Who’s Responsible?

I’m struggling with something. It’s not a sin that is a thorn in my side, or some problem of epic proportions. No, it’s theological, I guess.

I’m struggling with something I’m calling “My Responsibility vs. God’s Responsibility.” It’s related to faith versus works, but’s more all-encompassing. First, here’s how I got here. Here’s the backstory.

There was a Scripture that my former pastor was clinging to throughout his year and a half at my former church. It was John 11:40, which reads:

“Did I not tell that if you believed you would see the glory of God?”

That’s Jesus speaking. It’s written in red in my Bible. I pay special attention to the passages written in red because they are coming from the lips of the Son of God.

In this context, Jesus is speaking to Mary and Martha, whose brother has died while Jesus took his time in coming to see his friends. He didn’t rush to the bedside while Lazarus was sick and his sisters are miffed.

And we know the rest of the story. The stone was rolled away and Lazarus was resurrected from the dead. It may have been the second-most dramatic miracle by Jesus. And because of the words of Jesus in John 11:40, (and because of the “baggage” I carry from my former church and probably my own past) I see a cause and effect. Am I the only one who processes this Scripture this way?

My thinking is: Because of the sisters’ “belief” or faith, God’s glory was shown in the resurrection of Lazarus. If you believe enough, therefore, you will see God’s glory. If you have enough faith, God will show Himself, God will breakthrough, God will work His miracles. Right??

And if God doesn’t breakthrough… if that miracle doesn’t happen… then I guess you don’t have enough faith. That was I processed through that Scripture and that teaching.

I left the church in August of 2013. Then I discovered freedom. I found freedom in the message of God’s one-way love. I found new freedom in the Gospel. Here’s what I wrote in my journal and blog on May 25th:

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.

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.

I don’t want to keep falling back into a trap thinking that IT depends on me. “IT” may be salvation, favor, answers to prayers, miracles, or God’s glory manifesting itself among us in some way. My job is to remain faithful. God will always be faithful, even when I’m not.

The only time or the only way IT depends on me is when I receive a fresh revelation of God’s one-way, unconditional love found in Christ Jesus. When I finally understand… REALLY understand… then I am changed. I am compelled by the love of God (the Holy Spirit) inside me to live my life differently.

That’s Good News.

DIY?

Are you a “do-it-yourselfer”? Do you like doing home projects? Do you like houses that are “fixer-uppers”? Many of us do. We like to see the reveals. We like to see the “Before” and “After” photos. We love it when they yell, “Move that bus!” to unveil the transformed home.

We are fascinated by do-it-yourself projects. There’s even a DIY Network on cable TV. We like to see that we’ve accomplished something. We feel good that we did it. We feel good about ourselves. We did it ourselves, after all. We admire our work and smile. “Git-er-done”, that’s our motto. It’s the American way. It’s part of what makes our country the best in the world.

This fascination with do-it-yourself carries over to other areas of our life, namely our spiritual life. We feel better about ourselves when we go to church weekly, pray harder, study our Bibles more, and are deeply involved in the seemingly countless programs and projects the church offers. We may not consciously think about it that way, but most of us, truth-be-told, subtly believe it.

If we fail or fall, we try harder. We re-double our efforts. We pick ourselves up and carry on. Consciously or sub-consciously, we hope in ourselves and in our own efforts.

Pastor Tullian Tchividjian says, “The only hope for ourselves is to give up hope in ourselves.” He goes on to say:

“The Gospel is the good news that Jesus has not only done what you could not do for yourself, and He not only has achieved for you what you could never achieve for yourself, and He has not only given you what you could never get for yourself, but He also UNDOES everything you’ve done to mess things up! The Gospel is ‘while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.’ (Romans 5:8) The Gospel declares that while we were at our worst, God gave us His best. The Gospel is NOT humanity, and it improved; the Gospel is Christ, and Him crucified.

