Jesus Loves Sinners

Jesus was the epitome of self-control. He could hang with drunks and all kinds of sinners and not get angry with them.

Think about it. When Jesus got angry, it was not with sinners. Jesus got angry with the people that claimed to be followers of God, and yet deceived other people. That was when Jesus had zeal and righteous anger. He said, “You people are the ones who caused me to get angry. Not the sinners. You. Why am I angry? You go around saying that all these people are not worthy of the Kingdom of Heaven because they’re not as good as you. Not as good as you? You are evil! You’re more evil than the sinners are. You’re whitewashed tombs. You’re a brood of vipers. You know those sinners you look down on? At least they admit that they stink. Those sinners I hang out with say, ‘You know, I am a drunk.’ Or, ‘Yes, I did commit adultery.’”

woman-at-the-wellLook at what happened when Jesus met the woman at the well. He asked her, “Where’s your husband?” And she replied, “Well, I don’t have one.” And He said to her, ‘Well, you’ve had five. And the one you’re living with now? You don’t even know his name.” And what did she say to Him? She said, “You’re right!” She didn’t run in shame! She just admitted it. She came right out and said, “Yeah, that’s who I am.” And God said, “Now, here’s where I can love on you.”

You see? I used to think that Jesus could hang out with sinners because He’s God, so He’s loving and forgiving. He knew their sins before they did, so He was able to work with it. That is true, but now I realize that the real reason He could hang with sinners isn’t all that complicated. Jesus just flat out loved His neighbor as Himself.

The only way you can love your neighbor as yourself is to love on him with grace and trust. You cannot love your neighbor if you don’t trust him. You can’t! And I’m not talking about blind, foolish trust. I don’t think you should say, “Hey, I don’t know you, Joe Blow, but I’m going to tell you my deepest, darkest secrets, and here’s the code to my house, and my bank account number.” That’s not the kind of trust I’m talking about. I’m talking about trusting that your neighbors are human beings. They will fail like human beings. They will not add up. That’s what people do. That’s what we all do. Human beings don’t add up, and we fail. We mess up, because we don’t all live by the Spirit all of the time.

Being able to trust people is difficult. Giving grace to people instead of burying them in judgment is very difficult, but it becomes easy when you trust God. Trust pleases Him. Without faith, it is impossible to please him!

More on this next time. See you Thursday.

Beating Addiction with Trust

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23

Most people who have addictions are struggling with control issues. When something gets out of control, they go to an addiction, because that’s something they can control. You’ll hear someone say, “See that guy? He has a porn addiction.” But I think it’s just a sign that he has a control issue. Or you’ll hear, “He’s addicted to alcohol.” But that’s probably not the root of the problem. The root of the problem is likely a lack of control.

Maybe what’s really going on with him is that his work is out of control, his family is out of control, his kids are out of control, his relationships are out of control, and his marriage is out of control. What can he control right now? He can control how much alcohol he puts in his system. So he’s going to be a drunk, because that’s what he can control.

Or maybe he discovers that even though everything else is out of control, he can still control his computer screen. So he’s going to go to that website, because there, he feels like he’s in control. Those girls can give him visuals and acceptance, and trick his mind. He will let them do all those things, because everything else is out of his control.

selfcontrolWhat a relief it is to figure out that the only thing you’re supposed to control is yourself! The Bible says you should have self-control. Not wife control, kid control, employee control, or other people control. The Bible doesn’t say anything about that. The Bible says the fruit of the Spirit is self-control.

When people quit trying to control everything around them and replace that with trust, trusting their husband or wife, trusting their kids, trusting their employees, trusting their boss, just trusting other people, then they will learn self-control.

There are not enough people in the church with the right attitude about this. There are not enough people open to helping each other with their control issues, and it should be 100% the opposite. In the church, we should be very open to it. Everyone in the church should know that if they have an issue, it’s okay to come forward. We’re not going to listen to you just so we can gossip about you. We’re going to listen to you and help you, because we want to show you what grace and trust feel like. God is grace and trust, so that’s who we are. We’re not going to reject you. We’re going to love on you.

We are all susceptible to sin or addiction. We all live in the flesh! When we acknowledge that, and welcome people in their flesh with love, we can help each other. We live in our flesh. But we also live in the Spirit. God says we’re righteous and holy. So we’re going to think that way. And we’re going to help each other and love each other.

You know who was the epitome of self-control? Jesus! More on this next time. See you Monday.

How Trust Releases Us From Shame

When you live in shame, you live in darkness. And the Bible says no to darkness. It says no to shame. We don’t live in darkness, we live in the light. And in the light, there’s trust.

