Are you a faith fighter?

figthers

Did you know when you gave your heart to Jesus, you became a faith fighter?

Paul wrote:

Fight for the true faith” (1 Timothy 6:12, NLT).

Paul himself was one when he said:

I have fought the good fight” of faith (2 Timothy 4:7).

The Greek for fight is agon. It literally means to engage in conflict. It was used in the context of military conflict or competing in athletic sports.

Let’s ask some questions about our faith, who we fight with, weapons we fight with and the outcome of our conflict.

We fight for the faith in whom?

Paul is not talking about faith in ourselves, but faith in Christ.

What does it mean to have faith in Christ?

Faith is trusting in Jesus’s finished work on the cross to save us, and change us. It is also trusting Him daily to do what is right in your life.

When Paul says I have fought for the faith, he is saying he has kept on trusting Jesus’ finished work to save and change him, and God to do what is right in his life to the very end.

Why is keeping our faith in Jesus like a fight?

It’s because it is possible for us to stop trusting God completely, and rely on self. We also have another enemy, Satan, who challenges our faith in Christ, His word, and what God says about us.

We need to know about our enemy

To overcome the enemy, we need to know about the enemy. “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, ….but against evil spirits in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). Our battle is not physical. It is spiritual.

What do we know about Satan and His forces?

His life purpose is to “be like God Most High” (Isaiah 14:14). He is “the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God” (Ephesians 2:2). His job is to accuse us before God. (Revelation 12:10). Now the devil “has little time” (Revelation 12:12) so, “he prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

What can Satan do?

Satan can’t take away your salvation, but he can take away your joy. He can’t force you to do anything, but he can put negative thoughts in your mind. He battles with us in at least three ways: through influencing our old sinful nature (Romans 7:23), the influence of people and the world’s value system (1 John 2:16).

How do we fight him?

Satan can accuse us, but he doesn’t have the last word, because Jesus rose for our defence. When Jesus rose, He broke “the power of the devil, who had the power of death” (Hebrews 2:14). Satan can disturb us but he can’t defeat us because, “the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world” (I John 4:4).

The first thing you need to fight him is you must be born again. You were born again, when God chose you, made you aware of your sins, and the moment you repented and believed in Jesus as your Savior and Lord. “When you believed [in Christ] you were sealed with the Spirit” (Ephesians 1:13).

When you were born again, God gave you spiritual weapons to fight.

We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons” (2 Corinthians 10:4). We also suit up. “Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11).

God has many spiritual weapons in the Bible, but His built-in weapons suit lists the key weapons He gives us:

Truth belt: “Wear a belt of truth around your body” (Ephesians 6:14a, NLV).

Right with God chest guard: “Wear a piece of iron over your chest which is being right with God” (Ephesians 6:14b).

Peace giving Gospel shoes: “Wear shoes on your feet which are the Good News of peace” (Ephesians 6:15a).

Faith shield: “You need a covering of faith in front of you. This is to put out the fire-arrows of the devil” (Ephesians 6:15b).

Salvation helmet: “The covering for your head is that you have been saved from the punishment of sin” (Ephesians 6:17a).

Bible sword: “Take the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God” (Ephesians 6:17b).

God gives us spiritual weapons like faith, God’s word, right with God status, truth found in Jesus, peace that comes from the gospel, saved and empowered by grace assurance to stand against Satan’s and his minions.

Not only that, you are also connected with the commander Himself, Jesus Christ, through the spiritual weapon called Prayer, while His Spirit, who lives in you, directs you and empowers you through the battle field of life. “You must pray at all times as the Holy Spirit leads you..” (Ephesians 6:18).

You are more than conquerors through Christ

Just like Paul, you can one day say I have fought the good fight of faith. You know why? Because not only are you saved by grace (Ephesians 2:8), seated with Christ in heaven (Ephesians 2:6), transferred to His kingdom (Colossians 1:13), guaranteed of salvation (Ephesians 1:14), you are also more than a conqueror (Romans 8:37), and we conquer through Jesus and His weapons. No matter what the devil throws at you this side of heaven, you have a promise. “For every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith” (1 John 5:4).

When Christians need to be patient?

Queues

I visited Singapore recently on a holiday. One of the highlights of my visit was the amount of queues I had to stand in.

When I needed a taxi, I stood in a queue. Waited for the monorail. Stood in a queue. Supermarket, shopping mall, tickets counter. Stood in a queue. Water slide ride. Stood in a queue.

