Not Strange, But Sad

It’s strange that you can’t find words to say when you’re praying, but you have no trouble thinking what to talk about with a friend.

Part of a recent Facebook post in my newsfeed, I found this statement nestled among similar ones designed to highlight Christian failings.  Instead of finding it strange, however, I found it sad.  And not in the way intended.

If the statement is reality for believers, then prayer has become something other than it was meant to be.  Something we do (or should do) because we’re Christians, rather than the means by which we become more intimately acquainted with our heavenly Father.  This is strange, but in a sad way.

Proverbs 18:24  NIV A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

The friend who sticks closer than a brother is Jesus Christ, Who lives in us by His Spirit.  That’s as close as it gets.  In addition, He calls us His friend.1  If we are really friends, why is talking together so difficult?

friendship-1534626-639x479Friends talk with one another about anything and everything, listen to one another, find comfort in silence, work together to help others, interacting along the way.  The more time they spend together, the better they know one another.  The better they know one another, the more time they want to spend together.

Is this the kind of friendship I experience with Christ?  Sometimes yes, sometimes no.  How about you?  When the methods and mindsets from so many years of religion become my default mode, I lose the freedom in prayer for which my friend Christ Jesus has set me free.2  When the duty becomes my focus, rather than the relationship, that sense of intimate friendship is lost temporarily, leaving me unable to find words to speak.

That’s not strange, my friends.  It’s sad.

1 James 2:23

2 Galatians 5:1

The Party’s Over

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Dad had just thrown the biggest party the neighbors had seen. No expense had been spared in the days long celebration of his son’s return.

Yes, this party was for the prodigal son. You know, the wayward one who had chosen to live a wild life, squandering his still-living father’s money – his own inheritance – until he had no more to spend. He decided to return home to offer himself as a servant to his father to put good food into his starving belly. From what we’re told, we can’t be sure his thinking had changed about anything else. But none of that mattered to the father who ran to embrace him.

That’s one of the things that draws us repeatedly to this story. That father didn’t wait for evidence of repentance or a transformed life before welcoming him or throwing him a lavish party. He wanted everyone to celebrate with him because his son had returned. Period. As great as that is, I think there’s more to this story.

Think about it. The party ended at some point. What happened when it was over? The prodigal son didn’t become suddenly perfect, making only good decisions going forward. For that matter, his jealous brother, the obedient son who did as he was told with a bad attitude, was in the same imperfect category.

Consider this, though. Dad put no post-celebration stipulations on the son before throwing a gala in his honor. It wasn’t due to the son’s righteousness, either before demanding his inheritance or after his return. Nor was it because of the bitter son’s outward obedience. Their righteousness would never be more than filthy rags1! No, the party always and only flowed from the dad’s perfect love for his children, and his joy at having them together with him. His goodness and his righteousness, not theirs, covered them before the party and after it ended.

Fast forward to 2016. As sons and daughters, we try to be obedient, to make the right choices and have the right attitude – all to please our Daddy. But we fail repeatedly. Luke 15:10 says there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents. Sounds like a party to me – held each time one of us receives Christ Jesus into our hearts. That rejoicing isn’t because of our perfect character when we were born again, but because of Christ’s righteousness. He still rejoices over us2 today, no matter how many years have passed and no matter how many wayward actions we’ve taken.

Earning Daddy’s celebration now is as impossible as it was in the beginning – our good works still counting for nothing. It’s all and only about our Father, the One Who is in us, loving us, simply because we belong to Him. And it’s all about our Christ, Who made the way for us.

The party may be over, but the joy of celebrating our Daddy’s righteousness, love, and mercy in Christ continues for us through eternity!

1 Isaiah 64:6 NKJV But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags;

2 Zephaniah 3:17 AMP The Lord your God is in the midst of you, a Mighty One, a Savior [Who saves]! He will rejoice over you with joy; He will rest [in silent satisfaction] and in His love He will be silent and make no mention [of past sins, or even recall them]; He will exult over you with singing.

Losing the Power

A long-time companion is missing, the one I can only describe as an invisible faucet permanently attached over my head, endlessly releasing one slow drop after another until its sound overpowers every other. Now I only hear it from afar, and its sound is fading, at that. How did I lose it? Maybe if I retrace my steps, I’ll understand how it happened.

