John 8:31-32

Are you gay? Do you identify with any of the letters of the LGBTQ acronym? This may be a controversial discussion, but because sexual orientation and preference are among the biggest issues of our day it is both wrong and unkind to those who struggle with it to address all other topics, while remaining silent on this one.

“To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.'” (John 8:31-32 NIV)

Human sexuality is one of those mysterious parts of our existence we tend to avoid discussing–in part because we feel it a private matter and it tends to be embarrassing to talk about, but also because we actually know so little about it and how it develops. So, as coworkers, neighbors, friends and even relatives, when the topic comes up we typically either offer comments which are ill-informed or perceived as judgmental, or–more often than not–stay silent and cross our fingers that everything turns out fine for the life at stake. But sometimes it doesn’t.

Sometimes sexual identity (feeling like the physical sex my body says I am) or preference (which sex I am attracted to) doesn’t “take” the way people expect it to. Why is this? What then? And more significantly, is God silent on this most important of issues to those who want to know and love Him, but feel they can’t because they are somehow outside of His inner circle?

The reasons why sexual identity and preference may not “take” as expected are many and a fair evaluation beyond the scope of this discussion–but there is a short answer. It is that God is kind and will not ask of us what we cannot do or be. We may have difficulties (remember that Jesus told His followers, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”–John 16:33), but they will not be impossibilities. What this means is that we are not “predestined” to develop opposite sex identities or same sex preferences anymore than we are “predestined” toward any other expression of not living up to His glory.

Yet fall short of His perfection and glory we all regularly nonetheless do–in one way or another–and it is an interesting combination of natural proclivities, coupled with childhood, adolescent and early adulthood experiences–identified as nature and nurture–which cause us to develop into the people we eventually become.

Take nature. There are those who have postulated that some are “born gay,” but scientists are yet to discover a “gay gene,” because, I suspect, it doesn’t exist–anymore than a “straight gene” does. What we do see, however, is the person God genetically creates in his or her mother’s uterus–the newborn child–whose life will take one turn or another, depending on what he or she is exposed to.

Nurture–our life experiences–then adds onto, enhances and combines with our genetics. It, coupled with our conscious responses to it, continues influencing us into the people we eventually are–our sexual, as well as all other identities; the totality of whom we are becoming (which is actually a fluid, not static, process). So, what shapes the separate, but interrelated, development of a child’s sexual identity and preference?

Sexual identity develops when, as children grow, they come to see themselves as a younger version of the same-sex parent–what they recognize as masculine or feminine–because in most cases these are a young child’s primary examples of masculinity and femininity. At the most simplistic level, a boy sees dad, admires and looks up to him, is treated by him (and by mom) as a “young man,” and wants to be “just like dad” when he grows up. A girl sees mom, admires and looks up to her, is treated by her (and by dad) as a “young lady,” and wants to be “just like mom” when she grows up. This, of course, is how sexual identify develops in an idealized situation–in a perfect world. But our world isn’t perfect and things don’t always happen the way we expect them to. Why is this?

Life does not always work the way it should because of the obvious culprit–sin. Dad or mom might be so bad in some way or another–abusive or abused, immoral, or criminal, for example–that the child can’t stand the thought of becoming like him or her and rejects that identity, not recognizing that there are many versions of masculinity and femininity, and that the same-sex parent’s version isn’t the only one. The child’s mind can’t sufficiently wrap itself around the fact that if dad has flaws (as all parents do to one degree or another) you don’t have to be like him, yet can be and are still masculine–you will live out your version, not your father’s, of manhood. Correspondingly, if mom wasn’t perfect you don’t have to be exactly like her, flaws and all–you can be and are still feminine–your version, not hers, of womanhood.

So, in a situation in which things easily and naturally “take,” a boy develops a desire to be what he sees as masculine/a girl develops a desire to be what she sees as feminine. The attraction to the opposite sex develops as the child identifies with his or her sex, and sees dad and mom being good to and respecting and admiring each other, because the child sees this and wants to be treated the way their same-sex parent is treated by the opposite-sex parent. Yet, in this world, dads and moms aren’t always admirable, they don’t always accept their children, and they don’t always treat them and each other the way they should. What then? Are children of imperfect families doomed? Most significantly, what does God say?

The most important thing we need to remember is that God really is a God of hope. “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV) God wishes us good; He does not place on us a burden we cannot bear, nor does He ask of us what we aren’t empowered to do. It may seem difficult, it may not be pleasant, but if we keep our trust rooted firmly in Him and the power and ability He freely gives, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13) This is true not only in the struggle with sexual identity or preference; it is true for all of human existence for those in Christ. But what should you do if you don’t see yourself as the sex your body says you are, or if you have experienced a same-sex attraction? Jesus said, “If you hold to My teaching…you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” Knowing the truth makes us free. But what is the truth in this instance?

The truth is that, “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” (I Corinthians 10:13) Your experiences, frustrations, temptations, and burdens are not something no one else struggles with–these are things common to the human experience. God know this, and promises that if you cling to Him, He will also make a way of escape so that you can bear it–and so that you do not get mired deeper and deeper in something you know no way out of.

A second truth, sadly rarely publicized in the popular media, is that human sexuality is like clay–it can be molded and shaped in various directions. Granted, a lifetime of engaging in certain behaviors causes them to become more solidified, but our sexuality is quite malleable. A rare article on this topic by ABC News reports, “Can gay men and women become heterosexual? A controversial new study says yes — if they really want to.”

It goes on, “Dr. Robert Spitzer, a psychiatry professor at Columbia University, said he began his study as a skeptic — believing, as major mental health organizations do, that sexual orientation cannot be changed, and attempts to do so can even causeharm…But…Spitzer…concluded that 66 percent of the men and 44 percent of women reached what he called good heterosexual functioning — a sustained, loving heterosexual relationship within the past year and getting enough emotional satisfaction to rate at least a seven on a 10-point scale…He also found that 89 percent of men and 95 percent of women were bothered not at all or only slightly by unwanted homosexual feelings.” Interestingly, originally “…many of his subjects had been despondent and even suicidal themselves, for the opposite reason — ‘precisely because they had previously thought there was no hope for them, and they had been told by many mental health professionals that there was no hope for them, they had to just learn to live with their homosexual feelings.’ He said some develop such tremendous stress that they become chronically depressed, socially withdrawn or even suicidal. But Spitzer says his study shows that some homosexuals making some effort, usually for a few years, make the change…most of the subjects made very dramatic changes which lasted many, many years…” (http://abcnews.go.com/Health/Sex/story?id=117465&page=1)

This corresponds with what God already told us through Paul: “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.” (I Corinthians 6:9-11)

I love the old Indian admonition, “feed the good dog and starve the bad one,” as an approach to anything less than what I should be–any habit, any temptation. Or, in the words of a wonderful older spiritual mentor of mine, “birds will fly overhead and you can’t do much about that, but we must not let them nest in our hair!” We are human and have human temptations, thoughts and impulses, but we do not dwell on the ones that God has identified as not what He wants for us. When we consistently turn our hearts toward what is good and away from that which is not, God honors our attempts to honor Him, and He heals.

“ So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten…” (Joel 2:25) Not only can God heal us, He can make things better than we could ever imagine! But it will not happen independently of our faith. “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he…” (Proverbs 23:7) If we think we “are” something we’re not, we may convince ourselves; if we know the truth, God can pull us up out of our  pain.

We have to know the truth so it can free us! This is why we have to know that we are the sex our body says we are–and live out our version of masculinity or femininity, not the flawed version we experienced in someone else. This is why we have to know that we are not being tempted by something no one else has ever been tempted by–and understand that having a homosexual feeling does not make someone a homosexual any more than losing their temper makes them a reviler or coveting something makes them a thief; rather, that it is a habitual lifestyle of harboring and indulging these thoughts, feelings, and eventually actions that can. This is why we have to consistently walk by faith trusting that God can and will change and heal us–all the while recognizing that we will be healed to the very degree that we desire it.

Dear Lord,

“As the deer pants for the water brooks, So…[help] my soul [pant] for You, O God. ” ‭‭(Psalms‬ ‭42:1-2‬ ) Help me know the truth, and let it set me free! Amen.


