My way

Read: Leviticus 20-21, Matthew 28:1-20

In 1969, Frank Sinatra made a hit out of the song My Way and still holds the record for most consecutive weeks on the UK Top 40. Since then, numerous singers and bands have covered the tune. It is the song most frequently played at funeral services in the UK. The lyrics belt out how, even when life got rough, I did it my way. For many, it has become their anthem, a song that carries them through every aspect of their life. Even faith. Or so they believe.

I love Frank Sinatra. He had one of the easiest voices to listen to and the prettiest blue eyes to match. But he was wrong. Doing things your way may be able to get you through a lot of things in life, but it can’t get you through all of life. Your way may not be the best way. It may not be any way at all.

Leviticus 20:8

Humanity strives to find meaning. We push ahead to be—or at least be seen—as more than we are. Many want to be something they are not and try to become so on their own terms. But there are some things we just can’t do on our own. We cannot save ourselves. Only Jesus can save us. We cannot make ourselves holy. Only God can make us holy.

All paths lead to God is a phrase I’ve heard from celebrities, new agers, mystics, and even Christians. Many have been made to believe that, no matter how they want to live their life, so long as they believe that they will get to God, that’s just fine. Nothing needs to change. Yet they forget where holiness comes from. They forget that there is only one way to salvation and it isn’t through themselves.

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

John 14:6 (NIV)

In Leviticus 10, Aaron’s sons decided to try things their own way. It didn’t end well for them.

So fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord.

Leviticus 10:2 (NIV)

We have all sinned. We have all fallen short. And none of us can fix that on our own. God knows that. It’s why He sent Jesus to make a way where there was no way. When Jesus ascended into heaven, he told his disciples to go and make more disciples and to teach them to obey all that he had commanded them (Matthew 28:19-20).

If you want to do your own thing in life, that’s great! We need original people who aren’t afraid to put in some hard work to be successful. But in our search for success, we cannot forget that there are some things that are not up to us. When it comes to salvation and our approach to God, there is no my way. There is only The Way.

Through the eye

Read: Exodus 16-18, Matthew 19:16-30

Ask any Bible teacher or scholar, even a kid in Sunday school, and you’ll get an assortment of responses as to what Jesus meant when he spoke of a camel passing through the eye of a needle.

Matthew 19:24

Some may tell you that they eye of the needle was a reference to a smaller gate within a large gate. The main gate broad and high enough to admit a fully loaded camel, while the smaller gate was easier to open to permit men and women to pass through. Another may tell you that the gate was large enough for a loaded camel to pass through, but only on its knees. Yet another may speak of a customs gate of sorts. The gate being large enough to admit a camel, but not with its load. The purpose being that the load could be inspected before being allowed into the city.

All of these explanations can be tied with Jesus’ words. A man cannot bring earthly possessions through the gates of heaven. A man must humble himself in order to gain entry into eternity. All that we bring must first be inspected and judged by God before being permitted.

But what if no explanation is really needed? What if Jesus was speaking literally? Some scholars believe that the stories of a gate called The Eye of the Needle surfaced only after Jesus made the connection. The camel was the largest animal in the area at the time. The eye of a needle was the smallest commonly known passage. There was no way a camel would fit through.

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Matthew 19:26 (NIV)

Of course it is impossible for a camel to fit through the eye of a needle! That was the whole point of what Jesus was trying to say. He left no room for questioning. Salvation is impossible without God. Entry into heaven can only be gained when we leave our stuff behind. God will only take us as we are without the extras we have a habit of making so important.

Our treasures are not stored up when we hoard them on earth, but rather when we do the opposite and give it all away.

Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.

Matthew 19:21 (NIV)

Instead of looking for the academic explanation, let’s look at this literally. As Jesus said it.

Leave the stuff. Give to the poor. Follow him.

I will be joyful

It’s easy to be joyful when things are going your way—when you meet that special someone, when you get a big promotion, when you receive an unexpected gift. But what about the other times, when things aren’t going the way you’d hoped? Can you still say that you’re full of joy?

We often look at the dry or dark times in our lives as seasons where God just isn’t there. We struggle on hoping to pass through the difficult season and into the one of abundant harvest so that we can find our joy again. Maybe we’re missing the point.

I don’t believe that God brings the dark times, but I do believe He will walk with us through them. Psalm 23 says that, even though we walk through the dark valley of death, He walks beside us. And not only does He walk with us, He prepares a feast for us in the presence of our enemies. He doesn’t make it all go away, but He endures it all right beside us.

Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vine; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation. The sovereign Lord is my strength! He will make me as surefooted as a deer and bring me safely over the mountains.

Habakkuk 3:17-19 (NLT)

The world may be able to take a lot of things from you, but it cannot take your confidence in your salvation. It cannot take your joy. It cannot take God away from you.

What could be worse than the thought of losing everything? The thought of an eternity without God.

If you are in a dry season, take comfort in this: God is still God, He is right beside you, and He will never, ever leave you alone. If you are in a season of abundance, keep the joy that you have now no matter what comes next. If Habakkuk could look around and see nothing but doom yet still find joy in the God of his salvation, who are we to do anything but likewise?

Daily Bible reading: Habakkuk 1-3, Revelation 14

That was easy

Our world gets more complicated by the hour. Whether it’s in science or computing, arts or politics, few things are truly simple anymore. And, the more complicated something is, the more reward and respect a person can get for accomplishing it. We seek out the complicated. We make easy things more complicated—even to our own detriment.