But think about this: a lot of people in the church, a lot of Christians, feel these good intentions. They think, “Man, I can’t tell anybody that I am suffering with sin. I can’t tell anybody that I’m a drunk.” Or, “I can’t tell anybody that I have a sex addiction.” Or, “I can’t tell anybody that I verbally abuse my family.”

Jesus, light of the world

Jesus, Light of the World, 1854 William Holman Hunt

Basically they feel that they can’t tell anybody that they’ve got a demon in their closet. They feel so ashamed, and they fear the shame they will feel if they tell someone. They live in shame because they fear the shame of coming out!

This kills people. It kills them. And it happens because there are not enough people that we can actually trust with our shame and our fear.

If you live in the darkness and sit in that shame, sin will continue to grab you and continue to crush you. It could be in any area that causes you shame. As you continue to live in your shame, you continue in darkness. Jesus says, “No, no, no, no. Trust me when I say this. If you live in darkness, you live where sin and shame abound. You don’t want to be there. You cannot please me unless you trust me. And I’m inviting you to live in the light where grace and trust abound.”

We have Jesus! Jesus is the light, and the light exposes everything. The light frees us from shame, because sin can’t live in the light. Shame says, “Man, I’m addicted to pornography.” But then the light shines in and instead you say, “I’m addicted to pornography, and I need help, because I don’t want to live this addiction anymore.”

Obviously people are afraid to say anything like that, because they fear the judgment of other Christians. What if you could ask for help and have twenty people look at you and say, “Let’s go. We’re going to help you out.”

That would free you! Then you wouldn’t have to hide your shame. You wouldn’t live in guilt and darkness. You would be free, because the people that you turned to and opened up to helped you. They looked at you and said, “We trust you as a human being, and you trust us to ask for help. You know what we’re going to do? We’re going to love on you. We’re going to help you with this. You are not alone! Do you think you’re the only guy in the whole universe that has an issue? There are so many guys in the same shoes. Sex, porn, alcohol, drugs, whatever, these are billion dollar industries! You don’t have to be ashamed! Let’s shine the light on it. Sin can’t live in the light!”

There is so much we can do to help each other. More on this next time. See you Thursday.

Trust God. Trust Him!

Last time I wrote about the joy my family and I find in each other through trust. And I think living in joy the way that we do is scriptural. Hebrews 11:6 is just mindblowing for me, now that I have re-read it using this thought process of hanging in the room of grace.

But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Hebrews 11:6

Do you see what Paul says here? Without faith, it is impossible to please God. So let’s think, what is faith? Faith is trust. So it is impossible to please God unless you trust Him. Not perform for Him. Not add up to all of His expectations. Not be perfect. No, no. None of that. Trust Him.

April 3 BlogTrusting God means that you trust Him when He tells you who you are. God says to you, “Because of your faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, you are now holy and righteous in everything that you do.”

Do you trust God in that?

I don’t think churches have done a very good job counseling believers in this area. I think that all too often, despite their good intentions, churches do not trust God. They trust in God, yes. And they trust that there is a God. But they don’t trust that God is who He says He is. And they don’t trust in who God says they are.

Here’s the thought process that can afflict the believer: “God thinks I’m righteous. So I need to act in a righteous way. I need to make sure I’m doing righteous things. So what does a righteous person do? Let’s see, I can’t lie, I can’t cheat, I can’t steal, I can’t…”

And so on. Paul says this is where all of scripture starts to unravel. This is why Paul says the Law stinks. The Law’s no good! The Law’s no good, because it makes you perform in order to receive God’s love and forgiveness.

The Law was good initially. It really was! It says you’re not supposed to lie. You’re not supposed to cheat and you’re not supposed to steal. You’re not supposed to serve any other god above God. You’re not supposed to commit adultery. Those are all good things! There’s nothing basically wrong with the requirements of the Law.

But sin came along and caused chaos in the Law. Causing chaos in human life and relationships is what sin does. Sin looks at the Law and says, “Perfect! You know what? If you lie, you’re evil and you deserve to go to hell. And you know what? If you cheat, then you’re not a good person. God’s going to frown on you. Do you know how much work you will have to do in order to be worthy of heaven? I’ll be you’re not even saved!”

That’s what sin does to you! It makes you live in shame. And when you live in shame, you live in darkness.

But the Bible says no to that. You don’t live in darkness. You live in the light. And in the light, there’s trust.

More on this next time. See you Monday.

The Power of a Loving Apology

There is nothing like living in a free home. After all we’ve learned from Truefaced.com, I understand that I can simply be who I am. I don’t have to fake anything. And my wife can be who she wants to be. She doesn’t have to fake anything. We live in the room of grace and we are so happy.

