Don’t Wish Your Life Away

Years ago, I remember my father-in-law – Mr. Cox, as all four of his sons-in-law call him – giving Marsha and me excellent advice when he said very simply, “Don’t wish your life away.” We were going through a stressful time with our first two children and were dreaming about the days when such stress would be no more. Reminding us that we would one day cherish those days (and he was right) and that God was in control (and he was right), Mr. Cox told us not to wish our lives away.

Such advice is simple and yet powerful, to-the-point and yet sufficient. We ought not wish our lives away, as if life will be better when we are out of our current trials. Maybe life will be better. Maybe it will not. Regardless, God is sovereign over the present and the future. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Sure, there are injustices that will be made right. There are promises that will one day be fulfilled. There are hopes we can and should have for the future. And, it is good and right to look forward to those things. Yet, we are living in the present. Wishing only for the present to pass because of difficulty is misguided at best and unbelieving at worst. Trust God now, both in His sovereign purposes for the present and His perfect plan for your future. Do not wish your life away.

Rejoice always! Pray constantly. Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

If you struggle with doubt and fear, which we all do to some extent, then “wishing your life” away can be a temptation at times (or, perhaps, often times). Do not give in to the temptation, though, to wish your life away. Do not doubt God’s plan and provision.

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching through John 20:19-29 on moving “From Doubt to Worship.” Like Thomas in that famous true story, may we experience Jesus and respond in worship. Rather than doubting God’s sovereign control and wishing our lives away, let us worship Him for who He is, for what He has done, for what He continues to do, and for what He will certainly do.

Yes, let us pray for things to be better, for hearts to be changed, for lives to be transformed, and for God to receive the glory. We are here today, though, so as we pray for the Lord’s will to be done, let us understand that His sovereign will is being done. He is in control. He does desire our contentment and satisfaction, but such contentment and satisfaction are found in Him, not in our circumstances. Praise the Lord!

Don’t wish your life away. Praise God in the present, and trust Him for your future. As you do, you can move from doubt to worship and live a life that pleases the Lord and points others to Him. Like Jesus said about trusting and worshiping Him, “Those who believe without seeing are blessed” (John 20:29). Are you blessed?

To truly trust and follow the Lord, you must have a personal relationship with Him. If you have yet to turn to Him for salvation, please check out The Story for more information.

Reason to Celebrate

As Zoe smiles about in the picture above, Marsha recently painted the walls and bookshelves in my office. The picture does not do the great job much justice, though, as it looks amazing, especially when compared to before. Since Marsha completed this project and all the books were put back onto the shelves, I have found myself, many times over the past week, just looking around my office in satisfaction, gladness, and celebration. Might sound silly to you, but I truly am thankful. Might seem like a small cause for celebration, but I spend many hours in this office every week doing sermon preparation, writing, meeting with people, talking on the phone, and working on various ministry tasks. This fresh, new, clean look is a reason for me to celebrate.

Life is full of reasons to celebrate, whether we recognize the reasons or not. Of course, many reasons, just like the fresh paint in my office, are fleeting. They are temporary. They will not endure.

What truly brings the church together, though, and what lastingly keeps the church together is not temporary at all. Jesus is His name, and our worship of Him is a celebration. So much greater and infinitely more satisfying than a fresh coat of paint, Jesus is the Only One who can give us cause for celebration that never ends.

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching through Psalm 98 on the great joy of the “Worship Celebration.” If you know and follow Jesus, then worshiping Him (both corporately and individually) really is a celebration. Not a meaningless religious ritual, worshiping the Lord with others and worshiping the Lord with our lives ought to be a growing passion.

Have you given your life to Jesus? Do you have a growing passion to worship Him? In what areas can you grow in faithfulness in your corporate and private worship? He is our reason to celebrate!

Sing a new song to the Lord, for He has performed wonders; His right hand and holy arm have won Him victory. The Lord has made His victory Known; He has revealed His righteousness in the sight of the nations.

Psalm 98:1-2
If you are unsure of your lasting reason to celebrate, would you consider checking out The Story?

Worship Requires Repentance

If you have damaged your relationship with someone by betraying them, how well would things go if you showed up at their house wanting to hang out but without any acknowledgement of your betrayal? Surely, that would not go well. We can never, in our right minds, expect things to be “okay” without any effort to resolve problems and conflicts.

