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.

Rest

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28-29

Israel, as a people, had heard the promise of rest preached to them since Abraham. It was the gospel really, the message of God working to provide for his people and grant them rest. But stuck in the wilderness, with the utmost of provision and even God’s presence, the people did not have faith. They didn’t believe and they died in the desert.

We hear the same preaching. The calls of Jesus to come to him and rest. We are given eternal life and are commanded to have joy, yet we are in danger of lacking belief in rest. We turn inward on ourselves and attempt to reach perfection through our own work and we never rest. And it is not that we are not called to strive, but what we strive for is different.

“We are to strive to do something even more difficult (than work). We are to strive to enter into rest. “Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience” (Heb. 4:11). We are to strive to turn our hearts away from the false security of slavery and toward his great work through his Son. We must strive to remind ourselves continually of the work that’s already been done. If we don’t, we will fall into the “same sort of disobedience” the Israelites succumbed to.”

“It is this rest, and this rest only, that will cause you to willingly accept his yoke. It is only from a position of rest, as a beloved daughter or son, that you will learn what it means to be his. You will see him as he is, not as a severe taskmaster, demanding what you cannot give. You will see him as he is, a gentle and lowly servant. Day after day you will see life with him as it is, a refreshing reception of delight and joyful service. Every day with him is easy; his burdens are light because he has borne the labor. He carried the heavy burden for you. Strive today to shed the yoke of the law and believe that his is that good. Accept his invitation: “Come to me and I will give you rest.”

Lenten devotion from Comforts from the Cross by Elyse Fitzpatrick. Day 26.

Hope of Glory

“Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness.” 1 Timothy 3:16

The early church faced oppression in a way many of us, thankfully, will never have to. They lived through Nero’s tortureĀ and the humiliation that forced them to hide in caves. But they had hope, hope that they were godly through the work of Christ. They focused on the finished work of Jesus to get through the day and no check-list of behaviors could make them godly. We live in a different time but the mystery of godliness remains.

“What do you think I would hear if I asked the average person on the street how to become godly? What do you suppose he would say? My guess is that most people (after I explained what godly means) would answer that one needs to obey the Ten Commandments or the Golden Rule. Other might talk about being nice,m reading the Bible, or attending church. Perhaps serious Christians would explain how to avoid sin and embrace holy living. But the mysterious truth that motivated and enflamed the early church was that godliness wasn’t about what they could or should do; it was about what Jesus had already done. It was about the incarnation, the resurrection, the ascension…”

“Through the gospel, the Father set our normal way of doing things on its head. Do you want true godliness? Stop working and believe in the incarnation, resurrection, and ascension. Understand realities as they truly are: you won’t ever be able to accrue godliness by putting your trust in your ability to be good enough…”

“The gospel shatters our glory-seeking and self-confidence and tells us that the godliness that pleases the Father is a mystery. If you sincerely want to be godly, stop working and believe. Believe that the gospel declares that we are all the same – helpless and yet so loved. We’re all part of the same body and “partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (Eph. 3:6).”

Lenten devotion from Comforts from the Cross by Elyse Fitzpatrick. Day 25.

Safe in His Care

“The Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” John 18:4

Gardens play an interesting role in Scripture. It was in the first garden that the first humans has a comfortable existence with God. And it was in that same garden that the temper drew them away from God. They hid from him, and we are still hiding today.

“We are all hiding. Hiding is what we do. We hide from everyone – from strangers, from those we love. We hide from ourselves; we hide from God. We fabricate a facade of goodness or beauty, humor or intelligence. We spend countless dollars and incalculable hours sprucing up these false fig-leaf identities. We want to look good and fool our neighbors. We cower behind bushes of prosperity; we clothe ourselves with our good deeds, one-upmanship, and name-dropping. We are none of us consistently authentic.”

Move forward, or back, to another garden. The hour is approaching when Jesus would be brought before a court and sentenced to death. He was in prayer and alone. His friends couldn’t even pray with him. Judas, the betrayer, has brought a small army to arrest Jesus. And he went to them. His disciples were too afraid and would respond with violence, but Jesus went saying, “Let these men go…”

“Every one of them was filled with fear. They feared that they would lose the respect and position they had banked on, that they would suffer shame. They were terrified that they might lose their lives. They had loved listening to his teaching about laying down their lives for others, but they weren’t ready yet to follow him. They loved themselves more than they loved him, and so they were filled with fear. And yet he guarded them.”

“Even though his friends weren’t worthy of his protection, of his sacrifice for them, he was determined. “Take me. let them go.” That’s been his theme throughout all eternity. “Take me. Punish me. Let them go.” His love for us is our guarantee that we’ll make it all the way to heaven.”

“He sees your heart today. He knows what you fear and how you continue to try to take matters into your own hands and protect yourself. He sees when you cut off your enemy’s ear, as Peter did, lashing out at those who threaten you, seeking to hurt them before they can hurt you. He sees you flee naked into the night, hoping to hide yourself from failure, censure, disgrace, judgment… He knows when you fear the doctor’s reports and try to ignore his voice speaking deeply, comfortingly to you. And yet he interposes himself between you and your enemies simply because he is determined not to lose one of those precious ones his Father has given to him.”

“Draw near to him today, won’t you? He’ll cover you with his strong arms and keep your soul safe. Don’t hide; don’t try to cover up. Just come as you are and thank him for his courageous love.”

Lenten devotion from Comforts from the Cross by Elyse Fitzpatrick. Day 24.