Eager Expectancy – Isaiah 54:2

“Enlarge the place of your tent,
and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out;
do not hold back; lengthen your cords
and strengthen your stakes.”

Isaiah 54:2

This calling is written within a promise to the people of God, as He foretells the new covenant to come when His truth and salvation would spread throughout the nations.

In it, I believe we can see how God desires His people – His beloved children, His chosen – to live: with eager expectancy and a hope so steadfast that we prepare ourselves and our lives for what He has in store. Regardless of what we see, regardless of what disappointments we have known in the past. It is a calling to hope in Him even in the dark, to faith that brings Him great glory.

We don’t know what His plans for us here on earth will look like. But we have so many promises to hold fast to as God declares to us who He is through His Word.

Promises of our God’s goodness and grace, our strengthening and fullness of joy, His radiant glory displayed and power made perfect in our weakness, our perfecting as we learn to love and trust Him through obedience, His faithfulness and truth in all things.

He is light and in Him is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5).

He is the living God who is, who was, and who is to come, the Almighty (Revelation 1:8).

And we are His. Lovingly kept in His hand as He holds fast to us (John 10:27-29). He is for us, and nothing in all of creation can separate us from God’s love for us through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 8:31, 38-39).

We will experience His faithfulness to us, both now and for all eternity, and the world will see His glory. We can trust Him here and forever, because He is so very trustworthy. He is Almighty God and our good Father, and He cares for us – He cares for you, specifically, and He is with you right where you are.

So may we look to Him, fix our eyes on His goodness and sovereign power, and put aside our fears. May we open ourselves wide in joyful expectation and confident hope for our God to come in and fill our lives with His abundant goodness and grace, far beyond what we could hope or imagine.

“Oh, how abundant is your goodness,
which you have stored up for those who fear you,
and worked for those who take refuge in you,
in the sight of the children of mankind!”
Psalm 31:19

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
Ephesians 3:20-21

Choose Jesus – Romans 6:1-4

“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”
Romans 6:1-4

A statement early in this morning’s sermon, focused on Romans 6, caught my attention: to walk in the freedom Jesus bought for us “will take a lifetime of choosing Jesus.”

It stirred a prayer in me that I would choose Jesus for a lifetime. I won’t do it perfectly, but if I keep choosing Him, keep determining to press into that relationship and that obedience, I will experience His salvation, freedom, and abundant life of joy, peace, and righteousness.

Wherever you are, whatever your past or present, choose Jesus. And keep choosing Him. Keep believing He is enough to save you – His death, His taking on of the wrath and justice of God, His resurrection conquering death – He is enough. You don’t have to (and you can’t) save yourself. Praise God, Jesus chooses to do what we can’t and He can.

Keep choosing Jesus so you can know Him. He is life, true life as we were meant to know it. He will fill all the empty, broken places with His light and fullness. The fullness and salvation of the infinite God will make you whole and you will see His glory, faithfulness, and power to save and to free you from the sin that seeks to deceive, enslave, and destroy you.

Keep choosing Jesus, always Jesus over sin and anything that would hold you back from Him. He is so very worth it, and only He will free and satisfy you to your very core.

As I pulled this together, I was reminded of these verses in Deuteronomy:
“I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.” Deuteronomy 30:19-20

Those words were spoken by Moses to the people of Israel as they prepared to enter the Promised Land. It was a firm, clear calling to those people to choose life, to choose commitment to the Lord and experience all the good He has for them. This is our calling as well, under the new covenant established by Jesus and His sacrifice. To choose life – to choose Jesus – that we may live, as His Spirit transforms us to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, obeying and holding fast to Him through Christ who has saved and sealed us as His forever. Preparing us for “a better country, that is, a heavenly one,” an inheritance that will not perish, spoil, or fade, kept in heaven for us (Hebrews 11:16; 1 Peter 1:4).

Assured Faith – Hebrews 11:1

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
Hebrews 11:1

This morning I read through Hebrews 11, and it has me contemplating faith. This assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Assurance and conviction resting firmly on the foundation of who our God is – who He has declared Himself to be in the Bible.