When we, as Christians, present the Gospel as anything but simple, we do not help our cause. If we argue that the way to Christ is wrought with long, arduous tasks and much emotional distress, we do not help the Kingdom. There is nothing more simple in this world than salvation through Christ and the victory that it brings.

Loving God means keeping his commandments, and really, that isn’t difficult. For every child of God defeats this evil world by trusting Christ to give the victory. And the ones who win this battle against the world are the ones who believe that Jesus is the Son of God.

1 John 5:3-5 (NLT)

Salvation is easy. Repentance is easy. Victory is easy. Obedience is easy. All of these things are simple not because of what we are or can do, but because of who God is and what He’s already done. And if we trust Jesus with one thing, we can trust him with everything.

John tells us that the battle is not won because we Christians fight hard and strong. It is won because we simply believe that Jesus is the Son of God.

When we let go of all our methods to obtain victory, we can settle on the truth that it is not a difficult or complicated process. God didn’t make it that way on purpose. He wants salvation and victory to be available and accessible to everything. We have to trust Christ for the victory. We have to believe that Jesus is the Son of God. That’s it.

It’s not difficult. It’s easy.

Daily Bible reading: Daniel 7-8, 1 John 5

What is faith?

As Christians, we talk about faith. A lot. It is our belief system. It is the basis on which we live our lives. It is our calling. It is many things. We know that just a small amount—the measure of a mustard seed—can move a mountain. It can heal the sick and open blind eyes. Faith can raise the dead. But how many of us can accurately define faith?

Let’s go the the old standby in Hebrews:

What is faith? It is the confident assurance that what we hope for is going to happen. It is the evidence of things we cannot yet see.

Hebrews 11:1 (NLT)

I once heard a pastor say that grace is God’s grip on us and faith is our grip on God. According to Noah Webster, her statement was more than just something to be typed on a meme and posted to social media.

The sense of the verb is to strain, to draw, and thus to bind or make fast. A rope or cable is that which makes fast.

Our faith, combined with God’s grace, brings us or draws us toward God and binds us to Him. Without faith, we have no grip whatsoever. Grace alone is not enough. It is not the binding agent, faith is.

So, you see, it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that there is a God and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.

Hebrews 11:6 (NLT)

FAITH: That firm belief of God’s testimony, and of the truth of the gospel, which influences the will, and leads to an entire reliance on Christ for salvation.

When we are called upon to use our faith, our belief should not be in the desired outcome, but in the One who can bring it to pass. We must remember that faith goes beyond a little prayer and a hope. Faith is what binds us to God. It draws us closer to Him. It brings us to obedience to His Word and puts in line with His will. It is our judgement that what God has stated is the truth. And, if He promised it, He will perform it.

Daily Bible reading: Ezekiel 10-12, Hebrews 11:1-19

He learned

Jesus, while he walked the earth, being completely God, was also completely man. And, being a human, he was susceptible to all the things we humans are, too. He had to learn the same things we have to learn. Even obedience.

Look at a toddler. No one has to tell you that a small human being needs to learn to be obedient. Left to our own devices, we will make poor choices doing whatever we want whenever we want to do it. But, learning to be obedient to our parents and those in authority over us also teaches us how to make better decisions and makes us far more useful than a selfish toddler prone to tantrums.

So even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered.

Hebrews 5:8 (NLT)

In an earlier verse in this same chapter of Hebrews, the writer talks about the high priest in the temple and how, because he suffered the same things that everyone else did, he could deal with the people and their sins with more grace. He endured the very same things. In order for Jesus to be able to extend grace to us, he had to experience what we experience. And he did. He was bombarded with the same temptations we face every day. The only difference is that he did not succumb to them.

In this way, God qualified him as a perfect High Priest, and he became the source of eternal salvation for all those who obey him.

Hebrews 5:9 (NLT)

If Jesus, as a human being, was able to learn to be obedient—even unto death—so we too, can learn obedience. We have the Master to learn from. Jesus, who learned perfect obedience, is waiting as our High Priest both to forgive our sins and to teach us to avoid them altogether. The requirement on our part is to get close to Jesus. Spend time with him. Mature in our relationship with him. Be more like him.

If he learned, we can learn to.

Daily Bible reading: Jeremiah 49-50, Hebrews 5

What’s in a name?

There are a lot of people in this world who will tell you they’re a Christian. Maybe they were baptized as a kid or they go to church on Christmas and Easter. But is that what makes you a Christian—just calling yourself one? Noah Webster didn’t think so.

CHRISTIAN: A real disciple of Christ; one who believes in the truth of the Christian religion, and studies to follow the example, and obey the precepts, of Christ; a believer in Christ who is characterized by real piety.

There are many who believe that a simple profession of faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God is what makes you a Christian. I believe that profession is what makes you a believer. It’s everything that you do afterward that makes you a Christian.

By definition, being a Christian means that you should be ever striving to act like Christ. It’s right there in the name. Paul wrote an entire letter to Titus discussing how Christians should conduct themselves.

For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people. And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with self-control, right conduct, and devotion to God, while we look forward to that wonderful event when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed. He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing what is right.

Titus 2:11-14 (NLT)

Christians, true Christians, should turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should talk different. We should act different. And people should notice. If you claim the name of Christ, truly claim it. Live it. Act like him.

Imagine what this world would look like if every single person who claimed the name of Jesus Christ really acted like him. If, instead of churches full of nominal Christians, we went out on the street and actually lived the life we claim to have chosen when we first called on Jesus.

Salvation is free. It’s a gift for all people. But the name of Christ should be reserved for those who follow his example, those who are totally committed to doing what is right.

Daily Bible reading: Jeremiah 31-32, Titus 2