Sorry Enough

Jesus began his ministry on earth with a call to repent. The recognition of our sin and turning away from it toward God is the beginning of our salvation by grace through faith. Confession is certainly important, but there are those who say you must “fully repent” in order to be saved. But how sorry is sorry enough?

I have seen this many times in the church and especially within my family. Someone will refuse to extend grace and forgiveness because another has not properly demonstrated repentance. They separate themselves from each other in order to protect their self image. They don’t want to be known as someone who tolerates sin.

I am not saying that God tolerates sin; but Jesus never separated himself from sinners for fear of what others might say. He never made sure that people knew he did not approve of their sin. He extended grace and love again and again before the sinner could even utter a word of repentance. The father ran to his son with arms open while he was still a long way off.

I do not mean to take grace lightly. I also believe that whenever God reveals an area in our lives we have not surrendered to him, we need to let it go. But to think that I have to reach a certain level of repentance in order to receive grace is ridiculous. Can I ever fully identify with the sadness and pain that my sin inflicts on God? To enforce “full repentance” on others is to withhold the very grace God has given us. Even worse, it affects our view of God as we begin to think we need to earn his grace and forgiveness. Jesus has already paid the price for our lives. Let us not hold anyone back from receiving the gift he freely gives.

This is only a short summary of some of my thoughts on this issue. Whether you agree or disagree, I would love to continue this conversation with you.

November 4, 2017

Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you. Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil. (Proverbs 4:23-27)


Father, thank you for making your words known to me. You have taught me so many things recently through long car rides, fellowship with others, work experiences, and my relationship with Angelica. You have revealed so much of yourself to me that I am overwhelmed. I need to write down what you are teaching me, because I tend to forget. As I reflect on your lessons, please write them on my heart, that I would not swerve to the right or the left. I want to remain vigilant and experience life to the fullest in you. Thank you for finding me, choosing me, and keeping me. I love you father! Goodnight!

October 1, 2017

If you turn at my reproof, behold, I will pour out my spirit to you; I will make my words known to you. (Proverbs 1:23)


Father, it has been yet another wonderful day basking in your presence and enjoying the sweet fellowship with other believers. Thank you so much for the opportunity to prepare for marriage with Angelica. Thank you for allowing Mark to join us for lunch today. Thank you for the wonderful conversations with Paul. Lord, please direct us as we pursue your will in our lives. Fill us with your Spirit that your words would be made known to us. May we never misrepresent you, but simply point others to you. Thank you for the joy of your salvation! I love you Lord! Goodnight!

September 30, 2017

Who has ascended to heaven and come down? Who has gathered the wind in his fists? Who has wrapped up the waters in a garment? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is his name, and what is his son’s name? Surely you know! (Proverbs 30:4)


Father, you have established all the ends of the earth. Thank you so much for the opportunity to witness your marvelous creation today during our hike and caving adventure. Thank you for the fellowship and encouragement you provided through new friends who are members of your family. Thank you for the random people we could meet who took professional photos of us and will soon be visiting us at church. You are truly awesome! During the long drive home, you reminded me of the wonder of your love for me. You have chosen me, even when I did not choose you. You have given me life in exchange for death. I am so grateful for how you have revealed yourself to me today. Please speak to Paul and I tomorrow as we look for people to invite for lunch. If anyone is in need of prayer, help, encouragement, or companionship, please give us eyes to see their need, ears to hear their story, and discerning hearts to share your love and goodness. I love you Father! Goodnight!

To the Glory of God

A few days ago, I asked God to show me what it means to bring glory to Him. Though I had a vague understanding of what that looks like, I wanted to know exactly what it means. The sermon at church yesterday was about being unified with God and how that is the central doctrine of the gospel. Since the glory of God is His magnificent and awesome being, to bring glory to Him is to be unified with him that His being may be in us! Consequently, we become representatives of God not merely through emulation, but through perfect identification! As Dallas Willard explains, we must pursue communication, communion, and ultimately union with God. The tragic result of this union is that when we sin, we implicate Christ in our sin. Thanks be to God that we are being transformed from glory to glory by the Spirit of God!

In the Land of the Living

After king Hezekiah was healed by God of a deathly sickness, he recorded a prayer including this portion:

Behold, it was for my welfare that I had great bitterness; but in love you have delivered my life from the pit of destruction, for you have cast all my sins behind your back. For Sheol does not thank you; death does not praise you; those who go down to the pit do not hope for your faithfulness. The living, the living, he thanks you, as I do this day; the father makes known to the children your faithfulness. The LORD will save me, and we will play my music on stringed instruments all the days of our lives, at the house of the LORD.

I am so thankful for the grace of God that is healing me of this deathly sinful nature. In His love, He has delivered me from the pit of destruction and cast all my sins behind His back. This is the amazing news of the gospel: Christ in us, the hope of glory. He desires to have a living relationship with me. He has invited me to commune with Him in this life and the one to come, and I will forever praise His name. But I am only able to declare His name to others on this side of heaven. Only in this life can I proclaim His greatness to those who have not seen or heard. I am reminded and challenged to make use of every opportunity to bring glory to God’s name as long as I have breath.

 

Pursuing Righteousness 

Righteousness is often associated with the law or a certain fixed moral system. While this association is not entirely inaccurate, we commonly make the mistake of attempting to be righteous through obedience of the law. It is indeed possible to achieve righteousness by following the furthest extent of the intent of the entire law in thought, word and deed. In fact, it has been done before by one person: Jesus Himself. He came to fulfill the law. This means that beyond strict obedience, He defined the intent of the law through His very being. “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” (Romans 10:4) This is great news for believers, for no longer do we pursue righteousness through the law but through the person of Christ! Because we have severed our identity from the image of God, it is impossible to achieve righteousness through the law. “And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” (1 Corinthians 1:30) He is righteousness to us and for us. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21) Our righteousness is a gift of grace through the necessary work on the cross. “I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.” (Galatians 2:21)

As mentioned previously, Jesus blesses those who hunger and thirst after righteousness with the promise that they would be satisfied. The pursuit of righteousness finds fulfillment in becoming righteous. Some may have the expectation that there is a reward for righteousness other than righteousness itself; and to them, other means better. But if Christ Himself is our righteousness, what reward could be more valuable? George MacDonald writes: “Let no one start with dismay at the idea of a reward of righteousness, saying virtue is its own reward. Is not virtue then a reward? Is any other imaginable reward worth mentioning beside it? True, the man may, after this mode or that, mistake the reward promised; not the less must he have it, or perish. Who will count himself deceived by overfulfilment? Would a parent be deceiving his child in saying, ‘My boy, you will have a great reward if you learn Greek,’ foreseeing his son’s delight in Homer and Plato–now but a valueless waste in his eyes? When his reward comes, will the youth feel aggrieved that it is Greek, and not bank-notes?”

As a¬†peripheral comment, righteous anger is a concept that often remains undefined and loosely used to justify certain actions. Various¬†violent actions of judgement by God and old testament prophets are relegated to this realm of controversially permitted conduct. With Christ as the definition of righteousness, any transgression from His nature is unrighteous and reprehensible. It certainly makes sense that these sins warrant the wrath of God. But we as mere humans fall drastically short of the definition of righteousness. Righteous anger is only justified in response to a direct infraction against the definition of righteousness itself, which is Christ Himself. It is natural to feel dismay in reaction to the misdemeanors of others, but it is not justified to act in anger in response to malice even against ourselves. It is appropriate to feel anger when someone clearly deviates from the righteous standard of God, but every single one of us is guilty of that. As soon as we condemn others, we condemn ourselves. James reminds us that “the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” (James 1:20) While anger may indeed be warranted, it is easy for us to overlook our own offences in judging other. The deplorable condition of the world should lead us to sorrow and lament as we ask we pursue the righteousness of Christ.

Act Rather Than React

We are a reactive generation. We are told what to think and what to believe and all we have to do is accept or reject it. If we don’t like what we are being told, we look for communities that will tell us what we like to hear. Sadly, this is true within and without the church. Having itching ears, we accumulate for ourselves teachers to suit our own passions, and turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. We are driven by emotions. Our reasoning is biased by our beliefs.

The recent US election has provoked emotions and heightened tensions between already divided communities. Slander and insults are thrown back and forth. We are motivated by fear. We do not trust anyone. We do not strive for the truth. We all cry out for justice, but only for those we do not agree with. If justice were fully executed, none of us would go without consequence.

I challenge you to act rather than react. If someone posts something that you do not agree with, find out why they think that way. If someone comments on your video expressing hate or disgust, do not reply to start an argument. If someone goes as far as calling you names directly, let them suffer their own consequences. 

Instead, take action! If you feel strongly about a certain cause, go out and do something about it! Start a fundraiser. Do some research and write an article. Talk to real people in real life who think differently than you. 

This blog is my way of taking action. Whenever I have looked at posts on Facebook in the past week, my spine began to tense up with emotions elicited by posts by my friends in my newsfeed. I intentionally chose not to respond and closed the browser tab. It’s not that I am disengaged; I just choose to act rather than react.

I voted for Trump. By no means do I think he was an ideal candidate. But given that the issues with government tend to be systemic rather than personal, I chose to vote for him because Hillary would only have perpetuated systemic injustice. Unfortunately, Trump has struck a personal chord with millions of people in this nation. I cannot disregard what he has said and done, and the fears and emotions of those he has offended are completely valid. Many people are saying that Trump is not their president. I am sorry to inform you that he is and you cannot deny it. But he doesn’t have to be your God. The government cannot save you. 

We have seen this all before. “And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves.” (1 Samuel 8:18) Samuel warned the nation of Israel about the consequences of having a king. They chose to reject God as king. The US has chosen to do the same, but we can choose to be citizens of God’s kingdom. We still need to respect and submit to the authorities God has allowed here on earth, but I would encourage you to accept God as your King. He is the only one who can save you. 

An Open Relationship

Do I have an open relationship with God? I have a nominal commitment to Him which is demonstrated through self proclamation and occasional encounters through church, prayer and reading scripture. But so often I think that He is not enough and seek the thrills of the world. My heart is divided between various temptations of worldly success, secular entertainment and self-serving relationships. But God does not settle for a minimal commitment. When I had squandered everything He gave me and became a slave to the world, He bought me back with His life. I looked to others to ‘give me my bread and my water, my wool and my flax, my oil and my drink,’ but I did not realize that God was my only provider. When the world failed to fill me, He fulfilled my every need and want. “Come, let us return to the Lord; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him. Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.” Hosea 6:1-3 (ESV)