What Ray Rice and I Have in Common

By now multiplied millions have seen the infamous Ray Rice video. On the video, he knocks his fiancé out cold and then drags her body out of a casino elevator into the hallway. Many adjectives have been used to describe this despicable act. Horrifying, sickening, brutal . . . just to name a few.

Social media and news programs erupted into angry tirades against this athlete. ESPN anchors talked for hours about the ramifications of the video and how it would affect Rice as well as the entire NFL. Speculation will likely continue for days on end regarding who knew what and why more wasn’t done to verify the facts.

While the newscasters continue to talk about this problem and speculate regarding what will happen next, many people are using this opportunity to cast stones at this “awful person.” There is no doubt that Rice’s punch was blatant, cruel, and gruesome. However, we must remember Ray Rice is not the standard of righteousness that God will judge us. Jesus Christ, God robed in flesh, is the standard and that is a standard of which we ALL fall short of (see Romans 3:23). James makes it clear that if we are guilty of breaking any part of the law, we are guilty of breaking the law . . . period. Listen to the words of James inspired by the Holy Spirit: For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law (James 2:10-11 ESV, emphasis mine).

The Law rises or falls as a unit. Picture in your mind the Ten Commandments represented by a chain of ten links. Each link represents one of the commandments. The chain is connected to a crane on one end and a 5,000 pound weight hanging over your head on the other end. With this scenario in mind ask yourself a question, “Does it matter which of the ten links are broken?” Absolutely not! If the link labeled “taking God’s name in vain” is broken, the weight comes crashing down. If the link labeled “murder” is broken, the weight comes crashing down just the same! You see God’s standard is perfection. It doesn’t matter how close to perfect you were, if you aren’t perfect, you aren’t perfect!

Let me share one more illustration. Suppose you had to swim a thousand miles in under an hour to win a million dollar prize. Of course this is humanly impossible, but if you can do it you are the winner. Let’s suppose you swam 5 miles in an hour and your competitor swims 7 miles in an hour . . . who wins? Neither of you won! It doesn’t matter who swam the longest distance and who looked good doing it! You both failed. You both lost.

Though you may have never punched a woman and drug her body into a hallway, you have still SINNED and fallen short of the glory of God. You need the same Savior and the same forgiveness that Ray Rice needs. Your sin may look better to society than Ray’s sin, but sin is still sin in God’s eyes. It is a transgression of the Law. It must be punished. The wonderful news is that Jesus Christ came and paid the penalty for your sin, my sin and Ray Rice’s sin. The penalty that we all deserve, which is separation from God, was experienced by Jesus Christ when God’s wrath was poured upon Him while He willingly laid down His life on Calvary.
My lies, my lust, my dishonesty are just as responsible for Jesus being nailed to a tree as Rice’s knockout punch is. We are both guilty and we both deserve to be judged and suffer in Hell as a result. However, God doesn’t want anyone to perish, but He wants us all to repent of our sin and trust Christ for His cleansing and forgiveness.

You have a choice to make if you haven’t already done so. You can compare yourself to Rice and feel pretty good about yourself, or you can compare yourself to Jesus and realize just how far you are from perfection. You can depend upon yourself to make it to Heaven and fail, or you can cast yourself at Jesus’ feet and plead for His mercy and forgiveness. You can continue to point the finger at everyone else’s mistakes and ignore your own and act dignified, or you can admit your own wickedness and rebellious heart and be justified by the blood of Jesus.

I hope Rice, if he hasn’t already done so, will come to Jesus and confess his sins and be forgiven through Christ. We have more in common with him than we would like to admit. We are all sinners in need of a Savior! If Jesus can forgive the murderous Saul of Tarsus, and change him into Paul the Apostle, he can surely forgive you and I. Call on the name of the Lord and be saved today (see Romans 10:9-10, 13).
In conclusion please understand that I am in no way, shape, form or fashion trying to make light of what Ray Rice did to his fiancé. It was truly a despicable act that needs to be repented of and forgiven. My prayer is that we would all recognize our own sinfulness and the consequences that we deserve and plead for the same mercy and grace to be extended to us for our own sins.

Truth Is: God Knows Your Heart

Truth is God knows YOUR heart!

Jesus quoted the prophet Isaiah when He said in Matthew 15:8-This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me… 

This verse indicates that it is possible to say the right things on the outside but be wrong on the inside. God also reminded the people in the OT that man looks on the outside, but God looks on the heart.

What does God see when He looks at our heart? When the mask is peeled away and He sees us as we really are, what does He see? Thankfully, if our faith is in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, He sees our sins have been cleansed and He sees Christ’s righteousness in the place of our wickedness. However, He knows what we struggle with, He sees our false motives and He is aware of our waywardness. We need to remember that God is not looking for us to pay Him “lip service” but rather He desires a heart that is madly in love with Him and motives that are pure.

If you have a Bible read 1 John 1:9 and let the truth of that verse soothe your soul as you bring to Him the things in your life that He already knows about.

Help for the Helpless

Someone once said, “God helps those who helps themselves.” I’m sure in the context of that conversation some well meaning person was possibly looking at a lazy individual who refused to work, but was also struggling financially. However, that statement has been used in all kinds of ways and has been used to lead many people away from the Lord. In reality, the greatest help we need is not something we can do to help ourselves at all. The greatest help we need is to be reconciled to God…and we are helpless to make that happen. God helps those who realize they can’t help themselves and turn to Christ for the solution.

We cannot work our way to reconciliation and forgiveness. We cannot do enough good things to make reconciliation or forgiveness take place. It is only God’s mercy and grace that will enable us to experience the help we need that comes as a result of placing our faith in Christ.

In Mark 5 we see three helpless situations. These people could try to help themselves, but nothing was changing. The answers they had hoped for had only left them empty and hopeless. They needed a touch from the Master, and they needed His touch desperately!

The first individual we are introduced to is found in Mark 5:1-20. Jesus interacts with a man who is demon possessed. We will find later that this man is possessed with a multitude of demons. He is a terror to his community. He runs around nude, cutting himself and has super human strength. He is living in the graveyard. Imagine trying to bury a loved one with this guy running around. But then Jesus steps on the scene. The man runs and bows before Jesus and as Jesus sends the demons into a herd of pigs that jump to their death. It isn’t long before this man is clothed and in his right mind. And just like anyone who has been forgiven and changed by the power of God, this man has a desire to spend time with Jesus. However, Jesus has a mission for him. Go back home and let your friends and family know what I’ve done for you! That’s our mission too.

Then Jesus gets word that Jarius’ daughter is deathly sick (v. 23). Immediately Jesus begins to head to Jarius house, but before he can get there he meets someone else with a desperate need (vv. 25ff). She has had a disease for twelve years. She has spent all of her time and money looking for a cure, but no one could help her. She had heard of a man named Jesus. She heard that He was able to touch blinded eyes and maybe she had even heard what He had done for the man possessed with demons. She thinks, “If he can help them then surely He can help me. I won’t bother Him, I will just touch the hem of His garment and I will be made whole.” As Jesus passes through the crowd she stretches out her arm and touches his clothing and immediately she is made well. Jesus rewarded her faith with healing!

But then tragic news! Jarius’ daughter has died. Jesus got distracted and He is too late. No! Jesus is never too late, He is always right on time. Jesus reached down on this little girl’s death bed and raised her back to life (v. 41).

You see friend all of these people were helpless to help themselves! There was nothing they could do to change their circumstances. The needed the touch of God! The same is true for us! Sin has separated us from God and there is nothing, absolutely nothing, we can do to change that. However, Jesus came and took upon Himself the curse we deserved because of our sins and offers to us forgiveness, reconciliation and peace with God. You may look for it in other places, other things and other people, but Jesus is your only hope! Turn to Him today and let Him make you whole!

Take Up Your Bed and Walk

Take Up Your Bed and Walk

We live in desperate times. Our nation is in need of a spiritual awakening and a revival among her churches. The Word of God tells us that there would come a time when that which is evil would be called good, and that which is good will be called evil…WE ARE LIVING IN THAT DAY! We live in a day where addictions run rampant…pain killers, drugs, alcohol, pornography, other immoral addictions, addicted to acceptance by one’s peers, addiction to greed and power, and the list goes on and on and on. We live in a world that is spiritually sick and dying, because it is made up of people that are either spiritually dead or spiritually sick. We need help! We need spiritual renewal. We need a real revival. We need GOD!