Never before have I spent so much time in queues.

Queues are a picture of waiting periods

They reminded me about the waiting periods we go through in life and couldn’t wait till we got out of. Some of us couldn’t wait till we got out of college, got a job, found love, got married, got kids, got out of debt.

If you haven’t realised already, we spend a lot of our lives waiting.

It is one thing to wait in a supermarket queue. Another thing when you wait for people to change, your health to change, finances to change, marriage to turn around. James chapter 5 mentions three waiting periods; he encourages us to be patient when we meet such circumstances.

When we need to exercise patience?

  1. Uncontrollable situations

Dear brothers and sisters, be patient as for you wait the Lord’s return. Consider the farmers who patiently wait for the rains in the fall and in the spring. They eagerly look for the valuable harvest to ripen” (James 5:7, NLT).

James says we need patience, when we face uncontrollable situations (ex: the return of Jesus). He uses farmers as an example. They had to do a lot of waiting because they had to till, plant, prune before harvesting. They also had no control over the weather, economy, and labor practices. James tells us to be patient when we face uncontrollable situations. Why? Because we do not have control over such things.

Sometimes, when things are uncontrollable, we try to control them. We do that by worrying.  But worrying is useless. The Bible says, “can all your worries add a single moment to your life?” (Mathew 6:27). God encourages us to be patient during queues of uncontrollable situations.

  1. Unchangeable people

For examples of patience in suffering, dear brothers and sisters, look at the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord” (James 5:10).

James says we must be patient when people are unchangeable. He says look at the prophets. The prophets were entrusted to turn people to God and change their lives. However, prophets were resisted and persecuted, yet they served God. James says when you face unchangeable people, remember the prophets, and their example of patience.

  1. Unexplainable problems

We give great honor to those who endure under suffering. For instance, you know about Job, a man of great endurance” (James 5:11).

When you face unexplainable waiting periods, be patient. Everything was going well for Job. Then everything fell apart. He lost his family, friends, wealth, health and joy. A lot of things in life may not make sense. It didn’t make sense for Job, but he kept his faith. When we experience queues of unexplainable problems, God wants us to be patient.

Here is why we can be patient:

We can be patient because God is in charge. We may not see Him, but it doesn’t mean He isn’t working things out. “You can see how the Lord was kind to him (Job) at the end” (Job 5:11). What He did for Job, He does for us.

When we know He has our best interest in mind, and when we trust Him to do the right thing, we can wait for Him patiently.

And when you wait patiently for Him, make sure you also:

Wait expectantly: “… I wait expectantly, trusting God to help, for He has promised” (Psalm 130:5, LB).

Wait confidently: “I will wait confidently for God” Micah 7:7, GNT).

Wait quietly: “It is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord” (Lamentations 3:26, NIV).

Did you enter God’s Sabbath Rest?

Perfect-place-for-a-rest-8361

The book of Hebrews was written for Jewish Christians. It was written to show them that Jesus’s new covenant ministry (saved by trusting in Jesus) is superior to the old covenant (relying on sacrifices and rituals).

As the author talks about how everything has changed because of Jesus, the book lists certain things as much better or superior in the new covenant:

Jesus himself (Hebrews 3:1-6). New Covenant (Hebrews 8:6). New covenant law (Hebrews 7:12) Jesus’ sacrifice (Hebrews 9:23). Heavenly Temple (Hebrews 9:11). God’s promises (Hebrews 8:6). Resurrection (Hebrew 11:35). Blood atonement (Hebrews 12:24).

And then he gets on to another topic: a Sabbath. He says it this way:

“So then, there remains a Sabbath rest (Greek: Sabbatismos) for the people of God” (Hebrews 4:9, New American Standard Bible).

After saying the Sabbath ‘remains’, he goes on to explain that the idea of the Sabbath (Sabbathismos) rest is now much bigger than just taking some time off each week. Now this verse doesn’t do away with the need to set aside exclusive time for worship, rest and fellowship (Hebrews 10:25).

With that in mind, here’s five things Christians need to remember about this Sabbath. These points will also show that this Sabbath is not a physical day of rest.

1. We enter this Sabbath by believing

For only we who believe can enter his rest” (Hebrews 4:3, NLT).

2. Having a day off doesn’t mean you’ve entered God’s rest

You can keep a physical day of rest and still not enter this Sabbath. Israel who were keeping the seventh-day Sabbath rest didn’t enter this Sabbath rest:

 “Now if Joshua had succeeded in giving them this rest, God would not have spoken about another day of rest still to come” (Hebrews 4:8).

