Jesus was called a lot of names. All he did was love and help people, yet he had his share of bullies and critics. Many of the religious leaders of the day were jealous of his success and afraid he would upset the status quo. They wanted to discredit him in the eyes of the public, so they said all sorts of crazy things about him. They whispered that he was an illegitimate child. They accused him of being demon-possessed. They denounced him to the Roman authorities as a rioter, a threat to public peace.
Jesus didn’t deserve the hate, but it turns out one of their nicknames for him was true. They called him “a friend of tax collectors and sinners”. In their minds, that was one of the greatest indictments imaginable. Jesus hung out with bad people, therefore he must be bad too. In their minds, to be a friend of sinners was incredibly shameful.
Luke 7:34 (NLT)34 The Son of Man, on the other hand, feasts and drinks, and you say, ‘He’s a glutton and a drunkard, and a friend of tax collectors and other sinners!’
But for Jesus, the title Friend of Sinners was a sign of success, not a source of shame. I can imagine him smiling the first time he heard the phrase. “Friend of sinners? I’ll take that as a compliment.” Why? Because it was the very definition of his mission.
Mark 2:16-17 (NLT)16 But when the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees saw him eating with tax collectors and other sinners, they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with such scum?”17 When Jesus heard this, he told them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”
Think about what Jesus’ nickname means for you, for your friends, and for humanity today. What kind of God labels himself a friend of sinners? I could believe “judge of sinners”; I could even believe “Savior of sinners.” But friend? Really? . . .
John 15:15 (NLT)15 I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me.
Friendship is far more important to God than we often realize.
Isaiah 41:8 (NLT)8 “But as for you, Israel my servant, Jacob my chosen one, descended from Abraham my friend,
James 2:23 (NLT)23 And so it happened just as the Scriptures say: “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” He was even called the friend of God.
Exodus 33:11 (NLT)11 Inside the Tent of Meeting, the LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. Afterward Moses would return to the camp, but the young man who assisted him, Joshua son of Nun, would remain behind in the Tent of Meeting.
We tend to think that God puts top priority on performance, purity, and perfection, and we assume relationship is the eventual reward for those things. In other words, the more like Jesus we become, the closer our relationship with him will be. Actually, it works the other way around. The closer we get to Jesus, the more like him we become. Relationship comes first; changes comes later. . . .
God cares about everyone, regardless of where they are on their journey: spiritually mature or seeker, devout or in doubt, religious or simply curious. All of us need him, and all of us can find him. Whether you consider yourself a saint or a sinner, Jesus wants to be your friend.
Excerpted from YouVerson Friend of Sinners Reading Plan provided by Rich Wilkerson Jr. and Harper Collins. The plan is from the book Friend of Sinners: Why Jesus Cares More About Relationship Than Perfection
Impute : to lay the responsibility or blame for often falsely or unjustly
Substitute : to put (a person or thing) in the place of another
When Jesus came to the earth to accomplish His mission to die for mankind’s sin He put the "tion" (action) to the verbs impute and substitute.
On the cross, God treated Jesus as if He had committed every sin ever committed by every person who would ever believe. Did you get that? God treated Him as if He committed, personally, every sin ever committed by every person who would ever believe though the fact is He committed none of them. That’s the great doctrine of substitution. And that’s the first side of imputation. God imputed our sins to Him. He was guilty of none of them. God treated Him as if He committed all of them. And He just unloaded His fury for all the sins of all the people who would ever believe in Him in the history of the world. He unloaded all His fury against all their sins on Christ.
To borrow the language of Leviticus 16, Jesus became the “scapegoat.” The scapegoat was guilty of nothing. But the High Priest, as it were, laid all the sins of the people on the scapegoat and sent him away. He was without sin. But sin was credited to His account as if He had personally committed it and then God punished Him though the fact is He never committed any of it.
Leviticus 16:7-10 (NLT)7 Then he must take the two male goats and present them to the LORD at the entrance of the Tabernacle.8 He is to cast sacred lots to determine which goat will be reserved as an offering to the LORD and which will carry the sins of the people to the wilderness of Azazel.9 Aaron will then present as a sin offering the goat chosen by lot for the LORD.
10 The other goat, the scapegoat chosen by lot to be sent away, will be kept alive, standing before the LORD. When it is sent away to Azazel in the wilderness, the people will be purified and made right with the LORD.
Romans 5:12-19 (NLT)12 When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned.13 Yes, people sinned even before the law was given. But it was not counted as sin because there was not yet any law to break.14 Still, everyone died—from the time of Adam to the time of Moses—even those who did not disobey an explicit commandment of God, as Adam did. Now Adam is a symbol, a representation of Christ, who was yet to come.15 But there is a great difference between Adam’s sin and God’s gracious gift. For the sin of this one man, Adam, brought death to many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of forgiveness to many through this other man, Jesus Christ.16 And the result of God’s gracious gift is very different from the result of that one man’s sin. For Adam’s sin led to condemnation, but God’s free gift leads to our being made right with God, even though we are guilty of many sins.17 For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of ighteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ.
18 Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone.19 Because one person disobeyed God, many became sinners. But because one other person obeyed God, many will be made righteous.
Have you ever asked yourself the question, “When Jesus came into the world why did He have to live all those years?” If I was planning the plan of redemption I’d have had Him come down on Friday, die, rise on Sunday and go back to Heaven Monday. Why 30 years? Why 30 silent years?
Jesus lived a full life was that He might live a complete life fully righteous. That He might live a complete life absolutely without sin, absolutely perfect, so that that perfect life could be credited to your account. That’s the backside of imputation. On the cross, God treated Jesus as if He lived your life so He could treat you as if you lived His life. That’s the Gospel.
