5 Thoughts on Forgiveness

Have you been wronged? Are you struggling to forgive? Are you afraid to ask for forgiveness? These 5 thoughts on forgiveness may help you.

1. Lower your expectations.

  • Because of our sin and the sin of others, hurt is inevitable.
  • So don’t be shocked the next time you are wronged.
  • Jesus said He would be “hated without cause”. He didn’t say that about us. He did say, however, that we would be hated because we are on his team (Matt 10:22).

2. Rather than fixing your eyes on the wrong you are suffering, instead fix them on Jesus, the one who has forgiven you.

  • Forgiveness is possible because we were first forgiven by God (Eph 4:32 “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”).

3. Don’t live by the motto “I will forgive you but I won’t ever forget.”

  • Do you know what you’re essentially saying when you say this? I forgive you, but not really.
  • Besides, that’s not what the gospel says to us. It gives us golden nuggets such as this: “I will remember their sins no more.” (Heb 10:17).

4. Forgiveness is possible but it’s not automatic.

  • 1 Pe 4:8 says that “love covers a multitude of sins.”
  • This opens the door for the possibility for forgiveness to happen in any situation, no matter how evil, vile, or wicked.
  • Paul says to the church in Rome, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” (Rom 12:18).
  • Again, anticipate that forgiveness can happen, but don’t be shocked if it doesn’t.

5. Forgiveness can be extended to anyone.

  • The scenario where my forgiveness would be tested the most is if someone hurt/killed my wife or kids.
  • If I’m going to be honest, I don’t think I could forgive.
  • Thankfully, there is grace for me still. Rom 5:8 says “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
  • What this is saying is that while I (and all of you) were (are) blatantly rejecting God, He still continued to pursue us, by dying for us. We wronged him in the worst of ways, yet He still died for us because He loved us.
  • So even though I probably don’t have the capacity to forgive the person that hurt my family (if that were the case), there is someone who does. And I’m on His team.

5 Take-Aways From Exponential 2014

Christian conferences are an interesting thing for so many reasons that I won’t comment here on this blog today. I typically do not really enjoy conferences because of the information overload, the artificial hype, and the short-lived emotion that leaves you saying 4 days post-conference, “What the heck did I really learn?”. Truth is, if you aren’t a stenographer, about 95% of what you hear at a conference will be forgotten and therefore not applied. My wife and I had a great opportunity to attend Exponential East 2014 this year in Orlando, Fl. Honestly, had it not been free for us, we wouldn’t have attended. Conferences are expensive, so I have to pick and choose which ones I do and do not attend. I typically only attend one (or at the most two) per year. This conference served as a guise for me to go on a 3 day date trip to Orlando with my wife. I’m sneaky-smooth like that haha. That being said, the experience was still invaluable and I wanted to write down the five big take-a ways while they are fresh in my mind.

1. Step out of your tribe.

  • My tendency is to attend those conferences that I know will align with me both theologically and philosophically.
  • Truth is, there are a whole lot of other Jesus-loving people in this world who care about the mission of Jesus and who are in many ways, doing a much better job at reaching people within their contexts with the gospel of grace.
  • I learned some great things from some incredible Christians this week who aren’t reformed.

2. You don’t know everything.

  • Since I’ve been “doing church” my whole life, my tendency is to think I have it all down.
  • Truth is, there are so many things about Jesus, sanctification, ministry, theology, and grace that I can learn from others
  • I learned a lot of great truths from many incredible Jesus-loving people from all over the world.

3. Network with people you don’t normally get to.

  • Probably my favorite part of my 3 days in Orlando, was the four hours I spent with a buddy who lives in Dallas, who I see twice a year (maybe). We sat soaking wet (after a Florida spring monsoon came through and drenched us) in Chuy’s restaurant laughing, talking about life, ministry, and just having fun.
  • Conferences, like Exponential, ensure that at least five people you know (are in your tribe) will be there (because 5,000 people total were in attendance).
  • In other words, don’t go back to your hotel. Spend the free times that conferences give to network with old friends and new ones.

4. Lower your expectations.

  • Be honest, you attend conferences thinking they will somehow change the game for your life or ministry. I don’t want to discount or discredit the notion that the Holy Spirit can do that for you. But most of the time, this does not happen.
  • Instead of throwing all of your eggs in the conference basket, use the conference again as an agent to bring you closer to Jesus.
  • Even if you walk away with zero earth-shattering ideas to enhance your life and ministry, you should walk away closer to Jesus. That’s all that matters any way.

