Day 12 – You Are Made For Good Works

“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:1-10)

Can you think of something you’ve done this week which you would categorise as ‘good’?

Perhaps you behaved well in class. Perhaps you went to church. Perhaps you ate well. Perhaps you opened the door for someone. Perhaps you didn’t swear when you got angry. Perhaps gave someone a birthday present. Perhaps you sent a loving text.

What did you do this week that was good?

Often we find ourselves thinking in terms of good or bad. Am I a good Christian? Have I done something good with my life? Have I achieved the good I want to this week or month? Have I got good marks?

Well, the bible speaks of believers being good. That is, that we have been created for good works. Did you know that?

You're More Than A Number - You Are Made For Good Works

It is very easy for us to believe that the good we do will help our standing before God. In reality this isn’t the case. Our good works don’t improve of lessen our standing before God in any way. His love for us in unchanging. To be right with God is not because of these ‘good works’ but because of what Jesus has done on the cross. God accepts us because of what He has done through Jesus, not from our good actions, behaviours, or thoughts.

It’s a radical gift.

It’s why the song ‘Amazing Grace’ came into being. It’s amazing because we haven’t done anything to deserve this gift. It is grace because it is a free gift from God to us.

And out of this radical gift of grace we find ourselves bursting forth with thanks, joy, and hope for life.

Off the back of this great news we recognise that God has created us to do good works. Because of the gift we’ve been given we seek to gift others by helping, loving, and serving others.

Listen to what Paul, the writer of a letter to the Ephesian church, says:

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:8-10)

God has shown his incredible riches, grace, and kindness through Jesus. And out of this amazing grace from God we find ourselves created to do good works. As we follow Jesus and put our trust in him we have a joy in doing good works for others. Our hearts are now turned to help and love others, we desire the best for others and so seek to help them through the good works we do.

God’s hands are all over this as he has moved in us to accept this grace, and continues to move us to desire the best for others. As we continue in our relationship with God we continue to be made more and more like His Son. In this we desire to seek and serve those around us, learning how to do the good works that he has prepared for us to do.

Incredible.

FOR REFLECTION

  • Do you realise how much grace God has given you through the person and work of his Son Jesus?
  • Out of this truth, what is the response you have?
  • What opportunities do you have to do good works for others this week?

This is part of a devotional series called You’re More Than A Number. To understand the purpose of these posts then please read the series introduction. If you’d like these delivered to your inbox, please sign up to follow this blog or my FB page.

  1. You Are Created
  2. You Are Sinful
  3. You Are Forgiven
  4. You Are Called
  5. You Are Redeemed
  6. You Are Loved
  7. You Are Saved
  8. You Are Free
  9. You Are Chosen
  10. You Are A Child of God
  11. You Are A Slave

3 Ways The Beach Helps Youth Ministry

The beach is great.

If it was a choice between a warm beach location or say a cold snowy type location, the beach wins every time.

And so with summer holidays and hot days comes the annual visit to the beach. A few days spent relaxing, reading, and having a rollicking time with the family. Last year I spent hours making an awesome sandcastle with my daughter, this year it seems we’re more adventurous and have ventured into the cooler waters and waves.

Oddly enough, the beach had me thinking about youth ministry. Perhaps it was the salt water, the days off, or too much cricket watching (can that ever be the case?). Nevertheless, using the beach as an illustration for youth ministry it reminded me of three things we youth leaders need to have in mind coming into the 2018 youthmin year.

First, we need perspective. 

Sitting on the beach gives you a view of the large expanse of water in front of you. It gives you a view of stretches of sand, to your left and right. It reminds you that there is something bigger than your small self going on in this world. As one person sitting on a small patch of sand, millions of grains within arms reach, you are given perspective on life, faith, and ministry.

As Psalm 139:7-10 reminds us, God is huge. He is everywhere.

“Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.”

In youth ministry we often need perspective. It’s not about the next event, the next catch-up, the next Bible study, the next service, the next hard conversation. It is about God, and declaring that he has come, and is with us through his Son and his Spirit. He will lead and hold us, as the Psalmist has written.

Second, we need grit. 

Generally sand is quite gritty. On some beaches it really does give your feet a good workout.

