Righteous and Self-Righteous

In God’s eyes, you are holy and righteous. You really are! When He looks at you, He sees His beloved child.

You are a precious child of God! What could be more awesome?

Yet some people hesitate to own this identity. I think they fear coming across as self-righteous. It makes sense. We often confuse “holy and righteous” with “self-righteous.” We just need to understand the difference.

According to Google, self-righteous means “having or characterized by a certainty, especially an unfounded one, that one is totally correct or morally superior.” Self-righteousness is accompanied by “indignation and complacency.” Synonyms for self-righteousness include: sanctimonious, holier-than-thou, self-satisfied, smug, priggish, pious, moralizing, preachy, superior, and hypocritical. Self-righteous is the opposite of humble.

The Bible describes the Sadducees as pretty self-righteous. Not “holy and righteous,” but “self-righteous.” The Sadducees believed they were holy and righteous, because they were very strict about keeping the law. As a result they came across as self-righteous, because they judged others by their works. That’s why Jesus didn’t really like them very much. They didn’t understand that you can’t get yourself into God’s kingdom, no matter what you do. It’s God’s kingdom. He invites you in.

You don’t go to your neighbor’s home and say, “Here, I paid my taxes. Now I get to live in your house.” Of course not! You can’t live there unless they invite you.

It’s the same with God’s kingdom. You don’t decide when you are holy and righteous, because you can’t earn it. It has nothing to do with what you do. Nothing at all!

The Bible describes the Sadducees as self-righteous, and self-righteousness is actually just being full of yourself. The Bible says to boast in nothing. Salvation is a gift from God.

A prince cannot make himself a prince. He is born a prince. He feeds from his mother the Queen’s bosom, and every day people tell him, “You’re the prince.” What makes him the prince? He didn’t do anything. The King’s his dad!

In the same way, you didn’t do anything to become God’s precious child. He created you! That’s it! And isn’t it enough?

So if you boast about anything, boast about what Christ did for you. Through His blood, His righteousness is on you. Through His blood, His holiness is on you. You’re holy and righteous because of what He did, not because of anything you do.

The Bible says, “you in Me, and I in you.” Anything apart from that is rubbish.

When you live out of the identity of holiness and righteousness, by grace and in grace, you will want to do good things. You will look at the people around you, believers and non-believers, and in them you will see the image of God. You’ll love them for who they are. You’ll want to treat them lovingly. And you will.

That’s a natural result of salvation — not the reason for salvation.

You can’t save them any more than you can save yourself. No matter what you do, you cannot walk up to someone and say, “Hey! I can get you into heaven!” You can’t get anybody into heaven. Heaven is God’s kingdom. He invites you in.

All you can do is speak the Good News. Tell everyone what Jesus did. Tell them about His grace. Help them see how awesome it is that He allows us to come into His throne room. All you have to do is receive Him. Simply receive Him. Confess what His blood has done for you, making you holy and righteous. You are beloved. God says you are!

Once your heart connects to this, you will worship Jesus because of what He did. He set you free! His door is open! You will become part of the kingdom of Heaven and receive all its benefits. All of them!

When you accept His sacrifice, you feast!

See you Friday.

Breaking Free of Fear and Shame

Are you doing good works so that God will smile on you?

How’s that working out for you?

When I meet people motivated by a works mentality and ask them how it’s going, they invariably say, ”Ugh. I’m exhausted.” Yes, you are. The works mentality will exhaust you. It will burn you out.

You will never be able to do enough to feel like you’re righteous!

Bottom line: a works mentality doesn’t work.

Don’t weary yourself this way. Jesus died so that we would be made holy and righteous. That was His sacrifice for you. Let Him in.

The Bible says that the power of the cross is meaningless to those who don’t understand. So let’s understand. Why did Jesus sacrifice Himself?

He did it so that you, in your human flesh, wouldn’t have to make yourself righteous. He did it so you wouldn’t have to perform this impossible task. That was the concept. Jesus earned your place in heaven. He did it for you! He knew you could never do it for yourself. Jesus, the only man that walked the Earth with perfect thoughts, did it for you.

Now you never have to say, “God, look what I did to receive the Kingdom of Heaven.” You don’t have to work to exhaustion, failing yourself every day, being ashamed of who you are.