John 10:11 (NLT) “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep.
Galatians 3:13 (NLT) 13 But Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law. When he was hung on the cross, he took upon himself the curse for our wrongdoing. For it is written in the Scriptures, “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.”
1 Peter 2:22-25 (NLT) 22 He never sinned, nor ever deceived anyone.23 He did not retaliate when he was insulted, nor threaten revenge when he suffered. He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly.24 He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed.25 Once you were like sheep who wandered away. But now you have turned to your Shepherd, the Guardian of your souls.
Taken from "How to Escape the Fires of Hell" by Discover the Book Ministries (used by permission).
The result of the Imputation and Substitution of Jesus is Justification!
Do you remember the popular saying from a few years ago “What Would Jesus Do”? There were t-shirts, bracelets, necklaces, license tags, all sorts of things with WWJD on them. The saying became popular, in the 1990s as a personal motto for Christians. We used the phrase as a reminder to act in a manner that would demonstrate the love and sacrifice of Jesus.
The phrase was used several times by Charles Spurgeon, on of my favorite evangelist of the past, in a sermon he gave on June 28, 1891. He said that he found the saying in a book written in Latin by Thomas à Kempis between 1418 and 1427, Imitatio Christi (The Imitation of Christ).
In 1896 a Topeka, Kansas pastor wrote a novel titled In His Steps that book was subtitled "What Would Jesus Do?" That book, which has been translated into more than 20 languages has sold over 30 million copies worldwide, making it one of the top 50 best selling novels of all time. Throughout the novel several of the characters ask the question “What would Jesus do?” when faced with important decisions.
In the 1990s a youth group leader at Calvary Reformed Church in Holland, Michigan, named Janie Tinklenberg, began a grassroots movement to help the teenagers in her group remember the phrase; it spread worldwide in the 1990s among Christian youth, who wore bracelets bearing the initials WWJD.
That brings me to my question today. “What would Jesus say on Social Media today?” We’ve all seen and heard of people who have gotten in lots of trouble from something they posted on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn, and other social media platforms. You may even know some of those people maybe you’re one of them (yes I’m guilty).
When you say something in person or on the telephone you can deny ever saying it and only the people who actually heard you can dispute your denial. It’s a “he said, she said” situation and the person(s) who is more convincing will win. On the other hand if you say or post something on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat (yes even Snapchat), LinkedIn, or one of the other social media platforms, it is there in the cyberspace somewhere and it will be there forever. Before you Tweet, post, or send think..."what would Jesus say."
Here is what Karen Ehman, in her book, Keep It Shut thinks He would say.
What Would Jesus Say on Social Media?
by Karen Ehman, from Keep It Shut
If you play the fool and exalt yourself, or if you plan evil, clap your hand over your mouth! – Proverbs 30:32
Here it is, translated for social media: “If you are tempted to slam someone online or brag on Facebook or send off a nasty tweet, turn off the screen and walk away!”
That’s it in a nutshell, but maybe we should spell out some rules of thumb that might keep our thumbs and fingers from wandering off into slander, arrogance, or combativeness. Here are six that work for me.
1. Pray Before You Post
My friend Suzanne wrote a great online devotional in which she talked about how many people run to check their Facebook page first thing in the morning. She encouraged her readers to instead make sure they consulted their “Faithbook” first — the Bible. How true this is! Perhaps if we spent time ingesting words of truth before we switched on the computer, we might not write things that are unkind or hurtful. At the very least, we should whisper a prayer before we post, asking the Holy Spirit to tap on our hearts if we are tempted to post anything online that would not glorify him.
2. Imagine the Recipient Sitting Next to You
The Internet is so impersonal. We see tiny little thumbnail photos of people. We see words typed out on a screen rather than hear them spoken out loud. The pixels-and-pictures environment almost compels us to be rude because it lacks the subtle social cues — the wince, the moment of quiet — that tell us we’ve crossed the line. We feel empowered and also have a sense of anonymity as we tap, tap, tap away on our keyboards. But if a flesh-and-blood person were sitting next to us with eyes we could look into, perhaps we would state things differently. Before you post, ask yourself if you would say things differently if the person to whom you’re writing were actually sitting next to you.
3. Remember: When You’re Online, You’re Also on Stage
Unless we send a private message, our online words are available for others to see. Twitter followers see what we tweet. Facebook friends, and the friends of those on whose walls we post comments, also see what we say. And hundreds, if not hundreds of thousands, of people can see a comment we leave on someone’s blog. This reality should certainly cause us to pause before we post — especially if there is even a remote possibility we might later regret what we write. If I say something in person to a friend and am later convicted I was wrong, I can go back to my friend and apologize. However, if I post something on social media or comment on a blog and later want to retract it, I have no way to chase down all of the people who might have seen the original comment. Just this fact alone should cause us to really weigh our words before we type them out.
4. Ask Yourself If You’ve Earned the Right to Address the Subject at Hand
If friends on Facebook are hashing through a hot-button issue of the day, do you have any expertise in the area, or are you only slinging an underinformed opinion? We can’t always be an expert on every topic at hand, so when we aren’t, we might do well to refrain from commenting at all.
5. Ask Yourself If You Have a Close Enough Relationship with the Person to Warrant Offering Your Opinion
It both irks me and makes me laugh when I see who hops on my page to offer their unsolicited opinions. Suddenly, people I haven’t heard from in years pop up on my screen offering their pixelated opinion about something I’ve posted. They give me specific instructions and pointed advice on what I should believe about a particular topic. This always surprises me because I don’t have a close relationship with these folks. Why do they think I will take their advice or value their perspective on my issues when they have not been a close friend or confidant?
