justification

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Why I won’t be going to see Batman

Published July 24, 2012 by joypatton

The tragedy of what happened in Colorado last week was a sobering wake-up call to me.  I don’t think I will be going.  Not because I’m afraid.  Not because of the swearing and other not-so-pure images in the movie.  Not because I don’t like “those kind” of movies.  In fact, I have seen a lot of the comic book, fantasy movies.  My son Kyle and I have been catching up on the Avengers and Spiderman.  And lately he had been asking about watching the Batman movies, and I was considering whether I was comfortable with that.  Everyone I talked to agreed that the Batman movies were darker than other superhero movies, but no one could pinpoint why they were that way.  One person suggested that it was because the fictional city of Gotham was more evil than other settings for other movies.

Last week I heard that the gunman had dyed his hair orange and told police that he was “the Joker.”  That people who were in the movie theater were confused about what were real gun shots and what were gunshots from the movie.  We see guns in movies all the time.  We see people getting hurt and being shot in movies all the time.  But when we are confronted with the reality of what this does to people, violence stops being entertaining.

I wondered what I would be teaching my son about what was “fun.”  We as a culture have glorified violence by putting it on the big screen in the context of a comic book fantasy.  “It’s not real” is what I tell my children.  We have become numb to seeing violence in a movie.  I have participated in this by choosing to buy tickets to movies.  I pay to see it; therefore the business thinks I like it; the business makes money.  They want more money, so they make more violent movies for me to pay to see.  And I do.  This is how the cycle continues, and when will the cycle stop?

Do I naively believe that if you or I choose not to pay to see this movie that the movie makers will be so upset that we didn’t go that they will stop making these kind of movies?  Trust me.  They are making money even if it’s not mine.  Lots of it.  I believe the movie had a record-breaking week last week.  I just know that I don’t want to be a part of making this movie profitable.  I would like to find another way to not “let terrorists win.”

We won’t change our society by boycotts or new laws.  Our society will change when people change.  The only way I know how to change people is to give them the gospel.  Jesus is the only person who can change hearts.  So if we really want to change things, we must be about the business of preaching the good news.  That we are sinners loved by God who made a way through the sacrifice of His Son for us to be in relationship with him.  Preaching the gospel to ourselves and others is much harder than organizing a boycott or trying to change laws.  It’s the kind of change you can’t quantify by the numbers.  The best way for me to preach the gospel is to live the gospel every day.  To admit when I mess up and run to the cross.  I’ve found a lot of people in the church who do not truly understand all that they have received from the cross: forgiveness, justification, adoption, sanctification.  They might understand it with their heads, but it hasn’t made it to their feet and affected how they live.  When I began to understand how much God loved me and how much of a sinner I was, I heard the music and not just the words.

The more I hear about the shooter and his increasing isolation from people, the more I realize how dangerous isolation can be.  I wonder if he knew how much God loves him or if anyone in his life showed him love.  As a Christian, I am beginning to understand how important the law of love is: to love God and to love others.  This is what I want to use to fill my time.  God invites us into his work of changing hearts and changing lives.  Will you accept his invitation?

Question: Are you going or not going to see Batman?  

My Love Hate Relationship with December

Published December 14, 2011 by joypatton

While there are some things I like about Christmas, I’ve realized that what I don’t like about December is that it is the month of not enough.  Not enough sunlight.  Not enough time.  Not enough money,  Not enough family…. Maybe it’s too much family who make you feel not enough.  It seems that everywhere I look I’m reminded that I’m not enough.  But the ironic thing is that is the exact reason why I love December.

Some of you are shocked at the idea that December might not be the happiest season of all, and some of you know exactly how I feel.  It’s the time of year that I have to come to grip with the fact that I am not enough.  I’ve spent a lot of my life trying to be good enough.  I got straight A’s for the first time in 2nd grade.  I always tried to do the right thing…tell the truth, not steal, not kill anyone.  I describe my 20s as the decade where I tried to live the best life I could that would be pleasing to God.  I worked hard professionally, served in our church, tried to be the best mom I could.  I went to Bible studies and prayed.  Every day I laid my head on my pillow disappointed that the day was not perfect.  I would analyze what went wrong and what I needed to do better.  I woke up the next day hopeful that today would be the perfect.  The day that I would finally be enough.

