Category Archives: General

Confident Christian

Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6)

Did you know there are two types of confidence? One is self-confidence; the other is Savior-confidence. Which one is the confession of your life? Read on, and may you be greatly encouraged today!

Let’s take a moment to unpack a few things in our verse for today. First, Paul made it perfectly clear that the “good work” of our salvation and eternal life in Christ Jesus is all the work of God. It is God who began it, and Philippians 1:6 encourages us to be confident in the truth that what God began in us, He will one day bring to completion.

This completion will not take place on this side of the grave, however. Here we are very much a work in progress. But when we cross the Jordan and stand face to face before our God, we will be perfectly conformed to the image and likeness of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

I know that Christian growth is a challenge. You and I have days when we feel like we are not making progress. For every baby step forward, we often take two giant steps backward. Oh embattled believer, this was also the condition of the great apostle Paul, who freely confessed that “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).

Paul did not always do what God wanted him to do because he was still in the perfection process, just as you and I are. Nevertheless, we are called to be confident Christians, because of the promise we have been given that He who began this good work of sanctification in us is the One who will carry it on to completion. It is all by God’s amazing grace that we are saved, and it is also all by grace that we grow and mature in our faith.

Savior-confidence recognizes that no weapon formed against us can ultimately prevent us from being all God is calling us to be. When God said that He will bring His work in us to completion, He meant what He said! God never gives up and He never gives in. He has given us His Holy Spirit, which means we have the same supernatural power working in us that raised Jesus from death to life (Ephesians 1:18-20). What began in the Spirit is sustained in the Spirit, and it will be completed in the Spirit. You have His Word on it!

Christian, if that doesn’t light the fire of your faith, your wood is wet! Let us, with the fire of faith burning brightly within us, strive to live as Paul did: “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). This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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Happy Birthday, Kim

Through wisdom your days will be many, and years will be added to your life. (Proverbs 9:11)

To my beloved wife of twenty-seven years . . .

Thank you . . .

For saying “I Do” and “I Still Do.”

For loving me unconditionally.

For forgiving me unreservedly.

For walking by my side each day.

For making every vision I had a reality.

For helping me grow and mature in my faith.

For lifting me up every time I stumbled and fell.

For getting me through seminary – twice – for the MDiv and the DMin.

For being my best friend in all the world, for better and for worse.

For being the greatest mom in the world to Brock, Jenna, Katie, and Tank.

For rejoicing with me when I was rejoicing and grieving with me when I was grieving.

There truly is no end to my thank you list. After salvation, you are the greatest gift God could have given me. I know I have not always shown it, but my life is so richly blessed because you are my wife and partner in everything we do. As I have said before, you are everything I am not . . . and that’s a lot!

Kim, here is my prayer for you today, on your birthday:

Our Father and our God, I lift my beloved Kim to you this day and pray your continued blessings and guidance in her life. Open the eyes of her heart to know just how truly loved, appreciated, and respected she is, especially when I fail to demonstrate this truth by my actions. May she experience your strength each day she rises and your security each night when she retires, and may you not only add years to her life, but life to her years. In Jesus’ name, amen.

I love you with all my heart.

Your husband and your best friend,Tommy

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“Crazy Little Thing Called…”

Summer Love Stories

God is love. (1 John 4:8)

If you completed the title of today’s word of encouragement with the word LOVE, you probably recalled the song by the same title, which was a number one hit for the British rock band Queen in 1980. There are more songs sung about love than any other topic. Why? Because we were made for love by the God of love.

But what exactly is love? Ask five people to define it and you will get six different answers. So we must look to the only One who can give us the right understanding of love: God Himself.