“The Christian life is a love affair with a unloseable lover. We are clothed in an irremovable suit of forgiveness. We don’t have to go out and try to buy love, earn peace, achieve joy… these are things that are given! For free! Jesus earned those things so that we could freely receive those things. Sinners like you and me are recipients of descending, no-strings-attached, one-way love.

“You are forever loved. You are forever vindicated. You are forever forgiven. Score-keeping with God is over! You are made righteous by what Jesus has accomplished for you.”

This is not “pull yourself up by your bootstraps.” This is not self-improvement. This is not you better try harder, turn over a new leaf, or re-double your efforts to be a better Christian. This is not “do-it-yourself” religion. The fascination with do-it-yourself ends here.

Freedom in Christ should really make you free… don’t you think?

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1)

The Gospel is Still Changing Me

The Gospel changed me.

It is still changing me.

Did you think the Gospel message was just for sinners… just for folks that don’t believe in Jesus or haven’t accepted God’s gift of forgiveness?

Jesus quotes the prophet Isaiah when He began teaching in the synagogue:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
(Luke 4:18-19)

“Freedom for the prisoners,” He says. Some translations say “captives.” Captive to what? Prisoners of what? Freedom from what!?!

Freedom from the power of sin? Yes.
Freedom from the power of death? Yes!
Freedom from the power of sickness, the power of bondage, the power of addictions? Yes!

But also freedom from the yoke of religion and the law.

He quoted the prophet Isaiah to those who would know… the religious law-makers, the rabbis, the legalistic Pharisees and Sadducees, the self-righteous… like you and me.

Truth be told, we all have a bit of self-righteousness in us. Yes, all of us. Don’t get mad at me here. You can’t help it; it’s your default setting. We all do it. Since the fall of man, we’ve been doing it. Look it up; you’ll see.

I do it and you do it. Unfortunately, we may not recognize it. We may have even subtly passed this teaching on to those who would listen. I know I have. It goes something like this…

If you pray more, God will bless you more.

Or…

If you read your Bible more, God will bless you more.

We all do it. We think it. Be honest. Isn’t there a tinge of that somewhere inside you? I’d bet there is. (Wait, I can’t bet as a Christian; God might not bless me. Oops… there it is again!)

We think that if we do good, God will bless us more, show more favor to us, or worse, love us more. We also think that if we do bad, God will bless us less, show less favor to us, or worse, love us less.

That simply is not true. That is self-righteousness. And that is one of the things Jesus came to give us freedom from.

Jesus proclaimed in His dying words, “It is finished.”

Pastor Tullian Tchividjian says:

“God’s demand is: Be perfect.
God’s diagnosis is: Nobody’s perfect.
God’s deliverance: Jesus was perfect for you.

The flesh is always resistant to ‘It is finished.’ Always. You want to talk about the mortification of sin? Start there. Start with that part of you that resists, ‘It is finished.’ That’s unbelief.

The litmus test on whether the Gospel has been communicated in a sermon, book, blog post, or tweet is: If you don’t feel lighter or freer after it’s been communicated, it wasn’t the Gospel.”

The Gospel is still changing me.

I just can’t get past it…

There is something in Christianity I can’t get past. It’s something I’ve discovered fairly recently and I just can’t stop thinking about it; I just can’t get past it. I’m sure my wife is tired of me talking about it, because it dominates my thoughts. Even my friends have noticed my obsession with it. Maybe you have, too.

It’s the love of God.

“Oh, brother,” you think, “Here we go again. I know about the love of God already. After all, John 3:16 says, ‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son..’. I know that. That’s Christianity 101.”

Yes, that’s probably the most famous and well-known verse in the Bible. Yes, you probably know that verse by heart. But do you really know the depths of God’s love? Do you really understand what it means for you everyday? Do you know why the Gospel is really Good News?

I think not. Well, at least some of you reading don’t. Because if you REALLY understood the love of God, it would be a game-changer for you. (And I see a lot of sour-faced, defeated people out there who claim to know Jesus and the love of God.)

