“Jesus replied, ‘The truth of the matter is that you want to be with Me because I fed you, not because you believe in Me.’”
John 6:26 (LB)
Do you follow Christ for the benefits or because you believe in Him? Sins forgiven, a clear conscience and a home in heaven appeal to our own sense of self-preservation. While there’s nothing wrong with that, it falls short of what Jesus was really seeking when He came to save that which was lost. His mission was to restore our relationship with God. “I am the way…No one can come to the Father except through Me.” John 14:6 (NLT) Jesus seeks a commitment from us that is far deeper than a what’s-in-it-for-me attitude. In the first part of John 6, the Gospel writer tells us, “A huge crowd kept following Him wherever He went, because they saw His miraculous signs as He healed the sick.” (Vs. 2-3 NLT) By verse 26, they had all been fed with Christ’s miraculous feeding of the 5,000. Who doesn’t enjoy a free meal and a show? Jesus knew their hearts. Even though they crossed to the other side of the lake to find Christ the next day, He spoke to the real motive in their hearts. “The truth of the matter is that you want to be with Me because I fed you, not because you believe in Me.” (Vs. 26) One person explained it like this, “As you follow our Lord’s ministry in John’s Gospel, you see Him moving gradually out of the bright light of popularity and into the dark shadows of rejection. At the beginning, it was easy for people to follow the crowd and watch His miracles. But then His words began to penetrate hearts with conviction following; and conviction leads either to conversion or opposition…People who want His works but not His Word can never share His life.” Like them, miracles attract us. What reasonable person wouldn’t want eternal life and sins forgiven? But how many are willing to seek the Giver alone? Faith in Jesus goes deeper.
Once it was the blessing,
Now it is the Lord;
Once it was the feeling,
Now it is His Word;
Once His gift I wanted,
Now, the Giver own;
Once I sought for healing,
Now Himself alone.
“The person who sins is the one who will die.”
Ezekiel 18:20a (NLT)
People who take personal responsibility for their own choices are a rare breed today. Since we are all part of the Adam’s family, it’s easy to pass the buck and blame others, our circumstances or whatever we can find to shift the responsibility somewhere else. Adam blamed Eve. Eve blamed the serpent. Who are you blaming for your present situation? In Ezekiel’s day, many of God’s people were in trouble. Like him, many had been deported from Jerusalem and were living in captivity in Babylon. It was only a matter of time before the final blow would come and Jerusalem would be completely defeated, the Temple destroyed and the city burned to the ground. Those who survived were trying to deal with how and why it all happened. Many came to the conclusion that they were being punished for the sins of their ancestors and not their own. They thought this way because of their understanding of the Ten Commandments. Exodus 20:5 said, “…I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject me.” That belief led to fatalism and irresponsibility. Rather than looking at their own choices, they settled into the belief that it was the problem of those who came before them; and there was nothing they could do about it. Recognizing their error, Ezekiel gave God’s new policy because the people had misunderstood the old one. The reality was that although they were affected by the decisions and behavior of those before them, God would judge each person individually. Even today, we may suffer for the sins committed by others who came before us, but God does not punish us for someone else’s sins. Each person is accountable to God for his or her own life. On the flip side, there were those prior to the final destruction of Jerusalem that thought God would never judge their sin since they were the people of God and possessed the Temple of God. They thought that because of their righteous ancestors and the blessings God had given them that they could do whatever they chose with no consequence and used that as an excuse for disobeying God. To both groups God said, “The person who sins is the one who will die.” Ezekiel 18:4, 20 (NLT) If they would only take responsibility and turn to God for forgiveness, they would have hope and a new beginning. God’s appeal couldn’t have been more clear. “…Repent, and turn from your sins. Don’t let them destroy you! Put all your rebellion behind you, and find yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O people of Israel? I don’t want you to die, says the Sovereign Lord. Turn back and live!” Ezekiel 18:30-32 (NLT) Isn’t that true for us today? Responsibility is really “responding to His ability” to forgive us and give us that new heart and new spirit.
