In Christ, You Are a New Creation

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”
2 Corinthians 5:17

As we turn our calendars over and embark on another new year, our thoughts turn to starting over, making things better in the coming year, resolving to change things in our lives. Often these efforts are short-lived and have little lasting positive effect on our lives. The Bible has much to tell us about making a new start that can make this New Year truly different. Let’s look at the typical approach to bringing about  change in our lives and compare it to God’s approach.

Approach 1 : Changing the old

One approach to making changes in our lives is to focus on the negative things in our lives and attempt to change them for the better. This seems rather intuitive and there is no shortage of self-help books, tapes, and lectures that will prescribe this approach. So why does it so often fail us? Because it operates under the direct influence of our sinful human nature. We enter an improvement plan with a lot of enthusiasm and energy but over time we gradually revert back to old habits and behaviors. What really happens underneath is we are in a continual battle with the very sinful nature that drew us into the negative behaviors in the first place and we simply tire from the fight and relent. We are trying to change the old.

Approach 2: Replace the old with the new

God’s approach to improvement and positive change is completely different.

It starts with the word that is central to all of God’s activity – new. God is the eternal expert on ‘new.’ All of creation was spoken into being by God, everything made new by God Himself. And God is continually making things new all the time. Let’s look at some ways He does this:

New Mercies – God extends new mercy to us each day (Lamentations 3:22-23). Each day is new opportunity to receive His lovingkindness and to start fresh. Nothing that has happened in the past, whether on the previous day or in years past, can in any way remove the love and forgiveness He has ready and waiting for us is each day. To God, every day is New Year’s Day, filled with the opportunity and promise that we tend to assign only to January 1!

New Hearts – God does not promise to change our hearts, He promises to give us new hearts and then fill them with His Spirit! (Ezekiel 36:26) The Bible likens our human, sinful hearts to stone, hard to penetrate, hard to change, well, just simply hard like stone. So rather than offering to chisel away at it, He offers to take it away and replace it with a heart that is soft, pliable and able to contain His Spirit – His very power to help us focus on those things that He focuses on.

New Creations – Armed with new hearts that are filled with His Spirit, acutely aware of His never ending mercies, we are not who we used to be, drug down by our sinful nature, but we are new creations, reborn into new lives. (John 3:3) God sent His Son Jesus into the world for the very purpose of making us new. (John 3:16) Jesus taught that patching the old wasn’t the answer, but being made new in Him was the key (Matthew 9:17).

This new year, you can truly change things by giving the old to God and letting Him replace it with the new. That’s the truth.

If you are in Christ, you have a new, soft heart filled with His Spirit. The old hard heart of stone is gone! If you are in Christ, you can confidently receive His new mercies every day. You don’t have to wait until another New Year’s Day to come around in order to start over! If you are in Christ, you are a whole new creation. The old is gone, the new has come!

 That’s the YouTruth. In Christ, You Are A New Creation.


Jesus Has Prepared a Place For You

When we’re trying to get somewhere, we need to ask and answer a few questions…
  • Where we are now?
  • Where do we want to be?
  • What is the way to get from one to the other?
As Christians, we know that we live in a broken world (where we are) and long to get to our eternal home in heaven (where we want to be).
The way to get there is the remaining question. In the answer there is no road map, no turn-by-turn directions, just Jesus Himself.


“In My Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me that you also may be where I am.”

John 14:2-3 (NIV)

When a wagon train of pioneers wasn’t sure what lay ahead or what direction to go, they would send scouts ahead to test out the available routes and determine the best way to reach the next destination point. When the scouts returned, they would lead the entire group on the way they had chosen. Jesus went ahead for us by suffering and dying on the cross, paying the penalty for our sins, and then rising from the dead and ascending to heaven. Jesus promised to come back and take us to where He had gone, just as a good scout would. But Jesus was not playing the role of a good scout here. He was doing something quite different. I don’t know about you, but I’m not particularly interested in taking the path Jesus took. Thankfully, we don’t have to. Jesus’ going ahead in His suffering, death, resurrection, and ascension and His coming back was not intended to show us the way. It was intended to show us that He was the way (John 14:6). Because He travelled this path, we don’t have to! And it’s a good thing too. We are not qualified to travel that path. Any attempt on our part to travel that path on our own would be met with failure and separation from God. (read “For God So Loves You” for more about this.) When Jesus comes back, He will not take us down the path he chose, but will take us on a route that bypasses His path altogether.

Isn’t it amazing to know that when the time comes for us to go to be in His Father’s house, Jesus Himself will usher us through the front door?! Let’s look at the questions that usually come up about that moment.

When will it be?
Jesus emphatically taught that no one knows when He will return (Matthew 24:36). So the question is un-answerable. But there are key points in time that we know are critical:

1. Now!
Since we don’t know when Jesus will return, every second the clock ticks is an eligible candidate. Treat each moment as though it might be the one! Be ready!

2. When we die
When our life on earth is over, our opportunities to accept Him as Savior and Lord will have passed. If we have chosen Him, He will come back and take us to His Father’s house so we can be there with Him forever!

3. When He returns at His second coming
Some of humankind will be alive on this earth when Jesus returns to usher in the new age. At this time, if we have chosen Him, rather than taking us to His Father’s house, He will bring His Father’s house to us!

