For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weakness, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, but without sin.

Hebrews 4: 15

Let’s face it, there are days when I am not very strong. I don’t mean sore muscles or being weary from the drain of life’s activities, and I am not referring to emotional tiredness, either. There are just times in life when temptations of various kinds are more real than is the will to turn away from them. This is a challenging aspect of living in the skin that God has provided to me as a dwelling place for my heart, mind, and soul, and these are not times that make me feel especially good about myself when I look at what I am thinking and doing from the perspective of the cross that Christ allowed Himself to occupy for my sake. This contrast between my depravity and Christ’s holy yet bloodied presence makes me want to go away and hide in a dark corner with my shame and guilt covering me.

However I may feel about these things and in these dark hours of my soul, Christ calls to me to come out and to engage with Him in the truth of His gospel of love, grace, and redemption. My self-imposed cave of regrets is not the place where my redeemed soul is supposed to reside. My sinfulness does have consequences, and there is always human fallout to deal with, but isolation and separation are not the answers that Christ provides to me. Christ knows the intensity of the challenge that life in this world of brokenness and temptation provides as He experienced life in this place to its fullest without succumbing to those same temptations. Additionally, there is nothing that we can do or any place that we can journey that will take us beyond the grace and the forgiveness of the cross of Christ. Our Lord’s blood is more than adequate to cover any sin that we can commit.

Jesus wants each of us to live fully in His presence. He also desires for us to live out His calling to be people that proclaim the eternal glory of God in every aspect of our lives. We cannot do this if we allow our times of weakness to overcome Christ’s mission for our lives. However, we are directed by God to be people that recognize the destructive nature of sin and who, therefor, turn to God in repentance and with a desire to open up our areas of weakness to the restorative work of the Spirit. Sin does not need to win in this contest for our loyalty, for, in Christ, it has already lost the battle for the soul. Thus, our sins have been forgiven on His cross, we are granted mercy and grace by Christ, and His Spirit works within us to strengthen our resolve to live as holy and righteous people. As the writer of Hebrews went on to say,

“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4: 16 

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But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

Titus 3: 4-7

God did not save anyone, ever, because of our goodness or as a result of the work that we have done. Accomplishment in this world is of no value to the Lord. He is interested in one thing, and that is our willing acceptance of Him as Lord over our existence, Savior of our souls, and Perfecter of our hearts. When Paul says that the goodness and loving kindness of God appeared, he does not mean that these Godly characteristics were previously missing; rather, he is indicating that, in Christ, they became present in this world in human form and in His death and resurrection they were made tangible to all of the world in a way that had never been true before. God’s goodness and loving kindness were demonstrated in Christ’s willingness to endure the worst of human violence in order to permanently eradicate sin and death’s true power over people’s lives.

All of this is done because God feels great pain when people reject Him. He desires to be in relationship with all of us, and the Lord seeks after everyone even knowing that many of us will not accept that invitation and realizing that there will be a number of us that will openly and actively reject His love, grace, and offer of mercy. When Jesus taught about the shepherd that seeks after the one percent of the flock that had wandered away and into danger, He was speaking God’s heart for the relentless pursuit of any and all who are, in fact, lost in this world. He will go anywhere and endure everything that the evil of this planet can throw at Him in order to redeem one of us. So, too, should we be open to following Christ’s call and His leading into loving others, caring about and for them, and for going where it is needful in order to bring the love of Christ and the truth of His gospel to them.

This willingness to serve the Lord is a sign that we are true heirs of the great spiritual wealth that comes to people who enter into adoption by God into His family of faith. We are made into people that are able and willing to lay down our lives in service to God because of the work of regeneration that the Holy Spirit does in us and the related renewing of our minds from ones that are focused primarily upon our own desires and wants into ones that follow God’s heart and that seek to live in the full expression of love, righteousness, and justice. In all of this there is freedom, for we are no longer required to do good works in order to appear to be worthwhile people in the world. Instead, Christ’s blood has washed us clean and we are proclaimed to be righteous and holy by Christ so that all that we think, say, and do is oriented by the Spirit toward serving God’s will and all constraints upon our capacity to love others are removed by the presence of Godly grace and mercy in and with us through each hour of every day.    

How precious is your steadfast love, O God!

   The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.

Psalm 36: 7

Our world is filled with children who need to find shelter. Some are displaced from their homes due to the strife and the violence that is running wildly through the streets of their places of birth. Others have been made orphans by various kinds of human caused or natural disasters, and many of us are left out and exposed to the elements of life’s turbulent storms simply because of the persistent nature of the brokenness of this world during the age of man. When the full scope and extent of this vulnerable population is considered, not many of the earth’s inhabitants are left out of the group of people who would benefit from the form of shelter that the Lord provides for anyone who comes to Him. For all who are weary and all who are weak are granted a place of comfort, rest, and safety under God’s great wings of protection.

