Saved Individually AND Saved To Community

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. (1 Corinthians 12:12)

The Bible makes it clear that every disciple of Christ is saved individually, but Scripture is equally emphatic in declaring that every disciple of Christ is saved to community. When we, by grace through faith, came to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, He placed a new obligation on each of us: Each For the Other!

Our walk with our Lord is a community project. It is a team sport. Christianity is a “Jesus and we” religion, not “Jesus and me,” and that religion is rooted in relationship — both with the Lord Jesus and with each other. As disciples of Jesus, we must never be satisfied with living at the level of “news, weather, and sports” with other member of our faith community. We are to be in committed relationships with each other.

My friend Steve Brown has said that “Everyone who belongs to Jesus belongs to everyone who belongs to Jesus.” In the Kingdom of Christ, there is to be no such thing as a stealth saint. We are to know and be known by our brothers and sisters in Christ. We are part of one body with many members, and each part is valuable and needed. We need each other in order for the body to function properly.

Think about it this way: Are there any parts of your own body that you could readily disconnect from and still function at the highest possible level? Not likely! We all have blind spots, so we need the help of our family of faith to point the way. Physically blind people are well aware that they are blind; spiritually blind people are not. Worse still, most spiritually blind people believe they see with 20/20 vision! That is why we desperately need the grace-filled, Gospel-saturated, Christ-centered eyes of our family of faith to help us see what we cannot see and to sanctify what we cannot sanctify without their help. This is the way Jesus ordained it to be in His body, and this is the way we are to live if we are true disciples of His. Jesus placed us in His forever family so that we will live out our lives with Him in community with each other.

I am going to issue you this challenge: Even if you feel like you don’t want to engage deeply within the body of Christ for your own benefit, do it for the benefit of others. Jesus presented the perfect model of living His life for the good of others and the glory of God. And He did it within the context of community.

Immediately after He washed His disciples’ feet, Jesus told them, “I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you” (John 13:15 ESV). Many of you may never get on your hands and knees and literally wash the feet of another person . . . although that might not be a bad idea! But we most definitely are commanded to love one another and serve one another, and we are to called to do that in the context of community. Our Lord set that example for us; how can we do any less?

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


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We Are Hope-Shaped Creatures

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. (1 Peter 1:3)

We want it. We need it. We crave it. It stimulates our courage, supports our perseverance, and strengthens our resolve. It gets us up early, keeps us up late, and propels us through the difficult and trying times of life. What is “it”? HOPE. And where do we get this hope? We don’t get it in our passions or our possessions; real hope–true, lasting hope–is only found in a Person, and His name is Jesus Christ. Hope that is strong, sturdy, satisfying, and sustainable is found in the person of Jesus. This vertical hope is the only hope that will never falter, never fade, and never fail us.

When we put our hope in anything smaller than Jesus, it never satisfies, because every horizontal hope has been soiled and stunted by sin. Horizontal hopes are fragile and fleeting and cannot bear the weight of satisfying the deep longings of the soul. Only Jesus can do that, because He is above and beyond this sin-stained world. His sinless life, sacrificial death, and supernatural resurrection from the grave guarantees the fulfillment of every hope we have. Because we have been united to Jesus by faith, we no longer need to look for hope in any other person, place, or thing.

Paul put it this way:

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope . . . (1 Timothy 1:1)

We wait for the blessed hope – the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. (Titus 2:13)

Paul understood that the only hope that would help him rise above the waves of challenge and carry him through the storms of life is found in Jesus. The One who is Hope filled Paul’s life with hope, which empowered Paul to fight the good fight of faith, finish his race, and ultimately keep his faith.

Can the same be said about you and me today? It can be, and it will be, when our hope is not simply in Jesus, but is Jesus Himself. It is the difference between having hope in Jesus and Jesus being our only Hope. As hope-shaped creatures, we must look to nothing smaller than our Creator as the one true source of hope. He will never leave us hopeless.

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

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Today Is Intended To Point To THAT Day

By faith [Moses] left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. (Hebrews 11:27)

If you hook your happiness, join your joy, or peg your purpose on today, you will miss the beauty, majesty, and promise of that day when you arrive in glory. Far too many of God’s people live like today is all there is. They live like this life is all that matters. Everything they think, do, say, and desire is intended to turn today into the promised paradise it was never intended to be after the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden. This sin-stained world, which is filled with sin-scarred people, will never satisfy the deepest longings of our sin-seared hearts, no matter how hard we try to make it so. And that is a good thing!

Today is not the destination. Today is simply the preparation for that day when we cross the Jordan and enter into our eternal rest. Today will never be the paradise we long for. Today will never meet us in our deepest place of need. Today will never give us the meaning and significance we so deeply desire. And that is a good thing too! When we see today as a preparation, not a destination, we will be able to live fully in the here and now, receiving whatever God sends our way. We will understand that the good, the bad, and the ugly are all part of God’s perfect plan and purpose in preparing us for entrance into our Promised Land. This is what I call “living with a Moses mentality” as we make our way to paradise.

By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. (Hebrews 11:24-26)

Moses was living in the most powerful nation in the world at that time. Some scholars believe he was in line for the throne in Egypt. Yet Moses set his mind on the promise of that day, when he would receive his reward in heaven. Moses was living for the hereafter, not the here and now. The only way this will become the confession of our lives is if we choose to live with a Moses mentality . . . living today in the light of that day, regardless of the cost or circumstance.

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

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Where Do You Find Your Satisfaction?

I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness. (Psalm 17:15 ESV)

The Rolling Stones, an English rock band formed in London, released the song (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction in 1965. Lead singer Mick Jagger said the song was rooted in the way he experienced the vast commercialism of America during the band’s tours. The beloved animated special, A Charlie Brown Christmas, was released the same year; it too made pointed references to commercialism encroaching on our culture.

Not much has changed over the past 58 years. Incredibly, the Rolling Stones are still touring, and every Christmas season we chuckle when Charlie Brown exclaims that “Even my own dog has gone commercial!” But it’s not just Snoopy who is caught up in materialism; both inside the church and outside it, commercialism has a stranglehold on far too many people.

So the question each of us must ask ourselves and honestly answer is this: Where do you find your satisfaction?

There really are only two choices: You can find satisfaction in your stuff or find satisfaction in your Savior. When God created us in His image, He made sure there would be nothing in this created world that would give us deep satisfaction of the heart. Pursuing anything in this world to give you satisfaction is putting that thing in the place of the only One who truly can satisfy – Jesus Christ.

Here is a biblical truth to consider: When your heart is beating for satisfaction in anything smaller than Jesus, you will never find it. The glory of creation is to be received and enjoyed. The beauty, intricacy, and magnificence of all the sights and sounds in the created order blesses us deep in our soul. But none of that was ever designed to satisfy the deepest longings of the human heart. Only the Creator God can do that.

Seeking satisfaction in the things of this world will always keep us pursuing satisfaction and never finding it. We will sound like the Rolling Stones, groaning, “I can’t get no satisfaction!” But if we seek God first in all things, satisfaction will naturally follow. God is the only satisfaction we truly seek, whether we know it or not. Only God can satisfy the eternal ache in our hearts. Finding our satisfaction in Christ alone will cause us to experience rest in our restlessness and find contentment in our discontentment.

Where have you been seeking your satisfaction lately? Seeking satisfaction in anything and asking God to satisfy us with what is created is a formula for frustration. But seeking God in all things will automatically result in the satisfaction we seek in the depths of our heart.

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

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Familiarity May Extinguish the Fire of Our Faith

Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” (Mark 6:4)

The old saying “Familiarity breeds contempt” essentially means that the more familiar you become with something, the easier it is to lose sight of the importance of it, to lose respect for it, and to no longer delight in it. This kind of familiarity poses a disastrous danger when it comes to our faith and our desire to follow the Lord Jesus wherever He leads.

We see a telling example of this when Jesus began to preach in his hometown. People who knew him dismissed Him. “’Isn’t this the carpenter?'” they asked skeptically. “‘Isn’t this Mary’s son?’ And they took offense at him” (Mark 6:3). Those who had known Jesus the longest and were most familiar with Him did not accept Him for what He truly was: Savior and Lord.

When we let familiarity take hold of our walk with Jesus, we begin seeing life through the eyes of the flesh rather than through the eyes of faith. We lose sight of the grandeur of the glory of God, which is present in everything, everywhere, and at all times.

Think about it this way:

  • What once produced worship is now watered down
  • What once caused us to say no to sin and yes to righteousness is silenced
  • What once filled us with awe and majesty has become antiquated and muted
  • What once stirred our hearts unto zeal for Jesus, barely registers a pulse

Living for the grandeur of the glory of God was meant to be the driving force in our lives. The glory of God should be the organizing principle behind everything we think, do, say, and desire in this life. But if we aren’t careful, our familiarity with the things of our faith can breed spiritual lethargy. We begin to take God for granted. We start viewing God as a cosmic genie, who will be called on only when we want to satisfy our desire for some earthly thing. We allow the blessings in our lives to become more important than the One who blesses. And when life is not going according to our plans, we may even begin to grumble against God.  

