No Questions Asked

You don’t have to be good and proper before you can worship God. You don’t need to clean up first, you don’t need to be at your best; you can just come as you are and Jesus will never turn you away.

Many people are under the impression that they will only come to Christ when they’ve finally pulled themselves together; when they’re good enough, holy enough, clean enough, and proper enough. My friend, that day may never come.

The human heart is at a constant deterioration. It is in our fallen nature to go from bad to worse; our New Year resolutions prove that. Only by the intervention of Christ will our depreciation be reversed. Only Christ can stop our internal decay.

A sinful woman once approached Jesus while He was having dinner at a Pharisee’s house (Luke 7: 36- 50). She didn’t come to explain her sins away. She simply dropped to her knees, poured a jar of expensive perfume on His feet, cried silently and wiped His feet with her hair. Everyone in the room knew what kind of woman she was.

In a world where everyone treats her condescendingly because of her sins, she found hope at the feet of Jesus. Yes, she was a sinner. Yes, everyone knew of her shame. Yes, she was despised and her life was a total mess. But these didn’t stop her from coming to Jesus.

Amazingly, Jesus accepted her worship, forgave her sins, and pronounced she was saved. No questions asked. No explanations necessary.

Did you notice the order of events that happened? She was a filthy sinner, she approached Christ despite her sin, Jesus had mercy on her, forgave her, and she walked free. No mention of her having to clean up her act first before coming to Jesus.

Give Your Soul the Means to Grow

“What has exceedingly hurt you… is lack of reading. I scarce ever knew a preacher who read so little. And perhaps, by neglecting it, you have lost the taste for it. Hence your talent in preaching does not increase. It is just the same as it was seven years ago. It is lively, but not deep; there is little variety; there is no compass of thought.

Reading only can supply this, with meditation and daily prayer. You wrong yourself greatly by omitting this. You can never be a deep preacher without it, any more than a thorough Christian…

Continue reading Give Your Soul the Means to Grow

In Search of a Relevant God

When Moses was in Mt. Sinai to receive the Law from God, Aaron was at the foot of the mountain leading the people in idolatrous worship (Exodus 32: 1- 35). How did it happen?

The problem was that the people became restless. They’ve been weary of all their desert wanderings. They needed to feel at home. They needed a spiritual fix. Something to fire them up and to make them feel good minus the responsibility and the cost of obedience.

But Moses’ God was so terrifying. The whole time they were in the desert, the Israelites felt like they were always tiptoeing around the name of Yahweh. What’s there to fear? Why can’t they be just like the people around them, with all their comfortable religion and easy spiritualism? Why can’t Yahweh be just like any other god?

And so they made the golden calf. Just like the calf god of Egypt which they decidedly left behind. Isn’t it sad that they were going back to the idolatry that they already renounced? That the god they fled from now ensnared them again? All because they were looking for a relevant god.

A god that would keep up with the times and adapt to social changes. A god that will not hold them accountable. A god they can worship with no strings attached. A god they can put aside when they don’t feel like worshiping. A god who will let them live any way they want. In other words, a very convenient god.

And Their Eyes Were Opened

When Adam and Eve sinned in the garden of Eden, their eyes were opened and they knew what was good and evil. This does not mean that they acquired new knowledge in addition to what they knew before.

The “knowing” what is good and evil signifies a complete reversal of man’s knowledge. Up until that moment, all Adam and Eve knew was God and everything good. Yes the devil had already fallen at that time and he may have been creeping around finding a way to destroy God’s creation. But until Adam and Eve gave in to the temptation, their focus was solely on God and His presence.

After the fall, their first realization was their nakedness. They knew right away that something was missing.

When Adam and Eve fell to temptation, they lost sight of what is, and started being conscious of what isn’t there. No, they didn’t acquire new knowledge. They shifted their focus. From God. To something else.

Inspired by Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Ethics (Touchstone, 1955).

Sunday Motions

We can go through the Sunday motions, we can carry out the religious exercises, we can pack a Bible under our arms, and sing familiar songs from memory, yet we can still hold grudges against the people who have wronged us. In our own way—and it may even be with a little religious manipulation—we’ll get back at them. But that is not God’s way.

Source: Charles Swindoll, Great Days with the Great Lives (Nashville: W. Publishing Group, 2005), via Insight for Living Newsletter.

Worst Religious Cover-up

While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened.

When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.”

