“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23)
The fact that we are all sinners is clearly taught in Scripture. Speaking to both Jews and Gentiles, Paul spent the first two and a half chapters making the case that all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. Known as the Apostle Paul’s most theological letter, Romans spells out the whole of the gospel more than any other letter. It’s not an accident that in doing so, he began with sin.
There are two dangerous attitudes toward sin that we need to be cautioned against. The first is the attitude that shrugs off sin with words like, “I’m just a sinner; God knows that”. While we are sinners, and yes, God does know that, our attitude toward sin matters. God has commanded us to “be holy, for I am holy!” (1 Peter 1:16). A casual attitude toward sin never brings glory to God. A second dangerous attitude toward sin is an attitude that believes we are incapable of great sin. It is often manifested by judging someone else by saying something like, “I can’t believe what they did. I would never do that.” Be careful, we all have a sin nature and are capable of great sin. If you believe you’re not, you’ll be less likely to guard against it. The Christian life requires discipline. We must train ourselves for godliness (1 Timothy 4:7).
I once heard a sermon where a pastor in preaching to prospective pastors in seminary training said that if in their preaching they do not confront their congregation about sin, it not only brings into question their love for their congregation, but also their love for God. When your pastor confronts you with your sin, be grateful. He’s preaching the Bible. However, also know that the natural extension of confronting you with your sin is for him to tell you of its cure, Jesus Christ. It has been said that “the first act of faith is to believe what God says about sin”. It’s true. And what brings people to saving faith is what God did about it. He gave His Son to pay sin’s penalty. Have you placed your faith in that truth? Jesus really did pay it all. He paid it willingly, perfectly and for all time. After such a display of love, how could we be so casual about what Christ came to cure?
“So it was not you who sent me here, but God” (Genesis 45:8)
For all Joseph’s brothers subjected him to, it would have been easy for bitterness to consume him. His brothers wanted to kill him, but instead sold him into slavery in Egypt. He was seventeen. They did it because they were jealous of how much their father Jacob loved Joseph. It didn’t help matters that Joseph also told them of his dream, a dream that they would one day bow down to him. It only made them hate him more. Joseph’s brothers sought to do, and did evil to Joseph.
For a large part of his life, Joseph was cheated out of many things he might have enjoyed; the opportunity to spend time with his family, including his younger brother whom he had never met and the father he loved greatly. He was also subjected to various challenging circumstances along the way. But whatever the circumstance, Joseph always found favor with God and in the end was reunited with his brothers and his father. God’s great purpose for Joseph was to preserve the Hebrew people, a remnant on earth (Genesis 45:7). The complete Joseph narrative is found in Genesis 37-50.
Scripture teaches that for those who love God, all things work together for good (Romans 8:28). But good doesn’t always mean easy. Joseph’s life is testimony of this truth. During his times of testing, Joseph exhibited faithful obedience and trust in the Lord each step of the way. He recognized that what his brothers meant for evil, God meant for good (Genesis 50:20). He grasped the important truth that everything that happens, happens only under the sovereign hand of God.
Evil is real, life is full of storms and sometimes our circumstances can be overwhelming. This can lead to bitterness. But our God is greater. Trusting in His sovereignty is not only a help when evil dawns, but also comforts through life’s storms and protects us by keeping bitterness from taking root, robbing us of the joy of our salvation. God’s sovereignty puts perspective around our circumstances. People and circumstances may come against you, but as He was with Joseph, God is with you. Be faithful to obey and trust in the Lord’s sovereignty knowing that He is working both for your good and His glory.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30)
Though the Mosaic Law served specific purposes for the Jews, its ultimate purpose was for them to recognize their sin and thus their need of Christ for salvation. The Pharisees, however, taught a sort of self salvation, the thought people had to do something in order to be saved. That’s not what Jesus taught.
A “yoke” is a wooden framework placed over the necks of animals to hold them together in order for them to pull objects. The idea of being under a “yoke” implies being under submission to another. Being bound by the demands of the law was an oppressive burden, a “yoke of slavery” for the Jewish people. In contrast, Jesus’ yoke is easy and His burden light.
It is easy to fall into the false belief that we have to “do something” to earn or keep our salvation. It’s a heavy burden trying to do that. In fact, it’s impossible because salvation can’t be earned. The beauty of the gospel and the words spoken by Jesus in Matthew 11:28-30 is that they make clear the only way of salvation—by grace, through faith, in Christ. Salvation isn’t based on our religious affiliations, a certain set of rituals or our good deeds. It’s based on death, burial and resurrection. Jesus did it all. Honor and glorify Him by resting in His redeeming work.
