Tag Archives: Grace

Before He Created Me

So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. [Matthew 5:23-24 ESV]

When was the last time you considered the price of your redemption from sin?

Jesus, God in the flesh,

did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. [Philippians 2:6-8 ESV]

He decided to do this before He created the universe, before He combined dust particles to make Earth, before He separated the waters and set the lights in the heavens. Before He molded and made the plants and animals of Earth. Before He created man in His image and set him in a garden to rule over the Earth and subdue it. Before He commanded man to marry and have children and fill the earth with those who bore His image. He decided to create man, with whom He wanted an intimate relationship, knowing man would sin and rebel, corrupting everything he touched, rejecting God and be separated from Him. He decided from before creation to take upon Himself the sentence and penalty for the sins of all.

Yet, not all are redeemed. It only takes one sin to separate the one God loves from God’s love. Adam’s sin, inherited as the sin for all people, was the one sin of disobedience. Now, having taken upon Himself the sin of all and making Himself a sacrifice, after paying the redemption price for all, it still takes only one sin to separate a person from God.

God commands each person come to Him, accept the gift on the altar, the gift of grace, and have an intimate relationship with the One who created them in His image, redeemed them from sin, and recreated them in the likeness of His Son. It still takes only one act of rebellion, one sin, to separate a person from God. That act of rebellion is to disobey the command to come to Him. Obedience carries no merit but brings life and peace with God. Disobedience carries the dire, justified consequences of eternal death, which is separation from Him who gives life.

One sin, Adam’s, brought death to all. One sacrifice, an act of obedient devotion by Christ, brings life to all. One sin, committed by all who flout Christ’s sacrifice, brings death to those who disobey.

Before the creation of anything, Christ loved me.  Knowing about my rebellion and all of my sin before I was, He decided, because of His love, to take upon Himself my sin. This decision brought upon Him indescribable suffering and anguish and cost Him His physical life. Wanting to have an intimate relationship with me, the one He loves, He was willing to take upon Himself, not just my sin, but the truth I would continue to rebel and disobey, reject and ignore Him whom I was created to love. God knew that to love me is to allow me to continue to hurt Him. Yet, still He loves me.

A sacrifice of love, the only true gift worth giving, means suffering and anguish for both the One who loves and the one being loved.

What does God ask in return? Nothing.

God never asks. He commands obedience, a demonstration of love. “If you love me you will keep my commands” [John 14:15 ESV]. This demonstration of love brings incomprehensible suffering, anguish and mourning to those who bring themselves as a gift to God’s altar. He knew my redemption would bring a suffering which would strike at the core of myself, destroy the sinful foundation upon which my life was previously built, empty and crumble my heart of its worldly passions and desires and bring a defeat, a helplessness and hopelessness to my existence. Here is what happens when I see exactly what sin is, what it has done and the consequences of its presence in my life. What is left for me to offer? There is nothing I have, nothing I can give, nothing I can do.

He set aside everything and gave His life. I have nothing to give, only the dry dust of what is left of myself, easily blown away by the casual breath of God. He does not blow away but blows upon and those dry bones come together again, flesh and blood are recreated and life, true life, eternal life is breathed into the nostrils of one recently dead. (See Ezekiel 37.)

After His suffering, a suffering demanded by love known through eternity, is the gift from Him of eternal joy for Him. He created all for an intimate and eternal relationship with Him. He does this by using suffering to make those who are His whole and then completes them with Himself.

He promises eternity free from sin and suffering for those with Him.

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Conclusion

What is theology? For most, theology is seen as a dry academic pursuit leading to wordy, intellectually philosophical conclusions which have no impact on real life. However, theology is the study of God, or studying the Word of God.

Let me give you a more easily understood definition of theology. Theology is friendship with God. Everyone, whether or not they admit it, has a relationship with God. Everyone either pursues Him or runs from Him. Everyone has an idea of whom or what God is. Even when people don’t think about God it is because of what they think of God. Christians, those who are identified with God through the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the guarantee of the Holy Spirit, spend their lives learning about God.

