Posted in Christianity, Faith

Somebody’s Got To Die

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I just re-watched the Nicolas Cage film, National Treasure, the other day. If you will recall, the Nicolas Cage character (Ben) steals the Declaration of Independence in order to save it from the bad guy. When the FBI agent catches up with Ben, he keeps explaining, “Somebody’s got to go to jail Ben,” because the Declaration had been stolen. No matter that Ben had discovered a massive treasure for the nation, somebody still had to go to jail to make up for the crime of stealing a national document.

When it comes to a world filled with sin, the same concept applies. Because the “wages of sin is death,” in order to escape the sentence of death we all deserve, somebody’s got to die.

How fortunate we are that Christ was willing to come to earth and become the sacrificial lamb that died for the wages of all our sins. Because of this sacrifice, we all have the opportunity to escape the wages of the sin we inevitably commit. By accepting Him as the guiding force in our life, we open our arms to a different possibility. We get to live because somebody else died.

When we sin, we sever the relationship we have with God. In the times before Christ, that broken relationship could only be mended by the offering of sacrifices. Leviticus especially explains the requirements of many of these sacrifices. In most cases, the blood of a living thing, be it a dove or a lamb, would be required to be shed in order to take away the sin that had been committed and return the person back into relationship with God. Somebody had to die.

If we never take for granted the weight of knowing that somebody else has died for us, then surely we will do a better job each day of following in the footsteps of Christ. Kindness to others, showing love when we least feel like it, praising God, all these actions should be as second nature to us.

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Yet, living in a world more than 2,000 years after sacrifice was a regular way of life, we may be slightly numb to the concept of a life given for us. The televised violence that flashes across our newscasts and even computer screens has desensitized us to the horror of an innocent life taken before its time. How well we would do to remember that, but for Christ, the life given for sin would be our own.

Yes, the life Christ saves is an eternal one, since all who are born to this earth also die from it. But, how much more important is the life of one’s soul compared to the blink of an eye which is this earthly existence?  Paul explains:

 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?  Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?   We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. (Romans 6:1-4)

Our new life is the one led by the Holy Spirit in us, the ultimate sign of our healed relationship with God. Because somebody has died, that is, Christ, we have a permanent, unbreakable relationship with God as long as we accept that Christ is our savior.

In a politically correct world, where we create soccer leagues that give every child a trophy and where no one can stand up and say that is wrong without risking ridicule or punishment, it may seem blunt to say with conviction that a relationship with God requires a sacrifice. But, think again, for this same, seemingly strict God is the One who loves us so much that He was willing to become the sacrifice that paid the price for sin once and for all.

Somebody’s got to die. Thankfully, Somebody did.

 

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Posted in Christianity, Faith

Enough Foolishness Already

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(I hope you enjoy this “reading” of the first half of Paul’s letter to the Romans.  The verses quoted are from the New Living Translation.)

If the only record of our culture for the future to see were limited to what they show on television, what kind of people would we appear to be?  Almost every show has “lowered the morality bar.”  Sex is casual.  Language is vulgar. Reality TV makes us all appear to be gossips who don’t mind talking behind other people’s backs, but also embrace a “live and let live” philosophy that is diametrically opposed to a life that leans on God.  As my grandparents would have said, “It’s all just a bunch of foolishness.”

Paul wrote about the same kind of foolishness in his letter to the church in Rome:

Since they thought it foolish to acknowledge God, He abandoned them to their foolish thinking and let them do things that should never be done. . . . They know God’s justice requires that those who do these things deserve to die, yet they do them anyway. Worse yet, they encourage others to do them, too (Romans 1:28, 32).

Just because we exist in a culture that wants to say everything is OK because that culture doesn’t have any solid base on which to stand does not mean that we as Christians should back down from the truths of living a life in the Spirit. Paul makes it clear that we are meant to follow the law of God’s Spirit, especially because we have that Spirit to guide us as part of the gift of Jesus’ sacrifice for us:

“For merely listening to the law doesn’t make us right with God. It is obeying the law that makes us right in his sight” (Romans 2:13).  “For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are” (Romans 3:20). “Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on obeying the law. It is based on faith” (Romans 3:27).  “Well then, if we emphasize faith, does this mean that we can forget about the law? Of course not! In fact, only when we have faith do we truly fulfill the law” (Romans 3:31). “Now [that you have accepted Christ as your Savior] you do those things that lead to holiness and result in eternal life” (Romans 6:22b). “Now we can serve God, not in the old way of obeying the letter of the law, but in the new way of living in the Spirit” (Romans 7:6b).