The Koine Greek language that was used to write the New Testament actually uses four different words to capture the meaning of this all-important word:

  • Storge — The emotional bond between family members
  • Eros — The romantic love rooted in physical attraction between men and woman
  • Phileo — Attraction and affection through friendship
  • Agape — Willing self-sacrifice, even when the object of love is undeserving or unappreciative

The word that appears most often in the New Testament is agape, which is the highest and most gracious form of love. When the Bible speaks of agape love, it is pointing to God in Christ, who “did not come to be served, but to serve, and give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). This love is sacrificial. This love is intentional. This love is a choice. Perhaps the best way to describe agape love is to say that it is totally other-oriented, seeking not the greatest good of self, but the good of the object of this love. Agape love is built on the foundation of faithfulness, dedication, and self-sacrifice, with no selfish thoughts of “What’s in it for me?”

When we read “God is love” in 1 John 4:8 (the Greek used there is agape), we are to understand that God’s love is part of His character. God’s love is not emotional or sentimental. It is simply who God is and what God does, and He shows that love to sinful people who are utterly undeserving of it.

Because we are loved in this self-sacrificial way, we are to reflect that same selfless, agape love to others—all others, even the unlovely and the unlovable. Christian, we don’t get a vote on this! We are to love because God first loved us (1 John 4:19, and yes, agape is used there too). This selfless love is not something we do by nature. You and I and all men and women are way too sinful and self-centered to do that! But when God in Christ raises us from death to life, by grace through faith, we now have the capacity to love as God commands. As Spirit-filled disciples of Christ, we can now love others as we are loved by God—selflessly, unwaveringly.

So how are you doing at this crazy little thing called love? Would those who know you best say that your love is agape? Is your love for others self-sacrificial? Or self-serving? Remember, when you draw nearer to God, you will experience more of His agape love toward you, which will empower you to return it back to Him, by demonstrating it to everyone you meet. This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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A HEART FOR GOD – Trusting

The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalm 27:1)

We are in the midst of a study of the life of David, seeking to better understand why God would call David—who was most definitely a sinner in need of a Savior, just like you and me—“a man after my own heart”(Acts 13:22). Last week we looked at David’s repentance and reverence; on Monday we saw his heart of thanksgiving. Today we will see that David was so trusting in the goodness of his God that when fear came knocking at his door, David’s faith would always answer.

Perhaps the best example of David’s total trust in God is his famous confrontation with Goliath of Gath. You’ll recall that God had sent the prophet Samuel to Jesse of Bethlehem to anoint one of his sons as king of Israel. Although David was the youngest son (Jesse did not even initially think to present David to Samuel, certain that one of the older boys would be selected), God chose David because of his heart, for “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

Not long after that, Israel and the Philistines were ready to do battle. David was still too young for military service, so David’s father sent him to take supplies to his older brothers in the Israelite camp. When David arrived there, he heard the Philistine champion, Goliath, taunting the Israelite army and challenging them to send out one man to fight him. In the ancient world, an army would often opt to avoid the high human cost of battle by pitting its strongest warrior against the strongest warrior of the enemy. The man-to-man combat would determine the winning side, thereby avoiding much bloodshed.

The stage was now set for David to demonstrate his “giant” trust in God. David heard Goliath’s mocking challenge, and he watched in amazement as his fellow Israelites, including King Saul, shrank back in fear from the towering Philistine. David went to King Saul and said, “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him” (1 Samuel 17:32). Saul flatly rejected the idea; after all, David was merely a shepherd boy and Goliath was a seasoned man of war.

David persisted; he told Saul how God had protected him when both lions and bears had sought to attack his father’s sheep and declared that “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine” (1 Samuel 17:37).

Some 400 years later, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego would exhibit the very same trust in God when they stood before Nebuchadnezzar and said, “We do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king” (Daniel 3:16-17).

Saul finally agreed that David could represent Israel, and when Goliath mocked David and cursed him, David declared, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will hand you over to me, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head” (1 Samuel 17:45). And that is exactly what happened!   

At the deepest level, this story points to a greater King: Jesus, who conquered an even more terrible enemy—Satan. But that is a discussion that I will reserve for my “Surprised by Jesus” sermon series. I hope you’ll join me—either in person or online—to learn more about how Jesus is revealed in so many Old Testament passages. Today I simply want you to see how completely David trusted in his God. David recalled how God had delivered him in the past, and he was sure that God could be trusted to deliver him in the present.

