Monthly Archives: July 2015

God is Not Like a Box of Chocolates!

If you were to ask the average person on the street how God feels about them, here are some of the responses you might hear:

  • “Well, God loves me, but He is disappointed in me when I do wrong.”
  • “He loves me, that’s why He punishes me when I do wrong.”
  • “I’ve done too many things wrong for God to pay attention to me.”
  • “Some days He’s happier with me than other days.”
  • “I could lose my good standing with God if I don’t do the right things.”

Most people approach God as though He is a box of chocolates – when it comes to God, you never know what you are going to get.

God is not like a box of chocolates. You are not left to wonder what He thinks about you from day to day. The problem lies in the fact that we think that God’s opinion about us is up to us and our behavior. The truth is, what God thinks of you is dependent on Jesus, not you.

Romans 8:1 tell us, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”

Notice that this scripture does not say, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are WELL BEHAVED…

Freedom from condemnation, blame and guilt doesn’t come from your good behavior. In fact, there is no way that you can behave well enough to be free from condemnation. James 2:10 reminds us:

“For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.”

Romans 8:1 teaches us that in order to be free from guilt and condemnation, we must be IN Christ Jesus. That means that to receive the free gift from Jesus (see last week’s post, “Are Christians Still Sinners?” ), we must believe that He paid for and removed all of our sins on the cross. He is the only path to assurance that you are clean and forgiven in the eyes of God.

It is easy to say the words, “Yes, I believe that I am saved by the grace of Jesus!” But, do you really believe it? Or deep down, do you still believe that God only thinks well of you based on your behavior? If you believe in the pure grace of Jesus, you can agree with the following statements:

  • I believe that God is NEVER upset or disappointed with me.
  • I NEVER have to work to earn God’s blessings.
  • I am convinced that God ALWAYS has good things in store for me.
  • I NEVER feel ashamed, guilty or condemned about anything – ever!

Yes, these are extreme statements. But God’s grace for you is extreme. I admit that I haven’t yet been able to answer “yes” to all these statements myself all of the time, but I am committed to the renewing of my mind until I am convinced in my heart that this is how God feels about me.

So, the next time you find yourself wondering if God is pleased with you, remember that God is not like a box of chocolates. With Him, you always know what you’re going to get. With Jesus, you will always receive love, acceptance and goodness from Him, whether you feel it or not!

Are Christians Still Sinners?

I’ve heard many Christians say, “I’m just a sinner, saved by grace”. In fact, I used to claim this statement myself for many years. But today, as I am continuing to learn more about the grace that God has freely given us, I can stand before you in truth and say, “I am no longer a sinner!”

Now, if you want to get some religious people upset really quickly, I dare you to say to them what I just said to you. They would be quick to correct my statement that I am not a sinner, using scriptures like:

“If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.” (I John 1:10), or:

“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)

I am not questioning the fact that I still sin. In fact, I think you would be hard pressed to find any Christian who would be so bold to say that they never do anything wrong. But, just because I still sin, does that make me a sinner?

To accurately answer this question, let’s look at how we all became sinners in the first place. Romans 5:12 tells us that we became sinners because of what Adam, our first ancestor, did. Because of Adam’s original sin, we now all have a “sin gene” in our DNA that is a part of who we are. We didn’t do anything to cause this “sin gene” to be inside of us – just the fact that we were born ensured that we would be sinners. In short, we are not sinners because we sin. We are sinners because we were born into sin from our ancestor Adam.

Verses 13 and 14 are SO amazing! “For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law” (Romans 5:13). This tells us that because the law did not exist between the time of Adam and Moses, God was not punishing people because of their sins. Think about it…how can you break a law when no law exists? Sure, people were still suffering and dying, because sin produces death – but death came from the sin itself, not from God’s punishment!

Here is where it gets good! In verses 15-21, Paul explicitly shows us how just as we became sinners because of Adam (not because of our sins), that when we put our faith in Jesus, we now become righteous and justified before God. Just as we did not “sin” our way into becoming sinners, we can’t “behave” our way into become righteous and justified. Once you believe in Jesus, you are given a new nature – a new spirit – a sinless spirit!

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Over and over again in verses 15-18, we are told that righteousness and grace is a “free gift” to us through faith in Jesus Christ. Here is a breakdown of who God now says we are, as believers in Jesus:

  • Vs. 15: Because of one man’s offense (Adam), many died. Because of one Man’s grace, grace abounds to many!
  • Vs. 16: Through Adam, judgment brought condemnation. Through Jesus, the free gift brings justification!
  • Vs. 17: Through Adam, death reigned. Through Jesus, we reign in life!
  • Vs. 18: Because of Adam, judgment resulted in condemnation. Because of Jesus, the free gift results in justification!
  • Vs. 19: One man’s disobedience made many sinners. One Man’s obedience made many righteous!
  • Vs. 20: Because of the law, sin abounded. But grace abounds much more!
  • Vs. 21: Sin reigned in death. But through Jesus Christ, grace reigns through righteousness!

I want to especially point out verse 19. Because of Adam, we were made sinners. But now, because we have faith in Jesus, we are no longer sinners. Just as before the law, we are no longer being judged by God for our sins. Not only that, but God does not see us as sinners – He sees us as righteous!

I’ll say again that this does not mean that we never perpetrate sin. But at our core, we are no longer sinners, we are righteous. A person who tells a lie cannot automatically be labeled as a compulsive liar. A person who has a drink cannot automatically be labeled as an alcoholic. On the flip side, a mean person who does a good deed cannot be automatically be labeled as a great guy!

As believers in Christ, our actions no longer dictate our identity. I am no longer considered a sinner. You are no longer considered a sinner. And I am convinced that once we can own up to our true identity – the righteousness of God by faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 5:17) – we will actually see less and less sin show up in our lives!

The Religious “Bait and Switch”

If you’ve been in church for any length of time, you’ve no doubt heard the preacher or other attenders confess that we’ve all been saved by grace. In fact, I think you would be hard pressed to find a Christian that tells you that there is any other way to receive salvation, except through grace.

But there’s a problem. All too often, the minute that a person believes in Jesus as their personal Savior, we as the church pull on them the old “bait and switch”.

Picture with me this scene: The pastor has just preached a moving and powerful sermon. Then the organ player begins to play the faithful hymn, “Just as I Am”. You can sense that the presence of God is in the room, inviting those who are lost and broken to come down to the altar and receive the free gift of forgiveness and grace from God. Susie comes down and in all sincerity in her heart reaches out to Jesus, asking Him to come into her heart and life. Everyone in the room feels a release of love, grace and forgiveness as well all rejoice over Susie joining the family of Jesus. She has been told that God loves and receives her just as she is, because she has confessed her belief in Jesus. You can literally see the relief and rest on Susie’s faces, and she now has a glow about her that she didn’t have before.

Fast forward to the following week…

Susie comes to church again, excited to learn more about this Jesus who died for her sins and who loves her beyond measure. She is greeted by one of the “mothers” of the church who gently pulls her aside to let her know that the skirt she is wearing is too tight and too short. The mother explains to her that now that she is a part of God’s family, God expects more from her. Embarrassed, Susie finds her way into the sanctuary, still hoping to relive that joy that she felt the previous week. But she becomes more discouraged when the pastor’s sermon outlines all of the things that we as Christians must stop doing right now. Along with this list of wrongs that must be stopped, Susie writes down all of the things that she should be doing. Susie is feeling overwhelmed.

After the service, Susie is greeted by a few well-intending church-goers, who remember that she received Christ the week before. They are happy that she is back in church.

As they walk out of the church doors together, Susie lights up a cigarette. Her new church friends are appalled, explaining to her that her body is the temple of God. “How could you defile God’s temple like that, Susie?”, they ask. Susie drops her cigarette, puts it out with the new shoes she bought for church, smiles, and gets in her car.

The next week, a few people at church notice that Susie is not in the service. One of them tries to give her a call to check on her, but instead gets forwarded to her voicemail. They never hear from Susie again.

Unfortunately, I think that this scenario happens all to often in many churches. God’s grace is all about receiving undeserved, unmerited favor from Jesus, “the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:26).

To bring people to Jesus, we confess grace to the lost. But once they have come to believe in Him, we take them back to trying to gain God’s approval and blessing through performance.

There was absolutely nothing we could ever have done to earn the gift of salvation that Jesus paid for on the cross. So, why do we think that we could ever possibly do enough to KEEP it? As Christians, it is time that we stop with the bait and switch, and instead decide which side of the line we are going to live on…the side of trying to earn God’s approval, or the side of grace?

I only wish that we could keep our eyes on Jesus, instead of on ourselves and our behavior. If we as a church would be so bold as to focus only on Jesus and let the Holy Spirit do His job of changing us, not only would we see Susie show up at church again, but she would bring her entire neighborhood block with her to hear the good news of the gospel!