When God Looks At Me What Does He See?

***Forgive me for the length of this post. I went back to trim & edit. But, I felt i needed to include every word.

This past year i attended a wedding. Expecting to simply enjoy seeing two friends united in matrimony, I sat there as the preacher officiating the wedding proceeded to call everyone in the audience (as well as the bride & groom) “sinners”, reminding us repeatedly how “unworthy” we were of God’s grace. Intent on making his point, this guy reminded us “sinners” of how “unworthy” we were over and over and over again. When the service was mercifully over, all I could think about was a famous quote by Mike Yaconelli: “We’ve all been to those churches that, when you leave, you feel worse about yourself than when you arrived.”

I’m not altogether clear as to this man’s purpose for repeatedly calling everyone sinners. If it’s for the purpose of conviction, only the Holy Spirit can bring that – so he would do well to leave that to the Holy Spirit. (John 16:8) I’ve found some very well-meaning pastors either forgetting, or altogether not knowing, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)

You may be thinking, “Nick, I’m a believer. But I still sin.” I know that. I’m fairly certain I’m worse than you are in the ‘sin’ category.” But my point is this: in Christ, our identity is no longer defined by what “we do,” but by what HE DID.

After that wedding, I came home and re-read through the four gospels (stories of Jesus’ life, death, & resurrection) just to make sure I hadn’t missed something. But what I found was this: not once did Yaconelli’s statement (cited above) apply to those He encountered. Not once. (This would include the religious leaders who hated Jesus. Because, even in their hatred for Jesus, they continued to feel “better” about themselves, being blindly self-righteous.)

However, in regard to the lost, the hurting, the hopeless, the searching – without compromising the slightest degree of His holiness & righteousness, Jesus helped everyone see themselves as God intended for them to be: His.

Let me ask you a question. If you’ve professed your faith in Jesus Christ, how righteous do you think you appear in God’s sight right this minute? The Bible says 100% (because of Him, and in spite of us). Paul wrote, “For our sake [God] made Christ, who knew no sin, to be sin, so that in and through Him we might become [endued with, viewed as being in, and examples of] the righteousness of God [what we ought to be, approved and acceptable and in right relationship with Him, by His goodness]. (2 Corinthians 5:17, Amplified)

NOTE: For those already angry with this post, reading furiously so they can get to the bottom of this “waste of digital ink” and correct me, reminding me that we are all “SINNERS saved by grace,” save your energy. I completely agree that the Bible’s clear: we were born a depraved, hopeless, degenerate, rebellious, selfish mess, possessing hearts that are “deceptively wicked.” (Jeremiah 17:9) No one had to teach us how to lie, hate, cheat, or be selfish – it all came naturally. C.S. Lewis called this “natural desire to sin” our “bent” as a human race. The Bible calls it “the flesh.” And we’re ALL born with it. Paul, the guy who wrote most of the New Testament, wrote, “All of us have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) In other words, due to our sin, before we put our faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 10:9), we were hopelessly separated from God.

However, a “sinner” is who I WAS. Not who I AM.

Do I still sin? Sadly, often. I’m a pathetic mess. But, in Christ, I’m a PERFECT MESS.

Like believers throughout the New Testament, for the remainder our lives on this fallen planet, we will continue to struggle with the “flesh” (our natural desire to sin with which we were born) until the moment we shed these “fallen bodies & minds”, and enter heaven. Romans 6:6 is clear: in Christ, we’re “no longer slaves to sin” (sin no longer masters us). But, until we enter paradise, we will inevitably battle with our flesh, the world’s sin-driven system, and satan as they, individually & collectively, attempt to lure us away from our commitment to following Jesus, our Savior. However, along with Paul, we’re able to shout, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24-25)

Writing of our new-found identity in Christ, Paul opened his letter to the Ephesians this way: “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints [believers] who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus,…”) This means I stood up in that wedding that afternoon and hollered, “Yo! Call me by biblical name: Saint Nick!” 🙂

So…. “When God looks at us, what does He see?” (Here’s a partial list…)

1. A saint [holy in His sight] (Ephesians 1:1)
2. His child (John 1:12)
3. His friend (John 15:15)
4. Justified [100% righteous] through Christ’s life, cross & resurrection (Romans 5:1)
5. His own possession, bought & paid for (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
6. A member of His own Body (1 Corinthians 12:27)
7. One COMPLETELY forgiven (Colossians 1:13-14)
8. A citizen of heaven (Philippians 3:20)

Final Note (to those who’ve never professed faith in Jesus Christ): When Paul wrote, “There is there now condemnation…” (Romans 8:1), he was describing those who’ve professed their faith in Jesus Christ. The other side of this truth is clear in these words spoken by Jesus: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” Bottom line: “When God looks at a person who’s never professed their faith in Christ, what does He see?” He sees someone for whom He sent His one and only Son, Jesus Christ – but who has never trusted Christ and therefore, remains condemned. Trust Christ today. He loves you. So much.

