The Debt Collector

Begging
“The debtor fell down and begged: ‘Please, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.’”(Matthew 18:26)

Ever had a credit card debt?

Imagine owing the bank millions and having no way of repaying it. The bank threatens to take your home and all your assets leaving you and your family broke, homeless and in a state of poverty. The bank has every right to do so. It’s YOUR debt that is outstanding. They are completely justified in casting you aside for failing to repay what you owe.

But what if the bank turned around and said “hey, you know how you owe us millions? Forget about it. We’re going to cancel the debt and wipe your record clean”.

Well that’s exactly what Jesus has done for you.

Jesus often spoke in parables. Parables are stories with a deeper meaning to help break things down for us. In Matthew 18:21-35, Jesus tells us about this man (the “debtor”) who had borrowed millions from the King (the “creditor”).

A debtor is someone who owes money.

A creditor is someone who is owed money.

The King decided to collect what was owed to him however the man could not pay so he was to be sold along with his wife, his children, and everything he owned to pay the debt. Talk about loss. That’s literally losing everything.

The debtor fell down and begged:

‘Please, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.’

Filled with pity for him, the master released him and forgave his debt.

The King FORGAVE his debt. All of it. He knew the man had no way of repaying what he owed so instead he took pity on him and cancelled the debt setting the man free. The debtor did not repay the creditor. He did not earn forgiveness of his debt but forgiveness was freely given by a merciful King who took pity on him.

So what happens next? This same man, the debtor, leaves the King and finds his fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars. We see the debtor is now the creditor having someone who owes him money. You would think that the he would be ecstatic and grateful that his GIANORMOUS debt was forgiven that he would forgive the tiny debt this fellow servant owed him.

Unfortunately that’s NOT what happened.

The debtor/now creditor leaves the King, finds his debtor and grabs him by the throat DEMANDING instant payment.

WHOA! That escalated quickly!

His fellow servant fell down before him and begged for a little more time.

‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it,’ he pleaded.

We’ve seen this scenario before. However, instead of forgiving the debt (as the King did for him), the creditor had his fellow servant arrested and put into prison until the debt was repaid in full. Some of the other servants who saw this were upset and reported to the King. The King called in the man he had forgiven and said:

‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’

Then the angry King handed the man over to be imprisoned and tortured until he had paid his entire debt. This is the parable and Jesus warns:

“That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart.”

It’s not that God imprisons or tortures us but our decision to sin means God must hand us over to the consequence of our sin. God would rather have us suffer temporarily on earth and come to a repentance then to suffer eternally in hell for our sin.

“By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.” (1 John 3:10)

God is holy and He cannot affiliate with anything that is not. In order to receive forgiveness, we must forgive (Matthew 6:12). In order to receive mercy, we must show mercy (James 2: 12-13Matthew 5:7 ). Our failure to act in this Christ like manner causes us to lock ourselves out from God’s presence. We imprison ourselves and we suffer when we are separated from God but forgiveness through Christ reconciles us back to God.

I wonder do you show mercy to others? Do you forgive like Christ has forgiven your debts or do you keep a record of wrongs? Do you hold the sins of others against them and bring them up when it suits you?  The debt you owe Christ will always far outweigh the debt anyone will ever owe you. Don’t believe me? Ask the Spirit of God to search you.

“..the Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? (1 Corinthians 2: 10-11)

God knows exactly what’s inside your heart and your mind. The world might not always see what’s inside you but the Spirit of God can search every nook and cranny inside of you and reveal the wickedness that lies there. Don’t be afraid to ask God to search you. Don’t be ashamed to bring the darkness into the light. Only then can it be defeated. It has power over you when it is hidden but in the light, the power of sin is destroyed. The Holy Spirit can identify your sin and help you recognise it so you can bring it into the light and destroy it through Christ.

We don’t know all the ways we have offended God. I can sum it up and say that most of us have all sinned against God in some way if not, every way. Our righteousness is as filthy rags before God (Isaiah 64:6).

Some of us act as though we are God’s personally appointed debt collectors. We’re not. Love keeps no record of wrongs (1 Corinthians 13:5). When God forgives our sins, He blots out our transgressions and forgets them (Hebrews 8:12; Isaiah 43:25). He casts our sin into the depths of the ocean (Micah 7:19). Jesus was manifested to reconcile the world to himself not counting our sins against us (2 Corinthians 5: 18-19). If Jesus Himself is not counting the sins of those forgiven, who are we do to so? There is only one judge. We need to pray for those who fall into sin not hurl their sin back in their face.

Before we look for the speck of sawdust in our brothers eye, we should look at the plank in our own eye (Matthew 7:3; Luke 6:41) and in humility value others above ourselves (Philippians 2:3).

PRAYER

Dear God, please help me to see all the ways which I have sinned against you so that I may repent and draw closer to you. Please forgive my sins known and unknown and move me to pray for others who sin and not pass judgement. I know my righteousness is filthy rags before you and I want to please you with my whole life. I know I can do all things through you who gives me strength. In Jesus name, Amen.

New Year, New You?

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So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view… if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (2 Corinthians 5:16- 17)

A new haircut is not a new you. A better diet is not a new you. A bucket list of places you want to go to is not a new you.  People seem to be willing to change their hair, their body and their lifestyle but not their heart. Real and lasting change has to begin in the heart. If you want a new you, to be a new creation, then let me introduce to your creator.  Only Jesus can instigate the changes necessary to change your heart, renew your mind and make you truly new.

When God changes you, the old you will be unrecognisable, perhaps not physically, but in all other respects. People will notice that something is different about your life and the way you carry yourself. We see in Scripture that when God instigated identity changes, it was so transformative that He even renamed the person whose life He changed!

Abram to Abraham.

Simon to Peter.

Saul to Paul.

Just to name a few. It doesn’t mean a name change is required; the point is their new identity in Christ is so far from who they used to be without Christ that it is as though they are a new person. And they are.  The old has passed away. The “old” is their previous sinful person outside of Christ. We all need to say goodbye to our “old” self. We need to recognise that we have no goodness, peace, joy or any deep rooted sense of fulfilment and satisfaction outside of Christ.

The “New You” is when you become a new creation in Christ.

How many “New Years” have come and gone where you’ve seen short lived change or no significant change in you? Or no matter how much you change, you’re still not satisfied, still not complete? We may have people, things or accomplishments that offer temporary fulfilment but before we know it, we’re empty again. We need someone or something to fill us up and validate us to make us feel good about ourselves. Someone to tell us how great we are, to cuddle us and make us feel loved or we run to get “likes” on social media.

This is a futile exercise. Only Jesus can fill that void inside your heart.

If you want a transformation then welcome Jesus into your heart and watch Him wreck and pull apart the old you and build a beauty and perfection words cannot describe nor do justice. Yes the process hurts at times but it is the best decision you will ever make. As you continue learning new things about yourself in Christ, you will fall in love with Him because you are getting to know who He really is. Remember, Christ is building you up into HIS image. You are getting to know Christ and your true self in Christ. You better believe you are so valuable, so precious and so loved.

We invest all this time in getting to know others but we never invest in getting to know ourselves. We need invest time in getting to know our true selves and discovering our identity in Christ, our true identity.

When the “old” is passing away, it is being removed as one sinful nature after another. You get to pass one test at a time.  The Holy Spirit will invite you to cut off or change anything that is stopping you from growing into the image of Christ and hindering the process of change. It could be a bad relationship, a habit or changing your way of thinking.  You may need to forgive someone, let go of resentment or learn to surrender every aspect of your life to God.

Imagine going out with someone and as you are trying to get to know them, they dump their entire life story on you beginning from their first breathe up til that specific moment in time. It would be overwhelming and confusing. You would quickly excuse yourself to leave or hatch an elaborate escape plan!

God doesn’t just dump your “new identity” on you all at once. It’s a process. You are getting to know one another and this takes time. You need to spend time with each other and be intentional about your relationship with Him. How else do you get to know someone? Sit before God, spend time reading His Word, write to Him, sing to Him, and speak to Him. There are so many ways you can connect and you don’t have to worry about your phone battery dying or exceeding your data plan or minutes. He’s always there, always ready plus heaven has the best phone plan and its lines are never down.

Be patient.  Although you may be a “new creation” through repentance and reconciliation back to God, you may still see some remnants or residue of your “old self” but fear not, God is going to work through it with you. He invites you to change. If you don’t get it right the first time just keep trying. God will get you to where you need to be if you keep seeking Him no matter how many times you fall. Seek forgiveness with a genuinely repentant heart, pick yourself back up and try again.

This year, focus on changing the only person you can change, you.

Jesus is calling you by name. You are invited.

He’s Coming Back

Heaven Open
Revelation 19:11-16
I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice He judges and wages war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on His head are many crowns. He has a name written on Him that no one knows but He Himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and His name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following Him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Coming out of His mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter”. He treads the winepress of the fury wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on His thigh He has this name written:  
KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.

Jesus is the Word of God made flesh. He is coming back to judge the living and the dead, to restore His Kingdom and to reign as KING with His children by His side who share in His inheritance.

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne.  All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left..“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world” (Matthew 25: 31-40)

Who are His children? Anyone who does the will of God (1 John 3:10; John 1:12; Romans 8:14).

Sin separates us from God.  God cannot associate with sin/evil. He is holy, we are not. We have sinned against God in every way. God would be completely justified, still just as holy and loving, if we were thrown into hell. Out of His unfailing love, He became man. He left His heavenly throne and came down to the earth. The earth which man had corrupted and filled with violence. Sound familiar? God owes us nothing. What we have received is the ultimate act of love from a loving God. This is the Good News. That God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son as a ransom for many so that we should not perish but have life and have it more abundantly (John 3:16).

Forgiveness through Jesus reconciles us back to the giver of life (1 Timothy 2:5). He came first in the form of a baby. The Son of God having become man so that man could become children of God. He brought Salvation and eternal life through His sacrifice on the cross. He paid the penalty for your sin and mine so that death could no longer hold us. This gift of Salvation cannot be earned by our good works. We cannot be made worthy of it of our own accord. We need a Saviour. We need Jesus. We can only honour this gift by honouring God. It is the FREE gift offered by grace through faith in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8).

We have the choice to accept this free gift and embrace life or to reject it and embrace death. Literally. So many of us have and are embracing death. We are rejecting God daily by pursuing sin and walking in disobedience to His will. We enjoy our sin and underestimate the severity of the second death which is eternal separation from God and suffering in hell, the fiery lake of burning sulfur (Revelation 21:8; 2 Thessalonians 1:9). Even today, we suffer when we are separated from God.  We belittle God’s greatness, beauty and goodness and fail to reverence Him. We even overlook the fact that the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus was only the first part.

He’s coming back. Not as a baby this time.

“This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).

He’s coming back as a mighty Warrior ready to judge the living and the dead. He is the Almighty God and He has NO equal.

While God is love, He is equally righteous.

While God is full of grace and mercy, He returns with judgement.

God is the righteous judge. His judgement is just.  We condemn ourselves through our choices (2 Corinthians 5:10), our disobedience and rejection of the Holy Spirit conviction when we sin. You know that “guilty” feeling you have when you do the wrong thing or perhaps you have silenced the voice of the Holy Spirit through repeated sin and constant rejection.

God has not been sitting idly by while the wickedness and perverseness of the world continues. He has not been kicking back while we continue to define what is right and wrong as our own self-appointed gods, and ultimately defile ourselves and God’s world.  We sit there all self-righteous asking “If God is real then why is there evil in this world?”. Well, Satan is just as real and we not only welcome evil into our lives but we partake in it through our choices.  We have to trust that God’s thoughts and ways are so much higher than ours and there is a bigger picture we do not see (Isaiah 55:8-9). Instead of trusting God, we question His goodness making it easier for us to disobey His will and sin.

Do you think God’s heart doesn’t break when we lie? “A little white lie won’t hurt” or “No one will ever find out” we tell ourselves. Do you think God is not indignant as He witnesses murder? By God’s standard, murder begins in the heart not in the physical act!

“Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him” (1 John 3:15; Matthew 5:21-26)

Same thing goes with adultery (Matthew 5:27-30). By God’s standard, adultery begins in the heart. We see God’s standards are not the world’s standards. They are much higher. So if you’ve ever lied, stolen something, hated someone or lusted in your heart then before God you stand as a lying, thieving, murderer and adulterer.

Where will you stand if you are judged by God’s law and standards?

The world convinces us that it’s okay to drop our standards and live like the world. As believers, we should be well aware that this world and its ways are headed for destruction (Matthew 25:46; Psalm 9:17; 1 Corinthians 1:18; James 4:4-6).

If you’re like me then without Christ’s salvation, you will stand GUILTY as charged. So I KNOW I need grace. I KNOW I need Jesus. I need a saviour and I needed to be rescued because my destination was most definitely hell. While I stood guilty and in chains, Jesus paid the price for my crimes and bailed me out. He took the chains of me, cleansed me and set me free (Colossians 2:13-15). With all that I am, I want to honour the price that was paid for my life. I was dead and now I am alive. Not only does Jesus give us life now and more abundantly but He has promised eternal life and an imperishable inheritance to those who love and honour Him. Noting again, God OWES US NOTHING.

God is ready to bring His judgement (1 Peter 4:5, 17; 2 Corinthians 5:10). He patiently endured in the time of Noah (1 Peter 3:19-20) and again, for our sake, He is patiently enduring our sin and wickedness giving repeated opportunities for repentance not wanting any to perish but for all to come into the knowledge of Jesus Christ that they might be saved.  But the time will come when this opportunity passes so we must prepare our hearts to be right before God every day. He will work with us through our messes as He is faithful and just to forgive our sins if we confess. Return to the shepherd and overseer of your soul (1 Peter 2:25). There is only darkness and eternal suffering outside of Him.

PRAYER

Dear God,
Thank you for your free gift of salvation and for giving us Jesus so that we might be saved through grace by faith in Him. I know I can’t earn your gift so I ask that you help me to honour it. Help me to die to myself each day so that I can live for you and do your will. You are almighty God worthy of all my praise. Draw me closer to you and help prepare me for your Kingdom.  
In Jesus name, Amen.

God’s Craftsmanship: The Masterpiece

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For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago” (Ephesians 2:10).

Knitting can be an intricate task that requires an eye for detail. It can produce beautiful works. Exhibit A – go look in the mirror. God knit you together in your mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13). Before He formed you in the womb He knew you, before you were born He set you apart (Jeremiah 1:5). You are wonderfully and fearfully made (Psalm 139:14).

You are God’s masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10).

But here’s the thing, sin taints the masterpieces we are. It causes God’s purpose in us to become distorted, stained and defiled. For this reason, Christ came into the world to wash our sins “white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18). He came to undo the effects of sin and He succeeded.

Our sins are washed white when we become a new creation in Christ by:

  1. Deciding we no longer desire to live in sin (yes, it’s a choice);
  2. Accepting Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour and acknowledging Him as the Son of God who died, was buried and rose again;
  3. Accepting the free gift of forgiveness and salvation offered through Jesus Christ.

Our slate is wiped clean. If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Now comes the best-but-not-so-easy part!

Trees are pruned by cutting away the dead or overgrown branches or stems to support growth. God needs to prune us from all the dead things attached to us and the things that stop us from growing into the image of Christ. This can be a difficult, even painful process but fear not, God is HEALER. Once He prunes the trees in your garden, even uproots some that shouldn’t have been planted there, He will heal the ground and get to work building upon the right foundation.

When we surrender all aspects of our life to God, God can work at full capacity to help us get rid of anything that is not like Him and teach us in His ways.

When an artist begins painting, it’s not always clear what the image is or what it will be. There’s a brushstroke here, some paint over there. We don’t have the full picture but we can see something is happening. Something that requires patience, determination and effort.

Similarly, when God is at work in us, it’s not always clear what God is doing in us and that’s where we need to develop our faith and trust in God – that even though we don’t understand and can’t see the full picture, we trust Him.

And again, like the painting, the transformation of our lives requires patience, determination and effort. It doesn’t happen all at once. Imagine if you were moved from one country to another or one career to another without any notice. It would be overwhelming and confusing. We wouldn’t be able to process it all and God knows this. Instead, God works quietly and patiently within us. He gently invites us to change and to spend time with Him, getting to know Him and His ways through His Word. It’s an invitation we choose to accept or reject.

Finding our new identity and purpose in Christ requires our obedience to what God desires. God is faithful and just. He will never leave or abandon us and nothing can separate us from His love.

There is a version of ourselves, our true selves in Christ that we do not want to miss out on meeting. The closer we draw to Christ, the closer Christ draws to us.

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:2)

It all starts with a choice. Have you made yours?

PRAYER

Heavenly Father, help me to trust you even when things don’t make sense. Show me all the ways in me that are not like you. I choose you and I give my life to you. I ask for a heart and mind like yours. Help me to see things from heaven’s perspective and not my own.
In Jesus name, Amen.

 

Sound the Alarm

Sound the Alarm
Mark 1:11-13
And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan.

When we sin, we damage the relationship we have with God. God is good and perfect and He cannot associate with anything that is not. Because God so loved the world, He sent His only son, Jesus, to die on the cross and to bare the punishment for all sins committed, being committed and that will ever be committed by mankind. Jesus lived a perfect life and although He was tempted in every way, just as we are, He did not sin (Hebrews 4:15).  Through Jesus, God gave humanity an example by which to live by and a way to be reconciled back to Him when they sin. Through Jesus, our relationship with God can be healed, restored and strengthened through the forgiveness of sins, when we accept Christ as our saviour and the free gift of salvation which He offers.

Because the consequence of sin is death, Christ was manifested so we might have life, and have it to the full (John 10:10). God not only wants us to have eternal life but to live our present lives to the full whereas Satan comes only to “steal, kill and destroy” (John 10:10).

Satan wants us separated from God.  When we choose to live in sin, Satan tends not to bother us because we are doing his job for him. We are slaves of the one we obey—whether we are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness (Romans 6:16).  By being Satan’s slave, he gets to sit back and chill while we mess up our salvation.

God does not give up on us. He never leaves or forsakes us (Hebrews 13:5). He is always patiently waiting for us to turn back to Him and when we do, He is ready, willing and able to forgive, heal and restore. To make us new and give us a purpose and identity in Christ… to become children of God.

Satan’s alarm bells really start to go off when we decide that we no longer want to live in our sin but desire to live for God. We see in Mark 1: 11-13, that Jesus was baptised and at once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan. For a believer, baptism demonstrates the ultimate and initiating acceptance of Christ and faith in God. When we accept Christ into our hearts, we become a target for Satan because Satan doesn’t sit idly by while our relationship with God develops and flourishes. Satan has a nervous breakdown and will fight harder to keep us separated.

Satan’s spiritual attacks will be any and all attempts to keep us separated from God. But God is good, faithful and all powerful. He works all things for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). In fact, we should celebrate when the enemy tries to come against us because this is our chance to show the world that we have a heavenly Father who is with us. James 1 tells us to consider it pure joy when we face trials because the testing of our faith produces perseverance and perseverance allows us to grow in spiritual maturity so we may be perfect and not lacking anything. James 1:3 says “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you”

While the enemy plans to destroy, God will use the attack to bless us and deepen our faith and trust in Him.

What we need to do is learn to:

  1. Identify the attacks
  2. Understand our God given authority and power over the enemy
  3. Not only overcome sin but destroy its power in our lives

When we lean on God for wisdom and understanding, God will show us how to accomplish these things. It won’t happen instantly so work patiently with God. The Holy Spirit is our teacher who will lead and teach us (John 14:26; 1 John 2:27; Nehemiah 9:20).

PRAYER

Dear God, I accept your free gift of salvation which you freely offered in the sacrifice of your only son, Jesus. I confess and repent of my sins known and unknown. I renounce the enemy and rebuke any connection I have had to anything that was not of you. Help me to grow in spiritual maturity and fill me with your Holy Spirit that I may know your ways which are good and perfect. I thank you ahead of time Lord because I know you are Faithful and Just to forgive and that you provide every good thing for your children. In Jesus name, Amen.