Paul’s Therfore’s lead us to Christ

My friend Cheryl has chosen Romans 12:2 as her favorite verse. This is one of the most well known and quoted verse in the book of Romans for good reason. Here are verses 1-2:   Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Starting with Therefore, Paul is saying because of all I have said in the previous 11 Chapters this is how God’s wants you to live. Paul has told us in Romans 1:16-17 of the power of the gospel leading to God’s righteousness.  “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. 17 For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” In Romans 3:22-23 that faith comes through Jesus and no one is righteous on their own “This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” In Romans 5:1 Paul concludes that we are justified by faith. “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,” I particularly love Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” In Romans 7 we hear of Paul’s own smuggles with his sin nature but he reaches another conclusion in Romans 8:1 “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, In Chapter 8 Paul tells us we are son’s of the Father (14), coheirs with Christ (17), all things in our lives God can work for good (28), and nothing can separate us from the love of God (37-38). Paul tells us in Romans 10: 9-10 that confession of Jesus as Lord will bring about salvation.  If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. Given all these facts about God and what He has done for us Paul reaches the conclusion stated in Romans 12:1. Think about God’s mercy towards us and commit yourself to a life of loving Him sacrificially. It will be pleasing to God.

In verse 2, Paul goes on to tell us that we need to let God transform our body and minds so that we will not be led astray and seduced by the world’s motives and standards. When your mind is renewed through faith in Jesus you will be able to discern what is worldly and stay away from it. You will be able to test things against His Word of truth, pray for discernment through the power of the Holy Spirit and call upon the name of Jesus for help. Then you will be able to walk with Jesus doing what is pleasing to God and aligned with His will. Faith in Jesus is the key to this transformation.

Thanks Cheryl for pointing me to this verse. I can see how you use this verse to give you strength to reject world culture and seek alignment with God’s Word. Leaning on God’s mercy, clinging to Jesus and using His Word to lead us in life will lead us to pleasing God.

Linda

Actions and Reactions, do they reflect Christ?

My friend Laureen has chosen Colossian 3:23 as her favorite verse. This verse comes after Paul has given standards for conduct for husbands, wives, children, Fathers and slaves. (Colossians 3:18-22) Verse 23 begins Paul’s summary of why we do what we do. He explains more fully in Colossians 3:23-25.

 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. 25 Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for their wrongs, and there is no favoritism.

Paul’s reminder of why we need to act with submission, love, respect and obedience towards those we are in relationships with is so that we can reflect Christ in our actions and show the nature of our heart. Our hearts motivate us into action for good if based on our love for Christ or not if centered in ourselves. All of our actions should seek to reflect the love of Christ because we love Him for all He has done for us. Not only are we redeemed and forgiven but will live with Him for eternity. Our purpose is to reflect Him in all we say and do so that He will be glorified. God promises rewards – an inheritance which includes a home in heaven and a relationship with Him. Our inheritance brings us into His family and makes us an heir with Christ. So knowing all this, Paul reminds us to remember who we are serving and that those who choose not to serve Him will receive a different kind of reward. The last line states that God shows no favorites. He loves you and me equally and desires that all should come to repentance! 2 Peter 3:9 reveals God’s heart and promise, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

How does this effect me today? Examine your own heart and motives. Do you do things for the Lord, to bring glory to Him? Or do you do things for self-gain, pride or greed? Are you working 100% for the Lord or are you only giving less than 100% effort and holding back? Each day we need look at our motives and be sure we are speaking, doing things and interacting with people through godly motives. You can ask yourself, Am it reflecting Christ in what I say and do? Pray and ask the Holy Spirit to help you discern your motives and help you to align them and your heart with Christ so that He may be glorified in your life.

Thanks Laureen for pointing me to this group of verses to better understand how I am to act and react towards others and hold right motives in my heart.

Linda

A Word, A Thought… What are you Doing and Thinking?

My friend Wendy’s favorite verses go to the heart of Christian living. She has chosen these two verses to guide her. Knowing Wendy and the opposition she has faced from unbelievers, they are perfect and have given her courage and direction as she seeks to live each day for Christ.

Ephesians 4:29 “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear”. This verse hits to the heart of good relationships with others. If we are to reflect Christ in all we say and do, Colossians 3:17 “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him”, then we need to be concerned about what we are saying. James talks about the power of the tongue, see James 3:1-12. He talks about the need to tame the tongue and not letting it lead one astray. Paul is warning us here that our talk can harm others, (we know this to be true), and that what we should be desiring is to engage in conversations that reflect Christ’s grace. Grace is God’s undeserved favor. Having conversations that are kind and not judgmental, gossipy or hurtful. With the goal of glorifying Christ with our words, we need to seek to uplift and encourage.

