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Tag Archives: salvation

Plea Bargain

I have always been fascinated by America’s justice system. Growing up on shows like the People’s Court, Law and Order and the Practice, I developed a certain set of expectations based upon what I saw on television. While comedies like Night Court sensualized life inside of a courtroom, certain episodes illustrate the plea bargain process. A plea bargain occurs when the defendant pleads guilty to a lesser charge in exchange for a more lenient sentence or an agreement to drop other charges.

“Do not judge and criticize and condemn [others unfairly with an attitude of self-righteous superiority as though assuming the office of a judge], so that you will not be judged [unfairly]. For just as you [hypocritically] judge others [when you are sinful and unrepentant], so will you be judged; and in accordance with your standard of measure [used to pass out judgment], judgment will be measured to you, Matthew 7:1-2.

Modern shows like the Good Wife have scenes from a board room as attorneys go back and forth searching for some sort of settlement out of court. While certain cases were based upon real life situations, my recent experience at traffic court provided a more realistic view of plea bargains. Two prosecutors split over 50 cases, with one overseeing the DUI’s and the other taking care of accident and traffic violations. What I witnessed was more like the game show Let’s Make a Deal with wheeling and dealing.

But you, why do you criticize your brother? Or you again, why do you look down on your [believing] brother or regard him with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God [who alone is judge]. 11 For it is written [in Scripture], “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall give praise to God.” 12 So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God, Romans 14:10-12.

From a biblical perspective, Jesus represents human beings as an attorney of spiritual law. According to the apostle Paul, Colossians 2:13-15, Jesus has already paid your fine for sinning, Romans 3:23, falling short of God’s glory. As the perfect lamb of God, Jesus took our place on the cross, paying the penalty for sin. Thus, there is only one plea bargain necessary to avoid the gates of hell. Acts 4:12 sums this up well, “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among people by which we must be saved [for God has provided the world no alternative for salvation].” My prayer is that Jesus becomes your plea for help in this life.

by Jay Mankus

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Grace Holds Me Now

The byproduct of original sin, Adam and Eve’s decision to eat forbidden fruit, led to separation from God. When the only rule, do not eat of the tree of knowledge, in the Garden of Eden was broken, earth’s first family was banished, expelled from this tropical paradise. Subsequently, a works oriented system using a series of sacrifices was set up to atone for current and past sins. The Old Testament book of Leviticus introduces these offerings with detailed instructions on when and how this should be done.

Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man [who places his faith in wealth and status] to enter the kingdom of God.” 25 When the disciples heard this, they were completely astonished and bewildered, saying, “Then who can be saved [from the wrath of God]?” – Matthew 19:24-25

During the first century, a rich young ruler lived his life in according to the 10 commandments, Exodus 20:1-17. Despite his zealous application of these principles, something in this man’s heart didn’t seem right. Thus, this ruler seeks out godly counsel from Jesus, hoping to find comfort that he was on the right track. After a series of questions, Jesus asks this wealthy man to go and sell all of his possessions, then give the proceeds to the poor. While the rich young ruler lived a moral life, at some point he began to trust his own wealth instead of God. This request was just too hard to do, walking away from Jesus in tears.

But Jesus looked at them and said, “With people [as far as it depends on them] it is impossible, but with God all things are possible,” Matthew 19:26.

Jesus hints at the concept of grace in the passage above. Grace refers to God’s riches at Christ’s expense. This unmerited favor of God toward man is made possible through Jesus’ life as the perfect lamb of God. Jesus’ life, death and resurrection made what was formerly impossible possible. Thus, individuals no longer need to live by the standards of the Old Testament. Rather, anyone who publicly believes in their heart and professes with their mouth that Jesus is Lord will be saved, Romans 10:9-10. Therefore, you don’t have to walk away disappointed like the rich young ruler. Faith in Jesus provides assurance that grace holds you now.

by Jay Mankus

An Important Message from the Past

 

The first Great Awakening, a series of Christian revivals began in England during the 1730’s.  This spiritual movement quickly spread to Britain’s thirteen colonies lasting until the 1740’s.  During these two decades, Jonathan Edwards played an integral role as a preacher, theologian and writer in America.  One of Edwards’ lasting legacies is a quote from an old sermon, “you contribute nothing to your salvation except the sin that made it necessary.”

