Cosmic Covering

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:8)

Our Lord Jesus Christ provides His sheep with a cosmic covering. To “cover,” at the deepest level of understanding, is to forgive and to forget, and only God has the ability to do that over and over and over again in our lives.

While Jesus hung on the cross He said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). He was speaking directly about those people who had nailed Him to that cruel cross! Once we have this truth firmly planted in our understanding, we can begin to live this forgiveness out in our lives with others, which is specifically what Peter was referring to in today’s passage. Peter was talking about interpersonal relationships on the horizontal level. Only as we are able to love others as Jesus has loved us – by forgiving as we have been forgiven – can we truly be considered His disciples. Because we have been given this cosmic covering of grace and mercy, we must be willing to offer it to others.

But what we must remember in our interpersonal relationships is the fact that love covers “a multitude” of sins — not all of them — and Paul makes this clear in the following ways:

  • We are not to participate with others in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but rather we are to shed light on them (Ephesians 5:11).
  • We are to separate ourselves from those who claim to be believers and still live immoral and destructive lives (1 Corinthians 5:11).
  • We are to give a word of warning to those who are living idle and disruptive lives (1 Thessalonians 5:14).
  • We are to bring restoration to anyone who has been caught in the snare of sin (Galatians 6:1).

The life of the believer is a life lived in the shadow of the cross, as we forgive and forbear, prayerfully trying, in our own sin-stained way, to emulate the forgiveness and forbearance of our loving Lord. Love does indeed cover a multitude of sins. Yet there are sins that must be addressed in love when someone’s sin is destructive to them or those around them. We have received a cosmic covering of the love of our Lord, and we are to express that love to others — deeply and from the heart.

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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The Prince of Prayer

He is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. (Hebrews 7:25)

Most of us are familiar with the biblical title, “The Prince of Peace,” which is often applied to Jesus and rooted in the prophecy of Isaiah 9:6. But there is another title that can be just as aptly applied to our Lord: “The Prince of Prayer.” One of the most neglected understandings of our Lord Jesus Christ in the church today is the continual intercession He is making in heaven on our behalf.

We have a tendency to focus primarily on what God in Christ has done for us in the past and what He has promised to do in the future, but many of us forget what Jesus is doing for us right now. To be sure, we should rejoice and give thanks that everything necessary for our salvation has already been accomplished — not by us but for us — through the sinless life, sacrificial death, and supernatural resurrection of Jesus Christ. All that work that Jesus completed on our behalf comes under the heading of our justification. But we must never forget that the work of our Lord is not finished when it comes to our sanctification — that is, our growing and maturing in our faith. That ongoing work comes under the heading of His intercession.

I want to be completely clear that this ongoing work of our Lord does not mean that anything related to our right standing before God was left unfinished. When we understand that Jesus is always making intercession for us, we are to see it as the application of what His atonement has accomplished. His intercession is a powerful picture of the fullness of His victory on the cross, because now that “It is finished” (John 19:30), He is able to intercede on our behalf that we may grow and mature and stand firm in our faith.

Here is something to remember that will provide both a comfort and a challenge: Just as Satan is continually accusing us and reminding us of our sins and shortcomings, Jesus is continually interceding for us, which means Satan’s accusations fall on “Divine Deaf Ears.” There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ (Romans 8:1), and not until that truth seizes us will we be able to withstand the slings and arrows of the evil one.

One final point: Jesus is the One and Only Mediator between you and God; you need no other. The God-man has your back in any and every set of circumstances you may find yourself in. Oh, and Jesus also has your front, sides, and inside too, because Jesus is your Prince of Prayer who is continually making intercession for you. Rejoice, Christian! The One who died for you while you were yet a sinner (Romans 5:8) now lives to pray for you!!

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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Audacious Asking

“Ask and it will be given to you.” (Matthew 7:7)

The dictionary definition of the word audacious can be both positive and negative. On the negative side, it can mean reckless and inappropriate; on the positive side, it means a willingness to take bold risks, and I believe that is exactly what Jesus had in mind when He commanded us to come into His presence and “ask.”

What have you been asking Jesus for lately?

The Bible is full of examples of God’s people practicing audacious asking for a variety of different reasons. Here are just a few examples:

“Show me your glory” (Moses in Exodus 33:18).

