Stop Trying to be Good Enough

freedom

Good works are not required for salvation. Rather, they are evidence of our salvation.

Whether it’s being faithful to our spouse, honest in our business/academic dealings, keeping our thought-life pure, being patient behind a slow-as-Christmas driver, or even attending church…

These “good works,” albeit moral, don’t “get us into heaven.” Further, by God’s standards, there’s no one on planet earth who is “good.” (cf. Romans 3:10-12)

The “older brother” in Jesus’ story of the two sons in Luke 15:11-31 did everything “right” i.e. checked off all his “good works” boxes – and he still was just as lost as his prodigal bother had been.

The Bible is crystal clear: placing our faith in the death of Christ on the cross and in his resurrection “gets us into heaven.”  Paul wrote,

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Romans 10:9

If even the tiniest “good work” saved us, Christ died for nothing. But, not only did his death mean something, it meant everything. This is what Jesus meant when, from the cross, he cried, “It is finished.”

Paul wrote,

“It was for freedom that Christ has set us free.” (Galatians 5:1)

Free from what? Free from tirelessly trying to “check off a list of ‘good works’”, thinking our human effort will make us good enough for God to love us.

Stop trying to be “good enough” for God to love you. This is known as legalism And it is a crippling form of spiritual bondage.

In the words of author, Philip Yancey,

“There’s nothing you can do to make God love you more, and nothing you can do to make God love you any less.

God’s love for us is fixed, inexorably, because of Christ’s excruciating death and resurrection.

Again, “good works” are not required for salvation. But rather, they are evidence of our salvation.

This is precisely why Jesus said, “If you love me, you’ll do what I’ve told you to do.” (Jn. 14:15) It all begins with our love for, and devotion to, him.

Anyone can fake their love for someone by going through the motions of kindness and goodness using calculated pretense and deception.

We can fool some people some of the time.

But we can never fool God.

Place your faith in the risen Christ. Be free.

The “good works” will supernaturally follow. )

Love to you all, Nick

“Miracle-Gro”

“Listen!”, Jesus said, “a farmer went out to plant some seed…..”  (Mark 4:3)

Jesus used parables for multiple reasons, one of which was for the purpose of helping the finite human mind connect with the infinite mind of God.  In other words, by using parables God was using imagery we human beings could understand – sometimes. 🙂

The “parable of the sower” is unique because Mark actually records Jesus taking the disciples aside and explaining it to them, scene by scene.  We get to “sit in” on the explanation.  As with anything Jesus spoke about, there are numerous “sermons” in this passage.  Allow me to highlight just one. 🙂

After giving examples of seed (the Word of God i.e. the gospel) falling on varying types of soil (representing different levels of human reception), Jesus concludes with, “Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they sprouted, grew, and produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted!”

Did you catch that?

Unless one has an agrarian background it’s easy to miss.  But Jesus’ audience, full of farmers, caught every word.

John MacArthur helps bring context:  “A average ratio of harvested grain to what had been planted was 8 to 1, with 10 to 1 considered exceptional.  The harvest to which Jesus refers – 100 to 1 – is simply unbelievable.”

Unbelievable?  In human terms, sure.  Impossible?  Not according to God’s economy.  Jesus told his disciples, All things are possible with God.” 

Need help forgiving someone?  The “seed” of mercy and forgiveness was planted in your heart the moment you professed faith in Christ.  Need discernment and wisdom for an important decision?  That “seed” was planted in  you when you met Christ.  Need strength for the weary?  Patience for the hurried?  It’s there in you.  HE’s there in you.  Allow the Holy Spirit to “bring to harvest” the “seed” planted in you through the gospel of Christ.

As a believer, the very presence and power of God is waiting to be unleashed in your life – a hundredfold.

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick

Miracle-Gro-Logo

Redemptive Violence

I’ve supplied for my former Sr. Pastors dozens of times, as well as preached every Wed. night to students for almost 25 years. Truth be told, preaching & teaching are my #1 passions- far more than leading music. I’ve always seen myself as a “preacher disguised as a musician.” 🙂 This is why I continue to preach/teach on Sunday evenings here at BHBC.

