Always More Grace Than Sin

It can be uncomfortable hanging out with Christians. I might feel like having a beer, but I don’t know if they’ll accept that. Sometimes I’m not even sure if my thoughts will be acceptable. I might literally say to myself, “Is it okay to have this thought? Should I admit to this frustration?”

Meanwhile, my non-Christian friends do not judge me. They don’t care if I have a beer or not. They don’t judge me for my thoughts or frustrations. If I’m feeling frustrated about something and talk about it, they really don’t care. They just accept it. They say, “I know what you mean. I’ve been frustrated that way too.” Their attitude is, “Yeah. You’re normal. Just like everybody else.”

I can sympathize with people who are struggling with something. We’re all human. So I don’t want anyone to feel uncomfortable around me. Believer or non-believer, I don’t judge them. I listen to them and love on them.

A guy can come to me in struggle and pain, and he can confide in me without fear of judgment. He can say, “Hey Jeremy, I’m struggling with something right now, and I want to tell my wife, but I’m afraid. I feel like a bad person.” I’m comfortable with this. I can say, “Yeah, I understand. I could probably go there too. And if I made the choices you made, I would be in the exact same spot.”

I don’t fear becoming like him in his sin. I think this is the mentality that Christians fall into sometimes, but it’s faulty. We have Jesus! He is with us always! There’s always going to be more grace than sin.

If I live by the Spirit, then I will act by the Spirit. So when someone confides in me, I can say, “Let’s figure out a way where we can help each other. I don’t want you to feel condemned around me. I want to love on you, man. I want to help you.”

I look at everybody, believers and non-believers, the same. We all sin. We all struggle. We all feel pain. I want to understand people’s pain. I want to understand their struggles. I want to be able to say, “You know what? I’ve been there, or I could easily go there.” And I want to help.

How many more people would feel comfortable around followers of Jesus if they were treated this way?

The night before Jesus was arrested, He celebrated Passover with the apostles, and then He washed their feet, telling them,

You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. (John 13:13-15)

Jesus is our judge, and yet He came as a servant king. When He knew His time with His beloved followers was ending, He did a job reserved for the lowest servant of the house. Why did He do that? He lowered himself in order to show humility. He said, “I have given you an example. Do as I have done.”

Humility doesn’t say, “I judge you.” Humility says, “I want to help you in your struggle and pain.”

That’s what He taught us. Let’s do that.

See you Wednesday.

Too Peaceful to Wander Astray

The righteous should choose his friends carefully,
For the way of the wicked leads them astray
. (Proverbs 12:26)

We are going to have all kinds of people in our lives. If we can stop judging people, then we can better love them and witness to them.

Still, the Bible says, “Be careful in who you hang out with lest you become like them.” Does that mean believers should shut themselves off from non-believers? I don’t think so. I don’t fear non-believers. In Christ, I don’t fear becoming like them. In Christ, I can just love on them. Why wouldn’t I?

Remember, Jesus is the hot water. Hot water flows through a copper pipe and the pipe changes. It gets hot. I may not be able to change myself, but just like a copper pipe, I can be changed. Jesus can change me. I turn that hot water on, Jesus flows through me, and I change.

I don’t have to turn on the hot water, of course. I can continue to live in my irritability and say, “What can I do? I will never change in my flesh. I’m a copper pipe, and always will be, and so is everyone else.” That’s the mentality that fears the non-believer.

But why would I be so fatalistic, when I can access Christ? The quicker I turn to my Savior, the quicker I’m going to change. So I’m hitting that hot water. The more I do it, the longer it stays on. It’s running through me a little more all the time.

We have access to all the hot water we need. And the more we hit that hot water, the faster Jesus flows through us. The peace of Christ comes over us.

It’s through Christ that we live in peace. It’s only through Christ that we live in His peace.