In today’s passage of Scripture we are introduced to a group of people, and one man in particular, who seems to be representative of the scenario I just described on a physical scale. However, I believe there is more than just a physical application here. No doubt, Jesus can heal physically if He so chooses, but His greatest desire is to heal us spiritually! In John 5:1-9 we see the (1) Sick Man, the (2) Sympathetic Messiah, and the (3) Striking Miracle

The Sick Man

In John 5:2-3 we find the setting of this event. The TIME is around a Jewish feast day, more than likely one of the three main Jewish feasts during the year. The PLACE is close to a pool of water situated near the “Sheep Gate.” Albert Barnes says that the sheep gate was the area through which sacrificial animals were brought into the city, therefore this gate was probably located near the temple.

The WHO is found in vv. 3 & 5. There are a multitude of people at this pool who cannot help themselves. They are what we would call “invalids.”

  • Some are blind and they, nor anyone else can rid themselves of the blindness they have
  • Some are lame. They are incapable of walking. They cannot change their condition and neither can anyone else.
  • Some are paralyzed. Once again their condition is unchangeable.
  • However, Scripture calls our attention to ONE MAN that stands out from all the rest.
    • This man is DISABLED (see v. 5a)
      • One man was there who had been an invalid (John 5:5a)
    • This man is DESPERATE (see v. 5b)
      • …who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years(John 5:5b)
      • “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool…” (John 5:7b)
  • This man is DISSAPOINTED (see v. 7)
    • Jesus asks him if he wants to be healed and he replies: “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going down another steps before me.” (John 5:7c)
    • He had been sick for 38 years and had come to a place that offered hope. Yet he is still hopeless!

Application: YOU might not want to admit it, but we are no better spiritually than this man was physically. As a matter of fact we are much, much worse!

  • We are not just spiritually disabled apart from Christ, but we are spiritually DEAD apart from Christ!
    • But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear. (Isaiah 59:2)
    • And you were dead in the trespasses and sins(Ephesians 2:1)
  • Apart from Jesus we have a Desperate Need!
    • John 3:18b- …but whoever does not believe in Him is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
  • Apart from Jesus we will always be Disappointed

Application-Your sin problem isn’t going to get any better on its own. You can pretend it doesn’t exist, but it does. You can look for your own solutions, but the problem will be there as real as ever. It will not go away when you get older, it will not resolve itself, it will not heal itself and there is only One cure. We see the Cure coming walking by in verse 6.

The Sympathetic Messiah

  • Jesus knows his place
    • “When Jesus saw him lying there…” (John 5:6a)
    • Jesus knows his predicament
      • “When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time…” (John 5:6b)

Explanation of Verse 6-Do you want to be healed? It seems like an obvious answer to the question.

Application-I think there is a desire in everyone’s heart to be free from this blight that curses us and separates us from God. There are all kinds of false hopes out there that are given to others. Some try to find an answer through religion, but religion only leaves them empty and still laying at the pool. Some have chased after so many answers they have given up hope. Some want to ignore their condition and it seems that they believe if they will only ignore it, it will go away. Others want to beautify their condition with “good works” and “good deeds” in hopes that these things will slowly erase their problem.

Verse 7-The man begins to give an indirect answer to Jesus’ direct question. “I want to be healed but…” I’m depending on someone to put me in the water, but someone else always gets there first.

Application: This man had a legitimate problem and the selfishness and problems of others hindered him from experiencing the pool of water that his hope rested in. We also have a legitimate problem. There are also many roadblocks and obstacles that keep us from experiencing the restoration of the soul that we so desperately need. Sometimes our problems persist and grow worse because our hope rests in the wrong place or person. Sometimes our problems persist because of the selfishness and problems of others that confuse us and hinder us from finding the healing and freedom that only Christ can bring.

The Striking Miracle

  • The Astonishing Command

Verse 8-Then Jesus just blows the man away with a command… “take up your bed and walk.” He commands the man to get up. This man hadn’t gotten up in 38 years. He was an invalid. Yet the solution to the man’s problem was standing right in front of him. The solution to this man’s problem wasn’t a little pool of water…it was an overflowing fountain of water! This man didn’t need someone’s help to get him to the pool…this man had the divine Son of God speak healing to his body and would enable him to “get up, pick up his bed and begin walking around!”

  • The Amazing Change

Jesus’ healing did not leave him lying where he was and did not leave him how he was!

Verse 9-The man got up. The man was different, the man was changed. This all took place through the power of Jesus Christ!