Yet, many people do not seek out this place of refuge. Instead, they seek to take control of their lives in a manner that leads them away from God’s presence and into the arms of the worldly figures that are causing the strife and the destruction that has formed up their state of homeless wandering. Others hold onto the idea that they possess all that they will ever need to solve any issues and concerns that are causing trouble or that are bringing about distress in their lives. So, reliance is placed upon personal strength or skill rather than looking toward God and yielding to His far superior capacity to provide for the real needs that they have in life. Many people in our world have turned to false gods of various types and descriptions in order to seek out their systems of worldly truth, and thus they rely upon the capability of those distorted images of the eternal for protection and comfort during the various seasons of trial and struggle that come their way.

None of these earth-bound and worldly sources of refuge and provision can truly shelter the heart and the mind from the forces of evil that run rampant in our world, and they are completely powerless to save any souls from the pain of an eternity apart from the love of God. Among all of the religions, gods, belief systems, and moral concepts that people look to and rely upon in this world, none other than Christ provides everything that He grants to His followers out of a love that is so deep and lasting that God, Himself, suffered, bled, and was sacrificed so that each of us would be made free from the necessity of doing the same thing in our flesh. It is this great love that provides anyone who chooses to accept the gift of salvation with the means for that gift of grace to be granted to us. God has given each and every person on the earth the opportunity to find the sheltering refuge that we need under the covering of the sacrifice that Jesus Christ made for us. Thus, we can find a home in this life and an eternal dwelling place in the unceasing love that surrounds us in the Christ’s arms.   

Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness:

He was manifested in the flesh,
    vindicated by the Spirit,
        seen by angels,
proclaimed among the nations,
    believed on in the world,
        taken up in glory.

         1Timothy 3: 16

Jesus does present us with a great mystery. There is nothing else in all of human experience that is quite like Him. No person and no angelic being fulfills all that Jesus did or matches up with everything that He was. His presence on the earth brought about a special moment in history when all that had gone wrong with humanity’s occupation of this world was granted the blessing of redemption, and when the separation that our rebellion and sinfulness had caused was permanently repaired and bridged. Yet, all of this is mysterious, for grace of this magnitude, restoration of something so broken, and the love that caused God to go to this great a length to give His Son in sacrifice for each of us is all beyond the experience and the grasp of human reason. It is all the result of the character and the nature of God.

This nature of grace and redemption is something that God offers up to all people in every corner of this earth. There is no exclusivity and no exception to the offer of the gift of redemption and the eternal life that follows upon it. God’s gift is available and present for the entirety of this world’s inhabitants. This fact is also one of the great mysteries that comes out of the ways and the means in which God operates in the world, for I really do not have any idea of exactly how God goes about communicating His truth of salvation, the Gospel message of Christ, to all of the corners and to every one of the people on this earth. I do know that followers of Christ are commanded by Him to go into the world and to take that message there with us in order to bring the people that we encounter into discipleship with Jesus. But that does not fully accomplish the mission of taking Christ to all people in each place.

It is our calling and purpose to continue to flesh out people’s awareness and understanding of the mystery of Christ with people in all situations and context in which we find ourselves, and it is also God’s desire for us to seek out people who are not exposed to the Gospel so that Christ can be revealed to them through our love, concern, and care for them. God’s desire for the redemption of this world was devised in Heaven, actualized in the coming of Jesus into the world, made apparent and tangible through the life and the work of Jesus here, and brought to fruition on the cross. Then, in the vindication of resurrection from the dead, God’s intent to bring about total restoration of His creation was set into motion. Now we live in anticipation of that final return and the unending glory that it will bring about. So, in the interim, we can live in the reality of Christ’s presence in and with us, and we can go through our days proclaiming to the world the redemption that comes through Jesus Christ alone.

And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying,

16 “This is the covenant that I will make with them
    after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws on their hearts,
    and write them on their minds,”

17 then he adds,

“I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”

18 Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.

Hebrews 10: 15-18

Atonement. This is a very big word. It is also a word that seems to me to be rather ornate, that is fancy. For certain, it is a word that is found in the world of theology and is mostly put to use in a religious context. This is what Jesus did for each of us; He provided atonement for all of the ways that people have turned away from God and are living out of conformity with the Lord’s perfectly righteous way of conducting our lives. Jesus became that ultimate sacrifice for anyone who is willing to accept that gift of salvation. So, He redeems us from a state of perpetual and eternal lostness and brings us into a fully formed relationship with God. This is a relationship wherein we have all rights, privileges, and permission to enter in to the presence of God that could possibly be granted to anyone at any time. 

The form of relationship that is discussed here is one that was long ago predicted by the prophet Jeremiah. Before Jesus, we had the law and ordinances that required an ongoing process of sacrifice and repentance for sin in order to be in a form of right standing before God. Although God was intended to be the central focus of all of these practices, in our human frailty we frequently placed ourselves at the actual center of it all as we sought the seemingly more convenient way into God’s good graces through working for redemption. This approach to living out just and godly lives was never going to be successful, for it was truly powerless against all of the forces that are arrayed against God in this world. Human capacity and might alone are not able to stand up in opposition to the other worldly but demented and devious power of God’s adversary.