5. Take good notes.

  • I am not a good note-taker. In fact, most of the time I opt out of taking notes. But I’ve learned to have my iphone notes ready at all times (not just at conferences), so that I can jot down a nugget of awesomeness that I just heard.
  • Don’t feel like you need to write down everything. Again, you are not a stenographer! Just write down what really stands out to you. A week after the conference, after you have had some time to mentally decompress, pull your notes out.
  • Then just sift out 2-3 things that you know Jesus wants you to implement in your life.

Just a few thoughts. Would love to hear yours.

Resurrection Day Reflections

– Yesterday was an incredible day celebrating Jesus and His resurrection.

– Jesus poured His grace over His church in some incredible ways.

– The verse that always grabs me in regard to the resurrection is Romans 4:25 “who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification”. I was honored to preach on that verse yesterday.

– 5 people professed faith in Christ publicly through baptism.

– Yesterday’s gathering was the single largest attended gathering in Aletheia’s history.

– Jesus is still alive today! He will still be alive tomorrow. In fact, this “fact” will never change (Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Heb 13:8).

– What does the resurrection mean to you?

– How were you impacted by the truth of the resurrection yesterday wherever you gathered for worship?

– I’d love to hear your answers.

 

Help Needed / Help Given

Today is an encouraging day for me. Most of my days in ministry are spent shepherding a needy flock. Don’t get me wrong, I love what I do but my job is hard. I don’t think a motto exists that says “You can only love what you do if what you do is easy!”. Nah, I think you love what you do a lot of times because it came hard to you, not easy. Pastoring a growing church that is full of broken people in need of God’s grace is hard. Sometimes, it is just downright overwhelming. Honestly, it is always impossible…apart from the grace of Jesus. He has sustained me through the most difficult of circumstances over the past few years in this church planting journey. And His grace is always present; through the good times and the not-so-good times.

One fact that has been reinforced over the past few years is how important it is to lead Jesus’ church alongside other capable leaders. The concept for the plurality of elders serving within one local church is completely biblical (see Titus 1:5; Acts 20:17; 1 Pe. 5:1-5). Jesus did not design for His local churches to be led by one man. He designed for His local churches to be led by multiple (fully qualified) men. Thanks be to God that He has allowed this very thing to happen here in Tampa at Aletheia Church. This church is led by 3 pastors: Jon Halterman, Jimmy Trent, and myself. We all ultimately submit ourselves to Jesus who is our Chief Shepherd (1 Pe. 5:4). But He has commanded us to “pay careful attention to the flock” here in Tampa as His undershepherds. We have been chosen to lead His people at Aletheia. And we take this very, very seriously.

Something has become very apparent though this past year as Aletheia continues to experience growth: As the only vocational pastor at Aletheia, the demands on me have become nearly impossible to manage. Pastors Jon and Jimmy have only able to give so much each week due to their full-time 50 hour-a-week jobs. Not to mention, their first priority, their families, need to always be safe-guarded. This caused the demands on them to be great, as both of them on any given week would have to log in somewhere between 20-30 hours per week to tackle the shepherding needs with me here at Aletheia. Something had to give. I needed help. They needed sleep. 2013 and the early part of 2014 were just rough on us.

So, Jesus decided to drop a grace bomb on us. This came in the form of providing the necessary means to bring on another full-time staff pastor here at Aletheia. And it came in the form of the exact person that Jesus knew our church needed. My gifts are very prophetic and priestly. I am a visionary, big picture, proclaimer of truth, shepherd, type leader. What I needed was an implementer; somebody who could take the vision Jesus has given me and execute it. Jesus gave just that very person to Aletheia. The best part about it is that He was already serving as one of our pastors…ha! Yeah, I didn’t even have to go searching for my executive pastor. Jesus had already brought him. I just needed some money. Jesus brought that too. Thanks Jesus!

That is my story today. Jesus gave me an executive pastor. His name is Jimmy Trent. I’m blessed to serve alongside Him. He’s already making things easier for me and it’s day 1. Looking forward to the next 10,000, by God’s grace!

 

God Can’t Be (And Won’t Be) Stopped

Yesterday, I preached through Acts 5 and a very clear picture was painted for me regarding God’s decretive will (that will of God by which God sovereignly brings to pass whatever He desires). As Peter and John are being threatened with death because of their continuous preaching at the temple and their lack of obedience to the religious leaders who have commanded them to stop, a spokesman named Gamaliel speaks up on their behalf, who says something very profound. He says in v36, “Men of Israel, take care what you are about to do with these men“. Gamaliel then proceeds to give an illustration of two men (Theudas and Judas), who acted in opposition to God, “claiming to be somebody“, who ultimately perished and whose followers scattered and whose ungodly movements never amounted to anything. Gamaliel then says in v38-39 “So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or undertaking is of man, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them.

IF IT IS OF GOD, YOU WILL NOT BE ABLE TO OVERTHROW THEM. You can be stopped (your undertakings can lead to failure). But you can’t stop God (His will is never deterred)! We can’t always understand the hidden, secret ways/workings/dealings/will of God. But one thing we can be certain of is that God cannot and will not be stopped. For many of us, this might be a hard pill to swallow. Why? Because we don’t necessarily like the way God works in our own lives a lot of times.  We find it hard to come to grips that a good God would not only allow suffering to happen to us, but that He would actually decretively will it to happen to us. What we see directly after Gamaliel’s words in 5:38-39 is that the religious leaders release the apostles, but not before giving them a good beating and more threats to stop speaking the name of Jesus (v40). God’s sovereign will determined that the apostles would be beat that day. Why? Their response to the beating gives us the reason. In v41, the apostles “left the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name (Jesus).” They didn’t find joy through their suffering. They found joy because of (or on account of) it. This is huge!

The account finishes in v42 with “And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.” How’s that for resoluteness? Seems kind of crazy doesn’t it? But a belief that centers on the unstoppability of God leads to more joy and more steadfastness, no matter what is going on in your life. Take heart that if you are in Christ, then you are in THE only place that is exclusively, one hundred percent, certain and determined. I didn’t say it was safe. But it is most assuredly secure.

5 Years Ago Today

Five years ago today, my family of three was about to arrive in Tampa after a two day journey from Virginia. Five years ago today, Tampa became our new home. Today, my mind has been flooded with so many thoughts and emotions so I figured I’d share them in this post. Here they are in no particular order of relevance, completely random and completely candid. To be honest, they are all negative, but I promise it ends on a high note.

1. We were only 136 days removed from losing our second born son to SIDS. Read what I wrote 12 days after I buried him here.

2. Looking back, we should have waited to move to Tampa another 6 months. The move put my wife and I in sort of a shock. We still hadn’t properly grieved. It was too soon. We needed help and didn’t know where to look for it.

3. I didn’t really understand what I was in for upon moving to Tampa and planting a church. Had I known, I probably wouldn’t have moved. I’m really a coward when it comes down to it.

4. My thoughts about seeing Jesus redeem a city revolved around doing a little specific, intentional evangelism on a college campus and at various apartment complexes, and putting on a cool (relevant) worship service. I thought “If you build it, they will come”. Thanks for that one creepy voice guy in Field of Dreams. You were wrong dude…really wrong!

5. A great group of people joined me from Virginia to plant Aletheia Tampa, even though I had no idea how to lead them (I faked it pretty well and I’m a good salesman).

6. I had no idea what it meant to shepherd the church of Jesus…No freakin’ idea!

7. I had no idea how to shepherd my own family. Looking back, I elevated the ministry over my wife and son. I had no concept of what it looked like to pastor my first church (my family) before Jesus’ church (Aletheia).

8. My order of priorities looked like this: 1.my church plant; 2. myself; 3. my son; 4. my wife; 5. Jesus

9. Emotionally, I was a wreck, trying to deal with deep-rooted, unrepented-of idolatry issues that I never shared with anyone, only leading me to lash out in fits of anger and rage.

10. I was not fit in any way, shape, or form to shepherd the church of Jesus. My character should have disqualified me. My view of God was off. My perspective of the gospel was very limited. My view of Jesus’ church was very consumeristic.

But despite all of that, Jesus decided to let things run their course. Yes, I made a million mistakes as a young church planting pastor. Yes, I had to get beat down to a pulp a bunch of times. Yes, I failed horribly in so many ways. Yes, I shouldn’t have been pastoring a church plant. And yes, I deserved to lose everything in my life that was good. But over the course of the past 5 years, Jesus’ grace has changed my heart. The gospel’s power has sanctified me. I have grown to love Jesus above all. He has given me the desire to love and lead my wife and then my children as my first church. They are the priority. Next in line is the church. That is what Jesus has called me to lead secondarily to my family. It is not my identity, therefore, it’s success or lack thereof doesn’t determine my standing as a follower of Christ or even my standing as a pastor/planter.

In short, Jesus’ grace is all I have to fall back on when I look back at these five years. He has given me three beautiful children (two since we moved). He has given me a wife I don’t deserve, who has stuck with me during some dark times. He has allowed me to pastor a church that is full of people whose lives are being blown up by His grace. He has surrounded me with men who aren’t intimidated by my giftings and who will tell it to me straight. He continues to pursue me with His love and His grace, sanctifying me all the while.

He is a good God. These past five years are proof.

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This Must Be Said

I am not really generous. And neither are you. With that statement, I’m sure I’ve offended a few of you. But in light of the passage of Scripture that continues to serve as a “kick in the face on a Saturday night with a steel-toe grip Kodiak work boot” (have you seen Cable Guy?), – the very passage that I was tasked to preach on yesterday at Aletheia Tampa – I am much more convinced that there is still so much repentance that needs to take place on my part (as well as with many of you). Read the passage:

Acts 4:32-37 “Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.”

Here are some thoughts that come out for you to chew on:

1. This passage serves as an update of what Luke mentioned in Acts 2:44-45. Evidently, this way of life had become the norm for the early church in Jerusalem.

2. An effective mission is tied directly to a generous community, full of generous people who are ALL on the same page with holding loosely what is theirs (one heart and soul…had everything in common, v32).

3. There is no room for rugged individualism within the church community. True gospel friendship/partnership/community looks like this: “one soul in two bodies” – Aristotle

4. The full number of disciples who were generously investing into their community were those who believed (v32). Meaning, discipleship is measured by one’s faith; and faith is determined by grace (which is an act of generosity in and of itself). You can’t be a true disciple unless the gift of faith through God’s grace in Christ alone has been first extended to you and is now the foundation from which you function.

5. A true disciple is one whose commitment to a gospel community (aka the church) will be a reflection of their generosity (meaning, they are someone who has been impacted by the gospel of grace).

6. To invest in a community is to give to that community. If you are not known, then you are not invested (You are not allowed to say, “but nobody will come up to me at church and say hi.”).

7. The first step in generosity is realizing that you have been bought with a price (1 Co 7:23) by the greatest act of generosity. Translation: You can’t be generous within your gospel community if your life hasn’t first been completely blown up by God’s grace. When this happens, you realize that you are owned (Ps 24;1) and your life is not yours. You also realize that generosity beyond compare has been extended to you through Christ.

8. A realization of who I am is not enough. It must be put into action. “No one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own…” (v32). We can talk about being generous all we want, but if we never extend it, then we really aren’t. Most of us land at the antithesis of generosity; that is, we hold on too tightly to our time, treasure, and talents. This is why many of us have yet to covenant/join/partner/member (up) with the local church.

9. Generosity wields a lot of power within the local church in regards to her mission. I can’t help but think of how the generous giving of the Holy Spirit in Acts 1:8 led to a gospel awakening and the launching of the church age. In chapter 4, we see that because of people’s generosity, there was great power in the giving of the testimony of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, which led to great grace being given to them all (v33).

10. The gospel’s powerful and generous impact on our lives determines our generosity as Jesus’ church.

Generosity from a cosmic standpoint is best exemplified through the gospel. The Father generously gave up His only Son, Jesus, who was delivered up for our trespasses. What God made possible through His generosity was that we would not be left wanting spiritually speaking. It is now the church’s job to be the missional extension of Jesus so that “there (is) not a needy person among them” (v34). The result will be that people’s needs are being met both spiritually and physically.

I am not generous. And neither are you. But praise be to Christ that God is generous and that we have been given all that we need so that we in turn can be free to be willing to give all that we have been given to whatever needs may exist (both spiritual and physical).

London Travels

One of my greatest joys in life has always been to travel the world and take the gospel to the nations. Since an early age, my father, a pastor for nearly 40 years, made it a point to take our family to the nations. We would spend entire summers in Spain, learning the language, proclaiming the gospel, and planting churches. My most favorite memories as a child are not in the United States; they are in places like Spain, Mexico, the Czech republic, Slovakia (5 cent candy bars in 1992 people), Austria, Switzerland, Germany, and Costa Rica. My desire is to do the same with my children one day (by God’s grace – which comes in the form of 6 grand just to fly anywhere ha).

