It’s the Heart Not the Works That Make Us Worthy

 

There is a wide-spread misconception among many Christians that as long as they “do good” and their “good deeds” outweigh their “bad deeds” they will happily enter into Paradise upon death. Unfortunately this is not supported by the Bible.

When Christ died on the cross He became the ultimate sacrifice, the ultimate “good deed” to overcome sin and death and offer hope of salvation and eternal life.  The gap between sinful man and God had grown too great and the efforts of men to live “good lives” were useless in repairing the separation forced by man on God by the tragedy of the Garden of Eden. Christ’s death on the cross was an amazing gift to mankind, an astounding exercise in grace for a selfish and unrepentant people motivated by tremendous love and longing for reconciliation.  We mere mortals could never do enough good deeds to eradicate sin and therefore only a life devoted to Jesus Christ acknowledging the free gift could possibly bring us home.  The debt has been paid!

God knows our hearts.  Our very thoughts are known to Him. He knows those who love Him and blesses them.  He also knows those who outwardly act righteous and  do works but whose hearts are not His.

“I will declare they righteousness, and they works, for they shall not profit thee….the wind shall carry them away, vanity shall take them.  But he that puts his trust in the Lord shall possess the land and shall inherit the holy mountain.”  Isaiah 57:12-13

It is our insides that God wants, not our appearance.  We must cleanse the inside of the vessel and then the outside shall be a beautiful adornment for others to marvel.

“First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.”  Matthew 23: 26

Examine your hearts. Turn your life over to Christ.  Stop counting your good deeds and shun the mantel of holier than thou.  God knows us.  He truly knows us.  He will not be fooled and He will not accept anything less than our devotion.  As our Creator we owe  this to Him.  As our Father God we owe this to Him.  For the sake of our eternal souls, we owe this to ourselves as well.

 

 

Thoughts About Heaven

The miracle of the Bible is to me the fact that “God so loved the world…” he sent Christ to die for our sins and thereby offer his creation an easier way to reclaim the paradise which was lost in Eden.

That a loving father, despite being mocked, scorned, ignored, cursed, abandoned for substitutes, loved us so deeply and unconditionally that He devised a way to bring us home to Him, is astounding.  If we think about it in mortal and earthly ways we can imagine how hard it would be to still love a child who not only turns their back on you but spits in your eye as well!

What is so great about Heaven that such a price would be paid, such a love would endure, and so much grace and mercy would be freely given?  The Bible gives us some clues but not enough detail to know exactly what to expect.  I once wrote a sermon about the “Top Ten Reasons that Heaven Will be Amazing.”  Some of the things that made the list included finally coming face to face with God and learning the true meaning of our lives, freedom from pain and suffering, new bodies like the risen Christ, no strife and violence and bitterness, constant overwhelming love, incomparable beauty all around us, meeting the saints and prophets, living in mansions built exclusively for us, and so forth.  These were culled from my reading of scripture and include some personal interpretation.

When I reach into my heart and contemplate heaven I sense that the overwhelming blessing awaiting us is full and complete unconditional love.  Why? Because every man, woman and child who was ever born is programmed to desire this in their hearts, strive to achieve it throughout their lives, and inevitably fall short leaving a gaping hole that needs to be filled to obtain true peace and joy.  I feel that heaven fills this need that God the creator made within us….he programmed us to need His love more than anything else, and no on else and no other thing can take its place.

Try imagining the highest high, the deepest love, the best experience you have ever had.  I think of special times with my wife, or my children, or a special day from my childhood….perhaps even some professional accomplishment.  These were fleeting, that is the euphoria dissipated and left me too soon,  but they were memorable nonetheless. I imagine that heaven is a continual feeling of these moments multiplied 100 times over.  A constant state of joy and peace and exhilaration: knowing God, living without sin and death, and being free from the turmoil and stress of life in this world.

When dark times confront me, and the enemy is whispering in my ear resurrecting  old sins, old doubts, old fears…I try and take myself away to the promised day of salvation and realize that whatever I am facing today means nothing in eternity, and that my reward of faith in Christ is the type of love I need, that no one else can offer but my creator. The anticipation of such joy helps to drown out the enemy and give me strength and purpose to continue in faith, hope and purpose during my walk through this life.

May your walk be filled with faith and knowing that whatever you are facing today, an eternity of peace, joy and unconditional love awaits you!  Stay strong and believe!

 

 

 

Speak Softly and Carry a Big Bible

Too often Christians fail to follow Christ’s example of loving our neighbor…especially when he or she is a sinner.  A big sinner.  An obvious sinner.  Many of us want to immediately start preaching about how our neighbor’s lifestyle is a wrong choice.  Our message falls flat because our neighbor likely does not know God, and the messenger is not someone who can afford to preach.  Instead of speaking softly, offering love and patience and being a living testimony of the Word we  throw out Bible verses to folks who have  never read it and who view our preaching as lecturing by hypocrites. Perhaps the contrast we perceive makes us feel better about ourselves, yet the contrast is never so extreme.  We are all one back step away from our former lives before we accepted Christ.

In history we have seen how attempts to impose faith and regulate behavior to create godliness has failed.  Rome lost the battle to convert Christians to paganism and in the process killed millions.  Catholics lost the battle to impose doctrine on Christians, Jews  and Muslims during the crusades and in the process killed millions.  Followers of Islam are today in some places trying to impose their faith on Christians, Jews and breakaway members of their own religion with the same consequences.  We cannot force faith, any faith, on any man or woman.  Faith must come from within.

As Christians we need to let the perfect God move in the hearts of those who have ears to hear and eyes to see Him.  Transformation is a personal matter.  We are all sinners and those of us who have found God remain sinners still, yet we now know His love in spite of it and yearn to please Him with new life and new ways.  Yes we need to help people get to know God…but then we need to get out-of-the-way and let God do His work.  We are not to judge anyone, nor to impose Christianity by force or guilt or aggressive demonstrations.  We are to reflect the God that is within us through our love for our fellow-man, and in the process help them to realize that God loves them too.  As they are.  In their imperfect state.  Only then  can they possibly sense the spirit inside of them and grow in faith and love and decide, on their own, to be reborn into a new life in Christ.

Want to help your family member, friend, co-worker, neighbor know the Lord?  Speak softly, and carry a big Bible.   Better yet carry a spare Bible and give it to them to explore the lifesaving message of hope, and love and mercy that is offered to those who wish to come home to God!