You might have guessed that by the time I hit 30, I was exhausted and still not perfect.  Still not enough.  I found myself depressed, and not just because it was December.  I had been fired from a teaching job and was in marriage counseling every week with my husband.  We were dealing with some major life issues.  Life was definitely not perfect.

I was in despair because all of my efforts to be a good enough wife, a good enough mom, a good enough person, weren’t working.  I had messed up, and what could God do with the mess I had made?  I had to admit that I wasn’t perfect and never would be.  I had to admit that everything I tried wasn’t working.  I was at the end of myself.

But then God reminded me that there was a person who lived a perfect life, a person who was standing there waiting for me to accept the free gift he was offering.  Basically I remembered what Christmas was all about.   Christmas was when God sent his only son, not as a rich warrior king who came to judge the world, but as a poor, tiny, vulnerable baby born into questionable and difficult circumstances.  This tiny not-enough baby was born into a not-enough barn where he was greeted by not-enough visitors, especially considering that he was the creator of the universe.

But the tiny baby grew into a man who was God’s only Son.  He lived a perfect life, and when he died on the cross, his sacrifice was enough to cover all of my sin.  When he rose from the grave, he overcame death.  He became the person who made it possible for imperfect, unholy me to have a relationship with a perfect and holy  God.  The really good news is that he did this even while I was drowning in my not-enoughness.  I didn’t have to figure it all out or make it all right before he could be in relationship with me.  The Bible says in Romans 5:8, that “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, [while I was still not-enough], Christ died for us.”  It goes on to say that we have been justified, made right, made enough, by his blood.

When I  believe that his enoughness, covers all of my not-enoughness and accept his death on the cross as payment for all my wrong-doing, I am accepted into a new relationship with God, not as an enemy, but as a daughter.  When I turn and see that the blood he shed on the cross was all I need to be righteous, then I can stop earning my way into heaven by trying to be perfect all the time.  I’m even able to admit that I’m not perfect, that I am not enough.  I can stop hiding and trying to be someone I’m not.

So even though December feels like the month of not-enough, the reason I love December, the reason I need December, is that Jesus Christ is enough to cover all of my unrighteousness.  I know that my life would be completely different if the first Christmas never came.  Because God sent his son in a not-enough package to become enough for me, I am free.  I am free from death because even after I die, I will live with him forever.  I am free to love other people well because I know what it is to be loved.  I am free to give grace, compassion and mercy because God showed me immeasurable grace, compassion and mercy by having a relationship with me.  I am free to make choices.  His Spirit gives me strength to make right choices even when I don’t feel like I can.  I am free to admit that I am not perfect, that I am not enough.

To me, this all sounds too good to be true.   But I know it’s true because someone bigger than me outside of myself says that it’s true in the Bible.  So even on the days when I don’t feel like it, I can know the Truth of God’s Word.

Do you realize that you are not enough?  Do you know that you are not perfect, never have been and never will be no matter how hard you try?  Do you know that God loves you even when you aren’t good enough, even when you’ve messed it up?  None of us is good enough on our own merit to be in relationship with God.  Some of us can look really good on the outside.  We look like we are doing the right things, like we are good enough.  But when I’m really honest with myself, I have to admit that there are things I think about in my heart that are wrong, imperfect and unholy.  Do you have the courage to admit that?

If the answer is yes, will you choose to believe that Jesus is enough?  Maybe in the season of not enough, you can confess to God that you have been trying to make yourself enough.  And maybe in this season we can all find rest from our striving to be enough.

Dear Jesus, I admit that I am not enough, that I am not perfect and that I have messed it up.  I believe that Jesus died on the cross for my sins and that his blood is enough to cover my sin.  Thank you for your grace that will never run out.  Thank you for forgiving me all my sin.  Thank you for loving me so much that you made a way through the gift of your son for me to be in relationship with you.  In Jesus name, Amen.

Contemplating Confession

Published October 18, 2011 by joypatton

A few months ago my friend invited me to have lunch with her and one other friend of mine.  Little did I know that lunch would begin a whole different journey for the three of us.  She had this crazy idea that the three of us should try an accountable/confession group like the kind she had read about in Anatomy of the Soul.  I told her in no uncertain terms that she was crazy and even more crazy for inviting me to be in a group like that.  “I suck at repentance” were my exact words.  She reminded me that I was the one who taught her about repentance.  I hate it when God makes me live what I teach.  Because these two women had taught me about repentance through their example, I agreed to be in this little group of three strands.

