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Tag: grace (page 1 of 4)

My Dad and the Grace which Runs Deeper than our Sin

A few days to Christmas day of 2001, I remember walking to my dad and telling him that I wanted him to come with us to church on Christmas day. He had said yes.

My mum had died a year and a half earlier. She was the one who took us to church. When she died, there was no one to go with us to church. I remember my young brother Simon and me changing from our Anglican church to a nearby Pentecostal church where they gave biscuits and sweets after Sunday school. I was 11 and my brother was 7.

While growing up, the only time we went to church with dad was when my brother and sister were being baptised. I was 8 then, if I remember correctly. But the day I was baptised, he didn’t show. I don’t know why.

I was terrifically happy that my dad had accepted to go to church with us. On the morning of Christmas day, I happily walked the corridor that led to his bedroom to tell him to dress up quickly as we were running late. I found him in bed and that is when he told me that he was not feeling fine.

He was later admitted into a hospital and on New Year’s Day of 2002, he breathed his last. He never went to church with us.

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I find the account of the call of the disciples particularly interesting. The calling of Levi (Matthew) strikes me the most. Luke in the twenty-seventh verse of the fifth chapter tells us that while Jesus was walking around (of course not aimlessly), he saw a tax collector standing at the tax collectors booth and he told him these words: “Follow me.”

Later that evening, the tax collector threw a party for Jesus and he invited fellow tax collectors. The Pharisees and Scribes also came.

I prefer Luke’s gospel because of his emphasis on detail.

Notice that Jesus comes to Levi’s booth. Back then, tax collectors were outcasts and traitors. They held both titles concurrently. They worked alongside the oppressive Romans to solicit taxes from their fellow Jews. In order to earn a wage, they had to charge an “extra” amount on the taxes. They kept that “extra” as their wage. But many of them, if not all, charged a hefty “extra” on the taxes thereby becoming stinking rich.

They thrived on exploitation which they did without shame, no one liked them anyway.

Jesus comes to that booth—a place of shame—and calls Levi out. He is not afraid to associate with the outcasts that no one wants to be seen talking to. He leans over the booth and whispers to Levi: “Dude, join my team.” Levi is called as a tax collector not as a reformed man. Christ comes to him in his outcastness and treason and calls him without requiring him to first change. He calls him as he is—dirty and ridden with mixture of shame and national ridicule. In the stench of his sin, Jesus touches Levi’s shoulder and calls him to follow Him.

This is only possible if there is something greater than Levi’s besetting sins. And yes, it is there: grace. The grace of God in Jesus was able to redeem Levi, even amidst his sins, because this grace ran deeper than the sins he had committed, even the ones he would commit later on.

Jesus is attracted to Levi because of the very thing that condemns him before his countrymen—his sin. Because “those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.”

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The time leading to the Christmas of 2001, dad was always sick. One time he was down for a couple of days. I remember my Uncle bringing a friend of his to pray for my dad. I think it happened on two occasions.

On none of those occasions was my dad preached to. Those men came to pray for him but never told him about Jesus and the love He had for my dad. They came to deliver God’s gifts, not God Himself.

I can’t tell why my dad always shunned church. May be it was the guilt. He had made some terrible choices that threatened to tear our family to shreds. May be he condemned himself for that. I know that a few relatives did.

I have always asked myself what would have happened if someone had told my dad about Jesus. That no mistake he had committed or would ever commit could ever hold a candle to the love that God had for him. I think of what would have been of his life had he heard the Gospel that the grace of God in Jesus ran deeper than his sins, the grace of God in Jesus Christ which exclusively redeems our mistakes. What about hearing that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ?

No one sat my dad down to tell him that the sins he cannot forget, God cannot remember. When I think of what would have been and what is now, I thank the Lord for the men and women whose hearts burn to teach and preach the Gospel, the true Gospel of Jesus and His free forgiveness of our sins.

My brother later told me that some people had come to my dad’s deathbed and told him about Jesus. He also told me that my dad died after he had come to the faith.

