Practical Proverbial, from 1 Thessalonians, Good Friday, 30 March 2018.

May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.  1 Thessalonians 3:13 (NIV).

Since it’s Good Friday, before you remember that “it is finished,” I’m going to lay some bad news on you that you probably won’t want to hear.

You aren’t good enough.

You, me, Pope Francis, Roseanne Barr, David Hogg, Franklin Graham, anyone else you can think of:   on our own we are damned.   Not just damned dirty dogs, damned dirty sinners, damned old curmudgeons, but really damned.   Eternally separated from God forever.  On our own, we have thought, said, and done things that put an abyss between the love of Jesus that declared “it is finished” and where we’re standing now.

When we try to do good things for other people because people are inherently good, we’re damned.   When we feel remorse for things we’ve done because that’s what you should feel, we’re damned.   When…when…when:  the list goes on.  We cherish self-reliance, and against the face of a hostile world, those behaviors seem good.   They bring out the best in us.   But on their own, they’re the path to eternal damnation.   You and I are still in one place and Jesus, the Light of the world and eternal love, is in another.   Accept it:  without Jesus, you’re damned, stuck.  Whatever hell is, whether it’s fire, pain, torture, or even just permanent emotional distress, it’s the best you can hope for.   Reject the love of Jesus and that’s your present and your future.  You aren’t good enough.

Face it, damned friend, you need help.

Good Friday is all about that help.   Good Friday is the reason Paul confidently gave this benediction to friends he knew would understand it.  Good Friday is the reason he knew, and we can know, that we can be blameless and holy in the presence of God.  Without Good Friday, we’re damned in front of God, and it’s a fearful thing to stand there in that condition.  With Good Friday, all is forgiven; everything.   My cheating and lying, your rebellion and hatred, the judgmentalism we thrust on strangers, the anger and the murder and the adultery and the idolatry are ALL forgiven.   None of them will earn us the reward of hell.   Because of Good Friday Jesus said, “it is finished.”   His death is the defining moment in all of human history, and it makes the difference in this world and the next.   Forever.

You and I are never good enough on our own.   We desperately need God to intervene in our lives and make things right.   On the cross, Jesus did just that.   He, who really is good enough, did it today, on Good Friday.   On its own, Friday is just another day.   What Jesus did made you, and this holiday, more than good enough.

For further reading:   1 Thessalonians 4:1.

Lord, thanks for Your death, for Your life, for Your forgiveness.

Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 26 September 2016

For since the message spoken through angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him.  Hebrews 2, verses 2 and 3.

What does that mean?  It sort of seems like two different thoughts ‘smushed’ together.

My NIV concordance says that “the message spoken through angels” references God giving the Commandments to Moses at Sinai.  Some reading from Deuteronomy tells that “myriads of angels” accompanied God in giving Him praise when He revealed His law to Moses (who then shared it with the world).  A little online research corroborates that opinion.  What about the rest of the verses?

Yesterday at church the theme was “good enough.”   Pastor Mark talked about how we, as people, constantly strive to prove we’re good enough.   Every religion on earth is a choice between following Jesus or not.   If you aren’t following Jesus, then you’re doing something, anything, to prove you’re good enough.   Good enough for Allah, good enough to reach nirvana, good enough to prove your worth, good enough to make up for things you’ve done, just good enough:   that’s the point of all faiths other than following Jesus.  You’re either a following Christian or you aren’t.

I don’t say this to denigrate other faiths.   It’s just a fact.   If your faith isn’t put in Jesus, you aren’t putting your faith in the only one who can save you from your sins.  You’re striving to do something, most likely to prove you’re good enough to rise above the wrongs you’ve done.   And be real:   everyone does something wrong.   Wrong equals sin.   We all sin; we’re all thick with sin.  There’s nothing we can do to undo the consequences of those sins, both against other people and, as believers, against the righteous justice of God.   If you aren’t following Jesus, you’re doing something to overcome those sins.  THAT point segues directly into verse 3, where the verse talks about salvation.

Only Jesus has atoned for your sins.   Only Jesus can save me, you, or anyone from the eternal consequences of our sins.  God is perfect and just and righteous and all love.   He made us to love us and for us to live in perfect harmony with that love for all time.   Yet, to maintain that just, righteous, perfect love, God can’t tolerate our sins.   He gave us the free will to follow completely or sin.   Being a loving parent, He allows us to choose what we do, including the consequences.  But to maintain His perfection He can’t allow our constant imperfections to taint Him.   If He did, He wouldn’t be perfect, He wouldn’t be God.  That can’t be allowed, and let’s keep it real:   we wouldn’t really want it.

I am not perfect and I’m not just or righteous on my own.   I can’t atone for myself.  I can make some amends for the wrongs I’ve done to God and other people, but in truth I can’t atone for everything.   As an absolute, if I can’t atone for everything then I really can’t atone for everything.   I’m not God.  Neither are you.  We can’t save ourselves from the punishment we deserve:   damnation and separation from God.

Jesus did.

He did and He did it as fully man and fully God all at the same time.   It’s a mystery, THE mystery of the ages, how Jesus lived, died, and atoned for all sins.   He took on Himself the eternal damnation that even the least of my sins deserves and He made it right.   He made unclean man right and righteous again so that we can again live in the harmony with God that God originally intended.   The truly good news of all history is how He saved us from the eternal consequences our sins deserve.   All of Scripture is God testifying through men how He did this.   Those twelve men who Jesus taught during His ministry here inspired dozens, then hundreds, then millions of others to share this good news with others.   The Bible does this.   Pastors, ministries, whole lifetimes do this.   Even our words here together do this.   It’s all because of what Jesus did those thousands of years ago.   On my own, I’m not good enough.   Jesus is and with Him, He made me good enough.

What do two verses really mean?   As it turns out, quite a lot.

For more reading:   Deuteronomy 33:2, Romans 11:22.

Lord Jesus, I follow You.   Thank You for saving me, for forgiving me, for doing what I can’t.   Help me to live in ways to share this message with the world.