Jesus addressed our biggest problem

And getting into a boat he crossed over and came to his own city. And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.” (Matthew 9:1-2)

I’ve been thinking about these two verses all week. These people carry their paralyzed friend to see Jesus in the hopes that he will walk back home with them. Instead of simply healing this man’s body, Jesus addresses the bigger problem—his soul. He forgives the man’s sins against the Father before ever addressing his sickness. 

At first glance, it may seem like Jesus should have healed his body first, and then told him that his sins are forgiven. Maybe that’s because we have a small view of sin. This could be compared to a homeless man asking for fifty cents, but instead being given an endless supply of money. 

Jesus eventually heals the man of his paralysis a few verses later. But I wonder if I were in the paralytic man’s shoes, which would I be more grateful for— Forgiveness or healing? 

Out of compassion, Jesus healed many sick people during His time on earth (Matthew 14:14). But forgiveness of sins is the greatest gift we could ever receive. Jesus’ mission to reconcile His people to the Father was his ultimate purpose and plan (Luke 19:10). Our need of justification before God through the atoning blood of Christ is far greater than our need of healing in our earthly bodies.

Not to imply God doesn’t take joy in the miraculous healing of sick people among us today. He absolutely does. But Jesus addresses the terminal cancer of sin before healing the bruised fingertip, so to speak. 

When I look back and consider what God has done for me and my family, I want the forgiveness of sins to be at the very top of the list. Everything else is just a bonus. 

How not to love your wife

This past weekend, my wife and I celebrated our one year anniversary. It doesn’t seem like much of a milestone, but both of us have been through the wringer when it comes to marriage. This was my second marriage, as well as hers. My first marriage ended pretty terribly, as did hers. We were both exhausted from single-parenting our two beautiful daughters. Neither one of us were too naive about how difficult marriage can be. Nevertheless, we dove in head first and trusted Jesus. 

During my post-divorce singleness, when I wasn’t burning dinner, I spent a good bit of my downtime reading books on Christ-centered marriages. I deeply desired a Godly and battle-tested spouse. I wanted to be involved in the ministry of cultivating a family. I thought I had it all pretty much figured out (cue narrator stating I didn’t have it figured out).

Obviously, books can only prepare you so much for sharing your life with someone. I agree with Matt Chandler when he says marriage is the fast lane to sanctification. What that means is that your deepest flaws are revealed when you become one flesh. So looking back on the past year, I wanted to lend a piece of advice for fellow husbands.

Love your wife the way God made her.

I found myself subtly trying to manipulate my wife and create a version of her that was more compatible with me. I wanted her to like the things I liked, and think the way I thought. I simply didn’t trust God’s design for her. He knew exactly what we both needed, and in His sovereignty, brought us together for the sole purpose of delighting in each other and glorifying Him. 

What this behavior did to her was constantly make her feel like she wasn’t measuring up. Although I never expressed any ultimatum, constant pushing for change from me made her feel as though she had to adapt and change, or she would never make me happy. 

I certainly didn’t say I Do with a conscious plan to treat her this way. It was my sin, and a part of satan’s plan to divide and destroy us. It had to be revealed to me through conviction from the Holy Spirit. 

If this resonates with you, I urge you learn to trust God’s design for your wife. Cultivate, not condemn. Only He is the author of her heart. He leads her, sanctifying her through the His Spirit. He doesn’t need your help convicting her. He wants you to love her unconditionally and sacrificially, the very same way Christ loves you (Ephesians 5:25). 

Don’t trust your gut about God

I’ve recently found myself in a string of conversations about theology. Writing about the things that I write about, the subject of God naturally comes up during everyday conversations. Some good, some bad. Some fruitful, some…not so much. While I’ve had my fair share of heated conversations about the Father, even if I disagree with the other person, most of them prove to be beneficial to growing closer to Christ.

I have found that, when discussing God, the conversation can quickly turn into presuppositions about Him. This is where it can turn ugly pretty fast. People will naturally insert their own ideas about the attributes of God. But the truth is, our human mind just can’t comprehend the unimaginable holiness of God. And that’s ok. That’s how He designed us. 

