Flashback Friday: Displaying The Pearl

Originally posted November 24, 2015:

All humans love the idea that we have something inherent in ourselves that pleases God. We firmly believe we bring something to the salvation table. In dealing with the presumption that we can contribute to our salvation, I’d like you to think of Jesus as a perfect Pearl. (I love pearls.) That image, of course, should remain limited to the analogy I present here–I don’t mean to start a new teaching about Jesus being a Pearl! But consider, for this moment, how your life would best show off His beauty. What about you best displays Him?

Perhaps you might immediately think of your good deeds. You’ve given to charitable causes, worked in Christian ministry, raised relatively well-behaved kids, driven elderly neighbors to doctor appointments, sent Christmas cards every year, all while maintaining good health habits to show everyone that you know your body is the temple of the Lord. Your organization and efficiency dazzles everybody. How much you do for Him.

Against such a backdrop, the Pearl can be seen, but you compete with Him for attention.

Or maybe He’s given you talents, such as a good singing voice or the ability to paint beautiful landscapes. Your blog has over 500 followers, most of whom gush endlessly over your knack for “turning a phrase.” Your signature cherry pie is always requested at church potlucks, or people flock to the women’s Bible Study you lead because your sense of humor is legendary. How creative you are for Him!

Against such a backdrop, the Pearl can be seen, but you compete with Him for attention.

Ah, but it’s possible that your piety impresses Him. You were a virgin until your wedding night, and would never flirt with anyone but your husband. You have filters on your computer, you refuse to be alone (even in an elevator) with a member of the opposite sex, and you don’t buy underwear at Victoria’s Secret. Furthermore, you avoid products that exploit workers in Third World sweat-shops, you never drink so much as a glass of wine, and you would  never dream of jay-walking…even in downtown Boston. How moral you are for Him!

Against such a backdrop, the Pearl can be seen, but He barely shows up against your image of purity. Consequently, His glory becomes almost indistinguishable from your own. Once again, you compete with Him for attention.

Actually, I see my own attention-grabbing attitudes in all three of these pictures. Hopefully, you see yourself as well. If we choose these backdrops of self-righteousness, we may convince ourselves that we best display the Pearl, but the reality demonstrates otherwise. As long as we claim anything good about ourselves, we minimize the Lord’s role as Savior.

Jesus is a Pearl, not because our “goodness” displays Him, but because He turns our wickedness into a backdrop for His mercy, grace and love.

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I Sure Need Something Greater Than All My Sin

Let’s see. In the past few days, I’ve written an article with too harsh of a tone, yelled at nurses who treated me as if I’m intellectually disabled and gotten angry at a RIDE driver. All this while complaining about how rotten I feel from RSV.

It’s official, folks: Deborah Kespert is a wretched sinner.

Praise the Lord that Jesus paid for every one of my sins when He died on the cross! While His grace doesn’t give me license to sin (indeed, it calls me to repentance and holiness), that same grace wonderfully covers my sin, enabling me to stand before God without condemnation. I celebrate His  grace precisely because I know I need it.

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What Do You Sing About?

One Personal Care Attendant of mine, upon hearing my attempt to sing, sweetly suggested that I stick to my writing and digital art. I had to agree.

But I do sing in my heart, as well as out loud in church, without reservation. The Lord has given me cause to sing His praises, not to fancy myself a gifted singer, but to express the joy of His love for me. Who cares that I can’t carry a tune or properly enunciate the words? The focus belongs on my Savior.

My song shall ever be about Jesus. He alone deserves the attention and glory because He is marvelous and wonderful!

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I Didn’t Do Anything

How many times have you heard your kids object to discipline by protesting, “I didn’t do anything,” when it’s all too clear that they’ve done something wrong?  How many times have you made the same declaration?

We all want to escape personal responsibility.

Yet when we do something right (or appear to do something right), we do our best to make sure people know about it. In those cases, we’re perfectly happy to claim as much responsibility as we possibly can. Especially when it comes to our salvation.

But the truth humbles us as we see Christ’s complete mastery over our salvation. From beginning to end, He provides the grace. He even gives us the ability to believe in Him! As a result, He receives all the praise and glory. We didn’t do anything!

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1517 Was Cool And All, But What Does It Have To Do With Me?

Ancient ScriptureLeslie A left a comment on yesterday’s blog post stating that her articles on the Protestant Reformation were also pretty much ignored by her readers. Okay, so I have assurance that my writing skills weren’t the reason my Reformation articles went over like a lead balloon.  There’s a modicum of comfort in Leslie’s comment, weird though that may  be.

I love my blogger friends!

As I thought about her comment (or more accurately, the apathy toward history that seems to characterize most people in our century), I couldn’t help wondering if the self-absorbed nature of our post-modern culture has something to do with it. Sure, we’re concerned about the myriad of problems in today’s church.  After all, that’s the church we Continue reading

Flashback Friday: Full Bellies — Starving For Truth

Originally published February 23, 2016:

At The Cross“No one wants to hear about God’s wrath,” the young pastor explained to my friend. Then he added, “We help the poor in our community as a demonstration of His love.”

Look, I have nothing against helping the poor. In fact, if more  churches provided such services, less of us would be forced to rely on government programs. So as you read this essay, please don’t misunderstand me as saying that Christians shouldn’t care for the needs of those less fortunate than themselves. Yet I believe we must keep practical ministry secondary to our primary commission to declare the Gospel.

And whether we like it or not, declaring the Gospel first necessitates telling people that they’re sinners who deserve God’s wrath. I agree with the young pastor that no one enjoys hearing about their sin, nor do they like being confronted with the fact that their sin consigns them to an eternity in hell. And Christians don’t relish the duty of proclaiming that part of the Gospel message, if you want to know the truth.

But, dear sisters in the Lord, we don’t get to pick and choose what aspects of the Gospel we present in our evangelism. As ambassadors of Christ, we bear the responsibility to tell people the Gospel in its entirety, aware that we represent Him rather than ourselves.

18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. ~~2 Corinthians 5:18-21 (ESV)

If we offer a message of reconciliation to God, we must begin by helping people understand that such a reconciliation indeed needs to take place. Most non-Christians and Christians-in-name-only simply don’t believe that God takes their sin seriously enough to send them to hell. They may admit that they’ve done some bad things here and there, but they reassure themselves that the good they’ve done outweighs the bad. Consequently, all our talk about Jesus showing His love by dying in their place strikes them as absurd until we show them that they’ve offended a holy God.

The beauty of God’s love shines through the fact that Jesus willingly shed His blood on the cross, bearing His Father’s fury over the sin that you and I committed. That act, more than anything else, epitomizes His love.

It’s wonderful when churches run soup kitchens and pregnancy resource centers. And praise God for missionaries who dig wells and build orphanages. But when people deliberately repress part of the Gospel in order to attract people to their services, they no longer represent the Lord. Leave humanitarian work to secular agencies unless you do it in a way that offers people the eternal hope of Jesus Christ.

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