 

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Daniel 12:3

What’s in your bucket list? What are the hopes and dreams you hope to accomplish during your lifetime–your goals, the things you want to get done before you die, as each and every one of us eventually will?

“Those who are wise [who impart wisdom] will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.” (‭‭Daniel‬ ‭12:3‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

Each and every one of us has plans of some kind. For some of us it might be getting an education or the training to qualify for a particular job. For others it might be saving up enough to buy a house, or getting married and having a family. Others yet may want to travel, or write a book, get an advanced degree, or even qualify to go to a mission field. But whatever your goals are, do they include shining like the stars forever and ever? Because that’s what God has promised for a certain group of people.

Wow! If that hasn’t taken you aback, take a moment to consider that last sentence. According to today’s verse, those who impart wisdom, who lead many to righteousness, will shine like the brightness of the heavens, like the stars forever and ever. Again, who are those who will shine like the brightness of the heavens, like the stars forever and ever? THOSE WHO IMPART WISDOM, WHO LEAD MANY TO RIGHTEOUSNESS.

And that’s in the Old Testsment! But the interesting thing is that even though people don’t always think there is, there IS consistency between the Old and New Testsments–they’re not Plan A and Plan B. Jesus Christ was and is THE PLAN. He came to save us from our sins and commissioned us to call all to righteousness in Him.

He tells us to, “…go and make followers of all people in the world…Teach them to obey everything that I have taught you…” (‭‭Matthew‬ ‭28:19-20‬ ‭NCV‬‬)

When we come to Him, when we are convicted of our sins and come to Jesus Christ for forgiveness and HIS righteousness, He then shows us true wisdom and expects us to pass that on to those we interact with daily so they too can be led out of the sin-infected lifestyle we are all born with into true righteousness!

So? What’s in your bucket list? What do you hope to accomplish during your (relatively) short time in this life? May it be to “…go and make followers of all people in…[your] world;” to teach them to obey everything Jesus has taught you, to lead many to righteousness. May you may shine like the stars forever!

Dear Lord,

Help me impart wisdom and lead many to righteousness! Amen.

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Isaiah 58:13-14

Are you tired? Maybe you occasionally feel an ache in your chest–not because you’re sad but because you’re pushing yourself too much? Or maybe you don’t–yet–but either way, you feel like the proverbial hamster on a wheel, running and running and running, one day spilling over into the next. If this is you, stop for a minute and consider that, whether because of perceived necessity or engrained habit, you’re violating one of God’s primary principles and barring a change, will eventually pay.

“If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the Lord ʼs holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the Lord, and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob…”‭‭ (Isaiah‬ ‭58:13-14‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

God has given His people the best gift, the gift above all gifts–forgiveness and acceptance in Jesus Christ! But He has also given us many other auxiliary gifts to help us as we navigate our existence here in these bodies on earth–one of the primary of which is a very practical and beautiful gift many of us miss, the Sabbath. And while there has been much discussion as to whether we should celebrate it on Saturday as the Old Testament people of God did, on Sunday as Christians traditionally have, or some other day, the point remains that Jesus never did away with the Sabbath. Remember what He said? “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” (‭Matthew‬ ‭5:17-18‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

Yet many Christians today have all but ignored God on this point, to their grave detriment. Granted, many faithfully attend church, “not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews‬ ‭10:25‬ ‭NIV‬‬) And this is good and right, as it should be. But beyond that–what about the command to actually rest on the Sabbath? Do we do that? Or is Sunday the same as every other day, a blur of activity of one sort or another, whether for church, or entertainment and amusement, or even paid work? Let’s see what God actually says about the Sabbath, the day of rest.

“Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested [a more accurate translation would be “ceased,” because He did not need to actually rest, as we do] from all the work of creating that he had done.”‭‭ (Genesis‬ ‭2:3‬ ‭NIV)

“There are six days when you may work, but the seventh day is a day of sabbath rest, a day of sacred assembly. You are not to do any work; wherever you live, it is a sabbath to the Lord.” (‭‭Leviticus‬ ‭23:3‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (‭‭Exodus‬ ‭20:8-11‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

“Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” (‭Mark‬ ‭2:27-28‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

So. What are we to make of these verses? What is the Sabbath?

Well, for starters I think we can safely conclude it has NOT been done away with. Does it need to be one particular day rather than another? I am not prepared to argue this point, although I do believe a major element is habitual consistency. If you rest on Sunday, every Sunday must be set apart for rest and holy. If it is Saturday, each one must be. For many pastors, Saturday is the day they finalize preparations and Sunday is the busiest day, so frequently they rest on Monday. God, in His mercy towards us and wisdom about our physiology, has mandated a day of rest every seventh day, and every seventh day it must be.

But what about Jesus’ comment that man was not made for the Sabbath but the Sabbath for man?

Jesus was not rejecting the Sabbath when He said this. The context of this comment was the healing of the blind man on the Sabbath, and He was explaining that we should help out and do good where there is a need–even on the Sabbath. So while our day of rest must remain a day of rest, if, for example, we see a person with a flat tire by the side of the road, we are not precluded from pulling over and helping. On the other hand, driving around looking for “good deeds” to do would clearly violate the entire point of resting on the Sabbath.

So, are you tired? Are you feeling your health giving way because you have ignored a clear mandate from your Creator and have not honored either Him or the obvious needs of your physical body by doing nothing every seven days? Stop. Examine your life. Find a day that works and DO NOTHING. Honor the Sabbath day to keep it holy. God will bless your obedience!

Dear Lord God,

Help me take Your Words very seriously. Help me honor the Sabbath and set it apart as holy in my own life, as You command. Amen.

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John 10:10

What are you grateful for? I realize Thanksgiving is over and the Christmas season is officially upon us, but thanksgiving isn’t something we do once a year. We are to be thankful people always! And in light of this, I feel the need to divulge something I realized several days ago–running around for nine hours on Black Friday waiting on customers and selling to them–I am truly grateful for and enjoy my work!

“…I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)

Many of us think of work as a consequence of sin; we imagine that if Adam and Eve hadn’t sinned, we’d be sitting around all day long doing–I don’t know what! But the truth of the matter is that work was there from the beginning–yet it was fulfilling and pleasurable. In Genesis 2:15 we see that, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.” Only after sin entered the scene did God pronounce, “…Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you…By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground…” (Genesis 3:17-19) Yet God said even this not to harm mankind, but to help us understand the severity of sin and cause us to long for a world without it.

In Jesus, however–when we turn away from our sin filled God-defiant lives and come to Him to live in faithful obedience–God undoes many of the consequences of sin we previously experienced. This does not mean, of course, that we can disobey God with impunity and suffer no harm: to the contrary, we must never intentionally sin! What it does mean is that in His graciousness, not only do we no longer suffer the consequences of the sins we are no longer committing, but God also blesses our situations and oftentimes restores an element of the satisfaction in work that must have been present before sin tainted life on earth–something absolutely amazing!

Yes, there will always probably still remain certain aspects of any job that are less pleasant yet necessary, but overall, if we are honest, we will find that God does frequently place His people in work they genuinely enjoy! This doesn’t mean that we will have a high paying position doing nothing; we will still work–sometimes quite a lot!–but He will help us find joy in it. Of course, there may be other times we seem stuck in a job (because we need that paycheck, or are close to a decent retirement pension, or some other reason) which, for whatever reasons, is truly unpleasant for us–but even then, He can give us joy, in Him, if not primarily from our actual work. Yet at other times I think we tend to stay where we are at, not because we genuinely can’t make a change, but because we are afraid to. Yes, we need to ascertain that neither we nor the families that depend on us will starve or otherwise wrongly suffer as we look for other work that is more agreeable, and all of our moves should be prayerful and not violate any of God’s principles, but there are certainly times to make a prudent change for the better.

So, what are you grateful for ? Among the many things we all have to be genuinely grateful for to our merciful and loving God, can you honestly say you are also grateful for your work? I hope this is so!

Dear Jesus,
Thank You that fullness of life is in You, and that You give it to us abundantly–including in our work! Amen.

  

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Genesis 2:17

Are you alive? Of course you live and breathe and function otherwise, but how about your spirit–that part of you that is sensitive to what God says? Do you genuinely want to spend time with Him, or are you as spiritually dead as a corpse?

“But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it, you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:17)

Does God lie? Did our Creator God misrepresent the situation to Adam when He said, “…in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die?” Because, obviously, subsequent chapters show that Adam continued to live physically until He was almost one thousand years old. Did God get it wrong? Did He mislead Adam? Absolutely not! But then, why did Adam continue to live after He disobeyed God?!

The answer is that while Adam’s physical body survived and continued to function, that part of him that knew and enjoyed fellowshipping with God–his spirit–did, in fact, die the very day he sinned! Subsequent to his disobedience, not only was he cognizant of his sin–he really did now possess not only an understanding of good, but also of his evil–but he also no longer wanted anything to do with God. And the repercussion of this death was so great that it was passed down to the rest of humankind. We learn in Romans 5:12 that “through one man [Adam] sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men…” Each and every human being is also now born spiritually dead, no longer capable of, or wanting, anything to do with their Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer God.

That’s why so many feel God completely irrelevant to their lives, why they ignore Him, avoid Him and simply do not want to know anything about Him. In fact, Jesus explained that “unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3) He also said, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him.” (John 6:44) Unless there is a new birth–unless that part of us that is born dead to God is reborn–we cannot see or understand the things of God, nor do we care to.

But what if you feel God nudging you–if you feel you should just give in and come to Him in faith? Don’t ignore it! That’s His Holy Spirit working in you, calling you to come to Him. It’s as if God is saying, “Today, if you hear…[My] voice, do not harden your hearts…” (Hebrews 3:7-8) Let Him! Allow Him access into the recesses of your heart, and He will make alive what is dead within you!! He promises, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.” (Ezekiel 36:26-27) Romans 5:15 explains, “For if the many died by the trespass of the one man [Adam], how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!” Come to Him!

Dear Lord,

Take the heart of stone out of me and give me a heart of flesh; put Your Spirit within me and cause me to walk in Your statutes! Amen.

  

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Jeremiah 33:3

Does God answer your prayers? Is He really there–does He exist–and does He hear you when you talk to Him? Or are you just fooling yourself thinking Someone is listening? The short answer to this question is, yes, He is definitely there, and He proves it–over and over again–through consistently answered prayer in the lives of those who call on Him. But we must remember our relationship with God is a two-way street; we can’t keep talking at Him expecting Him to answer, when we make no effort to hear what He says.

 “Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know.” (Jeremiah 33:3)

Those of us who trust in Jesus look to Him frequently during the day–but there are times we can find ourselves feeling as if we are simply talking to ourselves. Maybe it is that we have prayed too many rote prayers or have fallen into the trap of thinking He is our personal genie, but whatever the reason–we’ve begun wondering if God really hears us at all. Yet the truth is that He’s here; He exists. And, He hears what we say. The problem, more often than not, however, is that we are the ones who do not hear Him.

A relationship with God is a two-way street. Not only must He hear us; we must hear Him too. Imagine having a relationship with someone who keeps talking, but never seems to stop long enough to listen to what you have to say–there will be no genuine communication between you. In order for there to be a vibrant, growing relationship between any two persons, not only must both speak–both must also make the effort to listen to what the other is saying.

In our relationship with God, He speaks to us through the Bible. If we make no effort to open it and read a portion every day, we cannot expect to have ongoing communication with Him. And then when we attempt to pray, we are like the person who keeps talking but doesn’t listen to what the other person has to say. But how can we fix this? How can we actually get into the habit of listening to God?

The way to get into the habit of listening to God is to just do it. Whenever you remember that you haven’t read the Bible yet, open it and read a chapter. Don’t procrastinate; don’t avoid it–just do it! Years ago, I would spend time with God in the morning, but these days it ends up being after I pray right before I go to sleep. Why? Because my life is so busy now that I’m usually running almost since I get out of bed in the morning. It isn’t the time that matters–you can do it on your lunch break if that’s what works for you–it is the fact that you give the Holy Spirit a chance to speak into your life and tell you what God says. This is an aspect of what Jesus meant when He told us to remain in Him. He is the Word of God–John 1 clearly identifies Him as that–and it is only by reading what He says that we hear God’s side of the conversation.

Then, once we start reading and obeying the Word, our own side of the conversation will make more sense. Instead of talking randomly AT Someone we really don’t know, we’ll be able to respond to what He has said. We’ll actually know Him better, which is the basis of any relationship. And we will be more tuned into His responses to our prayers.

So, does God hear you when you talk to Him? DO you even talk to Him? Open up and read a Bible in an easier to understand version (if you’re not used to it) or google it–maybe start from John, or one of the letters of Peter or John or Paul–and then–see if your prayers don’t make more sense. And, see if you don’t feel more certain not only that He’s there, but also that He certainly hears and answers you when you talk to Him!

Dear Lord God,

Help me call on You, and thank You that You answer! But help me listen to what You say too!! Amen.

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Do you get it?  Being a Christian, that is–do you get what it’s all about? The sad truth is that so many don’t. We might have heard some Bible stories when we were kids, we might hear occasional references to God or Jesus, or hear about the Christian Right. But we don’t really understand Christianity. And even if we do read the Bible and attend church, a lot of times we can still lose sight of the forest because of the trees. 

“And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)

So, what is the purpose of Christianity–because almost everything has a purpose. The purpose of Christianity, of Jesus dying, is to save us from our sins according to today’s verse (which is what the angel told Joseph about Jesus even before He was born). But what does that mean? Many of us see this as a free pass out of hell–as simply avoiding accountability for our actions. But that wasn’t God’s goal. God the Father did not send His Son Jesus to suffer excruciating pain and die on the cross just for us to continue our lives the way we would have lived them anyway without Him–only not get punished at the end. No. But if that’s not it–if that’s not all–what else is there?

The goal of Christianity–God’s purpose for us–is holiness. Granted, the only holiness that can and will save us from hell is Jesus Christ’s holiness imputed–attributed–to us when we come to Him in faith. Nothing else can suffice, and we will cling to Him with our dying breath. But what about our life–our behavior–after we understand and trust Christ’s finished work on the cross for our salvation? Will it–can it, rightfully–be the same as it was before? The answer is no.

Trusting Christ means submitting myself to His goals for me, and that involves not only my avoiding eternal punishment because I am made right–I am justified with God–through Jesus, but also Him making me holier in practice as His Spirit in me motivates me to avoid sin and do the “good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:20) Granted, I cannot take credit for this “for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13) But it is something I should be seeing in increasing degrees in my life nonetheless, if I have accepted Christ.

And how do we become sanctified? How does this happen–what is the process? The way this happens is by us remaining (staying) in Jesus Christ, the Word of God. John 1:1, 14 tells us, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” Jesus is the physical revelation of God’s Word; the Bible is the written revelation of God’s Word. Praying to the Father, Jesus said, “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.” He also instructs us, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.” (John 15:4) In practice, we are sanctified–made more perfect, more holy–by reading the Bible and doing what God says. 

So, as you look at yourself and your life, are you making it a point to read at least a little–maybe a chapter or so, or even several verses if that’s all you can do now–of the Bible every day? Do you find yourself actually doing what it says–are you allowing God to make you into the person He wants you to be, to gradually sanctify you and work the sinful habits and practices out of your life? We will not be completely free from sin until He resurrects us in the next life–until we are glorified in Him–but we must not loose sight of the truth that Jesus came to save us from our sins. 1) He came to justify us before God–to give us forgiveness and right standing before the Father, 2) to created a genuinely holier lifestyle in us as we are gradually sanctified by reading and doing His Word, and ultimately, 3) to glorify us–give us a life completely free from any vestiges of sin in eternity with Him. So, let’s “Pursue…holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14) 

Dear Lord,

Thank you that You justify me through the finished work of Christ on the cross; sanctify me through Your Word which is truth; and glorify me someday with You in eternity! Amen.

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