Two weeks ago, deacon Chris Pergola and I had the opportunity to travel to London, England to be a part of the “Multiplying Churches” conference held by Acts 29, Europe. Our purpose was two-fold. We wanted to first continue seeing what Jesus and His gospel are doing in Europe right now. We also wanted to touch base with our partnering church planter in Salerno, Italy, Justin “Jutty” Valiquette, who was going to be in attendance (it’s a lot cheaper to get to London than to Italy). This was a killing-two-birds-with-one-stone type of trip. And really, we saw and did much more than anticipated. God was gracious to us.

Here are the highlights:

– We flew all night (red eye) and landed just in time to get on the tube (subway – the most culturally and nationally diverse mode of transportation I’ve ever experienced) and over to the conference for the start of it. If I’m going to be honest I don’t remember anything about that first day.

– 400+ people attended the conference; most of whom were Europeans either pastoring, planting, or desiring to plant churches all over Europe. I was blown away by the love for Jesus exhibited by these people.

– We connected with Jutty along with his American church planting side-kick Justin Gallow and 6 of their crazy-awesome Italian friends who are a part of the church in Salerno. One of the guys wasn’t even a believer, but he loves Jutty and the guys so much that he just thought it would be a cool experience (and yes, he tried to pick up on every female pub-worker he could). It was great to hear about all that God is doing in and through that young church plant in Salerno. It seems as though Jutty has made some incredible disciples; guys who will carry on the church planting torch for years to come in Italy.

– We met planters/hopeful planters from other places such as Wales, Paris, Scotland, and a host of other places. The gospel is spreading throughout Western Europe. Churches are being planted!

– I was able to connect with the lone Spain representative (who brought 4 guys with him). Hearing that there were 50 people represented from Italy at the conference and only 5 from Spain was a little bitter-sweet. Mostly, it was just heart-breaking. Italy and Spain were the two countries where the reformation did not make it’s way to hundreds of years ago; therefore, gospel advancement has seemed to be more pain-staking. Italy seems to have some gospel momentum right now, especially in the northern area. Spain, per usual, has very little.

– We were able to attend a church service in Westminster Abby. While very liturgical and non-gospel centered, I couldn’t help but think about year’s gone by when the gospel was heralded in that awesome cathedral.

– London is a great city. Chris and I spent time navigating through it. The pub life is fantastic and it promotes so much community. People really do know how to do life-on-life relationships there. Oh, and I really love Costa coffee. I couldn’t get enough of it. It puts Starbucks to shame 🙂

– Now I am praying what else Aletheia Church can do to help spread the gospel in Europe, specifically in Spain. My heart is burdened for the Spaniards.

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A Hero Greater Than Yourself

On the last leg of my trip back from London this past Saturday night, God began to flood my mind with a few thoughts that I had to write down. I presented this info last night at Aletheia Church’s first ever Disciple Boot Camp, which is a leadership development class that we are offering to our entire church here in Tampa. The 60 who attended last night seemed to be encouraged from these thoughts, so I wanted to get them in a blog to hopefully encourage many more today. May this be a gracious reminder to you today.

1 John 4:9 “…the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.”

Right at this very moment, amidst all of your failures and weaknesses and sin and crap, you cannot possibly be loved any more by God than you are. God doesn’t love a future, better, more sanctified version of yourself. He loves you right now; not because of who you are, but rather because of who you are in Christ!

He is pleased with you because of Christ. His love for you is determined by Christ. He can love you because of Christ. He will never love you any less because of Christ. He can’t love you any more than He already does because His limitless and abounding love has already been fully given through Christ.

Do you see a pattern here? – Because of Christ, you are loved apart from what you do!

The sooner you realize this, the sooner you will be able to live, love, & lead according to God’s purposes. You won’t live, love, & lead out of a need to prove something but rather out of an act of worship. Your living, loving, & leading are reflective of something astonishing that has already happened, not something that you are trying to make happen.

Nothing is NEEDED from you because Christ has already accomplished everything. You are now able to function out of the freedom that you have – the freedom of being an adopted son or daughter of Jesus (Rom 8:15 “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”) and the freedom of living out of being conformed in the image of Christ daily – until glory (Rom 8:29 “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”). This has already been determined and is a promise!