Now, consider that any form of disobedience to the Word of God is sin – a betrayal of God and His plan for your life. Yet, how often do you seek to worship God, whether individually or corporately, without turning away from sin? How often do you pray for God’s will for your life, while willfully continuing to disobey His Word? How often do you ask for God’s blessings, while holding on to bitterness toward others? How often do you expect God’s provision, while picking and choosing which parts of His Word to obey? How often do you sing songs of praise, while your heart is sick with unrepentant sin?

If we truly want to honor and worship the Lord (and be in a right relationship with Him), we must repent of our sins and turn to Him. Firstly, of course, this requires we believe the gospel and surrender our lives to the Lord Jesus Christ. That humble surrender that requires sincere repentance, though, is not a one-time desire that ends with our justification. Repentance is an ongoing expectation in the Christian life, and without regular repentance (because we are still sinners), we have no right to cry out to God in worship, whether individually or corporately.

Really, we have no right to do so anyway because God is holy and we are not. When we trust the gospel, though, Jesus takes away our sins and makes it possible for us to boldly approach God’s glorious throne. Now, repentance and worship go together. They are inseparable. One cannot sincerely worship the Lord without turning away from sin, and one cannot truly turn away from sin without a resulting desire to worship the Lord.

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching through Nehemiah 9:32-37 on “Repentant Worship.” We will consider a couple ways to worship the Lord in repentance, as I hope to challenge our church family (all of us together) to be marked by a lifestyle of repentance.

Is there any sin you are holding on to right now? Is there any part of God’s Word you are refusing to obey? Will you ask for God’s help to turn away from sin and to Him? Let us return to worship with repentant hearts!

Please click the picture above if you want to learn more about the life-changing (now and eternal) result of sincere repentance.

Rightful Desires

The weather has been cold lately, unseasonably so. In fact, the average high temperature here in Missouri this time of year is 45 degrees. Recently, however, the high has been around zero. No sane person can argue with the fact that it is colder than usual, almost across the entire country.

When the temperatures are as low as they have been, we desire heat and warmer clothing much more so than usual (at least I do). There is a certain recognition and respect for the frigid temperatures that cause us to do things now that we do not do in warmer temperatures. For example, I warm my vehicle up before driving it, wear mittens, wear my hood on my winter coat, and wear two pair of socks when I am going to be outside for any extended period of time. I desire to do these things because of what subzero temperatures can otherwise do to me. My desires are right based on the weather and my comfort and my health.

If you understand and accept certain elements of the elements, you cannot help but desire to do certain things in response to the elements.

So it is in our worship of God. When you come to know and follow the Lord and learn who He is and what He has done for you, you desire to worship Him. Furthermore, the more you rightly learn, the more you rightly desire. In other words, your desires are rightful when you understand and embrace the God of the Bible and His call on your life.

The more you understand the cold weather and the effects of the cold weather, the more likely you are to respond rightly to the cold weather.

The more you understand the Lord and His sovereignty over your life, the more likely you are to respond rightly to His Lordship.

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching through Nehemiah 8:9-18 on “Desired Worship.” What are some appropriate reasons and desires for worship? I will discuss those in the message, as we can certainly have wrongful desires if we do not have proper understanding and faith.

If you misunderstand the brutal effects of subzero temperatures, you can wrongly desire to wear shorts and flip-flops outside and reap the resulting consequences of frostbite.

If you misunderstand the biblical truth of God, you can wrongly desire to do things contrary to His Word and reap the resulting consequences of judgment.

What are your desires when it comes to worshiping God? What are the reasons for what you desire? What are the results of your desires? Let us rejoice in the Lord and desire to honor Him in worship, both as individuals and as a community (in the context of our local church families). Let us rightly respond to God according to His perfect Word.

Before you can rightly respond to God with desires that honor and glorify Him, you must have a right relationship with Him. That right relationship only comes in and through the One and Only Son of God – Jesus Christ our Lord. To learn more, check out The Story.

Back with the Body

One of the clearest evidences that someone is a follower of Jesus is that the individual loves the church of Jesus (John 13:34-35). The COVID-19 pandemic has illustrated this, as Christ-followers who have quarantined and consequently missed gathering with the church have longed to return. That return is sweet and precious, and we believers understand that, perhaps now more than ever.

Most have returned, while others remain isolated, to some degree, for various reasons. In conversations with many of those individuals, I can sense their heartache as they long to be back with the body of Christ. Hopefully, that return will be sooner rather than later.

Then, there are others who are not with the body because they are out of the habit of gathering and have failed to make corporate worship and fellowship a priority. For most, this is likely because no genuine relationship with Jesus exists. “They went out from us, but they did not belong to us; for if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us. However, they went out so that it might be made clear that none of them belongs to us” (1 John 2:19).

