A Portrait of Repentance

This post is part of a devotional series based on our 2020 Bible Reading Calendar.

The sacrifice pleasing to God is a broken spirit. You will not despise a broken and humbled heart, God. ~ Psalm 51:17

David wrote Psalm 51 after one of the darkest moments of his life. The good king, the king who had been so faithful to God, the king who had won many battles and led God’s people to greatness–the king “after God’s own heart,” had committed a terrible sin. And that is an understatement.

He had an affair with another man’s wife and when she became pregnant, he tried to conceal first by manipulating the man, Uriah, and when that failed, he had Uriah purposefully killed in battle. King David murdered another man to conceal his own infidelity.

It was only after the prophet Nathan confronted him and spoke God’s judgement against David’s sin, that the king realized the error of his way. His power, it seems, blinded him to the obvious.

What followed, however, was a heart of true repentance. Such does not negate the heinousness of David’s crimes, and David still suffered loss because of it, but he also found the grace of God’s forgiveness.

So, what did repentance look like for David as a model for us?

First, he humbly called out for God’s compassion, and in doing so he confessed his sin against God. David realized that he stood guilty before God, more than before any other court. He needed grace and forgiveness, and God is the author of such. We find our grace and forgiveness through Jesus. He is the one who wipes away the eternal guilt of our sin. That does not mean we won’t suffer societal or physical consequences still for our sin, but the guilt that separated us from eternal life is removed.

Second, he asked for God to cleanse him. The stain of sin was great, but God could renew and restore his heart. So it is, again, in Christ that we receive a new heart and a new spirit. Our hearts of stone that once beat for the world and ourselves, become hearts of flesh that beat for God. Our spirit, once dead in trespasses and sins, becomes alive in Christ.

Third, he sought the joy that only God can give. Sin has momentary pleasures, a sense of happiness in the moment. But God alone is the source of unending happiness. This joy we find in God is not a happiness in things but a happiness in a person–in God himself and second to that the good things that he gives. If we have Jesus, then the happiest we feel today will pale compared to the eternal happiness we are promised; and the saddest we feel today will fade as a distant memory to the greater joy of forever.

Fourth, he vowed to tell of God’s goodness. Who are God’s people? What is the church? We are those who were broken in sin and now are being pieced back together by God. We are those who deserved eternal death but now have joyous forever-life by the undeserved goodness of God alone. We are those who have been lavished with grace, and this not because of anything we have done. So, what do we do? We seek to lavish others with grace as well. We want the to experience the goodness that we have experienced, so we tell them about God’s goodness, greatness, and love.

Repentance leads us not to shy away from our past but to see it through the lens of God’s grace and forgiveness, as we offer people great hope through Jesus.

All Scripture quotations taken from the Christian Standard Bible.

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The Moment When We Die

This post is part of a devotional series based on our 2020 Bible Reading Calendar.

In fact, we are confident, and we would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. ~ 2 Corinthians 5:8

What happens when we die? That is a question we all ponder at some point in time. For the follower of Jesus, death is the pathway to something better. In 2 Corinthians 5, Paul wrote of the hope we have through Jesus. Right now, in the body, we are not in the full presence of the Lord. But when we die, Paul wrote, we go to be “home with the Lord.”

While we do not seek to force our own death, we trust that God has determined our days, when that death comes we step into the full presence of the one who is perfect joy and unending life.

Yet, what we experience then is not our final state of being.

What we experience beginning the moment we die is like an interlude before the final act starts. In the beginning, God created us body and soul–as both physical and spiritual creatures combined into one. This, on Genesis’ sixth day, God declared “very good.” Yet, because of sin and death, our current physical bodies age, break down, suffer, and eventually cease to function. They are temporary.

This is part of Paul’s point in 5:1-5, where he referred to our current body as an “earthly tent.” This he contrasted with “a building from God, an eternal dwelling in the heavens,” speaking of our resurrected, perfected, and glorified bodies.

Tents are temporary. They are meant to be lived in for only a short season. The building from God is where we are meant to dwell forever. But that time after death and before the resurrection is a time in between. It is, without doubt, a wonderful time in between because we are with Jesus, but it is also a time that Paul symbolized as being “naked” (5:3-4). It also is not how we are meant to be, but we wait for that day to be “clothed… swallowed up by life” (5:4).

So, what happens the moment we die? If we belong to Jesus, we go to dwell with him and in his joyful presence, we wait with anticipation for the resurrection, our final step into true eternal life.

All Scripture quotations taken from the Christian Standard Bible.

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Our Refuge and Strength

This post is part of a devotional series based on our 2020 Bible Reading Calendar.

God is our refuge and strength, a helper who is always found in times of trouble. Therefore we will not be afraid, though the earth trembles and the mountains topple into the depths of the seas, though its water roars and foams and the mountains quake with its turmoil. ~Psalm 46:1-3

We’re living in a moment that seems more troubled than most. Not because of the danger of war or threat of terrorism, which we have faced before, but due to an enemy that is harder to see. A virus has upended our lives, not just in a single location, but throughout the world.

In a way, with measures being taken, we hope for light at the end of the tunnel, though we’re not too sure how long the tunnel is.

Psalm 46 was written for such uncertain times. In fact, the words of the opening verses use the language of the earth crumbling to represent the dangers, uncertainties, and fears we face at different times in life. It is, very literally, the idea of “it feels like the world is crumbling around me.”

Yet, the psalm reminds us that even in troubled moments, there is One who is greater than the trouble. In our fear, there is One greater than our fear. In our uncertainty, there is One who is ever-certain.

God is the one to whom we are to turn and trust. He is our helper. More than this, the psalm continues in verse four: “There is a river–its streams delight the city of God, the holy dwelling place of the Most High.” God is also the one who sustains our joy in troubled times.

God being our helper and joy-provider doesn’t mean that life in troubled times is easier for followers of Jesus than for others. No, we’re not immune from the physical and financial struggles the world in general faces. It does mean, however, no matter how bad things seem to get, we have a hope, a great light, that shines above and beyond the darkness.

In addition to this, not only do we have the Most High to whom we can go, we also have a God who has already taken up residence with us, indeed, within us. In John 7:37-39, Jesus referred to the Holy Spirit, who comes to dwell in us as we place our trust in Jesus, as “streams of living water [flowing] from deep within in.”

How do we find strength and joy in the midst of the trouble? Though the Holy Spirit reminding us of the great promises and truth of God as we spend time in his word and in prayer. So, do not neglect your relationship with our refuge and helper. Read God’s word and let the truths sink deep within your heart and mind. Pray, casting your anxieties and worries upon the One who is greater than all.

All Scripture quotations taken from the Christian Standard Bible.

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Living in View of Death

This post is part of a devotional series based on our 2020 Bible Reading Calendar.

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the Lord’s work, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. ~1 Corinthians 15:56-58

One day, you will die.

That is part of the reality of the world in which we live. Unless Jesus first returns, the day is coming where you will take your final breath on earth. How should this reality impact the way we live today?

Some might live in fear, going beyond common sense living to try to extend their life by any means necessary, not realizing it is beyond their control. Yet, for the follower of Jesus, death is nothing to fear. It is, instead, the step into our Savior’s presence.

Some might try to ignore it, focused on the moment and rarely thinking ahead. Yet, again, this is not the option for those who belong to Jesus. The Bible tells us about death and what happens following because it is supposed to be something we keep in mind.

For the follower of Jesus, we live with the reality of death before us but also the hope of the resurrection into eternal life beyond death. This reality, Paul told us, should impact our daily lives. We have victory in Jesus, so we should have a “steadfast and immovable” faith and hope in the face of death. No matter the worst the world can throw at us today, there is something more joyful and more glorious beyond that veil.

Thus, we should “always excel in the Lord’s work.” And what is the “Lord’s work”? Regardless of our vocation, we are to love and serve others and lead as many as we can to be fellow followers of Jesus. That is the Great Commandment of Matthew 22 and the Great Commission of Matthew 28.

When we devote time and resources to seeing others know Jesus and his love, then that time and those resources will never be wasted.

So, in light of death, let us live with that aim.

All Scripture quotations taken from the Christian Standard Bible.

 

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More Than a Symbol

This post is part of a devotional series based on our 2020 Bible Reading Calendar.

The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, since all of us share the one bread. ~ 1 Corinthians 10:16-17

In the Baptist tradition it is sometimes popular to emphasize the symbolic nature of the Lord’s Supper. Unlike some faith traditions, we do not hold that the bread and cup in any way become the actual or even spiritual body and blood of Jesus. The bread remains bread and the wine/juice remains wine/juice.

Yet, sometimes we can take this idea too far, as if to say that the Lord’s Supper is only symbolic of what Jesus accomplished for us on the cross.

In 1 Corinthians 10, Paul made it clear that there is something deeper that happens with the Lord’s Supper. The word that is translated “sharing” in the passage above is the same word that is also used for “fellowship.” Fellowship is a sharing of life, a sense of treating one another as family, because in Christ that is what we are.

Yet, there is also a spiritual aspect to fellowship. In the same letter, Paul wrote of the fellowship we have with Jesus (1:9) and in his followup letter, Paul wrote about the fellowship we have with the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 13:13).

When we think that part of the Christian life is Christ in us through the Holy Spirit, we see that fellowship goes beyond “doing life together” or a sharing of what we can see, taste, hear, and touch. In our fellowship with God, as well as our fellowship with other followers of Jesus, there is a spiritual communion that takes place.

In sharing with the body and blood of Jesus in the Lord’s Supper, there is a special sense of this spiritual fellowship that we experience. This is not, however, in the transformation of the bread and wine used, but in the act itself. The bread and wine are physical elements that engage our senses to what occurs spiritually. In the Supper we have a heightened moment reminding us that we belong to Jesus and that his sacrifice is the very thing that brought us into God’s family. Along with this is a heightened sense that as we participate in the Supper together as followers of Jesus, we truly are part of the same eternal family through Jesus.

This is why in 1 Corinthians 11, Paul warned against taking the Supper improperly, which, in its context, is partaking in the Supper selfishly to satisfy the cravings of our bellies without consideration for our broader family in Christ. When we ignore the sense of sharing, we miss the communal purpose of communion–we are one with Jesus and one with each other in God’s global family.

So, while yes, the bread and wine are symbols, the Supper itself is more than a symbol. It is a family meal, a communion of souls.

All Scripture quotations taken from the Christian Standard Bible.

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Make the Most of Your Days

This post is part of a devotional series based on our 2020 Bible Reading Calendar.

In fact, you have made my days just inches long, and my life span is as nothing to you. Yes, every human being stands as only a vapor. ~Psalm 39:5

Life is short.

We don’t think much about it when we’re young, when old seems so far away, when we feel invincible, like nothing can touch us. Yet, the older we grow, we begin to realize the brevity of life. Days seem to go by faster. In a blink, you were in high school and now you’re the parent of a high schooler.

The Bible calls life a vapor, especially compared to the timelessness of an eternal God. A vapor–you can think of a cold morning where you let out your breath, a brief cloud forms, and then it fades.

Life is short. We must learn, then, to make the most of our days.

One thing we must keep in mind is even though life on this present earth is short, physical death is not the end of our existence. We have a beginning, but we have no end. Life is short, as some say, but eternity is long. What we do with our today helps determine what will become of our forever.

The way we make the most of our short days is through love.

First, we must embrace the love of God offered us through Jesus. Without Jesus, we stand alone as rebels against God, condemned by his goodness, and far from his joy. Yet, when we receive God’s free offer of love in Jesus, by simple trust, we stand in him as beloved children of God, blessed by his goodness, and flooded with eternal joy. God loves us and offers his eternal love to all who will receive it.

Second, we must respond to love with love. A life found in Jesus is a life meant to love God supremely. We devote ourselves fully to him. We commit to go wherever he leads. Loving God is a grand delight in which we find true, unfading pleasure.

Third, we must love all others. A life found in Jesus is a life meant to love others deeply–our family, our friends, our neighbors, and even our enemies. In love, we happily seek their best. This means that we show them the love that God has for them by telling them of Jesus and by meeting their needs.

When we embrace such a life of love, we will find our days, in the end, not wasted.

Life is short. Love well and make the most of your days.

Scripture quotes taken from the Christian Standard Bible.

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Go and Preach

This post is part of a devotional series based on our 2020 Bible Reading Calendar.

For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How, then, can they call on him they have not believed in? And how can they believe without hearing about him? And how can they hear without a preacher? ~ Romans 10:13-14

In a way, salvation is easy to obtain. In some ways it is hard. Our own pride and arrogance get in the way. We’d rather cling to our traditions than to recognize our need for change. We stubbornly hold onto our idols. Those things can make it hard, but if we are willing to let go, then salvation is easy to obtain.

Jesus will not turn away any who trust in him. This is why Paul said, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

But, as Paul went on to say, they won’t call on Jesus if they have never heard of Jesus. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6) but people cannot know the way, the truth, and the life unless they’re told.

So, who is to tell them? Who are the preachers who are sent?

Every follower of Jesus. We are all called to be everyday preachers.

But wait? Isn’t preaching a task of pastors? Yes, pastors are to “preach the word” (2 Timothy 4:2) but they also equip “the saints for the work of ministry” (Ephesians 4:11-12). Telling others the good news about Jesus is not limited to the pastors.

But don’t we send missionaries? Yes, missionaries go with the gospel. The reason we send them is we can’t all be everywhere at once. Missionaries are trained and equipped to go to places with the good news of Jesus, where we can’t ordinarily go due to personal constraints. Telling others the good news about Jesus is not limited to missionaries.

In the Great Commission of Matthew 28, Jesus told his disciples to go and make disciples of all nations, teaching them to obey all that he commanded. If you are a follower of Jesus, you are a disciple; and as a disciple you are charged to obey all that Jesus commanded, which includes going and making disciples.

That is the call to all of us to be everyday preachers. The world needs Jesus. Our neighbors need Jesus. Our coworkers and classmates need Jesus. Our families need Jesus. As followers of Jesus, we have the message of hope and joy, so let us tell them so they can hear and so they can believe.

All Scripture quotations taken from the Christian Standard Bible.

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