Youth ministry is the same. It is a hard work. It is constant work. It requires grit. It is the type of work that will give you a good workout, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Paul knows this from experience and writes in 2 Corinthians 6:3-10:

“We are not giving anyone an occasion for offense, so that the ministry will not be blamed. Instead, as God’s ministers, we commend ourselves in everything: by great endurance, by afflictions, by hardships, by difficulties, by beatings, by imprisonments, by riots, by labors, by sleepless nights, by times of hunger, by purity, by knowledge, by patience, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by sincere love, by the word of truth, by the power of God; through weapons of righteousness for the right hand and the left, through glory and dishonor, through slander and good report; regarded as deceivers, yet true; as unknown, yet recognized; as dying, yet see—we live; as being disciplined, yet not killed; as grieving, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet enriching many; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.”

It might be a different context but Paul’s words speak of the kind of grit needed for ministry. The physical persecution is not generally associated with Western youth ministry, but that doesn’t discount the challenges it brings.

All this requires grit. It’s goes without saying that this grit will come more easily when we are walking closely with Jesus. As we work with students and their families we seek to serve them and the church out of our enjoyment of God.

Third, we need to be fluid. 

At the beach you can sit on the sand and watch the waves come time and time again. You can also go for a swim and enjoy the cool water on a hot day. Stating the obvious, the water is fluid and can cope with what is going on in it and around it.

When working with students (and adults too) we need to be flexible, fluid. Often things won’t go to plan, people won’t turn up, or the weather might not be what we’d hoped for our program. In working with people, and in youth ministry, we need to be flexible in our plans and ideas. It’s helpful to know and be sure in what we think is the best way to operate, but sometimes others might actually provide better ways.

So whether it’s events or people, holding things losely, having planned to our best ability is something worth evaluating for ourselves coming into the new youthmin year.

At any time, not just at the start of the year, it is worth taking a few moments to gain perspective, grow in grit, and assess what we hold tightly. I can recommend the beach as a good place to do that.

Make The Bible Project Your Bible Reading Plan For 2018

If you’re a Christian who likes to make New Year’s resolutions then I suspect you may have the classic, “Read the Bible in a year” on the list.

Maybe.

As is my usual practice, I commit to this goal on January 1 and often come up short by the time I’m halfway through Leviticus. What’s that, mid-February?

Maybe you have the same issue as I do.

LP-BibleProject

Some suggest that the definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result”. That might not be its true definition but it can often be the experience of those of us who have the goal to read the whole bible and don’t achieve it, year after year after year. And it is not a bad goal–to read all 66 books of the bible in a year. In fact, it is a SMART goal. It’s specific, measurable, achievable, results-focussed and time-bound. SMART.

This year, rather than advocating for the Glenn McGrath approach to bible reading, I’ve come across The Bible Project’s ‘Read Scripture’ plan. This plan includes videos and other good resources to help people read and understand the scriptures as a whole. I often watch The Bible Project videos and listen to their podcast and find them extremely helpful in understanding the bible as a unified whole. They seek to tell the stories of the bible in fresh ways, and bring a wealth of knowledge and help in understanding and interpreting the scriptures.

As part of their ‘Read Scripture’ plan they have produced an app, which incorporates their videos and selected readings for each day of the year. If you’re like me, and enjoying ticking off what you’ve read each day then you also have the option of downloading the readings as a PDF to stick into your bible.

Good luck with any of your New Year’s resolutions, whatever they might be. But may I encourage you to think about attempting the ‘read scripture’ plan and have a go at reading the whole bible in a year.

Day 11 – You Are A Slave

“…and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:27-28)

The bible pictures being a servant of Jesus in extremely strong language.

In the New Testament the use of the word servant can often be translated as the word slave. You can see the two uses of the word in the verses above.

One writer has talked about the distinction of a servant and slave in this way,

“While it is true that the duties of slave and servant may overlap to some degree, there is a key distinction between the two: servants are hired; slaves are owned. Servants have an element of freedom in choosing whom they work for and what they do. The idea of servanthood maintains some level of self-autonomy and personal rights. Slaves, on the other hand, have no freedom, autonomy, or rights. In the Greco-Roman world, slaves were considered property, to the point that in the eyes of the law they were regarded as things rather than persons.  To be someone’s slave was to be his possession, bound to obey his will without hesitation or argument…” (MacArthur, Slave, 16-17)

To our modern ears the use of the word slave sounds harsh, ugly, and distasteful.

You're More Than A Number - You Are A Slave

When we think of a slave or slavery we think of someone who is being used and abused for the profit of another. We think of sex slavery, the slavery of Africans for the promulgation of the United States, the slavery of young girls and women for the pleasure of ISIS fighters in the Middle East.

Slavery is not seen as a good thing. Nor has slavery ever been thought of as a good thing. It has constant negative connotations associated with it.

Yet, the word servant, as in being a servant of Christ, can also mean being a slave, being a slave for Christ.

And while we aren’t being used and abused by our perfect Heavenly Father there is a sense of the commitment and identity we now have when we are follower of Jesus.

When we are called and chose to follow Christ we are all in.

To be a believer in Christ is to not just assent to being a Christian of some description. No, to be a follower of Jesus means we sacrifice our whole lives to follow him.

Our all.

Our everything.

Our entire being and soul and purposes are committed to follow Jesus.

There is no turning back.

When Jesus calls his first disciples we read in many of the gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke particularly, of how he instructed them to “come, follow me”.

The call to follow Jesus is not simply a call to come with me to the shops, or let’s go for a drive, or “c’mon, let’s go to the footy match”. The call to follow me is a costly call.

It is a call to slavery.

This slavery is not the slavery depicted above. This call to slavery is one that recognises that we are now servants to the Most High God. That we are at the beck and call of the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Yet, while this slavery is all that and more, it is really a freedom-giving, redemption-purchasing, forgiveness-finding kind of slavery. It is a kind of slavery that places us in a better position than we find our self otherwise. We find ourselves loved, adopted, and saved through being slaves of Jesus Christ.

In this way, our identity has changed from being about self to being about service.

Our identity is not defined by who we are in any way but by who he is.

Our identity is not determined by the failures we have but by the faithfulness of God.

Jesus calls us to follow him and in doing so calls us to a life of service. A life of slavery for the cause of Christ.

FOR REFLECTION

  • What kind of thoughts come to mind when thinking about slavery?
  • Have you thought about the cost of what it is to follow Jesus? What do you think that means for you?
  • How can knowing being a slave for Jesus inspire you to greater works and commitment to follow him?

This is part of a devotional series called You’re More Than A Number. To understand the purpose of these posts then please read the series introduction. If you’d like these delivered to your inbox, please sign up to follow this blog or my FB page.

  1. You Are Created
  2. You Are Sinful
  3. You Are Forgiven
  4. You Are Called
  5. You Are Redeemed
  6. You Are Loved
  7. You Are Saved
  8. You Are Free
  9. You Are Chosen
  10. You Are A Child of God

Day 10 – You Are A Child of God

“…through faith you are all sons (and daughters) of God in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:26)

Have you ever spent time thinking about time before you were even born?

It’s weird, isn’t it?

It’s weird to think that life existed before you were born, and that your parents had a life without you.

You're More Than A Number - You Are A Child of God

As weird as that is, it’s even stranger to think that God knew you before you were born. Before you were even a child in your family, let alone alive and breathing in human form, God knew you and had created you.

Just as we were once non-existent in our own families, there was once a time when we were not considered part of God’s family.

We’ve been reflecting in this series about our identity. And it is our identity, who we are, that changes when we begin to follow Jesus and accept his lead in our lives. But another aspect to this new identity is that we become a ‘child of God’.

In accepting Jesus by faith we find that we are adopted into God’s family and become one of his children. Of course, we continue to keep our own earthly characteristics, such as our name and personality traits given to us from our biological parents. However, we are now part of God’s family and he considers us one of his children. He becomes our heavenly father perfectly leading and loving us as his children.

And being included into God’s family changes everything.

No longer are we on our own.

No longer is our identity resting on self, or upon anyone else’s view of us.

No matter the circumstances we find ourselves in we can know that we are God’s and he is ours. Our identity is no longer based on our family name, our achievements, our job, our test results, our final score, our sporting successes, our failures, our sexuality, our gender, our looks, our fashion, our social media following. No. No longer are we defined by any of those sorts of things. They fall off the cliff into the river of irrelevance.

We are identified, you are identified, I am identified, as a child of God.  

Galatians 3:26 says, “So in Christ you are all considered children of God”.

This is a powerful statement of our identity.

We are all children of someone, whether we have a good relationship with those who brought us into the world or not. Through Jesus and his work on the cross, through our accepting of that by faith, we find ourselves now part of God’s family. And in God’s family we find we are loved, cared for, forgiven, accepted as we are, and given royal status.

I say royal status because becoming part of God’s family leads us to be considered divine royalty.

The only experience of royalty I’ve ever had is through watching them on a screen and reading about them in the news. A few years ago, when young prince George was born to William and Kate, there were plenty of pictures and articles focussing on the new heir to the family. It was celebratory news. It was a highlight for the world, as the royal family not only had a new child but one of significance who would now be in line for the throne in years to come.

In another part of the bible, Romans 8:16-17, we find we are considered royalty, or heirs, because we are God’s children. It reads:

“The Spirit himself testifies together with our spirit that we are God’s children, and if children, also heirs—heirs of God and coheirs with Christ…”

What an amazing truth! We, who are sinful and in need of being saved and redeemed, are actually considered a coheir with Jesus because of what he has done! We are part of God’s divine royal family! Wow.

FOR REFLECTION

  • What impact does being known as a child of God have upon your life?
  • How does being a child of God redefine your identity?
  • In what ways can you be encouraged today, realising that you are child of God and part of God’s royal family?

This is part of a devotional series called You’re More Than A Number. To understand the purpose of these posts then please read the series introduction. If you’d like these delivered to your inbox, please sign up to follow this blog or my FB page.

  1. You Are Created
  2. You Are Sinful
  3. You Are Forgiven
  4. You Are Called
  5. You Are Redeemed
  6. You Are Loved
  7. You Are Saved
  8. You Are Free
  9. You Are Chosen

Day 9 – You Are Chosen

“Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavens in Christ. For he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in love before him. He predestined us to be adopted as sons through Jesus Christ for himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he lavished on us in the Beloved One.” (Ephesians 1:3-6)

When I was in school I fondly remember the lunch time sports I used to play. In summer, it was often cricket, and in winter, it was often football or basketball. The way the teams were chosen were through two captains, usually the most out-going, bossy, and controlling classmates, picking person after person to be on their side. The way the players were chosen was based on perceived ability. The best players chosen first, then the mid-range players, and finally, those who weren’t that great but allowed to play were chosen last. Those chosen last were usually the same every time. And soon enough there would be two teams and off we went.

In the bible, we read that we have been chosen by God.

You're More Than A Number - You Are Chosen.png

We read in Ephesians 1 that before the foundation of the world God has chosen us to be part of his holy family. That even before he created the world, and before we were created and knitted together in our mother’s womb, God had chosen us. And being chosen by him in order for us to be holy and faultless in love. That we would be part of his family and he would give us grace and more grace, and love and more love because of who he is. Because of his great love for us he has chosen us and given gift after gift through his Son Jesus.

This choosing was not like choosing a sport team at school. God didn’t choose you to be part of his family based upon how good a person you are. He didn’t line you up and then look at all the good things you would do in your life and pick you because of that. No, God simply wanted to show his love to you, he wanted to know you, he wanted to be with you and you with him. And so, God chose you.

We have been chosen by God!

God himself cherishes and loves us and has chosen us to be with him.

This idea can also raise some questions. Is God playing favourites? Is he choosing some people and then decisively not choosing others? Is this fair?

These are good questions to ask. It can seem like God is playing favourites.

Yet, no one knows whether they are chosen until they know him. From a human perspective God’s grace is open to all. Everyone is called to come and believe. Everyone is called to come and follow. Everyone is called to come and know. In this way, God’s grace and love and choosing is open to all people.

At the end of the day none of us are actually in a position to earn our acceptance by God anyway. No one deserves to be part of God’s family, that’s why it is such a glorious thing to know we are part of his family. Through Jesus, and his death and resurrection, we are able to believe and follow. To know and be known. To trust and be accepted. To cherish and be chosen.

God is God, and we being chosen into his family is such a great and almighty gift to us. Who he has chosen to be our brothers and sisters we don’t always know. But what we do know is that he has called us, and he calls us to call others, into his loving family.

Every few years we undertake local, state, and national elections. The election process can take some time and depending on how certain members of parliament and political parties are doing in their roles will depend on whether they continue to be elected as our representatives. In recent years voting seems to have turned very populist. That is, whoever can market themselves and galvanise people the most will likely tip the votes in their favour. Yet, how long an MP stays in politics and in government is indefinite. Some may spend only one term, 3-4 years representing their constituents. Others may last for over 20 years in office.

