Naughty or Nice?

naughty listI love these Facebook memes that come around, which are all done in innocent fun.  Although we know that they bear no meaning in reality, we quickly peruse the lists to find our names, and then proceed to share on our own Facebook walls.  With Christmas around the corner, the “Naughty” and “Nice” lists will fill our newsfeeds relentlessly.  So far, I have not found my name on either.

Children are told that if they are good, Santa will come; but if they are bad or naughty, he will leave coals instead of toys, or skip over their house entirely!  Sadly, many grownups believe the same scenario applies to their spiritual lives and eternal destination.  The premise that “good” people go to heaven and “bad” people go to hell is a lie from the Devil himself!  In my work with the elderly, it saddens me when they begin to fret and worry that they have not been good enough to “make it in.”  The truth is that none of us can ever be “good enough” on our own to enter into the presence of Almighty God.

The truth (which sets us free) is that our salvation cannot be earned.  It is a FREE gift called “grace” from our Heavenly Father, paid for by our precious Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!  Fortunately, it is NOT based on our works or performance.  (Ephesians 2:8)  It is given and received when one acknowledges and repents of their sin and accepts Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior, giving his or her life over to Him completely.  It is offered to everyone, naughty or nice.

In our society, we tend to label and condemn those on our own mental “naughty” lists; those who have lived less-than-stellar lives.  We criticize and penalize those who have made poor choices, or done evil deeds.  While crimes must be punished and criminals held accountable, the Bible says that we ALL have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God.  (Romans 3:23)  Even on our best days, our righteousness is as filthy rags in the sight of our Most Holy God.  (Isaiah 64:6)  Jesus Himself said that no one is “good” but God.  (Mark 10:18)

People often ask how a good God can send people to hell.  Well, He doesn’t.  It is our own sinful nature that drives and separates us from God as He cannot look upon sin; we cannot stand in His presence in our sinful nature, wearing our old, filthy rags.  But in His goodness, love, mercy and grace, He has provided a way to ESCAPE that horrible fate and be reunited with Him forever!  When we repent of our sins and accept Jesus’ shed blood on the Cross as atonement or payment for our sins, we are then clothed in HIS righteousness, and granted a seat in the Kingdom of God for all of eternity!  No matter what we have done, our sins can be forgiven, and we are washed clean by the blood of the Lamb – God’s only Son who was sacrificed on our behalf!   “Come now, and let us reason together,” says the Lord.  “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”  (Isaiah 1:18)  

As far as the east is from the west,
so far has He removed our transgressions from us.
(Psalm 103:12)  

Oh, how we love to distinguish the masses and divide them into groups:  male or female; naughty or nice; rich or poor; black or white; right or left, etc.  But at the end of the day and at the end of this life, there will be only two groups of people:  saved or lost.  It will not matter how “good” you have been, as none of us deserve to be let in.  The only “list” to make sure that your name is found on will be the Lamb’s Book of Life.  Will you give your life to Him today?

The best gift ever bestowed upon mankind was the original Christmas gift:  the gift of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ!  He IS the reason for the season.  I pray that you will accept this most glorious gift today.

See ya in Heaven!  I’ll be wearing a white robe, clothed in HIS righteousness; my filthy rags having been tossed into the depths of the sea, covered by His blood for eternity!

Who Moved My Pulpit?

black_women_religion_432117137I got to preach this week!  No, not behind the pulpit, nor in any church building.  There was no special service planned or followed.  And while I truly miss bringing the Word every Sunday morning to a select group of close-knit friends, the Lord keeps showing me that there are countless ways to “minister” outside the traditional three-point sermon outlines (which I rarely used anyway), and definitely outside of the brick and mortar church building walls.

I was recently called on to speak with two different women, one of whom I’d never met.  The first lady had been unable to reach her own pastor at that particular moment, and the second was facing some serious decisions regarding health issues.  I offered scriptures and words of encouragement, feeling confident that it was the Holy Spirit’s words flowing from my lips, and not my own.  My prayers were powerful and passionate, as I’ve been faced with similar issues myself.

Finally I was bed-side talking with a precious 91 year old who was worried about not waking up from her nap, and hoping she had been “good enough” in case she didn’t.  As the scriptures flowed from my tongue, I reminded her who she is in Christ, and rebuked those spirits of fear rendering them powerless over her.  I went through God’s merciful plan of salvation from Genesis to Revelation, and I suppose I tend to get a little excited when I talk about Jesus!  I felt myself beaming as I reminded her that “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  (1 John 1:9)  Jesus has promised to never leave us nor forsake us, and He would be right there watching over her as she slept.  I assured her that she WOULD indeed wake up from her nap in one of two places:  either safely in her own bed, or in the arms of Jesus; and either way she was going to be okay!  I quoted Paul, David, and even the Messiah Himself.  She looked up at me with a fresh gleam in her eye and exclaimed, “I like your church!”

At that moment, God reminded me that we can “have church” anywhere.  Wherever just two or more are gathered in His Name, He is there with us.  (Matthew 18:20)  In fact, we ARE the church, no matter where we go.  God does not dwell in buildings, but His Spirit lives within us!  (Acts 7:48, 17:24)  I remembered that Hope Chapel, the precious church I pastored for three years, was actually birthed around a campfire in the town park.  We often met under picnic shelters, in the local coffee shop, and in members’ homes.  People were saved and baptized as a result of those small-group settings.

The Lord has called me to preach the Good News of His Gospel, which is forgiveness of sins and eternal life with Him in glory!  We are saved only by our faith in Jesus Christ, as His blood on the cross already paid the price.  Whether I deliver that marvelous message of HOPE in Christ by pastoring another church one day, as a traveling Evangelist, preaching online or simply speaking with others one-on-one, I will share His love and light for the rest of my days.  God can and NEEDS to use us, everywhere we go!

 

Robin Leitch