THERE IS NO CONDEMNATION FOR THOSE WHO ARE IN CHRIST

 

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VICKY STEPHENSON, Contributor for today’s blog post

Do you have a Bible verse that no matter how often you read it, no matter how many sermons you hear on it, no matter how many times you sing it even, you are still like, “Yeah right!”?
For me that verse is the very well known Romans 8:1:
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus
My head memorises it but my heart struggles. I open the Bible and feel condemned.
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Blimey, my life looks nothing like this! I’m grumpy and miserable. Hours go by when I don’t give God a thought. I am horribly ungrateful in the good times, never mind the bad. I talk to Christian friends and feel condemned for my parenting choices, the way I spend my time and the lack of daily quiet times. I look in the mirror and know my sin and feel crushed by it.
The Romans verse which does totally reflect my life is:
I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. Romans 7:15
This lack of truly grasping Christ’s promises so completely infiltrates my thinking that I had been listening to a Casting Crowns song for weeks thinking it was saying:
“I’m on the throne, stop holding on and just BEHAVE”
Weeks went by and every time I heard it I felt worse reflecting on all the times I had let God down that day.
BUT… Praise God for his spirit of wisdom and pray that I am ever more open to it.
Guess what happened when I really listened to the song? I realised what it actually said was:
“Just be HELD.”
It is not all about me, it is all about GOD.
This spiritual prod made me go back and reflect deeply on my attitude, you see I was half right. Here’s what I concluded:
-The Bible is a mirror which we look in and it shows us our faults.
-My Christian friends do model ways of living which I should strive towards.
-A frank look in the mirror will always show vast areas which could be improved.
So the initial assessment was right, but I had forgotten the crucial thing. I was forgetting the cross of Christ which changes all of this. As ever, reading one short verse out of context means you miss the bigger picture.
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. Romans 8:1-2
The lack of condemnation is not because I deserve it, it is BECAUSE of Christ.
All this means that although I am still a disaster doomed always to fail and fall short, I am also a wonky clay pot who is being shaped for God’s purposes. So the next time I hear the voice of condemnation I have to stop and reflect. I need to actively avoid the 2 different traps. Both the downward spiral of guilt and shame which leads to a pity party and the defensive angry bounce back to “At least I’m not as bad as ….” Instead I need to look on it as a poke from God to get me back on track and ready for the good works he has prepared for me.
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10
Even if the task of living a godly life seems overwhelming, just trust that God is with me and will hold me as I keep my eyes focused on the cross and praise God that:
There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.

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GROW UP!

 

Kathy Larkman

Kathy Larkman, contributor for today’s blog post

“Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.” 1 Peter 2:2-3 NIV

Last week I met my third grandchild! My grand daughter, Sloane, is four months old and such a blessing! Sweet little coos and smiles as well as hungry cries consistently emanate from this little poppet. There is never a doubt when she is ready for her milk! When the bottle comes into her vision, she wails even more loudly until she latches on to the bottle. Her eyes roll back into her head as she murmurs sweetly- and she always…always….has a hunger for more in about three hours!

In the verse for today, Peter tells us to long for “spiritual milk” (biblical truth) so that we may grow up (become mature) in our salvation. Peter is using the “milk” word picture to point out how eagerly we should consume the Word of God; just like my grand daughter Sloane whose singular focus and enthusiasm is evident when it is time for her feeding.

The Word of God in Scripture is where and how we grow in holiness and love others properly; where God reveals who He is-His character and our salvation in Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit draws us to His love and grace. As we cooperate with the Holy Spirit, God wakes us up to what it is to be His children. It is a way of life-not an add on where we fit God in with our own desires and agendas. No, it changes us! The darkness which covers our understanding is taken away as we follow the Lord. And as we follow the Lord, we are transformed into the likeness of Christ more and more. (2 Corinthians 3:18)

So let’s ask ourselves these questions:
Do we crave the Word of God with a singular focus and enthusiasm like Sloane has for her milk?
Or, are we indifferent, thinking that the study of Scripture doesn’t really contribute to our Christian maturity? Or worse, are we just going through the motions of being a “decent person” and trying to use God for our own ends?

