Never, ever, ever discouraged

What do you do when you get discouraged? Maybe you’re discouraged right now. If so, you’ve come to the right place! I’m going to tell you something Jesus said that will set you free. His words are found in a story about a widow whose pleas for justice were being ignored by a bad judge (Lk 18:1-8).

I used to quote this text when talking about never giving up until I realized that I had missed what Jesus was really saying. But it certainly doesn’t help matters when the NIV translates the opening verse of Luke 18 like this:

“Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.” (NIV)

This translation naturally leads to thinking in terms of persistence and human effort. It sounds very much like Jesus is saying that the key to breakthrough is to pray and pray and pray. But look at how this verse is translated elsewhere:

“And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray and not tofaint.” (KJV)

The Greek word for faint, ekkakeo, means to “be wearied” or “lose heart” or become “utterly spiritless.” Given the context of the poor widow’s plight, perhaps the best translation of Luke 18:1 is this one:

“Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to teach them that they should always pray and never become discouraged.” (GNB)

If anyone ever had a good excuse to become discouraged, it was the widow in Luke 18. She was being exploited. She needed justice but thanks to the wicked judge there was none to be had.

Never, ever, ever discouraged

Have you ever been unjustly treated? Then you may know what it means to lose heart and get discouraged. Yet Jesus says it’s possible to never become discouraged. And he should know. Look at all the injustices Jesus had to deal with. He was falsely accused, sentenced to death by a corrupt official, abandoned by his friends, scourged, then nailed to a cross. Yet Jesus was never discouraged. No doubt he was tempted, but he overcame every time. That’s why you never heard Jesus say, “I give up” or “God doesn’t care.”

What was his secret? How did Jesus defeat discouragement? He lived in a kingdom where justice reigns!

Jesus had to deal with the injustices of life like any man. Yet he never lost heart because his heart was fixed on a higher reality. Down here men were cursing him. Up there his Father was declaring, “this is my Beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” There is a great example for us here. Jesus did not let his unjust circumstances dictate his reactions. Instead he kept his focus on his Father knowing that vindication would come from above.

Let justice roll like waters

We live in a fallen world where injustice seems to reign. Bad things happen to good people. The strong oppress the weak. The rich exploit the poor. Bosses mistreat their workers. Disease and death afflict the healthy. The unborn are slain on the altar of convenience while millions of children die from preventable causes. And humanity cries out, “it’s not fair!”

Some people think that God passively allows injustice to happen, as if he doesn’t have a strong view on the matter. Nothing could be further from the truth! “The Lord loves righteousness and justice” (Ps 33:5). Ever-increasing righteousness and justice are the hallmarks of his kingdom (Is 9:7). The Lord no more “allows” injustice than he “allows” sin. He hates injustice so much that he died on the cross to establish a new regime based on true justice and righteousness:

“Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.” (Isa 9:7)

Strangely, you will find some in the church who are nervous about God’s justice. They don’t even want to talk about it. But only those who love iniquity need fear his justice. Those who love Christ and are robed with his righteousness know that his justice is sweet. And like the prophet Amos they will not be satisfied until his “justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream” (Amos 5:24).

What is God’s plan for dealing with the epidemic of injustice? Jesus!

Christ was sent to “proclaim justice to the nations” (Mt 12:18) and lead “justice to victory” (Mt 12:20). Here’s what the prophet Isaiah said the Savior would do:

“In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth.” (Is 42:3-4)

Now at this point some Christians will say, “I long for that day when Jesus returns and the old order of things passes away.” That’s like saying he is a God of “eventual justice.” We have injustice now, but one day, eventually, we will have justice. That day is indeed something to look forward to. But God is also a God of “quick justice.” This is the whole point of the story of the widow:

“And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (Lk 18:7-8)

A just king has come

Before the cross people looked forward to justice (Is 30:18). But we live after the cross. The king of justice has already come! Look under Jesus’ throne and you will see He sits on a foundation of righteousness and justice (Ps 89:14). This means that wherever the #goodnews of the king is believed, righteousness and justice follow.

When injustice comes and life serves you a cold dose of harsh, unfair reality, you have two choices. You can look at the circumstances and get discouraged, or you can fix your eyes on Jesus who is your vindication (Ps 17:2). Don’t pray like a victim. Don’t pray like an unbeliever. Pray with faith that a just king has already come and established his justice here on earth. Maybe the trial you are facing is huge. Jesus is bigger still! Maybe the entire world is picking on you. Look to your Father who justifies you! Look to Jesus who intercedes for you!

A just king reigns!

I will never preach about men when I can preach about Jesus. You want a champion of persistence? You want a role model who never gave up? Don’t look to the widow – look to Jesus! He faced more injustice than anyone yet he was never discouraged. He was knocked down to the grave but he rose again in triumph. At the cross He conquered injustice. Now He sits vindicated and enthroned at the right hand of the Father.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.” (Jn 14:1)

When trials come and you begin to lose heart, put your faith in Jesus. He is the Overcomer.

The Art of Battling Giants

Battling Guilt and Condemnation

Christians sometimes battle with guilt and condemnation even though God declares them “not guilty” and Christ has given us the gift of “no condemnation” (Rms 8:1). Some think that the way to shake off these bad feelings is to confess their sins. This is a little bit like saying “I feel condemnation because of what I have done, but if I now do something else I will come back under no condemnation.”

Implicit in this logic are two ideas which are opposed to Christ and the finished work of cross. The first idea says, “I can atone for my sin ” and the second says “my secure position in Christ is dependent on what I do rather than what He has done.”

While it is important to clean up our messes and take responsibility for our actions, there is nothing we can do to earn God’s forgiveness. There is a time and place for the confession, but the Christian never has to confess their sins to stay forgiven. Jesus forgave all our sins at the cross (Col 2:13). Contrary to what many believe, the Holy Spirit never convicts the Christian of their sin. He convicts sinners of their unbelief and He convicts the righteous of their righteousness (John 16:9-10).

So what are we supposed to do when we sin?

Repent! To repent means to change your mind, to agree with God, and to see things from His point of view. Repentance is not feeling sorry for yourself. Judas was so sorry for his sin he killed himself, but he never repented. Repentance is not a feeling of remorse; it’s a change of mind. The fruit of repentance will be seen in what you do after you change your mind.

But isn’t confession a part of repentance?

Sure, as long as it’s focused on the Lord and what He’s done. The problem with confession is that it can be introspective and sin-oriented. But we are called to be Christ-conscious, not sin-conscious. Confession of sin makes us aware of our badness but true repentance comes from a revelation of God’s goodness (Rms 2:4, KJV).

Those who insist we need to confess our sins sometimes point to Psalm 51 as a model prayer. This psalm was written after David committed adultery and killed a guy. You could say it’s a psalm of repentance but it bears little resemblance to what some people call repentance. For instance, in this psalm David makes 24 statements either appealing to, or describing, the goodness of God. Here they are:

Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love,
according to your great compassion,
blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity,
cleanse me from my sin.
Surely you desire truth in the inner parts,
you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.
Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean,
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Hide your face from my sins,
blot out all my iniquity.
Create in me a pure heart, O God
renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence,
or take your Holy Spirit from me
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
Save me from bloodguilt, O God,
the God who saves me…
O Lord, open my lips…
A broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
In your good pleasure make Zion prosper;
build up the walls of Jerusalem.

David also makes 4 statements that refer to his sin:

What do we learn about the character of God from this psalm?

We learn that He is merciful, His love never fails, and He has great compassion; He washes away and blots out our sin; He cleanses us and makes us whiter than snow; He hides His face from our sins; He desires truth and teaches us wisdom; He creates a pure heart within us and He renews our spirits; He doesn’t cast us from His presence but He restores, sustains and saves us; He desires to show us His good pleasure and favor.

And what do we learn about David’s sin?

Very little. David doesn’t even identify it (although it comes up in the title). David refers to his sin generally, but more than four-fifths of the character statements in the psalm pertain to the goodness of God. This is not introspection; this is active, living faith in a good God who forgives and makes things new.

And the amazing thing is that David lived under the condemning covenant of the law. Jesus had not died for his sins, yet David still had confidence that God’s loving-kindness is greater than his sin. This is an amazing revelation! In spite of the law which prescribed death as a just punishment for sin, somehow David was aware of God’s grace that was given “in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time” (2 Tim 1:9).

David should have died for his sin. Instead, God forgave him (2 Sam 12:13). Even before the cross, God’s heart was inclined towards those who trusted in His goodness and mercy and who repented.

How much more then, should we, who live under a better covenant of no condemnation, trust in God’s grace when we sin? David lived under a covenant of death (2 Cor 3:7), but we relate to God through an everlasting covenant of peace (Is 54:10). Not only has God forgiven all our sins but He chooses to remember them no more (Heb 8:12). Why would we want to remind Him of our sins by confessing them?

To confess sins in the hope of getting forgiveness or getting free from condemnation is to act like a sinner. But God says we’re not sinners. He says we’re righteous. Once we were darkness but now we are light in the Lord (Eph 5:8). Once we were not a people but now we are the people of God (1 Pet 2:9).

God has justified us. God is for us. Nothing – not even our mistakes – can separate us from His love. So stop condemning yourself and start thanking Him. Stop dwelling on your badness and start trusting in His goodness.

I created an app to help you battle guilt and condemnation, download it now and lets walk together.

Read about the Good News App

Do you have any questions about this post? Send me a message!

[contact-form to="[email protected]" subject="Battling Giants"][contact-field label="Name" type="name" required="1"][contact-field label="Email" type="email" required="1"][contact-field label="Message" type="textarea"][/contact-form]

 


 

The Axe of Forgiveness

Have you ever noticed how Jesus went around forgiving people who neither asked for forgiveness nor deserved it? A paralyzed man is brought to Him. Everyone watches for the physical healing but Jesus says, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven” (Mt 9:2). A woman caught in adultery is brought to Him for judgment. Jesus has famously said that law-breakers are in danger of hell-fire (Mt 5:29) and this woman is a bona fide law-breaker. But instead of picking up rocks Jesus says, “I don’t condemn you” (Jn 8:11). Why did Jesus do it? Why did He forgive the sick and the sinful? Because if sin is the root of man’s problems, then forgiveness is the axe. Once Jesus had dealt with the root, He dealt with the fruit. The paralyzed man was healed. The adulteress was empowered to go and sin no more.

Christmas is the time when we celebrate God’s good gifts embodied in His Son. Of the many gifts God has given us, forgiveness is the first. It is the gift that unlocks all the other gifts. Do you need healing? Then take heart – your sins are forgiven! If Jesus has borne your sins, He is has borne your sicknesses as well (Is 53:4). In Christ you have been forgiven of sin and set free from all its effects including sickness. However, if you don’t know for sure that you have been forgiven, then you will have a hard time receiving healing. You may even think that you deserve your sickness or, worse, that God made you sick.

Forgiveness is the gift that everyone needs, but you will never receive it if you think you have to do something to get it.

The remedy for any lie is the truth, here are three wonderful promises regarding your forgiveness:

1.   You were forgiven completely for all time

“But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God.” (Heb 10:12)

Jesus’ death on the cross was a once-off sacrifice offered for all time. It was perfectly perfect in every respect and there is nothing you can do to improve upon it. Those who take 1 John 1:9 as their justification for trying to earn what we’ve already been given, need to pay more careful attention to what John is saying: the blood of Jesus purifies us from “all sin” (1:7) and cleanses us from “all unrighteousness” (1:9). All means all. “All sin” includes the sins we haven’t done yet and all the sins we have never confessed.

Jesus went to the cross as humanity’s sinless representative. With His dying breath God the Son asked God the Father to forgive us (Lk 23:34). Then having fully satisfied the requirements of the law that stood against us, and having forged a new covenant in His blood, Jesus declared “it is finished” and gave up His spirit. His redemptive work complete, Jesus now sits at the right hand of God waiting for His saints to rise up boldly in their forgiven-ness and put His enemies – sickness, poverty, oppression – under their feet and His.

Jesus will never go to the cross again. If you sin today, He is not going back to Calvary tomorrow. Asking Him to forgive you again is like saying His first sacrifice was not enough – that you really need Him to get back up on the cross. This is disgraceful (Heb 6:6), but “we are confident of better things in your case” (Heb 6:9). Rejoice that His one-time sacrifice paid for it all and you are eternally forgiven. When you sin, guess what – you are still forgiven! God’s grace is greater than your sin. I’m not encouraging sin and if you are choosing to live in sin then you are unacquainted with the grace of God that teaches us to say no to sin. But if you trust in Jesus and His finished work, then rest assured that nothing in the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither life nor death, can separate you from God’s forgiveness. Hallelujah!

2.   You were forgiven in accordance with the riches of God’s grace

“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.” (Eph 1:7)

What is the limiting measure of God’s forgiveness? Is it our performance? Is the state of our confession? No! We are forgiven according to the riches of God’s grace. God is not stingy with grace. How do we know God is gracious? Because He has forgiven us and His forgiveness is 100% a gift. If you have to do something to get it, then it is no longer a gift but an obligation, and God owes you nothing.

Jesus forgave the paralytic before the man had uttered a single word. He forgave the adulterer who was speechless with sin. One didn’t say anything and the other couldn’t say anything, yet Jesus forgave them both. Jesus forgave to demonstrate that He had authority to forgive. Forgiveness is His business, His decision, His initiative, and His gift to us. The only thing you have to do is receive it, and the only way you won’t receive it is if you try to earn it through confession or other dead works.

3.   Your sins are long gone

“But now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.” (Heb 9:26b)

In the Bible, the word “forgive” literally means to send away. You sin hasn’t merely been overlooked, it has been abolished (AMP), put away (ASV), and removed (GNB). Neither has God put away your sins in the same way that you might put your rubbish in a bin by the back door – close by and smelly. He has removed them from you as far as the east is from the west (Ps 103:12). If you were to go looking for your sins, you wouldn’t find them. They’re gone! They’ve all been blotted out (Is 44:22).

You may ask, but what about the sin I did just this morning? Like all your sin this one was dealt with at the cross. It was not recorded as a black mark next to your name because God is not in the business of imputing sin (Rms 4:8). God’s got better things to do than count men’s sins against them (2 Cor 5:19). It is human nature to keep score but this is not God’s nature. God is love and love keeps no record of wrongs (1 Co 13:5). Your Father is not a fault-finder. If you were to ask Him about this morning’s sin, He would say, “What sin? I have no record of that sin. Stop looking for it and look to Jesus.”

You did have a sin problem, but God dealt with it by nailing it to the cross (Rm 6:6). This circumcision of your old nature was not done by the hand of man, but by Christ Himself (Col 2:11). You have been given a new nature with new desires. As you renew your mind you will come to see that although sin is destructive and best avoided, it cannot touch His love for you. God is quite able to deal with your sin and the axe of His forgiveness has already been laid at the root of that bad tree!

Jesus – not confession – is the cure for condemnation

The amazing thing about Jesus is that He forgives us in advance. We “go and sin no more,” not to get free from condemnation, but because we are free from condemnation. The secret to overcoming sin is not found in making promises we can’t keep, but in knowing that Jesus believes in us! Stop examining yourself and examine Him! He’s altogether wonderful. Stop confessing your sins and confess Jesus your Redeemer. Confess that He is your wisdom from God – your forgiven-ness, your righteousness and your holiness (1 Cor 1:30).

 

I created an app to help you understand your identity in Christ, download it now and lets walk together.

Read about the Good News App