Why So Judgmental?

Why are Christians so judgmental, when it’s obvious that God is all about love? This is a hard question to answer. It’s normal to judge. We all do it. We depend on judgment. We depend on a shared moral code. Distinguishing good from bad preserves the peace. It guides us in our common life, as a community and a nation.

But God tells us not to judge. God tells us to replace judgment with forgiveness. He tells us to love each other as He has loved us. How do we make sense of this?

Suppose you’re sitting in a park on a sunny day. Maybe you’re even reading your Bible. You happen to see a guy drinking a couple of six packs, and he’s getting pretty drunk. You know what the Bible says about drunkenness, so what do you do? It’s really hard not to say, “Man, that guy is a bad person. He needs to change. He needs to find Jesus.”

Well, maybe he does need to find Jesus! Maybe you are right. But before you judge him to be a bad person, think about Jesus. What would Jesus do? I think He would look at the guy and say, “I see his heart. He was born into sin. Who wasn’t? Now he’s sinning. Who isn’t? I think I’ll go talk to him. I’ll go love on him.”

That’s what Jesus does. He doesn’t look at the guy and say, “What a bad person.” Jesus looks at the guy with love and understanding.

If that’s what Jesus does, then why should a Christian, a follower of Jesus, look down on the guy? Some Christians even judge a guy and then expect his admiration. I’ll let you in on something. It doesn’t work.

Some people treat their kids the same way. They drag them to church. They tell them, “You’re bad! You need to do better!” Kids hear that, and guess what? They feel bad!

This is terrible. It’s terrible that kids live in fear of their parents. It turns into fear of God, and I’m not talking about reverential fear. I’m talking about actual, scared fear. They will look at God and literally be scared of His judgment. “Mom and Dad think I’m bad. God must think I’m bad too.”

Teaching children to fear just wounds them. It drives them away from God. That’s not what we want! We want our children’s hearts to fill with love! We want them to love themselves and love their neighbors! But love only happens when children experience God’s love. Not their parents’ judgment.

Let’s go back to the guy in the park, the one you were tempted to judge. Judging him does not help him. It hurts him. It pushes him further away from God. It doesn’t help you either. Judging others hurts you because it draws you away from grace and into a judgment mentality.

Here’s what I try to do. I see that guy in the park, and I think, “Well, in my view, what he’s doing is wrong. I’m not going to go and get drunk with him. Does he need Jesus? Yes. But I’m not going to bring him to Jesus by smacking him in the back of the head with a Bible. He’s not going to love Jesus because I’m standing there, telling him he’s wrong.”

How about just loving on the guy?

Bring Grace Home

There are so many wonderful things to say about grace. I frequently write about the freedom that comes with grace because it’s awesome. Grace frees us from sin! Grace frees us from slavish obedience to rules! We are free, because Jesus helps us with our sin. We are free, because the Spirit guides us and advises us. Do you see what this means? We don’t have to be afraid. We have help!

Think about that. Grace frees us from fear!

When your family is founded in grace, there is no fear in your home. Instead there’s freedom. Your kids are happy, your husband or wife is happy, everyone is growing and thriving, and you are living righteous and loving lives. People will look at your family and say, “Man! What are you doing? We want that too!”

I mean, who wouldn’t?

But then they ask, “What rule did you make? What law did you give them, that they live so well?”

That’s not the right question! That’s legalism. When people don’t understand grace, they think about dropping a Bible verse and making a rule with it. But that’s not me. I’m not a legalistic father who wants to drop a Bible verse on my sons when they’re not doing right. I want them to know grace.

I can hear you saying, “But Jeremy, does that mean you never discipline your children?” Not at all. It means I don’t use anger to control them.

We parents want so much to let our kids express their emotions. But have you noticed that we only really encourage it when those emotions feel good to us? We don’t get mad at them for being happy. We don’t get mad at them for laughing. We don’t get mad at them for being joyful. We don’t even get mad at them when they’re sad and crying.

But when they get angry, we get mad at them!

This is backwards. It makes no sense to tell them, “I’m going to get angry at you for being angry.”

