Put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:24)
Christianity means change is possible. Deep, fundamental change. It is possible to become tender-hearted when once you were callous and insensitive. It is possible to stop being dominated by bitterness and anger. It is possible to become a loving person no matter what your background has been.
The Bible assumes that God is the decisive factor in making us what we should be. With wonderful bluntness, the Bible says, “Put away malice and be tender-hearted.” It does not say, “If you can…” Or: “If your parents were tender-hearted to you…” Or: “If you weren’t terribly wronged…” It says, “Be tender-hearted.”
This is wonderfully freeing. It frees us from the terrible fatalism that says change is impossible for me. It frees me from mechanistic views that make my background my destiny.
And God’s commands always come with freeing, life-changing truth to believe.
So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief. (Hebrews 3:19)
Even though the people of Israel saw the waters of the Red Sea divide and they walked over on dry ground, the moment they got thirsty, their hearts were hard against God and they did not trust him to take care of them. They cried out against him and said that life in Egypt was better.
That is what this verse is written to prevent. O how many professing Christians make a start with God. They hear that their sins can be forgiven and that they can escape hell and go to heaven. And they say: “What have I got to lose? I’ll believe.”
But then in a week or a month or a year or ten years, the test comes — a season of no water in the wilderness. A weariness with manna, and subtly a growing craving for the fleeting pleasures of Egypt, as Numbers 11:5–6 says, “We remember the fish which we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic, but now our appetite is gone. There is nothing at all to look at except this manna.”
This is a terrifying condition to be in — to find yourself no longer interested in Christ and his Word and prayer and worship and missions and living for the glory of God. And to find all fleeting pleasures of this world more attractive than the things of the Spirit.
If that is your situation, I plead with you to listen to the Holy Spirit speaking in this text. Give heed to the Word of God. Do not harden your heart. Wake up to the deceitfulness of sin. Consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our great confession, and hold fast to your confidence and hope in him.
And if you have never even made a start with God, then put your hope in him. Turn from sin and from self-reliance and put your confidence in a great Savior. These things are written that you might believe and endure, and have life everlasting.
Through faith in Jesus, we move from our lost condition to adoption into God’s family. Unless we trust in Christ, we face permanent alienation from the heavenly Father. On judgment day, each person’s eternal destiny will be determined, based on that individual’s spiritual state. Members of God’s family will live in heaven with Him. But those who remain blind to divine truth, which is found only in Jesus, will be sent away to live in eternal torment (Revelation 20:12-15).
Many people struggle to reconcile this teaching with the concept of a loving God. They reason that love would not condemn anyone to torment. The truth is, the Father desires reconciliation with man—not separation. His love for us motivated Him to provide all we need to receive forgiveness and thereby be reconciled to Him. It is man’s choice to refuse or accept God’s provision of Jesus as the remedy to the sin problem. An unsaved person can’t blame God for his eternal state; his suffering will be due to his own rebellion against the Lord.
A second common objection says, “Love would accept people on the basis of their moral lives and good deeds.” This argument assumes that God ignores sin and bases His decision about heaven on behavior. But since He is holy and just, He won’t allow sin to go unpunished. Because of His great love, however, He provided a way for our sin debt to be paid—through Jesus’ atoning death.
God shows no favoritism. He extends love toward the whole lost world and invites everyone to come to Him through faith in His Son Jesus Christ.
Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. (James 4:8)
This verse means that there is a precious experience of peace and assurance and harmony and intimacy that is not unconditional. It depends on our not grieving the Spirit.
It depends on our putting away bad habits. It depends on forsaking the petty inconsistencies of our Christian lives. It depends on our walking closely with God and aiming at the highest degree of holiness.
If this is true, I fear that the unguarded reassurances today that God’s love is unconditional may stop people from doing the very things the Bible says they need to do in order to have the peace that they so desperately crave. In trying to give peace through “unconditionality” we may be cutting people off from the very remedy the Bible prescribes.
Let us declare untiringly the good news that our justification is based on the worth of Christ’s obedience and sacrifice, not ours (Romans 5:19, “as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous”).
But let us also declare the biblical truth that the enjoyment of that justification in its effect on our joy and confidence and power to grow in likeness to Jesus is conditioned on our actively forsaking sins and forsaking bad habits and mortifying lusts and pursuing intimacy with Christ, and not grieving the Spirit.
Zaccheus worked as a chief tax collector for the Roman government. His profession caused him to be despised by his fellow Jews. When Jesus sought him out and asked to visit his home, the crowd was dismayed—the Lord was associating with someone whose conduct made him a sinner in their eyes. The Savior responded, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).
The word lost is a biblical term used to describe the spiritual situation of everyone who has yet to receive Jesus Christ as his or her personal Savior. In this state, a person is separated from God—there is physical life but no spiritual connection to the heavenly Father. Lost doesn’t have to do with physical location; it speaks instead of spiritual deadness (Eph. 2:1), when the mind is blind to the truth of God.
Man’s sinfulness was established through the disobedient action of the first human being—Adam. When he supported Eve’s plan and disobeyed God, his nature became one of rebellion, and all generations from then on have inherited his sinful flesh tendencies. Everyone is born into this world with a nature bent away from God (Rom. 5:12).
Zaccheus was a sinner because of his lost condition, not because of his greedy profession. Good behavior doesn’t make us a Christian, nor does bad conduct disqualify us. The tax collector received salvation through faith in Jesus. By trusting in Christ as Savior, we, like Zaccheus, are no longer lost; we’re made spiritually alive. Hallelujah!
Have you ever thought about the church names we banter about? They don’t exist in heaven. Because it’s not the denomination that saves you. And I wonder, if there are no denominations in heaven, why do we have denominations on earth?
I know this is a crazy thought—but what would happen if all the churches agreed, on a given day, to change their names simply to “church?” And then when people chose which church to attend, they wouldn’t do so by the sign outside, they’d do so by the hearts of the people inside. And then when people were asked what church they attended, their answer wouldn’t be a label but just a location. And then we Christians wouldn’t be known for what divides us; instead we’d be known for what unites us—our common Father.
Crazy idea? Perhaps. But I think God would like it. It was His idea to begin with!
Where do you stand with the Lord? Are you in a right relationship with Him or have your own desires and plans taken over? Feeling guilty about this is normal as I believe it’s God’s way of knocking on your heart and asking you to take a look at yourself.
God doesn’t want you to feel guilty about the sins you’ve committed in the past. He doesn’t want you to feel shame either. Shame and constant reminders of your troubled past are the devil’s tools to bring you down. The devil wants you to reach such a low point in your feelings about yourself that you give up and continue to give in to your sinful desires.
Jesus Christ came into this world for one reason. He came to save you from your sins and all of the hurtful baggage that comes along with it. Jesus suffered but He had a major resource to turn to. God the Father supplied Him with all that He needed to help us in our times of need.
Continuing to harbor guilt and shame about past sins in essence says that you are hanging on to the problem instead of releasing it to God and receiving forgiveness. God doesn’t want you to be unhappy and in a constant state of shame. He wants the very best for you in every aspect of your life.
God tells His people in Isaiah 43:18-19, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”
God is making a path for you away from your past into newness of life. Isn’t that great? So, where do you stand with the Lord today?