Would they be responsive to unsolicited advice if someone they knew years ago suddenly walked up to them on the street and started telling them what to believe and how to act? If you’re tempted to dole out unsolicited advice to anyone who’s not a trusted friend, then I encourage you to resist the temptation!
6. When You Do Speak, Let Your Speech Be Laced with Grace
No need for snark. No need for angry words or critical comments. Our mamas were right: If we can’t say something nice, we shouldn’t say anything at all.
When we do speak, we can choose to be gracious rather than accusatory or negative. Our words must glorify God and not just exalt our own opinions.
We should be especially mindful that there are people whom we don’t know who might be viewing our online speech. Here is a great guideline from Scripture:
Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.– Colossians 4:5-6
So maybe we should jot down these questions on a sticky note or two and post them near the computer to remind us to ask:
Excerpted from Keep it Shut by Karen Ehman, copyright Zondervan.
Over the years I’ve written a number of posts about Jesus. In fact I have an entire category on my blog called “Who Is Jesus”. In the first post of the series, Who Is Jesus, i write that he Bible attributes 200 or so names and titles to Jesus. All of them give us insight into His character and Who He really is. Some of those names and titles are; Author and Perfecter of our Faith, Bread of Life, Friend Good Shepherd, High Priest, Mediator, Rock, True Vine, Faithful Witness, First Born from the Dead, Savior, of God, Son of Man, and of course God. There’s another long list of titles in the post Names And Titles Of Jesus In Revelation..
H. Edward Deluzain writes;
Names are important not only to the people who are named but to society. The name we are given at birth is usually the first of several names we will be known by during our lives.
Despite their universality, there is a great deal of difference from one culture to another in how names are given. Among most preliterate peoples, names are determined according to very definite and specific rules. Generally, in cultures with a keen sense of ancestry, children get their names from the totems and family trees of their parents. In some cultures, names are taken from events which happen during the pregnancy of the mother or shortly after the birth of the child, and in others, names are divined through magic and incantation. In some cases, the name given at birth is only the first of several names a person will bear throughout life. When this happens, the new names are given either to mark important milestones in life or to ward off evil spirits by tricking them into thinking that the person with the old name has disappeared.
Regardless of when, why, or how often it happens, though, the giving and receiving of a name is an event of major importance. Quite frequently the significance of names is emphasized by elaborate rituals that almost always have deep religious meaning.
Parents spend a lot of time trying to decide what name to give their child when born. All names have significance. My name is from the Gaelic name Domhnall which means "ruler of the world".
Our names are very important to us. That's why we get so upset when someone mispronounces or misspells it. When we see a strange, unusual, or even funny name we say “how could they give their child that name, don’t they realize that they will have to go through their entire life with that name?” When the victim of identity theft the thing that bothers us most, even more than any financial damage, is the damage to our name. We will defend our “good name” at all cost.
During Bible times, names were extremely important -- much more so then than now. Generations ago someone's name not only designated who the person was, but suggested the traits of the person. For instance, the name Adam means human or earthling and comes from the Hebrew word that means earth or ground -- suggesting he was made from dust.
Most biblical names carry some meaning.
Genesis 17:17-19 (NLT)17 Then Abraham bowed down to the ground, but he laughed to himself in disbelief. “How could I become a father at the age of 100?” he thought. “And how can Sarah have a baby when she is ninety years old?”18 So Abraham said to God, “May Ishmael live under your special blessing!”19 But God replied, “No—Sarah, your wife, will give birth to a son for you. You will name him Isaac, and I will confirm my covenant with him and his descendants as an everlasting covenant.
Abraham and Sarah’s son was named Isaac which means "to laugh".
Genesis 25:24-26 (NLT)24 And when the time came to give birth, Rebekah discovered that she did indeed have twins!25 The first one was very red at birth and covered with thick hair like a fur coat. So they named him Esau.26 Then the other twin was born with his hand grasping Esau’s heel. So they named him Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when the twins were born.
Names for children were chosen carefully and without regard for how other children might "tease" them. Some children were even given names to to indicate some tragic event.
Hosea 1:3-9 (NLT)3 So Hosea married Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim, and she became pregnant and gave Hosea a son.4 And the LORD said, “Name the child Jezreel, for I am about to punish King Jehu’s dynasty to avenge the murders he committed at Jezreel. In fact, I will bring an end to Israel’s independence.5 I will break its military power in the Jezreel Valley.”6 Soon Gomer became pregnant again and gave birth to a daughter. And the LORD said to Hosea, “Name your daughter Lo-ruhamah—‘Not loved’—for I will no longer show love to the people of Israel or forgive them.7 But I will show love to the people of Judah. I will free them from their enemies—not with weapons and armies or horses and charioteers, but by my power as the LORD their God.”8 After Gomer had weaned Lo-ruhamah, she again became pregnant and gave birth to a second son.9 And the LORD said, “Name him Lo-ammi—‘Not my people’—for Israel is not my people, and I am not their God.
There was a woman who had two name each describing her demeanor at different times of her life. In the beginning of the book of Ruth there is Naomi which means pleasant. Naomi later takes on the name Mara which means bitterness.
Ruth 1:1-2 (NLT)1 In the days when the judges ruled in Israel, a severe famine came upon the land. So a man from Bethlehem in Judah left his home and went to live in the country of Moab, taking his wife and two sons with him.2 The man’s name was Elimelech, and his wife was Naomi. Their two sons were Mahlon and Kilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in the land of Judah. And when they reached Moab, they settled there.
Ruth 1:19-21 (NLT)19 So the two of them continued on their journey. When they came to Bethlehem, the entire town was excited by their arrival. “Is it really Naomi?” the women asked.20 “Don’t call me Naomi,” she responded. “Instead, call me Mara, for the Almighty has made life very bitter for me.21 I went away full, but the LORD has brought me home empty. Why call me Naomi when the LORD has caused me to suffer and the Almighty has sent such tragedy upon me?”