Obviously we don’t want our kids to be angry. But it happens. What do they learn from us if we respond with anger? Nothing! It’s a vicious cycle.

I think our anger comes from trying to control our children. We want to control them so that we can control how we react to them. This is typical of legalism in the home. An angry child is not a reason to get angry. In fact, I think responding with anger is the worst thing you could possibly do.

Why not just accept them and be with them? You can acknowledge that there’s something going on. Maybe it’s something that you don’t know about. Maybe there’s something troubling them. Whatever it is, getting angry with them won’t help either of you. But grace can transform the situation. Grace says, “How can I help you? How can I love on you? How can I make you feel better? I can see that you’re having a bad time. How can I be here for you?”

When you do that for your child, then all of a sudden a bad day can become a good day. Now in their bad day, you’re not just someone else pounding on them. You are with them as a loving help to them.

I’m far from perfect, but I try not to get angry at my sons for getting angry. I let them be angry. And then we talk about it.

This is the difference between grace and legalism. My family loves and laughs and thrives because I didn’t give them a rule. I didn’t give them a law to live by. I gave my family freedom. My wife and I brought grace into our home and we are happy. With God’s grace, we are really truly free!

See you Friday.

The New Country of Grace

So what do we do? Keep on sinning so God can keep on forgiving? I should hope not! If we’ve left the country where sin is sovereign, how can we still live in our old house there? Or didn’t you realize we packed up and left there for good? That is what happened in baptism. When we went under the water, we left the old country of sin behind; when we came up out of the water, we entered into the new country of grace—a new life in a new land! Romans 6:1-3

I blog a lot about grace, and I’m about to blog about it a lot more. I truly hope that the message of God’s grace will reach your heart. I hope your heart says, “This is it. This is what I need to hear. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ is going to help me get out of my issues.”

His grace is going to help you today and every day. You might have messed up, but it’s all going to be okay. Jesus loves you and He smiles on you.

You, me, the Apostle Paul — we all have the same experience. We do not want to sin. It is not our intention to sin. And yet we do. We sin. How are we going to get out of it? It’s only by grace!

The church is an agent of grace. In church, you can hang out with other people that can honestly say, “I sin just like you.” It helps! People who have been where you are can understand what you’re experiencing. They can say, “I know that Jesus walks with me. He’s encouraging me! So I know He’ll walk with you. You can lean on Him. You’ve got to know that we are righteous and holy, and you’ve also got to know that sometimes, righteous and holy people act out of the flesh.”

Just remember what Paul says: grace abounds over sin. Because of Christ, there is now no condemnation. His grace will always cover our sin.

People challenged Paul when they heard that. They said, “Does that mean we can sin whenever we want? Seriously? We can just run around and sin, and there will be no consequences?”

And Paul replied, “That is not what I mean! I mean that once you’re of the Spirit, you will do things of the Spirit. In fact, you are living a new life now. You’re living in the new country of grace!”

That’s what Paul said. Through our baptism, we have actually moved to a whole new country.

In the new country of grace, you won’t want to sin. You’ll want to do the things of the Spirit, like love unconditionally. You’ll want to! You won’t want to gossip or tell lies.

Okay. At times, you will want to sin. After all, you still have flesh on your bone. That’s not going to change until Christ returns. So you might mess up. You will mess up. I know. I understand.

When you mess up, you will want to hide in your sin. That’s what the flesh wants to do. But that’s not what God wants. He wants to free you. His grace says, “Take my hand, and I will help you. We’ll expose your sin, because in the light, it will die.”

When you understand the grace of God, then you will know that you do not have to hide. You can go boldly before His throne in Heaven. Do you know what will happen? He won’t yell at you, or punish you. He will smile at you! He will free you! He will say, “My child, I don’t see that sin. I see you for who you are.”

Then He’ll point out all the good in your life. He’ll show you all the good of who you are. He’ll say, “This is your heart! Your heart is good! This is who you are! I want you to see yourself as I see you.”

God is with you, so don’t be afraid. Build your home in the new country of grace. When you sin, He will be right beside you, and He will restore you. He has made you, and you are good.

