When you and I, Christians, look to our Heavenly Father, he doesn’t look back with eyes that remember our shameful moments. My “history,” as far as God is concerned, is Jesus’ perfect life.
Even as he [God the father] chose us in him [Jesus, his Son] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him…
— Ephesians 1:4
He who knows my heart only sees His Son’s perfect heart in mine. We trust God, the one who is capable of this miracle:
To the one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness. — Romans 4:5
That sin — the angry thought or the harsh text message — is still real evil and horrible before God. My sin, even secret sin, is great. But Jesus the Sin-bearer is magnificent.
We can be really sure God looks on us happily, without thought of that sin, because Jesus’ bloody death already paid for it. What a glorious God — who has the ability and the desire! — to forgive every sin, every fault.
My garments stained with sin and guilt,
I came to Christ, his peace I felt;
And now my heart with love doth glow,
His blood — it washes white as snow.
I do not doubt, nor will I say,
“I hope,” “I guess,” I’m clean today;
For in God’s word, I read it so,
His blood doth wash us white as snow.
In the Survey of God’s Goodness in Joshua 1-5, Pastor Larry Trotter described himself as a treasure hunter:
When you open your Bible, look for God. [Among] lots of fascinating, wonderful, delightful things in the Bible — God’s will, Geography, Culture, Language, Poetry, Literature, all kinds of things you can learn about, but I want to suggest right at the center of it all, we should open our Bibles to look for God.
I look for insights into who God is, to what he’s like. I’m looking for what the pages of scripture show me is good and beautiful about my God. I look for that intentionally. I’m on a treasure hunt of sorts — and God is that treasure.
When I was a college student, I had the privilege of being taught by Ruth Bell Graham, who opened her home to me on several occasions; and I was impressed by her personal “collection” of memorized verses. “Some people collect paintings and some collect coins,” she said, in effect, “but I collect Bible verses.”
Treasure collections concentrate value in a single place. Most coin collections are small, so you could easily see and examine them. A collection of family recipes may be bulky, but could be precious and highly useful.
I, too, have made a collection in my Bible study, similar to Larry’s and Mrs. Graham’s. I’m searching for passages that tell us just about God himself using clear statements. I just highlight these passages purple. My “oldest” treasure in the collection is:
Psalms 3:3 — But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.
God is a shield. God is my glory. God uses his power to lift my head. This tells me a great deal!
Another in this collection is from Nehemiah:
Nehemiah 1:5 — And I said, “O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments,…
And another from Luke:
Luke 1:68-69 — Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David,
Every passage asserts something direct and specific about God. I pull them out in prayer and reflect on the God I’m praying to. I use these to open LifeChange Fellowship; if we’re to be Mature & Ministering Worshipers of God, these scriptures are a straight line to worship. After 6 years I’ve found over 300 direct statements that are eternally true about God. I’m proud of my collection.
And because I have highlighted them, I see them as I’m reading. These bright, clear statements occur in unexpected places, like:
Malachi 1:11 — For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense will be offered to my name, and a pure offering. For my name will be great among the nations, says the Lord of hosts.
So go on your own treasure hunt. Buy a highlighter, and go searching. Wear out your highlighter, and treasure your collection.
Full disclosure — I don’t actually use a paper highlighter. Instead, I highlight in my Bible Reading app, Olive Tree Bible Reader. My highlights are automatically visible on my phone, my iPad, and my desk computer, and in every Bible translation I use. But beware: some apps won’t keep your highlights. For example, Amazon Kindle will delete your old highlights — don’t let that happen to your collection!
Second, if you are more into video-watching instead of article-reading, the Bible project video has a few helpful points regarding the destruction of Jericho. (And an article to boot in case you accidentally find yourself reading!)
On Sunday (3/11/18) we explored the significance of Jesus’ cry in Matt. 27, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” If you would like to read more about the forsakenness/cursedness of Jesus on our behalf on the cross, this link to a sermon by R.C. Sproul is a powerful and weighty exploration of those themes.
Over the years I have complied a list of short Scripture Prayers that are useful in my own praying. You can easily write the ones you would like to use onto a 3X5 and carry them with you or you can pull them up on your phone or even commit them to memory! They are good stimulus to praying God’s good and perfect will for our friends and family and for our own souls.
This is the title to our new series on Sunday mornings at NW. During the season of Lent (which began this past Wednesday), we will be reflecting together on the last sayings of Jesus while on the cross. They are, as you would imagine, words that reveal to us the very heart of Jesus for us that we are then to share with others.
I’ve linked a short devotional on the seven last words of Jesus written by the folks at Breakpoint.org. I hope it will help you ready yourself for worship each Sunday as we consider together…”that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Eph. 3.117-19)
This idea of being “bought” by God and being slaves of God will be coming up a lot this year! Pray for an open heart for you and for our whole church family to this challenging teaching. Pray that we we gladly submit to the lordship of our good Master, King Jesus!