NIV Philippians 3:7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.
Thankfully most of us would never have to say we’ve “lost all things” to gain Christ. It’s likely we weren’t as successful as Paul was at keeping the rules in our old life, either, but we were certainly trying. Many of us would say we just “went along to get along” confused about the relationship of success and righteousness. That same confusion that left us unsure what to put our faith in was there back in Paul’s day too. Was righteousness only about right behavior and obeying the right rules?
Paul came to consider his list of successes as “garbage” but it was that old confusion that became our “garbage.” Christ became the contrast that showed us this reality; trying to figure out what we could make of ourselves was “garbage” compared to what God had in mind for us; “the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.”
NASB Romans 8:Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.
The whole chapter of Romans 8 and especially these verses are part of the treasure of my life of faith. They are the reality of a very special dream I had. I don’t know how much credence you give to dreams but this one changed my life as a relatively new believer more than half a lifetime ago.
Jesus had come to take me to see something with him. I felt secure. I was with him and he held my hand as we looked together at a grotesque museum-like head and shoulders statue on a pedestal sitting alone in the room. It wasn’t until we were leaving and I turned to look again at that ugly thing…one last time…that I saw it was me.
I awakened from the dream with an actual physical feeling of love for Jesus. He loved me enough to hold my hand until I understood that ugly statue was no longer me. That dream became My Love Song for him. There are more lyrics and I hope I still have them written down…somewhere…but this verse and chorus are the response of a full heart I will always remember.
My Love Song
You came to me in a dream and showed me what I could be
You taught me that I could love myself because of your love for me
And now I’m ready to share what I’ve learned
Of how filling your love can be
Through the miracle of love set to music
Flowing from you through me.
This is my love song for you Lord.
I sing it for the joy of loving you.
The words and the music you have placed in my heart
Are the gift that I give now to you.
You are the beat and the rhythm.
You are the lyric and tune.
You are the music singing in my heart
You are the song.
Romans 8:1 Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life [a]in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 3 For what the Law could not do, [b]weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of [c]sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. NASB
Everything that led up to that day of condemnation so long ago has led you to this day we’ve come to call Good Friday. We get a lot of practice learning about the crucifixion of Christ being the bridge of forgiveness between us and God and between himself and us. There’s a third reality to that sacrifice that’s much harder to wrap our heads around. It was a sacrifice to set us “free from the law of sin and of death… free to believe “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
That’s what what this solemn day is about. The sinless Savior did what no law, priest, pastor or counselor could do. He condemned the sin that our human flesh could so easily use against us and replaced it with his promise that we could be free to walk according to his Spirit. This day the promise of forgiveness became our reality.
Matt 3:8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.
If you’ve had any experience with dieting you actually understand the challenges, and the need, for repentance better than most. Faith is like a diet; it requires consistent and persistent stepping on the scale and weighing in.
Repentance without Jesus may be possible, but like most diets it’s often only a temporary change that hopes for a permanent effect. The challenging part of any diet, even a diet of faith, is there are times we need to tweak our behavior. It’s an ongoing kind of repentance.
It’s very likely you’ve experienced the reality of repentance that’s permanent…your salvation. Jesus, in his grace, dealt with what we could clearly see had to go in that repentance but even then he knew there were things we kept hidden from ourselves that must be fixed.
These days leading up to Easter are not some “churchy” ritual to observe; they’re meant to be very personal. This is the time to weigh in. As hard as it is, we’ve got to step on the scale God has provided through his Spirit, examine our present reality, accept what is revealed…and…respond. That’s how we “produce fruit in keeping with repentance.”
Luke 17:3 So watch yourselves. “If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. 4 Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.”
I thought I clearly understood the relationship between repentance and forgiveness. I repented, God forgave. That’s the model to follow, right? “They” repent, “I” forgive. Hmmm…I’m having to think a little deeper about that because seven times in a day seems like too much to ask.
Could it be that there’s critical heart-change element tied to forgiveness just as there is for repentance? If my words speak forgiveness while my heart does not, isn’t that just a “prettified” form of judgment? In that case, who is more in need of forgiveness…them or me? Does that mean the reality of forgiveness is yet another part of my own repentance?
Why did that verse have to begin with “So watch yourselves?” I’m sorry Lord, that I even have to ask these questions. I thought I understood. Forgive me.
28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 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. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
We celebrate Advent as a season of Good Tidings of Great Joy, but there’s more to that reality. God purposefully chose to send his only son, Jesus, to live among us knowing the dark and painful realities that lay ahead. There would be no reason to celebrate at all if weren’t for God’s intervention – the birth of “The” Advent – into a world full of broken, “weary and burdened”…and desperate people.
That came back full force when I decided to look back at past journal entries for December 14 and found this startling and heartbreaking event from Advent, 2012.
“The Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting occurred on December 14, 2012, in Newtown, Connecticut, when 20-year-old Adam Lanza fatally shot 20 children between 6 and 7 years old, as well as six adult staff members.”
Sandy Hook broke many hearts then, including mine. I wouldn’t have chosen the memory of that massacre for this Advent but sometimes it’s the gaps in a broken heart that make room for remembering the reality of why “The” Advent still matters today. Come into my heart Lord Jesus.
The Presidential election is finally over! I suspect everyone can honestly say “that’s one for the books” and that’s true. It’s now become the reality of recorded history. Imagine future generations of high school students sitting in history class trying their best to stay awake as they are forced to study this one year in politics that kept us glued to the TV and up half the night.
Romans 13:1 is my challenge to accept another reality of an even older history that’s now the cutting edge of Plan Be.
“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.”