How Christmas Influences My Perspective Today

You know that feeling where you simply cannot shake the conviction of the Holy Spirit? I’m convinced of my salvation in Christ Jesus because the Holy Spirit dwells within and draws me toward repentance. I may be stubborn and not repent right away but that often leads to literal, physical sickness for me. Christ within me cannot stand sin, but my flesh loves it. I know what Paul means when he wrote “I know the good I ought to do and yet don’t do it” – something along those lines.

I’ve been thinking about some life situations recently, along with my own sin faults over the last few years of my adult life, and one passage in particular keeps coming to mind.

Romans 3:23 – “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” It’s a humbling reality to realize that even as a “good Christian” and someone who has been in good standing most of my life, even I have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. I think this is why it can be so dangerous to allow ourselves to develop a moral superiority complex toward others. “Well at least I’m not an alcoholic…” or “at least I’m not as gluttonous and obese as they are,” or “at least I haven’t killed anyone.” I’m not an alcoholic, but I have certainly been drunk and that is sin. I am not morbidly obese but I am overweight and have an impulse control problem. And I haven’t killed anyone but I have had hatred and bitterness in my heart toward others, and Jesus says that hatred in our hearts towards a brother is the same as murder.

That’s some rather heavy stuff. I found myself sulking in that reality, that heaviness and dread of my own folly and lack of righteousness. I found myself humbled and wishing that it were not so.

The good news is that verse 23 of Romans 3 is followed by a comma, actually, not a period as portrayed above. Here is what follows in verse 24 – “And all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”

I was thinking about things like depression and addiction and these pitfalls that even the best of people fall into sometimes, and it made me think of a world without hope. I saw a post on Facebook the other day about depression and how inescapable it can be “I know I will be fine but I don’t feel fine.” We should not willingly allow ourselves to be led to the slaughter to sin, but if you find yourself there this morning and realize your own capacity to mess up, then that is the first step toward freedom. The next is realizing that no matter how f’d up you may think you are, ALL are justified FREELY by HIS GRACE through the redemption that came by Christ JESUS! (Read that again.)

If that isn’t a reason to celebrate Christmas, then I don’t know what it is!

This morning, I’d like to remind all of us that conviction does not have to lead to shame and guilt. In fact, if our brains are trained to go that way, it’s because we’re listening to the whispers of the devil rather than the still, small voice of Almighty God.

The Father’s voice sounds a lot different. Conviction can lead to repentance, which can immediately lead to full restoration. Think Prodigal Son. Wasted His entire inheritance and the Father still celebrates his return home, throwing a party which requires even further financial sacrifice on his part. We simply cannot outrun or out-sin the love of God. We can always come Home. “Let the children come to me.”

I think about my love for my wife. I do not love her because she loves me. I love her because I choose to and because I’ve made a covenant to do so every day for the rest of my life. But I am also motivated and encouraged to new levels of love as I witness her beauty, spiritual growth, and acts of service and kindness toward me – they are a sort of motivating force behind my love toward her and becoming increasingly less selfish so that we may both benefit.

My prayer for us all would be that conviction would lead to repentance which would lead to full restoration, and that we would be quicker to live a righteous life out of a deep love for God. A love that we have learned from Him, that is encouraged and strengthened by His love for us. And that we would choose Him daily.

If you’re having a hard time doing that, maybe you’re simply not looking for Him in your life anymore. When I find myself having a hard time loving Allie, it’s because I’ve gotten lazy in noticing all she is and all she does and the way she loves. We have to be intentional with what we fix our eyes on. If I fix my eyes on a woman, then I am bound to lust after her and be led away to sin. But if I fix my eyes on Christ, then I am bound to be led toward holiness, a cleansing of my sins and a deeper understanding of who He is and why I’m loved.

From that discovery and outpouring and life with eyes fixed on Christ, I can love others because I’ve learned what Love is from the Creator Himself.

You get the point.

Stop thinking you’re better than…Be quicker to admit your faults…Admit your failures don’t claim them as your identity. Fix your eyes back on Jesus and let Him remind you who you really are. Then live and love out of that reality.

All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…

BUT…

Christmas happened.

Jesus came. Freedom is ours for the taking.

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Declaration

I’ve been going through some interesting times spiritually. Knowing what sins you need to overcome and then refusing to deal with them has got to be one of the definitions of Christian insanity. How many of us go through such a phase? The Holy Spirit reveals within us things which are not honorable to God and then we seemingly say, “Thank you Holy Spirit, I’ll change that whenever I get the chance, or when it becomes convenient for me.” Then, quicker than the realization that what we have been doing is wrong, the thought leaves us. We walk right back through the seductive, seemingly attractive doors to sin. Once through that door, we’ve suddenly forgot our roots which are deeply found in Christ as our brother and God as our Father. Suddenly, God no longer matters and meeting our next sinful desire consumes us. Sweet for a second, then bitter, turning into a potent poison which corrupts the entire body; that is what sin is. So, we chase after it, giving everything to obtain it…but sin can’t love us, sin cannot fill one up with joy, love, compassion, grace, mercy, and strength. It is capable of no such thing. We become enslaved to sin. It imprisons us in our own chamber of depression, loneliness, and discontentment. Shackled by the bonds of our addiction to that which allured us through darkness’ door, we lose hope.

Living a life of sin is not freedom. What once offered us a pleasurable outlet for our unmet wants and desires is now simply a way of life. Convincing others that we are alright, because of our acquired status, or supposedly “earned” righteousness, we cloak the ugly truth about our hearts with the honey-dipped lies of a smooth tongue…

What a dark way to view the world? Surely, no man can withstand such darkness and remain living joyfully. This is the reality of the world that we live in. I would go so far as to dare any man to prove otherwise…

What is the one thing you have chosen over God? An angry heart, filled with hatred? Lustful eyes which desires can never be met? Perhaps, for you, it is pride; you cannot stand the idea of humility or servitude, so you fight all you can for a high position. There are countless counterfeit affections that we can give our lives to. I know that many times I have chosen something over God. O how much I regret having allowed myself to be deceived by the Evil One. Truly, I say to you that I hate Satan! There is no one on the face of this universe that desires my destruction and the destruction of those I love more than he.

A quote that has constantly stuck with me comes from a John Piper sermon. Piper declares, “The only possible attitude toward out of control desire for sin is a declaration of all out war.” Powerful words for a meek pastor and author from a small church in Minnesota, but he’s totally right. Christians, your desires WILL get you into trouble. Deciding to foolishly chase after them rather than after God, Himself, could very likely lead to death. Not simply your physical life slowly being taken from you, but rather your spiritual relationship with Christ being snuffed out, because you cannot have two masters. God will not be mocked and you will reap what you sow. Galatians 4:24 states, “And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” Paul is writing to the church, declaring that those who walk by the Spirit cannot gratify their evil desires anymore. Brothers and Sisters in Christ, we are walking a dangerous and deadly line whenever we choose to not heed such life-giving wisdom.

Remember Joseph from the Old Testament? He was tempted by the seductive house-wife of his master, Potiphar, and Joseph RAN. O Christians, run from sin! Do not dilly-dally any longer in the brook which will surely not give you life! Run! Run back to Father God’s arms…NOW. Not tomorrow, not an hour from now, not when you are ‘ready to settle down’, you must do this right now!!!

Christian, if you are truly a follower of Christ, then this decision will not be as difficult as you and I would like to make it out to be. You see, we gave up our life so that we may be granted fellowship with God and have the rights as sons and heirs of His Kingdom. You may one day graduate from being under the authority of your earthly parents, but you will never graduate from being under the authority of God. Does that statement make your blood boil? Do you believe that you are being wronged? It frustrated me. I have spent a great deal of thought, time, and energy contemplating the various ways to still be a child of God, without fully submitting to his authority, and it does NOT work. How can the Father give you good gifts and entrust you with the things that you want and need, if He is not fully certain that you are indeed His son. Let us assume for a moment that I am the adopted child of a very wealthy man. He has promised to give me my inheritance as He sees me grow and mature. Then, feeling entitled and frustrated with how I must submit to authority, I run away from home and squander everything. Do you think that a wise father in this situation should turn around and reward my foolishness by writing a check for the remainder of his estate? Absolutely not! However, in the story of the prodigal son, Jesus tells his disciples that we can indeed return back to the Father and He will graciously anoint us as His worthy children once again. It requires a great deal of humility and courage to return Home to what you ran away from though…We must also count the costs…Is following Jesus and walking back Home to the Father truly worth dying to ourselves?

I plead with you…surely Christ is worth absolutely everything. There is nothing in this world that can offer you more than He can. Truly, better is one day in His courts than thousands elsewhere. Better than thousands upon thousands…

Readers, I have counted the costs and have decided that He is certainly worth it all. I will live my life solely for Him and for those He entrusts me with, counting all I have as a loss if it were not for my King’s glory. I will become a slave to righteousness and will fight sin to the death. I won’t do it alone though…I will petition the LORD in prayer, need constant reminding and strengthening from brothers and sisters in Christ, and I will always need Jesus and the precious grace that He has offered.

Written in ink, I have stated my pledge to The Father. Will you choose to write yours? Few will inherit the Kingdom of God. According to a Gallup poll, 92% of Americans state that they “believe in God.” How deceived have we become?!?!? Will you and I be a part of the few men and women that decidedly endured the race and finished well? Will we give up the rest of our lives to hear our Father say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”? It is now in your hands. Take responsibility for your many sins and seek God’s help! He is not interested in changing your situation but wants to change (renew) your heart. Humble yourselves and allow Him to work! The strongest, bravest, most courageous, stance that we can take is one of desperation, on our faces, pleading with God for our redemption. If we do this, out of a pure heart, how could The Redeemer not bring redemption?

Praying for the awakening of your souls,

Justin Meyer

Pain

Life is easy. No one sheds a tear or has self-image issues. There isn’t any hurt or bitterness, right? Actually, that couldn’t be more WRONG! One is blessed with certain gifts when they have a relationship with Christ as their Lord and Savior. Some are gifted with evangelism; a heart that is driven by sharing the Gospel with the lost and bringing new brothers and sisters into the Kingdom of God. Others are gifted with understanding and relating to others. I believe one of my gifts is being able to understand others and lately a side effect of that has been empathy. In plain English that means I am well aware of what others are feeling, whether it is joy, sadness, fear, etc. The sad truth though is that as I’ve looked into the eyes of my friends, coworkers, and strangers, and as I’ve heard their stories the emotional quality that is most common is pain and sorrow.

 

This simple truth is plaguing my heart right now. If pain is so common and if sorrow and feelings of emptiness trouble so many of us then why do many of us pretend that everything is alright? American culture has taught us that we must have everything together. To appear broken and contrite is to lose your dignity and any chance of finding success, right? Well, that is certainly what the world has taught us.

 

Friends, I want to plea with you to change your heart on this. We do NOT have it all together, nor do we have to pretend that this world is all sunshine and rainbows. The reality is that the grass is not always greener on the other side and unfortunately there is never a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. (Sorry if I just broke the hearts of some of you who believe in fairy-tales) Real people who have real relationships and are going through real life WILL experience pain. So, with this in mind, let’s have a conversation on being hurt and broken…

 

A primary example of this that almost everyone can relate to would be the pain one feels when their parents tell them that they are disappointed in them. Within the mere seconds that those words leave the lips of one’s Mom or Dad, the heart of the child is immediately ripped to pieces. I don’t care how tough you are or how callused your heart is toward hurtful words; few words will hurt you more than these.

 

On a deeper level though; pain is more often brought to us by the terrible things that others have done to or against us. There was that one kid in elementary school that would just not let you have a good day. When I was in the third grade, I was diagnosed with Scoliosis (a curvature of the spine) and in order to correct it an orthopedic doctor prescribed a back-brace. From that day on, I was known by many of my peers as “Brace Boy”. And at the age of 21, I still have that seared into my memory. There are some days when my 8 year old sister comes home from school in tears. When I ask her what’s wrong, she explains through sobs that one of her peers told her that her dress was ugly and made her look fat…My sister is EIGHT! As the older brother and having the protective nature that I do; one can imagine how I wanted to react in that situation. With fists clenched, I reassured Brianna that she was incredibly gorgeous and created in God’s image and that she couldn’t ever be more beautiful than she already is.

 

I’ve been reading Mark Driscoll’s book, “Death by Love”, which is essentially a series of letters that Pastor Mark has written to various members of his congregation. There are FEW books that have ever elicited an emotional response from me as much as this one has. Turning the pages through the various situations some of them have been in has literally made me cry. Hearing how some of these women have been forced into sexual relationships with men they didn’t want to. Learning of the prideful arrogance of some men; reading about how a woman was unfaithful to her husband during their engagement and then didn’t tell him until after they were married. All of these stories are filled to the brim with pain. But that’s real life…

 

As I’ve studied these stories and as I’ve looked at my own life; the root of at least 80% of the pain I’ve been through is caused by sin. Sin that I’ve either committed personally or sin that others have done against me.

 

Brothers…Sisters….Friends, please turn from sin! There are so many of you that claim to be believers, yet your private life is filled to the brim with sin. Some of you spend so much time making yourself appear righteous and holy on the outside by doing all of the right things, reading all of the right books, but on the inside your heart is filled with sin! Maybe that sin is adultery of the heart. Maybe it is pride. Perhaps you hate your brother and therefore are guilty of murder but regardless your heart is sinful!

 

 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.  Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.” (Matthew 23:25-28)

 

As this passage in Matthew makes crystal clear; the way that one appears on the outside is not important. It is the heart God concerns Himself with and by the heart you will be righteously judged one day. One of the most humbling realizations I’ve made is that the honest truth is that we either love sin or love God. You simply cannot love both, nor can you serve two masters.

 

This is certainly heavy stuff. It should be of no surprise if this sort of conversation makes you weak to your stomach or elicits an emotional response. In fact, my prayer as I write this is that many of you are driven to tears of repentance. I pray that the Holy Spirit convicts and reminds you of the injustice you’ve done against others and the heartbreak you’ve caused them. And I pray that the message of the Gospel and the healing that it brings is able to rebuild your hearts; that God will change hearts of stone to hearts of flesh as Ezekiel 11:19 states.

 

Family, I love you very much and am deeply aware of the real pain and suffering you are going through. I assure you that the only thing you have to hold onto is Jesus Christ. His unconditional love, overwhelming grace, and underserved mercy is the only thing that will bring your heart and spirit true healing. Only God has the power to change hearts. So pray that he changes yours my friends. I desire nothing more than to see your hearts radically transformed by the message of Jesus Christ and to one day walk with you and rejoice in the streets of Heaven. My heart simply cannot bear the thought of a single one of you being devoured by the fire of Hell. However, I love you too much to not remind you that if you do not turn from your sin and if you choose to live in disobedience to the LORD, then you WILL be subject to the righteous wrath of God.

 

Sincerely,

Justin Meyer