God’s Sorrow

 

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“For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin”

2 Corinthians 7:10

 

“I am a man of constant sorrow I’ve seen trouble all my day. . .For six long years I’ve been in trouble, No pleasures here on earth I found. For in this world I’m bound to ramble I have no friends to help me now.” I Am A Man of Constant Sorrow – Soggy Bottom Boys

This sad, sorrowful song paints a desperate, hopeless picture of poor decisions leading to sorrow. Usually, when we read or hear of sorrow, this is the picture we see: hopeless, sad, lamenting, regret. However, God has provided a far better definition. Godly sorrow offers repentance and renewal—forgiveness!

How typical of God, the lover of our souls, to wash away the hopelessness of sorrow as we know it, and replace it with hope-filled repentance—the forgiveness of sins. Those who willingly follow Christ understand repentance and forgiveness. Not only do we understand— we relish the thought of God’s unlimited forgiveness. Interestingly, non believers, those who reject Christ, still understand the power of forgiveness as opposite of the power of sorrowful regret or hopelessness. All humans know that forgiveness, whether given or received, brings welcome relief mixed with hope. And why not— forgiveness was invented by God and shown to the world through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

2 Corinthians 7:8-10

“I am not sorry that I sent that severe letter to you, though I was sorry at first, for I know it was painful to you for a little while. Now I am glad I sent it, not because it hurt you, but because the pain caused you to repent and change your ways. It was the kind of sorrow God wants his people to have, so you were not harmed by us in any way. For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death.”  

Psalm 51:16-17

  “You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one. You do not want a burnt offering.

The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant

heart, O God.” 

Isaiah 66:1-2

“This is what the LORD says: “Heaven is My throne, and the earth is my footstool. Could you build Me a temple as good as that? Could you build Me such a resting  place?

My hands have made both heaven and earth; they and everything in them are Mine. I, the Lord, have spoken! “I will bless those who have humble and contrite hearts, who tremble at my word.”

1 Peter 5:5-7  

“Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”

Psalm 33:16-22

16 “No king is saved by the size of his army;

   no warrior escapes by his great strength.

17 A horse is a vain hope for deliverance;

   despite all its great strength it cannot save.

18 But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear Him,

   on those whose hope is in His unfailing love,

19 to deliver them from death  and keep them alive in famine.

20 We wait in hope for the LORD;

   He is our help and our shield.

21 In Him our hearts rejoice,

   for we trust in His holy name.

22 May Your unfailing love rest upon us, O LORD,

   even as we put our hope in You.”

Hebrews 12:11

“All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.”

When confronted by punishment, a child is sorrowful (perhaps because they’ve been discovered rather than for their behavior). If they’ve learned a lesson, their life will be more peaceful afterwards. If not, the cycle will be repeated. The same is true in our relationship with God. If we learn the lesson and repent, our sorrow will be short-lived and transformed into righteousness.

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A New Person

“When someone becomes a Christian, they become a brand new person”  2 Cor. 5:17

The darkened theatre was hushed as the magician placed his beautiful assistant in the coffin-like box, balanced on top of two sturdy frames. Seemingly delighted with the prospect, her white teeth gleamed as she obliged, stepping into the box, disappearing beneath the closing lid.  

It was clear to the audience that the box was balanced on the frames, nothing beneath, no cloth to hide an escape route, just a long box on wooden frames which he now nailed shut to add even more drama and suspense.  

To this point, I was mildly interested in what came next, how he would make believe that she disappeared and would walk out from stage-left or some such thing. But when his other assistant rolled out a cart, piled high with razor-sharp swords, I began to squirm. Sure enough, he brandished one of the swords, touching its sharpened edge and then quickly spun around, shoving it into the box up to its hilt, I joined the audience in an unbelieving gasp! It was not possible.

Before we could regain our composure, the magician quickly and methodically walked around the box, shoving every sword deeply into the box, where his innocent assistant lay! Even though I knew this was a magic show and came with a great deal of skepticism, I have to admit to absolute shock mixed with fear and unbelief as I watched.