If you’re at peace, you’re slow to anger. You’re quick to forgive. And you become an encourager. You don’t have to be angry all the time, or deal with the burdens of lust or fear. This is the whole awesomeness of Jesus. Whatever our particular burden of sin might be, in Christ we don’t have to be that way.

That’s why I don’t fear hanging out with non-believers. The hot water of Jesus turns me into a blessing to them. They don’t lead me astray. I lead them to Him!

More on this next time. See you Saturday.

Comfortable in the World

Have you heard comments like these?

“You Christian people think you’re better than us. Christians judge everything everybody does.”

“It’s the Christians who are always saying, ‘Oh my gosh, you’re doing this, you’re bad.’”

People who don’t even know me will look at me and say, “Don’t you make mistakes? Don’t you have flaws?”

Well, of course I do!

Obviously somebody along the way has told these people that if they become Christian, then they’ll be perfect in everything they do. Someone has told them that if they become Christian, then they’ll never make another mistake, and they’ll be better than all the non-Christians who do make mistakes.

I pity the people who think that way. As followers of Jesus, we’ve somehow convinced ourselves that we are better than other people in our flesh. That’s why we judge. That’s why we start saying things like, “Man, I don’t think you should be drinking. You shouldn’t have beer. You shouldn’t even have wine.” Or we say, “You know what? I heard what came out of your mouth the other day. You cussed the other day. That’s really not good. The Bible says no unhealthy thing should come out of your mouth.”

Well, you know what? Whether I cuss in anger or I say “Shoot!” in anger, it’s the same thing. Some believers think the sin lies in the actual word, but it doesn’t. It’s the emotion behind the word that is the sin. I was angry. That was my sin. Yet somehow we think we’re better than others because we say “Shoot” instead of its coarser cousin.

I hang out with believers that are really comfortable in the world. They’re totally comfortable hanging out with everybody. They can hang out with people that aren’t Christian and feel totally fine around them. They’re comfortable because they aren’t judging everything people do or judging every motive.

The believers that have problems with judging are the ones that tell me, “Oh, you’re not supposed to hang out with outsiders, because they probably don’t live like you, and they probably don’t think like you.” They’ll say, “I don’t want to hang out with outsiders or non-believers, because they’re not good to be around. It’s evil.” I hear that and I say, then what was Jesus doing? That’s all he hung out with!

Christians have just got to quit judging. We have to stop. As long as we are judging, we will never be comfortable in the world. People in the faith will always have outsiders in their lives, and we can’t live comfortably with them if we’re always judging.

You know what else? When we’re judging them, we can’t witness to them.

Worst of all, we certainly can’t love them.

See you Wednesday.

Even Saints are Sinners

The more I focus on Jesus, the more peace I find. I’m focused on what’s in the present. I’m aware of what’s going on at any given moment. I’m mindful of my own feelings and reactions.

I might be driving down the road and a guy cuts me off and gives me the finger. It makes me so mad! I just want to snap on that guy. But I don’t. Instead I just notice how irritable I am, and breathe in the sweet love of Jesus.

In the past, I have snapped on that guy. I’ve been angry. I’ve been frustrated. I’ve cussed people out. And yes, I have flipped people off. I’ve done all those things. As a believer!

I still feel anger and frustration. The difference is that I’m getting a lot better at not acting on it. I have the ability to calm down. I can head off the anger and frustration. I do it by living in the peace of God.

You can always run into a believer who says, “Well, before I met Jesus I did all those things too. Yeah, before I met Jesus, man, I swore all the time. Before I met Jesus I was drinking and smoking. Before I met Jesus I was lusting. That’s all over with now.”

I always want to say, “But I have Jesus! And I was angry just this morning! I sin all the time, and I have to keep a penitential heart! So how come it’s so easy for you? That doesn’t seem fair. In fact, it kind of stinks!”