“Enlarge my borders” (Jabez in 1 Chronicles 4:10).

“Rabbi, I want to see” (The blind man in Mark 10:51).

“My daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her” (Jairus in Mark 5:23).

People often tell me that they find audacious asking difficult to do. They offer many reasons for their reluctance: Some have been convinced that God is not that interested in showing up in a big way in their lives. Others are fearful that God’s answer will be “No” and their faith will be crushed. Still others are not sure their audacious asking would actually be the will of God for their lives. If this describes you in any way — or perhaps there are other reasons circulating in your mind right now — take a moment to marinate in these words from Jesus.

“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a serpent? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:11-13)

Jesus was teaching His disciples about prayer, and here He made a profound statement that has encouraged me many times over the years to ask audaciously: “How much more.” Jesus reminds us that earthly fathers, though flawed and sinful, still try to do what is best for their children. How much more will our perfect Father in heaven treat all of His children well and how much more does He desire that we come into His presence with big, bold, and audacious prayers? Jesus paints a powerful picture of a God who not only allows “audacious asking,” He expects it, He invites it, and He is ready, willing, and able to answer, no matter how audacious our request seems to be.

Remember, if what we are asking audaciously is not His will, He will not give it to us. The bottom line is that audacious asking is not so much about His answer, but rather it is about our attitude. Our audacious asking demonstrates both our great need and the greatness of our God, because all things are possible with Him.

What do you need to ask of your God today? Ask and it will be given to you . . . either what you asked for or something immeasurably more than all you could have asked or imagined (Ephesians 3:20).

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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Help Is Always On The Way!

Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper.” (John 14:15)

With only a few hours left to complete His earthly ministry before going to the cross, Jesus made an amazing promise to His disciples, both then and now: “Help is on the way.” But wait; Jesus was about to leave His disciples and return to His Father in heaven, so how in the world could this promise be true?

The Help that Jesus promised is none other than the third person of the Holy Trinity. Jesus assured all His followers that when He returned to His throne in heaven we would not be left alone, because He would send His Holy Spirit to dwell within us (John 16:7). He repeated this promise immediately before His Ascension: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you” (Acts 1:8).

We must never forget that this power that has been promised to us is a Person who will comfort and counsel us, guide and govern us, love us and lead us, protect us and provide for us; rebuke and restore us. For all those who place their trust in Christ alone for salvation, Help is always on the way. In some English translations, the Greek word parakletos is rendered as “Counselor,” rather than “Helper.” Both words should be a source of great encouragement to you and me. Our Helper-Counselor is the very presence of God, in the person of the Holy Spirit, who has promised to go before us, go behind us, go beside us, and most importantly, go within us. We are able to appropriate this all-powerful Helper by faith to cause us to live a life that is pleasing to God and beneficial to all those with whom we come in contact.

Here is an important biblical point to remember about our Helper: Beginning at Pentecost (Acts 2), the Holy Spirit has been poured out on all believers in the exact same amount. It is unbiblical to believe that some believers are endowed with a greater measure of the Holy Spirit after having reached some supposed higher level of spirituality. This simply is not true, and such thinking sets up a dividing wall within the body of Christ. There are no “super-spiritual saints” in the body of Christ; the ground is level at the foot of the cross. “For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body” (1 Corinthians 12:13), and we are all equally endowed with the same gift of the Holy Spirit.

To be sure, the Holy Spirit has been active from before the beginning of time; Genesis 1:2 tells us that the Spirit hovered over the waters that covered the earth prior to creation. Throughout the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit was on the move in the lives of many. But after Pentecost, the full measure of the Holy Spirit has been poured out on every Christian believer . . . and that includes you.

Have you been living in the power of your promised Helper? Remember, the best way to get to know someone is to spend time with him. Spend time with your Helper by staying in the Word and on your knees. Whatever help you are in need of today, you will receive it from the Helper who is with you and had promised to never leave nor forsake you.