We decided to launch into deeper waters together trusting that God had life for us a little further out from the safety of the shore.  We have been meeting every week for about two hours.  My other friend and I were somewhat shocked when my crazy friend started writing down all of her sins from the week.  However we were happy to listen and speak the truth of the gospel to her when she shared her list.  But I knew the day would come when she would challenge us to do more than just listen.  We would eventually need to bring our own lists.  And so I have been contemplating confession…

Is this really what God meant when he said “confess your sins to one another?”  Will there really be life in speaking the source my shame out loud?  Are you sure this isn’t going to ruin my sweet friendship with these women?  But God has been gently speaking to me about this and showing me that nothing that stays in the darkness can heal.  It must be brought out into the light… painfully, ruthlessly drug into the light.

Last week though I learned something about myself, and it wasn’t pretty.  After our group when I saw how I had hurt my friend once again, I struggled with shame for the rest of the day into the next day.  When my sin is brought into the light, I feel shame.  Shame over sin is healthy, but this kind of shame becomes toxic when accompanied by phrases like “I’ll never get it right” and “All I do is hurt people.”  This leads me straight into my Orphan thinking where I start to feel unworthy and unloved and unacceptable.  Personally, I hate feeling like an Orphan, so then my Ice Queen kicks in.  She takes a vow to never feel that way again, so she spends her time analyzing what happened and justifying exactly why she did what she did.  But ironically this does not absolve her shame.  It only makes it worse because at the end of all her analysis and justification, the truth of her sin remains.  And the truth is that she will mess it up again and hurt people again because she is broken.  She is not perfect.

But the Princess cannot let the Ice Queen or the Orphan way of thinking reign.  She takes the truth of what she did into the light with her loving King Father where He reminds her that her sin and shame was covered on the cross.   She worships and asks Him to speak the truth to her about what happened, instead of letting the Ice Queen make her own truth.  She, unlike the Orphan or the Ice Queen, can accept the grace that is freely offered to her in His presence.  She believes that Jesus took her shame when He died on the cross.  This is what my friends help me to remember to do.  They urge me on into the throne room and will not let me wander the hall as an Orphan afraid to go in one more time.  They will not let the Ice Queen stay on her throne of self-righteousness.  They lovingly, compassionately push the Princess into the Throne Room of Grace.

False repentance is easy, but true repentance comes at a price.  It hurts.  That is what is so great about the gospel.  Jesus decided that the pain and hurt He had to endure on my behalf was worth it.  He paid the ultimate price of death, and when I believe in the work of the cross, His blood covers all my sin, past, present and future.  As we have had opportunity to talk to some other people about our group, the question they ask is how do you keep the group from becoming self-focused?  How do you overcome the shame and fear inevitably associated with speaking your sin out loud?  The answer is THE GOSPEL.  The point of the group is as much about confession as it is about preaching the gospel to each other.  We get to be the hands and feet and face of Jesus to each other when our sin is drug into the light.  In the light there is therefore now no condemnation for those that are in Christ Jesus.  In the light, there is no accuser, only mercy and grace.  In the light, we are fully known and fully loved.

So I’m still not sure how this little experiment will turn out, but my friends are showing me the value of confession.  I would encourage you to bring your sin into the light.  Maybe you need to start in the Throne Room of Grace with the King Father and believe that what Jesus did on the cross was enough to cover your sin.  Maybe it starts with speaking the truth to one other person who can remind you of the truth of the gospel.  Maybe you can find two crazy friends…

“And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.  This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.  If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.  But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.  If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his work is not in us.”  (I John 1:4-10 ESV)

When I forget…

Published April 19, 2010 by joypatton

Sometimes I read about the Israelites and wonder how they could have been in the wilderness for forty years.  On one page they are crossing the Red Sea on dry land.  I turn the page and they are worshiping a golden calf.  Did they forget what it was like to see dry ground on the bottom of the sea?  Or Jonah who was in the belly of a fish begging for his life.  Then I turn the page and he is complaining to God for having mercy on the Ninevites.  Was the mercy he was shown all that different?  Ugly things happen when I forget.

