Category Archives: Theology

Quick Thought: Don’t Drop the Ball at the 1-Yard Line

How many times have you seen this?

Or this?

Why?!?

I’ve read one article where the author counted at least 26 times in the past few years where players have purposely dropped the ball in celebration without seeing it through.

That got me thinking…how many times do we drop the ball early?

When it comes to kids, we often use the ABC method of sharing the good news of Jesus.

A—ADMIT Admit to God that you are a sinner (Romans 3:23; Romans 6:23). Repent, turning away from your sin (Acts 3:19; 1 John 1:9).

B—BELIEVE Believe that Jesus is God’s Son and accept God’s gift of forgiveness from sin (Romans 5:8; Acts 4:12; John 3:16; John 14:6; Ephesians 2:8-9; John 1:11-13).

C—CONFESS Confess your faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord (Romans 10:9-10,13).

I’m thankful we have the opportunity to share this good news with our kids. But why stop at justification when we can celebrate sanctification. Growth in grace should continue throughout the regenerate person’s life.

Mason was just in my office speaking about the ABCs. “Did we forget the rest of the alphabet?” he laughed. “What about D? DO SOMETHING! DISCIPLESHIP!”

The Gospel doesn’t stop at the 1-Yard Line. The good news is that God continues to work in our lives, sanctifying us, making us more like Jesus.

Parents, you get to be a model for your children to see what it looks like for a Christian to grow in Christ. Seniors, you know you don’t retire from being a Christian…thank you for your years of continued service!

Further reading: Shells

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Act of Approach – Delight in God

Sunrise over Ullswater, Lake DIstrict, UK

The Incomprehensible but Prayer-Hearing God,

You are known, but beyond knowledge,

revealed, but unrevealed

My wants and well-being draw me closer to You,

for you have never said, “You will seek me in vain.”

To You I come in my difficulties, necessities, and distresses;

dwell within me

with a spirit of grace and satisfaction

with a prayerful attitude of mind

with access into the comfort of your fellowship,

so that in the ordinary events of life my thoughts and desire may rise to You,

And in committed devotion I may find a resource

that will soothe my sorrows,

and sanctify my successes,

and qualify me in all your ways in dealing with my fellow man.

I worship you that you have made me able to know you

 The author of all being

                Of resembling you, the perfection of all that is excellent

                Of enjoying you, who is the source of all happiness.

O God, draw near to me in every part of my difficult and trying journey

I need the same counsel, defense, and comfort that I found at the beginning.

Let my religious affections be more obvious to my mind,

and more noticeable to others.

While Jesus stands as my representative in Heaven,

may I think on him all the more on Earth,

while He pleads my cause before you,

may I show him increasing praise.

Continue to be gentle to me by the goodness of your character

and whether I am awake or asleep, let  your presence go with me

and your abundant blessing meet my needs.

You have led me on and I have found all of your promises true,

I have been filled with sorrows, but you have been my help,

I have been fearful, but you have delivered me,

I have despaired, but you have lifted me up.

Your promises are ever before me,

And I praise you, O God!

 

Adapted from Valley of Vision, p.18-19

Unfailing

There are many strange, odd, and weird occurrences in the world, some of which we as human beings will go to great lengths to accomplish ourselves.  I remember as a 12 year old at Eunice Jr. High school going with my friends to the school library during my lunch break to read. Now, before you begin to applaud my studious and noble academic pursuits, let me make a confession: We went to the library to read the Guinness Book of World Records. That is much less commendable, isn’t it? Yes it is true; we used the extra time of our lunch break to look up the strangest, weirdest, and most disgusting world records we could find. And we found a bunch.

