Two Roads, Two Rooms

I’ve been with the Truefaced guys for two or three years now. In that time, I’ve learned a lot from them about sin, grace, and freedom. And I’ve written a lot about it here!

John Lynch is one of these guys. He’s a former high school teacher that got saved by his students. He has an interest in the performing arts, so he delivers his messages with Broadway theatricality. You’ll like him! He’s very funny and really passionate. He’s a great storyteller.

His “Two Roads” message is on YouTube, and it’s incredible. I know a guy that calls it “the .44 Magnum for life,” since the video is just about 44 minutes long.

Watch it! You’ll be so refreshed. It will change your life! My life’s already been changed, and still I could listen to this video every day. You’ll say, “I really have permission to see life like this?”

You’ll say, “This is awesome!”

Called into Freedom

Have you said yes to Jesus? Then you’ve answered your ultimate calling. Now you are a child of God! So live out of who God says you are. Be holy and righteous. And then watch how much more fulfilled you are.

Sometimes we don’t understand how to respond to God’s grace. Sometimes we get into the habit of performing. We do good works and good deeds, and we show the world a cheerful face no matter how scared or helpless we feel inside. We do it hoping that our performance will make us appear good in the eyes of God. But you don’t have to perform. God already said you’re good. He’s already said it!

That’s freedom, man! That’s our freedom! We’re free now because we don’t have to add up. We don’t have to do everything right. We can just be. Every day, we can just be. You can just be a child of the King, who’s in love with you. You can just be a child of the King, who says you’re holy and righteous. You can do absolutely nothing today, and He will still be pleased with you.

Live in that freedom, because that’s grace! Just live in it! Don’t try to save yourself. You can’t replicate grace. Neither can I. I’m not God, so I can’t think like God. (And thank God for that, right? Or we’d all be in trouble!) Just relax and live in your freedom, and rejoice!

God says you’re good! God says you’re holy and righteous! It’s incredible! You mean I can mess up and still be good? I don’t have to worry? I don’t have to carry guilt, or be ashamed of who I am or the mistakes I make? No! I don’t!

And I don’t have to worry about taking this freedom for granted and turning my heart to sin. Holy and righteous people know when they have made mistakes. We know when we’ve done something wrong. The Spirit tells us. “Probably not the best thing you should be doing.” Alright! Good thing I’m forgiven. I can choose not to do it next time, and I don’t have to live in guilt.

Jesus is there saying, “Yeah, alright. I saw what you did. We’re going to have to walk through it now. That’s fine. It’s why I’m here! I would have preferred you made a different choice, sure. It would have been a lot more freeing for us. But you didn’t, so now we walk through it.”

When a holy and righteous child of God makes mistakes, he doesn’t have to earn his way back into God’s grace. You don’t lose out. You’re not rejected from God’s family because He’s not happy with you anymore. You’ll ask Him, ”Are you disappointed in me, God? Are you mad at me?” That’s natural. But He will answer you and He will say, “No, I’m not angry. I’m not disappointed. You’re human. You won’t be perfect until I come back and you no longer live in your flesh. Until that time comes, you are going to sin. And I’m going to be right here with you. I love you!”

Paul, Peter, John, Andrew, and so many other guys were crucified for spreading this message. Why? Because it’s freedom! They went around telling everyone about freedom! They told everyone what Jesus did, and they said, “This is it. You have to know about it! Anybody who tells you something else is trying to control you. They’re trying to keep you from understanding what real freedom is. Grace is real freedom! And what a gift. I can’t believe this just got given to me!”

That’s why we rejoice in God’s grace. It’s freedom!

It’s not freedom to sin. It’s freedom to live! Now we live, not as sinners who are saved, but as saints who sin. From time to time, we will live in unrighteousness. That’s because of flesh. His grace is freedom to live righteously in that knowledge. Amen!

See you Thursday.

Afraid That You Don’t Add Up?

From noon to three, the whole earth was dark. Around midafternoon Jesus groaned out of the depths, crying loudly, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”

Some bystanders who heard him said, “He’s calling for Elijah.” One of them ran and got a sponge soaked in sour wine and lifted it on a stick so he could drink. The others joked, “Don’t be in such a hurry. Let’s see if Elijah comes and saves him.”

But Jesus, again crying out loudly, breathed his last.

At that moment, the Temple curtain was ripped in two, top to bottom. There was an earthquake, and rocks were split in pieces. What’s more, tombs were opened up, and many bodies of believers asleep in their graves were raised. (After Jesus’ resurrection, they left the tombs, entered the holy city, and appeared to many.)

The captain of the guard and those with him, when they saw the earthquake and everything else that was happening, were scared to death. They said, “This has to be the Son of God!” Matthew 27:45-54

We all make mistakes. We’re only human! But we’re also forgiven. When we mess up, we don’t have to live in guilt. Jesus is right there. He lives in us, and He walks through the mess with us.