First, the love of God is not the kind of love you and I are used to. It’s not based on our performance, our attitudes, our actions or behaviors. God loves us the same today as He did yesterday… and the day before… and the day before that. He knows all about the bitterness you still hold on to. He knows all about the lies you told last week. He knows all about your pitiful prayer life and the fact that you don’t read your Bible as you should. And He still loves you with a dance-on-the-rooftops, swing-on-the-chandelier-kind-of-love! He sings over you, Scripture says. Despite all your daily screw-ups, failures, blunders and mistakes, He loves you the same as the day you were born. Unbelievably, He loves you and I the same as He loves super-saints like Billy Graham or Mother Teresa.

In turn, this means that He won’t love you more if you become a super-saint yourself. He doesn’t love you more for reading your Bible two hours every day and spending two hours in your prayer closet each day, although you may get to know Him better. It’s startling to think about, but even though you may do that, He doesn’t love you more than He does any terrorist or pedophile or murderer.

For me, this kind of love ends all my “checklist religion”. It is (or should be) the end of performance-based living, which dominates our world, and dominates how we give and receive love. We love those who love us in return. We love those who do nice things for us. But God, while He wasn’t even on our minds at all… while we were living our own selfish lives… while we even cursed His Name… loved us and died for us. In doing so, He wiped the slate clean… and He continues to wipe the slate clean – with the blood of Jesus – every day. Since my life is “hidden” with His, my soul is secure. I don’t have to strive and strive and strive to earn God’s love, His favor, His gifts, or His blessing. I have Him. And He is all I need.

Lastly, this is amazing, Good News! If you were to ask someone what the Gospel is all about, they might reply that Jesus died for our sins and now we have eternal life. Yes, but that’s only scratching the surface. Eternal life is not just life after death.

It’s eternal living, too. The love of God doesn’t end with sending His Son to the Cross. While it’s true, that is where the amazing grace of God is discovered, His love endures through all generations. He loves you as much right now as He did when Jesus went to the Cross. What this means is that He is with you right now! He knows what you’re going through right now. And He is working things out for your good right now, even though you may not think so. Even if you are suffering right now, He promises to be with you through it all and turn it into something that makes you more like Christ, giving Him resounding glory.

Not only that, but in the end, you, I, and Christ WIN. Evil will be defeated. There will be no more pain or sorrow, and God Himself will wipe away our tears. This is where Christian hope comes from. It’s not a pie-in-the-sky, wishful-thinking kind of hope. It’s a sure thing, a certainty, and Rock-solid. It’s the hope of a better tomorrow, no matter what today looks like. We are living in the unshakeable Kingdom of God!

All because of the love of God. Good News indeed!

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)

Old News? No, Good News!

Have you ever been in a church service, heard a basic Gospel message, and thought, “I’ve heard this before. I know all this. Can’t we move on?!? Give me something that’s practical for being a better person at work or loving my family more.”

I have. I know I’m terrible, but I’ve had those thoughts. Sorry.

For the past several months, I’ve been trying to share (with any who would listen) the Good News about the all-sufficiency of Jesus. Recently, I’ve tried to move on to different topics, all the while feeling like I need to hear this all-sufficient message again and again… daily, if need be.

Here’s the all-sufficiency of Jesus Christ:

In His death (and, of course, resurrection), we have life… life eternal.
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.

That’s right. The work is done. It is finished. The righteousness of God has been fulfilled in Christ death:

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (1 Corinthians 5:21)

In Him, we become “the righteousness of God”! This is such good news! Can you grasp that!?! Because of the love of God in Jesus Christ, there’s no more trying to be a better person. Jesus was good enough (understatement) for all of us. There’s no more toeing the line or stepping up your commitment. In His great love, Jesus was committed to you and I, and that’s enough. No more to-do lists. The requirements have all been met.