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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Something To Think About

He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?” He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.” Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. (Mark 8:23-25)

Mark’s account of the healing of the blind man brings a question to mind for many of us: Why did Jesus heal the man in a two-step process? The Gospel accounts often show Jesus healing with just a word (Luke 18:35), healing instantly (Mark 1:42), even healing from a distance (John 4:50). So why did Jesus engage in a protracted healing of this man? Could it be that Jesus was teaching us a deeper lesson on physical and spiritual healing, showing us that restoration can (and often does) take time in our lives? We cannot answer with certainty because Scripture does not tell us, but we do know that our Lord’s method of healing this blind man was both intentional and purposeful, for the Word of God does not return to Him empty (Isaiah 55:11). Surely that gives us something to think about, wouldn’t you agree?

We can be sure that the first part of the healing Jesus administered did not fall short of the intended goal of a total restoration of the man’s sight. So again I ask, why the two-step process in healing this blind man when all Jesus needed to do was simply speak sight back into this man? I believe that this account provides another wonderful example of the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth being put on display in Scripture. This is nothing more and nothing less than an historical account of the life and ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ. When we read biblical narratives like this, we should be strengthened in our confident belief that we are reading faithfully true eyewitness testimony of what happened. For those skeptics who write the Bible off as a collection of myths, these stories provide a powerful response to such objections.

In closing, let me give you one more thing to think about. When Jesus asked the man what he saw after his first stage of healing, the man responded that he saw people who “look like trees walking around.” I believe that the Spirit of God wants us to understand that until we are completely healed of our spiritual blindness — a healing which will not be completed on this side of the grave — none of us can see with anything close to perfect clarity. I often remind our congregation that there is only One who speaks from Sinai; the rest of us are flawed and sinful. We all have some parts of our theology wrong, and we will only fully understand the truth when we cross the Jordan and stand in His presence. Until then, we must remember that we are all afflicted with spiritual myopia; our understanding is distorted, and we see the Scriptures, ourselves, and those around us “like trees walking around.”

When we keep this biblical understanding in view, we are more likely to be kind, compassionate, and loving to those who may not see things like we see them. Now that is something to think about!

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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The Master Mind-Opener

Then Jesus opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. (Luke 22:45)

What a glorious promise we have in our passage today! After Jesus rose from the dead, He presented Himself to His disciples and the Master Mind-Opener gave them wisdom and insight so that they could truly understand how all of the Scriptures (which only consisted of the Hebrew Scriptures at that time) were all about Him.

What the disciples had previously believed to be rules and regulations, they now understood as a relationship with their Redeemer. What they had previously observed as the Jewish sacrificial system, they now saw fulfilled in Jesus, the Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world. They had previously thought that the Temple in Jerusalem was the center of Jewish life, but now they understood that they were living in the presence of the True Temple of God.

The only way for you and I to understand all of this Gospel truth is for the Master Mind-Opener to open our minds to receive it. When Jesus opens our minds, we are able to come to the Law without any fear and trepidation, for we understand that Jesus fulfilled all of the Law for us. When we read through the prophets and all of the judgments spoken through them to God’s people, we rightly see how our Lord took all of God’s judgment upon Himself in our place as He hung on that cross and died for our sins. When we read through the myriad of promises from God throughout all of the Scriptures, we now see that our Master Mind-Opener is the “Yes” and “Amen” to each and every one of them (2 Corinthians 1:20).

Before the Master opens our minds, we pause with a bit of uncertainty, unsure whether we are free to cry and confess and even confront our God as the psalmists did. But when Jesus opens the mind, our pause is turned into proclamation, because our God has invited us to share everything we are going through with Him in the most raw and real way. In the end, when our minds are fully open to the truths of the Gospel, we see Scripture — all of Scripture — as a single story of God’s unfolding plan of redemption that finds its fulfillment in our loving Lord, Jesus Christ.   

Have you had this kind of encounter with the Master Mind-Opener? Does Jesus show up for you on every page of Scripture? Can you feel His presence, regardless of the portion of Scripture you are reading and meditating on? Remember, the Word became flesh and came into this world, not just to save you from your sins, but to bring you into an intimate, personal relationship with Him. Jesus loves you. Jesus cares for you. Jesus wants you to know you can come to Him for anything, day or night, knowing that He is ready, willing, and able to meet you in your deepest place of need. Now that is an open mind that nothing in this world can close!

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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Should We Forget? Or Remember?

Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord. (Lamentations 3:40)

On Monday we basked in the blessing of knowing that our God is in the business of forgetting our sins . . . all of our sins. Today I want to take a brief look at what we are supposed to do with our past sins. Should we forget them? Or should we remember?