Final Application:

  • What does this miracle have to do with us?
    • Just like his disease has messed him up physically, our sin has messed us up spiritually.
    • We are in a helpless and hopeless situation apart from Jesus Christ who can take our sin away and give us abundant and eternal life.
    • The mass of humanity is represented by all here at this pool. Needing desperately God’s healing touch. Looking for something to satisfy their soul. Trying to find answers and hope in all the wrong places. Under the wrath of God because they refuse to turn to and trust in their only HOPE!
    • Jesus stretches His nail-scarred hands out to YOU today and says, “Take up YOUR bed and walk. You can have forgiveness. Your soul is broken and NOTHING, NOTHING else can repair it except ME,” Jesus says.
    • There are many Christ followers who have stumbled and fallen along the way. They live in constant fear, they feel like they can never overcome their past and can never overcome certain habits or addictions. Let me ask YOU this…if it is God’s will for YOU to live a holy, godly, Christ-honoring, God-glorifying life, don’t YOU think He is going to provide for YOU the power to GET UP AND TAKE UP YOUR BED AND WALK?
      • He says to the drug addict…through ME take up YOUR bed and walk
      • He says to the girl addicted to the approval of others…through me take up YOUR bed and walk
      • He says to the men and women deceived and disappointed through empty religion…take up your bed and walk
      • He says to those who are consumed by lust and have their lives scarred because of past sexual sins…take up your bed and walk!
      • He says to those who are trusting in their good deeds to get them to Heaven…You can only take up YOUR bed and walk through me!
      • He says to those who try to laugh away the pain inside their hearts…take up YOUR bed and walk!
      • He says to those who feel inadequate and do sinful things to try to please others…take up YOUR bed and walk
      • He says to those who are being destroyed inwardly by bitterness…take up YOUR bed and walk
      • He says to those who are living a double life and would hold their heads in shame if anyone found out…take up YOUR bed and walk

Philippians 4:13-I can do all things through [Christ] who strengthens me.

Philippians 4:19-And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

Overcoming Sinful Obstacles

Scripture reveals to us that we are in a spiritual warfare. Satan would love nothing more than to destroy our testimony so that we become ineffective for God. He and the demons of hell place obstacles in our path that appeal to our flesh. We must constantly be on guard against these obstacles and learn to walk close to Jesus. As I was reading this morning I began to notice a pattern developing among the verses I was reading. I wanted to share some devotional thoughts from my time in the Word this morning.

First of all I was reminded from Romans 13:12 that our time to glorify God and live for Christ on this earth is rapidly running out! Can you believe that one half of 2012 is already in the books? Time seems to be rapidly passing us by. We must take advantage of the moments we have the opportunity to live for Christ. Paul says, “The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.” (KJV)

Secondly, we need to “cast off the works of darkness.” The idea here is to lay aside a filthy garment. If you were to put on a coat and then you felt insects crawling on you within the coat what would you do? If it were me I would unzip it as fast as I could and get it off of me! Crawling insects may not be your phobia but I think you get the picture. “The works of darkness” do far more damage than crawling insects, however the “children of light” should be repulsed by them just the same. We should take the “garment of darkness” and throw it off as quickly and permanently as possible. Our flesh will always long to pick it back up and put it back on, but we can overcome this temptation through Christ who gives us strength.

Thirdly, the strength to overcome is derived from God’s Word. Notice the words from Psalm 119:9-11-“How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” (ESV) “[The blessed man’s] delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.” (Psalm 1:2, KJV) The word of God is “stored” up in our hearts by delighting in and meditating upon the Word of God!

What are the things you need to “cast off” like a filthy garment? When you do a vacuum will be created. Love for and obedience to the Word of God must fill the vacuum or the filthy garments have a way of showing up again!

The Truth About God’s Forgiveness

Think about what the prophet said in Michah 7:19:

You will cast all of our sins into the depths of the sea. (ESV)

Through the new birth God forgives our sin and He removes the penalty of sin from us and He removes us from the power of sin (see John 3:3-21, Romans 6:14). He declares righteousness where no righteousness has been. This happens because Christ’s righteousness is added to our account when we trust Him by faith (2 Corinthians 5:21).

It is through Christ and His atoning sacrifice that we can experience this forgiveness and have the assurance that our sins have been placed in the “depths of the sea” and have been placed behind God’s back (Isaiah 38:17).

Have YOU trusted Christ to forgive YOU of YOUR sins? He is able to remove the guilt of YOUR past, He will enable YOU to live in victory in the present and give YOU an amazing future. Trust Him today!