Our God, the Faithful and Just One

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If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

~1 John 1:9

Our family tries to do nightly family bible time. It doesn’t happen every night and we often get out of the habit of doing it, but our goal is to gather as a family and spend some time in God’s word at the end of each day. The way we do it is pretty simple. We chose a book of the Bible and read a chapter each night, dad asks questions to the kids about that chapter, then the kids ask mom and dad questions about the same chapter trying to stump us. These are wonderful times, but we as parents know that the children are getting different things out of family bible time. Autry (10) can remember yesterday’s chapter, can follow not only the flow of the chapter, but also the author’s argument thought the book. This is vastly different to Gibson (5) who is simply trying to sit still long enough so he can throw out a list of people, “Jesus!? God!? Man!?” or bible words “Sin!? Love!? Grace!?” I think he probably knows the difference between God and Man or Sin and Love, but in the moment his mouth is going faster than his brain.

I wonder if we don’t do similar things when we read the Bible. When we read that we should present our bodies as living sacrifices in Romans 12 and Paul writes we should present them “holy and acceptable,” do we make distinction between those words or do we just read them quickly and mentally toss them into a general category of “good things?” Are there distinctions between Holy and Acceptable? Is there a reason Paul didn’t say Good and Acceptable or Holy and Sufficient?

If we believe the biblical authors were inspired by the Holy Spirit (by God himself), that in the bible we can find the very Words of God, and if these Words have proved to be reliable, we probably should pay much closer attention lest we drift (Hebrews 2) from the meaning of the words God intended.

In John’s first epistle, John writes:
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
This is an “If, Then” format which the bible is full of. The second part, our sins being forgiven and our unrighteousness being cleansed, is dependent on the first part, if we confess our sins. Or in other words, there is no forgiveness without repentance.

This then is a very basic gospel presentation: Repent and be forgiven. Both liberal and conservative Christians believe this. The breaking point comes in why God will forgive our sins if we repent. John says God forgives when we repent because he is Faithful and Just. Don’t steamroll past these two precious terms. These words are jammed with meaning and significance that, when understood, can give joy, confidence, and hope to a believer and can bring even the most harden sinner to his knees.

Faithful

The fact that God is faithful isn’t terribly difficult for us to understand. If God is good than he would not lie and if he does not lie he will be faithful to do what he has said he will do. But in what way is God faithful? The problem with our understanding of God’s faithfulness seems to be in the extent or duration of the faithfulness. I would hope most people know that God will accept the long lost sinner, but what about a normal sinner sinning for the umpteenth time? How many of us wrestle with an unbiblical lie that God is somehow surprised with our sin? How many of us have been sold a bill of goods that God rewards us for our good works or how much faith we have or how much money we give, only to punish us when we sin? This is not the God of the bible. The God of the bible allows the sacrifice of his son to pay for the sins of humans so that we can be adopted as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” (Romans 8:15). Once sons, that same God is not looking to find reasons why he made a bad choice. He is a faithful father who will always be so.

Just

Justness and fairness are closely tied together when properly understood, though the word Fair has been hijacked by children. In grade school the rule was, if you want to bring something to share with kids in the class you have to bring enough for everyone. This is not the fairness or justness that John the Apostle is ascribing to God. John is saying that God is Just in a legal sense. God is just (think justice) in that he will always render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury (Romans 2:6-8). This is very, very bad news.
The good news though is that Jesus was made to be sin though he knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:25). God’s wrath has been satisfied against those who believe and follow Jesus. God’s justness comes into play here in that, since his wrath has been satisfied through Christ’s sacrifice, he will never again bring those crimes agains us. Our sin is paid for. Our account is void of the debt we owe and that debt has been replaced with the credit Jesus earned with his perfect life.

What else could we do but to respond to these two gloriously rich words that the Holy Spirit penned through the direct will of Himself and the Apostle John, but to praise our Just and Faithful God, in whose presence we have access to by Jesus Christ our Lord?

“Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.”

Jude 24-25

 

 

 

 

 

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Our friend Jiiter

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This is Jitter.