I know it’s hard to come to grips with that, but when you do, you are transformed. Man, Jesus! You did that! You did that to eliminate sin from our lives! Now we don’t have to be afraid of God!

And if that wasn’t enough, you resurrected! You conquered death. Now we don’t have to fear that either!

Jesus, thank you. You brought me into the Kingdom, to dine with the King. Every day there is a wedding feast because of all the new people coming in, and I get to go. Every day! I’m allowed at the banquet table no matter what I’ve done, because Jesus has stood in for me, and by His death, made me holy and righteous. The blood of Jesus has been poured over me. I confess that. Now God doesn’t see my sins. He doesn’t see my sins! He sees me! And He loves me. We are all precious in His sight.

Jesus broke your bonds of sin and shame, fear and failure. Now you are welcomed and loved for who you are: His beloved and precious child.

That’s freedom!

See you Tuesday.

Entrusted with The Gospel

To His followers, Jesus said, “I’m not only here to die for you. I want to show you how to live. And once I show you how to live, I’m going to redeem you and give you a second chance.”

To us, Jesus says, “Now that I have shown you how to live, you can be like me. And because I have died for you, you’re redeemed. Because of my blood, you can come into heaven. I did that for you because right now, without my redeeming blood, you don’t have a shot. You can’t live the right way. There is too much sin in the world.”

Second chances are so important. We all need one. We all need a lot of them! And that’s why we turn to Jesus. His blood is so powerful. There are too many things working against us now, here in the world, telling us to live the wrong way. We need His blood. Without it, we have no hope.

This is also why we need to do justice now. We can’t wait for Jesus to return. It’s our job to show others what Jesus showed us. We don’t wait for Him because we have to reflect Him now. People don’t really understand who He is, and without Him, they have no hope.

Who is He? For one thing, He’s a risk taker. He entrusted the Gospel to twelve men and a prostitute. He gave them the Gospel to take into the world. He relied on them to show people who He was, and then to remind people who God is. And Mary and those men did it. They did it well!

And now He’s asking us to do the same thing. He’s entrusted His Gospel to us. We have to continue that heritage. We have to continue the legacy left to us by Mary and the apostles. We have to show people who Jesus was.

Some people have lost sight of that. Some people think that the legacy of Jesus is make sure you go to church on Sunday, hang out within four walls and a roof, and then go home. That is not the legacy of Jesus! Jesus walked the streets! He hung out with people. He hung out with sinners, and He didn’t judge them.

Jesus said, “I created you and I understand you. I don’t live like you but I can see how you would sin. You’re going to need a lot of forgiveness, because you’re going to mess up. You’re going to need my blood, because you are going to tank it. All the time.”

Jesus knew how hard it would be for us. So He showed us how to live and then He gave us a second chance. Then, He asked us to make sure the world understands.

See you Friday.


When you get into stressful situations, you probably start to get a little irritated. Maybe you get angry. You might even snap! I haven’t always handled stress well. Sometimes I’ve been pretty bad at it.

Dealing with failure and conflict is part of being human.

In my baseball career, there was a lot of success. And there was a lot of failure! In fact, I succeeded so much at the end of my career because my early failures were so bad. Those failures taught me how to handle stress a little bit better.

Even when I got better at it, stress still presented a challenge. One season, when I was wth the Giants, I lost my temper during a game in Toronto. When I came out of the game I kicked some stuff, I punched a water cooler, and I kicked some chairs in the clubhouse. In other words, I did not handle it well at all.

It was humbling! I had to talk to some of my teammates, and I had to sit down with my manager. I had to tell them I was sorry, and that I knew I should have handled it better. We talked it out after the fact, and everything worked out in the end. But it wasn’t easy.

To humble yourself before athletes as an athlete, one who tries to carry himself with confidence (but not cockiness), is a real challenge. It’s a challenge in any situation to humble yourself and say, “I was wrong. That’s the truth, and I’m sorry.” A lot of guys can’t do that. But as Christian men, Godly men, that’s what we have to do.

You have to know that when you make a mistake, your first question should be, “How should I be like Jesus in this scenario? How can I share in the image of God?” You do it by apologizing, and asking for forgiveness from the people you affected.

