Turning the Tables

“Turn the tables.” It is certainly an idiom in our culture. It means to manipulate circumstances to gain an advantage over an adversary. Like so many of our other idioms (e.g. “Once and for all”), it may find its origin in the Bible.

It’s Passion Week on our calendars. For Jesus, it’s the week His entire life has pointed to. Sunday was marked by the throngs heralding His entrance into the City of Kings, the City of David: Jerusalem. They laid down their cloaks and palm branches in reverence to this king, who they hoped would free them from Roman rule. This man, Jesus, had also freed many from other things: demons, disease, oppression, illness, and even death. He was holding His own against the religious leaders of the day, making them so uneasy, they were plotting to do away with him. In short, he was turning their world on its ear.

He was also turning over tables. Literally. On Monday, He boldly entered the temple to teach only to discover that things hadn’t changed from an earlier visit and that profiteering was the main focus at the temple, not the worship of God. Jesus drove the moneychangers out in a whirlwind of activity, declaring again the purpose of the temple: “My house shall be a house of prayer.”

On Tuesday, he was again in the temple courts, this time being questioned by the religious leaders asking Him, “Who authorized you to do that?!?” Jesus turned around the questioning, asking them if John the Baptist’s teaching was from God. John was extremely popular among the people, a faithful martyr and prophet. If John’s was godly, then Jesus was legitimate, because John proclaimed Jesus as the coming Messiah. If John’s teaching were not from God, then the religious leaders would certainly lose the support of the throngs. They were stuck. They finally answered a weak, “We don’t know“, and in the process, lost their credibility as interpreters of God’s Word and of how God works. They looked bad and they knew it.

By Tuesday, Jesus was certainly “turning the tables” on the religious order of the day. He was turning the tables on how people thought, how people worshipped, and how people saw God. Author Russ Ramsey writes:

“This was a day of turning the tables on common thought. God’s people had become pragmatists. They saw everything in terms of an economy— they made deposits and took withdrawals and measured their standing in the world according to how well they balanced the good with the bad in their lives. This had become their religion, and God had become another creditor come to settle debts.” (From Behold The King of Glory)

We still do this today. We still think that if we do good things… if we live a “good life” (as defined by our culture, not our God), then we will build up some sort of spiritual bank account of “good” with God and He will certainly pour out His favor and blessing upon us. He becomes essentially a banker or a spiritual account manager which we’ll have to answer to, or settle our account with, at the end of our days.

Jesus turns the tables on this thought, supplying the only “good” there will ever be: Himself. He supplies, by His sacrificial death and subsequent resurrection, the only blessing and favor we will ever need: salvation and His presence in our lives forever… both as we live out our days on earth by the indwelling power of His Spirit, but also after our earthly days are over in everlasting life filled with His love, wholeness, and joy.

This is a week in which Jesus REALLY turns the tables, giving us life from death.

This week “It is finished.”

Three Minutes…

Take three minutes to read this before going to church. Then worship the One who gives this amazing gift…

From One Way Love by Tullian Tchividjian:

“Jesus came to liberate us from the weight of having to make it on our own, from the demand to measure up. He came to emancipate us from the burden to get it all right, from the obligation to fix ourselves, find ourselves, and free ourselves. Jesus came to release us from the slavish need to be right, rewarded, regarded, and respected. Because Jesus came to set the captives free, life does not have to be a tireless effort to establish ourselves, justify ourselves, and validate ourselves.

“The Gospel of Jesus Christ announces that because Jesus was strong for you, you’re free to be weak. Because Jesus won for you, you’re free to lose. Because Jesus was Someone, you’re free to be no one. Because Jesus was extraordinary, you’re free to be ordinary. Because Jesus succeeded for you, you’re free to fail. One way to summarize God’s message to the worn out and weary is like this— God’s demand: “be righteous”; God’s diagnosis: “no one is righteous”; God’s deliverance: “Jesus is our righteousness.” Once this good news grips your heart, it changes everything. It frees you from having to be perfect. It frees you from having to hold it all together. In the place of exhaustion, you might even find energy.

“No, the Gospel of grace is not too good to be true. It is true! It’s the truest truth in the entire universe. God loves us independently of what we may or may not bring to the table. There are no strings attached! No ifs, ands, or buts. No qualifiers or conditions. No need for balance. Grace is the most dangerous, expectation-wrecking, smile-creating, counterintuitive reality there is.