See you Friday.

Jesus the Lion, the King!

When you carry something on your back, it’s a sign of strength. I’ve cheerfully taken up my cross to follow Jesus. I’m glad to do it. I seek opportunities to serve like Christ served. I’ve learned that discipleship is a source of joy. It’s the truest joy! I’ve even literally put it on my back.

Paradoxically, though, there are those days when being a Christian itself feels like a burden. Sometimes we’re faced with challenges that seem insurmountable. We may not know what to do. We’re asking, “What does it mean to stand for Jesus?” And we really don’t know.

We might even ask, “Do I want to stand for Jesus?” As shocking as it sounds, sometimes we aren’t all that sure! Living like a Christian can be hard. It can be really frustrating. Sometimes we can be profoundly selfish. Even when our spirit is willing, our flesh can get rebellious.

What do you do when your heavy burden, the one Jesus offered to carry, is the burden of following Him?

Times like these do not feel good. You need courage, grace, and understanding while you’re asking, “This is so hard! How am I supposed to represent Christ today, when it is so hard?”

In times like these, maybe especially in times like these, our spirits long for Christ. We need reminders of who He is.

That’s why I got a lion tattooed on my shoulder.

lion-tattoo

You’ve seen a lion walk. He walks like he carries the world on his shoulders. But he does it with confidence. He’s strong. And when he looks at you, you see how brave he is. He’s full of courage. He is not afraid.

Why should he fear? He knows he’s the king of everything he sees.

Jesus is the lion. He’s the Lion of Judah. Jesus is the king! He’s the king of everything! And he gives us His lion mentality.

The lion mentality says, “You don’t have to fear. Don’t worry about what anyone thinks of you. Walk in who you are. Be who you are. You represent Christ! Be brave in that.”

Think about hanging out with lions. Watch what they do. Walking or laying down, the lion is very calm. He’s looking around. He’s just observing. But he can move into attack mode in the blink of an eye.

We need that calm, that strength, that ability to act in an instant. This is the lion mentality. Jesus is my savior who carries my heavy burdens and gives me rest, but He is also the lion. Sometimes I need that presence, too. Sometimes I need Jesus, my king.

There are days when I need a lion’s confidence, but I don’t feel it. There are days when I need a lion’s courage, but I don’t feel it. There are days when I need a lion’s strength, but I don’t feel it. Does it matter? No, because I know that Jesus has perfect confidence, perfect courage, and perfect strength. Always.

That’s why the tattoo says sola fide, faith alone, and sola gratia, grace alone. I know that when I need it, Jesus will give me a brave heart. He will give me the strength of a lion. And when I walk with the strength of a lion, so I walk with the grace of a lion. Jesus leads me to walk in His grace.

I know those days will come when it actually feels like a burden to live like Jesus. There will be days when the temptation to feel frustrated, angry, and selfish is almost overwhelming. I know. But when that happens, don’t surrender. Remember the lion, and receive Him.

Bless you. See you Tuesday.

A Lighter Burden

How do you know when you’re living in grace? Well, how much do you enjoy loving on people? If you’re enjoying it, then you’re probably living in grace.

Living in grace is awesome. It’s joyful!

On the other hand, if loving on people is hard work, then you’re struggling. It can be hard to find that place of joy. Even when you do find it, it can be hard to stay there. Trust me, I know. It’s easy to turn grace into struggle. Maybe you’ve been wounded. Even if you haven’t, people can still hurt your feelings. Or those wounds can get more painful. No matter what, we can all get triggered by something.

When that happens, we try to use our own power. We say, “I don’t want to talk about it.” We don’t want to be transparent and vulnerable. So we resolve to deal with it on our own. We hide our feelings. We try to move on. We just want to get back to living in grace, back to that awesome, joyful place, where we’re loving on people and it feels wonderful.

Of course, hiding our feelings doesn’t help us get back to that joyful place. Hiding our feelings means that it’s only a matter of time before everything boils up and we explode. Boom! It happens! And when it does, the people around us are shocked. To them, it seems like it came out of nowhere. They’re confused. “Why did he just get so angry at me?” They don’t understand.