I revisited my childhood recently by searching the Guinness World Records website to find some of the strangest and most ridiculous world records to date. Here are a few notable selections:

  • Ram Singh Chauhan’s mustache is the longest in the world, at 14 feet, officially measured in Rome, Italy, on March 4, 2010.
  • Charlotte Lee (USA) holds the world record for the largest collection of rubber ducks, numbering 5,631, as of April 10, 2011, while Ann Atkin of West Putford, England has a four-acre “Gnome Reserve”, where she has curated a collection of 2,042 garden gnomes and pixies, as of March 2011.
  • The number of most apples crushed with the bicep in one minute is 8, achieved by Linsey Lindberg of Texas.
  • In 2008, Kevin Shelley set the record for most toilet seats broken by one’s head in one minute by shattering 46 in Cologne, Germany.

These records are no doubt astonishing and undoubtedly strange (Toilet seats? Really?) Meanwhile, the rest of us are hobbling along each day just trying to eat healthier, or not to oversleep, or not fall into a hole (hey that could be a new category, “the most consecutive days NOT falling into a hole”).

Obviously these record holders are people who found something that they are “good” at, and they’ve made it a life-passion to the point that they are known as the best or the greatest or the most accomplished individual who can do something that few others can, or desire, to do. And they will be remembered as such. But they did not achieve these strange records without many failed attempts. In fact, if we took the whole of their lives in seeking to achieve such peculiar records, we would see much more failure than success. So if you thought that you had nothing in common with Ashrita Furman (USA), who holds the records for the fastest mile hopping on a pogo stick whilst juggling three balls (23 min 28sec), think again! How many times do you think Ashrita failed before achieving the record? I hopped on a pogo stick once; it didn’t go well. And I’ve also tried juggling, which was a disaster. To do such amazing things takes a lot of hard work and overcoming many failures along the way, which leads us to the point of this article. (You are probably asking “how in the world will he draw out a spiritual message from this apparent nonsense?”)

We are as followers of Christ still struggling with constant failures. Every day is filled with activity, busy-ness, work, play, family, and friends. All along the way we have inner thoughts and struggles which lead us to sin, on top of the many personal interactions we experience each day. And sometimes, perhaps many times, we fail in our attempts to live “Christianly” in those encounters. While we are not out to set any world records for “most Christian man or woman”, we know that we are also called to live our lives in such a way that others see Christ in us and glorify God as a result (Matthew 5:13-16). So what do we do when we fail? We do the same thing that world record holders do: get up, fix your eyes again on the goal, which is Christ, and take another step toward knowing him.

Your failure as a Christ follower does NOT define you, rather the unconditional grace of God and his steadfast love for you are what identify you now (1 Peter 2:9-10). I don’t consider any of the failures of my life (which are too many to count) the defining aspect of my life. Nor do I consider any achievements or noteworthy accomplishments the identifying mark of my life (Philippians 3:3-7). I cannot care about what I’ve accomplished, I must find my hope, joy, and identity in what Christ Jesus has accomplished for me (2 Corinthians 5:21). The most important fact which others much know about me is NOT what great or strange things I’ve done, but what God has worked in me through the person of Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:29). Like the Apostle Paul, I must consider all things as “rubbish” (all the successes and failures of life) compared with what I have in knowing and being  known by Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:8).

So all of my failures at honoring Christ supremely and my constant shortcomings in obedience to His Word will not be my defining mark, neither will those days of soaring faith and Christ-honoring righteousness. But what DOES and WILL define me as a person is the saving and life-changing grace of God in Christ Jesus my Lord (1 Corinthians 15:10). I do not foresee a day when I will hold any world records for anything, but I will be no less recognized and known by God, and that is all the recognition I desire.

And so what if you can’t spin the most hula hoops simultaneously around your body (200) or hold your breath under water while suspended upside down longer than any other person (4min 29sec), you are noticed and loved much, much more. Take heart saints of God, for your heavenly Father holds your life close to his heart, and Jesus your Savior reigns as your great Redeemer King, and the Holy Spirit indwells your spirit and life, compelling you and molding you to look more like Jesus every day (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24). God knows you, loves you, and He calls you his own. That is all the reason you need to get up and follow him each day. So let us be confessing, repentant lovers of Christ Jesus and by the power of God we will grow in our knowledge of Him. I will continue to pray for you each day, that Christ would be your great pursuit and his glory will be your greatest joy!

