Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Our Great Salvation ... Armor of God # 6

My wife was a soccer goalie in college.  During her senior year, some work had been done to the soccer fields.  The goals had to be removed for a day and then put back in place.  The only problem was that when they were put back, they were never secured.  At practice the next day, it was incredibly windy.  So windy, in fact, that one of the goals blew over.  It just so happened to be the goal my wife was standing under during practice.  It fell on her, crashing in to her head, and knocking her out cold. 

We know the damage a head injury can cause.  The NFL is experiencing this first hand.  More than 5,000 former players are one step closer to a settlement in a concussion lawsuit that could end up costing the league more than $1 billion over 65 years.  Many of the rule changes in the NFL revolve around protecting players heads in an effort to help protect their mind as well.

We all know the purpose of a helmet.  It’s used to protect our head and prevent trauma to our brain.  In a spiritual sense, our “helmet of salvation” is worn to protect our mind. So, the idea behind this is that, as followers of Jesus, we have to continually remind ourselves of the salvation we have received from Jesus and somehow that will offer us protection.  Tim Keller said, “Despite the fact that we already have been saved by Christ, we must be continually diligent to remember, preserve, rejoice in and live in accord with our salvation.  We cannot lose our salvation, but we can lose our freedom from enslavement to fear
We need to turn our minds to who we are and what we have in Jesus so often that our hearts are stirred and our behavior brought into line with these unseen realities.”  So, as we consider this piece of the armor of God, let’s turn our minds to who are and what we have all because of Jesus.

Most people in the world today believe that we relate to God with our behavior.  Most religions are based on this principle.  Every religious system offers a way of deliverance from judgment that typically revolves around doing something to earn God’s favor.  It takes different forms, but the basic idea is do less wrong and do more right and God will be happier with you.  And, one day you can stand before Him and hope that you did more to make Him happy than unhappy.  Every religious system offers a solution “Do this, don’t do that one-two-three strikes your out.  Sorry, you’ll just have to try harder.”  Every religious system offers a solution, but there has only been one Person to ever offer Himself as the solution. (Stanley) Every religious system will say “Yes we have a spiritual need.  We have a spiritual emptiness.  We have something inside that causes us to feel guilt or shame or emptiness.  So do this to work your way out of it.”  Only Jesus says, “Trust Me to get you out of it. I don’t just have a solution I am the solution.” When we trust Jesus, our life becomes centered a Person rather than a list of behaviors and we see Him we focus on Him.  When that happens, everything changes.

One of the most powerful passages of the Bible that talks about all that Jesus has done for us was written by the Apostle Paul (a man who literally saw Jesus) and is found in Colossians 1:13 – 14  “For He has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of His dear Son, who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins.”

When I read these verse I see that Jesus has done all the work!  When I reflect on what He has done, I see that His sacrifice rescued me from the kingdom of darkness.  I was a slave in this kingdom.  Being a slave in the kingdom of darkness means I am helpless against my sin nature. It’s why we’re prone to anger and prone to lust and bent toward greed and capable of hurting others and susceptible to addiction and prone to laziness and willing to lie and far to willing to accept the credit.  It’s why I’m so willing to operate my life like I am smarter than God. 

It’s also why I’m bent toward trying to control my own life and be my own savior and trust in my own goodness to be good enough.  I’m bent toward having just enough pride to believe that I may not be that great, but at least I’m not as bad as the other guy, so surely that will be enough for God.  It’s like one day I will stand before God and He will say, “Well, yeah, you weren’t all that great, but _____________ was so much worse than you, so come on in.” The only problem is, when it comes to righteousness, God is batting 1000 and I can barely swing the bat. Romans 3:23 reminds me that even on my best day, I fall far short of God’s standard. So, as I heard someone say once, it’s not just me at my worst that’s the problem. It’s me at my best that’s a problem too!  My natural bent is toward everything the kingdom of darkness offers and there is no way out unless God intervenes.

Enter Jesus.  When we place our trust in Jesus, His sacrifice moves us from the kingdom of darkness to His kingdom.  In this kingdom we are at peace with God. 

The judgment of God on sin is directly aimed at you and me as part of the kingdom of darkness until we allow Jesus to stand between us and God’s anger toward sin.  When we trust that Jesus faced the full wrath of God on the cross, we are then transferred to His kingdom where there is no more hostility, no more anger, no more condemnation directed toward us.  So, now, when God sees us, He doesn’t see our failure or that thing we don’t want anyone to know about or our sexual history or our years wasted in college or our pride or our mistakes.  Rathe,r He sees the righteousness of Jesus applied to us.  Jesus’ righteousness gives us a “right record” with God and we are made new in His eyes.  This is what happens when you are a part of His kingdom you have Jesus in heaven, even on your worst day, interceding for you, advocating for you, coming to your defense.  Not asking for you to be punished. Not asking for to get what’s coming to you, but rather pleading on your behalf. (Chandler)  You are a part of His kingdom and when you place your faith in Jesus, He is for you even if your life doesn’t seem to be for Him right now.  He will always come to your defense and empower you to live out your identity as a part of His kingdom.  He has purchased you out of the kingdom of darkness and given you a whole new zip code the kingdom of Jesus.

Finally, when we look to Jesus and become a part of His kingdom, our sins are forgiven.  Forgiven to absolve from payment of something to relent in being angry no longer looking to exact punishment.  God is never in doubt about the forgiveness of your sin because He has done all the work!  He has delivered us.  He has transferred us.  You are covered by His forgiveness no longer condemned so, your guilt and your shame you don’t have to try to drink it away or spend it away or sex it away or starve it way or eat it away work it away or even religion it away because Jesus’s blood has taken it away.  You are His child!  Jesus’ love repositions you as man and as a woman of the living God. Your debt is cancelled and you are forgiven by the grace of God. 

So, you can bring your guilt and your shame to Him and ask for forgiveness and you can trust that you are forgiven.  You may not feel forgiven, but you are forgiven.

My experience has been that believing I am who God says I am means I have to choose to believe what God says over what I feel.  I have to choose to believe that I am forgiven.  I have to choose to believe that I am new.  I have to choose to believe that since I have been transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of Jesus, there is royal blood flowing through my veins.  I have to choose to believe that God has moved me from the slums to the penthouse that my faith in Him has literally given me a whole new zip code I have been taken out of the kingdom of darkness.  Because Jesus’ sacrifice has delivered me from the kingdom of darkness, I’m no longer facing God’s anger.  He is for me, not against me.

Remember, armor protects us, so the helmet of salvation protects my mind. As I focus on my salvation I remember a few things

First, “No one is more influential in your life than you are, because no one talks to you more than you do.”  (Tripp) For that reason, preach the gospel to yourself all the time. Remind yourself of the fact that your identity is not based on the good things you have done or the bad things you have done.  Rather, it is based on what Jesus has done.  “In the gospel, we see that Jesus has died for us and valued us not for what we bring Him.  We are of no profit to Him!  We have been loved for our own sakes.  And to the degree we see that in gospel faith, we respond in kind.”  (Keller)

Second, it protects us from an inflated view of ourselves.  No one is more influential in your life than you.  Because of that, there is also, “no greater danger than the danger we are to ourselves.”  (Tripp)  No one offers grace more than the one who is completely dependent upon it.  Paul Tripp put it like this:  “It is your self-righteousness that permits you to be angry and unkind to your child.  You’re not greeting his laziness with gracious parental wisdom, because you think you are essentially different from him.  You’re saying, ‘If you were as righteous as me, you wouldn’t like this.’  When you assign to yourself righteousness that you don’t have, you expect the people around you to be as righteous as you think you are, and you greet them with judgment when they aren’t You deal with others with grace when you walk around with the humble realization of how deep your need for grace was and continues to be When you admit that there are few struggles in others that don’t exist in some way in your life as well, you caress them with God’s grace rather than hammering them with the law (do’s and don’ts).  The appropriateness of my responses to others is directly related to the accuracy of my view of myself, and for that there is grace too.” 

Finally, remembering our salvation helps us to remember God is for us.  Maybe you’re a follower of Jesus, but you haven’t been quite “following.”  Your actions are not lining up with who you are and you’re wondering what God is even thinking about you right now.  The conviction that you feel is the Holy Spirit reminding you of who you are and that you’re not living out and living in your identity.  God never excuses sin, but there is also no sin His grace is unable to cover. Remembering my salvation reminds me that I am no longer facing His condemnation.  I can bring my sin before God and trust that He will always empower me to live out who I am.  He knows our sin.  He knows our mistakes.  He knows our failures.  We don’t have to hide them from Him.  We couldn’t anyway. We can bring our guilt and our shame to God and when we trust in Jesus’ death and resurrection, our past and our memories are no longer a reminder of failure and guilt, but rather of God’s forgiveness.  (Stanley)  He sees all the times we have not “measured up.”  He’s looking at the same sin we are, but instead of shaking His head in disappointment, He’s standing right beside us saying, “My blood paid for those sins too.”   So, we can “stop trying to earn something from God.  We can stop trying to gain more of His acceptance.  We can stop trying to earn His favor.  We can stop trying to win His allegiance.  We can stop trying to do something that would pay for His blessing.  We can stop trying to morally buy our way out of His anger.  We can stop trying to reach a level where you will know lasting peace with Him.  We can stop.”  (Tripp)  We can stop living for God out of fear because we are no longer under His wrath.  We can live for Him in faith.  We can stop seeking to live for Him out of guilt because we are no longer condemned.  We can live for Him in freedom. “We have more reason to love God than we ever did before!”  (Keller) 

Jesus paid it all
All to Him I owe
Sin had left a crimson stain
He washed it white as snow

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