Friday, December 23, 2011

Sola Fide.

This is a touchy, touchy subject. And I am aware that I might offend some of my readers because they don't agree with what I am saying. But I felt like God was telling me that I need to make this point. Sola Fide. Faith alone.
Sola Fide was one of the main points of the Reformation. The Reformation (to give a short background) began when the protestants split from the Catholic church in a movement lead by Martin Luther, John Calvin, and others. Sola Fide, along with Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone), were statements of the different principles between them and the church. From these stem main points about what we believe.
Faith alone is the principle of salvation by faith. And only faith. In Paul's time (and apparently before), a belief was running through the Jews (and early Christians) that salvation could be attained by works. Paul wrote extensively on this topic, clearly presenting that works are worthless without faith and without a proper heart. This belief, however, is even more prevalent in this time than it was then. Even some people who say they don't believe in salvation by works, they unknowingly do. I feel like Sola Fide is such an important principle that I would write about it in a post.
Paul is clear that works, without faith, are dead. But James sports a seemingly contradictory statement: faith without works is dead. How can both of these things be true? People who say that salvation needs works along with it point out the passages of James. But what if it's like two different sides of a coin? Paul was pointing out that works, without a proper heart (which is what God sees) mean nothing eternally. Salvation can only be attained by faith. James, means that a heart for God will and should have good works. Jesus says He knows believers by their fruits. But if you believe that you can only go to heaven by good works, than you contradict stories in the Bible. For example, when Jesus was on the cross, a thief, being crucified next to him, voiced his faith. Jesus told him that He would see the man in paradise. Had this man done anything? No. His only good work was believing in Christ, since before you have faith your works mean nothing-and even if they had, it didn't seem like he had many to show. Also, many times Jesus told people that their faith made them well, not their works. Also, Paul speaks in Philippians of his perfection when conformed to the law and works-and he counted none of it as gain. How could he count none of it as gain if it had any eternal value?
Now don't get me wrong. Works are good, and should be everywhere in a believer's life. It's when you start relying on them to get you to heaven or to earn favor with God where it becomes a stumbling block. Let's just pretend that for almost all of your life you were pretty much free from sin, and you never stopped doing good works. Let's just pretend that your fruits numbered 100 from this venture. (I know it's unrealistic, but bear with me.) When it comes you judgement day, you have your 100 fruits and you look around and see people with their 2 fruits and their 5 fruits, and even people who only have 1 fruit. But when God comes up, you see that the requirement is 100,000 fruits. Then you realize that you don't have enough, and neither does anyone else. But salvation is a free gift, and that is what bridges the gap of 999, 900 fruits. More than that, even. We cannot rely on our own works. When we rely on our works, our salvation is found in ourselves. But salvation is found in no other name than the name of Jesus! Salvation is found in faith, not works. "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved." Not "Believe and do good works, and you will be saved." Works stem from our beliefs, not the other way around.
So we are to rely, not on self, but on God. The Bible clearly speaks that our salvation is is only found in faith. We are supposed to rely on God. Sola Fide. Faith Alone.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Confessing Sin

My last post was about guilt vs. regret. I urged you to confess your sins to God, but I realized that I need to expand on that.
First, I need to expel two myths about God's forgiveness; each the extremes on the spectrum yet both widely believed and accepted.
1. God cannot forgive you for certain sins, and even after you confess your sins He is still angry.
2. God doesn't really care about your sins.

The first one is kind of a fire and brimstone technique. There are kind of two parts to this side of the spectrum: the Evil and Controlled God spectrum. The first assumption is that God can't forgive us for certain sins. The "bad" sins. But the Bible makes it clear that no sin is over another sin. "For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it." (James 2:10 ESV) So if we tell a "little white lie", we are guilty of everything else; murder, slander, etc. So how could God forgive a "small" sin but not a "big" sin? And if He CAN'T forgive your sins, that means your sins are more powerful than God, making your sins god. And it also makes Jesus' sacrifice on the cross not enough to cover all your sins. And if He WON'T forgive your sins, the Bible is false, and He isn't a loving God. He doesn't love us, because He won't forgive us. It also goes against the Bible because the Bible says He forgives ALL our sins. Obviously, He forgives whatever you've done. And He's no longer angry over it, or it goes against "forgiveness" as a whole. “I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins." (Isaiah 43:25 ESV). If He's forgotten them, and blotted them out, how could He be angry at us? No, but when we are forgiven, we are forgiven, and our sins are forgotten, and God once again shines His face on us.

Then there's the other side of the spectrum, with the God I like to call the Hippie God. This is the side proclaimed more often among teenagers today, and I kind of imagine this theory as a hippie (complete with glasses, guitar, and all) smiling down at me. "No, it's totally fine dude! Peace, you know? We all screw up. Not like I'm angry at you or anything. If you made a mistake, you made a mistake. It's totally fine." That's not right either. God IS upset about our sin. But not so upset as to immediately fry us, because He is merciful. Yes, our sins are covered forever in Jesus' sacrifice. But we still have to confess our sins to God-and often to others. (Yes, I know that THAT can be the most challenging. But I recommend you read my friend's blogpost on confessing sin to others, I can't top it. :) ).

Also, if you haven't, read my last blog post on how to live with regret, not guilt.

But once we realize we are in the wrong, there is a series of steps that we must take to confess our sin and repent. Confessing sin and actual repentance are two different things, as I will show you.
1. Tell God about your sin (Yes, He knows, but it's like saying "Hey! God! You're right, I'm wrong!")
2. Ask for His forgiveness
3. If there are people that were harmed, or if there is a practical way to keep this sin from entering your life again, ask God to show you these things, and whatever He moves you to do-DO IT.
4. (And THIS is the repentance stage). RUN in the other direction. Set up roadblocks for yourself. Find someone who will keep you accountable, and make sure it is an object of your prayers to keep yourself from it. But the main point is, try your hardest to stay away from your sin. (Some sins, like getting angry at your siblings, etc, are not sins that give you much forewarning and are usually driven deep into your habits. These kinds of sins especially will often not go away the first day-or even the first month. But with persistance, they will disappear.)

One of my favorite things to do when I confess sins is to read Psalm 51. It is the blueprint of what our confessions should sound like, the crying out of our heart for forgiveness.

But a main point that I must stress in conclusion is that once you confess your sins, you are FORGIVEN. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9 ESV). Jesus died, and His actions are what saves us, not by our own works, but by His blood. We are insufficient, so or our own power we can never save ourselves. But God, in His holy love and mercy, He can. And He does. And if you turn to Him, broken and flawed, He will smile on you-and make you new.

“Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD:
though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,
they shall become like wool.
(Isaiah 1:18 ESV)

Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin!
For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
and blameless in your judgment.
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
and in sin did my mother conceive me.
Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.
Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will return to you.
Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,
O God of my salvation,
and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.
O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
Do good to Zion in your good pleasure;
build up the walls of Jerusalem;
then will you delight in right sacrifices,
in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings;
then bulls will be offered on your altar.
(Psalm 51 ESV)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Guilt vs. Regret.

Yesterday, I was with a friend of mine, a very strong Christian who strives to honor God with her whole life. I was telling her my life story in a nutshell, and it brought me through some things that I regret very much. I said "I feel so guilty about this" several times during the conversation. But she made a comment that will forever affect the way I see my past. "You shouldn't feel guilty. If your past isn't how it is, you may not be as close to God as you are today." Then I started to think about guilt...and regret. Shouldn't we feel bad about what we've done? Yes. But there are differences between guilt and regret, which can forever alter your view of life. We are clearly NOT perfect. We feel guilty. But as Christians, we shouldn't feel guilty, not at all. Regret is feeling bad about what we've done. Guilt is feeling that it is our fault. The difference between the two is that regret pushes us forward. Guilty holds us back. Regret makes us strive to do better, guilt makes us strive to live.
But there is hope.
There are three reasons not to feel guilt, but to feel regret:
1. You should not feel guilty because what you have done contributed to who you are and who you will be. You may not be as close to God as you are now without your past. The things you've done, they may be sinful and harmful, they may be horrid and you may hate them, but don't hate yourself. I cannot stress how important it is to confess your sin to God and repent (turn away from your sin), but once that is done, you have nothing to feel guilty about. Which brings me to my second point:
2. You should not feel guilty because you cannot change your past. You can regret what you have done, but feeling guilty will never change what you have done, but it will change what you do. If you feel guilty, you may think you are unable to change, and you will continue in your ways until you fall from under your guilt. What you have done is unchangeable: what you do about what you have done is not. Depending on the situation, you may or may not be able to make seemingly "large" changes, but you can always change. The first step is to confess your sins to God, and then make sure you don't fall where you fell before. And if your sin affected anyone else, make it right, or if it is impossible, try to the best of your ability to make it better. Regret what you've done, but don't feel bad-rejoice that you are saved by God. Use your regret to keep you from sin, not to make yourself lest resistent to it.
3. And this reflects my first two points: You should not feel guilty because you are FORGIVEN! If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
(1 John 1:9 ESV)
“I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.
(Isaiah 43:25 ESV)