For others, though, perhaps they have fallen into unrepentant sin, or they are about to fall into such a trap. Rarely is someone walking with Jesus while simultaneously willfully neglecting the body of Jesus – His church.

Whatever your situation, would you consider your values and priorities? Is corporate worship important to you? Is church involvement a priority? Even if, for health reasons, you are currently unable to gather with your church family, are you staying connected for the sake of growing closer to Jesus and helping others grow closer to Jesus?

Remember, church is not just about you. Primarily, church is about the glory of God. Secondly, church is about building up His people. We need one another, so when you are tempted to think, “I don’t need the church to worship God,” remember that the church needs you. And, really, you do need the church. We all do. Jesus established the church, in part, because we are to be interdependent on one another, needing one another to grow as He intends.

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will begin a new sermon series on the power of repentance and returning to God in worship. Looking at Nehemiah 7:1-5 and 8:1-8, I hope to encourage our church family to value and prioritize “True Worship.” Nehemiah led the efforts to identify the people of God, rebuild the wall for protecting those people, and return to faithful worship with those people. While we do not have a need to rebuild a wall, we do have a need to identify what it means to be a Christ-follower and regularly turn to Him in faithful worship.

What will it take for you to gather back with the body? Please understand, I am not asking this question to those who are waiting for the vaccine and are thus self-isolating for health and safety reasons (for a time). Rather, I am asking this question to those who are willfully neglecting the church – the family of God. Will you return? Will you let us walk alongside you? Will you tell us how we can help and how we can pray for you?

If you do not value the church because you have not yet surrendered your life to Jesus Christ, would you turn to Him today? You can learn more by watching or reading The Story.

What can we even give?

Yes, I know Thanksgiving is not even here yet, but supposedly some people are already Christmas shopping. My mom asked for my list, and she might already be done shopping for me. Christmas is only six weeks from today!

You have probably heard it said and have maybe even said it yourself, “What do you give someone who already seems to have everything?” We often say or hear things like this when referring to our parents or grandparents, especially in this country where most of us truly have more than we really need. We are materially blessed far more than the vast majority of people on this earth. So, what can we even give someone who really does not need much, if anything?

GIVING IS INADEQUATE

Regardless of what we might decide to give to those we love, we tend to agree that there is nothing we can give that sufficiently expresses our love for those about whom we most care. Giving is inadequate for that purpose, just as it is inadequate to earn their love in return.

Even more inadequate and insufficient, though, is any attempt we make at giving back to God to earn His love and favor. We are simply unable, as sinful human beings, to sufficiently give enough to a holy God. In fact, our attempts to give offerings and sacrifices for the purpose of fixing our sin problem are garbage. Even if we had everything this world can offer, we would not have enough to earn God’s love and favor. He is God. He is perfect. He is holy. We are none of those things.

RECEIVING LEADS TO GIVING

Our reality, in our sinful state, is that we have nothing to offer God unless we first receive what He offers us. We must receive His mercy, grace, and forgiveness before we can give to Him our lives. We must receive the free gift of salvation in and through His Son before we can give to Him our devotion.

Perhaps you are under the false assumption that you must figure out what you can give in order to win God’s approval. What you must understand, though, is that you will never truly give what God desires of you until you realize you have His approval in the cross of Jesus Christ.

We cannot give enough and therefore be accepted. We are accepted in Christ and therefore we desire to give.

This begins when we experience the mercy, grace, and forgiveness God offers in the gospel, and this continues when we daily grow in our faith and dependence on Him.

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching through Hebrews 10:1-18 (“Jesus Is the Better Offering“). He alone can and did offer the sacrifice that was necessary for our reconciliation with God and our eternal salvation. Furthermore, He alone is able to equip us through the work of His Holy Spirit to be whom God created us to be and to do what God created us to do.

Have you trusted in His superior sacrifice? Are you continuing to trust Him to enable you to endure until the end?

Watch THE STORY.

Family Idolatry

I love my family! Over the past six weeks, we have had the great pleasure of going on vacation with Marsha’s side of the family one week and with my side of the family another week. Both vacations were a blast, and I praise God for them (and more importantly, for family).

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be continuing our short sermon series – The Red and The Blue – preaching through Psalm 146 and challenging those listening to be careful not to make politics an idol. The same can be said about anything, though, including family. Idolatry consists of placing anything or anyone other than God on the throne of your heart. Bad, evil things can be idolized, but so can good things. Please realize – this does not mean that, in order to avoid idolatry of family, for example, we ignore or neglect our families. That would clearly be sinful and dishonoring God and His Word (i.e. see 1 Timothy 5:8). Rather, what this means is that we should not ignore or neglect God and our relationship with Him in order to prioritize as ultimate (worship) someone or something else. That is idolatry.

Of all the things in this world that I am probably most tempted to idolize, family – along with my own selfish comfort and security – is probably at the top of the list. Whether you are like me or not, there are certainly things you too are tempted to put before God. Thus, you can replace the word “family” with anything that might be a temptation for you. To keep with the theme of family, though, I am going to ask you (and myself) some questions to consider if you are making an idol of your family…

1. DO YOU NEGLECT TIME WITH GOD AND BLAME FAMILY?

We prioritize what we believe to be important. Are you prioritizing daily time with God in His Word and in prayer? If you believe your relationship with God is important, you will surely prioritize seeking Him and learning better how to follow Him, right? Do not hide behind your family and blame them for a failure to commit yourself to God and His Word. Make time for what is important.

I used to get up at 6:00 or 6:30 each morning to spend time reading my Bible and praying. Typically, though, at least one of my kids was getting up by 6:15 or 6:30, and I found myself getting annoyed by their distractions, even losing my patience with them while reading my Bible. What a sad, ironic contradiction for me to lose it with my kids while claiming to seek after God. Pathetic, really. So, I decided to change my routine and get up at 5:30 each morning. Now, I typically get an hour of uninterrupted time with the Lord before any of my kids are awake, not to mention they are old enough now that they distract me less in the early hours of the morning. This change, although hard at first, has been well worth it.

Let not your family be an excuse for neglecting daily time with God. Make time for what is important.

2. DO YOU LOOK TO FAMILY BEFORE GOD WHEN YOU ARE HURTING?

Whether it be discouragement, sorrow, physical suffering, or all of the above, do you cry out to God first, or is family your default for hope and comfort? Do not get me wrong – we certainly do need one another, and we are called to bear one another’s burdens. We certainly should pray for one another and ask for help when we are down, but not in place of giving our worries and cares to God. He must always be the One we turn to first and turn to continually, even while also turning to one another. Yet, so often we might be tempted to turn to the Lord only after all other options have failed us. He is the only One who never fails, though. Seek Him first.

3. DO YOU “VENT” TO FAMILY RATHER THAN PRAYING TO GOD?

Gossip is a temptation for all of us, I believe, but gossip is a sin, even if we call it “venting.” Simply put, gossip is saying behind someone’s back what you would not say and have not said to that person’s face. Instead of gossiping about someone when you are frustrated, what if you brought your concerns to God in prayer? You will not be gossiping then (He already knows everything), and God can use your prayers to bring about healing, including healing in your own heart toward people with whom you might be upset.

When you “vent” to your family rather than go to the Lord, you are pushing the Lord off the throne of your heart and falling into the trap of prideful idolatry. Beware and ask for God’s help. He knows we all need it.

4. DO YOU NEGLECT ACTIVE CHURCH COMMITMENT UNDER THE LIE OF COMMITMENT TO FAMILY?

I say “the lie of commitment to family” because for a self-professing Christian to claim commitment to family while not being faithful to the local church is a lie from the pits of hell. The best way we can be committed to family so that they are loved now and impacted for eternity is to put God first. And, putting God first includes prioritizing active church membership and service (see 1 Corinthians 12; 1 John 2:19; Romans 12; Philippians 2:1-11; Hebrews 10:23-25; Ephesians 4; the Book of Acts; etc.).

Yet, so often people neglect the local church to “spend time with family.” Why not do both? Serve God’s church with your family. Attend worship services with your family. Set a godly example for unbelieving family members by being faithful to your church. No one ever regrets faithful church involvement because God created us to need one another, serve one another, worship alongside one another, and grow together.

Love your family by loving God and loving His church.

5. DO YOU MOST LONG FOR YOUR FAMILY TO BE PLEASED WITH YOU?

Whose approval do you most treasure? If God’s approval is not the answer, then you have not (or are not) surrendering to His Lordship over your life. His honor and glory are what matter above all else, so why would we ever dare seek another’s approval above His?

Let us declare with the Psalmist, “Hallelujah! My soul, praise the Lord. I will praise the Lord all my life; I will sing to my God as long as I live” (Psalm 146:1-2). This will only happen, though, if you desire to serve and please Him above all else. And, that desire only comes when He changes your heart and life forever through the transformational truth of the gospel. Has He changed you? Are you seeking to bring glory to Him above all?

Again, I want to be clear – love your family! Take care of your family. Spend time with your family. Serve your family. Just do not idolize your family (or anything else). Include your family in your commitment to God and His church.

I sure do love my family and pray for them daily. Here are a few more pictures of our time together last week…

Prioritizing Worship

A few weeks ago, a couple of our kids gained a sudden passion for drawing. While they have certainly drawn pictures many times before, this was an interest at a whole new level. Multiple times each day, they would be drawing various pictures, asking for ideas, requesting more drawing notebooks, showing off their work, and having a lot of fun. In the current age of so much digital entertainment, this desire to draw with a pencil is quite refreshing to me.

Now, I am unsure how long this new hobby will last, but it is a reminder to me that, when we are passionate about something, we prioritize that passion. Even when outside on a beautiful day (like in the above picture), we would find our kids drawing. Proof of interest is seen through actions.

WORSHIP IS A LIFESTYLE

Our relationship with God is no different. If we sincerely love Him and want to know Him more, then we prioritize our relationship with Him. We seek Him through His Word, walk with Him in prayer, and talk about Him with others. Simply put – we worship Him. Followers of God are worshipers of God.

And, worship is a lifestyle. We who know God worship Him not just on Sundays with our church family but every day as individuals, as families, and as friends. We worship Him not just in good times but also in the difficult times. We worship Him not just when thinking about His love but also when thinking about His justice.

Unlike other hobbies and interests, though, the worship of God by a true believer of God never goes away. Sure, there are times in our sinfulness that we might struggle and times when we stray from the path on which we are called to walk, but we will never abandon worship like a hobby in which we no longer are interested. Those who do abandon the worship of God (whether privately or publicly) prove their supposed faith to be illegitimate. The Apostle John made this clear when talking to believers about those who are no longer involved with a church: “They went out from us, but they did not belong to us; for if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us. However, they went out so that it might be made clear that none of them belongs to us” (1 John 2:19).

WORSHIP IS A PASSION

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will finish our sermon series through Micah – Walk Humbly. I plan to preach through Micah 7 and share two reasons God alone is worthy of worship. He is always worthy, whether we feel like worship or not and whether we recognize and understand His worth or not.

Everyone worships. We worship that about which we are passionate. Who or what are you worshiping? Sometimes people worship evil things like false gods, drugs, alcohol, pride, selfishness, etc. Sometimes, people even worship good things like family, careers, sports, hobbies, etc. When a good thing becomes a god thing, though, it becomes an evil thing.

Sure, you might be passionate about a lot of good things, and that is okay. If that passion surpasses your passion for knowing and following (and worshiping) God, though, you will never be satisfied. You will always long for something more, something better. Only Jesus can fulfill our hearts and satisfy our souls, as we were created to worship Him with our greatest passion and commitment. Anything less will leave us empty.

What about you? Do you desire to worship God? Do you prioritize worship – both as an individual Christian (through prayer, Bible study, discipleship, evangelism, etc.) and also as a faithful member of a local church? If not, what needs to change in your life so that right worship – the worship of the Lord our God as a daily lifestyle – is prioritized?

To sincerely worship God with all your heart, you must follow Him with all your heart. Have you surrendered your life to Jesus Christ? If not, would you consider watching this short film and turning to Him today? Please let us know how we can pray for you.

The Gospel Gives Perspective

One thing I never really understood when I played sports (like basketball) in high school, was when people would say something like, “Yeah, I quit because there was too much running.” In fact, not only did I not really understand such a statement, frankly, it annoyed me. What do you expect when you play sports?

Please understand – I am not saying that I necessarily enjoy running. For the most part, I do not. A proper perspective, though, helps me realize that running is necessary to be prepared. Running now will help me be better later. Running a lot in practice will make it more likely that we can win the game. Exercising during the week will help ensure that I can still beat my kids in basketball on the weekend (like in the above picture). 😉

More importantly, the gospel provides a proper perspective. In fact, if we trust and embrace the gospel, then we have the ultimate purpose for living and a continuous reason for enduring. The gospel changes things. Apart from the gospel, our religious efforts are dead and meaningless. Without the gospel, our supposed sacrifices are a stench to God.

Because of the gospel, though, we have perspective and purpose. God gave the ultimate sacrifice in and through His One and Only Son so that we can have not only eternal life, but also so that we can be a living sacrifice.