For those of us who follow Jesus and know Jesus we can rest assured that we have been adopted into God’s family forever. There is no need to doubt that we are part of his family because God has chosen us to be in it. We don’t simply stay in the family for a short period of time before leaving. We don’t get chosen on the basis of our performance or the basis of popularity. God has chosen us, he has chosen you, because of his great and glorious love for you.

Because of this we can say we have been chosen.

FOR REFLECTION

  • What effect does knowing that God has chosen you have upon you?
  • What kind of questions does this raise for you? Make a list of them.
  • How can you help others realise God’s love for them and his delight to have them in his family this week?

This is part of a devotional series called You’re More Than A Number. To understand the purpose of these posts then please read the series introduction. If you’d like these delivered to your inbox, please sign up to follow this blog or my FB page.

  1. You Are Created
  2. You Are Sinful
  3. You Are Forgiven
  4. You Are Called
  5. You Are Redeemed
  6. You Are Loved
  7. You Are Saved
  8. You Are Free

Day 8 – You Are Free

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus, because the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:1-2)

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” (2 Corinthians 3:17)

The movie ‘Room’, adapted from the book of the same name, is about a young boy and his mother who live in a small 2m x 2m room. At the beginning of the book there is detailed descriptions of how the young boy, having grown up in this shed, refers to items within this room as his friends. At night he says, “Goodnight table”, “Goodnight chair”, “Goodnight lamp”, and so forth. The reason he does this is because he knows nothing but life inside of this room. Spolier Alert: His mother was kidnapped a number of years ago, fell pregnant to her kidnapper, and raises the boy in this small secured room. It is a terribly sad and harrowing story. However, when he is five years old they hatch a plan and in the end they both get out and survive. They are freed after so many years, and reconnect with her family and loved ones.

You're More Than A Number - You Are Free.png

As we’ve been exploring who we are we come to the great truth that we are found to be free.

We have found freedom.

This occurs in two ways.

First, we are spiritually free.

Exodus is the second book of the bible and speaks of the liberation of God’s people from the hand of the Pharaoh of Egypt. God’s people have been under slavery for 400 years, being used by the Egyptians to expand and grow their kingdom. While they have worked for Pharaoh the slavery upon them has been exhausting and crushing. However, the time comes for God to liberate his people through the leadership of Moses. God’s hand is upon Moses and his people and enables them to leave Pharaoh and Egypt behind, no longer slaves. The night before they are to leave God instructs his people to paint their door frames with the blood of a lamb. This is so the spirit of death will passover the house and not kill the first-born son. This is God’s final plague upon Egypt and is the one that makes Pharaoh give God’s people their freedom.

In the New Testament, strong connection is made to this story. You might be able to see the connection in the Romans 8:1-2 verse above.

Those who believe in Jesus, and put their trust in him as their saviour, have their sin ‘passed over’. Those who believe are no longer under the judgement of God nor under the curse of the law, nor under the slavery of sin and death. Those liberated and free from the judgement and condemnation of God are those who God has ‘passed over’. That is, Jesus has taken our sin and dealt with it himself on the cross.

Second, we are free from any laws or rules.

Because of this freedom, through what Jesus has done, we seek to follow God’s commands out of a place of gratitude and grace. There are no rules, no matter how many we believe we need to obey, that will help us please God. God is already ready pleased with us because of what he has done.  

Tim Keller, a NYC pastor, puts it like this,

“The Bible’s purpose is not so much to show you how to live a good life. The Bible’s purpose is to show you how God’s grace breaks into your life against your will and saves you from the sin and brokenness otherwise you would never be able to overcome… religion is ‘if you obey, then you will be accepted’. But the Gospel is, ‘if you are absolutely accepted, and sure you’re accepted, only then will you ever begin to obey’. Those are two utterly different things. Every page of the Bible shows the difference.”

Some believe the Christian faith is a restrictive faith. But this is not the case. Our willingness to follow the commands of God only come from recognising what he has already done for us. And our following of these are from a place of joy and thankfulness. 