Okay, obviously I don’t believe it when people tell me that they don’t sin because they have Jesus. That’s a fairy tale. We all sin. But when you get the wrong idea, and believe that accepting Jesus means that you don’t sin, then you have to try to look the part. You think, “I’m a Christian, so I’m not supposed to cuss. I’m a Christian, so I’m not supposed to lust, or get angry or jealous. I’m a Christian, so I’m supposed to have a perfect marriage. And my children should be perfect too.”

We try so hard to play the part of “sinners that are saved,” that we forget who we truly are, “saints that sin.”

Nobody is perfect, no matter how much they try to look the part. Seriously! Nobody! If you never sin and your marriage and children are perfect, then what do you need Jesus for?

See you Saturday.

Everybody Is Just Like You

Every human being, in their flesh, is imperfect. We can’t change that. A copper pipe can never be anything but a copper pipe. We can never be anything but flawed.

But we can be changed. We can be changed the same way a copper pipe can be changed. A copper pipe can heat up when hot water flows through it. A human being can be changed by Jesus when He flows through us. If you want to change, you can be changed. All you need is Jesus.

Jesus was God Incarnate. He was the whole thing. He was the copper pipe and the hot water. In fact, He was instant heat, a hot water pipe that’s hot all the time. Jesus was always perfect.

He knew that if we could accept Him for who He is, and let the Spirit of God run through us, then we would change. That’s why He said, “I am what you need me to be. I am God, I am everything, I am the great I Am.”

That’s why sinners followed Jesus. He hung out with them. He loved them! He loved them because He saw them as sinners. He knew they were people of flesh and blood, imperfect and flawed. He knew they had nothing going for them. But He didn’t say, “You’re a bad person to be around because you’re angry.” He didn’t say, “I’m not staying here with you. I heard you use a cuss word.” He didn’t say, “Shame on you for being jealous! I’ll never hang around with you.”

No. He never says any of those things. Jesus looks at a sinner and says, “I created this person standing in front of me. I know her issues. I know his struggles.” He looks at us, and He loves us.

As the church, we have to try a lot harder to love like Jesus. We have to get to the point where we can look at outsiders, outside the faith looking in, and love on them. We have to stop looking at them in judgment. We have to stop saying to them, “Well, you don’t go to church, so you must not be a Christian.” We have to stop saying, “You don’t believe in Jesus, so you’re not as good as me.”

Just remember this simple fact: you are the same as everybody else, flawed and imperfect. We are all sinners. Nobody is exempt. The only thing that can make us different is Jesus.

When you look at people, remind yourself of this. This is reality. If you didn’t have Jesus, then you would be exactly like them. In fact, you are exactly like them. You still make the same mistakes they make. You have the same struggles as everyone else. There’s only one difference, and it’s Jesus. You don’t get the credit! You simply know that in Christ, you can be changed.

So the next time you feel like judging somebody, remember that they are just like you. Let Jesus run through you, and love on them instead.

If we can remember that, then we can love people like Jesus loves them. We can do it because we’ve let Him in.

See you Saturday.

Calming the Storm of Anger

It’s not my goal to judge people. I’m a person too, which makes me just like everyone else. How can I judge?

Let’s take anger as an example, because there’s plenty of that going around. When I see anger in someone, I don’t say, “Hey man, you’ve got a serious anger issue. You need to clean that up.” I don’t even want to think that way.

Why not? Because I get angry too! What if I had a serious anger issue? A lot of people do. Suppose I had never asked God into my life. Without God, I could also be a very angry person. In fact, I’ve been there! I’ve been a very angry person!

Think of those times when you come home from work and you’re irritable. In your irritability, you speak sharply to your husband or wife, or you’re mean to your kids. Your spouse and your kids are thinking, “Why is she so angry? Why is he being mean? Mom/Dad is always so angry. I don’t understand!”

Well, everybody’s angry sometimes. Everybody experiences irritability after a day at work or home. That’s why we don’t judge each other for having anger issues.

