Freedom!

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Convicted!

“Warning: Hitchhikers may be escaping inmates.” So said the orange sign we passed on an Oklahoma highway.

Hearing about someone who lived next door to the Huntsville prison, a teenager commented, “I wouldn’t want to live next to a prison.” His dad replied, “Better next to than in.”

Some years ago several of us visited the Gurney Unit near Tennessee Colony, Texas. Overlooking the locked gate, the guard kept watch. At the base of the tall enclosure were long coils of razor wire, making escape next to impossible.

Even if an inmate could somehow slip past the guards and over the top, he must always be looking over his shoulder. Out of prison, he can never truly relax as a free man. Really, he isn’t. Legally, he is still a prisoner.

Acquitted!

While we may or may not have done anything that would land us in jail, we have all done things that condemn us to hell (Romans 3:23; 6:23; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Galatians 5:19-21; Revelation 21:8). It’s true, so we might as well admit it.

The worst prison on earth can’t compare with the horrors of an eternal hell. Let’s do everything required of us to escape the sentence that will surely be ours if we don’t get right with God. He is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

Though innocent, Jesus was willing to die as a convicted criminal in the most horrible fashion. Because He died in our place, God offers each of us a pardon we surely do not deserve.

It is a pardon that allows us to walk out of our cell on death row, through the gates of sin’s prison, and out into the fresh air and blue skies of freedom! God wipes our record clean.

Nothing we’ve done will ever be held against us. He offers us a fresh start, a new beginning. “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).

Released!

Have you taken the steps to obtain the freedom He so much wants to give you? (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:37-38; 22:16).

Why stay locked up when freedom is so available?

Using a similar analogy of the slavery of sin vs. the glorious freedom He offers, Jesus promised, “. . . everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin . . . . So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:34, 36).

 

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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Reconciled!

Many believe it’s the greatest story Jesus ever told: the dramatic parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32). What can we learn from the beautiful reunion of a loving father and his wayward son?

Reconciliation depends on repentance (our part).

Though the word repentance is not found in the story, it is obvious that the Prodigal was truly penitent. Once he humbled his willful heart, he was ready to go home. His words, “I have sinned,” are not just appropriate, they are essential.

Reconciliation depends on grace (God’s part).

The Prodigal knew he was in no position to demand anything. Whatever his father might be willing to give him would be better than what he had, which was nothing.

Reconciliation calls for a celebration!

The father graciously granted him a royal welcome, complete with robe, ring, shoes, and a party! This is one of the best illustrations of grace in the Bible!

Reconciliation is horizontal as well as vertical.

The glum attitude of the elder brother casts a long shadow on the celebration. Not only was he unwilling to be reconciled to his brother, but he himself felt estranged from his own father. Self-righteousness is both ugly and self-defeating.

Why this story?

The main reason Jesus told this story was to help the Pharisees understand why He chose to spend time with those for whom they had no use (verses 1-3). Like the Prodigal, these sinners were coming home. Like the elder brother, the Pharisees could not understand God’s heart for reconciliation.

When God receives a sinner home, so should we!

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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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Having the Heart of God Toward Sinners

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The main character of the book of Jonah is not Jonah, but God. Jonah tries to escape God’s order to preach to Nineveh by heading the opposite direction. By means of the storm at sea and the fish that swallowed Jonah, God compels the reluctant prophet to carry out his mission.

Like and unlike

Like Jesus, Jonah was from Galilee (2 Kings 14:25). Also Jesus compared His time in the tomb with Jonah’s “three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster” (Matthew 12:40).

Jonah may have been like Jesus in some ways, but how different his attitude! God sent both Jonah and Jesus on a mission. Jesus went willingly and yearned to see people turn from their sins. Jonah was keenly disappointed when the Ninevites repented, because now he wouldn’t have the pleasure of seeing God punish them!

Jonah’s problem was not that he misunderstood God’s compassionate nature. He understood it very well: “. . . for I knew that You are a gracious God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness . . .” (Jonah 4:2). This proves that one can have orthodox theology while harboring a rotten attitude.

Learning from Jonah’s experience

We don’t know what happened to Jonah after this, but it is God who has the last word: “Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than   120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?” (Jonah 4:11).

Both Jonah and the Ninevites needed to repent. If we humble ourselves in penitent obedience, we too will enjoy the benefits of His grace–and we can begin to reflect toward others His great compassionate heart.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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Far More

stars on the dark

Something to think about . . . .

God never does anything halfway.

He filled the universe with untold billions of stars.

In crossing the Red Sea, Israel walked through on dry ground (no muddy shoes!).

When Jesus fed the multitudes, everyone ate all they wanted—with twelve basketsful left over.

But there’s more . . . .

Paul writes of “the riches of His grace which He lavished on us” (Ephesians 1:7-8).

“He who did not spare His own Son . . . how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32).

God “is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think . . .” (Ephesians 3:20).

Riches . . . lavished . . . freely . . . far more abundantly . . . .

Can words describe it?

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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Grace and Baptism

 

To say that baptism is essential to salvation does not contradict the truth that we are saved by grace (Titus 3:4-7).

We can never earn our salvation. Baptism is a condition of salvation (John 3:5; Acts 2:38; 22:16).

A remarkable parallel

Dipping seven times in the Jordan was a condition for Naaman to be cleansed of leprosy (2 Kings 5). Could he expect a cure without going to the water?

Was there something about Jordan River water that cleansed leprosy? No, Naaman was healed on the condition of his obedience. Cleansed by the grace of God, he had nothing to boast about.

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Grace applied

Water cannot wash away sins; Christ’s blood does. When? At the moment we are buried with Him in baptism (Colossians 2:12-13).

Praise be to God for His marvelous grace!

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Sex in Context

Seeing sex through God’s eyes

God invented sex. He pronounced it good (Genesis 1:27-28, 31).

God designed sex for our good and our pleasure.

Sex is beautiful in context. The context is marriage.

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All sexual relations outside of marriage, God says, are out of bounds. This includes premarital sex, cohabitation, homosexuality, and adultery.

Honoring God’s boundaries brings us the greatest good in the long run.

Ignoring His will about sex is self-destructive (1 Corinthians 6:13-20).

Turning to the God who loves us!

“Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled, for fornicators and adulterers God will judge” (Hebrews 13:4).

Good news! When we turn to Him in penitent obedience, He is merciful to forgive (1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Titus 3:3-7).

He makes us brand-new people, living for Christ, no longer for ourselves (2 Corinthians 5:14-17).

He loves us that much!

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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Learning to Receive

“Thanks, but no thanks!”

Years ago when we arrived here with our moving truck, what if we had told those who came to help, “Thanks, but you can all go on home. We’re going to unload it all ourselves”?

What are some advantages of receiving? 1) It gives others an opportunity to serve. 2) It keeps us humble. 3) It doesn’t pay to be too independent.

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“Lord, help me!”

When you think about it, salvation is not a do-it-yourself project. “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6).

At “the right time” He died.

Have you received yet what He died to give you (Acts 2:36-38, 41; Titus 3:5)? If not, isn’t it “the right time”?

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/ 

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