Our God who is faithful, who is strength, justice, and righteousness. Our God who is all-powerful, all-knowing, and ever present, and who is sovereign over all things without question and without equal. Our God of holiness and majesty. Our God of compassion and mercy. Our God of grace, hope, and a steadfast love that does not waver, even for a moment.

He is the mighty God who shows Himself to be a fortress for those who take refuge in Him. He watches over His Word to ensure it accomplishes every purpose He has, and His Word proves true (Jeremiah 1:12; Isaiah 55:11; Psalm 18:30).

This is the God we look to and ground our faith in. The God of our salvation. This is God, and there is no other, and no other name by which we must be saved – only the name of Jesus (Isaiah 45:22; Acts 4:12).

Jesus was the only hope we had to escape the wrath of God for our sinful choices. And in His mercy and great, unfathomable love, He came to die in our place. Showing us the love of the Father for us and the power of God to conquer death and create a salvation that would make us alive again. A life, a joy, a hope, a peace we never knew was possible – not until we knew Him.

Apart from Him, our hearts ache for this faith, this assurance, this hope. Especially when what fills our eyes is sadness, sickness, death, pain, betrayal, disaster, and wickedness. We can lose sight of His goodness when we feel surrounded by all the struggles of this world and this life. We experience this resounding sense in our hearts: ”It shouldn’t be like this.”

And that’s true, it shouldn’t be. This wasn’t God’s original design. All of this is what sin and darkness has done. Massive consequences of our sinful hearts and the workings of dark spiritual forces.

But our God is still faithful. He is still here, actively present and working in our lives. He is still sovereign, still good, and still the unstoppable light that pierces the darkness in our hearts and in the world. Our God who has come to bring us hope. Our God who is able to work all things for good, showing His glory, power, and grace. His Word still proves true, as it always has – and no darkness can stop that. He has already overcome (John 16:33).

So let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). Choosing to fill our eyes with Him and His truth, walking in faith, hope, joy, and obedience. Eagerly anticipating the day when He will make all things new and the world will be filled with His light, the certain future for all who believe in Him for salvation. Because Jesus has conquered all, and He is coming again, Faithful and True (Revelation 19:11).

“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’ And he who was seated on the throne said ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’”
Revelation 21:3-5a

Choosing to Believe – John 14:1

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.”
John 14:1

“Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
1 Peter 1:8-9

This morning I read a statement by Oswald Chambers that I’d like to pause and contemplate:
“We say—’If I really could believe!’ The point is—If I really will believe. No wonder Jesus Christ lays such emphasis on the sin of unbelief. ‘And He did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief.’ If we really believed that God meant what He said—what should we be like! Dare I really let God be to me all that He says He will be?’

Processing these thoughts, they strike me as remarkable. A challenge to us that our belief must not be based on feeling, but on our choice. The question of, “Will I believe?”

Another striking aspect to me is in Chambers’ last line. Because there are some who might try to twist the focus in his statements based on his selection of Matthew 13:58, in which Jesus did not do many miracles in Nazareth due to the unbelief of the people. There is potential there for those who claim that God will always give us what we ask for (money, success, physical healing) if we simply have “enough faith.” But Chambers’ final statement clarifies his focus, and highlights what ours is to be: Will we believe that God will be to us all that He says?

Not “do for us,” but “be to us.”

God is our strength, our light, our hope, our everything. He is faithful and true. He is steadfast and unchanging. He is a refuge and fortress, and very present help to us in troubles we experience. He is the One who satisfies our hearts with who He is.

The world gets us focused on what we want.

But it is the person of Jesus Christ who fills all in all.

It is this connection with the God of heaven that fills us with fullness of joy so great it is inexpressible (Psalm 16:11; 1 Peter 1:8)

Eternal life is knowing God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son whom He sent, and experiencing the love and grace poured into our hearts through His Spirit who has been given to us (John 17:3; Romans 5:5)

When we choose to believe God, we open ourselves to experience the wonderful, powerful reality of who He is to those who are His. A reality that changes us at the core as we are made to be like Him. “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18). As Chambers wonders in the statement above, “If we really believed that God meant what He said—what should we be like!”