The Holy Spirit indwelling in His people creates the ability and desire to know Him more, and to do His will (Philippians 2:13). One of the ways that satan can deceive, is to encourage you to trust your gut about God. If the Bible makes God seem cruel or unrighteous in certain ways, we have to bring that to Him. It’s tempting to try and contrast and compare God to our own sense of what we feel is right and good, but that will always fall short. 

The Bible must always be our compass on the journey to knowing God more. It’s perfectly ok to wrestle with scripture. We all do. The problem arises when we trust ourselves more than we trust His Word. When it comes to reading and interpreting the Bible, the only thing to compare our interpretation of the Bible to, is the Bible itself; never our own presuppositions. 

Pray for a greater understanding of Him and He is faithful to reveal His ways through His Word. 

Make me to know your ways, O Lord;

teach me your paths.

Lead me in your truth and teach me,

for you are the God of my salvation;

for you I wait all the day long.

Psalm 25:4-5

Who do you boast in?

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:4-10

When I read this text, I can’t help but notice the essence of what Paul is describing: God’s deep ocean of grace. Even before the beginning, there was grace (Ephesians 1:4). While we were dead in sin, slaves to our passions for this world, hating everything that is righteous, He chose to extend grace to His people.

So when we think about our salvation, who do we boast in? If you’re like me, you have the tendency to boast in yourself. I mean, look at all the work I’m doing for Him! I serve my church, help lead worship, serve the homeless, help a men’s weekly Bible study, share the gospel, shepherd my family, tithe, read my bible daily, pray daily, write a christian blog, and even find time for a catechism or two. Surely I’ve earned His grace right?

In Philippians 3:4-7, Paul has a similar list of credentials that far surpasses mine. If there was a man in his time that could boast about his self-righteousness, it was Paul, a self-described Hebrew of Hebrews. Killing it at keeping the law. But even with all of his achievements, he counts it all as complete rubbish (v8).

Our righteousness can’t be found in ourselves. For those who place their trust in Christ, it is only found in Him. His righteousness is imputed to us. We didn’t earn it. The debt has been paid in full. There is nothing that we could ever do to earn more grace, or even less grace. The second we turn faith into a work produced, we take away grace. We see in Ephesians 2:8 that faith is a gift from God. Not because of anything we did, or anything we will do, but because of the immeasurable riches of his grace.

The word grace is used repeatedly in this post because that’s because it’s the word I want you to focus on when you think about your relationship with God. It’s easy for us to default to our list of good works when we size up where we stand with the Father. We all do it. But our works, while produced by faith, are good and should be walked in. Not boasted in. We are only able to do these things because of God’s grace, so boast in Him.

Just Do You: A Deadly Direction

I’ve noticed several billboards around my city over the past few months. I’m not even exactly sure who the organization is that the billboard is supposed to be advertising, but they usually feature a person that has accomplished something significant in his or her life. This is apparently accredited, in some way, to a rebellion against a certain establishment. Therefore, if someone wants to be like the person that’s featured, you have to simply do what the slogan says: Just do you.

We probably overhear some version of this credo nearly every day. Its wired into our culture. It’s a pretty consistent message in the world. It says that if there is any sort of reproach for the way you are, don’t let them oppress you. Just be yourself. Just like the late Robin Willams puts it:

quote-there-are-no-rules-just-follow-your-heart-robin-williams-84-9-0987

The message is warm and fuzzy. It feels good. Its a universal statement of individuality that is meant to create a sense of confidence by placing yourself and your well-being above all others. But it’s an empty, surface-level, and superficial mindset that does anything but address the real problem of being yourself: Yourself.

The problem with following your own heart is that the heart, a metaphor for human will and emotion, is deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9). Satan will whisper in your ear that you can trust yourself; that you don’t have to obey the commandments of Christ, or anyone else for that matter, because they cramp your style. Is this because Satan wants to show support of your individuality? No. Its because he knows that following your own natural passions and desires will lead you straight into his ultimate goal for you, the wide gate of destruction. (Matthew 7:13)

Being yourself in today’s culture means being led by your natural passions and desires, and not by the Holy Spirit. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 1 Corinthians 2:14

When your heart is quickened by the Holy Spirit in the hearing of the gospel, it is regenerated and your gaze is fixed on Christ. (Titus 3:5) You are a new creation. No longer a slave to sin and death, but a slave to righteousness (Romans 6:18) Jesus doesn’t give you your natural desires. He makes you alive, and changes your heart to desire glorifying Him.