So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day. (Matt. 28: 11- 15)

Continue reading Worst Religious Cover-up

Mary Could Have Stopped the Crucifixion

“Mary could have stopped the crucifixion. Very simply, she could have stopped the torture and the agony of her son’s death on the cross. How? [Jesus] was crucified for one reason: He claimed that God was His Father.

If that were a lie, if Mary had been unchaste, she would have had to admit that she was immoral, but she could have stepped forward at any time and said, “Stop this horror! I’m ashamed! I confess! I will tell you who His real Father is!” She could have destroyed [Jesus’] whole pretensions and saved Him from the cross.

No mother, to save her own reputation, would allow her son to be horribly mutilated and killed. Mary could have and would have stopped her son’s horrible death, as any mother would have, except that she knew who His Father was.

She knew Jesus’ Father was God.”

Source: D. James Kennedy, Why I Believe (Thomas Nelson; Revised Edition, 1979)

Stop Helping the Devil

Two major ideas I got from the sermon today:

First is the religion of condemnation. And I don’t mean a church with a set of religious services but a bunch of people who seem to make it their personal mission to condemn others. The Pharisees dragged a woman who was caught in the act of adultery and presented her to Jesus. They wanted Him to pronounce judgment on her: any judgment, good, bad, whatever. She was a pawn in their endless lust to catch Jesus doing wrong.

They didn’t care if she was deeply humiliated. They didn’t even bother to bring the man along in compliance with the Mosaic law. They just paraded her in public to prove a religious point. They condemned her to incite a controversial comment from Jesus. What is wrong with these people?

And what is wrong with us? When we jump to ridiculous conclusions without checking the facts, we are doing what the Pharisees did to this woman. Do you know that it is the job of the devil to accuse? When you point your finger in accusation, you are helping the devil do his work. In case you haven’t heard, one of the names of Satan is translated as the “accuser of the brethren” (Revelation 12: 10). Stop helping the devil.

Second major idea I learned today is the immeasurable magnitude of the mercy of God. I call this the religion of grace (in stark contrast with the religion of condemnation). Every time I read the story of this adulterous woman, I am always amazed at the eloquent silence of Jesus. I could almost feel the drama of the question, “Woman, where are your accusers?”

Let me tell you one very basic truth: where grace is present, condemnation takes flight. Condemnation could never stand in the face of grace. Never. Not in a million eternities. If there was one person who had every right to accuse the woman, it was Jesus. But He let her go, set her free, and charged her to use her freedom to stop sinning.

When was the last time you let go of a fight even when you were so convinced you were right? Jesus’ challenge that those who had no sin should cast the first stone silenced everyone. I don’t know about you guys but as for me, I’m absolutely sure that I’m out of the stone-throwing business.

Stephen Mansfield on Reading

You have to read to know our chaotic world. You have to read to lead. You have to read to stay sane and peaceful in an emotionally violent time. You have to read to know God. And you have to read, as C. S. Lewis said, to know you are not alone.

Get reading. Use your technology to make it easier and more readily available. Carve out the space and build a rich inner life. Set goals, share the joys, reap the harvest of a cultivated intellect and a sophisticated soul.

Source: Stephen Mansfield, A Reading Life (Blog Entry, March 17, 2011).

When God is Taken Out of the Picture

What happens when we deny that there are moral absolutes? What happens when we take God out of the picture and insist that morals and ethics are cultural and are, therefore, relative?

D. James Kennedy, author of Why I Believe, wrote of what happened at the Nuremberg War Trials after World War II:

During the Nuremberg War Trials after World War II, Nazi leaders were brought before that court and charged with all manner of crimes, including the slaughtering of millions of Jews and other people.

What was their defense? It was a clever one. The Supreme Court in Germany had declared that Jews were nonpersons. So these indicted Nazi leaders said, “We have done nothing wrong. We acted according to our own culture, according to our own mores, according to our own laws. We were told that they could be killed. Who are you to come from another culture, another society, and impose your morals on us?”

The Allied attorneys were thrown for a fifty-yard loss. They didn’t know what to say. If there are no absolutes, if everything is relativistic, if everything is culturally induced and we have no authority to impose our culture upon another, how dare we say that the Nazis were wrong for killing millions of people.

The lawyers were so taken aback, that after huddling for some time, they finally decided to retreat. Since they apparently were not willing to retreat to the moral law of God, they retreated to “natural law,” which has been held through many centuries. Although it is less precise, more vague, it nevertheless still has some moral content to it.

The lawyers appealed to natural laws, and it was on that basis that the Nazis were convicted.