There were times that God changed a person’s name to identify their destiny in God’s plan for them.
Genesis 17:5-6 (NLT)5 What’s more, I am changing your name. It will no longer be Abram. Instead, you will be called Abraham, for you will be the father of many nations.
6 I will make you extremely fruitful. Your descendants will become many nations, and kings will be among them!
Genesis 17:15-16 (NLT)15 Then God said to Abraham, “Regarding Sarai, your wife—her name will no longer be Sarai. From now on her name will be Sarah.16 And I will bless her and give you a son from her! Yes, I will bless her richly, and she will become the mother of many nations. Kings of nations will be among her descendants.”
Genesis 32:28 (NLT)28 “Your name will no longer be Jacob,” the man told him. “From now on you will be called Israel, because you have fought with God and with men and have won.”
6 Reasons Why Names are Important in the Bible
The Name(s) His Father Gave Him
The posts that I wrote in the past were about the names and titles that the writers of scripture, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, identified with Jesus, but I’ve never written a post about the name(s) His Father gave Him.
Isaiah 9:6 (NLT) For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Bold mine)
What do these names say about Jesus?
Greg Laurie had a series on his called “What’s in a Name”. One of the devotions from that series is “So Many Names: What Do They All Mean?”. In that devotion, which follows, Greg says that each of these descriptions gives a different aspect of the work of God in our lives.
So Many Names: What Do They All Mean?
By Greg Laurie
For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace . . ." (Isaiah 9:6-7).
Each of these descriptions gives us a different aspect of the work that God wants to do in our lives.
His name is Wonderful. This word comes from the root word "wonder," which means "a sense of awe." Jesus wants to bring a sense of awe and wonder to our lives. No longer do we have to look to the cheap substitutes this world offers to bring fulfillment, because Jesus Christ makes life wonderful.
His name is Counselor. Did you know that God Almighty, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father wants to give you His personal counsel and direction? As Psalm 73:24 says, "You will guide me with Your counsel, and afterward receive me into glory." No longer do you have to be baffled by the problems you face, because with Christ as your Counselor, you can know that God will reveal His will to you.
His name is Mighty God. This means that Jesus has unlimited power for you as you encounter the demands of life. There are times when you probably have thought that it was very hard to live the Christian life. I have thought that as well. In fact, I think it is impossible to be a Christian apart from the help of the Holy Spirit. I am so thankful that the Mighty God is there for me to give me the strength to do what He wants me to.
Next, He is called the Everlasting Father. Because Christ came to die on the cross and pay for your sins and rise again from the dead, you have an Everlasting Father, One who will be with you forever. He will never forget about you. He will always be there to guide and help you through life.
His name is the Prince of Peace. Certainly we live in frightening times. We look at our world and see so many things that have gone wrong. How we need peace in our lives. If you look at the wars and problems we face today, they are, for the most part, the result of people who are breaking God's commandments. But God will bring peace to the person who is well-pleasing to Him.
Taken from "What's in a Name?" (used by permission).
The one name missing from this list is Immanuel, the most important name of all.
Isaiah 7:14 (NLT)14 All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’).
That prophecy was fulfilled by the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem.
Matthew 1:20-25 (NLT)20 As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit.21 And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”22 All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet:23 “Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’”24 When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife.25 But he did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born. And Joseph named him Jesus.
Immanuel is always with us. There is nowhere we can go from His presence.
Psalm 139:1-10 (NLT) 1 O LORD, you have examined my heart and know everything about me.2 You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.3 You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do.4 You know what I am going to say even before I say it, LORD.5 You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head.6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand!7 I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence!8 If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the grave, you are there.9 If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans,10 even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me.
The very last thing that Jesus said to His disciples, before He returned to heaven was that He would always be with them.
Matthew 28:18-20 (NLT) 18 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth.19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
There is nowhere we can go, no situation, no challenge, no relationship, no conversation where God isn’t present.
I have been hanging on to this post for several months. As I’ve watched the debate in the Christian community surrounding the election and first few months of the term of the United States’ 45th President. Some say that he is “a man of faith” others say that he was “God’s choice”. On the other hand others say that a man who said he has never asked for forgiveness, malignes and perhaps abuses women, who ridicules others because of a physical handicap or their race certainly couldn’t be a man of Christian faith.
As I’ve watched the debate play out through actions of the President and his Administration and the response of many in the Christian community I see more than ever the huge difference between religion and Christianity as evidenced by the life and ministry of Jesus Himself.
This difference is described with great clarity in a devotion from the YouVersion, Jesus Bible Reading Plan and an excerpt from the book Jesus > Religion by Jefferson Bethke.
Tax Collectors And Sinners
From the Jesus Bible Reading Plan
Religion that leaves Jesus out of the equation teaches that people can do enough good to earn God’s love and acceptance. This kind of religion manipulates the system by putting God in your debt. Religious people have difficulty with Jesus because he challenges their understanding of God and salvation. Too often people believe they can earn their way to heaven, but Jesus came to save people who will never be good enough to save themselves. For people who think too highly of themselves, the free gift of salvation that Jesus offers is offensive. Tragically, people who think they are good enough don’t see any need for a Savior.
During Jesus’ ministry, the people who knew they had problems flocked to him: tax collectors, women of questionable character and others who saw their own desperate need. The religious leaders of his day didn’t understand how or why a good, moral religious teacher like Jesus could spend time with such bad people. But Jesus knew that all people, without exception, need saving.
Mark 2:13-17 (NIV) Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him. While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
As a Good Shepherd, Jesus came to seek and to save the lost (Lk 19:10).
