Saturday, November 2, 2013

JESUS, ONLY JESUS!

Have you ever heard of the Dream Center?  It is a ministry in Los Angeles that address people’s physical and spiritual needs in unique and practical ways.  They take God’s love to the darkest corners of Skid Row, to victims of sex trafficking and domestic violence, to desperate addicts, to foster children, to homeless men, women and families, to those who hunger for food and for hope.

We spent a week at the Dream Center earlier this year and I will forever be changed.  I could write a book on all the things I love about that place.  One of things that I love the most is that everyone who lives there, volunteers there, works there, or serves there has a story and it's the first thing they share with you when they meet you.  They share their story, their mess, their mistakes, and then they say the most beautiful words -- Jesus, only Jesus!

Hearing their stories of Redemption, hearing about where they are in their journey toward healing and in their journey to learn what it means to live out God's righteousness, it's the most amazing reminder that we serve a God that actively pursues our hearts.

We had the opportunity to attend a mid-week service and we worshiped alongside individuals from the residential discipleship program who struggled with all different types of life-controlling issues, as well as, homeless men and women who were bused in from Skid Row.  The church was filled with people, some who cleaned up to come and some who don't have access to showers and haven't cleaned up in a very long time.

I stood in awe as I watched them worship.  Their lives are a complete mess.  They have literally come to the end of themselves.  And when they sing praises to the One who came to rescue them, they do it without abandon.  Jesus, only Jesus!  I could cry just thinking about it.

There is a story in the Bible of two friends, Jonathan and David, whose lives couldn't be more different.  Jonathan was the king's son and David was a shepherd and a servant to the king.  Jonathan dressed like royalty.  He wore clothes made of the finest materials and of the most brilliant colors.  David, being a shepherd, wore a dirty, rugged tunic.  He lived with sheep and smelled like sheep.

We are told in 1 Samuel 18 that Jonathan loved David as himself.  Because of his love, he made a pact with David and sealed the pact by taking off his robe and giving it to David.  By giving David his royal robe, Jonathan was essentially saying, "when people see you, I want them to see me." 

How crazy would it be for David to act like he deserved to wear the royal robe?
How ridiculous would it be for David to forget that the only thing he could had to offer in return was a dirty, filthy, stinky tunic?

Jonathan and David's friendship is not just an amazing example of a Godly friendship, but it is a picture of Jesus' love for me.  And Jesus' love for you.

Jesus took our dirty, filthy, stinky rags and willingly put them on.  Then, He willingly shed His royal blood so that we could be clothed in His royal robe.
Jesus, only Jesus!
photo credit

"We are all infected and impure with sin.
When we put on our prized robes of righteousness,
we find they are but filthy rags."
{Isaiah 64:6}

"God made Christ who had no sin to become sin for us,
so that in Christ we could become the righteousness of God."
{2 Corinthians 5:21}

I was in junior high before I heard that God sent Jesus to earth to die for my sins.  The gospel sounded too simple but since hell sounded scary, I decided following Jesus was a good idea.  I spent the next 12 years going to church, reading my Bible, following the rules, hanging out with my Christian friends, attending Bible studies and teaching Sunday School.  I was living in such a way that it looked like I was wearing the royal robe, but it was actually an imitation.  I spent years making my own robe and just wore it over my old ones.  I never took off my filthy rags.  If you saw me from a distance, you would have mistaken my robe for the real thing.  But if you got too close, you could smell my old stinky rags hiding underneath.
The saddest thing about it?  I had no idea.

In 2002, Keith and I were living in Georgia and were sitting in our home with a dozen of our friends and half way into the evening, I overhear one of them, who was also a student pastor, sharing his story.  He and his wife took their students to youth camp a few years earlier and ended up giving their lives to Christ.  God had revealed to them that they knew a lot about Jesus, but didn't actually know Jesus.  As I was listening to him talk, I felt something inside of me start stirring, I felt like I was going to be sick and I just wanted him to stop talking.

Later that evening, I couldn't get his story out of my head.  God kept whispering, he's sharing your story, that is your story, that is you.  So, I started reminding God why He was wrong.  I teach Sunday school, I disciple girls, I am at church every time the doors are open, I make good choices and I'm a minister's wife for goodness sakes!  His reply, "what does any of that have to do with me?"  And He was right.  All of those things I did in my power and in my strength.  God loved me so much He wanted to rescue me from myself.

So on March 1, 2002, as a 27 year old mom and minister's wife, I confessed my need for Jesus, my need for His grace and mercy, my need for His Salvation.

"For it’s by God’s grace that you have been saved.
You receive it through faith. It was not our plan or our effort.
It is God’s gift, pure and simple. You didn’t earn it, not one of us did,
so don’t go around bragging that you must have done something amazing."
{Ephesians 2:8-9}

So, what's your story?
Where are you in your journey?

Are you like my friends at the Dream Center who have made a series of bad decisions and are left with a mess?  Do you feel like there is no way God could love you?  Like your rags are so filthy there is no hope for you?

Are like me and don't even realize that you are trying to live the Christian life in your own strength and in your own power?  Are you a good person and your desperate need for Jesus isn't as obvious?  Do you work hard at covering your filthy rags with Jesus stuff?

Are you a believer but are so caught up admiring the royal robe you are wearing that you forgot that you did nothing to deserve it?  Do you need to take your eyes off of yourself and look up?  There is nothing more humbling than seeing Jesus wearing your dirty, filthy, stinky rags.

It doesn't matter how good or how bad you are.
It doesn't matter if you go to church or if you don't see the point.
It doesn't matter if you know a lot about Jesus or if you've never heard His name.

The ground is level at the foot of the Cross.

The God of the Universe longs for a personal relationship with you and Jesus' work on the Cross makes that relationship possible.


"But God showed his great love for us by sending
Christ to die for us while we were still sinners."
{Romans 5:8}

Jesus, only Jesus!

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