Talk about losing! I lost my temper – again – letting pour from my mouth whatever angry and demeaning words popped into my mind in the heat of the moment. This wasn’t new “shouldn’t do” behavior, the flip side to all those good “should do” things I failed to do. In short, I failed miserably – again – to live the upstanding Christian life. Every other time this happened, once the moment of angry release or the time to act passed, I felt defeated, lower than dirt, and those dripping voices in my head made sure to keep me there. Not this time.

I was still definitely wrong, and definitely didn’t look or sound like Christ. Yet, that leaky faucet was unhooked from my brain, not just turned off, and the guilt and condemnation for my failures was gone with it. This is what the Bible says happens, but I thought it was only for the future, probably not until heaven.

candle flameNow I remember. The last time I read the Bible, the words seemed to jump off the page and into my heart with an intensity, a vitality, I’ve never known. I came away from those moments having been recharged somehow, filled with a new sense of freedom and peace such as I’d never known.

Romans 8:1-2 NIV Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.

This has to be it! Even though I messed up again, condemnation and guilt couldn’t have their way with me. Those old companions were making an annoying noise somewhere in the distance, trying desperately to attach themselves to me as they had for so long. But the life in those verses, real Life in Christ, convinced me of my present tense freedom that is not based on my perfect living. I am free from guilt now because in His perfection, Jesus Christ suffered my judgment in the past, forgiving me for my every sin past, present, and future.

That’s what’s different! The power of guilt and condemnation over my life has been lost forever. In actuality, they haven’t belonged to me for more than forty years. That’s when I received the perfect Savior, Jesus Christ, into my life. I just didn’t know, didn’t understand – then. Ignorant no more, I now live in the freedom Christ died to give me!

How much more gain can be found in losing?

Second and third in this series can be found in Finding Freedom Now and Lost and Found.

Ready for a Challenge?

Sunset at Cadillac Mtn 031Pure Grace, The Life Changing Power of Uncontaminated Grace, is my latest eye-opening find. Clark Whitten, writing with sparkling clarity concerning the gospel and its multi-faceted simplicity, has opened my eyes wider to our glorious Savior Christ Jesus. The brief passages included here should refresh you even as they challenge some mindsets – but that’s a good thing. If you are challenged or encouraged (or both) by what you read, purchase the e-book or the print version to read it in its entirety. You won’t be disappointed.

Sin, for the Christian, is a violation of friendship – relationship – not a violation of the law. Christians are not under the jurisdiction of the Old Testament law. Many believe and teach grace without law is a pathway to sinful behavior. They see grace and law as “balance.” The Apostle Paul saw it as “mixture.” 1

What is salvation? Many would say it is getting me out of earth and into Heaven, but that is not salvation. It may be one result of salvation, but it is not salvation. Salvation is not getting me out of earth and into Heaven; salvation is getting God out of Heaven and into me! 2

. . . the only way to sin against grace is to refuse to receive the grace it cost Jesus His life to give. Our only hope of “putting to death the deeds of the body [flesh]” (Rom. 8:13) is receiving the abundance of grace.3

True repentance cannot be achieved by a response to condemnation. Condemnation has no place in a believer’s thinking. If it is present, you can rest assured it did not come from the Holy Spirit. Condemnation has its source in the kingdom of darkness and is ministered by demons. When a person is born again, that person is translated from the kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of God’s dear Son. There is no condemnation in His Kingdom! (See Romans 8:1.) 4

If I am a believer, I am in Christ and there is no safer place to be! I will die when He dies – and He lives forever. I will be condemned when He is condemned – and that is impossible. I lose my position at the right hand of the Father when He loses His position there. I lose my inheritance when He loses His – and that is never going to happen. I am as secure as He is secure. I repeat, there is no safer or more secure place to be than in Christ! 5

  1. Introduction, p.20 
  2. A Grace Reformation, p.30
  3. Receiving the Abundance of Grace, p.42
  4. Like Rats in a Maze, p.108
  5. Saved Completely, p.131-132

P.S. I was not asked to endorse this book, or paid for it in any way.