Remember, what rules your heart shapes your life. When we let anything smaller than Jesus occupy too much space in our hearts, we begin to lose our grip on the grandeur of the glory of God. The longer we walk with God, the more familiar we become with Him and His ways. To keep from allowing familiarity to breed contempt, we must remember to see all of life through the eyes of faith, not through the desires of the flesh. We need to live in the shadow of the cross, where the fire of our faith will be stoked and strengthened — not just daily, but moment by moment. This is where familiarity will continue to grow the fire of our faith, not extinguish it.  

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

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Divine Disenchantment

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”—but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. (1 Corinthians 2:9-10)

When we, with white-knuckle grip, hold too tightly to the things of this world, we miss the message and the meaning of the entire story line of the Bible. When we value what is temporal and passing away more than what is eternal and everlasting, we have lost sight of the promises given us in Gospel truth. And one of those promises is that Jesus is preparing a place for us in heaven that no eye has seen, and of which no ear has heard and no mind has conceived. When we lose sight of God’s promises, our loving heavenly Father steps in and delivers a bit of divine disenchantment to redirect our focus, refresh our faith, and reignite the fire of our first love: Jesus.

Disenchantment is no longer believing in the value, hope, and power of the eternal promises we have in Jesus. This is what happens when we remove Jesus from the throne of our lives and imagine that we have assumed the position of ruler. But our God is a jealous God (Deuteronomy 4:24); He will tolerate no rival and will do whatever is necessary to recapture our hearts. One of the ways God does this is through divine disenchantment.

C. S. Lewis put it this way in The Weight of Glory.

If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.  

God created us in such a way that nothing in this world will ever be able to fully satisfy us – not even love or life itself. Because we are made for another world, we must remember that we are simply pilgrims passing through this present world. We must always remember that, as good as it can be at times in this life, all of it pales in comparison to what we will forever experience in the new heavens and the new earth.

Truly the best is yet to come! Lewis would call this is a “forward-facing nostalgia,” which points us in the direction of the consummation of the Kingdom of Christ, the one we were created for in all its glory, where there will be no more sin, sorrow, suffering, or death. Eternal enchantment awaits all those who have put their trust in Christ alone.

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

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Love Wars

Love the Lord your God will all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. (Matthew 22:27)

Every moment of every day there is a battle going on inside the heart. I call these battles “love wars.” We love God and we love the things of this world. Sometimes we love God more and sometimes we love Him less. Often the temporal pleasures of this life kidnap the heart, causing it to beat for a great many things smaller than Jesus.

It’s easy to know when the world has won the war; whenever I say, “I simply must have ____________!” Whatever fills that blank is what I love most at that time. That thing is serving as my functional god. Within every one of us, the love of self always wars against our love of the Savior. And if we are honest, we will confess that the love of self wins the battle far too often.

I am speaking to myself every bit as much as I am speaking to everyone who will read this article. Physical experiences often trump spiritual experiences. The temporal things of this world tend to rule my life and shape my heart. Sometimes it is more important for me to be comfortable than to be compassionate. At other times it is more important for me to be right than to be loving and kind.

When the world wins the battle for my heart, I have a tendency to forget the promise of eternal life that awaits me in glory, and this is when I let things smaller than God sit upon the throne of my life, directing my desires, dominating my decisions, and determining my daily destiny to an altogether unrealized extent. And let me make this clear: often these things are not bad things in and of themselves. They are often good things; but when they become ultimate things, then they become bad things. In reality, the only truly ultimate thing in this life and in the life to come is Jesus Christ.  

If we are going to win the love war in the heart, we must remember that we are always loving something. To not love is an impossibility. Because God is love and we bear His image, we will always be loving something. The key is to identify what it is we are in love with. We will always be confronted by two choices throughout the day: We can love the Creator or we can love the created thing. Now, it’s OK to love what God has created — we can love our family, we can love our pets, we can love the beauty of nature — but we are never to love any of these more than we love the Creator.

So … what have you been loving most lately? Who has been winning the love war in your heart? Your Creator or some created thing? Here is an invaluable principle I learned a long time ago: there is no need to love created things less, because God created all things good. The key is to love God more. At this level of living, we have our love rightly ordered, and we will find ourselves winning the love wars more and more each day.

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

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Knowing The One Who Knows Everything Is To Know Enough

Talk no more so very proudly, let not arrogance come from your mouth; for the Lord is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed. (1 Samuel 2:3)

When was the last time you thought about what you do not know? I mean, when did you really spend some time considering all the things about which you have absolutely no understanding ? Here is what I came up with in just a few moments this morning:

I don’t know why I do the things I do. . . . I don’t know if I will take my next breath. . . . I don’t know why I go from happy to sad in a moment’s notice. . . . I don’t know the number of hairs on my head. . . . I don’t know the motivations of my heart. . . . I don’t know how all four of my children can be so different. . . . I don’t know what tomorrow will bring or if tomorrow will come. . . . I don’t know why God loves me when I am often so unlovable. . . . I don’t know how my brain works or why my body aches so much.