3. We need to rest from trying to earn salvation

You can enter this Sabbath rest when you stop trying to earn salvation by your own works. Works here does not refer to good works that a Christian does by faith, but the effort of trying to win God over by being ‘good enough’ – something nobody gets right.

For all who have entered into God’s rest have rested from their labors (own works of salvation), just as God did after creating the world” (Hebrews 4:10).

4. Rest begins today, not Sunday or Saturday

“So God’s rest is there for people to enter, but those who first heard this good news failed to enter because they disobeyed God. So God set another time for entering his rest, and that time is today” (Hebrews 4:6, 7).

The reality is, the Sabbath is about God’s promised rest. Something we enter into fully when we get to Heaven, but we start experiencing it today.

5. This Sabbath is associated with the gospel

 “So God’s rest is there for people to enter, but those who first heard this good news failed to enter because they disobeyed God” (Hebrews 4:6).

What is the gospel or good news if not salvation by trusting and believing in Jesus alone? Paul wrote:

We are made right with God when we believe that Jesus shed his blood, sacrificing his life for us” (Romans 3:22-25).

We are declared righteous in the presence of God simply as a gift of God’s grace we receive by faith in Jesus’ finished work of salvation.

Did you know that when you gave your heart to Jesus, you entered this Sabbath rest?

“For only we who believe [in Jesus] can enter his rest” (Hebrews 4:3, NLT)

This Sabbath rest is a spiritual rest of grace, acceptance, and forgiveness we experience in Christ. It is also a rest from guilt, sin, and its penalty.

Jesus promises this Sabbath rest today for anyone who comes to Him:

“Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

Make sure you enter God’s Sabbath rest

Some do not enter this rest for at least three reasons.

  • First, they do not know about the gospel, the spiritual Sabbath rest and what Jesus has accomplished for them.
  • Second, they do not enter this rest because they do not believe completely in Christ’s finished work and His power to save them.
  • Third, they do not “make every effort to enter that rest” (Hebrews 4:11, NIV) in response to the good news, allowing Satan to challenge their trust in Jesus’ finished work and what God says about them.

What does God say about those who belong to Him? He says:

You are: Reconciled (Rom. 5:10). Dead to sin (Rom. 6:11). Freed from sin (Rom. 6:18). Released from law’s condemnation (Rom. 7:6). Conqueror through Him (Rom. 8:37). Sealed with the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13). Saved through faith (Eph. 2:8). The dwelling of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 2:22). Chosen in Christ (Eph. 1:4). Qualified to share in the inheritance (Col. 1:12). Transferred to His kingdom (CoI. 1:13). Chosen to be like Christ (Rom. 8:29).

You have: the living presence of Christ in you (Phil. 2:13). A Helper to encourage you (Rom. 8:26).

You: serve in the newness of the Spirit, not in the oldness of the letter (Rom. 7:6). Received a spiritual gift (1 Cor. 12).

The power of grace and mercy

grace

Imagine you were pulled over by a cop for a traffic offense. You were guilty. You knew the penalty, the punishment. But wait. The officer turns to you, advises you to be mindful about traffic laws, and lets you off the hook. Just like that. It happened to me.

If something like that ever happened to you, then you’ve been a recipient of mercy. You were let off the hook, when you didn’t deserve it.

Mercy is when you don’t receive what you deserve: punishment.

Maybe you haven’t received mercy for civil law breaking, but if you’ve given your heart to Jesus, then you have met the God who is ‘rich in mercy’ (Ephesians 2:4). What did He do? He let you off the hook when you didn’t deserve it. Paul wrote:

“He saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy” (Titus 3:5, NLT).

Grace: Even better than mercy

Instead of punishing and giving us what we deserve (Romans 6:23), He saved us from the punishment. That’s mercy. Isaiah said it this way:

“He took the punishment we deserved, and this brought us peace” (Isaiah 53:5, ERV).

Mercy is not cheap. It is expensive because it costed His Son’s life to set us free. And while, mercy is good news, just wait till you hear about Grace. Grace is much more than mercy.

Here’s the difference.

Mercy is when you don’t receive what you deserve: punishment.

But grace is when you receive what you don’t deserve: reward.

Do you get the difference? Read it again until you’ve figured it out.