If we truly grasp the love of God in Christ and what has been accomplished for us, we are compelled to live for God and not for ourselves. We are compelled to obedience; it is not a chore or a burden. We don’t gravitate toward the things of this world system or toward sin, but instead are drawn by the Holy Spirit to the things of God.

We, as Christians, talk quite a bit about “crucifying self” and we talk about it as if it were something we could accomplish. The Apostle Paul said, “I HAVE BEEN crucified with Christ…” (Galatians 2:20). It was something that occured… that happened to him… and it was ongoing. Read the same passage out of The Message, a paraphrase of the Bible which captures the meaning and context of passages quite well:

What actually took place is this: I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn’t work. So I quit being a “law man” so that I could be God’s man. Christ’s life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not “mine,” but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not going to go back on that. Is it not clear to you that to go back to that old rule-keeping, peer-pleasing religion would be an abandonment of everything personal and free in my relationship with God? I refuse to do that, to repudiate God’s grace. If a living relationship with God could come by rule-keeping, then Christ died unnecessarily. (Galatians 2:19-21, The Message)

I asked yesterday, “How do you think God feels about you?” The majority of folks replied that they felt God was disappointed in them. It proabably wouldn’t take long to discover this was because of past decisions or poor behavior. But it’s so sad that we’ve been led to believe by the enemy of our souls, Satan, (or worse, the Church), that we are a disappointment to God.

Please hear this: Despite poor decisions or bad behavior, you and I are as acceptable to God as Billy Graham, Mother Teresa, or the Apostle Paul. He loves us just as much as He loves them. If you are “in Christ”, your past, present, and future failures, poor decisions, and ugly behavior is covered by the blood of Jesus.

Again, if we truly grasp the love of God in Christ and what has been accomplished for us, it should bring tremendous freedom to any and all areas of our lives. In essence, it’s His love that sets us free.

This is the Gospel… the Good News… and we should never tire of hearing it.

Stories of Grace…

I’ve heard it before: “You are a trophy of God’s grace.” I probably heard that first from Max Lucado, who has written more prolifically about grace than any author in the late-20th/early 21st centuries. But despite reading virtually all of his books, and reveling in their message, I still — somehow — missed it. I missed the real message of grace.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve experienced the amazing grace of God in the forgiveness of my sins. I’ve experienced astounding, restorative grace, after committing adultery in an earlier marriage. I’ve known what it is to fail and to be restored. I know what it is to be a sinner and be forgiven. But somehow I missed the freedom in Christ that comes along with that kind of grace.

It was not until I left my church of fifteen years that I discovered the freedom and liberty that Jesus (and centuries before, the prophet Isaiah) proclaims:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom
for the prisoners and
recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
(Luke 4:18-19, NIV)

It is the Good News that says that once and for all, “it is finished.”

Because of The Cross and all Jesus accomplished and fulfilled there…

I can be weak, because He was strong.
I can fail, because He was (and is) victorious.
I can quit striving, because all the work is done.

It is finished. Done. Fulfilled. Complete.

We are trophies of God’s grace, but somehow, we don’t live like it. We don’t act like it. There is something missing. The freedom isn’t there. The joy isn’t there. We continue to strive. The oppressed still carry burdens we weren’t meant to carry. The prisoners haven’t been set free.

But there is more. Listen to a story of freedom in Christ from “Nathan & Kandace”…

http://subspla.sh/LgHCPZ

Have you heard the Good News? I mean, REALLY heard it?

The Only Equation That Matters

I’m a control-freak. I know it. I don’t like it, but I know it. I prefer to think that I like my life “structured”. It’s manageable. It’s predictable. It’s controllable that way (oops, there’s that word).

I like mathematics, too. I like equations. I didn’t do well in algebra, but I still like equations. I especially like the equal sign. I like the fact that 2a + b = c, or whatever the equation happens to be.

I like science, too. I like cause and effect. If _______ happens, then ________ happens. It helps predict how things will work. Again, it’s something I can control and manage. And I like it. Did I mention that?