Wendy’s second verse is Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things”. Her first verse zeroed in on what we say, this one focuses on our mind’s attitude and expression. That which happens in our minds help to drive our actions and words. Our character is important to Christ and He desires that we be sanctified in Him. Paul explains this wonderous transformation he calls sanctification in Romans 6:21-23 “But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. We are to glorify God with our heart, mind and soul becoming more and more like Jesus with each day. Let the truth of the character God desires sink into your heart and guide you as you ponder and meditate on Philippians 4:8.

With both of these verses before us, Ephesians 4:29 and Philippians 4:8, we must recognize that without the indwelling power of Christ’s Holy Spirit within us, we will not be able to live as He desires. It is God alone who empowers us and equips us to do His work and act worthy of His calling. The author of Hebrews prays a prayer we can claim over us too, in Hebrews 13:20-21 “Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.”

Thanks Wendy for reminding us of Christ’s goals for our speech and conduct. May we strive to keep these verses before us as we interact with others in the name of Christ.

Linda

June 5 Pentecost, a time to answer your 5 W’s too!

Our journey from the cross to Pentecost is finally over. Pentecost: Who was there?  Scripture tells us in Acts chapters 1 and 2 that the disciples and many other Jews from every nation were gathered together.

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What happened?  The arrival of the promised gift from the Father, power from heaven that would empower them to be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

When did it happen?  Pentecost was 50 days after the Passover.  It was called the Feast of Weeks in the Old Testament. It was 10 days after Jesus’ Ascension into heaven.

Where did it happen?  Jesus told them to go and wait for the helper that would come.  They returned to Jerusalem after Jesus’ Ascension just as He commanded.

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Acts 2:2-4 describes to us vividly the arrival of the Holy Spirit.  “Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.  They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.  All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.”    Peter stood and preached to the gathered crowd and told them that this outpouring from heaven was from God.  He quoted the Old Testament prophet Joel in Acts 2:17 “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.”   The arrival of the Holy Spirit was dramatic: tongues of fire, a noisy strong wind and filled with many languages.  It was a surprise arrival yet it had been expected.  Jesus told them to go and wait, so they knew someone was coming as gift from the Father.  In John 15:15-17, 25-26,  Jesus had promised them the Holy Spirit would come.  “If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever-the Spirit of truth.   And all this I have spoken while still with you.  But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”   Also in Luke 24:48-49 Jesus told them of the coming power and place,  “You are witnesses of these things.  I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” 

Why was this necessary?  When I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, His Holy Spirit came to dwell within me.  This Spirit that arrived on tongues of fire and with a great sound lives within me permanently.  He empowers me to live a godly life and to speak to others about Jesus and His salvation.  1 John 4:4 puts it this way, “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is great than the one who is in the world.”   Romans 8:16 “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. ”     2 Corinthians 1:21-22  “Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ.  He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.”    

How do you answer your own 5 W’s about the Holy Spirit?  Who is the Holy Spirit to you?  What are you allowing God to do with this Holy Spirit that lives within you?  Where are you walking in obedience and listening to His Word?  When are you  stepping out in faith to tell others about Jesus?    Why is the Holy Spirit necessary in your life?  Jesus wanted the disciples, and us too, to use the power the Father sent to do the work of telling others and living for Him.  Will you begin today by allowing God’s Holy Spirit living within you to lead you to live for Him in a mighty way that will bring Him honor and glory?

Praising Him this Pentecost Sunday,

Linda

Jesus is Personal, He Knows You like No Other!

Several of the post-resurrection appearances were to specific individuals instead of groups.  I previously wrote about Jesus’ encounter with Mary,  but today I want to look at Jesus’ appearances to Peter and James.  The appearance to Peter is mentioned in passing in Luke 24:34 “saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!”  and in 1 Corinthians 15:5 by Paul “and that he appeared to Cephas (Peter), then to the twelve”.   The Luke message was delivered to the disciples by the two men who Jesus met on the Road to Emmaus.  Here the men referred to Peter as Simon using his former name.   Jesus also referred to Peter by his former name when He told him he would deny Him three time before the rooster crowed. The prediction of the denial is recorded in both Matthew 26 and Mark 14.  The actual denial event is recorded in all 4 gospels, Matthew 26, Mark 14, Luke 22 and John 18.   Peter was not acting with his new believing nature, clinging to the rock of faith which is Jesus, but with the old, impetuous, doubting nature of unbelieving Simon. This personal appearance to Peter shows great compassion from our Lord to singularly appear to Peter to forgive and restore him.  Jesus would have known the anguish and guilt Peter was feeling after his denial of Jesus the night before the Crucifixion.  The forgiven Peter went onward, never doubting nor denying his Lord and Savior again.  Later, Jesus met a group of disciples on the shores of the Sea of Galilee and spoke more with Peter and his future work in the kingdom.  See John 21.   Jesus personally knows what we need and is there for each one of us.   What a wonderful, compassionate and loving Savior we serve.

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The other post-resurrection appearance that was mentioned by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 was to James.  Scholars believe this was James, the half-brother of Jesus, and not one of the other followers named James.  His brother did not believe in Christ before the resurrection, but afterward became a prominent member of the church in Jerusalem, wrote the book of James and died a martyr’s death in 62 A.D.  “Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.”  1 Corinthians 15:7.   This appearance speaks to me of Jesus’ compassion and love for his earthly family and for those who are lost.  2 Peter 3:9  “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance”.   He knew James needed to see Him personally to be confronted with his unbelief.  Jesus does that for each one of us as we seek to come to faith and trust in Him.  He is a personal God that loves and cares for each of us.

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Is Jesus personal to you today?  Do you claim Him as your God and Savior?  David did in 2 Samuel 22:3 “The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation,”  Mary did in Luke 1:47 “and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,” and Thomas did in John 20:28 “ Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”    Let Him hear your words of declaration today as you thank Him for being your God and Savior.

Linda

An Empty Tomb, where is He? Look!! He has Risen Indeed!

The post resurrection appearances began at the empty tomb.  This fact occurs in each of the 4 gospels and 3 of the gospels include the appearance of a heavenly being interacting with the grieving followers of Jesus.   Since Jesus had been hastily buried due to the need to have him buried before sundown, as it was the beginning of the Sabbath and no one could be buried on the Sabbath, His body was not properly prepared with spices.  It was wrapped but not fully treated.  The women, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome went to the tomb with spices intending to anoint Jesus’ body.  The gospel accounts say it was very early in the morning as they walked and talked on the way to the garden tomb.   They were concerned about how they were going to get the stone in front of the tomb removed so they could enter to anoint Jesus’ body.  When they arrived this was the scene:

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And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”  Mark 16:4-8

The angel, who appeared to be a young man, told them not to be afraid as he had good news about Jesus.  He encouraged them to look and see that Jesus was not there.  He also told them to go and tell the others Jesus had risen, and they would see Him again.  The women rushed off to tell the disciples.  John describes the disciples’ reactions in John 20:3-8. “So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed;”

Can you even imagine their joy, surprise, awe, fear and even confusion over experiencing the empty tomb, the clothes that had been wrapped around Jesus’ body that lay neatly folded?  The disciples saw and believed.  How about you?  Do you see the things God does in your life, the unusual happenings, the providential circumstances that can only be explained as God’s hand?  Do these things register with you that God loves and cares for you?  God has a plan for your life just as He did for these disciples. He wanted them to encounter the living God, the resurrected Jesus, and experience His transforming power in their lives.

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May you encounter the Living Jesus and His transforming power today as you realize afresh that the tomb is empty and He has Risen Indeed!

Linda

Resurrection Sunday, A True Eternal Blessing!

During our entire Lenten journey, we have pondered the meaning of Christ’s death on the cross and the actions Jesus wants us to ‘put on’ so we can shine His light and love on others.  Now we need to come to the realization that without the resurrection His death would have been meaningless,  and we would be still lost in sin!  In 1 Corinthians 15:12-19 Paul writes,”12 But tell me this—since we preach that Christ rose from the dead, why are some of you saying there will be no resurrection of the dead? 13 For if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised either. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless. 15 And we apostles would all be lying about God—for we have said that God raised Christ from the grave. But that can’t be true if there is no resurrection of the dead. 16 And if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins. 18 In that case, all who have died believing in Christ are lost! 19 And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world.”

Paul made this argument to clarify for the unbelievers and doubters that belief in the resurrection was essential to faith otherwise they would still have all their sins and be under penalty of death.  Romans 6:23  “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”   Belief in Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross and His victorious resurrection were essential to the Corinthian believer’s faith and are for us as well.  Without the resurrection there is no forgiveness of sins and no victory over death! All of Christ’s suffering here on earth would have been for nothing. 

I know that God is sovereign, all powerful and omniscient and nothing is left to chance or done randomly.  Jesus prayed in John 17:3-4 just before His death, “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.”   We know God’s plans will be accomplished, His Word, Jesus would not return to Him void. Isaiah 55:11 “so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”   Job 42:2 also reminds us of this truth, ““I know that you can do all things,  and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.”   Praise God His purpose was not thwarted and was accomplished completely by Jesus’ death and resurrection from the dead.  Praise God, our Redeemer Lives!

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Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead, Your faith is real, your sins are forgiven, you will spend eternity with Jesus, you are empowered and indwelt by His Holy Spirit!  Praise God!

Happy Easter!  Blessings because of our risen Redeemer, Christ Jesus.

Linda

Holy Week, Saturday, All is quiet!

Jesus was buried in a borrowed tomb by his friend Joseph of Arimathea.  Scripture gives us some hints as to what Jesus was doing between the time of his burial and resurrection.  There is a lot of debate by scholars on the subject, but it is agreed that Jesus was in Hades preaching and teaching.  Ephesians 4:8-10 speaks of Jesus descending and leading captives as he ascended into heaven.  1 Peter 3:18-20 speaks of Jesus preaching to spirits in prison. We can be assured that he was not in the tomb waiting around but doing God’s Work.

Why is scripture basically silent on this period of time?  Probably because it is of little importance to us as believers.  The gospel essence is the death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior.  His power over death is so miraculous and life giving that our focus needs to be on His victory and our resulting redemption.  We also know that Jesus was always about His Father’s business.  “Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I , too, am working.”  John 5:17  God always has a purpose and a plan, and Jesus was always doing the Father’s work.  So on this silent day we can ask ourselves, Am I doing what God wants me to do?  Am I using the time God has given me to pray, study, witness and do good things for others?  Quietly think about God today as you prepare for Resurrection Sunday.   Know for sure the truth of Isaiah’s ancient words:    How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!”   Isaiah 52:7

Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead, I can wait upon Him with assurance and hope knowing my future is secure and all His plans are for my good and His glory!

Blessings as we await His resurrection,

Linda

Holy Week, Tuesday, A Full Day of Teaching!

Bible scholars attribute many happenings to the Tuesday of Holy Week.  Jesus was questioned by the religious leaders as to by what authority was He speaking and performing miracles.  Jesus cleverly trapped them with their own questions, and they left him alone. (Matthew 21:23-27)  After that confrontation, Jesus proceeded to teach in parables about the tenants who killed the messengers sent by the master, then about the wedding banquet where those invited refused to come and strangers were welcomed in their place instead.  Both of these pointed to the treatment of Jesus, God’s Son, by the religious leaders and Jews of His day.  Jesus also taught about taxes and where we owe our allegiance.  He spoke about marriage in heaven and who He really was. (Matthew 21:28-23:39)  

Later in the evening, Jesus ate at the home of Lazarus, Mary and Martha. There Mary anointed Jesus with pure nard, a very expensive perfume, and the disciples were upset at her for using this costly perfume on Jesus. (Matthew 26:6-12)  From morning until night, Jesus used every minute to instruct and build up the faith of His followers as He knew His time was short.

During this day, one of Jesus’ most important teachings was revealed when the Jewish leaders asked Jesus what was the most important commandment in the Law?  Jesus replied: 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Matthew 22:37-39

This statement about the right priorities for our lives is so simply stated, and yet is so difficult to live out on a daily basis.  Putting God first in our lives will keep everything else in balance and then loving others with as much love as we love ourselves comes next.  Do you love yourself? Do you take care with what you put into your body, soul and mind? Jesus tells us that He expects us to love and respect ourselves. Out of our love for God will flow love for ourselves and those around us.  Think about your priorities today and the fact that Jesus spent time His last week on earth telling us how to align our lives in the most productive way for ourselves and others.

Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead, I can have His Holy Spirit’s indwelling power that enables me to keep my priorities in line with Him. Putting God first, honoring yourself and loving others is God’s way. Thankfully, He is able and will see the faith He has started in us to completion as promised in Philippians 1:6 “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” He also promised help in Matthew 19:26 “But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Praise God! He wants us to love and cling to Him and to show His love to others. He will enable us to do so in His time and His way.

Linda

Wholeness Through Jesus

Our scripture today speaks of the death on the cross that put our sins to death and made us alive in Christ. Before Peter concludes with Christ’s suffering in verse 18, he reminds us that in Christ we will suffer for good. 1 Peter 3:15-18

15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 17 For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. 18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to GodHe was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.

We are to expect suffering but Peter tells us to cherish Christ in our hearts and always be prepared to tell others about Him. As we speak gently to others about Christ, we need to persevere even if other speak ill of us. His admonition is that it is better to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. We can console ourselves that Christ suffered, and He was without sin. He died for our sins so that we could be make righteous before God. In His death, he put to death sin and made us alive with the Holy Spirit within us. I love Romans 5:8 “ But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Christ knew I was a sinner and died for me anyway, so I could be reconciled to God. What an amazing Savior we have in Christ Jesus.

Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead, I am purified and made righteous so that I can speak freely of His love and salvation! Thank you Jesus for loving me when I do not deserve it. Thank you Jesus for making me whole and purifying me so I can stand before God the Father covered in your righteousness. Thank you Jesus for you great love for me.

Linda