Grace Greater Than All Our Sins

Looking at the world around us, the news is not good. Two hundred and fifty million children are living under dangerous conditions, especially where Islamic groups are seeking dominance. In Russia, any efforts to share beliefs have been outlawed for believers of all religions. Charges are pending on several who have given testimony of their faith to others. In the Far East, just over half of the women in China have been ordered at one time or another to have an abortion to be in conformity to their one child only policy for social/economic reasons. While here at home in Canada, abortions are largely personal, the result of a lack of partner support and/or financial reasons. In brief, the destruction of millions of babies is mostly a matter of expediency and convenience, sorry to say. Evil takes on many other forms but the source of it is what needs to be addressed first.

Insofar as the stark realities of everyday life in our world can be unsettling, the true diagnosis of evil can be traced to the spiritual condition of the heart. The Biblical prophet Jeremiah speaks of the heart of man as deceitful (Jer. 17:9). Over time mankind has proven that it has a penchant for doing evil. Several decades ago, archeologists uncovered a city which was rated among the worst in the land of Canaan (present day Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Israel). In Jericho, its citizens practised incest, homosexuality, sex with animals and children, and burned their children as sacrifices all in the name of their gods. So bad was the situation that after its destruction, God pronounced a curse on any who would rebuild that city (Joshua 6:26).

Here in Jericho, lived a prostitute named Rahab. She had been used to hide two Israelite spies that had surveyed the city in preparation for the impending attack. In return for her help, Rahab had asked them to preserve her and her family. She had changed her allegiance from the Canaanite gods to following the only true God of the Israelites, and in so doing had demonstrated unwavering faith in God. Her faith was founded partly on the many reports she had heard about how God had delivered the Hebrews from the Egyptian soldiers at the Red Sea decades earlier and recent conquests over the Amorites. God’s continuous miraculous intervention left a deep impression on Rahab so that her convictions were firmly with Jehovah. Now she believed in the true God and because of her faith both her life and her family’s were spared.

Knowledge about God and His work, however, is not enough to save anyone, if it is not met with action. Similarly, the Canaanites knew about Jehovah and His miraculous deeds, but rather than turn to God like Rahab had done, they chose instead to remain disobedient and as a result grew more fearful (Josh. 5:1). We are told in the New Testament that even the demons believe and tremble with fear (Ja. 2:19). Today, spiritual self-deception, where about 70% of North Americans say they believe in God, is rampant. Of these only one in five actually read their Bible each day. The problem is not about how to get them to up their commitment level but about nominalism—when someone is a Christian in name only. They see themselves as Christians but their lives do not show it. A pretentious faith that relies on nothing more than a religious claim based on religious family roots or is germane to the influences of the immediate culture on them has become a dominate fixture in many areas of our land. This is especially true of those found living in the Southern Bible belt of the US. Empty professions leaves a false idea about what saving faith really is, not to mention the untold millions who have made claims on a false assurance and are at risk of eternal damnation. Rahab demonstrated that her belief was real by putting out a red ribbon like she was told to do over the outer wall surrounding the city to identify her lodging so that she would be spared from being killed with the rest of the Canaanites. She did this in faith much like she did when she hid the spies, and misled the Canaanite search party from finding them. All told, her actions supported her new found faith in God!

We live in an evil world and it is getting worst. We need to recognize that sin is inherent in all of us, that it is natural for each individual to do evil and more can be expected unless hearts are changed. Just as important, we must learn from the testimony of Rahab where in the book of James we are told that she gave evidence of saving faith from what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and set them off in a different direction (Ja. 2:25). Faith is granted to those who recognize their own sin and turn to God. It would appear that our world is fast becoming a macrocosm of the concentration of evil in Jericho just over thirty five hundred years ago, and like this ancient city final judgment will one day come upon our civilization with no possibility of escape.

The clamor will resound to the ends of the earth, for the Lord has an indictment against the nations; he is entering into judgment with all flesh, and the wicked he will put to the sword, declares the Lord. (Je. 25:31).

