Grace

Do vs believing it’s DONE (Matthew 19:16-30)

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Religion says Do Jesus says i've DONE it for you...

A young man, an achiever in life wants to know how to ensure that he obtains eternal life.  He seemingly has everything he wants in this life, but maybe he is intrigued by things Jesus has been saying about eternal life and he wants to know how to obtain it. 

So he asks Jesus what he needs to DO to get what he wants (vs16).  This young man is steeped in religion.  Religion always gives one something to DO in order to be accepted.

Following Jesus is nothing like religion and so Jesus is going to reveal the difference between following Him and religion.  The man wants to DO something to gain God’s acceptance (that’s religion) and so Jesus plays along with him; 

“Keep the commandments” – Jesus says to the man.  “Done” the man says, I have kept them all (vs20).  ‘You want to be perfect?’ Jesus effectively says to the man?  ‘You want to know you DID enough, then just do one more thing’, Jesus says.

Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. (Matthew 19:21-22)

This man, in fact no person can DO enough to satisfy God’s requirements.  No one is righteous (Romans 3:11-12), all fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), the only way to be right before God is to accept the righteousness of God that’s apart from what you DO (Romans 3:21), a righteousness that’s from God through faith in Jesus (Romans 3:23). 

That’s grace, that’s the gospel, that’s the good news Jesus brings for each one of us – the way to eternal life is to believe in Him, to trust in what He has DONE for us. And that is the only way to obtain eternal life.

It’s a funny thing, but grace is not appealing to all people.  Although God’s grace offers us forgiveness and acceptance soley on the basis of believing in what Jesus has DONE for us, that very offer is offensive to a religious person!  How so?

It’s offensive, because in order to receive grace you have to accept that you have not been able to DO enough yourself!  In order to receive grace you have to accept that you need grace and that is a humbling hit to the pride that religion breeds.

Scripture says that the young man went away sorrowful, he did not believe Jesus who answered the question he had asked at first.  He did not believe that letting go of everything that he had been trusting in, to trust in Jesus was worth it, was the right choice.  He didn’t want to humble himself so as to receive grace, and so he went away sorrowful…

Receive Jesus’ grace daily.  Trust in what Jesus has DONE for you and don’t ever put your trust in what you can DO in order to please God.

Believe Jesus, believe Scripture.  Believe that nothing in this life is worth living for, saving up or hoarding when compared to what Jesus offers those who will lay everything down to believe in Him and to follow Him.  Surrender your whole life, all you have to Jesus – you will never reget it.  Not in this life and not in eternity either.

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Disqualified? Qualified! (John 4:1-45)

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Life is a sequence of many moments isn’t it? Yet not all moments are equal in their importance for our lives. Some of the moments in our lives are what one could call; ‘God-moments’. These are moments, which are often unexpected in which radical change can happen, faith can be birthed or strengthened, in which we can learn something new about ourselves, God or others.

Today, God wants to bless you. This devotion could be a God-moment in your life. God wants to bless you, to encounter you, change your view of Him, to change you, to pour His love into you, wants to heal and restore you…

Back to the story, this woman at the well is about to have an unexpected God-moment in her life as she comes to draw water at the well but finds Jesus there! After some interaction about Jesus’ thirst, Jesus’ offered her water that would satisfy her thirst forever, she then asked Jesus to give her this water so that she would never thirst again.

Jesus knowing everything about her, asks her about her husband, asks her to call him. She didn’t want to talk about these things, it’s too personal, she tries to cover up this sad aspect of her life. We are often like this woman aren’t we? At first she resisted God’s loving, kind advances, and she tries to hide from the King of Glory. But He’s all-knowing, He knows about all 5 of her previous husbands & He knows of her current sinful relationship with the man who is not her husband but whom she is with.

At this point you might expect Jesus to draw back. After-all, she has been exposed and it’s messy. Yet,
amazingly, graciously, God still pursues her as He pursues you and I. Amazingly, what God knows about you and I doesn’t cause Him to re-coil and run from us.

Yet Jesus stays with her keeps pursuing her in this moment and reveals to her that He is the Messiah (vs26). God accepts us as we are, warts and all, God wants to transform us from who we have been and who we are today into worshippers who will worship in Spirit and truth!

And so in this God-moment the woman has a revelation of God, a revelation of the grace, mercy & forgiveness of God. What she thinks about God, what she knows is re-written in a moment as God reveals His true character to her in this God-moment…

You might have thought that her past and her present disqualified this lady. And yet actually her mess strangely qualified her to speak to others about who God is and what God is like! Having slinked out of town to come and get water, ashamed, at a time when not many others would be there.

Having met Jesus though she runs back into town effectively shouting; ‘Come and see a man who told me everything that I ever did, I think He is God!’ This woman’s shame actually became her proof of who God is! Her shame was what qualified her to testify to who God is and what God is like. In that God-moment, her sin became her God-story of redemption which in turn then showed off the grace, love & mercy of God to her whole town.

In one sense, you and I can’t be entrusted by God to share with others about Him until we have received, encountered, grace from God towards us first. Receiving grace from God qualifies us to tell others about God’s grace and mercy.

