Monday, February 6, 2017

fear-or-joyYou’re young and wanting to be a teenager, but lack a year or so.  Mom and dad have “dragged” you to another revival. The preacher is spouted a “hell, fire, and brimstone” sermon.  Men and women are responding. Teens are filling the aisles. Your heart is racing. You can almost feel the flames of hell licking your feet. Fear grips you.  You don’t want to be lost. Your desire for salvation outweighs your fear of stepping into the aisle. You  fearfully receive the preacher’s words.  You make your confession.  You exchange your clothes for a baptismal garment.  After a few words from the preacher, you are immersed.  There is a feeling of exhilaration that follows your baptism.  Congratulations are given with a slap on your shoulders or a hug, or both.  These actions intensify your feelings.  All your past sins are gone!  God has forgiven you because you have been washed in the blood of Jesus!  If you died right now, heaven would be your home.  The excitement of the evening is hard to wear off, making sleep tardy in arriving.

The next day at school you find yourself in a critical situation and lie your way out of it.  Afterwards you feel the fires of hell licking at your feet again!  What happened?  You’ve been buried and raised with Jesus.  You’re a Christian.  You’re not supposed to lie anymore.  You’re not supposed to sin.  The fear of being lost surges up and refills your thoughts.  Saved, but lost again!  You repent, pray, and ask God for strength to not sin again.  But, as the days, weeks, months, and years pass, you find yourself on a slick slide, slipping back into sin every day.  Your inner self screams, “Why can’t I be sinless?”  Sometimes you feel like throwing up your hands in surrender.  That voice in your head shouts, “I may as well eat, drink, and be merry, because I’m going to hell anyway”!  You were lost because that first sin in your boyhood condemned you.  You were forgiven, but now as an adult, that “first” has multiplied and the weight is unbearable!  Each time you go to church, the preacher reinforces your negative feelings by exhorting everyone in the audience “to go on unto perfection” (Hebrew 6:1).  You leave discouraged, knowing you can’t be saved because “perfection” divorced you soon after you were baptized!  In church, discouragement replaces encouragement.  Everyone must be perfect, except you!

How many have that concept of Christianity?  They believe salvation is limited only to those who have a perfect record of crossing every “t” and dotting every “i.”  They also believe that salvation is  restricted to those who are members of a congregation that has everything right and nothing wrong.  If there is a hint of something being wrong and one remains if it is not quickly corrected, they will lose their soul!  If they can’t find one that is perfect, they are obligated to establish one!  Yet, when they follow that guideline, if they don’t find a “t” that hasn’t been crossed or an “i” that hasn’t been dotted, they will still be lost no matter how correct they are as individuals!  Those discoveries take their toll.  Assurance becomes a foreign word.  Passages such as “perfect love casteth out fear” refers to someone else.  They try to convince themselves that they and their congregation are almost perfect, only a small stretch from reaching it.  They attempt to justify that small gap of imperfections by believing they are more correct than other congregations or their members.  But, their efforts are always rewarded with failure.  Jesus spoke of such individuals in John 5:39 and Luke 18:9-14.

It is true that we sin before and after becoming a Christian.  The reason we sin is because we have the law of sin within us (Romans 7:23, 25).  The King James refers to it as “the flesh” (Matthew 26:41; John 8:15; Romans 7:25, 8:1, 3-4).  Prior to the good news we were slaves of sin and the wages of that servitude was death or separation from God (Romans 6:23).  Yet, God sent His Word to become flesh and keep the law perfectly so he could be our sin payment (John 1:1, 14; Romans 4:23-25; 5:1-2, 6, 8-10; 9:28; 10:9-10, 12, 18).  He took all our sins and then bestowed upon us His righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21).  Although we are not sinless, we are washed in Jesus’ blood and he continues to cleanse us as we continue to recognize that we are sinners in need of his cleansing (1 John 1:8-10).  We don’t excuse our sins.  We don’t pretend we are sinless.  We don’t fool ourselves into believing we can attain perfection through our efforts.  We allow our sins to drive us to Jesus.  We confess our sinfulness and ask for His forgiveness.  We do our best, but our best cannot purchase our sin eraser.  Only Jesus’ blood does that!  We are slaves of righteousness and are dead to sin, but alive to Jesus (Romans 6:2; 8:1).  We are slaves of righteousness and will receive eternal life (Romans 6:15-18, 23).  When one is “in” Christ, he enjoys “all spiritual blessings” (Ephesians 1:3).  So, rejoice!

And so, dear brothers, now we may walk right into the very Holy of Holies, where God is, because of the blood of Jesus.   This is the fresh, new, life-giving way that Christ has opened up for us by tearing the curtain—his human body—to let us into the holy presence of God.  And since this great High Priest of ours rules over God’s household, let us go right in to God himself, with true hearts fully trusting him to receive us because we have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean and because our bodies have been washed with pure water.  Now we can look forward to the salvation God has promised us.  There is no longer any room for doubt, and we can tell others that salvation is ours, for there is no question that he will do what he says.”  (Hebrews 10:19-23 (TLB).

THAT is Good News!