How could they? This is what happens when we hide how we feel. It definitely doesn’t help us find grace.

When I’m afraid to be vulnerable, I try to work things out by myself. I shut everybody else out. You know what? It’s hard. It’s exhausting.

The harder you have to work at something, the more likely it is that you’re trying to do it on your own. If you’re working so hard at something that you’re exhausted, it’s a really good sign that you’re trying to handle it all by yourself.

And the truth is, all you’re doing is trying to control things that you can’t control. This is especially the case when it comes to other people. To hide and protect ourselves, we try to control other people.

I’m sure you’re familiar with the thought process. “Man, if this person would just be like this, then it would be so much easier for me to live in grace. So I’m going to make these little comments, or try to tell him or her to live in a certain way. Then it will be easier for me.”

You know, you kind of get selfish!

In some churches, we say we’re trying to “sin manage.” It doesn’t work. The more we try to sin manage, the more we fail. The Bible says we can’t do this on our own. That’s why it says, “Don’t boast about what you can do.”

The good news is that God sees us struggling. He sees us trying to handle everything on our own. He knows it’s lonely and hard. So He reminds us that we aren’t alone.

The Bible also says, “Boast instead about what Christ has done!” What did He do? Nothing less than this: He made you who you are. You’re in grace already. You don’t have to crush yourself in struggle.

I’m very familiar with this. We all are. When I’m trying to do something, and I’m failing, I tell myself I’m failing because I’m not trying hard enough. So I try harder. Then I fail more. And then I just get frustrated.

What if I’m wrong? What if I’m failing because I’m trying too hard?

The letters in the New Testament talk about this. The harder you try to live in grace, the more you’re going to fail. The harder you try, the more you’re going to let yourself down.

You can’t do this on your own. I’ve learned! Turn to God. Go to Him and say, “Hey, I really need faith that I can walk in grace. Right now, I’m not doing very well. I need you. Please, do whatever you’ve got to do to allow me to be free.”

Now that’s a prayer! Because when you’re free, you can stop trying, and start living.

When you have Christ, you aren’t alone. You don’t have to try to handle things by yourself. You have Him, and there is no weakness in Christ. Christ is strength, and He is strong in our weakness.

One of the hardest lessons to learn is that it’s not all about you. You are not alone. So it’s not about you. It’s about Christ in you. It’s about Christ in me. Outside of Him, we fall to all kinds of temptations. But when we live out of our identity in Him, His strength conquers it all.

Living in grace is not about trying. It’s about understanding. He is in you. Grace is in you! Let Him live through you.

I’ll give you a simple prayer, one you can use every day. “God, give me strength to represent you today.” And then just live. Because the stronger you are in Christ, the less you’re going to react. The stronger you are in Christ, the less you’re going to be wounded.

That strength is going to make it easier for you to be transparent and vulnerable. You can let people know when you’re hurting, because you can be confident in who you are in Jesus. You don’t have to hide. Not in your sin, and not in your wounds. You don’t have to worry about being weak.

You can tell people, “This is where I can be hurt.” You can safely say, “This is where I can be wounded.” It’s a strength to be able to say that. Do you know why? Because it allows Jesus to love you through those people.

There’s no “trying” to live in grace. Just live out who you are. In Christ.

Christ in Jeremy means that I’m going to live in servanthood. Christ in Jeremy means I’m going to live with grace for people. I trust that God is going to allow me to live this way. When I feel I’m failing, I will pray. I will ask for His strength, because that’s the only way.

God is always saying, “Give me your burdens. My yoke is easy. And it’s light.” Life with Him is not necessarily going to be easy, not in worldly terms. But if you trust and lean on Him, it will seem easier.

Take the time you need. Tell Him, “Look, God, I’m not feeling like I can do this right now. I need you. Help me, so that this will be less of a burden.” He’ll be strong in you, and you won’t believe the relief.

Receive the lighter burden.

Bless you. See you Friday.

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.