John 15:22 They would not be guilty if I had not come and spoken to them. But now they have no excuse for their sin. NLT
Jesus had “come and spoken to them” to make them aware of their guilt. John records this truth about Jesus’s living Word; it reveals the destructive reaction of human nature to the awareness of sin and guilt. That same reaction has lasted across time and many generations. Is there anybody reading this that can’t understand a defensive response when confronted with their sin? Let me answer that for you…NO! Jesus’s Word only requires changing the generic pronoun “they” to make it personal enough to impact our human nature today too.
Hearing Jesus speak about sin in the same sentence with your name awakens an awareness of guilt that leaves you with a choice: defend your sin or take Jesus at His Word. Jesus has “come and spoken to [me].” He speaks to offer this replacement for excuses…opportunity. Opportunity to let defensiveness be replaced with repentance that replaces guilt with forgiveness and Grace.
NLT Hebrews 12 and James 1 & 2 [NLT]
Hebrews 12:2 We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy [or instead of the joy] awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame…23 You have come to the assembly of God’s firstborn children, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God himself, who is the judge over all things. You have come to the spirits of the righteous ones in heaven who have now been made perfect. 24 You have come to Jesus, the one who mediates the new covenant between God and people, and to the sprinkled blood, which `speaks of forgiveness instead of crying out for vengeance like the blood of Abel. 25 Be careful that you do not refuse to listen to the One who is speaking…
You have come…. x4 to the place that “speaks of forgiveness.” When we ask God to forgive our behavior His response is the unmerited favor of His Grace. Forgiveness is the foundation of our faith that becomes this specific discipline of Grace; “Keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith” and “mediates the new covenant between God and people.”
Hebrews urges “Be careful that you do not refuse to listen to the One who is speaking.” The first words I heard as I listened were; “forgiveness” [what only God can do] and “discipline” [what I can do]. Then I heard a familiar echo of those words with these from James 1 and 2 – “faith” and “actions.” They’re copied below for you to read with ‘forgiveness’ substituted for the word [faith], ‘discipline’ for the word [endurance] and ‘Grace’ as the verb that replaces [actions].
James 1:3 For you know that when your forgiveness [faith] is tested, your discipline [endurance] has a chance to grow. 4 So let it grow, for when your discipline [endurance] is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing…2:14 What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have forgiveness [faith] but don’t show it by your Grace [actions]? Can that kind of forgiveness [faith] save anyone?
This post has become a perfect example for me of these truths:
ALL the books of the Bible work together for our good. The Spirit really does link truths from different Scriptures in new and meaningful ways. Forgiveness and discipline do help explain faith and actions AND faith and actions do help explain forgiveness and discipline.
AND finally the most important truth of all: God has saved the unmerited favor of His Grace IN us. Living with the reality of that forgiveness is the discipline of Grace that turns faith into action.
√ Re·new·al: the replacing or repair of something that is worn out, run-down, or broken
2 Timothy 2 [NIV]
1 You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2 And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others…4 No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer. 5 Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules. 6 The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops. 7 Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this…25 Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth…
Renewal is the application of “the grace that is in Christ Jesus” that fills the void sins once occupied in us. What makes renewal real is Jesus’ grace, and our confidence in it. That’s the only thing that can overcome our limitations.
Paul knew it was God who’d entrusted him AND his limitations, to be a witness for Him. He had first-hand experience of the power of Jesus to change even the most undeserving opponent, despite their limitations. Isn’t that an interesting thought? God knows how to teach us to use what we wish he would just take away.
This is my grand finale for all of us today. I want our confidence to be in God’s power and the grace of Jesus to help us reveal He is the strength we count on despite our obvious limitations. Then we can we be His reliable witnesses “qualified to teach others… in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth…” I guess it’s the “takes one to know one” method of witness….and on a personal note, if God can “gently” instruct and continue to change a woman who once said…I’ve changed enough…He can change anyone.
NASB Philemon 1:3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
6 and I pray that the fellowship of your faith may become effective through the knowledge of every good thing which is in you for Christ’s sake.9 yet for love’s sake I rather appeal to you—since I am such a person as Paul, the aged, and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus—10 I appeal to you for my child Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my imprisonment,
16 no longer as a slave, but more than a slave, a beloved brother, especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.
25 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.
Philemon is clearly the wronged party in this story of slavery and freedom. The slave Onesimus has effectively stolen his “property” simply by running away from him. Onesimus ran away hoping to find freedom in the crowded city of Rome. God had a different plan to teach him about a different kind of freedom from a man “now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus.” The Apostle Paul writes of “my child Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my imprisonment.” Onesimus found his freedom in the faith of Christ from a man in chains.
God led Onesimus to Paul in that crowded city. It was receiving grace and freedom that made it possible for him to return to the master he’d run away from. It was receiving grace and freedom that made it possible for Philemon to accept Paul’s word that Onesimus has become part of the fellowship of faith and “more than a slave, a beloved brother, especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.
What began as a story of slavery and freedom God turned into a blessing of grace and freedom for both Philemon and Onesimus.
John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
We all know about keeping schedules don’t we? They depend on arriving at the right place at the right time. That’s why the word “came” defined the reality of the first 5 verses of John for me. There was a plan! There was a time! There was a schedule! There was a baptist and there was a Jesus!
* John “came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.”
* Jesus “came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet …to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—…born of God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen…the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth…For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ”
16 “Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given.”
and that’s still on the schedule. Don’t miss it!
II Corinthians 6:1 As God’s co-workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. 2 For he says, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” [from Isaiah 49:8] I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.
To my co-workers:
“Now” seems like such an insignificant little word compared to these other words in the verses; God, grace, favor, helped and salvation. How important could one little word be? I can answer that for you.
If it weren’t for that one little word we’d have to settle for other words like “then, later, eventually, and sometime.” Ask yourself: how significant faith would be if those words were all God had to offer you?
“Now” may be a small word but it’s an indispensable part of the grace we are urged to receive and respect. “Now” is why God’s Word is called “living.” “Now!” Is the whole point of the narrative of faith.
God – Now! Grace – Now! Favor – Now! Helped – Now! Salvation – Now!
II Corinthians 5:20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Being an ambassador “…as though God were making his appeal through us” become more real to me this week. I wanted to implore these people I really care about but instead my appeal was full of frustrated emotion and more loaded with the need to persuade than the desire that anyone might be reconciled to God. It’s so easy to spout off when you get your mouth and emotion involved. The fact is being an ambassador for Christ has obligations of grace.
I lost track of the reality that grace at it’s most basic level is God working to give me time to change. My motivation was more of the problem than my words were, and I blew it. I disappointed myself, and my two best advocates, Christ and my husband. It’s been a reminder to me of the obligation of, and my need for, grace AND it’s purpose.
Forgiveness has bound me to these people and grace in a new way AND loosed me to transformation “so that in him [Christ] we might become the righteousness of God”…together.