Christ Came To Save Sinners

“This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.”—1 Timothy 1:15 (KJV)

The Apostle Paul, after planting numerous churches in the Gentile world and taking the Gospel of God’s free forgiveness of sins to places it had never been heard before, still thought that he needed saving.

After healing the sick, going through all forms of persecution, and spending the most part of his life in the cold, you’d think that he would at that moment consider himself “arrived.” He didn’t. Towards the end of his life and ministry writes to his Spiritual son, Timothy, he calls himself the chief of sinners.

With his influence, Paul still knew that he was weak. He was aware that because of the body of flesh he was putting on, he still needed daily saving. He was mindful of the fact that no matter his achievements, he was not beyond God’s saving grace. In other words, it rang true in his heart that Christians don’t grow by moving away from the Gospel to something else but by moving deeper into the Gospel. That the cross and blood which ushers us into salvation at the beginning is the same that keeps us in until we get home.

He was also acutely aware that the life which justifies him is not his own. He had died with Christ, and now he lived in Him, no wonder he could afford to sound ridiculous. Robert Capon has an eloquent way of saying it:

“The life of grace is not an effort on our part to achieve a goal we set ourselves. It is a continually renewed attempt simply to believe that someone else has done all the achieving that is needed and to live in relationship with that person, whether we achieve or not. If that doesn’t seem like much to you, you’re right: it isn’t. And, as a matter of fact, the life of grace is even less than that. It’s not even our life at all, but the life of that Someone Else rising like a tide in the ruins of our death.”

Regardless of what you are going through right now: relational tension, addiction, the crisis of faith, sickness, pain, fear, guilt feelings, etc., be reminded that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom [you] are the foremost.” For you the chief of sinners he came to die. You are hidden in him. He knows your struggles by name. Take heart, it is finished.

AMEN.

Why Jesus’s Life Matters

“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”—Isaiah 53:5 (ESV)

Does the life Christ lived matter? Why did He have to live for 33 years? Couldn’t He just come, die and resurrect in one day? We usually love to talk about Christ’s cross and blood, but we never give that much credence to the life that led to that death and resurrection.

Does it matter then? I’d say a big yes. When we talk about Christ’s atoning work, we should never separate His life from his death and resurrection. They are one package, so to speak.

You see, the real question is this: When you sin after becoming a Christian, what happens to you? Do you become a Christian again? Do you get baptised again? The answer is no! As a Christian, you are not justified by the imperfect life you live rather by Jesus’s perfect life lived for you. His life becomes yours in salvation.

What happens when you can’t resist temptation? Christ’s obedience in the wilderness becomes your obedience. What happens when you can’t submit to the will of the Father? Jesus’s submission, even to the point of death becomes yours. What about when you seek retribution? Jesus’s perfect love, even dying for those who crucified Him is credited to you in through faith alone.

That is the point. When God looks at a Christian (one who has staked their life on Christ’s life, death, and resurrection), He sees only Jesus’s perfect life as their own. In justification, our sinful life is imputed to Christ while His sinless life is imputed to us. Therefore, the goal is never to do more or try harder but to remember who we already are in Jesus Christ.

“Lo, the Good Shepherd for the sheep is offered; 
the slave hath sinned, and the Son hath suffered. 
For our atonement, while we nothing heeded, 
God interceded.”—Johann Heermann

Amen.

You can’t be Free and still be Afraid

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.—1 John 4:18b (ESV)

Fear is a present reality in the life of a Christian. We fear of punishment, death, sickness, old age, bereavement, and above all, the fear of the unknown.

I have met people who have told me that when they were about to finish a particular level of education, say, primary school, something bad happened and the trend went on. Most of the time, what happened was similar to what had happened before: sickness, attacks of all kinds (including panic attacks). Fear was the fuel that kept this train going.

When we are afraid of something, we are captives to that which we are afraid of. So people who fear the unknown will look at the horoscope in hope that it will give them some good news about their day ahead; people who fear old age will do all they can to look and sound young; those who fear punishment will go out of the way to obey even when they don’t mean it. We are captives to what we fear.

John Stott was right when he says that “Fear and freedom are mutually incompatible…” because to fear something is to give it the weight (glory) that it should have never had in the first place. Fear is a prison.

John, in his first letter, talks about the perfect love of God which casts out all fear. He goes on to say that because God has reached down to love us, that this love of His has birthed in us a love for Him (4:19) and so the fear we had of God punishing us is cast out and replaced with love. Think about it: when you love someone, do you fear them? When they walk into the room, do you get panic attacks or you are filled with joy—a joy birthed out of the love you have for that person?

The good news is that Jesus’s cross and blood by which He defeated the powers of darkness also frees us from fear. You don’t have to fear tomorrow because your life is in the hands of Him who created tomorrow. You don’t have to look to a horoscope for good news because the real Good News is that you are perfectly loved by God with a love so fierce that it drives out all fear. “It is finished” also applies to all your fears.

So, what are those fears keep you awake at night? What are the demons that come at 3am in the morning? Be reminded that they have been crashed under the feet of Him who crashed the head of the serpent.

No guilt in life, no fear in death—
This is the power of Christ in me;
From life’s first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home—
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand.”

AMEN.

Why Jesus Christ as Lord of all Creation is so Good News

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.”—Colossians 1:15 (ESV)

The satirical website, The Onion, published an article a while back titled Newborn Loses Faith In Humanity After Record 6 Days which talked about six-day-old little Nathan Jameson’s record breaking and picture-perfect diagnosis of this broken world:

“Though he has not yet developed the capacity for speech, extensive cognitive testing has definitively shown that the shockingly perceptive 6-day-old fully understands and accepts that human beings cannot be trusted, that they remain far too ignorant for their opinions to be reliable, that a lack of self-awareness about their own destructive tendencies pervades the species as a whole, and that most are too ineffectual to successfully pursue even the shallow self-interested agendas that rule their lives.”

We may go about denying it but all of us, in our heart of hearts, know that this world is a humanity walking on broken clutches: the wars that never end, propaganda, deceit, sickness, enmity, and a whole lot of destructive behaviours that we engage in in a quest to find life, meaning and purpose.

Everything we do under the sun is a way of finding a solution to this fallen humanity. But since the fall, nothing under the sun has proved to be a lasting solution to the ills of this world. Everything we have tried has not worked. Creatures continue to mess up creation in a bid to redeem it.

Paul, in Colossians 1:15-17, makes it aware to the little churchgoers of Colossae that Christ is indeed the one Lord of creation in this world and beyond it—through Him and for Him all things were created. That everything whether visible or invisible, above or under submits to Him because he is Lord of them all.

Here is how liberating this truth is: God the Son—Jesus Christ—has to be the above and Lord of all creation in order to redeem all creation. Only the One above creation is able to renew it. Creatures cannot redeem themselves, only  God can and by grace He has redeemed creation and one day, everything will be new.

Amen.

Your Perfectionist Friend

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”—John 15:13, ESV

Demands mark the lives of perfectionists. Since they only desire the “best” (however best is defined), they engage in a life-long mission of control—controlling first the situation around them and also the people in their lives. Because they have an idea of what the life they desire looks like, they use the very people God has placed in their lives as tools to reach this goal.

They make demands on how their friends should live, walk, eat, dress, speak, etc., all in order to ensure that their little standards on how life should be lived are met. On the surface, it may look like the perfectionist has you (the friend) and your wellbeing in mind but that is never the case. They have themselves in mind and whatever burdens they lay on your weak shoulders, they are not for your good but for their justification—before men and also—before God.

Perfection is heavy—very heavy both for the perfectionist and the people around that perfectionist. Such a life is marked by exhaustion due to unmet demands. But there is another perfect friend—this one is the essence of Perfection. His name is Jesus Christ.

Unlike your perfectionist friend who makes demands that you be perfect, Jesus—who is Perfection Personified meets the demand that you be perfect. Unlike your perfectionist friend who demands that you die so that they live, Jesus who is Perfection dies so that his imperfect friends will live. Unlike your perfectionist friend who won’t associate with you until you meet a certain demand, Jesus associates with all of us who can’t meet even the simplest demand (Romans 8:3-4). Jesus Christ is the Perfect Friend whose membership club is made up the failures, rugs, drunks, broke, the unemployed, beggars, sick, prostitutes, cheaters, and all the untouchables that no one wants to associate with.

