Bridging the Gap Between a Loving God and the Repulsiveness of Sin

Full Of Grace And Truth

Synopsis: How do we bridge the gap between the love of a holy God and the repulsiveness of the sinner’s sin? Grace and truth, that is how. That’s what Jesus perfectly and continually modeled. What we find is that Jesus, as Walter Trobisch said, “accepts us as we are but when he accepts us, we cannot remain as we are.” There it is: grace and truth. Jesus brings our sin to the surface, and when we acknowledge it by full confession and humble repentance, he graciously and forever forgives it. Only grace and truth can do that for sinners. Perhaps that’s why prostitutes, publicans, and other sinners like you and me responded to Jesus so readily. At some level, they recognized their sin. That was why truth wrapped in grace was so appealing in Jesus’ day…and still is today!

Jesus - Full of Grace and Truth

Moments With God // John 1:14

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Not too long after my wife and I had moved into a home we had just purchased, our next-door neighbor’s live-in girlfriend asked me, “what do you do?” I told her that I was a pastor. So she said, “Oh, I’m looking for a church…one that doesn’t get all weird and condemning about sin. What about yours?”

I said, “My church—hey, we accept everybody just the way they are—unless you’re shacking up with someone!”

No—I didn’t say that! But it was an awkward moment for me as I scrambled for a way to minimize the offense of the gospel to a person who was far from God and build a bridge that might lead us at some point into a spiritual conversation. I didn’t need to offer condemnation by my words, in the tone of my voice, or with my body language. I didn’t need to convince her of her sins, she was already dealing with that herself. Besides, it is not my job—it is the work of the Holy Spirit to do that. (John 16:8).

Jesus wouldn’t have done that either. Remember, in this very same book, right after the most famous verse in the entire Bible, John 3:16, Jesus goes on to say, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”(John 3:17)

But let’s keep in mind that neither did Jesus come, as C.S. Lewis pointed out, to tell the world that everything was quite alright! Obviously, the world needed a savior—that’s why Jesus came. People need a savior because sin holds people captive. To keep the bad news about sin and the good news about a Savior from them would be the most hateful thing we could ever do.

So how do we bridge that gap between a loving God and the repulsiveness of the sinner’s sin? Grace and truth, that is how. That is what Jesus perfectly modeled. Take, for instance, his interaction with the adulterous woman in John 8. Picture the scene: This sinful woman is standing in the center of a circle, surrounded by self-righteous religious leaders who want her stoned. Imagine her humiliation, caught in the very act of adultery—a private act now a very public sin. Nothing can hide her shame—and make no mistake, sexual sin is shameful, degrading to the people involved, destructive to the innocent family members it affects, and it is odious to a holy God.

This woman is standing before Jesus, exposed, humiliated, tears dripping to the sand. She has been used by men all of her life, and now she will pay for it with her life. She sees the stones; she knows her guilt. Now, all eyes are on Jesus—what will he do?

After some time, Jesus speaks and says to those who want her executed, “Ok, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” And with that bombshell, one by one, from oldest to youngest, they walked away, leaving only Jesus and this sinful woman face-to-face. What now? Would Jesus give her a good moral tongue lashing? No, he just gently asks, “Where are your accusers? Has no one judged you guilty?”

She replied, “No one, Sir.”

At that, Jesus offered these grace-truth words that would utterly right this sinner’s upside-down life: “Then I don’t either. Go now and leave your life of sin.”

Behind this amazing display of grace and truth, as Walter Trobisch said, what we find is that Jesus “accepts us as we are but when he accepts us, we cannot remain as we are.” Jesus brings our sin to the surface, and when we acknowledge it by confession and repentance, he totally, graciously, and forever forgives it. The adulteress went away forgiven, with a new clean heart and a brand new chance at life. Only grace and truth can do that for sinners.

Perhaps that is why prostitutes, publicans, and other sinners responded to Jesus so readily. At some level, they recognized their sin. That was why forgiveness was so appealing to them…and still is!

What does the world need more than anything right now? What does your sinful next door neighbor so desperately need? The same thing you need: A whole lot of truth and a big dose of grace!