portrait of a beautiful girl hipsterSadly, for many years I stumbled along this indifferent road, and sat miserably on the unhappy and disillusioned fence of living like the culture around me and trying to fit in God and His ways where it suited me. I was deceived into thinking that the lifelong process of reading/studying the Bible wasn’t vital to knowing God and realizing His love and grace for me. But God wouldn’t have it!  I became so miserable, that as I cried out to Him, the Holy Spirit began to open my deceived eyes and heart. I began to understand that God’s grace doesn’t stop at salvation, (Romans 5:2) and that I need to trust and obey God through His Word! I still have a long way to go and will still be learning and growing until the Lord takes me home. But my gift of salvation is bearing fruit in service to God and others, and love for God and others. Some days are still difficult. Of course I struggle. I am a sinner saved by God’s grace.  But the Lord is transforming me one day at a time as I struggle with Gospel hope and joy.

His salvation rescue and eternal life are only the beginning of the Good Life God has for us to live as we are studying in Titus. Growing to maturity is the call of every follower of Jesus Christ. Let’s pray to our Lord and Saviour to increase our hunger for His Word. Let’s encourage each other to take steps to study it eagerly so that we may know and love God more every day, love others, and grow to maturity. (Ephesians 4:16)

WHY THE HOPE OF HEAVEN IS BETTER THAN THE HOPE OF CHOCOLATE CAKE

 

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Sharon Durant, contributor for today’s blog

“…in the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time…”
Titus 1:2c

God never lies. If he made a promise, he will keep it. It is his very nature. He cannot deny himself and act against the person that he is. The truly Good News is that, through Jesus Christ, God has demonstrated his power, authority and ability to do all those things he promised.

God is the one with the power to make all this happen, and God doesn’t lie, so since God is the one who has promised me eternal life, this is a sure and certain hope.

By contrast.

untitledI could hope in myself for chocolate cake. It might happen. But it might not. Because I might not get off my backside and mix the ingredients. (Actually, I might not even have butter in the fridge. I think someone already finished it up.)

I could hope for my children to get fantastic degrees and become impressively intelligent and sorted adults. It might happen. But it might not. Because they are only humans and cannot control the weather tomorrow, let alone their future careers.

I can have confident hope in eternal life, though.

I can hope for an eternity with the one who loved me and gave himself for me. For certain. Because God promised it and God does not lie. He has the power, authority and ability to make it happen.

This is why the hope of heaven is more certain than the hope of chocolate cake. Because God does not lie, and he has said it will happen. He cannot stop being the faithful God he has always been and will always be (Yahweh – I am who I am and I will be who I will be). He does not lie. He cannot go against his character.

Plus! He has the power, authority and ability to make it happen. Sin wiped out – by Jesus’ blood.
God with us always – by the Holy Spirit, which God pours out on us without counting how much we’ve had, because we are abiding in Christ (or to put it simply, because we are joined to Jesus).
God’s house forevermore – by Jesus’ blood.

So today, there may not be chocolate cake. Even though chocolate cake is tangible and within my own power to make –which might make it seem more likely than heaven– I know how unreliable I am. I promise my children cake but then I get distracted and do the hoovering, watch some TV and then it’s too late to start baking. My hope in chocolate cake is misplaced because my own character and ability is so unreliable.

But I can sleep in peace tonight knowing there is definitely a confident hope of eternal life, because it depends on the character and ability of someone utterly reliable and all-powerful, who does not lie. My hope lies with God our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.

TESTIMONY: LESLEY GRINDROD

LESLEY NEW PHOTO

Lesley Grindrod

I haven’t often shared the testimony of my childhood years, but as I read the first chapter of Titus and prayed about what I should write for this blog, memories of those days came flooding back and I felt the Lord urging me to share some of them with you.
My two younger sisters and I were brought up in a God-fearing but extremely legalistic Christian home. My parents came to faith through the ministry of an older couple they met doing ‘street ministry’ in London. This couple didn’t belong to a church and were accountable to no-one. I came to realise many years later they had a very twisted view of what it meant to be a Christian. Unfortunately Mum and Dad believed everything they taught them.
Among other things, my parents were convinced that following the Levitical law as closely as possible would gain them extra ‘brownie points’ with God. My Dad even went to the extreme of being circumcised at 40 years old! We children were forbidden to play games or speak of anything other than scripture on Sundays. We were never allowed to listen to the radio or watch TV. We could not invite school friends to our home, or visit them in theirs.
Mum taught me to play piano, but the lid was often slammed shut on my fingers when my irate father overheard me playing anything he didn’t approve of -anything other than old hymns or choruses!
We kept the Old Testament ‘food laws’ rigidly, couldn’t wear clothing that mixed wool and cotton, weren’t allowed to celebrate Christmas or Easter (these were considered pagan festivals) and were never allowed to go on school trips or join ‘ungodly’ organisations like the Girl Guides.
Just before bed one night, aged seven or eight, my father taught us about Noah’s ark – that God judged the earth by drowning everyone that didn’t accept Christ. In panic, I tearfully prayed ‘the sinner’s prayer’ pleading to be saved from God’s wrath. After all, what child wouldn’t be terrified of drowning?
As you can imagine by the time I was in my teens I completely rebelled against this harsh and vengeful God. I left school and started work as a reporter on my local paper. With my first wage I rented a tiny flat, leaving my family home for good. My parents refused to acknowledge my existence for many years. At 17, I was alone, vulnerable and quickly embraced a completely heathen lifestyle.
But oh, how great is the mercy, kindness and compassion of God! After many years of living outside of his grace, He brought people into my life that would show me a completely different Gospel, one of mercy, forgiveness, redemption and overwhelming, undeserved love.
It’s taken many years to ‘unlearn’ the false teaching I received as a child. I still struggle at times with assurance of my salvation; that I don’t need to earn God’s love. Paul warned Titus about the horrible consequences of false teaching and the havoc it causes.
Sisters, we are so blessed to belong to a church where Bible truth is faithfully taught. Let’s be careful to guard our hearts against what is false, never take our leaders for granted and receive the teaching they bring with great gratitude and respect.

GOD CANNOT LIE

 

LESLEY NEW PHOTO

Lesley Grindrod, contributor for today’s blog post

Since we CBC ladies are studying the little book of Titus together soon, I thought it’d be a good idea to ‘flick through it’ quickly ahead of our first study. After all, it’s only got three short chapters – 10 minutes and I’d be done, right? Wrong!! Just a few seconds into reading, five small words in the middle of second verse stopped me in my tracks: “….God, who does not lie…” My mind immediately went to Hebrews 6:18 where Paul says it is impossible for God to lie!
Wow! Let that sink in for a moment – our Heavenly Father doesn’t ‘choose’ not to lie – He simply can’t! He is incapable of being a liar, a deceiver or a trickster. It’s contrary to His nature because He is TRUTH. His perspective is never skewed or obscured. He cannot be bribed or deceived. This is what makes the foundation of our relationship with Him so solid. He’s given us His Word, which cannot fail. If we’re ever presented with evidence contrary to what God says, we can be certain it’s not true.
Can man or woman lie? Oh, yes! We’ve all met people who have lied to us. Who say one thing yet do another, make promises they never intend to keep, tell lies, deceive, deal falsely, or trick or cheat us for their own advantage. Perhaps you’ve encountered some very painful experiences in your past where people – even ‘God’s people’ – deceived or tricked you. You may have entrusted your love and affection to those who were very deceitful – they spoke one way, but their hearts were against you. There’s no wound more painful than the wound of betrayal by someone you loved, respected, reached out to, laid down your life for, or entrusted as a dear friend.
And if we’re honest, there’ve probably been times when we’ve been guilty of lying to others too. The Good News is that “God is not a man that He should lie …”(Num 23:19). Contrary to what the New Age Movement says – Man is not God, and God is not a man. He is the Creator, the source of all life and the only unfailing source of all we need. There is no way we can avoid being hurt in human relationships. Yet even if we’ve been hurt by our earthly father, we shouldn’t be afraid to approach our Heavenly Father. He is the perfect One who cares about us more than we could ever imagine, and He will never, ever lie to us.
God cannot lieHow comforting it is to have someone like the Lord Jesus to entrust our lives to! What security is ours to know Him personally and to be walking in daily fellowship with Him. We can surely trust Him. He won’t ever deceive us or lie to us. He won’t break a promise. He isn’t fickle or whimsical. He won’t change His mind or take back His words. Oh, that this Truth would saturate our being and transform our lives!
Oh, that we would never, ever fear again, worry, be anxious, feel overwhelmed by our circumstances, or feel lonely and depressed. We can trust Jesus. If there is anyone who we can trust, it’s Him. He cannot and will not ever ‘lie’ to us.

TITUS: GRACE FOR LIVING THE GOOD LIFE

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Sharon Durant, lead teacher for this year’s bible study on Titus and today’s blog post contributor

The good life: Colourful cocktails? A deserted beach? Organic food? A TV series?

This year we’re going to be studying how God’s grace helps us to live the real good life – a life full of good works, done with a thankful, rejoicing, hopeful heart, confident of God’s love and walking in his light. This is the best way to live, the ultimate good life.

Why Titus? Because in the letter to Titus, Paul brings together the two essential ingredients of the good life – grace and good works.

These two might sound like opposites. Don’t we spend ages as Christians reminding ourselves that only God’s grace can save us? That all our good works won’t add anything to Jesus’ completed sacrifice on the cross? If grace is so amazing, why do we try to live a good life?

Well, as one preacher put it, “Jesus did what we can not do, so we could do what we can do.”

I’ve been so blessed by this truth. The grace of God poured on through Jesus did what I can’t do – it paid the price for me and freed me from my sin. But the purpose of this grace was so that I could do what I can – freed up to do good works, to live the good life.

We’re not set free so we can run riot like stray dogs; we’re set free to live purposeful lives that glorify God and bless others.

So, be ready, girls! Over the course of the year, it’s going to get painfully practical. In Titus, Paul applies grace thoroughly to our lives at home, church and in the world.

There’s a lot of momentum already, building on last year’s studies in God’s grace and the (now legendary) weekend away.

Plus this year there are going to be new faces and new voices speaking, sharing from God’s Word about grace for living the good life.

I’m excited. More than I usually am! Because this year the Holy Spirit is leading us forward in living the good life; we’re not being complacent and letting God’s grace go to waste.

I’m praying. I’m praying for you and your study buddy (Don’t have one? Talk to Anne Holmes ASAP so you don’t miss out on the full impact of Titus) that God would prepare your hearts and make you teachable by his grace.

I’m praying for our team of speakers this year as they study and prepare God’s Word.

Please pray with me – for each other, for those preparing the studies and talks… but most of all, please pray that more and more women in Corsham and the surrounding areas would be drawn into God’s grace, begin to live the good life, and study God’s Word together with us.

See you on 24th September!

A PRAYER ABOUT HEART GUARDING

everyday prayers scotty smith“Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.” 1 John 5:21 NIV

Gracious Father, how I long for the day when I will no longer be temptable, deceivable, or capable of worshiping any other god but you. I so look forward to an eternity of giving you the adoration, affection, attention, and allegiance of which you alone are worthy. No one redeems us like you. No one loves us like you do. No one cares for us like you. No one understands us like you. There is no God but you.

In Jesus, you’ve already given us a new heart and have placed your Spirit inside us. In Jesus, you’ve already turned our heart of stone into a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:25-27). In Jesus, you’ve already given us a heart to know and love you (Jeremiah 24:7). In Jesus, you’ve already written your law upon our hearts (Jeremiah 31:33).

Indeed, Father, you’ve already given me a perfectly forgiven heart-yet it is far from being a fully perfected heart. The battle for my heart’s worship continues, daily and relentlessly. This conflict will persist until the day Jesus returns to finish making all things new. Thus the warning to keep myself from idols is not going away.

Father, there are some idols I run from like the plague, but others I don’t even recognize as idols. It’s easier to see the idols outside of me, but help me to discern the ‘idols of the heart’ (see Ezekiel 14:4) Help me to know when I’ve made a good thing an ultimate thing. When I don’t think you are ‘enough,’ where do I take the trust and worship you deserve-where do I go for life, deliverance, and salvation?

I praise you for the assurance that I am already one of your ‘beloved children.’ You cannot love me more than you already do, and you will never love me less. Surely the gospel, this gospel, will win the day, my heart, and the entire cosmos. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.”

A PRAYER ABOUT GRACE ALLERGIES

everyday prayers scotty smith“There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink.’ (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food) The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?’ (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.'” John 4:7-10)

Dear Lord Jesus, you spoke these inviting words of hope to a broken woman trying her very best to keep her distance from you. She’d been on a quest to find life in the arms of men-many men-and it obviously wasn’t working for her very well. The more she tried to evade your gaze, the more you simply applied your grace. She ran; you pursued. She danced around; you stopped the music. How I praise you that you came to seek and save the lost, not just broadcast an offer from the distance.

Though the details of my story are different from this nameless Samaritan woman’s, the same foolish strategy is there: playing games with you, like hide-and-seek, only I do all the hiding and you do all the seeking. I wish this were just true of me a long, long time ago, but I still default to this insanity.

Jesus, deliver us from grace allergies-living with an aversion to the gospel. Why we choose broken cisterns, dumb idols, and self-help over your love is sheer madness. Grace is for sinners, not for pretenders, posers, and performers. You mean to heal us, not harm us; embrace us, not embarrass us; succor us with compassion, not shame us with contempt.

So Jesus, once again I bring real thirst to you today. I bring my penchant to avoid you. I bring my excuse making, my unbelief, my pride, my self-righteousness. I bring that part of me that would rather help others discover your grace than partake of it for myself.

I ask you for a fresh imbibing of living water, sufficient for the needs of my heart and the demands of the day. May this be a twenty-four-hour period in which I spontaneously join the chorus of many others who are singing, ‘Come see the man who told me everything I ever did, and he still loves me and is bent on my freedom. Certainly this is the Messiah, the Saviour, the Lord…. He is Jesus!’ I pray in our pursuing and all-satisfying name. Amen.”

A PRAYER ABOUT THE IMPOSSIBLE

everyday prayers scotty smith“But he (Jesus), ‘What is impossible with men is possible with God.'” Luke 18:27

“Gracious Jesus, you offered these words of hope to disciples trying to picture a camel squeezing through the eye of a needle. You speak the same words to me in light of many situations for which I need to accept my limitations and lay hold of your sufficiency.

I begin this day remembering that your commitment is to make all things new, not make all new things. There is an enormous difference between the two. Indeed, Jesus, you’ve placed us in a story of restoration, not replacement. You are actively at work in the broken places and among broken people, including me. Through your resurrection, we’ve been given great assurance and hope for a redeemed universe. This is incredibly good news- the best news ever.

The hard news is that I have to accept that many things are impossible for me. My intentions, efforts, and resources are simply not enough. I see this especially in my relationships. This requires a humility and faith the gospel alone can provide. Grant me both, Jesus; grant me both.

I cannot change me, so why do I assume the omnipotence to fix others? As much as I long to see friends freed from addictions, marriages brought back from the brink of death, and stubborn people made gentle and kind, Jesus, you alone have the power of resurrection. Maybe the greater challenge will be for you to make me a patient, caring, present friend. Please show me the first nose hair of this camel poking through the needle’s eye. Hasten the day of perfect newness in my heart. I pray in your majestic name. Amen”

A PRAYER ABOUT THE PARADOX OF WEAKNESS

everyday prayers scotty smith“‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weakness, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, than I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

“Heavenly Father, as I meditate on these words of Paul, I vacillate between feelings of anger and relief, for as a young follower of Jesus, I wasn’t taught to delight in weakness but rather to despise weakness, to deny weakness, to demonize weakness, to dethrone weakness. That’s why I totally understand Martin Luther’s statement that ‘bad theology is the worst taskmaster of all.’ For I’ve suffered much under the merciless whip of several gospel distortions.

It was all about the ‘victorious Christian life’: overcoming and not underachieving, kind of like having a type A personality on spiritual steroids. I didn’t think in terms of sufficient grace, I wanted replacement grace- getting rid of anything unpleasant in my life.

Thank you Father, for rescuing me from this and other misrepresentations of life in Christ. Thank you for the godly men and women you’ve brought into my life in Christ over the years, the humble and courageous servants of Jesus who’ve helped me understand the true riches of the gospel and the way of the cross. Increase their tribe, Lord: increase their tribe.

Father, I know I’m not be be defined by my weakness and brokenness, but I realize more than ever, that’s where Jesus meets me. I have no ability to change my heart. I very much want your power to rest on me. I very much need your power to rest on me. I am desperate for all the sufficient grace you will give me.

As you continue to humble and gentle my heart, greatly increase my compassion toward others in their weakness and brokenness. Forgive my irritation, impatience, and avoidance of people whose need is much greater than my supply.

What a wonderful, merciful Saviour you are, Jesus. Indeed, it was because you embraced the weakness of the cross that I can gladly boast in the weaknesses of my life and the more-than-sufficient supply of your grace. What a most profound, liberating, and hope-filled paradox. I pray in your holy and loving name. Amen.”