In our flesh, every single person has a capacity for sin. Everyone thinks, feels, or does things that expose our imperfections. The Bible  teaches us to look past judgment and discover the value of choosing to let the Spirit of God into our lives.

Try this. Go back to those times that you came home from work and you were irritable. You didn’t want to take your anger out on your family, but you had to go in the house. You probably didn’t even want it to happen, but they saw your anger.

What can you do differently this time? Pray! Tell God that you’re irritable. Tell Him, “God, I know I’m angry, so I need you. You’re my peace. You’re my understanding. You calm storms! I would like to be filled with your Spirit right now.”

This is the answer! Turn to the Spirit. Turn to Him and let Him flow into your soul. Say, “God, I need the peace that only you can give me.”

Once you start doing that regularly, it will become easier and more natural for you to do it. Then you’ll start doing it quicker. You’ll start believing it sooner. And when you start believing it, it happens. Your irritability will leave you, and you’ll become peaceful. You won’t enter the house with anger, you’ll enter with peace. Now your family sees you and knows you as a happy, joyful person, all because you chose to ask the Spirit in.

There are so many people out there who do not choose to invite the Spirit in. But now, you don’t judge them. You don’t look at anybody having the exact same struggles as yours and say, “Why are you always like that?”

No, you don’t do that anymore. You don’t need to ask, because you know. They are you!

The only difference is that you choose – hopefully – to live by the Spirit of God.

See you Wednesday.

Looking With New Eyes

The initial intention for Eden was complete beauty and peace. We would live in harmony and love for one another. We would look out for each other and want to help each other.

But what we live in right now isn’t paradise. We live in a judgmental society. When sin came into the world, judgment flooded right in with it. We saw it with Adam and Eve. She told me to do it. I’m sure there was an argument right outside the garden, as soon as they were kicked out. And then we saw it with Cain and Abel. One judged the other for being more loved by God, and killed him.

Judgment entered the world when sin entered the world, and that’s why Jesus says, Hey. Don’t judge people. You have no idea what’s going on in their lives. Besides, you are one choice and one decision away from being just as bad as you think they are.

Jesus says, “Don’t judge,” but we do it a lot. We look at our spouses, and we say, “When are they ever going to change?” Or you look at your mom and dad, and you throw your hands in the air, saying, “They’re never going to change. They’ve always done this, my entire life.” Or you look at friends, employees, or co-workers, and you find yourself saying, “Man! This guy just doesn’t get it. Isn’t he ever going to change? It just seems like he’s constantly doing the same thing, over and over again.”

When will that other guy change? You need to realize that you will never change, unless you access Jesus.

When people access Jesus, they start to change. When they accept who the Creator is, then they understand what He stands for, which is everything good. The Bible says nothing from heaven is evil. Everything that comes from heaven is good. So if you have Jesus in you, then you will change, because you will have goodness in you.

As a living human made of flesh and bone, you will not change. You’re just like a pipe in the kitchen plumbing, and once a pipe, always a pipe.

But you’re a hot water pipe, and Jesus is like hot water. Let Jesus flow through you, and He will change you. You’ll heat up! You’ll still be a man or a woman, but you’ll be a new creation in Him. (2 Cor. 5:17)

This word picture of the copper pipe is amazing to me. It has helped me look at people in a different, non-judgmental way. Maybe I think I don’t like someone, or maybe I feel like I don’t like their attitude. Or maybe I get around people who seem like they’re always negative and it irritates me. But the reality of it is that every single day I’m one decision away from being the person I’m judging.

And so I look at everything with new eyes. I look at my coworkers and friends, I look at my wife and children, and I look at all the people around me, and it’s so much easier now to love them without judging them. I do my best to not judge them, because I’m exactly like them!

We’re all copper pipes. We’ll never change. But I choose to turn on the hot water. That choice is really powerful, because it lets Jesus run through me. Jesus allows me to react positively, even to people who are different than I am.

I will tell you more about that next time. See you Saturday.