“Grace is a bit like a roller coaster; it makes us scream in terror and laugh uncontrollably at the same time. But there aren’t any harnesses on this ride. We are not in the driver’s seat, and we did not design the twists and turns. We just get on board. We laugh as the binding law of gravity is suspended, and we scream because it looks like we’re going to hurtle off into space. Grace brings us back into contact with the children we once were (and still are)— children who loved to ride roller coasters, to smile and yell and throw our hands up in the air. Grace, in other words, is terrifyingly fun, and like any ride worth standing in line for, it is worth coming back to again and again. In fact, God’s one-way love may be the only ride that never gets old, the only ride we thankfully never outgrow. A source of inexhaustible hope and joy for an exhausted world.”


Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you.

I am emphatic about this. The moment any one of you submits to circumcision or any other rule-keeping system, at that same moment Christ’s hard-won gift of freedom is squandered. I repeat my warning: The person who accepts the ways of circumcision trades all the advantages of the free life in Christ for the obligations of the slave life of the law.

I suspect you would never intend this, but this is what happens. When you attempt to live by your own religious plans and projects, you are cut off from Christ, you fall out of grace. Meanwhile we expectantly wait for a satisfying relationship with the Spirit. For in Christ, neither our most conscientious religion nor disregard of religion amounts to anything. What matters is something far more interior: faith expressed in love. (Galatians 5:1-6, The Message)

Every. Single. Day.

Guilt trips. That’s what we all are on. Guilt trips.

There are thousands – no millions – of Christ-followers who are walking with their heads down, ashamed of what they did last night, last week, or last year. They live their lives defeated, with guilt and shame hanging around their necks like a millstone, or worse yet, a grave stone.

What millions haven’t discovered is the freedom found in Christ. It’s freedom from our guilt and shame because of God’s forgiveness through Christ Jesus. It’s forgiveness from what you and I did last night, last week, and last year. As Christians, we know that. However, we don’t live like we do. Why? And why haven’t we grabbed hold of the freedom found in Christ?

Part of the reason is that we hear, week after week, what we must DO to live the Christian life. We are taught to DO this or DO that. Live like this; avoid that. 12 easy steps. 6 keys to Christian living. Try harder. Do more. Is there any wonder why we haven’t found freedom?

Plain and simple, it is not about what we do or don’t do; it’s about what Christ has done.

We are not only forgiven, but we are accepted. Exactly as we are. Exactly where we are. We sing, “Come As You Are” and revel in the thought that God accepted us exactly as we were when we initially accepted the sacrifice of Jesus for our sins. But I don’t think we grasp that He CONTINUALLY accepts us, no matter the pig pen we find ourselves in. We realize we can’t live the perfect life (which God requires, by the way) and we never will. And we end up defeated.

Because God gave the perfect sacrifice, His Son, His requirement for perfection was fulfilled once and for all. Not only for all of us, but for ALL our sin as well: past, present and future.

What about obedience? What about repentance? Won’t this unbridled, radical grace lead to spiritual laziness? Isn’t it a license to sin?

Hardly. Once this thoroughly curative grace is fully known and internalized, it leads to an ever-changing life. Once this unbelievable, unconditional love is realized… really comprehended… the inner life is changed and it is truly reborn. Once this come-as-you-are acceptance is discovered, the result is freedom. It is not the whip of an overbearing master that will change our hearts to follow Him. No, it is His kindness that leads to repentance. (Romans 2:4) It is His love that draws us to follow Him. It is His unconditional acceptance that leads us to stop looking for it elsewhere.

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1a)

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. (Galatians 5:1a)

The Gospel is not just Good News for new followers of Jesus. It is Good News for you and me.

Every. Single. Day.

Something to Ponder

I asked many folks several months ago, “Do you think God is diappointed in you?”

The overwhelming answer was, “Yes!”

As I think about that this morning, I ask those of you who felt that way then, and perhaps still do, “Why? Why do you feel God is disappointed in you?”

Then listen — really listen — to your answer.

If you think God is disappointed in you because of something you did, something you said, something you felt, or… something you didn’t do, say, or feel… then I ask you to examine that further.

Or maybe you answered that way because you feel like you aren’t doing enough for God, but I would ask that you examine that further as well.

Let me ask you another question: If you did more for God… or were more obedient to Him… would He be more pleased with you?

