The implications of legalism are staggering in their arrogance. Legalism claims that the death of Jesus on the cross was either unnecessary or insufficient. It essentially says to God, “Your plan didn’t work. The cross wasn’t enough and I need to add my good works to it to be saved.” C.J. Mahaney
(We insist that God) must surely lead everyone as we believe He has led us. We refuse to allow God the freedom to deal with each of us as individuals. When we think like that, we are legalistic. Jerry Bridges
What do you do with the person who says, “I’ve asked God to forgive me about this, but I still feel guilty”? I hear that statement over and over again. I usually say to these people, “If you still feel guilty, then pray to God again. But this time don’t ask Him to forgive you for the sin that is haunting you. Rather, ask Him to forgive you for insulting His integrity by refusing to accept His forgiveness. Who are you to refuse to forgive yourself when God has forgiven you? When God promises to forgive His people when they repent, He is not playing games. If He says He will forgive you, then He will forgive you. And if God forgives you, you are forgiven.” R.C. Sproul
Wonder, O heavens! and be astonished, O earth! that this most glorious Immanuel, the Prince of Peace, whom angels worship, and before whom the seraphim bow–should from all eternity engage to come and seek His Bride from this poor world, and claim her for His own!
Yet so it is!
But she is filthy and polluted! (Ezek. 16:6; Job 15:14-16; Isa. 64:6) Then His own precious veins shall pour forth the rich crimson flood to cleanse her, (Rev. 1:5) and His Spirit shall open the fountain to wash her from her sin and uncleanness. (Zech. 13:1)
But she is naked and bare! (Ezek. 16:22) Then He will cast His skirt over her, (Ezek. 16:8) and will for her, weave in the loom of the Law (Rom. 5:19) fine linen–clean and white–a robe in which she shall be fit to appear at His court! Moreover the Spirit shall bring near the righteousness of Jesus, (Isa. 46:13) clothing her with “the garments of salvation,” and covering her with the “robe of righteousness,” “as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”
But she is diseased! (Isa. 1:5, 6) She is a leper! (Ps. 51:5) Yet will He bring her health and cure, for He says, “I am the Lord who heals you;” and He is actually made to be sin for her, (2 Cor. 5:21) that she might be made “the righteousness of God in Him.”
But she has no personal charms—she is ugly! Then He will put His loveliness upon her, and through it her beauty shall be perfect.
But she is poor! So He bestows Himself and His fullness upon her–and thus endows her with unsearchable riches!
But she is unwilling, and has no heart to the match, for she obeys a hostile prince! (Eph. 2:2,3) Her delights, too, are in the world and the flesh. A new heart will He give her, and a right spirit will He put within her. The Holy Spirit shall make her willing in the day of His power. “I will cause you to forget your images of Baal; even their names will no longer be spoken.” (Hosea 2:17) So that, prostrate at His feet, she shall say, “Lord, our God, other lords than You have ruled over us, but we remember Your name alone!”
And now that the Spirit has touched her heart, she feels she is diseased, and discovers her filthiness and nakedness, knows she is ugly and poor, and cannot think the Bridegroom’s heart is towards her, or that she can find favor in His eyes. And therefore she cries out, “I am black!” “Behold, I am vile! My loveliness has turned into corruption!” But He overwhelms her by responding, “You are all beautiful, my love, there is no spot in you!”
Then she exclaims, “Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death!” He replies, “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are Mine! When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown! When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior!”
Now she ventures, with a captivated heart, to declare, “My Beloved is mine, and I am His! He is the chief among ten thousand! He is altogether lovely!”
“May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand it!” Ephesians 3:19
(“The Marvelous Riches of Savoring Christ, The letters of Ruth Bryan” October 31, 1849)
“Where sin abounded—grace did much more abound!” Romans 5:20
Deepen in us this day, contrition for our vileness, as miserable sinners in Your sight. How often without resistance, have we floated down the stream of evil! We do not cloak our wretchedness. Our lips are ready to confess—but our hearts are slow to feel, and our feet are reluctant to amend our ways. We bring our hard hearts unto You. Break them by Your Spirit—and then bind them up by Your grace. Wound them to the core—and then pour in the Gospel-balm!
Such is the blindness of our fallen nature, that we cannot see sin’s deformity—except as You are pleased to unmask it. Such is our deadness, that we cannot hate sin—except as You shall graciously implant abhorrence. Such is our infirmity, that we cannot flee sin—except as Your strength enables. Conscious of our total inability—we come to You for light, for help, for strength, for blessing.
Our sins without number stare us in the face! They are piled as mountain upon mountain. Their height reaches unto the heavens! But their full extent is open only to Your omniscient eye. The burden of our known transgressions weighs us to the dust. But the burden is light, compared to the mass which the scales of Your justice hold. We see but little, because our light is partial and our sight is dim. How must we appear, as seen by You, before whom the very heavens are not clean! You charge Your holy angels with folly. What must be Your estimate of our polluted souls! Humbled for what we see and feel; fearful for what is known only unto You—we meekly cry, “Pardon all our sins—for Jesus’ sake!”
We smite upon our breasts, as utterly unworthy of the least of Your gracious and unfathomable mercies. Hear now our cry, and work in us by the omnipotence of Your Holy Spirit, more profound and abiding repentance. Give us more and more of that godly grief, which ever fears and trembles, and yet ever trusts and loves—which is ever watchful and prayerful, and yet is ever confident and hopeful. May the remembrance of the sad past—quicken us to walk in entire newness of life. Grant that through the tears of penitence, we may see more clearly—the brightness and the glories of the saving Cross!
Oh! blessed Jesus – we flee to You! We cling to You. Our countless iniquities condemn us—but You will wash them all away! Our tears of penitence cannot remove one blot—but Your blood has all cleansing merit. Our prayers can earn no pardon—but Your mercy says, “Your sins which are many—are all forgiven!” The more we loathe ourselves—the more we love You! Our vile demerits—commend Your glorious worth!
ever feel like you are underdressed for an occasion? you show up for a party in jeans and a sweater and everyone else is dressed up? imagine that the President invites you to the White House for a dinner party… would you show up in jeans? of course not. You would be embarrased if you were so drastically underdressed and i’m sure you’d feel very out of place.
growing up for the first 20 years of my life in mostly fundamentalist churches, I often heard something like this as an encouragement to wear your best clothes to church on Sunday… to dress up when you come into the presence of the King to show reverence and respect.
but the reality is, God looks much deeper than the outward appearance and examines what is truly at the heart level. I am not saying it is wrong to wear nice clothes to church, but personally, I am not of the conviction that God is impressed by my pantyhose and knee-length skirt. He is impressed by a heart of humility that seeks to serve his Body and worship Him for His holiness.
but all too often I am tempted to think that because God looks on the heart, I am in trouble. that He knows my sin and I often feel ashamed to stand before the King with prison clothes on my heart. Aware of His holiness, my sin can feel so condemning and overwhelming.
I’m so grateful for times when God reminds me that this simply is not true. That Jesus died not only to save me from hell, but to release the chains that are around my heart that is so prone to sin. I am not captive to those sins anymore. Those prison clothes are not what defines my heart. My heart has been changed and is now ruled by Jesus Christ.
but it often doesn’t feel like that does it? condemnation. shame. regret. fear. those things can often overcloud the 3 words so precious to me: “it is finished.” as Martin Lloyd Jones stated in his book Spiritual Depression, its exactly at those times that I need to stop listening to myself and start talking to myself… to start talking truth from God’s Word.
Several years ago, I read through the Bible in 3 months. There were a few passages that jumped out to me at that time. One was the first five verses of Zechariah 3…
Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. And the LORD said to Satan, “The LORD rebuke you, O Satan! The LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?” Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. And the angel said to those who were standing before him, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” And to him he said, “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.” And I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the LORD was standing by.
I shared this passage in Care Group Friday night along with an impression that God wanted to encourage those in the group that struggle with this very thought… with the thought of standing before God in our prison rags… that He wants to remind us that through the blood of Jesus Christ, we are accepted… our clothes are changed, our chains are gone and we are invited in as a child of God as a result of His amazing grace.
Yesterday at church, it was encouraging to see the Holy Spirit move. Someone came up during worship and shared the exact same passage… Zechariah 3:1-5 and the exact same encouragement to the body of Christ. It edified my heart to see God working in various means to build up and refresh his church. And from such an “obscure” passage…
After care group on Friday, someone shared with me another passage along the same lines… 2 Kings 25:29:
So Jehoiachin put off his prison garments. And every day of his life he dined regularly at the king’s table.
I think this accurately displayes who we are in Christ. I pray that God encourages each of you who know Him with the hope found in the truth that we were… “once your enemy, now seated at your table.” Jesus, thank you.
I remember the first time I read this story by Josh Harris called “the Room” (see post below). It was shortly after I had become a Christian and I was reminded in such a powerful way of the amazing grace shown to me. What a cause for rejoicing. What peace this story brought to my soul.
How I need this reminder though every day… not just 5 years ago. This past week, I was having a conversation and the other person accused me of something falsely. I tried to point out that what they were saying was not the truth and the response I heard was “well, you are a liar. you have shown a consistent pattern in your life over many years of lying. things like that don’t change.”
How happy I am to know that those words are simply NOT true. It is an accusation that Satan tries to use quite often in my life to cause me to despair. But I know without a doubt that I am not that same lying punk kid I was 5+ years ago… the gospel has the power to change lives… even mine.
How do I know this? I mean, if you look at my life, you still see lots of sin. I hurt friends, I fail God, I don’t live with the righteous obedience that He requires of me. So how can I say so confidently that I am not the same person anymore?
Its because I’m no longer bound to my former sins any more than Jesus Christ is still bound to the cross on which He died. The resurrection proves that His death was sufficent. Those precious words “it is finished” applies for every CURRENT struggle… not merely the pre-salvation ones.
I pray my friend understands this truth one day… that the gospel does indeed have the power to change a wretch like me.
I’m not at all excusing my sin or saying that its not serious. My sins were so serious that Jesus Christ had to suffer and die for them. But I have the confidence and hope that in His suffering and death, my condemnation, guilt and shame were absolved.
what a glorious truth!
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6
This past Sunday, I attended Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg Md. I was there for the Worship God 09 conference, and my friends and I decided to stay through the weekend and drive back after church. Its funny how God’s sovereignty works…
The conference was very challenging physically for me. Due to the noise and busyness of the week, I had many migraines and other health issues. I was grateful to be able to attend at all, though there were many sessions I was either resting on a couch in the lobby, or sitting on the floor in the back. I really enjoyed the songwriting seminars and learned many helpful tips to incorporate into my writing…
Well, on Sunday, Josh Harris got up to preach. Their church is currently working through a series on Proverbs and the topic this week was about trusting God. His passage was Proverbs 3:5-6. He talked about what it means to trust God, what it means to lean on Him and what it means to acknowledge Him.
i think it is the only time in my life that I cried through an entire sermon. God revealed so many areas in my life where I fail to trust Him. I fail to trust that He is good, that He loves me, and that He has my best in mind. Instead I often trust my own understanding… “this doesn’t make sense… God must not love me… or He must have forgotten about me…”
He mentioned that leaning on God does not mean simply resting like you would against a podium but when the podium is taken away you’re still able to stand just fine. Instead its a full dependence of “God, if you are not there to catch me, I will fall flat on my face. Help.” I spend much of my life trying to avoid this feeling, but this is where I was created to live… in utter dependence on God’s grace and strength and provision.
There are so many unknowns in my life right now… What’s going on with my health? Will I be “stuck” in Greenville forever? Where am I supposed to live? Will I ever get married? have kids? be financially sound? oh, so many unknowns…
How grateful I am for Josh Harris and this past Sunday. I am grateful for the comfort that comes from being reminded that my God has not forgotten me… He is not angry at me or withholding goodness. His steadfast love and faithfulness have followed me all the days of my life. He has led me through valleys. He has led me through paths of rejoicing. And He has promised not to leave… even now, in confusion…
Genesis 28:15 Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go… for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”
Psalm 121 I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.
2 Timothy 2:13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.
“If your hope today is how strong your grip is on God you don’t have much hope because you’re gonna lose that grip by tonight. The first time you are worried, anxious, fearful… that’s unbelief… you’ve lost your grip.
We intellectually say that we believe that God is faithful and will not let us go, but as soon as we start in our mind mulling things over and worrying we’ve lost our grip saying “Maybe God isn’t going to see me through. Maybe God isn’t going to be faithful.” You have a fear… “Maybe God isn’t going to take care of me.”
If your hope is how tight is your grip, you have no hope. Because your hands are greased and so is the rope and you’re not hanging on. Your hope is He’s got a grip on you and He will not let you go. He will keep you wherever you go. The hope is that God grips us and we grip as well but when we lose our grip He is still gripping.”
Craig Cabaniss – “Relentless, part 4” – Grace Church Frisco
The past few weeks have been crushing for me. God has strategically been destroying me… who I am… what I value, etc. I’ve hated every moment of it. The trial started with a description of my sin revealed to me in a disgusting way and has left me shocked in a sense. I know I shouldn’t be shocked by my sin, but I was. I thought we had moved past it… I thought I had grown. I was shown a few weeks ago that the only thing that had grown was my self-dependence and pride.
Then came another shock… mercy. God used a friend of mine to show me what the Father’s mercy is like… in spite of my failure, in spite of my direct sin against that person, they showed me undeserved and lavish. And since that day, there has been not an ounce of resentment or guilt pressed upon me by this friend… rather they have accepted me 100% and have time and time again gone out of their way to remind me of their care and affection. Not because I deserve it, but rather, because it is true. Forgiveness because they love me, not because they have to forgive.
God has used that powerfully in my life. To see such mercy in repayment for my sin simply blows my mind. I don’t know what to do with such kindness other than in joy resolve to live in a way so as to not hurt them again. And so it is with God… as He has revealed and shocked me with my sin and complete inability to change, I am being met with mercy… mercy that overwhelms… mercy that knows me completely and loves me unfailingly. Mercy that picks me up out of my self-made messes and rescues me.
That truth was never so clear as it is right now…
On my vacation, I received a speeding ticket. When I was pulled over, I knew I was speeding yet was begging God to “let me off the hook” or show me “mercy.” He had something else in mind. The officer came back to my car with a ticket for reckless driving… apparently anything over 80 is considered reckless in the state of Virginia and I was clocked going 82 in a 70.
I was crushed. I am barely “making it” as a result of all my stupid financial decisions in the past (and sadly, present). God’s been working on my heart for a while now that I need His help to overcome this sin area in my life. But how can I ask God to help when I’m so aware that I’m in a mess of my own making? How can I cry out to Him for mercy when if I were only wiser or more cautious, I wouldn’t be in this boat?
And yet my God has been saying to me “I am a God of mercy… come. Come broken and ashamed and humbled and I will heal your wounds. Come not in your typical “I can fix this” arrogance, but rather come needy. Come desperate and watch Me work. Come trusting. Come expecting to receive mercy and grace in your time of need, for that is what I promise to you. Come in faith that My promises are true and that My love will never let you go! Come with empty hands and watch me fill them.”
So, I have come. Come and asked God to do the impossible… to fix what I have messed up. To heal what I have broken. To restore what I have crushed.
Last week my hours were cut at work… again. Is this God’s way of answering prayer? By making things worse?? Really?!?!?!?!? Yet in my frustration and questioning, I still heard simply “Come. Trust. Look. Believe. Know.” So, I have been praying and asking God to provide… not because I deserve it, not because I have earned it and not at all as a result of my works, but simply as my friend did… out of love and because of His faithful compassion.
Because I often have bad dreams, I leave music playing throughout the night… I find it helps me refocus my thoughts if I wake up scared (which I often do). I woke up several times last night… not from bad dreams, simply because… Every time I woke up there was a song playing on the radio that spoke specifically of God’s relentless faithfulness to the unfaithful or His love to the undeserving.
When I woke up this morning, my first thought was “it’s Monday… a new day and a new week… that means that God is promising new mercies and new help today too.” Now believe me when I say that this is NEVER my first thought in the morning. Its typically “is it morning already?” “why does my body hurt so bad?” or “geez, I overslept again!”
From there, God just began to overwhelm me with His kindness. The first way was through a conversation on facebook which served as a reminder of what He has saved me from, granted me freedom from and the hope He has given me through it all.
Not 10 minutes later, God again reminded me of His care. This time it was through a dear friend, who stopped by my apartment at 7am with a card. In the card was a check… blank. The card stated that God had impressed on them to pay for my ticket… to pay off the debt that I earned and owe. To pay it willingly, aware that it was my own fault which caused this debt.
I am overwhelmed. Speechless. There are no words to adequately describe this. It is humbling. But I am rejoicing. I am low. Yet elated. Gratefully forgiven. Yet humbly aware of my weakness. I’m beginning to understand what Paul meant when He described himself as sorrowful yet always rejoicing. What a dichotomy this life is.
How great and humbling it is to know this God, who is not limited or hindered by my sin. Who loves me with all my weakness and who simply says “Come. I love you just the way you are.”