The Bible stresses that we are FORGIVEN, and our sins are FORGOTTEN. We are FREE, our sins are FORGIVEN, our trespasses FORGOTTEN, and this lasts FOREVER. that is my motto. If we are still guilty, we tell ourselves that God cannot forgive us, that His grace is not sufficient and we are not cleansed. No, WE ARE PURE! WE ARE RIGHTEOUS! I cannot stress this more!

So if you feel guilty, take time to search the Scriptures. I'd recommend the book of John.

And be set free.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Luke 5:11

Wow, it's been awhile since I've posted on here. Been pretty busy the last couple weeks.
Anyway, about this verse. I was reading the Bible today and it hit me. If you look it up, it doesn't sound too exciting. If you read it in context, you barely notice it. But it is the very end of the story of the call of Peter, James, and John into the ministry. This is what the verse says:
And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.
(Luke 5:11 ESV)
It's a famous story; Peter, James and John have been fishing all night without success. As in-no fish. At all. When Jesus comes along, he tells them to try...just one more time. They don't believe him at first, but they agree to give it one more attempt. They didn't just catch a fish-they caught so many fish that the nets-designed for fishing-started to break, and the boats started to sink from the weight. Awed and humbled, they ran to Jesus who told them they would become fishers of men. Then this verse comes, Luke 5:11. They left everything and followed him.
These men did not know Jesus, they had never followed Him before. Yet after one miracle, they left everything they had ever known. In those days, people stayed in the same place for their whole lifetime. They were leaving their family, friends, and every thing they had ever worked for or put time into-for Jesus. Willingly, they poured out their lives, enduring terrible hardships and terrible deaths-all for Him.
And yet we still struggle with reading our Bibles once every day.
They had nothing but God. They didn't have what we have, they didn't have our luxuries. But they never gave up.
We have a book-quite a LARGE book, the Bible, that tells us SO many things. When we read the things in the Scriptures about God, our sin, and our forgiveness, we should fall to our knees in tears, and thank God and live our lives for Him.
Yet we often simply skim over the words we take for granted.
So today, I give you three challenges:
1. I don't press you to read the Scriptures. I press you to study them. Get up half an hour earlier and spend time reading, taking notes, and highlighting. Stop school earlier so you can. Do other things if necessary. But do it today.
2. Have the faith that Peter, James and John had in Jesus-that He IS the Son of God, and that we are NOT called to do little things.
3. This is the hardest step. But if you haven't yet, get on your knees and ask God to take control of your life. Cry out to Him. And then-change. So your life revolves around Him-and not yourself.

I have decided to follow Jesus
No turning back, no turning back.

P.S. For an extra challenge-write out Luke 5:11 and post it somewhere where you'll see it-a lot! (Mirror, wall, desk, etc...)