You and I can and should have this kind of confident trust in God as well. Take a minute and ask yourself: What “giants” has God delivered you from in the past? Can He not be trusted to deliver you again today, regardless of the difficulties you face?

Remember that the same Nebuchadnezzar who sentenced Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to death would one day raise his eyes to heaven and say of the sovereign Lord, “He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: ‘What have you done?’” (Daniel 4:35). Never forget, Christian, that the power that is at work within you is infinitely greater than any power that can ever come against you. No giant, no pagan ruler, no coronavirus . . . nothing in this world is greater than He who holds the universe together by the power of His word (Hebrews 1:3). And that means, as Charles Spurgeon once said, that you can completely trust God’s heart even when you cannot trace His hand.

Is total trust in God the confession of your life today? This was one of the marks of David’s heart, and it is a mark of the man or woman who truly has a heart for God.This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race.  NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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A HEART FOR GOD – Thanksgiving

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. (Psalm 100:1-2)

Throughout this week I’d like to return to our “Heart for God” series of articles and look closely at the life of David. You may recall my confession that, as a new Christian, I simply could not understand how God could call David “a man after my own heart” (Acts 13:22) after some of the dreadful sins David had committed as king of Israel. We saw that when God said David was a man after His own heart, He was not saying David’s heart beat perfectly for Him, because no human heart beats perfectly for God on this side of the grave. But David had given his heart to God, even though there were times when it still beat for the sinful self.

What are some of the characteristics of a heart for God? Last week we looked at David’s repentance and his reverence; today we will examine his heart of thanksgiving. We know that David wrote 75 of the 150 psalms, and many of those psalms are marked by praise and thanksgiving to God. David was a man like all men, walking through seasons of struggle and success. David knew what it was like to be in plenty and in want; yet through it all, David’s heart beat with thanksgiving for God.

The Bible does not identify the author of Psalm 100, but we can say beyond the shadow of any doubt that these words are the foundation upon which David built his life: “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name” (Psalm 100:4).

Take just a cursory glance through Psalm 30, where David reflected on and celebrated God’s deliverance, and you will see his heart of praise and thanksgiving to God. And in Psalm 30:11-12, we find one of the most remarkable and memorable statements in all of Scripture. The first six words have been memorized by many:

You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever. (Psalm 30:11-12).

David not only wrote about his heart of thanksgiving to God, he lived it out in the streets of Jerusalem. When the Ark was brought home after being held by the Philistines for seven months, “David, wearing a linen ephod, danced before the Lord with all his might, while he and the entire house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sound of trumpets” (2 Samuel 6:14-15). David was so caught up in his heartfelt thanksgiving to God that it mattered not that his first wife, Michal, the daughter of Saul, despised him for his wildly enthusiastic demonstration of thanksgiving to God. David’s heart beat to give glory to God, not to win the approval of people.

No matter what season David found himself in, his life was marked by expressions of thanksgiving. The question we must ask ourselves is this: Can the same thing be said about me?

“Give thanks in all circumstances,” Scripture commands us, “for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Even when things were darkest for David, which we read about in some of his psalms, his heart was nonetheless filled with thanksgiving for his God. This was one of the marks of David’s heart for God, and it is to be one of the marks of your life and mine as well.

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

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We Will Never Forget

Mourn with those who mourn. (Romans 12:15)

Today is known as Patriot Day, and it marks the 19th anniversary of what most Americans call “the 9/11 attacks,” when terrorists attacked the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon in Washington, and hijacked United Airlines Flight 93, which was on course for Washington, D.C., but crashed in Pennsylvania because courageous passengers fought back. This life-altering event began at 8:46 am Eastern time, when the first plane struck the North Tower of the World Trade Center. When the attack was over, four planes had been crashed and the two towers collapsed, leaving nearly 3,000 dead. On this day we pause to remember:

  • Those who lost their lives due to this tragic event
  • Those brave first responders who demonstrated sacrificial heroism
  • Those who continue to mourn the loss of family members and friends

Let us recall this day that, no matter what happens in this world, our God is still on His throne and in complete control of all things, including even these horrific events. Let us pray for peace in this world and let us continue advancing the cause of the kingdom of Christ by sharing the love of God in Christ Jesus to all those we come in contact with.

