Why we’re less likely to try great things for God

By Jon Walker

I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

Philippians 4:13 (NIV)

God pours his power into your life, giving you his strength to do what he’s called to do.

Faith is acting in confidence that God’s power is active in and through your life; faith is trusting God’s power will be your strength to do everything through him.

He’s not asking you to live life under your own power or through your own strength. That would limit what you can do while God’s power and strength are unlimited.

When you say, “There’s something I’d really like to do for God, but I don’t think that I can do it,” God may reply, “Great! I’m glad you’ve figured it out. You can’t do it by yourself, but with my power working through you, you can do anything I ask you to do.”

If you stay at “I can’t” and never move power to “God can,” then you’re less likely to even try great things for God. It’s like having a car with the most powerful engine ever built, but saying, “I don’t think it can get me past the first intersection.” So you leave it in your garage, never taking it onto the road.

God’s power is available to you: “For God is working in you, giving you the desire to obey him and the power to do what pleases him” (Philippians 2:13 NLT).

Stepping into a new life

By Jon Walker

“Come” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. Matthew 14:29

“The disciple may think he is being dragged out of his secure life into a life of absolute insecurity, but in truth he is stepping into the absolute security and safety of Jesus’ fellowship.” —Dietrich Bonhoeffer

When Peter stepped out of the storm-tossed boat and onto the water, where was the safest place to be? In the boat or in the arms of Jesus?

The answer, of course, is with Jesus, and for a brief time, Peter saw that. Right then he got a glimpse of what it is like to TRUST in Jesus and what it is like to operate within the realm of costly grace as a citizen of the kingdom of heaven.

And we get a glimpse of that, too. We see that following Jesus requires us to step into apparent insecurity in order to find true security. In the alleged insecurity of discipleship, we experience the gift of Christ and are enveloped in the grace of God.

It’s a paradox of faith: Our first step of faith places us in a position where faith becomes possible. By our obedience, we learn to be faithful. If we refuse to follow, we never learn how to believe. We stay stuck in the shallow end of faith, trusting in ourselves, living by sight and not by faith.

Discipleship is Jesus constantly pushing us into new situations where it is possible for us to trust him even more. He pushes us into impossible situations where we must stake everything solely on his Word. Ask Jesus to push you to the place where you will know with certainty that he is good for his Word, that he is the Word of God.

The Forgetful Servant

Posted: 12 Mar 2012 01:00 AM PDT

By Jon Walker

I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. John 13:15 (NIV)

It’s near impossible to remain self-centered while serving the deep needs of another person. “Do nothing out of selfish ambition . . .” Paul says, “But in humility consider others better than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3 NIV).

Jesus set an example for us when he got up from the meal and then got down on his knees to wash his students’ feet (John 13:4–5).

Since people wore sandals or walked barefoot on dusty roads, they needed to clean their feet when they entered a house. Usually, the host would have a servant do the dirty chore, but Jesus assigned the service to himself, “taking the very nature of a servant . . .” (Philippians 2:7 NIV).

Menial was not beneath Jesus. He placed the needs of his students above his own, even as he approached his darkest hour.

Serving others requires forgetfulness on your part; you start by forgetting yourself (Matthew 10:39). “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet” (John 13:14 NIV).

Ask God to show you one relationship that would be transformed if you emphasized the other person’s needs over your own. Like Peter walking on water, God will support you one step at a time.

My new book, In Visible Fellowship: A Contemporary View of Bonhoeffer’s Classic Work ‘Life Together’, will help you understand why you must be in Christian community in order to mature spiritually..

This devotional © Copyright 2012 Jon Walker. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Sorting coins until God says I’m good

By Jon Walker

Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. Romans 3:20 (NIV)

I once went to one of those coin-sorting machines today and poured in a huge bag of change that had accumulated in a cup kept on the chest of drawers in my bedroom.

The total came to $22.31. I took the receipt to customer service and the cashier gave me 22 dollars in bills . . . and then 31 cents.

So I still have change and I paid the machine eight percent of the total to count those 31 cents (why it rejected the rubber band and the guitar pick that also poured out of the cup is beyond me).

Hmmm, I think I need some chocolate to help me think this through. Perhaps this is how you get hooked into an addiction; you always have change left over, so you eventually have to come back.

