Sin and Salvation

John 3:16

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

Last week we had a Word on the worship of self and self-power, something we tend to call willpower. However, salvation is not something you do. It is something Jesus did. The point being, salvation is not a matter of willpower.

What, then, is sin? Sin is anything that displaces Jesus’ rightful place. So, you can see from this an assertion I made last week. It is not a far reach to say that willpower is sin because it replaces Jesus as the power to salvation.

I used to think of sin this way, “Sin is doing anything Jesus told me not to do or not doing anything he told me to do.” On the surface, that sounds like a pretty decent definition, but it is off about a mile and a half. Why? It is because that definition applies to actions. It is behavioral. Sin is in the heart. You see, if we let Jesus fix our hearts, sin will not be a problem. My former definition relies on my willpower, my strength and conviction rather than the transformative power of Jesus.

This is why the modern evangelical movement sometimes fails. It relies on a misunderstanding of God, Jesus and love. If we could begin to fathom even the most superficial meaning of John 3: 16, we could help millions of people find salvation. Salvation is found in the love of Jesus and God the Father, and it is only in that love that any of us are saved. If we have tried to be “good;” if we have tried to be saints, then we have failed because salvation isn’t in the behaviors, and it most certainly is not in the power of our self. Will and power belong to God and Him alone. When we try to be good in our own power that is a loud declaration that we don’t need God. Have you not read where Jesus said, “No one is good but God alone,” (Mark 10: 18). None of us are good. Jesus rejected being called good so why are we struggling to be good. No, the only good is in our surrender to Jesus and our Father. In them, we are righteous. Our will and our power have nothing to do with it.

So, how do we tell others of this salvation? There are essentially two camps. There is the fire and brimstone camp and the love camp. The love camp sounds like a bunch of hippies. The fire and brimstone camp at least sounds righteous, right? It tells us to clean up our act and be saved. Otherwise, we are going to hell. However, I would argue this approach is vanity and borderline insanity. Even the world knows that you catch a lot more flies with honey. How can we hear that saying over and over again and yet not understand its meaning? It has become a cliché for a reason. Is the threat of going to hell an effective evangelical tool? Is it kind? Is it loving? Where does “For God so loved the world” fit into that paradigm? Better still, do we believe that a person will fall in love with Jesus if their motivation is simply to avoid hell? This is ludicrous. Salvation exists because of love. I doubt anyone will fall in love with Jesus because we threaten them with hell.

Salvation and evangelism, I believe, can be summed up this way – it is loving God and loving people. Furthermore, to demand that people act a certain way or clean up their behaviors so that God can save them flies in the face of everything the New Testament teaches. We ask people to control themselves, which is an act of self-will. Why do we need Jesus to save us if we can save ourselves through our acts of self will? It is the fact that we could not save ourselves that sent Jesus to earth, so to ask people, not to give their hearts to Jesus, but to police their behaviors is to deny his saving power and to functionally elevate themselves to Jesus’ throne through self-determination rather than surrender.

We’ve got this sin and salvation thing completely on its head. Do you want to lead someone to salvation? Tell them how much Jesus and Yahweh love them. Tell them about the great love, acceptance and forgiveness. And for yourself, don’t try to be righteous, just surrender and you will be. Don’t fight against a sin problem. Give it to Jesus. Let him fight it. You just get under his wing and let him be your savior.

There is no sin problem in love. Love is the great corrector and healer. If you truly love Jesus, if you get your heart right before him, sin will lose its hold on you. It is in the surrender to him, the letting go of your control and power. It’s one of the hardest things to do but this is what it means to be Jesus’ disciple. That is what you want, right?

Wrath or Love

John 3:16

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.

As I age in the faith, I find that I am beginning to develop some intolerances. I find this interesting and comical in that some of my current positions were not previous strongholds. They have become that, however, and more.