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick

Preaching With the Listener in Mind

One very wise author once wrote, “Too often, preachers focus solely on whether or not there had been great Bible teaching on Sunday morning, when they should also be asking themselves whether or not there was any great Bible LEARNING.” ouch. Recently, I came across the following quote by the 19th century, British preacher, Charles Spurgeon.

“Some preachers, put the food so high that neither lambs nor sheep can reach it. They seem to have read the text, ‘feed my giraffes.”- Charles Spurgeon

The “Coz”

Bill Cosby was in Lubbock this past Tuesday to talk to high school & college students about the importance of education. (Cosby has a doctorate in eduction from the University of MA.)

When I think of Bill Cosby, I’m flooded with memories & emotion:

1. He has the same birthday as Jordan Blake Watts. (I know this because Jordan reminded me of it. Often.)

2. He knows what it feels like to lose a son. (Cosby’s son, Ennis, was murdered in 1997.

3. He affected so much of my “childhood comedic training.” I used to go to sleep listening to Cosby records. (A “substitute family” of mine, the Davis’, lived down the street and, more than once, “endured” my 13 year old self reciting lengthy Cosby monologues for them. I remember them actually setting up chairs in their living room like a real “audience.”))

4. EVERY Sat. morning as a child, I watched “Fat Albert & the Cosby Kids.”

5. Finally, i always laugh when I think of Michael Scott (The Office) doing his “Bill Cosby doing Fat Albert” imitation, advertising “Jello Pudding Pops.”

Love this quote Cosby gave while speaking at Texas Tech this past Tuesday: “One of the most important things in college is not to decide whether or not the instructions the professors give are necessary, but to put your full mind and heart into everything given.” (In other words, “Learn how to THINK.”) He also warned students not to simply “glide along with C’s and refuse to try.” Illustrating this point, he said, “You don’t want to be [in surgery] and hear the surgeon say they only know 74% of what they’re doing.” (Quotes taken from TTU newspaper)

Here’s a pic of one of the albums I used to listen to over and over again when i was a kid. I still have it. I remember me, Michelle, and all three kids lying on the floor listening to this album together. (I could do that because Cosby’s ingenious humor is always clean.) They LOVED it – just like did when I was a kid.

Bill Cosby Album

You’re a Star! The Movie is “Facebook”. Your role is the Loser.

EVERY PARENT should read this. And then have your teenaged child read it. Although, most teens will say, “It’s not that bad,” I side with the author. It is that bad, writes psychiatrist, Dr. Keith Ablow. (Just ask the teen to give up all social media for an extended period of time and watch their reaction.) Here’s an excerpt, followed by the link:

“A young woman saying “no” to the prom used to be a disappointment you shared with your best buddies. If you lacked self-control or decency, you might call her a name. A young woman saying “no” these days is a social media event that your whole school or several schools might know about. It is an injury not to your healthy ego, but to the thin-walled, explosive blimp of an ego you developed by posting hundreds of photos of yourself on Facebook and Tweeting out your whereabouts to “followers” and thinking you were an incredible combatant—a virtual knight with supernatural powers—on Wartune.”

“Being turned down doesn’t just mean seeing the girl you like at the dance with some other guy; it means getting her Tweets about how happy she supposedly is, seeing her posts about the big night she had and hearing how she Snapchatted all her friends a picture of her corsage. You aren’t just the boy who she turned down; you’re the actor she unwittingly cast in the feature film called Facebook—and you got the role of loser.”

“I have said it before and will say it, again, here: Cocaine is nothing as a toxic force, compared to Facebook and other techno-teen drugs. It isn’t even a contest.”

http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2014/04/26/new-drama-adolescence-and-connecticut-teen-senseless-death/