CALVARY MEMORIAL CHURCH

CALVARY WHERE LIVES ARE CHANGED

April 2021

Nothing More Than the Gospel (April 30th)

by Scotty Smith
If, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.
Romans 5:17

It’s not cliché to say, “There’s nothing more than the gospel; there’s just more of the gospel.” To help you see what I mean, I’m going to share one of my favorite quotes from the Chronicles of Narnia: The Last Battle. The children are moving from the Shadowlands into Narnia, and Queen Lucy says, “In our world, too, a Stable once had something inside it that was bigger than our whole world.”
That stable is the centerpiece of what we call in church history Advent. It is the grand declaration of our God, who is rich in mercy, who knew that the revelation of Himself as Creator could only be surpassed by the revelation of His being revealed as a Redeemer. So He sent Jesus for us. And the stable that seems so small to us is a magnificent metaphor for what the gospel is all about. If, when we speak the word gospel, we mean anything other than or less than the person and the work of Jesus, we need an adjustment. That person and work is far more glorious, far more magnificent than we can even imagine.
Let me invite you to follow along with me over the next few days as I share more reflections on this gospel revolution that began in that tiny stable and how this revolutionary power that raised Jesus from the dead on our behalf is truly in our midst today, changing us. Here is a fuller glimpse into the new, expansive world of the gospel of Jesus Christ:
For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. (Rom. 5:15–17)

Thought to Remember for Today

As we begin to think more deeply about these words, why not join me in this prayer:
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, glorious triune God, we thank You that there was a stable in our world that contained something bigger than the entire universe. May Your commitment through Jesus and our union with Him expand the horizons of our hearts that we might live as carriers of Your story. Please show us the much moreness of this gospel. In Jesus’s name and for His glory, we pray. Amen.

Fitzpatrick, E. (2016). Grace untamed: a 60-day devotional. Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook.

Saved by the Savior (April 29th)

by David Zahl
This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
1 John 4:10 NIV

No number of gospel-centered books or conferences or blogs will render grace any less urgent. The climb may be even steeper for those of us who’ve been brought up on American religious bootstrapping. And so we have to be careful. We have to be careful that we don’t turn the important idea of one-way love into a law. We could turn it into a way to measure and control others and ourselves.
A marketing strategy may be able to reference the gospel, but it cannot contain it. The forgiveness of sins is by definition immune to co-option or positioning. Thank God! You can paint grace as the hot new stop on the Christian train all you want, but its reality is another matter. We are saved not by knowledge or theology, but by the Savior. And as much as I wish it weren’t so, the stakes are not imaginary—they are real. Suicide is not just a secular phenomenon. The need for forgiveness and grace is universal—people are desperate for it everywhere. And no amount of slick packaging will save them. No amount of “gospel as concept” will help them. They don’t need big ideas. They need a big Savior! The good news is the gospel has intervened; God has intervened. “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:10 NIV).
Grace says you are loved right now. Christian freedom is the freedom to be rather than to grow. I have a certain antipathy to the notion that we’re getting better and better all the time. And it’s so clearly belied by our experience.

Thought to Remember for Today

Saul Bellow wrote, “The forgiveness of sins is perpetual and righteousness first is not required.” That is the message of the gospel, not that you must love to get love, but that we have been loved, even in our inability to love, in our unlovableness. And there’s something in the message of the forgiveness of sins to offend everybody, except for the person who needs it at the time, which is you, which is me.

Fitzpatrick, E. (2016). Grace untamed: a 60-day devotional. Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook.

A One-Way Relationship (April 28th)

by David Zahl
And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD.
Genesis 3:8

There has been a lot of suicide in the Christian community, and I don’t want to be reductionistic about suicide, as if the cause always boils down to one single thing. It’s very complicated, and I wouldn’t pretend to understand what someone goes through before they succumb to such despair, but I will say that I think the suicides of some well-known pastors is an indictment of American Christianity.
There seems to be a link between these deaths and the widespread teaching that “life transformation took place at salvation and the power to overcome was inherent in the baptism of the Holy Spirit.” Now, don’t mistake me; I’m not saying the Holy Spirit doesn’t come into someone’s life and provide change and power to change, but guarantees of certain kinds of victory are actually fueling despair, and some pastors become so frustrated that they don’t just give up their faith, but their lives.
I’m not disputing the hope of transformation; I’m disputing the guarantee of transformation, because when you guarantee transformation, you often prevent it from actually happening. A person will inevitably pretend to change, all the while getting more and more stuck in that morbid cycle of spiritual pulse-taking, of which some of us are all too familiar. You know, it’s true that a plant cannot grow if it’s being dug up every five minutes to check its growth. Law and legalism and judgment are dangerous when encountered in a gospel-less vacuum, because to talk about the law without the gospel is to isolate the suffering person even more than they’re already isolated.
What is the antidote then? What is the gospel message to those who are lonely? It’s a relationship. It’s not a theology; it’s a Person. But it’s not the kind of relationship we tend to have with other people. It’s a one-way relationship where you have real freedom because of the assurance that nothing you can do can make God love you any more or any less.

Thought to Remember for Today

It is true that God’s salvation is power to change. But it’s also true that until we are brought into glory, we will always have sins and struggles. Don’t let this reality drive you to despair. God loves you and is patient with you. Remember today that there’s nothing you can do or fail to do that will make God love you any less.

Fitzpatrick, E. (2016). Grace untamed: a 60-day devotional. Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook.

How We Deal with Loneliness (April 27th)

by David Zahl
And the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD.
Genesis 3:8

Another way we try to deal with loneliness is to distract ourselves from it. We keep ourselves busy all the time. One of the great ironies of modern technology is that it was meant to make it so we’d have more leisure time, get our work done faster. But it didn’t really work out that way, did it?
We live in a culture where there is no danger whatsoever of people being too lazy. Our problem is that we cannot rest! “Oh, I’m so busy,” we say. But what if you weren’t busy? What would that say about you? People might think we’ve got nothing going on.
But distraction and busy-ness are not the only ways we deal with loneliness. Another way we deal with it is to buy people’s love. We think, through some kind of relational transaction, that we can make ourselves into someone who is lovable, because we know we’re not lovable as we are. So we try to present to the world only a façade we think will get us love, and then we’ll feel a little less alone for the moment.
These are all, really, legalistic ways to live. These are legalistic ways to save ourselves from loneliness. They’re legalistic, because they are really all forms of control. We think, If I do these things, I won’t have to deal with my loneliness. I can make myself into a person who won’t be lonely. I can pay other people to love me as I want myself to be loved. But these things only compound the loneliness, because, remember, if an idealized form of you is being loved, you don’t feel loved because you know you’re not that person. This is why social media, for instance, can compound people’s loneliness so much, because even when you do have a gazillion online friends, you know the person who is getting all this attention is actually not you, but some projection.

Thought to Remember for Today

Even though we try to handle our loneliness by controlling what people think of us, the truth is that the Lord sees us as we really are and yet loves us immeasurably. We are fully known and fully loved!

Fitzpatrick, E. (2016). Grace untamed: a 60-day devotional. Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook.