Are you exhausted by the demands people around you make for you to the point of you resenting those people? Jesus is here, he does not demand perfection, the only requirement is your imperfection. Come to Jesus and find rest for you exhausted life. Come.

Amen.

Hell is for Good People

“Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you.”—Matthew 21:31b (ESV)

The chief priests and the elders of the temple, like many of us, ‘publically confessed’ a faith which they privately fought. In the eyes of the people, these were guys who spoke and taught God’s word but their hearts were darkened by rebellion. Then there were also prostitutes and tax collectors who had sank deep into sin but found the Gospel compelling, very good and true.

The greatest enemy to the Christian Gospel is never their bad works but yours (and my) damnable good ones! The good works that we, the good people, flaunt before others in our church groups. Those are very dangerous.

The problem is that we have come to believe that we are what we do, so those who do good stuff are good people while those who do bad stuff are bad people. The reason we do this is that we are prone to locate our identity, and ultimately our salvation in the things we do. One time when I had gone to meet a client, a certain guy looked at my hair and called me a muyaaye (lumpen, or an urban riff-raff, whatever you prefer).

On the one hand, this guy had come to identify whoever has too much hair on their head (like mine) as a lumpen. On the other hand, I was pissed and felt utterly disrespected because—I thought I was a good guy since I don’t steal or smoke pot—I do good stuff, don’t you see? But we were both wrong: locating ours and other people’s identity in ours or their performance is a disastrous love affair which has never ended well.

People who think that they are fairly good will feel disgraced when they are called lumpens (like me). To counter this, they will prove that they are not lumpens. It’s disastrous because this is exactly what the Gospel does. It calls us beggars who don’t seek after God. And to counter that, we try to prove the gospel wrong. Which is what the good people (chief priests and elders) do—prove Jesus wrong by asking Him twisted theological questions.

The people who reject the gospel (most of whom being church people) do so because they have settled for their own little gospels where they feature as messiahs themselves. They pray fervently, fast, tithe, lead worship, take readings, lead study groups etc. I don’t care if you think that I am downplaying spiritual disciplines (because it may be the case) and its beside the point here: people who like to talk about “living their lives for Jesus” (whatever that means) do so for the sole reason of squeezing justification and salvation from their own work instead of in Jesus’s work for them. Hell exists for these kinds of people because they deny the simple Christian Gospel that locates our salvation outside of us and work in Jesus and His perfect life lived for us.

Chumps who think that they are good will always have a hard time accepting that they need someone else’s life in justification (they can’t imagine trashing their catalogue of goodness titled “The Good Good Christian and his Very Good Works: A Memoir, part one of Sixty-seven.”)  While prostitutes and tax collectors who have no goodness at all will jump to it like it’s the oxygen they breathe.

It is easier for a bad person to believe that a Good Person’s life, death and resurrection makes everything okay for them than it is to convince a ‘good person’ of the same. This is why hell will be filled with so many ‘good people’.

This Lifeline is most certainly true, AMEN.

He gave us back to our Father

“And behold, a spirit seizes him, and he suddenly cries out. It convulses him so that he foams at the mouth, and shatters him, and will hardly leave him.”—Luke 9:39 (ESV)

The story of this boy in Luke 9:37-43 is personal to me, not that I have been attacked by evil spirits, but that I have been countlessly attacked by sin and whatever the evil spirit does to that boy, sin has done to me before.

Sin has seized, shaken, shattered and even more, it hardly left me. It has kept roaming around. I have felt powerless, broken and utterly defenceless. It seems to me that the only way Satan will have control is by beating us up! How weak of him!

What about you? When you give in to that addiction, or log into a website that promises what it cannot give, or hang around people you shouldn’t be around, or make a decision that doesn’t seem right, don’t you feel shattered? Shattered that you are at a point of no return? Do you feel like your flimsy bones are stuck until you bow down to the demands of your flesh? Do you feel weak in the knees?

