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.

Living to Love

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

When we love our neighbors, we’re happy! Loving your neighbor as yourself is so fulfilling!

When you approach your life the mentality of discipleship, you taste that fulfillment, and you are hooked. Salvation is awesome. When you realize what Jesus did for you, filling your with grace and bringing you into God’s kingdom, the joy will spill out of you. You’ll long to chase after Christ. You’ll long to hang out with him. You’ll read about all the things His disciples did, and you’ll want to do the same. You’ll want to do more!

Making the confession that Jesus died for you is just the start. What comes next?  Your life transformed by the Spirit! Just wait until you experience what it’s like to live your salvation. Living your salvation is living the lifestyle of Jesus. It’s having the discipleship mentality.

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

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

And that’s simple! All you have to do is keep His commandment. Love your neighbor as yourself. Whether you’re rich or poor or in between, your joy will come from the way you use the gifts you’ve been given to live the lifestyle of Jesus.

This is what I teach my children. Life isn’t about how much money you make. It’s not about fame, either.

Life is not about what you can get. Life is about what you can do. What can you do? You can love your neighbor as yourself! It’s really that simple!

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

Try it. Do something good, and do it simply to love. It feels great!

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

See you Tuesday.

I Will Show You My Faith

What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. James 2:14-18

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

Well done. This doesn’t mean that I have a works mentality. I truly don’t believe my works will get me to heaven. My faith will get me to heaven. That’s it. I’m justified by my faith.

But I will show you my faith, in the things that I do. The works I perform are the result of the faithful life I try to live, every single day. You can boil my whole theology down to one concept: discipleship. I try to live the lifestyle of Jesus.

We don’t have to resolve the works/faith “issue,” because there is no issue. When we live the lifestyle of Jesus, the relationship between faith and works takes care of itself. You see it in the letter of James. He said, “Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.”

Some people say that James and Paul were having a disagreement, but they weren’t. They were talking about two different things. When Paul said that you aren’t saved by works, he meant that works alone will not get you into heaven. Paul said, “Look, you can’t work your way into heaven.” In my belief, that’s true.

James is talking about a whole different idea. James is talking about the believers, the ones that have already given up their souls to God. When James said, “I will show you my faith by my works,” he was talking about the lifestyle that you live when you’re a believer.

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

To that, James and the other disciples said an emphatic, “No!” They said, “Live like Jesus!”

They didn’t say, “Check me out. I’ve hung out with Jesus. Now I can just sit around and do whatever.”

The apostles did not just sit around. If they did, we’d have no Acts of the Apostles to read, would we?

Nor did the apostles go around doing whatever they wanted to do. Want proof? Look at the persecution they endured. They certainly weren’t persecuted because they were living for themselves. They were persecuted because they were living for Jesus. Discipleship was not easy!

Discipleship got them in trouble. It got them crucified upside down. It got them thrown into prison. It got them stoned to death. The apostles were living a lifestyle that shook people up! They walked into pagan Greece and pagan Rome and challenged people’s worldview. They walked into the temples of a ton of different Gods. They walked into places where people were having orgies. They walked into all these places and said, “Your life is unfulfilling! We have a new message for you. Come, and follow Jesus. Live like Jesus. Be filled with all good things, and become heirs to the kingdom of God!”

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

You say you have faith. Let’s see it!

New Life

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

Tuesday, I wrote about the self-righteousness of the Sadducees. The Sadducees believed that it was their own actions that made them holy and righteous. But they were wrong. No one can save themselves.

We are holy and righteous children of God, yes! But we get no credit for it. We can’t make ourselves holy and righteous. It’s impossible! We live in flesh! We’re imperfect. We make mistakes. We’re human. So it’s only through the blood of Jesus that we are adopted into God’s family and God’s kingdom.

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

I know this can make people uncomfortable. Am I saying that all you have to do is accept Jesus as your savior, and you’re done? Just say the prayer, and go on with your life?

Are we dangerously leading false converts with this message?

I do believe a confession needs to be made. I truly believe that Jesus died for you. You must confess that Jesus is Lord in order to be saved. There has to be an admission there, and it has to be real. But it needs to be a heart commitment, not just a verbal acknowledgement.

That has to happen, but like the Bible says, when we respond to God’s message, a new life begins. In the wake of salvation, you’ll see a lifestyle change. Saved by the Spirit, you will live by the Spirit. (Romans 8:13)

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

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

What happens then? What if they go home, and nothing changes? What if their struggles continue? They’ve come from a time of high emotion, and they’ve said the words, but now, disappointment sets in.

Why? Because they need to do things differently. They need to live out their newly-found salvation.

A new life must begin.

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

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

And I’ll tell you about that next week!

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.