If you answered, “Yes,” then it would stand to reason, with that logic in mind, that the more obedient you are, the more pleased God is. Therefore, God is most pleased with super-saints like Billy Graham or Mother Teresa, and on this grading scale, you and I are far, far down the heavenly social strata.

Does this sound valid to you? Is this how God really acts and works? The answer is a resounding, “No.”

With that kind of thinking, you’d have to continue to ask, “How good is good enough? How much service or obedience is enough to please God.”

God’s Word answers that for us:

“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)

Perfection. That is what God is looking for. That is what He requires. God is not pleased without perfect obedience… without perfect actions… perfect words and perfect thoughts.

Perfection. How’re you doing with that? How’s that perfection thing coming along? Not so well, I assume. Me neither.

Thankfully, when God requires perfection, He supplies perfection in His own Son, Jesus. God shows us we have a dilemma. And then, praise Him, He provides the deliverance. Jesus, while He lived on this Earth, was perfect in word, thought, and deed. It was His perfect obedience that took Him to the Cross. He was the perfect sacrifice for our sin.

And because of that God said to Jesus, “This is my son with whom I am well pleased.”

And because of Jesus and what He did, God says to you and me, “This is my son (or daughter) with whom I am well pleased.”

Good News indeed.

Something to ponder.

For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. (Hebrews 10:14)

(For those who think I’m saying that you shouldn’t be obedient to God, you’re missing the point; I’m not. I’m just asking you to examine WHY you think God is disappointed in you.)

Perfection Required

We all know the story of the rich, young ruler who approached Jesus and asked what he had to do to be right with God and inherit eternal life. (See Mark 10:17-27)

Jesus gave him a to-do list, straight from the law: don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, no stealing, no lying, no deception, honor your mother and father…

The young man responded that he had fulfilled the law perfectly, but Jesus looked deeper into this young man’s eyes and into our hearts as well. He digs down to the motivation of our hearts. And He does this to show us something, but it may not be what you think.

He does this in the Sermon on the Mount when He equates hatred with murder and lust with adultery, but on this day with this young man, Jesus shows him (and us) that what God requires is perfection. He tells the young man to go and sell all his possessions and then come back and follow Jesus.

When we read this, we wonder to ourselves, “Is Jesus asking me to sell all I own? Is that what being fully surrendered means?” And we – correctly – talk ourself out of it, by concluding that’s not what Jesus is trying to get across. What we conclude is that Jesus is stating that we must fully surrender our hearts to Him and leave our allegiance to this world behind.

While I agree with the idea of surrender and admire any motivation with following God and God alone, what I think Jesus is actually reminding us of follows in the next few verses.

We see the rich, young ruler walk away sad, presumably, we think, because he doesn’t want to sell everything… because he wants what the world offers. But as he walks away, the disciples (who HAVE left everything to follow Him) even wonder, “Who, then, can be saved?” And how does Jesus respond?

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” (Mark 10:27)

Salvation doesn’t depend on our actions. Because none of us have pure, holy, and honorable actions all the time.

Salvation doesn’t depend on our surrender, because – How much surrendering is enough?

God requires perfection. Thankfully, He also supplies all the perfection we need in Jesus.

Eternal life – “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”

God made a way. It was Jesus’ actions, not ours, that made a way.

It was Jesus’ surrender, not ours, that made a way.

Remember that as you worship today.

The Glory of God

“If I knew then what I know now.”

How many times have you said that? How many times have I? Many, many times.

Hindsight is 20/20 is how the saying goes. It’s true; if you have eyes to see, that is.

The entire church prayed many, many times the words of John 11:40. We prayed for the Lord to show us His glory. If I would just believe, I would see His glory. That’s what the verse said. I didn’t really know what I would see if I did see His glory. What would it look like? Would I know it if I saw it? What would it require of me? More faith?

I didn’t see it for a year and a half. I felt like I didn’t believe enough. No glory; therefore not enough faith, right? Through a series of events, I had to leave that church. I had been there for 15 years, but I had to leave for reasons that are irrelevant now. What matters is what happened as a result.

Out of the tragic departure from a church I loved so dearly came heartache, many, many tears, broken dreams and shattered promises, and even anger. But through this season came a new perspective. From the ashes came beauty. Through the teaching and counsel of a great pastor at my new church — Brandon Williams — God gave me a fresh perspective of His love.

This is no small thing.

This was – and is – monumental. It changed (and changes) everything. It provided (and provides) a new freedom, a new lightness, a new trust, and a new passionate love for Him who first loved me.

Pure and simple, this was God’s glory shining into my life. This is what I had longed for! This is what I had agonized over in fervent prayer! Through hardship and adversity and heartache, God’s glory was (and is) seen.

I’m not sure I can explain God’s glory, but I know it when I experience it.

Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” (John 11:40)

The weight of the world…

Do Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:30 really have any effect on you?

He says:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

Do those words do anything to you? Do you ever feel that you’re carrying more than you should? Do you feel the weight of the world on your shoulders? Do find yourself trying (and trying) but things aren’t improving?

I’ve been there. I’ve felt that it all depended on me. If things fall apart, it’s my fault. It’s my responsibility. I’ve felt the need to work harder, try harder, re-double my efforts, and pull myself up by my bootstraps. I’ve felt like I needed to be the strong one… the rock… the one who doesn’t waver. I’ve felt like I needed to keep it together.

It’s exhausting. It makes you weary.

Until… the Good News:

“Because Jesus paid it all, we are free from the need to do it all. Our identity, worth, and value are not anchored in what we can accomplish but in what Jesus accomplished for us.”*

You may think that’s over-simplified. You may think, “You don’t know the pressure I’m under. You don’t know about my debts. You don’t have a clue.”

You’re right. I don’t. But Jesus does. And He came to release you from carrying ALL the burdens you carry: financial, relational, religious and spiritual, marital… you name it, He came to free you.

Allow Him to carry these burdens for you. Allow Him to set you free from having to do it all yourself. You don’t have to earn His favor. You don’t have to curry His blessing. Doing more for God won’t make Him love you more. Walk in freedom and allow Him to have free rein in your life.

Allow Him to work in your life for your own good and for His glory, whatever that looks like. It may not be all fun and games. It may be painful, but He is molding and shaping you into Christlikeness, so He can show you off to a world that needs to see what He looks like.

As pastor and author Mark Batterson would say:

“Work like it depends on you and pray like it depends on God.”

And I’ll add: “Because it does.”

* from One Way Love, by Tullian Tchividjian. David C Cook Publishing. 2013.

Gone ’round the bend

I know some of you think I’ve “gone ’round the bend”, because I keep posting about this “new” or “fresh” encounter I’ve had with God’s love. It is an encounter with the finished work on the Cross by Jesus. It is the love of Jesus that has changed me.

But some of you think I’ve gone crazy. You think I’m nuts because I keep posting stuff like:

“Because Jesus won, I’m free to lose.
… because Jesus was strong, I’m free to be weak.
… because Jesus was someone, I’m free to be no one.
… because Jesus was the ultimate leader, I’m free and content to be a follower.
… because Jesus was (is) extraordinary, I’m free and content to be ordinary.
… because Jesus succeeded, I am free to fail.
… because ‘It is finished’, the work is done.
There is such freedom in those words, but there’s more. I’ve said it before but I have to say it again and again because it is such Good News: There’s nothing I can do to make God love me more and nothing I can do to make God love me less. There is nothing I can do to repay God. There is nothing I can do to curry God’s favor, including surrendering more.” (Posted May 3rd)


“All of us so easily fall into a trap of measuring our own righteousness. We measure it by how much we pray. We measure it by how much we read our Bibles. We measure it by our behavior day-by-day. We measure how we talk, what we drink, and even by how much or what we eat. We measure ourselves against others. But when we measure, by definition, we are self-righteous. We become legalists. We become like the Pharisees in Jesus’ day.” (Posted May 15)

Because I said these things, those of you who know me think I’ve fallen off the doctrinal wagon. Some may think that I’m espousing some kind of radical license to sin or to be lazy. Some may even think that I have fallen into some kind of sin; otherwise why would I talk about grace so often?!?

I’m not saying:

Don’t pray.
Don’t read your Bible.
Don’t go to church.
Don’t serve in the Kingdom somewhere.
Don’t be grieved when you sin because you’re going to heaven anyway.

What I am saying is that my (and your) only hope is Jesus. If we truly understand what Jesus has accomplished on the Cross, we are set free from the pressure of striving and trying so hard to “be a Christian.”

Once we really understand the love that God has for us in Jesus, we are free to fully and completely trust Him. We pray because we want to know Him more. We read our Bible to know His character (John 1:1, Hebrews 1:1), His truth (John 14:17), His instruction and His correction (2 Tim 3:16). We go to church because that is where we find community with like-minded Jesus-followers. We serve because that is how we show the love of God to those outside our community who so desperately need it.