If you identify with me, then this boy is our brother and his struggles are the same as ours. Sin is nothing to be proud of, for it takes whatever it wants by force. Satan doesn’t negotiate, and he surely doesn’t give any choices (for those of you who believe in your freedom to choose).

But thank God for Jesus. “While he was coming, the demon threw him to the ground and convulsed him. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit and healed the boy, and gave him back to his father.” (Luke 9:42, emphasis mine) Jesus healed the boy and gave him back to his father. You see, the evil spirit which had seized the boy had done something else: it had separated the boy from his father—it had stolen this boy from the only love he had.

Like with this boy, Jesus defeated our sin. In His life, death and resurrection, He put an end to the power of evil. At the right time, he snatched us from the claws of the beast and gave us back to our Father. Jesus saving work is also restorative; it restores our relationship with God. “And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”” (Gal 4:6) “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”” (Rom 8:15)

That is your Lifeline, AMEN.

Why the Gospel Makes so Many People Angry

“And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’”—Matthew 20:11-12 (ESV)

One mark, and probably the most visible one, of a false congregation (church/Ministry) is when it’s overflowing in numbers. When people are coming from the big and small towns, walking tens of hundreds of kilometres just to be at this one place, you ought to smell the fish.

Why do I say this? Because, by its very nature, the gospel is offensive. It makes people angry, it sends more people out of church than it brings them in (fact). This world has a way it operates. Mainly, it runs on a kind of fuel called earning­. I like to call it tit-for-tat. “To get something, you have to work for it”, “Good things come to those who are prepared for them.” You have heard this.

In other words, to get something, you have to work for it. When you work hard, then you have earned the right to deserve it. You can now enjoy your kill because you went out in the woods and did the hunting (by yourself). I feel I am speaking a familiar language here.

Now enter the Gospel. It’s free and doesn’t require anything on our part. What about our work and deserving? The gospel throws that in the garbage can (it always has one garbage can reserved for such purposes). It doesn’t draw lines of those who are deserving and those who are not. It recklessly gives the same amount to all.

But then, we have people who have toiled their entire lives to deserve God’s love for them. They have worked. And then there are those whom society thinks they don’t deserve an ounce God’s love, because they haven’t worked enough (or they haven’t worked at all). They have continued to remain in wrong groups, are doing a lot of bad stuff (my friend recently lost her phone, one of these guys snatched it from her), they can’t even show up in church, not even on Easter Sunday or Christmas. These are the riffraff you hear about, the ones we love to talk about in our “holiness groups” as a way of demonstrating our own exponential holiness.

The offense of the gospel is that it accepts these riffraff without requiring them to first change. To add salt to injury, the gospel does not ask for a guarantee that they will change after they are accepted. The gospel just opens its doors and lets it the riffraff, the beggars and fools in to eat and drink until they are full, without a coupon. Not just that, it asks them to stay as long as they want because this party is for always.

Now hear the good guys: “These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.” The gospel pays the same amount to those who have been working 50 years and those who started yesterday at 5:30 in the evening. What is so offensive about grace is that it gives, for free, the same amount to those who have spent their entire lives working and those who have never even showed up at the workplace.

The “good guys” are mad because they think God should pay them, in hard currency, for their sweat, tears and blood. They have endured the scorching sun, put up with annoying line managers, walked in the rain every morning just to get to work, and along the way, they have accumulated a wealth of experience. But when it comes to payday, they receive 30 shillings, same as the whippersnapper who confirmed his appointment lunchtime yesterday. How offensive!

That is why a gospel-preaching, bible-believing church will be nearly empty, these “good guys” will find another congregation where their efforts are congratulated and their picture printed on top of the Sunday Worship bulletin. Thanks Morris.

The seemingly good guys think that they are good, which is just outright foolhardy. The bible says that no one is good, that all of us have fallen short. Question is: “Where are these offended guys getting their ideas from?” They better calm down and accept the truth that they are no way better than anyone else.

And when we accept that we are not good, that in fact, we are worse off that we can dare imagine, that we have sinned and fallen short of God’s perfect glory (better still, that we fall short every day), the gospel of God’s free grace that requires nothing on our part but gives everything to us becomes Good News for every day. You are not better than the other guy; it’s just that God is Good enough to save you and the other guy. While all of us were still sinning, Christ died for all the ungodly.