One of the intolerances I am developing is towards those who characterize our Father as angry, judgmental and vengeful. Even people who know and quote today’s scripture sometimes confound its meaning by teaching, preaching and claiming God’s anger. Does an angry, vengeful God sacrifice His only son for miscreants? Only great love can motivate an act so profound. Can you imagine this verse reading, “For God was so angry that He gave His only Son.” Of course not.

God is love and He so loved that He created the greatest act in human history and, for that matter, in the heavens. He sacrificed His one and only for us even when we didn’t love Him. He wasn’t motivated by vengeance. He wasn’t trying to get retribution against an unruly race. He sacrificed the best He had to save the lot of us.

This position is especially enjoyed and understood by those who recognize their lives as in a fallen state. The issue becomes, at once, challenging when we become “the saved.” No longer are we “the world” and we begin to separate ourselves from those unholy heathens. That is when it is important to remind ourselves that God loves them even as He loves and forgives us.

It bothers me when I read books and hear people talk about “we and they” in such a way as to categorize sin and sinners. People have their pet sins and poster board sinners. I hear some ridiculous things and I am beginning to have less and less patience with those who pretend our beloved Father is angry so that they can cast some people into hell while ignoring the love of God, and the person in the mirror.

We can’t know what is in the heart of a person, but we can, and should, know the heart of the Father. Like Jesus, He is moved by compassion; He is motivated by love. Yes, He knows anger, as do we, but we are reminded that though we feel anger, it is no excuse to sin. It is not an excuse to act unbecomingly. Is our Father less graceful than we are instructed to be?

John 3:16 is arguably one of the best know verses in the Bible. Its theme is love, redemption and salvation. We should never use this verse as a means to judge others. To do so is, to me, sacrilege. If we learn only one lesson from the Bible, hold only one Biblical tenet in our hearts and minds, it must be this one, “God is love” (1 John 4: 8). However, that is not all the verse says. It also declares “The one who does not love does not know God.” So, describing God as angry and vengeful is a way to make God in our image. Because we don’t have love in our hearts, we turn God into a wrathful despot so that His reputation mirrors our self-image.

We must be careful in our assessment of others because that person whom we would condemn is the very one whom God loves so much that He sent Jesus to the cross. The purpose in my writing this devotional is to cause a shift in the church paradigm regarding evangelism, salvation and forgiveness. We need less focus on those whom we consider “sinners” and a great deal more attention on the Father, Son and Spirit. It is not for us to judge what is right and wrong, who is a sinner and who is a saint. Even Jesus said he didn’t come to judge (John 3: 17). Verse 17 says all I need to know because we are to walk according to Jesus’ ways. We need to receive the love of God in our own hearts and then share it with the rest of the world. For God so loved. . .


Mathew 8:16 -17

And when evening had come, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed; and He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were ill in order that what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, saying, “He Himself took our infirmities, and carried away our diseases.”

In telling Jesus’ story, Matthew recorded scriptural prophecy being fulfilled. We read this passage from the Prophet Isaiah last Wednesday. It is Isaiah 53: 4 – 5. Isaiah prophesied that Jesus would bear our infirmities and diseases in his body and that by his stripes, we were healed. Jesus took our infirmities, all of them, and he carried away our diseases.

You can hibernate on that language for a long time. If he carried away our disease, where did he carry it? I have a theory on that. I believe he took all of the disease straight to hell and left it there. He didn’t take it to heaven for goodness’ sake. Further, if he took our infirmities, then we don’t have them. Is that right? How can we have what he took? Also, have you thought about the word infirmities. I think that is worth mediation and journaling. What condition do you have in your body that could be classified as an infirmity? It can be any physical weakness. From our youth people, even Christians, convince us that our infirmities, our physical or mental weaknesses, are ours for life. We learn how to manage our infirmities, but first we must accept them. I believe in getting all the help you can from all the sources with healing modalities. I do not, however, believe the infirmity belongs to you or that any of us should accept those abnormalities as our normal. Scripture says Jesus took our infirmities. We have to establish who we are going to believe.

