We bring nothing to the table when we come to Christ.
And our performance does not dictate God’s love for us after we’ve come to Christ .
We don’t just leave grace at the door after we enter salvation— thanks, God. I’ll take it from here.
Grace is just as necessary for our ongoing life as it is for our conversion.
But transaction and performance wiggle their way back into our relationship with God.
If we have a bad day or a bad week, or if we go a couple of months being apathetic or disengaged , we think that God is growing angry at us.
And so we dig deep, pull ourselves up by our moral bootstraps, and double our effort to make God love us. It works for a while, but then we fail.
We sin. We give in to addiction.
We toss back a few more drinks.
We give in to porn.
Then we wake up depressed and guilty.
So we try even harder, double our devotions, give away more money, and attend church three days a week, only to find ourselves further away from God.
Fear, anxiety, apathy, burnout.
More sin, more porn, more addictions— the painful path of those who try to sustain love by performance.
After all, this is how we intuitively operate in our relationships.
If we want to win the heart of our boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, or wife, we dress nicely, put on deodorant, comb our hair, and try to make ourselves seem really interesting, successful , and funny.
To be loved, we make ourselves lovable.
It’s the natural way you and I seek love.
And when we want God to love us, we turn up the performance dial. We sleep less; we read more; we throw away our movies; we cleanse our iPods of all secular music; we work, and work, and work.
God is not like you and me.
God is transcendent.
And His love is fundamentally different from ours.
Even though our love is fueled by conditions— I’ll love you as long as you make me laugh and don’t gain weight— God’s love flows from His transcendent and intimate character.
He loves you because of who He is and because of what He has done, not because of what you do or don’t do.
-Preston Sprinkle / Charis: God’s Scandlous Grace for Us
So I thought I’d share the artwork that I made last night (during church) that God put on my heart. Its funny because right before we left our house, out of nowhere, I felt this huge weight on me and this feeling of being desperate. This image and these words came to my mind and I knew I was supposed to draw them. After Wade was done speaking, my heart started pounding and I felt like God was asking me to share the drawing with all of you. I was hesitating, and I felt like God asked me “Are you going to be obedient to what I am asking?” He immediately took away the pounding in my heart as if to say “You have a choice”. As soon as I decided I was going to share it, the heart pounding started and I felt this burden again. After I shared the artwork, two people came up to me to ask for prayer. One of them said they knew God was asking them to begin using their art for God, but they were afraid. They had been asking God to not give up on them, to not let them go so to speak.
The other person said that for 18 months they had been praying those exact words I had drawn and that the night before they had wondered if God saw them and told God they wished they had a picture. Isn’t that cool? God literally had me draw them a picture!
What is really interesting to me is that after I drew this and was on my way home the feeling of being desperate was completely gone. I wouldn’t have drawn this kind of picture if I wasn’t feeling that way. So it seems that God was a part of it all…(P.S. The picture is of Jesus’ hand reaching down to rescue a woman, and the color is the Holy Spirit moving.)
Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to God, giving voice in community,
I’m singing my heart out to God—what a victory!
He pitched horse and rider into the sea.
God is my strength, God is my song,
God is my salvation.
This is the kind of God I have and I’m telling the world!
This is the God, my Father—
I’m spreading the news far and wide!
God is a fighter—-pure God, through and through.
Pharaoh’s chariots and army
He dumped in the sea,
The elite of Pharaoh’s officers he drowned in the Red Sea.
Wild ocean waters poured over them;
they sank like a rock in the deep blue sea.
Your strong right hand, God, shimmers with power;
your strong right hand shatters the enemy.
In your mighty majesty you smash your enemies,
You let loose your hot anger
At a blast from your nostrils the waters piled up;
Tumbling streams dammed up, wild oceans curdled into a swamp.
The enemy spoke, “I’ll pursue, I’ll hunt them down, I’ll divide up the plunder,
I’ll glut myself on them; I’ll pull out my sword, my fist will send them reeling.”
You blew with all your might and the sea covered them.
They sank like a lead weight in the majestic waters.
Who compares with you among gods, O God?
Who compares with you in power, in Holy majesty,
In awesome praises wonder-working God?
You stretched out your right hand and the Earth swallowed them up.
But the people you redeemed, you led in merciful love;
You guided them under your protection to your holy pasture.
