This Man Deserves It

For all his fornications, he is guilty.  For his selfish manipulations and lusts, every teenage violation of his future wife, he is unquestionably guilty. 

For all of his anger, his petty hatreds and grudges (which he so often carries deep under his skin, where he thinks no one can see), he is guilty.  The thoughts he sometimes has about people, the nastiness he wages against his fellow humans right there inside his skull, is appalling.  

For the thousands and thousands of lies he has told, too.  Big ones as a child and a young man, lies so ridiculous they’d be laughable if lying weren’t a sin against the God who always tells the truth.  And, as he’s gotten older, subtler ones.  Exaggerations, and little expressions on the face which were calculated to get a response but made to look like genuine emotion.    

And, oh, the pride.  Deep, poisonous, nearly constant pride.  Always believing he is more worthy of his needs being met than another.  Always making allowances for himself that he would never make for someone else.  The quiet belief he nurses in his heart that the reason the fallen brother or sister has tumbled is that he or she wasn’t quite enough like him.  The self-centered, self-focused, self-righteous clamoring for his own reputation, his own pleasure, his own validation without half as much, a tenth as much regard for the well-being of others.  Oh, believe me, this one is proud.  

For the cowardice, the meanness, the vengefulness, this man is irrefutably guilty. No one, not even God Himself can deny that, on his own standing, this Wade Thomas Jr, born at Good Samaritan Hospital in the Year of Our Lord 1985 (and having sinned every year since) is guilty as (and of) sin. 

There is no excuse.  No justification.  He had no valid reason for lust and brazen manipulation and gossip and deceit, he has no just cause for his anger and bitterness and idolatry of heart.  His head is in his hands because he knows this.  There is no defense he can mount.  There is no mitigating factor that will justify his willful, ignorant, faithless, rebellious wickedness.  

None.  He is guilty. 


And now let this one speak.  

For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are of sound mind, it is for you.  For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.  Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer.  Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.  Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.  Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.  He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

2 Corinthians 5:13-21

Death is the sentence.  The serpent knew it in the Garden, though of course he lied (he always does).  Sin brings death, the only thing it can bring.  And so death is the sentence for Wade.  Shameful, inglorious, painful and God-forsaken death.  God gave life, sin brings death.  So Wade is owed it.  He merits it.  In at least one sense, he has asked for it.  

The executioner is ready.  The crowd is assembled.  

But the guilty man is not the one to die.  

When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.

Colossians 2:13-14

Every guilt the serpent lays on this man is valid.  He sinned.  He did.  He did rage at his brethren and sin sexually and deceive people and play out his proud hypocrisy in the most sinister of ways.  If he isn’t the chief of sinners, he is certainly a lieutenant.  But here is where the serpent plays into his own undoing:  Since he is the father of lies, he rarely expects the full, undiluted, 80-proof truth.  When God says He loved this man, He really meant it.  And when He pledged from love, right there in that sin-stained Garden, that a son of man would crush this ancient liar’s head, He wasn’t just talking to talk.  

This love from God didn’t hinge on Wade’s faithfulness.  It preceded his faithfulness.  Beyond that, it superceded his unfaithfulness.  This God slew the dragon by being slain, and He gave pardon by taking on punishment.  He undid the sin and death Wade wrought by becoming sin and then dying. 

This God made Wade, gave Him a Law, watched him break it, and then bore the punishment Himself.  He is exactly who He has always claimed to be:  Good, holy, loving, and just.  And the truth will always undo a liar.  And, as the saying goes, it is also quite likely to set free.  

And so while Wade is, in at least one sense, guilty, the charge will not stand.  You cannot punish two men for his crimes.  The debt is real, but it is no longer his.  

The criminal’s cross has already been stained with man’s blood.  And the tomb has already had the body laid in it.  Sin brings death, and death it has brought.  Wade deserves to die, but in this great exchange called the Gospel, he gets to live.  By the grace of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, he has been given unshakeable, eternal life.  

And the guarantee of that gift is that his Jesus Himself did not stay dead.  Look over there, on that hill.  

Like the charges against this guilty man, both cross and tomb are by now quite empty.  


Don’t Take This Personally

No one’s life has ever been made better by taking more things personally. 

With each gesture, each word or tone of voice that I choose to take as an affront to my worth or goodness I make myself a little more miserable and a little more insufferable.  That child who just rolled his eyes at me?  That behavior must be assaulted!  Because, after all, I don’t deserve such attitude (my thought is not that the child must be disciplined because his soul is in danger; I don’t care so much about that right now).  My spouse didn’t respond the way I’d hoped?  I can’t just overlook that!  Are you kidding me?  That’s an attack on my value and seriousness and weight as a person.  

Each and every little slight or difficulty that I opt to take personally is another handful of seeds that I’m sowing that yield awful, deadly weeds as time goes on.  Weeds that choke out contentment and gladness and good humor.  The more I take personally, the more I can expect to see personal bitterness and strained relationships in my life.  

Word to the unwise:  Take yourself a little less seriously.  Choose to overlook even real and intended insults.  And remember that according to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, you don’t deserve anyone’s respect.  Remember these things.  You’ll be happier and more pleasant to be around.  

Trust me.  I’m writing from less than 24 hours’ distance from doing this in the wrong direction.  Pride and self-importance made me a mean and hardened man for a few hours last night.  It was unpleasant.  

Take yourself less seriously.  Have less grievances.  Your blood pressure and your closest relationships will reflect the change sooner than you might think.  

A humble heart is more than ready to bear good fruit in place of bad weeds.  

Let This War Kill Him

One of the most freeing parts about being a Christian is being on the right side in a war that’s already been won.  

And one of the villains who has been laid down in that war is all of the worst things inside of yourself.  

We’re preaching through the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapters 5-7) as a church right now, and one of the things that Jesus does for me as I read it and think about it and pray through it is to reveal to me how many wicked things there are inside of my heart.  In the corners, under the floorboards, stuck up in the attic, in all sorts of hidden spaces within my heart are some disgusting things.  And He knows about them. 

And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 

Matthew 6:16-18

Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 

Matthew 7:3

But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. 

Matthew 5:22

Jesus knows how wicked I can be.  He knows.  My greedy motives and petty, little grudges and pretentious, false religiosity are all before Him.  

The wickedness in my flesh and soul do not surprise or perplex Jesus.  

And He says that as I am conformed more and more to Him, as I’m made more and more teleos (Matthew 5:48; “perfect” or “complete” or “mature,” e.g., Hebrews 5:14) as I am grown as a Christian by grace through faith, those sick and awful pieces of myself are getting laid low.  

There is hope for the Christian.  There is hope for me.  I am a territory being conquered by a good King.  My heart is a battlefield, and I myself am a soldier on the right side.  

This war will end someday, and all the veterans like me will stand in the light of our Sovereign, with bodies and souls that will be big enough and clean enough to enjoy Him to the fullest.  

15 Seconds For the Bitter


Often, the chain that binds your heart to bitterness is self-righteousness.  It’s the controlling, constant belief that you did not deserve what was done to you.  And so you can’t forgive.  You can’t stop re-living it.  You can’t stop hating.  

If that’s you, let go of the illusion that you are intrinsically righteous, and you will find your heart freer to forgive.
In Christ, we can know that our sins against God are far more offensive than any sins committed against us.  And we are offered forgiveness by grace through faith in Him.  

Preaching this great Gospel to one’s self helps to foster forgiveness and kill bitterness.  Because no man is ready to forgive from the heart more than the one who knows how wicked he was before Christ.  

Where self-righteousness locks you to bitterness, the Gospel frees you to forgiveness.  

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. 

Matthew 6:14-15

30 Seconds On Grace

Christian, the grace you extend is the grace you really believe in. 

If you do not forgive the sins and mistakes of others, it is because, regardless of what you say, you do not approach God with the posture of one who has been forgiven of wrongdoing.  

Instead, you see yourself as more righteous than those who have wronged or inconvenienced you.  And so, unlike Jesus Christ, who truly was holier than those who wronged Him, you refuse to extend them mercy.  While Jesus spent Himself on His enemies’ forgiveness and rescue, you plant yourself on a throne of judgment and refuse to be gracious.  

What do you really believe about grace?  If you want to know how you really see yourself in relation to God, don’t look at your words.  

Look at how you forgive.  

And this could just as easily be a letter to myself.  

A Father Story

A man had a son, whom he loved and raised. Everything a dad should be to a boy, this man was. He taught him right from wrong, he provided for his needs, and he always had the boy’s best interests at heart. But through no fault of this father’s, as the boy became a teenager the outworkings of his heart became worse and worse. He spoke insults to his father, was constantly violent at school, and lied to and stole from friends, neighbors, and family.

The boy didn’t care about the long, long hours his father worked to provide for him. It meant nothing to him that his dad treasured him and thought about him often during the day and wanted only good things for him. He was thoroughly self-absorbed, and he wanted nothing but an easy life of pleasure for himself.

At about the age of 18, the boy was able to put together a scheme to steal all the money from his father’s savings account. He was a lech, but he was cunning. So he cleaned the account of his dad’s life’s savings, several hundred thousand dollars the good old man had planned to leave to the boy and his extended family and the church someday. The son laughed with a buddy as he bought a new car he planned to drive to the coast, never looking back.

The father was shattered when he discovered what his son had done, not because of the money he’d lost, but the boy. He was forced to sell his house and buy a much smaller condo, but he continued to work and be the man he’d always been, though always while looking for his son. Hours spent on calling known friends, searching his name on the internet, and sending pleading messages to the boy’s e-mail. There was never any answer, never any response, until 5 years later, when the father got a letter.

It was a message from one of his son’s friends. The boy had pulled off another online theft, stealing $100,000 from a financial group in the town where he’d settled. The group was suing him, and the boy was facing a felony and decades in jail since he couldn’t make restitution. His friend felt obliged to let the father know, but sadly he told the old man that the son had not changed and that he showed no remorse.

It was three weeks later when this father came into a court appearance, his son shocked when he saw his face. The old man offered the judge and the plaintiffs $100,000 in full, and asked if the charges might be dismissed and the boy released to him. The parties agreed, but the judge asked him where the money had come from, and when the man explained that he had sold his condo and then come as quickly as he could, the judge, knowing what kind of young man this was, asked why.

The father was unashamed in his answer: “Because I’m his Dad. And he’s my son. I know he doesn’t deserve it. I know it better than anybody. I’m not paying because he does. I’m paying because he is mine, and I love him.”

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages He might show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Ephesians 2:1-9

Praise be to God for not sparing the Son in saving wretches and thieves like me.

15 Seconds On Eleos

Mercy is what founded the church. 

The impenetrable walls of the Kingdom of Christ, the ink of His redemptive Story, is the unmerited love of God.  His inexplicable, unsearchable adoration for His formerly wretched people.  

The power that held back the deep waters of an Egyptian sea for Moses and that killed 185,000 soldiers for Hezekiah runs through the love that brings a dead sinner to faith in Christ.  It is a grace, a mercy, a benevolence that knows no equal.  

We Christians are a people created by the grace of our Father in Christ Jesus.  We are a people borne of the unspeakable compassion of the triune God.  

We are a people of mercy, for we were wrought by a God of mercy.