Of course, this list only scratches the surface of all the things I don’t know. And if I ever took the time to write an exhaustive list, when I came to the end of it, there would be countless things not listed that I don’t know, simply because I don’t know that I don’t know them! I suppose it could depressing to consider all that I don’t know, except for the fact that I know the One who knows everything . . . and that is enough to know!

God knows everything. We call that attribute of God omniscience. God is all-knowing; He has perfect knowledge of all things at all times in all places, all at once. God knows the beginning from the end and every point in between. He never learns anything and He has not forgotten anything. God never has to reason things out and He never discovers anything. God’s knowledge is absolute and unacquired. As the psalmist said, “Great is our Lord, and mighty in power; his understanding is infinite” (Psalm 147:5). There are no gaps in His knowledge and no flaws in His wisdom.

If I know that God knows everything, why would I ever fret about anything? Well . . . it’s because I am prone to forgetting this truth of cosmic comfort. Some things that happen in my life surprise me, but they never surprise God. Other things perplex me, but they never perplex God. He is not anxiously pacing the halls of heaven, wondering what I might do next. The good news of the Gospel allows me to rest in Him, knowing that He has everything under control and is working all things together to accomplish two profound purposes – His glory and my eternal good. And that is enough to know!

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

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Let Us Pray

Pray without ceasing. (1 Thessalonians 5:16)

The Bible makes it clear that prayer is one of the identifying marks of disciples of Christ. But we must remember that prayer is more than bringing our petitions before the throne of grace. Yes, we are invited to present our requests to Jesus — in fact, we are instructed to come boldly into His presence, asking, seeking, and knocking. But there is so much more to prayer than that! Prayer demonstrates that we truly believe that Someone exists in the universe who is far greater, more glorious, and more powerful than we are. Prayer is a constant reminder that there is indeed a God, and He is not us!

Prayer points us in a God-ward direction. When we are looking up at God, we stop looking in at ourselves and out at our circumstances. We begin to see a glory infinitely greater than our own, the glory of the One who created us for His glory story. Prayer is a constant reminder there is something beyond the limits of our own little lives, our own little plans, our own little goals, and our own little desires. Because we are image-bearers of God, we are to live in a way that expands the cause of His Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven, and our prayers are to reflect that reality.

When we are focused on the Kingdom of God, we are focused on the King of kings and Lord of lords. Keeping our focus on King Jesus keeps us from shrinking the size of our salvation down to the size of our individual lives. Our salvation is not primarily about us; it is about Him, and every aspect of our saved lives is to be used to expand His Kingdom. Our prayers should reflect the truth that we are instruments of both salvation and sanctification in God’s mighty right hand, and we are to surrender and submit to His will in our lives.

How would you describe your prayer life lately? Hot? Cold? Lukewarm? When we keep the grandeur and glory of God’s glory story in view, we will spend more and more time in the presence of our Lord, praying in dependence on God, devotion to God, and delight in God. Let us pray!

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

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Strength In Weakness

When I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:10)

Today’s word of encouragement is as counter-cultural as it is counterintuitive. The world has no interest in weakness; it views weakness with derision and contempt. But the Word of God says weakness is the walkway leading to the only real power in the universe, a power that is available to us twenty-four hours a day, seven days each week, three hundred-sixty-five days each year — the power that God gives us.

Weakness protects us from ourselves. God uses our weakness as a witness to His awesome power that flows through us. Our weakness is one of the ways that God demonstrates His strength in our lives. Paul understood this truth from personal experience. Paul knew that he was nothing apart from Christ, and he could do nothing of any eternal value in his own strength. He knew that every bit of forward progress he made in his service to Jesus was because of the power of the Holy Spirit working in and through him. And the weaker he was, the more Holy Spirit power flowed through him!

Weakness keeps us dependent upon God. Weakness keeps us trusting in God. Weakness keeps us from thinking we are capable of living autonomous, independent, and self-reliant lives. We were made by God; we were made for God; and in order to live for God’s glory, we must live in His strength, not our own. When we believe that we are strong and and assure ourselves, “I’ve got this,” we miss out on the life-changing, daily-rescuing, transforming power of God.

When we see how the great apostle Paul celebrated his weakness, we too can celebrate our weakness, knowing that when we are weak, we are truly strong. 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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