Jesus Bible Reading Plan from Zondervan with Passion City Church
Religion Makes Enemies Jesus Loves
We are trained to make enemies. From birth it’s always “us versus them.”
Let’s be honest: sometimes Christians are the worst.
As if the world dying outside really cares.
Now, I’m not saying some of these clarifications and differences aren’t necessary. In the book of John, Jesus prays we would be “one.” (John 17:21) The only way to become one is to engage in healthy discussion on topics we disagree on. But we can’t honestly think any non-Christian will want to come into the family of God if we are just as — if not more — divisive than the rest of the world. Sometimes how we dialogue in today’s culture is just as important as why we dialogue.
Religion, unfortunately, is notorious for making enemies.
Women? Gays? Muslims? Let’s make them our enemies. Yes, I know this doesn’t represent everyone. Yes, I know religion doesn’t do this all the time. But throughout history, it is clear that when it does happen, it can almost always be traced back to people who think their standing with God comes from their own righteousness. The minute you think you have gotten on God’s good side by your own behavior, you are naturally prone to demonize those who haven’t.
The biggest difference between religious people and gospel-loving people is that religious people see certain people as the enemies, when Jesus-followers see sin as the enemy.
Religious people see “them” as the problem; Jesus-followers see “us” as the problem. When Jesus told the first disciples to love their enemies, (Matthew 5:44) He didn’t add, “as long as they look like you, talk like you, and act like you.” Loving an enemy means loving “them.”
I remember the moment this first hit home for me. I was having lunch with my mom. As we started to eat, I felt the tension.
I was a Christian now, and my mom was openly gay. Wasn’t I supposed to hate her? Wasn’t I told “not to associate” with her? Doesn’t she know homosexuals will not inherit the kingdom of God?
Instead I made a decision to listen. She was my mom. I listened as she poured out her thoughts, emotions, and feelings that had been pent up for years. I heard how she had been burned by certain religious communities — brutal stories of so-called Christians offering grace and redemption to all those around her, as long as the sin was socially acceptable. The sad part is, I couldn’t disagree. I’d seen the same thing.
For some reason the church had made homosexuality a varsity sin. Religious people are very particular and selective on this issue. They quote “Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)
I don’t see homosexuality getting any prominence in this list, do you? In fact, the apostle Paul is attempting to broad stroke everyone, highlighting the fact that none of us are good enough.
I don’t know about you, but I’m not scoring too well on this list. But how does that verse end? The Corinthians were undoubtedly filthy themselves and were not representing Christ well. Some of them were probably still engaging in these behaviors, which is why Paul was writing them the letter, but he still says, “But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”
He reminds them of how they’ve been bought. He reminds them that their sins aren’t their identities. He reminds them they are different now and can walk away from their sins.
That is a scandalous statement!
If you are a Christian and are going to talk about 1 Corinthians 6:9–10, then you better include verse 11. It’s only when we understand that in Jesus we are cleansed, washed, and renewed that we see our sin fall by the wayside. We are greedy, filthy, idolatry-loving, glory-hungry thieves. And when we trust Jesus, He washes us. He redeems us — all of us.
And when we’re sitting across the table from someone whom we’ve been told to hate, the least we can do is listen and love her as Jesus loves us.
Regarding homosexuality specifically, I can’t begin to tell you the internal wrestling I’ve had with this issue. I have a personal stake in it. It’s part of one of the closest people to me. So if I can be honest, I’ve gone back and forth a ton on this issue. Is it okay? Is it wrong? Why or why not?
Everything in me wanted to be convinced it was okay. Everything in me looked for verses to see it sanctioned by God. But through years of wrestling, hours of Bible study, and tons of prayer, I didn’t come to that conclusion.
When I open the Scriptures, I see homosexuality getting no prominence among sins, but it is still a distortion of God’s creative order nonetheless. But here’s the thing: my mom and I disagree on it, and we still love each other. Did you catch that? We still love each other.
We have open, honest, and sometimes very difficult conversations about it. And neither of us walks away calling the other a bigot. Neither of us walks away furious or upset.
Because that’s what love is. It stays. It pursues. It pushes in.
In order for our society to continue to flourish, it is imperative that we learn how to have healthy, honoring, and engaging discussions on this issue. Everything outside of His creative order is a distortion, and when we follow that fractured path, we are implying we are our own gods and know better than He does. The issue isn’t primarily homosexuality, idolatry, drunkenness, greed, or right or wrong.
The issue is, are we going to trust that God knows best or that our thoughts, wills, and emotions know best?
The truth is we are all going to limp across the finish line to some degree. Of course there is victory in Jesus, and of course we are more than conquerors through Christ as the apostle Paul says; but even Paul had a thorn in the flesh. (Romans 8:37, 2 Corinthians 12:7)
Most of us have a spiritual Achilles’ heel. We all will have spiritual bruises, cuts, and sores. Some will limp across the finish line still fighting their addiction to porn. Some will limp across the finish line with their addiction to food. And some will limp across the finish line with their attraction to the same sex.
The issue isn’t whether someone is good or bad, but whether he is repentant or unrepentant.
Who is God of her life? Who’s in control? What or who are they pursuing? Are they looking to Him or trusting in self? Because I trust that if Jesus’ grace has radically collided with a heart, I believe that person will begin to align themselves with Jesus’ image, looking more like Him every day.
But let’s also realize that we do have hope and victory and are called to take sin very seriously, doing anything and everything to run from it and to Jesus.