For it is by grace [God’s remarkable compassion and favor drawing you to Christ] that you have been saved [actually delivered from judgment and given eternal life] through faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [not through your own effort], but it is the [undeserved, gracious] gift of God; Ephesians 2:8.

As individuals struggled with the notion that you can earn your salvation through good works, Jonathon Edwards uses the teaching of the apostle Paul to stop this train of thought.  Perhaps, members of the church of Ephesus shared a similar belief.  The passage above is part of a letter Paul wrote to expose this flawed mindset.  Salvation is a gift from God, only accessible by grace through faith in Christ.  This verse inspired Jonathan Edwards’ comment that mankind’s only contribution to salvation are transgressions from the past and present.

Not as a result of [your] works [nor your attempts to keep the Law], so that no one will [be able to] boast or take credit in any way [for his salvation]. 10 For we are His workmanship [His own master work, a work of art], created in Christ Jesus [reborn from above—spiritually transformed, renewed, ready to be used] for good works, which God prepared [for us] beforehand [taking paths which He set], so that we would walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us], Ephesians 2:9-10.

To fully understand the apostles’ teaching, you have to look to verse 10.  Human beings are merely a piece to the puzzle, a work in progress.  As the Holy Spirit works behind the scenes to sanctify newly converted Christians, this process takes a lifetime to complete.  Meanwhile, God the Father serves as a potter, molding and fashioning followers of Jesus like clay.  Trials and tribulations serve as a furnace to remove our imperfections.  Instead of trying to earn your salvation, Paul urges readers to become a willing participant, eager to fulfill the good works God has prepared for you  in advance to accomplish in life.  This is an important message from the past to remember.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

Your Next is Greater Than Your Now

Financial planners seek to guide individuals toward fulfilling their dreams in life.  Depending upon how soon families begin to set aside funds for retirement, this process requirements discipline, focus and numerous sacrifices.  Yet, all these preparations don’t ensure a happy ending.  Thus, its essential that people begin to trust God, believing that your next is greater than your now.

For I want you to know, believers, that the gospel which was preached by me is not man’s gospel [it is not a human invention, patterned after any human concept]. 12 For indeed I did not receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a [direct] revelation of Jesus Christ.  You have heard of my career and former manner of life in Judaism, how I used to hunt down and persecute the church of God extensively and [with fanatical zeal] tried [my best] to destroy it, Galatians 1:11-13.

During a letter to the church in Galatia, the apostle Paul gives a brief summary of his past, present and desire to follow God’s will in the future.  Paul doesn’t shy away from his ignorant past, blinded by a religious zeal for Judaism.  This obsession led Paul to conspire against the founding of the first century church.  Perhaps, the words of Stephen prior to his persecution and death broke through Saul’s calloused heart.

But when God, who had chosen me and set me apart before I was born, and called me through His grace, was pleased 16 to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles [as the good news—the way of salvation], I did not immediately consult with anyone [for guidance regarding God’s call and His revelation to me]. 17 Nor did I [even] go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went to Arabia and stayed awhile, and afterward returned once more to Damascus, Galatians 1:15-17.

After being blinded on the road to Damascus, this set forward a chain of events resulting in Paul’s salvation.  The first thing Paul did following his conversion was going home to tell family and friends what God had done for him.  The Bible is silent on how Paul’s Jewish parents responded to and received this news.  Nonetheless, Paul quickly came to the conclusion that your next is greater than your now with Jesus.  Although, this doesn’t ensure a story book ending on earth, but a personal relationship with Jesus Christ does secure an eternal reservation in heaven, 1 John 5:13.

by Jay Mankus

I Never Knew You

There are various classifications of friendship which exist.  Work related individuals whom you share a relationship with based upon your occupation is one category.  You may have social friends who you share a common interest in or with like dancing, karaoke or sports.  However, most people usually only have a small handful of individuals who actually know you.  Yet, even within this closely knitted network, there is a hesitancy to withhold information.  This fear keeps scars from the past unspoken, secrets locked deep within your soul.  This lack of trust keeps many friendships at a distance, never knowing the true you.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven,” Matthew 7:21.

