Evil Days Call for Wise Living. Are The Days Still Evil? Do You Live Wisely?

“Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is… always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 5:15-20 NIV)

Before Paul says we should always be thankful, he tells us to live wisely because the days are evil. In a day characterized by wars and political strife, dishonest leadership, licentious sexual practices, and rampant sexual abuse by men in government, Paul certainly understood evil days. Christians and gladiators were killed in the Colosseum for entertainment, men kept young boys as concubines, and racial and social discrimination were everywhere. Evil was so common it didn’t even make front-page headlines in the pagan Roman-occupied world. (Wait, what? Did all that sound familiar?)

As for the other part of his statement, are you living wisely? Would you look at your life and say that you make pretty wise choices? That question is really a little more difficult than it seems. Where do find your wisdom? If there was a Book of Wisdom, would you read it? How much wisdom are you exposed to every day? What type of wisdom are you counting on when you have to make choices? (Remember, Eve ate the apple partly because she saw that it imparted wisdom…there are some things the world counts as wise that really aren’t.

Paul draws that distinction about the world’s view of the cross in 1 Corinthians 1:18-20 when he quotes Isaiah 29:14, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?”). In the Biblical definition, true wisdom only comes from God—and if it isn’t godly, it isn’t good…

Do you know what Proverbs says about wisdom? What Jesus taught? What James said? Do you subjugate your temporary needs for long-term results? Do you seek first what God wants, or what YOU want? There is a lot to consider. Here in Ephesians, Paul also says we should understand what the Lord’s will is. How does one gain understanding of THAT? In Romans 12:2 he offers a clue when he says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” God’s will won’t be found in the world’s values. It resides in spiritual insights that only come from the renewal of your mind. I’ll finish this thought by asking two questions: First, do you think the days still qualify as evil?

evil  evil

Put another way, are men still as selfish, evil, and corrupt as they were when Paul wrote those words in the first century AD? (I would think that with the hatred on BOTH sides of the recent election, the rise of ISIS as a murderous pseudo-religious state, and with genocide CURRENTLY TAKING PLACE in Somalia, Burundi, Iraq, Myanmar, Sudan, and Nigeria, the answer is fairly obvious).

With that in mind, the second question is: Do you understand what the Lord’s will is for you? Chances are, if the answer is yes to the first question, it’s even more important to be able to answer the second one.

The days were evil, way back when, and the world was full of evil men
Who violated public trust and loved to exercise their lust.
He didn’t put it into rhyme, but Paul said to redeem the time,
To live in wisdom every day, prepared for what would come your way.
Today, the calendar has moved but men have really not improved!
So… Are you ready? Are you wise? Can you see evil in disguise?
Can you see things through Wisdom’s eyes?
We live in a fallen world that’s evil still.
Be wise, and live within the Father’s will.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

 

Jesus Said, “I Am the Resurrection.” Was He Crazy, or What?

“I am the resurrection and the life.” (John 11:25) Of all the claims Jesus made, this is the most fantastic and unbelievable—and it’s the one that holds the most promise.

Jesus claims to have power over death and to be the key to life after death. Think about how you might react if someone you knew made that claim, and really believed it and meant it. Well, that’s the same thing everyone around Jesus must have thought. They looked at him a little sideways and started getting the commitment papers ready… He’s gotta be crazy to say that, right? He ACTUALLY says, “I am the resurrection”. (Of course, he does raise Lazarus from the dead right after this, and he does come back from the dead later himself…) BUT, If THIS claim isn’t true, he’s just another guy. A good teacher, yeah; a wise man, yeah, but if this statement isn’t true then He was just a revolutionary rabbi with a short career.

If Jesus did not triumph over death, then there is no greater reason to follow him than there is to follow Buddha, or Joseph Smith, or the Dalai Lama… There have been plenty of teachers/preachers/rabbis/wise men/charlatans who have spoken persuasively and offered spiritual truth in various forms. So why pay attention to Jesus? The resurrection changes everything. If this isn’t true, then we should just “eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” We are wasting time being good and serving when we could be concentrating on accumulating fat stacks of cash, making a name for ourselves, or just flat-out partying. Forget all that selfless love stuff and look out for old Number One. Do your own thing. YOLO! Life is short: work hard; you’re gonna die, so play harder. If there’s no resurrection, there’s no hope, and no reason to serve…

But here’s an existential question: Is partying really better for people who believe it’s all over when we die? The ones who don’t have the Church lady looking over their shoulder, restricting them to Puritanical behavior? One of the stereotypical views of Christians is that we don’t have any fun or like to party.

resurrection

From one perspective, that stereotype has a point: if Jesus was NOT the resurrection, then Christians are wasting a lot of time serving and trying to be like him. They have missed the whole point, and are throwing away their lives in an empty pursuit. As Paul says, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” (1 Corinthians 15:19 KJV) Now, I know some Christians who are actually (sadly) miserable in spite of what Paul asserts, but I’m pretty sure that’s not what he means…

Because here’s the thing: Jesus is also the LIFE. Yes, He offers resurrection! Yes, He offers hope for eternity, but he also offers abundant life in the here and now. (He actually says that’s why he came in John 10:10). If we actually DO have hope in Christ for the life to come, we are of all men most blessed. You see, Christians win eternally because Jesus was the resurrection and the life, and we win NOW because we live with purpose in fellowship with our creator.

We can party just as hard as anyone, only we don’t have to experience regrets like “How did I get this tattoo?” or “Dude, where’s my car?” or the walk of shame, or hangovers. The Christian life was meant to be abundant and full, and we have all been invited to the wedding feast. We don’t even have to wait in order to start the party! Eternal life starts NOW. It’s not that we can’t/shouldn’t party right now—it’s really the only way that, in the words of the great Robert Earl Keane, “the road goes on forever, and the party never ends.” Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life.” If that’s true, then the party will go on forever! Start now. Party on!

If I said, “I’m the resurrection!”, tell me what you’d think:
(“Maybe he meant something else, or had too much to drink…
Surely he just didn’t know he sounded so intense;
He’s nuts. A guy who makes this claim is just not making sense.”)
So why then would an honest Rabbi make this astounding claim?
An illustration? Maybe shocking listeners was his aim?
Maybe he was just confused, or maybe he got lazy,
But wouldn’t everybody think that such a man was crazy?
We should question everything that’s taught by such a man,
Who claimed to be the Son of God, who said he had a plan;
He said, “Though earth will pass away, these words I say will stand.”
So there’s your answer: question what he did and what he said:
Don’t accept, investigate and question him instead.
Was Jesus really wise, or was he just out of his head?
A Con man or a lunatic is not worth listening to,
Something I would not encourage anyone to do–
Unless, perhaps, this crazy claim he made was somehow true…
That changes the game for me. My friend, it changes the game for you.

 

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

 

Worldly Wisdom Will Only Yield Worldly Results. Which Wisdom Works Best?

Most people might aspire to being “worldly wise”, a term I heard my grandmother use about someone who was well-traveled or cosmopolitan. The dictionary echoes that by saying that worldly means “experienced and sophisticated.” Paul saw it a different way: “Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly.” (1 Corinthians 3:1-3, NIV)

These verses remind us of a couple of important things. First, Paul makes a distinction between being spiritual and being worldly. You see this often in the New Testament, because “the world” is selfish, sinful and proud, whereas God’s Spirit is loving, giving, and kind. In 1 John 2:15, John reminded us that “if any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” Stop and think for a moment: what is celebrated by the world. A short list includes wealth, athleticism. achievement, power, beauty, notoriety, and intelligence; I’m sure you could add a couple more. These things in themselves are certainly not bad, so why does Paul teach that being worldly is not good?

Jesus taught that there was a difference between the things of God and the things of the world. He said, “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world.” (John 15:19) What things in your life are worldly? What percentage of your life is attached to the carnal or the temporary as opposed to the spiritual and eternal? That’s a hard inventory to take, isn’t it?