The writer of Hebrews makes it clear by saying we should “also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and... run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)
Even he admits there are things that weigh us down. Our sin sticks to us. But still... He says run with endurance. Keep our eyes on Him, and we will make it because it depends on Him, not us. But let us never get prideful. Let us never think this race is reserved for the elite, or the “good,” or the well qualified. It’s reserved for the lowly, the rejected, the marginalized.
One of my favorite stories in the Bible is the story of the woman at the well (John 4:1-24). She is the first person to whom Jesus reveals himself to be the Messiah. Jesus doesn’t choose to share this information first with a politician or a king or anyone of seeming importance, but with a Samaritan woman.
Samaritans were seen as half-breed Jews. They were looked down upon by the Jews. On top of this she was a woman, which in that culture meant she was a second-class citizen. Even worse, Jesus highlights her promiscuity. Jesus doesn’t condemn this woman, but rather graciously shows how He is the “living water” that can quench her insatiable thirst.
So Jesus, God himself, showed immense grace and gave great privilege to a half-breed, second-class, adulterous, and promiscuous woman. God is always a fan of going to the marginalized so His saving power isn’t credited to human wisdom but to His grace. Jesus completely shattered the social, gender, and economic paradigms. New Testament Christians were most known by their love for their neighbors, but today we are most known for our segregation of the lowly.
This issue really comes down to idolatry, which is the act of placing anything or anyone above Jesus as the ultimate source of worth, satisfaction, and identity.
The problem with idolatry, though, is that whatever you idolize, you then demonize the opposite.
Want to know what you probably idolize? Ask what you demonize.
But when you idolize Jesus, then you demonize demons — which makes a lot of sense to me. When Jesus and His righteousness are ultimate, then you actually see evil as the source of evil, rather than politics, money, or gender. Sure, you can disagree. Sure, you can have dialogue; but when something is your god, you’ll go to great lengths to defend it.
While I don’t agree with most of his viewpoints, Bill Maher said something that completely makes sense.
"New rule: If you’re a Christian who supports killing your enemies and torture, you have to come up with a new name for yourself..."
If we say we love Jesus, let’s start acting like followers. The world is waiting, and they can tell the difference.
Excerpted with permission from Jesus > Religion by Jefferson Bethke, copyright Thomas Nelson.
If you have been following my Faith The Evidence Bible Studies Blog you know that the Church of Divine Guidance is wrapping up a study of the book Prayer Warrior: Praying Your Way To Victory by Stormie Omartian. In the study we’ve talked about a lot of things:
The study started by recognizing that we are in a war. A spiritual war against Satan and all his forces.
Ephesians 6:12 (NKJV) For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
It doesn’t matter if we believe in Satan or not, or believe that we are in a war or not, or believe that we have an enemy or not.
We talked about the authority that we have in prayer.
The basis for our authority in prayer is that Jesus gave it to us.
John 16:23-24 (NKJV)23 And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you.24 Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.
We have to make sure that we stay in condition to fight. We have God’s armor and weapons.
Ephesians 6:10-18 (NKJV)10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness,15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace;16 above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God;18 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints--
2 Corinthians 10:4-6 (NKJV)4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds,5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,6 and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.
Our weapons are; God’s word, worship, grace, prayer with fasting, faith, and prayer alone.
Being armed with the authority of Jesus, God’s armor and our spiritual weapons we must now be prepared to and willing to engage the enemy wherever and whenever we encounter them.
We are confident because the one who equips and certifies us as, leads us, and protects us, also fights along with us. Our Commander In Chief, Jesus Christ, is Himself a warrior.
Read this devotion from Craig Groeschel’s Daily Power: 365 Days of Fuel for Your Soul
Daily Power: Fight the Good Fight of Faith
Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you, which you have declared so well before many witnesses. — 1 Timothy 6:12 NLT
If you’re a follower of Jesus, then you’re also a fighter.
In Exodus, we’re told:
The Lord is a warrior; the Lord is His name. — Exodus 15:3, emphasis mine
So if we’re created in God’s image, then we, too, have this fighter inside us as part of our nature. This is not just a cultural, patriarchal thing. It’s a God thing — for all of us, both men and women — inherent to our Creator’s design.
And don’t forget the greatest warrior who ever lived, Jesus. Surprised? Many of us imagine Christ based on pictures of Him, all meek and mild, smiling as children gather at His feet with sheep grazing nearby. But if you look at his life, this picture is incomplete.
The Son of God was not a divine doormat.
He was overwhelmed with righteous anger, violently toppling the tables of the money-changers in His Father’s temple. He was the scandalous Messiah, willing to buck the Pharisees and their religious establishment. He is the fierce King of Kings whose eyes are like blazing fire and who wears a robe dipped in blood (Revelation 19:13).
Jesus is both the Lamb of God and the Lion of Judah, the Prince of Peace and the Risen Savior, overcoming sin and death once and for all. We must consider all of what the Bible tells us to fully appreciate God’s character and Jesus’ example. No doubt about it, Jesus was a fighter.
And so are you.
Jesus, I want to be both gentle and defiant, meek as a lamb and fierce as a lion, just like You. Today I will fight whatever stands in the way of growing in my faith.
Excerpted with permission from Daily Power: 365 Days of Fuel for Your Soul by Craig Groeschel, copyright Craig Groeschel.
Editor’s Note: Daily Power: 365 Days of Fuel for Your Soul as brief, practical devotions to help you develop a consistent, daily pursuit of Jesus that releases his power in your life. Daily Power is here to help you grow and become strong every day of the year.
You’ve got to have it to stand strong in these times and become who God says you are. Daily Power will help you develop a consistent, daily pursuit of Jesus that releases his power in your life.
Craig Groeschel will help you fortify your life with 365 brief devotions. Each devotion includes a Scripture quote followed by a short reading and concludes with a simple “Power Lift” prayer.
Of all the names and titles of Jesus the one we most often forget is Mediator. We quickly remember the names and titles; Christ, Alpha and Omega, Son of man, the Lamb of God, Lion of Judah, Savior, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Emmanuel, and God. As I’ve said a other posts there are 200 or so names and titles that give us insight into Jesus’ character. The one that we most often forget though is Mediator.
1 Timothy 2:5 NIV For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus,
The definition of a mediator is a person who attempts to make people involved in a conflict come to an agreement; a go-between.
A mediator enters into a dispute between two parties and brings about a resolution. According to the Bible, sin has placed every human being in conflict with the perfectly righteous God of the universe.
Romans 3:10 NIV As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one;
There is nothing a person can do to bridge this chasm that sin creates between himself or herself and God.
Despite this problem originating because of human sin, God took it upon himself to resolve the conflict. Instead of letting people experience the just result of their rebellion against him, God sent Jesus, his own Son, to act as a mediator of his new covenant of grace.
Hebrews 9:15 NIV For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.
For those who place their faith in him, the Bible says Jesus bore their sin so that they could become the righteousness of God.
2 Corinthians 5:21 NIV God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Now Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father, interceding on their behalf
Romans 8:34 NIV Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.
If we are in Christ, he paid the penalty for our sin, and his perfect obedience is credited to us. Because of Jesus’ work, we are no longer in conflict with God and we have been adopted as children and co-heirs with Christ.
Romans 8:17 NIV Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
With Jesus as our mediator, we partake in God’s amazing grace!
Romans 5:10 NIV For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!
Ephesians 1:3-10 NIV Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.
Jesus, thank you for your perfect obedience all the way to the cross. Thank you for allowing me to be adopted into God’s family. I am so honored and blessed to be your sibling. Amen. - From the YouVersion Jesus Bible Reading Plan Zondervan with Passion City Church
Last year I started the blog series “Who Is Jesus” (see the Categories list in the righthand column of the blog). In the first post of the series ( “Who Is Jesus? Really”) I said that there are 200 or so names and titles that give us insight into Jesus’ character. Those names include Christ, Alpha and Omega, Son of man, the Lamb of God, Lion of Judah, and others. However In all my writing I have never written about the name Jesus which is the Hebrew name Savior. I wrote that Jesus is our Savior but never what the name itself means.
In my reading today I read this excerpt adapted from J. C. Ryke’s Gospel of Matthew,
What Does the Name of Jesus Mean?
J. C. Ryle
The name Jesus means "Savior." It is the same name as Joshua* in the Old Testament.
It is given to our Lord because "He saves His people from their sins." This is His special role. He saves them from the guilt of sin, by cleansing them in His own atoning blood. He saves them from the dominion of sin by putting in their hearts the sanctifying Spirit. He saves them from the presence of sin, when He takes them out of this world to rest with Him. He will save them from all the consequences of sin, when He shall give them a glorious body at the last day.
Jesus is a very encouraging name to weighted-down sinners. He, who is the King of kings and the Lord of lords, might lawfully have taken some more high-sounding title. But He does not do so. The rulers of this world have often called themselves great, conquerors, bold, magnificent, and the like. The Son of God is content to call Himself Savior. Those seeking salvation may draw near to the Father with boldness, and have access with confidence through Christ. It is His role and His delight to show mercy. "For God didn't send his Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through him" (John 3:17).
Jesus is a name, which is especially sweet and precious to believers. It has often done them good. It has given them what money cannot buy - that is, inward peace. It has eased their wearied consciences and given rest to their heavy hearts. The Song of Solomon describes the experience of many, when it says, "Your name is oil poured forth" (Song of Solomon 1:3). Happy is the person who trusts not merely in vague notions of God's mercy and goodness, but in "Jesus."
Adapted from The Gospel of Matthew by J.C. Ryle (Chapter 1).
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*Editor’s Note: The English name "Joshua" is a rendering of the Hebrew language "Yehoshua", meaning "Yahweh is salvation".The vocalization of the second name component may be read as Hoshea—the name used in the Torah before Moses added the divine name (Numbers 13:16).
"Jesus" is the English derivative of the Greek transliteration of "Yehoshua" via Latin. In the Septuagint, all instances of the word "Yehoshua" are rendered as "Ἰησοῦς" (Iēsoūs), the closest Greek pronunciation of the Aramaic: ישוע Yeshua, Nehemiah 8:17). Thus, in Greek, Joshua is called "Jesus son of Naue" (τοῦ Ναυή) to differentiate him from Jesus Christ. This is also true in the Slavic languages following the Eastern Orthodox tradition (e.g. "Иисус Навин" (Iisús Navín) in Bulgarian and Russian). From Wikipedia
The Greek name Yehoshua or Ἰησοῦς is mentioned three times in the Septuagint. They are Joshua, Justus (Colossians 4:11 NLT Jesus (the one we call Justus) also sends his greetings. These are the only Jewish believers among my co-workers; they are working with me here for the Kingdom of God. And what a comfort they have been! ), and Jesus Christ.
We Christians are always going around asking the people that we meet if they are saved. At sometime shortly after we’ve met a person, for the first time we ask the question “Are you saved”? We may not use those exact words but what we want to know is if that person has accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior, and become a child of God and part of His Kingdom. But let’s think for a minute, while you and I may know what it is to be saved my guess is that the person that we’re talking to has no idea. What if they, in turn, asked you “saved from what”? Could you answer them?
Here’s something that I read on the Internet in an issue of Frontersman, an Alaska newspaper. The article was written by Ethan Hansen, Pastor of Faith Bible Fellowship, Big Lake, Alaska. It gives you answers to the question “saved from what”?
I’m sharing the full article, Jesus saves - from what? in this blog post.