“… I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation ….” 2 Corinthians 6:2b (NIV)
If Publishers Clearing House came to your door with a multi-million dollar check made out to you, how long would it take you to cash it? Would you shut the door in their face and reject the money? More than likely, you would welcome them into your home no matter how messy it was. You wouldn’t think about putting them off and asking them to return at a more convenient time, would you? Maybe you’re thinking, “It would be my luck that they had the wrong address!” God has an offer worth far more than all the money you could ever win. The prize He offers is eternal life in His Son! Forgiveness of sin! No condemnation now or in eternity. Salvation from the judgment we deserve. He offers us mercy and grace. Mercy is not receiving the punishment we deserve. Grace is receiving the blessings we don’t deserve! And when is that offer made? Look at our verse today. Two times the Bible says, “Now…” “…Now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.” God’s favor is another way of saying grace. And the day of salvation is another way of saying mercy. That is an offer too good to refuse. So, what are you waiting for? Now is the time. Today is the day. If you’ve never settled it, do it now! Pause in prayer right now and ask Jesus to forgive your sin. Receive His offer of mercy and grace. Experience the joy of sins forgiven and the promise of a home in heaven! You say, “But, I don’t deserve it.” Come on. Is that what you would say to Publishers Clearing House? I don’t think so. Besides, that’s why they call it mercy. If we deserved it, it wouldn’t be mercy, would it? The real issue is often fear. We’re afraid of what God may want, how it may change our lives or what we may become. Exchanging our sin for His grace opens the door for an intimate and personal relationship with the God who loves you. He’s knocking at your door today. Will you let Him in? Do it now. What are you waiting for?
“You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross.” Colossians 2:13-14 (NLT)
I started a new series this weekend that I really believe could be the most life-altering series I’ve ever preached. I’m calling it Killing Karma as I’ll be sharing the biblical hope for replacing guilt with a life of grace.
Many Christ followers stay stuck in a cycle of guilt and regret that prevents them from enjoying the undeserved blessings of God. The great news is that Christ killed karma when He died on the cross so that we no longer have to get what our sins deserve. Instead, we get the very blessings we could never earn or deserve. The Bible says that God canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross! “In this way God took away Satan’s power to accuse you of sin, and God openly displayed to the whole world Christ’s triumph at the cross where your sins were all taken away.” Colossians 2:15 (TLB) In this series we’ll learn how to appropriate the power of the cross and break free from guilt and live every day in an atmosphere of unending grace. I can’t think of a better way to kick off the first weekend of Lent and start preparing our hearts for Easter!
“What happiness for those whose guilt has been forgiven!
What joys when sins are covered over! What relief for those
who have confessed their sins and God has cleared their record.”
Psalms 32:1-2 (LB)
How do you handle the pressure of guilt? You can try to repress it; yet, it keeps returning in ever-increasing measure demanding more attention until it seems to consume your thoughts and feelings. Our secular culture calls it bad karma and views it as bringing upon yourself the inevitable and irreversible results that determine your destiny. The good news is that doesn’t have to be your fate. With the truth of God’s Word you can find hope for replacing a life of guilt with a life of grace. God never designed us to live with guilt. It’s the warning light on the dashboard of our souls that should direct us to God for help and healing. More than likely either you or someone around you is secretly dealing with a load of guilt only God can remove. When King David was overwhelmed by the weight of his own sin, He cried out to God. No longer trying to conceal it and repress the crushing guilt he felt, David came clean with God. Listen to his story in this Psalm. “There was a time when I wouldn’t admit what a sinner I was. But my dishonesty made me miserable and filled my days with frustration. All day and all night your hand was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water on a sunny day until I finally admitted all my sins to You and stopped trying to hide them. I said to myself, ‘I will confess them to the Lord.’ And You forgave me! All my guilt is gone.” Psalms 32:3-5 (TLB) Are you carrying a load of guilt? God’s grace is greater than all our sin. Do what David did and experience the refreshing joy God offers those whose guilt has been forgiven.