Though judgment cannot be averted, preparations can be made. The good news is that God saved a woman from her sins, where neither her immoral lifestyle nor her cultural identity could stand in the way of God reaching her with the gospel. No one can say that they are beyond saving. We meet people all the time who insist that their cultural differences and moral state (good or bad) prevents them from truly knowing the Christian’s God. Rahab is an outstanding example of a sinner whose identity and practises had little to do with the ways of God. Yet, on that day, God singled her out from the thousands to serve as a testimony of His Saving Grace, and what He can do, teaching us that none are unreachable, regardless of our religious diversity, or sinful past. Yet, seeing the state of the world may indeed leave you with the impression that some appear too hard to be reached with the gospel and seemingly beyond hope, but do not stop your prayers or witness. Look to God to save them. He saved Rahab did He not and numerous others like her since that time.

See, the LORD’s hand is not too short to save, nor are his ears too dull to hear. (Isaiah 59:1)

Christ Our Enduring Hope

Without hope life loses its meaning. Suppose you woke up one morning and were given reason to believe that nothing good would ever happen to you again. That all that you did would result in failure and your life would amount to nothing. Life would appear meaningless to you. Would you give up or keep seeking for something to hope in? Most probably you would seek something that will lift you out of your misery and doldrums. Whether you are a Christian or not, hope is like that, in that, it summons us forward. The dominant difference for believers is that instead of wishing or hoping in something circumstantial and unreliable as those in the world, our expectancies are grounded in God’s Word and since God cannot lie are true and enduring. Christ alone sustains a Christian’s hope and no amount of difficulty, trial or temptation can prevent its fulfillment.

The Scriptures teach that there is a strong connection between hope and perseverance (Romans 15:4). Having our optics on our home in heaven, we are to accept the fact that we are to persevere to the end. In Egypt ships picked up grain and for those who wished for greater monetary return on their product meant for them crossing the open sea instead of short stops to nearby ports, they were in it for the long haul. Christians are in it for the long haul, no matter the difficulties and distractions in life, or how long it may take, in the end we will inherent eternal life. We are told in Hebrews 10:11 that we want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized.

We are given assurance that those who overcome and persevere will inherit eternal life (Revelations 2:7). This does not mean salvation is earned, but instead gives evidence of it. Staying power characterizes a Christian who continues to hold a long term perspective and believes the gospel. In keeping God’s commandments the Psalmist says there is great reward such as peace of mind, a clear conscience and a witness to the world that speaks more eloquently than words (Psalm 19).

As Christians we have hope of the resurrection of the dead (Acts 23:6). The hope of righteousness (Galatians 5:5). The hope of the Gospel (Colossians 1:23). The hope of the glory of God (Romans 5:2). The blessed hope and appearing of the glory of our great God and savior Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13). The hope of salvation (I Thessalonians 5:8). The hope of his calling (Ephesians 1:18). The hope of eternal life (Titus 1:2, Titus 3:7). The hope of Israel (Acts 28:20).

Where do you find your hope today? Joe Nesby said that “Losing your life is not the worst thing that can happen. The worst thing is to lose your reason for living.” The reason for any of us to be here is to worship God and live for His Glory. It starts with surrendering your life to Christ and confessing your sins to Him alone. Our hope for salvation, freedom from our guilt and deserved punishment is found in Christ sacrifice on Calvary for our sake. He is our only hope in this life. Look nowhere else.

Thanksgiving

Fundamental to our existence is the fact that we were created to appreciate and love God. But due to the fall of Adam and Eve and as explained in Romans chapter one although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. In our fallen condition, we aren’t satisfied with God and what His provisions are for us. We desire for something more. If you recall, Adam and Eve wished to have something that God had not intended for them in the garden. They had a perfect environment fully supplied with what God wanted for them to have: a perfect world, a compatible mate, ample provisions, everything they needed, yet, in spite of these ideal conditions, they wanted more. Unthankfulness leads us away from God and to seek something else. Many today have sought after that “elusive something else” instead of being content with what God has given them.

Apart from being God, Jesus was quintessentially the most thankful human that ever lived on earth. The God-man not only died to forgive our sins but lived in perfect harmony with the Father, a posture of gratitude, of continuous thanksgiving.

For a Christian, whose feet are standing firmly in the good news of Jesus, there are possibilities for true thankfulness which otherwise he would never have known. Being thankful to God for personal salvation and its subsequent blessings differentiates the believer from the non-believer and brings honour to God.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise. Give thanks to him, bless his name” (Psalm 100:4). God says that gratitude honors him: “He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors me” (Psalm 50:23).

Not only does living in a continuous state of gratitude promote God’s honour, but too, our thanksgiving should rise in direct proportion to the value of the object that we give thanks to, which in the Believer’s case is Jesus Christ. This should make us the most thankful people on earth.