I know we forget that. We keep expecting ourselves to be perfect, and we keep trying to perfect ourselves for God. I can almost see God shaking His head. He’s saying, “These guys! They actually think they’re going to get rid of sin so that I’ll be close to them! Don’t they know? By the time they get rid of one sin, they’ve already sinned again, in some other way! Curing their own sin is going to be literally impossible for them!”

There’s no way that God would expect us to perfect ourselves. It doesn’t make sense that He would, because it can’t be done! But there’s another reason why He doesn’t expect it. It renders the power of the cross obsolete.

Think about that Temple curtain. The only way that anyone could enter the Holy of Holies was if they had no sin. What if the priest had a bad thought before he walked into that tent? Talk about fear! That’s fear.

We don’t live under fear anymore. We don’t. Jesus took away our reason for fear when He died and the Temple curtain was ripped in two. The very thing that required perfection was split in half, and Jesus said, “That’s over. You walk freely now.”

Now there is no shame. Jesus took it, man! He took your shame! Think about it. If I’m Jesus, and I’m getting mocked, I’m not putting up with it. I’m getting off that cross so that I can scare the hell out of everybody.

But Jesus put up with it. He did it for you! He knew He could get off that cross, but He said no. He hung there instead, and He took all the shame. They spit on Him. They mocked Him. They beat Him. They laughed at Him. And the whole time He said, “I’m taking all this on me. Because 2,000 years from now, I’m going to live in you. I’m going to be right there with you when you start to wonder what you’re doing in life, and if you add up. I’m dying on this cross to let you know that you do. You add up. You’ve done nothing on your own to prove it. Nothing. I’ve done it all. I’m the point system for you now, and it’s all good. You are free!”

That’s the Good News. And that’s truth. That’s truth!

See you Monday.

Embracing Failure @TheCauldron

Did you know that I almost quit baseball? My dad helped me stay the course. I wrote about it at The Cauldron for Father’s Day. Here’s a teaser. Click the link at the end to read the full piece!

Mariano Rivera. Babe Ruth. Christy Mathewson. Sandy Koufax.

Jeremy Affeldt?!

Even now, three World Series rings later, it sounds almost comical when I hear my name mentioned among some of the greatest players in baseball history. Those guys were elite, the best of the best; every one of them a Hall of Famer who left his indelible mark on the game. Me? Not so much. Yet when you check the all-time post-season ERA rankings, there I am.

via Jeremy Affeldt Wins By Embracing Failure — The Cauldron — Medium.

Sola Gratia

What is the goal of life, the thing most worth striving for? I strive to sit before the throne of God and hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

This doesn’t mean that I have a works mentality. Truthfully, I don’t believe my works will get me to heaven. I believe in my faith will get me to heaven. I’m justified by my faith.

But I believe that the works I perform are the result of the life I try to live every day. You can boil my whole theology down to one concept: discipleship. I try to live the lifestyle of Jesus.

We don’t have to resolve the works/faith “issue,” because when we live the lifestyle of Jesus, there is no issue. That’s what you see in James. He said, “Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” (James 2:18)

Some people say that James and Paul were having a disagreement, but they weren’t. They were talking about two different things. When Paul said that you aren’t saved by works, he meant that works alone will not get you into heaven. Paul said, “Look, you’re not going to be able to just do good things and expect to get to heaven.” In my belief, that’s true. But James is talking about a whole different idea. James is talking about the believers, the ones that have already given up their souls to God. When James said, “I will show you my faith by my works,” he was talking about the lifestyle that you live when you’re a believer.

Once you confess that Jesus died for your sins, you are saved. But then what? Nothing? Do you say, “Oh, now I can just sit around and do whatever. My salvation is all about grace and I can just live my life however I want to live it.”

Here’s what James and the other disciples said to that: No! They said, “Live like Jesus!” They didn’t say, “Look, I’ve hung out with Jesus! Now I can just sit around and do whatever.”

The proof is in the persecution they endured. Doing whatever they wanted to do is not what got them persecuted. It was their lifestyle – the lifestyle of Jesus – that got them in trouble. It was a lifestyle that got them crucified upside down. It was a lifestyle that got them thrown into prison. It was a lifestyle that got them stoned to death. The apostles were living a lifestyle that shook people up, man. They were going into pagan Greece and pagan Rome. They walked into the temples of a ton of different Gods. They walked into places where people were having orgies. They walked into these places and said, “No! No! This is not the lifestyle you are supposed to be living! It’s unfulfilling.”

The disciples showed us how to live. They challenged people’s worldviews. That was their lifestyle. And that’s what James is saying. Show me a believer that lives the lifestyle of Jesus. That’s Christianity. But what if you show me a lifestyle that is without works, a lifestyle where you don’t do anything? What is that?