 

 

 

What Can My Child Understand About Easter?

kids-835146_960_720One of the goals of our ministry is to be age appropriate. We understand that as kids move from preschool to preteen, their capability to understand Biblical truths grow as well. We never have to shy away from what the Bible teaches, but we can always do it in a way where children can understand.

For example, a preschooler can understand that God loves them, while a preteen can go deeper, understanding that believers can live with joy regardless of their situation because of God’s great love.

So what can your child understand about Easter? Of course, each child is different, but LifeWay has put together a nice recourse that can help parents and teachers have a general idea of what concepts kids can grasp at different ages. It’s called the Levels of Biblical Learning, and it covers 10 areas including salvation, creation, and the Bible.

Here are some snippets from this resource that might help you this Easter see what your child can understand about this holy day!

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Younger Preschool They are beginning to recognize and sing simple songs about Jesus. They can understand that Jesus loves them, Jesus did everything God told Him to do, and the basic fact that Jesus is alive.

Middle Preschool They are beginning to develop a conscience and are sensitive to feelings of shame and guilt. They can understand that Jesus loves people. They start understanding the concept that Jesus is God’s Son and that He always obeyed God. You can also start helping them understand that Jesus is with God.

Older Preschool They can see Jesus as a friend and a helper, and are starting to make conclusions about God. Here, they can really start to comprehend that Jesus died on the cross and is alive. Along with that, they can understand that Jesus is God’s one and only Son, that Jesus was tempted to sin but did not, and that Jesus is in heaven with God.

Younger Kids As we jump from preschool to elementary, kids start seeing consequences to sin and most can begin to have a simple understanding of the gospel. For Easter, these kids can understand that Jesus died on the cross, and God raised Him from the dead. They start to know that it means when we say that Jesus was sent to be my Savior. They can also start to grasp salvation even more, understanding that Jesus took the punishment for people’s sins, God will forgive me if I ask Him., and people who trust Jesus as their Savior and Lord are Christians.

Middle Kids These formative years are when kids start asking serious questions about religion and start forming their values. They can understand a bigger picture of Easter. For example, they can know that God planned for Jesus to be the Savior from the beginning of time, Jesus died to pay the penalty for sin, and Jesus is the Messiah and Savior. Their picture of salvation grows as well. They  can understand that salvation is the gift of eternal life in heaven with God. Through salvation, God adopts us as His children. They know what you mean when you say, “When the Holy Spirit convicts you of my sin, you can trust Jesus as your personal Savior.”

Preteens At this stage in life, they are forming concepts of personal worth and are seeking spiritual answers. Jesus’ crucifixion, burial, and resurrection were a necessary part of God’s plan for the forgiveness of sin. God sent Jesus to fulfill His promise of redemption. Jesus sits at God’s right hand and intercedes for us as our advocate, mediator, and high priest. When Jesus returns, all things will be made new. When it comes to salvation, preteens can know that people cannot save themselves. Jesus died to pay the penalty for my sins, redeeming and rescuing me from sin and death. They also see that a growing relationship with Jesus is important and necessary. A Christian experiences joy when he recognizes God is at work in his life and in the lives of others.

***

This is only a small sampling of the Levels of Biblical Learning, and I highly encourage you to check out the full resource. The breakdown is extremely helpful!

Happy Easter everyone! Hope to see you at FBCBR!

Healed

“I have seen his ways, but I will heal him; I will lead him and restore comfort to him and his mourners, creating the fruit of the lips. Peace, peace, to the far and to the near” says the LORD, “and I will heal him.” – Isaiah 57:18-19

I have a friend who is a doctor, and he is a good one too. In fact, if he lived anywhere near Baton Rouge he would be my doctor. Several years ago, he was in medical school while I was in seminary, and we visited often.  He told me about the many different “rotations” that he had to go through as a medical student, which is a process the med schools use to expand each students’ knowledge of the many different areas and concentrations of medicine. My friend had just finished his emergency medicine rotation, and he was sharing with me some of the more “interesting” stories of the ER patients. Some of them were just awful and tragic, while others were humorous. (For the record, ER doctors see a wide variety of people and hear many “tales” of how those patients ended up in the emergency room.)

My friend, being the pragmatist that he’s always been, said to me “You know that when you become a doctor, you take the Hippocratic Oath to do everything within your ability to help a patient in need, regardless of how they came to need that care. But to be honest with you Oren, sometimes I don’t “want” to help them. They did something really stupid (jumping off the roof) or careless (drunk driving) or ignorant (frying a frozen turkey) and their suffering is their own fault. I will help them, but sometimes it’s really hard.” I think we can all relate to that sentiment in some ways, can’t we?

Just to remind you all how God does have a sense of humor, my friend wanted to be a family doctor, but is now head of an entire Emergency room staff. But to the point of his comment to me about not wanting to help people who have done so much to cause themselves harm, I think we can all understand that feeling. It falls under the “get what you deserve” kind of thinking, where people should have to suffer the consequences of their actions. We have all at times seen “that news story”, when a murderer on a rampage is shot and wounded by law enforcement and emergency doctors are expected to do everything in their power to keep him alive. We say to ourselves “This shouldn’t be! He should have to die for all of his murderous ways. He deserves death, he deserves punishment, and he deserves to suffer for his foolishness and carelessness.” I know I’ve thought that way many times before, as have most of us. But. . .

When it comes to our own lives and our redemption as broken people, we must recognize one very important reality: We are the foolish, careless, reckless madman in our relationship to God.  Our “ways” have been outright rebellious, and any punishment is well deserved. As Isaiah writes in 57:18, the Lord has seen the ways of the rebellious man, and yet he will heal him. The people of God (Israel) had become idolatrous and disobedient, yet God promised to lead and restore comfort to those who have suffered shame, guilt, and overwhelming burden of sin. God has seen your ways and my ways, all the way down to the depths of our hearts, and he says “come to me and I will heal you! Trust me and I will give you peace. I will not turn you away because of your past mistakes and sinful actions. Look to me and be forgiven and healed.” God mercifully promises to change our words from hate to love and from disdain to glorious praises (Psalm 40:3). God promises and gives abundant and fulfilling peace in Christ Jesus (John 14:27, 16:33). God heals the brokenness of our hearts, and of our world (Isaiah 53:5). Hallelujah! Almighty God has seen our wicked ways and yet is gracious, patient, and merciful and does not ignore us in our state of death and suffering (1 Timothy 1:15-16)! He intends to heal us and make us whole. As one songwriter puts it ‘Lord you know the hearts of man and yet you let him live.” Why does God treat us with such grace when we deserve none of it?

God’s intent to graciously redeem his people is for the purpose of making us true worshipers (John 4:23-24). Our worship of God flows from hearts that have been mended by his grace, and lives that have been healed by his mercy, and souls that have been satisfied by his love, and minds that have understood true peace.  Whoever you are, far or near, God extends comfort and peace through Jesus Christ to you, just as you are.  The cross on which Jesus hung is the revelation of love and mercy from God to us, as Jesus endured the shame and punishment of our sins so that we might live in freedom and peace.

In a few short weeks, our FBC family, along with countless other Christian churches will commemorate and celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, which is a glorious and beautiful revelation of God’s plan to bring peace to his people. As we journey toward the cross this Easter season, I challenge you to take time to consider your own ways, which have been neglectful and prideful and self-serving, and look to Jesus to restore your soul. Your salvation is secured forever in Christ, and your joy is an everlasting one (John 16:22). Will you join with Christian believers near and far this Easter season as we joyfully celebrate the death of Christ that gives us healing and His resurrected life that gives us peace?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are You Abiding in Christ?

12003984_10154274231750476_7361772779431152739_nI recently returned from KidMin, a children’s ministry conference. It’s always a blast connecting with others that share a similar calling as you, and when that calling is reaching kids for Jesus, you know it’s going to be a fun time.

The theme for this year was abide, with a focus on John 15:1-17.  The conference used yarn to represent vines. All over the conference, and even in the logo, you could see the yarn serving as a reminder of the True Vine.

So, what does it mean to abide in Christ?

To “abide” is to live, continue, or remain. So to abide in Christ is to know and follow Jesus (1 John 2:5-6). More than just checking a box, abiding is personal. Like a branch on a vine, we’re connected, in a living/growing relationship, yet we’re totally dependent on the vine.

The vine comparison reminds us that we can’t bear any fruit on our own, it’s all from the Vine. Yes, we’ll need to be pruned from time to time (see verse 2). But it’s a loving cut to help us bear more fruit.

Next time your family eats some grapes, pull out your phone and do a Google Image search for grape vine. Show your kids how the vine connects the branches, and through the vine, the branches are able to produce fruit.

If your kids have already made a decision to follow Jesus as Lord, talk to them about John 15:10 or 1 John 4:13 and what abiding in Christ means.

If your kids are starting to ask questions, remind them that the branches are united with the vine and read Romans 6:5 to them. (Here’s a simple outline for you to use if your child want to know more about becoming a Christian.)

Suggested reading:

What does it mean to abide in Christ?

What is it to abide in Christ?

Learning to Abide in Christ

Who God Is

StarQ_LIO_FA15_LogoLast week at BAM (Bible and Music for kids), we started a new series called Star Quest. It’s a five-week series on who God is all tied around the theme verse of Psalm 47:7, “For God is the King of all the earth; sing praises with a psalm!”

As we look to see who God is, let’s take a moment to see how people answer the question of “who is God?” According to the National Study of Youth and Religion, most American young people believe …

  1. That a god exists, and that this being created the world and orders/watches over human life on earth.
  2. That this god wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other—as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.
  3. That the central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about yourself.
  4. That God does not need to be particularly involved in your life, except when you need God to resolve a problem.
  5. That good people go to heaven when they die.
  6. That church is just another thing on a list of things to do—it’s not where they enjoy their closest friendships.

These points can be summed up into something called Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. Moralistic meaning life is all about making right choices with the goal of being a good person. Therapeutic meaning God exists for our pleasure with the goal for us to find personal happiness. Deism meaning God is unknowable lawgiver who only gets involved if we need something.

Moralistic Therapeutic Deism puts the focus on us and makes God nothing more than a distant relative that lives out of state so you never met him, but you like him because he sends you a card filled with money on your birthday telling you to be good.

During Star Quest, and everything else that we do, we want our kids to turn away from the self-centered way we’re tempted to live, and to put Jesus at the center of their lives, rooted in him (Colossians 2:6-7)

Last week we started with God is eternal. Our kids discovered that God never changes. We saw how God told Moses that he is “I AM WHO I AM,” (Exodus 3:14) and how Jesus echoed that in John 8:58. God is the God of Abraham long ago, and the God of Moses, and he’s our God, too! In all that time, God has never changed, and he’ll never change in the future. We know God never changes and will be God forever. And we can live forever with God, than
ks to Jesus. For more information about following Jesus, click here.

Let me encourage you to help your family be rooted in Jesus. It doesn’t matter if things are good or things are bad—God stays the same! He never changes, so we can count on him in any and every situation. Help your family focus on Jesus. He is worthy of our praise!

Suggested reading: http://adam4d.com/mtd/

Marshmallows and Temptations

At Stanford University in the late 1960’s and early 70’s, a psychology professor named Walter Mischel designed a test to explore the nature of temptation in the human mind. Many of you may have heard of or seen this before, but Mischel’s series of experiments have become known simply as “The Marshmallow experiment.” It’s a very simple concept: a plate with a marshmallow on it is placed in front of a child, and an adult tells them, “you can eat this now, or you can wait until I come back, and I’ll give you a second marshmallow.”