Take A Moment: Spend time today to memorize and meditate on this very important verse from John 1 that likewise reveals the great grace of God: “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12)

Your Final Breath!

Make Sure Righteousness Is With You At That Moment

SYNOPSIS: The only thing that will serve you well at the moment you breathe your last is righteousness. Your money won’t do any good, the car you drive will go to somebody else, your clothes will be taken to Good Will, your family will move on, and your friends will go back to your house after the funeral and have a potluck in your honor. And before the last piece of chicken is eaten, your memory will start to fade. Sorry to put it so bluntly, but “them’s the berries.”

your final breath

Moments With God // Proverbs 11:4

Wealth is worthless in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death.

I’ve done a lot of funerals in my time as a pastor, and I’ve never seen a hearse pulling a U-Haul. The fact is, and always will be, you can’t take it with you. That’s what says Proverbs 11:4 is saying.

The only thing that will serve you well at the moment you breathe your last is righteousness. Your money won’t do any good, the car you drive will go to somebody else, your clothes will be taken to Good Will, your family will move on, and your friends will go back to your house after the funeral and have a potluck in your honor. And before the last piece of chicken is eaten, your memory will start to fade. Sorry to put it so bluntly, but “them’s the berries.”

Years ago, I came across a great little parable that reminds us of this sobering reality. There was a very rich man who, knowing he would die soon, had all his assets converted into gold bars. He then put them in a big bag on his bed, draped his body over the bag of gold, and breathed his last. When he woke up, he was at the gate of heaven.

Saint Peter met him at the gate and with a concerned look on his face said, “Well, I see you actually managed to get here with something from the earth! But unfortunately, you can’t bring that in.”

“Oh please, sir,” said the man. “I must have it. It means everything to me.”

“Sorry, my friend,” said Saint Peter. “If you want to keep that bag, then I’m afraid you’ll have to go to, you know, the other place. You don’t want to go there, believe me.”

“Well, I won’t part with this bag.”

“Have it your way,” returned Peter. “But before you go, would you mind if I looked in the bag to see what it is that you’re willing to trade eternal life for?”

“Sure,” said the man. “You’ll see. I could never part with this.”

Saint Peter looked in the bag and with a puzzled look on his face said to the man, “You’re willing to go to hell for…pavement?”

It’s all just stuff, friends, worthless in heaven. Only the righteousness you have by grace through Christ will help you on the day of your death. (Luke 12:13-23) Try focusing on what righteousness calls you to do and live as if the judgment takes place today! That approach to living will serve you well!

Take A Moment: Write out the eulogy you would want someone to deliver at your funeral. Between now and then, go live it!

Redemptive Lift

The Fruit of Gospel-Centered Living

God wants you to be an agent of Redemptive Lift in your village: your home, school, workplace, neighborhood, social network, or wherever you do life. He desires wherever you live to be exalted by your righteousness. This is not just God’s plan for Africa; it is his plan for you!

The gospel demands of people a better way of living.

Proverbs 11:11 tells us,

“By the blessings of the upright the city is exalted”

Not only are souls saved, but Redemptive Lift follows wherever the gospel is proclaimed. By Redemptive Lift, I mean that wherever people respond to the gospel not only are souls saved for eternity, but life for all the villagers gets better immediately.

In other words, when the Good News takes root in a place, the city is exalted.

This is exactly what has happened throughout history. Over the centuries, most of humanity’s great advancements and social reforms were inspired by believers carrying God’s message to their corner of the world.

At Petros Network, our goals aren’t just to plant a certain number of churches or get a certain number of converts but to train our church planters to be the voice of reform, education, and vision casting for all that comes from the domain of God’s goodness within their communities.

The gospel demands of people a better way of living — and it shows them how: better hygiene, clean water, environmental stewardship, human rights, women’s empowerment, protection of vulnerable children, food security, and government that serves the best interest of the people, better family relationships, ethnic harmony, and even taken proper care of animals.

“By the blessings of the upright, the city will be exalted.”