Remember, Christian believer, there is a day coming when there will be no more mourning, no more pain, no more tears, and no more death. Jesus is coming back, and when He does, the truth of this Gospel-saturated saying from Tolkien’s The Return of the King

“Is everything sad going to come untrue?”

— will be “Yes” and “Amen” for all those who are in Christ. Every sad experience you have ever had, and all the bad that has ever happened to you in this life will come untrue in the next life because of Jesus Christ.

May that truth set you free to be all God is calling you to be in Christ.

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

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A HEART FOR GOD – Reverent

I call to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and I am saved from my enemies.(Psalm 18:3)

If you’re a regular reader here, you know that last week I began been looking closely at the life of David in an effort to answer a question that I believe many new Christian believers have, as I once did: How could God call David “a man after my own heart” (Acts 13:22) after David had committed such dreadful sin in seducing Bathsheba and arranging for the murder of her husband? On Monday we saw David’s repentance; today we will discuss his reverence.

After the heart beats for God in repentance, it begins to beat in reverence. David’s son Solomon wrote, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7), and David demonstrated this divine understanding throughout his reign as king of Israel. Let’s look at two particular times when David’s heart of reverence beat strongest.

First, before David was given the throne in Israel, Saul occupied it. What started out as a right relationship quickly deteriorated into one where King Saul sought to take the life of David. While on the run from Saul, David found himself in a position to retaliate against Saul and actually take his life. Instead David sliced off a corner of Saul’s robe without him knowing it, an unmistakable indication that David had been right behind Saul while Saul was completely unaware and could easily have killed him if he wanted (1 Samuel 24:1-5).

Then David uttered the words that flow from a reverent heart for God:

“The Lord forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed, or lift my hand against him; for he is the anointed of the Lord.” (1 Samuel 24:6).

David had a fear, an awe, and a reverence for God; instead of retaliating against Saul, his heart beat in reverence for God.

Second, after he had been installed as the king of Israel, David decided to build God a temple. “Here I am,” David thought, “living in a palace of cedar, while the ark of God remains in a tent” (2 Samuel 7:2). David actually received confirmation on his proposed building project from Nathan, the same prophet who had rebuked him for his sins against Bathsheba and Uriah. But then the word of the Lord came to Nathan, who had to go back to David and tell him this was not God’s will for his life. Rather, God said, “I will raise up your offspring to succeed you . . . he is the one who will build a house for my Name” (2 Samuel 7:12-13).

David’s plan to build God a temple was flatly rejected by God; how did David respond? Once again, with a heart of reverence. There was nothing wrong with David’s desire to build a house of worship for the one, true, living God. But it simply was not God’s will for his life. Yet even though God did not let David build Him a house, He promised to build David a “house”—that is, that David’s kingdom would live on forever (2 Samuel 7:16). And that promise ultimately found its fulfillment in our Lord Jesus Christ, who was a direct descendant of David.  

So, as we have seen in the life of the man after God’s own heart, David’s heart beat in reverence and awe for his God. When he was under attack by King Saul, David looked to His God in reverence. When he had a good and godly goal in mind, yet God closed the door, David looked to His God in reverence.

Is this the confession of our lives today? Do we have a heart that is fully given over to God, seeing Him as our loving, heavenly Father? When we sin—and there is no one who does not sin (1 Kings 8:46)—do we turn to Him in repentance? When life does not go the way we think it should—when trials come and plans are disrupted, do we still worship our Lord with reverence and awe?