When people heard, they were scared; Philistines writhed and trembled;
Yes, even the head men in Edom were shaken,
and the big bosses in Moab.
Everybody in Canaan panicked and fell faint.
Dread and terror sent them reeling.
Before your brandished right arm they were struck dumb like a stone,
Until your people crossed over and entered, O God,
until the people you made crossed over and entered.
You brought them and planted them on the mountain of your heritage,
The place where you live, the place you made,
Your sanctuary, Master, that you established with your own hands. Let God rule forever, for eternity!
Yes, Pharaoh’s horses and chariots and riders went into the sea and God turned the waters back on them; but the Israelites walked on dry land right through the middle of the sea.
Miriam the prophetess, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine, and all the women followed her with tambourines, dancing.
Miriam led them in singing & dancing.
Sing to God—what a victory!
He pitched horse and rider into the sea!
He saves us. Let’s dance.
To Live Is To Die
Christ has so captivated Paul that Christ has become ALL to him.
So, when people preach Christ , whether in pretense or in truth—Paul rejoices that Christ is proclaimed.
Though some mean to harm Paul, he considers his harm a fair trade for the opportunity to proclaim Jesus.
It is this spiritual stability, born of a gospel-focused heart, that gives Paul peace and contentment—and yes—joy, no matter where he finds himself.
"In prison," he says, "I’ll rejoice…yes and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not at all be ashamed, but with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.
For to me to live is Christ.” — Philippians 1: 18 . 21
Well, of course! Of course it is.
It’s easy to confess that living is Christ, isn’t it?
Not so fast. The confession & the conviction don’t always go together.
He’s seen that living could be nothing else but Christ.
Paul’s confession erupts from deep conviction.
He’s seen it in his ministry over & over again.
…Paul saw the joy that comes when the gospel heals, restores & transforms.
Paul, himself once lived out of bitterness & malice persecuting the church he later came to love.
Then God hijacked his life.
The zealous pharisee became the apostle with a gospeled heart.
So, of course Paul would say, “To live is Christ.”
In the logic of the gospel there are no alternatives to Christ.
Every other option is no option at all.
When everything considered valuable in this life is seen to be nothing in comparison to the glory of Christ, you learn rather well that Christ alone is worth living for.
Christ alone is worthy of an entire life’s affections & devotions.
He is worthy of so much more, in fact—which is why Paul completes
his declaration, “To live is Christ” this way:
"To die is gain."
We are called to be holy because God is holy.
We are to be peacemakers because Christ is a peacemaker and He came preaching peace.
We are to forgive other people because God in Christ forgives us.
We are to be generous because Jesus was generous.
We should be humble, because Christ is humble.
We are kind because He is kind.
We are merciful because Jesus is merciful.
We should tell the truth because Jesus is the Truth.
Christians ought to be willing to suffer because Jesus suffered.
God doesn’t just become human; He becomes a slave.
He doesn’t just die; He dies on a cross.
He goes to the womb, to the floor and to the garden for you.
He becomes as vulnerable as a human embryo for you.
He gets on His hands and knees to let you know you’re His special guest.
He prays in agony to find the Father’s will for you.
And finally, He pours Himself into serving you by pouring Himself out on the cross.
He pours Himself out to the last drop of blood.
The model of Christ: He gave Himself away
What an extraordinary model we have in Christ.
We have the model of someone who is fabulously wealthy, fabulously successful, has all power, and then did not use His power or status, or wealth for Himself.
The infinite one, who was infinitely full, emptied Himself; He poured Himself out.
And this, brothers and sisters, ought to cause us to worship Him because we are coming very near to the secret of the nature of God – that God is a self-giving, selfless being.
God is not acquisitive.
He is not grasping.
He is not demanding.
It is the nature of God for Him to give Himself away for the benefit of others.
Jesus does all of this with His power and authority:
He chooses to humble Himself instead of using His divine power to assert Himself.
Philippians 2 : 1 . 11
Christian Unity and Christ’s Humility
Therefore, if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort provided by love, any fellowship in the Spirit, any affection or mercy, complete my joy and be of the same mind, by having the same love, being united in spirit, and having one purpose.
Instead of being motivated by selfish ambition or vanity, each of you should, in humility, be moved to treat one another as more important than yourself.