What will His Father’s house be like? There have been a few prophets over the course of history that have been allowed to see the Father’s house and return to tell us about it. Their collective descriptions make one thing clear – it is beyond description. These men dazzle us with imagery, numbers, creatures, and signs to try to put what they’ve seen into words. The terms are so ‘out of this world’ that they can be some of the most confusing passages in all of scripture. What we can derive from them is that the Father’s house is a place of amazing power, beauty, worship, light, and peace. While we struggle to grasp just what it will be like, it might be helpful to remember the most important part of it all – Jesus will be there with us and we will be there with Him forever. When you get right down to it, everything else really isn’t that important, is it? That’s the truth.

In My Father’s house are many rooms. I am going ahead to prepare one of those rooms especially for you. When the time is right, I will come back and you and I will go together to this wonderful place. You need not travel any other way, for I AM The Way for you.

That’s the YouTruth – Jesus Has Prepared a Place For You.

“I Will Write My Law on Your Heart”

Thousands of years ago, God promised the people of Israel a new covenant. Today, as we begin another new year, our thoughts tend towards new things. Yet, just as with Israel long ago, if we try to match old with new, the hope and promise of the new covenant will fail and the same old, same old will continue.

“But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day,” says the Lord, “I will put my laws in their minds, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.”

Jeremiah 31:33 (NLT)

The new year brings to mind the prospect of new beginnings. A new start. The hope of shedding those things that have brought us down in the past that we may rise to new heights in the future. Jesus was, among many other things, the bearer of new beginnings for many during His time on earth. We hear many stories of Jesus turning lives around in incredible ways. Why was He able to do this? Can He do this for each of us still today?
Let’s answer these two questions.

Jesus fulfilled God’s promise for a new covenant.
Through the prophet Jeremiah, God promised a new covenant. When Jesus came to earth, lived a sinless life, died and was raised from the dead, He fulfilled God’s promise. But many did not recognize that Jesus was the standard bearer for the new covenant. Why did they miss it when it was right in front of them? For the same reason many today miss it. You see, the new covenant required then, and still requires today, that something else also be new in order for it to work. Without this something else, anything that might masquerade as new is really just the old in disguise, frustratingly ineffective for any who stick to it. Jesus found many bound and determined to stick to the old components and taught them to recognize that the new covenant needed to be truly new in order for it all to work. What He taught them was…

The old covenant is static; the new one isn’t
One day Jesus was asked why His disciples didn’t fast as many other righteous men of the time did. Jesus immediately saw people stuck in the old covenant and used an example to illustrate His point. Just using old rituals (fasting) to enable the new covenant was like putting new wine into an old wineskin. In those days, new wine was placed into goatskin flasks to ferment, which stretched the skins out. Once stretched to their limit, the skins could not be used for new wine again because they would burst, spilling the wine and ruining the skin. The new covenant, like new wine, must have room to grow. The new covenant was not just about rituals, but about a dynamic, growing relationship with God. This required something that was new and pliable that could grow along with it.

Old hearts are hard; we need new hearts that aren’t
Our hearts, in old covenant mode, are described by God as hardened, stony, with sin chiseled into them. (see Jeremiah 17:1) This doesn’t sound like something that can stretch and grow as a relationship with God grows, does it? Trying to approach a relationship with God with a hard heart doesn’t work. It would, if God would allow it, ruin both the covenant and the heart. Imagine the new covenant spilling uselessly on the ground among the shattered pieces of an unyielding heart. God knows the new covenant is far too precious to be placed into such a predicament. The old covenant rituals, such as fasting,  are temporary, imperfect ‘band aids’ that need constant reapplication. They help us know about God, but they don’t fundamentally change hard hearts, they just serve as reminders of our sinful nature and our need for redemption. The new covenant is not an old reminder, it’s a new heart. A ‘new covenant’ heart allows God to live within us, in a personal relationship, so we can exchange the old, distant, knowing about God with intimately knowing God. In response, God puts His will in our minds and writes it permanently on our hearts. From this point forward, our relationship with God can grow and expand to meet all that God has purposed and planned for us.

A rich young man  (see Matthew 19:16-22)
A young man came to Jesus and asked “what good things must I do to have eternal life?”
Jesus recognized the ‘old covenant’ at work immediately. Eternal life is not something earned by good deeds, but established in a personal relationship with God. Jesus steered the conversation to reveal this to the young man. In response, the young man sadly walked away. This new covenant did not fit into a stony heart that the young man was unwilling to open up to Jesus.

Another rich young man  (see Luke 19:1-10)
A man named Zacchaeus sought out Jesus also. Now Zacchaeus had an occupation that required a hard, stony heart—he overcharged his fellow Jews for the taxes they owed to the Roman government and got rich pocketing the difference. After Jesus spent an evening with him, Zacchaeus agreed to give half of his possessions to the poor and to pay back four times what he had cheated out of others. Zacchaeus got it! He entered into the relationship that the first young man turned down. He received the new covenant with a new heart!

Jesus’ new covenant offer still stands today. The requirement remains the same, something else must be also be new— it’s the heart . If we will toss aside our old, hard hearts and accept a supple, tender, new heart, the new covenant can live and grow in us. That’s the truth.

