Why Tomorrow Could Be Too Late ~ Death and Jesus

You think it won’t happen to you, at least not yet. Death.

But it happened to a friend of mine just last night; a fellow blogger and most of her family passed from this life to the next as their home burned around them.

You think you have plenty of time.

As I prepared my children for bed this evening, we read a chapter from one of our Trailblazer books about the Salvation Army. This particular story happens to be about two orphans who sought refuge from the faith-based group.

And I thought of my friend Mandy’s surviving children, how they would be going to bed this evening for the first time without any parents. My heart broke for them all over again.

Without thinking about whether it was a good time or not, I told my kiddos about my friend’s tragic death right then and there. We talked about and prayed for the surviving children who I am sure feel left behind. My daughter even asked if we could adopt them, which brought a small smile to my face.

We talked about Jesus and how happy I was to know my friend and her family were now in Heaven even though I’m shocked and saddened to realize she will no longer live in this world.

Her death is the most recent in a string of deaths that have occurred in our lives this year.

And I keep thinking, all day long, we just don’t know how much time we have left.

I’m thinking of a man who sat in front of my church-planting husband and I last week, a man who heard the gospel clearly explained, a man who told us he knew he was headed for Hell. But when we asked if he was ready to accept Christ as his Savior, he responded with an honest, “No.”

He’s not ready. He thinks he has more time.

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I’m thinking of another man who recently passed away, a man who was laying in a hospital bed, a man who would never return to his earthly home. This man, this father, he too heard the gospel message, but this man said “yes” to God. And I’m confident that he now resides in Heaven.

I’m remembering a woman we spoke with a over a year ago now who has attended church her entire life, but when asked if she knew she was going to Heaven, her best answer was, “I hope so.”

I’m thinking that lost people are all around us here and wondering what are we really doing, I mean really doing, to make sure they have that same opportunity to know Jesus Christ?

What have I done here in this space to make sure you have that opportunity, too?

You think you have plenty of time…. until you don’t.

Life is fragile and temporary, but a vapor in the wind (James 4:14).

So in light of my friend’s unexpected passing, I’m appreciating my spouse more, and I’m holding my children tighter and telling them how much I love them.

But, friend, there are things in this world that matter even more than love for family and friends, things that matter beyond this life and for eternity.

So all day long I;ve had this burden to tell you what you need to hear most in the world.

God loves you and it’s His greatest desire to have a relationship with you. He created you for a purpose.

But sin creates a gap that we cannot overcome on our own.

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

We like to think of sin as the really bad things – like murder and rape and theft, etc. But sin is anytime we choose our way over God’s way. It’s missing the mark of perfection, and I don’t know about you, but I know for certain I am not perfect.

According to the first part of Romans 6:23, the consequence of our sin is death, separation from God both here on earth and for all of eternity.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Rom. 6:23

The Good News, also called the gospel, is that God desires relationship with us so much that He made a plan for our redemption. He provided a substitute who would pay the price of death for our sin – His one and only son, Jesus Christ, who bled red on the old rugged cross so that we might live!

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Rom. 5:8

Not only that, but Jesus didn’t stay dead. No! He rose again, proving his power over death and His ability to keep the promise of new life (1 Cor. 15:1-8).

Here’s the part some of us fail to understand – we cannot earn salvation on our own. We cannot make ourselves acceptable to God. As a pastor’s wife, I’ve seen many who falsely believe that they need to clean their acts up first and then come to Christ.

That’s putting the cart before the horse, friend, for two reasons.

First, we can never be “good” enough or righteous enough to please God on our own.

Second, we need Jesus to help us make changes in our lives. It’s only by allowing Christ to work in and through us that we can be the people we need to be, the people we were created to be from the beginning of time.

Are there broken areas in your life?

Do you struggle to overcome addiction?

Do you seek help to forgive others and heal from old wounds?

Do you wish for whole and healthy relationships?

Do you feel like a failure who can’t seem to do anything right?

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Christ alone is the answer to those struggles. He alone has the power to transform us from the inside out!

