with Bob Condly
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March 2017

Absence of Color

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During my mission trip to Kenya (which I just completed), I teamed up with some local pastors and visited an orphanage. One of my teammates, Pastor Russ Madill, preached to the assembled leaders and children a great message from John 9 about Jesus healing a man blind from birth. The kids giggled as Pastor Russ reenacted Christ spitting into the ground, making mud, and pasting it on the eyes of the blind man.

His dramatic presentation grabbed their attention and reinforced, with humor, how God’s ways are powerful but hard to predict.

As we were driving back to the hotel, I thought, “kids love comedy. They also like magic. Wouldn’t it be great to show them that set?”

I was referring to a chemistry set I’d heard about years ago that people used to share the gospel. (I think this is an example but I’m not sure. It’s been a long time!)

You start out with a black liquid in a clear glass. That color represents sin. No matter what you do, you can’t brighten it. The fluid stays dark which illustrates how our hearts are evil and need a Savior.

But then you take some red liquid and pour it into the glass. You’d assume that the red color would get absorbed by the black and disappear, but it doesn’t. In fact, the red liquid removes the black; the whole solution becomes as clear as water.

How that happens, I can’t say; I don’t know the chemistry. But the reaction demonstrates that the blood of Jesus, represented by the red chemical, removes our sins.

“Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins.” – Hebrews 9:22

“The blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” – 1 John 1:8

The blood of Christ can clean up the darkest heart and make it like God intended–clear and pure.

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” – Psalm 51:10

If you’ve given your life to Jesus, no one can see your sin any longer. The black sin in your heart has been purged by Christ’s sacrifice.

But no one can see the blood of Jesus either. As the chemistry set exhibits, both the black and the red liquids become clear.

How will people know that Christ has cleansed your heart?

You have to tell them.

“And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.” – Revelation 12:11 (NKJV)

Spiritual realities aren’t visible. No one can gaze into your soul and see either the stains of sin or the blood of the Lamb. You need to explain how Jesus changed your life. Don’t keep the good news to yourself; share it with others so they, too, can enjoy inner cleansing and purity.

 

Earning Grace

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Sometimes you can’t leave a passage of Scripture. God has more to teach you so He brings you back to it.

I thought I’d finished my blog series on the parable of the prodigal son (here are the first, second, third, and fourth posts), but the Lord had other plans!

I had the privilege of preaching this past Sunday at Shalom Ministries (thanks for the invitation, Pastor Tony Vento!) and because that parable was on my mind so much, I turned the blog material into a sermon. I hope it worked!

After the church service ended, Dan Jelinek, the associate pastor, posed a question to me: “Why do you think the father never gave the older son a party?” Good question!

I’d mentioned in the message how the lack of any party formed the basis of the son’s complaint against his dad. From the son’s perspective, his father was neglectful, biased, mean, or stingy. But I didn’t deal with the father’s point of view.

Pastor Dan answered his own question. He said that the father didn’t want the son to feel that he’d earned a party, that his dad owed him a celebration.

I agree with Pastor Dan; that was the mentality of the older son. Consider his assertion in Luke 15:29: “All these years I’ve been slaving for you.” Who made the boy a slave? He wasn’t a servant; he was a son, but he acted as though he was an employee or worse.

No doubt the father picked up on his son’s attitude. He noticed his dedication to work but worried that the son was mistaking the purpose of work. It wasn’t meant to earn favor with the father. Work is a way of caring for someone you love. Relationship comes first; then labor.

Sad to say but both sons had this worker mentality. When the prodigal ran out of money, he got a job (vss. 14-15). Slopping pigs wasn’t his idea of a good time, but he had to do something (vs. 16). When it dawned on him that his dad’s employees were faring so much better than he was, he reasoned that he could work for his father (vss. 17-19).

The prodigal son rehearsed his speech and repeated it when he met his dad (vs. 21). Well, not exactly. He didn’t meet his father; his dad ran to greet him (vs. 20). And the son didn’t get to finish his speech (vs. 21). His father interrupted him before he could ask for a job (vss. 22-24).

Both sons had a worker relationship with their father. But the father’s treatment of each revealed his heart of grace. He threw a party for one who never expected it and did not ask for it. And he reminded the other one that he could have celebrated whenever he wanted to (vs. 31). It all depends on grace, the generous heart of the father.

What is your mindset like? How do you view God? Do you feel like you have to earn His approval, that your relationship with the Lord hinges on your good efforts? Or do you enjoy His grace? As Dallas Willard wrote, “Grace is not opposed to effort, it is opposed to earning.”

You can’t earn grace; and you don’t have to.

Jesus’ parable presses the issue–learn who the Father is! And enjoy His presence.

with Bob Condly

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