“But this is the new covenant I make with you. I will put my laws in your mind, and I will write them on your heart. You must receive My covenant with your new heart so the you can come to truly know Me as your God. Then  you will be all Mine and I will be all yours!

That’s the YouTruth – I Will Write My Law on Your Heart.

Happy New Year!

He Who Began A Good Work In You

No matter where we are in our lives, no matter what lessons we’ve learned, no matter how faithful we’ve been to God, one thing shows up in every honest self-assessment – we’re not perfect; God still has work left to do in us. But progress in this work is not automatic. In order for the work to continue, we’ve got to let God in to do it.

“…being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 1:6 (NIV)

When Paul wrote this letter to the Philippians, he was confident that God was in the middle of something big. A good work was underway. If Paul were to come to us today we would hope that he would see the same work happening in us. Let’s ask a few questions and use Paul’s evaluation of the Philippian situation to do a spiritual checkup of our own.

How do we know God is at work?

Because we share in God’s grace (Philippians 1:7) If we have secured eternal life by God’s grace through faith in Jesus, God is automatically at work, changing us from the inside out by the power of His indwelt Holy Spirit. (If you’re not sure about this part in your own life click here to read “For God So Loves You.”)

Because our love abounds (Philippians 1:9) Abounding love, love that spills out of Spirit-filled hearts onto anyone and everyone around us is the greatest evidence of God at work. Paul prayed that the Philippians’ love “may abound more.” This tells us that abounding love was present (God had begun a good work) and that God would work to produce even more (God was continuing this work). Paul’s prayer also makes clear that the Philippians have to open themselves to the work God is doing. It works like this—car repairmen asked to repair a rough-running engine can do nothing without being allowed to work on anything inside the car itself. Likewise, God can do nothing in us unless we  allow God access to the internal parts that need the work.

What is the work that God has started?

First, it is important to understand that there are two types of work being done – the work being done in us and the work being done through us. In God’s masterful way, work He does in us always results in work He does through us. Let’s go through some of the work done in us Paul mentioned.

Increasing knowledge and discernment (Philippians 1:9)

The more we know the truth, the more we will be able to figure out, from all the options available to us, which ones are God-initiated and which ones aren’t.

Reducing fear when others oppose us (Philippians 1:28)

The more we remember that the cause of Christ is sure, the more peace and security we experience when we face opposition.

Increasing humility (Philippians 2:3)

Humility is the key to following God. Increasing humility forces out pride, keeping us from supplanting God’s plans with our own.

The work God does in us accomplishes one central thing. It makes us more like Jesus (Philippians 2:5-10). When we become like Jesus, we become brightly shining lights (Philippians 2:15). This is where the work done in us becomes the work done through us.  Here’s how it works. The Holy Spirit that dwells in the hearts of believers is a brightly shining light that reveals God’s grace and truth to the darkened world around us. The dark filter of indiscretion (lack of knowledge and discernment) dims this light. The dark filter of fear in the face of opposition dims this light. The dark filter of pride dims this light. With light that is dim, we look like everyone else in the world and have no real testimony to offer. When these filters get cleared away, we shine like stars!

Shining in our boldness; preaching the Gospel without reservation (Philippians 1:27).

Shining in selflessness; considering the needs of others before our own (Philippians 2:3-4).

Shining in abounding love (Philippians 1:9).


How do we know God will carry on and complete His work?

Because His work is done for His good purpose (Philippians 2:13). God has only eternal purposes that last forever and are never changing. His good purpose is that all would come to know Him and enter into eternal life in His Kingdom. He will continue to work to this good purpose until Christ returns to rule over the New Heaven and the New Earth.

Look around.

Are there those around you who do not know Him? Then there is still bright shining work to do. Has Jesus come to rule over the New Heaven and the New Earth? (At this writing the answer is no.) Then there is still bright shining work to do. God’s faithfulness is great (Lamentations 3:22-23). He will be faithful to complete this work in us and through us if we will let Him. That’s the truth.

You can be confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will continue that work in you so that He may do ever more good work through you that you may become a bright shining light for His good purpose.

That’s the YouTruth – He Who Began A Good Work In You.

You Can Abide in the Shadow of the Almighty

Shadows. Does the word carry a negative connotation to you? It does to me, too. But shadows are not bad things in and of themselves. It’s all in who or what is casting the shadow that makes the difference. Find out about the best “shadow caster” of all.

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High, will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.”

Psalm 91:1 (NASB)

Generally, “in the shadow” is not a place we want to find ourselves. If we are in someone’s shadow, the connotation is that we are overlooked or under-recognized while someone else gets all the attention and recognition. Shadows, as in dark alleys, are places of danger where robbers or drug dealers lurk. The shadows are places where society’s outcast dwell, under freeway overpasses living in cardboard shanties. Even in Scripture shadows are depicted as dark places, as in the shadow of the valley of death in Psalm 23. So why is the psalmist encouraging  us to abide in a shadow? We’ll apply two “shadow-abiding” rules to sort it all out. It is great and glorious indeed to abide in the shadow of the Lord!

