Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Journey

     Sunday night in our worship gathering, our pastor challenged us to share this week the story of how Christ has changed our lives. I must say in my case, it has been a dramatic change, but I can't help but think that how He continues to work in me is equally significant. And so, here is that story in a nutshell, but it is a story without an ending at present, for my walk with the Lord is truly a journey and I have not yet come to its end.
      I attended church as a young girl and even made a public profession of faith, but I do not think my heart was truly committed to the Lord at this time. Oh, sure, I knew several Bible stories, but they all seemed disconnected and irrelevant to me. They were interesting stories in my eyes, but I never understood the significance of them as an unveiling throughout history of God's greater plan of redemption. I did not see the glory of God in them. I had done what I thought was expected of me, but I had no heart commitment to something or Someone greater than myself. Instead, as a teen and young woman, I rebelled utterly. I mocked God and the Christianity I had claimed to embrace as a child. I drank. I withdrew from my family and kept myself from making any close friends. I embraced a self-focused life that was easily labeled "depression," and I lived a wholly irresponsible and immoral lifestyle. I was perfectly miserable.

     This phase in my life culminated in my becoming pregnant by the man I would eventually marry, although at the time I had only known him for a few weeks. I was completely devastated. I had always felt myself to be a loser or in some way reprehensible, and so trashing my body did not bother me. The idea of being responsible for another living being when I was such a wreck disturbed me tremendously. I was convinced that I could not even be a decent human, much less a decent mother. I did not know what to do, only that I felt like any semblance of control I had over life had just slipped away.  I felt more lonely than I ever had before, which was saying something from the girl who graduated high school a freak with 6-8 signatures in her yearbook.
       It was here that God met me for the first time, although I did not know it was Him until later. At this low point of my life, He introduced me to real love. I had always wanted to be loved, but never felt worthy of it and so sabotaged it continually while all the time longing for it desperately. Now, with this child growing steadily in my womb, God began to reveal what love was really all about. Love was not for getting, it was for giving. I was broken by this realization, broken for all the time I wasted in bars and self-pity that I could have been loving my two younger sisters or my little nieces. I was crushed by the understanding that I had sought love when all the while it had been mine to give. But I did not yet know God.

     It was sometime after my marriage that I began to have a strong conviction that there was Someone out there, Someone who had begun teaching me about love in order to teach me about Himself. It was then I weighed the options of all the religions I had read up on in high school and decided that I must read the Bible once and for all. After all, I had claimed not to believe it, but how could I honestly say that if I had never actually read it? And so I did. And I prayed, perhaps my first real prayer, "God, if You are there, help me to believe this book, because I do not believe a word of it. Show me Yourself if You exist, and I will believe, only I need You to help me believe." 

     Somewhere in my reading of the Bible, I realized that I did believe in Him. I was no longer praying, "Help me to believe," but rather, "God, why?" In time, He answered those questions, too. He led me to a church with a very solid preacher who taught from the Word of God, and His Word humbled and convicted me.

      I learned that God created man and woman and they had perfect fellowship. . . until they chose to disobey God and allowed sin to enter the world. I learned that the consequence of sin is death.  I learned that God drew out His people from the nations around them, choosing them by His divine grace to be a people set apart for Him. I learned of the covenant He made with them, and of the promise He made that "all the nations would be blessed" through Abraham's decendants. I learned that all sin is serious and requires the spilling of blood to atone for it, but that an animal was an imperfect sacrifice and so many had to die, for there are many sins.

     I learned so much more, but the greatest thing that I learned was that Jesus Christ came to earth--God Himself in human form--to live a life of perfect obedience to God's law. He gave up His perfect life to pay the penalty for the sins of the world, and He rose again on the third day and now prepares a place for all who put their trust in Him and do what He says. I learned that He was calling me to die to my old way of life, to die to sin, and to live forever with Him. I learned that He requires obedience, but that He will give me what I need to obey if I merely trust in Him. The greatest part was, I learned that I never am and never will be alone. I have a Savior who is my God, my Sovereign King, my Intercessor, and my greatest Friend and Advocate.

     Since the moment I first believed that Jesus Christ died for me--that His death was enough to atone for the myriad horrific things I had said and done--I began a journey with Him that would change my life forever. The more I come to know Him, the more I want to know. He has taken me through times of darkness where I could not hear His voice, and I have learned that the darkness was within my own heart. It was my unbelief that I was walking through, and He used that horrible time to expose it. On the other side of that, I see that it is sin and sin alone that seperates me from God. I see, also, that it does not have to be intentional sin. When I was truly desirous of knowing any little thing that stood between us, He showed it to me. My greatest desire is that I would not allow any "pet" sins to stand between me and the flood of Himself that my Lord wishes to pour into me, be it ever so small or seemingly harmless.

