Never confuse self-help with repentance. The roots of these two things are very different. Self help is concerned with personal development, becoming a better person. Repentance is concerned with turning towards God.- JE Lillie
“And Absalom met the servants of David. And Absalom rode upon a mule, and the mule went under the thick boughs of a great oak, and his head caught hold of the oak, and he was taken up between the heaven and the earth; and the mule that [was] under him went away.” 2 Sam. 18:9 KJV
Absalom had rebelled against his father, King David. The young man had risen up against his king in bitterness and had stolen the kingdom from David. The Bible says, in front of all Israel he shamed the king by sleeping with the king’s concubines on the roof of the palace. Then he took to the battle field determined to deal the death-blow to David. Fixated on destroying his father’s forces Absalom instead ended up hanging from a tree by his hair…by his pride.
In all truth Absalom was hung out to dry long before he got caught in the tree by his hair. His bitterness had made him a slave to hate and defeat long before his luscious locks caused his untimely demise.
How many times have I gotten hung up between Heaven and Earth unable to move one step closer to God because of unforgiveness. I read stories like those of Absalom and wonder how different it could have been if Absalom had just turned the issue over to God. Admittedly it was a pretty serious issue (the rape of his sister by his half-brother) that caused his bitterness. Even so as he hung there suspended from the bonds of poetic justice I wonder if Absalom ever realized the price for his hatred was too high. I know the story makes me realize the price is too high for me. I will not hold a grudge large or small. I must forgive at all times so that someday I will not be held up to destruction by my pride and glory.
Have you ever been bound by bitterness? How did you escape?
I made a comment in one of my blogs last week that raised a question from one of my readers.
“What is greasy grace?”
What a great question!
Here’s my answer: Greasy grace does not refer at all to the quality of the grace we receive from God. God’s grace lavished on us is the highest form of love and favor in the universe! It cost Him everything and He extends it to all of us free of charge and without a single notion of guilting or controlling us with it.
“Greasy grace” refers to how we as humans view this priceless gift given to us with such love and care. When I truly understand grace I stand amazed at a God who has given so much to one who deserves so little. This grace not only saves me and grants me eternal life, if I receive it rightly it changes me into something more than the fool I once was.
But when I treat this uncommon grace as common…little…mundane…when I accept this gift like it’s another pair of Fruit of the Loom in my Christmas stocking rather than the precious rare commodity it is, then I am not changed. Grace becomes only a tool, a magic trick to get around my misbehavior. It becomes the “grease” by which I think I can slip by God’s righteousness into Heaven.
When people treat grace as greasy they take on mindsets and say things like:
“I’m not perfect. Just forgiven.” Instead of “I am sorry for my sin. Please forgive me.”
“That’s just the way I am. God accepts me so you have to.” Instead of “Please be patient with me God is still working on me.”
To my shame I have been guilty of greasy grace before have you?
And when the men of Ai looked behind them, they saw, and, behold, the smoke of the city ascended up to heaven, and they had no power to flee this way or that way: and the people that fled to the wilderness turned back upon the pursuers. Jos. 8:20 KJV
Where there is smoke there is usually fire. The men of Ai knew this. But by the time they saw the smoke it was already too late. They were trapped, brought low by their own arrogance.
Sometimes we miss the smoke signals in our lives just like the men of Ai did. Anything in life can block out our vision and make us blind to the thin rising tendrils of black death on our horizon: pride, foolishness, co-dependence, denial, overcommitment and the list goes on.
At any rate, we can deny the smoke only so long and then pieces of our lives just burn away and we experience loss. I’ve been there. I’ll bet you’ve probably been to the place of smoke and burning fire too. So often the first questions we ask after the smoke clears are “How did this happen? Who’s to blame?” Maybe these questions are important to answer at some point; But I have learned the far more important questions to ask are “How do I let God in to change me so I don’t miss the smoke signals again? What blindness do I need to repent of so that what is rebuilt is not burned down again?”
If you are in a place of rebuilding let me assure you if you include God what you rebuild will be even stronger than before. Just don’t forget the next time you smell smoke don’t hesitate to put out the fire.
Let this song be your prayer today!
Every Christmas churches around the world reenact the story of the birth of Jesus. Proud parents look on as little Johnny leads little Sally down the church aisle pretending to be Joseph to her Mary.