I’ve learned to do that. I’ve learned to do it well! I did it through awareness. I maintain awareness of my true self as an image-bearer of God. And yet I remember that, in my flesh as a human being, I can fail. You have to accept that failure is part of being human.

There is strength in that. Part of our strength as Christian men and women is recognizing that we are human. We are going to make mistakes, and we have to apologize for them.

And that’s the easy part, because you also have to forgive yourself. That’s a huge challenge. To forgive ourselves, we have to overcome fear. Yes, fear is the obstacle!

The fear goes something like this: “If I forgive myself for something I did, and then I let it go, then I’ll forget how bad it was and I’ll do it again.”

Sound familiar? We have a hard time forgiving ourselves. We think we need to live in the guilt. We think that as long as we live in the guilt, we won’t repeat our mistakes. It’s our way of saying, “As long as I can feel the sting, I won’t make that mistake again.”

Trust me, this is the hard way to do things. And it’s not what God wants.

Once you’ve been forgiven, it’s time to move on. You don’t need to live in the memory. You don’t need the sting to keep yourself on track. You’ve humbled yourself and asked for forgiveness. You’ve handled your mistakes directly and with humility. You’ve learned. You’ve become a better person. That’s growth. You can let it go!

The people around you forget about it, and that’s your affirmation. That’s Jesus, reflecting back to you!

So don’t hold onto that sting. Trust in that forgiveness.

You have no condemnation now, because of what Jesus did on the cross. You’ve been forgiven by the King of Kings! And if He can forgive you, then it’s okay. Forgive yourself.

See you Tuesday.

Heavy Burdens

No man shall live for himself. This is so important to me that I’ve had it tattooed on my left forearm. I want to be reminded of it every day. I want to talk to people about it. I want to stir a movement around it. I want to raise my sons to live by it. This is my heart. It’s the way to a fulfilling life.

That doesn’t mean it’s always easy. Sometimes, it even feels like a burden. I try to serve as Christ served. I try to love my neighbor and live for others. But sometimes it’s just hard to do.

I can get annoyed. I can get frustrated. And when I do, I’m tempted to start reacting that way. I want to be selfish! I think, “It would be so much easier right now if I didn’t have to represent Jesus. It would be so much easier if I could just do whatever I want to do.”

In my flesh, I want to just let go and be frustrated, and I want to react out of frustration. Or I want to just let go and be angry, and then react out of anger. The temptation can be so strong! Obviously, sometimes I do act out of anger or frustration. As long as we have flesh on our bones, we will struggle with this.

Sometimes, self-control really does feel like a burden.

My little boys are always watching me. And you know what? They act like me. I can see it. When I’m not doing well, or I’m not reacting well to challenges, they reflect that back to me. If I react to things with frustration, they react to things with frustration. If I react to things out of anger, so do they.

And then they get in trouble and I don’t! I’m sure they see that, and think it’s not fair.

(I do get in trouble. They just don’t see it. Right?)

Selflessness and self-control are very hard, and very important. It’s so important to represent Christ the right way for our children. So it can be burdensome. Sometimes, I don’t want to react like Jesus. Sometimes, I just want to react my way.

Even service can be burdensome. It can be burdensome to fight for it, and to really understand what it means. It can be burdensome to wake up every day and serve. Serving people is exhausting at times. It really is. Especially if you’re not being served in return.

Jesus, man, think about Jesus! He said, “I came to Earth to serve, not to be served.” That’s huge. People hear that, and they will say, “Oh, that is so cool.” And yes, it is! But guess what? It can be very difficult to do. When you’re serving all the time, and you’re not being served in return, that little tank of love you have can run low.

Then the doubts creep in, where you’re like, “Hey, man, I need something in return here. I need some validation. Is anything I’m doing all that important?”

Jesus served us, no matter what. But I think He got exhausted. I’m sure of it. I think He finally showed it in the Garden of Gethsemane when He started sweating blood. He must have been saying, “I’m exhausted, and I’m about to die for people who will eventually deny that I even existed. I know what I’m about to take on. There’s going to be a lot of pain.” What a burden. A stress level like that? Jesus sweated blood.

He was never a sinner, but this was a moment where He showed us just how exhausting it can be to constantly serve. Jesus was constantly needed. People were constantly asking things of him. He did it the best of anybody. He’s God! And even He got exhausted.

We’re not going to do it nearly as well as He did. We’re not going to be as reliable and repetitive in our ability to serve as He was. But we’ve got to do our best. When service grows heavy, when it gets tough, you really have to ask the Spirit for strength. You have to ask Him for wisdom, and knowledge, and understanding. He will teach you. He will show you how to represent Christ every day. And He’ll restore you. You can rest in that.

More on this next time. See you Friday.

Find Your Fulfillment in Work

We were created to love our neighbors as ourselves, with the same love that Jesus has for us. That’s why it’s so fulfilling. It feels so good. You feel so good when you love your neighbor! It feels good whether you’re a Christian or not. Loving your neighbor is loving like Jesus. Love for your neighbor is His love. It’s the love that makes you tick, and enjoy life.

There are no limits to this love, either. There’s no law against it. You can love your neighbor in any environment, and in any job or career.

Why do you work? Obviously, you work to earn a paycheck. And lots of us work because we want to earn tons of money. Why not? There’s nothing wrong with tons of money!

But why stop there?

Most of us can do something more.

Maybe you’re not earning tons of money yet. Maybe at the end of the month, you only have an extra fifty cents. Maybe you have a dollar extra, or even two. You may not think you can do much with that, but you can. You can pay for someone’s day.

Imagine that. One or two dollars is the same amount of money that people in some countries make in a day. It doesn’t matter how hard they work, or how many hours they put in. One or two dollars is all they can earn. That’s all anyone will pay them. This is chronic, intractable poverty, and it’s real.

So if you give a little extra, you can double somebody’s pay for one whole day. You really do have the ability to do that!

A lot of us work for more than money. A lot of us work hard because we’ve also set goals. We say, “I want to achieve something great! I want to get that raise, or that promotion, so that’s my goal. That’s achievement, man! That’s doing something great.”

That’s awesome, because there is so much you can do with that kind of ambition! Think about it. What’s the point of being great, if it’s just to be great? That’s boring. Wouldn’t you rather turn that ambition into a means to an end?

Are you working hard because you want to be the president of your company? Yes? Okay. But why?

“Well,” you might say, “because that’s my goal!”

But why is it your goal? What are you aiming for? Two million dollars a year? Ten? Fifteen? That’s awesome, but why? Why do you want to be rich? What for?

You might be thinking that you’d like to buy cars and boats and houses. You probably want to fly all over the world and enjoy luxuries. I understand! I think almost everybody understands. But the thing is, you can only do that so much. There are only so many boats or cars or houses you can buy before you start to get bored.

As a baseball player, I was all over the income map. I started out in apartments with the minimum, and now I live in a beautiful home. And I’ve learned that they both achieve the same thing. I sit on the couch and watch TV. I go in the kitchen and cook food.

It’s not like I wake up every morning in awe. It eventually becomes normal. It’s just a place to live.

So to me, if the only reason you want to work hard is to be in a beautiful home, eventually you’ll be disappointed. We all need more. We want fulfillment, man. That’s what we really want.

I understand working hard because you want to have a nice house for your family. We all want safety and comfort. But we can do so much more. We can dream much, much bigger dreams, and we can achieve them, too.

I found fulfillment in working hard because it gave me the ability to help out someone else. There are so many people out there who work just as hard as I ever did, and will never, ever, ever, be able to make more than two or three dollars a day. Those are the people I keep in my thoughts, every day of my life.

Did you know that you can actually help someone start a business, in countries like Uganda, Kenya, India, or Haiti?  You don’t even need much money. You can do microloans.

Here’s an idea. Get together with your yoga club or your youth group and put in a well. Depending on where you put your efforts, you can provide clean water for a whole village for as little as $2,000. Or you can use all that hard work and ambition and go as high as $10,000. Challenge yourselves!

There are a lot of things a well can do that we don’t think about, like provide education for a village’s children.

I got an education, and I never had to think twice about it. One morning my parents said, “You have to go to school,” and so I went to school. But there are kids all over the world who say, “I’d like to go to school. But I’m too sick. I don’t have clean drinking water. I’m literally wasting away from diarrhea. I’m so weak that I can’t walk.”

