Good Ridance to Bad Rubbish

March 31, 2014

What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. – Philippians 3:8-9

Righteousness – there’s a heavy church word. But what joy and power is in that word when we believe what the Apostle writes in these verses!

In a bench trial, the judge evaluates the actions of the defendant and compares them to what the law says. Did any of his actions break a law? If so, then he’s not right by the standards of the law. He is unrighteous. Did his actions meet the law’s requirements? Then he’s right, as far as that law goes. He’s righteous.

When it comes to God’s law, Paul knew that he could not measure up. Even his best works fell short. So he counted them all as a loss, as rubbish. Outwardly they looked very righteous, but inwardly they did not measure up. For you see, God’s law also judges our thoughts, attitudes, and motives. And what does his law require? Nothing short of perfect love for God, trusting him completely and giving him continuous, glad obedience as we love others as ourselves. How could we ever have a righteousness of our own based on our efforts?

But take heart! There’s another righteousness from outside ourselves. This isn’t a righteousness based on YOU keeping the law. It’s based on CHRIST keeping it for you. Paul calls this “the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.” God credits this righteousness to you freely, at no charge because Jesus Christ kept the law perfectly in your place. Be sure of it, for God raised Jesus from the dead. That’s the proof that Christ’s righteousness counts for you. Believe it.

What joy is yours even as you face suffering and loss! For by faith alone you have Christ’s righteousness. The Judge has declared you not guilty. What power this gives you to follow Jesus!

Prayer: Dear Jesus, you alone are my righteousness. Guide me in your ways. Amen


Fourth Sunday in Lent

March 30, 2014

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Midweek Lenten Service IV

March 26, 2014

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We Have it Really Good

March 24, 2014

When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you. Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. – Psalm 73:21-26

“The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.” “Better a bird in the hand then two in the bush.” Many phrases have been developed to describe the phenomenon that we will be happier if we had the things that are out of our reach. It was no different for Asaph, the writer of Psalm 73.

However, Asaph soon realized the foolishness of his thinking. When he was angry with God for withholding the blessings that he thought he needed, he describes himself as “senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you.” When we set our minds on earthly things, when our hearts are swayed by the pleasures of this world; when we’re not content with God’s blessings in our lives, we are senseless, ignorant, brute beasts as well.

Things changed once Asaph realized he wasn’t lacking. In fact, everything he could ever want both in heaven and on earth he already had because God chose him. God held him by his hand. He guided him with the counsel found in his Word. God promised Asaph the glory of an eternity with him. How good did Asaph have it? Even if his flesh and heart failed, he still had God forever.

No matter what happens in this life, no matter how good things look for others, you can have nothing greater in this life or in the life to come than God. God gives you the same promises he gave to Asaph. He is the strength of your heart and your portion forever.

Prayer:

Lord, you I love with all my heart; I pray you ne’er from me depart; with tender mercies cheer me.
Earth has no pleasure I would share; heaven itself were void and bare, if you, Lord, were not near me.
And should my heart for sorrow break, my trust in you no one could shake. You are the treasure I have sought; your precious blood my soul has bought.
Lord Jesus Christ, My God and Lord, my God and Lord, forsake me not! I trust your Word. Amen


Third Sunday in Lent

March 23, 2014

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Midweek Lenten Service III

March 19, 2014

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The Battle for Your Soul is Over

March 17, 2014

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone.’” The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. So if you worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’” The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here.  For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’” Jesus answered, “It says: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time. – Luke 4:1-13

History is filled with decisive battles that have forever impacted the lives of those who live in their wake. Think how different our lives might be if Cornwallis had defeated Washington at Yorktown, if the Confederacy had defeated the Union at Gettysburg or if the Germans had defeated the Allies on D-Day.

Our Bible lesson for today gives us a glimpse of a battle more important than any in history. The battle took place in the desert of Judea some two thousand years ago. On one side was the Son of God. On the other was the Prince of Darkness. The prize? The soul of every human being in history. YOUR soul was on the line as Jesus battled the devil those forty days.

You see, Jesus had come to do for us what we could not do for ourselves – live a life of perfect obedience to God’s law. He had come to defeat Satan’s temptations since we so often succumb.

And he succeeded. For forty days Jesus fought the devil’s most devious deceptions.  He never…sinned…once – in forty days! Try going ONE day without committing a sin. Try going one hour. See how long you can last without saying an unkind word or thinking an unkind thought or being selfish or self-righteous. Jesus lasted all forty days. In fact, Jesus lasted all the years of his life. Every day, in every way Jesus lived in perfect service and submission to his Father.

And you get the credit. Jesus lived a sinless life so that he could drape it over you at your baptism, so that he could clothe you with it through faith, so that God now sees you as sinless and holy and worthy of living with him forever in his sinless, holy heaven.

Because of Washington’s victory at Yorktown and the Union’s victory at Gettysburg we are united Americans. Because of the Allies victory on D-Day we are free from fascism. But, most importantly, because of Jesus’ victory in the desert we are citizens of heaven. Be thankful this day that Jesus won the battle for your soul!

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you for your willingness to battle the devil on my behalf. Thank you that you willingly put yourself in the way of temptation and succeeded where I have so often failed. Thank you for clothing me with your perfect life. Now empower me with your Word that I might overcome the devil’s temptations this day. Amen