What grace and mercy look like

Here’s a few examples of grace and mercy in action:

The prodigal son received mercy when the father accepted him. Grace when he threw him a party.

The thief on the cross received mercy when he experienced forgiveness. Grace when Jesus promised Him paradise.

We received mercy when God saved us from the punishment for our sins. Grace when He gave us eternal life (1 John 5:11); made us sons and daughters (John 1:12), and reserved an inheritance for us for eternity (1 Peter 1:4).

Mercy and Grace are amazing. That’s why we sing so many songs about them!

Not only is grace amazing. It is also the central theme in the Bible. It is about a gracious God who pursues, came for us, cared for us, and is coming again for us.

This is Amazing Grace

Here’s a few ways the Bible describes the grace of God:

Grace is God’s gift to me: “All of us need to be made right with God by His grace, which is a free gift through Jesus Christ.” (Romans 3:24, NCV)

Grace is for everyone: “For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people” (Titus 2:11, NLT).

Grace comes through Jesus: “For the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17, NIV).

Grace is received by faith: “God saved you by his grace when you believed.” (Ephesians 2:8, NLT).

Grace is God’s gift for all eternity: “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

Grace is God’s gift of forgiveness: “But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of forgiveness to many through this other man, Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:15).

Grace is God’s power to change: “So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most” (Hebrews 4:16).

The power to save a wretch like me … and you

Yes, grace changes people. The apostle made it clear that the gospel of His grace and mercy is intended to turn people to God and from their sins (Romans 2:4). Grace not only forgives; it changes, transforms, rewires everyone who enters into a relationship with Jesus.

There is more. When grace happens, gratitude happens.

‘And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory’ (2 Corinthians 4:15)

You can live a life of gratitude to God, not because of anything you did, but because of what He did for you. If you have put your trust in His Son to save you, He says He has given you life, and has saved you:

“But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!)” (Ephesians 2:4-5).

Like to thank God for His mercy and grace? Here’s what you can do:

  • Make a list of your grace and mercy experiences.
  • Talk with God over the list, and thank Him for each blessing
  • Share your experiences with your friends, and spread the joy
  • Keep the list, add to it and return to it when you need to remember His goodness
  • Praise God for His mercy! Praise God for His grace!

Is your God narrow?

Boss

I served a boss who took a genuine interest in the well-being of every employee under him.

He cared about our vocational well-being: motivated us, and fought for our promotions.

He cared about our financial well-being: shared with us financial wisdom from his life experiences, and advised us to spend wisely.

He cared about our relational well-being. Didn’t hesitate to grant us leave. Encouraged us to leave home early so that we can enjoy time with family.

People care about us, but God even more. When we gave our hearts to Jesus, He began a good work in every area of our life. Jesus said it this way:

“My purpose is to give life in all its fullness” (John 10:10, TLB).

Some of us have a very narrow view of God. To us, God only enters the picture when it comes to church or religion. But the truth is, God is interested in every area of our life: Spiritual. Mental. Emotional. Relational. Financial. Vocational.

His word teaches us how he blesses and how we can become healthy in every area of our life.

Spiritually healthy

Here are a few habits you need to develop to be spiritually healthy. It starts with you knowing that Jesus loves you, and He is your Savior:

  1. Know that He loves you: We love each other because he loved us first” (1 John 4:19).
  2. Love Him supremely: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength” (Mark 12:30, NLT).
  3. Meet Him daily: “Joyful are those who listen to me, watching for me daily” (Proverbs 8:34).
  4. Study and obey His word: “You are my friends if you do what I command” (John 15:14).
  5. Love others unconditionally: “Just as I have loved you, you should love each other” (John 13:34).
  6. Serve others unselfishly: “Use your freedom to serve one another in love” (Galatians 5:13).
  7. Spread the good news freely. “We loved you so much that we shared with you not only God’s Good News but our own lives, too” (1 Thessalonians 2:8).

Physically healthy

Here are a few reasons why God cares about your physical well-being:

  1. Your body is His property: “For we are God’s masterpiece” (Ephesians 2:10).
  2. You are connected to Christ’s body: “Don’t you realize that your bodies are actually parts of Christ?” (1 Corinthians 6:15).
  3. The Holy Spirit resides in your body: “Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in[a] you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16).
  4. Jesus bought your body on the cross: “God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body” (1 Corinthians 6:20).
  5. He wants you to be healthy: “Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit” (3 John 1:2).

Mentally healthy

Speaking of mental health, God says:

  1. Guard your mind: “A wise person is hungry for knowledge, while the fool feeds on trash” (Proverbs 15:14).
  2. Examine your thoughts:The human heart is the most deceitful of all things..” (Jeremiah 17:9); “Examine yourselves to see whether you’re in the faith; test yourselves…” (2 Corinthians 13:5).
  3. Renew your mind daily by His word: “..Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think..” (Romans 12:2).
  4. Never stop growing and learning: “Those who get wisdom do themselves a favor, and those who love learning will succeed” (Proverbs 19:8, NCV).

Emotionally healthy

God says He heals the broken-hearted and bandages their wounds” (Psalm 147:3, NLT). Many people have hurts and wounds, but God says He wants to heal them:

  1. Reveal and confess your hurts to God so that he can heal you: I kept very quiet…but I became even more upset. I became very angry inside, and as I thought about it, my anger burned” (Psalm 39:2-3, NCV).
  2. Release those who have hurt you and trust God to do what is right:Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God..” (Romans 12:19, NLT).
  3. Replace those old lies you believed with God’s truth:Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think” (Romans 12:2).
  4. Reach out to help others who are hurting:He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us” (2 Corinthians 1:4).

Relationally healthy

Relationships matter to Him. He counsels:

  1. Choose friends wisely:The righteous choose their friends carefully” (Proverbs 12:26, NIV).
  2. Be genuinely interested in others:Unfriendly people care only about themselves..” (Proverbs 18:1, NLT).
  3. Have a cheerful spirit:Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you” (Philippians 2:14).
  4. Be a good listener:Be quick to listen, slow to speak” (James 1:19).
  5. Accept people unconditionally:Accept one another…just as Christ accepted you” (Romans 15:7).
  6. Help people feel appreciated:Take delight in honoring each other” (Romans 12:10).
  7. Be understanding:Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15).
  8. Stick with them in tough times:There are “friends” who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24).

Financially healthy

Speaking of financial well-being, His word says:

  1. Trust God as your provider:Everything comes from him…” (Romans 11:36).
  2. Put Him first in your money:The purpose of tithing is to teach you always to put God first in your lives” (Deuteronomy 14:23, TLB).
  3. Save and invest:The wise man saves for the future, but the foolish man spends whatever he gets” (Proverbs 21:20).
  4. Set up plans to pay debt:Let no debt remain outstanding” (Romans 13:8, NIV).
  5. Have a budget for spending:Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity, but hasty shortcuts lead to poverty” (Proverbs 21:5, NLT).
  6. Be happy with what you have:Enjoy what you have rather than desiring what you don’t have” (Ecclesiastes 6:9).

Vocationally healthy

His counsel on your vocational well-being:

  1. Know that God is your real boss:Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people” (Colossians 3:23)
  2. Work enthusiastically:Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart” (Colossians 3:23, NIV).
  3. Know that God uses difficult circumstances to build your character: For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow” (James 1:3).
  4. Care about your work colleagues:Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too” (Philippians 2:4).
  5. Exceed expectations:Servants, do what you’re told by your earthly masters. And don’t just do the minimum that will get you by. Do your best” (Colossians 3:22, MSG).
  6. Expand your skills and learn continually:Using a dull ax requires great strength, so sharpen the blade. That’s the value of wisdom; it helps you succeed” (Ecclesiastes 10:10, NLT).
  7. Commit your work for God’s purposes:Commit your actions to the Lord, and your plans will succeed” (Proverbs 16:3).

God cares about every area of your life because you are His child. If it matters to you, it matters to Him. Sometimes we have a narrow view of our heavenly Father’s concerns for our life.

He says I want to bless and change every area of your life.

Loving others like Jesus loves us

Love

Jesus wants us to love each other but He is particular about how we do it. He said:

So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other” (New Living Translation, John 13:34).

Jesus wants us to love others not according to the way the world loves, but in the same way He loved us. The standard of love toward each other is the way God loved us through Jesus.

To understand this standard of love, we need to see how Jesus loved us. There are a lot of examples in the Bible, but we will look at a few.

One of the ways Jesus loved us was by choosing to love us long before we existed. Peter wrote:

God chose him as your ransom long before the world began…’ (1 Peter 1:20).

Long before you were born, long before you committed a single mistake, Jesus loved you and chose to be your saviour.

Jesus showed this kind of love toward his disciples while on earth. When he knew Judas was going to betray him, He showed His love for Judas by washing his feet. He did the same for Peter, when he knew Peter was going to deny Him and forsake Him.

What Jesus did for his disciples, He did for you and me? Paul wrote:

But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners’ (Romans 5:8).

God through Jesus showed his great love how? While we were of no use to him whatsoever, while we were not deserving, while we were rebelling. Moreover, Jesus didn’t just tell us He loves us, He showed his great love by taking the punishment for our sins (Isaiah 53:6).

Such is the love of Christ, the standard, the magnitude, the height and depth of His love. Only when we understand this standard of love, though not fully (Eph. 3:19), we can do the same for others. Paul wrote:

Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others’ (Colossians 3:13).

You can love one another, and have a forgiving spirit, not because they are deserving, but because Jesus loved you, and forgave you.

Another way Jesus loved us was by accepting us just we are. Paul wrote:

Therefore, accept each other just as Christ has accepted you so that God will be given glory” (Romans 15:7).

Jesus accepted us with all our guilt, imperfections, past mistakes. It doesn’t mean he approved everything we did, but He accepted us completely. He did this to show his love, forgive us and change us to be like Him. But first, He accepted us just as we are.

When you know God has accepted you completely, you can accept others. This doesn’t mean you approve everything everybody does, but you accept them in the same way Christ accepted you.

There are other ways Jesus loved us, but here’s my final point. He loved us by highly valuing us. Jesus said we are very valuable to Him.

And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows” (Luke 12:7).

Two things make something valuable. First, value depends on who made it. Second, value depends on the price someone will pay.

We are extremely valuable because we are not an accident, but the Almighty God himself fashioned us.

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago” (Ephesians 2:10)

We are also valuable because of the price Jesus paid.

For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And it was not paid with mere gold or silver, which lose their value. It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God” (1 Peter 1:18-19).

Jesus valued us more than his life. That was the price he was willing to pay. Because Jesus did this, we can value, and esteem others better than ourselves (Philippians 2:3).

The secret to loving others is actually receiving God’s love.

We love each other because He loved us first” (1 John 4:19).

Without receiving and experiencing, we can’t love others in the same way Jesus loved us. The Bible is clear, apart from Christ, “our heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9).

We hear often from our pulpits telling people to put faith into action, love each other, serve each other, be kind to one another, but telling people to do so without telling them they are loved, accepted, forgiven, valued, empowered is like telling people to transfer money without depositing money in their account.

When we are secure in God’s love, we will start making allowance for people’s mistakes. We will be more patient, forgiving, kind, bearing with one another. We will increasingly show grace and mercy to one another because God did the same for us.

The key to obeying Jesus’s command to love others the same way He did is for us to be secure in His love and grace. All this becomes possible, when we are in Christ and Christ is in us. When He is in us, He will come out in our attitudes, actions, and affections.

Will the real X-men please stand up?

x-men

Super hero comic books and movies abound these days. One such famous comic is called the X-men.

According to the comics, the X-Men are people with special abilities and powers. They were humans with a genetic trait called an X-gene, resulting in mutation and allowing them to develop super human powers. Before they became X-Men, they were ordinary people. But after, they became new people and received special powers. In a sense, they are now “ex-men”, because they are no longer the old people they used to be.

Paul says something similar about us. He wrote:

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” (2 Corinthians 5:17, New Living Translation).

Christians are like X-Men

When you became a Christian, you became a new person. You are no longer the old person you used to be. You are a new person. You have a new faith. New perspective. New courage. New attitude. New compassion. New abilities and powers. The Bible says:

But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave them the power to become children of God” (John 1:12).

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you” (Acts 1:8).

Isn’t this cool? When you belong to Jesus, you are a new person and you are gifted. X-Men are not fiction. They are real. You are the real X-Man or X-Woman of God. True X-Men are people who have trusted Jesus to save them. When they did, they became new people and God gave them special powers.

Could it be possible that comic book authors borrowed a deep spiritual truth from the Bible when they created X-men and other super hero genres? Perhaps.

X-Men powers and God-given powers

Notice some of the powers these fictional characters have. They are similar to the spiritual abilities God has given His people.

Professor X: He is the founder of X-Men and one of his abilities is to be able to sense the presence of other X-men.

Did you know that God says when we become Christians, he will help us become more sensitive to others? With God’s help, James says we will be able to do powerful things like loving our neighbours as ourselves (James 2:8).

Storm: She can fly by riding through wind currents.

Isaiah says God’s people “will find new strength. They will fly high on wings like eagles” (Isaiah 40:31). When Christians face trials, troubles and temptations, God gives us peace and strength to fly above and through those circumstances.

Wolverine: He has the ability to endure and recover quickly.

Paul says, no matter what life may throw at Christians, God will help us to keep getting up and moving forward because he has promised to “keep you firm to the end” (1 Corinthians 1:8).

Match: He is basically a human torch.

When we are in Christ, we become a human torch with that light (Jesus himself) shining in our hearts. Jesus said “I am the light of the world…you will have the light that leads to life” (John 8:12).

Wind Dancer: She moves with the power of the wind..

The Bible says God’s people are led by the Spirit or “wind” of God (John 3:8). When the Spirit leads us, we will have grow in gifts and fruits of the Spirit.

Cipher: One of her abilities is to make herself invisible.

Paul says our life is invisible now, “For your real life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3). When the devil, your accuser comes looking for you, he can’t accuse you any longer. It’s almost like we are invisible to Satan because he no longer has any power over us. Instead, your life is hidden and clothed with Christ’s righteousness and perfection.

The power of God in you

Sometimes we don’t fully understand what happened to us when God chose us and we gave our hearts to Jesus. The Bible says when we accepted Jesus, He accepted us. Here’s a few more amazing things that have happened to you if you’ve given your life to Christ:

  • Jesus came into our life (Colossians 1:27).
  • He forgave our sins completely (Colossians 1:14).
  • You were born again. He sealed you with His Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13).
  • He gave us eternal life (John 5:24).
  • You became His child (John 1:12).

There is more. He also empowered you to live the great adventure he has created you for (John 10:10). He also empowered you to be like Jesus (Romans 8:29). Paul said it in these words, “God’s power is very great for those of us who believe. That power is the same strength that God used to raise Christ from the dead” (Ephesians 1:19-20).

If you’re a follower of Jesus, you have more power than any superhero.

Do you belong to Jesus? If you do, you are a new person, and you are empowered. You are an X-Man or X-Woman of God. And nothing could be better than that!

God’s law is holier, and His grace greater

Law
We often describe God’s law with these words. Perfect. Good. Holy. Righteous. But there is another word the Bible uses. Broad. The psalmist wrote:

“Your commandment is exceedingly broad” (New American Standard Bible, Psalm 119:96).

For Christians, there are at least three implications for God’s law being broad

First, God’s law is broad in the sense that it captures not just your actions, but also your attitudes, and affections. Why is this significant?

Pharisees thought no sin was committed until you killed a person (Matthew 5:21-22), or committed the act of adultery (Matthew 5:27-28), but Jesus said your attitudes and affections matter. Understanding that God’s law is broad meaning it includes not just the letter, but also the spirit, help us to relate accurately toward God’s law, and avoid having a narrow view of it’s moral requirements like the Pharisees.

Second, God’s law is broad in the sense that it captures everything to do with our relationship to God, and everything to do with our relationship to people. Jesus said that this broad law of relating to God and people is summarized in two greatest commandments.

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39).

From the story of the Rich Young Ruler, we understand that he failed to see what love for your neighbour obligated him to do. Here’s how the story goes:

In Matthew 19, Jesus told the Rich Young Ruler, “If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” The young ruler responded: “All these things I have kept; what am I still lacking?” Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”

The Rich Young Ruler thought he perfectly kept the commandments of God, but Jesus said it wasn’t so. He failed to see that love your neighbour as yourself obligated him to assist the poor and needy according to his financial ability.

The Bible says there will be people in the last days who were satisfied and convinced that they kept the law of Christ, when in fact they didn’t. This will be God’s reply to such people:

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me” (Matthew 25:41-45).

We may keep the Sabbath, never take God’s name in vain, steal, kill, but we would still fall short of God’s broad law of love if we neglect other moral duties towards God and man that is revealed in His word. I cite a few of God’s moral commands toward our neighbour that are part of God’s broad law: accept one another (Rom 15:7), bear with one another (Col 3:13), serve one another (Gal 5:13), value one another (Philp 2:3), encourage one another (1 Thess. 5:11), pray for one another (James 5:16), forgive one another (Colossians 3:13), help the needy (Proverbs 22:9), show no favoritism (James 2:9).

James stated that if we offend even in one point such as discriminating or showing favoritism against our neighbour, we break the whole royal law.

“If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors” (James 2:8-9).