This is our goal, that in place after place, we will see impoverished villages transform into shining lights for all of Africa to see. A pretty lofty goal, I know, but we’ll prevail because the gospel will prevail. Jesus promised it would.

Which brings me to you: God wants you to be an agent of Redemptive Lift in your village: your home, school, workplace, neighborhood, social network, or wherever you do life. He desires wherever you live to be exalted by your righteousness. This is not just God’s plan for Africa; it is his plan for you!

So, is life in your “village” better simply because you’re there? It should be! After all, the gospel is meant to overflow from your life, making you an agent of Redemptive Lift.

Would you join me in asking God where and how he wants to use our righteousness to exalt the little corner of the world in which we live? Seriously, life in your “village” ought to get better simply by virtue of you being there — and with God’s help, it will! 

This is how we change the world! So let’s do it!

Consider partnering with us to create Redemptive Lift around the world as we share, show and spread the Good News of Jesus among the unreached. Learn more at petrosnetwork.org.

Everything Goes Back To Normal

Don’t Get Stuck on a Spiritual High

SYNOPSIS: Never fixate on a spiritual high. Resist the urge to erect a shelter on a mountaintop experience. Don’t rate your current and future Christian experience against those “glory days” of yesteryear. Simply see those experiences for what they are: Fuel for the assignment ahead. Then get back to normal. Climb down off your mountaintop experience and get back in the game. Lost people are still lost down there in the real world and the proclamation of God’s kingdom from your lips and through your life is still the only way they will be found.

Don't get hung up on spiritual highs.

Moments With God // Mark 9:9

As they went back down the mountain…

In Mark 9:2-13 we come across one of the most fascinating and mysterious stories about Jesus in the Gospels. Jesus takes Peter, James, and John to the top of a mountain, and there before their very eyes, for a few moments at least, his humanity morphs into the dazzling brilliance of his divine being. And if that weren’t enough to knock their sandals off, Moses and Elijah, Israel’s two greatest historical and theological figures, suddenly show up and begin to encourage Jesus about his upcoming death.

As you would expect of Peter, the unpredictable disciple offers to set up shop for this impromptu triumvirate: “Teacher, how good it is that we are here! We will make three tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” (Mark 9:5)

At that, a cloud covers Jesus and his heavenly guests, the Voice speaks a word of Divine authentication from the heavens, Jesus is suddenly left standing with Peter, James, and John, and everything goes back to normal.

Everything goes back to normal!

That’s when Jesus leads them “back down the mountain” to the real world.

Here’s the deal: God never intends for us to fixate on “spiritual highs”; we are not to build tabernacles around them or make memorials out of them. They are simply means to an end, the fuel to empower us for another spiritual assignment. Jesus didn’t have this encounter with Moses and Elijah just so he could feel special. The same account of the transfiguration in Luke 9:31 (NLT) tells us that these two Old Testament prophets came to encourage Jesus about his upcoming departure—literally, in the original text, his “exodus.” He was about to face the greatest assignment of all—the cross. This mountaintop experience was meant as fuel—encouragement, strength, a reminder of his life’s purpose—for his impending death for the sins of the world.

Don’t get me wrong: I am not down on “spiritual highs.” They are wonderful—and necessary. Just don’t fixate on them. Resist the urge to erect a shelter and live in their warm afterglow. Don’t rate the rest of your Christian experience against them. Don’t build the entire meaning of your existence upon them. Simply see them for what they are: Fuel for the assignment ahead.

Then get back to normal. Climb down off your mountaintop experience and get back in the game. Lost people are still lost down there in the real world and the proclamation of God’s kingdom from your lips and the demonstration of it through your life is still the only way they will be found.

Take A Moment: Is there a “spiritual high” from your past (an ecstatic experience, a fruitful time of ministry, a wonderful season in an amazing church family, a dramatic period of spiritual growth under a gifted spiritual leader) against which you tend to measure current experience? Stop doing that! It’s idolatrous, actually. Repent of worshiping experience and instead ask God to show you how he intends for that “high” to fuel you for the kingdom assignment ahead.

