Tag: Plan of Salvation

Being Real: Confessions of a Recovering Legalist

I have been attending church pretty much every Sunday since I was nine years old. 

I am not uniqBeing Realue in that… I am sure many of you who are reading this can say the same thing. 

My church did indeed preach the Gospel. 

Salvation was offered to those that trusted in Jesus Christ and believed that He was born of a virgin, lived a perfect, sinless life and was crucified on the cross to pay for the debt of sin that mankind had committed.  He rose from the grave three days later and now sits at the right Hand of God.  All an individual had to do was ask the Lord for forgiveness and accept Him into their life. 

This is still what I believe.

However, growing up in a church that tied the reality of your relationship with Jesus Christ based more upon the length of your hair and your basic overall appearance is not what everyone else experienced. 

The church during that period of time was caught up in what was commonly called “legalism”.  The word “legalism” does not occur in the Bible.  It is a term used to describe a belief that emphasizes a system of rules and regulations for achieving spiritual growth and evidence of salvation.

The truth is, however, even true believers can be legalistic.  As a believer who has endured the worst that can come from the judgment from other believer’s, I can speak with authority on this subject because I am a recovering legalist.

I spent a good portion of my life judging other people in their walk with Jesus Christ.   For many years, I sat back and did my spiritual evaluation of other believer’s, all the while my own spiritual flaws were masked and hidden by my own self-righteousness.  It is one of the greatest shames I carry in my life. 

I have always said that my greatest failure in life was not the fact that my first marriage ended in divorce.  My greatest failure is that I was part of something that judged and hurt those that struggled in this life.

I am a recovering authority on the subject of legalism.  However, it is not the intent of this post to cover all the issues that come with this subject but I do want to discuss a few of them.

I have always referred to the principles of legalism as “the list”.

dont_listIt was the first thing we gave to new converts. The list was made up of all the things that you were supposed to do and not supposed to do if you wanted to keep God happy and remain spiritual.

Most of the things on the list were good things—some of them even came right out of the Bible.

But some of them didn’t.

They were passed along to me from several sources, some from the traditions of my church, some from my training and education but mostly they were instilled in me by my Pastor. I was “taught” that if I did the things on the list that my life would be good. It was like a bill of goods…if you invested yourself into keeping the list you could reap the benefits of God’s blessings and find true happiness in this life. I bought it… hook line and sinker.

The “list” really came down to one question: “Real Christians don’t ______?'”(You fill in the blank).

Jesus died and rose again, martyrs were split in two, and the Church has prevailed for almost two thousand years against the gates of hell so that Christians today can live out this ever important testimony to a waiting, watching world to tell themselves that… Real Christians don’t ____?

Well, I believe it’s time to get a few things straight. The world isn’t waiting for Christians; the world doesn’t care.

In fact, by a large margin it is only other Christians that care about what other Christians do or don’t do.

Why have Christians made such an important issue out of keeping to this list? I believe it’s because we want something clearly identifiable that will distinguish us from the world. We want to be different. We want being “born again” to evidence itself in some clear, tangible way in our world.

That much is good, but Godly men and women have historically distinguished themselves in much more important ways than keeping a list of do’s and don’ts. 

Christianity gravitated to this list of do’s and don’ts because it spells out the distinctiveness so clearly. However, the problem and the danger at hand is that being born again can become a simple matter of following a prescribed formula as opposed to living a vibrant joyful walk with Jesus Christ.

Not that there aren’t any do’s and don’ts in the Christian faith.

Can you SpotThe New Testament is full of directives for Godly behavior. But the Biblical guidelines are much different from the ones found in popular Christianity, and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out the difference.

The rules for behavior in the Bible deal with less noticeable things and it involves commands which are harder to fulfill than the non-issues that we have created for our own Christian identity.  So we need to ask ourselves a few questions…

  • Which is easier to follow: Real Christians don’t envy or Real Christians don’t dance?
  • Which one gets noticed first: Real Christians don’t lust or Real Christians don’t smoke?
  • Which is harder to comply with: Real Christians love their enemies or Real Christians go to church on Sundays?

To tell a believer that they cannot dance, smoke and that they should go to church each and every Sunday is easy to define and expect from a believer.   Obviously aspects of behavior such as envy, lust and loving our enemies are so much harder to define and to follow.

I can maintain the “list” and still fail in the envy, lust and loving my enemy’s part and many other tenets of God’s desire for my life. 

Truth is…I believe maintaining a list of do’s and don’ts is a dangerous way to assume Holiness and approval from God.

But that is not how the legalist sees it. The legalist creates their own manageable system of weighing and measuring people.  They become like the Pharisees, who regulated righteousness into a long, involved list of steps and procedures, cumbersome indeed, but fulfillable.

So, in many of our churches, I’m afraid it comes down to maintaining this list of:  Real Christians don’t ______ for many believer’s.  They never have to grow past the need for the list and never really have the need to learn or experience what grace truly is. There isn’t any need for them to do so.

Don’t you think Jesus Christ died for something more?

That being said… many of the principles on the list were good ways to live your life and I am sure good ways to keep you on the right path. But surely they were not absolutes as they were presented.

More importantly none of them had virtually nothing to do with my salvation. Without sounding like an immature Christian, the length of my hair, the music I listened to or the fact that I went to the “movies” should not have defined my Salvation. What it actually did was reduce my spiritual walk to a list of bare-minimums-I-have-to-do-to-be-a-Christian.

I struggled with keeping up to the tenets of the list.  My spiritual life was at best “yo-yoSurvey questionnaire” Christianity. Keep the tenets and all was good… fail at one and you were failing and falling fast away from God.   

My walk with the Lord was filled with up’s and downs. Mostly downs because I couldn’t keep up to the standard of the list.  It did not keep me from trying…I was taught the list was the key to my successful walk with Christ.

The problem was what the list did to my Christianity. It became way too much about performance, and not enough about the reality of having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  “Spirituality” became more of an issue of conformity and obedience rather than living out the fruits of the Spirit as God intended.

The progression of the list leads to what I call “the line”

The line is when you consistently keep the tenets of the list.  When a person kept enough of the list to be what they felt was “spiritual” they could draw a line of distinction between themselves and from those who did not.   If a person could make it to the line, he could feel good about Measure Uphimself and his personal relationship with God.

By measuring up to the line, a person could feel like he was good with God. And he could also feel like he was better than others. I cannot help but think of it as spiritual arrogance.

But sadly “the line” leads to “the look”.

Appearances became the most important part of life. And what was seen on the outside was prioritized over what was happening on the inside.

It’s not that some good things weren’t happening on the inside in my life—they were. But things like peace, love and joy weren’t as important as the Bible says they should have been. And no one was judging my spirituality by that. They were judging me based upon the tenets of the “list” and how close I was to their “line”. 

Both of these things made the “look” all the more important in my spiritual walk.

list2When you are a legalist, you spend a lot of time evaluating others, making sure they measure up. What does their “list” look like?  Does their list include all the important things that are on my list? And where is their “line”? Is it up there where it should be?  Or could I consider myself more spiritual since my line is higher? And do they “look” like they should? Or could I look down on them for looking weaker than me?

This evaluation was often called by some pastor friends as “fruit inspection,” which obviously refers to the verse in Matt. 7:20 where it states, “Therefore by their fruits ye shall know them.”

All masked in the name of spirituality, when in actuality it was judgmentalism.

Many Christians wait and watch to be entertained by the latest episode of spicy details in the rise and fall of another believer. What we have here is not just another failure of a believer but clearly an in-house problem among our body of believers as a whole.  notgossip_lg

From my personal experience, sometimes the greatest gossip opportunities are the very “prayer meetings” we have in some of our churches. Prayer requests masked in the intent to “share” a little of what we heard or know about the failure of another believer.

Nothing but plain gossip if you ask me… but that is another discussion for a different time and place.

One of the most troubling things about legalism is that it keeps us from growing to be totally dependent on God.  Jesus saw legalism in the Pharisees. The Pharisees were known for their rules, but never for their discernment. Here’s the thing: When we depend on a checklist of rules to determine our decision-making process, there is no room for discernment. The Pharisees’ mindset would be “Give me the law. I want the rules so that I don’t step out-of-bounds.”

Following a checklist rules reveals something else: it reveals a lack of faith in God’s leading in the lives of others.  It says, “My confidence is in man’s teachings” rather than in Christ alone.  But God has a much better way. His way requires a daily surrendering of our will to His.  His way bears fruit.  It’s not burdensome and it’s not bound by legalism.

Ironically, I’ve been wrestling lately with the flip side of being a recovering legalist.  I struggle with judging and we_all_sinbeing critical of those who are caught up in throes of legalism. I find myself making fun of them.  I find myself even thinking that I am somehow superior to them because I see the error of their way and I found the right path.

This type of judgement is just as bad.  It shows my attitude and posture towards other Christians in whom I perceive the tendencies of legalism. Christ has been so patient with me, yet I’ve not always been as patient with them.

Instead, I’ve become so preoccupied with what I perceive to be their tendencies toward an imbalanced judgement of others and a separatist denominational spirit that I’ve sometimes lost sight of God’s grace in their hearts and ministries. This too is a legalistic tendency and needs to be erased from my life.

I also see that attitude among other believer’s that have come out from that background.  The very same haughtiness and judgment that I have witnessed in those that held to legalistic rules and regulations I see in those who are critical of  legalism.  They have no idea that they are just as guilty.

Thank God for Grace… after all, it’s His work, His power, and His presence in our everyday lives that becomes our true source of confidence and strength as we follow Him together.

I am still in recovery and I have a way to go. But now instead of keeping my eyes on the deeds and actions of others, I will fix my eyes on cross of Calvary.  I am starting to see forgiveness much differently than I have in the past. In the past I would simply ask God to forgive my unforgiveness of others… the older I get I see that God wants me to ask forgiveness of those that I have something against. Like Jesus Christ who forgave those that betrayed Him, I need to forgive those that have done me wrong.

So if you can relate to this story, please let me know… there is strength in numbers.  I need to continue my path to recovery and your invited to come along for the journey.  Maybe we can all find forgiveness along the way.

 

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“Not Guilty”

I stand accused.   There is no place to hide. The truth is soon to be revealed for all to see because this is the day I am to give account for my life.  The list of all my sins and everything I’ve done wrong is a mile long. 

I am so ashamed.  I cannot hide behind my words any longer.  My fate is now in the hands of One who judges…

I wait for Him to render His verdict and I hang my head in shame…

But then He turns to me and says, “I know you… I love you… I gave my life to save you.  Love paid the price for Mercy… my verdict…”

“Not guilty.”

How can that be?  I cannot begin to comprehend the kind of Grace that would take the place for all of my sins.

“Not guilty.”

After years of scrutiny and judgment and public ridicule.

“Not guilty.”

Suddenly I see the Cross and the tears well up in my eyes because it should have been me to pay for my own sins.

“Not guilty.”

My fate was in the nail scarred hands.  The debt of my sin was paid when He was nailed there and He said,  “I know you… I love you… I gave my life to save you.  Love paid the price for Mercy… my verdict…”

“Not guilty.”

The song “Not Guilty”  has played in my head and in my heart all this week.  Written by Mandisa and Matthew West, the song has been challenging me to scrutinize my own life and my own indiscretions. How would I measure up with the knowledge that all my sins would be laid before me at seat of God’s judgment?  Would I still have a future and a hope?  I cling to the belief that I have an Intercessor who knows me , loves me and gave His life for me.  Paid the debt of sin for me and provided a way to heaven.

What kind of Grace says “Not Guilty” ?  Only God’s.

Do you know Him today?  Are your sins covered by His grace?  Jesus Christ came to seek and to save those that were lost… all you have to do is accept His gift of forgiveness.  If you would like more information on how you can know Christ as your Savior, please send a note to thelegacybuilder@aol.com and I will get back to you.  May God’s love find you today.

Thank you, Lord.

Lost and Found

Along with our kids, my wife and I worked for a company that held motivational and instructional conferences for small business owners.  We used to travel one weekend each month to Copps Coliseum in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.   While my wife was organizing and coordinating the event from the front office, I was responsible for what we called the “Tool Room”, which was basically the book store where we sold books, tapes, CD’s and other material to help the small business owner build their businesses.  Our kids worked the cash registers and computers as they filled out orders for the more than 10, 000 people who would attend these conferences.  It was a great time in our lives and we all have good memories of the time we worked and traveled together on these trips.

The only aspect that I really hated about the whole experience is that I had to drive the truck to each of these events. While my wife and kids were enjoying each trip in the cRyder Truckomfort of our family van, I was driving a rental truck from Ryder.  If you have never crossed the border in a rental truck after 9-11 then you have never really experienced anything in your life.  Entering into Canada was not the problem.  Getting back into the United States was the issue.  The paperwork was endless and difficult to get it just the way you needed it to cross the border.  About the time you had it down the rules would change.  More than once I did not know about these changes until I got to the gate.  Then the experience would get real… real fast.  

Now I understand that the Border Patrol and Homeland Security Department have a job to do.  I am thankful for the hard work and dedication it takes keeping the United States safe from those who would do us harm.  But as a rule of thumb, if you crossed back into the US, the inquiry and subsequent search made you a tad bit defensive.  You were always assumed guilty and you would have to prove your innocence.  It always seemed to me to be like the old Seinfeld episode of the “Soup Nazi”.  Stand here and don’t speak until spoken to, don’t smile and don’t lean on the counter.  


At any rate, this week I was thinking about the trips we took to Canada and the fun times I had working not only with my family but of working with the friends I made from Canada.  Even though I am friends with some of them on Facebook, I still miss them.  The  memories we made will always be favorites of mine.  I could tell story after story of all the crazy fun stuff we did all those years ago.  They were great times indeed.

I remember specifically one incident that I have carried with me all these years.

After being delayed at the border for a few hours, I was really late getting to Hamilton for our set up for the conference the next morning.  I finally get to Copps Coliseum and all the doors were locked at the loading docks where we would unload our “stuff”.

I finally found an unlocked door and made my way into the empty arena.  I knew where the Security Office was and I made my way down the hall to that office.  I pushed the buzzer on the outside of the office door and the Security Guard sees me and waves for me to open the door.  He tells me that before he can let me in the hall where we needed to set up for the conference, he had to finish doing the inventory of the “Lost and Found” that was delivered to them after the hockey game that was at the arena earlier that evening.

I walked with hilostm into the Lost and Found storage room and watched him as he took inventory off the cart full of items brought in that night.  The Lost and Found Storage Room  was huge.  There was no furniture, but there were rows and rows of shelving units.  There was barely a place to stand as I navigated my way through the  maze of shelves and carts full of coats , hats and gloves.   In hindsight, I guess I expected a walk-in closet. But the room was triple the size of what I’d have guessed it to be. And in it, from wall to wall and floor to ceiling were racks and racks filled with bags of all shapes and sizes.  I was shocked at what I saw.  Besides the standard coats, hats and gloves that you would expect to find, there were cameras, laptops, cell phones, suitcases, briefcases and bags and bags of what looked like clothes.  Just about anything you can imagine I saw in that room.  

 “Whoa!  What a mountain of stuff!”, I said.

 “You’re telling me!”, he chuckled.

“All this stuff is missing?”

 “Not missing…  They’re just waiting for their owners to pick them up.”

“How in the world do people just forget to get their stuff? Don’t they realize they don’t have their camera or laptop?”, I ask.

“That’s thL&Fe least of it! You’d be amazed to know what’s just sitting here, waiting to be claimed.”

I now think back to what I’d seen that night.  Mounds of forgotten, lost and abandoned things, sitting in a holding room, waiting for the right someone to show up and take them home.  How could people be so careless or so reckless?  Didn’t these people know that they “lost” something valuable?  Did they not care that their personal belongings were just waiting there for them to claim?

And in the last few days since I remembered this story,  the words of that Security Guard have lingered in my head and my heart.

“You’d be amazed to know what’s just sitting here, waiting to be claimed.”

I’ve caught myself wondering if that could be said of me. What else is lying up on a shelf, forgotten, lost or abandoned and waiting for me to claim it?

The more I live, the more I’m convinced that fulfilling our purpose in life isn’t automatic.  I sure wish I could believe we don’t miss anything important in this life, but I can’t honestly make that case. We don’t accomplish everything we’re meant to do just by being, or obtain everything meant to benefit us and others simply because we’re moving and breathing.  We have to want it.  We have to want to get what was meant for us.

 Our life is ours to claim. But far too many of us don’t reach for more because we find it hard to believe there could be more for us than what we see.

Jesus Christ has prepared a way of  forgiveness of our sin and a way to eternal Salvation.  It is ours to have.  It is just sitting there waiting for us to “claim” it from a loving God, who provided this by offering up His only Son to die on the Cross for our sins.

Besides the Salvation and Forgiveness that is found in Jesus Christ, there are many other blessings that come from God that are there for us to claim. This week, I’ve spent some time imagining a room filled from floor to ceiling with all the good things meant for us.  Things meant for us to be.  Things meant for us to have. Things for us to do and to give in this life. 

Have you considered and wondered if  there’s more waiting for you?

  • Maybe a deeper love for your family and friends?
  • A greater purpose and fulfillment in your work?
  • Blessings beyond your hopes and needs?
  • More for you to contribute to the world around you?
  • Maybe a legacy that would shape generations to come?
  • What if your life was meant for more than you’ve ever hoped or imagined?

 With open hands and an open heart… ask for it.

 You’d be amazed to know what’s just sitting here, waiting to be claimed.

Seeing Eternity

“Are you blind?” I screamed at the basketball official.

Coaching Boys Varsity Basketball against Findlay

I screamed that as a statement as opposed to the question it ended up being.   Truth be told,  I wasn’t looking for a response.  To be exact,  I should have just yelled out… “You are Blind!!!”  That would have been more appropriate for the situation.  Either way… I made my point and then he made his.   He stopped the game and he came ever so close to giving me my first technical foul of my career.  He walked calmly over to me and asked me if I would kindly sit and keep my comments to myself.  For the record, in over 10 years of coaching I had never received a technical foul.  That is not to say I probably didn’t deserve one… I am sure I did. This story is a confirmation of the fact that I should have received one.

As I look back at that time in my life, I am amazed that I really reacted like that.   Some twenty years after I coached my last high school game,  I am convinced that I took it way too serious.  In truth, I wanted to win so bad that at times my heart hurt when we lost.  Looking back, I think it was way more important to me  than it was for the kids.  A few minutes after the game they would be laughing and being teenagers and I was still so ramped up that I would get angry at their lack of concern of losing the game.   I was a fool and there are a few memories that still haunt me to this day.   

There are times I wish I could go back and show them the proper way to react to a loss.  I  would love to show them that the greatest lessons in life were those I learned when I failed.  To be sure… I am not the man I used to be.  God has a way humbling those that need it and He wasted no time in putting me in my place as I sojourned my way through this life.  The truth is that I have learned that none of that ever mattered and some of the very events in my life that I thought were so critical to success in this life are so insignificant.

In the grand scheme of things, to be honest, “your life” is not even an event on the timeline of eternity.  It’s a blip.  Not even a ripple on the vast ocean of time.  An almost insignificant dimple on the page of history.   But much like the vision of the basketball official,  our vision is so limited, we only see “now” and fail to focus on some amazing things that are truly important to our lives.   We need to focus our sight on things that truly matter.

Frankly, we all need glasses.   Most of the people I know are badly near-sighted.   Their vision is only able to focus on “here” and “now”.   Their decisions and desires are all based on this life….taking care of retirement, saving for “the future” and making decisions to “make them happy.”    Their vision is on an amazingly small part of eternity that is called “life”.   Everything they do, every decision they make and even how they spend their time is based on their near-sighted focus on “life” and “now” as it relates to their time here on earth.   God makes it very clear in His Word that our lives we are short in light of eternity.

Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.   James 4:14

There is a better way…

Our vision of God is so blurry because we rarely try to focus solely on Him.   It’s hard for us to get this most amazing God in focus and so for most of us our vision is quite blurry about who He is, what He’s like, what He thinks about me.  We are too focused on our own issues that we miss the opportunities to get to know Him.  Having the focus on ourselves will make it hard for us to focus on anything else beyond our near-sighted world.   It will make it hard for us to see what our life could be.

The desire of my heart is to now focus on eternity.  Most people have no clue as to what “eternity” really means.  We simply can’t imagine it.  It’s just so….eternal!  Forever and ever.   I think that’s why it’s so blurry to our vision.  I want the right kind of spiritual glasses so that I can focus on eternal things.

Here’s the part of this that must come into focus for all of us.  What we do with Christ in this life will determine our eternal destiny.   We have this “blip” of a life to make decisions about Him and those decisions will determine our eternity ahead.   The very reason Jesus became a man was to provide a solution for our eternal problem.  He said, “God loves you so much that He sent me to die for your sins. If you will believe in me I will give you eternal life.”  

The implication is clear,  if you don’t believe in Him (trust Him for salvation) then you have what every man has apart from faith in Christ – eternal death.   It is the most important thing we could possibly do with our lives, the most important decision we will ever make and yet our focus is on “now” and “happiness” and “our needs.”

I know, in my own life, I live most of my days with the distant horizon out of focus, but I’m praying for a vision for eternity, eyes that look into the days ahead and make decisions today because they will affect me for all of eternity.   I’m praying for eyes to see, so that I can make decisions for eternity and not just for today.

I so wish for you to focus your eyes on eternity and Jesus Christ for your Salvation.

Eternity awaits, all you have to do is focus…

God Is Just Not Fair

I remember when I was a kid, I will would repeat these words whenever I felt I was wronged by another person, “that’s not fair!”.   Truth is… it probably wasn’t fair but my mom taught me early on that life wasn’t fair.

I have had this lesson proven to me in a variety of ways over the years.  Without boring you with the details of a sad story about how I was done wrong at some point in my life, take my word for it,  I have lived most of life knowing that life wasn’t fair and it never would be.

It didn’t make much sense to me as a kid, but I now find myself repeating it frequently to my own kids.  As I have grown older, and hopefully a little bit wiser, I have come to appreciate the simple truth of that statement.

Fairness has become the battle cry of our society.  When something isn’t fair, it is viewed as inherently wrong or even evil.  We have gone from a culture and society here in the United States which was built on the idea of equal opportunity and “evolved” into a culture that expects an equal outcome.  Kids do not fail, everyone gets a trophy, and people bring presents to a birthday party for the other kids in the family because they don’t want them to feel left out.  We live in a culture that demands fairness at all times and in all respects.

The problem is – fairness is NOT a biblical concept.  The God we serve is a God of justice, but nowhere in the Bible does it indicate that he is “fair.”  Indeed, the idea of fair is a very human concept.  The Bible never attributes the idea of fairness to God.

Let me explain…

Jesus didn’t carry any swords or spears.   He didn’t have an army behind him. His only weapon was his mouth, and it was his message that got him into trouble.   He made people so angry that they wanted to kill him.

His message was seen not merely as wrong—it was dangerous.   It was subversive.   It threatened to upset the social world of Judaism.   But what kind of message could make the religious leaders so angry that they would kill the messenger? One idea that could anger the religious leaders is found in Matthew 9:13:  “I have not come to call the righteous, but the sinners.” Jesus had a message of good news for sinners, but people who considered themselves good often thought that Jesus preached bad news.

Jesus invited prostitutes and tax collectors into the kingdom of God, and the good people didn’t like that. “That’s not fair,” they may have said. “We have been working hard to be good, and why can they get into the kingdom without working hard? If you don’t keep sinners out, it isn’t fair!”

Jesus was preaching that God is not fair. Most people think that fairness requires equal treatment for everyone, but when it comes to salvation, God simply isn’t fair. Even today, people don’t like to hear that idea.   Good Christian people want God to be fair—but he isn’t.

GOD IS MORE THAN FAIR

God is just…not fair.   The title of this post is “God is Just Not Fair”.  When the word “just”  is used as  it is in the sentence, it simply states that God is “the same as” not being fair.  However, when you use the word  “just” as an adjective the definition of the word changes.  For example,  Merriam – Webster dictionary defines the word “just” when used as an adjective as follows:

1
a : having a basis in or conforming to fact or reason : reasonable <a just but not a generous decision>
b archaic : faithful to an original
c : conforming to a standard of correctness : proper <just proportions>
2

a (1) : acting or being in conformity with what is morally upright or good : righteous <a just war> (2) : being what is merited : deserved <a just punishment>

b : legally correct : lawful

By definition…it means that God is reasonable, faithful, proper, righteous, deserving and lawful.

So in fact God is  “Just” which is more than fair.  His grace is far beyond anything we could deserve.  God is generous, full of grace, full of mercy, loving us even though we don’t deserve it.

That kind of message bothers religious leaders and all who say that the harder you work, the more you will get; if you behave better, you will get a better reward.  Religious leaders like to have that kind of message, because it makes it easy to motivate people to work hard, to do right, to live right.

But Jesus says, It isn’t so.

If you have dug a really deep pit for yourself, if you have messed up time and time again, if you have been the worst sort of sinner, you don’t have to work your way out of the pit to be given salvation.  God simply forgives you for the sake of Jesus.  You don’t have to deserve it—God simply does it.  You just need to believe it.  You just need to trust God, to take him at his word:  Your sin debt is removed from the record.

But it seems that some people are distressed at this kind of news. “Look, I’ve been working hard to get out of the pit,” they might say, “and I am almost out. You mean to tell me that ‘those’ people are pulled out of the pit instantly, without having to do any work at all?  That’s not fair!”

No,  grace is not “fair”—it is grace—it is a gift we did not deserve.  God can be generous to whomever he wants to be generous to, and the good news is that he offers his generosity to everyone.  It is fair in the sense that it extends to everyone, even though this means that he forgives some people a big debt, and some people a smaller debt—the same arrangement for all even though there are different circumstances.

It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been in the church or how many sacrifices you have made; those are nothing in comparison to what God is giving us.  The Apostle Paul worked harder than any of us; he made more sacrifices for the gospel than we realize, but he counted it all as a loss for Christ.  It was nothing.

To be completely honest,  we really do not want what is fair.  Because fair for us is hell. We do not deserve the gift of grace that God gives us. If God were merely “fair” we would all have to pay for our sin.   That payment for our sin would eternal separation from God.  I believe that it would mean an eternity in Hell.  Jesus Christ paid the debt of our sin by His death on the cross.  By His resurrection we have the hope of an eternity in Heaven with Him.  It is a free gift and nothing you  can do will make you worthy of God’s grace.

So is God fair?  No, He is not fair… He’s “just” and I am so thankful that He is.  How about you?


Do You Want to Know A Secret?

Do you  want to know a secret?  I am finally willing to come clean and let all of you in on a little secret that I have been carrying for years.    It will be good to release of this secret that I have been holding on to for so long.   I know that none of you that are reading this post will reveal my secret.    I am sure that you are not like those that were part of a  study of 3,000 men and women (aged 18 to 65) done by the University of California.
Results of this study showed:
  • Typically, people will spill the beans to someone else in less than two hours after receiving the secret.
  • Four in ten would repeat the secret no matter how sensitive or intimate the subject was.
  • Boyfriends, husbands, best friends and mothers were most likely to be initial recipients of the information.
  • No matter how precious the piece of information, it’s often out in the public domain via the computer  in some form within 24 hours.  Permanently out in the world-wide web with no way to delete it.
  • Nine in ten women (30 – 65) deem themselves trustworthy –  but they still spill the secret as quickly as anyone.
  • The study found that the average man or woman hears three pieces of gossip each week, and will pass it on to at least one other person.
  • Three in ten ‘have the urge’ to reveal secrets, with nearly half telling another to ‘simply get it off their chest’.
  • Religious background made no difference in the frequency of sharing the secret.
  • However, two-thirds end up feeling guilty after spilling the beans.
  • Three quarters of men claim they are capable of keeping quiet about a secret, and 83 per cent consider themselves 100 per cent trustworthy.
  • More than six in ten people think it is acceptable to share a friend’s secret with someone who does not know them.
  • Over 40 per cent saying their husband is their ultimate confidante.
  • Intimate issues, true cost of purchases and affairs emerged top of the secret-sharing list.
With this information taken in consideration, I am confident that the readers of my blog and this post will not share the details of the secret I am about to finally share. If you do succumb to the temptation and give in and share my secret, I hope that you know that you will be responsible for the content of that which you share.  You will be held accountable for “knowing”  the secret and will be judged for knowing it.
So now on to my secret. First, let me say that there I share this with some embarrassment.  I am ashamed that I have not been more forthcoming with this information.  I have, at times, been out in the open with it and in the past some people have even saw it in me.  So this information may not shock everyone, but for some it will be a surprise. For those that read this and are surprised by my secret, I am sorry.   I apologize for being deceptive in the way I presented myself.
The secret I need to reveal today, is the fact that I believe that Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life.
I also believe the following:

  • I affirm my belief in one God, infinite Spirit, Creator, and Sustainer of all things, who exists eternally in three persons, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. These three are one in essence but distinct in person and function.
  • I affirm that the Father is the first person of the Trinity and the source of all that God is and does. From Him the Son is eternally generated and from Them the Spirit eternally proceeds. He is the Designer of creation, the Speaker of revelation, the Author of redemption, and the Sovereign of history.
  • I affirm that the Lord Jesus Christ is the second person of the Trinity, eternally begotten from the Father. He is God. He was conceived by the virgin Mary through a miracle of the Holy Spirit. He lives forever as perfect God and perfect man: two distinct natures inseparably united in one person.
  • I affirm that the Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity, proceeding from the Father and the Son and equal in deity. He is the giver of all life, active in the creating and ordering of the universe; He is the agent of inspiration and the new birth; He restrains sin and Satan; and He indwells and sanctifies all believers.
  • I affirm that all things were created by God. Angels were created as ministering agents, though some, under the leadership of Satan, fell from their sinless state to become agents of evil. The universe was created in six historical days and is continuously sustained by God; thus it both reflects His glory and reveals His truth. Human beings were directly created, not evolved, in the very image of God. As reasoning moral agents, they are responsible under God for understanding and governing themselves and the world.
  • I affirm that the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, though written by men, was supernaturally inspired by God so that all its words are the written true revelation of God; it is therefore inerrant in the originals and authoritative in all matters. It is to be understood by all through the illumination of the Holy Spirit, its meaning determined by the historical, grammatical, and literary use of the author’s language, comparing Scripture with Scripture.
  • I affirm that Adam, the first man, willfully disobeyed God, bringing sin and death into the world. As a result, all persons are sinners from conception, which is evidenced in their willful acts of sin; and they are therefore subject to eternal punishment, under the just condemnation of a holy God.
  • I affirm that Jesus Christ offered Himself as a sacrifice by the appointment of the Father. He fulfilled the demands of God by His obedient life, died on the cross in full substitution and payment for the sins of all, was buried, and on the third day He arose physically and bodily from the dead. He ascended into heaven where He now intercedes for all believers.
  • I affirm that each person can be saved only through the work of Jesus Christ, through repentance of sin and by faith alone in Him as Savior. The believer is declared righteous, born again by the Holy Spirit, turned from sin, and assured of heaven.
  • I affirm that the Holy Spirit indwells all who are born again, conforming them to the likeness of Jesus Christ. This is a process completed only in Heaven. Every believer is responsible to live in obedience to the Word of God in separation from sin.
  • I affirm that a church is a local assembly of baptized believers, under the discipline of the Word of God and the lordship of Christ, organized to carry out the commission to evangelize, to teach, and to administer the ordinances of believer’s baptism and the Lord’s table. Its offices are pastors and deacons, and it is self-governing. It functions through the ministry of gifts given by the Holy Spirit to each believer.
  • I affirm that the return of Christ for all believers is imminent. It will be followed by seven years of great tribulation, and then the coming of Christ to establish His earthly kingdom for a thousand years. The unsaved will then be raised and judged according to their works and separated forever from God in hell. The saved, having been raised, will live forever in heaven in fellowship with God.
Salvation Begins With God

Have you felt the “tug” of God on your heart?  Becoming a Christian is one of the most important steps you will take in your life on earth.

This call to salvation begins with God. He initiates it by drawing us to come to Him.

    John 6:44
    “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him …”
    Revelation 3:20
    “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in …”

Human Efforts are Futile

God desires an intimate relationship with us, but we cannot obtain it through our own efforts.

    Isaiah 64:6
    “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags…”
    Romans 3:10-12
    “…There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”

Separated by Sin

We have a problem.   Our sin separates us from God, leaving us spiritually empty.

    Romans 3:23
    “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

It is impossible for us to find peace with God through our own efforts. Anything we try to do to obtain God’s favor or gain salvation is worthless and futile.

A Gift from God

Salvation then, is a gift from God. He offers the gift through Jesus, his Son. By laying down his life on the cross, Christ took our place and paid the ultimate price, the penalty for our sin — death. Jesus is our only way to God.

    John 14:6
    “Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.”
    Romans 5:8
    “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Responding to God’s Call

The only thing we must do is respond to God’s call.

But how? How do I become a Christian?

Receiving God’s gift of salvation is not complicated. The response to God’s call is explained in these simple steps found in God’s Word:

1) Admit you are a sinner and turn away from your sin.

    Acts 3:19 says: Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.”

Repent literally means “a change of mind that results in a change of action.” To repent, then, means to admit you are a sinner. You change your mind to agree with God that you are a sinner. The resulting “change in action” is, of course, the turning away from sin.

2)  Believe Jesus Christ died on the cross to save you from your sins and give you eternal life.

    John 3:16 says: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”

Believing in Jesus is also a part of repenting. You change your mind from unbelief to belief, which results in a change of action.

3)   Come to Him by faith.

    In John 14:6 Jesus said: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.”

Faith in Jesus Christ is a change of mind that results in a change of action—coming to him.

4)  You may pray a simple prayer to God.

You may want to make your response to God a prayer. Prayer is simply communicating with God. Pray using your own words. There is no special formula. Just pray from your heart to God, and believe that he has saved you. If you feel lost and just don’t know what to pray, here’s a prayer of salvation you can pray.

Dear Lord,

I admit that I am a sinner. I have done many things that don’t please you. I have lived my life for myself. I am sorry and I repent. I ask you to forgive me. I believe that you died on the cross for me, to save me. You did what I could not do for myself. I come to you now and ask you to take control of my life, I give it to you. Help me to live every day in a way that pleases you. I love you, Lord, and I thank you that I will spend all eternity with you.

Amen

So there you have it.  My secret.  To those of you that were expecting more I am sorry.  I am also sorry that I have not been a better example to my family, friends and co-worker of what Christ has done in me.  I want to be a better example and I do not ever want to apologize again for my faith.

If you would like to talk more about my secret, I would be happy to do that with you.  Just send a note to thelegacybuilder@aol.com and I will respond.

And remember, it’s only a secret until you tell somebody.  Share the testimony of what Jesus Christ has done  for you.

” For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”  Luke 9:26