Because God can be trusted … Hold tightly

As I typed that title, I wondered how many more times I will be using it throughout the coming months. You will probably see it again and again. This is, after all, the only reason we can be certain of these things: Because God can be trusted. This is the foundation every bridge of hope is built upon.

Immediately after the bold and exciting words of yesterday’s Scripture in Hebrews, we find even more strong encouragement:

Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.
(Hebrews 10:23-25)

Hold tightly. God can be trusted. Come to Him without wavering and in full trust. Go forward on these hopes, because He will keep His promises.

We all waver at times. We need the encouragement of others. Sometimes, we even need others to tie us to that anchor of hope. Let’s do that, together and for each other in the coming months, so that we are made bold and confident, full of peace and joy, living in a place of undeserved privilege!

 

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Psalm Prayer:

Lord,
Reassure me of your promise, made to those who fear you. (Psalm 119:38)

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More words of assurance:

Mark 14:23-24; Luke 22:20; John 8:34-36; Romans 3:20-24, 30; Romans 4:1-3, 16-25; Romans 4:4-8; Romans 6:14; Romans 7:6; Romans 8:1-4; Romans 8:34; Romans 10:1-4; Galatians 2:16; Galatians 3:5-14, 21-25; Galatians 4:4-7; Galatians 5:1; Ephesians 2:8-9; 1 Timothy 2:5-6; Hebrews 7:19, 22-27; Hebrews 9:13-15; Hebrews 9:26-28; Hebrews 10:8-18; Hebrews 10:19-23; 1 John 2:1-2
(Oh, sure … might as well read all of Romans, Galatians, and Hebrews!)

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© Elaine Starner 2015

Take the life-giving way … boldly!

Hope knows Christ lives today. Hope knows He has the power to free us from any prison bars or chains. Hope knows the yardstick is gone; and a new way of faith has come *.

This is the certainty that frees our lives, the bridge that takes us forward: No matter who we are or what we’ve done, we are right with God if we believe in and accept the free gift of Jesus’ atonement for our sins.

The writer of Hebrews sums up this new way of thinking and living:

And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him.
(Hebrews 10:19-22a)

Did you notice those exciting words? Boldly. A new and life-giving way. Right into His presence. Fully trusting Him. 

Go without doubt or wavering. As those who have been named sons and daughters of God, we can go right into His presence, boldly, with a clean conscience, opening our hearts to Him. We no longer have that curtain of sin keeping us from the holy presence of the Lord. Christ’s death ripped that barrier apart.

There is a new way to know God and a new way to think about our lives here.

Jesus opened the new way for us. It’s life-giving. I want to learn to walk that way boldly!

Lord, reassure us of your promise!

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Psalm Prayer:

Lord,
Reassure me of your promise, made to those who fear you. (Psalm 119:38)

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*See Galatians 3

© Elaine Starner 2015

A place of undeserved privilege

Peter writes that God paid the ransom to save you from a futile, empty, and hollow life.* I’m guessing you’ve seen lives like that. I know I have. Many people are living those kinds of lives.

Ephesians 2:12 describes such living: “You did not know the covenant promises God had made to [His people]. You lived in this world without God and without hope.”

And there is that word hope again. What hope is there in this world? Only the hope held in the promises God makes to His people.

Jesus said He came to give life, rich and satisfying life (John 10:10). For those who have known that verse for years and years, the words easily roll off the tongue. But what does it mean? What is life, rich and satisfying? How would you describe it?

I think Paul sums it up pretty well in Romans 5:1-3. Take a look:

Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory. We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials…

Wow. Look at those promises.
Peace.
Undeserved privileges.
Confidence.
Joy.
A share in God’s glory. (What could that  mean?)

Sounds like a great way to live. And even though life will not be a bed of roses, we will have reason to rejoice when we do run into problems.

Who can say that? Who can claim all these things? Only those who live with these privileges, this hope.

Thus far, we’ve been concentrating on the promises God has made about your past—no matter what is in your past, God’s promises deal with it.

In the coming weeks, we’ll go on and look at that life Christ has brought us to—a place of undeserved privilege, peace, joy, confidence for today and a huge hope for what awaits in the future.

 

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Psalm Prayer:

Lord,
Reassure me of your promise, made to those who fear you. (Psalm 119:38)

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* 1 Peter 1:18

© Elaine Starner 2015

Where do you want to live?

When we obey God’s commands only because we’re living by a checklist, trying to earn God’s approval and avoid His disapproval, that checklist always stands between us and our Creator. We’re always feeling guilty. We know we’re not good enough. In our thinking, our “record,” with its big black marks against us, raises a barrier between us and the One who desires to bring us back to Himself.

Sin keeps us from God—exactly what Satan had in mind when he set out to plant his poison in God’s good creation. God’s plan, though, is to bring us to live in a new kingdom where…

Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace.
(Romans 6:14)

Once we catch even a glimpse of this new life, it changes everything!

The requirements of the law were that every sin had to be paid for.
The new covenant God offers you says, “This sin IS paid for…”

It’s a gift. A free gift from God. The offer to live in freedom.

Freedom from the guilt of falling short.
Freedom from the worry that I’ll never be good enough.

That’s how God says we can live!

It’s life in the kingdom of grace.
It’s a far better life. A better hope.

This does not mean God no longer has standards for living. God has always set guidelines for the way His children are to live.

Listen to Jesus’ teachings, and you’ll realize that His new way of living goes even further than the old law.

Instead of simply abstaining from murder, Jesus’ calls His disciples to avoid hate, holding grudges, and even spiteful name-calling. Instead of doing the required minimum, He says, Go the unasked-for extra mile. Instead of an eye-for-an-eye, He calls for forgiveness. His way is to love enemies, to pray for and bless them.

John writes that “Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did” (1 John 2:6). Christ’s new standards for living go beyond a checklist of do’s and don’ts—they call for a complete change of heart.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. We’ll come back to the new hearts and new lives later.

For now, we’re celebrating our freedom.

And… freedom from all the old prisons of guilt also means freedom to move — into a life of undeserved privilege.

 

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Psalm Prayer:

Lord,
Reassure me of your promise, made to those who fear you. (Psalm 119:38)

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© Elaine Starner 2015

A Better Hope

A magazine publisher sponsored a booth at a multi-day birding festival, and a friend and I volunteered to work behind their table for a few hours. All festival participants were given plastic name tags that hung around our necks; but our tags had a special green ribbon attached that proclaimed us “SPONSOR.”

We weren’t sponsors or vendors or anything other than part-time volunteers. But that special tag—wearing the name of the magazine publisher—gave us privileges at the event. I could see it in the eyes of festival participants as they glanced at my name. I had gained a new identity and a new status.

I’ve learned—by painful lessons—that I can never make myself right with God through trying to obey all His laws and live a “good enough” life. I could not be holy, no matter how devoted I am to the idea of being a “good Christian.”

Instead, I must simply trust what He said—that none of my sins will be counted against me because Jesus has already taken my punishment. I have to trust the promise …

…assuring us that God will also count us as righteous if we believe in Him, the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised to life to make us right with God. (Romans 4:24-25)

And that is where our confidence must be: only in Jesus. Only belief in what He has done for us closes the chasm between us and God.

God still wants His people to live by His standards. But trying to live up to a yardstick is not what gives us a good relationship with Him.

If we believe in Jesus Christ, we wear His name, and wearing that name is what brings us privileges and a new status with God.

For the law never made anything perfect. But now we have confidence in a better hope, through which we draw near to God.
(Hebrews 7:19)

So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.
(Romans 8:1)

The second verse above is so simple—but the power of it can change our lives.

This is our new, better hope:  Everything depends on Jesus, and on our wearing His identifying name.

 

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Psalm Prayer:

Lord,
Reassure me of your promise, made to those who fear you. (Psalm 119:38)

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© Elaine Starner 2015