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15)
The great message of the gospel is that Jesus accomplished what we couldn’t. God is holy, so holy, He cannot look upon sin. Sin has separated us from God, but because of His love for us, He has provided a way of forgiveness. That way is through Christ.
Described as a “word of exhortation”, Hebrews was written to encourage Jews to remain faithful to their confession of Christ. The increased intensity of their persecution had caused some to deny their identification with Christ and fall back into certain aspects of Judaism.
The primary theme of the book of Hebrews is the supremacy of Christ. Jesus, the mediator of the new covenant did what the old covenant mediators couldn’t. Under the old covenant, the priest’s role was to act as an intermediary between God and the people. They offered sacrifices for their sins and the sins of others. These sacrifices had to be repeated. Jesus, however, is the perfect High Priest who’s once for all sacrifice atoned for sin for all time. He is the High Priest worthy of praise.
Jesus understands our weaknesses because He was made weak and suffered temptation, yet did so without sin. We can have no better advocate than the one who walked through the temptations of humanity free from sin, yet chose to die for ours, only to then overcome the grave. Live in light of that truth and give Him the praise He is due. Worthy is the Lamb!
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6)
Jesus made some pretty exclusive claims, none more so than His words in John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”. Such an exclusive claim angered many in Jesus’ day. It angers some today. Given the changing culture and the pressure to conform, it sometimes even makes the faithful uncomfortable proclaiming the message of Christ. Christianity is unique among religions in that the promise of salvation is based on God’s word and Christ’s work as opposed to man’s performance. This message is unlike any other. It’s the most important message there is and no matter our cultures appetite, it must be shared.
We may never know how God will work in the heart of those we encounter, but we do know if our lives are a reflection of Christ in us, and if we were faithful to proclaim the gospel of grace. That’s all we are called to do. The Holy Spirit does the rest. Let us be faithful to heed the words of Scripture and share with others the saving message of Christ. He truly is the only way. There is no other substitute! We cannot for the sake of eternity believe otherwise.
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him” (John 3:16-17)
Did you know that Jesus spoke more about hell than He did heaven? It’s not unusual to not want to entertain ideas about the reality of hell. Truth be told, we would much rather deny its existence. However, to do so is to deny what Scripture teaches. The word “perish” used in John 3:16 means to incur divine punishment, destruction and wrath. No one should want to constantly contemplate that reality. It would be unnatural. But equally unnatural is the idea that God would rescue us from that reality—that He would provide a way of escape. Yet, that’s exactly what these verses teach He did. Continue reading
“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15)
Timothy knew the theological parameters of the gospel. He ministered side by side with the apostle Paul for many years. He had witnessed Paul minister in a number of difficult circumstances, but now with Paul’s impending death, Timothy would be left to carry on without him. Paul loved Timothy and wanted to encourage him to stand against the false teaching of the day. Most important in that stand was for Timothy to know that God was standing with him and that he could rely on His power. But Paul also knew the importance of how a man of God presented himself, and in chapter two of Paul’s second letter to Timothy, he expressed to Timothy the things that were to characterize a man of God. Continue reading
“Pray then like this: Our Father in heaven…” (Matthew 6:9)
Throughout His ministry, Jesus taught his disciples many things, among them, how to pray. He also modeled for them a life devoted to prayer. As the disciples forged forward in their Christian faith and stewardship over the early church, prayer was an essential element. In Matthew 6:5-15, contained in what is known as the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught on the issue of prayer. In verses 9-13, He offered a model for prayer. This prayer, with six specific petitions helps put the proper perspective on what prayer should be. As Jesus began, He began by saying, “Pray then like this: Our Father in heaven… Continue reading
“But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
Paul knew the power of the gospel to transform lives. How could he not, his own life was transformed by it. From the moment of his conversion, Paul dedicated his life to the preaching of the gospel Christ had revealed to him. Among the 13 letters that he wrote, two were written to those in the church at Corinth. The first letter dealt with a variety of issues resulting from the spiritual immaturity of some within the church. Some people had a hard time breaking away from the influence of the culture around them. Continue reading
“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10)
The Apostle Paul taught clearly that salvation was by God’s grace through faith in Christ alone—that there was nothing in man that merited salvation. Not only in Ephesians did he emphasize this message, but in all of his letters and throughout his ministry. This is the gospel, the “good news” he received from Christ. It is also the gospel Paul would die proclaiming. Continue reading