I am not trying to tell you that sickness and disease aren’t real. Injuries, disease, birth defects, that is all real world stuff. I am trying to get us all to believe what the scriptures say and to understand what Jesus did for us. Look again at Isaiah 53: 5, “But he was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging (stripes) we are healed.” We accept, wholeheartedly, that the piercing of his hands and feet to hang him on a cross was successful at taking away our sin. And as an aside, where do you think he left all that sin? Anyway, if we can believe that part of the verse, why are we challenged to believe the second part?

Isn’t this part of the good news? In fact, when I tell you that the scourging Jesus endured did for your health what the cross did for your eternal soul, that he has taken your infirmities so that your body is healed every bit as much as your soul is cleansed, isn’t that great news? How many messages have we heard on what the cross did for us? Have you heard even ten percent as much on the great miracle of healing? Why did Jesus endure such torture? It was not for salvation. It was for healing. Yet, we don’t preach this, or at least, not like we should.

Here is my point. First, you and I have been conditioned to be sick. We have been taught since we were children to accept infirmity and just live with it. Second, we have not been taught the good news about Jesus as healer. If it had been drummed into us at a young age like John 3:16 has been, we would be better able to believe. But since it wasn’t, the work is on you to reverse your programing.

Matthew is making a point in this passage. He is proving to people that Jesus is the Messiah because his healing of people is the fulfillment of scripture. This is an enormously important scripture and lesson. It is by healing that Jesus showed his Messianic mission. The proof was in the healing. It makes perfect sense too because we already know that God said, “I am your healer.” Then, when Jesus came to earth and healed in accordance with scripture, he showed that he was, indeed, from his Father. He healed according to the power that was within him. The Jews of the age should have been able to reconcile all of this for themselves. Some did, but mostly people were unable to connect the dots.

Matthew used examples of Jesus’ life and ministry to prove his deity and here it is. He healed all that were brought to him. In fact, there is not one circumstance where Jesus didn’t heal a person who asked to be healed. This passage specifically says he healed “all.” That is important for us to realize. Maybe that one word is what you needed to hear to make this whole series come alive for you. Jesus isn’t a specialist. He didn’t only heal skin disease. He didn’t only heal orthopedic issues. He didn’t have his apostles sorting through everyone putting them in groups of diseases over which he had authority and others he couldn’t help. He healed all!! Come on. Let this fire up your spirit!!! If you were in that group that day, the pain and infirmity that you carry in your body right now would have been vanquished back to hell where it belongs. YOU WOULD HAVE BEEN HEALED!

So, here is where we are. What makes Jesus different from today than on that faithful day? What makes our infirmities different from those people’s infirmities? If Jesus walked into the room you are in right now, would he have the same power to heal you that he did on that day? Or, maybe because he isn’t in the flesh, he doesn’t have the same effectiveness. What do you think?

This could be the day that you manifest healing. This could be your moment. There are some among you who will receive healing today. You will receive this good news and accept it into your bones and throughout all the tissue of your body and the good word will do its work. By his stripes you were healed.

Please write me and tell me about your healing!

The Good Father

Romans 8: 32

He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?

God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son (John 3:16). What will he not give us now that He has given us His best? Sometimes people have difficulty grasping that Father God is interested in every single aspect of their lives and furthermore that He is willing to help them in all things. But this verse really brings home to us the message that God is more than willing to do all things for you. He is more than willing to give to you all the things you need or want. After all, he sent His only son so that we could be reconciled unto Him. Certainly he did not do that only to remain estranged and far removed from us. No. He has called us into the kingdom of His dear Son so that we can be one with him. He wants to be a good father to us. He will certainly give us all these other things; things we need, things we want. We just seek Him and he adds all the other things so that we never even have to go after them for ourselves. Save your energy. Do not strive for your needs or desires of your heart. After all, He has already provided for your eternal life and blessing. Will he not provide for you in this life too? Will he give you His very best and then withhold the lesser part? I don’t think so. He gives freely and not sparingly to those who love Him.