There are no restrictions on what kinds of foods we are to eat, there are no restrictions on what we wear, there are no restrictions on what spiritual activities we have to do to be right with God. No, out of our freedom we choose to follow the commands of God, to love him and others. But, there are no tight restrictive rules given for us in order to make God love us. 

We are given freedom.

This freedom comes from God. 

There’s a great song called ‘No Longer Slaves‘, which has lyrics that speak of this theme of liberation and freedom. It’s a good way to end our reflection for the day with these words. 

I’m no longer a slave to fear
I am a child of God

From my mother’s womb
You have chosen me
Love has called my name
I’ve been born again to my family
Your blood flows through my veins

I’m no longer a slave to fear
I am a child of God

I am surrounded
By the arms of the Father
I am surrounded
By songs of deliverance

We’ve been liberated
From our bondage
We’re the sons and the daughters
Let us sing our freedom

You split the sea
So I could walk right through it
My fears are drowned in perfect love
You rescued me
And I will stand and sing
I am a child of God.

FOR REFLECTION

  • Have you ever felt trapped, believing you had to do something for the sake of doing something, rather than undertaking a task for the love of it?
  • Do you see how God has freed us from sin through his Son?
  • What is it that makes you willing to follow his commands? Is it out of freedom or out of duty?

This is part of a devotional series called You’re More Than A Number. To understand the purpose of these posts then please read the series introduction. If you’d like these delivered to your inbox, please sign up to follow this blog or my FB page.

  1. You Are Created
  2. You Are Sinful
  3. You Are Forgiven
  4. You Are Called
  5. You Are Redeemed
  6. You Are Loved
  7. You Are Saved

Day 7 – You Are Saved

“For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift—not from works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

We’ve been looking at the guts of the Christian faith over the past week and now come to this idea of ‘being saved’. I don’t tend to use the term ‘saved’ when talking about my identity and faith. I know it’s often used in movies and shows that depict Christianity and churches. It is a term used by a generation that were all about having people ‘saved’ at big faith rallies and events. And occasionally, you may still hear it in conversation between Christians when they are talking about people, ‘whether they are saved or not’. It’s just a good old Christianese word.

To say that ‘you are saved’ is to say that you have salvation. As Christians, we believe we have attained salvation because of what God has done for us on the cross.

You're More Than A Number - You Are Saved

The dictionary defines salvation as, “the act of saving or protecting from harm, risk, loss, destruction”. And when we seek to define it in faith terms, it means that we are saved or protected from the judgment and consequence that we are under due to sin. Some might even go as far as saying that we have been saved from a particular place, hell.

I imagine we can all relate to what it means to be saved or protected from harm.

I remember a cousin of mine struggling to swim in a pool when we were kids. After she’d slipped off the step she found herself in a panic, thrashing around in the water. One of the adults around, my mum I think, saw what was happening and quickly grabbed her by the hair and yanked her up.

We would say she’d been saved from harm wouldn’t we?

I wonder if you can think of a time when you were saved from harm? Perhaps it was crossing the road without looking. Perhaps it was while you were climbing a tree. Perhaps it was swimming yourself.

Throughout the storyline of the bible we read of the constant effort people go to in order to attain salvation. To be saved.

Once Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s instruction to not eat of the tree there has been a need to find salvation. The initial judgement they faced was being booted out of Eden, their disobedience had physical consequences. However, there were further costs for them, further costs which had eternal consequences. In order to find salvation many people throughout the Old Testament seek to make good their bad by providing sacrifices and avoiding mistakes and errors in their life. They don’t want to face the judgment and wrath God has toward their sin and so go to extraordinary lengths to avoid actions that disobey God.

It’s like knowing the curfew your parents have placed on you for the party. There will be consequences if you disobey. We get that right. But, to make this even more legalistic, like the people of the Old Testament, we would make sure we are home well before the curfew to avoid any sort of possibility of being late. We might even leave 30 minutes earlier so we know we’re back home in good time. (Probably not realistic I know, but I hope you get the idea).

Some people continue to operate this way when they think about Christianity.

But, Christianity is not about law and legalism, it is about faith and freedom.

To be saved, to find salvation, is something that we are given by God. God, in his wonderful grace, has given us salvation. He has saved us from his own judgment and wrath through his Son Jesus.

Just as we have explored the forgiveness that comes through Jesus and the cross. Just as we have explored being bought back to God through Jesus and the cross. Just as we have explored the love God has for us through Jesus and the cross. So too, we find another aspect of our faith is centred around being saved from judgment and wrath through Jesus and the cross.

Here we can say that Jesus saves.

Here we can say that we are saved.

Praise God.

FOR REFLECTION

  • Can you remember a time where someone saved you from harm or injury?
  • What picture do you have of God’s wrath and judgment? It’s not often we think on this, mainly because it’s not a particularly appealing thought.
  • Do you recognise the need to be saved from God’s judgment and see how Jesus achieves this?

This is part of a devotional series called You’re More Than A Number. To understand the purpose of these posts then please read the series introduction. If you’d like these delivered to your inbox, please sign up to follow this blog or my FB page.

  1. You Are Created
  2. You Are Sinful
  3. You Are Forgiven
  4. You Are Called
  5. You Are Redeemed
  6. You Are Loved

Day 6 – You Are Loved

“God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his one and only Son into the world so that we might live through him. Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:9-10)

In recent weeks Ed Sheeran has released another single. A few weeks ago he stated publicly that he wished to write his greatest love song, and with ‘Perfect’ he seems to have done that. It is the song that thousands of couples will now dance to on their wedding day. Here are some of the lyrics:

I found a love for me
Darling just dive right in
And follow my lead
Well I found a girl beautiful and sweet 
I never knew you were the someone waiting for me
‘Cause we were just kids when we fell in love
Not knowing what it was
I will not give you up this time

But darling, just kiss me slow, your heart is all I own
And in your eyes you’re holding mine
Baby, I’m dancing in the dark with you between my arms
Barefoot on the grass, listening to our favourite song
When you said you looked a mess, I whispered underneath my breath
But you heard it, darling, you look perfect tonight

In writing this song Eddie expresses his deep love for his girl. In doing so he gives us word pictures about how he loves her so.

What a way to express love! What a way to express what someone means to you!

You're More Than A Number - You Are Loved

I wonder how you express love?

I wonder how you express the love you have for others – for your family, friends, pets, things you do, things you have?

The passage at the top of this post isn’t talking about romantic love like Ed Sheeran is. Nevertheless, it describes the love God has for us.

It describes the love God has for us as sacrificial love.

The writer points out that God has shown his love for us through the sending of his one and only son as an atoning sacrifice for our sin.

The way God has shown his love for us is through Jesus. The way God has shown his love for us is through the cross.

It is a cross-bound, life-sacrificing love.

God has such strong affection for us, he cherishes us so much, that he is willing to die for us.

This is a love that is deeply personal and a love that is of commitment and faithfulness to us. This love, this affection for us, is displayed for us through the action of sacrifice. He loves us so much that he sent his one and only Son to be an atoning sacrifice for us. He loves us so much that he sent himself, in human form, to take our place on that cross.

This sacrificial love is the love that God has for us.

As one commentator has written, the term ‘atoning sacrifice’ is a phrase to “…emphasise that God sent Jesus Christ to be the atoning sacrifice to remove the guilt we have incurred because of our sins so that we might have eternal life. This is the great expression of God’s love, and on this basis the author can say God is love.”

Due to our sin, both the sin we do as action and the sinful nature we find ourselves battling against as fallen creatures, we are in need of a saviour. Because of our sin we find that our hearts and minds are a mess. As we seek to deal with our own selfishness and brokenness and pain on our own we continue to place ourselves as king or queen over our own lives.

We become lovers of self, rather than lovers of God.

And so, we find God loving us through sending his one and only Son in order for our lives to be transformed. Transformed into life-giving, self-sacrificing, love-promoting hearts. Sin is forgiven, our hearts are changed, and we begin to be changed into creatures perfected by his love. All from him loving us first.

Ironically, Ed Sheeran’s song gets this. You may not remember but he sings,

Baby, I’m dancing in the dark with you between my arms
Barefoot on the grass, listening to our favourite song
When you said you looked a mess, I whispered underneath my breath
But you heard it, darling, you look perfect tonight

Did you see it? Do you get it?

When you said you looked a mess, I whispered underneath my breath
But you heard it, darling, you look perfect tonight

Through God’s sacrificing love for us, through God expressing his love for us through the cross, we find that we are transformed from people who are messy to people perfected by love.

It is through this truth that we can know that we are indeed loved.