“Choose this day whom you will serve” (Joshua 24:15). Choose this day whom you will believe. Choose with purpose and intentionality.

And, oh, let it be the Lord. Choose to believe the One who will fill your soul with His light and His peace that passes all understanding. And choose to position your heart, your mind, your strength, your will – all that you are – to live out that belief in joyful obedience. Because all of His commands are filled with His goodness, light, and wisdom, and He empowers us through His Spirit to follow Him. And the closer we walk with Him, the more we get of Him.

May I make that choice. The choice to believe. The choice to dwell here, in His presence, not passing casually over statements and reminders of His greatness, His wisdom, His power, His faithfulness, His love. But fixing my eyes resolutely on Him and positioning my heart toward love, obedience, and belief in this God who sent His Son to die in my place, that I would be set free in knowing Him.

Choose to believe, and walk forward in His freedom and light. Knowing it is the God of heaven who walks with you.

“For Your steadfast love is before my eyes,
and I walk in Your faithfulness.” Psalm 26:3

Worth It All – Joshua 1:9

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous.
Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed,
for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”

Joshua 1:9

This morning I saw yet another disheartening headline. Another indication of a world increasing in wickedness and celebration of sin, a world increasingly hostile to our God.

As I considered the sense of discouragement I felt, God’s words in Joshua 1:9 came to mind: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”

Words spoken to Joshua as he took Moses’ place. A piece of God’s encouragement specifically for him, preparing him to go forward to take the Promised Land; commanding him to hold fast to the Lord’s commandments and trust His Word; and assuring him that the Lord would be with him just as He was with Moses.

They are words to Joshua, specific to the task set before him. And I believe they show us principles and truths of who God is to those who are His as we walk forward in what He commands.

Considering this, my mind shifts to Jesus’ words in Matthew 28:18-20, “And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

I see beautiful parallels in the framework of the Lord’s words in Joshua 1:9 and Matthew 28:18-20. Assurances of His authority, compelling us to obedience while also calming our fears, seeking to build our strength through faith in Him. Assurance also of His presence at all times as we walk this path.

Regardless of what we face from the world around us, this is our mission.

Joshua’s was to lead God’s people in conquering and taking up residence in the Promised Land, meditating on and obeying His Law.

Ours is to share the gospel and disciple those who believe to love God and follow Him in obedience to His Word.

Jesus knew it would be hard and discouraging at times. We see His heartbreak at times in the gospels, seeing the lostness around Him. He knew that those who follow Him would be hated and have trouble. Knowing this, He promised us His presence always, and reminded us without question that He is the One who holds all authority here – no one else.

“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.” Hebrews 1:1-4

This is our Savior, and the Savior of all who will believe in Him. Our God who is mighty to save, for whom no one is out of reach. Our God who is currently holding off the world’s judgment with great patience and mercy, so that more will know Him and be saved from the wrath that is due each of us for our sin.

He sees us. He hears us. He is with us. He has spoken to us through His Son with such personal care, and ensured the preservation of His Words for us in Scripture, that we would know Him and His truth that sets us free from sin.

“For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” Romans 15:4

Whatever we see in the news, however the world and our community around us seem to be spiralling toward unrighteousness and destruction, may we settle our hearts by focusing on what God has given us for hope, for comfort, for encouragement, for life.

Read His Word. Study it. Know what it says. Obey it wholeheartedly. Because it is truth and it focuses us on who God is – and He is life, hope, peace, and strength. He is the light of the world, and in Him we are established as light in the darkness around us. Light that will draw others to Him, even as it draws opposition from those who reject our Lord.

Jesus believed the opposition of some was worth the salvation of others.

Oh, may our hearts become like His, that we would believe this as well. Enduring all “for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory” (2 Timothy 2:10). Because their salvation is worth it.

In it all, whatever we face, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope” (Romans 15:13).

With hope, with joy, with peace, with faith, run to win the prize. Run to snatch others from the fire. Run, as the saints who have gone before us line the way with shouts of encouragement that the joy set before us in Christ is worth it all.

Written on Your Heart – Proverbs 3:3-4

“Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you;
bind them around your neck;
write them on the tablet of your heart.
So you will find favor and good success
in the sight of God and man.”

Proverbs 3:3-4

This is a call from a father to his son to not only keep to the father’s teaching and commands but also for the son to bind steadfast love and faithfulness around his neck and write them on his very heart.

This goes beyond the surface.

It isn’t just obedience. It is devotion. Pure, whole-hearted devotion from the core of his being. This entailed an intentional commitment by the son. His heart wouldn’t necessarily naturally incline to the teaching; he needed to write faithfulness and steadfast love onto it.

This picture of the heart as a tablet highlights how impressionable it is. It implies that the heart itself is impacted by what is written on it. It cannot lead – it follows, and it does so strongly. So we must lead it with truth.

The verses in Proverbs remind me of another, Jeremiah 31:33: “But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”

That is the Lord’s declaration, spoken through the prophet Jeremiah. Contrasting the covenant initiated with Moses, “my covenant that they broke” (v. 32), with the new covenant the Lord would establish through Christ.

“And [Jesus] took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.’” Matthew 26:27-28

In the new covenant, when we enter into grace through faith in Christ, we are forgiven, freed, cleansed, and our brokenness healed, because we are made whole in Christ. And the Lord has declared that He will put His law within us and write it on our hearts.

Our hearts engraved with His Word and His commands, enabled to walk in light and life as our hearts are led with truth.

It is devotion, love for Him at our core, which pours out as obedience because that is what He has written in power and grace. And that is what we continually strive to experience as we study His Word, walking in His power to resist the temptations of a world that tries to etch falsehoods in place of His truth.

So to our deepest places, He is our God and we are His people.

Does this not reveal a beautiful aspect of God’s heart?

He is involved here. Very personally.

To put His law within you, a law of liberty and love to guide you to abundant life and keep you free from sin’s entrapment.

To write it on your heart.

This is not surface-level obedience.

It is relationship, a relationship that brings whole-life change at the core.

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:1-5

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” 1 Peter 2:9-10

“Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” Hebrews 13:20-21

All My Heart – Proverbs 3:5

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.”

Proverbs 3:5

Reading this familiar verse this morning, I began to contemplate what it is to trust in the Lord with all my heart. We generally hear and use the phrase, “with all my heart,” in contexts where it’s all-encompassing. No reservations. No hindrances. All-in.

This is a leaning-in with every piece of my heart, every part of my being, to trust the Lord.

To trust the God who is living and active; the God who reigns over all; the God who made me with all of my details and who watches over me with care because I am His through Christ.

To trust the God who has very specific and intentional commands regarding how I am to live, including where my focus should be, what my aim and motivations should be, how I am to treat people, and the lifestyle and moral character my life is to demonstrate – character grounded solidly in the morals He established in His Word as Ruler and Creator of all and as the One who reigns in light.

To trust in Him with all my heart regardless of what I perceive or understand because He is the One who knows and sees everything.

He knows better.

I do not.

But I know Him and He is trustworthy. Far more trustworthy than my own perceptions or how I feel about something. Far more trustworthy than what makes sense to me.

He is wise. He is good. He is light and in Him is no darkness at all. He is comfort and peace. He is strength and joy and hope.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Romans 15:13

When I trust in the Lord with all my heart, this is what it does. This is what it looks like. Unshaken. Hope abounding. Joyful, peace-filled, believing in Him.

As I share the gospel, speaking Christ to those He brings on my path. As I work. As unexpected things happen, whether painful, discouraging, scary, or expensive. As I go throughout my days in my marriage, with my family, with my friends and fellow believers. Whatever my path holds, hope abounding in my ever-present God as I look to and trust fully in Him.

A God who shows His power by giving us hope. We don’t have to muster it ourselves. The joy and peace, even the belief itself, starts with Him and flows into us. As we abide. As we rest. As we dwell with Him and abide in His Word which holds all truth because it reveals Him to us.

We set our eyes. We choose to press in. We lean our hearts and minds toward Him and toward trusting Him fully, and we rejoice knowing that He meets us there and that He has been empowering us for it the whole time.

“Now may the Lord of peace himself
give you peace at all times in every way.
The Lord be with you all.”

2 Thessalonians 3:16

Prayer that Changes Us – 1 Timothy 2:1-6

“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.”
1 Timothy 2:1-6

These verses highlight prayer as essentially connected both to the salvation of others and to how we live. My pastor focused yesterday on its vital role in our sharing of the gospel; this morning, I am drawn also to prayer as a vital element in our leading “a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”

The study notes in my Bible connect the two pieces, stating, “This sort of living commends the gospel.”

Our sharing of the gospel, then, is inseparably impacted by the manner in which we live. Because with our whole lives, including those moments when we are alone, we are witnesses to the truth of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and salvation of us, and witnesses to His power to change us at our very core. We speak and we live the truth, and this shows those around us that what we declare is real and life-changing.

Prayer is crucial to this – to all of it. As we intentionally and consistently lean our hearts toward the gospel in prayer, God’s heart and His truth strengthen within us. And perhaps we will begin to live with the focus of Paul: “For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them…I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings” (1 Corinthians 9:19, 22-23); “Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory” (2 Timothy 2:10).

Prayer like this changes us. It changes our focus. It rights our perspective and priorities, and helps protect us from being carried through our days without intention or purposeful thought.

Prayer that is focused on the gospel and grounded in the Word of God, as we abide in His words and truth, fixes our eyes on Jesus. And in beholding Him, we become like Him (2 Corinthians 3:18). The more we become like Jesus, the more our prayers are characterized by His heart and His personhood – and we experience what it truly means to pray in His name and His will, rather than in our own faulty perspective and desires.

As my pastor stated in yesterday’s sermon, it is through purposeful, devoted, unhindered, united prayer that we can experience the power of God: His power around us, mighty to save, changing hearts and bringing those lost in darkness to salvation; and His power within us, giving us His heart and leading us on the paths of righteousness and truth for His name’s sake.

That we may lead peaceful and quiet lives, godly and dignified in every way.

Pouring ourselves out and enduring all for the sake of the elect.

Beholding the power of the cross to save all those whom God draws to Himself, all who take hold of His promise in faith and are changed to join with us as witnesses to His truth, hope, light, and everlasting love.

Forgiven in Righteousness – Psalm 51:14

“Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,
O God of my salvation,
and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.”

Psalm 51:14

There is a contrast in this verse that is stirring my heart this morning. David, the writer of this psalm, links deliverance from bloodguiltiness – and he is guilty of someone’s death – with God’s righteousness.

But on the surface, that isn’t righteousness, is it? For a holy, just God to deliver a guilty person from guilt? We would not view a judge as acting justly who allows a guilty person to walk free, perhaps especially one who intentionally got someone killed.

This is a major contradiction that must be dealt with. For God to forgive this sin (or any sin) and remain righteous and just, something must happen.

And so, Jesus enters the scene.
“But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forth as a propitiation [(one who satisfies God’s wrath and turns it to favor for us)] by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:21-26).

Jesus came to take on the wrath of God, which we were rightfully due as the just payment for our sin and rebellion against His ways, to satisfy it and turn it to favor for us. So God could forgive us, could show us mercy and love and pour out His grace upon us, while upholding His throne in justice and righteousness.

In 1 John 1:9, we read, “If we confess our sins, [God] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” God’s wrath was so thoroughly satisfied through the death of His Son that His justice now is demonstrated not in punishment, but in His forgiveness of those who put their faith in Jesus to save them. Jesus’ blood has already paid that price for those who believe, and He paid it completely. So, through Christ, God’s throne becomes one of grace that we can approach with confidence, confessing our sins and finding forgiveness, cleansing from all unrighteousness, and grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16).

What great love is shown here, in this sacrifice that saves us.

Because our sin is very personal to God. It is direct rebellion against His authority, His worth, His holiness, His wisdom, His magnificent glory. This isn’t a situation where we hurt a third party and God chose to deliver us from that consequence. No, we hurt Him. We essentially looked Him in the face and said, no, I’m going to do this differently because I prefer to go a different way. Disregarding His commands that show us how to live in light, holiness, and peace with Him. Wanting to decide for ourselves and be our own ruler, casting aside the sovereign King and dismissing His majesty.

And yet. And yet He loves us. He desires to save us. He longs for us to know Him, not because He needs us but simply because of His great love. He knows the devastating consequences, the death that comes from sin, and He aches to rescue us from not just the consequences but from sin itself – so He sent His Son to die, that all who believe in Him would live.

And because of this wonderful reality, this unshakable and unchanging truth, we know that if we come to Him, as David did in Psalm 51, placing our faith in Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection, we will be forgiven. We will be cleansed. We will be made new.

“Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin!

For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
and blameless in your judgment.
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
and in sin did my mother conceive me.
Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.

Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will return to you.
Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,
O God of my salvation,
and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.
O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”

Psalm 51:1-17

In Power and Peace – Matthew 26:36-46

“Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, ‘Sit here, while I go over and pray.’ And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, ‘My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.’ And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.’ And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping…Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, ‘My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.’ And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again. Then he came to the disciples and said to them, ‘Sleep and take your rest later on. See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”
Matthew 26:36-46

As my pastor focused on this passage yesterday, one detail he emphasized was the change in Jesus’ demeanor from His wrestling in the garden to His exit toward the cross. It’s something that hasn’t left my thoughts since.

In the accounts of Jesus’ prayers in Gethsemane, we see Him crying out in sorrow and agony, stressed to the point where His sweat becomes drops of blood (Luke 22:44). Asking the Father if it’s possible for this cup of wrath to be removed. Wrestling for surrender to the Father’s will, surrender to this act of sacrifice that would save us.

He prays three times with this intensity, and the response we see in the midst of those prayers is the appearance of an angel, strengthening Him (Luke 22:43). Then Jesus rises and His wrestling appears to be over. As He leaves the garden and in the passages that follow, He demonstrates unmistakable power and peace throughout His arrest and crucifixion.

Jesus prevailed over the temptation to abandon us. He wrestled, but He surrendered to the Father, and we see this decided victory as He gathers His disciples with the words, “Rise, let us be going.” Jesus walks forward toward the cross, no further question in His steps.

Considering this example stirs this question: How often does our surrender reflect this settled peace, this strength in moving forward in obedience to the Father’s path before us? Sometimes it seems that we simply move forward in our wrestling, not fully coming to a point of surrender where the matter is settled. We might justify it, saying we’re only human. We could view it as us just “being real,” sharing our struggle with others in vulnerability. And sharing those things, being vulnerable, is a good thing in certain contexts. But we must take care that it doesn’t become an excuse to settle into that struggling as an ongoing state.

The goal is surrender.

The aim is holiness like Jesus.

We have been given all we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3), and we are to press on to take hold of that, for we are Christ’s (Philippians 3:12).

God hasn’t completed His work in us yet – though He will (Philippians 1:6). We haven’t reached perfection. But we are to pursue it wholeheartedly because we are His, bought with a great price, and we walk in His strength.

We pursue it because we pursue Him, and He is glorious and righteous and holy, and the way He has called us to live is the best, most abundant and joy-filled life we could imagine. Difficult at times, with temptations to wrestle with as Jesus did, but worth it. Settling for less – and a life lived in sin, with characteristics and choices that don’t align with Scripture, is far less – will leave us disappointed, empty, and facing the devastating consequences of our actions.

Hebrews 12:1-2 provides a glimpse of Jesus’ focus on that horrible day, connecting it with our call to endure the race before us: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Jesus endured for joy. He set His gaze on the outcome and surrendered to the will of the Father.

“Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him;
he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.
Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.” Isaiah 53:10-11

As we wrestle with aspects of surrender – whatever struggle you face – where do we train our focus? Do we fixate on how hard it is, or do we lift our eyes to the joy set before us, allowing the truth and strength of God to correct our perspective and set us decidedly on His path of holiness and joy? Perhaps this is a reality – an amazing, God-filled and God-glorifying reality – we often miss out on: that our God is able to strengthen us to the point where we leave the wrestling behind and move forward in His power and peace, as Jesus did toward the cross.

“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 3:7-14

“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”
Colossians 3:1-4

“I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the LORD,
who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD is your keeper;
the LORD is your shade at your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The LORD will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.”

Psalm 121:1-8