Abiding in the shadow – Rule #1

“Abiding in” by “abiding by”

To “abide in” means to remain, continue, stay.1  In other words, to abide in the Lord, is to always stay close to the Lord. The first part of our passage also provides a definition of sorts – to “abide in” is to “dwell in.”  In both parts of the passage, closeness to God is the key. The cool thing about staying close to the Lord is that it is always reciprocated. When we abide in Him, he abides in us (see John 15:1-9)! He never abandons us in our efforts to stay close to Him. We will never hear Him say, “Your efforts at closeness are not good enough, I’ll have to leave you, you don’t measure up.” So how do we stay close to the Lord? We glue ourselves to Him! The glue that holds us close to God is love demonstrated by obedience. Here’s where the “abiding by” part comes in. To “abide by” means to act in accord with, agree to, to remain faithful to.2  Our truest expression of love for God is our obedience to His commandments (see John 15:10). God loves us and when we return that love, we choose closeness with God.

Abiding in the shadow – Rule #2

Pay less attention to the shadow and more attention to that which casts it.

In Psalm 91 and elsewhere in scripture, we see a lot of important shadow casters that reveal it is indeed a good thing to be in the shadow of the Almighty.

The fortress (see Psalm 91:2)

God’s fortress casts a big shadow. A fortress is a place of refuge from attack. We all feel under attack at times. There are times when we encounter enemies we can’t face down alone. When you get right down to it, most enemies we face are those that we can’t effectively defeat on our own. In those times God’s fortress is the place to retreat to. The gate of God’s fortress is opened by a key – trust in God. With this key you can always retreat to His fortress and be safe and protected from anything you face.

His wings (see Psalm 91:4)

The image of the wings of an eagle covering over her young is often used to illustrate God’s love and protection for us.   Have you ever been out in the hot sun on a scorching summer day? Didn’t you long for a covering? A nice shady place provides respite from the oppressive heat and burning rays of the sun.  Sometimes the heat of life’s challenges just gets too hot to face. The shadow of God’s wings can protect us when the rays of life are too hot for us. God’s wings cast a cooling shadow.

The cross  (see John 15:13, Colossians 2:13-14)

If we abide in the shadow of the cross we experience His great love for us, that He would endure the pain and suffering of the cross, to pay the penalty for our sins. In the shadow of the cross, we are not condemned, but forgiven! He has paid the price! As we strive for Christ-likeness in our lives, we will fall short. He’s already paid. Abiding in the shadow of the cross will always remind us that there is no shame, just brushing ourselves off and trying it again. He’s already paid.

The stone that rolled away (see Luke 24:1-8, 2 Corinthians 5:1, Philippians 3:14)

If we abide in the shadow of the stone that rolled away, we can rejoice! We know a resurrection day is assured for each of us! No matter what the predicament of the moment may be – pain, suffering, disappointment, loneliness, illness, addiction, you name it – a resurrection day is coming! Abiding in the shadow of the stone that rolled away will always remind us that no matter how damaged or outcast we may become on this earth, we will one day be brought into His presence and into fellowship with all the saints, past, present, and future worshipping Him in His eternal Kingdom forever!  Which brings us to. . .

The tree of life (see Genesis 2:9, Revelation 22:2)

In God’s original paradise, Eden, grew the tree of life. In God’s next paradise, the new heaven and the new earth, the tree of life will be growing. If we abide in the shadow of the Almighty, in the shadow of His fortress, in the shadow of His wings, in the shadow of the cross, in the shadow of the stone that rolled away, then we will forever stand in the shadow of the tree of life. That’s the truth.

If you dwell in the shelter of the Most High, if you choose to abide in the Lord, if you choose to abide by the Lord’s commandments, then you can abide in the shadow of the Almighty. In the shadow of the Almighty, you will be in the protective shadow of his fortress; you will be shielded by the shadow of His wings; you will know forgiveness in the shadow of the cross; you will rejoice in the shadow of the stone rolled away; you will forever dwell in the shadow of the tree of life!

That’s the YouTruth – You Can Abide in the Shadow of the Almighty

You Are God’s Workmanship

When we look at a little baby, we often marvel at God’s workmanship, how He can put together tiny little fingers and toes, bright eyes and precious smiles. It is beautiful and wonderfully made by God indeed! We need to remember that this is only phase one of God’s workmanship. Without phase two, phase one dies.

“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Phillipians 2:10 (NIV)

When we look at a little baby, we often marvel at God’s workmanship, how He can put together tiny little fingers and toes, bright eyes and precious smiles. It is beautifully and wonderfully made by God, indeed (see Psalm 139:13-14)! The marvelous work we see in a newborn is only the first of two phases of God’s workmanship, and sadly, the first phase faces eventual destruction if the second phase does not take place. It is this second phase of God’s workmanship that Paul refers to in our passage above. You see, as innocent as the gurgles and coos of an infant can be, there still underlies a sinful nature that will have to be dealt with if God is going to do any true, lasting workmanship at all.

I’ve got some bad news and some good news… (see Ephesians 2:1-4)
This is a true bad news/good news story. The bad news is that when we are born, we not yet God’s true workmanship.  We are simply the physical raw materials God will use as instruments of His love and peace once He has crafted us into the people He plans for us to be. And there is a problem. In Paul’s letter, he shares a harsh reality with the Ephesians – they were all dead. This may have come as a shock to many of them. It may come as a shock to many of us if we hear such an evaluation of our state of being. Having a pulse, breathing, moving, thinking, feeling has nothing to do with life from God’s perspective. To God, if we have sin we are separated by that sin from Him. If we are separated from God, we are dead. Pure and simple. If we accept breathing and thinking as life-defining measures, we disqualify ourselves from becoming God’s workmanship. God can’t do His workmanship on a dead person, whether they think they are dead or not. This is the bad news.

Enter God’s Grace (see Ephesians 2:4-9)
Here’s the Good News: God knew that we would be born sinners, so He planned right from the beginning, out of His great love for us, to make a way for us to become alive. It is by His Grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Paul was careful to explain an important fact about God’s Grace: it does not come from us; it is a gift. We accept His gift through faith in Jesus, and in this gift, we are made alive. Now God has something to work with. This is the very Good News!

(If you are not sure that you have accepted the gift of God’s Grace, see “For God So Loves You” now!)

The Potter, the Clay, His Workmanship (see Isaiah 64:8)
When we become alive, we become like softened clay to a potter, pliable and yielding to the work of the potter’s hands. Have you ever watched a potter spin his work on a potter’s wheel? It is precise work that takes a great deal of kneading and pressing to shape the formless lump of clay into the shape the potter intends. It is hard work. It takes a lot of force, especially in the beginning. So it is with our potter, God, and His clay, us. When we become God’s workmanship, we are subjecting ourselves to sometimes uncomfortable molding and shaping, especially as God begins His work. But as we continue to yield to the guidance of His hands, we will become more and more the useful implement He intends for us to be. Think about it – a lump of clay is of no use in it’s original form. But after the lump is formed, glazed, fired, and finished it is a vase, a bowl, a cup, it is a beautiful, purposeful piece. So what is God forming us to do?

Good Works (as in our passage, Ephesians 2:10; also see Romans 9:21)
Paul further explains that God’s workmanship is about good works. Not any good works. Not good works we may choose for ourselves. Not good works done with ulterior motives in mind. No, we are God’s workmanship to do those good works God has prepared in advance for us to do. You see, God is an all-seeing God. Before we were even born, God had works in mind for us. He knew exactly what good works would advance His Kingdom in the place we would be at the time we became His workmanship. He’s got it all worked out. He’s had it all worked out for a long time. That’s the truth.

You are beautifully and wonderfully made by God’s first phase of work. Without God’s second phase of work you are dead in your sinful nature. If you are dead, God can’t complete His work in you. If you come alive by His grace through your faith in Jesus Christ, God will complete His work in you. You will then become His beautiful and purposeful workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, to do good works which He prepared in advance for you to do. 

That’s the YouTruth  You Are God’s Workmanship.

Jesus Is With You Always

Sometimes the promises of God bump up against circumstances or conditions that seem to erase them or render them unkept. In these cases, one of two things has happened – we have understood God’s promise within the limits of this world or we have understood God Himself within the limits of this world. In both cases we are mistaken and this causes us to miss out on so much God has for us.

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this:  I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Matthew 28:19-20 (NLT)

When He was crucified, they thought He was gone. They were a scared, dejected, scattered lot. And then He rose from the dead. He was back! They worshipped Him and He taught them many things. Soon after He told His disciples that He would always be with them, He left again! (see Acts 1:9) Following the coming of the Messiah was a bit of a roller coaster ride. Let’s go back through the ups and downs to get us ready to discuss our passage.

He came! (see Luke 2:1-18)

Just as the prophets foretold, the Messiah, Jesus, was born in Bethlehem. Angels announced His birth, and the news spread that the Messiah had come.

He left (see Matthew 2:13-15)

Mary and Joseph took Jesus and fled to Egypt to escape the danger of King Herod’s jealous wrath. They remained in hiding until Herod died and eventually made their way to Nazareth where Jesus grew up in obscurity in Galilee.

He came again!

About 25 years later, Jesus, now an adult, was proclaimed as the Messiah and baptized by John the Baptist. God’s voice proclaimed from heaven, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17) During the next three years, Jesus taught, gathered disciples, performed miracles, and established His authority as the promised Messiah. The Messianic roller coaster hit an epic high point when Jesus entered into Jerusalem to shouts of “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Matthew 21:9)

He left again (see Matthew 27:26-50)

In just a few short days, Jesus was flogged and executed on a wooden cross as a criminal. The roller coaster hits the lowest of lows.

He came again! (see Matthew 28:1-10, Matthew 28:18-20)

Three days after being buried in a rock tomb, His followers discovered that He had risen! He was alive! It was during this period that Jesus delivered the promise that is in our passage – He would always be with them. The disciples must have thought, ‘Finally, the roller coaster ride is over.’ But, alas, it was not. Soon after Jesus made His promise. . .

He left again (see Acts 1:1-11)

Jesus was giving His disciples important instructions when all of a sudden He rose up into the sky and disappeared into a cloud. They were stunned! They just stood there, looking up, not knowing what to do or say. I’d forgive them if they were a little confused.  Jesus took His place at the right hand of God in heaven and seemingly reneged on His promise to always be with them. Jesus’ last instruction to His disciples holds the key to understanding how He was going to keep His promise. He told them to stay in Jerusalem until God sent what He had promised – the Holy Spirit.