(My six year old Drew doesn’t need to do anything in regards to proving himself to me in order for me to love him or want to be in relationship with him. He gets to function from the position of being my son and he gets to freely operate within that at all times).

BUT, because of our sin, from birth, we distort the image that God created all men to function from.

As fallen man, apart from the grace of Christ, instead of being marked by our image bearing, we are marked by our image distortion.

Ask yourself these questions right now:

  • When are you at your most uncomfortable in life?
  • What gets you the most upset?
  • What makes you discontent?
  • Where does your heart wander most?

The answer to these questions determines or helps to point to what your identity is rooted in or at the very least what is vying for supremacy in your life. If you value money, relationships, career, family, or other people’s opinions too much, when there is a breakdown of some sort, your life will end up falling into a tail spin. That’s a guarantee.

Consider the rich young ruler who seemingly had it all together. Mark 10:17-22 says:

And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

When Jesus confronted his deeply rooted idols of wealth, power, control, head on, and told him to forsake these things in order to truly follow Jesus, the man could not do it and  ran away unrepentant.

What in your life, is being confronted by the gospel head on, and you are possibly unwilling to let go of?

And what about suffering? Don’t we need to always talk about suffering? How does suffering fit into the picture? Do we suffer because Jesus suffered, so we just need to grin and bear it? No! We suffer because of image distortion. When Adam and Eve sinned, it brought forth death of all sorts (physical death, death of hopes and dreams, death of relationships etc).

The point is that you need a greater hero in your life than yourself. Everything that is good about us is because of Jesus (no one is good except God, right?). Everything that is bad about us is because of us (Mark 7:21 “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”). The hero is not me. It’s Jesus. And thankfully this hero loves you and me and that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. What more do we need today? Seriously, what more do we need?

NOTHING!

From Beggars to Heirs

This past week (Feb 18th to be exact) marked the 468th anniversary of Martin Luther’s death. It has been told that on his death bed these were his final words: “We are all beggars. This is true.” The significance of this statement really impacted me this past week, especially as I prepared to preach on Acts 3:1-10 where a man “lame from birth” is healed right in front of the temple gate. This man had a physical malady that had rendered him unable to walk since birth (Acts 3:2). Now, it was his daily practice to be carried to the gate and ask for alms. This man was a beggar in every sense of the word. I believe Luke’s desire was to use this man’s physical condition as a launching pad from which to remind all of us of our spiritual condition. Just as this man was physically broken and in need of healing, we are likewise spiritually broken and in need of restoration. So why are we spiritual beggars?

1. We are dependent (Apart from the grace of Christ, we are left with our own individual, tired strength).

2. We have no control (our lives are fragile and out of our hands).

3. We don’t determine the outcome (Try to stop your death from happening).

4. We are needy (From the air we breathe, to the sin that we can’t atone for, we are desperately needy).

5. We are limited (No matter how hard I try, I can’t stop sinning. I also can’t stop death. In fact, I can’t change much of anything from an eternal regard).

6. We are helpless (My defenses against my terrible condition, in my own effort, are incomprehensibly feeble)

We see in this passage that the man’s physical healing was immediate and complete (Acts 3:7: “immediately his feet and ankles were made strong”). Further proof is that the man’s first reaction was to enter the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God (Acts 3:8). From one moment to the next, this man goes from an impossible situation to a complete transformation. This parallels our justification.

Paul breaks it down for us in Rom 3:23-24: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,”. The bad news is really bad. But the good news is even better. And it brings about change in an instant.

Our spiritual condition apart from the glorious grace of Christ is pretty dreadful. But in a moment everything can change.

The man’s reaction following his healing in Acts 3 reflects this truth. It reveals what the gospel can bring; a totally changed life… One that is marked by our worship of Jesus, not by our circumstances and hardships and struggles. This man was no longer defined by his malady. The people even realized that this man wasn’t the same man; “this is he who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple asking for alms” (Acts 3:10). He used to be that guy. Now he’s not any more. This is what the gospel does in us.

Ultimately, people will take notice. Our text says that people saw him (praising God), recognized him (his changed life), and were filled with wonder and amazement (Acts 3:9-10). A life that has been changed by the grace of Christ, will be a life that will reflect that change, and cause others to take notice, and hopefully point others to that grace so that they can in turn be changed and go from beggars to heirs (Titus 3:7 “so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”).