God’s grace is that He accepts us, just as we are, warts and all. God accepts us not on the basis of our merit but on account of His goodness and His lavish grace and kindness to us in Jesus. Although Jesus knew every sordid thing about this woman, He still accepted her and forgave her! Jesus came to seek and save the lost, He didn’t come for those who think they’re doing just fine, stuck in their self-righteousness, He came for sinners like me, like you…?

The end of the story is amazing. One woman’s God-moment, one woman encountering Jesus as the God of grace, results in her sharing her God-story with her town so that Scripture then records that; “Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” (John 4:39)

So what are you ashamed of? What do you feel disqualifies you from being used by God, from being God’s agent for change, His channel of grace and blessing to people? Can your sin potentially actually become a God-story which ends up showing off the God of grace?

Ask Jesus to forgive you, to pour His grace and mercy into your life right now and then go and tell the world how great and good and loving Jesus is! Needing grace, doesn’t disqualify you, it qualifies you to share with others about the incredible grace and mercy and love of God.

Transforming Grace (Colossians 1:1-2)

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Today we start our journey through the book of Colossians. There will be times when the reading for the day will only be just a few verses. I urge you in these days, to grow in reading & meditating on Scripture. I urge you to read, read again, to ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you (from even the smallest section), to wait and to listen to the Holy Spirit for revelation about God, about faith or about the implications of our faith in Jesus for our lives. Bless you.


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Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, 2 To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father. (Colossians 1:1-2)

‘Paul’

Here in this greeting for the letter, I see a person with a name. Scripture is full of real people, individuals who were rescued by God, with real personal stories to tell, just like you and I. More than that, this letter is written by an unlikely person!

His name was changed, he used to be ‘Saul – the persecutor of believers in Jesus’ but had been renamed by God and became ‘Paul – the anointed preacher, discipler and church planter’. His name used to be feared by believers and yet God had transformed him so that now he was one of the leaders of the early church across the known world. God is in the business of changing people!

How have you been transformed by faith in God?
What change is there that’s still needed in your life?
Is there someone you’ve been praying for that really needs big change?

Remember that change, total transformation is what God does, so be encouraged and call out again to God for your life or the life of someone else.

‘Paul, an apostle’

Paul identifies himself as ‘Paul, an apostle’ (vs1) – what does this mean? At its most basic level it simply means ‘sent one’ or ambassador! Although the term means other more specific things in Scripture just for today I want you to see that this man Paul who did such amazing things for God is no different in one sense to you and I. We too like him are ‘sent ones’ sent by God into our 24/7 lives as God’s agents, God’s ambassadors.

What would change in your life if this truth were more front & centre for you?
Whom has God sent you to?
What are you doing about it?

‘Grace to you and peace from God our Father’

All Christ followers are united in their experience of the grace of God. God saved us not by our own merit but by His grace and God continues then to pour out into our lives after salvation His unmerited favour and blessing.

God’s grace is the very air we breath every day as believers in Jesus and grace not legalistic striving leads to us being at peace with God who has become our Father in heaven. We could never be at peace with God through our own effort, but because of God’s grace we have been reconciled to right relationship with our maker our heavenly Father and so we are a blessed people.

We start the journey with Jesus by grace and grace is what we need everyday to stay on the journey. As the great hymn from 1779 declares;

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.

’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
’Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me,
His Word my hope secures;
He will my Shield and Portion be,
As long as life endures.

Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess, within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who called me here below,
Will be forever mine.

When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’d first begun. (John Newton)

Patient Forbearing Gracious Faithful God & Unfaithful People (Nehemiah 9)

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This incredible chapter of Scripture looks back on the story of God’s people from the time of Abraham to the present time of Nehemiah and the story is a remarkable one!

Read through the chapter and make note of every reference to God, every thing that describes who God is, what God is like & what God has done for His people…

What emerges is a powerfully clear incredible portrait of our great God!

Now go back through the chapter and look for every reference to God’s people and make not of how they/we are described…

They were and we too are a weak, disobedient people!

God is so patient with me and with you.  God is so faithful and gracious and loving inspite of what we are like.  Thank Him and praise Him!

Jesus’ Identity & Purpose (John 18:38-19:27)

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Jesus’ trial before Pilate oozes truth about Jesus’ true identity and His purpose on the earth.

“I find no guilt in him” (18:38) – Pilate said.

And yet, he released the real criminal, the sinner.

And so Barabbas walked free, a fore-runner of you and me!

Yet the innocent One was condemned – all of our gospel story.

Pilate had Jesus flogged by soldiers, they mocked Jesus mercilessly.

Jesus was silent just as had been prophesied (Isaiah 53:7)

Pilate then repeated same verdict two more times; “I find no guilt in him”! (vs4&6)

Dripping with irony, Jesus is accused of claiming to be exactly who He was – God! (vs7)

Pilate then questions Jesus again and lectures Jesus on authority!

