James 2:18—But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. (ESV)
The faith versus deeds debate is a wrestle that transcends generations. Even so, I believe that in the wrestle of today’s culture, these verses could be reapplied as so: “But someone will say, “You have grace and I have holiness.” Show me your grace apart from your holiness, and I will show you my grace by my holiness.”
Alex is a high school student in Vancouver, Washington. One day he was driving on a job when he was rear-ended by another driver. Alex took a photo of the man’s driver’s license so he could report it to his insurance company. He noticed that the man held a commercial license. In conversing with him he found out that he was married and a father and that this was his second accident in less than a month. The man was upset that he had been so careless.
Colossians 3:16--Let the message about the Messiah dwell richly among you, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, and singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, with gratitude in your hearts to God.
It was an amazing show of sportsmanship. Tiger Woods walked into the gallery and was met by Jack Nicklaus, arguably the world’s greatest golfer. Jack complimented him for his performance—his winning score of 67 matched Jack’s own record. And then he told Tiger that his birdie on the 16th hole was one of the greatest shots he had ever witnessed.
Why was this conversation so remarkable? For the simple reason that Jack knew the heinous sins of Tiger. He witnessed the planet’s most popular golfer meltdown morally and behave in ways that were a complete embarrassment to the sport. He rendered grace and dignity to an athlete he could deliberately have avoided.
Ephesians 4:7—Now grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of the Messiah’s gift.
Ephesians gives us a powerful apologetic for the true meaning and application of grace. Too often we hear preached today the message “God loves you and allyou have to do is tell Him you are sorry for your sins, place your faith in His Son, Jesus and you will be saved.” This incomplete statement pales in weight to the message that follows—“Don’t worry about your sin, God has taken care of it. You just do the best you can. God wants to bless you. You don’t need to suffer anymore. Just claim your blessing and live your dreams.” Both messages are well-received and both carry with them an implied assurance that so long as we believe in Jesus we can live our lives in pursuit of whatever pleases us. But watch the progression of truth about grace the Apostle Paul teaches the Ephesians and see if it differs profoundly from what we often hear taught today.
John 5:15—The man went and reported to the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well.
Never underestimate the need for approval. A man is sick for 38 years. Jesus sees him and knows his situation. He asks him if he would like to get well. Instead of answering “Yes!,” the man shares a pool of woes. You can read about it in John 5:1-7.
Thank God we are not a heap of ashes! 1. Do you know people who believe the Old Testament God is exceedingly harsh and not the same New Testament God? 2. Have you ever done something so bad there was just no way you thought God would forgive you? 3. Do you know someone who has committed some disgusting sin and Christians will have nothing to do with that person despite his or her repentance?
When I read my Bible I look forward each day to hearing from the Lord. I look forward to learning something that will help me live more effectively or that will enable me to help others. I don’t know about you but I find the book of Leviticus to be hard reading. For the first nine chapters, God instructs Moses in how the Israelites are to bring offerings and the priests are to conduct themselves and I’m struggling to see anything even remotely interesting. Then chapter ten comes along and I read the shocking verses below.
Almost five years ago, I shared the story of David Knecht, a West Point classmate who suffered a horrifying injury while on a military exercise that left him partially paralyzed and blind in his right eye. The name of that reveration was Glory. This week I was able to visit Dave and Annette in their home in Tampa, Florida.
Every week, Tuesday through Thursday from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., I have the privilege of helping lead an emergency food ministry. What is somewhat unique about this organization is that each person who comes into our facility reads a pre-intake form which tells them that they are about to receive food but must first agree to meet with a counselor to discuss personal and spiritual issues.
Recently, the Vietnam Traveling Wall (the 3/4ths replication of the amazing black wall in Washington D.C.), traveled to Portland, Oregon. Etched in somber stone is the name of every veteran killed in Indochina. During the opening ceremony I represented the 104th Division. Afterwards I was invited to a dinner with the special people from the cemetery that planned the event.
Isaiah chapter thirty contains a stern message from God to a nation consistently at odds with His will. Judah was rebellious, deceitful and unwilling to listen to His instruction (vs. 9). The people told the prophets to stop telling them what was right. They asked them to speak pleasant things and to share illusions (vs. 10). I’m reminded of Paul’s word to Timothy when he foretold a time “For the time will come when they will not tolerate sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, will multiply teachers for themselves because they have an itch to hear something new” (2 Timothy 4:3).
Two friends drug him down. It started with watching mediocre movies and descended into pornography. Sambo felt miserable and tried to rationalize his actions against a brighter conscience. He felt trapped until one night he listened to his father, Titus, preach a message he’d heard countless times. On this evening in December of 1994, God’s Word pierced Sambo’s heart. He felt the potent pull of the Holy Spirit. Tears filled his eyes and plunged downward washing away built-up shame. Later that night he repented of his sin and honestly asked Jesus to become His Lord and Savior. Lingering guilt was replaced by enduring peace. Love came and filled a 14-year-old boy in Trivandrum, India.
Kaching, kachingcan you hearthe sound of cash registers ringing up sales like there was no tomorrow? Personally, I’m in the market for two sliding glass doors. Our doors have broken seals, a locking mechanism that no longer works and twenty plus years of wear and abuse. It doesn’t help that Bear and Dusty, our two big dogs, think that jumping against and scratching the glass will earn them a trip inside. I wish you could see Bear working his pink and black-splotched tongue up and down the rubber edging trying to lick his way in. The pools outside the door aren’t from rain!
The 301 complex overlooks a valley framed by gently rolling California hills. When the round red ball of heat sinks the view is amazing. Several nights ago after the sun had vanished, I stopped walking and stood transfixed by the beauty of a mature oak tree in front of an expansive sky wearing a bluish hue I don’t ever remember seeing before. I wished the moment would last as I thanked God for His painting.
Bob Wieland lost his legs to a mortar round in the Vietnam War. But that didn't stop the 57-year-old veteran from finishing the Los Angeles Marathon. Using only his hands and on less than twelve hours of sleep, it took Bob a week to complete the 26.2-mile course. Surrounded at the finish by well-wishers and admirers, Wieland said, "This was not natural. This was supernatural. It was only done by the grace of God."
I want to be good and I suspect the same is true for you. Yet, despite my best intentions, I cannot live a perfect life. The deeper I get to know my Lord the more aware I am of my shortcomings. For this reason I find the concept of justification to be somewhat overwhelming. God in His profound holiness did not have to go to any length to rescue me from sin. He does not need me and most certainly I have offended Him time and again. Yet, inexplicably through His vast love, He chose a horrific path to blaze a terrific salvation.