I was informed several years ago that children of alcoholics like highly structured lifestyles. I am a child of an alcoholic (actually of two) and I’m living proof that is true. Experts says that because the alcoholic’s life is so unpredictable and sometimes volatile and chaotic, their children crave structure and predictability. My dad was a good provider but had a volatile temper (it’s where I get mine) and the only thing you could really predict growing up was that he would have plenty to drink. My mom loved me very much, but after my parent’s divorce, would drink herself to sleep. Again, that was one thing you COULD count on.

So fast forward to adulthood and I’m a control-freak. In some ways I like that: I’m organized, I’m prepared, and I’m a planner. In some ways I don’t like it: when things are chaotic or noisy, it drives me crazy. Really crazy.

This carries over into my spiritual life. Again, I want predictability. I crave structure. I like Bible-reading plans. In January, I just finished one. I like the “spiritual disciplines”. They are structured and are designed to help train you in righteousness. However, to me, self-discipline becomes self-righteousness. My thought process becomes: “If I pray enough (or properly) or read enough or serve enough, then I become righteous, or more righteous.” It’s cause-and-effect, right? That’s why I can be legalistic. If I do ______, then I know where I stand with God. It helps me measure. It helps me predict. Worse yet, it makes me think I know where others stand with God. It makes me measure. It makes me predict.

However, I’ve discovered something that you probably already know. At least we THINK we know it. It’s this: There’s nothing else you need to add to the shed blood of Jesus Christ to get right with God or be right with God. Nothing. He is everything you need to be righteous. He is everything you need to be holy. The spiritual disciplines of prayer, fasting, Bible reading, meditation, giving, and so forth help you know God more. They are means of growing the character of Jesus within you. They are not “Five Easy Steps to Righteousness.” They are not the things you MUST do in order to grow in Christ. Instead, they are things you feel compelled, called or drawn to do once you realize everything that Jesus has given you. There IS a difference.

It is radical. God’s grace and His love are radical. Once you experience them — REALLY experience — you will be transformed. They have the power to break every chain that binds. They have the power to set the captive free. His grace and love have the power to heal every wound. They have the power to restore and heal marriages and relationships. They bring amazing freedom. God’s grace is radical.

God’s grace is EVERYTHING. That is the Good News.

Here’s an equation to remember: JESUS + NOTHING = EVERYTHING.*

*Although I’ve never met him, I owe a debt of thanks to Pastor Tullian Tchividjian for a book entitled by that equation and for another book, One Way Love: God’s inexhaustible Grace for an Exhausted World. God has used them to set me and so many others free in so many ways. Check them out HERE or visit Liberate.org.

Cut Yourself Some Slack

I was meeting with a guy some time ago who said he wanted his spiritual life to grow. He wanted to get serious about his spirituality but felt stuck in neutral, so to speak. He was frustrated by his apathy and wanted to take following Jesus to the next level.

My mind immediately began to go into action as he was talking, thinking of ways he could increase the intensity of his devoutness (is that even a word??). I thought of ways he could pray more. I thought of ways he could dig into God’s Word. Maybe a Bible-reading plan would help? I thought that sometimes the best way to break out of a funk is to serve others… how could he do that? Thankfully, in that flurry of thought, I caught myself.

I told him first, “Cut yourself some slack. I’ll bet you are very hard on yourself.” He said he was. It stemmed from his early years in his childhood church and how he learned to follow Jesus growing up. I continued, “God knows your heart. He knows right now that you’re talking to me about knowing Him more deeply. He knows you have that desire. I know He is smiling about that right now. You are not as apathetic as you think or you wouldn’t be having these desires. Cut yourself some slack.”

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.

Our righteousness is found only in Christ. It is not found in what we do, it is found in what He has already done. As God’s Word says:

All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. (Isaiah 64:6, NIV)

For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. (Romans 14:17, NLT)

That is why we need a Savior.

As our meeting ended, I asked my friend to read a book that set me free from this trap. It’s by Billy Graham’s grandson, Tullian Tchividjian. It’s called “One Way Love”. It has been eye-opening and life-changing. I highly recommend it.