Doesn’t leave much room for Just do you.

I’m not talking about your sense of individuality. God made each one of us for the purpose of His own glory. I believe He beautifully makes our personalities extremely unique to serve that purpose. We were never meant to be clones of each other. However, if your sense of individuality overshadows who you are in Christ, thats a problem.

The Bible says Christians will be tempted to give up and just be themselves. Putting on the new self (Eph 4:24) will create a war between your new spirit of righteousness, and your old nature in the flesh (Gal 5:17). This is a war that you must fight until you die. Satan wants you to just do you. Why? Because its throwing in the towel, and its deadly. If the enemy can get you focused on just being yourself, then you won’t be focused on Christ.

Who we are in Christ

Just in case you’ve forgotten, here are a few things the Bible says we are if we are in Christ.

  • Redeemed and Justified through faith in Jesus. God sees Christ’s righteousness imputed to you. There is no distinction. (Romans 3)
  • No longer a slave to sin and death. (Romans 6)
  • A child of the holy, all-satisfying, all-knowing, sovereign God of the universe. Not too shabby. (John 1:12)

If you ask me, Just do you sure does place the bar low. Being who you are in Christ is infinitely better.

Grace & Peace

4 Ways Satan Wants To Devour You Through Facebook

Social media has no doubt changed the way we think and live, but how beneficial is that for those in Christ?

I believe that social media can be an effective platform for the spread of the gospel. There are plenty of Christ-centered resources in the online community that I use on a daily basis to help me grow spiritually. But if we’re honest, we probably spend a small portion of our time advancing our spiritual growth, while the rest is spent on aimless scrolling. We spend hours a day consuming endless information, pictures and videos without any safeguard for our minds. For Christians, I’ve found that this is dangerous territory. This potentially turns the mind into an open plain, with satan prowling through the grass like a lion, waiting to devour. (1 Peter 5:8)

Here are 4 ways the enemy wants devour you through social media:

1. Satan wants your marriage

It starts with a like here, and a like there. She’s only a friend. You justify the innocent interaction of the like button because it doesn’t cross any solid lines. You gradually push the boundary line further and further back. Maybe the likes and comments lead to private conversations. Remember, sin is never satisfied with the amount of you it has.

Sooner or later you are hiding conversations from your spouse. Before you know it, you’re involved in a mental, perhaps even a physical affair.

Many studies show that Facebook is the most common place that an affair starts. I’ve seen it happen to close Godly friends that thought they would never get to that point.  Unless you have safeguards in place, it can happen to you.

I used to roll my eyes when I saw couples with joint facebook accounts, or shared passwords. But now I get why most of them do it. Those couples realize the dangers. Those couples are fighting for what they have.

Give your spouse access to your social media. Believe me, having that accountability is absolutely necessary. You are far less tempted to hide anything. And if you have anything to hide from your spouse, it is more than likely sinful.

Catch the foxes for us, the little foxes that spoil the vineyards, for our vineyards are in blossom.” Song of Solomon 2:15

2. Satan wants your pure thoughts

If you are fighting the sin of lust, I suggest taking a break from social media; perhaps even indefinitely. Your relationship with God is infinitely more valuable than Facebook.

Aimlessly scrolling through the mind-numbing newsfeed is one of the most dangerous things a Christian can do. In my experience, that’s where pure thoughts go to die. We live in a pornographic culture and it is almost impossible to avoid while scrolling. Couple that with the ease of giving into lustful thoughts and its a disaster for holy living.

The temptation to scroll back up for one more look is even more dangerous because its privately done. Satan will whisper that its ok to look because theres no harm. Who’s going to know? It can be your little pet sin. But just like I mentioned in the previous section, it won’t stop there.

Unfollow, unfriend, or delete your account if you have to. Remember the areas that caused you to stumble before and run the other way. But don’t merely run from them, run to the open arms of Christ Jesus. Run to the promises of His Word.

