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Struggle with Sin

person sitting holding book
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.”  Romans 8:1-2

In Romans 7, Paul details the Christian’s constant struggle with sin.  And we all sigh in agreement, realizing our experience matches his.

But then these words from Chapter 8:  “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…”   The sigh turns into a smile, which turns into joy, which turns into peace.  My sins haven’t derailed my relationship with God!  Because I’m in Christ Jesus (baptized into Him, His Spirit dwelling inside of me), there is no condemnation for my sins!  He took the condemnation for me; He became the curse instead of me; He absorbed the wrath in my place.

But to know that we are not condemned is different than living like we’re not condemned.  Too often we dwell on our sins of the past; or the past sins of others.  Too often we allow our old mistakes to affect and infect our Today.  We aren’t condemned, yet we live as if we’re wearing an orange jumpsuit locked behind bars.  Cut it out!  When we dwell in our sins of the past, it’s a form of pride, because we’re torturing ourselves for not being perfect.  Let it go.  And remember that you are not condemned.  Repent, yes, but live joyfully in the full forgiveness that is yours.  You are not condemned!

Father, sometimes it seems too good to be true that we are not condemned for our sins.  Jesus paid for them, so by Your Spirit keep us from dwelling on them.  Help us to live lives of joyful freedom, knowing that we are not condemned.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.  


Being at Peace With Myself

woman holding Holy Bible

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” John 14:27

Imagine if we lived in a world where peace abounds. Perhaps that is unimaginable today, but just imagine. In this peaceful eutopia, would the peace of the world naturally give me peace with myself? Not necessarily. Even though life around us may be rather peaceful, we may have serious internal conflicts that leave us very unsettled. Have you ever had that feeling? Do you have it now? Is the trouble in the world causing internal grief and pain for you?

Stop. Step back for a moment and consider the many gifts that God gives to us every day. Now be specific, with a grateful heart, reflect on the blessings that He has poured out on you. Everything you have and need is His gift of love to you.

Among the many gifts that God gives to you, did you consider the gift of peace? In this case consider the peace in your soul, the peace that only He can give and that is beyond our understanding. This is a peace, as Jesus tells us, which is far different from what the world offers. Any peace in this world can be superficial, but God’s peace is true and enduring. Because of His peace, we have no need to fear, no need to be troubled by whatever is happening around us. The world (and the nightly news) should not set the agenda for our hearts and minds.

You might be thinking now that this is easier said than done. There is so much trouble all around us, how can we have peace in our souls. Like so much in life, we need to look not within ourselves for the answer, but instead look to cross. On the cross Jesus did everything necessary to reconcile us with the Father so that we might have true peace, peace with God, peace with others, and peace with ourselves.

Today, may “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your heart and your mind in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7

Precious Jesus, I am in awe of Your love and mercy today. You give me all that I need in this life and for the life to come. Thank You especially for the gift of peace. When my heart is troubled by the events of this world, grant me the peace that comes only from You. In Your name I pray, amen.


No Substitutes

brown cookies on black metal grill
“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen. I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.” Galatians 1:3-7

Accept no substitutes.  While generic drugs and no-name breakfast cereals have their place, there’s also a time to say, “Accept no substitutes.”  For example, your mother’s chocolate chip cookies have never been beaten. The green ceramic pot your third grade daughter made for Mother’s Day is the most beautiful piece of sculpture ever. 

Paul has a similar view to the familiar gospel that he has shared with the Galatians. The Gospel is absolutely unique and no other “gospel” can compete.  Like most original products, the Gospel of Jesus begins with an amazing, new idea:  God becomes man.  Galatians 4:4 says, “In the fullness of time, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman…”  Only the true Gospel has this idea and direction—God comes to us to be fully man.  But original ideas and products are expensive.  Yes, and the Gospel is costly, but God bears all the cost himself.  Galatians 4:4 continues, “God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law to redeem those who were under the law.”  The impossible price changes when God pays the price by his own Son’s death.

Still, good ideas, whatever their cost, have to work.  The ultimate proof of this Gospel is in the resurrection.  Only in the true Gospel do we have the news that Jesus shows himself to be Son of God in power through the resurrection of the dead, Romans 1:4.  Here is an idea that has no substitute, no comparison.  God takes on our flesh, pays our price and rises from the dead. Accept no substitutes.
Heavenly Father, help us to know and hold onto the true Gospel.  We’re often tempted to get by with the substitute of our own promises.  Remind us that there’s only one Gospel, the truth that Jesus has taken on our flesh, died beneath the cross to make the payment, and risen from the dead to show the truth of his message.  Help us to accept no substitutes. In Jesus’ name, Amen.


Living in Peace with God

white ceramic teacup on white ceramic saucer on table

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 5:1

As I write this today, peace would certainly not be the first word to come to mind when describing the state of affairs in our country. There is a level of unrest that has not be seen on such a scale in many, many years. Some have compared the recent magnitude of protests to what was seen in the 60’s. There are calls from across the land for peace and justice for all of our citizens. But both can be elusive.

This week I would like to invite you to consider what God says about peace. Reflect on it from three perspectives: peace with God, peace with myself, and peace with others. God most certainly has something to say about this and we would, as always, benefit from listening to Him.

Peace with God should be easy; after all, God loves us! If that’s true (and it is) how could we not be at peace with God?

As His children by baptism, we have the peace with God that Paul describes in Romans 5:1. But it was not always that way. Prior to God’s gracious gift of faith, our sinful nature put us in the position of being an enemy of God. The apostle James makes that clear when he writes, “Whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” James 4:4b

While we live in a world and a time where peace is challenged, we know that nothing can take away the peace that we have with God. Today we pause and thank God that He has done what is necessary for us to no longer be His enemy, but rather His beloved. Typically, peace is the result of two parties agreeing not to harm one another, to live cooperatively. In the best of cases, peace brings with it mutual support and a beneficial relationship that grows over time. Each party brings something to the table that strengthens the relationship and makes peace desirable by both.

But what do we have to bring to God? What can we offer that would cause Him to desire peace with us? Nothing, not a thing. God gives us His peace out of pure love through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus. Consider the words of Paul later in Romans 5, “For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!” Romans 5:10

The peace that we now have with God opens the door for peace with ourselves and others.

Father, thank you for the peace that I have with You through the life, death, and resurrection of my Savior Jesus. Your love for me is beyond my understanding but that makes me all the more grateful. Even in times of trouble, may the peace that I have with You always bring me great comfort for my soul and all that I need to face the day. In Jesus precious name I pray, amen.


Turn to Jesus

man holding his hands on open book

54 Now when they (the Jewish leaders) heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at (Stephen). 55 But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” 57 But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. 58 Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.  (Acts 7:54-60)

As they were stoning him, Stephen turned to the Lord.  Notice that he doesn’t call out for the Lord to stop his execution.  Instead, he simply calls out for forgiveness.  Their forgiveness!  Forgiveness for those who falsely accused Him of blaspheme because he preached the life-giving Gospel of Jesus.  Forgiveness for finding him worthy of death on trumped up charges.  Forgiveness for taking his life in such an unjust and inhumane manner.  He knows that his work on earth is completed.  He has shared the Good News with the people.  He has been rejected, but Stephen still loves these people to whom he was sent.  They have not only rejected the messenger, they rejected the message.  This is exactly what Jesus said would happen.  The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me (Luke 10:16).

We learn from Stephen to turn to Jesus.   Odds are, we are not going to be executed for our faith, but there are those times that living our faith brings with it ridicule and question.  Recently someone asked me how I can be nice to those who have treated me with disrespect.  They questioned my sincerity.  Was I being fake?  Responding to ignorance and spite with love and care is a Jesus-thing.  Jesus is the one who said, You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you (Matthew 5:43-44).  How can you do that?  Try doing this:

  • Remember that God loves us, not because we are so good, but because He is so good! God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).
  • Pray for a heart to love the unlovable.
  • Pray for the person who has opposed or offended you. It’s hard to hate someone when you’re praying for him/her.
  • Say nice things and do nice things for that person. It’s also hard to hate while you’re doing nice things.

So, what if the person continues to offend or shun you?  Keep praying.  It’s important to be the one who loves rather than the one who hates.

Prayer: O Holy Spirit, bless me that I would not harbor hatred in my heart.  Give me the faith to rise above any desires to return spite with spite.  Instead, allow me the privilege of loving the unlovable.  I pray this in the name of the resurrected Jesus.  Amen.