by Pastor Tim Burt
I received a feedback response from a person who happened to come across my Fresh Manna website. He read what I had written about the love of Jesus Christ and responded in a very negative and inappropriate way—a way that I could not reprint here. He had been raised in a Christian home but was hurt by people in his life. He pulled back from most, became discouraged, and started to befriend people who were very antagonistic to God and Christianity. And thus, he spewed horrible things in a feedback reply to me. For a second, I was irritated, but the Lord is faithful and instantly reminded me of this! Proverbs 15:1 (NIV) “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” I responded to him in this way:
Dear ____, First, let me say that despite how you think or feel, you are deeply loved by God. You are so loved that God offered the life of His only son, Jesus, to pay the price for my sins and yours—something He did so that He could be reunited with you! The depth of that kind of love is almost unfathomable. His love for you hasn’t changed. He still loves you and wants to draw you back to Him. It’s obvious that you are disappointed, let down, and hurt by Christians and others in your life. Regardless of whatever story that is, people are all flawed—Christians and non-Christians alike and have the potential to hurt one another. We all do at one time or another. But Jesus didn’t hurt you. I want you to know that! I am not mad about what you said. I do not judge you. I love you in the Lord, and I’ll pray for you. God bless you sincerely! Pastor Tim
I am thankful to the Lord that my response touched his heart. He sent back a letter of apology and explained why he initially responded the way he did. I was right. He had been hurt along the way and felt that he was a disappointment to God and didn’t measure up—that he’d never be good enough. He said: I don’t think I have what it takes to be a Christian.
I am sure that many people feel this way. This very feeling makes Christianity—what Jesus did for us, such a powerful gift! We could never measure up; not one of us! The person who thinks he lives so purely that he could earn his way into Heaven by being good enough or “balancing the scales” with the good in his life is steeped in self-righteousness and pride. The Bible says that not one of us could enter Heaven by our merit. Yes, God wants us to seek His guidance and help and live the best we can each day, but that won’t get us into Heaven. The Bible calls salvation a gift. It does because that is what it is—a gift! We can’t pay for it or earn it. Jesus paid for it, and He is the one who made it a gift to those who would believe and receive it!
Jesus also promised another gift that would come with our salvation—the gift of His Holy Spirit. When you receive Jesus into your heart, you are not only given Heaven as a gift, but you’re also given the gift of His Holy Spirit, who comes to live within you. The Holy Spirit illuminates the eyes of your heart to begin to see the world through God’s eyes. He is the teacher and power of God working in you. You may have little confidence in your ability to live life right before God in your own strength. But you can have full confidence in the Holy Spirit in you! It means you are not limited to personal change and accomplishment in your own strength. It means you can believe and trust in the power of God at work in you. Ephesians 3:7 NIV says, “…by the gift of God’s grace given me by the effective working of HIS POWER!”
What is Paul saying here? What does he mean when he says that this grace has “effective working power? ” He is saying that just as it was the grace of God—God’s willingness to forgive and give you eternal life through Jesus Christ, so it is God’s grace to give you the power through the help of the Holy Spirit, to live the kind of life God wants you to live. It’s progressive day by day, and you will stumble along the way. But the Lord will help you every step of the way.
We don’t stand before God in our own worthiness. We all know our flaws. We stand before God draped in a robe of His righteousness given to us by Jesus. The gift of God’s righteousness gives you the ability to stand washed and sinless before God. That is what makes the gospel so precious. We can’t do it alone, but we can do it because God’s effectual power is working within us. Grasp this truth and you’ll stop thinking, “I don’t have what it takes to be a Christian.” You’ll believe that Jesus made you worthy by His doing, not yours. And then you can put your faith—not in yourself, but in the power of the Holy Spirit living and working within you!
Despite our imperfections, faults, and mistakes, we live in God’s forgiveness, love, and mercy daily. Likewise, we must have that same forgiveness and mercy toward those who fail us. They aren’t perfect, either. It’s why Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” Matthew 5:7 (NKJV) We are all a work in progress, thankful to God for His mercy and grace toward us! Freely we have received! So let us freely be merciful to others, forgive them, and give His love to them. And then move forward in this effectual power of God within us, helping transform us into a new creation in Christ!
Romans 4:7-8 (NIV) “Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him.”
In His love,
Pastor Tim Burt
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