“Where sin increased, grace increased…more.”
Romans 5:20 NIV
Bill Wilson and Bob Smith, co-founders of Alcoholics Anonymous, once visited an attorney who was a hardened alcoholic. Confined because of violent behavior, the man had no choice but to listen to their stories of recovery. But as soon as they started talking about a “Higher Power,” the attorney shook his head and said, “It's too late for me. I still believe in God but I know He no longer believes in me.” How sad—and misguided!
Are you worried that God won’t accept you because of your sins? You don’t have to be! Paul says, “Where sin increased, grace increased…more.” And he should know because before his Damascus Road conversion he was “Public Sinner Number One” (1 Ti 1:15 MSG). Afterward, God used him to reach the world with the gospel (See Ac 17:2). “Grace” was so central to Paul’s message that he mentions it in the very beginning of all his Epistles. That’s because he understood that by trying to stand on your own merit before a Holy God, every time you mess up you feel like a failure—unloved, unworthy, and unaccepted.
Psychologists say we try to conform to the image of us that is seen by the most important person in our lives. So can you imagine what would happen if you started seeing yourself as God sees you? The truth is, you’re His redeemed child and He sees you through the blood of Jesus, which cleanses all your sins (See 1Jn 1:9). There’s nothing you can do to make God love you more and nothing you can do to make Him love you less! And that’s the good news!
“My servant Caleb has a different spirit.”
Nu 14:24 NIV
If Caleb was alive today there’s a good chance he’d qualify for “Person of the Year,” someone who has done the most to influence circumstances for the better. Here’s his story in his own words: “I was forty years old when Moses…sent me…to explore the land…I brought him back a report according to my convictions, but my fellow Israelites who went up with me made the hearts of the people melt in fear. I, however, followed…God wholeheartedly…that day Moses swore to me, “The land on which your feet have walked will be your inheritance”…
So here I am today, eighty-five years old…as strong…as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me…Then Joshua blessed Caleb…and gave him Hebron as his inheritance…because he followed the Lord…wholeheartedly” (Jos 14:7-14 NIV). You can learn valuable lessons from a man like Caleb. His life can be summed up in four sentences:
(1) He had “a different spirit” from those around him. He was positive, a glass-half-full kind of person.
(2) He believed that with God’s help every giant that stands in your way can be conquered, even when others say they can’t.
(3) He had a vision that neither age nor circumstances could diminish. And he was willing to wait and work for it even though it took forty-five years to fulfill.
(4) In old age, he remained young at heart and totally committed to God. So ask God to give you the spirit of Caleb.
“Philip began at this place in the Scriptures and explained the good news about Jesus.”
Ac 8:35 CEV
In Acts chapter eight we read the story of a high-profile leader who was won to Christ. This man held a position similar to the Chancellor of the Exchequer in Britain and the Secretary of the Treasury in the United States. And he was led to Christ by a low-profile person called Philip, a church deacon (See vv.26-40). Let’s look at how it happened and see what we can learn:
(1) Philip was ready. When this man needed someone to explain the gospel to him, Philip was ready to do it. Could you have done that? When God has a job that needs to be done, could He call on you? Would you be prepared? And willing? “If anybody asks you why you believe as you do…tell him” (1 Pe 3:15 TLB).
(2) Philip was wise. He didn’t barge in and start preaching or put this man on the spot by asking “gotcha” questions. Note two things about Philip: (a) He was led by God’s spirit (See Ac 8:29 CEV). (b) He recognized the right moment (See v. 35 CEV). Good soul-winners are sensitive and strategic.
(3) Philip was clear. Instead of a vague dialogue about religion, he spoke directly about Jesus. That’s what people need—a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ! They need to know He’s alive, and that he loves them. He’s powerful enough to run the universe, yet personal enough to forgive their sins, break their habits, and resolve their doubts. Your job is to extend the invitation, and let Jesus do the rest. Do you need a soul-winning strategy? Try this one—it works!
“He decides who will rise and who will fall.”
Ps 75:7 NLT
If you don’t find your significance and self-worth in your relationship with God, you’ll be tempted to spend your life trying to promote yourself. And that will make you insecure—and dangerous. Why? Because when others get promoted ahead of you, you’ll become resentful; you may even try to tear them down. In God’s kingdom, you don’t achieve success on your own, you receive it from God. “God is the judge: he putters down one, and setteth up another” (KJV). While David’s brothers were striving to be Israel’s next king and “get the nod” from the prophet Samuel, David just kept tending his sheep and doing the job God gave him. Let others compete and compare! Just stay faithful in what God has given you to do—and when the time is right He’ll come and get you!
Jesus said, “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Mt 11:30). Note the word “easy.” When you try to promote yourself, you have to sweat, strain, and struggle, but when you trust God and do things His way, it comes “easy.” That doesn’t mean you won’t have to work hard or sacrifice in order to succeed. It just means you won’t have to strive to get it or keep it. Why? Because when God sets “before you an open door” (Rev 3:8 NIV), He’s the only one who can shut it. And He won’t do that unless, like King Saul, you’re rebellious, resentful, or refuse to repent. Knowing God is in control takes the strain out of serving Him. When you think about it—it’s the only way to live.
“The mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.”
Romans 8:6 NIV
Once you give in to “stinking thinking,” your mood dips, you lose energy, God seems distant, prayer seems pointless, sin looks tempting, and your outlook in life becomes bleak. When that happens you become so focused on how you feel, you don’t realize it’s your thinking that’s causing you to feel that way. It happens to the best of us. Look at Elijah the prophet. The high point in his career was when he called down fire from heaven and defeated the prophets of Baal. It was a Super Bowl-sized victory! Then word came from Queen Jezebel: “You killed my prophets. Well, guess what? Now I’m going to kill you” (See 1Ki 19). As a result, Elijah plunged headlong into fear. He felt worthless: I am no better than my ancestors: (v. 4 NIV).
Hopeless: “[He] ran for his life” (v. 3 NIV). Isolated: “I am the only one left” (v. 10 NIV). Unable to cope: “I have had enough” (v. 4 NIV). He wanted to die: “Take my life: (v. 4 NIV). So how did God respond to Elijah? In four simple ways: (1) He helped him begin to eat right and get proper rest. (2) He spoke to him in “a still small voice” (v.12 NKJV), reassuring him and giving him courage. (3) He assured Elijah that he was not alone: “I have…seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal: (v.18 NKJV). (4) He gave him another mission to fulfill. There will always be a “Jezebel” threatening to undo your best efforts and bring you down. The key is learning to control your thinking!