Since taking the Truefaced beta course, there have been times when Larisa and I look back on our life together and say to each other, “Man, we have performed so much in our marriage! We were trying, in our good intentions, to be a “good husband” or a “good wife,” just so that we would like each other.” And now, since we’ve done the Truefaced course and grown to understand the word trust, our marriage is so much better. We’ve grown so much in acceptance, and we help and support each other more than ever.

love-trustShe treats me with genuine kindness. Like any parent, I can experience some frustration with our sons. But when I do, she will calmly step in and say, “I’ve got it honey. Why don’t you take a little break?” She doesn’t get mad at me or anything like that. She gives me a well-timed assist.

In the same way, she can experience frustration too, and I can stay calm and help her. If she’s having a rough day, I ask myself, “How can I help calm her down? What can I do for her? Do I just need to encourage her? She’s obviously stressed, so maybe I need to step in and help out.”

We don’t get angry with each other. We know we’re going to live out of our flesh at times. Sometimes, we’ll say things that the boys find hurtful. Instead of blaming each other, we help. Larisa will come to me and say, “You know, when you were frustrated with Walker, you might have said something to hurt his feelings. You might want to talk to him about that.” And I will go to my son. I will say, “Hey Walker, did I hurt your feelings?” And if he says yes, then I apologize.

I’ve asked so many people, “Did your dad ever apologize to you?” And they always tell me, “No. My dad never apologized. Even when he was wrong, he never apologized, because he was the dad.”

I think that’s wrong! Our family has been developing trust, and in a relationship of trust, the dad isn’t right all the time. No one is. So I can go to my six year-old son and say, “Daddy was wrong. I made a mistake in how I talked with you and I made a mistake in how I treated you. I am sorry. Will you please forgive me?” And he forgives me.

The willingness to admit our mistakes is so powerful! My sons don’t fear me. They see me as approachable, because I’m willing to say I’m sorry. They realize, “My Dad might get a little upset but I know he’s going to love me, even when I mess up.” My sons don’t have to perform for me in order to earn my love. They know I will love them no matter what.

This freedom is awesome. I can see it in our children. I can see it in our marriage. There is no need to perform to earn love and acceptance. We just trust each other as human beings.

And with that, we find a lot of joy! This is scriptural. More on this next time. See you Thursday.

Freedom From Expectation

I’ve been reflecting on the many ways that grace is our ticket to freedom. Here’s another one. Living in the room of grace, we aren’t controlled by our expectations. Not only can we stop trying to manage our sins, we can also stop trying to manage the sins of others.

Grace frees us from the expectations that we place on our relationships. In the room of grace, we don’t say things like, “Listen, in order for you to be my friend, or husband, or wife, I expect you to do certain things and behave a certain way.” And we don’t hear parents saying, “Kids, if you want to be in my good graces, and if you want to live and function and be happy in my home, then these are the things I expect out of you.”

People really struggle under our expectations. They hear our lists of do’s and don’ts and they say, “I can’t live up to all of that.” When we “sin manage” our relationships, we make our loved ones miserable. We can’t perform all the time, and neither can they.

Think about your kids. Your expectations can crush your kids. And what happens? All of a sudden, at 16 or 17 years of age, they rebel and stop talking to you. They stop loving you, because they’ve never been able to make you happy.

I see so strongly the gifts that grace will bring to my boys. My boys are going to mess up. There is no doubt about it. Maybe it will be an accident when they first start driving. You know what? I intend to handle it with grace. I’ll say, “Let me tell you something son. You messed up. You wrecked the car. They said you were speeding when you wrecked it. So you were driving recklessly and you were driving a little crazy, and now you’ve ruined the car.

“But son, guess what? I know how it goes. I got in two wrecks before I was seventeen. One of them happened because I was driving recklessly. The other one happened because I hit some ice. I’ve been where you are right now, and I understand the situation. There are consequences. You’ll have to take responsibility. You’ll have to go to work and save enough money to pay the difference in the car insurance bill. This is how it is when you wreck a car. You have to get another car and the insurance goes up, and you have to pay the bill. This is not a punishment! It’s just what happens when you wreck a car.”

I will never say to one of my sons, “You idiot. How could you be so dumb?” I will not do that! I’ll talk to him. I’ll explain how the world works. He’ll have to take responsibility for his actions. But he will never have to fear me. He’ll never have to think, “Oh my gosh, my Dad’s going to kill me if I get in a wreck.” No, it won’t be like that. There’s grace there. I love my boys, and they will make mistakes, because we all do.

To my mind, that is a free home. And that is how God regards us, living in that room of grace.