I know, I could count out the exact amount of change to total an even dollar amount, like $22.00 and no cents, and then pour that into the coin-sorting machine.

But then I’d be counting the change myself and I might as well not be at the machine. Aarghhhh!!!!

I definitely need some chocolate to reach a cosmic revelation on this. Anybody got change for a candy bar? I seem to be a little short . . .

When we try to live by the law, it’s like we’re pouring change into a coin-sorting machine, always trying to hit an even dollar amount. The law serves a useful purpose in that it shows us how impossible it is to reach God-righteousness by our own efforts.

The frustration we feel when we stumble and fail is absolutely normal. In truth, it’s part of God’s plan. “Through the law we become conscious of sin,” (Romans 3:20 NIV) and by realizing how far we fall short, we’re able to admit, “I can’t; God can.”

Once there, we’re able to live by the Holy Spirit at work within us.

Grace: unencumbered by guilt, shame, fear

By Jon Walker

Jesus answered,

“If you knew the generosity of God and who I am, you would be asking me for a drink,

and I would give you fresh, living water.”

John 4:10 (MSG)

Grace allows people to make choices and trusts them to make the best choice.

Grace is free and flowing.

It is unencumbered by guilt or shame or fear because grace says, “I know all about you, and I still love you with a godly acceptance.”

We see this in John 4, when Jesus meets the woman at the well.

When she offers to give him a drink, he says,

“If you knew the generosity of God and who I am, you would be asking me for a drink, and I would give you fresh living water”.

Note that Jesus talks about how gracious God can be.

Yet, if we’re honest, we often behave as if God is stingy with his grace.

We fear his punishment, acting as if he’s like a high school vice principal walking the halls,

taking down names.

Who did what and who’s to blame?

But God already knows who did what and who’s to blame,

and he loves us anyway.

His aim to redeem us, not to keep us on the hook for our sins.

So why do we live as if we’re still on the hook.

And why do we tend to keep others on the hook by using weapons of the flesh—

like the sarcastic comment or the angry stare—

designed to get people to straighten up and live right.

In contrast, when the woman at the well goes back to her village, she says,

“Come see a man . . . who knows me inside and out” (John 4:29 MSG).

Jesus knows all about her,

and yet he communicates with her in such a fashion

that she leaves feeling loved and accepted.

That’s grace.

Jesus Cleanses and Calls

By Jon Walker

“‘Woe to me!’ I cried. ‘I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips … and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.’ Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal … which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, ‘See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.’ Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!’” (Isaiah 6:5–8 NIV)

One of the most effective tools the enemy will use to keep you from serving God this year is convincing you that you’ve either messed up too much or that you must clean up your life before you can get God’s attention. When these thoughts pop into your head, sniff the air for the scent of sulfur because they are lies straight from the fires of Hell!

God’s intention when he convicts us of our sins is not to condemn us; rather his breath of life disperses that satanic smoke the father of lies uses to keep us on the run from God.

If you follow the sequence of Isaiah 6, you’ll see how God initiates the process that brings you into his holy presence and purifies you to remain in his presence, and that your new guilt-free, sin-atoned status will compel you and prepare you for the unique mission God sets before you.

Isaiah reports that God’s fire is a cleansing fire that burns your guilt away and purifies you from sin, sealing within you the work of Jesus Christ. The prophet also suggests God’s ultimate purpose for cleansing us is to prepare us for mission: “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!’” (Isaiah 6:8 NIV)

Prior to God taking the initiative to cleanse Isaiah, the prophet felt overwhelmed and unprepared for any mission on God’s behalf.

After the cleansing, Isaiah is energized with a desire to serve God.

If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, God has done the work of preparing you for whatever task he will ask of you. How will you seek God and his mission for you this year?

My new book, In Visible Fellowship: A Contemporary View of Bonhoeffer’s Classic Work “Life Together,” is a study of small group life.

Jesus Cleanses and Calls is a post from: GraceCreates Jon Walker is the author of Costly Grace: A Contemporary View of Bonhoeffer’s ‘The Cost of Discipleship’ and Growing with Purpose. He has served on staff at Saddleback Church and Purpose Driven Ministries and is currently the managing editor of Rick Warren’s Daily Devotionals and the Ministry Toolbox. Contact him at questions@gracecreates.com. This article is copyrighted 2011 by Jon Walker. Used by permission.