As sinners, if we received from God what we actually deserve for our behavior, we would have no hope.  Instead, as Paul writes, “Can’t you see that His kindness [in giving us the opportunity to accept the grace of Christ] is intended to turn you from your sin?” (Romans 2:4b)  The discipline to choose the Spirit over the flesh every day of our lives is tantamount to a life, not of foolishness, but of faith:

“Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey?” (Romans 6:16a) “Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit” (Romans 8: 5). “And a person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people” (Romans 2:29b).

What kind of world would it be if we Christians determined to really live the law of the Spirit and not just read about it? Would we have such a high divorce rate? Would we have so many single parents or abandoned children? Would our headlines be filled with information people could really use, or with political agendas that try to convince us that what is true is actually contrary to what is found in the word of God?

Maybe the world isn’t any better or worse than it has ever been. Maybe in a world where we exist in information overload, we just know too much about everything, including what was once kept secret–except no life is secret from the eyes of an omnipresent God:

And this is the message I proclaim–that the day is coming when God, through Christ Jesus, will judge everyone’s secret life” (Romans 2:16).

We can live a life that needs no secrets if we will only embrace the promise of our living God.  My goal is to live the Word and not just read it. And to stop my foolishness!

 

 

Posted in Christian Living, Faith

The World’s Greatest BackUp Plan

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My computer hard drive crashed earlier this week.  I knew I was in trouble when I woke up to one of those blue screens filled with white type in a language that I know is English but doesn’t mean a thing to me.  I rebooted to get an even worse message.  My writing and all my business work were in the proverbial wastebasket.

And I hadn’t even had my morning bowl of cereal yet.

Twenty years ago, when we all accessed the fairly new internet through our phone lines, FTP’ed everything, and experienced conversations in semi-real time on black screens with just words and symbols, I loaded a new program onto my new computer without first creating a directory for it, thereby giving my computer a signal for two executables that left it confused.  I was in tears, literally.  I managed to remove all the files of the program I had just installed improperly (there weren’t so many files to a program back then), and my computer was up and running again.  But, I was a basket case.

In contrast, Monday morning’s fiasco was just another day in the life of me.  Why?  Well, for one thing, I use an online backup service that constantly keeps all my files up-to-date, just in case.  So, staring at a computer screen that wasn’t going to operate, I knew that, worst case scenario, I would be able to download everything that I needed if I had to start over.  My second backup was the knowledge that I have a great guy for working on computers who has gotten me out of more than one mess.  Before the day was out, I had a new, cloned drive and hadn’t lost a thing!

The moral of the story?  Experience and a backup plan are the key to facing life’s challenges with the kind of calm demeanor we see portrayed on the big screen by great teachers like Yoda, or better yet, with the utter peace Christ, our greatest Teacher, demonstrates in the Bible.

Experience is one thing that time itself takes care of.  The longer you live, the more things you have to deal with.  As my Dad is always reminding me:

“90% of the things you worry about don’t even happen, and the 10% that do are never as bad as you thought they would be.”

With a growing body of lessons learned through actually living through problems or challenges, you discover as you age that, even though life always has curves to throw you, your growing arsenal of problem-solving skills makes those curves much more manageable.

Life’s backup plan works a lot like my own online backup subscription.  All we have to do is “sign up” by knowing in our hearts that Christ died for us and then come before Him to ask for Him to be our Savior, repenting of our sins and taking on the guardian of the Holy Spirit who will guide us in our new life.  With Christ as our backup, we cannot lose!  He took on our sin so we would not be condemned by it to eternal death.  He has in mind our ultimate best interest, which is glory in the eternity of Heaven.  Jesus has our back.

Make no mistake: a Christian life still has problems.  In fact, that is part of God’s design.  Paul explains:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?  As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long;    we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  (Romans 8:35-37)

We are going to face problems, in the name of Christ and as just a part of living in a fallen world.  But God has a plan to bring us out on the other side of those problems.  The better we get at leaning on Him during times of trouble and triumph, the more we will feel Him catching us even before we have time to get too worried about the problems we are facing.

Kind of like my reaction to a crashed computer Monday morning.  Truly, I took the problem as a sign that I needed to take a break from the electronics for Monday and reflect on my own relationships with God, my family, and myself.  It was a nice “break” that really helped me set up a happy, productive, and calm week.

Paul emphasizes the bonus of our backup plan:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  (Romans 8:28)

So, as you face challenges this week, remember that you have the greatest backup plan on the planet.  And you not only have a lifetime subscription, but an eternal one:

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future,nor any powers,  neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  (Romans 8:38-39)