When I was a full-time Youth Pastor, I was able to preach a lot on Sunday mornings. However, since I transitioned into the role of a Music Pastor, I tend to be “busy” on Sunday mornings leading the music. 🙂 However, in the Spring of 2011, my Sr. Pastor, Jerry Joplin, dropped by my office and asked me if I’d like to preach that April in his absence. I stumbled across the video of that sermon last week and watched it for the very first time.

It is interesting to listen to yourself trumpet the truths of the Gospel – what Christ made available to us through His life, death & resurrection – PRIOR TO horrific tragedy in your life.
(I refer to my son, Jordan Blake Watts, at the 3:45 mark. He was in the audience.) As I listened to what I said that morning – now on the other side of my son’s suicide – I had to ask myself, “Do I still believe this?”

My RESOLUTE answer: If possible, I believe it MORE now than I did then!
“The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away,” wailed Job. “Blessed be the name of the Lord.” (1:21) God is still God. And God is still good. And, because of “redemptive violence”, Jordan is more alive than you and i have ever been! And in the presence of the Risen Christ who made it all possible.

I’ve included the link to the sermon here. It’s from April 3, 2011. Significantly – and this is no accident – the sermon (given during the Easter Season) is about the redemptive work of Christ on the cross. After Pastor Rick Warren’s son also took his life last year, Warren asked the rhetorical question, “How do we make it through what we’re going through in this life?” He answered, “The answer is Easter.” Hallelujah, Nick

Separated No More: The Utmost “D-Day”

As I contemplate the heroic courage of the men who gave their lives 70 years ago today (June 6, 1944) on the beaches of Normandy, France – and where our world might be had it not been for their sacrifice (consider a Europe ruled by Hitler’s monstrous Third Reich into the late 40’s, 50’s & beyond) – my mind is drawn to a “greater D-Day.”

As God gave detailed instructions to Moses regarding the construction of the very first “temple” (The Tent of Meeting) while Moses met with God on Mt. Sinai to receive the Law, God said, “Hang the curtain (that will SEPARATE sinful man from God’s holiness) from the clasps and place the ark of the covenant law behind the curtain. The curtain will SEPARATE the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place…” (Exodus 36:33-34)

Fast forward some 14 centuries…..

Matthew, a disciple of Jesus, wrote, “And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice [while dying on the cross], he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple [the one described to Moses that day] was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split…” (27:50-51)

“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” (Ephesians 2:13)

Hallelujah, nw

As I Sat on that Jury, This is What God Was Telling Me….

“My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.” (1 John 2:1, NIV)

“We, the jury, find the defendant guilty.”

Those are the words our foreman read representing all 12 of us who had served those two days on a criminal-case jury panel at the Lubbock County Courthouse. We then sentenced the defendant to just under 50 years in the state penitentiary. It was his 3rd felony conviction.

Afterward, I couldn’t help but ponder the parallels – and contrasts – between our human courts of law and how the Bible describes a believer’s position in Christ.

There was no question with any us on the jury – the defendant was guilty. Likewise, in terms of eternal life and our relationship with a holy God, you and I are guilty, as well. There is no question. “If we claim to be without sin,” John wrote, “we deceive ourselves,” because “all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory.” (1 John 1:8; Romans 3:23)

I can assure you the Defense Attorney assigned to defend the defendant had no interest in saying, “Hey Judge, clearly this man is guilty and deserves his punishment. But I love him and want to take his punishment, thereby, allowing him to walk out of this courtroom a free man.”

But once upon a time – in a higher court – that is exactly what Jesus Christ did for us – except the stakes were much higher. The Judge was God the Father and the punishment was the death penalty. The defendant was mankind. The crime was rebellion against the Judge Himself, God. As mind-boggling as this may sound, this is where the story confounds most. God, Himself, would “put on skin”, and not only defend us in court, but offer to take the full penalty for our crime. Jesus’ death had to prove to be the one perfect atoning sacrifice to fully satisfy God’s penalty for sin. Personifying a love beyond our ability to understand, our advocate – our defense attorney, if you will – pleaded our hopeless case. The Father then looked upon us, already declared guilty beyond all possible doubt and, by placing our guilt – and death sentence – on Jesus, declared us innocent of all charges. Jesus died our death. And, three days later, conquered it by rising from the dead – making it possible for our crime to be eradicated, nullified,….forgiven, once for all.

This is the Gospel.

“But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath…..He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (Romans 5:8-9; 2 Corinthians 5:21)

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick