From Sodom to Jesus

22 So the men turned from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the Lord. 23 Then Abraham drew near and said, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24 Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city. Will you then sweep away the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it? 25 Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” 26 And the Lord said, “If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will spare the whole place for their sake.”

27 Abraham answered and said, “Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes. 28 Suppose five of the fifty righteous are lacking. Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five?” And he said, “I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.” 29 Again he spoke to him and said, “Suppose forty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of forty I will not do it.” 30 Then he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak. Suppose thirty are found there.” He answered, “I will not do it, if I find thirty there.” 31 He said, “Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord. Suppose twenty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of twenty I will not destroy it.” 32 Then he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak again but this once. Suppose ten are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of ten I will not destroy it.” 33 And the Lord went his way, when he had finished speaking to Abraham, and Abraham returned to his place.

(Genesis 18:22-33).

 

  • But there was that one time when God would spare the wicked for the sake of ONE righteous man…Jesus Christ.
  • This is good news to all of us who are wicked…(that’s all of us).

And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:

“Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
    and whose sins are covered;
blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”

(Romans 4:5-8).

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

(Romans 5:6-11).

 

In the name of Jesus Christ, may God keep you and bless you.  Grace and peace to you.

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The Fight

Ok,

Maybe you are like me and you have gone through the exact same thing that I am about to explain.  I’m swimming in the ocean of God’s grace and the thought hits me; “well, what I am supposed to do about obedience now?”

Like a flood all of the memories of sermons, lectures, principle offices, family meetings, “come to Jesus” moments at Summer Camp and at Marine Boot Camp come rushing in like an under tow.  “You can do better!”  “What is your major malfunction?!”  “What would Jesus do?!” “Remember your promise, promise keeper!” “You bear the name of Christ, Christian!  It’s time to live like it!”  “How can you do this?”  “Not in my house!”  “I am very disappointed in you!”

What on earth do we who have been set free from the Law of sin and of death (Romans 8:2) do with obedience?  I HATE it when I do not obey the Law.  I HATE IT I HATE IT.  It’s like I am in a fight with myself or something.  Which is truer than you think.  The Old Adam verses the New Man in Christ.  It’s like when it hits you that you are not being obedient and you are all like

liar liar 1

You sin that same sin for the umptienth time in 1 week and your inside doing this

liar liar 7

Someone asks you how your spiritual growth is going and you are all like this

liar liar 6

You are failing at this obedience thing big time.  “You?  A Christian?”, you imagine coworkers, family members thinking.   The gospel set you free!  You have grace!  You are no longer bound to and under the Law!  You should be happy and doing better right?  You have joy in the Lord right?  What about your light?  Aren’t you gonna let it shine?  Can’t you finally take that bushel off now, you smoldering wick you?

liar liar 2

Yet there I am, the sad sack of out of shape spiritual fat body.  Feeding on Christ and his bread?  More like feeding on a disobedience filled

full_metal_jacket_jelly_donut

New Years resolutions shot, spiritual growth chart goals gone and I’m right back in the confessional booth like Pre-Tower Experience Martin Luther.

liar liar 5

To really make matters worse, what if you are a preacher who has taught the gospel of God’s grace and unmerited favor all courtesy of Christ’s cross and blood and are now tasked with speaking about the Christian life and Christian obedience on Sunday and right now all you have planned to share on that is

liar liar 3

Well, you are not the only one. Even if you are not preaching on Sunday, maybe you have run into a friend who has asked you the same questions.  Well now that you are a Christian, saved and set free by grace what do you do about obedience?  Feel free to be a fly on the wall reading on the following modified conversation between ummm lets say Cack Zole and Brad Chird

————————————————————————–

Brad,

I have had a few things gnaw on me, to try to tell me that things such as a theology of the cross, grace, Law and Gospel distinctives are ultimately too good to be true.  I have had the pull to question and ask “what about holiness?  what about godliness?”  Are these things not to be pursed for the sake of resting in Christ?”  I fully believe that by faith I have been given the righteousness of Christ.  I have faith that sanctification and any pursuit of anything holy or godly is all Christ doing his work in me.  So it feels very dangerous for me to move towards an emphasis of the intentional and conscious pursuit of holiness and godliness.  I do not trust myself in the pursuit of either and only trust in the hope that Christ is working both in me himself.  I often fall back on Galatians 2:20, that it is not me who is living and doing things that could be counted as “holy, godly, etc” but it is Christ who lives in me….