These things aren’t always easy for us to do, but be encouraged today! David fell, and fell badly, on more than once occasion. Yet Scripture calls him the man after God’s own heart. That means that you and I can prayerfully aspire to have the same kind of heart for God as David . . . and look forward to hearing our Lord’s approving words: “Well done, good and faithful servant.”This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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A HEART FOR GOD – Repentant

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. (Psalm 51:1-2)

No heart beats for God until it first beats in repentance. We know this to be true, for it was the very first message of salvation from our Lord Jesus Christ: “Repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15 ESV).

Psalm 51 has been called the great psalm of repentance; it was penned by David after he was confronted by the prophet Nathan regarding David’s sin with Bathsheba. Nathan was an instrument of sanctification in David’s life; God sent him to confront the king about his wicked acts of adultery and murder. When David’s conscience was seared by his sinful acts, he raised his eyes to heaven and said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord” (2 Samuel 12:13).

I told you last week that I was bothered by David when I was young in the faith, and this statement was one of the things that bothered me! I would have thought that a truly repentant David would have confessed that he had sinned against Bathsheba, her husband Uriah, and the people of Israel before he brought God into the picture.

But I learned something valuable early on: At the deepest level, all sin is against God. Yes, David sinned against Bathsheba, Uriah, and all the people of God whom David had been entrusted to lead as king. But ultimately, David’s sin—and all of your sin and mine—rises to the level of God, and at that level, it includes everyone else that he (and we) sinned against along the way. Notice David’s confession in Psalm 51:4—

Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.”

Only when we understand that all our sins are an offense to God and a rebellion against His will for our lives do we begin to understand true, biblical repentance of the heart. David understood this and cried out for God’s merciful forgiveness. Consider David’s actions within the context of Psalm 91, which reads in part –

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge
and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” . . .
“Because he loves me," says the Lord, "I will rescue him;
I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
He will call upon me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honor him.
With long life will I satisfy him
and show him my salvation.” (Psalm 91:1-2, 14-16)

David saw God as his refuge and his fortress of salvation. Even though he recognized that he had sinned terribly against both God and man, he knew that there was only one place to go for deliverance—only one place where forgiveness is found: at the throne of grace of the Most High. David called upon his Lord; God heard David’s prayer and knew David’s heart. This is why God could call David “a man after my own heart” (Acts 13:22) and why God forgave His sin.

The Lord does not look with compassion on a heart that beats perfectly, because there is no such thing among all the sons of men (Psalm 14:2-3). But our God does smile with favor on the heart that beats for Him and trusts in Him alone for redemption and forgiveness.This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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A Heart for God

“I have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.” (Acts 13:22)

When I was a new believer, I struggled mightily with today’s verse. King David had not only used his position of authority to commit adultery with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, but after learning that Bathsheba was pregnant by him, David ordered the death of Uriah in an attempt to conceal his sin. How in the world could a just and righteous God speak so kindly about David in Acts 13:22? I was badly confused!

And then, as I recently told our congregation at Cross Community Church, Jeff, my first Christian mentor, said to me, “Tommy, your problem is that you think you are better than David.”

“Well, of course I do,” I promptly replied. “I have never cheated on Kim, and I certainly haven’t committed murder!”

That was the beginning of Jeff’s patient instruction in the all-important area of understanding the truth about the human heart. Here are two of the most foundational verses of Scripture, both of which mince no words in describing the condition of the human heart after the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.(Genesis 6:5)

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9)

Before we are saved, our hearts beat continually for the sinful self. We want what we want and when we want it, regardless of the cost or circumstance. Like the spoiled little girl in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, we are continually pouting and shouting “I want it NOW!”

That truth was easy for me to understand and accept. What was much harder for me to absorb was the condition of the human heart after we are saved. When we are saved, by grace through faith, the heart begins to beat for the Savior, but not continually. Sometimes it beats for the Savior, but at other times it still beats for the self. I have cited Galatians 5:17 here many times:

The sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit,

and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature.

They are in conflict with each other,

so that you do not do what you want.

This truth helped me understand what God was saying about David . . . and, in essence, what God is saying about all of us. Please hear this clearly, Christian, and be encouraged today! When God said David was a man after His own heart, He was not saying David’s heart beat perfectly for Him, because no human heart beats perfectly for God on this side of the grave. But David had given his heart to God, even though there were times when it still beat for the sinful self.

The same is true for you and me and all those who have truly placed their trust in Christ.

Next week I will share a few reasons why David is called “A man after God’s own heart.” As always, my hope is to encourage you as you are confronted, as I was, with the inescapable truth that none of us is better than David. We commit spiritual adultery when our hearts beat for something smaller than Jesus, and we commit murder when we hate others. And yet, just like David, whose heart beat imperfectly for God, we are totally loved and fully forgiven.

Come back next week and rejoice in the truth that, to borrow from the great nineteenth-century hymn we recalled in the previous article, sin’s crimson stain still mars our walk with Christ, but His blood shed on our behalf leaves us washed white as snow in the sight of God. This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race.  NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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No “Plan B”

May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep . . .(Hebrews 13:20)

Whether it was the original hymn or the most modern contemporary version, most churchgoers have sung Jesus Paid It All. The lyrics, written in 1865 by Elvina Hall, are as powerful (“Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow”) as they are personal (I stand in Him complete.”)

These lovely words reflect the truth that God never had a “Plan B.” God’s only plan, His perfect, eternal plan, has always been that sin would be atoned for through “the blood of the eternal covenant,” that covenant being demonstrated through the sinless life, sacrificial death, and supernatural resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus did indeed pay it all for us, and when He cried out on the cross, “It is finished!” He meant exactly that: Atonement had been made, and the sin debt is paid in full!

Is it not a source of cosmic comfort to know that Jesus paid it all on your behalf and that there is no “Plan B” for you to contribute to? Our salvation is not secured by Jesus “plus” anything—Jesus plus our good works, Jesus plus our church attendance, Jesus plus baptism, Jesus plus putting money in the plate, etc. Salvation is secured by faith in Jesus Christ alone.

Do you need convincing of that glorious truth? Look no further than the words of our Lord. When the crowd that followed Him asked, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus replied directly:

This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent. . . . For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. (John 6:28-29, 40 ESV)

It has been well said that far too many Christians believe that Christ made the down-payment for their salvation, but the Christian is responsible to make the installment payments on it. Nothing could be further from the truth! If you are trying to “pay” for your salvation through your deeds—giving of your time, your talent, or your treasure—you are simply not trusting in the finished work of Christ. Your good works are certainly good things to do; they demonstrate a changed life in Christ and they represent our heartfelt “Thank you” for all we have received in Him. But those good deeds are the fruit of your salvation, not the root of it.

A changed life flows from a saved life; nothing you do adds any value to what Jesus has already done for you. As I recently told our congregation at Cross Community Church, you cannot make God love you any more than He already does.

God will not love you any more because you do more, and God will not love you any less because you do less. You are completely and eternally loved because of God’s grace in Christ. Most of us have a difficult time believing this truth because we have been in relationships where love did not last or that love was performance-based. And, of course, the reason for this is because we are broken people living with and loving other broken people. But when it comes to our relationship with Jesus, His love is unconditional, unwavering, and eternal. “He chose us in [Christ] before the creation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4); that was always the plan, and there is nothing the creature can do to cause an eternal, unchanging God to change His mind.

Remember, your salvation is either all because of Jesus or not because of Jesus at all. You must choose: Trust in God’s plan, which means that you trust completely in what Jesus has done on your behalf, or put your faith in your own bootleg “Plan B,” which means trusting in whatever you are able to do for Him in order to earn His favor. In light of what Isaiah 64:6 which tells us, that even our best works are like “filthy rags” in comparison to the perfection of Holy God, the choice could not be clearer.

Say it with me now: No Plan B for me! This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race.  NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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