Jesus saves - from what?
Recently my family crossed from Canada back into Alaska. We cleared customs and drove a mile into Alaska and there on a hillside in bold, white rocks was the statement, “Jesus Saves.” What does it mean that Jesus saves? The word saved simply means “to rescue.” Yes, Jesus saves. There is only one way to be saved and that is through Jesus. There is no doubt that Jesus saves but the real question is, “From what does Jesus save us?” Thankfully, the Bible answers this question!
Jesus saves from guilt to righteousness. Every person has sinned against God. God is a just and holy God. God always punishes sin. Romans 3:19 says, “Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God.” If a judge does not punish sin, he is not a righteous judge. The entire world is guilty before God. But when a person understands that Jesus came to rescue sinners- He died in our place- the righteousness of Jesus is credited to your life. You move from guilt before God to righteousness before God!
Jesus saves from the wrath of God to the love of God. Romans 5:9 says, “We shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.” We used to live with God’s anger. God expects us to obey Him and we fail to do so. God’s standard is perfect obedience every moment of every day. But through Jesus Romans 5:9 is transformed into Romans 8:39 where nothing “can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Jesus saves us from alienation to fellowship. Romans 5:10 says, “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.” Jesus died a substitutionary death. Through faith and repentance, you go from being God’s enemy to being God’s child.
Jesus saves from slavery to sin to freedom. Romans 6:17 says, “But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed.” We often think of ourselves as free. People say, “I am free. I do what I want.” The Bible says that we are slaves of sin. Jesus saves us from being slaves of sin to being able to live like He made us to live.
Jesus saves us from eternal death to eternal life. Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” Jesus said, “He who believes in Me will never die” (John 11:26). Christians die physically but they don’t die spiritually. Even the fear of death is taken away. Death is simply passing from this life into the next life for the believer.
Jesus saves from a fallen, decaying body to a perfect, new body. The Bible promises that every Christian will one day receive a new body. Our present bodies experience groaning and pain (Romans 8:22). My parents went to their fiftieth high school reunion. They returned and said, “We are the only ones who hadn’t changed!”
We are all getting older but Romans 8:23 reveals a great truth. “….even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.” In 1 Corinthians 15 the apostle Paul talks about the perfect, new, eternal bodies which will be given to every person saved by Jesus.
The gospel is the best news possible. The cross is amazing. God the Father treated Jesus as if He lived my life. Then God the Father treats me as if I lived the life of Jesus. Jesus gets all of my bills and pays them in full. I get all of His deposits. The gospel is an amazing exchange. Jesus gets the blame for my sin. I get the credit for His perfect obedience!
Won’t you be saved today? Understand your great need. We are sinners who need a Savior. Understand our great Hero, the Lord Jesus Christ, who defeated sin, Satan and death. Repent of your sins and put your faith and trust for spiritual rescue in the death and resurrection of Jesus.
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I asked the question on Quora and LinkedIn. I’ll post the answers that I get on my Facebook Page. To see them like my Page by clicking on the Facebook icon above.
July 4th is celebrated in the United States as the signing of the Declaration of Independence signifying the colonies declaring their freedom from England. Independence Day commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, but the United States of America would not officially become independent for another seven years, until the Treaty of Paris ended the Revolutionary War.
But the citizens of the Kingdom of God, those who believe and have accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior celebrate a different Independance Day. Their Independence Day is Resurrection Day and we celebrate it every day. The big Celebration takes place on Resurrection Day (Easter). That pronouncement of that Independence is found here;
John 8:34-36 (NLT)34 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin.35 A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is part of the family forever.36 So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.
Romans 8:2 (NKJV) For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.
Our Declaration of Independence is confession
Romans 10:8-10 (NKJV)8 But what does it say? "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart" (that is, the word of faith which we preach):9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
Today, the citizens of God’s Kingdom have the freedom in Christ that empowers us to avoid the things that can lead to pain and suffering.
Romans 6:17-23 (NKJV)17 But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered.18 And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.19 I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness.20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.21 What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death.22 But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life.23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
We are free to choose love over sin, and free to pursue the things of God over our own selfish desires which can lead to disaster.
Galatians 5:16-23 (NKJV)16 I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness,20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies,21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
We are free from the things our enemy Satan throws at us including attacks on our minds, our bodies, our material things, and everything else we have in our lives. Jesus has given us the things to defend ourselves from all these attacks.
Ephesians 6:10-17 (NKJV)10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness,15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace;16 above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God;
He has given us the freedom to say NO!
Galatians 5:1 (NKJV) Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.
Because of the freedom provided through Christ we are now new and improved
2 Corinthians 5:17 (NKJV) Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
Of course although free from the slavery of sin we aren’t sinless. We still struggle with the the flesh, but Jesus has already won the battle for us.
Romans 8:31-39 (NKJV)31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?33 Who shall bring a charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies.34 Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?36 As it is written: "For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter."37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come,39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Although we are free we must still be vigilant. Our freedom can’t be taken away from us but we can abandon the joy and peace that comes with it. We can stop letting the Holy Spirit control our lives and try to take control ourselves. When we do that we lose. We don’t lose our salvation but we lose our freedom. by talking us into not letting God have control over our lives, then by default, the devil wins, and we lose. Our job is to stay free, and we do that by praying, studying, and obeying God's Word.
The International Living Center gives us “Four Freedoms You Should Celebrate this Independence Day”
So, this Independence Day, let’s celebrate the freedom we have in Christ by holding onto Him and His promise.
John 8:36 (NKJV) Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.
Donald Jacobs is an ordained minister with the spiritual gift of teaching. He is the Associate Pastor of a non-denominational church in Los Angeles, CA.