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“When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:4-5 NLT).
No matter what you’re going through, you can live with hope. That’s the consistent, overriding message of the Bible.
In yesterday’s devotional, I shared with you the first reason we can live with hope: God chose us before we chose him.
The second reason is this: God always treats us with grace and mercy.
Peter writes to those who are already believers, “All honor to God, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; for it is his boundless mercy that has given us the privilege of being born again” (1 Peter 1:3a TLB).
The more we understand grace, the more we’ll be amazed by it. It’s completely undeserved. It’s totally unmerited. It is not something that you could earn or work for. It’s just a free gift of God’s mercy.
You can’t make God love you any more than he loves you right now. You can’t make him love you any less. His love is based on his mercy for you.
God’s Word tells us, “When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:4-5 NLT).
This is very important to understand. When you blow it as a believer, God doesn’t get mad at you. God doesn’t want to get even with you. God doesn’t start planning to mess up your life. God always acts in mercy toward you. Why? Because you’re covered in the blood of Jesus Christ when you’ve accepted him as Savior. That’s why God responds in mercy every time you mess up.
Therefore if any person is [ingrafted] in Christ (the Messiah) he is a new creation (a new creature altogether); the old [previous moral and spiritual condition] has passed away. Behold, the fresh and new has come!
— 2 Corinthians 5:17
Wrong choices cause regret, and when we experience regret we need to deal with it and let it teach us how to make better choices in the future.
I understand firsthand that wrong choices lead to regret. I remember a time several years ago when I looked at myself and saw a noticeable difference between my husband, Dave, and me, because he has exercised all his life and is healthy, strong and in good physical shape.
Initially, I merely regretted that I wasn’t as strong as Dave, but then I realized I could do something about it. I now exercise regularly and have been amazed by the positive difference it has made.
The Bible says that with God, you are a new creation. You don’t have to live in your old ways, but you can now make new, better choices empowered by the Holy Spirit. If you find yourself regretting some of the unwise choices you have made in the past, don’t be deceived into thinking it is too late to do anything about it. Just start doing what’s right and then stick with it.
As you start making better choices, you will come to experience a life of enjoying God’s blessings every day.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God. Ephesians 2:8
London’s Café Rendezvous has nice lighting, comfortable couches, and the smell of coffee in the air. What it doesn’t have are prices. Originally started as a business by a local church, the café was transformed a year after it started. The managers felt that God was calling them to do something radical—make everything on the menu free. Today you can order a coffee, cake, or sandwich without cost. There isn’t even a donation jar. It’s all a gift.
I asked the manager why they were so generous. “We’re just trying to treat people the way God treats us,” he said. “God gives to us whether we thank him or not. He’s generous to us beyond our imaginations.”
Jesus died to rescue us from our sins and reconcile us with God. He rose from the grave and is alive now. Because of this, every wrong thing we’ve done can be forgiven, and we can have new life today (Eph. 2:1–5). And one of the most amazing things about this is that it is all free. We can’t buy the new life Jesus offers. We can’t even donate toward the cost (vv. 8–9). It’s all a gift.
As the folks at Café Rendezvous serve their cakes and coffees, they give people a glimpse of God’s generosity. You and I are offered eternal life for free because Jesus has paid the bill.
Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life. Revelation 22:17
What does the phrase “dead in your sins” mean? (Eph. 2:1). Dead means lifeless, powerless, inanimate. It means we were incapable of doing anything to change our situation. Sin refers to our rebellion against God. Humanity instinctively rejects God, and this rebellion is expressed through words, deeds, and attitudes.
The spiritually dead have no relationship with God. To be spiritually dead means we are completely cut off from Him and unable to reach out to Him. We cannot fix the things we’ve done that offended Him. We can’t apologize to God for rebelling against Him, for pretending He doesn’t exist, and for living as though we are God.
Any solution to our deadness must come from somewhere other than us. Through Jesus God took action to bring our spiritually dead hearts to life and restore us to a right relationship with Him. What amazing grace!
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
Christmas is a very important time of year. It's a time of year when the whole world is hearing the message of the birth of Jesus. It's a time when people are tenderhearted...the perfect time to plant seeds of love in the lives of those you meet.
Sometimes those seeds may just take the form of a kind word in the middle of rush-hour shopping. Other times, you may get the opportunity to pray and minister to someone. But whatever the situation, keep a sharp eye out for even the smallest chance to assist people.
I've had some outstanding experiences giving a few dollars to someone in need. As they are taking the money, I tell them, "This money is from the Lord Jesus Christ. I serve Him. He is the One who instructed me to help you."
It's amazing how many people are ready to hear what you have to say when you say it in love. They're starved for someone to really care. Be that someone this Christmas season. Spread the Word about the peace that's available in Jesus. Tell about His goodwill toward men.
Who knows how many of those small seeds may one day take root and bring one more precious person into the glorious kingdom of God?
The Lord upholds all who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down. Psalm 145:14
A guest band was leading praise and worship at our church, and their passion for the Lord was moving. We could see—and feel—their enthusiasm.
Then the musicians revealed that they were all ex-prisoners. Suddenly their songs took on special meaning, and I saw why their words of praise meant so much to them. Their worship was a testimony of lives broken and restored.
The world may embrace success. But stories of past failure offer people hope too. They assure us that God loves us no matter how many times we have failed. Pastor Gary Inrig says that what we call the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11 could well be entitled God’s Hall of Reclaimed Failures. “There is scarcely an individual in that chapter without a serious blemish in his or her life,” he observes. “But God is in the business of restoring failures . . . . That is a great principle of God’s grace.”
I love the comfort of Psalm 145, which speaks of God’s “wonderful works” (vv. 5–6) and glorious kingdom (v. 11). It describes His compassion (vv. 8–9) and faithfulness (v. 13)—then immediately tells us that He lifts up those who have fallen (v. 14). All His attributes are expressed when He picks us up. He is indeed in the business of restoration.
Have you failed before? We all have. Have you been restored? All who have been redeemed are stories of God’s grace.
Our stories of failure can be God’s stories of success.
For the believer, the living God is the ultimate safety net. The psalmist says, “The Lord upholds all who fall” (Ps. 145:14). Despite allowing disappointment, loss, and failure, God provides the power and resources to keep us going when we stumble.
How might you praise God today for His steadfast love that reaches out to you after you fall?
Blessed (happy, fortunate, prosperous, and enviable) is the man who walks and lives not in the counsel of the ungodly [following their advice, their plans and purposes], nor stands [submissive and inactive] in the path where sinners walk, nor sits down [to relax and rest] where the scornful [and the mockers] gather.
— Psalm 1:1
Living above society’s moral decline involves the choices we make regarding our conversations, the way we dress, what we read, and the TV shows and movies we watch. It also has to do with the level of integrity with which we live our personal lives, interact with other people and conduct ourselves in our businesses or professions.
As Christians, we need to encourage one another to live by godly standards and resist the pull of the world. A well-known quote offers some good advice: “Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Watch your words, for they become actions. Watch your actions, for they become habits. Watch your habits, for they become character. Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”
One of God’s great gifts to mankind is the power of choice. If we want to enjoy the blessings He has for us, we need to make lifestyle choices that align with His Word and are consistent with the values of His Word, not choices reflecting the constantly eroding values of the world.
I urge you to make a decision to serve God wholly, putting Him first in everything you do.