He Took Our Place!

1 John 2:1-2

2 My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. 

In “The Christian Leader,” Don Ratzlaff retells a story Vernon Grounds came across in Ernest Gordon’s Miracle On The River Kwai. The Scottish soldiers, forced by their Japanese captors to labor on a jungle railroad, had degenerated to barbarous behavior, but one afternoon something happened.” A shovel was missing. The officer in charge became enraged. He demanded that the missing shovel be produced, or else. When nobody in the squadron budged, the officer got his gun and threatened to kill them all on the spot . . . It was obvious the officer meant what he had said. Then, finally, one man stepped forward. The officer put away his gun, picked up a shovel, and beat the man to death. When it was over, the survivors picked up the bloody corpse and carried it with them to the second tool check. This time, no shovel was missing. Indeed, there had been a miscount at the first check point.” The word spread like wildfire through the whole camp. An innocent man had been willing to die to save the others! . . . The incident had a profound effect. . . The men began to treat each other like brothers.

“When the victorious Allies swept in, the survivors, human skeletons, lined up in front of their captors . . (and instead of attacking their captors) insisted: No more hatred. No more killing. Now what we need is forgiveness.”
What every Christian should strive for is sinlessness, though it is a goal we will never reach this side of glory. So what do we do? John tells us that when we sin Christ steps in as our advocate. We know it is not a matter of if we are going to sin, it is a matter of when, and when we do Jesus Christ stands before God as our representative to plead our case. By His blood we are already declared innocent and therefore are not under any judgement. If that was all that Christ did, then it would be enough, but it doesn’t stop there.
In verse 2 we are introduced to one of those 10 dollar words that we tend to skip over because, honestly, most of us don’t even know what it means. The word propitiation. Probably the simplest way to define this word is that it means to appease wrath and provide reconciliation. So what this verse is telling us is that Christ bore the full wrath of God against sin. On the Cross Jesus satisfied God’s wrath so that we would not have to! Because of this we are reconciled to God through Christ!
Lets bring that down a notch to help us understand these verses. When we sin, Jesus stands before God as a testimony that He has already suffered God’s wrath against that sin on our behalf. That is what propitiation means. Remember our illustration at the beginning. Jesus took our place. To satisfy God’s wrath against sin, He stepped forward, paid our price and now we stand uncondemned! 
Today as we ReFocus our hearts and minds on Christ let us consider the price that was paid for our redemption. To be reconciled to God, Christ bore His wrath for us. And the demonstration of His love and grace on the cross should motivate us to share that same love and grace with others!  

Who are we fooling?

1 John 1:8-10

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
A complaint that many women level against men is that we are unwilling to admit begin hurt or sick. We will say its just a scratch, nothing to worry about when we should be going to the hospital to get stitches. Because we are supposed to be tough, we have perfected the art of self-deception by trying to convince ourselves that we are fine, when we are not. Of course this only lasts until we can no longer take the pain, infection has set in and the injury is far worse than it had to be. Self-Deception can be a very dangerous habit.
Another area that we deceive ourselves is with our sin. We try to convince ourselves and those around us that we are actually really good people. We compare our lives to others whose sin is destroying their lives, and reason that at least we aren’t as bad as they are. This is also self-deception. When we are alone with our thoughts, we know how wicked our hearts truly are, but we can’t let anyone else know because then they will think that we are sinners…just like them. The truth is all of us are broken vessels, sinful people who desperately need Grace. And its only when we let go of our pride and turn our eyes to Christ that we see how desperate we are for His forgiveness. 
I am convinced that the closer we get to Christ, the less worthy we will feel about being in His presence. The more we Know Him, the more aware we are of our own sin. Our unwillingness to admit that we are broken is keeping us from Knowing Him the way we should. But once we come to that place, where we see Him for who He is, and see us for who we are, we will find ourselves on our knees in confession and it is then that we will experience the cleansing power of Christ. 
We are so afraid to admit to ourselves, and those around us, that we need Christ and his forgiveness. We think we have to wear that mask so everyone will think that our lives are perfect and things are going good. We have created a culture in our churches that have people afraid to show their cracks for fear that others will judge them. I think its time we remove the masks, quit covering up the cracks and come together as the recipients of God’s Grace as we stand together amazed at the redemption that we have through Christ!
Today as we Refocus our hearts and minds on Christ lets take off those masks. Your life doesn’t have to look perfect! As a matter of fact, it is through the cracks in our lives that others can look in and see how great His Grace truly is!

The Light that Brings Joy!

1 John 1:4-7
4 And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full. 5 This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.
What is the difference between happiness and joy? Many think that they are one and the same, and they are not. Happiness is dependent on outward circumstances. Happiness “happens” to us, and it can leave just as quickly. Joy, on the other hand, comes from within and finds it’s source in God! It is resting in the strength and grace of Christ even when life gets hard. We find joy when we Know God! A.W. Tozer said this, “What I am anxious to see in Christian believers is a beautiful paradox. I want to see in them the joy of finding God while at the same time they are blessedly pursuing Him. I want to see in them the great joy of having God yet always wanting Him!” One thing that Joy and Happiness actually has in common is that once you experience either one – you will always desire it!
So what is the message that John gives us that will lead us to experience this Joy? That God is Light! That may be confusing to you at first, but lets unpack that thought. Why should this bring us joy? It is because the world we live in is full of darkness. Violence, turmoil, suicide, hate and confusion are all descriptions of daily life here on planet earth. People are despairing, depression is common, and folks are looking for relief through drugs and alcohol. The bars are filling up because people just want to numb the pain. The world is dark. Darkness brings hopelessness, fearfulness, confusion and despair. In contrast, Light brings hope, light gives direction, light brings joy! And God is Light! 
As Christians it is our duty to shine that light for all to see! To walk in His light and show others the difference it has made in our lives as God forgives us, as God loves us, as God gives us life, as God gives us joy. John 1:4 says that, “In Him was life; and the life was the light of men”. John tells us that His light guides us to Him. And we are to be reflections of His light as we live in the Joy of the Lord and proclaim the Grace of God! And the more we Know Him, the more Joy that we have. And the more Joy that we receive, the more we want Him! It is a cycle that continues in our lives as we walk with Christ and experience who He is!
Today as we ReFocus our hearts and minds on Christ let us find our joy in finding God which will lead us to pursue Him more, which will lead us to more Joy…and the cycle continues. He is the Light that brings Hope and Joy and we are to be the reflection of His light as we shine His love and grace into the darkness around us!