The gospel dares us to ignore our feelings…

The gospel of the Lord Jesus is unemotional… it is simply a truth. Jesus; the God-Man died and rose to life for sinners; to absorb their guilt, punishment and death, and to make them righteous, holy and alive as His adopted brothers in eternity to display the glory of His Father.

But the gospel does cause emotions. The gospel causes many many different types of emotions! Christians can rightly feel things all the way from shame to joy, from insignificance to glorious-pride (in a good way).

But what happens when you feel one aspect of the gospel more than another? What about those times when you feel the guilt and shame of your sin; when you feel the weight of your personal rebellion against God… when you feel how small and insignificant you are and how you have nothing… absolutely nothing to offer… just sin; wrath-worthy sin.
What about those times when your feelings of guilt are so strong you just can’t believe that God would want you, let along love you and want good things for you?

See, it’s not that you don’t understand the gospel… you “know” that Jesus’ blood can atone. You “know” that God can forgive through the cross. You “know” what God says, but you just don’t feel it – you feel like it can’t be true… “God could never love me, not now, not after what I’ve done.”

That’s when you need to ignore your feelings. They’re lying to you. In fact, it’s Satan lying to you. So please, don’t act out of your feelings! Don’t act in line with your emotions! Choose, nay, DARE to ignore your feelings and act according to the gospel.

Imagine for a moment… if God really loved you and wanted good things for you, what could you pray for? What would you feel comfortable praying for if you truly felt God was your great and powerful daddy? Anything, right!?! Trivial things, right?! Little nothing things, right?!

So dare to do that! Boldly approach the throne of grace and ask for the type of things that you shouldn’t be able to ask for! Take the plunge! Do it!

Trust God’s unemotional gospel in the midst of your emotional turmoil.

 

The Christian Life: Repent & Rejoice, Rejoice & Repent

These are the two consistents we expect to see in one another as we open God’s word. Christians are always repenting, always changing, always transforming, always growing. There is a right concern we should have when we meet a Christian who keeps repentance at an arms length away and repents irregularly. 

At the same time, Christians always have reason to be rejoicing, thankful, hopeful, content. Again, it’s appropriate to be concerned for the Christian who doesn’t want to rejoice, or avoids it. 

The beauty of the gospel is that these two are not extremes in tension. The gospel calls me to a forgiving God in whom we rejoice in our repentance!

How the “grace of God” teaches us

Paul writes is Titus chapter 2,

For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age…

People often approach this passage with a particular sin in mind… they have that behaviour they try and hate, they try to stop, but they really love and they keep on doing… and they come to this passage and feel even worse because it seems to imply that the reason they keep doing it is because they don’t understand “the grace of God”. They think to themselves, “Why hasn’t the grace of God taught ME to say ‘no’ to this sin?! Why hasn’t it taught me to be ‘self-controlled’?!? Maybe I’m not even part of God’s grace!?”

That’s Satan talking, twisting God’s word – again.

God grace “is teaching”. Continually and presently. It hasn’t finished teaching. Just think, if it had, you would NEVER sin, in ANY way.

So how IS the grace of God teaching us? Well, what does the grace of God actually do – or allow us to do?

Grace allows us to boldly approach the throne of grace (Heb 4:16). Where sin increased, grace increased all the more (Rom 5:20). See, every time we sin and repent to God, (i.e. asking him for grace again), we are again trusting him at his word that he will graciously forgive again. We are being schooled by His grace every time we pray the Lord’s prayer, “forgive us our sins”. Responding to God’s grace reminds us and teaches us what is unrighteous (our sin) and what is righteousness (God’s grace through Jesus’ life, sacrifice and death for others).

Grace will only be our teacher if we continually go to his lessons.

Rather than “repent”, should we say “trade up”?

What does it mean to repent of sin? It’s more than just feeling remorse for sin. It often entails taking definitive action… saying sorry, giving the item back, making amends. But it’s more than performing certain actions too. We’ve all seen the child who gives-in and reluctantly returns the toy to their sibling.

Christian repentance must have something to do with Jesus. And the best way I can think of this is like trading-up.

Repentance is when you admit to Jesus that you were wrong, that you wanted the wrong thing – even if you didn’t DO it, you still deserve punishment… and admitting that you’d like to trade it in.

“Jesus, my heart wanted something you hate. I even acted on that desire. I rightly deserve wrath. But if you’re willing, I’d like to take up your offer to trade-in my wrong for your forgiveness and righteousness? That’s an amazing deal I don’t deserve.”

See, repentance is the action of giving our wrong desire to Jesus, and asking him to take it away from us so we don;t do it any more… and asking him to replace that wrong with his righteousness.

We’re a people who keep trading-up, day after day!

The difference between accusing and rebuking is…

Intended outcome. The difference between accusing and rebuking is the desired outcome.
A rebuke is a form of love. It’s really an appeal. It’s an appeal to stop, repent and renew ones commitment. Sometimes it’s an appeal to have a soft heart and admit wrong-doing in the first place. But in all those scenarios, a rebuke is aimed at a certain outcome, by the grace of God.
As such, a rebuke doesn’t carry a condemnation in itself. It may outline a future consequence (“if this doesn’t stop we will need to take these steps”). Rather, it is an appeal to see and change one’s sin with an offer of forgiveness.
On the other hand, an accusation is what satan does. An accusation is not an appeal to someone to change, but a verdict that change is not enough, and forgiveness is out of reach. It doesn’t look to a renewed commitment, but looks to incite guilt and self-loathing. An accusation is a declaration of condemnation.
However, because the difference is a “desired outcome”, that means someone who is unwilling to repent as desired will only hear a loving rebuke as an accusation. They can’t get past the first part of the rebuke… The idea they did something that needs to change.

Maybe it’s better to ask “Why did you become a Christian?”

Hearing Christian testimonies is great, and reminds us that every Christian is a converted Christian. But I wonder if we often frame them in the wrong way by asking HOW did you become a Christian.

There’s nothing wrong with this! But If that’s the only question we ever use, it could lead to giving the impression that WE do something to become a Christian. responses usually go… “I started doing this, then I went along to this thing, and I accepted the reality of who Jesus is…” All good!

But how would it change if we preferred to ask people “Why did you become a Christian?”

I wonder if the responses we’d get would be more along the lines of how God did this and God did that. There’s always going to be a (right) description of what things we did along the way. But I wonder if it would push people in thinking not only about why they became Christian, but, maybe more importantly, why they are still Christian.

Their response to sin = their grasp of the gospel

How do you know when someone’s really “got” the gospel? It’s an important question because we spend all this time and energy working hard at helping people get the gospel and keep hold of it. What does that look like?

It might be a growth in godliness – that would be nice. But, doing nice things doesn’t mean someone’s grasped the gospel. Loads of people who don’t get the gospel do really nice things!

It’s how they respond to their sin. People only every respond to their sin in 2 ways…

  1. Withdrawal from God (through trying to repay the sin, minimising the sin, denying the sin, or embracing the sin)
  2. Drawing towards God (through acknowledging the sin, repenting from the sin, asking forgiveness for the sin, acting to stop the sin)

Notice that all the first group of actions are movements away from relating to God – even trying to repay the sin is a movement away from God because it’s trying to replace the relationship with an offering (and a pretty poor one at that). But all the actions in group two are in fact movements towards a relationship with God – even the act of stopping the sin is something done while holding God’s hand.

In the end it all comes back to prayer. When they sin… how do they pray? How do you pray?