     Lately, God has been teaching me about humbling myself completly. Part of that has been to serve others even when it is difficult for me, not for myself or for them, but because He gave His all for me. There is no act of service too great or too small for my Lord to ask of me, and He may ask that I do it with a cheerful and willing heart. I am His, and He is showing me how completely true that is, though He has never forced Himself or His will on me. He has merely given me a taste of what pure fellowship with Him will be, and that is enough to make me reject all the delights that this world holds for the hope I have of future delights beyond imagining in Eternity with my King.

     And so, for the sake of obedience, I can learn to "Do all things without grumbling or questioning" so that I may be "blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world." (Philippians 2:14-15)   When I serve, I can also remember "whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies--in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen." (1 Peter 4:11) 

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith-- that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. 
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.

Philippians 3:7-15

Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, March 22, 2012


          For the last several weeks, I have been fighting a virus that had me completely fatigued, foggy-headed, and eventually decided to turn into bronchitis. During the thick of it, I was also trying to orchestrate a field trip for our home school tutorial--something I have never done on a large scale before. I made a couple of errors in sending emails, once sending out the wrong date and another time sending it to only half the group. I also had several instances of miscommunication with others despite my best attempts at clarity (which may not have been clear at all, considering the sluggish state of my thoughts), and I found that I was easily irritated at the whole business. My kids, too, seemed to team up to bombard my struggling brain with questions that I could not answer and chaos that I could not sort out. All in all, I was just tired, cranky, and out of sorts and found that I had very little grace for others and none at all for myself.

         Throughout those days, I had been reading and re-reading 1 Peter; either in whole or in parts each day. Although I had read it so many times, it wasn't until just a couple of days ago--the first day I began to have a little returned vigor--that some of the passages struck me. The first one to really slap me in the face was this:
Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for "All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever." And this word is the good news that was preached to you.      1Peter 1:22-25 (emphasis mine)
      The word translated "earnestly" in the above passage can also mean "intensely or fervently." It occurred to me that in allowing myself to be vexed by my own inability to communicate and by the misunderstandings of others, I was not showing earnest love. In fact, I was not showing any love at all. I was merely being irritable, which 1 Corinthians 13:5 clearly tells us has nothing to do with love.  I was humbled, reminded of my fickle nature and of the patience and long-suffering of the Lord I am supposed to be emulating. Reading on, the following passage also made me squirm a little:
The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies--in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
1 Peter 4:7-11
     It was another reminder that I am called to something far greater than my transitory troubles and that nothing I am given is for my own use or benefit, but for the service of others and the glory of God. This should be heartfelt, intense love  and it cannot be dealt out just when I feel like it. It is not to be a feigned nor superficial love, either, nor is it optional. It is commanded. It is deep, intense, and intentional, and it is mine only through the strength God supplies, and only mine to give for His glory.

     James MacArthur says, in the notes on 1 Peter 1:22 from his study Bible, "Such love exhibits itself by meeting others at the point of their need." Those words, combined with the nudging from the Holy Spirit, reminded me that even when I am ill and out of sorts, I am not excused from actively and intentionally loving other people. It is at these times, perhaps, more than others when I need to be the most deliberately mindful of the needs of others and of stepping outside myself. It is at these times of flimsy affection on my part when I need to rely the most on the ever-powerful, unfailing love of my King. It is His love, after all, that I need to exhibit, for it is His love that is truly blazing, ardent, alive, and unflagging.

For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. 2 Corinthians 5:14-15



Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, March 15, 2012


Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 5:5-11
      Yesterday I was plagued with anxiety. There were matters pressing in on me and my entire spring schedule seemed to want to invade the space of that single day. I don't know where it came from, but it drove me first to talk with my Father and then secondly to seek the counsel of other believers. In the end, I was able to let it go after God reminded me that He was God, not me, and could handle it. He also reminded me of the many times in the past where I suffered anxiety or worry over some situation only to find an absolute remedy awaited just days or weeks later. Of course, He can see that and that is why it is vitally important that I trust fully in the eternal vision of my heavenly Father. I can no more see the outcome of any one action or event than my 7-year-old can understand the ramifications of too much sugar now to her adult body later. I had to humble myself, as the passage above states, and remember that I can cast my anxieties on Him because He has my best interests at heart. He knows what He is doing. If He allows a situation to unfold, I need not worry about the outcome.  I am His child and as a child need to trust in the wisdom of the One who loves me most.

          All of that got me thinking about knowledge, suffering, and submission... In the end, the more I know about the Lord, the more liable I am to do what is right. James 4:17 says, "So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin." The more I understand about sin and righteousness, the more accountable I am to make the good choice. The more thoroughly I comprehend Christ's life and suffering, the more I must submit to any suffering -- large or small-- without complaint. The clearer I see my pride, the more obligated I am to humble myself as it is written plainly throughout the Scriptures in too many passages to quote.