More on this next time. See you Monday.

Sin Management is a Trap!

The Bible says that the fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and self-control. Right? The Bible doesn’t say that these are the fruits of the flesh. The flesh does not give birth to love or joy or peace, or to patience, kindness or goodness. It certainly does not give birth to self-control. The flesh gives birth to death. That’s all it does.

It is so awesome when you receive God, because God frees you from the flesh. A follower of Jesus Christ will still have a flesh mentality at times, but that is not how God sees us. God looks at us and sees children who are holy and righteous. And that is awesome!

If Christians could only realize this! If only you knew that your God sees you as holy and righteous. If you did, you would live a holy and righteous life. That’s what you would do.

art by chris kuhn found at http://kuhnart.com/illustration.html

art by chris kuhn found at http://kuhnart.com/illustration.html

But we are so worried about performing. We are so worried about tracking all the do’s and don’ts. And we are so worried that God is going to punish us when we do wrong. We have convinced ourselves that God only smiles on us if we conquer our flesh, and that’s when we get into the room of good intentions.

You read your Bible just to please God. You say to yourself, “I’ve got to read five chapters today, because then God will smile on me and He’ll bless me. And then my day will go the way I want it to.” Then when you don’t have a good day, you think, “Maybe I should have read more. Or maybe I didn’t pray enough today. Why is this bad thing happening to me? I did everything that I was supposed to do. My pastor said I need to read the Bible every day, and he told me to pray without ceasing. I’ve been doing that. I was encouraging to someone today. I always try to say something very encouraging. So why am I having a bad day?”

You try again, and this time you try to do more. But you get the same results. There’s only one way this can go. Eventually, your good intentions implode on you. You get bitter, or angry, or frustrated. You tried so hard to make yourself look so good by not sinning and then all of a sudden, you’re exposed. Everybody looks at you and says, “What? So you’re a Christian? You’re no different than the rest of us. You’re a fake.”

When we get worried about performing, for God and everybody else, we lose our focus on being righteous and holy. We switch our focus to not sinning. We get trapped in sin management! Do you see the irony here? When you try to manage your sin, you actually sin more.

It’s killing us, because it’s exhausting.

But Jesus says, “Hey, how about just accepting that this is who you are. You’re still made of flesh, so you still have your moments, but I look at you and see a person who is righteous and holy.” When you can accept this, you don’t have to get into sin management. You don’t have to manage yourself or anybody else. You’re out of the room of good intentions, and into the room of grace!

More on this next time. See you Thursday.

Freedom from Sin

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us. 1 John 1:8-10

The Bible says that because of righteousness, it is possible for you to not sin. You actually have that ability. That’s what righteousness does. That’s what grace does! This is what it can do.

When you live in the room of grace, you stop trying to avoid sinning. That belongs to the room of good intentions. In the room of good intentions, you live with assumptions about yourself and others. You intend to behave a certain way, or you expect certain behavior from your loved ones. Then you react from the flesh when your intentions or expectations don’t pan out. Someone doesn’t do what you intended for them to do, or someone doesn’t treat you the way you intended for them to treat you, and you react, with frustration maybe, or even anger.

But grace gives you the freedom to trust yourself and others. In the room of grace, you don’t have to strive to contain your behavior or control the behavior of others. When you walk with that freedom of trust, you stop trying to avoid sin. You have a new habit now. You just don’t want to sin.

Does it mean you won’t sin? No, it doesn’t. We all sin. If you could never sin, then the death of Jesus wouldn’t make sense. And if He doesn’t save you from your sin then it was pointless for Him to die. As we’ve been exploring, the people in the room of grace have all kinds of issues. But sin is not their habit. It’s not their lifestyle.

1 John talks a lot about this, but people misinterpret it. 1 John is read as if it says, “Do not sin, and if you do any of the things on this list, you’re going to hell.” But that’s not what 1 John means. It says that if you live a life of sin, with an attitude of sin and a habit of sin, and if you live with hatred towards people and God, then hell is definitely a destination.

But it is not telling you that must avoid sin. 1 John says, “Listen, you’re going to sin. But you have to realize that when you live in Jesus you are made righteous and holy. Live in that. Confess and God will purify you.”

Will you live in your flesh from time to time? Yes! You can’t be perfect. The flesh cannot be saved. Nowhere in scripture does it say that the flesh can be saved. The flesh is evil and you cannot expect to make it good.

But here’s the point: You’re good in the spirit of God. He has made you righteous, and you are free from sin.

I have more to say on this next time. See you Monday.