The first place we go is probably to all of our material stuff, but Paul characterizes worldliness here as more of an internal condition or an attitude. He says that people who live by the Spirit don’t have jealousy or become contentious with one another—both of which are driven by selfishness. What are you selfish about? What makes you feel “righteous” indignation? Those are both worldly reactions, and they happen with us all the time. When they bubble to the surface we should ask ourselves, “am I being led by the Spirit or by my own emotions and desires?”

Second, Paul reminds us here that living in the Spirit is a journey. Becoming spiritually mature doesn’t happen instantly. He compares spiritual growth to that of an infant, saying that he gave the Corinthians milk because they were not ready for solid food. What about you? How grown up are you spiritually? Are you still drinking milk and being spoon-fed, or are you ready for heartier fare? What intellectual food are you eating? There’s a lot of junk food out there that won’t contribute to our growth. If we start as infants, then it’s important for us to mature spiritually, “that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ!” (Ephesians 4:14-15). Eat wisely not worldly. Grow well.

The world is full of traits and values that are celebrated;
To worldly folks, the spiritual life is somewhat over-rated.
A worldly man is known for being quite sophisticated
With appetites for carnal things that never quite get sated...
Paul told us that worldly folks still have a ways to go,
Advising that we should drink spiritual milk to help us grow;
That we henceforth be not children tossed by doctrine to and fro,
But grow up in the spiritual truth the Lord wants us to know.
Be aware of worldly things, and do not be deceived;
But grow in faith and love, and in the Spirit you received.

 

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

 

The Mighty Works that Don’t Work; the Foolishness that Does

Do you attain righteousness by what you do? Is a person justified by their works? The Bible says this: “For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith’.” (Romans 1:17, NIV)

One of the biggest conundrums about being a Christian is the idea of justification by faith. It seems counter-intuitive to most that salvation is gifted by faith, and cannot be gained by doing good works. For legalistic and self-righteous man it is an astounding thing, one of the hardest concepts to grasp, and one of the most difficult things to accept. We just can’t believe that righteousness can be given apart from the good works we do.
Religion depends upon people earning their way into God’s favor, or achieving enlightenment, but those things are not consistent with the Biblical view of God. The Bible teaches that God requires righteousness (since He can’t abide sin), and since man is unable to earn it with works, God gives it to man for free. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” The people who work for God’s favor will always resent those who accept it as a gift. Religion based on works instead of grace becomes a full-time job…

That’s why the Pharisees could not see who Jesus was (they didn’t believe in Him). It’s why Satan fell (He had faith in himself rather than God). It’s why the Roman Catholic Church condemned Martin Luther to death for nailing this statement to the door as one of his 95 Theses in Wittenberg. They couldn’t imagine that sin’s penalty had been paid apart from their system of penances and indulgences. Self-centered man cannot accept the fact that God would give him that which costs everything for nothing. It defies human logic.

That’s why Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:18, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” The message of the Gospel is not works, or righteousness out of duty or obligation; it is not about striving or attaining perfection. It is about God giving the perfect gift to us imperfect men; and it is about our pursuing righteousness out of gratitude rather than obligation. Faith begets righteousness, not the other way around. You can’t work your way to grace. Accept God’s free gift. Be astounded by the overflowing measure of grace. Think about the cost of it all, and shed a grateful tear. Then remember the foolishness of it all, and smile, and embrace the power of God…

The Righteous Lord cannot abide our fallen, sinful state;
Our works don’t make us righteous, even if we’re good, or great!
Because we want to work our way to holiness–or near it–
The message of the cross is foolishness to most who hear it;
It proclaims that works don’t work, no matter how hard we chase:
The just shall live by faith, and sinners must be saved by grace.
Stop hoping, then, in mere good works to give your soul a lift,
And open the Father’s foolish, graceful, unbelievable gift.

 

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

 

Fruit is the External, Visible Result of an Internal, Unseeable Process

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:22-25 NASB) What do you know about fruit? The Bible has used it in connection with our spiritual journey since the Garden of Eden.

Eve was drawn to it in Genesis 3:6: “the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye…” She could have eaten ANY fruit but was more tempted by the forbidden fruit. (Does that still happen today?)

Fruit is colorful, refreshing, juicy, and tasty. It is the external result of an internal process. The plant or tree takes in light and nourishment, and produces the appropriate resulting fruit. From a biological standpoint, a piece of fruit is actually like a lifeboat for seeds. It harbors seeds surrounded by sustenance, so that when it falls to the ground, the seeds have a better chance to grow and flourish. The flesh of the fruit will die to support the new life that can come from the seeds.

Paul says in Galatians that the spiritual life is also characterized by its fruit. There is an external result of an internal process. A person’s fruit is evident in his actions and attitudes. If I’m yielded to God’s Spirit then I should be loving, joyous, at peace, patient, kind, good, faithful—exhibiting all of the attributes of the Spirit. But perhaps the easiest litmus test is the inverse of that: if I am selfish, anxious, impatient, rude, harsh, judgmental, then I can be sure I am walking in my own way, ordering my own steps.

I have always thought that we were given God’s Spirit as Christians somewhat magically to help us live a sanctified life, and I’ve wondered why God didn’t just take over and magically change my behavior to all those really neat spiritual qualities. I’m often the same carnal guy I would be anyway. How come we as Christians do not exhibit the fruits of the Spirit all the time? Here are a couple of thoughts.

Fruit is still an external result of an internal process. Are you getting enough light and nourishment? Have you consciously crucified your fleshly nature today? Our Imposter wants to improve our flesh, have it do some good deeds, and present it as morally sufficient to the world. The Spirit, who wants to replace the flesh, requires the same process as biological fruit. The flesh must die to produce new growth, which is something Jesus spoke about in John 12:24: “Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”

Jesus says that the fruit from wheat is not merely to be food, but that its seed is produced for a larger purpose. We often think of the fruit of the Spirit as things that make US better, or help OUR behavior. But think about it. Everything on that list is something designed to help SOMEONE ELSE. A person who walks by the Spirit will be a blessing to everyone around them. Christians are not given love, joy, peace and patience as a badge of honor for good behavior but as bandage of hope for whoever needs blessing. Nail your selfish flesh to the cross today and be fruitful. Paul says there’s no law against that.

The Fruit of the Spirit is from above,
With joy and peace, and patient love.
It’s being good, and controlling your mind,
Staying faithful, and being kind.
The fruits of the Spirit are like precious jewels,
Which, Paul affirms, don’t break any rules.
So walk in the Spirit each step of the way,
Yielding yourself to Him, come what may,
And receive this fruit each and every day:
But it’s only yours to be given away.

To buy my latest book, Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

 

Knowledge Puffs Up, So Here’s What You Really Ought to Know:

“And if any man think that he knoweth anything, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know.” (1 Corinthians 8:2 KJV) A long time ago I chose this as my life verse, thinking that having an arbitrarily closed mind is not really a Christian attribute, that knowledge in itself has limited value, and that life should be a constant opportunity to learn. Socrates may have contributed to Paul’s logic when he taught that “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” It is sometimes challenging to try to stay intellectually open as a Christian when there are certain bedrock truths that are non-negotiable, and the idea of being dogmatic is probably seen as a negative by most folks in our culture. But being dogmatic is not necessarily a bad thing. Without bedrock, there is nothing to build upon. Perhaps it is the WAY some people are dogmatic that can be objectionable.