The Loneliness We All Feel (April 26th)

by David Zahl
And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD.
Genesis 3:8

Why are we so lonely? And what do we do about our loneliness? We’re in a constant state of connection with people, yet we feel lonelier than we ever have before. What is going on? Loneliness, really, is simply the desire for intimacy. Loneliness is not synonymous with being alone or bored, nor does being with others guarantee protection from loneliness. Anyone who’s married knows that.
Why are we so lonely? Well, in theological terms, it has everything to do with the law of God. The law pushes us toward ambition and self-actualization, and the price we often pay is loneliness, a lack of connections. What do we do? We sacrifice family for career. It reminds me of the great New Yorker cartoon of Abraham looking up at the clouds as he’s about to sacrifice Isaac and saying, “Must I sacrifice family for career?”
We’re lonely for some cultural reasons, but we’re lonely for reasons that are much more than cultural, because people have always been lonely, and they always will be lonely. We’re lonely because there is a shortage of love. We feel our aloneness because there is a paucity of grace and an overabundance of judgment. There is a whole lot of law and not a lot of gospel out there. Our isolation, our being cast out of the garden, our division is sin, pure and simple sin, and that sin isolates. The poet George Herbert wrote, “Surely if each one saw another’s heart, there would be no commerce, no sale or bargain pass; all would disperse and live apart.”
When John Lennon sings, “I am a loser and I’m not who I pretend to be,” this is what he’s getting at. Sin isolates; it inspires hiding. We know who we should be but we also know who we are, and so we see how far short we fall of not just God’s law but the law of any kind of decency and dignity. And so we hide and we isolate ourselves. We block intimacy. Hiding makes us even lonelier.

Thought to Remember for Today

The only lasting cure for loneliness is to see ourselves as we are in Christ: completely covered by His righteousness and communing together with Him.

Fitzpatrick, E. (2016). Grace untamed: a 60-day devotional. Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook.

Grace Is Heavier (April 25th)

by J.D. Greear
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age.
Titus 2:11–12

What produces the ability to do all the things listed in Titus 2:11–12? The grace of God.
The problem is not that the power of sin is too strong. The problem is that your love for God is too weak. If your love for God grew, it would bring into captivity all of these things. How do our passions for God grow? Not by being told that they’re supposed to grow, but by marveling at what God has done for us. The key in that verse is the word appeared. The grace of God has always been there, of course, but it has appeared to the heart of the hearer, because when God opens our eyes to behold the glory of God in the gospel, the passions of our hearts change so that we live godly, self-controlled lives.
So when I’m talking to the high school girl who just lost her virginity, I’m not telling her about the dangers of STDs or how much she’s screwing up her chance at a happy marriage. I’m telling her there is a God who cares enough about her that He came to earth to pursue her, to die in her place for her sin, and that He loves her more than any dirtbag guy ever could. And if she would understand the love of the Father, which she’s been seeking everywhere but in Him, then the seductions she faces in high school would not be nearly as strong over her.
When I’m dealing with the young man who is overwhelmed by pornography, I’m not just telling him how much he’s messing up his heart and poisoning his future relationships. I am telling him that God created him to be a man of righteousness, that God shed His blood so he could become exactly that. Commands don’t break the power of canceled sin; the acceptance God gives in Christ does. There is no way to believe and behold the gospel without also becoming more like Christ.
Grace is heavier than sin, and if we will lean into it, God’s Spirit will help us live as those who are freed from the bondage of these lesser satisfactions, the ones that kill.

Thought to Remember for Today

Martyn Lloyd-Jones said the ultimate measure of our spirituality is our amazement at the grace of God. Growth in godliness is most fundamentally growth in our awareness of our need for grace. Christian growth this side of heaven is not getting to a point where you don’t really feel like you need grace. Christian growth this side of heaven is becoming more intimately aware of how desperately you need it.

Fitzpatrick, E. (2016). Grace untamed: a 60-day devotional. Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook.

Alien Righteousness (April 24th)

by J.D. Greear
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
2 Corinthians 4:6

In contrast to the law, the apostle Paul said the gospel presents a righteousness and a power that is from God, what we might call an “alien” or “gift” righteousness.
The gospel reveals to us a God who is better than our idols, so it re-wins our hearts back to God. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 3:18, “We all … beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed.” How is it that we are transformed from people who are idolaters to people who seek God’s glory? Not by doing, but by seeingseeing God’s glory. And we see that glory in the face of Jesus Christ.
Most of the sins I struggle with have a common root: I give glory to what other people think about me. So even though I’m not an overly angry person, when I do get angry, it almost always goes back to me losing face with somebody.
When I worry—and I tend to worry a lot—it’s almost always a fear of the same thing. I have this irrational fear that one day I’m going to show up to church and learn that everybody has simultaneously decided, “He’s not that good; we’re going to go somewhere else.” I’ll walk into a huge sanctuary, and it’ll just be me, with my wife sitting on the front row. So I overwork. I cheat my family and the relationships that are close to me, because I’m afraid that if I’m not successful, I’m going to lose people’s admiration.
When I lie it’s always for one of two reasons. I tend to either exaggerate my accomplishments or minimize my weaknesses. Even here, I have the courage to tell you a few of my faults and be transparent, but deep down, a part of me is doing that so you’ll admire me for my transparency!
The point is this: you can tell me all day long to stop being angry, to stop lying, and to stop worrying, but until you change what I give glory to, I’m still obeying or disobeying out of self-interest. And that’s not going to last.

Thought to Remember for Today

Paul David Tripp said, “If we worshipped our way into sin, then the only way we can truly escape sin is to worship our way out.” The Bible says the gospel changes what we worship by revealing to us a God who is better and more glorious than our idols, so that we become people who do righteousness because we crave righteousness, who seek God because we love God.

Fitzpatrick, E. (2016). Grace untamed: a 60-day devotional. Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook.

Good Works Done for Us (April 23rd)

by J.D. Greear
We love because he first loved us.
1 John 4:19

Genesis 3 shows us the source of spiritual death. But one of the other effects of the fall is that we also realize our spiritual nakedness. We were naked, of course, before we sinned. But as Athanasius used to explain, our nakedness did not bother us then because we were clothed in the love and acceptance of God. When we sinned, that acceptance was stripped away, and we felt our nakedness.
What do human beings do when they sense nakedness? If you have a problem sleepwalking and you wake up at two o’clock in the morning in a 24-hour Walmart, standing there stark naked, what’s your first impulse? You probably won’t think, “Now that I’m here, I might as well get some paper towels.” No, you think, “Holy cow, I’m naked!” You try to hide. That’s the condition men and women live in. Something’s been exposed. We feel vulnerable, ashamed in some way. And like we’ve got to do something to clothe ourselves.
Luther explained that one of the primary ways we choose to fix that problem is by good works. The problem is that when our good works are done for self-justification, as a way really to “cover ourselves,” then they’re not really that good. They’re just another means of serving ourselves.
Charles Spurgeon illustrated this concept with a story about a king. One day a poor subject of his showed up with a huge carrot. He said, “Oh King, I’ve loved you for years. And when I saw this carrot grow in my garden, I knew this was a carrot fit for the glory of the king.” The king was genuinely touched, and said, “Sir, I care about you and I happen to own the farm right by yours, so I’m going to give you all that property because I am so moved by your gesture.” Well, one of the king’s shrewd courtiers thought, If that’s what the king would give for a carrot, imagine what he would do for a real gift! So this court official came in the next day and said, “Oh King, you’re the most awesome king ever. I really wanted to show you how much I love you as a king, so I brought you my magnificent horse, the finest horse in our country.” The king, who was wise, saw through the courtier’s gift and said, “Thank you.” When the courtier questioned why he didn’t get a gift in return, the king said, “Yesterday that servant was giving the carrot to me. Today you are giving that horse to yourself.”