Of course, children don’t realize that they’re being filmed, so their actions are quite telling. You can find plenty of videos of this test being done, but the following is particularly funny:

It’s definitely adorable to see how kids react in this situation (especially the little brother and sister’s conversation), but I think there’s also some things we can take from this to understand our own interaction with temptations. In particular, there are two distinct thoughts about temptation I want to share.

  1. Temptation begins with the smallest step. We lie to ourselves and think, “Maybe if I just got a taste, then I’d be satisfied.” Notice how many of the children in the video stare at their marshmallow intently, pick it up, and either take just the smallest nibble or even just lick it. They just want the smallest indulgence, thinking that it will satisfy. Of course, as we all know, taking just a taste doesn’t really satisfy, it only increases the craving.

It reminds me of the old Lay’s potato chip commercials taunted us with the phrase “bet you can’t eat just one!” Of course you can’t. That first taste only makes you want another, and another, and before you know it the whole bag is gone. We do the same thing with sins. We think to ourselves, “Only one time can’t hurt, right?” But then that one time opens the floodgates, and things go downhill quickly.

  1. Temptation is tougher when we think no one is watching. I think this might be my favorite part of this video. I love how often these kids are clearly dealing with the temptation to eat their marshmallow, and they crane their necks to look at the door. You can see the thoughts in their minds: “Hmm…I wonder if she’s about to come back, or will I not be found out if I go ahead and eat this thing?”

I know we do the same thing in our own temptations. Something that would not be an issue at all if we were in public suddenly becomes this looming temptation when we’re alone. Sin likes to work in the darkness, and the best way to expose it is to put it to light. When our struggles become public, when we have accountability, when we know someone else will know, it becomes a little bit easier to avoid that temptation.

We all struggle with the temptation to sin. But there’s hope. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it (1 Cor 10:13). You’re not the only one going through it. And there will always be a way out. And when we do fall, when we do mess up, there is forgiveness and grace. Our Savior lived the human life. He was tempted in every way we are. He is sympathetic to our situation, and his mercy and grace are boundless.

Sin is sin because it’s bad for us. It goes against God’s perfect design for our lives. Giving in to sin is like eating the first marshmallow because it’s quick, it’s easy, and it’s convenient. But if we stay strong, if we endure through the temptation, something much greater awaits. Jesus said that he came so that we may have life and have it abundantly. Abundant, full life is life without sin. Let us patiently endure and wait for that instead. I can promise you this: it’s better than a couple of marshmallows.

Tagged

Jesus is alive! Now What?

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Longtime pastor of FBC Baton Rouge, Dr. J. Norris Palmer once preached a sermon on Easter Sunday entitled “The Resurrection Obligation”, in which he proclaimed from God’s Word that as those who have been raised with Christ Jesus (Colossians 3:1), Christian believers now have a “fixed and definite” obligation to live as Christ has called us. This particular passage in Colossians is a non-traditional Easter scripture, and the message itself isn’t exactly one which many people get excited about. We love to hear about the resurrection of Jesus Christ and what he has done for us; but we are not so keen on hearing what he expects of his people.

Yet that is exactly what the resurrection of Christ calls for: a serious and deep heart-searching evaluation of our priorities and affections, focused on how we live in light of the reality that Jesus is the living and reigning King of Kings. Colossians 3:1-4 calls every believer in the risen Christ to set our minds on things above, because our lives are already hidden with Christ in God forever and ever. We have nothing to lose by living for God’s glory in obedience to Jesus Christ because we already have what he has promised – eternal life.

The resurrection of Jesus should affect every part of your life. Why? Well, if Jesus was telling us the truth when he said he would be crucified and raised from the dead (Matt. 16:21, 20:18, Mark 10:34, Luke 9:22) then everything else he said has to be true as well. How outlandish and ridiculous is it that a man can predict that he will be raised from the dead? No one does that because no one is capable of doing that. But, Jesus not only said it would happen, but he proved it did happen when he walked out of the tomb that bright Easter morning. So, if his most “unbelievable” miracle actually occurred in the exact way he described, then every other commandment, rebuke, warning, and prophecy must be true as well. What this means for those who believe in the resurrection is that we must pay close attention to what Jesus said about those who are his true followers.