This same concept applies to relationships with God.  Whether you were introduced to church as an infant, youth or adult, it takes time to grasp and understand the nature of God.  Those who attempt to make up for lost time often become overwhelmed by all the mysteries in life that go unanswered.  During a high school youth group, I was introduced to the trust illustration.  You stand up on a chair or stage, then fall back hoping your peers will catch you before you hit the ground.  This exercise helped me realize that I wasn’t trusting God completely.  Rather, I was doing everything in my power to maintain control, yielding to God only when I wasn’t strong enough.  If I continued on this path, I would end up like the people Jesus refers to in Matthew 7.

Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ – Matthew 7:22

Despite from wanting to exempt myself from the scenario above, I can’t say for sure that I don’t fit into this category.  I have back tracked, slipped and fallen from my spiritual high as a high school Bible teacher for a decade.  Yet, somehow I have lost my way, unable to find the support system that I need to regain that faith I once possessed.  I guess the passage above serves as a warning, not to be complacent, thinking you have arrived spiritually.  Rather, Jesus’ words humbled me, a reminder to get back to discovering and following God’s will in my living years.  If not, we all might hear the chilling voice of Jesus say, “away from me, for I never knew you.”

by Jay Mankus

 

What’s Your Mission or Are You Missing Inaction?

In the 2005 film Pacifier, Vin Diesel plays disgraced Navy Seal Shane Wolfe.  Upon the failure of his previous mission, Shane is reassigned to protect a family whose dead father created a secret weapon known as Ghost.  While government officials seek to locate this device, Shane’s new mission is to protect this family at all cost while examining the home for any clues.  Despite a series of set backs, Shane risks his life to complete this mission.

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,” Matthew 28:18-20.

Prior to his ascension into heaven, Jesus gave his disciples what is now known as the great commission.  This mission was laid out in three stages.  First, begin in Jerusalem, explaining what has happened to the Jews.  When phase one is complete, move on to Judea and Samaria, spreading the good news to surrounding towns and villages.  Finally, go into all the world to share the hope of salvation found in the words of John 3:16-17.

He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth,” Acts 1:7-8.

Nearly two thousand years later, God is waiting for you to fulfill a new mission.  Depending upon your personality, talents and spiritual gifts, instructions will vary.  Yet, unless you enlist by beginning your own spiritual journey, Romans 10:9-10, your mission will be unknown.  Lack of clarity helps explain why many are unproductive in this life.  However, as the Holy Spirit begins to reveal to you God’s plan, Galatians 5:25, success is possible.  May the season of Lent awaken souls to see the reality of the mission the Lord wants you to complete while on earth.

by Jay Mankus

Faking Holiness

If your life was placed on a chart or graph, there would be peaks and valleys with plateaus somewhere in between.  High points mark periods of success and victories within life.  The low areas represent failures where doubt and disappointment often attack your soul.  Unfortunately, human nature causes many to assign blame for their valleys rather than finding fault from within.

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.

Since salaries and wages are normally based upon the services or work provided, its easy to say, “look what I did.”  Yet, the apostle Paul reminds individuals that salvation is not based upon human efforts.  Rather, God’s grace opens the door to eternity, providing access to the undeserving like me.  Sure, I can put on a good face, pretending to be a godly Christian.  Nonetheless, I find myself going through the motions way too often, lukewarm and faking holiness.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us, Romans 5:8.

During my recent Daniel Fast, conviction of this fact has consumed me.  Despite my flaws, I am thankful for the passage above.  Jesus died for imperfect people like me, a demonstration of God’s agape love.  May those of you who reach a similar low point embrace biblical promises by accepting God’s free gift by faith.  Don’t pretend to have things all together.  Rather, confess your sins and pray for healing so that reconciliation will begin.

by Jay Mankus

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