Let’s get off the roller coaster for a minute and discuss an important concept:

The Trinity

There is only one God, the Creator of the universe. God also exists as three unique persons. The triune (three-in-one) nature of God is a hard concept to grasp. It defies the ‘either-or’ requirements of the laws of physics that prohibit three people from also being one person or vice versa. Let’s remember right off the bat that God, as the Creator, is not bound by the limits of the universe He created. We would never argue that an auto designer must be bound by the limits of the car he designed. The designer, as with God, must be outside of the limits of that which he designs by definition. Some illustrations are used to help explain how God can be three persons and still be one person. While none can completely satisfy, consider this one:

The chemical compound H2O can exist in three unique forms – solid as ice, liquid as water, and gas as water vapor. Each is fully and completely H2O yet each has its own unique characteristics. So it is with the three persons of God. Each is fully and completely God, yet each is unique in their own right – God the Father and Creator, God the Son and Redeemer, God the Holy Spirit and Helper.

So how did Jesus fulfill His promise to ‘be with you always?’ while also residing in heaven at the right hand of God? He sent His other person – the Holy Spirit.

Now back on the roller coaster. . .

He came back! (see Acts 2:1-11)

On Pentacost an amazing thing happened. The promised Holy Spirit came upon the believers waiting as instructed in Jerusalem. With the sound of a mighty wind and with the appearance of fire, the Holy Spirit settled in among them. They were instantly transformed. Jesus was with them again in the person of the Holy Spirit! They poured into the crowded streets preaching the Gospel, miraculously in the many different languages spoken by those who were there. And so it is today. Jesus is with each believer in the person of the Holy Spirit bringing along with Him, His transformative power. And it gets even better because…

He is more than just ‘with us’

When Jesus is with us, He is within us. The very person that has the power to create the universe, overcome the grave, and teach us the truth is the same person that resides within us when we make Him our Savior and Lord.

[If you’re not sure Jesus resides within you, click here and learn how to be absolutely sure. It’s too good to pass up.]

You see, Jesus is more than just an almighty bodyguard that walks with each of us, He is the very person that walks in each of us. The apostle Paul put it perfectly when he wrote, “. . . I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20 NIV) Jesus can never be separated from us because He resides within. It doesn’t get any better than that! So what are we to do with this Good News? Jesus tells us in this passage – tell others about Him!  Make disciples, baptize,  and teach. It’s hard work but Jesus knows we can do it – after all, He is within each of us! That’s the truth.

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, for I am within you. Remember My three persons – baptize them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, for I am within you. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you, for I am within you. And be sure of this:  I am with you always, for I am within you, even to the end of the age.”

That’s the YouTruth – Jesus Is With You Always.

Jesus Carried Your Sorrows

Most of us are familiar with the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ arrest, trial, and eventual crucifixion. In these accounts, Isaiah’s prophesy in chapter 53 is fulfilled. Through Isaiah’s words, God delivered two essential messages. We find these messages when we ask the question, “What did Jesus carry to that hill at Calvary?” There are two distinct answers to the question, and if we miss one or the other, we leave blessings on the table that Jesus intended for us. So let’s make sure we get them both!

“Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.  But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.”

Isaiah 53:4-5 (NIV)

About 700 years before Jesus arrival on earth, the prophet Isaiah shared the great news that He would one day come.  Isaiah also shared gritty details about what Jesus would do for us. Sometimes we are too busy grimacing at the details of His death, being crushed, wounded, whipped, slaughtered as a lamb, that we may forget an important part of Isaiah’s prophecy – what He carried.

Answer 1:  The Cross

Message 1 (part one):  God’s love for us is unbelievably deep

Part of being ‘crushed’ and ‘wounded’ using the Roman methods of the time required the condemned to carry the cross that he would be crucified on. So it was with Jesus.  After being whipped and beaten within inches of His life, He had to drag this heavy object through the streets to Golgotha. It was so difficult that He couldn’t actually make it all the way. Simon from Cyrene, who had travelled to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover, was pulled from the crowd to carry it the rest of the way. (see Luke 23:26) That Jesus would be physically unable to carry it all the way is understandable. The cross probably weighed 100 pounds or more. It is the cross that draws much of our focus when we remember Jesus’ sacrificial death. That He would willingly put Himself through such agony for those who were but sinners (namely us) is hard to fathom. It allows us to understand the true depth of His love and concern for those of the world. Jesus taught that the ultimate expression of love is to lay down one’s life for another (See John 10:11-16, John 15:13). As usual, Jesus was no passive teacher in this regard.

When we remember that Jesus left His position in the highest realms of heaven, at the very right hand of God, to the lowest, most brutal point on the earth, elevates Jesus’ sacrifice to a level unequaled.

Or does it?

Not yet.

There’s something missing here. You see, this act of carrying the cross and dying upon it is without any meaning or significance whatsoever by itself. Isaiah’s passage tells us Jesus carried something else that day. If Jesus did not also carry this, He would not have laid down His life for us, He would have just laid down His life.  We need. . .

Answer 2:  Our sins

Message 1 (conclusion):  God’s love for us is unbelievably deep.