While you may not deny the resurrection, and in fact you may rejoice in it, the reality quickly sets in that we can easily drift from this joyous good news into apathy, complacency, and unawareness of the living Christ. This has a deep and corrupting effect on our hearts because part of being raised with Christ is the challenge to accept the change of heart that comes with faith in Jesus. To be a new creature in Christ means to be a NEW KIND OF PERSON– the old person has to be dead because he died with Christ on the cross (Galatians 2:20). To set our minds on the things that are above is only possible for those whose minds are transformed by the power of God and his gospel (Romans 12:1). You MUST change because that is God’s design for your new life in Christ. Keep in mind that this change is glorious. We cannot lose sight of or ignore this great reality for all Christians: God is making us more and more like his Son Jesus, which is why he saved you and will one day glorify you (Romans 8:29-30). We cannot live any longer HOWEVER we want; we are now set apart for live for God’s glory and now our own. Pastor Kevin DeYoung says it this way:

When you first got interested in Christianity it was new and exciting. It gave purpose and order to your life. You liked the fellowship and the people. But then you found out how you were supposed to change. You learned that God, because he loves you, didn’t want you to have to be a sexaholic, a workaholic, an alcoholic. You realized that following Jesus meant you couldn’t live any which you pleased. You belonged to God, and the God of the Bible is not an anything goes kind of God.

When we do not acknowledge the risen Christ in the monotony of every-day life we sell short our experience as those who have been “raised with Christ.” While the truth of the gospel, culminating in the resurrection, is what brought us to faith in Jesus to begin with, it is also what sustains us each and every day. So when the apostle Paul tells us to set our mind on things above, that includes setting our minds on the One who is seated above, at the right hand of God the Father, interceding for us and fighting for our joy in this life. You don’t HAVE TO LIVE IN SIN, because Jesus defeated its power over you (Rom. 6:6).

This was Paul’s warning to the Colossians: “Hey Christians, temptation is all around you! Set your mind on things above, NOT on the things of this earth.” This does not mean that we do not think about what’s for dinner, or how to get all the laundry done, or how do I discipline my children, or what kind of job am I to pursue, or who to vote for, or where to go on vacation, or which tie to wear on Sunday morning, etc. All of this ordinary stuff is actually within the framework of living new lives in Christ. How can we live in this world while doing all the stuff we MUST do each day just to survive? The answer: Set your mind on things above. There are a couple of practical, “everyday ways” to do this:

  • Think about Jesus. Just stop for a moment and think about all you know about Christ. His holiness, his perfection, his unconditional love and mercy, his abundant grace, his patience, and his expectations for his followers. This is where we can all find common ground to set our minds on things that are above.
  • Read the Bible! This sounds so easy and cliché’, but it is the primary way in which we “hear” from God. Do you want to hear God speak to you? Read your bible. And study your bible. To set your mind on things above means to fill your mind with truths of God. So read Colossians 3:5-17, Philippians 4:4-11, Galatians 5:16-26, John 14, and 1 Corinthians 2. Read ALL of the Psalms and Proverbs. Read the Word and set your mind on what you are reading.

May God bless you and sustain you by His Spirit as you read and believe His Word and trust more in the risen Jesus Christ. He is alive and he is working in you for the glory of His name and for your eternal joy.

In My Place He Stood Condemned

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He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, for whom they asked, but he delivered Jesus over to their will. – Luke 23:25

Since that dark day when the Lord and Master of all life (Colossians 1:15-19), Jesus Christ, was crucified on a Roman cross, we’ve tried to subtly pass the blame for the death of Jesus onto the whole of humanity rather than on ourselves. I know that may sound strange, but the reality is that we don’t allow ourselves to linger on the thought of Jesus suffering and dying a brutal and excruciating death FOR ME and BECAUSE OF ME. It’s much more bearable to think about Jesus dying for “people”, or for sinners (in which we include ourselves). But to stop for a significant amount of time and consider the depth of what Jesus endured; he was mocked, beaten, scourged, and crucified all for ME, it is almost too much to bear.

When I say “me”, I’m talking about the real person that I know the best; the person that I see in the mirror and who knows he has sins deeply rooted in his heart and who spends a great deal of time trying to cover it up and hide it behind religious behaviors and a nice smile. It is because of me and it is for me that Jesus died. While the death of Christ Jesus purchased my pardon and set me free to know God and to love God, I shudder to think that it was because of my sins that Jesus was nailed to the cross (Colossians 2:14). When I hear the words “Jesus died for sinners”, I say to that “Yes” and “Amen”, because it is true and because I find such deep and abiding joy in those words. But there are times when hearing the words “For he [God] made him [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God”, I grow hauntingly quiet. It is a somber, convicting, and piercing truth (2 Corinthians 5:21). God made Jesus to suffer for me and because of me so that I could know life in him. This is the message that transforms lives and the message we boldly proclaim.

As we enter the month of April, I was reading through the passion narratives that document the events of Jesus final hours, this verse in Luke 23:25 jumped off of the page at me. I’ve known for most of my life that Jesus was crucified and Barabbas the criminal was let go by Pilate. By Pilate’s authority and by the urging of the Jews, the man who had been convicted and sentenced to prison and death for insurrection and murder was released by Pilate. And in the place of the murderous rebel, Jesus Christ stood condemned and was sent to Calvary to die.

This “trade” that the Jewish leaders made with Pilate was not an isolated event outside of the sovereign will of God (Isaiah 53:10). Nor is it unconnected to the impact of the crucifixion on my own life. See, Jesus took the place of a condemned man. One who was obviously guilty and deserving of death according to law was pardoned (or set free!) while the blameless and perfect Son of God was sentenced to die. My propensity to pass the blame for Jesus’ death onto all of humanity comes quickly to an end when I realize that I am Barabbas. No, I have not been convicted or even accused of murder and insurrection according to our civil laws; but according to the law of God, I am a murderer and an insolent rebel against God’s moral law of perfection (1 Timothy 1:13-15). I have transgressed against his holiness too many times to count, and I am deserving of the most terrible kind of death.

But God saw fit according to his perfect and sovereign will to make provision for my sin wrecked soul. Instead of giving me over to eternal death, he extended mercy to me and gave me life (1 Timothy 1:15-16, Ephesians 2:4-5). This life comes by the death of his perfect Son Jesus. I was guilty and Jesus was innocent, but Jesus was crucified as a guilty criminal (Isaiah 53:3). I was to blame for my wretched sin and Jesus was completely blameless, but Jesus died taking my blame upon himself. I was a murderer who harbored hatred in his heart (Matthew 5:21-22), but Jesus was hated in my place (John 15:25).  I was on the path of death, but Jesus died in my place, for me and because of me, so that I could be set free to know life abundantly. Just like Barabbas, Jesus was delivered over to be crucified and I was set free.

This Easter, would you consider the cross deeply? Will you spend significant amount of time thinking on what Jesus did for you by dying in your place and absorbing the wrath of God that you greatly deserved? Would you just stop for a few moments and ponder the depth of God’s grace and mercy to save your soul? I pray that your worship, prayers, and fellowship with believers will be greatly encouraged as you think deeply on the implications of what Jesus has done to give you life eternal. We will be celebrating on Easter Sunday the glorious and miraculous resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Lord, Master, and King of all creation. But to get to the empty tomb, we must first go to the cross. You and I are sinners in need of a savior. But praise be to God for he has given us the mightiest of saviors (Philippians 2:5-11)!

Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
In my place condemned He stood;
Sealed my pardon with His blood.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Philip Bliss penned these words in 1875 as he thought on the powerful verse in Isaiah 53:3 – He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.