Of course she was not dead or even injured as we all saw in a few moments when he opened the lid with much difficulty (so it seemed) to reveal the undamaged young assistant. Judging by what we saw on the outside, that young woman should have been fatally wounded. However, what we thought we saw was not what really happened. It was an illusion, unlike our new life in Christ.

On the outside, we may seem the same as we were before Christ was invited into our lives, but inside we are totally changed—new people—filled with His Holy Spirit.

2 Corinthians 5:13-21  “Whatever we do, it is certainly not for our own profit but because Christ’s love controls us now. Since we believe that Christ died for all of us, we should also believe that we have died to the old life we used to live. He died for all so that all who live—having received eternal life from him—might live no longer for themselves, to please themselves, but to spend their lives pleasing Christ who died and rose again for them. So stop evaluating Christians by what the world thinks about them or by what they seem to be like on the outside. Once I mistakenly thought of Christ that way, merely as a human being like myself. How differently I feel now! When someone becomes a Christian, he becomes a brand new person inside. He is not the same anymore. A new life has begun!”

All these new things are from God who brought us back to himself through what Christ Jesus did. And God has given us the privilege of urging everyone to come into his favor and be reconciled to him. For God was in Christ, restoring the world to himself, no longer counting men’s sins against them but blotting them out. This is the wonderful message he has given us to tell others. We are Christ’s ambassadors. God is using us to speak to you: we beg you, as though Christ himself were here pleading with you, receive the love he offers you—be reconciled to God. For God took the sinless Christ and poured into him our sins. Then, in exchange, he poured God’s goodness into us!

1 Peter 1:21-25  “Because of this, your trust can be in God who raised Christ from the dead and gave him great glory. Now your faith and hope can rest in him alone. Now you can have real love for everyone because your souls have been cleansed from selfishness and hatred when you trusted Christ to save you; so see to it that you really do love each other warmly, with all your hearts.

1 Peter 4:7-8  “The end of the world is coming soon. Therefore be earnest, thoughtful men of prayer. Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love makes up for many of your faults.”

For you have a new life. It was not passed on to you from your parents, for the life they gave you will fade away. This new one will last forever, for it comes from Christ, God’s ever-living Message to men. Yes, our natural lives will fade as grass does when it becomes all brown and dry. All our greatness is like a flower that droops and falls; but the Word of the Lord will last forever. And his message is the Good News that was preached to you.”

John 1:12-13  “But as many as received him—to those who believe in his name—he gave to them authority to become children of God, who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of a husband, but of God.”

By one decision, our lives are changed eternally—for the better—for the best! It is no illusion.

 

Help Me Understand This!

 

 

“I have hidden your Word in my heart” ~Psalm 119:112014-02-04_142222-1_thumb.jpg

 

“According to 2 Timothy 3:16, All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right,” said Pastor Frank. Then, to everyone’s surprise, he stood without speaking, looking across the congregation for what seemed an eternity. As he remained speechless, the people began to wonder what this meant. What was he saying by not speaking. The church was silent. And uneasy.

“Right about now you are all wondering what happened. Did I forget what to say. Have a stroke. Get struck dumb like Zecharias? You may relax, I gave us a minute—

And that is what is was, sixty seconds, to consider the Scripture from 2 Timothy 3:16.

“What are the implications of this important verse? What can we get from these words which many of us have read countless times? If you are at all like me when it comes to familiar Bible verses, we shoot them out to make a point without taking time to digest what the Holy Spirit has said. And remember, it was the Holy Spirit who gave these words to the writer, the Apostle Paul. It is also the Holy Spirit who gives life to these words as we read and recite them. “

“When we were in school, we all read thousands of words and in some cases were able to recite them from memory, hoping to get a better grade. However, even the most memorable and thought-provoking of those words pales in comparison to God’s Words given to us in His Bible. As Paul said above, ‘All Scripture is inspired by God!”

“So what am I getting at this morning and why did I give that long dramatic pause? I want to remind us how important all the verses in the Bible are. These are God’s Holy words given to us! As such they deserve our time. Memorizing verses is good for the soul and life giving as well but— if we don’t take time to allow the Holy Spirit to enlighten us as we read, we miss what our Heavenly Father wants to express and drive into our hearts.

Pastor Frank paused again, looking across the congregation. “Take a breath please. Relax your bodies and settle in with an open mind. Don’t think about your kids in the nursery, where you will eat lunch or how much gas  you have in the car. Give your minds to God so He can speak to you through this verse.

“First. Have you ever noticed this important verse has the same reference chapter and verse of the most quoted verse in the Bible, John 3:16? Neat huh. We know it isn’t an accident or happenstance. The Holy Spirit set it up that way which makes it easier to remember how to find both of them.

“Second. All scripture is inspired by God. Take a moment to consider the power of that statement. When people challenge us about the Bible being just a book written by some zealots from the past and has no bearing on life today, you can say, with certainty, that ALL scripture is inspired by God. And you can point them to this verse. It is up to the reader to accept or reject this truth.  

“Third. All scripture is. . .useful to teach us what is true. How reassuring to know that God Himself uses the Bible, His Word, to teach us what is true. By our faith in Christ and belief in the Bible, God will teach us what is true in our lives and His Word. Because we are frail humans who weaken and allow insecurity to slip in, God has given us the reminder here in 2 Timothy 3:16; All scripture is useful to teach us what is true. Regardless of my feelings, God’s word is always true. My feelings will vary but His Word never does!

“Fourth. All scripture is. . .useful to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. What an incredible promise. Now this is beyond human understanding Isn’t it? By reading and listening to the Bible, God will reveal what is wrong in our lives. You may be thinking you’re not sure you want to be reminded of what is wrong in your life. However, this is an example of God’s amazing love for us. He knows we need to be reminded so we can repent and go on with a clean slate. He is all about forgiveness you know. And so it is with our sins, they are covered by the blood of Christ and our willingness to repent accentuates His forgiveness.

“Fifth. All scripture corrects when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. And there it is, His Word corrects and teaches. He doesn’t correct and leave it there but guides us into correct behavior or the best answer to problem. God is not hoping we will sin so he can smash us with a big rock. Rather He is a loving Father who already gave His only Son to death so we can live forever. As we consider how God has shown his love for us then surely we must understand He is not hoping we will sin so he can teach us a lesson or two.

“We can clearly see,” said Pastor Frank, “all scripture is indeed useful for many things in our lives, established to be an extension of God’s magnificent love and concern for all believers. As a child, were you ever told to take your time eating your food and not gulp and run? Even so, God is telling us to take our time in His Word to savor the spiritual nourishment He’s planted therein.”  

Insecurity

“Jesus Christ. . .is the atoning sacrifice for our sins” ~1 John 1:2

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The evangelist preached a powerful message on God’s forgiveness of sins; explaining how Christ’s death on the cross, followed by His resurrection provided a cleansing stream of absolute forgiveness of sins; past, present, and future. Anyone who calls upon the name of Jesus will walk in that forgiveness for eternity. Dozens of people flocked to the altar to drink in His forgiveness, desperate for a cleansing experience. And they were not disappointed. Washed in the blood, they became whiter than snow in God’s sight.

A few months later, Frank, one of those who experienced God’s total forgiveness that night, met with Carl who had been a Christian for more than twenty years. He needed assurance. “So, Carl, how does this forgiveness actually work. I mean what about now that I’ve made some bad choices, lied a time or two, still wrestling with past sins? Some of the things I’ve done might curl your hair and I’m beginning to feel like I’m not really forgiven. I’m getting a little depressed if I’m honest. And it worries me.”

“I understand, Frank. And you’re not alone. Every person who has given their life to Christ has those feelings from time to time. And we all sin as well. The blood of Jesus washes all our sins away, Frank. Don’t forget that Jesus is at the right hand of God, interceding for our sins 24/7. God sees us through the blood of Christ. He sees us as pure and holy because of our faith in Christ, not our performance. Look at Romans 8:34, “Who then will condemn us? No one–for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.”

“That Scripture is powerful, Carl but sometimes I feel like a jerk. Like a loser. And then I wonder if I am really saved or if I am worth anything. I guess I get scared of my feelings. I get confused.”

“Many years ago I was at a conference and one of the speakers told us this very important fact, “Feelings are neither right nor wrong, they just are!” At first I thought he was wrong but the more I asked God about it I realized he was correct. We all have feelings and they may be absolutely wrong but that doesn’t make them true. What matters is what we do after we have the feelings. If they are not good do we go to God in prayer or do we wallow in them. Do we ask the Lord to forgive us, believe that He has and move on, walking in the light of His forgiveness? Or do we act condemned, weak and hopeless? Keep in mind the very important verses in Romans 8:1-2 “There is no condemnation now for those who live in union with Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit, which brings us life in union with Christ Jesus, has set me free from the law of sin and death.”

“I can feel (no pun intended) the heaviness lifting from my heart, Carl because I do believe that God never lies and always wants the best for me. You made me think of the verses later in that chapter, Romans 8:37-39, “No, in all these things we have complete victory through him who loved us! For I am certain that nothing can separate us from his love: neither death nor life, neither angels nor other heavenly rulers or powers, neither the present nor the future, neither the world above nor the world below—there is nothing in all creation that will ever be able to separate us from the love of God which is ours through Christ Jesus our Lord.”

“And there it is, Frank, nothing can ever separate us from His love! One of the keys to the Christian life is to believe absolutely in God and His Word, the Bible. He has done everything necessary for our salvation and eternal life but we must believe what it says! If we doubt the Bible and choose to sulk in our pathetic, negative feelings, what hope is there? We are saved eternally, forgiven eternally and never condemned, according to God Himself. If I remember those facts and call out to Him when I “feel” defeated or worthless, those feelings will go away.”

“Here is another promise found in 1 John 1:7, “But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.”  When we accepted Christ as Savior God did not give us a wink and wish us well. Instead, He gave us this assurance as written in Hebrews 13:5, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’.”

Easter!

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Although pristine and shiny, this elegant cross represents the bloody, cracked and dirty cross on which Jesus Christ willingly gave up His life for all humanity.

On April 1, 2018, many Americans will be aware of Easter Sunday which, for the most part, has become a family church day followed by a wonderful meal and an Easter egg hunt. But what about the cross in this photo? Where does that come in? Simply put, the cross came first, way before any family celebrations. The cross is a symbol of the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ to wash away the sins of humanity…all people, all over the world. Jesus died so we could live forever in a sinless, perfect world God has already created for us. Faith in Christ opens the door to total forgiveness and a magnificent life forever with no tears or pain. Not even any bad thoughts!

I tell you this because I want to remind Christians and to offer a life of forgiveness to unbelievers through faith in Christ. Jesus did the hard work, the impossible, painful, dreadful work for us. To reap the rewards of his amazing gesture of love, we must accept his sacrifice just like you accept any gift. Faith in Christ will change your life…forever! That is what Easter is all about…the resurrection of Jesus!

Forgiveness Not Feelings

 

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“For we are God’s masterpiece.” Eph. 2:10

Mike was 56 and had been a Christian for most of his life. Now in mid-life he had settled into a mediocre form of faith in Christ. His examples growing up were two parents displaying opposite ends of the faith spectrum. His father was stoic and bound by rules he thought Christians should follow. His mother was frantic, fearing they would all end up in hell because they were not perfect. Mike carried a little of both views into his adult life.  

Mike began to wonder if he would “make it” to heaven because of his sins of infidelity which brought about a divorce after 25 years. He was walking in doubt, secretly hoping he would be allowed into heaven but rather doubting it. Mike did not understand his total forgiveness and his right standing in Christ.

Eph 2:8-10  God saved you by His grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.

Mike’s eternal standing is secure and his life on earth can be filled with that assurance, rather than the forboding of imaginary unforgiveness. This unforgiveness is a lie from the enemy of our souls. He wants Mike and any other Christian in doubt, to give up the promises of God and live in doubt—hopeless and ineffectual. If Mike had turned to his Bible for answers, he would have reminded himself of Christ’s continual interceding for all believers at the right hand of the Father in heaven (Romans 8:34).

1 Thess 5:9-11  For God chose to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out his anger on us. Christ died for us so that, whether we are dead or alive when he returns, we can live with him forever. So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.

2 Thess 1:11-12  So we keep on praying for you, asking our God to enable you to live a life worthy of his call. May he give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do. Then the name of our Lord Jesus will be honored because of the way you live, and you will be honored along with him. This is all made possible because of the grace of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ.

Phil 2:12-13  …Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and power to do what pleases him.

1 Thess 1:3  As we pray to our God and Father about you, we think of your faithful work, your loving deeds, and the enduring hope you have because of our Lord Jesus Christ.

2 Tim 1:9  For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus.

For various reasons, we take on the responsibility of saving ourselves, wrenching that responsibility from Jesus. Promise after promise fills the pages of our Bible, reminding us that Jesus’ death on the cross brought ultimate forgiveness to all who call upon His name. But because of satan’s lies and our misplaced “feelings”, we fall into disbelief and discouragement, rejecting the love and forgiveness of Christ.

Rom 8:29-30  For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the first-born among many brothers and sisters. And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory.

Titus 3:4-8  But—“When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. Because of his grace he declared us righteous and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.” This is a trustworthy saying, and I want you to insist on these teachings so that all who trust in God will devote themselves to doing good. These teachings are good and beneficial for everyone.

Two men served in Viet Nam. During combat, one was wounded. His buddy carried him through the jungle for two days. The wounded man begged his friend to leave him so he could make it. He refused and they finally found base camp.

Years later, the one who was carried heard that his friend had a terminal disease and was bedridden. Since he was no longer married, he sold all his possessions and moved to live with his dying friend. He nursed him for over a year until the disease claimed his life When asked why he did this, he replied, “He saved my life. There is nothing I would not have done for him to show my gratitude.”

Jesus gave his life to rescue us for all eternity. Are we grateful?

Rom 15:13  I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

Holiness

 

“May the God of peace make you holy in every way” ~1 Thess. 5:23

        “Are you sanctified?” bellowed the animated preacher, pointing and sweeping his hand in a grand gesture to the church. “Are you sure? Are you holy? If you have any doubts you better come down to the altar and pray your way through! God is not happy with any fence sitters tonight. He means business and you better mean business too. You got to be sanctified to make God happy and get a golden key to your heavenly mansion,” said the sweat-drenched pastor as he walked to and fro among them, satisfied with the response to his fear-packed message.

       Terrified and confused people flocked to the altar, crying and begging God for the elusive sanctification, fearing they might miss the golden key awaiting those who have achieved sanctification [holiness].

Contrary to his threats and confusing statements, God was not happy with him or his misguided sermon. Believers do not receive sanctification as a result of fear or condemnation. To be accurate, this very emotional and dramatic pastor should have proclaimed, “Your faith has made you whole and you are all sanctified (made holy) by the Holy Spirit!” Let’s see what God’s Word has to say about our sanctification/holiness.

        Romans 6:19  I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.

        1 Cor. I:30-31  God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin.

        1 Cor. 1:2  To you who have been called by God to be his own holy people. He made you holy by means of Christ Jesus, just as he did for all people everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

        1 Cor. 6:11  You were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

        1 Thess. 5:23   Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

John 17:17-19  (Christ’s prayer to God) Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth. Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth.

        2 Thess. 2:13  As for us, we can’t help but thank God for you, dear brothers and sisters loved by the Lord. We are always thankful that God chose you to be among the first to experience salvation—a salvation that came through the Spirit who makes you holy and through your belief in the truth.

        Hebrews 10:10  For God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time.

        Romans 15:16   I am a special messenger from Christ Jesus to you Gentiles. I bring you the Good News so that I might present you as an acceptable offering to God, made holy by the Holy Spirit.

        Sanctification/holiness is not something we can beg God for at a church altar. Sanctification is a gift from God as a result of our faith in Jesus Christ. Although a gift, God requires our involvement to make choices for purity and holiness. But fear not, it is the Holy Spirit who enables us to follow through on our Christ-like decisions.