Clean And Cleanse


When we come to Jesus he cleans us. He takes away the filthiness of sin and its effects.

But he doesn’t stop there.

After removing the junk, he makes us clean. He makes us like him.

Keep in mind that you shouldn’t expect this to happen instantly. It takes a lifetime and is only fully accomplished on the other side of eternity.

Then and there we will see him as he is, and we shall be made like him.

The Mustard Tree Kingdom


We are not a very agricultural society. I have a few shrubberies in my yard that I pretend to maintain.

Aside from that I can speak knowledgeably on very little that has to do with plants, seeds, and how they grow. I imagine most people reading this can relate.

When Jesus described the Kingdom of Heaven in Matthew 13:31-32 he said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”

Now, the mustard seed is small, but it is not, from a strictly scientific perspective, the smallest of all seeds. Jesus was not speaking scientifically, he was using imagery to make a point. The mustard seed is indeed very small.

Because I am not very familiar with agriculture, I spent many years not knowing that there is no such thing as a mustard tree — at least not one that grows from a mustard seed (there are mustard trees that are named such because they are mustard-yellow in appearance).

In fact, mustard “plants” cannot be confused with trees at all.

There’s a lot to be gleaned from this parable. Pun intended — sort of. But the thing that strikes me most about the parable of Kingdom and the Mustard Seed is that the Kingdom of Heaven is a much bigger deal than I can ever imagine.

In my corner of the Kingdom, things can seem pretty small. Yes, I hear about what’s happening to the Church around the world, but I don’t feel connected.

This parable shows me that we are linked together as Christians on a spiritual level that is incomprehensible. We can love each other and pray for one another and it actually mean something even if we’re separated by distance, language, culture, customs, or even sensibilities.

Citizenship in the Kingdom of Heaven is a big deal. It makes you part of a giant community. And, unlike citizenship in the kingdoms of Earth, Kingdom Citizenship is offered freely to everybody. Yes, even you.

The citizenry of the Kingdom of Heaven is made up exclusively of people who are imperfect — people who were all at one time enemies of God. People who have sinned and sometimes still stumble. But the cost of citizenship has been paid by its King — Jesus Christ. Sin demands that a price be paid; the price of sin is death. So Jesus, having taken on the sins of the world, died for us. Yes, for you too. After he died, Jesus spent three days in the grave and then was resurrected from the dead.

There are two things you can do right now. One is to celebrate your citizenship in the Kingdom of Heaven. Thank God that you’re included!

The second is to become a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven. The process is deceptively simple: confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead (Romans 10:9).

Solitude vs. Isolation


Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.
-James 5:16a

I have a more introverted than extroverted personality. As such, I value a great deal of solitude in my schedule. I am productive when I have good portions of time and space to myself.

I do not, however, value isolation.

Isolation is dangerous because it cuts us off completely. And make no mistake, we can isolate ourselves in a crowded room — or even in a sanctuary.

By God’s provision, I do not have any secret sins. In addition to my wife, and by her approval, I share my inner thought life with a handful of wise and trustworthy men on a weekly basis.

One of the most difficult periods in my life resulted because a portion of my life was isolated. No other human knew about my struggles except for me.

When Jesus brought me out of isolation I was relieved of a tremendous burden. My brothers in Christ are now able to help me with the load, so to speak.

Jesus’ desire for you is freedom from sin and all ungodliness. Don’t hold on to your secret sins because you fear shame. Rather, confess them — come out of isolation — so that you may be healed. So that you may be free of your secret burden.

So that the person and work of Jesus may be magnified in you.

Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire. He breaks out against all sound judgment.
-Proverbs 18:1

Are You Striving To Be Spiritual?


Spirituality is not a shortcut to righteousness.

Acting like a Christian is not the same as following Jesus.

It’s an easy trap to fall into — especially if you’re not abiding in Jesus, and He in you.

The Gospel doesn’t call use to act spiritual as an end in itself, but to proceed in obedience as a response to the grace given to us.

