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.

Escape From The Château d’Me

At this point in my life God’s grace has me hysterical. I laugh at times when I shouldn’t, see sunshine in rainstorms. I hear the Hallelujah Chorus instead of Hank singing “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.”  This is how my feels are right now.

singing-in-the-rain

I am Edmond Dantes—running like a madman, laughing over the fact that I am free from the prison that I once was in. Unlike Edmond, the prison that I ran from was forged and locked by my own hands. If you asked me to trace the steps of how I got here on the beach, sprinting and laughing with my arms in the air, I honestly am not sure how to respond (it probably would be best to watch the movie “The Count of Monte Cristo” for the Edmond reference if you have yet to see it).  All I know is that I am here and I know that it was Jesus who brought me here. Probably the best way to tell my story is to rewind to the beginning and fast forward in true flash back fashion.

I do not remember a time in my life that Jesus was not in it. By outward, public appearances my family nucleus was perfect. My mother was the youth director at our church before I was born. I can remember seeing my Father early in the morning reading his Bible in his chair. I didn’t know it at the time, but witnessing my Father’s morning Bible reading had a huge impact on my life. I grew up in a house of love. It was not perfect, by any means, but a house of love and grace. There were strict rules, but I always knew that no matter what happened, I was loved.

Fast Forward—April 27, 1989. I was 7 years old and in the shower when these thoughts hit my heart: “It’s true Zack, it’s true. You belong to Jesus. You are His. Now go tell your mom.” It wasn’t necessarily in those specific terms, and not in an audible voice, but I can remember being pummeled by those thoughts. I knew that salvation came from Jesus. I knew that moment is when I believed what Jesus did 2000 years ago for a sinner like me, was true.

Fast Forward—September 12, 2001. I was in college and conflicted about whether or not I should sign up to go fight global terrorism.

Fast Forward—April, 2003. America had invaded Iraq and I heard someone say: “We need more people to enlist.” I enlisted in the United States Marine Corps and got in the best shape of my life. I was injected with confidence and felt like I owned every room I entered. I learned very quickly that girls were no longer pranking other girls by leaving fake love notes on my desk, quite the opposite. It was easy. I was away from home, doing things that I knew were against how I was raised. I had no time for God. I was too busy having fun in my deliberate sin and open rebellion.

Fast forward—2007 Iraq. Bombs were going off all around, also several bombs that did not go off that should have when my Humvee ran over them. God showed me explicitly that he was protecting me on several occasions. I saw death staring me in the face, and I felt God’s sovereign hand covering me. Why God? I had done nothing to deserve His protection. I thought that I was in a spiritual desert far from God. But here, in the physical desert, God showed me that he had been right next to me the entire time.

Fast Forward—2008. In an empty barracks room I watched the Passion of Christ and collapsed In a puddle: tears, snot, choking on spit.

Fast Forward—2013. I was married and had a little son. I remember wondering one day in the guest room of our new house: “Why do I love Jesus? Well, because He has given me this wonderful life. He has given me salvation, a beautiful wife who loves me, a son who I would walk through fire for, our house that we live in, a good job, good health, love. Jesus has given me so much.”  Then, another thought hit me: “Why do you love your wife? Well, because she is my wife. I love her because of who she is, not because of what she has given to me…” Again, I collapse In a puddle: tears, snot, choking on spit. “Jesus I love you because you are Jesus, because you loved me first, not because you give me stuff.”

Fast Forward—2014. I was in seminary. I got on Twitter and accidently bumped into folks who were sharing messages by Steve Brown, Tullian Tchividjian, Elyse Fitzpatrick, Paul David Tripp, the Zahls and other like-minded individuals. I thought to myself:  “Woah, haha! I can’t believe they just said that… but it sounds good!”  Something sucked me in like a bug to a front porch bug zapper. I became obsessed as I discovered podcasts, blogs, folks on Twitter that were a part of what felt like an underground revival on the internet.

Fast Forward—wait stop! Too far! Go back! Right there. I was struggling with my spiritual growth class in seminary and failing my spiritual growth goals all over the place. I went on an early morning run before work so I could talk to God—just the two of us. I didn’t even make it for two minutes before I passed a Starbucks. “Mmm coffee” was my only thought. Prayer completely went out the window and I was furious. “God! I hate myself! I can’t do this! I can’t even run five minutes without thinking about something stupid like coffee when I am supposed to be spending this time talking with You and working on my spiritual growth. I don’t want to sin anymore. Take sin out of me! I can’t do this. I just can’t. I’m sorry.”

“Then….Run!” was the response that hit my thoughts after the fit that I had just pitched. It finally hit me.  God is well pleased with me because he is well pleased with Christ. When I am focused on myself and constantly examining myself, of course it will be a demoralizing enterprise. But when I examine Christ and remember my identity in Him, there is perfection, rest, joy, grace, peace and love. My prison cell popped open like a Coke can left in a hot car in August. I ran out of it and yelled “cannonball!” off a cliff into the ocean of God’s grace. I ran all the way back to the office that morning laughing and crying. I imagined Jesus right next to me running and laughing with me. I imagined Jesus being so thrilled to see me and overjoyed that I was finally at rest in Him.

Fast Forward—Today. I do not have enough space or memory to write down all of the people who God has used to impact my life on social media and beyond. So many have helped me to see that I am not alone in discovering the beauty and good news of God’s grace for sinners. I cannot pinpoint or remember ever being burned or hurt by the church. Many have that testimony but I do not.  I grew up in a house of grace and love. Many grew up in a house of hate, of the Law, or anti-God. Many have that testimony but I do not. My testimony is that I was the Pharisee. I was the older brother before I was the prodigal. Even when I came back to my Father’s house it was I who still peddled and had hope in cheap Law. My testimony is that I thought I was the younger brother returned, while at the same time I was channeling the older brother and his tendencies. My testimony is that I used to thank God that I was not like those “dirty tax collectors.” I was the white washed tomb who thought everything looked good on the outside, but was blind to how bad my flesh heart was on the inside. I was unfaithful to the message of God’s grace and the good news of who Jesus is and what he has done.

Yet Jesus met me on my Damascus road. When I finally confessed while running on that Georgia blacktop that I was too weak to hold fast to Christ…that is when it finally hit me….Christ will always hold fast to me. I’ve been laughing ever since. I can’t stop talking about Jesus. I can’t stop reading and listening to what he has done for others. It is my drug. I geek out with joy when I hear about God’s grace in the lives of others. I am confident that those who have written before me, and those who will write after me, will be used by God to impact my life and put a song in my heart. I feel like I have to write, read, listen, talk about Jesus or I will die. I take heart that if and when that day comes, when I don’t feel like laughing, when my world has been shattered, that Jesus will still remain faithful to me. I am obsessed with the good news of God’s grace for sinners, and I want other fellow sinners to find out. It is just too good not to share and see others enjoy it as well.

woooooooooo

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.

Radical Grace

Radical Grace

A few years ago I read a book by David Platt titled, Radical.  For those who haven’t read it there is a call to take part in something Platt calls the Radical Experiment.  It consists of the following components:

  1. Pray for the entire world;
  2. Read through the entire Word;
  3. Sacrifice your money for a specific purpose;
  4. Spend your time in another context;
  5. Commit your life to a multiplying community (Platt 2010, 183).

I tried to apply most of the components of the experiment in my life and did so with excitement.  I soaked up the message and realized the importance of the call to live radically for God and for others.  I subscribed to the email posts by Operation World as Platt mentions in his final chapter in order to pray for the world (Platt 2010, 189).  It lead me to seek out organizations like Voice of the Martyrs where I have a calendar on my desk that has a prayer for a specific people group and or fellow Christians throughout the world each day.  I am thankful for how God has used Radical in my life to wake me from my realization that modern American Christianity and my perpetuation of its continuance was wrong.

However, I came to learn very quickly that it is easy for me to fail when it comes to following the challenge to live radically for Jesus.  I also learned that I will continue to fail often in trying to hold true to this challenge loyally every day.  I mean I can fake it outwardly and make people think that I am doing it well.  But if my motive in doing so is so that others will think highly of me rather than highly of God, does it not render my efforts as being misguided or even sinful?  If my motive to live radically is so that others or even just myself would see/reflect on the perception of me living radically for God, wouldn’t that be a pursuit to feed my own pride?  If I thought that it would result in making me feel better about myself so that my self-pride could be fed, just like my flesh desires for it to be, would that not be wrong?

Even if that was my motive, I did not get very far.  It was quick to wear me out, leaving me feeling exhausted, wore out, feeling like I had failed God, that He was disappointed in me and that I was willing and understanding to accept whatever punishment or pause on any blessings that He had for me if I had simply remained faithful to Him and to the Radical Experiment.  I tried to do it on my own and it left me feeling hopeless and burned out.

That is where I went about it all wrong.  I tried.  I tried when I was supposed to “die.”  Die daily (1 Corinthians 15:31).  Deny myself, take up my cross and follow Christ (Matthew 16:24).  I tried to do it without resting in the grace and finished work of Jesus (Hebrews 4:1-4).

Because I am in Christ, because I have been covered by God’s grace and the righteousness of Christ; all of my mistakes, failures, sin, misguided attempts at righteous acts with sinful motives have already been consumed and atoned for on the cross by Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:21).  Jesus meant it when He said “it is finished (John 19:30).”  I am free to live dangerously following Christ.  Because I am a child of God “there is therefore now no condemnation for” me (Romans 8:1).   When the devil reminds me of who I am without Christ while I am falling and failing miserably making my sad attempt to live the Radical life, I now remind Him of who I am in Christ while resting on Christ who actually did live the Radical life.  My joy no longer hinges on how well or how awful I am doing but hinges on how well Jesus lived His life for me so that it may be imputed and blanketed over me.

Joy that is grounded in what Jesus did cannot be shaken because Jesus lived out life perfectly.  It is the life of Jesus that pleases God.  It is Jesus only who was able to fulfill the law and fulfill all righteousness.  This was the plan all along.  Jesus did this so that the Father might be glorified when out of His love, mercy and grace He offers us this gift of Jesus’ fulfillment of God’s law and fulfillment of all righteousness to us for us to wear like a robe.  Not because we deserve it, but because we don’t deserve it, realize we don’t deserve it and are given the desire by God to ask for it which then leads to it being given to us freely, lovingly, mercifully and gracefully from God.

AND it pleases Him to lavishly coat us in it (check out Ephesians 1 and Luke 12:32).

Do I desire to live radically for Jesus?  Yes of course.  Do I always faithfully live radically for Jesus?  No, I fail often.  I do not look to fail or like it when I do, but I do.  “Wretched man that I am!  Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 7:24-25)!”  My joy is in knowing that God knows and knew that I would fall and yet while I was still a sinner Jesus died for me (Romans 5:8).”  I now can live the Radical life without fear and without hesitancy because I take comfort in knowing that Jesus has already lived the Radical life for me.

There is no fear.

There is no anxiety.

There is no burden.

There is no guilt.

There is no shame.

There is no “me.”

There is no “self.”

There is no longer “I.”

There is now no condemnation for me when I desire to please God now because Jesus has done that for me already and has given it to me as a gift of God’s grace.  I have traded the heavy impossible yoke that I was carrying for the yoke of Jesus (Matthew 11:29-30).  The reality that it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me, has literally changed everything (Galatians 2:20).  Everything.

No

Longer

I

10 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” 11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” 12 But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith. 

Galatians 3:10-14, ESV

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

Romans 1:16-17, ESV

 

Reference List

Platt, David.  2010.  Radical.  Colorado Springs: Multnomah.

He Found Me

The other night a small group of friends and I from our church packed up our green Church van with blankets, coats, jackets, hats, gloves, clothes, sandwiches, water, cookies and self-made personal hygiene kits and headed into Downtown Atlanta.  With all most all of the seats out of the van it felt like we were the A-Team on a mission.  I may have just dated myself there…it was like driving in the Turtle Van on a mission…that may have been just as bad.  Basically it was a rush and a feel of excitement and thrill of not knowing what may lie ahead but knowing what our mission was.  Our mission:  to seek out in the streets of Atlanta for those who were less fortunate than ourselves.  Our goal:  to show the love of Christ through caring for and giving those in need the items that we have collected from generous individuals.  It was dark out and cold out (well…it was to me…I may not be a fair assessment of what you might consider cold.  Anything below 78 degrees is cold).

We drove down dark streets and vacant parking lots looking for potential people to approach.  As we met individuals on our mission many were cold, many did not need all that we had to offer and only accepted what they needed at that time.  They wore what they had, bundled up some even bundled up on the side walk.  Some smelling like booze, almost all looking unclean and worn out.  Some appeared to be mentally disturbed and not sure what it is we were doing but almost all thanked us for what we were doing.  Many showed their appreciation and surprise.  Some were even hostile and demanding more from us but they were outnumbered by the look in several eyes that seemed to carry such a burden yet seemed to carry such appreciation that we had approached them and met them on a cold Georgia night.  I can even remember one of the individuals that we would meet raise his hand and say “God bless you in the name of Jesus.”  It went off and felt like a thunderclap in the night.  Everyone that we met was a person, someone who was created in the image of God.  It was His love that compelled us to seek out show our love to them.

Yes, there are places that these people can go and yes many of them choose not to in order to live a life of their choosing with their rules and their will.  Many I am sure may simply feel lost and without hope.  Is this not the same way we were when the Holy Spirit first found us?  Choosing to live by our rules, our will and our control?  Hiding in the shadows of my depravity, trying to find warmth under a cold concrete overpass in my heart with nothing to wear but my sin, I can remember feeling the touch of the Master.

He drove down the dark alleys of my soul but He knew exactly where He would find me.  He gazed down the cold and dark vacant lots of my life.  He carried with Him living water and the bread of life and met me where I was and said that they were both for me.  You see I did not go looking for Him, He came looking for me.  GLORY HALLALUJAH MY GOD AND MY KING KNEW ME AND CAME LOOKING FOR ME!  How can I not drop to my knees and cry “Holy?”  The Holy Spirit was on a mission, to draw me to Him, to call me out from where I was from the darkness so that He might lavishly gift me with His grace.  I had and still have nothing to offer Him.  There was nothing on me that I could have ever given Him to deserve or earn what He gave me next.  He led me to the Father, to God, Who knew me by name and knew me before the foundation of the world was laid (Ephesians 1:4).  He called me, He found me, He sought me and bought me.  I am now a child of God.  I have been adopted into His family and His house. I was given that wonderful amazing gift of God’s grace.  Salvation came to me by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone.  God chose me, I did not choose Him (John 15:16) and that produces a joy in me that is unmatched.  It pleased God to save me, to adopt me and to lavishly cover me with His grace.  So when He loved me and bid me “follow Me” what other choice was there?   What other joy was there?  What other hope and wonder was there?  Just as my friends and I sought out those who were in need, God sent His Son so that the Holy Spirit would seek out me, for I was in need of Jesus.  Is He in front of you right now as you read this?  Has the Holy Spirit found you where you are, what country you are in, what alley you are trying to find warmth in on a cold winter night?  I pray that He too bids you “follow Me.”  Won’t you follow Him and take what He is offering?  It is the greatest thing that has ever happen to me, when Jesus found me and called me by His grace.  I pray that He is calling you as well.

“3 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, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

11 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, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 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, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”

Ephesians 1:3-14, ESV

Radical Obedience

If our only hope is to deny self and rely on Christ for our works we should also deny self and rely on Christ for our faith as well. Physical…spiritual, we have no hope in self only in Christ alone. Radical obedience is great to desire but you will only desire radical obedience if you have been changed by God.

Radical obedience does not secure your salvation. If your motive for obedience is so that God won’t be mad at you then you have a misunderstanding of grace and obedience. You are secure in salvation by grace alone through faith in Christ alone. The only way that anyone has the desire to obey God is if the desire to obey God has been given to them by God. Just as God’s grace was given by God to have faith in His son.

Radical obedience does not beget God’s love and grace. God’s grace and love begets radical obedience. And even in those moments when we fail…they are moments that Jesus already consumed on the cross.

If you are a child of God…God is not mad at you…it really is finished and in fact God loves you and likes you ALOT. So smile, laugh and wallow in God’s joy as you worship His glory.