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” Eph. 2:8-9
“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” 2 Cor. 5:17

But that power is only for those who accept Him. Accepting Christ means acknowledging your own sin problem, and recognizing and believing in Jesus as the only solution.

“If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” Rom. 10:9-10

The Bible is clear that salvation is as simple as a choice to believe that Jesus Christ is the only way to reconcile yourself with God and to ask for forgiveness. There are no magic prayers to pray, no special words – just a confession that you are a sinner in need of saving, and that you believe Jesus alone can save you.

Let me offer another word of caution. Many people falsely believe that they have faith in God when what they really have is just a belief that there is a God. The two are not one and the same.

According to God’s Word, even the demons believe that God exists, and they recognize that Jesus is the Son of God. Yet we know they will not receive eternal life in Heaven. Instead, they will remain separated from God and destined for Hell.

“You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.” James 2:19
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” Mt. 7:21

Real faith in God is characterized by a belief that you are a helpless sinner, and a personal trust in Jesus’s work on the cross as a payment for your sin. Real faith humbly submits to Jesus, the son of God.

“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'” John 14:6

If you are a visual learner, then please watch this video for a clear explanation!

The truth is that none of us are guaranteed even another hour, and this is one decision you cannot afford to put off.

I’m asking you, friend, do you know Christ?

If you’ve never put your faith in Christ as your Savior, would you do so today? I’d be happy to answer any questions you might have – email me at jstults@beingconfidentofthis.com .

If you’ve already taken that step to trust Christ, are you living out His plan for your life? Are you telling others of the Good News?

Because the truth is that it could happen to you; in fact, someday it will happen to you.

Use your time wisely, friends.

Live a life that matters.

Jen

For more on this subject, please visit these trusted sources:

How to Begin a Relationship With God

How Do I Become a Christian?

Who Is God and What Does He Have to Do with Me?

 

 

 

How Sanctification Gives Us Hope ~ So Great a Salvation Series

It’s likely you’ve heard the admonition to “preach the gospel to yourself.” But do you have a practical, systematic way for doing that? What do you say when you preach the gospel to yourself?

The gospel message about Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection has the ability to enrich us and make us wealthy in mind and spirit, word and deed (see Colossians 3:16). Yet if we have little grasp on how to effectively let it, we miss out on the power it holds.

Preaching the gospel to ourselves means allowing our thinking, emotions, and responses to daily be shaped by the truth of the gospel.

In this series, we hope to give you practical help in preaching the gospel to yourself. We’ve pulled key gospel concepts and compiled them into a list of words, such as justification, redemption, and sanctification. Don’t let the big words scare you because we’ve explained them!

We’ve also summarized each of these powerful truths in a useable way.

We hope this series will deepen your grasp on the gospel and give you verbiage for what to say when you preach the gospel to yourself.

 

How to use this series:

To begin, read my post below. Then visit each of the links for more gospel words. Take notes while you visit! You may want to bookmark this page because you’ll probably want to come back here often.

Gospel Words:

Justification by Arabah

Sanctification by Jen

Redemption by Rebekah

Reconciliation by Kathy

Regeneration by Marci

Atonement by Leah

Adoption by Kerry

Consecration by Kimberly

Sanctification

In the Old Testament, there is little mention of the word sanctification. In fact, the NIV doesn’t use that particular word at all, while the NASB mentions of sanctification refer to only a single Hebrew word “qadash” (kaw-dash’).

Qadash mostly described objects which were “set apart” for use by God. These were not ordinary objects meant for everyday use, but special items such as those used in the tabernacle by the priests (ceremonial items, the ark of the covenant, etc.). Thus, qadash refers to the uncommon, those things or people (mainly priests) set apart strictly for the Lord.

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In the New Testament, however, we see a different sort of sanctification. Two Greek words are used by both the NIV and NASB: hagiazo (hag-ee-ad’-zo),  the verb form which means to make holy or to sanctify, and hagiasmos  (hag-ee-as-mos’), the noun form which means sanctification or holiness.  Both words also relate to hagios (hag’-ee-os), the adjective form used to describe us as Christians.