Each of you should be concerned not only about your own interests, but about the interests of others as well.
You should have the same attitude toward one another that Christ Jesus had, who though He existed in the form of God
did not regard equality with God —-as something to be grasped,
but emptied Himself by taking on the form of a slave,
by looking like other men, and by sharing in human nature.
He humbled Himself, by becoming obedient to the point of death
—even death on a cross!
As a result God highly exalted Him
and gave Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow
—in heaven and on earth and under the earth— and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.
We were not saved for isolation—We were saved into community. Through the cross of Christ, God made us family not only with Himself, but also with everyone who trusts in Christ alone for eternal life. God has gathered under His roof an enormous crew of former rebels, and He has turned us into family.
While we look forward to worshiping Jesus as a family forever in His castle, our King and heavenly Father tells us not to wait until heaven to pursue each other. He tells us that now is the time to live in community together for the glory of His name, for the joy of our own souls, and for bringing more people into His kingdom.
Through Christian community, and specifically through the local church, we point each other to Jesus and we live on mission together as partners in the gospel.
Sometimes, one of our subtle motives for community is to have others approve of us, fawn over us, and tell us we are valuable.
When our peers don’t give us their approval, or they don’t ascribe value to us, then we pity ourselves.
The gospel defeats self-pity, because it shows us that we don’t need to try to impress others or have them tell us we are valuable, because Jesus already gave us our value on the cross.
The gospel defeats self-centeredness because it show us that our salvation and our lives are not primarily about us at all, but about Jesus and the value we ascribe to Him.
So when you’re tempted to stop attending church or community group because you feel that nobody likes you, consider asking yourself this question: “Instead of seeking to be served, how can I serve you, Lord and others through my physical presence, through words of encouragement, through listening to others, and through showing mercy?”
But even though God no longer looks at our past mistakes, the enemy, our flesh, and the world constantly tempt us to remember our past and to cling to our shame.
As a result, we often don’t feel justified to enjoy friendships, to be part of a community of people who love Jesus, or to be used by God for good purposes.
The gospel combats these feelings by reminding us that we’re not justified to receive the blessings of community because of our own merits—-we’re justified and liberated to enjoy the family of God because of the merits of Christ, which we can now claim as our own through faith.
So whenever you feel unworthy to enjoy community with others, remember that nobody is worthy on their own. The only reason any of us now enter and enjoy Christian community is because of Christ, and that’s why we worship Him whenever we’re together.
Our flesh tells us that we don’t really need help from anyone, that we shouldn’t burden others with our problems, and that we can meet our needs ourselves.
The gospel tells us otherwise.
The gospel tells us we are totally incapable of saving ourselves.
If God had not helped us in our helplessness, we would not know Him or His salvation.
And while we don’t need the church in order to be eternally saved, God gives us the church as an instrument of His grace to support us, to transform us into His image, and to humble us.
The gospel gives us the game plan of living on mission together as we proclaim our crucified King throughout the world.
And as God saves more of His children, we will gather them into our fellowship and together grow as His disciples by the power of His Holy Spirit.
We will seek to love others well—to forgive as we’ve been forgiven, and to grow in the grace of God.
The advancement of the gospel of Jesus is our game plan, our purpose, our vision, and our joy.
- Dan Hallock
Because the gospel removes both fear & pride, people should get along inside the church who would never get along outside of the church.
Because it points us to a man who died for His enemies, the gospel creates relationships of service rather than out of selfishness.
Because the gospel calls us to holiness , the people of God live in bonds of mutual accountability and discipline.
Thus the gospel creates a human community radically different from any society around it.
…This gospel fills christians with humility & hope, meekness & boldness, in a unique way.
The biblical gospel differs markedly from traditional religion as that it
sees conversions of both the rich and poor, highly educated and less educated, men and women, old and young, married and single, and all races.
…Because of the attractiveness of it’s community and the humility of it’s people, a gospel-center church should find people in its midst who are exploring and trying to understand christianity.
It must welcome them in hundreds of ways.
It will do little to make them “comfortable” but will do much to make its message understandable.
Philippians 2 : 1. 8 / The Message
If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if His love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor:
Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends.
Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top.
Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead.
Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage.
Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.
Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of Himself.
He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of Himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, He set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human!
Having become human, He stayed human.
It was an incredibly humbling process.
He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, He lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.