Jesus replies; “You would have no authority over me unless it had been given to you from above.” (vs11)

Pilate shivers in his boots & tries to release Jesus again having found nothing wrong with Him, but the Jews revolt…

Pilate pronounces the truth about Jesus to those present, “Behold your King!” (vs14)

But Jesus is rejected by the Jews again, they don’t want Him as king they want him dead.

Pilate re-checks with those present, proclaiming truth as he does; “Shall I crucify your King?” (vs15)

Blasphemously they cry out; “We have no king but Caesar!” (vs15)

And so Jesus was condemned to die by crucifixion.

Pilate, God’s agent in the moment states the truth again as he inscribes on the cross; “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews” (vs19)

The Jewish officials try to get Pilate to change the wording to soften it’s meaning

Pilate would not budge; “What I have written, I have written.” (vs22)

Jesus, King of all kings, came to die in our place for our sin, the Lamb of God, the suffering servant, He the sinless One was bound so we could be freed, He was crushed for our iniquities and the punishment that God put on Him paid the way for us to be forgiven, His death and resurrection gave you and me life!  Behold your King!

Sleep well (John 10:27-29)

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Sleeping is a vulnerable necessity. Our bodies need sleep. Sleep is restorative and so essential both in terms of physical and mental wellbeing. And yet sleep is a vulnerable state, one is unaware and unable to protect oneself.

Worry is one of the main enemies of good sleep and so the more one has to worry about the more allusive good sleep is.

People worry about all sorts of things. Some people worry about their salvation, they have believed in Jesus and although Romans 10:9-10 is clear that those who have believed in Jesus ‘will be saved.’ And yet they worry, which just reveals that their trust is focused in the wrong place and on the wrong person.

You and I were not good enough to be saved and we are not good enough to stay saved either! We are saved and justified by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone.

Yes, there are a number of hard to understand passages that definitely serve as warnings to us, warning us to ‘remain faithful’ to keep our hearts soft and open to God’s words to us, urging us to persevere to the end…

And yet, we need not worry!

Because if you have put your faith in Jesus, if you have asked Jesus to forgive you of your sin, you are justified (declared righteous) on the basis of Jesus’ finished work on the cross, you are adopted as God’s child, you have the Holy Spirit as a deposit guaranteeing your inheritance to come…

In addition to this, you and I who have believed in Jesus have words like these from Jesus Himself;

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” (John 10:27-29)

I love this! Jesus gives eternal life, we don’t earn it through our good behaviour. We will not perish because Jesus has given us eternal life. No one can ever snatch us from Jesus’ hand because it is Jesus’ hand, the same hand that holds the universe in the span of His hand! More than that, you and I who have believed are God’s gift to Jesus and no one is greater than God and so no one is able to snatch us from God’s mighty hand!

Sleep well my friend if you have believed in Jesus.

Live your whole life as a passionate, grateful, worshipful response to God’s grace (Romans 12:1-2), live a life that is worthy of the calling (the grace) you have received (Ephesians 4:1) but sleep well! Jesus has got you, the Father has got you! Sleep well.

Gospel Glimpses (Mark 15)

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Justification (vs3-5)

Jesus didn’t justify Himself, didn’t defend himself against His accusers, would’t speak in his own defence to Pilate’s amazement.  Why?  Jesus would not justify or defend Himself, in order that He could justify and defend from the accuser, those who trust in Him.

Substitution (vs6-15)

Jesus the sinless One was mocked, whipped, beaten and ultimately crucified in our place for our sin, while the sinner (Barabbas) walked free!  The One deserving of only praise substituted Himself and took the punishment that was only ours to bear.

Jesus saved us by not saving Himself (vs29-32)

Jesus was taunted; “save yourself!”  People thought Jesus’ death was a sign of Jesus’ lack of power, thought it was a moment of Jesus’ defeat and yet it was Jesus’ power and strength, His power of the will that kept Him there not a lack of power.  Jesus could have at any moment called upon a host of angels to save Himself from the cross and the mocking.  But Jesus endured the cross scorning its shame for the joy of what lay ahead if He did (Hebrews 12:2) – the joy of redeeming us and restoring us to a right relationship with Him.  Jesus didn’t save Himself so that He could save you and me.

Forsaken so we could be adopted (vs33-34)

In what I believe must be the most chilling, shocked words in all of Scripture, Jesus cries out to the Father; “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  Jesus was forsaken, abandoned in that moment by the Father & the Spirit as the sin of the whole world rested on Him, so that those who put their trust in Him would never be forsaken by the Father ever.  Jesus was forsaken so that we who trust in Him could be adopted and would belong to the Father forever.

Access granted (vs37-39)

Jesus endured all of this, so that the way to God could be opened up forever.  Nothing remains between God and those Jesus has forgiven.  We are sons and daughters of the most High God, we belong in His presence, we have access, we have His heart and His attention.  We have no need of a sacrifice system or a priesthood, we have benefitted from the once and for all sacrifice of Jesus and we have one mediator between ourselves and God – Jesus Christ.

Praise Jesus!  There is no one like you Jesus.  None can compare.  Thank you for salvation, thank you for bearing everything that should have been ours and for giving us what we did not deserve.