In Matthew 5 Jesus tells us the only way any become a citizen of the kingdom of heaven is for God to make them one. Our lives become the evidence of God’s work in us. God’s grace makes us a citizen. His grace does not absolve any of the demands and responsibilities of the citizen. We are required and inspired to obey the inner reality of His eternal law in our every action, motivation and attitude.

Grace is misunderstood by many and misapplied by all at some time. Grace is not receiving punishment due for crimes committed but being given eternal life. Eternal life is not earned. With eternal life are privileges and responsibilities. Grace is not being given death which is deserved and being given life which is not deserved.

God places a standard of excellence upon His citizens which reaches far beyond anything recognizable by the world. Though He has covered those who are His with the righteous blood of His Son, viewing us as righteous who are not, He also demands we conform to His standard of excellence. Our conforming to His standard, exemplified in Christ, is unattainable without His strength, direction and grace. At no time during our lives in the world, encumbered with the old, sinful self, does He expect us to attain perfection. He does expect us to work on and reach for holiness.

God expects His citizens to be teachable throughout their time in this world. He uses the world, the tugs and pulls of temptation to prepare us for eternity. If He were not going to use the world in such a way there would be no reason to leave any here. Too many fail, succumbing to the temptations and giving themselves permission to sin. We do not have permission to sin. Not even those who are unsaved have permission to sin.

When Jesus states He has not come to “abolish the Law or the Prophets” He is forcing us to acknowledge God’s Word to us is absolute, unbendable and unbreakable. When He says He has come to “fulfill them” He is stating we cannot, that He is the only One able to keep God’s Word. When He states “heaven and earth” will not “pass away” until “all in accomplished” He is telling us God’s Word is eternal. This Word, the Law and Prophets of God, impact every area, every thought, every emotion, every action, every piece of creation, every molecule of life.

We are made in His image to have a relationship with Him. Thus, obeying Him is never an obligation because it is integral to our deepest being. Being recreated in the likeness of Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit opens the battlefield of our souls to the war between righteousness and unrighteousness, between truth and lie, between purity of holiness and the blackness of sin.

Is it ever appropriate to set aside sound theology for the practical living? “Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven” [Matthew 5:19 ESV]. Our answer has to be “never.”

Sound theology is practical living according to God’s standards of excellence, not according to the standards of the world in its rebellion against Him. There is a danger. Misinterpreting God’s truth and turning it into a lie and then following that lie which leads deeper into sin and away from truth. We do not have the right to determine our own righteousness. Jesus declares our righteousness must “exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees” or we “will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” There is only one standard we must meet. God’s standard. It is met in Jesus Christ.

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. [Matthew 5:17-20 ESV]

 

God’s Revealed Attributes

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. [Matthew 5:17-18 ESV]

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. [Genesis 1:27 ESV]

All God created was done according to His will and for His purposes. His purposes are mysterious but His will is not. Truth flows from God. Not only did He create all which exists He also sustains all which exists. He sustains the physical lives of those who war against Him. As the only One who intimately knows all which exists, insuring all which exists continues to exist, He governs all under His authority, guiding and preserving creation toward His ends, for His will, according to His rules. Only He gives purpose to creation. We do not get to make up truth. We do get to live according to truth.

We cannot constrain God. Perhaps we can say He is constrained by truth. Maybe it would be better to say He is free, unconstrained by anything which is not true. We live in a world of negative thoughts and concepts. We move between understanding more of the spiritual realm by describing what it is not because our sinful natures cannot grasp what it is. Paul, arguing for the gospel told the Corinthians the gospel was not the difference between positive and negative but always positive.

As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been Yes and No. For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes. For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. [2 Corinthians 1:18-21 ESV]

God is the morphe of truth and goodness, complete in grace and peace, compassion and love toward all He has created. Everything He creates is perfectly good when He creates because He will not create anything which is not good. His uncorrupted creation is filled with grace and peace, compassion and love. Goodness is as integral to God as truth, as is His immensity, omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience.