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We ‘ought to’ stop saying ‘ought to’

Posted: 27 Nov 2011 11:00 PM PST

By Jon Walker

Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity . . . . Hebrews 6:1 (NIV)

Although God does the heavy lifting in our transformation to Christ-likeness, we still bear the responsibility to keep discipline part of discipleship.

Therefore, we no longer run aimlessly; we have the sizeable objective of becoming just like Jesus. And so, as Paul describes it, we beat our bodies into submission as we press on toward our objective (1 Corinthians 9:26–27).

But, as we’re beating discipline into our thoughts and behavior, we too often slip into beating ourselves up over the inability to do the things we ought to do (Romans 7:16–25).

Here’s the thing, becoming like Jesus is difficult enough without this “Try harder!” mentality we tell ourselves. It sucks us into a cycle of I must, I ought, and I should that leaves us feeling defeated. And that only fuels our cycle to try harder.

This shifts our focus on how we can’t do it—instead of keeping our focus on Christ-in-us, who, having begun a good work in us, “will carry it on to completion” until we see Jesus face-to-face (Philippians 1:6 NIV).

Paul, ever the exhorter, says we’re to push toward the ideal, but his standards are never imperative ought-to statements demanding immediate perfection from us. Perhaps more than any other student yoked to Jesus, Paul understands our desperate need for God’s grace.

We make it our objective to make every effort to mature into believers who think and act just like Jesus. We may slip, we may fail horribly, but we press on to take hold of the abundant life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Philippians 3:12). 

We ‘ought to’ stop saying ‘ought to’ is a post from: GraceCreates Jon Walker is the author of Costly Grace: A Contemporary View of Bonhoeffer’s ‘The Cost of Discipleship’ and Growing with Purpose. He has served on staff at Saddleback Church and Purpose Driven Ministries and is currently the managing editor of Rick Warren’s Daily Devotionals and the Ministry Toolbox. Contact him at questions@gracecreates.com. This article is copyrighted 2011 by Jon Walker. Used by permission.

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The Opposite of Fear is Faith

By Jon Walker

We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it. Numbers 13:30b

When the Israelites first approached the borders of Canaan, Moses sent scouts into the Promised Land to assess the situation. Ten of the scouts came back with reports that focused on the giants in the land, men so big and powerful the scouts feared they could not be defeated.

However, two of the scouts focused on the promise from God that he would hand the land over to the Israelites. One of those scouts, Caleb, silenced the others when he said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it” (Num. 13:30).

Caleb trusted God instead of trusting his own fear. The opposite of fear is faith, the belief that Jesus is capable of handling anything we may face in life. But operating out of faith means we must rely on Jesus, remaining dependent on him to see us through any issue.

He brings us to a choice: Will we trust God or will we trust our own fears?

The Bible says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Prov. 9:10a). In other words, we hold God in reverence, recognizing his sovereignty, authority, and omnipotence—his ability to protect us in any situation.

And we reach that level of trust by knowing the Father and understanding his character: “[K]nowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Prov. 9:10b). We know and understand the Father by following Jesus.

“To see me is to see the Father,” says Jesus. “Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I speak to you aren’t mere words. I don’t just make them up on my own. The Father who resides in me crafts each word into a divine act” (John 14:9b–10 msg).

Your fear simply reveals a place where you aren’t yet trusting in Jesus. Don’t stay stuck in your fear, and don’t receive condemnation for your lack of faith. Jesus wants to move you past that into a place where your fears are replaced by faith. Follow him and learn to trust.

If God says we can, why do we say we can’t

by Jon Walker

Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem: “I remember the devotion of your youth, how as a bride you loved me and followed me through the desert, through a land not sown.” Jeremiah 2:2 (NIV)

The word devotion in Jeremiah 2:2 is a translation of the Hebrew word kesed, which is often translated as “loving mercy” or “loving kindness.” It is a love of relentless pursuit, and throughout the Bible, it shows up like mile-markers measuring God’s grace-chase after his prodigal sons and daughters, refusing to let them get away from the mercy of his love.

But something surprised me in these prophetic words from Jeremiah. In a sense, God says, “I remember the devoted, loyal love of your youth. You were like a new bride with love dancing in your eyes, and you’d follow me through the desert or into a desolate land.”

In a sense, God says, “I remember your youth, when you chased after me with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind.” If you once chased after God with every bit of your being, then it is possible to do it again.

God says we’re capable of giving him our whole love. If he says we can, why do we say we can’t?

If God says we can, why do we say we can’t? is a post from: GraceCreates Jon Walker is the author of Costly Grace: A Contemporary View of Bonhoeffer’s ‘The Cost of Discipleship’ and Growing with Purpose. He has served on staff at Saddleback Church and Purpose Driven Ministries and is currently the managing editor of Rick Warren’s Daily Devotionals and the Ministry Toolbox. Contact him at questions@gracecreates.com. This article is copyrighted 2011 by Jon Walker. Used by permission.

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‘Honey, I love you in an abstract way’

By Jon Walker

This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other. (John 13:35 MSG)

True love is never in the abstract. ‘We’ll never carry out our mission of being witnesses to Christ from behind pulpits or within Bible studies. We’re commissioned to “go therefore” and fill the earth with the presence of Christ so others may “observe” what He commanded us — to love one another as He loves us (Matthew 28:19-20 NASB; John 13:34).

We are to take our unseen and eternal fellowship, our oneness with Him and each other, into the seen and temporal lives of others.

To “observe” something, it must be seen. As others observe us, watch us “being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, intent on one purpose; not merely looking out for our own personal interests, but also for each other’s interests (Philippians 2:3-4),” they will naturally wonder where such uncommon attitudes come from.

And we have opportunity to say, “This is the attitude that ‘is in Christ Jesus who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond servant, being made in the likeness of men’” (Philippians 2:5-7).

In a fallen and self-oriented world, both that attitude and practice are particularly uncommon and profoundly noticeable. The witness of the reality of Christ and His love through our authentic and loving relationships is a living testimony that the world must deal with. Jesus’ personal and sacrificial love creates a safe place, a refuge, an opportunity to “be” that every person needs.

This devotional is based on my book, Costly Grace: A Contemporary View of Bonhoeffer’s ‘The Cost of Discipleship’.

We now have free small group study guides posted for each chapter from Costly Grace. The study guides are available at http://www.gracecreates.com/free-stuff/.

‘Honey, I love you in an abstract way’ is a post from: GraceCreates Jon Walker is the author of Costly Grace: A Contemporary View of Bonhoeffer’s ‘The Cost of Discipleship’ and Growing with Purpose. He has served on staff at Saddleback Church and Purpose Driven Ministries and is currently the managing editor of Rick Warren’s Daily Devotionals and the Ministry Toolbox. Contact him at questions@gracecreates.com. This article is copyrighted 2011 by Jon Walker. Used by permission.

Jesus proves God wants intimacy with us

Posted: 06 Sep 2011 12:00 AM PDT

By Jon Walker

When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites! They love to stand up and pray in the houses of worship and on the street corners, so that everyone will see them. I assure you, they have already been paid in full. (Matthew 6:5 TEV)

— — —

“Christian prayer presupposes faith, that is, adherence to Christ. He is the one and only Mediator of our prayers. We pray at his command, and to that word Christian prayer is always bound.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

— — —

Bonhoeffer notes that Jesus is proof that God wants intimacy with us. Jesus came to create a bridge to God, and we become intimate with the Father through Jesus.

This is a problem when we pray in pride. Prideful prayers set us up to be false mediators between others and God. They slyly say, “Look at how I pray. Watch me and see how persuasive I can be with God.” They suggest we have a special connection with God independent of our connection through Christ. That encourages others to believe our prayers have more meaning before God than their prayers, when the truth of the Bible is that anyone connected to God through Jesus can approach the throne of grace boldly (Hebrews 4:16).

Bonhoeffer says, “[Jesus] is the one and only Mediator of our prayers. We pray at his command, and to that word Christian prayer is always bound.”

This is the reason we pray in the name of Jesus and why eliminating the name of Jesus from our prayers is a significant theological issue.

It is important to note, then, the distinct difference between being an intercessor for others and any arrogant attempt to be a mediator for them. We do not connect anyone to God; Jesus connects them to God. But Jesus calls us to intercede on behalf of others, standing beside them and sometimes instead of them as we fulfill the law of Christ by carrying the burdens of others to God in prayer (Galatians 6:2).