Choosing Between Two Roads

After studying the contrast between living in the room of grace and living in the room of good intentions, my conversations with my sons have changed a lot. Here’s an example of one I had with my oldest the other day. He had been talking back to his mother, and I sat down with him and said, “Walker, buddy, I’m going to give you two roads to go down.” “Okay,” he said.

I told him, “You can continue going down the road where you disrespect us. You know what? I’ll let you take that road. But you can also go down a different road. If you want to, you can go down the road where you honor your mother and father. That’s the road where you don’t talk to mommy or daddy that way. Now down that road, son, there are much better things in store for you.

tworoadstworooms“If you take the road of disrespect, okay. You have that prerogative. That’s why I will let you choose that road. But if that’s the choice you make, understand that there will be discipline. You might lose your iPad. Maybe you won’t get to watch TV. Getting disciplined is a part of the going down that road. But I promise you this, buddy. If you choose that road, I will still love you.

“Now think about this. You can also choose to go down the road where you honor mommy and daddy. The outcome of that road will be better.”

Walker looked at me, and then he said, “Okay, Daddy, I’m sorry. I don’t want to take that road. I don’t want to go down that road of disrespecting you.”

I said, “Buddy, I really appreciate that, and I thank you for choosing the right path. I just wanted you to know that I love you, no matter which road you choose. But now, we don’t have to worry about discipline. Thanks to your decision to respect us, now we can just live the life we should be living, and we can go on and have our fun day.”

Even for adults, there’s a choice of roads. The road of good intentions turns out to be a lot like the road my son chose not to take. As an adult, if you take the road of good intentions, you’ll have a lot of stuff coming back at you.

When you live in that room of good intentions, you never get the feeling of love that comes when God walks with you through your garbage. You wear your mask and pretend you’re perfect in the hopes of creating some distance between yourself and your garbage. That way, if your garbage is exposed you can pretend to be separate from it. But when you do that, you leave God on the other side of the room. He sees you with all your junk, but He can’t even come close to you.

In the room of grace it’s different. In that room, God actually walks with you in your garbage. And then you get to bask in His love. He says, “Oh, I know you’re going to mess up. I know it. If I thought you were going to be perfect, then sending Jesus to die is a waste of His time and mine, and the pain that we put Him through was not relevant.”

That’s the power of the cross. I have more to say about this next time. See you Thursday.

Confessing Our Sin to God and One Another

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. James 5:16

Last time we looked at what it’s like to live and walk in the Holy Spirit. We can go before the throne of God without fear and receive grace and mercy. We can trust in God’s love and salvation, which frees us to recognize our sins, accept them, and let them go.

So why do we ask God for forgiveness? That’s not for God. We don’t need to ask for forgiveness to be right with God because we are already righteous and holy. When we go to God to ask for forgiveness, we are recognizing and accepting what we have done. It’s a way of admitting, “Okay, that was not the best way to behave.” And it’s a way to tell God, “You know what? That was stupid. I get that.”

Going to God with confession in our hearts is not a way of telling God, “I need forgiveness.” The people who say “I need forgiveness” are the ones who are living in the room of good intentions. As we’ve discussed, good intentions, while obviously good, are bound to be thwarted. When our good intentions are thwarted, we go to God and we say, “I need forgiveness because I did not intend to do that, God. I totally had good intentions, and I fell short. So I need forgiveness.”

When we are living in the room of grace, however, we go to God and we say, “Thank you for forgiving me for that.” For example, we might say, “Hey God, you know what? I lived in the flesh right there when that guy cut me off. I yelled at him and I cussed him out. Thank you for forgiving me! And thank you for giving me the grace to move on. Help me to use more wisdom next time so that I won’t act like that. I acted from my flesh, and I would rather act in your Spirit, because that’s what I’m destined to do.”

That’s what we say to God, but the Bible also tells us to confess our sins to one another. Why does God want us to do that? He wants us to confess to one another because it is a liberating thing to do. What if you could sit among fellow believers in the room of grace? Try to imagine it. You would sit with people and say, “I’m going to confess my sin to you. I can do this because none of you will look at me with shame. And this will free me.”

The Bible says that this is what believers do. We confess our sins to one another because it’s the confession that lets the sin out. But we have to do this in the room of grace. Our job, as followers of Jesus Christ, is to look at the person making his confession and say, “I just want to let you know that I love you. I’ve been in your situation. I’ve messed up like that. Or maybe I haven’t messed up like that, but here’s how I messed up the other day. Here’s my confession.”

This is how we know and love each other as human beings. In an encounter like this one, you are looking at each other and accepting that you both live in the flesh, yet understanding that you live in the Spirit as well. You chose to live in the flesh at one point, but that is not who you are. So hang in the room of grace. You are holy, and you are free.