Truth and goodness in no way preclude justice and righteousness but require them. God’s justice and righteousness are filled with His truth and goodness. Truth is the foundation of justice and goodness is the evidence of righteousness. We show a complete lack of understanding God when we limit His justice to a legalistic interpretation of revealed law within His written Word. We sabotage righteousness when we give ourselves permission to sin because of a misperceived outcome of Christ’s sacrifice for us and our covering by His blood. His sacrifice on the cross on our behalf is meant to usher us into God’s presence so we can begin to understand who He is and be changed for eternity by His truth and goodness and justice and righteousness. Our relationship with Him is not just for the here and now but for eternity.

Being gathered into His presence by the scars of Christ means, by fulfilling the sentence of death in our place, we are no longer separated from God. We are declared holy. Holiness is an eternal characteristic of God, like truth and goodness and justice and righteousness. Sin separated some of His creation from Him and His holiness. We and our world are separated from God, unrighteous, under His judgment, not good, living a lie. By Jesus’ wounds, the shedding of His blood, a deep and eternal mystery, we are brought back as a new creation into His presence. We are separated from the world and from sin for Him. We are holy not to do anything we want but to be all He purposes for us throughout eternity.

He does not want part of each person. He wants the whole person for Himself. Here, the teaching of Jesus in the first 20 verses of Matthew 5 shows His will for each for eternity. As he is whole and complete so He will make those who are His whole and complete. We are fitted for eternity, recreated and designed in the image and likeness of His Son, Jesus Christ.

God’s Fifth Statement

Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may go well with you in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.  [Deuteronomy 5:16 ESV; see also Exodus 20:12]

Parents have children, and those children become parents and have more children.  This is an absolute in God’s design. He commanded Adam and Eve to multiply AND fill the earth and subdue it.

And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” [Genesis 1:28 ESV]

Noah and his children were also told, after the flood, to fill the earth. (See Genesis 9:1.)

Parents have a primary job. They are to raise children to love and honor God. In turn, those children become parents who raise children who are taught to love and honor God because they have been taught to do so. Children emulate and copy their parents. From their parents children learn about God and how to treat others.

Parent who focus upon God teach their children to do the same. If the parent focuses upon themselves or anything other than God then the children are taught to do the same. Should the parent teach their child to sin then the sins of the fathers is passed onto the children and broken only through the grace of God. We honor our parents by being like them. Our parents honor God by living out His image in the world.

This places a tremendous obligation upon the parents. God placed this statement in the middle of the ten statements as a bridge between loving God and loving our neighbors. Those parents who know God intimately have no other gods or idols because there are none, speak for God with His given authority, and are resting in Him while looking forward to His final and ultimate eternal rest. They are unshakable in their faith and an example to their children.

What the parent does influences the child, but the parent is not responsible for the grown child’s relationship with God. When a child becomes a parent who they are reflects what they have been taught by their parents. They honor their parents who have honored their own parents and God by loving Him or they honor their parents by doing what their parents did.  To “honor” means to be heavy with, weighty, rich with or abounding with, and to promote. Psychologically this is what every child does, whether they seek God or rebel against their parents or Him. However, the question is not are children doing what they have been taught but have they been taught to love God.

Children do not have to be taught to sin. Sin is part of their fallen nature. Children are taught how to sin in various ways by many different people. Children must be taught to love God but can only be taught this by those who love God. Everything a person is exposed to teaches them something.

Jesus has devastating words for all people.

Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes! [Matthew 18:5-7 (and following) ESV]

What we do right now counts for eternity for ourselves and for those around us. If what our children do reflects who we are and how we honor God then our relationship with Him is of utmost importance. If our parents were not godly we may honor them by being as they are. But then, we will not honor God by being as they are. I was struck with fear when I realized the great responsibility God placed upon my shoulders when I became a parent. My fear has driven me toward God. I am far from perfect, my sin showing black against the brilliant white of His righteousness. I live by His grace and pray my children will do the same.

Those who persecute the righteous because of their relationship with Jesus Christ have been taught to do so. Their parents, or those who have the influence of parents, have raised them up to view a lie as truth, and to view the truth as a lie. Even within the organized church are those who lead people, not toward God but toward an idol.

Those who are citizens of the kingdom of God show the evidence of citizenship as God works out in them the characteristics Jesus has given in the Sermon on the Mount. Being a citizen of God’s kingdom invites the persecution of those who hate God. Persecution does not relieve us of the responsibility of loving and obeying God and teaching our children to do the same.

Purity Through Grace

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. [Matthew 5:8 ESV]

Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” [Mark 9:24 ESV]

God’s grace toward sinners is the driving force for any who become pure in heart.

Only one person has ever lived who could claim a pure life. He is the One who offers grace to everyone, even those who refuse His offer. His life is an example though His purpose in coming was for sacrifice. “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps” [1 Peter 2:21 ESV]. His purity and righteousness cannot be duplicated by anyone.

As we begin to understand His life, His motives and demands, and the grace which drives us toward Him, we will cringe at our twisted and corrupted nature. No one can look at Him without seeing themselves. Our purpose it not to be Him but to be made by God into His likeness. Each hidden in Him are made by God into an eternally unique person.

From God’s eternal perspective He has finished His work in us. This does not mean He has stopped working in us or He has let us go to live by our own devices, winding us up to let us run down until He winds us up again. He does not hope we use the tools given or that we will grown into maturity. It means nothing will thwart our being finished and complete. What He has done is done for eternity and cannot be undone.

Yet, we are constrained by time, by each moment in history. If we comprehend the completed work of Christ then we know the absolute of God’s decree. Still, our moment by moment is plagued by sin, requiring deliberate consciousness of God, a continual growing in Christ, and an abandonment of self to the Spirit. Anything less and we risk temporary defeat and loving discipline. God will make us pure.

Testing may be seen as a purifying fire. Those unwilling to submit to the testing fires of faith, rejecting His grace, will suffer the eternal “fires” of separation from God.

If I am correct in my thinking then there are two basic activities, or responsibilities, we have, and two purposes He is accomplishing in us. These are fueled by His grace and nothing else. He requires (for want of a better word) both obedience and sacrifice. Our purposes are living the evidence of His grace before the world through obedience and sacrifice, and preparation for eternity. His Son fulfilled these activities  to His satisfaction. Does He expect anything less from any who are His?

Grace continues where personal strength and effort fail. At the instant my strength fails, before I even began to try, God’s grace and its inherent power, succeeds. For God’s grace is His power to overwhelm and destroy the power of sin.

In Mark 9 (and Matthew 17) Jesus once again confronts the power and consequence of sin. Coming down a mountain after His transfiguration He encounters a man whose son is demon possessed. Though His disciples were given explicit authority to drive out demons (see Matthew 10:8 and Mark 3:14-15) they could not drive out this one.

Commenting on the bent, twisted and powerless condition of all, on their complete lack of faith, their unbelieving, untrusting, disobedient posture, Jesus laments, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me”[ Mark 9:19 ESV]. I do not know if He is speaking about His disciples are the people in general. They have all seen His work, experienced His faithfulness, seen the evidence of His life and love for them, and still they have no faith. Jesus does not say “little” faith as He does elsewhere. They are “faithless.”

Finally, the father, driven to his knees, hopelessly unable to do anything, exclaims, “I believe; help my unbelief!” [Mark 9:24 ESV]. His cry did not release Jesus’ power as if faith activates God. Jesus decided to heal the boy and strengthened the faith of the father. Just as He decided to come and sacrifice Himself for us giving us grace.

Those who are pure in heart live faith as a whole person before God.

Pure in Heart: Introduction

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. [Matthew 5:8 ESV]

God tells us to live up to His standards which are based upon Himself, upon His character and personality. Here, Jesus tells us the “pure in heart” are blessed. At the end of Matthew 5 Jesus states “you therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” [Matthew 5:48 ESV]. God tells His people they are to be “holy, because I am holy” [Leviticus 11:44 ESV]. You shall be holy to me, for I the LORD am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine” [Leviticus 20:26 ESV]. Peter reinforces God expectations in his first letter. “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’” [1 Peter 114-16 ESV]. God’s expectations for His people were their separation from the world and the motives and activities of the world. Jesus describes the citizen of the kingdom of heaven as one who lives and acts like they belong to God. Peter encourages the church to be those who live in the world but belong to God.

Is God demanding we live to a standard which is impossible for us to attain? Yes. Why would He do this? He knows we cannot meet His expectations. Did He not create us for relationship with Himself? Yes. But we fell away, rebelling against Him. He did not turn us away or reject us. In His Son He redeemed us which means He bought us back and recreated us and is fitting us for eternity as citizens of His kingdom. When He created us in His image He had every right to expect our devotion to Him. We sinned making impossible for us any motivation and action which adheres to His expectations. When He redeemed us from sin He established His Creator rights over those redeemed to prepare us for eternity with Him.

God is just and righteous. His character and personality define the scope of all which remains in His known presence. He is good which includes His mercy and grace. He does not arbitrarily decide anything will be good based upon His will but created all things good because He would do nothing less. He is true and truth originates with Him. His creation exists according to and within the truth of the laws of nature and the spiritual laws of eternity. He is holy and nothing unholy may enter and remain in His presence. All of His creation and every being so created, whether seen or unseen,  physical or spiritual, radiates and reflects His being.

Yet, He allowed sin to enter His creation which corrupts, bends, twists and poisons through rebellion those so created. According to God’s eternal nature that which is so defiled cannot then become undefiled. His holiness must exclude from His presence any being who even rebels in, what we would say is, a mild and minor way for no rebellion is insignificant. One sin brings down God’s righteous justice because that one sin makes that which He created good not good, that which He created in truth becomes a lie, that which He created to radiate His holiness cannot.

Our concern is with His highest creation, those made in His image for relationship with Him. Here is what God says about people.

The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.”

But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.[Genesis 6:5-8 ESV]

How can anyone, bent and twisted by sin, be considered “pure in heart” by God? How can anyone, born into Adam’s sinful race, be considered “pure in heart” by God? How can Jesus even suggest those who are His be “pure in heart?” There is nothing pure in that which is corrupted by sin.

Perhaps the best place to start is to understand the words Jesus spoke and then put those words in the context of the verse.

“Pure” means “without hypocrisy”, “single faced or single minded” and with “nothing hidden.” In the OT “barar” means to polish, purge, cleanse, make bright, test and prove, specifically concerning oneself and the tools one uses. In the NT “kathros” carries the idea of being clean, free from corruption, pruned of the unnecessary, unstained.

In Scripture the “heart” is the center not of the emotions but of the personality.  God looks to and judges first the heart. Notice Genesis 6:5.  It is the “thoughts of his heart” God examines because it is here the person’s motivations are found. In the OT the word “leb” means the seat of the passions which include the mind and emotions, reflection and inclination, determination and conscience. In the NT the word “kardia” means literally “heart.” It is the center of the person’s life and being and includes character, personality, motivation, purpose and all contained in “leb.” The evidence of a person’s motivations will come through every activity, every word and every thought.

Those who are pure in heart, then, are those who are motivated by a deep, passionate, genuine love for God. There is nothing of the world in them compromising or conflicting with their obvious motivation to obey God’s commands. Jesus gives a straightforward, unambiguous explanation of how we show our love for Him. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” [John 14:15 ESV].

But, doesn’t God say that “the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually”  [Genesis 6:5 ESV]. Once corrupted by sin there is no possibility of removing that sin from the persons being. A drop of poison in a tank of water corrupts the whole tank. However, notice Noah found favor in God’s eyes in verse 8. The word favor, “chen”, is also translated grace. The implication is not Noah had done anything to curry God’s favor, but that God decided, for His own reasons, to extend grace and favor to Noah.

Here is the paradox of grace and God’s decrees. The implications of the context of Genesis 6 suggests either Noah was just like everyone else or He actually sought God while being just like everyone else.  The difference would be in his seeking God where others did not. His motivation, especially in obeying the command to build an ark, was to do what God wanted. This is different than everyone else in the world at that time.

Obedience does not make anyone pure in heart. Only God can do this. Obedience to God’s commands, however, is evidence one’s motivation is at least pointing in the right direction which is toward God. Reasons to obey include fear and respect. The greatest reason to obey is love for God.

Mercy: Conclusion

Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.[Matthew 5:7 ESV]

Jesus speaks deliberately about the characteristics of the citizen of the kingdom of heaven. In this statement He gives both the evidence of a faithful life committed to God in every way and a warning to those who would try to manipulate God. Those who are merciful are those who are changed by God because they have received mercy after fully recognizing their sinful position before God. Those who selectively show mercy are in danger of having God’s mercy withheld and His justice unleashed because of their dubious position before Him

God is under no compulsion to offer mercy to anyone who has rebelled against Him. There is, however, the necessary action of justly sentencing those who rebel to death. Those who violate His law, the law inherent in their being, integral to the image of God in which He made them, will face judgment. When He shows mercy it is for His reasons and is freely given. His mercy never conflicts with His justice nor violates His law.

We need His mercy. We are under His judgment. Everything done by anyone, with the exception of Jesus Christ, comes from the motivation of complete selfishness and self-absorption. We are bent and twisted by sin from birth, in a state of complete rebellion against our Creator. We have been in this state since Adam ate the only food forbidden him. From him, the head of mankind, we all get our willful desire to rebel against God, though we were created for relationship. From Adam we inherited our self-focus and self-serving attitudes and actions. “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” [Genesis 6:5 ESV].

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none who does good. The LORD looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one. [Psalm 14:1-3; cf. Psalm 53:1-3 ESV]

I have met men who called themselves Christians who claimed they had not sinned for a long while. One, a Chaplain, claimed he had not sinned for years. Because of them I thought it possible to live without sinning, to live such a self-controlled life sin’s grip would loosen and soon fall away, to no longer have its hold. This caused immeasurable grief and despair for I soon saw through Scripture that sin did not simply hold me but inhabited me and bent me out of shape. My self was the natural home of sin. I saw sin had a personality and that personality was my own. The more I read Scripture looking for the magic pill the clearer it became there was no magic pill. I was bent and twisted and simply banging out the bends and twists did not leave something straight only something less bent and twisted. Still bent and twisted.

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. [1 John 1:8-10 ESV]

I was under God’s justified wrath. I could never pay for my sins, let alone escape them. God forced me to acknowledge my complete slavery to sin and complete rebellion against Him. He demanded I recognize my poverty of spirit and realize the consequences of my sin, separation from Him. Jesus is intentional in His statements. Once I saw my position I was forced to a decision.  Either I continue trying to control my sin, ultimately allowing it to control me, or I relinquish control of myself to God. This is a lifetime struggle of obedience to Him. Yet, the evidence of this struggle is a hunger and thirst for His righteousness.

He offers a way out, but only one way. He is completely just and requires punishment for any and all rebellion against Him, against His moral law. From the first sin He has promised a way. In His justice He took upon Himself, in His Son, the full penalty for sin. This fulfilled His requirement for justice. In His mercy He offered complete restoration to His presence. This is grace. But, He will not simply straighten us who are bent, He recreate us. He changes us. Though we continue to fight and rebel and war against sin that change is complete and accomplished. That which He has started in us He will finish.

We do not deserve His mercy, nor His grace. He does not look at our worthiness, for He has already called us worthless. But we are still created in His image and the object of His love. If He has given anything it is through grace. We earn nothing.

There is an expectation He has. We freely receive His mercy, being released from the sentence of death and eternal separation from Him, the source of life. The evidence of receiving His mercy is our showing mercy to others. Mercy is God’s active love for and toward us who do not deserve His love. Mercy is also our active love toward those who do not deserve His love because He first loved us. It is not about us.

Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.[Matthew 5:7 ESV]