FOR REFLECTION

  • Do you know the love God has for you today?
  • What is your impression of God’s expressing his love for you through sacrifice?
  • How will you hold onto this truth as you do what you do today?

This is part of a devotional series called You’re More Than A Number. To understand the purpose of these posts then please read the series introduction. If you’d like these delivered to your inbox, please sign up to follow this blog or my FB page.

  1. You Are Created
  2. You Are Sinful
  3. You Are Forgiven
  4. You Are Called
  5. You Are Redeemed

Day 5 – You Are Redeemed

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)

The world, and its people, cry out in pain.

One particular aspect of this pain is the sex trafficking industry, which sees millions of young boys and girls trapped in a cycle of slavery. This kind of slavery confronts each of us as we think of those who have no hope and are continually used and abused for the pleasure of others.

The statistics are horrendous.

Equality Now reports that the trafficking of women and children for sexual exploitation is the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world. It is a lucrative industry, making nearly $100 billion per year. Nearly 21 million adults and children are bought and sold worldwide into commercial sexual slavery, and around 2 million children are exploited each year in the sex trade. 54% of sex trafficking victims are trafficked for sexual exploitation, and women and girls make up 96% of victims.

As I say, the statistics are horrendous.

You're More Than A Number - You Are Redeemed.png

I know of a number of organisations working specifically to help people – men, women and children – out of this slavery, providing them with opportunity to flee such exploitation. This high-risk work threatens the lives of those sex trafficked and those working in the organisations. However, stories do emerge of people escaping such hell and beginning the road to some sort of recovery.

One of these stories I heard while visiting the headquarters of such an organisation. A young girl, aged 14, was purchased for a price, believing she would be used for pleasure once again. When taken to the hotel room those who purchased time with her didn’t seek the usual pleasure of such buyers. Instead, they offered her a way out, a chance to leave, and decisive moment to start life over again. Obviously, a little suspect about what was going on the girl was not convinced until legitimate authorities were brought into the room to confirm this opportunity. In taking this chance the girl was then taken to a care home for former sex trafficked girls. Here she began to take steps to rebuild her life, hoping one day to be back with her family and former community.

This short story of the life of this girl provides a good illustration of what it means to be redeemed.

Redemption is the act of being purchased, of being bought back.

The act of redemption occurred when Jesus died on the cross.

A transaction took place whereby we were bought back to God through the death of Jesus Christ.

In the New Testament we are told by Jesus himself that he came into the world to redeem us. In Mark 10:45 Jesus said to his disciples, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

That is a powerful statement.

Jesus came to redeem us. He came to redeem me. He came to redeem you.

He came to rescue us from our sin and bring us into his holy family.

Some many ask, but what do we need to be redeemed for.

In Ephesians 1:7, another book of the New Testament, “In him [Jesus] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.”

It is understood that God has redeemed us through Jesus and the cross because of our sin (or ‘trespasses’ as this verse reads). As we’ve touched on previously, sin is something that separates us from God. It is something that we are bound to, that we are slaves of, that we are held captive by. Sin dominates our lives and tricks us into thinking we are free when we aren’t. However, true freedom is found through knowing God. And because God loves us so much, wants us to know him, and be in relationship with him, then he comes to rescue us from such slavery. God goes to the point of redeeming us through sending himself in the form of Jesus, to die for us in order that we can be with him.

Because of this act we find ourselves redeemed.

We find that we have been bought back by God.

There’s a really old hymn that speaks to this theme called ‘Jesus Paid It All’. It’s final two verses speak of the fact that we are redeemed.

“When from my dying bed
My ransomed soul shall rise,
‘Jesus died my soul to save,’
Shall rend the vaulted skies.

And when before the throne
I stand in Him complete,
I’ll lay my trophies down,
All down at Jesus’ feet.”

What comfort, what joy, what hope.

FOR REFLECTION:

  • How do you react to hearing people are still bound in slavery today? Is it something you can pray for now?
  • How do you react to hearing that Jesus has redeemed you? Write a short paragraph for yourself about what that means to you.

This is part of a devotional series called You’re More Than A Number. To understand the purpose of these posts then please read the series introduction. If you’d like these delivered to your inbox, please sign up to follow this blog or my FB page.

  1. You Are Created
  2. You Are Sinful
  3. You Are Forgiven
  4. You Are Called