Thought to Remember for Today

God doesn’t want the kind of obedience that’s used as leverage. You can’t bribe Him. He’s after a whole new kind of obedience, the obedience that grows from desire, when you do righteousness because you love righteousness. The more you soak yourself in the good news of the gospel, the more you will delight in good deeds simply because you love the Lord.

Fitzpatrick, E. (2016). Grace untamed: a 60-day devotional. Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook.

The Power of the Gospel (April 22nd)

by J.D. Greear
We love because he first loved us.
1 John 4:19

In Genesis 3 we find that sin has left us spiritually dead, meaning that the heart of our love for and delight in God was killed. Our original sin was idolatry. We valued what the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil could give us more than we valued God.
St. Augustine said Adam was choosing the company of his wife more than he was choosing God. He put more weight on being with Eve than he did on actually knowing and walking with God. In effect, he worshipped that way of living more than God.
God’s response was to give us over to our idols. Our hearts became, as John Calvin said, idol factories. Because of our idolatry, God’s laws to love and to serve and to glorify Him became unnatural to us. And when we do try to keep them, we chafe against them.
Imagine I have a metal bar that I am going to try to bend right in front of you. I take that metal bar, and I bend it and get it down to a certain shape. Then, one of two things happens. Either I stop applying pressure on the bar, at which point the bar immediately snaps back into its original shape. Or maybe I put so much pressure on it that it snaps in two. This is a picture of what happens to our hearts when we apply God’s law without the gospel. We either give up trying when the external pressure is removed, or we break spiritually. The law can demand our conformity, but it is powerless to reshape our hearts.
Martin Luther said this was the dilemma of the Great Commandment. If you love someone, you don’t need to be commanded to love them. You just love them! Luther concluded that what the law actually requires is freedom from the law, because if you really love God, you won’t need to be commanded. You couldn’t be commanded. You would just do it.

Thought to Remember for Today

For works to be good in God’s sight, they cannot be a means to anything else. They must come from the inward fount of the new man. Just as lovers do not need to be told what to do and say, a truly righteous heart needs no commands to be righteous. I never need to be commanded to kiss my wife, to eat a steak, or take a nap. Those things just come from the inward fount of who I am. Because you believe God has first loved you, your love for Him will flow more and more naturally. You will love, not because you’re commanded to love but because you are loved.

Fitzpatrick, E. (2016). Grace untamed: a 60-day devotional. Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook.

Our Inheritance (April 21st)

by Matt Chandler
The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
Romans 8:16–17

Paul said the Spirit bears witness to our spirit. It is so hard for us to believe God loves us, delights in us, and cheers us on in Christ, but Paul said the Spirit testifies to us that we are children of God. There are two ways He does that, and they sort of merge into a single word. First, we have a desire for obedience to God (although it’s imperfectly executed). And then there is a gladness of heart in the Lord (certainly of varying degrees at varying times). A desire for obedience plus gladness of heart. Together these form the simple word pursuit. We pursue God.
Now, what does that pursuit look like? Well, it’s always going to involve the Word of God; it’s always going to involve spending time with God in prayer. The rest may depend on your gifting and personality and circumstances.
But then Paul said we’re “heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.” We learn that you and I will reign with Jesus in a remade heaven and earth. Part of our inheritance is a resurrected body. Our bodies will one day be replaced with bodies that will not be broken down. Then, ultimately and best of all, we get God! If you got the new heaven and the new earth and you got your new body, but you didn’t get God, then it wouldn’t be worth it. The soul was created for Him. And the good news of the gospel is that because of Jesus Christ, we get God regardless of our circumstances.
But then Paul said we are heirs “provided we suffer with him.” Anyone else wish that little sentence weren’t in there?
Ed Welch once said we think sanctification looks like strength when it actually looks like weakness. Sanctification is not you with your chest puffed out, a cape in the wind, having just memorized the book of Romans. No, it looks like you’re tired, weary, and busted up. It’s the mercy of God, in fact, to at times wound you like a surgeon would wound a patient who needs to live. Don’t despise the difficult days. God is at work in the mess. It’s imperative that we keep our eyes on our inheritance.

Thought to Remember for Today

You know, it pleased the heart of God to save you. Today, ask the Lord to continue testifying to you by His Spirit that you are His, that you are deeply loved, forever pardoned, eternally justified, and gloriously promised a great inheritance.

Fitzpatrick, E. (2016). Grace untamed: a 60-day devotional. Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook.

No Better Version of You (April 20th)

by Matt Chandler
For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”
Romans 8:15

Honestly, I don’t struggle much with wondering if God forgives me, but I do still consistently have to preach the gospel to myself to believe that He likes me right now. Do you know what I mean? It’s easy to believe He likes Matt Chandler ten years from now. After some sanctification, that dude is going to be legit. But the Matt Chandler of today? Sometimes I think God loves me and is just kind of patient with me. He’s just sort of tolerating me until I grow up a little more. But there’s certainly no delight in Him toward me. There is no gladness of heart over my being one of His adopted sons.
Romans 8:15–17 is going to help us a bit with this kind of thinking. When God called you and justified you, He called you out of one of four big traps of spiritual slavery.
First, you had bought into the lie that a better version of you was going to solve all your problems. A better version of you, a wealthier version, a more disciplined version, a more fit version—these are lies. Setting our hearts there is like running on a treadmill all the days of your life. Running and running and going nowhere.
Second, you got rescued out of the slavery of wanting other people to validate you. And few things are as life-sucking and soul-crushing as needing others to validate you.
Third, you got rescued from the lures of the world, from the lie that what you need is more of what you already have, even though that hasn’t satisfied you.
And fourth, He rescued you from religion itself. And religion is a funny one, because it’s trying to tip scales that don’t even exist. Works-based religion is a mirage.
All of these attempts at becoming “a better you” are anti-gospel. I don’t know why we try to pretend we’re more than we are. Jesus didn’t die for some better version of us; those people don’t even exist. He died for us, as we are.

Thought to Remember for Today

I will buy into the lie that just a better version of me will solve some of what I’m feeling. But God loves the real me, and Jesus died for the real me—and the real you. And He has given us His Spirit to keep delivering us from these traps we keep falling into and back into the loving, forgiving arms of the Father.

Fitzpatrick, E. (2016). Grace untamed: a 60-day devotional. Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook.

No Longer a Judge, Now a Heavenly Father (April 19th)

by Matt Chandler
For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”
Romans 8:15

Here’s what I’ve learned now after eleven years pastoring in an area pervaded by Christian culture: these people don’t struggle a whole lot with justification. They sort of think, Yeah, yeah, God forgives me. I know that. Now, whether or not they really believe it is a whole different issue. What I’m finding is there’s a ton of people who can verbally explain the gospel as though God is a just Judge who has pardoned their sin, but then what ends up happening is that they just determine to go trying to never sin again. What’s happened? Really, they’ve never made the turn in their understanding from God as just Judge to heavenly Father.
Here’s a bit of my wife Lauren’s story:
I grew up in a Christian home, trying very much to be a good girl. When I was eight, my relationship with Jesus was very simple, where you just go to church and pray. But entering the preteen and early teen years, I was really trying to figure out who I was. And looking back, I see that I always desired to look like somebody who seemed to have it all together. And then, as I got into college and then met my husband, I tried really hard to measure up to my idea of godly adulthood, and I thought, Okay, I’ve got to be a good enough wife and a good enough student, and so on and so on. And I was falling miserably short. So the Lord graciously let me fail. He let me be weak, He let me be frustrated and experience dissatisfaction in everything. I finally knew something had to give. I couldn’t live this way anymore. I had this obsession with my identity. And moving forward for me meant admitting that I was weak, admitting that I didn’t have it all together, and admitting that something was wrong with my heart. I have to admit, even though I’m a pastor’s wife, that I don’t have it all together. I need Jesus. I need His gospel. I need His gospel that saved me to also transform me and sustain me, because I’d started kind of just trying to do it on my own.

Thought to Remember for Today

Lauren would say she knew God loved her and forgave her, but then she walked out of that pardon to say, “Okay, now, let me earn it.” And she forgot to rest in the reality that God isn’t simply her just Judge but also her loving heavenly Father. And He’s that for you, too.

Fitzpatrick, E. (2016). Grace untamed: a 60-day devotional. Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook.

Those Whom He Called He Also Justified

by Matt Chandler
We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ.
Galatians 2:15–16

God called us. God came and got you. God found you, rescued you, and wooed you. He drew you to Himself for what purpose? For “those whom he called he also justified” (Rom. 8:30). So what is justification?
We, of all people on earth, should get the idea of justification, because it’s a legal term, and our culture loves legality. For instance, how many CSI TV shows are there these days? Like, twenty-four? How many versions of Law & Order? And that’s just television. We love the law. All you need to do is give us a story about lawyers, prosecution, or good detective work, and we get sucked in; because as a culture, we love the idea of justice. So we should already understand what justification really entails: to be pardoned. Justification is a banging of the gavel of the Sovereign King of Glory that says you’ve been pardoned in full.
And how are we justified? Not by works of the law, but by faith, because the apostle Paul reminded his readers that five hundred years before the Law was given, Abraham was justified by faith. You’re not justified because you cleaned up your act. We’re not people who have pulled ourselves up by our bootstraps. Our testimony of salvation is not one of moral improvement.
Paul was so passionate about this that he said the exact same thing in his next sentence: “So we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because”—here it is again, third time—“by works of the law no one will be justified.” He came at this from multiple angles in just two verses (Gal. 2:15–16). You’re not going to be able to be justified by the law, the law will not justify you, and all of us have been justified by faith in Christ.
We’ve got to grasp that because of the life, death, and resurrection of the Son, the royal Judge has pardoned all of our sin—past, present, and future. There’s no mistrial, no double jeopardy. Because of Jesus, you are justified forever.

Thought to Remember for Today

If you don’t get justification, you will always run from God rather than toward Him. You avoid people you’ve sinned against, don’t you? If you’ve sinned against someone or lied to someone, don’t you avoid that person? It’s the same with God. You’re going to run from Him to try to clean yourself up. And we clean ourselves up a lot like my four-year-old cleans up after herself—basically just smearing stuff into the cracks. But you don’t have to do that with God. He justifies sinners.

Fitzpatrick, E. (2016). Grace untamed: a 60-day devotional. Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook.

We Are the Called (April 17th)

by Matt Chandler
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called.
Romans 8:28–30

What is the basis for our relationship with God? How does our relationship with God work?
Our answer begins with a look at Romans 8:28–30. In particular, let’s consider the words “those who are called.” I think, for the sake of vibrancy in regard to our relationship with God, we have to keep ever before us that He called us.
I played basketball and football when I was kid, just like my son does (and I was terrible at both, just like my son is). And after I started playing high school football—and by “playing” I mean they let me be on the team—a guy named Jeff Faircloth came up to me in the locker room and said, “Hey, I need to tell you about Jesus. When do you want to do that? You tell me when we’re doing it, but it’s happening.”
Now, Jeff’s version of Christianity was very different from the one I saw at home. But I found it compelling. So I started going to church with him. But church, honestly, was just the kitschiest, goofiest thing I’d ever seen. There was so much stacked against my ever believing in this Jesus Jeff followed. At that time, I had no language for the effectual call of God, and so I’d get in Jeff’s car as he drove me home after church and I’d mock the whole thing. I mean, “Did we really just spell the word joy with our bodies? Did they really just do a skit with puppets?” But then Jeff would ask me if I wanted to go back and I kept saying “Yeah.” I thought it was dumb; I thought Jeff was wrong; but I couldn’t stay away.

Thought to Remember for Today

I know, looking back, that God was calling me. He was wooing me, and it wasn’t because I was trying to get better. It was while I was at my worst. It was while I was belittling His name, while I was mocking His bride. It was while we were sinners that Christ died for us, and it is while we are sinners that God calls us to Himself.

Fitzpatrick, E. (2016). Grace untamed: a 60-day devotional. Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook.

You Already Have Everything You Need (April 16th)

by Elyse Fitzpatrick
Christ … is your life.
Colossians 3:4

In Christ you have everything you need, and because of that, wives, you’re free to respect and submit to your husband because you have a heavenly husband who has loved you and will care for your soul and give you all you need. You don’t need to fight for your own way. You can trust Jesus because He knows all about submission to ungodly authority. You don’t have to worry anymore about whether or not you’re loved. Jesus loves you and has chosen you. You are His beloved bride. You have a new identity.
Husbands, you are free now to love your wives generously, freely, joyfully, and sacrificially, because your Savior has loved you, and you don’t need to demand respect or submission or anything else. He’s given you everything you need. You no longer need to fight for what is rightfully yours or demand submission in the kitchen or in the bedroom. You don’t have to neglect your family to worship at the altars of the NFL or the NBA or the MLB or anything else on your television. You can lay down your life for your wife because Jesus is with you, and He knows by experience what loving a sinner is like. What she thinks of you is not your identity. Whether or not she desires you is not your identity. Christ is your life.
Children, you are free now to submit to the authority over you. Jesus knows by experience what submission to authority is like. He submitted to His heavenly Father, and He submitted to His earthly mother and father, and Jesus will give you all the love and respect you truly need. Children, you are forgiven and you are righteous.
Parents, you’re free to love your children and train them in the gospel because Jesus knows what it’s like to love little sinners, and He will sustain you. You no longer have to worry about being the perfect parent because you are a forgiven parent. You are forgiven for all the times you discouraged your children or provoked them to anger. You are loved. Christ is your life.
Can you see? Everything you need is in Christ. He is your identity. You are God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved. And as the Lord has loved and forgiven you, so also now you are free to love and forgive.

Thought to Remember for Today

Even though your heart may be resonating with these truths, you’re going to have to come back here over and over again, because the opportunities to get angry and judge or to love and forgive come to us over and over again. So turn to grace every day, over and over again. Remember, you have His identity.

Fitzpatrick, E. (2016). Grace untamed: a 60-day devotional. Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook.

Good News for Your Family (April 15th)

by Elyse Fitzpatrick
That the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us.
Romans 8:4

There is no condemnation for us because Jesus Himself perfectly fulfilled all the law in our place, including the laws about relationships and family. Jesus perfectly fulfilled, in His incarnation and in His sinless life, all of God’s rules for family life. Jesus lived a whole and perfect life for you.
So now we come back to our law. We read things like, “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord” and “Let the wife see that she respects her husband.” At Gethsemane, Jesus perfectly submitted to His Father’s will. Think about it, women. Do you think submission is hard for you? He, the second Person of the Trinity, was writhing on the ground underneath the will of His Father, to which He submitted and said, “Not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42 KJV). Jesus understands all about the difficulties of submission.
Jesus knows what it’s like to love, even when it’s extremely difficult. The law says husbands are to “love [their] wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph. 5:25) and they are not to be harsh with their wives (Col. 3:19). Jesus perfectly loved His bride, the church. From eternity past, before she was ever on the scene—before there was a scene!—He loved her. The Father gave her to the Son, and the Son said, “Yes, I will love her, and I will lay down My life for her.”
“Children, obey your parents in the Lord” (Eph. 6:1). Jesus is the righteous Son who obeyed His Father’s will and submitted to His mother and father, even when they were in the wrong. Luke tells us He submitted to them.
“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). Jesus was a good father figure to His siblings and supported and cared for them for however many years He spent as the head of their home. He never once provoked them. He brought them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Jesus has fulfilled all of the law for you in your place, if you believe. He’s taken all the punishment you deserve for all the ways you’ve blown it in your family. He’s taken all of the punishment you deserve, and He bore it for you. He is your righteousness.

Thought to Remember for Today

If you believe these words are true, then here is what’s true of you: His record is yours. Wives, you are forgiven, and your record is one of perfect submission and respect. Husbands, you are forgiven, and your record is one of humble love and self-sacrifice. Children, you are forgiven, and your record is one of perfect obedience.

Fitzpatrick, E. (2016). Grace untamed: a 60-day devotional. Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook.

God Has Done What the Law Could Never Do (April 14th)

by Elyse Fitzpatrick
For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.
Romans 8:2

How did Paul answer his “Who will deliver me?” question in Romans 7:24? In verse 25, he said, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Jesus is the One who delivers us from bondage to sin. I wish there were no chapter break between Romans 7 and Romans 8, because Paul went right on and said, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1).
No condemnation. I don’t care what you did this morning. I don’t care what’s going on in your mind right now. You may be sitting next to somebody you really wish weren’t your neighbor. There is therefore right now no condemnation.
The reality is that I deserve condemnation. And so do you. But when we put our trust in Jesus Christ, we are united to Him by our faith and His position becomes our position. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” There is no condemnation for us, because we are in Christ and there is no condemnation left for Him!
There is a righteous requirement of the law, and you’re supposed to fulfill it. But did you? No! Somebody had to fulfill it for you. And He did! “The righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh”—what we were just confessing—“but according to the Spirit” (Rom. 8:4).
How can there be no condemnation? Listen, if God’s law cannot be violated, and He doesn’t lessen it, and He isn’t kidding, and if transgression of the law brings death, how can there be no condemnation? How can it be that the righteous requirement of the law has already been fulfilled in me? Because God has done something the law could never do. He sent “his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin” (Rom. 8:3). The Incarnate Son, Jesus, was sent as a sacrifice for our sin, by paying the penalty for all our sin, by dying on the cross in our place.

Thought to Remember for Today

Here’s good news: Jesus Christ has already paid the penalty for your sin by dying on the cross. He took that cup of the righteous anger of God’s wrath, and He drank it down to its dregs for you “so that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled” in you, and all the penalty you owe for every single unkind word, every single selfish thought, has been paid by Him on the cross in your place.

Fitzpatrick, E. (2016). Grace untamed: a 60-day devotional. Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook.

Grace for Your Inability (April 13th)

by Elyse Fitzpatrick
You shall love the Lord your God.
Matthew 22:37

Before I can give you the really good news, you know what I need to do? I must give you the bad news. Here’s what God’s law says: “You are to love the Lord your God with your whole soul, mind, and strength. You are to love the Lord your God with everything that is within you, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.”
How are you doing with that? While we’re at it, let’s not forget to add on top of that, “You are to love your neighbor the way you already love yourself.”
Now, let’s take that law and apply it to the family home. Consider these verses from Ephesians 5–6, which tell us how the Great Commandment is supposed to play out in your house: “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. … Let the wife see that she respects her husband. … Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. … Do not be harsh with [her]. … Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. … Fathers [Parents], do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
Okay, here’s my problem: I want to do all those things required of me. I hear those verses, and I say, “Yes, Lord. Make that true of me. I want that to be me.” But I continually fail. I get up in the morning, and I pray that God will help me to love my neighbor. And then at the end of the day, I realize that even though I may be growing, my progress is painfully slow. And sometimes I see no progress at all.
Does God really mean I have to love my neighbor? Does He really mean I have to lay down my life for my neighbor? Does He really mean I’m supposed to submit to my husband? What, are you kidding?
I find myself echoing Paul’s thoughts from Romans 7, “So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand” (v. 21). I want to say, like Paul says, “I delight in the law of God, in my inner being” (v. 22). I do. But “I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members” (v. 23).
Who will deliver me?

Thought to Remember for Today

And it is there, in that place—and only in that place—that we find grace. There’s no other place to find it. The only place you can find grace is when you say, “Nothing in my hands I bring. Simply to Thy Cross I cling.” I throw myself on the mercy of God, and that’s the only place grace resides.

Fitzpatrick, E. (2016). Grace untamed: a 60-day devotional. Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook.

Our Best Works Need Cleansing (April 12th)

by Ray Ortlund
Blessed are the poor in spirit.
Matthew 5:3

Here we are again. I don’t think we can ponder this blessing too much. Sadly, not all churches are in this blessed state of impoverishment. Jesus said to His church in Laodicea, “You say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked” (Rev. 3:17). I mean, think about that. You’re walking down the street, and here comes a guy. You see him down about half a block away. Whoa. He is wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked—and kind of banged up because he’s walked into telephone poles and mailboxes and stuff. And you walk up to him and you say, “Sir, may I help you?” And he says, “I am rich. I have prospered. I need nothing.” He’s crazy.
And when that spirit enters into a church, it stifles the creation of a gospel culture. All the Laodicean church could think about was its strengths. What it needed was honesty about its weaknesses, because it is weakness—and guilty weakness—brought to Jesus that brings the blessings down.
During the first Great Awakening, George Whitefield, the Anglican evangelist said:
If you want to have peace with God you must be troubled for the sins of your best duties and performances. You must be brought to see that God may damn you for the best prayer you ever put up. Our best duties are so many splendid sins. Self-righteousness is the last idol taken out of the heart.
So we need the gospel to tell us the truth. What is that truth? William Beveridge put it this way:
I cannot pray but I sin. I cannot hear or preach a sermon but I sin. I cannot give alms or receive the sacrament but I sin. I can’t so much as confess my sins but my confessions are further aggravations of them. My repentance needs to be repented of. My tears need washing. And the very washing of my tears needs still to be washed over again with the blood of my Redeemer.
That’s being poor in spirit.

Thought to Remember for Today

These are the people Jesus identifies with—those who are as sinful as everyone else, but they own it, they fess up, and they trust only in Jesus. These will experience the kingdom of heaven and their churches will feel like heaven on earth.

Fitzpatrick, E. (2016). Grace untamed: a 60-day devotional. Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook.

The Blessed Impoverished (April 11th)

by Ray Ortlund
Blessed are the poor in spirit.
Matthew 5:3

Let us keep reflecting on this important verse, asking again, “Who are the poor in spirit?” Now, Jesus is implying that all the people who think they’ve earned His attention are in fact excluded and on their way to hell. And as evidence of that, they tend to create hell on earth while they live. Jesus is telling all the people who think they’re important that they don’t count. He’s telling all the people who think they’re smart that they flunk. He’s telling all the sinners and whores and porn addicts and hypocrites and failures and idiots and weaklings who turn to Him that the future of the world is theirs.
The Pharisees looked at those very people and said, “You’re the ones who are bringing society down. You’re the problem.” Jesus looked at the same people turning to Him, and He said, “You’re the ones I’m going to build My kingdom with.”
To be poor in spirit … What does that mean? It doesn’t mean a dull personality; Jesus gives us sparkle. Spirit-filled human beings are a riot to be with. They are just a blast. They’re human; they’re free. But Jesus is saying wealth begins with poverty, life begins with death, a better future begins with facing the past. When He talks about the poor, He doesn’t mean people who have only a little. He means people who have nothing.
The poor in spirit are sinners who have squandered their chance in life, but in their desperation they turn to Jesus. The poor in spirit look at the cross. They see the Son of God dying for their bungled lives, and they know they can’t put in a claim on God. The old spirit of demands died when the Lord taught us to pray, “Forgive us our debts.” The poor in spirit feel that indebtedness. Jesus is saying, “Do you realize God owes you nothing? Perfect! You’re the ones He’s going to bless.”

Thought to Remember for Today

When we want to start a new project, we recruit the cool people and the winners and the heavy hitters and the people who are smart and funny and impressive. But Jesus looks for the losers who are down so low they need everything. I mean, who would start a religion with sinners? Jesus, that’s who.

Fitzpatrick, E. (2016). Grace untamed: a 60-day devotional. Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook.

A Kingdom for the Weak (April 10th)

by Ray Ortlund
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 5:3

Jesus welcomes into His kingdom only the people who have defied Him and offended Him and sinned so badly that their own righteousness is gone for good. They’ve lost their innocence, and now they’ve come to Him with nothing but need. They don’t admire themselves anymore. They mourn over themselves. But Jesus is happy with them, and He wants them to know He’s happy with them. He’s happy with you, to the praise of the glory of His grace.
So the Beatitudes are not just another passage in the Bible. The Beatitudes summarize what real Christianity looks like. The Beatitudes portray what repentance looks like, the way repentance thinks, the way repentance feels.
The kingdom of Jesus is for sinners and penitents, and for them only. It’s for people who have failed so badly they have no bargaining chips left, and they refuse to fake it. They bring their need to God; He gives them Jesus; and He creates with these unlikely people something new in this world that will last forever: His kingdom.
And the Beatitudes are not a menu to choose from. They’re a coherent whole, so it’s all or nothing. When Jesus preached this sermon on the Galilean hillside and all those people were out there, He didn’t look at one group and say, “Oh, nice to see the poor in spirit here today. And then the mourners over there—glad you guys could get out of bed. And way in the back are the meek. You know, they’ll never push themselves up to the front row, and …” The poor in spirit, the mourners, the meek, and all the rest are the same people viewed from different angles of vision.
How do we know that? The first and last Beatitudes, found in verses 3 and 10 in Matthew 5, both say, “For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” So those two matching declarations wrap around all the Beatitudes, showing they belong together as a unit. Here’s why that matters: for me, meekness is not easy, but mourning isn’t that hard; so I would treat these verses as a menu of preferences, and I would gravitate toward what I perceive to be my strengths. But Jesus means every word here for every single one of us. So we want to move toward our weaknesses, because that’s where our King is waiting for us with grace.

Thought to Remember for Today

Contrary to popular thought, the kingdom of heaven is not populated by the strong, the sinless, the consistently victorious. It is populated by those who know they are poor and weak and naked. It is populated by those who have put down their weapons of self-justification and rest in Christ’s promised love alone.

Fitzpatrick, E. (2016). Grace untamed: a 60-day devotional. Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook.

The Identity Gift (April 9th)

by David Zahl
Not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.
Philippians 3:9

Through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, His identity and righteousness have been reckoned to us when received by faith. What did Jesus do on the cross? He emptied Himself of all identity. Isn’t that what Philippians says? And as the Augsburg Confession puts it, “Christ’s merits are given to us so that we might be reckoned righteous by our trust in the merits of Christ, when we believe in Him, as though we had merits of our own.”
In other words, identity is a gift. It’s not to be earned; it is bestowed. It is given by God, not the court of public opinion, not even the court of condemnation inside our own minds.
In the gospel we don’t get instructions about how to create a better version of ourselves. We get a new identity, a gift. It’s a matter of being, not doing. It’s a matter of giving up on the idea of who you think you need to be and finding out that what remains is the real you, loved and accepted by God on account of Christ.
So Christianity explodes the idea of ever reaching peace through personal achievement. You will never be cool enough, good-looking enough, wealthy enough. Christianity reestablishes the proper basis for self-understanding. W. H. Auden, the great English poet, wrote, “The blessed will not care what angle they are regarded from, having nothing to hide.” Christ brings the end of double lives, the end of hiding.
If the fruit of the law is narcissism, loneliness, and anxiety, the fruit of the gospel is honesty, and honesty works itself out in repentance and confession. Because we are forgiven, we are free to finally talk about what’s really going on in our lives, independent of the judgments that might provoke. In repentance, God meets us in our weakness, not in our strength.

Thought to Remember for Today

God has done for us what we could not do for ourselves. He nailed our narcissistic instincts to a cross. And rising again, He established a new identity for each of us. The starting point is grace—not works, not public opinion. And this is a life of freedom, where we can own up to our shortcomings, independent of judgments.

Fitzpatrick, E. (2016). Grace untamed: a 60-day devotional. Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook.

The Deconstruction of Identity (April 8th)

by David Zahl
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Galatians 3:28

We do not engage with God according to what we can bring to the table. Our real relationships with God begin when we are exposed, when the law does its deconstructing work. And our fabricated identities need to die! The purpose of the law is to bring people to their knees, looking to the One who has justified them already.
Football coach Urban Meyer tells about how his father pressured him to compete. At a time when Urban knew he didn’t have the skill to continue in baseball, he told his dad he was quitting. His father informed him that if he quit, he would no longer be welcome in their home. As an adult, Urban embraced that performance-related mind-set of his father, going on to win back-to-back national championships as the coach for the Florida Gators. But these victories were short-lived because every time they won, the screws just got tighter and tighter. So much so that anything but perfection was viewed as failure. Then Urban started to have worsening chest pains. And a few hours after the Gators finally lost in 2009, he was found on the floor of his house, unable to move. He’d finally come to his breaking point.
At one point after his breakdown, Urban went to see his father, who was in the hospital. There was a report on the television about the possibility of Urban taking a job at Ohio State, and his father said, “Hey, you gonna do that?”
“I don’t know,” Urban said. “What do you think?”
“Nah,” his dad responded. “I don’t care who wins or loses.” Never before had Urban asked his dad for an opinion and not gotten blunt advice. In fact, in his father’s answer there was a measure of absolution.
Three days after his father’s funeral, Urban accepted the job at Ohio State. But this time his approach was entirely different. Instead of signing a contract with the school, he signed a contract with his family—that he wouldn’t be missing any more of his kids’ games and he wouldn’t be working more than sixty hours a week. It was a contract of love, and born out of tremendous deconstruction of identity. He was a new man.

Thought to Remember for Today

Christ is our Mediator. In Christ our hope is found. This simply means we are judged not according to our wins or losses, but on the basis of Christ’s action and identity.

Fitzpatrick, E. (2016). Grace untamed: a 60-day devotional. Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook.

Jesus Loves the Real You (April 7th)

by David Zahl
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Galatians 3:28

Now, if what the Bible says is true about original sin—that all have fallen short of the glory of God, that we have inherited the sin of Adam, which says, “I don’t really want God to be in control; I want to be in control; I’m going to be my own god”—it’s natural that social media would consume our daily lives. Through it we can be the mediators of our own value and worth.
Thomas Cranmer once said, “What the heart loves, the will chooses and then the mind justifies.” We’re not rational beings, in other words. The mind doesn’t direct the will; the mind is actually captive to what the will wants. And the will is in turn captive to what the heart wants.
Basically, we are self-justification machines. We think we make our decisions because we’ve weighed our reasons and chosen logically, but in fact, we just do what we want. And then afterward we go back and invent a reason, a justification, for it. (If you don’t believe you do this, just ask your spouse.)
But even those for whom online identity construction is not an active pursuit, we still edit by omission, don’t we? Think about your online life: the difference between your status updates and your browser history. I’m not just talking about pornography, by the way, though I am talking about that, too. Our browser histories are such an incredible picture of the human condition. Because in one window, maybe you’re crafting some beautiful document—maybe about your faith, maybe a loving letter to a friend. But in the next window, you’re googling your ex-boyfriend. In the next window, you’re trying to figure out how to spell a word you don’t know how to spell. In the next, you’re searching WebMD for the disease you think you might have. And in the next, you’re clicking on some link to the latest celebrity gossip.
Your browser history tells the truth about you. Your status updates tell part of the truth about you. And this gap between who you think you should be or who you’d like to be and who you actually are, that’s your need for a Savior.

Thought to Remember for Today

Remember the modern proverb, “The real you is the you that you are when nobody is looking.” But remind yourself in God’s grace that Jesus Christ loves that you. He doesn’t love an image of you or a version of you. He died and rose again for the “browser history” you. Jesus loves the real you.

Fitzpatrick, E. (2016). Grace untamed: a 60-day devotional. Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook.

Identity Management (April 6th)

by David Zahl
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Galatians 3:28

Identity is simply anything we use to justify our existence. And it’s a matter, therefore, of both distinction and indistinction—meaning, we want to stand out in our identity, but we want to stand out in order to blend in. So we have this conflict going on within us—something you see playing out constantly on social media—in which we want to be seen as uniquely us but to be accepted by others and brought in closer to be a part of the crowd.
Now, the same generation that invented the big, dysfunctional parade of social media is the one that grew up under the pop-cultural therapists like Oprah Winfrey, in a culture of extreme validation. This generation didn’t just graduate from high school to college, but from kindergarten to first grade. It reminds me of that scene in The Incredibles, where the father doesn’t feel like going to his son’s fourth-grade graduation, complaining, “He’s just going into the fifth grade. It’s not a graduation.”
We think we have to stand out to blend in. But now the corollary has sunk into our DNA, deepening the conflict in us by reminding us that “when everybody is special, no one is.” We are longing for connection, but we are also afraid of intimacy. The beauty of Facebook, and the source of its power, is that it enables us to be social while sparing us the inconvenience of actually showing up and the embarrassment of really being known. In this sense you might say social media is a vehicle of control. And what does the doctrine of original sin say about us if not that we are people who are addicted to control? We especially want to control what others think of us. We want to manage our images, our identities. We want to be our own PR directors.
Now think about Galatians 3:28. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female.” That is a deconstruction of identity, if there ever was one.
But what’s this got to do with grace? Well, our attempts at managing our identity are really about justification. Self-justification is at the core of our very souls. So it’s no coincidence that the gospel of grace addresses this head-on and establishes the Christian’s identity outside of him- or herself and inside of Jesus Christ.

Thought to Remember for Today

We tend to believe our achievements are not something we do but who we are. So when achievement is taken away or simply gets threatened, we go bananas. This is one of the reasons we all need the beautiful, saving word that we are justified by faith in Christ.

Fitzpatrick, E. (2016). Grace untamed: a 60-day devotional. Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook.

With Him in Glory (April 4th)

by Bryan Chappell
When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Colossians 3:4

These major aspects of the grace of God—that we are dead and raised with Christ and that we are hidden with Christ in God—are already established, already true, and are stated in the past tense. The reality is already here, but even that is not the fullness of the grace of God. He’s not just going to look at what’s past or present; He’s going to look to the future as well.
“Then you also will appear with him in glory” (emphasis added). I must tell you, I don’t exactly know all that this entails. When Christ returns to claim this world as the Sovereign King of the Universe, when He comes again in all His glory, then you and I will appear with Him in glory. So when His glory appears, that glory gets to be shared. Even the apostles did not fully understand what that meant. John said, “What we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).
In his amazing book The Weight of Glory, C. S. Lewis described it for us this way: “Remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which if you saw it now, you would strongly be tempted to worship.” Why? Because the radiance of the glory of God will be theirs in Christ Jesus.
Now, you and I know ourselves, our weaknesses, our sins, our frailties, and our disappointments. We’re well acquainted with the longing we have to be with Jesus, which never seems like it will be fulfilled because we are way off the mark so often.
But God knows all this and still says, “But you’re raised with Christ and seated with Him at the right hand of God.” When Jesus appears, you and I will have the glory of the Son of God, who created the world and the universe in which you and I live. That is how great the grace of God is.

Thought to Remember for Today

While it is true that we live in the here and now, the Holy Spirit has spoken great hope to us through these words from Paul: “You also will appear with him in glory” (Col. 3:4). We don’t know exactly what that means, but we do know we will be completely changed, will have put off this old shell and put on a new life that, as Lewis penned, if we could see it now, we would fall down in worship. Today you’re on a trajectory that will unavoidably end in your complete transformation.

Fitzpatrick, E. (2016). Grace untamed: a 60-day devotional. Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook.