I find it so very hard and quite honest repulsive to go back to a mindset that produces in me a desire to show that I am approved, to display that I am regenerate, and to be as dismissive as I was when looking through the lens of glory rather than cross…

Is the command to a pursuit of godliness meant to crush to cause us to run to Christ or is it a command for us to try?…

I humbly ask counsel all of this, appreciating and valuing your thoughts and understandings on the matters such as these.  I often have come across moments where deep questions are presented to me in a spirit of “I-believe-that-I-am-right-but-I-am-going-to-ask-a-challenging-question-to-prove-that-you-are-wrong-so-that-I-can-feel-more-pride-in-my-original-stance-and-feel-victory-over-revealing-to-you-how-stupid-you-are.”  I cannot stress enough that this is not the case.  My questions have no motive of quarrel or argument but a genuine thirst for counsel and good news.

Because He Lives,
Cack Zole
————————————————————————–
Good morning Cack,
     You’re caught in tension we all feel in this life as those who are simultaneously saints and sinners, who feel the law at work in us and yet find comfort in the grace of God.
     The call to lead a holy life, to pursue godliness, is nothing more than the demands of the law. Yet these demands are good. The law is not bad. It is given by God to show us the life that he desires for us. Yet, as you well know, as you experience in your daily life, no matter how hard you try, you always fall short of the law’s demands. That’s why we say that the law always accuses. It always finds something in our thoughts, words, deeds, and desires that convicts us. The law will never give us rest. And the law will always kill.
     That’s why the Gospel defines our life. This Gospel not only forgives us, but also fills us with the Holy Spirit, who produces fruits in us of which we may not even be aware. The Gospel is that life of Gal 2:20. We have died (by the law) and it is not longer we who live, but Christ who lives in us (by the Gospel). And since Christ lives in us, we are pleasing to God, even if we are not pleasing to ourselves. His righteousness, his life within us, and for us, is all that matters.
     The life of holiness is a gift. You are made holy, your life is made holy, exclusively in Christ. He is your sanctification, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians.
     The struggle between the Old Adam, who is always under the law, and the New Man, who is always free in the the Gospel, is a daily struggle. God is always putting us to death and raising us to life. Every day is Good Friday and Easter for us. It can feel almost schizophrenic at times, pulled this way and that. But above all this is Christ. His opinion of you is all that counts. And he says, “You are holy in me. You are righteous in me. Your are godly in me.”
     The theology of the glory will always take you back to yourself. The theology of the cross will always bring you to Christ. It is the way of life through death, resurrection through crucifixion.
I hope this helps. Blessings to you, brother!
Brad Chird
————————————————————————–

After hearing this Cack was like this

top gun

Man that is good news isn’t?  You are free!  And then leave it at that….Fight the good fight, telling fellow sinners the good news of God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ.  Let’s attack licentiousness and sin with more grace so that Fundy’s can always be like

what are you doing

The Year Of The Lord’s Favor

I ran across something over the internets a couple of weeks ago that produced an initial response in my gut of, quite honestly, sadness.  I thought of all of the people who would read what I had just read and think

“that’s my way out, that is how I will overcome my trial, that is how I will be able to survive,    that is how I will be able to prosper.”  That is how I

That is how I

That is how I

How I

How I

I

I

I

Being a Marine, this has me thinking about that poor recruit at boot camp who couldn’t get the whole “referring to self in third person” order down pat from the Drill Instructor.  I, me, my, our, us, we, was never allowed to come from your “filthy face.”  Only “this recruit, the recruit or these recruits” would be acceptable…

All this I and “self” stuff…What about Jesus?  What about His finished work?  What about sufficiency in Him?  What about His grace being sufficient?  That is how I?  What about that is WHAT Jesus did?

What about deny self?

What about Follow Christ?

What about No longer I who live but Christ who lives in me?

I immediately thought about everyone who would read what I had just read; to perform a specific spiritual discipline in order to obtain “increase” and assume that this is a call to fast and pray in order to receive increase from God.  There was a reference to this year as “the year of increase.”

I thought about all of the people who would be placing their faith into something that they are physically doing (spiritual discipline, works) in order to receive something that they believe that they need or believe that they should have already and are fretting over their lack of favor/increase.

DISCLAIMER:  CALM DOWN

I am not anti-favor, anti-increase or anti-spiritual disciplines.

In NO WAY is this a slap against spiritual disciplines or anti-bringing requests to God.  The Bible says to bring your requests to God WITH THANKSGIVING AND SUPPLICATION (Philippians 4:6-7).

Also, make note that we are to pray for God’s will to be done…this means that we are stating that if our requests are running in a different direction than what God would will, what His plan and His character would desire for us, then we are effectively asking for anything that is outside of the will, character and plan that God has for our life to NOT come to pass…

Yet we get mad when we don’t get our way…or don’t have our prayer answered the way we like.

We much rather our plans,

our desires,

our will come to pass and it will make us feel righteous, all high, mighty and anointed if God were to give it the green light/blessing.

We do not desire God’s will; we desire our will with the righteous comfort of God’s stamp of approval…so that we are still righteous, amirite?  C’mon…surely I can’t be the only one who has done this in the past…

If you desire to utilize a spiritual discipline as a form of worship rather than a form of magic, then by all means, do not let me or anyone other than God tell you to be silent.  It pleases God and magnifies His glory when we make Him the source of everything in our life (as if He isn’t already).  When we seek His provision we are showing our dependency on God and not on anything or anyone else.

Side Note:  A spiritual discipline that is produced naturally by your new nature in Christ should be what is valued not a bare branch which is what only the old nature of you all by yourself could ever produce.

Good works and spiritual disciplines are good things but not things that WE can fulfill.  Only Jesus can do that…which is why we need Him and when we do works it is out of a nature that we already have in Christ and not a nature that we wish we had (unless we are not in Christ).

In Christ alone will we find complete fulfillment of all the righteousness that we NEED.

Without Christ we have nothing.

Jesus + Something=Nothing  | Jesus + Nothing=Everything

But I have good news for those who may use spiritual disciplines as a magic spell mistakenly thinking that it will conjure up a desire that you have…

Well, first the bad news.  Good news is only good news when you know the bad news.

  • The desires of your human flesh-heart are not desires for God but for sin, more specifically for self. To desire “self” more than God is sin.
  • This nature will lead to a desire that leads to a choice that you will make. The choice that you make comes from the desire of your heart which will be according to your nature.  Does that make sense?
  • The nature of self, the sin nature of self will desire things that are not of God…this nature cannot desire the things that are of God because it is spiritually dead…dead is dead and cannot act…

Good news…

  • If you are in Christ, you have a new nature that will give you new desires that will influence new choices.
  • If you are in Christ, you already have all the increase that you will ever need. God’s grace supplies that in the reality that you are in Christ and that He lives through you.
  • If you are in Christ, every time you choose to follow the desires of the nature of self, God’s grace is and was enough to cover that sin, that mistake. It is finished means “it is finished (John 19:30).”
  • If you are in Christ, there is enough grace to cover you even when you try to use spiritual disciplines like magic. Yup, there is enough grace for that too (GLAWRY BE!)
  • If you are in Christ, resting in Christ is far greater than the anxiety, exhaustion and guilt that the Law gives. The Law gives the desire for you to feel that you NEED to do something in order to receive the Favor of God.
  • If you are in Christ, you do not “need” to do anything for God. He has already taken care of everything in Christ.  It is done.  A done deal.  It’s over.  It is really over…

I believe it was Tullian Tchividjian who I read saying something similar to:  Now that you realize that there is nothing that you “have” to do for God, What do you want to do?

If it is a spiritual discipline then PRAISE GOD for it will be Him alone that gets the glory.

Becoming a Christian, being saved by Jesus is not a means to an end, it IS the end.  A prayer for increase from Christ may appear as a conundrum when in reality there is nothing greater to increase into from Christ.

What happens when your expectations of worldly increase do not come to fruition?  Or worse, what happens when they do?  I can only imagine the damage that prosperity has done to an individual…leaving them to feel without a need for Christ…

Do you want Christ more, relax in Him more, rest in Him more, worship Him more for “increase?”  Has your faith now been placed in something else other than Christ?  Doing that will leave you anxious, guilty, burned out, exhausted and worrisome…I promise!

I know, I’ve seen me do it!

Do you not realize that when given God’s grace you already have everything?  You already have increase?  It is already yours?

In Christ you ALREADY are favored by God.  You already have favor, you already have strength, you already have joy, you already have love… all because you have Christ!  Christ is love!

Have you ever (like me) prayed that God would give you strength?

What if I told you that God IS your strength through Jesus…

There is a difference in praying for God’s portion and praising Him because you know that He IS your portion.

Everything that the Law and every end goal of every spiritual discipline that the Old Covenant hoped to obtain is impossible for anyone to fulfill (apart from Christ) and it was given freely as a gift of grace to sinners in the New Covenant!  Whenever this truth hits me I can’t help but think of the beginning of that old song “Shout”

Weeeeeheeeeehheeheeeeeell……you knowyoumakemewanna…SHOUT

As I was typing this all out and finding my self-righteousness flame I praise God for His grace on me the sinner and then for giving me the thought see and ask;

“How do you know that anyone is thinking what you are thinking?  Maybe you are the only one who is assuming the motive behind what you read.  Make sure that you are not doing anything in order to receive anything that your “self” may want to receive….which surely left unchecked, will desire something more than/different than Christ. Make sure that your desire to write this blog is a desire to glorify God and to share the message of God’s grace through Jesus with others for God’s glory not yours.

What is your motive Zack; to point to Jesus or to point to you?”

Gulp…

I am fearful of that thought for I know the nature of my “self” and I do not trust it’s/my motives.  All I do know is that the message of the grace of the gospel of Jesus Christ has changed my life and has given me so much peace, rest, love and joy.  I truly want and desire for others to experience Jesus in a way that sets them free, which is exactly why He came in the first place (Luke 4:18).

Stop right there…

While looking up that verse

As I am typing this, praise God, look at the verse after 18:

“to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor (Luke 4:19).”

That was Jesus quoting the book of Isaiah……the year of the Lord’s favor….the year of increase IS referring to Jesus.  The year of the Lord’s favor is referring to when Jesus came to earth.

The Lord’s favor IS Jesus.

Therefore we can stop looking for the Lord’s “favor” because WE ALREADY HAVE it if Christ has us.

And then like a flood God’s grace swept over me even more and the tension in my shoulders gave way

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,”     2 Peter 1:3

“For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”    Romans 11:36

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”   2  Corinthians 12:9

It is like fasting and praying for increase when increase was already poured out and dumped all over you…you are covered in favor for you are covered by the blood of Jesus…

When is the year of the Lord’s favor?

Correction…When was the year of the Lord’s favor?

Answer:  The time when Jesus came to Earth to save Sinners…

WOW.

THANK YOU JESUS.

I’ve got nothing after that…I don’t need any more I don’t think…sometimes all we can do is stand in awe and praise God…come to think of it…there is nothing else I’d rather do…

Examine Yourself

“Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.”    

 1 Corinthians 11:28

“Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!”    

 2 Corinthians 13:5 

OH CHRISTIAN!!  BROTHER!! SISTER!!  READ THIS AND UNDERSTAND!!

When you examine yourself what are you examining?  Or better yet WHO are you examining?!?!

When we examine ourselves we often start tacking off all of our most recent mistakes correct?  We start examining us, ourselves, who we are apart from Christ.  We get all giddy over the spiritual growth and improvements that we make and beat our chest over our failures.  We focus and examine self.

We examine what we have done NOT what Jesus has done.

But wait…if we are in Christ then…

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 

2 Corinthians 5:17

“And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God.”    

 Ezekiel 11:19-20

“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.  For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.  We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.  For one who has died has been set free from sin.  Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.  We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.  For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.  So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”

Romans 6:3-12

So now…take a look at and examine yourself…if you are in Christ, if anything or anyone other than the person and work of Jesus Christ does not show up for the test, then you are examining the wrong person…and you are not realizing “this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you (2 Cor. 13:5).”

The failure of the test, of this examination is if you find that Jesus in not in you…

Open up your soul. Who is there? Who is covering your soul?  Is Jesus? Has He saved you and drawn you to Him?

Look at Jesus….how does He look?  Perfect right?

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”  Galatians 2:20

No

Longer

I

It

Is

Finished.

If you are NOT in Christ and Christ not in you…then of course all that you have is to examine you….not so good, huh?

I’ve got good news…Jesus offers His life, His righteousness to you to cover you and reconcile you with God.  Not because you’ve stopped sinning or promise to (yeah right, right?)  But because He loves you, died for you, already consumed God’s complete wrath for your past, present and future sins and this act of Jesus saving you will glorify God.  It pleases God to offer this gift of grace to you if you are a child of God.

Imputed righteousness

Unmerited favor/grace

Unconditional Love

Justification by Faith Alone

Reconciled with God

Atonement

I pray that the Holy Spirit will provide the inner witness testimony to the truth of and provide the faith you need to realize that the gospel is God’s gift of grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

Has Jesus saved you?  Praise God!  Now go tell others the good news!

The Little Engine Who Can’t

We all know the old story, (or maybe it is just fresh on my mind being the daddy of a 3 year old) about the brave little engine who with all her might and despite her lack of ability climbed the top of the mountain to bring all of the snacks, candy and toys to the little boys and girls on the other side of the mountain.  While huffing and puffing up the mountain the brave little engine kept saying the same thing over and over again “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.”  Sound familiar now?  It was a heroic moment.  It taught little boys and little girls that it is wrong to come with the attitude of “that’s not my job” and it is right to try to help others who are in need regardless of what you may believe your ability to help may be.  It also was a lesson in heart and actually trying to do something to help others.  It promoted action rather than inaction and that is a very good thing.  That is a very American thing.  To pull oneself up by their own bootstraps and get to work is antithetical to what sometimes feels like the majority of the political voices in American are saying today.  The modern “Little Engine That Could” would probably have a Federal Government Seal emblazoned on the side of it’s iron hide.  However, this post is not about American exceptionalism, capitalism, politics or anything like that.  I do love politics and find it fascinating but right now is neither the time nor the place therefore, I digress.

When reflecting on the story of “the Little Engine that Could” in a Christian perspective, biblical reality seems to go in a different direction in the understanding of how this story should turn out.  The reality of life will find that many of us, if not most of us, find ourselves bogged down and exhausted with life.  We try harder, try to live better, doing righter, keep on keepin’ on, struggling to finish the race well and finishing the race well seems to somehow always paint a picture in our minds of running a race alone and all by ourselves.  Why do we never see Jesus as the one who is running our race?  We even rely on and declare funny sayings that we think are in the Bible but really are not like, “God helps those who help themselves” and “God will never give you more than you can handle.”  NEITHER of these statements are found in the Bible and quite frankly are against what God’s Word actually says and teaches.  They may be found on coffee cups but not in God’s Word.

The reality is that God often, if not most of the time, gives us things that we cannot handle.  He does so specifically and purposefully so that we will come to the realization that we NEED His help.  Look at the Law.  It is impossible.  You cannot handle it on your own.  Yet somehow in the name of free will and individualism we pervert the understanding of both to love and latch on to the idea that we can be in control and if we work hard enough and try hard enough we can figure out how to keep the law and how to win at life for our own righteousness sake.  Take note that this is done for our own righteousness sake and never in worship of God’s namesake and the righteousness of Christ.  Yet in our self-help, self-worth, self-pride, worship of the idol of self in the religion of “me” we look as if we are a little engine struggling, pulling, tugging up a mountain saying “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can, I think I can” and never moving an inch.  Sometimes slipping and sliding down the track until we hit rock bottom.

Yet rock bottom is where Jesus often meets us isn’t?  It is in those moments of “I can’t.  I can’t do this.  I give up” where Jesus reaches out his hand and offers Himself, His ability, His strength, His hope, His way, His truth, His life to us.  Not his help.   He is NOT our co-pilot.  He does not help us to make it happen.  He MAKES it happen.  It is ALL on him.  He IS the pilot, he IS our life, he IS the catalyst, the ignition, the initiator.  We never start looking for Jesus without God’s gift of grace placing the desire in our heart to look for Jesus.  We love Him because He first loved us.  We need to realize that we are the Little Engine Who Can’t and rejoice in the fact that God has given us His grace in the ability to understand and see that truth about us. (Those who do not understand this truth have not been given God’s grace and understanding to see it for they are not the children of God.  This will sound offensive to them and will only harden their heart more.  Think Pharaoh in Exodus and what the Old and New Testament say about Him and his relationship with God.  The heart that receives by faith in the truth of God’s gift of grace through faith in Christ is a heart that has already been changed, regenerated by God in order to receive this as truth…heavy stuff, I know, so maybe a future post can explain all of this).

Since we are on the topic of childhood memories, remember the first Church song you remember being sung?  For me it was “Jesus Loves Me.”  One of the key lines in the song is “they are weak but He is strong.”  Remember that and hold on to that.  Apart from Christ you will never ever EVER reach the top of the mountain.  Yet, the moment that you give up and look to Jesus for His finished work, for His peace for His love for His forgiveness for God’s grace,  is the moment that the Engine Who is the Way, the Truth and the Life steps in to take over everything.  EH VA REE THANG.  You never stop being the Little Engine Who Can’t but you have a friend and a master in the Engine Who is the Way.  When He covers you with His own power and nature, you have a new nature being in Him.  With His covering, it is His ability that is now in control and getting the job done.

He cannot be stopped.

He cannot be exhausted.

His grace cannot be swallowed up by your inability and failure.

He has enough grace to cover it all and all of you.

And He is always on time.

God WILL give you more than you can handle.  Those moments are given as a gift of grace to realize how much you need Jesus, how your only hope is if you are in Him.  Use those moments to praise God that He is able to bring you through on the other side of the mountain.   Smile, praise and worship God, enjoy the ride, and rest in the finished work of the Engine Who is the Way the Truth and the Life.

Let this new found freedom and rest motivate you and inspire you to call out to others, “All aboard.”

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”  

John 14:6

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 

2 Corinthians 12:9 

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” 

Matthew 5:17

“Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” 

Matthew 11:28-30 

In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 

1 John 4:10

as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” 

Romans 3:10-12

“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.”  

John 6:44

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” 

Matthew 16:24-25

 “I protest, brothers, by my pride in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die every day!” 

1 Corinthians 15:31

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”  

Galatians 2:20

“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.”  

Ephesians 2:8-9

 

What Is A Child Of God?

A lot of my past and future posts may refer to a particular topic or condition that is contingent upon being a child of God.  For example I may write something along the lines of, “if you are a child of God.”  I even referenced in a previous post that I would create a post that answered the question “what is a child of God?”  First and foremost, I am not referring to the Son of God, Jesus.  Nor am I suggesting that people can one day become divine or God-like with God-like creative capabilities, that is completely different from Christianity and I would put this litmus test in front of anyone who would suggest that you can be a follower of Christ, a Christian, and believe that man can one day become gods or demigods (son of god like Hercules):

Litmus Test

  • What do you believe about the Person and Work of Jesus?
  • What do you believe about the Trinity?
  • Do you believe in justification by faith alone?
  • What do you believe about the authority of scripture?

How that individual answers these questions will give you a pretty good idea whether or not they are following the Jesus of the New Testament.  There are many different versions of Jesus that try to mislead people to believe a false version or anti version of Him…Biblical Eschatology refers to these false Jesus’s as anti-christs (not to be confused with THE anti-christ).

To help clear up any further understanding when I refer to a “child of God” in the remainder of this post I will be referring to what the Bible defines it to be, just to make sure that we are all on the same page.

Where were we…ah yes “What is a Child of God?”   Maybe it would first help to list some scripture, place some Bible down as the foundation that we play on top of in this post.   In no way is this an exhaustive or complete referencing of what the Bible says about what a child of God is but it is just a snipit.

John 1:12:  “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” 

To be honest that was pretty straight forward and more direct than I had previously thought.  Of course the “he” in this passage is referring to Jesus.  If you need more Bible (who doesn’t?) here are some more verses that help in understanding what or who is a child of God:

Galatians 3:25 “For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.”

1 John 3:10 “By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.”

Romans 8:14-17 “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.  For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”

Hopefully that helps…now here is a follow up question to the question that this post is featuring…how do I become a child of God?  That will be for another post….

Why another post?  Because there is a quick answer and then a really deep, deep, heavy (Marty McFly voice) answer….but it has given me such comfort and joy….and peace in knowing how I became a child of God…I have truly been set free and liberated by knowing how it all happened…

As a teaser into the future post that answers the question “How do I become a child of God?”  take a look at this to prepare you for what lies ahead.  I pray that the Lord will bless you and guide you in His will and His purpose for you and your life:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.  In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.  In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”

Ephesians 1:3-14

Reference List

All Bible references are from the English Standard Version (ESV).

No Longer I

I thought I would take the time to introduce myself with a little more detail than what my profile says.  I am a rare native of Georgia and an even rarer native of Atlanta (statistics in 2008 said that roughly 60% of people living in Georgia were born in Georgia and just 30% of people living in Atlanta are actually from Atlanta). I currently live in Sugar Hill, GA which is in Gwinnett county just NE of Atlanta.  I am a fan of all Atlanta sports teams, which proves that I have to be a subscriber to grace, mercy, hope, loyalty, love and long suffering.  I am unashamed to admit that I am a fan of the Falcons, Hawks, the 2017Atlanta MLS team and I am a fan of the Braves who can remember when Dale Murphy was the only reason to go to a game. I grew up watching NASCAR with my grandfather back when Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt and Bill Elliott were the names to beat. I currently root for Dale Earnhardt Jr. and up and coming son of Bill Elliott, Chase Elliott. I am also an avid supporter of the USA Men’s soccer team. My father went to the University of Georgia so I have been barking like a Georgia Bulldawg all my life and believe it is no coincidence that the Bible is written in red and black (humor). I graduated from Kennesaw State University with a B.A. in History and I am looking forward to their first football season in 2015.  I currently have only 4 classes left of my Masters of Divinity degree in Theological Studies at Liberty Theological Seminary and I am a huge Liberty Flames fan! I enjoy sports but I have learned not to allow them to rule and run my life or become so emotionally entangled with my fandom that it jeopardizes or harms my relationship with God.

I was raised in a Christian home and realized that Jesus had claimed me as “His”, repented of my sins and believed in Christ at a young age in 1989. I thank my parents often for the foundation that they laid for my life. In April of 2003, I joined the United States Marine Corps and served for five years. During those five years I made many mistakes and rebelled against all that I knew was right and pleasing to God. There were many times where God made it crystal clear to me that He had a plan for my life and that He was protecting me in a mighty way. One of the sparks that helped my spiritual awakening from my sinful coma was a radio program by Ravi Zacharias that I would listen to inside a small Barracks room in North Carolina. The seed of an obsessive desire to draw closer to God, share with others the Gospel and an interest in apologetics kindled in me in late 2007.

In 2012 I knew that I had the desire to pursue a M.Div. at Liberty University but I had no further direction than that. I struggled for months with the thought of “wasting” my military service benefits on higher education other than a discipline that would better prepare me for the business world or something more “stable” according to the world. The closer I sought the Lord, the more push back I got from these thoughts and I stepped out in peaceful faith that I was doing the right thing. Not only have I for the first time in my life been able to now live with such peace and freedom out of total surrender to Christ, I have been so incredibly blessed for attending Liberty. Once I surrendered my plans to Christ, He is revealing His plans for me. My thirst for apologetics has increased over the years from that seed that was planted in 2007 in my Marine barracks room.

What really plunged me forward in this were the questions that one college age young man had for me. Some of the questions I was able to answer with confidence, the others not so much. This motivated me to pursue studying the answers or how to answer. It has opened my realization to loving the Lord with not only with all my heart, soul, and strength but MIND as well. As I surrender to Christ daily, the more I realize that He is all that I need and that He is worthy of all that I am. Knowing that He is in control is a type of relief that I cannot fully explain and I am confident that only the one who experiences it for themselves can fully understand. I am now in a place where I not only love Jesus because all that He has done for me, but because of Who He is.

The Lord has blessed me so much through all of this to draw me closer to Him and I am so excited to see what He has planned.  I am not sure where exactly He plans to take me, but knowing that He will be with me is all the confidence that I need.  I have 0% confidence in me but I have 100% confidence in Christ!  My favorite Bible verse is Galatians 2:20; “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”  This is where the name of this blog comes from, “No Longer I.”  The more I press into the reality of who I am in Christ, the more I realize that it is truly, “no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”  This has helped me to understand the true freedom, liberty and joy in Christ that comes from saving faith in Him.  It has helped me to see that when I examine myself to see if I am in the faith, if I am looking to see how I am growing, how I am doing better spiritually, then I do not understand spiritual growth, do not understand grace, and do not understand what Jesus meant when He said, “it is finished.”  Whenever I or anyone else examines ourselves to see if we are in the faith, if we do not think of Jesus and what He has done as the source for our faith and examination then our hope is placed in our “doing better” “trying harder” “living righter” attempt at life than Jesus’s conquering and fulfilling of it.  Salvation comes by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone.

I yearn for and desire the growing bond and cooperation between followers of Christ, no matter denomination, geographical location, cultural difference, barriers to language or personal Biblical convictions that are not essentials in order to be considered a follower of Christ.  I yearn for a united Church who is united by a belief in the person and work of Jesus Christ, justification by faith alone, the Trinity and the authority of Scripture.

I believe that America is in need of and is on the verge of another Great Awakening or potentially another Reformation.  Yet instead of the Protestant Reformation that was ignited by Martin Luther in 1517 in response to the Catholic Church, I believe that if a Reformation occurs it will be in response to the American Western Evangelical Church.  None of this will be achieved without a serious repentance and return to a church life of prayer.  I have an amazing wife and 3 year old little boy who are both showing me a kind of love that is beyond what I deserve. Every time I am around my wife I am reminded how God likes to show off. Every time I am around my son, I am reminded how much it cost God to send His Son to the cross and how much God loves me.

I have recently been capture by God’s amazing grace.  More so than I ever have before.  I have always enjoyed God’s grace but not at the level that I am right now.  I am currently soaking up material that is being presented by individuals like Tullian Tchividjian, Steve Brown, ministries like Liberate and Key Life.  If the American Western Evangelical Church experiences a Reformation it will again be because we have uncovered the joy of God’s grace once again.  To give a better idea of what I am referring to, please allow this illustration that I found in Tullian Tchividjian’s book, “One Way Love.”

“As Robert Capon writes:

The Reformation was a time when men went blind, staggering drunk because they discovered, in the dusty basement of late medievalism, a whole cellar full of fifteen-hundred-year-old, two-hundred proof Grace—bottle after bottle of pure distilate of Scriputre, one sip of which would convince anyone that God saves us single-handedly.  The word of the Gospel—after all those centuries of trying to lift yourself into heaven by worrying about the perfection of your bootstraps–suddenly turned out to be a flat announcement that the saved were home before they started (Tchividjian 2013, 24).”

May you be overwhelmed and in awe of God’s glory and grace where you cannot help but desire to worship Him and enjoy in the joy that comes from doing so.

Because He Lives,

Zachary James Cole (a sinner who Jesus loved and died for)

Reference List

Tchividjian, Tullian.  2013.  “One Way Love.” Colorado Springs: David C. Cook.