Matthew 5:8 tells us that the pure in heart will see God! Keep your heart pure and fixed on the Father. Get rid of anything that might hinder that. Its absolutely worth it, and absolutely deadly if you don’t.

The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. 1 Peter 4:7

3. Satan wants your time

Social media is a very handy tool that satan uses to rip your attention and affection from God. John Piper quips “One of the great uses of Twitter and Facebook will be to prove at the Last Day that prayerlessness was not from lack of time.” 

Ouch.

If you compare your daily amount of time spent on Facebook to prayer, how does it measure up? If the former is greater, I wouldn’t simply shrug that off. Psalm 1 tells us the blessed man meditates day and night on the Word of God. How can we know what to pray unless we meditate on His word? How can we read the Word, much less meditate on it day and night if we’re constantly scrolling through social media? We’re simply choosing the pleasures of this world rather than spending time with the God of the universe. It’s that simple.

Because we’re not pursuing God like we should, we get bored and are attempting to fill the void with constant entertainment. I’m guilty of pulling up Facebook at the slightest bit of boredom. Its almost second nature to us now. But what if God is wanting to meet you in your boredom to reveal His purpose to you?

Get away from the constant newsfeed noise that the enemy wants to use to fog your mind.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my rock and my Redeemer. (Psalm 19:14)

4. Satan wants your worship

I don’t mean devil-worshipping as in pentagrams, black robes, or any of that garbage. What I’m talking about is much more subtle and inward-focused. Social media can train us to worship the idol of self. We essentially create mini shrines of ourselves, striving for praise via the almighty Like. 

Satan wants you focused on yourself. If you’re inward-focused, you won’t be focused on Jesus. Satan wants your source of self-worth to only be found in the empty praise and attention of others, not the atoning blood of Christ.

You can’t be self-absorbed and have compassion for others. If the enemy can keep us distracted by keeping our faces buried in a screen, then we won’t be able to see the hurting world around us. We certainly won’t be missions-minded if we’re consumed with  our own lives.

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves (Philippians 2:3)

In 1 Corinthians 10:31, Paul tells us to glorify God in the way we use social media. We can either wield Facebook for God’s glory, or Satan’s. I pray that this opens your eyes to a few of the ways we may be glorifying the enemy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We essentially create mini shrines of ourselves, striving for praise via the almighty Like.

Let Easter be the beginning, not the end.

Another Easter has come and gone. Bible back on the shelf, and pastels in the hamper. The “Chreaster” christian cliche is a pretty common one. Usually the congregation triples on Christmas and Easter. My wife and I sat in our usual spot this morning (because baptists jokingly have assigned seating). I looked around with a happy heart, noticing our sanctuary was filled with unfamiliar faces, as well as familiar ones. I wondered who they were. I wondered if they were believers. I wondered if they would be back.

Fighting the initial self-righteous and judgmental thoughts , I began to pray that the Holy Spirit would turn their hearts to Him and reveal truth in the sermon. If you’re a believer, would you take 5 minutes to pray for those who attended your church as well?

Resurrection High

We usually refer to this day as Superbowl Sunday for Christians. Resurrection Sunday and the week leading up to it, we remember the atoning work that Christ accomplished on the cross, reconciling His people to the Father (Romans 5). We remember that Jesus overcame sin and death, and was raised from the grave (1 Corinthians 15) We remember that He ascended to the right hand of the Father, and He is returning for His elect (Ephesians 1, Matthew 24).

I don’t know about you, but I was overwhelmed with the truth of the gospel this morning. I felt like I was worshipping at the feet of the King. “Church was good” would be such an understatement. Why is every service not like this? Why do I go through the motions the rest of the year? The truth of the gospel was just as true last Sunday as it was this morning. It is true every day until I stand face to face with Jesus. What is different about today?

Monday Is Coming

As we wake up and start our work-week, lets remember the same truth that set us free the previous day. Lets fall on our faces each day in order to seek the will of Christ. Let’s not let the busyness of our lives break the fellowship we have with Jesus. He is still Risen. He is still King. That is a truth to remember every day, not just Easter.

Grace and Peace.