That is your very long (but relieving) Lifeline, AMEN.

4 Reasons why you should Always Remember your Sin

“For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.”—Psalm 51:3 (ESV)

For the last couple of years I have had the privilege of teaching God’s people, many have come back to me with concerns. Concerns over my hermeneutic of preaching Law and then Gospel. (Hermeneutics is the study of the methods of [scripture] interpretation).

God speaks two words; His first is the word of demand (Law) and then His last word, the word of deliverance (Gospel). ‘Law and Gospel’ teaching or preaching (not Gospel and Law, order is important) is where Law is preached first (to expose our sin) and then Gospel is preached after (to expose Christ who has once-and-for-all conquered our sin and in Whom we have the forgiveness of our sins).

The concerns arise from my preaching of Law. Most of these concerned people raise issues like: “Aren’t you over-emphasizing sin?” “I feel like you are mourning sin”, “Sin lies in my past, can we talk about my present and my future?” and so many like those. Here are four reasons why you should always remember your sin.

1. Your sin grieves God. Since God is Holy, any unholy thing grieves Him and invokes His wrath. In the first place, it was Adam’s sin that shattered God’s relationship with mankind. Since we are Abba’s children, we ought to know that He has set boundaries (His perfect Law) and that our freedom should be within these limits He has set.

2. Sin is ugly (it has this tendency to look nice but vomit is never something to be proud of). Sin, when you first fall for it, it looks beautiful but make no mistake, it’s ugly, very ugly and it stinks. It promises what it can never give and it leaves whoever falls for it in misery: failed marriages, wayward kids, addictions, resentment, jealousy, fights, a lot of tears, etc. You have to remember the beast that sin is lest you are tempted into entering a marriage with it.

3. Sin is around us (all the time). Imagine falling in a pond filled with filthy water and then you start telling yourself: “don’t think about the pond, it’s not there.” Does that eliminate the pond? Even if you were pulled out of it, you need to always remember that there is a pond in your vicinity lest you fall in it again. Remember. Remember. Remember that as a Christian sin still stalk you like a mother lion stalking its prey.

4. It needs to be repented (and forgiven every day). The sins we always bring to God in prayer are those we struggle with, and thankfully so, God has done something about our sin. But when we choose to deliberately forget our sin, we stop looking at it as sin and it will grow into a habit and later an addiction. Remember your sin, always.

There is a reason why God in the Old Testament always reminded the Children of Israel of their past: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” That way, they were equally reminded of how gracious God had been and continued to be for them.

Likewise, when we are reminded of the sewer pit we fall into every day, and the rebellious life we used to lead, we are reminded of the gracious God who pulled us out without asking anything on our part. Grace is appreciated the most by people who remember how deep they had fallen and to what length God stooped to pull them out. Our sin is reminiscent of our gracious God. God reminds us of our depravity because He loves us so much to let sin devour us.

That is your Lifeline, AMEN.

God climbed down into the Pit

“…at the roots of the mountains. I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me forever; yet you brought up my life from the pit, O Lord my God.”—Jonah 2:5 (ESV)

When Jonah talks about the ‘pit’, he is not referring to a literal pit that you can dig with your hands. In fact the KJV uses the word ‘corruption’ instead of ‘pit’. In this sense, what Jonah is talking about here is sin—his sin—to be specific.

He talks about a different kind of pit, the one we all find ourselves in: sin. It is a pit in which Adam and his wife, due to their disobedience, fell into, and we, on Adam’s account, are born in that pit.

The prophet is singing a psalm of praise to God for bringing him out of this pit, a song of salvation. But it’s important that we pay attention to his words here. He says “yet you brought up my life from the pit, O Lord my God.” He doesn’t say: “yet you called up my life from the pit, O Lord my God.”

He is not saying that God stood at the mouth of the pit and called him out of it saying: “Jonah! I am here, reach out your hand and grab mine and this nightmare will be over.” This is not what Jonah says and salvation doesn’t look like this. You don’t reach out to grab Jesus’ hand; at least dead people don’t grab hands.

But in this sweet melody, Jonah says that God “brought up” his life. How wonderful are these words! God in Jesus climbed down into the pit in which he had been plunged and pulled him out. Jonah did nothing, God did everything. Salvation is 100% God’s work and 0.0% our work.

His only contribution to Jonah salvation was his resistance that plunged him deep into the pit. Like Martin Luther once wrote, the contribution we make to our salvation is always sin and resistance, which is all we can offer.

The Good News is that God came. He walked these dusty roads, was betrayed by Judas’s depraved human heart, denied by Peter’s truth-less lips, crucified and killed by treacherous religious men. But He rose from the dead by conquering it and its power and now stands in victory.

Paul has this to say But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus…” (Eph. 2:4-6)

Friend, be encouraged by the truth that Jesus came. And that all the work affecting to your salvation—all of it—was done by Him and now He bids you come and rest, IT IS FINISHED!

That is your Lifeline, AMEN.

Sleep Until Something Happens

“For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.”—2 Corinthians 1:20 (ESV)

This past Sunday, Christians around the world, in unison, celebrated the ‘Day of the Transfiguration of our Lord’. The transfiguration is not that popular in church today. The other day, I was sharing the gospel with a few friends when I mentioned the transfiguration everyone was like: “Trans-what? What is that?”

But this event is of significant importance. That is why the church set aside a Sunday for it. Luke, the doctor in his gospel account captures the scene in full (Luke 9:28-36).

Jesus took Peter, John and James to pray on the mountain, and this happened to Jesus: “And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.” (Luke 9:29-31)

What we read is that Jesus took three disciples with him, and that weird stuff happened to his face and clothing. But also, that the three disciples went to sleep as soon as they reached the mountain. And they really slept.

Now when I said this event is very important, I wasn’t joking. In this event, Moses is representative of the Law, Elijah the Prophets and Jesus Christ the New Covenant of grace. Verse 35 says “And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!””

The God who had promised through the prophets that He would forgive us and remember our sins no more was going to fulfill his promise. He wasn’t going to do it through Moses or Elijah but through Christ. Salvation can only come through Christ.

So, if you think you can earn salvation by keeping the 10 commandments or living ‘an exemplary’ life, you are doomed. Instead, you better be sleeping. You should be snoring. “Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep…” (v. 32a)

You see, God sends us to sleep for a reason: He can put things right without us. Just like He did to Adam in creating the Woman, God sends us to sleep so that He can do the work. I think that is why he created us last, after the beetles, mice, mosquitoes and chickens. He didn’t need our ideas on giving the mouse a fifth leg so that it can run faster or giving bigger thigh muscles to mosquitoes. He kept us asleep in His plan of creation.

As we slept, God was being born in the dusty, sun hot town of Bethlehem. As we slept, God was learning to curve furniture out of wood. As we slept he was picking 12 Ragamuffins to change the world. As we slept, God was betrayed, whipped and crucified. As we slept, His body was being laid in a borrowed tomb. It was in our slumber that God defeated death and resurrected.

As we go about our usual business of snoring, God takes on flesh to do for us what both the Law and the Prophets could never do—atone for sins once and for all. Moses and Elijah couldn’t save us because they were also sleeping along with us.

On the day of the Transfiguration, what God made clear to us was that He doesn’t need us to save us. He preferred that our striving and good behaviour remain things we dream about, not the things that save us. He prefers that salvation remain a gift.

You can snore instead of praying and still be saved because your prayers don’t save and neither does your audible snoring or illustrious dreaming, but the One who works as you snore saves. At a fitting time, he wakes you up with snore juices running down your chin, with eyes covered in disgust. He won’t allow you to even wear make-up, and that is when He hands you the gift.

The gifts we receive in Jesus are free and we do nothing to earn them. He prays, we snore. He saves, we receive the gift. Just like that. We wake up to utter our “Amen” to God because of what His son has done. Who said sleeping is a waste of time? Send them this devotion!

That is your Lifeline, AMEN.