Paul was right when he said that “knowledge puffs one up” and contributes to pride and self-aggrandizement. It is only by allowing for our own possible ignorance that we access the opportunity for wisdom. You can’t put more treasure into a buried chest; a closed Xmas stocking gets no gifts; a sprung trap captures no more game; you can’t… Well, you get the idea. And really

, if you look a little deeper, the point of our spiritual lives is not knowledge, but love. The verse right after this one says, “But if any man loves God, the same is known of him.” Paul knew that it is not knowledge but LOVE that transforms us. What fun would a friendship or a marriage be if we limited our relationship to only rational thought and knowledge, without any emotional connection? And yet we often treat God that way. It is not knowledge that completes us, but love. Paul reminded us about that in 1 Corinthians 13:13, when he said, “these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

Tim Keller speaks about it like this: “The secret to freedom from enslaving patterns of sin is worship. You need worship. You need great worship. You need weeping worship. You need glorious worship. You need to sense God’s greatness and to be moved by it — moved to tears and moved to laughter — moved by who God is and what he has done for you.” How much have you been moved by God lately? You may be reading your Bible, and you may be increasing your knowledge, but when is that last time you were so moved by God that you fell in love with Him all over again? If you are in love with God, your worship will transform you and people will notice. And isn’t it a much cooler thing for someone to say, “Wow, that person really loves God!” rather than, “Wow, that person really thinks he’s smart!” Love God. Be known for it.

Go to College, get more knowledge; it will help you win debates.
Just beware and be aware that ego sometimes self-inflates.
Find your mind some worldly wisdom, it will make you self-assured;
But realize you’ll be surprised at some things wisdom does not cure.
You can’t earn and you can’t learn this truth no matter where you go:
Just Love God. That’s all you need to live, and all you need to know.

 

To buy my latest book, Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

 

Law Versus Grace: and The Reluctant Apologist Accepted

An apologist is “one who defends or supports something, such as a religion.” Saul of Tarsus zealously pursued righteousness through keeping the law until he discovered God’s reason for law and purpose for grace… “Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 5:20-21, NKJV)

Saul, a Pharisee from Tarsus, was a man striving to do the right thing. He obeyed the statutes to the letter, and he prosecuted blasphemers to its fullest extent. He was a brilliant, passionate man who feared God and wanted to do what pleased Him. He was confronted by Christ on the road to Damascus (Acts 9), and had perhaps one of the most significant conversions to Christianity in history.

His sight was taken from him for three days, and I am sure he came to grips with his own spiritual blindness as he waited for God to tell him what to do next. As a powerful Pharisee, he originally saw the law as a means to earn God’s favor. As a sightless pilgrim, he grasped the concept of grace, and he came to understand that the law’s purpose was not to save, but only to condemn.

In Romans 3:20 he said “Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.” In Romans 4:15 he said “the law brings wrath.” Religion that is built upon law will always fail for two reasons: 1) The law exists only to demonstrate that men will fall short of its standards and face the wrath of a righteous God; and 2) all men will fall short of its standards.

The Apostle Paul (as Saul is known to us) knew that the law hates sinners, and he called himself the “chief of sinners”. Paul and all of us sinners were doomed under the law’s rigid standards. When Saul encountered Jesus, he stood before Christ not as a righteous Pharisee or even as a good man, but as a sinner. So it is with all of us. Often one of the biggest obstacles we have in discovering God is our own sense of righteousness. Don’t ever let doing good take the place of discovering Grace. Paul says that where sin abounded, grace did much more abound. If, like me, you are a sinner who has done wicked and dishonest things, who has failed the legal requirements in so many respects, that is amazingly good news! Whatever your sins, whatever you have done to break the law, Grace is greater.

Saul of Tarsus, on that night,
When you were blinded by the light,
What did you see? What did you find
That changed your heart and changed your mind?
What caused your ruthless heart to thaw,
To see the hopelessness of law?
Was it the look on Jesus’ face
That turned you towards amazing grace?
Was it in blindness that you found
That Grace could more than sin abound?
Where legalism failed to heal,
Your righteousness from Grace was real!
When you were blinded, you could see
God’s love in perfect clarity,
And wrote so that the mystery
Of Grace–that fell on you—could fall on me.

To buy my latest book, Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

 

Legalism is the Basis for Most Religions. Too Bad the First Part of Self-Righteousness is Still Self

For some people, religion is a form of legalism that embraces holiness and self-righteousness. The Apostle Paul understood all about that when he said “…[I am] found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; ” (Philippians 3:9 NKJV)

As someone who was raised in the strict tenets of Jewish orthodoxy, Paul knew all about legalism. He had kept the law from his youth. He was educated in the Scriptures, and he had spent his life pursuing righteousness. At any party or social gathering, he was probably always the most righteous person in the room. He summarized his qualifications to be self-righteous in the verses just preceding this one: “If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless” (verses 4-6). He was so zealous in his legalism that he persecuted and killed those who opposed what he believed. (Funny how legalistic people do that in the name of religion, whether Jewish or Christian or Muslim…It’s given us the taking of the Holy Land, the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, and now Isis, all done in the name of following God…)

In terms of being pure, he had dotted all the “i’s” and crossed all the t’s… People who create their own righteousness will always have a subtle (or obvious) superiority complex, because they have “earned” the right to be better than everyone else. They are the speck-plank people Jesus spoke about in Luke 6:41: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” There are lots of folks can pontificate about the sins that others have while harboring their own. A self-made man often becomes his own self-made god.

One of the deeply ingrained facets of human nature is the desire to be acceptable. Not so bad in itself, but when it is extended out to its logical conclusion, it becomes a dangerous and deadly vice that moves from a natural desire to be loved and accepted to a selfish desire to attain that favor by being better than others. How many times have you seen people try to elevate themselves by stepping on the backs of others? It’s where bullying, bigotry, and racism come from. We all experienced that in middle school, but even when we’re adults it never goes away, does it? Arrogant jerks try to lift themselves up by putting someone else down; insecure people deflect from their own personal flaws by pointing out the flaws that others have.

Let me be clear: NO FOLLOWER OF JESUS DOES THOSE THINGS! Paul was a great example of that: as a young man, Paul had not only felt superior, he felt he had the right to persecute and kill Christians. Now, however, writing this letter, the former zealous Pharisee wept as he prayed for the Philippians, the very kind of people he once persecuted. What changed for Paul? He traded his legalism for love, his egotistical feelings of superiority for humility. He found a gift of righteousness he could not earn, and he says he found himself “in Christ”.

What did he mean by that? He meant that he quit being a Pharisee in order to follow Jesus—he lost his material things to become rich, stopped following the law in order to live by faith, and found himself out of control and in love. The false security of legalism paled in comparison to the fellowship he found in the sufferings and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Once Paul found Christ, he traded haughtiness for humility, cruelty for compassion, and legalism for love. He exchanged the smug superiority of the bigot for the heartfelt compassion of the converted. The self-righteous will never know the humility of the cross; those who earn their own small version of righteousness will miss the magnitude of Grace. The next time you are mad about someone else’s sin, stop for a moment to be grateful for the Grace that covered yours. If you are trying to be righteous, don’t achieve it: Accept it. It’s not what you earn but what you learn; it’s not what you achieve but what you receive; and it’s not rising above, but falling in love. Be found in Him.

The truest hope for the human race 
Is not in righteousness, but grace.
Legalism just imparts self-righteousness to human hearts.
Instead of judging sins all day,
Embrace the grace that came your way!
If you follow Jesus, know that I can't be much clearer:
The only time to judge someone is looking in the mirror.

To buy my latest book, Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

 

Maybe the Best Thing About the Past is That It’s Actually a Present

If there is anything to be learned from history, it’s that we should learn from the past, but we can’t live there… The Apostle Paul put it this way: “Brethren, I do not count myself yet to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting the things which are behind, and stretching forward to the things which are before, I press on toward the goal unto the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14 ASV) Because he followed a worthy goal, Paul left everything behind in pursuit of his new quest. An important part of reaching his prize was being able to let go of the past, which creates an interesting question: If you’re a Christian, do you really forget the things you’ve left behind?

There are a couple of ways to look at that. We can easily get trapped by looking back in a somewhat unhealthy way, longing for unspiritual things, and the fulfillment of old, unsavory appetites. Paul talks about that in Romans 7, where he expresses frustration over the fact that he does things that he doesn’t want to do, motivated by his own sinful nature. The pull of temporary, sinful desire can certainly derail us from loftier goals. Paul challenges us to concentrate on where we are going, not on where we used to be. I think this is what Jesus meant in Luke 9:62, when he said, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” When you plow a field, you have to stay focused on a point straight in front of where you want to go.