Or they say, “I want to go to school. But I don’t have time. My mom needs clean water to cook food and wash clothes, and we need drinking water too. But the well with the clean water is in another village, so I have to walk seven miles a day to bring forty gallons home.”

That’s why I want to encourage you to work hard and achieve at a high level! Then you can get together with three other people, and the four of you can chip in $2,000 each. With that, you can provide fresh water for 1500 people for life. You will eliminate 90% of their diseases. The kids can go to school and get educated, just like we got educated, without ever thinking twice about it.

If we can truly grasp what other people are going through, we’re going to want to work harder. Our goals will change. Our concept of greatness will change! You’ll say, “I want to be the president of this company so that I can make the rules.” Then when you become president you’ll say, “The rule is that a portion of this company’s funds is going to build wells.”

What do you think of that? Aspire to be a successful entrepreneur, so that you can take your company and go help people!

The world is full of opportunities for fulfillment, if you’re not just working for a paycheck and thinking only of your own comfort. There is so much you can achieve, if you start thinking about how to love your neighbor! That’s when you’ll really start to tick. That’s when you’ll truly enjoy life!

A Movement Conceived in Love

Last week, I described the ways that God has chosen to teach me about suffering, poverty, and injustice.

The more I study, the more He shows me. And I don’t get discouraged.

It’s the opposite! This growing awareness stokes a fire in me! Growing awareness means a growing passion to help. I want to serve people the way that Jesus served them. Jesus loved people! He showed His love through service, so that’s what I want to do. I want to stir a movement of people, all with the same idea in mind.

God’s love is at the heart of this movement I want to inspire.

It’s a movement that begins and ends with Jesus. It’s a movement that begins and ends with knowing Him and His love. It’s a movement that begins and ends with following Him, and realizing His mission.

Do you want to know what God wants you to do? Look at what Jesus did. That’s all you need.

Jesus redeemed people. He had a relationship with them.  He loved on them. And that’s why when He spoke, people listened to Him. They gave Him the right to have a voice in their lives.

And when they did, what did He say? He said, “The opportunity you have here is to love God. To love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. And to love your neighbor as yourself.”  That’s it! Just love God and love others.

But we don’t love others. We just don’t.

Why do I say that? Well, are you telling me that you want to be enslaved? Are you telling me that you want to starve and eat dirt? So many kids are doing that, just to feed their appetite. How can we say we love them, when we wouldn’t want that for ourselves?

Do you want to drink the same water that you relieved yourself in, and bathed yourself in, and washed your dishes in? We wouldn’t want to do that! But for so many villages, this is reality.

So I want us to spread the idea of this commandment, this awesome commandment to love others as ourselves. This commandment is not about following a list of do’s and don’ts. It’s about respect for what He did for you.

The idea is that I have a right to decide who I’m going to have sex with, and not have sex with. The idea is that I have a right to choose what job I want to do, even if I have to pay a debt. I have a right to choose my destiny and my path in life. And to love others as myself is to recognize that so many people have that right taken from them.

You really feel it when it’s happening to kids. Their mom or dad might have sold them. Or maybe their parents died, because of bad drinking water, or lack of food, or HIV. So they have no parents and they get snatched up by slavers and thrown into a truck and sold. Maybe they get turned into child soldiers who wake up every morning knowing they have to shoot people, because somebody bought them and now controls them.

A lot of these scenarios are taking place. This really happens. Diseases from hunger, HIV, or lack of clean drinking water, is killing parents and leaving children vulnerable to slavers. These scenarios all work together.

What better opportunity for a Christian, hearing God’s commandments, to say, “Hey! I can help make a dent in this!” Wouldn’t you like to feel the joy of releasing a captive slave? Wouldn’t you want to see a well that has been broken open, and get to say, “I helped with that”? Imagine being part of the joy these people have when they realize someone loves them. What do you think it’s like?

I can tell you. It’s life! It’s life in Christ! And you would say, “I feel fulfilled!”  This is such a good thing! This is the love of Jesus!

This is His love because this is what He did. He freed the captives. He healed the sick, and fed the hungry. Once you get a taste of this, you’ll find you want to spend your life loving God and your neighbors.

I want every Christian to realize this. It’s my dream that every Christian be moved by the love of Jesus to show the love of Jesus in order to know the love of Jesus.

That’s my idea.

See you Friday.