Year after year as the tradition plays itself out people are touched by the sweetness of this young couple, lost in an unfriendly Bethlehem. Congregants smile and maybe shed a nostalgic tear as the children/magi gather around the altar to bring homage to the Christ child and his mother.
In every portrayal I have seen Joseph is left off in the corner. No one is looking at him, not the shepherds, not the magi. Joseph’s job is done when he gets the girl to the stable. But what a job that had to be!
“Love is not rude.” I Cor. 13: 5
Now that may seem rather a violent segue to you: Christmas story… Joseph… “Love is not rude” On the surface they don’t seem to have a lot to do with each other. Just bear with me.
“Love is not rude” is actually, “love is not aschēmoneō.
Here in 21st century America being rude means being impolite.
When your mother says, “Don’t be rude!”, she means “Stop burping at the table” or “Quit picking your nose in front of Aunt Rosie. She’ll never pay for those piano lessons you want so much.”
But in first century Corinth, When Paul wrote “Love is not rude.”, the word had a much different connotation. Rude to Paul was unseemly behavior that not only brought shame and reproach to you but to someone else as well.
Paul was saying, “Love does not engage in behavior that puts other people in a dishonorable light.”
In First Corinthians 7:36 Paul uses the word aschēmoneō when he is explaining how an unmarried man should treat the girl he is betrothed to.
Paul is teaching that a man needs to marry his fiancée if his passions are strong and that he should not bring disgrace upon her by behaving in inappropriate ways with her outside of marriage.
You see love cannot bring disgrace on other people because it considers not only the wants of others but the honor of others as well. It is not love when a young man takes his girlfriend to bed and ruins her reputation. It is not friendship when a buddy asks you to break the law so that you can join his gang. It is biblical rudeness.
Let’s go back to Joseph. In the eyes of all Nazareth Joseph had the right to not only divorce Mary (even though they had not been officially married breaking of an engagement required a legal divorce in their culture) but to have her stoned to death. But Joseph was loving. He was not rude. He did not want to expose her to any dishonor if it could be avoided.
In the end and with a little prodding from God and His angels Joseph took away Mary’s dishonor and Jesus’ by becoming the earthly husband and father Heaven had appointed him to be.
Joseph was a man who protected the honor of his wife and the child she bore. In that way he was not rude. In that way he loved greatly.
What are some of the ways you can preserve the honor of those you love? How do you keep yourself from being rude?
“When all these blessings and curses I have set before you come upon you and you take them to heart wherever the LORD your God disperses you among the nations, and when you and your children return to the LORD your God and obey him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command you today, then the LORD your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you. Even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens, from there the LORD your God will gather you and bring you back.” Deut. 30:1-4
Hear the good news! The grace of God is greater than all our sin! He will always forgive and restore when we return to Him with all our hearts. Never let yourself believe the lie that you have gone too far to ever return to God. Turn and be healed! It may take a while to get back to the place of wholeness but in the moment you give your heart to Jesus that position of restoration is assured!
“When you begin living in the towns the LORD your God is giving you, a man or woman among you might do evil in the sight of the LORD your God and violate the covenant. For instance, they might serve other gods or worship the sun, the moon, or any of the stars—the forces of heaven—which I have strictly forbidden. When you hear about it, investigate the matter thoroughly. If it is true that this detestable thing has been done in Israel, then the man or woman who has committed such an evil act must be taken to the gates of the town and stoned to death.” Deut. 17:2-5
In our devotion before prayer this morning our senior pastor made an interesting observation. He noted “All addiction at its root is an attempt at substitution”.
Putting that another way we could say idolatry is the root of all sin or sin is our attempt to replace God with something else. I find that a profound thought.
Today’s blog is not about reinstituting the practice of stoning. It is about recognizing that sin is a serious matter. Every sin we commit is at its root an attempt by us to remove God from our lives and replace Him with something else.
That is why God is always ruthless with sin. He loves us and doesn’t want to be displaced by some lesser lover. That’s why Jesus told his followers:
“If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.” MA. 5:29,30 NIV
God is calling His church to a new level of holiness because we were made for One Lover and He knows anything less just won’t do!
If serving others is an inevitable side effect of being “Saved”, why do some non-believers have this same “side effect” but are still labeled as “unsaved” and therefore “can be sure” they will not go to heaven?