The true gift of Jesus’ sacrifice lies in this additional baggage. How much additional burden did He bear because, not only was He carrying a dreadfully heavy wooden cross, He was carrying every sin, every grief, every sorrow, every transgression ever committed by every person that ever lived or would ever live for all of human history. This is a burden we cannot even comprehend. And now, Jesus has died for us. He has paid the penalty for all of our sins, so we don’t have to. He has taken our place and accepted our punishment upon Himself, even though He committed none of the sins for which He was punished!

Now that’s true love.

Message 2:  There’s is no carrying left for us to do.

Jesus carried all of these sins to the cross for us already. That is great news for us today! When we are feeling burdened with the guilt of past sins, we can know that Jesus already carried them to the cross already. When we are feeling burdened with the sorrow of missed opportunities to love others, we can know that Jesus carried them to the cross already. There is no carrying left for us to do.

In fact, the burden we feel for all of these things is an illusion. Sometimes, a self-created illusion, sometimes an illusion created by Satan’s deception, but illusions nonetheless. Illusions that rob us of the peace Jesus intends for us, rob us of the healing He has already done in us. So let’s not be fooled! Let’s rejoice instead, stand up straight, leap into the air! We can do it. There’s nothing weighing us down. That’s the truth.

Jesus took up your infirmities and carried your sorrows. There is no carrying left for you to do! He was pierced for your transgressions, He was crushed for your iniquities; the punishment that brings you peace was upon Him, and by his wounds you are healed.

That’s the YouTruth – Jesus Carried Your Sorrows.

You Are the Salt and Light

Salt, light, trampling, bushel baskets, cities, hills, mockery, persecution, lies. Believe it or not, these are all pieces to a puzzle that, when properly assembled, clearly reveals this picture: God loves those of the world that have turned away from Him and He wants us to help Him get them back. (And by the way, our participation isn’t optional.)

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”

Matthew 5:13-16 (NIV)

Jesus taught that great rewards come to those who follow Him. He also taught how we could tell we were getting the ‘follow Him’ part right. His teaching on the subject contains a whole list of objects and indicators – salt, light, trampling, bushel baskets, cities, hills, mockery, persecution, lies. A proper understanding of this confusing stack of stuff reveals fundamental underlying principles. To help navigate through all of this, we’ll hijack two of Newton’s Laws of Motion (anyone remember these from science class?) and repurpose them as “YouTruth Laws of Spiritual Motion.”

Jesus taught us that once saved, we assume a vital role in a great ‘redirection project’ for the world. The bottom line: Those of the world are heading in the wrong direction. God loves them and desperately wants them to turn to Him. (It’s important to remember that those redeemed by Jesus once belonged to this group.) We are to help turn them around (see Matthew 28:19). How to do it and how to know you’re getting it right is the core of Jesus’ teaching in our passage. In it He tells us to bright and salty. Let’s start to dissect and understand His teaching by rolling out our first principle:

The First YouTruth Law of Spiritual Motion

The world, in a state of uniform motion away from God, tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it.

Jesus used two examples to illustrate how this spiritual law works—salt and light. The proper use of these items is akin to applying an external force, influencing and changing that to which it is applied.


Salt was used as a seasoning in biblical times as it is today. Salt was also used as a preservative. In order to change the taste of unseasoned food, salt must have flavor. In order to halt the steady decay of meats, salt must be ‘salty.’ In both uses, ‘salty salt’ makes a difference. It turns things around. It’s qualities slow decay or give bland food pizzazz. It is an external ingredient that, when applied, undoubtedly changes that which it touches.  Once salt has lost its flavor it becomes useless for either purpose. Such ‘used up’ salt was used in biblical times to cover walkways and roadways, much like gravel might be used today. Thus Jesus described it as ‘trampled by men.’


In order to change darkness into ‘lightness’, a force that is fundamentally different must be applied. Simply put, light is the opposite of darkness and therefore qualifies, but when covered by a bushel basket, would lose its differentiating quality from darkness and would thus have no effect on it. Unencumbered light, as with the lights of a city upon a hill on a dark night, makes such a difference that it can be seen for miles.

We are to be like these things. We must make a difference. Our presence, words, and deeds, must be markedly different. They must, as the law states, be external. They must come, not from the world, but from God. Then, and only then, can they turn people of the world, heading in the wrong direction, around. How do we know when we’re getting it right? How do we know, when we are sufficiently ‘bright and salty’, letting God direct our actions and our testimony? Let’s look at our next principle:

The Second YouTruth Law of Spiritual Motion (see Matthew 5:11)

For every godly action, there is an opposite worldly reaction.

Many will wrongly expect the world to receive our testimony with open arms, willing acceptance, and maybe even applause and accolades. While some will embrace the message, there will always be those who don’t.  You see, the world likes the direction it is going. A life of material self-focus is very comfortable and fully acceptable to those who don’t know that God has something far greater for them. And the world will fight to protect these comfortably ways. When we follow Jesus, the world will press against us. There will be opposition at every turn. This opposition will often be unpleasant and sometimes downright nasty. People will mock us. People will tell lies about us. We will face persecution. When this happens, Jesus says to receive it with joy! Why? Because the 2nd Law instructs that we are not on the right path, we are not heading in the right direction, we are not following Jesus if we are not facing these consequences. If we are not facing opposition, we are not on the path to the great reward Jesus promises! It is Jesus’ great reward, and only Jesus’ great reward, that can bring us true joy. As it turns out, mockery, lies, and persecution are exactly the assurance we are looking for. And the world unwittingly provides it.