In essence, to sanctify means to make holy.  However, the New Testament version of making holy describes a process, the process by which the common (mankind) is set apart and made uncommon!

 

 

Sanctification broken down into 3 P-words:

  1. Position – In Christ, we are considered sanctified before the Lord. We are already perfect, already uncommon, already complete because of Christ’s blood covering over us. When the Father looks at us, He sees not the work that still needs to be done; instead, He sees only the blood of his perfect Son. The work of positional sanctification takes place the moment we accept God’s free gift of forgiveness through His Son’s death on the cross in payment for our sins. So, for those of us who are in Christ, positional sanctification is in the past – it’s a work already accomplished.
  2. Progress – Although we are positionally perfect in Christ, realistically we know that sin keeps us from perfection. Thus, progressive sanctification refers to the process of growing in Christ-likeness. It is the present and continuing form of sanctification, that work in progress that I speak of so often here.  As we grow in Christ-likeness, His image reflected in us becomes more and more clear!
  3. Perfection – There is also a future component to sanctification. One day, when life on this earth ends for us, we will be made complete in Christ.  At that point in time, the work in progress will be finished!  Sin will mar us no more. We will bear the Father’s image perfectly, and the view God has of us on behalf of His Son will match our true character! Just imagine – no more struggling to do right, no more guilt, no more frustration with self!

 

How sanctification applies to everyday life: 

Romans 12:1-2 “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.  Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

While we know our position in Christ is secure, we recognize the need for continuing change, for progress.  We know we must be sensitive to the Holy Spirit so that we allow the Lord to mold us into His image.

Therefore, sanctification is a combination of our willingness to follow Christ in obedience and His powerful work in our lives to free us from sin.  According to the verses above from Romans, we offer our bodies and minds; God transforms them. The evidence of the sanctification process in us? The fruit of the Spirit. :)

This quote from J. I. Packer defines it well.

“God’s method of sanctification is neither activism (self-reliant activity) nor apathy (God-reliant passivity), but God-dependent effort (2 Cor. 7:1; Phil. 3:10-14; Heb. 12:14).”

The worst thing we can possibly do as Christians is to relegate our Redeemer to the work of salvation, yet bar Him from the work of sanctification.

If we trust Christ for eternity, but not for the day to day, then we limit His power! We fail to find freedom and the abundant life He has planned for us.

My friends, the power of Christ in us is real. His promise to make us into new creations is not just for some distant future when we become complete in Him, but it’s for today! Right now! Moment by moment.

Our Savior came to free us from sin, not just from the guilt of sin, but from the chains of sin itself.

This is the goal of sanctification – freeing us to become whom He meant us to be from the very beginning – His image bearers.

Perfect.

Holy.

Set-apart.

Uncommon.

So we can claim the promise of my life verse, Phil. 1:6, which perfectly sums up the 3 P-words of sanctification. (Key verse to memorize!)

“[B]eing confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (emphasis mine)

He began the work (position); He carries it on (progress); He promises completion (perfection).

I’ve been reminded of this truth often this winter. There comes a time in the Midwest when the landscape becomes a palette of brownish gray dead things.  The grass is dead. The trees are dead. And unless there is fresh snow, the roads become ugly gray muck.

At some point, it seems as if spring will never come.

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But as I looked out our window the other day, I noticed a tree that was budding.  Even beneath the snow, you could see the slight redness of the buds. Although the tree looked dead, important work was taking place beneath the surface of what I first saw.

Growth.

And in several weeks, we will see the fully glory of that work when all of nature bursts forth in colorful re-birth.

Spring.

New Life.

Hope.

As I contemplated these things, the Lord reminded me of how often this scenario plays out in my own spiritual landscape.  At times, it seems my progress is stunted – there is too much “deadness” about me, too much sin.  I see only gray and become easily overwhelmed and discouraged.

But beneath the surface, He is doing important work in me. I may not see all of the fruits of sanctification yet, but they will come! And when they do, they will be glorious to behold!

So, the next time you feel overwhelmed by your own sin, stuck in a rut, doomed to failure – preach the gospel truth of sanctification to yourself.

“I am God’s work in progress. As such, I aim not for perfection but for imperfect progress (growth and transformation), only by the power of Christ in me. In the meantime, I trust His promise to carry that work to completion.”

This, my friends, this is the hope of sanctification.

Jen :)

Sharing with: Grace and Truth, Wholehearted Wednesdays, The Homemaking Party, Wholehearted Wednesdays, A Little R and R

How To Give Your Kids a Good Christmas

I woke up feeling a little sorry for myself this morning, sorry for my family, too.  It hasn’t been the Christmas season we expected or wanted, and I’m left wondering: how do you give your kids a good Christmas when nothing seems right in your world?

We’ve spent the entire month of December ill now.  Influenza spread slowly from one family member to another.  Several children ended up with  infections. My asthmatic lungs were hit hard and our physician threatened me with hospital time.

Thankfully, it was just bronchitis and not pneumonia.

Just bronchitis, ha.

A pharmacy worth of medicines clutters our kitchen counters still – fever reducers, cough meds, antibiotics – you name it, we probably have it right now. Or at least that’s the way it feels. :)

Is life turned upside down right now for you? And it seems so much harder because...it's Christmas? You can give your kids a good Christmas without health, without money, without extravagance. You can give your kids a good Christmas by...                  How To Give Your Kids a Good Christmas

Then, this weekend during our church Christmas program practice, our middle boy began complaining of stomach pain. By the time we had removed costumes and were ready to leave, he was on the floor curled up in a ball, crying. It frightened me because he is our tough cookie, the kid who rarely complains of pain.

So, when he started to scream that his stomach hurt, I left immediately for the closest ER!

We spent a day and a half at the hospital under observation, with many people praying – the world over. The surgeon mentioned appendicitis, but his symptoms didn’t fit exactly. Finally, his white blood cell count dropped, his pain subsided and we were able to go home.

We were overjoyed!  He talked about playing with his little brother and sister and how happy he was to come home in time for Christmas.  I grinned in the front seat, glad to have my funny, enthusiastic boy back. We were almost home.

All seemed right in the world again.

And then, suddenly it wasn’t.

Our oldest son woke in the middle of the night with an asthma attack. Then, I got sick and so did he.  On top of that, the only little one who didn’t already have an ear infection complained that his ear hurt.

I’ll admit, friends, my heart travelled straight from rejoicing to complaining because it’s almost Christmas and it just doesn’t seem fair, really.  Our children were only back at school for a week, and already ill again!

How can you give your kids a good Christmas when everything goes wrong?

How?

I know I’m not the only one struggling for joy right now.  In fact, I’m certain that many of you are experiencing trials much deeper and more painful than ours.  If I really knew the depth of them, I’d probably be ashamed of my own complaining.

And maybe you’re a mom like me who doesn’t really mind so much for herself, but for the kids!

Maybe you lie awake at night worrying about life circumstances.  Maybe you’re experiencing the pain of loss or separation from loved ones. Maybe your finances are in such a state that you don’t even know where your next meal is coming from.

Maybe you catch hold of joy for a few moments only to  quickly lose it again.

Whatever your lot might be this Christmas, know this: you can still give your kids a good Christmas.

You can give your kids a good Christmas without health, without money, without extravagance.

You can give your kids a good Christmas in spite of pain, loss, broken relationships, and whatever other trials you might be experiencing.

You can because He came.

Luke 2

And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people;11 for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

He came!  Emmanuel, God WITH us – that’s what Christmas is really about. Christ, the Hope of the world, in human flesh, for love of our wandering hearts.

We have to let go of this expectation of holiday perfection and embrace the reality that human life is flawed, messy, painful, even at Christmas.

Christ came right into the midst of that mess, born in a stable – there’s nothing clean about that.

You want to give your kids a good Christmas?

Let go of the worry.

Embrace Christ.

Is life turned upside down right now for you? And it seems so much harder because...it's Christmas? You can give your kids a good Christmas without health, without money, without extravagance. You can give your kids a good Christmas by...      How To Give Your Kids a Good Christmas

Show them Hope, Love and Peace.

Teach them of the Savior who willingly left Heaven’s splendor to suffer alongside us here on Earth. That’s a Love like no other, my sisters in Christ. He chose us. He chose pain. He chose death, so that we might experience life in abundance.

He did it for you, for me, for them.

He did it “for all the people.”

The wonder of Christmas has little to do with presents and food and fun.

The wonder of Christmas is the keeping of a thousands-of-years-old promise, hundreds of promises, really.  The wonder of Christmas is Christ.

Romans 8

18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God.20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.22 For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. 23 And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves,waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. 24 For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.

Do you feel it, friends?

The joy of Christmas is spreading right through us.

It cannot be contained. The whole of creation leaps with joy – He is born! Promise fulfilled, salvation at hand, redemption nigh. Hope in human flesh.

How to Give Your Kids a Good Christmas, Is life turned upside down right now for you? And it seems so much harder because...it's Christmas? You can give your kids a good Christmas without health, without money, without extravagance. You can give your kids a good Christmas by...

Here’s how to give your kids a good Christmas: tell them the story of Jesus.

It’s the only thing that truly matters.

Clinging to hope and joy along with you this Christmas season,

Jen :)

Also sharing with: Monday Parenting Pin It Party, Mama Moments, Mom’s the Word, Wholehearted Home, Missional Women, Tell It To Me Tuesdays

Painted Red: The Significance of the Passover

Paint.

It covers whatever is beneath it, each brush stroke blotting out all that came before.

It covers nail holes and cracks in the walls, the scribbles of a toddler and the spills of a preschooler.  It covers poorly chosen colors and other such mistakes.  It even covers rust and mildew, evidences of time and neglect. Paint masks all imperfections.

Paint makes old things new again, clean again, perhaps even beautiful again.

Yet at that first Passover, the paint was hardly beautiful – fresh blood splashed red across door frames painted as a covering, a protection over what was to come.

The people of God believed, and so they painted, each household, the blood of an innocent lamb across their door frames.  They splashed ugly smears of musky red in faith that Yahweh would keep his promise to them.

Then they waited…

This is what it means to be painted red.  All of the mistakes, ugliness, and scars that were ours before are blotted out by bold, beautiful strokes in the hand of a Master who loves us enough to give a one and only Son. Painted Red What the first Passover means for us today.  Christianity, Easter, Passover, Passover Lamb, Jesus, Christian Women, Devotional, Bible

 

… as death passed over them, leaving their firstborns untouched, an act of mercy.

And again over a thousand years later, only days after the Passover celebration, a one and only Son painted a cross red with his own blood, spilled it willingly for a world full of undeserving sinners.

The bloody mess of his tortured, nail-driven flesh was gruesome, but the promise, the promise was a thing of beauty beyond comprehension.

Once again mankind would be passed over because of the blood of the Lamb.

Once again, salvation would be freely offered to those who chose to believe the promise.

This is what it means to be painted red.  All of the mistakes, ugliness, and scars that were ours before are blotted out by bold, beautiful strokes in the hand of a Master who loves us enough to give a one and only Son. Painted Red What the first Passover means for us today

Now we who believe are painted righteous by faith, passed over, wiped clean.

All of the mistakes, ugliness, and scars that were ours before are blotted out by bold, beautiful strokes in the hand of a Master who loves us enough to give a one and only Son.

Romans 5:8-10

 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.

10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been

reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.

Thus, the ugly red paint brings forth new life and along with it, joy and peace and beauty.

So those once black with sin

are now washed white as snow,

painted red

by the blood of the Lamb.

Jen :)

Do you understand the significance of the Passover? Jesus is our Passover Lamb!

I’m joining the brave and lovely Five Minute Friday writers again this week over at Lisa-Jo’s place.  She chooses a word prompt and we all write fast and furiously for five(ish) minutes, no planning, no editing, no over-thinking.  All are welcome, so come on over and join us!