The Gospel has come to set us free from the trap of performance-ism. We don’t have to work to please God. When we think upon Him, even just desiring to know Him more, I know it pleases Him.

I know He smiles.

(To find out more about this transforming encounter with God’s grace, read “One Way Love”, available at your favorite bookstore or at Amazon.com HERE.)

Another Way?

Yesterday, a friend of mine sent me an email which said:

“Chapter 2 in the book (Tullian Tchividjian’s God + Nothing = Everything) talks about the everything that we had in the beginning and everything that we will have in the end, and makes the statement,  ‘Between Genesis 1 and the last pages of Revelation, there unfolds an epic story marked by incalculable tragedies…’

“I agree with the above, but want to relate a question posed to me by a missionary turned atheist: Given the great epic of tragedies, suffering, etc., couldn’t God in all his wisdom have done it another way? How would you answer him?”

Here’s how I responded:

“My wife and I talked about this somewhat. She made the best point possible:

“‘Yes, God could’ve found another way, but in the process, would’ve taken away our choice.’ We chose poorly and the ‘epic tragedies’ began. God gave us the freedom and, in the beginning (before sin), the Kingdom. We chose wrong and have been choosing wrong ever since. That is why we needed a Savior.

“I would say your missionary-turned-atheist friend has had an epic tragedy in his own life, and because of his choices or someone else’s choices (possibly his church or denomination), he suffered greatly… to the extent that he couldn’t persevere in his faith.

“As my wife said, ‘We make it difficult. It’s really quite simple. We try to blame God for everything (or question everything), when we’re the ones we should be blaming.’ She’s a wise lady.”

Some may think that’s an over-simplification, but I’m not so sure. Yes, there are seemingly random tragedies in this world – car accidents, for instance. But in the very beginning, our ancestors chose wrongly, and the tragedies began. Sin, disease, death, and decay all began with the Original Sin.

Jesus came to redeem it all, and although the time for complete redemption has not quite come, it is coming soon. He is coming soon.

For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ. Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone. (Romans 5:17-18, NLT)

Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. (Romans 8:20-21)

It really IS finished!

Do you know that God holds nothing against you? Maybe this is old news to you. For me, this is a revolutionary idea.

For me, I was constantly trying to get back into God’s good graces, like I would any other relationship from childhood to adulthood. Addicted to the approval from others, I would always try to earn it. Do enough and I was good; not do enough (or worse, rebel), and I would have to work to get myself back into favor. This process carried over into my relationship with God, although I never really realized it until a few months ago. I talked about God’s grace and was certainly thankful for His forgiveness, but every time I screwed up, I would work at getting back to where I need to be. Pray more, read more, serve more. It was subtle, but it was – subconsciously – my mantra. “I really would need to put my spiritual life ‘on the front burner'” or feel like “I need ‘to step it up’ in my spiritual life.” These would be my thoughts. Maybe you’ve had them too.

Now, I have come to realize that Jesus’ words are really true. “It is finished” (John 19:30) applies not only to Jesus’ lifelong journey to the Cross, or to the fact that the requirements of the Law had been fulfilled, but also that all work has been finished to bring you and I back to God. We can now come to God without fear or worry of punishment. We don’t have to work to get back into God’s good graces. Listen to these words by the apostle Paul:

And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, NO LONGER COUNTING PEOPLE’S SINS AGAINST THEM. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:18-19, NLT, MY EMPHASIS)

James Bryan Smith, author of The Good and Beautiful Community says:

“This is a clear explanation of the finality of the cross. God – in Christ – is not counting our sins against us. God stopped counting and apparently never took it back up. God is no longer dealing with us on the basis of our sins but of our faith. Jesus died for all the sins of all the people for all time — and that means you.”

Do see why Paul calls it a “wonderful message of reconciliation”? Do you see why it’s called the Good News!?!

It really IS finished!