Verse of the Day

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

A Long Way Off

I knowed very well I had done wrong, and I see it warn’t no use for me to try to learn to do right; a body that can’t get started right when he’s little, ain’t got no show — when the pinch comes there ain’t nothing to back him up and keep him to his work, and so he gets beat . . . then says I, what’s the use you learning to do right, when it’s troublesome to do right and ain’t no trouble to do wrong, and the wages is just the same? I was stuck. I couldn’t answer that. So I reckoned I wouldn’t bother no more about it, but after this always do whichever come handiest at the time. (Mark Twain, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885; repr., Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1958), 78.)

When we struggle within about the choices to make in life, sometimes we don't even understand ourselves (Romans 7:15) and just choose what "comes handiest at the time." Without a lighthouse, ships at sea have no way to navigate into a safe harbor. Without the truth of God's word, some people come to the same conclusion as Mark Twain's character Huck Finn. Jesus told a story in Luke 15 about one such person who realized the end of his conclusion to, "What does one do about the internal struggle with good versus bad?" and, frankly, choose poorly as we all have in times past (1 Corinthians 6:11). Thinking that his wayward choice would divide him from his father, Luke 15:20 records, "And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him." The son received forgiveness and was welcomed home as his father rejoiced over him (Isaiah 62:5). Oh, to know that you are welcomed to the party, it's at home, in case you've forgotten. The important part for those waiting at home is to remember to be looking "a long way off." Ready to respond with love and compassion.

Please read Marilyn Meberg's book "constantly craving: How to Make Sense of Always Wanting More" from where this was adapted; the words in her book struck me as poignant considering the nation's obsession with division. I wanted to journal this on this blog in my words, mainly for me to remember.

Monday, January 9, 2017

"born this way" VS "born again"

So, when someone says, "I was born this way.", it almost always leads to a conversation that ends in disagreement.  Even so, I would like to look past the genesis of that argument and look at what Jesus said about the being born and where Jesus places emphasis within His statements.  

Jesus said you must be born again (John 3:3) when talking to Nicodemus. Jesus goes on to explain that one is “born of water and the Spirit.”  One could go down either of two paths - some might say "born of water" is the natural birth where others say it is a spiritual cleansing of the past and victory in the future (Eph 5:26; Titus 3:5). Still, in either interpretation, the emphasis is on being 'born again' or 'born from above'.  That is the true need.  That need is only fulfilled through Christ (Romans 5:8).

The prophet Joel declared the judgement of the Day of the Lord. God's offer, “whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord” Joel 2:32, is open to all.
  • In Isaiah 1:18, God offers the invitation to come, though your sins are as scarlet, and He will make them white as snow.
  • Revelation 22:17 is an open invitation: “Come! Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.”
The clear implication is, even though we are sinners, God desires us to come to Him as we are, in order that He can cleanse us.

In the New Testament, sin was never excused or ignored, and in addition, forgiveness was offered to anyone who recognized his/her sin and was willing to confess and forsake it. Should we leave our sin?  Yes, God expects that. But, that comes as part of our salvation, and not as a prerequisite to salvation in Christ. We simply are not able to clean ourselves up without God and His help.

While some may teach this as a type of grace abounding; grace does abound (Romans 5:20), but not to serve as a means to sin freely or be lawless (Romans 6:15; Romans 3:8). We must never lead anyone to believe that the Bible says or condones that it makes no difference how a person lives, as long as he/she believes (licentiousness, Jude 1:4).  Rather:
  • Romans 13:13 encourages us to walk honestly (decently) not participating in the licentious lifestyle of the world.
  • Galatians 5:13 says that we are called to be free from sin, but that we cannot use freedom “for an occasion to the flesh,” somehow excusing our continued sins.
  • Another example: 1 Peter 4:3-4

As Christians, our actions matter. They serve as a reflection of Christ within us to those around us. By being obedient to God’s Word, to the point of actively pursuing obedience, we learn it is a process not just a destination.  With reverence or respect we work to be more Christlike in our walk (process) with Christ (Philippians 2:12-13).  We use the Word of God to work out our Salvation where we renew our minds (Romans 12:1-2).  Understanding that salvation is a gift of Grace (Ephesians 2:8), we then understand the “our” in “our Salvation” is the Salvation God gave us through his Son, Jesus.  Psalm 2:11 helps us to understand serving that leads to rejoicing,  “Serve the LORD with fear (reverence) and rejoice with trembling.”

While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8) and made it possible for us to receive forgiveness. He requires us to confess and forsake our sins (Proverbs 28:13; 1 John 1:9) when we come to Him.  Christ receives us just as we are, then begins to change us as we submit to Him in obedience. He begins a new work in us as his followers (Philippians 1:6)

The new work God begins in us when we accept salvation through and identify with His son Jesus Christ requires not that we must be born, but that we must be born again.  It replaces any idea that we may have that a natural birth into this world has any merit because we have to become entirely new creatures in Christ through rebirth (2 Corinthians 5:17).  To study His Word and begin to walk in His ways helps us to leave behind any state we were in when we came to Jesus (2 Corinthians 3:18).

I encourage you to not think of yourself as being born “that way”, but instead being born “again”.