Jitter is 9 years old and lives next door to us with his Dad, Grandma, his sister, his uncle, his cousin and a handful of other adults in a small house without running water or a bathroom. Those names are not necessarily factually correct, but just what Jitter calls those people. In reality, the “dad” is really his grandma’s boyfriend, the “grandma” is really his great great (or great great great) grandma, his “sister” is probably a half sister or aunt or niece or third cousin, the uncle is probably a cousin to one of the other adults that he lives with, and the cousins are probably somehow related to him or at least have a connection with his family tree in some way, shape, or form.

Confused yet? Let me try to help: Think of Jitter’s family like the guests on the old Jerry Springer show, they’re all related, though no one knows exactly how, and disfunction reigns supreme.

As far as we can figure out, Jitter’s real mom was pretty young with she had him and no one knows who that real dad is. We don’t know exactly how young his birth mother is, but his grandmother is maybe 40 and we’re not sure if the lady he calls his grandmother is his grandmother or his grandmother’s grandmother. This lady, the grandmother’s grandmother, is seemingly the only stable person who could take care of Jitter. Of course, when I say “take care of,” what I mean is that it’s in her house that Jitter sleeps and she is ultimately in charge of his well being.

Jitter is in second grade. He can’t read, write, or do math and he misses school all the time because he sleeps in. But this year he’s in school; that’s a big from last year. Last year, his parents pulled him out of school to get back at the school and his teacher. The school, because his dad (step grandfather) is a painter and the school hired someone else to paint the school after hearing what the dad (step grandfather) was going to charge them. The teacher because, and I swear I’m not making this up, his second grade teacher last year was supposedly trying to steal Jitter’s aunt’s boyfriend from her so the aunt stabbed her in the back. That’s not an idiom or play on words. The aunt heard the teacher was trying to steal her man so she took a kitchen knife, walked to the school, and stabbed the teacher as she was running away. After that happened, the family took Jitter out of school as a way to get even.

Jitter’s life is complicated.

Though through all this, Jitter is a sweet little boy. Yes, he gets angry and fights with kids, it’s true he not a very motivated worker, and he’s not very smart, but Jitter is a nice boy. In our neighborhood there are not very many nice boys. It is palpable how much Jitter longs for a normal family. He’s always at the house helping Emilie with something or hanging out with Autry or tagging along with Randy when he does stuff. He will do absolutely anything if asked.

“Hey Jitter, take these 10 pesos and go to the store and buy us some toilet paper.”
“Right away!”
“Hey Jitter, I forget my keys, will you climb up over the gate and open it from the inside?”
“Of course!”
“Hey Jitter, can you stack the chairs the rest of the kids forgot to do before they left.”
“Anything for you!”

Randy and Jitter have a pretty special relationship. Jitter adores Randy. Maybe it’s because Randy is the adult male in Jitter’s life that cares for him, maybe it’s because Randy talks through with Jitter the eventual effects of Jitter’s poor decision making instead of just hitting him, or maybe it’s simply because Jitter is faking it because he thinks he will eventually get something out of the relationship, Jitter is constantly looking for affection and affirmation from Randy. Luckily for Jitter, Randy has enough to go around.

We desperately want Jitter to be saved from his sins through the hearing of the biblical, grace centered Gospel of Jesus. We drag him to church every Sunday and he hears the Gospel every Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday at our after school program. We want to see Jitter rise above his family and make mature decisions after having been discipled. We want to someday hear that Jitter is happily married to a godly woman and working hard at some job somewhere. But we know this will not happen apart from the sovereign plan of God.

Honestly, we are not sure how this works, but the bible seems pretty clear that God is sovereign in all things and that he commands his people to pray. We don’t tell you Jitter’s story to make you feel bad or to have you give us money so we can buy Jitter a bunch of stuff that moth and rust can destroy. We are telling you this story to ask you to pray that Jitter’s life will be transformed. That his eyes would be opened, so that he may turn from darkness to light (Acts 26:18). That he would reach repentance (2 Peter 3:9). That he would be delivered from the domain of darkness and transferred to the kingdom of his beloved Son (Colossians 1:13). That he would confess with his mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in his heart that God raised him from the dead (Romans 10:9) That he, who is currently far off, will be brought near by the blood of Jesus (Ephesians 2:13).

Please pray for Jitter and pray also for us, that we would be bold to proclaim the mystery of the gospel (Ephesians 6:19).