3 Words

essentials-salvation

Last August, I began editing sermons for radio. This means that I’ve spent approximately 15-20 hours a week listening to the Word of God.

The past 10 months of listening and editing has been quite an experience. The Lord has sat me atop His wings and taken me on a wild ride in the heavens. I’ve gotten a wholistic view of what He’s done throughout the ages. It has been a radical view. I’ve cried. I’ve pounded my fist on the desk. I’ve shouted. I’ve temporarily slinked away from the voice coming through my headphones, too convicted to continue listening. Most of all, I’ve learned. Let me say with all the fierceness I can convey through weak human words: Jesus. Is. Beautiful.

I could stay right there for the rest of this post- writing about the loftiness that is my Savior. The greatness that is Christ. The glory of my King. But alas, that is not today’s purpose.

What I want to talk about today is the wholistic heavenly vision I’ve been given the privilege of glimpsing through radio edits. The most important takeaways I’ve gleaned from hours and hours of listening and learning can be summed up in three words: brokenness, sufficiency and dependency.

Brokenness

Those that say, “I’m a good person” are deceived by their own hearts. That may sound harsh, but it’s true. To these folks I would say this: “Yeah- you’re a “good” person according to man’s standards. But God doesn’t judge according to man’s standards. He’s not broken like we are. He doesn’t make mistakes. According to God’s holy standard, we are all a hot mess.” The Bible puts it this way: our righteousness is filthy rags. Those that foolishly self justify have not gotten a revelation of the glory, majesty and holiness of Jesus.

Many skeptics read the Old Testament stories and accuse God of being harsh or even malicious. They are wrong. WE are the ones that are harsh and malicious.

I have visited the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky a couple of times. Guests begin their tour with creation exhibits and then walk through others that portray the timeline of Biblical history. When I arrived at the flood exhibits, I could barely continue. No, I wasn’t overwhelmed by the horror of the world wide disaster (although it is admittedly upsetting). What completely tore me apart was God’s grace.

Before the flood, the Bible says that “people did evil all the time”. Can you even imagine what that must have been like for our Lord? (What do earthly fathers feel when their children do awful things? How much more did our Abba feel hurt and grief!?) Nobody called upon their Creator for help. No one cared about God or His will for their lives at all. Nobody except for one: Noah. Noah was a righteous man living in an unprecedented evil time. So, God gave Noah plans to build an ark and patiently waited for Noah to finish it. While Noah built that big boat, the Bible says that the earth “was filled with violence”.

As I walked through the flood exhibits that day at the museum, I thought, “Father, how do You endure us? Why didn’t You just throw us out and start again? That’s what we, humans, would do!” I understood that God has absolutely no obligation to put up with rebellious humanity. In fact, because He is God (and we are not), He has every right to zap us into oblivion.

But the Lord doesn’t destroy us, because He loves us. God is so long suffering and patient that it defies human understanding. So, when those skeptics say that the Lord is malicious or vengeful, they are merely showing how foolish and ignorant they are.

Unfortunately the flood is just one of the many stories in the Old Testament that demonstrate our utter brokenness. We are disobedient, lustful, vengeful, prideful, envious, and full of hatred. We even selfishly inflict pain on those we love. Personal “countries” divide because of the hardness of our hearts. Husband and wives separate. Children disobey their parents. Parents cut off children. We war with each other just as countries war. National divisions are larger demonstrations of our individual brokenness.

Much blood, sweat, and tears has been shed in an effort to “fix” our brokenness problem. It’s no use though. Whenever we try to fix it ourselves, do religious works, or act piously to cover up our hard hearts, we eventually fail. We make promises and promptly break them. We pull up our boot straps in determination to do good but then give up when the memory of our moral resolve fades or temptation calls.

The simple truth is this: we aren’t good and we can’t be good. All have failed. All have fallen short of God’s perfection. No matter how hard we’ve tried throughout the ages, we have never been able to cross the gulf that exists between God and man.

What’s more, we stand guilty before the Lord. We deserve punishment. Because He is a good Judge, He has to punish us for our rebellion- the same rebellion that was there before the flood, the same disobedience that has always been since the fall. Our destination in the next life is hell because we’ve broken God’s laws over and over again. We are broken and powerless to do anything about our brokenness.

Sufficiency

The good news is that there is hope for all of us who admit we are irrevocably broken.

God knew that we could never be good on our own. So, in a calculated move so compassionate and astounding that the angels watched in amazement, God emptied Himself of glory to become a man named Jesus. Jesus lived a perfect life and then took our just punishment upon Himself as He hung on the cross and died. For God so loved the world that He gave His One and only Son. Then Jesus rose again to prove once and for all His triumph over sin and death.

Folks… Jesus’s sacrifice was sufficient. He covers us and makes us righteous. We cannot be righteous on our own. History proves that we can’t be right or good. So, Jesus was right and good for us. HE DID IT. His shoulders are broad enough to carry us all into heaven. His blood is enough to erase all of our mistakes. His grace surpasses understanding. His compassion and mercy are beyond anything you or I have ever known.

Oh what a Savior. What a magnificent, triumphant, glorious Savior.

Christ’s sacrifice is sufficient to make you and I righteous. All we need to do is trust in His righteousness to be saved. That’s it. No human effort at all- because as we’ve learned- human effort fails every time. However, God’s effort on the cross is enough. It’s MORE than enough!

Dependency

So what is our response to such a sufficient sacrifice? The New Testament teaches people who have put their trust in Jesus’ sacrifice to be totally dependent upon God. Christ is the only One Who can save us. Furthermore, just as we couldn’t save ourselves from our sins, we also cannot make ourselves more holy on our own. We need Christ’s power to save us just as we need His power to sustain us each day. As we depend on Jesus, we become more like Him. This process is called sanctification. Becoming like Jesus is a lifelong process, and it is a work that God promises in great faithfulness to complete.

The Bible warns us not go back to trying to work to earn God’s favor. The moment we slip back into the old pattern of trying to earn our way to heaven is the very moment we will fall. Again, the Old Testament and all of history prove that we can’t be good on our own. But, glory to God, Jesus is good… so we trust in His goodness and obey Him. There is nothing else that we need to do!

We simply must depend on Christ’s sacrifice like little children depend upon their parents to care for them. God can be trusted, and it is His joy to provide for His children.

My days editing sermons are coming to a rapid close. I recently got hired to teach a 4th and 5th grade split classroom at a small little Christian school here in Alabama. It’s a dream job! The school days are from 8-1:30 (yes!), and my children will matriculate there next year- every mother’s dream. We all start next fall.

While I was excited to accept the job and knew it was God’s will, I was also extremely nervous. I’ve never taught elementary kiddos before (well, with the exception of homeschooling my own 5th grader, Noah). My degree is in secondary education- high school is my specialty. However, I haven’t taught in years. Before moving to Alabama, I was an administrative assistant for 3 1/2 years. I was a nurse’s assistant before that! So, like a brand new teacher coming out of university, I knew I’d have to create each day’s lesson plans from scratch, learn all new curriculum, buy room decor, decorate my room to make it engaging and inviting, etc. etc. etc. Whenever I stopped to think about the amount of work I’d just inherited, I was a little overwhelmed. It prompted me to pray! I was also confessing this truth: “God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness.”

Last week I went to the school to chat with the current 4-5 teacher before she left. I wanted to get my barrings and peruse the curriculum for the first time. Within 10 minutes of meeting this teacher, I was almost in tears and quite literally jumping for joy.

The lady is retiring, so she is leaving everything to me! Hundreds of novels and books. All of the room decorations. Because this person is very organized, she has a binder filled with lesson plans and detailed assignments from every single day of the 2015-2016 year. The worksheets are even there for me. Jackpot!

How could I have doubted God’s provision? Of COURSE He would provide for me! He always has. He always does. Time after time after time. As I drove home from the school, I could almost hear the Spirit whisper to me, “Oh ye of little faith!”

Dependency is a good thing- even if it feels a bit unfamiliar. We need Jesus. He’s not a crutch. He is life itself!

So- to sum it up:

*We are broken.
*Christ’s sacrifice is sufficient to fix our brokenness.
*We need only to depend upon Jesus to be saved and live holy lives.

This is the Gospel. It is God’s plan for salvation. It is the only salve for our ravaged souls.

So, dear one… what will you do now that you know… now that you’ve heard the story of all stories?

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