We don’t do those things because it’s our duty or we need to repay God, but in doing them, we know God more fully. And knowing God more fully is what you WANT to do when you truly understand what God has accomplished just for you and me in Christ at the Cross. Desiring to know God more fully just simply flows from a life which understands the freedom and victory the Cross has brought.

Lastly, some may think that I’ve adopted some form of “once-saved, always-saved” doctrine. Those four words have come to mean something else than what was originally intended. They’ve come to negatively portray a theology of license. In other words, once you’re saved by grace, you’re free to live any way you want, because God’s grace will forgive you in the end. The apostle Paul makes it clear that simply isn’t true in Romans 5:20-6:7. Instead, those four words “once-saved, always-saved” or the words, “eternal security” should bring freedom and take the pressure off. Once you truly understand the love of God in Christ and truly embrace the work done there, you don’t want to live any way you want. You want to live any way GOD wants. If you or I are living another way, then I wonder if we truly understand God’s love.

So… have I gone ’round the bend? Yep.
Have I gone crazy? You better believe it.

I have encountered the good news of the Good News. If you find that you feel worse leaving church than when you entered, something’s wrong. You need the Gospel. It brings freedom. It takes the pressure off. It’s brings joy and peace like never before.

And you’ll want to tell everyone.

May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. (Galatians 6:14, NIV)

If it seems we are crazy, it is to bring glory to God. And if we are in our right minds, it is for your benefit. Either way, Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life. He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them. (2 Corinthians 5:13-15, NLT)


I attended a church service in June or July of 1996 and I was never the same afterward. I’m ashamed to say that I don’t know my “Re-Birthday”, but I think it was July and it was definitely ’96. I was changed. That was nearly 18 years ago and I think that those who knew me in college and high school would say there’s been a change. I would have been voted “Most Likely to Waste Their Life” because I was getting wasted all the time. It’s an apt description… what a waste! I nearly did waste my life; that is, until 1996.

Thereafter, I hungered for the things of God. I devoured the Bible in six months. I knew what I was supposed to do. I had the knowledge. But the obedience didn’t follow. I fell into sin, and as is the unfortunate case with most Christian failings, the perpetrator is ostracized or shunned. Those that knew about my sin tried to get me to turn away but after a couple of tries, they would have nothing to do with me.

Normally sin will keep you from the desire to seek the things of God, but not so with me. I still hungered and at the same time, was tormented by what Christians would call the conviction of the Holy Spirit.

I discovered grace (again) in February of 1997 when I first attended a new church, Community Fellowship Church of the Nazarene. It felt like a safe place from the very beginning. I had lunch at Captain D’s Restaurant with its pastor, Jeff Griffith, and he showed me the true meaning of love, forgiveness, grace, and restoration. Through his leadership, I found that, incredibly, God could use my failings and brokeness to bring encouragement, healing, and victory to others. And God did, amazingly. I still shake my head in amazement.

I attended that church for 16 years, and being the Type-A personality that I am, served as hard as I could. Looking back, maybe it was God’s burning desire rekindled in me or maybe it was an effort to repay God for His forgiveness and restoration. Maybe it was both. I was constantly trying to do more, learn more, study more, work more, and even surrender more.

My wife and I sadly left that church last August. It was the hardest decision of my Christian life. Looking back after seven months, I’m glad we left. I miss the people terribly, but without leaving, I would have never discovered the liberation I now have after finding another facet of God’s grace.

Every Sunday, Christians hear a message of forgiveness and surrender. They are encouraged to surrender or to surrender more, and some pulpits will even declare a message of trying harder. I can’t remember a message of trying harder, although I know that it’s preached. I’ve preached it. I’ve taught it. “Read more.” “Pray more.” “Serve more,” is the mantra.

As I’ve struggled in my journey of faith, I’ve always thought my problem was that I hadn’t surrendered fully. There must be areas of my life that I haven’t fully turned over to God. I haven’t fully yielded to the leading of the Holy Spirit. That must be the problem, I thought. That’s what I’ve been taught and that’s what’s been preached (at least that’s what I thought I heard).

That may be true, but to a Type-A personality and perfectionist like me, surrender then becomes an obsession, and actually becomes – in some crazy way – a work. It becomes something I must do in order to become more like Christ. Maybe that sounds crazy to you. Maybe it sounds strangely familiar.

