you done enough? But the Gospel, of Christ, says we’re saved by GRACE!

-The Gospel Saves Us To Do Good Works

 

The Holy Spirit inspired the Apostle Paul to write: “For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them” Eph. 2:10.  Did you see that? Paul says, “…we are HIS creation”; and, it’s in our conversion to Christ that we are “…created…FOR good works”; and, God prepares us for those good works! They don’t save us! They’re the RESULT of our salvation—the RESULT of God’s sanctifying work IN US! When we truly see the beauty & glory of God’s grace in our lives, we will want to do good works that reflect well on Jesus!

Politics Is Like A Skunk

Touch It & People Will Notice

That’s what a pastor friend of mine told me once: “Politics is like a skunk: Touch it and that’s all anyone will notice about you for a long while.” When I was in my 20’s and 30’s I was very much involved in the political scene. I was part of the “Moral Majority” back in the 70’s and listened religiously to the political talk shows during the 80’s and 90’s.

Perspective Is A Great Thing

But, “perspective” is a great thing! It’s about the only great thing about growing older! Perspective is “the ability to see all the relevant data in a meaningful relationship to one another.” Over the last 20 years I’ve gained a different perspective for the Church’s level of involvement in politics during the “Moral Majority” years. From my perspective, the Church exchanged Christ’s commission to “make disciples” for the hope that their political clout (because of their “majority” status) could change our country, for the better, by electing the right individuals to office & through legislation.

We’ve Reaped What We Sowed

Almost 5 decades later, we’ve “reaped what we sowed.” Because we backed away from our calling to “make disciples” the Church has severely shrunk in size. Some of the most recent statistics I’ve seen reveal that 9 out of every 10 churches in America are in decline.  And, only 1 new church is starting for every 2-3 that are closing! We’re no longer a “moral majority”! So, we’ve—for the most part—failed to elect God-Honoring public servants; and, we’ve failed in the battle to pass God-Honoring legislation. We’ve lost the “Culture Wars”!

God Is Still Sovereign

We’ve paid a great price for our disobedience, Church! And, I’m pointing fingers at this guy at the same time I’m calling out the rest of the Church! I’ve been disobedient to my calling! There, I said it! Will you admit it? But, wait! This is not a message of hopelessness! All is not lost! God is still Sovereign! He’s still on the throne! He still listens & is moved by the repentant prayers of His Children! He continues to raise up “modern day prophets” who call the Church back to God; to brokenness & humility; to return to our calling; to fulfill our Lord’s Great Commission to “make disciples” as we “go” about doing life!

Another Election Is Only Months Away

Like most of you, I’m already sick to death of all the negative campaign advertising! It would be real easy, for me, to just walk away from the political process altogether! I’d have no problem finding something else to do on election day & I’m sure many of you feel the same way. But, we can’t! On the basis of Scriptural principle, there is simply no way that I can—in good conscience—recommend that you stay away from the polls on November 8th. Just because politics is less important doesn’t mean that it’s not important! There’s a tension there! It’s all about being a good & faithful steward!

(Part II Next Week)

Does God Get Disappointed With Us?

Can We Hurt God?

I know of a Youth Pastor who handed his students a 3-inch nail & told them to keep it in their pocket. Whenever they had a lustful thought, sassed their parents, or mistreated a classmate, they needed to reach in their pocket & poke that nail into their finger ‘til it hurt. “Draw a little blood,” he told them, “that way you’ll remember the pain those actions are causing God. You’ll know how disappointed He is with you right now!”

Ever Feel Like You Can’t Make God Happy?

Maybe that’s the picture of God that someone painted for you when you were growing up! Maybe you live every day thinking that you’re nothing but a big disappointment to God! Maybe you’ve messed up so badly & so many times that you think you could never make God happy with you! Well, here’s a statement that’ll rock your world— “If Jesus is your Savior, God will never be disappointed with you!

Is It Even Possible To Disappoint God?

Disappointment is comprised of 2 elements: surprise & frustration! People disappoint us when we’re surprised by something unexpected that they did; and, we’re frustrated by it! If Jesus is your Savior, God will never be disappointed with you because He is “omniscient”; or, “all-knowing.” Because He’s omniscient, He’s never surprised or frustrated! He’ll never say, “Wow! I never saw that coming!” The psalmist said, “Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I stand up; You understand my thoughts from far away…You are aware of all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue, You know all about it, Lord” Psalm 139:1-6  God knows everything about us! So, we never surprise Him! Not once is the word translated “disappoint” ever used, in the Bible, in reference to God! An All-Knowing God can never have His hopes or expectations fail!

God’s Theology Of Forgiveness

Ultimately, He’s never disappointed with us because all our sin has already been paid for by Jesus on the cross! It’s been replaced with the “righteousness of Christ”! So, grab hold of God’s forgiveness! God’s forgiveness, through Christ is total! What God offers, through Jesus’ substitutionary work on the cross, is a radical, sweeping removal of every sin you’ve already committed & every sin you will ever commit the rest of your life! Review Colossians 2:13-14 and Psalm 103:12—He’s “removed our sins from us as far as the east is from the west”! So thorough is God’s forgiveness that we were forgiven before we ever sinned—our names were written in God’s book before the “foundation of the world” Revelation 13:8. He no longer holds our sin against us—“…God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them…” 2 Cor. 5:19. So, does God get disappointed with us? No! How could He when He no longer holds our sins & our missteps against us? He’s canceled our debt of sin!