Becoming like Jesus in Prayer

Posted: 05 Sep 2011 12:00 AM PDT

By Jon Walker

When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites! They love to stand up and pray in the houses of worship and on the street corners, so that everyone will see them. I assure you, they have already been paid in full. But when you pray, go to your room, close the door, and pray to your Father, who is unseen. And your Father, who sees what you do in private, will reward you. (Matthew 6:5-6 TEV)

“True prayer does not depend either on the individual or the whole body of the faithful, but solely upon the knowledge that our heavenly Father knows our needs. That makes God the sole object of our prayers, and frees us from a false confidence in our own prayerful efforts.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

— — —

Prayer is an intimate conversation with your Heavenly Father.

When you try to impress others with your ability to pray, you mock that intimacy. You appear to be focusing on the Father when you’re actually focusing on yourself — your needs, your wants, your ability to persuade and bully God, and your desire to impress others with your knowledge of how to get God to give you what you want when you want it.

It’s absolutely no different from standing up and saying, “Look at me so you can be impressed with how connected I am with God!”

Eugene Peterson paraphrases Jesus’ comments this way: “The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They’re full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. Don’t fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need” (Matthew 6:7-8 MSG).

If your motivation in prayer is to impress people, then Jesus says you will get what you want: praise from other people. In truth, that is exactly what you are asking for when you pray to impress: “Give me the praise of others.” Since your behavior exposes your beliefs, the presumption with prayers like this must be that praise from people can be used to pay bills or get you out of a jam when you’re flat on your back in the middle of some mess.

Jesus indicates God sees no need to reward you for these self-promoting prayers. They represent worldly thinking. Why would God reward you for that when he wants you to pray like someone who is part of the kingdom of heaven?

 

When Speculation Replaces Faith

By Jon Walker

That was the last thing the young man expected to hear. And so, crestfallen, he walked away. He was holding on tight to a lot of things, and he couldn’t bear to let go. (Matthew 19:22 MSG)

Jesus demands we drop the distractions and become single-minded in our obedience to his commands. In the case of the rich young man, this pulls him away from the romantic fantasy that Christ’s commands are what Bonhoeffer calls a mere “opportunity for moral adventure, a thrilling way of life, but one which might easily be abandoned for another if occasion arose.”

The young man is pulled into the reality of costly grace, where our only hope to enter the kingdom of heaven lies in Jesus Christ, our Lord. Jesus won’t allow him to see eternal life as a distant dream; he insists the young man follow him into that life now. Jesus consistently said, “The kingdom of heaven is upon you.”

Discipleship, Bonhoeffer says, is not the completion of an old life, doing that one final thing you have to do to enter the kingdom, like the capstone of a long and distinguished career ushers you into retirement. Discipleship is about irrevocably leaving your present life behind and entering a new life where Jesus is the center of significance.

It is a life in which Jesus is the only significance.

Bonhoeffer says, “Here is the sum of the commandments—to live in fellowship with Christ.” Jesus must bring us to the place where we abandon anything that holds us to the old life, anything other than Jesus to which we are attached.

The attachments may be different for different people. For the rich young man, the attachment was to his wealth. What are the attachments you have that keep you part-time in your pursuit of Christ?

When Speculation Replaces Faith is a post from: GraceCreates Jon Walker is the author of Costly Grace: A Contemporary View of Bonhoeffer’s ‘The Cost of Discipleship’ and Growing with Purpose. He has served on staff at Saddleback Church and Purpose Driven Ministries and is currently the managing editor of Rick Warren’s Daily Devotionals and the Ministry Toolbox. Contact him at questions@gracecreates.com. This article is copyrighted 2011 by Jon Walker. Used by permission.

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A still and quiet soul

By Jon Walker

My heart is not proud . . .

I do not concern myself with great matters

or things too wonderful for me.

But I have stilled and quieted my soul;

like a weaned child with its mother. . . .

O Israel, put your hope in the Lord

both now and forevermore.

(Psalm 131:1–3 NIV)

Psalm 131 teaches us to:

 

  • Keep our hearts humble. A humble heart means we know our position in Christ and stop being responsible for the things for which we were never responsible. This frees us to live like God intended and allows us to make uncluttered choices that will move us closer to God.

 

  • Show the maturity of a weaned child. We quietly center ourselves on God, peacefully, without agitation and anxiety, and trust God is actively supporting us. We trust God even when the answer to our prayers seems a long way off. The nursing child demands attention now, but the weaned child trusts and is content to wait.

 

  • Hope in the Lord with confident expectation. God’s Word says God will answer our prayers; he will respond to our needs; he will pave the path before us now and forever (Psalm 18:36).

God Can, Even Though I Can’t


By Jon Walker

Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves,

but our competence comes from God.

(2 Corinthians 3:5 NIV)

The only way you will fulfill God’s destiny for you is to rely on God’s strength. And that means you have to confess, “I can’t,” before you can agree, “God can.”

Otherwise, we’ll just keep thinking there’s still some ability (competency, sufficiency) in us that will allow us — independent of God — to do the things he expects of us.

We’ll continue to believe, wrongly, that we can do some things, perhaps all things, apart from God. We’ll keep applying the pretzel logic that we can make decisions disconnected from God that somehow keep us connected to God’s plans for us.

And when we make choices disconnected and independent from God, there is little difference between the way we live our lives and the way non-believers live their lives.

“But people who aren’t Christians can’t understand these truths from God’s Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them because only those who have the Spirit can understand what the Spirit means.” (1 Corinthians 2:14 NLT)

You have the Holy Spirit inside you. You have the ability to understand when God is telling you to take steps toward his goals for your life. Ask him to teach you to hear his still small voice and to help you take the steps he tells you to take. Then, look for the ways he guides you through the decisions and details of your life.

For the next few weeks, keep a list of all the times you sense God giving you direction. This will help you to see that he is at work in your life and that he has a constant interest in the details of your life.

. . . Change Your Life


Posted: 23 Aug 2011 12:00 AM PDT

By Jon Walker

I do not condemn you either. Go, but do not sin again. (John 8:11 TEV)

Grace is meant to justify the sinner — “Go and sin no more.” Grace is never meant to justify our sins — “Everything is forgiven, so you can stay as you are.”

In other words, the grace of God is not a cosmic “get out of jail free” card.

Grace is given freely, but it cost Jesus a bloody price to offer it to us: “Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:13 NLT).

Grace is given freely, but to walk in grace with Jesus will cost us everything as we join Jesus in “the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing” (Ephesians 2:10 MSG).

Jesus rescued the woman caught in adultery from certain death, but his expectation was that her life would change immediately. To return to her old life would have mocked the very grace that Jesus offered her that day.

His expectation of a changed life is no different for us: “Go in my grace, and sin no more.”

Can You Do Everything in Christ?


Posted: 22 Aug 2011 12:00 AM PDT

By Jon Walker

I can do everything through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13 NIV)

We’re not as strong as we think we are, but God is stronger than we think.

You become strong through God’s strength. His strength enters your life, delivered by the Holy Spirit—Jesus within—and the more dependent you are on God, the stronger in him you become. In our weakness, he is strong (2 Corinthians 12:10).

“I can do everything . . .” doesn’t mean, “Now that I’m a believer, I’m strong enough to do everything and anything for God.” Your own testimony can attest to the fears and failures related to such thinking.

The strength of “I can do everything . . .” comes through God, who gives you the strength you need for each day. Your ability to “do everything” is wholly dependent upon him, because your strength is dependent upon him. It’s not a strength you work up by pumping iron with emotional or mental barbells.

Strength comes from submission. The thing you do that may require the greatest strength is to submit yourself completely to God! But God is “working in you, giving you the desire to obey him and the power to do what pleases him” (Philippians 2:13 NLT).

Strength is linked to faith. You believe in faith that God is giving you his strength, so in faith you can act in confidence, knowing the strength is there: “But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength” (2 Timothy 4:17 NIV).

Make the Hole Your Goal


Posted: 12 Aug 2011 12:00 AM PDT

By Jon Walker

[U]ntil we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (Ephesians 4:13 NIV)

A hundred years ago, when I played golf, I thought I was doing well just to get the ball somewhere on the putting green.

The truth be told, my main goal was to reach the green without majorly embarrassing myself, so I was satisfied even when my ball made it somewhere near the fringes.

One day a local golf pro told me the key difference between an average golfer and one who is excellent is this: The truly great players shoot for the hole, not somewhere near the hole or somewhere on the green. They aim directly for the hole.

He told me, “You should make the hole your goal.” My intelligent, thoughtful response was, “Yeah, right! That’ll be the day.”

I didn’t think I’d ever be able to hit the hole, so I wouldn’t even try. The reason many of us are stuck, unable to move deeper into intimacy with God is because we don’t think it’s truly possible, at least for us. And so we don’t even try.

But it is possible to mature until we attain “the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13 NIV). We need to practice at it, and that’s called discipleship. But the good news is this: Jesus lives inside us and is working to bring our swing into alignment with his own. May it be so. Amen.

Brokenness as a Good Thing


Posted: 11 Aug 2011 12:00 AM PDT

By Jon Walker

Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. (Psalm 51:8 NIV)

In the school of Christ, brokenness is a good thing.

Here’s why: It’s impossible to become intimate with God unless we are broken of our independence, broken of our pride, and broken of our insistence that our way is better than God’s.

We must be broken of the illusion that we bring anything to the peace talks when we seek to end our war with God; the only surrender God requires is unconditional.

  • Brokenness is the last stop before we finally confess, “I can’t; God can.”
  • Brokenness is the apostle Paul confessing, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24 NIV).
  • Brokenness is the prodigal fighting with the pigs over food (Luke 15:11–32).
  • Brokenness is Joseph, still in prison, forgotten by the cupbearer (Genesis 40:23).
  • Brokenness is Jonah in the belly of a whale, confessing the consequences of running from God: “I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you” (Jonah 1:12 NIV).
  • Brokenness is Peter weeping bitterly outside the trial of Jesus (Luke 22:62).
  • Brokenness is Jesus abandoning everything to God: “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42 NIV).

God breaks us so he can use us. We can smash our pride against the solid rock of Jesus, confess our sins, and admit our need for him; or the stone can fall on us, meaning God in his ruthless, loving pursuit of us will break us of our pride, sin, folly, and independence (Matthew 21:44).

Like Jesus serving bread at the Last Supper, God takes us, breaks us, blesses us, and then uses us.

Oh, Lord, may you hear our joy and gladness; may the bones you have crushed rejoice (Psalm 51:8 NIV, author paraphrase).

Discipleship: Looking Back is Double-mindedness

August 2nd, 2011 → 2:00 am @ admin

By Jon Walker

Someone else said, “I will follow you, sir; but first let me go and say good-bye to my family.” Jesus said to him, “Anyone who starts to plow and then keeps looking back is of no use for the Kingdom of God.” Luke 9:61-62 (TEV)

“The trouble about this third would-be disciple is that at the very moment he expresses his willingness to follow, he ceases to want to follow at all. By making his offer on his own terms, he alters the whole position, for discipleship can tolerate no conditions which might come between Jesus and our obedience to him.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

When we follow Jesus, we cannot stipulate our own terms. Discipleship is not, Bonhoeffer notes, like a career we map out for ourselves: “I’ll do this for Jesus after I get the kids through school and build my retirement fund.” We cannot arrange things to suit ourselves; otherwise, Bonhoeffer says, we end up serving Jesus “in accordance with the standards of a rational ethic.”

This still leaves us in control, deciding our service on what makes sense. We may accomplish good things, but that doesn’t make us disciples of Jesus. Jesus says, “Anyone who starts to plow and then keeps looking back is of no use for the Kingdom of God” (Luke 9:61-62 TEV).

Looking back is double-mindedness. It makes us unstable and uncertain, and that’s the exact opposite of the focused following Jesus expects of us. It means there are moments in our relationship with Jesus when we say, ‘I’ll get back to you, Jesus, just as soon as I finish with my priorities.’ It is the creature putting the Creator on hold.

Jon Walker is the author of Costly Grace: A Contemporary View of Bonhoeffer’s ‘The Cost of Discipleship’ and Growing with Purpose. He has served on staff at Saddleback Church and Purpose Driven Ministries and is currently the managing editor of Rick Warren’s Daily Devotionals and the Ministry Toolbox. Contact him at questions@gracecreates.com. This article is copyrighted 2011 by Jon Walker. Used by permission.