Nothing To Hide, Nothing To Fear

Pursue Personal Integrity

SYNOPSIS: The person who values and practices integrity will live with confidence, no matter what! They can expect to live under the blessing and favor of God. They will be unburdened from the pending doom of discovery. And at the end of their days, they will be able to look back with satisfaction on a life of no regrets. Integrity! It’s not always the easy way. It’s not always the way that will bring popularity and promotion. But in the end, it is the only life that can stand before the All-knowing Judge.

Nothing to Fear

Moments With God // Proverbs 10:9

Honesty lives confident and carefree, but Shifty is sure to be exposed.

Like my mom, your mom probably reminded you from time to time that “honesty is the best policy.” That value was drilled into in us from the very beginning in our homes. And over the years, whether we were living it out or suffering the consequences of violating it, we found that practicing honesty always resulted in what was best for us. Honesty wasn’t always the easy road to travel; in fact, sometimes being honest had some unpleasant short-term consequences. But in the long run, telling the truth always proved to be right.

The Watchman Examiner once reported that when Senator Henry Clay was about to introduce a potentially unpopular bill in back in the 1800’s, a friend said, “If you do, Clay, it will kill your chance for the presidency.” Clay asked, “but is the measure right?” And on being assured it was right, Clay said, “I would rather be right than be president.” I

That is the kind of character we all admire and long for in our leaders.

Proverbs calls that being a person of integrity. Integrity is a word that is talked about a great deal in our society, but just what is it? The dictionary defines it as fidelity to moral principles; honesty; soundness; completeness. A great working definition of integrity is who you are when no one is looking. The British poet Thomas Babington Macaulay noted, “The measure of a man’s real character is what he would do, if he knew he would never be found out.”

The word integrity comes from the word integer, which refers to a whole number. It is being a whole person. It means there is a congruence between what you say you believe and how you actually live. It is the marriage of what you say and what you do.

Proverbs 10:9 says that living as a person of integrity carries with it the priceless benefit of security: “The man of integrity walks securely, but he who takes crooked paths will be found out.” Or, as the Message says, “Honesty lives confident and carefree.” When you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.

Integrity…honesty…wholeness! What a tremendous way to live. The person who values and practices integrity will live with confidence, no matter what! They can expect to live under the blessing and favor of God. They will be unburdened from the pending doom of discovery. And at the end of their days, they will be able to look back with satisfaction on a life of no regrets.

Integrity! It’s not always the easy way. It’s not always the way that will bring popularity and promotion. But in the end, it is the only life that can stand before the All-knowing Judge.

Take A Moment: Be honest! Is there anything you would change about you — attitudes, thoughts, actions — if it was exposed to the light of public view? Why not go ahead and tackle those things before they’re exposed on the Day of Accounting!

Shelter

Rest in the Shadow of the Almighty

SYNOPSIS: Have you ever watched a hen gather her chicks under her wings in a downpour? When the clouds burst, momma will spread her wings and the chicks will run to her, and in one fell swoop, she will gather all those babies under her wings and hunker down in the storm. The chicks literally disappear as she absorbs the onslaught. In your time of storm, God longs for you to find shelter in the shadow of his wings as he absorbs your storm! But here’s the deal: To survive the storm, you’ve got to run to him! So if you’re in a storm right now, if I were you, I’d start running!

New Article: Shelter

Moments With God // Psalm 91:1,4

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty…He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.

My wife and I were celebrating our wedding anniversary several years ago on the beautiful Hawaiian island of Kauai. It was in July, and we were on the rainier side of this lush island, and man was it raining. Several times throughout the day the clouds would burst and the downpour would send both man and beast running for cover.

We had a ground-floor condo for the week that opened up into the grassy interior of the resort, and throughout the week, we noticed a hen and her brood of about five or six baby chicks that roamed the resort, and to our delight, often took their leisure on our patio. Free-range chickens in paradise—what a life!

On one occasion when the downpour hit, we were in the room and the hen was right outside our sliding glass doors. When the clouds burst, it looked as if a fire hose had been turned on; it was unbelievable. Then the most amazing thing happened: those baby chicks made a beeline for momma hen. I didn’t know chickens could run that fast. And momma hen spread her wings like she had done it a million times before, and in one fell swoop, gathered all the babies under her wings and hunkered down in the storm. The chicks literally disappeared from sight for about ten minutes, while mother hen absorbed the maelstrom.