     I have walked with the Lord long enough to understand how pervasive my pride is, how sneaky, how subtly it worms its way into my conversations or my concerns. As a matter of fact, I would venture to say that pride and unbelief are at the roots of every sin I commit. They are pesky and vile, tainting every single thing I do and every word I speak. I often find that I have spoken a phrase in conversation that strokes my pride and was entirely unnecessary for any other purpose. It sounds a small thing, perhaps, but I assure you it is not. Every act of pride, no matter how minuscule or innocent-seeming, is an act of defiance against the sovereignty of God. It is not Him I glorify in these matters but myself. 

     I also know that there are times when I have been tempted to "pretend" I did not understand this and speak well of myself (subtly, mind you--I am not speaking of blatant hauteur), to plug my ears, if you will, and pretend I did not hear the Lord's quiet voice warning me against it. However, then I remember the verse from James and it all comes crashing down around me. If I know it to be wrong, I must not do it. I have a feeling that repenting of an honest slip is one thing, contrived repentance is quite another.

     To sum up these thoughts, I give you a quote from a C. S. Lewis novella entitled The Great Divorce: "There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, 'Thy will be done,' and those to whom God says, in the end, 'Thy will be done.' All that are in Hell, choose it."  And so, my friends, I leave you with some questions: Can a person who knows better enter the Kingdom of Heaven by trying not to understand their sins--by covering their eyes, if you will? Can we hope to follow Jesus down the narrow road without understanding how narrow the road is and exactly where it deviates from the broad road? Can we hope to follow Him at all if we do not spend enough time with Him to see the contrast between where we end and He begins? Can we possibly be excused because we didn't know better if we have not wholeheartedly sought to understand?

     In a nutshell, can we hope to be saved by the cloak of Christ's righteousness, suffering, and humility if we finger the garment, discuss it's quality, point it out to our friends, but never put it on?

For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And "If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?" Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good. 

1Peter 4:17-19

Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Little Things

"Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour. For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master's money.

Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, 'Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.' His master said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.'

And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, 'Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.' His master said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.'

He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, 'Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.' But his master answered him, 'You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'"
Matthew 25:13-30

     Since the beginning of my walk with the Lord, I have wanted to go on a mission trip. The way has never been open for me, and at first it was a source of discouragement and frustration for me. As I have come to understand my God more and more, I have begun to understand why He has not let it happen just yet. For one, at the beginning my motives were wrong. I wanted to go because it seemed like what a good Christian ought to do. In part, I felt obligated by the simple fact that "everyone else" did it.The reality of this was that my true motives were for myself, not for the sake of the Lord or His kingdom; more about looking good or perhaps feeling good about myself. It's hard to say exactly--my reasons at the time were a bit fuzzy, I fear, but I am rock-solid certain that they were not out of pure adoration for and obedience to the Lord.

     Even though some of my motives have since been changed by Him, He still has not opened a door for me to go on a mission trip out of the country or even within it. He has opened my eyes, however, and I have learned immensely without leaving my native soil. One thing that He has made clear is that I am a missionary right where I am, or at least, it is His will for me to be so. If my Master would have me follow Him here in Tennessee, going to the ends of the earth would be nothing more than a distraction from my duty. I am not saying foreign missions or mission trips are wrong--far from it! But I do know that if it is not God's will that I go, I do not need to try to go just because it is my will.  This is where we come back, as always, to following Him. If it is God's will that my life bear witness for Him right here at home, perhaps to my children or to a difficult acquaintance, than traveling to spread the Gospel in the Sudan would be a sin rather than a God-honoring sacrifice. You see, unless He calls me to do it, there would be no point to it except self-glorification. None of us who belong to the Lord have any business doing anything as an act of service to ourselves, no matter how cleverly disguised as an act of service to others it may be. My entire being needs to be fixed on the Lord and on obedience to Him, nothing more.

     In all of this, God has been speaking to me about what my walk with Him looks like on an entirely mundane level. He has shown me that my longing to go on a mission trip has mostly been because I am so certain I can be Godly and trust Him in a circumstance where there is nothing else to trust. This is probably accurate. However, He is not impressed with how well I can trust and obey in a different circumstance--He is concerned with how well I trust and obey right here at home, surrounded by laundry, dropped crayons, abandoned drawings, shed fur, and dirty dishes. I am only as good a disciple as I am at my worst, in front of my husband and kids when I am tired and bogged down by minutia. It is then, when no one else sees me, that the true me comes out, revealed by my circumstances. This is the me that needs to "take every thought captive to obey Christ,"--not the public, polished me who would probably do wonderful things on a mission trip, but the private, hidden me who persistently fails to open my mouth with wisdom and teach my children with kindness. This is the me that God is revamping right here where He planted me.