Should We Forget Past Sins?

Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead. I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14)

For Paul, looking back at his past would undoubtedly have been very painful. As Saul of Tarsus, he persecuted the early Christian church, arresting those who were followers of Jesus Christ, putting them into prison, and even killing Christians. He had held the coats of those who were murdering Stephen and looked on with approval. Then Jesus Christ confronted Saul on the Damascus Road, asking him, “Why do you persecute me?” (Acts 9:4). Jesus raised Saul from death to life, and Paul knew what he had done to the Christians.

It would have been easy for Paul to be paralyzed by his painful past. If Paul had been unable or unwilling to forget what was behind him, he would never have been able to press on toward the goal that lay ahead: the new calling that God had placed in his life as the preacher and pastor of the church.

Should We Remember Past Sins?

Remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. (Ephesians 2:12).

Here Paul tells us to never forget when we were separated from our Savior. This is not intended to paralyze us, but rather to propel us into our promised future. When we remember what we were before Jesus showed up, we are to be both humbled and encouraged because of the grace God has freely and lavishly poured into our lives. I’m reminded here of the lovely old prayer: “Lord, I ain’t what I ought to be; I ain’t what I want to be; and I ain’t what I’m gonna be. But, oh, thank God! I ain’t what I used to be.” We remember our past sins and rejoice in the amazing grace of God.

I’ve said it here before; the best way I know to frame out the truth about forgetting and remembering is to treat our past as a school. We are to learn from our past — which requires us to remember — but we are never to live in our past — and that requires us to forget. By remembering the past, we take the lesson and the move on, leaning into our promised future, leaving behind the sin that has been nailed to the cross of Christ. Because God remembers for our good and forgets for our good, we too must remember for our good and forget for out good, in order that we can live lives that manifest the love of God to others.

So how are you doing at both forgetting and remembering? The apostle Paul tells us that getting good at both will ultimately be for our good and for God’s glory.

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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Remember His Forgetting!

Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more. (Hebrews 10:17)

One of the most important aspects of growing in the Christian faith is remembering His forgetting. Now, we should not think about this as if God is forgetful in the Way that you and I forget where we left our car keys or sunglasses. God’s forgetting is nothing like that at all. God “forgets” our sins because He chooses to regard us as if those sins had never been committed. When God says, “I will remember your sins no more,” He is telling us that His forgetting is a deliberate, intentional act of permanently putting our sinful acts away from His sight, because they have all been covered by the blood of His precious Son.

Hebrews 10:17 is by no means at isolated verse of Scripture. Consider:

I will not remember your sins. (Isaiah 43:25)

I will remember their sin no more. (Jeremiah 31:34)

I will remember their sins no more. (Hebrews 8:12)

Over and over again, God reminds us that all our sins — past, present, and future — have been paid for through the cross work of Christ. When we “remember His forgetting,” we are to be gripped by the following Gospel truths:

  • God will not rehearse our sins
  • God will not relive our sins
  • God will not revive our sins
  • God will not recreate our sins

The good news of the Gospel is that we have been fully and freely forgiven, and God will never speak of our sins again. Remember, Paul tells us that “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). Don’t miss that word “now.” Because we are in Christ, by grace through faith, right now and forevermore, there is no condemnation because Jesus took all our condemnation away and nailed it to the cross (Colossians 2:14). Jesus was judged in our place. He took our scourging. He took our crown of thorns. He took our nails. He took our cross. He took our death. And on that third day, God vindicated His beloved Son by raising Him from the dead. When Jesus cried out from the cross, “It is finished,” He meant exactly what He said! Our sin debt to God the Father has been paid in full by God the Son. Christian, never forget His faithfulness to forgetfulness.

Once we have fully absorbed the truth that our God chooses to forget our sins, we should spend some time considering a very important question: Should we, as disciples of our Savior, forget our sins (Philippians 3:13-14) . . . or remember them (Ephesians 2:11-12)? I’d like to share some insights on these ideas on Wednesday. Until then, as you continue walking by faith and not by sight, remember His forgetting!  

