Wednesday, March 23, 2011

I have been justified

Money is tight these days, and this happens to be one of those times of the month when lots of bills come due in our household.  It can be really discouraging, can't it, when instead of having money left over at the end of the month, you end up with a lot of month left over at the end of the money. And then the checking account balance statement shows up in the mail and you discover all the other debits that were never recorded in the checkbook!

Wouldn't it be great if one month all your checking account balance statement had on it were debits at all!  Like if the bank decided to select one lucky person each month whose debits were all wiped away...and this month you were the one picked!

All of us had a "bank account", so to speak, in heaven and we were all so deeply in debt to God because of our sins, that we were hopelessly in the red.  And then God gave us the gift of faith in Jesus, and the debit column was wiped clean...not for a month, but for eternity!  And credited to our account in Christ was His righteousness instead (see Romans 4:24; 2 Corinthians 5:21)...not by faith in our works but by faith in Christ's work of dying for our sins and rising for our justification.

"Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift, but as his due.  And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness (Rom. 4:4,5)."

Our sins...once red like scarlet...are now white like snow.  We have been justified by faith, declared not guilty and instead graced with the very righteousness of Christ.  And so we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1). 

The Judge's gavel slams down.  The trial is over.  The verdict rendered.  NOT GUILTY!  The prisoner is set free...forever.

Friday, March 11, 2011

I am Christ's friend (Part 2)

A Friend of God

I used to think that friendship with God was tame,
Kind of like having tea with a history professor in Boston on a late afternoon in September
When the sky is golden and the sun warm and the shade cool and the breeze gentle.
Or like a Saturday morning when you sleep in and finally awaken, stretch and yawn
And a buddy calls you up on the phone and asks if you want to play golf...and you smile.

I used to think that friendship with God was predictable,
That it meant spouses at war would always find a way to make it work
That illnesses would be over quickly and children would always come through in the end
That tears would always be for joy and pain could be avoided if you were a good boy
And churches were places where power struggles and politics were checked at the door.

But friendship with God is more like a conversation with Morpheus
And if you choose the blue pill you go back to sleep...and many do
And if you choose the red pill and follow Him, you see the truth...and it's scary.
Sometimes it's like a roller coaster ride in the dark with no restraint except His hand to put you back in when you fly out
And the enemy attacks viciously in the night but you learn how to stop his bullets in midair.

Friendship with God is certainly not tame and never predictable.
One day you're Frodo minding your own safe, comfortable, domesticated business
And the next day Gandalf knocks at the door and Black Riders are sniffing out your scent
And power tempts you to take control and so you must master it.
But the friendships you gather along the journey -- the Fellowship of the King -- are the best.

Sure there are times of rest when the fire crackles and the TV's on and the kids are home safe.
Quiet and solitude and peace and simplicity are what soldiers need sometimes.
But then the sirens wail again and you're whisked away with your Warrior-Friend
For some simple task or risky quest ---they're both the same to Him.
And tired and drained you collapse into bed awaiting...sometimes fearing...tomorrow's dragons.

Sometimes I think our church-problem is that we've swallowed both pills.
We want the fire but prefer it in the hearth rather than in the heart.
But friendship with God is wild, untamed and free.
It's getting swept up in the fierce joy of the King as He swirls into action.
It's secure, but not comfortable; intensely important but unpredictable; full of power, but never yours.

How can all this be, when life seems so mundane, so ordinary, so often tame...the same?
Where is this adventure, this quest, this friendship with a King  --  a Dragon-slayer?
The alarm sounds, but it's just my clock.  I go to work, I eat, I go to Starbucks for a break...
The call to friendship, to love, to arms is whispered on the wind to those with ears to hear.
He's been calling for you.  He's been calling for years.

I am Christ's friend

If you think the only thing that happened to you when you became a Christian is that your sins were forgiven, you may not be missing the boat but you haven't explored much of the ship!  Scripture says we went from (spiritual) death to life; we were transferred from the domain of darkness into the Son's kingdom; we changed families...from being a child of the devil to becoming a child of God (see last two week's blogs).

Here's another one:  You went from being an enemy of God (Romans 5:10) to being Christ's friend.  Jesus said (John 15:13-15):

Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.  You are My friends if you do what I command you.  No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. 

Jesus is serious about His friendship with us.  He gave all He had, His very life to break down the wall of sin that made us enemies so that now we can be His friends.  Our responsibility?  Do what He says.  This is not a buddy-buddy relationship but a Leader-follower friendship.  But the benefits of this friendship are out of this world...He lets us in on all the life-transforming, sanity-restoring, hardship-navigating wisdom and truth that Jesus gets from the Father. 

That's what friends do.  They tell each other the important stuff of life that non-friends and enemies never hear.  The secret (also translated: counsel or intimacy or friendship) of the LORD is for those who fear Him, and He will make them know His covenant (Psalm 25:14).  Why not spend some time today hanging out with Jesus and His Word?  He's got some important stuff of life to share just with you.