If you want to plow a straight furrow, you have to focus on what’s ahead; otherwise you will get off line and your rows will be crooked and useless for cultivation. Jesus knew that it was impossible to be fruitful and productive in the present while gazing back into the past. To paraphrase George Santayana’s famous quote, “Those who choose to stay chained to the past will be doomed to repeat it.” Release yourself from old habits and patterns by focusing on new goals and opportunities! The other mistake we often make about the past is that we fail to allow ourselves to grow beyond it. We repeat unkind messages to ourselves, we refuse to forgive ourselves, and we limit our potential based on feelings of unworthiness. In the Kingdom of God, those limitations are past. Do you see yourself the way God sees you? He’s not looking at your mistakes or failures, He sees you the way he intended you to be. He sees you complete and perfect, pristine and pure, and He has already forgotten your flaws and imperfection. Psalm 103:11-12 says, “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” If that’s not enough assurance, then read Isaiah 43:25: “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” God removes our transgressions from us and remembers them no more. If HE is willing to forget your mistakes and move on, then So. Should. You.

There are some things from your past, you wish you could delete them,
Mistakes we all should learn from so that we do not repeat them!
Forgetting that which is behind, we strive to run the race
By reaching forth to what's ahead, empowered now by grace.
We lay aside unneeded weight, and give the race our all,
As we pursue the prize extended by the Savior's call!
Press on to the mark, and towards the finish set your eyes;
Don't look back! Your race is forward, running for the prize.

 

To buy my latest book, Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

 

There’s Plenty of Bad News Out There: Here’s Some GOOD News that’s the Gospel Truth

The Gospel simple means “good news”, and for many, many generations it was taken to mean something that is absolutely true. Even Mark Twain, who was critical of church-goers, often wrote colorful dialect for some of his western characters who, when referring to something being true or reliable, would say: “That’s gospel, pard.” The Apostle Paul changed his vocation, his plans, and his entire life because of the gospel, and he says this about it:

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” (Romans 1:16, NIV)

The Good News

The world all around me, I just have to say
Is full of bad news that we hear every day;
There’s real news, and “fake news”, and media spin;
There’s plenty of hatred, and judgment of sin–
[And that just depends on which church you are in!]
In all of our talk about “don’ts” and the “do’s”,
There are lots of Church words that we Church people use,
Such as “gospel”– which, Paul says, means very good news.
In Old English, it’s “God-spell”. So why is there passion
Stirred up by a word that is so darned old-fashioned?
Just what is the gospel? It’s something I’ve heard
In the Church all my life; it’s a Sunday School word–
Just the kind of expression evangelists say:
So why is the Gospel important today?
If your loved one’s in surg’ry, might not make it through,
Would you hope that the surgeon brings “good news” to you?
When a marriage proposal is made, does he fear
That it won’t be “good news” from the one he holds dear?
When your boss says there’ll be some reorganization,
Do you hope for “good news” about future vocation?
When you took a hard test, and you’re given your grade,
It’s only “good news” if a good grade is made!
But the Gospel is more than a grade on a test–
It’s not news that’s just GOOD, it is news that’s the BEST!
The headline reads: “Jesus Christ died on the Cross,
Giving Life Everlasting to all who were Lost”!
The Gospel is love. It’s about life and death.
It is every last heartbeat and every last breath!
The Gospel is power and passion combined;
It’s truth, transformation, and love intertwined;
Take a look at the gospel anew, redefined,
And let it sink in to your heart and your mind:
It is news just for YOU, of the very best kind.
Jesus died for the world, we all know that is true–
It’s the oldest of news, it’s the newest of new:
But the good news means He also died just for YOU.

 

“For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.” (Mark 8:35, NIV)

 

To buy my latest book, Slaying Giants: Thirty Days With David, go here:  https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David

To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread