Jesus came to save sinners — that’s you and me.

“The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” (1 Tim 1:15)

Jesus did not come as a good example or to blaze a trail to the afterlife that we can now follow. No, Jesus came to save. He came to save because we are sinners who need saving. We don’t need good examples. We don’t need trails to follow. We need to be freed from our rebellion, freed from the grip of sin, freed from the blinding thoughts and desires that cause us to run from God instead of to Him.

It is fruitless for Jesus to blaze a trail to the afterlife because we don’t want to follow the trail. We run from the trail seeking to blaze our own. Sin causes us to believe we are capable of pleasing and reaching God in and of ourselves. We believe we somehow have the inside track and everyone else doesn’t. Sin causes us to think much better of ourselves

Instead of believing we are worth saving, we must see ourselves through God’s eyes — we are wretched sinners who don’t deserve salvation. Notice Paul ends the verse by admitting he is the chief of sinners. We must admit the same as well. When we are willing to admit we are the chief of sinners we can rest knowing Jesus is at work in our lives. We should praise Him for His work in saving us from an eternal life outside of the presence of God. As well as freeing us from the effects of sin on our life now.

Jesus came to save sinners — that’s you and me.

Don’t let anger give the devil opportunity

“Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.” (Eph 4:26-27)

How do we live differently from the world?

One way we live differently is by putting away our anger. Not allowing it to stew overnight. It is important we don’t allow anger to stew because it will develop further. Anger, though sinful in itself, left unchecked will turn into further sinful action. Corrupting talk, wrath, clamor, slander, malice. All these actions against another can stem from anger and will kill unity in community.

When we allow anger to stew, we give opportunity to the devil. He uses our anger with others to create division and disunity. It’s that division and disunity that destroys the church’s witness, it hinders its mission. Don’t allow the devil the victory. Deal with anger in seed form so that it will not take root.

Christian, whose slave are you?

“But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.” (Rom 6:17-18)

If you are a Christian today, you were saved from slavery. Yes, you were saved from slavery. Before Christ you lived in bondage to sin. It held you captive. You were unable to escape its chains. You were led here and there, committing further acts of lawlessness because sin reigned in your life.

Christ has set you free! His sacrifice on our behalf and our belief in Him as Savior broke the chains of sin. Jesus released us from bondage so that we might live upright lives. Lives free from the grip of sin.

Since we have been set free from sin, we should not allow it to dominate us. We should not allow it mastery over us. Instead, we should live as free men and women from the grip of sin.

Though we have been freed from sin, that doesn’t mean we are free. We are either a slave of sin and Satan or a slave of God. There is not neutral middle ground. Having been saved and freed from slavery to sin by Jesus, we should live as if He is our Master. We should live our freed lives as slaves of righteousness.

Slaves of righteousness is that for which we have been created. We were created by God to live according to His will and way. Those who live upright lives, who seek God’s wisdom found in His Word, live with God’s blessing. To experience God’s blessing results in a life of joy despite the external circumstances we experience.

Christian, are you living in your past chains or are you living as a slave of righteousness?

Rest, your sins are really forgiven

as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.

Ps 103:12

Our God is a God who forgives. He does not hold our sins against us. If you are in Christ, you do not need to pay for your past sins, your current sin, or your future sins. God has forgiven you, not on the basis of your works. You are clearly sinful and need forgiveness. Rather, He has forgiven you based on Jesus’ work.

God’s forgiveness is not universal. It is, as the Psalmist goes on to say in the next verse:

as a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.

Ps 103:13

In order to receive forgiveness, we must fear the Lord. Fear does not solely refer to fear of judgment, though God is our Judge. Fears primary use in this context is that of reverence for the Lord. To revere the Lord, we must recognize Him for who He is — our Creator, Sustainer, Provider, Judge, Lord, all wise, loving, caring Father who shows steadfast love, but does not pardon the guilty.

Those who revere God desire to honor and glorify Him with their life by living according to His wisdom and purposes. They turn from self to God, understanding salvation is found in Him alone. Only Jesus could die in our place as our substitutionary sacrifice. Only Jesus could atone for our sins, repairing our relationship with the Father. Only Jesus could allow the Father to remain holy while He forgives our sins, not holding them against us, separating them from us as far as the East is from the West.

Do you fear the Lord? Or are you attempting to pay for your sins with your own works?

In What Ways Might We Be Self-Deceived?

I’ve always been interested in documentaries. My family, however, doesn’t share the same love for them as I do, so I typically have to wait until they make a trip to see my wife’s parents to watch one.

While I don’t get to watch them as much now, growing up I watched documentaries all the time. Over the years, I’ve seen a number of them on Area 51 in Roswell, New Mexico. It’s interesting to consider the top secret work that’s being done there, even if it seems a bit far-fetched to think our military is hiding and testing alien spacecraft on and around that base.

But what’s far-fetched to one, isn’t to another. If you have ever watched those documentaries, you know there are always a few folks the producers are able to find who truly believe aliens exist, and they and their spacecraft are being tested in Area 51. Listening to these folks talk, we would, or at least I would say they are self-deceived. They clearly believe something that’s false to be true.

While it might be easy to say alien conspiracy theorists are self-deceived, they aren’t the only ones who we might consider to be self-deceived. Saul, the first king of the nation of Israel, was self-deceived. No, he didn’t believe in aliens, but he did believe some things about himself that weren’t true. If we are honest, we like Saul can believe things about ourselves that aren’t true either. Maybe the same things Saul believed about himself. With that in mind, let’s look at the ways in which Saul was self-deceived.

In What Ways was Saul Self-Deceived?

1 Samuel 15 presents one episode in Saul’s life that sheds some light on the subject of self-deception. In the beginning of chapter 15, Samuel, who is a prophet, comes to Saul and says,

“…“The Lord sent me to anoint you king over his people Israel; now therefore listen to the words of the Lord. Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘I have noted what Amalek did to Israel in opposing them on the way when they came up out of Egypt. Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’ ”” (1 Sa 15:1–3)

Saul failed to follow the Lord’s command

Saul was initially obedient. He did gather 210,000 men for battle. He did besiege and ultimately chase the Amalekites all the way to Shur, in an effort to destroy them (vs 7). While he did those things, he didn’t complete the Lord’s task. Look at the text starting in verse 8,

“And he took Agag the king of the Amalekites alive and devoted to destruction all the people with the edge of the sword. But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep and of the oxen and of the fattened calves and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them. All that was despised and worthless they devoted to destruction.” (1 Sa 15:8–9)

So while Saul was initially obedient, he failed to completely obey God. He spared the life of King Agag, the best sheep, oxen, and calves.

Saul’s actions didn’t please God.

In fact, God was so displeased with Saul that starting in verse 11 He says to Samuel,

 ““I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following me and has not performed my commandments.” (1 Sa 15:11a)

Having regretted His actions, God sends Samuel to tell Saul what He was thinking. This is where we start to get into the ways in which Saul was self-deceived.

The ways in which Saul is self-deceived

(1) He believes he is more obedient than he really is

In verse 12 we learn that:

“…Samuel rose early to meet Saul in the morning. And it was told Samuel, “Saul came to Carmel, and behold, he set up a monument for himself and turned and passed on and went down to Gilgal.” And Samuel came to Saul, and Saul said to him, “Blessed be you to the Lord. I have performed the commandment of the Lord.”” (1 Sa 15:12–13)

In their initial exchange, we learn that Saul thinks he has been obedient. He really believes himself because he proudly proclaims to Samuel that he’s done what God asked. But Samuel knows Saul hasn’t obeyed. He lets Saul know he knows with a well-placed question. Look at verse 14,

“What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears and the lowing of the oxen that I hear?”” (1 Sa 15:14)

I mean talk about busting someone’s bubble. Saul, experiencing that starts to try to recover. In verse 15, “Saul said,…

“They have brought them from the Amalekites, for the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen to sacrifice to the Lord your God, and the rest we have devoted to destruction.”” (1 Sa 15:15)

The way in which Saul tries to recover is to shift the blame to the people he is supposed to be leading. But Samuel didn’t want to hear it. In verse 16 he says,

“Stop! [basically, I don’t want to hear your excuses, Saul. Then he proceeds to tell him what the Lord had said to him the night before] … And Samuel said, “Though you are little in your own eyes, are you not the head of the tribes of Israel? The Lord anointed you king over Israel. And the Lord sent you on a mission and said, ‘Go, devote to destruction the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are consumed.’ Why then did you not obey the voice of the Lord? Why did you pounce on the spoil and do what was evil in the sight of the Lord?”” (1 Sa 15:16–19)


“…Saul said to Samuel, “I have obeyed the voice of the Lord. I have gone on the mission on which the Lord sent me. I have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and I have devoted the Amalekites to destruction. But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the best of the things devoted to destruction, to sacrifice to the Lord your God in Gilgal.”” (1 Sa 15:20-21)

You see, Saul doesn’t get it. Even though he has clearly disobeyed God, he still thinks he has done what he was supposed to do, which tells us that Saul is self-deceived. He believes he has fulfilled the Lord’s commands when clearly he hasn’t.

While this was Saul’s error, it’s not uncommon today for us to be self-deceived when it comes to our own obedience. As one commentator notes:

“Christians will often declare themselves obedient to God in any number of matters — in the doctrine they espouse, their approach to financial stewardship, sexual purity, marital faithfulness, church membership, worship, evangelism, Sabbath observance, and more — when in fact their conduct does not line up with the Bible’s teaching.” [1]

Just like Saul didn’t listen to and obey God’s Word, we have a tendency to do the same. We hear what we want to hear. What is convenient for us at the time. But when we do that we are making and living by our own rules, not God’s.

Along with that, when we refuse to follow the Lord’s will, we aren’t pleasing Him. The only thing that truly pleases God is when we live obedient lives. Lives modeled after His Word. Then and only then are we truly worshiping God. Samuel points that out in verse 22 when he says,

““Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.” (1 Sa 15:22)

Worshipping God, then, isn’t just about us gathering together on Sunday, singing songs, and listening to a sermon. Worshipping God involves us obediently following His commands. That’s what God takes delight in. Not us going through the motions of gathering each week or halfway obeying His commands. Samuel makes that even more clear in verse 23 when he says,

“Rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry.” (1 Sa 15:23a)

You see, living in outright rebellion or slightly rebelling against God is the same thing. Halfway obeying God’s commands like Saul did makes it no better than someone who practices divination or idolatry. In each case, we are disobeying God. As those who are disobedient, we don’t deserve His praise instead we deserve His punishment. So when we make up our own set of rules and follow them, or twist God’s commands to suit our own way of life, God is not pleased. If we think He is, we are self-deceived.

You see, God wants our hearts, our desire, our entire life to be in line with His will. That’s what truly pleases Him and that’s when we truly worship Him.

(2) He believed he’s a better leader than he really is

We read this earlier, but remember when Samuel confronted him. What did Saul do? He immediately shifted the blame to the people he was supposed to be leading. But that’s not the sign of a good leader. Good leaders take responsibility for their failures. They don’t blame shift. But because Saul was self-deceived about his obedience, he wasn’t able to take responsibility for his failure to lead.

I think that is the same with us. If we aren’t willing to admit our failures, our disobedience, we aren’t going to be good leaders either. We are always going to think it’s someone else’s fault instead of our own. So unless we can get to the place where we are willing to admit our own mistakes, our own sin, we aren’t going to be good leaders. We might think we are, but we aren’t.

Consequences of a self-deceived life

As a result of Saul’s failed obedience and leadership, God not only regretted making him king, but God took his position from him. So we see that there are consequences to living a self-deceived life. Often times, those consequences affect more than just us, they affect those around us as well. The nation Saul was supposed to be leading, ended up suffering from years of Saul trying to hold onto the position God had taken from him. As well as Saul suffered himself. So living a self-deceived life doesn’t pay. It’s much better to admit your sin and failures and deal with it.

We aren’t perfect

You see, we aren’t perfect people. Instead, we are imperfect, unholy sinners who have been made holy by Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf. That doesn’t mean we should strive to be perfect like Jesus, it just means that we aren’t. So there is no shame in admitting your imperfections, repenting of them, and asking God to help you follow His will.

Don’t repeat Saul’s mistakes. Instead, learn from them and do the opposite. Admit your sin, your inability to lead, and turn to God who can and will strengthen you for the task He has given you.

Question for Reflection

  1. Do you believe yourself to be more obedient than you really are? Or do you recognize that you aren’t perfect, that you do sin against God and others, and that you do need to repent and rely on the Holy Spirit to empower you to follow God?
  2. Do you believe yourself to be a better leader than you really are? Do you always blame others for failed ventures rather than yourself? Or do you recognize that you probably fail from time to time and it’s your fault that you failed?



[1]  Richard Phillips, 1 Samuel, 237.

The Man of Steel or the Son of Man? Who’ll fix this broken world?

I don’t know about you but I have a problem finishing books. Not so much novels, but my Christian Living and Theology books. I have a hard time reading those cover to cover. Typically, I’ll start reading a book, get really excited about it, and then after a 100 or so pages that excitement begins to wane, my focus turns somewhere else, and that book ends up next to my chair in the “currently reading” pile. My “currently reading” pile isn’t really a currently reading pile because it’s currently about 10 books high. And some of those books have been in the pile, I kid you not, for over a year. Now, eventually, a question will arise and I’ll get back to that book. I might finish it, but that’s not always the case.

My other pastor friends and ministry leaders I follow assure me that’s not a problem. They argue that books are tools and not all books are meant to be read cover to cover. You use them for what you need at the time, then pick them up later when they’re needed for another task, just like any other tool in your toolbox out in the shed. I like that analogy. I not only think it’s a helpful way to think of books in that genre, but it makes me feel better because that pile by my chair isn’t getting any smaller.

While it can be hard for me to finish those books, one book and story that will eventually come to an end whether we get back to it or not is the biblical story. There is no stopping time. It keeps marching forward, which means God’s story will eventually come to an end. Thankfully, we have the Bible, which gives us a sneak peek, a spoiler, if you will, of how God’s restoration project will end.

How does God’s story end?

Revelation 21 and 22 are the last two chapters of the Bible. Combined they tell us how God’s story will end.

God’s people live in a perfect world

Looking at those two chapters, one of the first things you see is that God’s story ends with God’s people living in a perfect world (1-3; 5). Unless you live under a rock, you know the world in which currently live isn’t perfect. All you have to do is turn on the news or open the newspaper to figure that out. Recently, I visited the Wise County Messenger’s website, which is my local paper. Apart from documenting the rainfall and some of the basketball games the night before, two of the headline stories that ran for the day read: “Sex offender given life sentence.” “Driver crashes into tree.” Even in small town Decatur, the news tells us that we don’t live in a perfect world.

We desire a perfect world

That, however, doesn’t mean we don’t want to live in a perfect world. If we are honest with ourselves, we all long to live in a perfect world. This longing begins when we are children.

My two sons, Camden and Bryson, are now four and two. For their last birthday, we had a party for them. It was a joint party since they were born in the same month just four days apart. The theme of the party was superheroes. Camden is the one who chose that theme since he’s the one who can articulate what he wants.

While it’s mostly out of fun that he chose a superhero themed birthday party, I believe there is also an underlying truth to explore here. Camden is four. He knows there are bad people in the world. He has learned that from our family Bible reading as well as the cartoons he watches. You know as well as I do as soon as we find out that there are bad people in the world, we long for something to be done to set things right. That’s why kids, and even adults, are drawn to superheroes. We are looking for a fix.

Hopefully, you know by now that fix isn’t going to come through the Man of Steel. No matter how strong Super Man is, he can’t fix this broken world. He can’t provide the Utopia for which we all long.

God can and will fix this broken world

But God can and will. Through the life, death, resurrection, and return of Jesus, the Father is working to set things right. When Jesus returns, He will defeat Satan and judge the world (Rev. 20:11-15). Once that’s taken place we are told in Revelation 21 that a New Heavens and New Earth will appear.Look at the text starting in verse 1,

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 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.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”” (Re 21:1–5)

So that longing that begins in us as a kid to live in a perfect world is realized in Jesus. He is the One who makes all things new. He is the One who will make this broken world perfect.

Question for Reflection

  1. Are you relying on someone or something other than Jesus to fix this broken world? If so, why?


Post developed from my sermon The End of God’s Restoration Project