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.

Enough Already!

“This is how it is for the believer when the gospel of righteousness takes root in their heart.  The first reaction is one of sweet relief.  “Really?  Jesus did it all?  I don’t have to work to impress him?  I can stop studying for the exam?  Oh happy day!”  Many are dreading the final exam.  The good news is there is no exam.  Jesus already took it on your behalf, and guess what?  He passed.  School’s out forever!1

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI had spent so much of my Christian life trying to do more for God, to prove how much I loved Him, because that’s what I thought Christians were supposed to do.  No matter what or how much I did, I knew it was never enough.  I was always frustrated and felt guilty.

I have become one of the believers described above.  One who realized I had been trying to do for God what I never could, and that Jesus had already achieved it all at the cross for me.  His blood not only paid for my sins, but for my self-efforts, too.  Every righteous requirement of God’s law He fulfilled.

To put this good news into the language of the quote: Jesus not only passed the final exam, but He gave me His grade!  In Him I am now completely righteous.  I graduated simply by receiving Christ and the work He finished for me so long ago, and His righteousness is my diploma.

Jesus is enough – already and forever!

1  Paul Ellis, The Gospel in Ten Words (KingsPress, 2012 version 1.0), Kindle edition, chapter titled Righteousness

I Can See Clearly Now

The exercise for the memoir-writing workshop was designed to help us realize how many stories we have to tell.  The Lord used it for a different purpose for me.

I tried to follow the directions.  Really I did.  I was supposed to write a sentence about a favorite memory from childhood and then from each succeeding decade of my life.  Afterwards, we were to expand on the memories as the instructor had indicated.  I never got that far.

I was stumped from the beginning.  Ask me what my favorite anything is, and I freeze, for some reason.  I just don’t have a favorite color, favorite food, favorite movie, memory, etc.  If I’m pushed to name something, it’s as if I go blank about the category altogether.

In my struggles to write about memories through the decades, I had a major light bulb moment.  While I had many good things throughout my life, I am absolutely more content than I have ever been in my life.  Not just today or this month.  It’s been a gradual “taking over” that began to take shape in the last couple of years.

The reality of the gospel of Jesus Christ has been progressively unfolding beyond what I have ever known – to the place that the Third Day song is mine: “Feels like I’m born again.  Feels like I’m livin’ for the very first time.”  Yet, I’ve been born again for the majority of my life.  What’s new?

Believing what the Bible says – despite what my feelings, emotions, and my actions may tell me.  Jesus Christ has taken every sin I committed thus far, and every sin I will ever commit until I’m home with Him in heaven.  Not only did He take them all, but He took the severe, excruciating judgment of God for me – for every sin.  And He gave me His undeserved righteousness – for all time.  I truly am a new creature because I am in Christ.  I am not guilty or condemned by my Father ever again, because I am in Christ.

I knew this in the past, to a point.  But it has become real to me, gradually changing my mind and my life, and helping me walk more and more in the glorious freedom of the children of God!  Hallelujah!  It’s in His righteousness I find that peace and joy.  Here – in Christ alone – is where I find true contentment.

I’m so glad I attended this workshop.  I came away with some helpful instruction for my current writing project – a temporal concern.  Better yet, I came away renewed by the Spirit with an ever-clearer eternal perspective!

Philippians 3:10-11 AMP  10 [For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him [that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly], and that I may in that same way come to know the power outflowing from His resurrection [which it exerts over believers], and that I may so share His sufferings as to be continually transformed [in spirit into His likeness even] to His death, [in the hope] 11 That if possible I may attain to the [spiritual and moral] resurrection [that lifts me] out from among the dead [even while in the body].

The Great Equalizer

It occurred to me on the way home from church yesterday, as I observed the beauty of the snow all around, that snow is the great equalizer.  It covers unsightly land, making one place as pretty as every other.  It can even cover a huge landfill of garbage and makes it look like a beautiful, unblemished hill.  With the snow, even the uneven places are leveled, so that the rough places become smooth.  Sure, we know that the ground underneath is still rough, uneven, and in some places unsightly.  For the moment, however, when it’s covered with snow we see it as beautiful.

Isaiah 42:16 I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth.

Isaiah 40:4-5 4 Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain.  5 And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it.  For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

How like God to make Himself known to those who will see – right in the midst of a weather phenomenon!  He washed us with the perfect and precious blood of His only begotten Son Jesus Christ, and we became whiter than snow.  Our sins have been forever covered.  While snow is the great equalizer of the landscape, Jesus’ blood is the great equalizer of men!

Psalm 51:7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

Covered by His blood, He sees every one of us as whiter and brighter than the pristine snow-covered landscape on a sunny morning with crystal-clear blue skies.  God knows the sins were there before, but now and for all eternity He knows and sees only the righteousness of Christ.  All those imperfect places in us are made plain and smooth – perfected in Christ.  All those things that make us unequal in the natural and even less than human in some cultures, are of no consequence in God’s eyes – because we are in Christ.

Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

It is for this purpose that Christ came – that we might be in Him, cleansed from our sins for all time.  Let’s celebrate this Christmas by receiving the fullness of His gift to us.  Let’s look at ourselves and others as He does – whiter than snow – all because of His blood.  Jesus’ blood – the great equalizer!