Attaining this high standard of righteousness is impossible for man. The disciples understood this enormity of law’s requirement after Jesus’ conversation with the rich young ruler.

“When the disciples heard this, they were very astonished and said, “Then who can be saved?” And looking at them Jesus said to them, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:25).

Paul explained this to legalists who thought commandment keeping can save them:

“But those who depend on the law to make them right with God are under his curse, for the Scriptures say, “Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey all the commands that are written in God’s Book of the Law” (Galatians 3;10)

Only way to be saved by the Law is to keep the law perfectly—every moment of every day for your entire life. People have a tendency to just cherry-pick a handful of things out of the Law like the Sabbath, tithes etc. But what Paul is saying, you can’t cherry-pick the Law. If you’re going to merit righteousness under the Law, it’s all the commandments (love others unconditionally, help the poor, don’t discriminate etc), and if you fail in one slightest detail ever in your life, then you are under a curse, and you are condemned.

The third implication of God’s law being broad is that it is impossible for man to meet this high moral standard of God’s righteousness. All our best efforts will produce righteousness that is below the law’s requirement and inadequate for salvation. Jesus warned:

But I warn you–unless your righteousness is better than the righteousness of the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven!” (Matthew 5:20, NLT).

God says the right actions we produce by ourselves are in fact filthy (Isaiah 64:6). Further, He says all have sinned, continue to fall short, and are guilty of breaking His law of love, and deserving death (Rom 3:23).

So what does all this mean? How do we attain this broad standard of God’s righteousness, if we need this righteousness to live with God forever?

How do we become right with God?

The gospel or good news is that we don’t attain or earn this righteousness, because we can’t. We receive righteousness of God as a gift on the basis of faith. Paul wrote:

“…and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith” (Philippians 3:9, NASB).

We receive the righteousness of God apart from the law, meaning it doesn’t come from obeying the law.  It comes from another place; it comes from Jesus Himself. It’s His righteousness. So, Paul is saying I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ, His righteousness. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith.

Paul also wrote: “But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets.” (Romans 3:21, NASB)

Paul also says this righteousness we receive is witnessed by the Law meaning God’s law witnesses this righteousness of God, and is fully satisfied that it is in harmony with itself.

So, we receive righteousness of God through faith in Christ, apart from counting on our own righteousness through obeying the law.

Two things happen to us when we receive this righteousness of God according to the Bible

First, when we repent of breaking His law and inability to keep it by ourselves and trust Jesus to save us, Jesus comes into our life, and He covers us with His righteousness. We are counted as if we were perfectly righteous, and we are declared innocent completely before God and His law. We call this justification, imputed righteousness – God declaring us righteous.

“But people are counted as righteous, not because of their work, but because of their faith in God who forgives sinners” (Romans 4:5, NLT)

Second, when Jesus came into our life, we were born again, and He took residence in our hearts through the Holy Spirit. Paul said it this way, “I myself no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).

When Jesus lives in me, He will come out in my actions, attitudes, and affections. This way, Jesus helps us to keep the broad principles of His law (Romans 8:4) and avoid producing inadequate righteousness of the Pharisees, and Rich Young ruler etc.

In other words, as I trust Jesus daily, His Spirit will guide me and tell me where to go, what to do, who to help, by giving me the power to be like Jesus; and I will become more and more like Jesus. We call this sanctification, imparted righteousness – God making us righteous.

Praise God for Jesus! Our acceptance with God is all because of what Jesus did for us.He took the punishment for our sins (Isaiah 53:5) on the cross in which he had no share, so we can be saved by His righteousness which we have no share (Rom 5:19).

Summary

God’s law is holy, perfect, good but it is also broad. It captures not only our actions, but also our attitudes, and affections. It encompasses all the moral duties and commands stated in God’s word and deals with our relationship to God and man. Its standard is impossible for man to meet; our righteousness is like filthy garments, and all human effort will produce righteousness inadequate for salvation.

The gospel or good news is we receive righteousness of God as a gift on the basis of faith, and not by obeying the law. When we place our faith in His finished work on the cross, and trust Jesus that He took away our sins on the cross, we are counted in that moment as if we were perfectly righteous. In God’s plan, there is more. God wants us to be like Jesus. When Jesus lives in us, and we trust Him, He helps us to do the right thing and bear fruits of righteousness (Philp. 1:11).

Praise God for the gospel! Apart from Christ we are condemned, but with Him we are righteous.