Controlled by Love

“The love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died.” 2 Corinthians 5:14

“The desire to change isn’t exclusively Christian. Everyone, Christina and non-Christian alike, wants to change. That’s why bookstores are filled with self-help books and meeting halls are filled with people trying to overcome addictions to everything from gambling to pornography to shopping. Everyone wants to get better, to approve of herself, to have the respect of others, to be mentally “healthy,” to keep her family together, to learn to be productive. Christians don’t usually say, “I want to approve of my record.” Instead they say things like “I want to feel good about myself,” or “I know that this weakness of mine doesn’t please God, and I’m so embarrassed.” But there’s a problem here for us: self-improvement isn’t a Christian construct; death and resurrection are.”

“God isn’t interested in self-improvement regiments. He isn’t impressed by our resolutions to do better, to get those devotions in, pass out tracts, cut down on our online time by fifteen minutes every day, or fast from shopping channels during Lent. In fact, he isn’t impressed with us at all. He’s impressed by his Son. He’s impressed with the perfect life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus the Christ, his beloved Son. He’s impressed with his love… Here’s the crux of the matter: you shouldn’t hope to be impressed with yourself…”

“We who live in Christ are no longer to live for ourselves, not even for our good record, our family’s approval, or our clean conscience. We are to live for him who for our “sake died and was raised” (2 Cor. 5:15).

Lenten devotion from Comforts from the Cross by Elyse Fitzpatrick. Day 27.

Good-Byes

“We have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.” 1 John 4:14

Life is full of endings, divestitures, good-byes. Sometimes it is the loss of loved ones, the job that moves you away, the possessions that break or are stolen. And none of this is easy but it is part of our experiencing life. How do we approach it as Christians?

The reality is that “we’ve never known separation and loss like (Christ). Thank God that we never will.” The pain of separation from the Father as Jesus lived among man and eventually hung on a cross where the Father would pour out all of his wrath against sin on his beloved son. Jesus is left asking “why?” and we are left with a savior that has “been there” when we go through loss.

“He invited us into his prayer so that we could know his heart; “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am” (John 17:24). Can you see how important it is to him that we be with him? Do you believe that he completely understands the losses we face? He was forsaken so that we would have the assurance that we never will be.”

“Your Savior wants you to know that he’s walked this path ahead of you. He knows what it is to be separated from loved ones, to be tempted to sin because of fear of loss. He knows what it is to walk alone, to be misunderstood, to journey in a foreign land. He knows what it is to be fully forsaken, but he also knows what it is to be reunited to his beloved…”

“Because of this you can take comfort in your loneliness and loss. The Savior is there with you.”

Lenten devotion from Comforts from the Cross by Elyse Fitzpatrick. Day 21.

Remembered by Jesus

“And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into you kingdom.”‘ Luke 23:42

It is a new week, there will be new challenges and new people to love. Without fail, it will get hard and we will muster all we have but still fall short. This is actually good news because we know the empowerment to live comes from outside of us. “Ultimately, our primary need is not trying harder to love the unlovely. Endless self-effort and its resultant guilt never generate love for those who mistreat us. Motivation to love and forgive our debtors is found only while resting in the love and forgiveness of our Savior.”

Think of the three men on crosses on that hill so long ago. All found guilty by those in control but each with a different perspective. One mocks and joins in with the jeering of Jesus. He is angry and damned. The second man reminds the scoffer that they are receiving what they deserve. In a place of humility he asks the One in the middle to be remembered and to have mercy on him. Jesus’ response is hope for each of us in the midst of our struggles.

“What does Jesus want from us? What can we offer him? He has no illusions; he doesn’t sentimentally wish we were a bit nicer. “He know our frame; her remembers that we are dust” (Ps. 103:14). Even when we dress ourselves in our Sunday best and sing, “Praise the Lord,” he knows the truth. He knows better than we do that we are utterly unable to reform ourselves. He knows that we are lost, shackled criminals who have no hope for real change without his saving intervention.”

And that is the point. We bring nothing to the table but our sin and still Jesus, at the request of mercy grants it. “Today you with me in Paradise.” We miss this don’t we? We think, ‘sure I am saved’ but now I have to earn paradise. Stop that Satan inspired thinking. Not only does Christ give you entry into paradise, he shares his inheritance with you, not at the end of your merit or effort but solely because of who he is and how he loves.

Jesus “took on everything that it means to be a condemned human. He hung on the cross with us. He took on everything that needed to be taken on so that we could be with him. He prays, “Father, forgive them.”

“So today, when you’re tempted to be unloving, don’t focus solely on your failure; don’t rage or despair or hide from him. Instead pray, “Jssus, remembers me. Illumine my eyes to your love and to the Paradise that awaits, and help me now to love because you are loving me. Amen.” Is it really that simple? Yes, it is that simple, that humble. What more could a shackled criminal do?”

Lenten devotion from Comforts from the Cross by Elyse Fitzpatrick. Day 8.

Justice and the blood of Christ

There is a lot of reaction to the killing of Osama Bin Laden and many Christians are feeling the tension of rejoicing for justice but not celebrating death. Our worldview is indeed shaped by what Christ has accomplished on the cross but at times that right view of life through a gospel lens gets clouded by our own depravity and sense of incomplete justice.

Rather than compose a post of my thoughts on the news I thought it best to hear the gospel from others. One great post on being reserved and not quick to pontificate by Jonathan Dodson is worth a read. And below is a note from Ben Brophy, a close friend and partner in ministry. This post is an expansion of what has been posted at Men in the Word

This post is going to be almost wholly topical, can I even do that? I’m going for it, Shradar you can tell me I’m a heretic later. I woke up tonight at 1:30 to pick up my girlfriend from the airport and was met with news that Osama Bin Laden had been killed by American forces. Simultaneously, I saw footage of Americans celebrating justice for this terrorist.

That public celebration reminded me that by nature, humanity does seek justice, it fits with our God-given sense of the world and Osama Bin-Laden rightly faced justice in this world and in the next. Mark Driscoll posted a few verses that pertain here. I’ll repeat them here

Romans 13 “there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God…if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.”

Psalm 5:5 “The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers.”

I’m going to be a bit cliche here, but before a perfect and Holy God, we are equally if not more repugnant than Osama Bin Laden was to the world. This is why I get on my knees and thank God for sending his son to be an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Righteous judgement will come for us all and because of that, I’m grateful for Jesus tonight.

Yesterday I saw a clear example of people crying out for justice and that cry being met. God’s own character cries out for a greater, more complete justice, thankfully, he also provides the ultimate mercy in the person of Christ whose death on the cross provides us with perfect standing as children of God.