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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He Has Sealed the Deal

You also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession – to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:13-14)

It’s likely you’ve heard the phrase, “The only things certain in life are death and taxes.” Inasmuch as history seems to suggest that Benjamin Franklin is not the originator of this saying, I submit these words in a letter to Jean-Baptiste Le Roy in 1789. Many consider this to be the last great quote that came from the highly quotable Franklin:

Our new Constitution is now established, everything seems to promise it will be durable; but, in this world, nothing is certain except death and taxes.

No matter who coined the phrase, the fatalistic “death and taxes” adage acknowledges the inevitability of death in this life, which is the only way to avoid the burden of paying taxes. For the Christian, however, there is much more that we can be certain about in this life, and we need look no further than today’s passage of Scripture to find certainty. Paul was telling the Christians at Ephesus that the Holy Spirit is God’s “seal of approval,” and that we, by grace through faith, are members of His family of faith.

Believing in Christ means we belong to Christ. The Holy Spirit, whom Jesus promised to all believers, is like a down payment — a deposit if you will — guaranteeing the inheritance that God has given us. Nothing in either life or death can take that away from us.

I like to say it this way God has sealed the deal by way of His gift of the Holy Spirit. We have the firstfruits of a promised future beyond this life that no circumstance can disrupt or dislodge us from. And we must understand that God’s assurance contains no obscure, fine-print warning that He will suddenly spring on us when we come to the end of this life. We can rest assured that God will bring the good work He began in us to completion.

“The Lord will fulfill [his purpose] for me,” David wrote; “your love, O Lord, endures forever” (Psalm 138:8). No weapon formed against us, including our own sinful rebellion, can ever or will ever cause our God to “revoke the warranty” on His promises to us. Peter used language very much like Paul’s to underscore this truth:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade — kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Peter 1:3-5)

Christian, your eternal future is shielded and kept by God’s power. As you think about your life, right now, right where this finds you, is it not a great encouragement to know that God has set you apart for all eternity? Jesus has sealed the amazing, gracious deal of our divine destiny by the shedding of His precious blood on your behalf. May our hearts be gripped by God’s amazing grace, and may the lives we live thus be always and only to the praise of His glory!

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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Personal, Not Private

God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and . . . He went around doing good . . . (Acts 10:38)

To be a disciple of Christ is to know Him, to love Him, to serve Him, and to submit and surrender to Him personally. But let me quickly add that all of this — all of our relationship with Jesus Christ — is to be lived out publicly, not privately. We are never to say, “It’s Jesus and me, not Jesus and we!”

I often remind our congregation that inasmuch as we are saved individually, we are saved to community. Not only that, the community that we have been saved to is a community that has been called to carry out a cosmic mission to go into all the world and make disciples of every nation. Yes, our salvation and being a disciple of Christ is indeed personal — Jesus has numbered every hair on our heads and knows our prayers even before we utter them (Matthew 10:30, 6:8) — but our gracious, saving God does not intend for our faith to be a private affair.

Do you remember when Jesus appeared on the beach after His resurrection and reinstated Peter for ministry? Notice the language Jesus used:

“Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” [Peter] said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” (John 21:15)

Jesus asked Peter the same question a total of three times: “Do you love me?” After Peter responded in the affirmative each time, effectively erasing his three craven denials of Jesus the night before His crucifixion, Jesus them commanded Peter to make his love for Him known. The love that Peter had for Jesus, a love which had started out personally by the Sea of Galilee some three years earlier, was never to be lived out privately. “Feed my lambs,” Jesus told him. “Feed my sheep.”

The same command has been given to every disciple of Christ. As the Reformers would say, “We are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is never alone.” When Jesus was asked what is the greatest commandment, He made it clear that loving God is at the top of the list. But He did not stop there; He went on to share the second commandment: Love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:28-31). Beloved, we simply cannot live out what Jesus commands by keeping our faith private!

So, in looking at how you are living out your faith today, would it best be described as, “Jesus and me” or “Jesus and we”? The unbelieving world insists that our religion should be a “private matter,” and it wants Christians to keep their faith hidden away within the walls of the church building. But this is not what Jesus had in mind when He said, “Follow me.” Jesus had an intensely personal and private connection with His Father in heaven, which we see in the many instances of His time spent alone in prayer. But He lived that loving connection out publicly for the glory of God and the good of the people.

Jesus went around doing good. May this be the confession of our lives.  

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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