Forgiven


 

Welcome to “Forgiven”

For the grace of God hath appeared bringing salvation to all men.

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.

Someone’s at your door.


Things change.  Well, things other than God.
Like this site. 
On November 10, 2014, this was the intro to my second site.  
I switched, because better things were available – It was easier for me.  It was more readable for you (I hope).
It’s now August 19, 2016 – and I’m moving again.  I hope, for the last time.  It’s a lot of work!!
Hope you enjoy it.  Learn from it.  Ans especially get closer to God through it.

The first one was tagged – Thou shalt have no gods before me.
This one – the second one for which this was written originally – Forgiven – For the grace of God hath appeared.
The third one – the one I’m going to in August of 2016 – Study – Given that the Bible is God’s manual for our lives, should we not study it?
As you can see – it’s more than just the technical details that are changing.


For those coming from the original site, yes – you’ll notice that this is a bit different.  The appearance is certainly different.  Some of the content may be a little different as well.  In fact, some of it may be very different.

There’s lots of reasons for this.  Lots of things have happened in the world lately – many of them bad.  There’s lots of things that have happened in my life this year – some bad – but ultimately good.  Who knows – maybe the things in the world will turn out for good as well.  Hopefully – they will.

But in that previous paragraph – there’s the answer as to why this new take on the site.

Lots of things happen – to all of us.  Lots of those things are bad.

We do lots of things as people.  Lots of those things are bad.

Many people look at God as our judge – waiting to catch each and every bad thing we do – and punish us for them.

But what about the text on the picture at the top of this page:

For the grace of God hath appeared bringing salvation to all men.

Normally I’d be putting in a whole section of the Bible with a link so you can go check out even more of the context.  In this case – that’s not going to happen.  I’m not doing it because it’s one sentence in the middle of a section about “What must be taught to various groups”.  This is part of a letter from the Apostle Paul to Titus.  I will tell you how the letter starts:

Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith of God’s elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness— a faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time, and at his appointed season he brought his word to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Savior,

To Titus, my true son in our common faith:

Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.

This is great.  It talks about truth, faith, knowledge, eternal life, as well as grace and peace.

The Gospel of the Christian Bible is supposed to be about good news.  The vast majority of people – I think – would agree that the things above are good.  At least until they heard Christianity was involved.  Then – many would start to talk about how judgmental Christians are – how they live by laws that say “don’t do this” – “don’t do that” – “don’t do anything” (especially of it’s fun!).

But that feeling isn’t reflective of what Christianity as about.  Take a look at this –

After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. “Follow me,” Jesus said to him, and Levi got up, left everything and followed him.   Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?” 
Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

If you don’t already know – tax collectors were the scum of Jewish society at that time.  They were Jews – collecting taxes from Jews – that went to the Roman Governor – and went to Rome to go to Caesar.  So – Caesar got what he wanted, which was already a lot.  But the governor wanted a piece too, so his percentage got added to what had to be given to Caesar.  And then there’s the tax collector.  He wasn’t getting paid – so he had to take care of himself.  He added even more onto what the people had to give in order to cover Caesar, the Governor, others along the way, and himself!  No wonder they were so hated.

And yet – look who Jesus was looking for.  Jesus saw this tax collector.  Remember – Jesus Himself was a Jew.  Then He goes over to him – and just says two little words.  “Follow me”.  And he did.  Levi, who’s name was changed to Matthew, author of the first Gospel, asked no questions – he just got up, left everything and followed him.

This Jesus – who so many people think is so awful they don’t want to have anything to do with “His” church – a tax collector left everything he had, not even telling the Governor that he worked for – or the other people that worked under him – without a second thought.  That doesn’t sound like something one would do of Jesus was as bad as some people think He is.

And it’s not just the tax collector Levi.  It happened to others as well.
Jewish leaders went to Jesus in secret to learn from Him.
After His death and resurrection – lots and lots of people were willing to die for Him and the promises He made that they would be with Him forever!

He can’t possibly be that bad!

What’s going on here?
How is it that the message of Christianity has gone from one that was so good that people were willing to die for it –
to one that is apparently so bad that people will do pretty much anything to avoid it?

Did Jesus change?  No!

Did the message change?  Apparently.

The Bible even warns about the possibility that this will happen.

In another letter in the Bible, the author writes

Guard against turning back from the grace of God. Let no one become like a bitter plant that grows up and causes many troubles with its poison.

 Is this what’s happening?
Are we turning people away from God – because what we’re saying is like a bitter plant that grows up and causes many troubles with its poison.

Last night I was reading a book by Philip Yancey called Vanishing Grace: What ever happened to the good news?

It starts off with a phrase from the letter just referenced, but from a different translation of the Bible.  Here’s the one he used:

See to it that no one misses the grace of God…

I think the issue here is that not everyone is the same.  Philip Yancey writes about this in the book –

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view . . . until you climb into his skin and walk around in it,” said Atticus Finch, the fictional lawyer in To Kill a Mockingbird. According to the experts, that process is not so simple and actually involves four encounters, not just two.

Imagine that I encounter a Muslim for the very first time. I meet him and he meets me. Lurking like ghosts behind those two encounters , though , are two more: my image of who he is and his image of who I am. I think of terrorists and the Taliban; he thinks of American drone missiles and internet pornography. We both have our vision clouded by preconceptions formed from news stories, Hollywood movies, and all the other stereotypes involved when two races and cultures confront each other.

Something similar happens when I meet an atheist. As soon as I tell him I am a Christian writer and he tells me he is an atheist, the preconceptions kick in. For true dialogue to occur, we must cut through those stereotypes and genuinely consider the other’s point of view. Perhaps this is part of what Jesus meant when he said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

I thought about this process when I came across four common complaints about Christians in a magazine published by Christianity Today:

• You don’t listen to me.

• You judge me.

• Your faith confuses me.

• You talk about what’s wrong instead of making it right.1)Yancey, Philip (2014-10-21). Vanishing Grace: What Ever Happened to the Good News? (p. 34). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

 

And you know what?  Jesus talked to people in different ways too.  When He spoke to Jewish leaders that were putting unnecessary burdens on the people, when He spoke to people that “should have known better” – He spoke in one way.

But when He talked to the average person – people like you and me that weren’t perfect and didn’t claim to be perfect and didn’t think we were better than everyone else and didn’t think we had it all together while everyone else was messed up – then He spoke in a different way.  Then He never did the four things that people complain about regarding today’s Christians.

And that’s important.  Because – no matter what anyone who thinks they’re a Christian might say – following Jesus is a journey, not an instant conversion to a perfect person.

Yes – it’s a journey.  Jesus said “I am the way and the truth and the life.”

I am the way

Before they were called Christians – the followers of Jesus were calling themselves The Way.  Those were the people who, after Jesus was resurrected, were willing to die to follow Him – to follow The Way to where He was going – to be in Heaven with Him for eternity.

Their message – the good one – that’s the one we should be giving.

Make no mistake – Jesus also said to repent.  But – that’s wasn’t His first message to these average everyday people.  No – His first message was to have faith and to be forgiven because of that faith.  What came after that – it was different for each  person.  He doesn’t have a cookie cutter approach – He doesn’t follow the “gray suit” approach to life where everyone looks and acts exactly the same.  Far from it.

This same Jesus also said –

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

This is the message the tax collectors and other sinners heard when Jesus spoke.

Yes – over time – when we start to realize the life that Jesus has in mind for us – what we want in life will change.  But that changes does not – and is not expected to – take place before even starting the journey!  At least it didn’t when Jesus told the message of good news.  And – let’s not forget – it is His message that we’re supposed to be telling – not our own.

Oh – by the way – that forgiveness thing.  It’s good for anything we have done.  Literally – anything.  There’s nothing, no matter what some may say, that won’t be forgiven.  Some would say if you’ve done certain things – you can’t be in “the church”.  Well – maybe not in their “church”.  But in Jesus’ church – sincerely ask for forgiveness from Jesus – and you will be forgiven.

One other thing I want to leave you with.  This is something I think is one of the greatest things in the Bible – something that Jesus said –

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.

What we have to realize – at that time, eating wasn’t just sitting at a table and eating some food.  It was meant to convey a closeness beyond just friends sharing a meal.  This is the Son of God – telling each one of us that He’s knocking on our “door” – that He wants to be a special kind of friend with us – and all we have to do is open the door and invite Him in.

How cool is that?

That’s the kind of message that even a tax collector can like.

That’s the good news – the way it’s supposed to be told.

For the grace of God hath appeared bringing salvation to all men.

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.

Someone’s at your door.

References   [ + ]

1. Yancey, Philip (2014-10-21). Vanishing Grace: What Ever Happened to the Good News? (p. 34). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

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