You see, when we are changed by God through the good news of the gospel, our very lives are changed. No longer are we content to go through the motions of religious exercise or do things our way. Instead, because of the Holy Spirit transforming our hearts, we desire to live our lives every day in a way that will honor and glorify God. This is not because we are better than anyone else but rather because we are made new.

Have you been made new? Do you have a perspective which, even in the midst of difficulty, allows you to experience hope, joy, and peace? If not, ask God for help. Ask Him to change your heart and change your life, as only He can. Furthermore, make sure you have people who are walking alongside you in this journey. We need God, and we need one another.

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, our church will be hosting a drive-in worship service in our east parking lot. If you live in the area and do not have a church family, I hope you will join us. I plan to begin a new sermon series from Romans 12-13 on remembering the cross (and how the gospel changes our daily lives). Looking first at Romans 12:1-2, I want to challenge you – challenge us – to be a “Living Sacrifice.” We were made new for this.

If you long for the proper perspective and hope that only God can give, would you consider surrendering your life to Him? You can learn more by clicking the picture above.

The Visible Difference between the Righteous and the Wicked

There are several differences, of course, between those who know God and those who do not. God points out a very distinct difference, for example, in Malachi 3: “So you will again see the difference between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve Him” (verse 18).

SERVING AND NOT SERVING

Many claim to serve God but really just go through the motions, not really serving Him at all. What a dangerous trap that is, especially when people assume they will be counted as righteous, only to find out they are among the wicked.

When I was a teenager, for example, I considered myself to be a Christian. In fact, I considered myself to be a devout Christian. I was in church services every Sunday and Wednesday. I was actively involved with our church youth group. I read my Bible often. I prayed even more often. I talked and sang about Jesus.

I was serving God, right? No, I was not. I was not following Him and thus certainly could not be serving Him. Sure, some people may have thought I was. I even thought I was. But, everything I did was for myself. I was going through the motions in hopes of impressing girls, pleasing my parents, and getting what I wanted from God (not what God wanted from and for me).

Really, I was worshiping myself and my happiness. The lords of my heart were my pleasures and my dreams and my goals. All the while, I claimed to be a follower of Jesus and claimed to belong to Him. I did not, however, “fear God and have high regard for His name” (Malachi 3:16). Rather, I feared what others thought about me and had high regard for my own name.

Although I thought I was considered righteous by God because I was a “good person,” I was headed straight toward hell with no earthly idea.

WHO KNEW?

Living in mid-Missouri, I do not often see many of the people I knew as a teenager in north central Iowa. I cannot help but wonder, though, who knew I was living a lie? Who knew I was going through the motions? How many people did I actually fool?

Of course, I cannot accurately answer those questions, but I am confident that any genuine followers of Jesus who truly knew me then surely knew I was not who I claimed to be. I wonder why no one told me, though? Why did no one challenge me with the truth? Perhaps they tried, and I just would not listen.

One who definitely did know that I was counted among the wicked and not among the righteous, was God Himself. He knew, and, thankfully, He put people in my life during my college years to reveal His Truth to me. For the first time, as a sophomore in college, I heard and understood the gospel. I turned from my sins and asked Jesus to forgive me and take over my life.

Finally, I was made right with God in and through a personal relationship with His Son.

JESUS IS THE DIFFERENCE-MAKER

The truth is that none of us is righteous. Not on our own anyway. None of us can do a single thing to make ourselves right with God. “As it is written: There is no one righteous, not even one. There is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away; all alike have become useless. There is no one who does what is good, not even one” (Romans 3:10-12).

This is terrible news! And, the terrible news is for all of us.

But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!” (Romans 5:8). That is the good news.

Jesus is the difference-maker. He is the One who made a way for us to be righteous – counted righteous today and made righteous for eternity. If you have yet to experience the joy of knowing and following Him, would you consider surrendering your life to Him today? Check this out for a helpful summary of what it means to be a follower of Jesus.

There are very few things I believe differently today than what I believed as a selfishly wicked teenager on my way to hell. What I do and how I do what I do with my beliefs, though, are drastically different. Not because I “have arrived” or figured out the tricks. No, I am different because Jesus is the difference-maker. Jesus has changed me.

I am no longer content to go through the motions and call that “serving God.” If and when I do go through the motions, God’s Holy Spirit convicts me to repent and follow Him faithfully. Daily I need His help, His guidance, His provision, His leadership, His grace, and His compassion.

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I hope to preach on our “Great God of Compassion” from Malachi 3:13-18. I pray that I can encourage and challenge you to believe in and be changed by the Greatness of God.