Jesus was no passive teacher on this point. (see Hebrews 12:1-3) He led by example. He died a shameful, agonizing death on the cross because of the joy He knew would be His for having done so. There are many other examples of faithful people that faced worldly opposition too. Prophets, apostles, and countless others who were simple, average folks like us, were beaten, ostracized, even killed. These predecessors form a ‘great cloud of witnesses’ that surround us everywhere, every minute of every day, especially when we are facing opposition ourselves. They remind us of the joy of the prize and to not lose hope or grow weary (see Hebrews 11:1 – 12:1). That’s the truth.

You are the salt of the earth. So you are called to be salty! You are the light of the world. So you are called to let your light shine! You are called to be the external force that turns the direction of the world around. You will face opposition. When you do, receive it with all joy! It is the assurance that you are on the road to great reward in heaven!

 That’s the YouTruth – You Are the Salt and Light.

If You Have Not Love

Did you ever think that you could do a kind thing and not be doing the will of God? Me either. But Paul taught in his first letter to the church in Corinth that God’s will is not found in the act, but in the love behind it. With God’s love behind it, our kindness is God’s kindness. Without it, we’re just banging and clanging.

“If I speak in tongues of men and of angels but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.”

1 Corinthians 13:1

If you’ve been to a Christian wedding ceremony, you’ve probably heard a reading of some or all of 1 Corinthians 13. Understanding Paul’s focus in this chapter requires the context provided by chapter 12. When reading the two chapters together, we discover that chapter 13 is not a discussion about love in the marriage relationship as is often thought. It’s really a discussion about putting spiritual gifts to their proper use and the depravity of intentionally, or unintentionally, using those gifts improperly.

(Be sure, citing Paul’s description of true love from chapter 13 in a wedding ceremony is not improper at all. It speaks into the narrow focus of the relationship between God, husband, and wife—one of the many relationships the passage can be applied to.)

Paul’s list of spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians includes working of miracles, prophecy, speaking in tongues, interpretation of tongues, and the power to heal. Other spiritual include hospitality, administration, giving, and mercy. Most of us would immediately associate such things with God. If we experienced someone using these gifts we would assume that God was behind it. But that is not always so!

Understanding that spiritual gifts can be misused (or worse, hijacked by Satan for his misuse) is very important. Consider a chain saw. In the hands of a skilled lumberman it can be used to quickly create a stack of perfectly formed logs. In the hand of an untrained, inexperienced user, it can maim or kill operator and bystanders alike. The same is true with the spiritual gifts God gives to people of faith. They are tools designed for a purpose and they are to be used in accordance with that purpose. Whatever gifts God has entrusted to us, we can’t take these gifts or the responsibility for using them lightly. We do great damage when we do, many times without even knowing it.

Thankfully, God’s Word gives us the simple, direct way to measure the use of a spiritual gift. Start with asking the question, “Which came first?” Now we’ve heard the similar, paradoxical question, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” This is not a question like that. This is a question with a clear answer. Let’s use two basic truths to examine the use of spiritual gifts:

Truth One: The two imperatives

When asked, Jesus boiled all of the Jewish Law down to two commandments:

Love God.

Love others.

Therefore, any use of spiritual gifts that does not accomplish one of these two objectives falls outside of God’s will, tumbling into the category of misuse. So our evaluating question must always be, “Did love come first?” We can’t assume that the act of using a spiritual gift is automatically righteous. We must ask the question, “Was there sincere love for the other person first, and was the act that followed performed in response to that love?” An affirmative answer to this question is required. If not, we don’t do the will of God, we bang gongs and clang cymbals instead.

Truth Two: God is love, Satan isn’t

Satan longs to convince as many people as possible to reject God’s offer of an eternal, love relationship with Him by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Satan uses loveless application of spiritual gifts as a method of deception to this end. Using the gift in our passage as an example, if we speak in ‘tongues of angels’ without love, we confuse. No one can understand what we’re saying. Those confused by our actions will turn away from our witness. If we speak and interpret tongues in love, we edify and inform. Those informed by our actions will experience God’s love and be drawn to it. Satan loves loveless miracles, loveless healing, loveless prophecy because he knows God is not in them! They contribute to the confusion he thrives on. The more phony, loveless, God-less acts there are, the easier it is to convince non-believers that God is really not necessary, not real, not important. . .

There are two paths a believer can take in the use of spiritual gifts, and as much as we would like, there is no neutral territory for their use—they are either used as a means of expressing God’s love to others or they are used in a way incompatible with God’s purpose for them. That’s the truth.

If you speak in tongues of men and of angels but you have not love, you are only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If you have not love as the central motivation for using any of your spiritual gifts, you do not use them in accordance with God’s will. If you have not love, Satan is surely nearby, ready to use your gift for his purposes.

That’s the YouTruth – If You Have Not Love.