As we watched this touching scene in amazement, my wife and I simultaneously commented on these tender verses from Psalm 91: “under his wings you will find refuge.” As moved as we were by the mother hen’s love for her chicks, we were awestruck and undone by the Heavenly Father’s tender but protective love of his helpless kids—chicks like us.

What an awesome thing that we belong to a God who longs for us to find shelter in the time of storm under the shadow of his wings! And what love the Father has for us that he should send his only Son to absorb the storm of sin and protect us from the righteous wrath of the One who cannot tolerate that sin.

And the Son, Jesus Christ, still longs to gather us under his wings, as a hen gathers her brood: “How often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings…” (Matt 23:27)

Our loving God longs to gather you, but here’s the deal: You’ve got to run to him!

Take A Moment: Got a storm? Start running!

Unsolicited Advice

Proceed With Caution

SYNOPSIS: When it comes to dispensing advice, proceed with caution. Don’t rush to “counsel” people when you haven’t been invited into their lives. The truth is, some people are neither ready to receive your input. Your recommendations, even though well-intentioned, will fall on deaf ears, or worse yet, be seen as intrusive. If you’re one of those who just can’t seem to keep your opinion to yourself, Hannah Whitehall Smith offers this wise counsel: “The true secret of giving advice is, after you have honestly given it, to be perfectly indifferent whether it is taken or not, and never persist in trying to set people right.”

Unsolicited Advice

Moments With God // Proverbs 9:7-8

Whoever corrects a mocker invites insult; whoever rebukes a wicked man incurs abuse. Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate you; rebuke a wise man and he will love you.

Some people in this world have an irresistible urge to give unsolicited advice. Sometimes the advice is good and helpful to the person on the receiving end of it, but it usually falls into the it’s-none-of-your-business category. If you are one of those who just can’t seem to keep your opinion to yourself, Solomon has some great advice here in Proverbs 9,

“If you reason with an arrogant cynic, you’ll get slapped in the face; confront bad behavior and get a kick in the shins. So don’t waste your time on a scoffer; all you’ll get for your pains is abuse. But if you correct those who care about life, that’s different—they’ll love you for it!

Save your breath for the wise—they’ll be wiser for it; tell good people what you know—they’ll profit from it. (Proverbs 9:7-9, The Message)

In other words, when it comes to dispensing advice, proceed with caution. Don’t rush to counsel or admonish people when you haven’t been invited into their lives. The truth is, there are some people who are neither ready to receive your input nor willing to follow your suggestions. Your recommendations and challenges to them, even though well-intentioned, will fall on deaf ears, or worse yet, be seen as intrusive.

The counsel my father often gave to me paralleled Solomon’s was, “Son, don’t go sticking your nose into others people’s business.” That turned out to be pretty good advice. When I’ve heeded that advice, I’ve never regretted it. When I’ve ignored it and pushed my way into business that was not my own, I’ve regretted it as a foolish and unnecessarily painful act.

So what is Solomon proposing? That we just sit back and let people mess up their lives without saying a word? Doesn’t love demand that we sometimes confront, even when we know it won’t be well-received? What is God’s wisdom for us in this matter?

The Bible does teach us that we need to be ready to speak truth into the lives of people God has caused to cross our paths. We have been called to encourage, exhort, challenge, admonish, rebuke, instruct and hold people accountable for their actions. That is the assignment we are sometimes given, and if we want to have the best shot at speaking difficult truth to those who need to hear what we have to say, consider the following checklist for difficult conversations:

  • Know your target
  • Be careful with your timing
  • Pay attention to your limits
  • Check your own motives
  • Speak out of authentic love

If any one of those indicator lights is blinking red, pull up! If it’s all systems go, then bring your advice in for landing. And one more thing: good luck!

Take A Moment: Think back to a time when someone spoke a difficult and necessary word into your life. Take a moment to write them a note of thanks—it was probably pretty hard on them, too.