Let us continue with the discussion we started on Saturday in
https://jelillie.wordpress.com/2012/04/07/you-can-be-sure-pt-4/ . I want to answer the second half of this question by explaining what makes a person “saved”. It is not works of righteousness or service. Paul the Apostle makes that clear in writing to the Ephesians: “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. ” Eph. 2:8,9 NLT
Paul indicates that what makes a man saved is God’s grace applied to our lives when we believe. Salvation is a cooperation between man and God. God’s part is to save and man’s part is to trust God to save. In that God can do all God’s part (grace) but if a man does not cooperate and do the man’s part (trust) then he cannot be saved. So what keeps an unbeliever from being saved is his unbelief.
Let me qualify this one step further by saying just having faith in faith is no more effective than being faithless. Faith is only as strong as the object it is placed in. So faith placed in Buddha cannot get a person to Heaven because Buddha cannot grant grace to forgive sin. Only Jesus has that power!
For Jesus is the one referred to in the Scriptures, where it says, ‘The stone that you builders rejected has now become the cornerstone.’ There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:11,12 NLT
If you have never believed Jesus to save you pray with me now: Dear Lord Jesus I recognize I have sinned and so I cannot save myself. But you can save me. Jesus please forgive my sin and show me your grace. I trust you with my life and my future. A-men!
“If serving others is an inevitable side effect of being “Saved”, why do some non-believers have this same “side effect” but are still labeled as “unsaved” and therefore “can be sure” they will not go to heaven?”
The first “You can Be Sure Post” I wrote was a rabbit trail off of Heaven Pt. 47. I really didn’t expect to be this long down this side avenue, but Noel one of my readers asked some very compelling questions. So I thought it necessary to linger here awhile until the answers were laid out. In bold above you will see the question I want to address today and Monday.
Noel has asked a good question. If a servant’s heart is a side-effect of being saved, how is it then that non-Christians can be just as service oriented (indeed sometimes more) and why then are they considered unsaved?
The answer to the first part of Noel’s question is that there is more than one method of causality for a servant’s-heart. Salvation by grace is one cause of servanthood but there are many others. A person can become charitable because they were taught charity by a parent or a mentor, or because they knew great want at some point in their lives and are by that memory spurred to protect others from want. A person can achieve a servant’s heart because it is part of their job description and they are daily forced into service or even because they are part of a community which values servanthood. A person can even be born with a natural bent towards servanthood.
But it is not serving others that saves. Being kind or loving, giving or good does not qualify a person for Heaven. What qualifies a person for Heaven according to the Bible is either sinless perfection OR redemption. It has to be one or the other. Either you have to live every second of every day without sin of thought, word or deed OR you need someone to take the blame for the sin you do.
I’ve met many good people in my time. I’ve met many kind hearted servants; But I have never met anyone perfect in thought, word and deed. Everyone I know is in need of redemption! Everyone I know needs someone else to take the blame for their sin if they are going to make it to Heaven.
The only one ever qualified by God to take that blame was Jesus Christ. That is why He is called the Savior!
More on Monday!
Noel writes,“I can be sure that I am saved (go to heaven) when I accept Jesus. Does this mean we should be concerned about going to heaven, or should we be concerned about doing what Jesus commanded us to do, which is to love one another as He loved us?”
Here, Noel alludes to the truth that salvation is not just about going to Heaven. Heaven is a perk of salvation but not the point. The point of salvation is being made right in our relationship with the God of the universe, even Jesus Christ.
The Bible teaches that no one is acceptable to God and that no man by his own actions can make himself accepted by God.
“As the Scriptures say, ‘No one is righteous— not even one. No one is truly wise; no one is seeking God. All have turned away; all have become useless. No one does good, not a single one.’ ” Ro. 3:10-12 NLT
Isaiah 64 tells us that all of our attempts at righteousness are but filthy rags.
While this is a central truth of God’s word, standing alongside it is the truth in tension, that while we cannot save ourselves, the God who created us can and will save those who trust Him!
“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him. “There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son. And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants.” John 3:16-21
To answer Noel’s first question I don’t think we should truly be concerned with going to Heaven or doing what Jesus commanded; Both things are impossible for us to attain without first coming to Jesus and trusting Him for saving grace. When we “come to the light”, put ourselves in the hands of Jesus, then getting to Heaven and obeying Jesus both become possible.
What do you think?