If this topic has provoked you, take four minutes to read this post by R. C. Sproul at Ligonier that further discusses the confusion of spirituality with righteousness.

Why Do We Ignore Unpleasant Things?


I do it naturally. Maybe you do too. When something hard or unpleasant comes up I try to ignore it. Hey, maybe it will go away, right?

Sometimes. But not usually.

We do it with our sin as well. If I ignore it and forget it, maybe God will forget it too, right?

Unlike my problems that sometimes go away on their own, God’s memory of our sin is flawless. Just because you forget or gloss over doesn’t mean God does.

Sin is ugly. It wounds relationships with people and with God.

Instead of ignoring sin, let’s acknowledge both the problem and the solution. The sin is the problem; the power of Jesus to forgive sin is the solution.

Let’s not let our sin fester. When we do, it continues to be a barrier between us, the people that matter to us, and God.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. – 1 John 1:9 ESV

Simul Justus et Peccator


I can be reconciled to God, I can be justified by God not on the basis of what I did, but on the basis of what’s been accomplished for me by Christ. -R. C. Sproul

Dr. Sproul gives an excellent explanation of what Martin Luther meant by the Latin phrase Simul Justus et Peccator, which essentially means at the same time, righteous and sinner.

Watch the video (just over 4 minutes) or read the transcript, both at Ligonier.

You Won’t Regret Serving Jesus And Others


I have not met anyone who truly follows what Jesus said who regrets it. I’ve had my regrets in life. I’ve had many people share their regrets with me. But I’ve never had anybody come to me and say, “Yeah, I was doing what Jesus said, but I really wish I hadn’t.” It’s hard. It’s difficult. But the Spirit of God will empower you. -Tom Pitman, Pastor, Christ Church, EPC

Hear the whole sermon:

Don’t Go Alone


Several incredible things happen when we become a Christian. Jesus is our savior. And this is enough — in fact, it’s more than any of us deserve.

God becomes our father. Totally Awesome!

But there’s an aspect of becoming a citizen we tend to devalue that I think we need to reconsider. I’m talking about the millions of brothers and sisters that we gain when we become citizens of the Kingdom of God.

Because the Kingdom of God is not “just” a kingdom — it’s also a family.

Learn to rely on your brothers and sisters for support and encouragement — and, possibly more importantly, return the gesture.

Plans Are Good, Except When They’re Not



We have a tendency to take on the weight of responsibility for the plans we make. This is good — to an extent. But, unlike the rest of humanity, we Christians must recognize that we do not — and should not — bear the entire weight of responsibility for our plans because they are not entirely our plans.

Plans are good. They keep us focused on being productive.

Plans can be bad. They are bad when they take the focus off of Jesus and put it onto us.

Because we are bought with a price, we are not our own — and neither are our plans. The plans we make should ultimately support the advancement of the Kingdom of God.

So, as we continue to make and execute plans, let’s remember that while God has entrusted us with certain projects, the ultimate responsibility for the outcomes of plans belongs to Him.

So when things aren’t working out, go to Him.

Begin With God’s End In Mind


It’s been an emotional couple of weeks for me. Maybe you can relate — time with friends and family abounds this time of year. Now, as we enter 2016, you’re likely feeling an inward drive to accomplish new and exciting things in the coming year. And that’s great!

While flipping the year on the calendar makes little difference in the grand scheme of things, it can make a big difference to us both mentally and emotionally — especially emotionally.

Use that emotion while it’s still fresh.

Use it to forge a path that you will take for the upcoming year.

Here are three biblical principles to guide you:

  1. The plans of the heart belong to men (Proverbs 16:1a). It is not wrong to make plans. God expects and encourages us to make plans.
  2. Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established (Proverbs 16:3). Once you make plans, it’s time to execute (work!). When you do your work, do it like you’re doing it for God — because you are!
  3. The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps (Proverbs 16:9). Yes, make plans. Make them God-honoring, commit them to Him, and be flexible. If God decides to change your agenda then it’s best to recognize it as quickly as possible and react with obedience.

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