Hidden with Christ (April 3rd)


by Bryan Chappell
Set your minds on things that are above. … For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Colossians 3:2–4

Paul told us we should “set [our] minds on things that are above.” Why? “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” Now, you understand that Jesus is united to God. And if you’re united to Jesus and He’s united to God, then you’re with Christ in God. He says “hidden with Christ in God.”
Do you know why you’re hidden? The answer is in verse 4: “When Christ who is your life appears …” Christ is your life. But verses 2 and 3 say you’re dead. Now verse 4 says Christ is your life. So I’ve got a question for you: If you’re dead, and Jesus is your life, who are you?
Well, of course, nobody wants to say he or she is Jesus! And that’s a good thing. So I’ll change the way I ask the question. If you’re dead and Jesus is your life, whose identity do you have? You have the identity of Christ. It’s as though your identity has been obscured by His. You’re with Him. This means what’s true of Him—God’s love for Him, His righteousness before the Father, His position of favor in the heavens—is true of you, because you’re dead and His life is in your place because you’re united to Him.
Sometimes at dinner my daughter and I play a game we call “Napkin War.” When we’re done eating I wait until she pretends to look away, wad up my napkin, and throw it at her. And as soon as I hit her, she’ll pick up that napkin or wad up her own napkin and come right back at me. Suddenly the war is on. But I always win because I’m a better shot. So my daughter has discovered an ingenious way to protect herself. She gets up out of her chair and hides behind her mother. She knows I won’t throw my napkin at her mother! She’s hidden—she’s safe—from all I could throw at her. Think about that, and apply it to your relationship with the Father through Christ.

Thought to Remember for Today

You and I, before a holy and just God, are rightly deserving of the wrath of hell itself. But by the grace of God, we are united to Christ, and with Him we are hidden from the wrath of God. You are in the place of privilege and rest and love because of the grace of God on your behalf. Won’t you let yourself rest in that beautiful truth today?

Fitzpatrick, E. (2016). Grace untamed: a 60-day devotional. Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook.

Remember Who You Are (April 5th)

by Bryan Chappell
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above.
Colossians 3:1

Once again we return to Colossians 3, and this time we ask, “Does grace lead to godliness?” I mean, if God’s going to forgive you anyway, if His mercy is infinite, if His love is unconditional, if it’s all grace, why be good at all? Just bank on all that grace.
There is a math of the mind that clearly can take advantage of the grace of God to say, “It doesn’t matter. I’ll just do as I please, and He’ll make it right later.” And believe it or not, that theology is somewhat undeniable because His grace is infinite, and He will forgive repeatedly, and His mercy is far beyond your worst sin. But the reason grace is powerful for godliness is because there is a chemistry of the heart that is greater than the math of the mind.
In these verses the apostle is going to do something with that great statement about who you are and how that should affect the chemistry of your heart. Now, he’s going to say what’s expected of those who are raised with Christ, hidden from His wrath, and due to appear with His glory. When he said, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above,” he was saying, “Just consider this; think on these things: You’ve been separated from the evil of the earth. You’ve been separated from that which is polluting. Think about where you really are and act accordingly.”
A Hurricane Katrina survivor related how he and his family fled to their attic as water quickly rose and flooded the first and second floors of their house. As the water continued to rise, they realized they were going to drown, and so they kicked out their roof and were rescued. As the man shared his story, he began to shake with the reality that they had been facing death, but were given life again.

Thought to Remember for Today

Paul said to you and to me in words we have trouble seeing for all their weight, “I want you to set your mind on this. I want this to grip you. I want this reality to be what you are living day in and day out. Do you remember what you were and what you deserve but where grace has brought you now? You set your mind on this.”

Fitzpatrick, E. (2016). Grace untamed: a 60-day devotional. Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook.

Seated with Him (April 2nd)

by Bryan Chappell
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.
Colossians 3:1

As you study Paul’s words in Colossians 3:1, as he identified the status we have by the grace of God, notice there’s a mystery in that first phrase: “If then you have been raised with Christ.” That’s resurrection language, isn’t it? “If you’ve been resurrected.” Now, he was talking to living people as though they had already died. How could he be talking to living people as if they had already died?
The answer is in Colossians 2:12, where the apostle described Christians as those “having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.”
I must tell you, it is not normal in our day and age to think of a baptism as a death certificate, but that’s exactly what it is. If you were a first-century Jew, or even a first-century Gentile coming out of pagan religion, this is what your baptism meant: all that has been true of you—your religion, your associations, your lifestyle, your family—is now no longer where you’re finding your identity. They are, in a way, dead to you. And you are dead to them. You’ve been brought into real life under the true God, whose name is Jesus.
A year ago in Morocco, a young man came out of a church and was set upon by numerous people who tried to murder him. Rescued by the Christians in the church, he subsequently came to the United States and discovered his very own family had ordered his murder. “You are dead to us,” they said. But he was alive now to a new existence in Christ.
The apostle was making much of that when he said in Colossians 3:1, “If then you have been raised with Christ”—in this new life—“seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” Now, each word is important to understand the greatness of the grace of God. Jesus is raised to God in heaven, no longer dead.
If you are identified with Him, if you are united to Him and He is “seated at the right hand of God,” where are you? Seated at the right hand of God.

Thought to Remember for Today

Your baptism signifies that you have died and have been raised again with a completely new identity, citizenship, and place of residence. What was once true about you is no longer true. By God’s grace you have been raised up to sit at the place of honor with Christ.

Fitzpatrick, E. (2016). Grace untamed: a 60-day devotional. Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook.

Go Out and Play (April 1st)

by Steve Brown
I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.
Matthew 12:7

Do not let anyone take away from you the reality that, because of Jesus Christ, “It is finished.”
Justin Holcomb is a friend and former student of mine. He got his PhD from Emory University; he’s a brilliant young man. Justin is an ordained Anglican minister and now works for my ministry, Key Life Network. Most importantly, he loves Jesus with all his heart, and he’s even written a really wonderful book called On the Grace of God. He gets this grace stuff really well. One time I asked him, “Justin, how did you start knowing about grace?”
“My father taught me,” he said. “I was just a little kid, maybe seven. Our neighbors were going to move, and I didn’t want them to. So I snuck into their house and stopped up all their drains and turned on the water and flooded the house.”
I said, “At seven?”
“Oh yeah. It did thousands of dollars’ worth of damage. And when I realized what I’d done, I was so ashamed. But I lied. I said, ‘How could anybody do something like that, Dad?’ And my dad said, ‘I don’t know how somebody could be that destructive.’
“For a whole week all I did was pray. I prayed that God wouldn’t let me be caught. And I asked for forgiveness over and over and over again. One afternoon about a week later, my dad said, ‘Son, did you have anything to do with the flooding of our neighbor’s house?’”
When Justin lied through his teeth, his father said, “Son, the neighbor told me he saw you go in and do it.” Justin began to weep, and his father went on. “I’m not just angry about what you did. I’m angry because you lied to me. You need to get straight with God and you need to get straight with me, and you’re going to have everything you like removed until Jesus returns.”
Justin said, “Daddy, every night I’ve asked God to forgive me.”
“You asked God to forgive you?”
“Yes.”
“Oh. That’s different. Well, you’re forgiven. Go on out and play.”
Justin said the first time he ever talked about Jesus to his friends was when he told them what had happened.

Thought to Remember for Today

The only people who are able to extend forgiveness to sinners are those who have drunk deeply of the forgiveness that has been extended to them. Today, as you consider how Justin’s father handled his sin, ask the Lord to help you believe you are forgiven and know you are free to “go out and play.”

Fitzpatrick, E. (2016). Grace untamed: a 60-day devotional. Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook.