A murderer, a thief, a habitual sin issue, a long-term addiction. How can a loving God forgive a person like that? Most Christians have asked a question similar to this at some point. Growing up, I struggled with sexual purity, as most young men do. It was a challenge for me to think rightly about the opposite sex. I would commit verses Like Job 41:1 to memory
“I have made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at another woman” * — Job 41:1
I had Bible studies and book studies that helped me commit to right thinking. I had accountability partners and prayer, and despite all that, I found myself in a pattern of sin, regret and resolution, over and over again.
In the midst of my failure, I often wondered if God would ever give up on me and my struggle. I would barter with God and boldly proclaim this was my last time, that it would never happen again, only to fail. After bartering with God, I felt like I was done. I made two mistakes:
The truth is that God’s grace in your life has nothing to do with you and everything to do with him. You are forgiven because God is good, not because you are. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that forgiveness happens because of you. God forgives because that is who he is!
Today, I want to remind all believers that God is faithful to us, even when we are unfaithful to him!
Life would be so much easier if I were perfect. Sadly, I am not. I am flawed. I am broken. And, as if that weren’t bad enough, everybody else — including those of you reading this devotional — are just as flawed and broken as I am. So we’re just a bunch of flawed, broken humans, living together on this planet. Our flaws and brokenness cause conflict with one another. Sometimes, the issues between two individuals can be so upsetting, so dire, so severe, that one person may end up writing off the other person entirely. At some point, you’ve probably heard somebody say something like:
“I am completely done with this person.”
“I literally can’t even with her.”
“He’s dead to me.”
Not only have you probably heard something like that, you may have even said it yourself. Why? What would cause you to completely wash your hands of another human being? There are a lot of potential reasons, but here are a few:
• The offender disappointed you. You had expectations that the offender failed to meet.
• You’ve reached your breaking point. The offenses kept piling up until there were just too many to forgive.
• The offender has hurt you so badly that you can’t find it in your heart to love them anymore.
In our human brokenness, these reasons make sense. Thankfully, God doesn’t treat us the way we treat one another.
The Lord will not reject his people;
he will not abandon his special possession.
— Psalm 94:14 NLT
Unlike us humans, our God is not bound by flaws or limitations.
• It is impossible to disappoint God. To disappoint somebody, your behavior has to surprise them. You can’t surprise God. He knows everything you have ever done and everything you will ever do. You will never catch him off guard. Never.
• God has no breaking point. You can’t break the unbreakable.
• God’s love has no limits. He will never stop loving you.
The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
His mercies never cease.
Great is his faithfulness;
his mercies begin afresh each morning.
— Lamentations 3:22–23 NLT
The fact that God’s love for us is perfect and unfailing is awesome enough, but the news gets even better! Remember all that stuff I said about how we humans are all flawed and broken? That’s all true, but those of us who are in Christ are no longer bound by the same limitations!
This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!
— 2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT
Sure, our feeble human hearts and minds are incapable of forgiving the unforgivable or loving the unlovable. But, as believers in Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit, we don’t have to rely on our weak human imitation of God’s patience and love. We now have access to the real deal. And by sharing that perfect love, we have the honor and joy of glorifying God and leading others to him through his perfect Son, Jesus Christ!
Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.
— John 13:35 NLT
So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.
— 2 Corinthians 5:20–21 NLT
Go to pretty much any gym in America, and you’ll probably overhear a conversation about weight. I don’t mean losing weight. I mean deadlifting it, bench-pressing it, curling it, squatting it. You’ll hear conversations like, “What you lifting, bro?” “380, brah.” And whether you’re in the conversation or just observing from the smoothie bar, you’ve probably picked up on the competitive compulsion to be the one who can lift the most. “410 for me, brah.”
There was a group of people in Jesus’ day who were also obsessed with lifting weight. It just looked a little different. Jesus described these individuals in Matthew 23:
“They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.”
— Matthew 23:4
They were called Pharisees, and they were the religious leaders of the day, basically self-proclaimed life coaches telling the Jewish people what to do. Jesus’ chief accusation against them was this: they were obsessed with weight! Only their weights (or burdens) weren’t dumbbells. They were lists of rules, endless boxes to check off in order to prove oneself worthy. But over time their lists kept growing and growing, and, as Jesus observed, these religious teachers were really only concerned with watching others struggle under the crushing weight so that they, the teachers, could prove their own superiority. They had definitely missed the point. Not to mention, in reality, they weren’t any closer to perfectly following the rules than the people they were leading. And Jesus called them out on it. He said, “They preach, but do not practice.” It was all like a big game of Simon Says to them, and this game had been going on for a very long time.
Then Jesus came onto the scene and completely flipped the script. Jesus, who was the spiritual equivalent of Mr. Universe, could’ve really dropped the weight on the people. And rightly so! He would’ve been able to lift any burden and keep every rule, but Jesus was a very different teacher than the others. Just listen to his invitation for students:
“Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly of heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
— Matthew 11:28–30
How completely different from the elitist poser Pharisees! If the people would come to Christ as their teacher, follow Him as their mentor and master, he would actually lighten their load. He wasn’t obsessed with lifting weight, he wanted to liberate them from it. Jesus’ goal wasn’t to crush the people, but to give them rest. Rest for their souls.
Christ revealed the fullness of this when he died for us. The Teacher laid down his life for his students, to save us. To save us from sin, as well as from religious legalism. And everything he preached along the way pointed back to the heart of the matter. It was never about a list of rules. It was always about pursuing God with your heart. Just like someone who can bench-press obscene amounts of weight may not actually be a physically healthy person. It was always supposed to be about loving God, not trying to carry the most weight. And to punctuate that point, God, through Christ, demonstrated just how much he loves you. Rules won’t save you, but his love will.
So the next time you find yourself trying to carry the load of religious legalism or prove you’re the one who can keep all the rules the best, ask yourself, “Which teacher are you following? The one who wants to crush you or the one who wants to free you? The one who wants to condemn you or the one who truly loves you?”
For God so loved the world that He gave His only son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.
— John 3:16
My son has a terrible habit: he bites his nails. Not only is it gross, because he’s a four year old boy who picks his nose and plays with bugs, but he has bitten his nails so far down, he barely has any nails left! It’s so bad that sometimes he bites the skin and his nails down so far that the skin gets super tender. This always makes him sad, and sometimes he cries, because it’s painful. Yet he still can’t stop.
The fact that he bites his nails to the point of hurting himself is what causes me to constantly ask him to stop biting his nails. And to top it all off, I find myself biting my own nails from time to time. What? I know. So annoying. Reminds me of what Paul said in Romans 2:
…you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”
— Romans 2:21–24
I know Paul wasn’t speaking about biting my nails here, but the truth is if I can’t even stand up to my own nail-biting standard, what makes me think I can muster up enough strength to uphold God’s standards on my own? No way could I do that. This, my friends, is what gets me so pumped about the way God administers love. He doesn’t administer love to those who earn it, he offers it to those who know they can’t earn it. Hallelujah for a merciful God!
Sometimes, however, we believe the lie that it would be better to have a God who judges us based on what we sacrifice for him and for the hours we spend serving his Church or people. We think we want God to use a scale for our salvation because we don’t think some people should have the same opportunity as us, being that they don’t really even try hard and they keep livin’ it up. Wrong. Our own conscience condemns us, so how much more would a perfect and holy God?
I think it would serve us all well to take a morning or two to reflect on our imperfections and brokenness. Not for condemnation, nor for suffering, but to make us all the more glad that we are not judged by our works, but by our faith in Jesus Christ our Lord.
Give him thanks and praise today for his perfection!
It used to be that the Outer Court of the Tabernacle was a place of sacrifice, where sin was dealt with. It represented our lives when we first came to know Jesus, when we first received the gift of salvation, and when our sin was dealt with. Where Jesus took on our sin and shame and gave us a clean slate, a new beginning. He is the sacrifice for our sins. He paid the price for us.
The Outer Court of the Tabernacle was also the place of cleansing. The laver was where the priests would wash in water after the sacrifice was made. It is symbolic of our baptism. We come to faith in Jesus, who is the sacrifice for our sins, and then we are baptized in water.
But just as the priests did not remain in the Outer Court, just as these things were preparations to move into the Inner Court and then the High Priest into the Holy of Holies, we should not dwell there for too long. God wants us to grow deeper in our faith and deeper in our relationship with him. Just as the priests did not remain in the Outer Court, God does not desire for us to become stagnant in our walk. He yearns for us to grow deeper in our faith and deeper in our relationship with him. Our walk with God must progress from the Outer Court into the Holy Place.
Think of when you begin a relationship with someone. You make it a priority to get to know them better. You talk with them, spend time with them, try to determine their best features and character. When we begin our relationship with God, we need to do the same. Many of us have become so conditioned to religion that we forget that religion, with its ordinances and rites and sacrifices, was what Jesus came to free us from.
Religion, in all its shapes and forms, cannot save you. Only Jesus can do that.
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore, I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
— 1 Corinthians 9:24–27
I have recently felt so stuck in my walk with him. Yearning to grow deeper, searching for ways to grow, but often finding it difficult to do so. And it took me a while to realize that God is not a God of complication. He makes it super simple for us. There is no need to be afraid about going deeper. You can have the most basic, general understanding. You don’t need some fancy expensive degree to know him. His only desire is that you continue the pursuit to fully know him as deeply as he can be known on this side of heaven. It is all about the desire to have a relationship. The Lord says that our prayers are like incense to his nose, filling it with a sweet scent.
But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil
— Hebrews 5:14