It Started in the Garden

“And the Lord commanded the man, saying: ‘You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.’….So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.”  Genesis 2:16-3:6

Disobedience is almost as old as humankind.  God created Adam and Eve and gave them only one restriction — do not eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  One commandment and almost immediately they disobey it!

Why?  The serpent sows doubt in Eve’s mind.  Maybe God didn’t really mean what He said;  maybe she misunderstood Him; maybe God has some ulterior motive that is for His benefit, not hers.  Plus, the fruit really looked good, and she was hungry.

Nothing has really changed. I know at times I apply the same faulty reasoning that Eve did.  It’s hard to discern God’s will;  times have changed, and some of God’s rules seem outdated and unnecessary;  that sin is really attractive, and I don’t see how it would hurt me;  and the big one — can I really trust God?

I think it all boils down to trust.  The Bible tells us:

“…for those who love God all things work together for good, …”Romans 8:29

If we trust in this promise, we’ll try to obey God’s rules.  They are given to us for our benefit.  The things that seem unclear, that seem unreasonable, that deprive us of what looks good or feels pleasurable will only hurt us in the long run.  Of course, like our first parents, we’ll still disobey.  We’ll fall short.  We’ll miss the mark.  God provided for that, too.

“Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness (Christ’s) leads to justification and life for all men.”  Romans 5:18

Disobedience started in the garden;  it’s results ended in Christ.  Trust God who works all things for our good.

 

 

 

 

Saved by Grace

“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God–not because of works, lest any man should boast.  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”  Ephesians 2:8-10

If I had to pick out one Bible verse to express the theology of the reformation, it would be this one.  As a Lutheran I’ve heard it over and over again as the foundation for our beliefs.

Christ didn’t save us because we are good:

“as it is written: ‘None is righteous, no, not one;  no one understands, no one speaks for God.  All have turned aside, together they have done wrong;  no one does good, not even one.'” Romans 3:10-12

He didn’t save us because we accepted Him:

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should bear fruit and that your fruit should abide …”John 15:16

He chose us for one reason only:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”  John 3:16

Notice that the verses from Ephesians and John emphasize that our works come from God as well.  He has chose and appointed them for us.

So, what do you think?  Are we saved by God’s grace alone? Send us your thoughts and comments.

 

 

The Freedom of Grace

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What is your favorite Bible verse about freedom? Please send us your comments.

How Should a Free Person Act?

A while back, Michele did a post on how should a reborn person act.  I thought it might be appropriate to turn that same question to the current theme, freedom.  Our friend, Paul, has some thoughts about this. In Romans Chapter 8 verse 2 he says:

“The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death.”

Of course to some, being set free from law sounds like being able to do whatever you want, so Paul has to disabuse of that:

“What then?  Are we to sin because we are not under the law but under grace?  By no means!  Do you not know that if you yield yourselves to any one as obedient slaves you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin which leads to death, or of obedience that leads to righteousness …For just as you once yielded your members to impurity and greater and greater iniquity, so now yield your members to righteousness for sanctification.”  Romans 6:15-16, 19

Maybe he makes it even clearer in Galatians:

“For you were called to freedom, brethren;  only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love be servants of one another.”  Galatians 5:13

So, how should a Christian who has been freed from sin act?  He shouldn’t go back to being entangled in his sins. If he does that He is still enslaved to sin.  Instead, he must yield himself to the One who freed him with humility and gratitude.  He should love others in a sacrificial way.  Freedom in Christ doesn’t mean we’re free to keep being what we are –it means changing into what we were really meant to be;  becoming our true and authentic selves.

How has being free in Christ changed you?  (that’s a post for another day).  I want to hear your stories.

 

Let’s Make a Deal!

“When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness, But then what return did you get from the things of which you are now ashamed?  The end of those things is death.  But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the return you get is sanctification and its end, eternal life.  For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.”  Romans 6:20-23

I suspect a lot of people have trouble seeing Christians as free.  They world (and the devil) tell them we are people who are governed by old fashioned rules and ideas;  people who give up their time and money in an effort to appease an angry, unreasonable God who probably doesn’t even exist.  Honestly, Christianity to many is a strange delusion, possibly even a mental illness.  What could be the advantage of being a Christian?

In the verses above from Romans, the apostle Paul outlines how wrong this thinking is and  exactly what a deal Christians have.  Sin doesn’t make anyone happy.  Eventually things like dishonesty, envy, greed, immorality catch up with us.  We’re left with broken relationships, shattered reputations, increasing dissatisfaction, shame and yes, as Paul says, even death.  The Christian deal sets us free from ALL of that.

Who wouldn’t want the free gift of God which brings peace and eternal life?  Who wouldn’t trade conflict for brotherhood, jealousy for contentment, acceptance for condemnation, death for life? Tell someone today about the deal Jesus is offering them.

 

Accepting Forgiveness

I’ve been thinking about how this month we’ve spent a lot of time blogging about forgiving, but not so much about accepting forgiveness.  Michele said forgiving isn’t easy –well, accepting forgiveness isn’t easy either.  Why? Here are some of the reasons I think cause us to have trouble.

  1. First of all we have to humble ourselves.  We have to admit we’re wrong and we need forgiveness.  I don’t know about you, but I like to pretend I don’t need anything, that I’ve got things together, that I’m in control.  That’s just plain denial.  Romans 3:23 tells us, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” 
  2. Sometimes we’re convinced that we don’t deserve to be forgiven.  We think that thing we did is so awful nobody, certainly not a perfect God can forgive it.  Well, (see point #1) we don’t deserve it.  It’s a gift.  Wow!  Get this –“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1
  3. We think we have to earn forgiveness, and we feel hopeless to do that.  Again, remember forgiveness is a gift and it’s free.  We don’t deserve it, and we can’t earn it. “For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us…”Romans 8:3-4
  4. We’re afraid we might have to change, and really, deep down, we don’t want to.  Remember when Jesus forgave the woman caught in adultery, he also told her, “Go and sin no more.” John 8:11

Think of the difference between the two disciples, Peter and Judas.  Judas betrayed Jesus, but so did Peter.  He denied Him three times.  The difference between these two men was not in what they did, but how they responded to it.  Peter trusted Jesus.  He confessed his sin and accepted forgiveness.  Judas felt guilty, but tried to take care of the problem himself by committing suicide.  How sad.  He denied himself the opportunity to be forgiven.  In so doing, he separated himself from God.

So, if you are feeling you can’t be forgiven, remember this promise:

“For whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart.” 1 John 3:20

Be a Peter! Accept God’s forgiveness and let Him use you in a mighty way!

 

 

 

Are You Dead or Alive?

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor rulers, nor powers, nor heights, nor depths, nor anything in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Romans 8:38-39

 When our daughter, Beth was a youngster, she took clowning lessons.  One of the classic clown skits she learned was entitled, “Dead or Alive?” The humor of the skit arose out of a dichotomy – a clown who is seemingly dead – stiff and unmoving through a variety of physical manipulations – is ultimately revealed to be alive.

 The surprising thing about Christians is that we, too, may be dead in the eyes of the world – friendless, destitute, depressed, afflicted by debilitating illness—and yet remain alive.  That is because God has “caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” 1 Peter 1:3.  At Easter we express this hope in the ringing statement:  He is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Jesus who seemed to be dead is alive and He is with us in every circumstance or trial.  Even our physical death will not be able to separate us from Him and His love.  Our hope in Christ is the one hope that will never disappoint us. 

So, what about you?  Are you dead or alive? 

 For further reading check out: Job 19:25-27  Psalm 16:8-11  John 15:9-10  Hebrews 6:19-20