Another story I have been thinking about this week is the story of the unmerciful servant in Matthew 18:21-35.  The servant was brought before the Master to pay a huge debt.  It would have taken him 20,000 years of wages to pay it off!  He doesn’t even dare to ask for the debt to be forgiven.  He begs for more time to pay off the debt!  But it is impossible!  This time you don’t even have to turn the page.  A few sentences later he forgets the mercy he has been given, and attacks a fellow servant who owes him 100 days wages.  He throws this servant into prison until he can pay off the debt.  His forgetfulness cost him dearly because when the Master found out how poorly he had treated his fellow servant, he put the wicked servant in prison until he could repay the debt. 

When I believed the gospel, I was instantly, completely forgiven and completely justified.  Forgiveness means that God has forgiven every sin I have ever committed.  It also means that every sin I will commit will also be forgiven (I John 1:9).  Christ’s blood stands as the payment for those sins.  He paid the debt that I owed, and the debt was forgiven. 

The Bible often talks about this amazing exchange in banking terms.  I must admit that I have bounced a few checks in my lifetime.  With those bounced checks, come fees and fines and penalties.  Sometimes if I go to the bank and beg, those fees are forgiven.  I do not owe them.  The bank chooses to forget that they ever existed, and I won’t have to pay for those transgressions.  When I believe the gospel, God chooses to forgive my sins and not hold me accountable to pay the debt.  He is the picture of the Master in the parable who releases the servant from the debt.

The moment I believed, I was also justified.  When something is justified, it is “made right.”  There are many ways that I try to justify myself and my sin.  I make excuses; I blame it one someone else; I lower the standard so I can meet it.  This is self-justification.  However when I believe in the work of the cross and the power of Christ’s blood, I am justified before God.  According to the heavenly records of bookkeeping, I have been “made right” before God.  This may sound a lot like forgiveness, but justification gives us something that forgiveness does not: righteousness.  Not only has Jesus taken on himself the penalty for my sin, he has also given all of his righteousness to me.  We often remember the first part of the exchange and forget the second.  This means that when God looks at my record of good deeds and sin, he does not see my sin or my good deeds.  He sees the perfect, unblemished righteousness of Christ.  This righteousness has been given to me on the basis of faith, not heritage, not position, not good works.  This is really good news!

If forgiveness is forgiving the fees and fines, justification takes it one step further.  Let’s say I go to the bank to beg for forgiveness of the fees from my overdrafts.  Justification means that the banker comes back to me and tells me that Oprah and I now share a bank account.  All of Oprah’s money has been given into my account.  So now my transgressions are not just forgiven, my account has been changed.  It will always be in good standing with plenty of money (assuming Oprah doesn’t go broke).  The great news of the gospel is that Christ’s righteousness now shows up in my account.  What did I do to make that happen?  I believed.

But often I forget and ugly things happen.  The Ice Queen in me takes it upon herself to be right.  It is her job to convince everyone that she is righteous.  Somehow I begin to think that I was forgiven and justified because I deserved to be.  After all, I was a good kid, a pastor’s kid who has gone to church all her life.  I’ve never done anything that bad like some people I know.  This is what happens when I forget the depth of my sin compared to God’s perfect standard.  I begin to work really hard because I have deceived myself.  I think that my debt is small and that I could work it off if I just tried harder.  This desire to prove that I am right or good enough drives me to perfectionism and control.  Because I forget what I have been forgiven, I have no compassion or mercy for others around me.  I begrudge God his generosity toward others because they don’t deserve it.  They haven’t worked for their forgiveness the way I have.  I am full of demanding judgement and a long list of expectations for everyone around me.  After all, I am the Queen!

However the Princess remembers her status: forgiven and justified.  She doesn’t have to prove to everyone that she is right because her King Father sees her as perfect.  She knows that she didn’t deserve to be forgiven and justified, yet humbly and graciously accepts that she is.  She knows that her status is not based on her beauty or her talent or her good deeds.  She is secure and knows that her status as a Princess will never be revoked.  She has compassion and mercy for those around her because she remembers that she used to be a slave, but now she is royalty by God’s great mercy.  She is generous toward others because her Father is generous.  She doesn’t need to judge others because she trusts the King to be the judge. 

That is how I want to live…but then I forget…

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