Monday, October 24, 2011

Psalm 56:8

You have kept count of my tossings;
put my tears in your bottle.
Are they not in your book?
(Psalm 56:8 ESV)

One of my favorite verses ever! I know that if you don't have an ESV, it might not read that way (I know that the NIV doesn't say that) but I personally think that this is the most beautiful way this verse can be translated. It clearly shows us that God cares for us, and He will never let our "foot strike a stone" (Psalm 91:12). What better promise than this?
There is a footnote on "tossings" that doesn't show when I copy and paste: an alternate translation. "wanderings." Either one is a "correct" translation, but I think rather than choosing one, we should take in the complete translation of the word. He keeps count of our troubles, He keeps watch over us, every time we are upset. But He also sees our wanderings, He sees when we fall away from Him. He is still watching us, He is still keeping us safe, and He is still giving us mercy and keeping His eyes on us even when our eyes are turned away from Him! Praise the LORD, for He is merciful...the God "of all comfort." (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)
Then, one of my favorite lines in the Bible: God has "put my tears in [His] bottle," and they are "in [His] book." It reminds me of the verse in Lamentations 3, verse 33, "for he does not afflict from his heart or grieve the children of men." Or as my Bible says, "for he does not willingly afflict the children of men." (same translation, just one is a later version.) Does that not comfort you? He puts your tears in His bottle. He knows every tear you have ever cried, when you were in trials and when you felt far from Him. Each tear is recorded in His book, and each tear that someone has caused you will be repaid. God knows and remembers ever tear you have ever cried, and He is faithful to comfort you in your pain. "For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning." (Psalm 30:5 ESV). God never leaves us in the darkness forever. Always remember that whatever pain you experience, He does not do from his heart: He does it because He loves you and wants to draw you closer to Him in the process. For He is strong in our weakness. "But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh." (2 Corinthians 4:7-11 ESV). Finally, I'll just finish with this verse from one of my favorite Bible chapters: "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." (James 1:2-4 ESV).

Friday, October 21, 2011

2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Blessed be the God and the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
(2 Corinthians 1:3-4 ESV)
I found this verse today and I was stunned. It may see a little confusing, so let me break it down. First, it says that God comforts us in our affliction. Isn't that amazing! And it's not just "God," it's God, The Father of our Lord, Jesus CHrist, the Father of MERCIES and God of all COMFORT. Wow. When I read that, I was a little in shock. God gave us His Son to DIE for us! He gives us mercy! He gives us comfort! The verse begins with "Blessed be...". It's so true! BLESSED! We must bless Him!
Usually people would stop there.
But the verse doesn't.
How do we bless Him? That is what next comes into our minds. So is the point of the next verse: "so that we may be able to comfort those are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God."
Listen: God doesn't give us comfort so we can sit back in comfortable lives. God gives us comfort so that we can COMFORT OTHERS.
Wait...doesn't that mean giving up our comfort? That's what the verse says..."WITH the comfort..." That makes no sense, why would God give us comfort just so we could use it all up helping others? Why? Doesn't He want us to be happy? Doesn't he want us to be fulfilled?
The answer is that God does want us to be happy. And that is why He gives us comfort to give it; because true joy can only be found in serving others instead of yourself. "In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”(Acts 20:35 ESV). Paul urges us to serve others, because it is more blessed to give than to receive! And do you know what happens if we give?
We receive.
The Bible is clear that when we help others, we will receive our reward. "And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.” (Matthew 10:42 ESV). Even the smallest action of love for God and people will bring a reward!
If you are struggling with depression, anxiety, self-pity, selfishness, worry, trouble with your Christian life, and many, many others-try helping others. Other people in the world have problems too, and when you absorb yourself in THEIR life, helping with THEIR needs, and using your comfort for THEIR comfort-you will find true peace. This is what it means to "bless" God-to love Him, and to serve Him-by loving and serving His people.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Romans 13:14

But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
(Romans 13:14 ESV)
I stumbled across this verse yesterday and I was stunned. For the last week, the issue that has been weighing on my mind has been dying to self. Now, most of us may be inclined to shrug it off. "Self obsessed?" we balk, "Oh no, never! I'm not at all like that...what's to worry about?" But in true and full honesty: most of us are.
Romans 13:14 contains one of those rare "magic formulas" for intimacy and a true love for Christ-dying, completely and fully, to self. When we measure ourself up against the culture, we feel fine. We may not be proud or arrogant, we may not put ourselves at the very first point in our lives, and we might not literally love ourselves. Actually, we may hate ourselves, and we think, "Well this isn't my problem, because I'm terrible, and there's no way I put self first!" Well let's look a little closer.
As you probably noticed, this verse does not say "self." It says "flesh." Desires of the flesh are not just things that we do with our bodies-in essence, flesh is the opposite of spirit. But what does that encompass? Obviously it covers the really bad stuff, the givens, like murdering, stealing, etc, but honestly, what does the verse say again? "But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires." There are two options here, and we find this all throughout Scripture: The Lord Jesus Christ, and flesh. Let's expand on "flesh" and "self."
"Flesh" and "self" are pretty much the same thing; if you are walking in the desires of the flesh, you are putting self first. As I said before, you may not see it that way. But anything and everything that is not eternity-oriented that you are making a priority in your life is self-oriented. Even if you don't only look out for "number one," think: if you think yourself of no worth, you are still thinking of yourself. Everything that is not of God that has a reigning position in your life can be traced back to self, no matter what it is.
There is a clear theme in the Bible: to live in Christ, you must die to self. Dying to self means this: putting on the Lord Jesus Christ, and not listening to the desires of your flesh, as the verse says. This means that you have to bring Jesus Christ into the place of honor in your life: the throne, but to put Him there, you're going to have to kick self off first. And not just that, but you'll have to make sure that self doesn't make an army to kick God off your throne again. What does that verse say again? "...and make no provision for the flesh." That means NONE. So knock out the army metaphor I just used. It means that every single time self (flesh) tries to round up just one soldier, you squish them both and change so they can't come back from that direction again. Kicking self off and bringing God in is the ONLY way you can ever discover a true intimacy with Christ. I'm not saying that if you kick self off, you'll automatically discover Christ-but if you try and give it effort you will. But you won't discover Christ unless you kick self off the throne-that means throwing all your expectations out the door for His expectations-so getting rid of your dreams, desires, and ambitions. That doesn't mean they won't be fulfilled-but the only way for them to be truly fulfilling is in Christ. The only way.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Lamentations 3

So I thought that since "Lamentations3" is the title of my blog, my first post would be about Lamentations 3.
Lamentations 3 is one of those jewel chapters of the Bible that no one ever reads because it's not where most people would go to find a jewel chapter. First, it's in the Old Testament, and it's in the end of the Old Testament, near all the minor prophets which not many people seem to read. It's in the middle of a what we may term a "depressing book" and even a "depressing chapter." But most of the chapter is entirely beautiful. When I've told people to read it, their faith has been strengthened, their heads lifted, and they've returned to it again and again. I encourage you to read it right now-it's posted below in case you aren't near a Bible. I've posted sections that mean to most to me because of the post limits-to read the whole thing (which I encourage you to do) just go pick up a Bible. Love you all, Cayley.

(Verses 21-41)
But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
“The LORD is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”
The LORD is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul who seeks him.
It is good that one should wait quietly
for the salvation of the LORD.
It is good for a man that he bear
the yoke in his youth.
Let him sit alone in silence
when it is laid on him;
let him put his mouth in the dust—
there may yet be hope;
let him give his cheek to the one who strikes,
and let him be filled with insults.
For the Lord will not
cast off forever,
but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion
according to the abundance of his steadfast love;
for he does not afflict from his heart
or grieve the children of men.
To crush underfoot
all the prisoners of the earth,
to deny a man justice
in the presence of the Most High,
to subvert a man in his lawsuit,
the Lord does not approve.
Who has spoken and it came to pass,
unless the Lord has commanded it?
Is it not from the mouth of the Most High
that good and bad come?
Why should a living man complain,
a man, about the punishment of his sins?
Let us test and examine our ways,
and return to the LORD!
Let us lift up our hearts and hands
to God in heaven:
(Verses 55-59)
“I called on your name, O LORD,
from the depths of the pit;
you heard my plea, ‘Do not close
your ear to my cry for help!’
You came near when I called on you;
you said, ‘Do not fear!’
“You have taken up my cause, O Lord;
you have redeemed my life.
You have seen the wrong done to me, O LORD;
judge my cause.
(English Standard Version)