For me, liberating victory has (again) come through the Gospel. Yes, the Gospel. The Good News.

Knowing that Jesus paid the price for my sins is one thing (and yes, the MAIN THING), but there’s more to it than just that (although that’s great news by itself).

It’s also knowing that…

… because Jesus won, I’m free to lose.
… because Jesus was strong, I’m free to be weak.
… because Jesus was someone, I’m free to be no one.
… because Jesus was the ultimate leader, I’m free and content to be a follower.
… because Jesus was (is) extraordinary, I’m free and content to be ordinary.
… because Jesus succeeded, I am free to fail.
… because “It is finished”, the work is done.

There is such freedom in those words, but there’s more.

I’ve said it before but I have to say it again and again because it is such Good News: There’s nothing I can do to make God love me more and nothing I can do to make God love me less. There is nothing I can do to repay God. There is nothing I can do to curry God’s favor, including surrendering more.*

Surrendering more is something that occurs naturally by getting the statements above the 18 inches from my head down into my heart. Surrendering more is something I don’t have to do; it just happens. As I discover the full revelation of God’s love and grace, it fills me more and more with the things of God. He’s all I think about or want to think about. I see the futility of living any other way and see more and more my need for Him everyday… mostly to save me from ME. It’s still a constant battle, but one that Jesus has already won for me.

I’m not sure if any of this resonates with you, but it is life-changing with me. Isn’t God’s grace truly amazing!?!


* to read a better description of this liberation, read any of Tullian Tchividjian’s books, such as One Way Love or Jesus + Nothing = Everything

I thank God for his fresh teaching on the subject.

Separated? Never!

I recently betrayed the confidence of a friend. I may be doing it again by posting this. My friend told me something… and then I repeated it. I screwed up. I apologized but now I feel that what I did has separated us. I can just feel it. I’m sure you know what I mean.

Although we say God’s love is unconditional, we don’t really live like we believe it.

If I screw up and sin against God, I feel separated from Him. I feel like I need to run and hide. I don’t want to approach Him. In a more practical sense, I don’t feel like going to church. I don’t feel like listening to Christian music. I don’t feel like hanging out with folks that seem to have their Christian life all-together.

Does sin really separate us from God? Most would say “Yes, absolutely.” And they’d point to a Bible passage like this in the Old Testament:

But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear. For your hands are stained with blood, your fingers with guilt. Your lips have spoken falsely, and your tongue mutters wicked things. (Isaiah 59:2-3)

But I’m not so sure that sin separates us from God AT ALL. Let me try to explain.

First, a few caveats: God is holy. He cannot and does not tolerate sinfulness in His Presence. And those who haven’t been cleansed of their sins are not, cannot, and will not be able to stand, kneel, or sit in His Presence. (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9) Secondly, God is just. He has demanded justice for sinfulness. (See the same verses) I get that. I understand that. I’m not diminishing His holiness or His requirement of justice.

But in the person of Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, those requirements have been fulfilled. By the blood of Jesus, our sins have been cleansed once and for all. All our past sins, all our present sins, and all our future sins have been cleansed and paid for by the crucifixion which we remember this Friday.

Yet when we sin… when we rebel… when we “do our own thing”… we think God turns His back on us… we think He frowns on us… we feel as if our actions and behavior has affected the way God feels about us. And instead of running toward God, we run away from Him. We run and hide (like Adam and Eve in the garden – see Genesis 3:8). We think God will punish us if we come clean. So we continue to stay away. We act as if God’s love is conditional instead of unconditional. We behave as if He loves us differently based on what we do or don’t do.

That is simply not true. That is not the God who loved us so much that sent His one and only Son to die for us… to fulfill His requirements of holiness and justice. Out of the love He has for us, He has fulfilled the passage in Isaiah above. He has fulfilled the requirements of the Old Testament. We can draw near to God and be assurred that He will draw near to us. This is the Father who looks longingly, waiting for the prodigal son to come home — not to punish him but to have a party and celebrate!

Lastly, this does not give us a license to sin. Those who truly get a revelation of the love God has for them are filled with such gratitude and have such amazing liberty that the old way of life is not given a second thought. It is a wonderful life of freedom — not a freedom to live as they please, but to live as God pleases. It is a (super)natural outflow of an inward transformation.

Unlike our fragile human relationships, the relationship we have with God is unchanging, steadfast, and unconditional. Just read these beautiful words:

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)

Separated? Never!