You say you have faith. Let’s see it!

See you Thursday.

Called to the Disciple’s Life

We’re here on this planet for the simplest of reasons: to love our neighbors as ourselves.

When we love our neighbors, we’re happy! That’s because loving your neighbor as yourself is fulfilling.

Last time, I promised to say something about the mentality of discipleship. As we discussed, some people will think that all you have to do is accept Christ. After that, you can sit around and wait for the Second Coming.

That’s not quite right. Saying the words just isn’t enough, not if you want to see your life transformed by the Spirit. You have to live your salvation, and living your salvation is living the lifestyle of Jesus. It’s having the discipleship mentality.

I truly, truly, truly, believe this. Salvation is not the whole story. It is fundamental, sure. It’s the key. It’s the beginning. You have to be saved. You have to recognize what Jesus Christ did. You have to know that He died on that cross. He took your sins. He took the blame. He took it all.

But He also taught us to pray for God’s kingdom on earth. He discipled us. He called us to live the life that He lived.

And that’s simple. Love your neighbor as yourself. Whether you’re rich or poor or in between, your joy will come from the way you use the gifts you’ve been given.

How are we supposed to use the gifts we’ve been given? Use them to live the lifestyle of Jesus! This is what I teach my children. Life isn’t about how much money you make. It’s not about fame, either. It’s not about what you can get. Life is about what you can do. What can you do? Love your neighbor as yourself!

Loving my neighbor as myself is the concept that I’ve built my life around. When I use my gifts to love my neighbor, I feel like I’m fulfilling my life’s goal. It’s fulfilling to do something good. It’s really fulfilling to do something good for somebody else, with no thought of a return. Do something good. Do it simply because you love humanity. It feels great!

Do you believe in Jesus? If so, then how do you use your gifts? Do you use them to love others? Then congratulations! You’re on the course of discipleship. You are living the lifestyle of Jesus.

See you Monday.

Our Salvation Transforms Us

Let me put this question to you: How did your new life begin? Was it by working your heads off to please God? Or was it by responding to God’s Message to you? Are you going to continue this craziness? For only crazy people would think they could complete by their own efforts what was begun by God. If you weren’t smart enough or strong enough to begin it, how do you suppose you could perfect it? Galatians 3:2-4

Last week, I wrote about the self-righteousness of the Sadducees. The Sadducees believed that it was their own actions that made them holy and righteous. We are holy and righteous children of God, yes, but we get no credit for it. We can’t make ourselves holy and righteous. It’s impossible! We live in flesh! It’s only through the blood of Jesus that we are adopted into God’s family and God’s kingdom.

A couple of readers challenged me on this. Am I saying that all you have to do is accept Jesus as your savior, and you’re done? Are we dangerously leading false converts with this message? This is awesome dialogue!

I believe a confession needs to be made. I truly believe that Jesus died for you. You must confess that Jesus is Lord in order to be saved. There has to be an admission there, and it has to be real. And like the Bible says, when we respond to God’s Message, a new life begins.

Imagine a guy who goes to a big conference, and while he is there, someone hits on something in a message that really touches him. It hits him hard. Maybe he’s been having a difficult time, or maybe the conference is allowing him to experience an emotional high. And then someone says, “Do you want to believe in Jesus? Do you want to be saved? Then come forward!” He goes forward. He says the prayers. And he is saved!

Imagine someone who goes through a really emotional time in her life. She meets a Christian who says something that touches her. She makes the confession. Jesus is Lord! She is saved!

But sometimes this isn’t enough. A person goes home after being saved and nothing changes. Their struggles continue. They’ve come from a time of high emotion, and they’ve said the words. But they only said them because it was the right thing to do at the time. They don’t go on to live out their newly found salvation in the lifestyle of Jesus.

If you want to really understand Jesus in your life, you have to live in the mentality of discipleship. You won’t understand it if you don’t live it. You won’t understand it if you just say some words. Mere words don’t substitute for infinite passion. They can’t substitute for a relationship with your Creator and Savior. It has to be relationship, and it has to be heartfelt.

The Bible says you must make a confession with your mouth that Jesus is Lord (Romans 10:9). Good people aren’t saved in the absence of this confession. They may do good things, but the key to salvation is the acknowledgment and confession of who Jesus is.

But I also believe a lot of people say “Jesus is Lord” and they don’t mean it. It needs to be a heart commitment, not just a verbal acknowledgement. In the wake of salvation, you’ll see a lifestyle change. Saved by the Spirit, you will live by the Spirit. (Romans 8:13)

Salvation is not just words. If you’ve been saved but you feel unfulfilled, just try a little discipleship mentality.

And I’ll tell you about that next week!