So, Christ made that complete and absolute sacrifice to pay for, to atone for, each and every sinful thought and action that people have engaged in or that we have even contemplated. There is nothing that is left out of the work that Christ did for all people through the entire scope of time. God then granted to us the gift of the Spirit so that we would not be engaging in the struggle of life alone. We no longer need to do anything beyond accepting Christ as Savior of our souls and Lord over our lives, for He has done everything. In Christ, the power and the capability to live in a just, holy, and righteous manner is given to us as well by the presence of the Spirit and through Christ’s efforts alone. Although we are to be fully engaged in living out the grace, love, and truth that is contained in God’s Word and that is revealed to us by the Spirit, Christ goes before us in all of this to show us His will and way, to empower our actions, and to receive all of the glory for the outcome of this redemptive work.    

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

1 Corinthians 6: 9-11

There are many ways in which people can offend God, and even Paul’s lengthy list above does not come close to including all of them. In fact, we humans are so creative and devious that we are still inventing new ways to turn our hearts, minds, and our actions against God and violate what it means to be righteous and holy. I have lived long enough to be confident when I state that we are all participants in this rebellion against God, and everyone who draws breath is guilty of various crimes against the moral and ethical code that is the foundation of God’s kingdom on earth and in heaven. Yet, just as we all deserve to be punished for our sins against God; thus, each of us deserves to be subjected to a sentence of death, we are all provided with the opportunity to obtain full and absolute pardon because Jesus has taken that penalty upon Himself for me and for you.

For despite the fact that God has set a very high standard for righteous living, He also does not desire to see any of us fail to live up to that mark. The reality that so many do not get there is something that makes God sad to the degree that it causes Him severe pain and enduring grief. People are provided with a readily obtainable opportunity to enter into a relationship with God through the acceptance of Christ as who and what He claimed to be, for He is the Son of God and the Savior who was promised from the beginning of humanity’s wandering days. Jesus took upon Himself our debt of sin, and He will stand before the holy and righteous Father, God and proclaim anyone who professes His name to be pure and justified and thus worthy to be in the everlasting presence of that same perfect Holiness.

The gift of salvation is there for the taking. Its enormous price has already been paid by Jesus; so, there is nothing left for any of us to do but to accept what is given to us. This open-handed offer of redemptive cleansing is also continuously held out to each of us who has accepted Christ and entered into His transformative work in our hearts and minds. As we allow the Spirit access to the deep places within our hearts, He works within us to change those remaining elements of sinfulness and rebellion into holy and righteous thoughts and actions that serve God’s purposes on earth and that bring glory to His name among the people who we encounter in life. In Christ we have been made worthy of the name children of God, and through the on-going work of His Spirit, we will continue to grow and mature in our capacity and our capability to live out God’s calling to serve Him and to proclaim His name in the world.   

For who is God, but the LORD?

   And ho is a rock, except our God—

the God who equipped me with strength

   and made my way blameless.

Psalm 18: 31, 32

David may have been able to claim to be blameless, but I certainly can not. There are so many misdeeds and mis adventures woven into the tapestry of my life that the story it tells is ragged and rough to the point of near ruin. From what I know about David’s life, he was by no means saintly in his conduct of life, either. The point is that we humans are a troubled and a troublesome bunch of creatures. We give God fits by the ways that we ignore His will, set aside His way of conducting life, and act in direct opposition to His Word. Still, the Lord is engaged with us, and He is involved in our lives, even in the broken and chaotic aspects of them. Even David, living so many years before Jesus, was aware of God’s desire to save us from the totality of death that separation from God brings about, for none of the claims that King David makes here are true if not for the work of the Lord in his life and upon the nature of his journey through it.

For us, Christ has continued this divine work of eternity, and He has taken it to the place where God’s plan of redemption and restoration is completely developed and is set fully into motion. We are blameless before the Father when we are in Christ, for it is His blood that was shed as the requisite sacrifice for the forgiveness of all of our sinfulness. Jesus gave all that was required by God in order to set people free from the penalty of death that we so fully deserve, and all that He gave is more than sufficient to set us in right and holy standing before God. This is how our ways have been made blameless. In knowing Christ, we are known by God to be His people, and His people are granted the gift of life now and throughout all of time to come. The reality of this gift should be life changing for us as we are removed from the rule and the authority of this world and its death-bound culture of deception, lies, and the destruction of all that is good, pure, and just.

In Christ, we are granted strength with purpose as our feet are given a place to stand upon the solid rock of God’s Word with truth as its main component and love as the glue that holds all of life together. This strength that the God grants to His people is intended to be used in service to the Lord as we seek to care for the world that He has placed us within and the people that He has put us in contact with. As we do these things, we will misstep and even think and act in ways that are unworthy of our calling as God’s people. However, we are now blameless in God’s eyes in Christ; so, we are set free from the need to remain guilty and to be defeated by these times of wandering away from God’s path. Christ accepts our repentance for what we have thought, said, and done that is contrary to His will, and He provides correction and guidance for us to continue on in the journey that He has set out for us. This is where we are called upon by Christ to put to use the various forms of strength that He has given to us. Here, in the conduct of life, we can stand unafraid and confident upon the rock that is God’s Word as Christ’s gift of strength is poured out into the world in the form of love, grace, mercy, justice, and peacemaking.