     I also now realize that it would be easy to be Godly in front of people who have never seen me at my worst, never known how cranky and self-focused I can be, and who have never had me snap at them for leaving their socks in the middle of the living room floor. It is easy to appear patient to those who have never had cause to make me impatient. It is much more difficult, at least for me, to follow the Lord's commands to live peaceably with all (see Romans 12:16-18, Colossians 3:12-17, 1 Thessalonians 5:12-18, et al) right here in the confines of my own home and in the relentless press of what needs to be done. So for me, for the time being, God is wanting me to work on my little things--my faithfulness on the home front, my mission field among my family, neighbors, friends, and grocery-store clerks, before He sends me somewhere I can reinvent myself. He is calling me to deal with my faithfulness on a day-to-day basis, with those He has placed in my life right here and now. He is calling me not to run away and do great things in His name, but to be humble and do little things, everyday acts of obedience, humility, and love here on the home front. In short, He is calling me to do His will and not my own.

"The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies--in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen."1 Peter 4:7-11

Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


Friday, March 2, 2012


     Today started as a gorgeous but windy day, but one that had everyone watching the skies. The 75 degrees and sunshine are a pleasant reminder that spring is just around the corner, and yet the weather forecasters are telling of conditions ripe for the formation of tornadoes. It is hard to imagine that the cheerful day could suddenly yield to a catastrophic storm, but there it is.

     The rest of life is no different. Everything can be going perfectly well--good job, everyone healthy, relationships looking fine--when suddenly disaster strikes. A diagnosis of cancer is made. An automobile accident takes the life or health of a loved one. A sudden, unexplained death. The loss of a job. And the list goes on and on...

     There is absolutely nothing that can spare us from pain in this world. As The Dread Pirate Roberts (aka Westly) said to Buttercup in The Princess Bride, "Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something." It is a guarantee that if you draw breath, you will experience some sort of physical or emotional pain at some point until the day that breath stops. Knowing that there is no way around pain, no barrier we can erect that will impede it, what then? What is the purpose of my depressing proclamation?
     My purpose is twofold: For starters, the purpose of knowledge that pain will come is merely a matter of perspective, and the importance lies in what we do with that knowledge. We can ignore it, skipping happily through our days like someone maddened by an overdose of fairy dust and be shocked, devastated, and completely overwhelmed when it comes. Or we can dwell on it, letting the certainty of coming calamity bog us down and taint everything we do, say, and think until we are maddened in quite another way.

     Naturally, there are several levels in between these extremes, but there is one action that is ours to take which is neither fanciful and flighty nor dark and despondent. We can embrace suffering when it comes, neither disregarding it nor dreading it, but simply accepting it as a tool allowed by a loving Father that serves to shape us, refine us, or discipline us. We can know it is unavoidable, but we do not have to let that knowledge drag us down. We can trust in the Lord to know when it is right to suffer and then leave that up to Him, enjoying the days that we have without it and even rejoicing in the days we endure in distress, taking comfort in the knowledge that God will bring it all about for the good of His Kingdom and His purpose. This is what James means when he wrote, "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." (James 1:2-4) It is not a twisted masochism that is preached, but  instead an unwavering trust in the goodness and compassion of a heavenly Father.
     The second purpose for my propounding of the certainty of pain is to have us think about what happens after our final breath has been exhaled.  When we finally take the Big Sleep, will we sleep in vain? Or do we hope for something more? Is there, in fact, life after death or is it all just a big accident; a meaningless and random series of events that brought us yowling from the womb and sends us meandering through pointless episodes of bliss and heartache until we bow our heads to the Reaper's blade?

     For those of us who choose some level of ignoring or obsessing over the inevitability of sorrow, this may feel like the case. However, the option remains to consider the good news of Christ--that He came to earth to live--and to suffer--as a Man, that He gave His life willingly as the ultimate atoning sacrifice to appease the wrath of God for sin once and for all, and that He rose again and so defeated death. Sin has always been serious, and some of the greatest sins are seriously easy to ignore. The Jewish people in old times were well acquainted with the price of sin as they made blood sacrifices of their livelihood to temporarily pay the penalty. Christ paid it in full, and that gift is yours to take if you wish it. He does not promise a life without pain and suffering. He promises to be there in the midst of it, helping us to see the point of it all, helping us to endure it. He promises that there is a hope for the future--even after the last beat of our hearts.

For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened--not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.
He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.
 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience. We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you cause to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart. For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.
 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

2 Corinthians 5:1-21

Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.